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Blood & Bourbon

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Caroline V, Chapter XIII
Eiren Malveaux

“I had no idea what it was like being the outsider.”
Caroline Malveaux

Monday night, 19 October 2015, PM

GM: Caroline continues to spend more time with her clanmates and learn more of their own domains—and they of hers.

John Harley Matheson’s domain over Whitney Hancock Bank and Becky Lynne’s oversight of that domain, in lieu of his exile, are already known to Caroline. She learns from an example of Ventrue cooperation, however, with what Gabriel Hurst nicknames the “one-two operation” he runs with his sister-in-blood.

Becky Lynne oversees their sire’s interests in the bank directly and carefully husbands its growth. Hurst also aids that growth through the diversity of his own holdings, which Caroline has seen run the gamut from hardware stores to restaurants to private schools. Whenever any of Hurst’s businesses perform a financial transaction involving a bank—or whenever Hurst knows a person or other business who needs a bank—the Ventrue almost always brings in Whitney Hancock if there is not a compelling reason to do otherwise. In this manner, he ensures the bank’s financial tentacles are embedded far and wide throughout New Orleans. Becky Lynne, in turn, sees that her brother-in-blood’s businesses are granted loans at favorable rates, cuts through red tape, and otherwise lubricates the process of getting his enterprises off the ground and keeping them running through the bank’s support.

As Hurst himself terms it with a chuckle, “she counts and packs the eggs that fall from the golden goose, and I deliver them far and wide throughout the city.”

Most saliently to Caroline is that this sort of arrangement can be expected to mirror those of others with her law firm. Not all Ventrue are as committed to using Whitney Hancock Bank as Becky Lynne’s own broodmate is, of course—“some transactions they want to keep private”—but if they have to choose between multiple banks, they will choose Whitney Hancock Bank, bar a pressing reason to do otherwise. When Caroline engages with her clanmates’ domains in this way, she can expect them to reciprocate and hire her law firm for their own needs. Better, she’s already “put her foot in that door,” as Hurst puts it, by taking out a loan from Whitney Hancock Bank.

Caroline: Caroline cannot help but note how such an arrangement, in their specific case, seems to benefit their sire more than anyone else. Especially themselves given then active push towards growing the bank and funneling profits. If he was their father that might be more logical—they would inevitably inherit it—but their immortal sire will leave nothing to his childer. Unless he were destroyed.

Instead he has two childer out in New Orleans shepherding his assets and expanding his reach. Hurst has his own interests, but of Adler’s, she has heard little. While certainly for now Adler can trade on her sire’s influence, wealth, and domain, what happens when—not if—her sire’s banishment is inevitably lifted?

It also casts their Embrace in different terms and makes starkly clear the reality of most childer for their sires—at least for elder sires. They are investments, tools, often with purpose. How they make use of the opportunity provided by their role may define their Requiem, but ultimately little of their path is their own.

It is with softer eyes that she views her clanmate’s Requiem, the more she learns. Even her own instruction here, while it will no doubt raise Adler’s stock if she succeeds, is not for the older Ventrue’s own sake. Instead her sire is collecting the boon owed by Caroline even as he farms his childe out to do the work.

The lesson is also instructive in how the older, and more powerful, Ventrue are the anchors to the entire Structure in the city. The Whitney Hancock Bank, by its nature as a bank, touches the domain of every Ventrue in the city in a way in which few other domains might. Beyond the staggering financial resources that Matheson can bring to bear—and that he has available—his domain is critical to the success of many others.

It also raises questions what her relationship with her own sire could look like. Those questions are not new—they have dominated her thoughts since before she knew the prince was her sire. Why was she made? What awaits her in the future? They have however taken on a new urgency as she’s learned ever more about Kindred society. She’s ever more certain that even if she survives the seneschal’s trial and is accepted, her own trials will be far from ever.

But at least she’d have a place.

GM: Becky Lynne, at least, appears happy with her own place as her sire’s voice (Hurst seems to refer dealings with Matheson to her), and manager of his considerable holdings. All the Kindred Caroline meets seem to view her with great respect. The other Ventrue doesn’t speak of any domain outside her sire’s. Of course, she and Caroline have spent a great deal time together over the past few months, covering so many topics. Meetings with Becky Lynne start to happen less frequently, and the other Ventrue is forthright about why. Now that Caroline is developing her own holdings, she will have more to talk about other Ventrue with. They can also pick up some of Becky Lynne’s slack: it will be good for Caroline to hear more about their clan from new perspectives.

Caroline: The process as a whole keeps her nights full—relatively rarely does she have nights for leisure—but it’s a schedule she’s familiar with, little different than the one she lived for her mortal family growing up. She’s just glad it’s fall and the nights are long.

GM: It is her true sire’s domain which Caroline may be most interested by. Her “tour” is conducted by the Hussar, who shows her through several corporate offices in the CBD, but spends the bulk of their interactions inspecting Caroline’s developing domain. He is a stiff and humorless individual with frequent criticisms and few praises.

In contrast to John Harley Matheson, Caroline learns that her sire has less to directly offer other Kindred. He does, however, claim a much larger domain than the city’s financial sector. The mayor’s office and city’s municipal government are his. All law enforcement agencies are his. Officials who hold federal and state-wide office are his. A variety of corporate holdings are his, including Malveaux Oil and the entirety of the petroleum industry (although this last domain, and those of state-elected officials, are only recognized among the Ventrue).

Caroline: The close ties and parallels to her mortal life stand out in ways that Caroline could see might have made her an attractive candidate for the Embrace, especially if he is truly headed for torpor.

It does nothing to explain why she was kept in the dark, thrown to the wolves, and forced to make her way as she has though.

GM: Such a domain is apparently too vast to be managed by a single vampire, for Vidal has delegated even more of it to other Kindred than does Matheson.

Father Malveaux oversees the Catholic Church through Caroline’s mortal uncle. Donovan and Camilla Doriocourt attend to the city’s law enforcement agencies. Maldonato looks towards the city’s bureaucracy and has Vidal’s apparent blessing to “assist” with the administration of any area of his lover’s domain, including the mayor’s office that composes its crown jewel.

She also hears that Vidal has largely ceded the Fifth Court of Appeals, despite its nature as an institution of federal officials, to his seneschal. Then again, Caroline could readily surmise that most of the court’s activities are irrelevant to the nightly unlives of New Orleans’ Kindred, even if no one else told her so.

Caroline: It’s not shocking to her, though she can understand why he has kept control of so much, even those that have relatively little impact on the city. Anything ceded is much harder to get back later.

GM: Marcel Guilbeau’s domain consists of the gambling and related entertainment industries. Rocco’s domain over Harrah’s stands as a clear example of how Ventrue domains of authority are not recognized outside the clan. Still, at least within the Structure, no other clanmate will infringe upon the city’s casinos.

Marcel also retains connections to the state legislature in Baton Rouge, although these ties have atrophied since he was ousted from the city. The clan is eager to see him reinstated as prince—though a variety of factors have apparently stymied his reclamation of the city, not the least of which is Vidal’s ongoing conflict with Savoy and the Baron (who might otherwise lend greater aid).

Until that night, however, Marcel seems to have made a comfortable Requiem for himself in New Orleans. The Alystra is doing well as a business, and provides a means of mingling and developing connections with kine from multiple stratas of society. It’s also, as Caroline discovered with Harrah’s, a useful place to launder not just money but large amounts of physical bills through. Several clanmates have used the casino for that purpose.

Caroline: Caroline has already seen the value of that service. While she expects the firm to be a relatively useful place to launder money as a whole—billing rates being what they are—she lacks a convenient place to produce cash, beyond what she keeps on hand. The truth is, outside of Kindred circles, she’s rarely had cause to deal in that much physical currency.

GM: Pierpont McGinn, as regent of Uptown, holds perhaps the most expansive domain outside of Vidal’s own. In addition to tightly controlling (or at least influencing) the various businesses and institutions within its borders, the Ventrue regent owns a prosperous real estate conglomerate. Land is his business, or at least one of them. He also supplements this legitimate income through his hold over the Dixie Mafia. But the most prized area of his domain is the Ku Klux Klan. He’s also affiliated with the Aryan Brotherhood, modern anti-Islamic groups, and—as of the past several years—the newly-emergent “alt-right.” He’s even branched into media since the rise of the last group. If Caroline’s firm does well, he should have many legal cases to send her way. Probably more than any other clanmate.

“So long as you don’t object to defending our great nation’s values, Miss Malveaux,” McGinn drawls.

Caroline: “I could hardly turn aside anything you sent my way, Gerousiastis McGinn,” Caroline replies. “Though it may be a time before my domain is ready to take on capably take on such complex matters.”

GM: “Good things come ta those who wait,” McGinn smiles contentedly.

Father Malveaux’s domain over the Catholic Church through her uncle Orson is already known to Caroline. The albino priest otherwise appears to maintain fewer mortal connections than his clanmates do, and to devote the bulk of his time to Kindred affairs.

He is somewhat cool when he receives Caroline to tutor her in his holdings and the clan’s ways, and he does so upon fewer occasions than the other gerousia. But he receives her all the same.

In addition to the duties Becky Lynne outlined, Father Malveaux serves as curator of the clan’s archives in the Garden District. The house where they are kept is known simply as the Library of New Orleans, and claims to house one of the most complete and formal collections of Ventrue correspondence and documentation in the New World. Of all the U.S.’ greatest cities, Father Malveaux explains—from New York to Los Angeles to Chicago and Washington D.C.—only New Orleans has seen uninterrupted rule by a single, Ventrue prince.

He does not once speak of Vidal’s purportedly impending torpor.

Caroline’s clan, she also learns, cares a great deal about their history. Father Malveaux states that the city’s collection is not comprehensive—no single library could contain the Ventrue clan’s entire history, nor would ‘placing all of their eggs in one basket’ be wise—but that New Orleans remains the clan’s foremost resource on Ventrue history within the French colonies, and, later, the American South. Some of the most frequent blue blood visitors to the city are individuals who wish to research their (and others’) family lines, past rulings by the Ephorate, strategoi, and the leadership of other societies within the clan, and assorted precedents and points of protocol. The clan was fortunate the collection was located in the Garden District and thus spared from flooding by Katrina, but Caroline sees no computers or other digital archives.

Strategos Vidal and Gerousiastis Matheson are credited for contributing many of the collection’s historic documents and artifacts from the Old World, especially their respective homelands in Spain and England. The names of the destroyed Gerousiastis Rojas y Batiz and Gerousiastis Constantine are no less enshrined. Though both elders met final death over a century ago, their names live on in the biographies and genealogical trees that Father Malveaux has dutifully recorded.

Caroline: It’s a staggering historical record that the legal scholar in Caroline can appreciate. She tries to conceal her interest in the genealogical trees—or at least that of Vidal.

Still, she can’t help herself. The archives present perhaps the best look she’ll get into her ’sire’s past. Despite the presence of Gerousiastis Malveaux, and their long antagonism (why must so many things she cares about tie back to the dreadful albino?) she takes any opportunity in which he is not directly overseeing her to seek her own answers within the archives.

GM: Caroline finds no such opportunity, for Father Malveaux remains close by for the entirety of her visit. She will either have to obtain answers through him—or make a new opportunity of her own.

Caroline: Ultimately her curiosity gets the better of her. She inquires as to what the oldest records are in the archive, and in more detail as to how various genealogical trees are tracked, especially as they expand in other cities, or when they move to the city from others.

GM: “All genealogical trees begin by tracing a clanmate’s lineage to their fourth-generation progenitor,” Father Malveaux explains. Any Ventrue who is unaware of this, who is so “grossly ignorant” of so essential a component of their heritage, would likely never be accepted into the Structure.

After this basic line of descent is established, Father Malveaux fills in the names, dates, and biographies of any additional Kindred relatives the Ventrue in question can name. A given city’s archivist is only required to track the genealogies of clanmates who reside in their city.

“To be merely adequate, however, is not in our blood,” Father Malveaux rasps. The ‘gold standard’ for any city’s archivist to record the names for every clanmate who is three or fewer steps related to every current and former Ventrue resident of the city. This includes a sire’s broodmates and a broodmate’s childer in addition to one’s own broodmates, direct ancestors, and direct descendants. Most local clanmates willingly help their city’s archivist in this task. The longer and more complete a Ventrue’s genealogy is, and the greater the dignitas of their blood relatives, the more dignitas their own name carries by association. The Kingship Clan literally believes quality is inherited in the blood, and that Ventrue from superior bloodlines are superior Kindred.

Clanmates who are “cousins”—four or more steps removed from a given Ventrue, and who descend from the same fourth-generation ancestor—carry notably less dignitas. Ventrue descended from different fourth-generation progenitors carry no dignitas at all—unless the Ventrue’s blood is close enough to carry more proximate blood sympathy, but not even Vidal’s blood is that close to the clan founder’s. (One would have to be a mere five steps removed from Caine to have a different fourth-generation progenitor as their aunt- or uncle-in-blood.) Regardless, Father Malveaux continues, few archivists make an effort to track the names of Kindred more than three steps removed in blood from their city’s current or former residents.

Some archivists, however, are responsible for overseeing much larger genealogies. It is poor practice, after all, to keep all of one’s eggs in one basket. Most strategoi have their praetors forward periodic copies of their city’s genealogies and other records, which are stored in the strategos’ home city. Vidal faithfully follows this policy: the Library of New Orleans thus maintains genealogical and historic records for Ventrue across the larger Southeastern United States. The genealogy is updated frequently as new clanmates are Embraced, meet final death, accomplish noteworthy deeds, or discover additional details about their kin.

Caroline: Caroline is genuinely fascinated by the process and not even Gerousiastis Malveaux can put a damper on her interest. What began as an excuse to get a better look at her sire’s genealogy moves on to significantly more.

GM: “The strategois’ archives, however, are of but secondary value to our clan’s foremost storehouse of knowledge,” the albino priest rasps.

At the apex of the Structure, the Indian scholar Bindusara has been charged by the Ephorate itself with maintaining genealogical and historical records for the entire Ventrue clan. The mammoth task’s very nature ensures that his records are neither fully accurate nor fully complete—nor will they likely ever be. But the dignitas attached to Bindusara’s name for his millennia-long labor is inestimable. Beyond reproach. He personally visits the strategois’ cities every decade or so, to confer with local archivists and transcribe their updated records into his own.

Bindusara last came to New Orleans shortly after Hurricane Katrina, several years in advance of his scheduled visit. Although the Library of New Orleans was mostly spared from the storm’s devastation, the renowned scholar understandably wished to make early copies of Father Malveaux’s records.

Bindusara is expected to make his next visit to New Orleans soon—possibly even next year. His arrival will be an occasion of great importance and celebration for the local Structure.

Every childe of Ventrue blood knows the worth of the labors he undertakes on behalf of us all,” Father Malveaux rasps.

Caroline: Caroline can’t help but agree, even if the task seems almost unimaginably vast.

GM: As to the Library of New Orleans’ oldest records, Father Malveaux answers that those are several codices and manuscripts Vidal generously allowed his predecessor to transcribe copies of. They detail the history of the Ventrue clan in medieval Iberia and contain a number of genealogies particular to that time and place.

Caroline: It’s a different side of the older Ventrue, seeing him involved in his nightly activities. Previously she’s only seen him as the tyrannical and inhuman Sanctified priest, and as the monster between herself and her mortal family.

Discovering that he does things other than make the lives of others miserable, and that he perhaps even has a passion for something that piques her interest is almost unclean feeling, like she’s found that she and a racist share the same taste in music.

She dearly wishes that someone less hostile were presenting this information—and genuinely doesn’t really want to be around the priest at all—but doesn’t let the way he makes her feel demeaned suck the interest out of this particular discovery.

She’s grown increasingly, and perhaps depressingly, accustomed to that treatment from more than just him in a way that makes her want to peel off her own skin, to crawl out of this costume she’s been forced to wear that takes abuse, disrespect, and humiliation passively and with humility that is so foreign to her.

Perhaps the worst part of the meetings with some of the elder Ventrue in the city is not the meetings themselves, it’s having to look herself in the mirror later. The face that stares back is perfect, unchanging, unchanged from the moment the poisonous blood entered her. The familiarity of the face only makes her feel all the more like she’s living a lie—or not living as the case may be. Who is she now, that she rolls over and shows her belly so freely? That she tucks her tail between her legs so freely and waits for the next blow to land?

Caroline isn’t sure, but she is certain that she increasingly has a new target for her hatred: herself.

She can live with being a monster—most nights it makes it easier to take out her frustrations on mortals in a way that makes obvious the meaning behind the seneschal’s words on the value of the Sanctified. She can’t live with being a nobody, a failure, an object of scorn.

GM: Caroline’s hatred proves all-too lonely, for her clanmates seem to assume she is an enthusiastic participant in the Structure. After all, she’s choosing to involve herself in this. There is no punishment levied upon clanmates who opt out, merely benefits withheld.

Perhaps no better example of this lies in Father Malveaux’s authority over the Structure’s archives. Since he is the one who labors so diligently to maintain them, it is his purview to whom access is granted. Visits occur under his supervision. He is even willing to loan out items (on a temporary basis) to clanmates who enjoy his trust to a sufficient degree.

There are no formal punishments for incurring his ire. Merely denial of the benefits from earning his goodwill. In this way, conflicts within the clan seem to be subtle affairs. Caroline has yet to see or hear of any clanmates who openly dislike one another.

As the last detail of Caroline’s visit to the Library of New Orleans, Father Malveaux makes very clear that she is not to disclose the archives’ location, or even confirm their existence, to Kindred outside the Structure. Clan affairs, as Becky Lynne explained, are not discussed among outsiders. These archives consist of nothing but hundreds of years of documentation of those same affairs.

Caroline: Optional involvement, unless your sire happens to be the prince. Unless you want nothing so much as his approval. Unless you’re convinced that failure to earn approval from the Ventrue and acceptance into the Structure is a death sentence, giving the one secretly hanging over her own head.

Perhaps that’s what makes Savoy so attractive. He’s never insulted her, never belittled her. She knows his flattery is almost certainly empty, that he has his own agenda in this regard. But just because it’s flattery, and just because she knows it is, doesn’t mean it isn’t effective.

GM: Antoine Savoy, as ever, promises another way out. Another choice. Her choice. His brand of freedom—if she wants it.

Meanwhile, Caroline is introduced in passing to members of the local Structure she has not already met. These include John Polk, Roxanne’s sire, a Sanctified priest who helps Father Malveaux maintain the clan’s records. There’s also Reynaldo Gui, a mafioso affiliated with Antoine Savoy (he is viewed somewhat more coolly by the Structure’s members) who’s from Chicago and wants to re-establish the historic criminal pipeline between both cities. He claims to be the childe of an Embraced Al Capone.
Marcel Guilbeau also has two childer of his own. Anthony Brodowski, who Caroline already met in passing at Matheson’s trial, serves as his sire’s majordomo (he will be seneschal when Marcel retakes Baton Rouge) and administers many of his casino’s behind the scenes details. Marcel’s first childe Christopher has long been considered a self-centered embarrassment to his sire’s name, but has recently started to clean up his act. He’s the sole Ventrue in the Structure who counts himself as one of the Anarchs (Coco’s, of course).

Other Ventrue pass through New Orleans on a temporary basis, or maintain ties to the Big Easy from other cities. Lictors, praetors, and various clanmates from across the Southeast all have business in the great Augusto Vidal’s domain. Caroline may learn more of them, if she has the interest, after she is inducted into the Structure—a night that draws steadily closer.

Her tutors school her in a variety of further matters particular to the clan’s history and customs: how much money she is expected to have by when (enough that she never has to worry about it and within several years), how she is expected to display and act about it (with tasteful restraint); what sorts of havens she is expected to keep (at least one public and tastefully furnished haven in which to receive guests); which hobbies and recreational games are accorded the most respect (chess and “olympianism,” the art of subtly manipulating kine’s lives for entertainment purposes); how she converses with other Ventrue in private (she should be well-read and capable on discoursing on subjects besides politics and gossip; Becky Lynne mildly chides her for being unable to suitably entertain her sire during their first meeting); and many others, including a review of the basic points of etiquette Becky Lynne has tested her on multiple times (always make eye contact with one’s betters, never interrupt one’s betters or lessers, let men kiss your hand and kiss fellow women on the cheek, and always be a model of grace and poise, especially around those who lack it).

Much of Caroline’s history lessons, perhaps to her displeasure, are spent with Father Malveaux. He covers their clan founder’s Embrace and mandate to rule over the other twelve clans, granted to him by Caine; the founder’s final death at a jealous inferior’s hands; the exploits of his eleven childer; the clan’s glories in ancient Sparta, Persia, and most of all, Rome; the clan’s secret rule behind the thrones of feudal nobility, and their dominance over Britain and Germany that persists to this night; Hardestadt’s foundation of the Camarilla, and the Ventrue’s present mandate as its leaders; the clan’s transition from feudal warlords to merchant princes to Fortune 500 CEOs; and the glorious future that awaits them as continued lords over the other Damned, built on the foundations of an equally glorious past.

Becky Lynne previously told Caroline that when a neonate feels they have established their domain, they are to declare their victory to their sire. That sire judges for themselves whether the neonate has succeeded before recommending them to the Gerousia for induction into the Structure. As Caroline lacks a sire, she recourses to Gabriel Hurst as the clan’s aedile. He visits her firm’s offices for a final inspection (all the gerousia have previously visited to offer advice and criticisms) and agrees she is ready. Caroline is scheduled to appear before the full Ventrue clan at their next gathering on December 1st (clan-wide meetings are always held on the first Tuesday of every month). She will give a full accounting of herself, the clan’s history and traditions, and how she met her agoge’s challenge. If she is found worthy, she will be accepted into the Structure as one of them.

Caroline: The instruction in matters of etiquette is easily mastered—in many ways it builds upon foundations laid down her entire life, with subtle and unsubtle differences. The history lessons are another matter entirely. While a skilled student in her life, the various handicaps on her study in her Requiem make it significantly more challenging.

Not only is there the ongoing antagonism with her ‘teacher’ in these matters, there is hardly any text to go in in his place, and independent study is more than simply difficult. It requires she rebuild her lessons from memory on her own time, then bounce them against further instruction from Father Malveaux—often with painful results.

Still, she slowly builds her own notes on Ventrue history, and on the Camarilla as a whole based on the lessons she receives, and in the near dawn hours fills her last minutes of each night with additional study. It’s could be more effective, but she substitutes the various tools she’s accustomed to with time and unfound motivation she lacked in life: it was one (relatively easy) thing to get A’s in school, it’s another to meet the exhausting Ventrue standard.

As she gets closer to the 1st of December increasingly many of her incidental nightly activities fade into the background in favor of more intensive study. Sires, childer, genealogy, history, major accomplishments, ancestors and the traits and deeds they are known for. Much of her hunting time fades away into study-filled hours—the previous time spent cultivating her herd paying dividends now when she cannot spare hours to find the proper vessel.

GM: Caroline finds Father Malveaux civil but cool in his instruction. He does, however, have very little inclination to go over material more than once.

The wound that may cut deepest is the time she spends on “her” ancestors.

Alexander is known for being the youngest of Ventrue’s childer, and some apocryphal stories claim he was the Macedonian conqueror of the same name—although these seem at odds with the belief that the Ventrue clan founder perished countless millennia ago, as well as the bust that depicts a perfect-featured youth of no more than 20 years. He was notable for being the driving Ventrue hand behind Charlemagne’s empire, a great patron of the Carolingian Renaissance, and for founding the Grand Court in Paris, one of the great centers of Kindred civilization during the Middle Ages. His praxis cemented the close relationship between the Ventrue and Toreador clans that persists to this night. He was ironically overthrown by an alliance between the succubi and his childe Geoffrey, forced into exile, and eventually met final death at the hands of Mongol Gangrel in the barely-civilized Slavic east. An ignoble end for a methuselah who is now all-but worshiped by his many French descendants.

Gaius Pedius Marcellus was a young tribune Embraced during the Punic Wars. He was renowned as a thinker and philosopher, and his efforts to preserve the clan’s history in the aftermath of Rome’s fall likely helped Father Malveaux’s archive be as complete as it is. He was very active in his sire’s court as another patron of the Carolingian Renaissance, but grew less heard from after the Carolingian dynasty fell. His final fate is unknown, but he has not been heard from since the Anarch Revolt, and is presumed to number among that conflict’s many casualties.

Dominic de Valois-Burgundy is presumed to hail from the mortal noble house of the same name and shared an idealistic temperament with his sire. He ruled a mortal commune in France that sought, somewhat unorthodoxly, to “incorporate the best lessons of ancient Carthage” and control every aspect of their lives as an enlightened philosopher-king. He sought to eliminate crime, poverty, corruption, and all other social and economic ills from his commune, making it a “shining city upon a hill” hundreds of years before Winthrop’s sermon. He was also renowned as one of the clan’s most popular and trusted diplomats (through the Court of Many Colors) to the Brujah clan. He further distinguished himself during the Enlightenment as an orator and philosopher in Elysia throughout France, and very much considered himself the model of a then-modern enlightened despot. He has not been heard from since the French Revolution and is presumed to have met final death in that conflict.

Dominic’s descendants are the first ones whose faces and voices are known by New Orleans’ Ventrue. Strategos Vidal, Gerousiastis Matheson, and Marcel Guilbeau all knew Lothar Constantine personally as the city’s first Sanctified bishop, a brilliant thinker in the mold of his sire, the founder of the library that Father Malveaux now maintains, and a long-valued member of the Gerousia and Cabildo. Marcel was there when Constantine met final death, sacrificing himself so that he and his mortal brother-turned-sire Jereaux had time to flee the pack of Loup-Garoux descending upon their family’s plantation.

Pierpont McGinn and Father Malveaux also knew Robert Bastien, the city’s previous sheriff. He was a ghoul Embraced for his valor during the last of the Kindred revolts that occurred against Vidal’s rule during the War of 1815. He maintained the peace during some of the city’s most tumultuous years and trained Donovan to be the sheriff he now is.

This legacy and more, Caroline is told she is heir to.

Caroline: It’s a lie. A worthless lie she has never understood and may never. A lie that nearly ended her Requeim and even now haunts it, wasting her time and poisoning her relations. She hates learning of René. Hates the idea of continuing to recite this lie.

Not that she has a choice.

Tuesday night, 1 December 2015, PM

GM: The lie persists, like so many others, and the night of December 1st eventually comes. Caroline is summoned to a conference room in Perdido House, large enough to comfortably seat several dozen people around a wide table. An elevated portion seats all of the Gerousia by order of seniority, from right to left: the Hussar (representing his domitor), the ghoul possessed by John Harley Matheson, Marcel Guilbeau, Pierpont McGinn, and Father Malveaux. Gabriel Hurst, as the clan’s eldest (and currently sole) aedile acts as presiding officer of the meeting, which Caroline has learned is conducted largely along the same procedural lines as Roberts’ Rules of Order.

The whole of the local Ventrue clan turns out, also including John Polk, Reynaldo Gui, Becky Lynne Adler, Christopher Guilbeau, Anthony Brodowski, Roxanne Gerlette, and several other Kindred whose faces Caroline does not recognize, but who she was told had business in New Orleans. Caroline is seated at the table’s left-most space, after Roxanne. The medals and insignia she studied under Becky Lynne are pinned to the lapels of suits and the collars of dresses.

Her eye is notably drawn to the pendant of a candle that Matheson’s younger childe wears. Lightbringer, for completing one’s agoge with exceptional distinction. The Gerousia’s recognition of the bright future that lies ahead for the recipient—and equally high expectations.

A brief period is permitted for all the attendees to settle in before Gabriel Hurst stands at the elevated portion of the conference table and strikes it once with a gavel to draw attention. “The convention will come to order,” he announces.

Caroline: That the prince has sent a ghoul torpedoes her spirits, but she keeps her face carefully neutral.

GM: Caroline was told this was not unusual. Vidal has not personally attended the clan’s monthly meetings on a regular basis in quite some time.

But she evidently did not warrant an exception.

Caroline: She has never seemed to. Not for anyone’s busy schedule. The disappointment is bitter but familiar.

GM: A prayer service to Longinus, notably briefer than the ones in Sunday Elysia, is held. Hurst then reads the items on the nightly agenda, which notably begins with “the final testing and induction of Miss Malveaux into the Structure.” Every other item on the agenda comes afterwards. After all, there are few events more consequential than a new Ventrue’s addition to the clan’s ranks. Their new domain will provide potential opportunities to all, and makes the Structure as a whole that much stronger.

“The assembly calls on Miss Caroline Malveaux to rise,” Gabriel Hurst says, looking up from the written agenda in front of him.

After she does so, the aedile continues in his steady Louisiana drawl,

“Miss Malveaux, as you are no doubt aware, your actions since your release and your conduct at this gatherin’ will determine whether you are you admitted into the Structure of Clan Ventrue as an eiren.”

The eyes of a dozen dead men and women survey Caroline steadily. Several, unblikingly.

“So, go on and tell us,” Hurst continues, spreading his hands. “Who are you, Miss Malveaux? How have you completed your agoge—and what dignitas have you earned that honors the Ventrue name?”

Caroline: Caroline has always hated public speaking, particularly the self-aggrandizing type. Speaking about one’s own greatness and achievements always struck her as the opposite of what the great do. She’d brought up the point with her father on several occasions, particularly in her youth, given that he was required to give such speeches frequently, trumpeting his accomplishments.

He’d had little sympathy: the need to be comfortable in front of a crowd was one he saw for all of his children, especially his eldest. Very shortly thereafter she’d found herself thrust into the forefront of numerous campaign events, and and told she would find a leadership position in student government. Lessons with her father flowed naturally from this—by far the best part of the entire demand was the time it bought her with him—and while she outgrew her fear of such things, she’s never quite outgrown the discomfort with them.

All the more so now standing before this collection of the dead and damned. Some of then centuries old, all of them accepted by their peers, all of them her senior, and all of them all too aware of her dirty laundry among Kindred society. Several she’d all but begged before. Others she’s apologized too. Many hold boons over her and more than one has physically assaulted her.

All are more accomplished, in their own ways. Often in several ways. The agoge showed her as clearly as it taught her that each of these damned is successful in their own ways. In some cases fantastically successful, however monstrous some may be.

But she remembers well her father’s lessons. Remembers going up against juniors and seniors who had far more to their name than her. Remembers how to make something out of nothing.

“I am Caroline Malveaux. In my mortal life was the daughter of Nathaniel Malveaux, now senator from Louisiana and one of three heirs to Malveaux Oil and the Malveaux fortune.” She begins.

“In my mortal life I graduated from Tulane University, fenced alongside world champions, debated in the National Forensic League at the national level, and just prior to my Embrace saved the lives of heirs to the Devillers and Whitney families.”

Her voice is strong and clear, her words crisp, ringing.

“I was Embraced on the 6th of September, 2015, in the Dungeon, following my torture and murder by René Baristheaut.” The lie stings, but it’s a familiar one by now. “Childe of Robert Bastien, childe of Lothar Constantine, childe of Dominic de Valois-Burgundy, childe of Gaius Pedius Marcellus, childe of Alexander, childe of Ventrue.”

“René Baristheaut who honorably served as hound in this city until his sire’s final death, and who met his own end with dignitas.”

“Childe of Robert Bastien, who was Embraced for bravery and valor during the war of 1815, who as sheriff maintained the peace for decades and instructed the current sheriff of New Orleans, who met his end defending the city against the blasphemous forces that would destroy us all.”

“Childe of Lothar Constantine, the city’s first bishop, founder of the city’s library, member of the Gerousia and Cabildo, who met his end honorably against Loup-Garoux to save members of this current body.”

“Child of Dominic de Valois-Burgundy, renowned diplomat, orator, philosopher, and despot who sought to liberate kine from their own sins and worst inclinations.”

“Childe of Gaius Pedius Marcellus, soldier of the Punic Wars, philosopher, and savior of the archives of Rome following its collapse, and longtime member of his sire’s court.”

“Childe of Alexander, the youngest childe of Ventrue, architect of the Carolingian Empire, patron of its Renaissance, and founder of the Grand Court of Paris. Father of the ties between Clans Toreador and Ventrue that persist to this night.”

“Childe of Ventrue, founder of our clan.”

“My Embrace was atypical. No sire awaited me upon my awakening. Nor the following night. Nor any night. Gratefully, one of the members of this august body saw fit to introduce me to the All Night Society. From their I learned my path forward, that René was to be delivered to face the prince’s justice.”

“I was challenged in this course by an Anarch krewe recruited into his service. Thrice I bested them before they met their demise.”

“Thus he was so delivered, and found his final justice by the prince’s hand.”

“Following my release I came to learn for the first time of Clan Ventrue’s nature, of what it meant to be Ventrue, of our clan’s history. And began upon the construction of a domain that might bring honor to the Clan, truth to my naming among them, and purpose to my Requiem.”

“I settled upon the legal field as one not yet touched by another Ventrue, and began my efforts to establish a domain worthy of the name. Servants within it, pawns to be moved, clients to be influenced. Influence, power, and worth. I created a firm and recruited attorneys of talent and skill to man it. I established relationships with other firms, with judges, with clients. All increasing the reach of the firm.

“Today it stands ready to meet any legal challenge. It produces wealth to satisfy my needs. It offers influence within the courts that will only grow in time, and more mundane services that any attorney might. The handling of wealth, of properties, of estates.”

“This is my domain. My offering to the clan, my demonstration of worth.”

“I bring this with me, weighed and measured by those gathered tonight.”

“Alongside it I bring my skill, my knowledge, and my dedication to Clan Ventrue. My skill in the blood: velocitas, sublimitas, mentis imperium. And I bring my ambition. My desire to succeed. To be greater than I am. To honor my sire and my ancestors in blood.”

“I offer myself, and my domain, for consideration by those gathered here.”

GM: Caroline might hate public speaking—but her audience clearly does not.

Despite the faintest of frowns at her Embrace’s initial description, Anthony Brodowski and Roxanne Gerlette look favorably disposed by Caroline’s initial description of her pedigree. A few eyes flicker towards Matheson’s ghoul as Caroline mentions saving a Whitney heir. The five Kindred in the room who claim descent from Alexander—Marcel and his childe, Roxanne, and John Polk—all seem to follow Caroline’s words especially closely as she recites the deeds and accomplishments their allegedly shared ancestors, and to swell with pride (at least in their eyes) as she proceeds through each name. Her description of Dominic “liberating kine from their own worst inclinations and sins” even draws a few smiles, and Marcel offers a faint inclination of his head with a deeply somber expression as Caroline praises his grandsire’s valor in meeting final death. Pierpont McGinn and Reynaldo Gui both crack the slightest of smiles at Caroline’s description of Eight-Nine-Six’s three defeats (perhaps little surprise for a recipient of the Daley Prize). Father Malveaux and John Harley Matheson evince no outward displays of emotion, but neither do they indicate disapproval—perhaps an accomplishment of in of itself.

A pause stretches the air as Gabriel Hurst permits the assembled Ventrue a further moment to silently appreciate Caroline’s words.

“Well said, Miss Malveaux,” the aedile finally declares.

He turns towards his sire’s ghoul. “Gerousiastis Matheson, as the eldest among us, would you question the aspirant further on our clan’s behalf?”

“I would, Aedile Hurst,” the ghoul replies. Hurst opens a folder and slides it towards him. ‘Matheson’ briefly glances at the contents before fixing his gaze upon Caroline.

“To whom do you credit the successes you have relayed us, Miss Malveaux?” the elder Ventrue inquires.

Caroline: “Gerousiastis Matheson,” Caroline begins, “I once, when speaking to your own esteemed childe, Questor Adler, spoke of Ventrue within a city as a Parthenon among its Kindred.”

“Remarkable not only for the unbroken longevity of such domains, for their strength of form, and for their ability to awe those of taste, but also for how such a structure is held up not be a single pillar that bares the load, but instead by the collective strength of all under its roof.”

“As with such a structure, so too would I say that I am the sum of many parts. Arrogance would have me claim that my successes are my own, but pride and respect beg their due. Each Kindred in this room has formed a pillar that has allowed me to build my own domain, and accomplish in those ways I have.”

“Some, certainly more than others by virtue of their patience and proximity: Strategos Vidal for the mercy of his rule that spared an illicit Embrace an ignoble death, for his induction into Clan Ventrue, and for the strength, stability, and security of the city. Yourself, Gerousiastis Matheson for your own willingness to meet with a then sireless fledging awaiting release and devote the efforts of your own childe that I would not be released into ignorance. Gerousiastis Guilbeau for his willingness to meet with me as I was and reset me upon the proper path. Gerousiastis McGinn for his unvarnished honesty, for painful lessons better learned early he was willing to provide. Gerousiastis Malveaux for his initial initiation into the all-night society, instruction in matters of faith, the beginnings of my development of mentis imperium, his patience in forgiving early missteps, and his later lessons in the history of this clan. Questor Adler who’s great patience, and great dedication, I hope has educated me as a member of this distinguished clan should be.”

“And more than those within this room. All those enumerated in my blood’s past, distant and near. I have inherited no shameful history or merit-less legacy. I have inherited strength of blood, strength spirit, and nobility of purpose from an unbroken line of Ventrue that did honor to the name.”

“Even my sire, who saw not fit to await me upon my Embrace, bequeathed upon me rare, neigh unique, opportunity. To test myself as few have. To discover for myself if I had the strength and bearing to take my place. To face a challenge few of my blood ever have the opportunity to.”

“My mortal upbringing too gave me skills and tools by virtue of its privileged few might enjoy.”

“And yes, Gerousiastis Matheson, beside these mighty pillars have I built my own efforts. My dedication, my cunning, my intelligence. My ambition. My will to power. I credit my successes to Clan Ventrue and all those that have honorably born the name.”

GM: Audible murmurs go through the assembled Ventrue this time.

Hurst approaches his ‘sire’ and whispers in the ghoul’s ear.

Matheson’s ghoul nods in answer.

Hurst makes eye contact with the remaining members of the gerousia. Finally, he calls, “This is assembly will now vote upon the resolution to induct Miss Malveaux into the Structure. All those in favor, please say ‘aye.’”

Hurst looks towards the Hussar.

“His Majesty delegates his vote to Gerousiastis Malveaux,” the scarred ghoul replies.

Hurst looks towards his own sire’s ghoul.

“I delegate my vote to Gerousiastis Malveaux.”

Hurst looks towards Marcel Guilbeau.

“I, too, delegate my vote to Gerousiastis Malveaux.”

Hurst looks to Pierpont McGinn.

“Gerousiastis Malveaux’s got ma vote ta cast as he pleases,” he drawls.

Hurst looks towards the albino priest.

All the clan’s eyes rest upon him.

Caroline: Caroline watches the murmurs sweep through those assembled, the whispered message to Gerousiastis Matheson, and the decision to stop questioning at one with more than mild trepidation. It’s possible she’s misstepped. Committed some egregious violation or breach of protocol. It’s also possible she was never in consideration, that there’s been some back room deal cut between those truly in power in the room making her appearance here nothing but a formality. As the votes flow to Gerousiastis Malveaux that sinking feeling only grows.

That relationship remains fraught, and as the pale priest holds her future in his hands she feels the trepidation every young mother must feel when the family drunk hoists their newborn from the crib. That it would be so easy for him to drop and smash that thing so precious to her. Placing all the votes in his hands is so convenient as well for the rest, they can rest assured that the Gerousia will speak with a single voice.

What is in the folder given to Gerousiastis Matheson’s ghoul? Something incriminating? Something to strike her down with? A past failure unrevealed? So many of her failures have been laid bare before those here that she already at times feels naked, exposed, before them, but she has secrets still. Dangerous secrets. She doesn’t look at the Hussar.

When the votes make their way to Gerousiastis Malveaux she need not hold her breath—she’s practiced not breathing when not speaking for exactly this moment, this night, when her composure is essential either way. Less to give away. Whatever happens, she’s done the best that she can with the hand she had. She regrets some early moves, cards discarded and mistakes made that placed her in a hole, but she feels no shame in her plays since then. She looks around the room. There are monsters here. Beings that in life would have more than repulsed her. Racists, murderers, bigots. Worse.

But she’s one of them, and however humble and fragile the empire she’s built from glass and spun dreams in the last months, it is her empire, and it stands among their own. Whatever Gerousiastis Malveaux decides, whatever deals have been cut or arrangements made, she knows her worth. And so to do they all.

GM: “Aye,” rasps Father Malveaux.

Hurst looks towards his sister-in-blood.










Guilbeau the younger.


The several strangers in the room each indicate, “Abstain.”

“All those opposed, please say no,” Hurst calls out.

Silence answers him.

“Looks like the ‘ayes’ have it,” the aedile declares. “I vote ‘aye’ as well. Gerousiastis Matheson?”

The ghoul steeples his fingers as Hurst seats himself.

“This assembly has voted in favor of the resolution to induct you into the Structure as an eiren, Miss Malveaux. Is it your wish to accept this position, and all the rights, privileges, and responsibilities pertaining thereto?”

He motions briefly for her to rise.

Caroline: When the albino finally casts his vote, she barely hears the chorus of ‘ayes’ that follow from the junior members of the room. She keeps her expression carefully neutral throughout, but the dread that surrounds her melts away like a morning fog under the summer’s sun. The path forward lays revealed in its absence, a path into the future. The first she’s seen in many months, and for the first time since the seneschal bestowed upon her a second doom she is, for a moment, simply happy.

The heiress rises once more to face the assembled Ventrue clan of New Orleans. She’s had this speech prepared, according to form, for weeks on the chance she had the opportunity to give it. There’s only a small pang of disappointment that her sire isn’t here to see it, but it’s swept aside as she begins to speak.

“I do, Gerousiastis Matheson, and I do swear and affirm that from this night, and in all future nights…”

Tuesday night, 1 December 2015, PM

GM: When Caroline resumes her seat, it as “Eiren Malveaux.” As one of them.

There was a reason the motion to induct her into the Structure was the evening’s first order of business, above and beyond the inherent value of a new member to expand the Structure. She will have a voice and vote in the following clan-wide matters.

The first such matter concerns two guests to the city.

The first guest introduces himself as, “Questor Thomas Becker, childe of Peter Hartmaan, childe of Maximilian Maurey, childe of Hugo Kleist, childe of Hardestadt, childe of Antonius, childe of Ventrue.” Peter Hartmaan is the former (but unlike Marcel Guilbeau, neither banished nor technically deposed) prince of Houston. Becker is present in New Orleans, he announces to the gathered clan, to broker deals regarding the expansion of clanmates’ domains into his home city. As everyone knows, his Prince Hartmaan’s praxis over the Space City came to an end during Hurricane Katrina when the Church of the Longest Night, a group of Anarchs and Sanctified heretics led by the Brujah “First Minister” Hezekiah Rutledge, orchestrated a coup d’etat that abolished the princedom and divided Houston into a city of effectively independent regents, which now-Regent Hartmaan was reduced to. This has obviously been bad for the local Ventrue clan.

Houston is a huge city with notably unique zoning laws and one of the fastest-growing urban areas in the United States. “Frankly, there’s more than we can chew off,” Becker says. While the local clan normally would be content to “take our time to gobble up every morsel,” recent political circumstances have made this stance impractical. The local Structure would rather see the city’s surplus resources go towards fellow Ventrue, with whom “mutually profitable arrangements” may be struck, than risk those resources falling into the hands of Rutledge’s followers or the Ordo Dracul, which is a a powerful covenant in Houston. Becker is here in New Orleans to both make this larger offer on behalf of his sire, and to offer his own services as a guide to the politics and economics of the Big Heart City.

Several clanmates express their interest and ask Becker a variety of questions. They makes plans to discuss further details pertaining to any arrangements in private.

The second guest, a young-looking Asian woman, draws the room’s attention when she presents herself as “Questor Lin-Mei Yuen, childe of Jan Pieterzoon, childe of Hardestadt.” She is in New Orleans because she is already visiting kin in Houston (Peter Hartmaan also shares her descent, albeit more distantly, from the Camarilla’s legendary architect). When Questor Becker traveled to New Orleans, she decided to accompany him. She’s heard a great deal about the city’s cultural and historic heritage (mortal and Ventrue) and is interested in seeing it for herself. She intends on visiting the clan archives in the Garden District. She says she will welcome the company and hospitality of any clanmates feeling “inclined to entertain a tourist,” but otherwise has no business to bring before the local Structure.

Becky Lynne happily volunteers to “play tour guide”. When Roxanne Gerlette and Anthony Brodowski also seem interested in doing so, Adler suggests they could all “make a night of it” together. Yuen and the others seem happy with this suggestion.

The next matter brought up by the Hussar concerning the matter of the Windsor Court. The hotel has been demolished and the land it occupies, through Vidal’s prior manipulations, indirectly belongs to him. However, “the strategos’ time is beset by many pressing matters,” the Hussar declares, and sorting out what to do with the Court’s land does not rate highly among them.

Vidal is thus willing to farm out this task to the clan at large. Interested Ventrue have until the Structure’s next Tuesday gathering to research and put together proposals for what to do with the Court’s land. There are no requirements for what these proposals must entail, beyond being beneficial to Vidal (and the clan at large, of course). If the strategos does not find any of them to be of sufficient interest, his intention is to sell the former hotel’s land to developers.

The Hussar pauses to field questions from any interested clanmates.

Caroline: Caroline inquires politely as to the exact extent of the prior Windsor Court’s lands.

GM: The land is approximately 44,000 square feet, the Hussar answers. The Orleans Parish Assessor’s Office has valued it at $2,640,000.

Caroline: Caroline takes notes in neat precise hand on a spiral-bound portfolio.

GM: Anthony Brodowski inquires whether Strategos Vidal would prefer to retain a stake in any new enterprise built on the Court’s land, or whether he would prefer to sell it to another clanmate. The Hussar answers that the strategos has no preferences. He will judge proposals by their comparative merits and back whichever one he deems to have the most promise.

Caroline: She jots down several thoughts beside her notes: lost services?, interaction with other domains, value added. collaboration? She looks to Brodowski and circles the last bullet.

GM: Reynaldo Gui inquires to what extent “extralegal activities” on the building’s former site will be of concern to the Masquerade.

The Hussar answers that the Masquerade remains a matter of some concern. Unusual happenings were reported in the Windsor Court. The family of a woman who claimed to have been raped in the hotel also made recurrent nuisances of themselves.

Caroline: More notes.

GM: Hunters were also suspected to have been active in the area. When Reynaldo Gui inquires for more details, the Hussar elaborates that Vidal ultimately settled on killing two birds with one stone. An already known hunter, and a member of the woman’s family, were used as a patsies to start the fire that burned down the Court. Although the Hussar does not phrase his words in such crass terms, it is apparent that burning down the Court was a way to save on costs. Vidal only had to purchase land rather than land occupied by a far more expensive building he intended to demolish anyway.

Caroline: It’s an instructive example for the use of such catspaws for Caroline.

GM: Christopher Guilbeau inquires in an idle tone what became of the hunter and family member. The Hussar regards the young Ventrue for a moment, then answers that the latter slew the former. He is now serving a lifetime sentence in Louisiana State Penitentiary for aggravated arson and second-degree murder.

Roxanne Gerlette begs the Hussar’s patience as she inquires as to the sinfulness of the life-serving family member. The Hussar answers (shortly) that the man was specifically chosen to receive such a fate for his sinfulness, but goes into no further details. It is plain that he no longer wishes to entertain questions he considers irrelevant.

The Hussar entertains several further questions about the land itself before yielding the floor to Pierpont McGinn. The Ventrue ancilla begins by announcing that he is backing Woody Long against Joseph Kelly in the Republican primary for the 2016 Senate race. He pauses, however, to field a question from Roxanne Gerlette.

“Senator Kelly is a decades-serving incumbent, Gerousiastis,” Gerlette states, before offering brief but pointed commentary on how unlikely he is to lose a reelection bid. Unspoken is not without the direct sort of tampering that is discouraged with such public figures—but the eiren knows better than to make such insinuations.

McGinn merely grins at her.

“Well, eiren, it’s not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game.”

Caroline: I was under the impression that everyone here plays to win, Caroline thinks, not buying the gerousiastis’ response.

GM: McGinn continues that he has received Strategos Vidal’s permission to back Long in the race—federally elected officials are still the strategos’ domain—and that Long, by grace of the strategos, is to be considered his own domain for the duration of the 2016 Senate race. His clanmates receive this news cordially.

McGinn also adds that he will “look favorably upon” and be “amenable to making arrangements” with any clanmates who wish to help out Long’s primary run.

It was only at Thanksgiving that Caroline’s father said she would be working for Kelly’s campaign.

Caroline: Caroline takes notes on the matter, but judges it’s too soon to speak on the matter directly. After all, by the time the campaign gets into full swing she should be dead.

GM: Father Malveaux takes the floor next to announce, although Caroline has half-heard the news already, that the renowned scholar Bindusara is expected to visit the city to transcribe copies of the Library of New Orleans’ genealogical records. This month’s first Tuesday marks the (closest) point to the 11th anniversary of his last assistants’ departures.

Caroline: It’s not news to Caroline—he’d let it slip to her earlier—but still catches her attention. The records were of particular interest to Caroline, and for more than simply selfish reasons.

GM: An elder of his unassailable dignitas should be received and celebrated accordingly. Father Malveaux, however, has no taste for planning parties. As with Strategos Vidal and the Windsor Court’s land, this is a task he is willing to farm out to any interested clanmates. Arrangements should not be made in earnest until Bindusara sends word of his arrival (and Father Malveaux vets plans), but ones that are not overly time-sensitive may begin to be made.

The father fields a few questions, and in short order, Hurst moves through what he declares “a related” item on the agenda, concerning the recently discovered addition of Brienne of Lindum Colonia—long destroyed but no less consequential—to Questor Polk’s and Eiren Gerlette’s lineage, and the public acknowledgment thereof…

Wednesday night, 2 December 2015, AM

GM: The clan reconvenes several hours later to celebrate Caroline’s formal acceptance into the Structure.

The choice of venue is a familiar one to the new eiren.

The first time Caroline went to the Hilton New Orleans Riverside was as a twelve-year-old who managed not to impress her uncle after turning around what could have been a humiliating fumble. The last time was as a confused and ignorant childe pursued by that same uncle’s mortal agents.

“This time you’ve found your place in the world, Eiren Malveaux,” Gabriel Hurst grins as he ushers Caroline out of the chaffeured limo and into the hotel’s ballroom.

The other dozen-plus members of the clan have already arrived in advance of the pair. They break into applause as Caroline enters last, down literal red carpet. The venue, too, has been transformed since her last visit.

She recognizes the same tapestry that hung behind Vidal at her initial release. It’s as tall as a man and depicts the archaic Ventrue coat of arms: a shield with scepters (the clan’s modern insignia), roaring lions, and the fleur-de-lis, all in stark golds, reds, and blacks. A crown rests above the shield, which is flanked by two larger roaring lions, and hovers above Latin scrollwork that reads, In veritate in minus ut praeesset sanguis est imperare.

(“To rule in blood is to rule in truth.”)

There’s also a towering marble statue of Alexander, a perfectly-featured Greek youth of exquisite beauty and golden curls, along with busts of Caroline’s other purported ancestors from Gaius Pedius Marcellus all the way down to René Baristheaut. The sculptor imparted his features a somber dignity they lacked in unlife. More banners depict the Ventrue clan’s scepter; the fleur-de-lis that represents so many different personages and causes; and the many nations both patronized and puppettered by her ancestors, ranging from the owl of the Athenian Empire, where Alexander was Embraced; the golden eagle and SPQR of Rome; the intertwined cross of the Carolingian Empire; the quartered dolphins and fleur-de-leis of the Capetian dynasty, mirrored again in the coat of arms of the House of de Valois-Burgundy; and many more flags, insignias, symbols, and seals belonging to a scattered assortment of houses, bloodlines, martial orders, fraternities, and other social entities both mortal and Cainite.

Amidst this backdrop, a live band plays subdued classical music. The center of the ballroom has been turned into a makeshift boxing ring—or perhaps gladiatorial arena. Perhaps six mortals, some male and some female, are dressed in the archaic garb of Athenian hoplites. Each one stands stoically at attention, their features masked behind bronze-hued Corinthian helms.

Matheson’s ghoul rises from his chair to give a prepared-sounding speech about how tonight is a cause for great celebration: Clan Ventrue has weathered the challenges before it just as Caroline has weathered her own agoge, and the tribulations of both have made them each stronger.

The clan’s eldest gerousiastis ends his speech with a proclamation of, “Nos imperare ejus in sempiternum!” (“We shall rule forever!”) as Caroline’s clanmates applaud. He then dedicates “the games” in Caroline’s name and calls for them to begin in earnest.

The clan watches with excitement as the six mortals compete not with blunted fencing foils, but real xiphoses and shields. The band’s music takes on an urgent, pounding tempo as steel clashes against steel, fighters grunt, cry, and sweat, and red stains the floor beneath their sandaled feet.

Caroline could smell it from a distance before. But the aromatic tang, so hot and salty from their exertion, is unmistakable now. Her favored vintage.

Most of the swordplay is quite skillful, too. Caroline can spot the occasional too-wide gap in someone’s defense, the odd bit of footwork that’s too slow, but these people clearly have experience in handling weapons. It makes for a far livelier show than she might expect from hapless everybodies snatched off the street.

None of them fight to the death, though. A few collapse from their wounds and are ignored by the others as attendants carry them off; others are almost-felled by opponents who turn their blades aside at the last moment, but the losers reflexively collapse as if the cut or stab had been fatal.

Eventually, one combatant is left standing after expertly dispatching no less than three of the other ‘gladiators.’ Gabriel Hurst calls on the bleeding woman to unmask herself and presents her with a olive wreath, which she accepts to the gathered clan’s applause.

The face underneath her Corinthian helm is a familiar one to Caroline. Marcel Guilbeau beckons for the adjacently-seated eiren to lean closer as Hurst begins another speech, then murmurs,

“I’m sure you remember Nerea Ericson as the 2008 Olympic Individual Sabre silver medalist in women’s saber, Eiren Malveaux. We found she’s left that career behind to become a lawyer, of all things. She practices commercial litigation for the firm of Dentons, but she clearly still remembers how to use a sword. A multitalented woman like that could be quite useful to you, couldn’t she?”

Marcel smiles at that, then goes on,

“Say the word to us, and Ericson is your servant to command. We can recommend an Invictus guild to train her in a ghoul’s duties if your time is now occupied by other matters. Or, if you should prefer that Ericson remain mortal, she will be flown back to her home in Atlanta and abundantly compensated for her time and trouble. The Gerousia offers either as its gift to you.”

“What is your wish, Eiren Malveaux?”

Caroline: Caroline remembers Nerea Ericson well. She used to train with her—and sometimes against her. Many hours—many more than her mother or father would have preferred—spent in practice bouts against the older girl. She was shockingly fast then. Only Caroline’s greater reach let her compete against the already once-Olympian. Caroline had lost far more than she ever had in the past, far more than she’d ever taken a bout from her. It had been a bitter pill to swallow for the proud heiress who had trounced most of the state’s competition—but then that’s why she’d asked to spend her summers in Houston.

Tonight Nerea’s movements were, in contrast, sluggish to Caroline’s eyes. Almost slow. Despite how gifted she is, despite her training, despite her blind instinct that Caroline was never the equal of, that gap is gone. As the Ventrue motto declares: to rule in blood is to rule in truth. The distance between them closed by Caroline’s death. Closed despite Nerea’s continuation of her training. Despite the more than decade of experience she has on Caroline.

It’s a tempting offer.

She’d not really kept track of Nerea. Not purposefully anyway. She’d tried to bury that part of herself deeply, but the holes, the wounds, were deep. She knew Nerea had left competition. It had been a shame in her eyes. Nerea was the best. Throwing that away for an ordinary life was a waste of her talent.

Bringing her into this life would be a destruction of her life. A ruination of it. A bending of another life to her will, to Caroline’s ambition and desire.

And yet everything around her says that’s what’s right. Her right. This entire night a tribute to her imposing her will on the world. To the call to power that is her birthright. Or at least her deathright.

And she would be so useful. An attorney ghoul she could use as a potential check against Bishop, someone she knows but isn’t as close to as Denise.

Beyond that, a potential sparring partner? Caroline’s tried finding someone local, but frankly, even the would-be ‘scholars’ are just slow in her eyes. Uninspired. Historians pretending to be fighters. She knows how good Nerea is. Knows how much better she could be with the blood running through her.

The thoughts war in her mind in an instant, as the offer is extended by the gerousiastis. It really is so tempting. She can almost feel her fangs extending in her mouth in excitement over the offer—or is it simply all the blood she can nearly taste in the air?

“An extremely generous offer, Gerousiastis Guilbeau,” she replies. “I do remember her, very well in fact. No doubt the Gerousia knew we had a history?”

GM: “It always pays to do one’s homework before offering gifts,” Marcel smiles.

Caroline: Questions go through her head: does Nerea have those that will miss her? A family? Almost certainly so. She was always friendly, and Caroline knows that she’s from a well-off family. Rule forever. She wants Nerea.

“Do you believe she would do well as a ghoul, Gerousiastis Guilbeau?” she murmurs back.

GM: “I honestly don’t know her well enough to say, Eiren Malveaux,” the older Ventrue answers.

“That could depend on a number of things. I think she might find the transition to the all-night society easier, though, after knowing you as one of the kine. You aren’t a dark stranger who’d be initiating her into a perilous and terrifying new existence, but an associate and perhaps even friend who she knows was new to it as well, once.”

Caroline: Caroline nods in agreement. “I would offer her the opportunity then,” she answers. Turning down a gift would be poor form.

GM: “Very good,” Marcel states. “She’ll be waiting for you after the party’s over.”

Caroline: It’s a healthy compromise that doesn’t war with her faith.

Just what little is left of her conscience.

GM: Marcel gestures to Hurst, who in turn directs a retinue of servants to lead (or carry away) the combatants and disassemble the makeshift arena. In short order, the ballroom is a ballroom once more.

The band starts up a more relaxed and stately waltz as the aedile entreats Caroline’s clanmates to enjoy the “more genteel” entertainments. They’re joined by a new retinue of mortals clad in formal gowns and tuxedos—a number of whom also smell of Caroline’s preferred vintage.

Matheson’s ghoul, however, is the first prospective partner to approach her. He is the eldest Ventrue present, and she the one in whose honor the present festivities are being held. She’s learned what tradition dictates.

“If I may have this first dance, Eiren Malveaux…”

Wednesday night, 2 December 2015, AM

Caroline: As it turns out Caroline is quite a skilled, even remarkable, dancer, especially out from under the prying eyes of mortals that might wonder just how quickly her feet move.

As the night moves on, and the blood flows freely into each of the Ventrue amid the merriment, she eventually finds herself with less distinguished personages—but no less desirable company. Anthony Brodowski, she knows, has his own merits.

After more polite reintroduction and some polite conversation she steers the topic towards the offer for proposals with the Windsor Court lands. “Is it particularly common for opportunities like that to come up during meetings?” she asks, playing the neophyte to the ‘older’ Ventrue.

GM: Anthony Brodowski is an emaciated, rail-thin boy who looks in his mid- or late teens. He is exceptionally gaunt even for a vampire, with hollow cheeks and dark discoloration under his watery gray-blue eyes. He’s around a head shorter than Caroline and wears a dark suit tailored to downplay the thinness of his bony, stick-like limbs. His neck-length brown hair is thin and wispy.

“I wouldn’t say it’s an everynight thing, but it’s not uncommon. Sometimes a gerousiastis is too busy to take care of something themselves.” He smiles faintly. “Or just feels like throwing the pups a bone.”

Caroline: “Frequently enough then that canny Kindred are ready for it?” she asks, half-coyly and half-leadingly. “I couldn’t help but notice some took more note of it—or at least showed more interest—than others.”

GM: “Canny Kindred are usually more than ready for it,” the skeletal Ventrue answers as they dance. He still leads, despite the pair’s significant difference in height.

“Sometimes it doesn’t go to the floor, if someone hears early and convinces the gerousiastis they can do a good job. That doesn’t happen with the strategos, though. I don’t think he sees much of anyone besides the seneschal.”

Caroline: Caroline tries not to let her own disappointment in that show. “Is it relatively common that he sends the Hussar in his stead?”

GM: “Oh, he almost always does. Gerousiastis Matheson chairs most meetings.”

Caroline: “Mhmm.” Caroline takes in the ‘elder’ Ventrue’s words. “Still, you didn’t seem particularly surprised by the offer the Hussar put out, Questor Brodowski.”

GM: “Neither did you, Eiren Malveaux.”

Caroline: “Perhaps I just thought it noteworthy,” Caroline replies, making a mild pun.

GM: An amused smile.

Caroline: Caroline smiles back. “I did have a thought on it,” she admits.

GM: “I managed several. They can be useful things to have.”

Caroline: Caroline laughs lightly. “A mind can be a dangerous thing.”

The Ventrue smiles back as they waltz, perhaps waiting for Caroline to give voice to her earlier thought.

“I heard a rumor that the St. Bernard Project was looking for a new home,” she admits.

GM: “Oh? That’s promising.”

Caroline: “It could be,” Caroline agrees. “I have a hope that pulling one of the most powerful charities out of the Ninth Ward might seem worthwhile to the prince. Of course, the logistics of pulling such a thing off is… complicated.”

GM: “Yes, it could be. All before the interest other Kindred might have in keeping them there.”

Caroline: “Yes, it does seem like it might be a complicated web for a young eiren to navigate alone,” Caroline agrees.

GM: Brodowski reconducts Caroline to her initial place and bows as the band concludes its piece. The action is mirrored by a dozen more pairs throughout the chamber.

“Thank you for the dance, Eiren Malveaux.” He smiles faintly again. “It’s an especially great honor when only five women here aren’t ghouls.”

Many of the majority-male clan’s male Kindred, Caroline observes, have made do by dancing with ghouls in lieu of available Kindred partners.

Caroline: “The honor was mine, Questor Brodowski. If it’s pleasing, I’d have a ghoul pass on contact information,” she replies.

The smile lingers on her face after Brodowski has departed. After dancing to someone else’s tune for half a year, it feels good to finally play some music of her own.

Wednesday night, 2 December 2015, AM

GM: In due time, festivities wind down as the evening concludes. Sleek black chauffeur-driven vehicles pick up the assorted Ventrue. Servants pick up the clan’s paraphernalia and sanitize the area for the Masquerade. Come the morning, the Hilton’s ballroom will be ready again for mortal use. None will be aware pf the events that transpired the previous night.

Others, though, may remember something more.

Ericson still looks like she’s sleepwalking when she’s turned over to Caroline, still dressed in an Athenian hoplite’s anacronistic garb and sporting several red cuts from her fight against the other fencers. The olive wreath rests on her head—an inexplainable prize to a battle she may not even remember fighting.

Caroline: It’s a strange feeling to be back in a room with the fencer Caroline once viewed as a titan. She distinctly remembers the opportunity to fence against her in the already Olympians lead up to her final run—Caroline’s long reach and left handed style made her an acceptable stand in for one of Ericson’s likely opponents.

The older woman had all but dismantled Caroline, piece by piece, inch by inch. The polite answer was to claim that she’d learned a great deal from the experience, but the truth was more complicated.
Caroline had hated the experience. Others said afterwards there was no shame in losing to the vastly older, more experienced, more talented fencer. She’d privately disagreed.

To not only lose, but to lose so utterly, was an experience Caroline was horrifying unfamiliar with. She was there, at that facility, to train in part because she was talented. Because typically it was Caroline on the distributing end of one sided beatings in local and regional competition against her peers.
It had scared her, in a way—it was one thing to know others could physically manhandle you and another entirely to be physically manhandled. Frustrated her in others. Caused her to redouble her efforts. And perhaps more than anything made her hate the woman, in the most horribly selfish and petty way.

Envy was an ugly emotion that the Caroline of that time had been particularly unaccustomed to feeling.
She’s had plenty of opportunity to adjust

As she settles her gaze on the archaically dressed once fencer—the night’s champion—many of those old feelings rise to the surface once more. Tempered now by her own experiences, Caroline finds her feelings more mixed towards the woman entirely within her power.

“Can you hear me, Nerea?” she asks the bespelled woman.

GM: “Yes,” the shorter blonde answers. To most people her voice might sound only a little sleepy. To Caroline, who was so hyper-sensitive to every pitch and nuance that accompanied the usual “good showing”—or, perhaps better or worse, critique of how she could improve—after she soundly lost, it might as well be coming from a different person.

Gabriel Hurst had mentioned that the command word “Nike,” after the Greek goddess of victory, would release the mesmerized fencer from her suggestive state.

Caroline: Caroline is content to wait for a few moments for that.

“How are you, Nerea? How have you been?”

GM: There’s only a blank look at the open-ended question.

Caroline: There are, apparently, limits to the power of the spell placed over the fencer by the Caroline’s clanmates. That brings a smile to her face as she considers it. After a few moments further she sets her gaze for firmly and speaks the word. “Nike.”

GM: A palette of emotions washes over Ericson’s face. Disorientation. Confusion. Alarm. It’s only a split second, though, before she falls into a fighting stance—she and Caroline didn’t train extensively in hand-to-hand combat, but they did enough—and casts a wild glance over her surroundings, and her own bizarrely attired, clearly injured body

“Where am I!?” she demands sharply.

That voice sounds more like the fencing partner Caroline knew. But not completely like her. That old partner never sounded afraid.

Caroline: The heiress sits, legs crossed, before her. Her makeup is flawless, her gown more suited for a prom than a fight. “New Orleans,” she replies calmly.

GM: The servants around Caroline continue to take down and pack up the ballroom’s furnishings. Tapestries, statues, and paraphernalia from a panoply of cultures recognizable and alien still surround the pair.

Ericson does not relax as she takes those features in—and Caroline’s own. Her next word is almost a yell:


Caroline: “Nerea,” Caroline begins, “I’ll be happy to answer your questions, but you’ll need to calm down. Why don’t you have a seat. You’ve lost a fair amount of blood.”

GM: Everything about Ericson is tense, but Caroline’s measured words seem to get through to the rational part of the fencer’s brain, the one that tells her to at least sit down when she’s bleeding.

She sits down.

Caroline: “I’ll have someone come patch you up when we’re finished. Don’t worry, he’s very skilled. Nothing is going to happen to you. I thought it better that we chat in relative private for now,” she continues calmly, in full control.

GM: Ericson regards Caroline warily. Questions are clearly darting through her still-scanning eyes, but for now she holds her tongue.

Caroline: “Congratulations, by the way.” She gestures to the wreath atop Ericson’s head.

GM: The one-time Olympic silver winner pulls it off like it’s something offensive. Her voice isn’t a yell this time, but it does break.

“Caroline, what is going on?”

Caroline: “I will answer that question for you, and one additional question in turn, for each you answer for me. Does that seem fair?”

GM: A terse nod.

Caroline: “You were brought in to be a champion, for some games held as part of a celebration. You won by the way,” she gestures to the wreath in the other woman’s hands, “quite handily.”

GM: Ericson looks at Caroline for a moment, then finally asks, “Why don’t I remember?”

Caroline: “Ah,” she waves a finger, “It’s my turn. But in the interest of expediting this for you—I imagine you have more questions than I—allow me to provide some direction. You should ask yourself, what are the actual important questions in this moment. I think those questions lie more with the future than with the past.”

GM: Ericson looks angry. “I’ve been drugged. I think the past is important right this moment.”

Caroline: “It sounds as though you’ve already decided what happened,” Caroline observes.

GM: Ericson stares at Caroline accusingly, as if daring her to deny it. She looks very close to getting up from her chair again.

Caroline: “I didn’t have you drugged and brought here, if that’s what you’re asking.” Caroline replies.

GM: “Then why don’t I remember anything?” she demands.

Caroline: “I can only speculate.” Caroline answers, “As I said, I wasn’t the one to bring you here.”

GM: “Then who did? And why are you here, Caroline?” Ercison asks, no less sharply.

Caroline: “Any one of a number of my new associates,” Caroline replies, “This was something of a celebration for them, and for me.”

“They brought in a number of would be ‘gladiators’, or perhaps ‘champions’ is a better word.”

GM: Caroline’s former sparring partner takes that in, then asks in a hard voice, “If I leave right now, will you or anyone here try to stop me?”

Someone else might overlook it. Perhaps Caroline is paying overmuch attention to her former sparring partner’s tone and word choice, like she did in college.

But there’s just something about how she says ‘try.’

Caroline: “Nerea, I can see you’re ill at ease. I understand. It can be very frightening, especially when you’re accustomed to being in control, to feel out of it. To feel unsafe. Even afraid. Maybe even victimized.”

She smiles for the first time, her expression softening. “Let me try to put you at ease. At the end of our conversation if you wish to go home I’ll ensure that happens. That was the intent anyway, I simply thought you might appreciate the opportunity to have some of your questions answered, and perhaps to have a voice in what happens next.”

GM: The hard and set look to Ericson’s features subsides at Caroline’s words. She still looks wary, but it subsides.

“What do you mean, ‘what happens next?’”

Caroline: “There are other options than that, if you’re interested in them,” Caroline replies. Her expression narrows. “Why did you give up fencing?”

GM: Ericson looks initially dubious, but finally answers Caroline back, “It’s not a real job.”

“Same reason that you quit.”

Caroline: “No future in it?” Caroline asks curiously.

GM: “If you really want one. Stephen did. But most people don’t.”

Caroline: “Teaching wasn’t for you?”

GM: “No. What happened to m-” Ericson suddenly stops as her eyes flash. “What happened to my family? Did anything happen to my family?”

Caroline: “I would be shocked if anything had happened to your family,” Caroline answers reassuringly.

GM: “‘Would’ be? Do you know?” she demands, her voice suddenly uneven again.

“Wait. What day is it?”

Caroline: “December 1st,” Caroline replies.

GM: “Oh my god.” Ericson’s eyes dart over her body. “I need a phone. Right now.”

Caroline: Caroline purses her lips. “Why?”

GM: “It’s been a week! To tell them I’m not dead!”

Caroline: The Ventrue rolls her tongue over her fangs uncomfortably. She digs out her phone and pulls up her web browser, typing the fencer’s name into it and selecting the ‘news’ option.

GM: There’s nothing recent.

Plenty of past hits about her Olympic fencing career, but nothing recent.

Caroline: “They don’t appear particularly concerned,” Caroline replies as she reads, “They haven’t, for instance, reported you missing.”

GM: Ericson stands up. Caroline can hear her labored breathing and see the unabated worry, if not fear, in her eyes. “Give me a phone, or I’m out of here.”

Caroline: Caroline closes out her phone to the password screen hand hands it to her companion.

“Stop letting panic overwhelm you, Nerea. Think this through. Even assuming you could simply walk out the door, nothing out there is going to get you what you want any faster than this conversation. Your family is safe, they are not worried about you or in some panic.”

GM: Ericson snatches the phone and dials a number before Caroline can even finish talking. Several rings go through. There’s a muffled, “Hello, who is-?”

Ericson interrupts him. “Chris! Oh my god!”

“Nerea, what’s-”

“I’m in New Orleans. I’m in New Orleans. I’m naked, and I’m bleeding, and I’m in New Orleans-”

Caroline: Caroline lets her continue a moment longer, but rises from her seated position to intervene. She can be heard loudly uttering, “Seriously,” at Ericson’s description of herself.

GM: “What!?” comes ’Chris’’ voice. “Ner, who’s that-”

“Are Cam and Avery all right?” she interrupts.

“Are—yes, they’re fine, they’re asleep. Ner, what’s happening?”

Caroline: Caroline meets the fencer’s eyes and gives a command as she unleashes the Beast upon her unsuspecting mind. “Hand me the phone.”

GM: Ercison hands her the phone.

Caroline: “Hi, Chris, right?” she interjects, sounding both patient and weary.

GM: “Who is this?” asks an alarmed-sounding male voice.

Caroline: “My name’s Caroline, Nerea and I have known each other for… it must be almost ten years at this point. I’m sorry about all this. We were having a some drinks and it got… well. More than a little out of hand. She was really freaking out and wouldn’t calm down until she knew you and the kids were all right.”

Caroline wonders how honest the former Olympian has been with her spouse about her past. Caroline remembers all kinds of rumors spreading on more than one occasion about the Nerea not being able to control herself once she got drunk. It had come close to endangering her last run for a while.

“I should have known it was a bad idea to go out, but it had been a long time since I’d seen her…”

GM: “Caroline, right. Ner mentioned you.” There’s an uncomfortable silence from the man at the mention of his wife’s drinking habits. He clears his throat. “I’d like to be sure she’s all right. Can you put her back on?”

Caroline: The heiress gestures the ease-dropping Widney over, “Yeah, totally understand. Give me a minute, I think one of my girlfriends almost has her calmed down. I swear, she cut her leg on screw that popped through the side of a chair and you’d have thought she was literally bleeding to death between that and how she was going to sue them. Let me hand you off to my friend for a second.”

GM: Widney takes the phone. The normally stiff- and formal-sounding woman doesn’t sound quite so natural in the role as Caroline does, but plays along.

Ericson stares blankly ahead.

For once the almost dreamy state that mortals come over when under the influence of the Beast works for Caroline as she places Nerea more firmly under her control, then guides her through the conversation, listening on and telling the dominated woman what to say.

She’s ashamed, she didn’t think she’d get like this. She corroborates Caroline’s story, and apologizes over and over for calling so late. Does he understand? She was just worried. She’s sorry. Does he understand? After the second or third iteration Caroline takes the phone from her.

Caroline: She apologizes, more soberly, for taking Nerea out like this. She hadn’t thought this would happen, and promises to have Nerea call back tomorrow when she’s had a chance to sober up. “She’s pretty out of it,” Caroline admits. He has Caroline’s number right, on caller ID, if he has any worries? If he wants she can text him when she gets Nerea to bed somewhere safe.

GM: Chris sounds embarrassed by the whole thing. He remarks that “this trip never felt like a good idea,” and finishes, “Thanks for taking care of her, Caroline. I’m sorry to put you and Sarah out like this.”

Widney looks at the still sleepy-eyed Ericson. “You could also tell her to forget your initial conversation, ma’am.”

Caroline: “I’m not done with her yet,” Caroline replies with some irritation, though not directed at her ghoul.

GM: The fencer stares sleepily ahead.

Caroline: Caroline tucks the phone away and snaps her fingers angrily. “Wake up,” she demands.

GM: Ericson blinks confusedly.

She looks at her empty hand.

“What—what happened?!” she demands.

“I just had that phone!”

Caroline: “Do you remember speaking to your husband?” Caroline asks piteously.

GM: “Yes, I was just doing that!”

Caroline: “Yes, and you started saying things you shouldn’t have said. He’s safe by the way. As are your children. So far as he’s concerned you’re on a business trip.”

GM: “What happened!?” Ericson demands alarmedly, if not angrily. Her eyes dart across the room.

Caroline: “I made you give it back to me. And I reassured your husband you were safe. That you’d call him in the morning when you sobered up.”

GM: Ericson doesn’t even say anything to this assertion. She just looks bewildered.

Caroline: “Is it really so difficult to believe, if you could be transported here and win a tournament you don’t remember, that I could do such a small thing?”

GM: Ericson starts briskly walking away towards the ballroom’s doors.

“Ma’am, you’re scaring her,” Widney interjects in a low whisper.

Caroline: “Good,” Caroline replies. She blurs in motion, coming to a stop before the leaving Ericson.

“Is there really nothing left of you in there, Nerea?” Caroline asks. Demands.

GM: Ericson’s eyes only widen for an instant as a fist swings towards the Ventrue.

Caroline: The preternaturally quick vampire effortlessly blurs away from it.

“Too slow Nerea,” Caroline taunts. “Did you bury that part of yourself too deeply?”

“Are you happy being ordinary?”

GM: “Leave me alone!” she screams, launching several more punches that the Ventrue just as easily sidesteps. Hand-to-hand combat isn’t Ercison’s strongest area, somewhat in her defense. Or Caroline’s. It’s mainly carry-over from what Stephen taught them about fencing.

Caroline: Caroline catches a punch, brushes another aside, slips under an elbow, then roughly throws Ericson to the ground over her hip. It’s incredibly satisfying.

She looks down on the Olympian. “They told me you’d been successful. That you were a lawyer. That you were smart. And I thought you could still fight.” She huffs in disappointment. “I guess we were all wrong.”

“We had an agreement. I gave you what you wanted and answered a number of your questions, and you responded like a child. So tell me, are you ready to finish our conversation, or do you want to continue to throw a tantrum?”

GM: Ericson leaps to her feet, grabs a cloth off a table, and throws it at Caroline’s face to entangle her. She grabs one of the old-fashioned broadswords hanging from the wall and brandishes it at her old fencing partner.

“Stay back! All of you, who don’t want to get hurt!”

A number of the servants, previously indifferent to (or at least ignoring of) the pair’s struggles, look upon the armed and furious-sounding woman with expressions of growing concern or alarm. A few reach for phones.

Caroline: Caroline glares death at the ghouls that have stopped to gawk. “See to your business,” she snaps before turning her attention back to Ericson.

“What do you want, Nerea?” Caroline demands.

GM: The servants all look away at the Ventrue’s commanding tone. Ericson starts backing away towards the ballroom door.

The man and woman standing by that door, the woman with an assault rifle casually held in her hands, stare at her.

She levels the sword at the armed woman. “Out of the way. Now.”

Caroline: Caroline shakes her head angrily. “Eyes on me, Nerea," she almost snaps as she lets the Beast out of its cage once more, tearing at the attention of the fencer.

GM: Ericson’s widened eyes cut to hers.

Caroline: “Why are you running away, Nerea? We’re friendss, aren’t we? Haven’t I answered your questions, helped you make sure your family is ok, promised to return you home safely?” The Beast turns its attention rabidly on the fencer’s mind, plying her feelings, clouding her mind.

It would have been so much easier if Nerea had been willing to talk. Especially on what’s left of Caroline’s conscience. But she can’t have everything, and her irritation is beginning to cloud any sense of mercy she might still feel. This night was going so well.

So they’ll do it the hard way. They return to their seat.

What follows is a through discussion of Nerea’s life since Caroline last saw her. She’s married? Had children? How old are they? What led to those decisions, and to her decision to leave fencing, seemingly in her prime? Caroline congratulates her on her law degree and position in the firm. She fields questions and concerns that the fencer has, but keeps the focus on her.

Is she happy where she is? No, really happy? Is there anything she misses or regrets? Caroline regrets quitting fencing when she did.

It’s a through dive into Nerea’s life, though the revelation that the Olympian has married and has children takes most of the wind out of Carolines’ sails in her interest in ghouling her: she’s not eager to destroy more lives than she has to towards her own ambitions and desires.

That conflict wars with a feeling that she shouldn’t turn down the ‘gift’ offered by the Gerousia.

GM: The conversation feels like a parody of how any such normal ‘catching up’ would go. Ericson fawns over Caroline’s every word. She never asks questions about the Ventrue’s life, voices contrary opinions, or even bring up topics of her own. All she does is eagerly parrot back whatever Caroline brings up.

She is married. Her husband Christopher is another retired fencer (they met at a tournament) who now works as a software systems engineer. Their children Avery and Cameron are two and four years old, respectively.

Ericson doesn’t seem sure how to answer in a way that pleases Caroline when she asks ‘what led’ to that decision. They both wanted a family. Having kids is just what you do.

Her last name isn’t Ericson anymore, actually. It’s Arnolds.

Ercison left fencing because there wasn’t any future in it. The average instructor makes around $56,00. Top earners make around $85,000. Caroline knows how that compares to a successful lawyer’s salary.
Ericson has no questions or concerns whatsoever for Caroline to field—or at least none that she brings up in her altered state of mind.

All she wants to do is please and impress the Ventrue.

Ericson gives whatever answer Caroline seems like she wants to hear most. When the Ventrue expresses regret over her quitting fencing when she did, she agrees she should have hung on another year to make a run at a gold medal. When Caroline acts disappointed she left fencing at all, Ericson agrees she should have followed her passion. When Caroline acts concerned for her happiness, she assures the Ventrue that she is happy with her family and career.

Caroline: The experience ruins whatever vestiges of Caroline’s good mood existed from the beginning of the night and leaves her feeling all the more monstrous. Ericson is no drifting soul, lost for purpose. Ripping her from her family to bring her here casts Caroline and her fellows in all the more monstrous light.

To say nothing of what night be required to rip the fence from her family to enter Caroline’s service. Four shattered lives is too high a price for the heiress to simply add another sword to her arsenal.
Perhaps some night she will be that great of a monster. Perhaps some night she will be that desperate. It isn’t tonight, a night that began with celebration and joy.

GM: Widney raises how the family “could be relocated to New Orleans, ma’am.” They wouldn’t have to split anyone up. Families relocate all the time in search of better career opportunities. Ercison could make full partner at Caroline’s firm right away. They could easily find another software job for Chris. If money is so important to the Arnolds family, Caroline’s manipulations could easily enable them to enjoy a higher standard of living than they do now. Ericson would even get to fence again while still being a successful lawyer. It sounds like she really does miss that, even if she believes she might the right decision going into law.

“That sounds a lot like what you offered me,” Green speaks up. “More money. A better future for my kid. I thought it sounded like a good fucking deal. Was I wrong?”

Fuller eyes the other ghoul, but remains silent.

Caroline: Caroline looks at Green. “Slightly different circumstances, Ms. Green,” the Ventrue replies. “You seemed quite happy with the opportunity. She seems quite satisfied with where she is. I would not force such a decision on anyone.”

GM: “Probably ’cuz you fucking kidnapped and scared the shit out of her. You suck at job offers.”

Widney continues past the other ghoul, “She might prove more amenable to an offer made in economic terms, ma’am, under circumstances where she is not concerned for her personal safety.”

“And you talk like a fucking robot,” Green half-snaps, half-snorts.

Widney, however, keeps her eyes on her domitor.

Caroline: Her domitor’s face is locked in a scowl. Green isn’t wrong. She’s botched this meeting, and she can identify exactly where it started: the moment Nerea revealed she had a family.

GM: Caroline’s ghouls wait expectantly.

Caroline: The Ventrue turns her gaze back to Green. “Would you like to interview her then, Miss Green, given your sudden interest?”

GM: Green snorts. “Will I get overtime?”

Caroline: Caroline gives Widney a sardonic glance. “Can we afford that?”

GM: “We can, ma’am,” the majordomo answers humorlessly.

Green looks at the glassy-eyed Ericson with a note of apprehension.

“Great. Erase the part where you freaked her out, get her some real clothes, and maybe fill in the giant gap she doesn’t remember that’d freak out anyone.”

Caroline: Caroline arches an eyebrow. “Is that all?”

GM: “Yeah.”

Caroline: She looks Green in the eye. “Why do you care if she stays or goes?”

GM: The merc shrugs. “I don’t. You asked if I could do better. Then said I’d get overtime.”

Caroline: “I suppose that’s as good a reason as any.”

Caroline turns to Widney.

“See that it’s done. We’ll let Ms. Green decide Nerea’s fate.”

Wednesday night, 2 December 2015, AM

GM: Widney reports back to Caroline several hours later at the Giani Building that Nerea Ericson has agreed to enter the employ of Bishop, Bowden, & Reffett as a named partner, as well as Caroline’s personal service as a ghoul. She will relocate her family to New Orleans. One of her conditions includes securing a new and better job for her husband Chris. Employment prospects for a software engineer aren’t bad in any major city, but New Orleans (where a whole 40 percent of the population does not have internet service) is a definite step down from Atlanta. Ercison said she ultimately couldn’t make an executive decision to uproot her family’s lives. She did say, however, that if they both received attractive new job offers, it would be much easier to convince him that moving is the right decision for their futures.

Ericson has gone back to her hotel. She will meet with Caroline tomorrow to finalize things.

Caroline: Caroline is wary of the entire thing and has her placed under observation.

GM: Widney relays that Ercison knows the supernatural is real. She and Green both provided demonstrations of their powers. Ericson had the “sort of reaction” that one could expect from most people, but the two ghouls “helped her through it.” Widney thinks she will benefit from having a night to sleep on things.

She is willing to accept that power for herself. Green played up how she will get to be an even better fencer than before—and get to fence again while holding a law firm partnership. It’s everything she could have wanted.

Caroline: Caroline greets the news with mixed feelings. There are good reasons to desire Ericson as a ghoul, and many more reasons to hold reservations against it. She’s been careful until now in picking those that have relatively little else in their lives, those seeking some purpose, before drawing them in. As much as she would like to push off all responsibility for the recruitment of the Olympian, as she shoved the duty off on Green with the slightest excuse, it makes her uneasy. Uncomfortable. She’s seen what the blood does, how it destroys lives. Still, it’s too late to change now.

The Ventrue remains firm that they shall keep Ericson under observation—Autumn is a good choice—until she’s actually ghouled, as she remains a risk to the Masquerade. She also gives Widney a terse congratulations on her efforts.

Everything Ericson ever wanted. Caroline reflects on the old adage: be careful what you wish for…

Wednesday night, 3 December 2015, PM

Caroline: Caroline is still flush with victory the following night when she entertains her mother on the roof of the Giani building. In a rare move, she goes down herself to collect her mother upon her arrival. It’s hard to describe a corpse as glowing, but some of the gloom that has hung over the young Ventrue for months has begun to clear, and she smiles more than she had in the past.

The roof is quiet and deserted, but there’s a small bar outside that Caroline leads her mother to. She pops the cork on a bottle of (rather expensive) champagne and pours two glasses.

GM: “There’s no need to keep up pretenses here,” her mother remarks as she pours.

Caroline: “Isn’t there?” Caroline asks.

GM: She studies Caroline for a few moments longer.

“You look… good, Caroline.”

Caroline: Caroline hands over a glass. “It’s been a good week, Mom.”

The word rolls off her tongue more easily than it did in life. Too often she was “Claire”.

GM: They’re words many mothers would say to their children, but there’s something else to them. Hesitance. Doubt. Skepticism. And perhaps even an odd, almost resigned ember of hope, but that might simply be Caroline’s imagination.

Caroline: “A better week than almost any I can remember. Certainly since… well, you know.”

GM: “Oh, and what’s the occasion?” her mother asks, sipping the glass. She looks around at the deck. “This place?”

Caroline: “Of a fashion,” Caroline replies, taking her own vulgar sip of the champagne. There’s barely distinction between drinks other than blood. Just different variations of bad. Still, she swallows it down.

“The fruits of a great many labors came due yesterday in the form of an acceptance, of sorts. I have a hope that it’ll present some stability and opportunity in the future.”

“It felt good to accomplish something.”

GM: “Among others of your kind?” Claire fills in. She doesn’t say ‘leeches’, but neither does she look quite thrilled.

Caroline: Caroline nods. “Yes, it was. I’ve been something of… well, honestly I’ve been very much of an outsider since, this happen. Last night was the first time I actually felt… accepted, I guess?” She smiles. “I had no idea what it was like being the outsider.”

“To feel helpless. Like no one was on your side. Just the crushing weight of everyone beating you down and taking what they wanted from you every night.” There’s a faint sadness in her voice. “I imagine it’s very much how most people go through their entire lives.”

“I knew how awful the world could be, intellectually at least. But you and Dad always kept me sheltered from it. I knew I grew up in privilege, but didn’t know what that meant until I saw the alternative.”

“Every night, just a struggle to keep my head above the rising water. Looking for a limb to grasp hold of. Watching things I wanted or cared about being swept away. It feels like now I might have a chance to hold onto something that matters to me. To find some kind of life.”

GM: “Unlife, you mean,” Claire says, her lips faintly pursing. “I do want you to be happy, Caroline, but… these same vampires who are accepting you are the same ones who were tormenting you.”

Caroline: “Some of them,” Caroline agrees. “But what other option is there? Holding a grudge for eternity?”

GM: “What do you think your father would do, if senators with more seniority had been treating him badly, then deigned to let him sit among them?”

Caroline: “I think we’d be funding campaigns against them under the table,” Caroline replies. “But my father has always had a big stick at the table. I don’t.”

Her smile and good mood are slipping away.

GM: “Don’t be so sure,” her mother says. “There’s strife among the leeches. And wherever there’s strife there’s opportunity.”

Caroline: “Is that what you want me to do? Rise to the top?” Caroline asks. “Claw my way through the others?”

GM: “Absolutely not,” Claire responds quickly. “Your kind’s entire society is toxic. Rising to the top of it is just another way of killing yourself.”

Caroline: “So what do you want for me, Mom?” Caroline asks genuinely.

GM: “For you to be happy, of course. And successful,” her mother says, laying a hand on her shoulder. “And independent from the leeches who only exploit, degrade, and destroy everything they touch.”

Caroline: “They’re everywhere mom, how exactly could I be independent?” Caroline asks softly.

GM: “Only because your face is already so known to them,” her mother counters. “I’ve mentioned before that you could start over somewhere else where you aren’t.”

Caroline: “And spend eternity in hiding somewhere, hoping none in whatever given city ever saw me?” Caroline asks sincerely. “They’re in every city mom. Even if I could get away from those things weighing me down here, once the poison is in you, there’s no getting out. We instantly know each other for what we are.”

“You want me to be happy—and not to become more of a monster than I already am. And I want the same. But the only way out is through. What was it Churchill said, ‘if you’re going through hell, keep going.’”

GM: Claire shakes her head. “There are always ways of hiding, mundane and otherwise. Your kind like to act as if they’re omniscient, but they’re not. Not by any stretch.”

Caroline: “It isn’t in me to hide mom.” Caroline replies. “That’s not who you raised.”

GM: “I hid from your kind for decades. Sometimes there’s simply nothing to be gained from exposure.”

Caroline: “Was that a victory?” Caroline asks softly.

GM: “For the time that I did? Unquestionably,” her mother answers. “I might’ve been dead decades ago if your kind knew who I was. You might never have been born.”

Caroline: Maybe that would have been better. Caroline bites back the harsh words, but her good mood is long gone. She sets down her glass, the poison tasting liquid no longer satisfying even intellectually.

The idea of running has its own appeal, but Caroline can’t believe they’d allow her to get away. Not with the prince. If she was even willing to run. She could build a new life somewhere, but she doesn’t want to. Here she might be something one day. Already is something. Elsewhere she’s another neonate with no name to offer that won’t bring hounds running to her door.

“I wish I could tell you more,” she admits.

GM: “That’s one wish at least one of us will get fulfilled. But we don’t have to talk about the leeches for now. This is your new home?” her mother remarks, looking across the deck.

Caroline: “It is.” Caroline’s smile slips back. “The open air helps me relax.”

GM: “And the pool, in warmer weather. There’s something about swimming on the roof of a tall building,” Claire says, sipping from the champagne.

Caroline: “You’re welcome to come over so long as you call ahead,” Caroline quips.

GM: “How’s the management at this place, by the by?”

Caroline: “Accommodating,” Caroline answers.

GM: “The building looks new. They can be too obsequious, sometimes, next to staff at the historic places.”

Caroline: “You prefer a more ornery staff?” Caroline asks with amusement, taking another sip of her own drink.

It tastes something like Draino smells like, but the familiar motion has some pleasure to it. The feeling of something faintly normal. Intellectually she wonders if it—like food—tastes so awful because her body recognizes it as poison.

GM: Her mother eyes her as she drinks, but continues after a moment, “Oh no, they’re still respectful at the Monteleone. But they’re more quiet about it, I suppose. The place is older and they know what its reputation is to guests.”

Caroline: “Less desperate,” Caroline agrees. “I’ll ask for an opinion. I honestly don’t deal directly with them very often.”

GM: “I suppose I’ve been thinking about them more. Your brother was a gentleman and had Cécilia stay at his place for a little while, after that stalker broke into her building. Somehow it got out to the staff, though, and a few of them tried too hard to make her feel at ease. But that just reminded her why she wasn’t staying at home.”

Caroline: “I don’t think he was really a stalker.”

GM: Caroline’s mother gives her a dubious look.

Caroline: “After it all happened I paid him a visit with someone else. He was an idiot. Autistic. All of five foot five. Didn’t seem to actually know much of anything about her, or even understand why anyone would think he was stalking her.”

GM: “I think I mentioned this to you earlier, but he was arrested for breaking into the girls’ dorms at Tulane. That really doesn’t seem like a coincidence to me.”

Caroline: “I hurt him,” Caroline confesses.

GM: “You mentioned that to me, too. If anyone deserved it, he certainly did,” her mother answers.

Caroline: “I know the family wants him done away with,” she continues.

GM: “He has been. He’s still in the parish prison for about a year.”

Caroline: “Do you wonder sometimes if we weren’t so much better than any ‘leech’ with the trail of broken lives we left in our path?”

GM: Her mother shakes her head emphatically. “There’s goodness in our family, Caroline. Humanity, certainly. It wasn’t so many months ago that you saved those girls’ lives at the police station.”

Caroline: That memory brings up a dark look to Caroline’s eyes. “There was a lot about that night that just didn’t make sense. So much madness. Gettis going insane. It makes more sense now.”

GM: Her mother’s lips purse faintly. “Yes, I suppose it must.”

Caroline: “Have you heard of ‘the auction?’” she asks.

GM: “What have you heard of it?” Claire asks in turn.

Caroline: “That certain powerful vampires are involved,” Caroline answers. “That one of them claims the Whitney family as part of his personal domain.”

GM: “The leeches have their tendrils everywhere.”

Caroline: “That it was associated in some way with the night I died. That night, I thought it would be my finest hour. I think maybe it was. I wonder if it wasn’t my death warrant as well.”

GM: “You think it drove that monster to murder you?”

Caroline hasn’t ever ever heard her mother refer to René by name.

Caroline: Caroline runs her tongue across her teeth. There are some secrets she can’t share, even the privacy here, but her mother has proven sharp enough before. Capable enough to discover answers for herself.

She reaches over the bar and pulls over a small snack platter to go with the wine. Grapes, sliced cheese, dried peppers. Crackers. She serves up a small plate for her mother while she answers, “Or maybe to something else.”

GM: Her mother regards her expectantly as she places a cheese slice over a cracker.

Caroline: “Accidental Embraces happen… but very rarely.”

GM: Claire looks at her. “Neither of my children’s murders were accidents.”

Caroline: You have no idea, Caroline wants to say.

“No one ever provided a satisfactory reason why he would come back to New Orleans. Why he would choose to create another vampire. When I had even a moment of opportunity in which I might have questioned him, gotten to the truth, he was immediately snatched from my hands.”

GM: Her mother nods. “We’ve been over this before too. The Albino’s interest in our family goes back a hundred years, but that monster came out of nowhere. Looking into its interests and activities on your end could be worthwhile.”

Caroline: “There were others there, that night, when I died,” Caroline replies. “One’s a mortal now on death row. Another I have a name for and nothing else. Another is living, but… beyond my reach. It seems immediately after my death he got on a plane and fled the country.”

GM: Her mother takes a bite of cracker. “Perhaps not mine. What name is that?”

Caroline: “Raymond, another of my kind that has allegedly left the city.” She purses her lips. “And Jayden Proctor, who has fled to the Cayman Islands.”

GM: “The Caymans aren’t very large. They’d be easy to search.”

Caroline: “I know exactly where he is, but that’s not a trip I’m willing to risk,” Caroline answers.

GM: Her mother regards her expectantly again as she picks up a pepper.

Caroline: “Do you want my full file on him?” Caroline asks.

GM: “I’d find it of interest.”

Caroline: “I’ll have a copy made for you.”

GM: Her mother nods. “Let’s talk about something more cheerful. It’s not healthy to only think about… what’s behind the Veil.”

Caroline: “It’s easy to get sucked in though,” Caroline agrees.

GM: “Too easy,” her mother says.

“If there’s one good thing that’s come from everything that’s happened to our family and the Devillers, it’s how much closer your brother and Cécilia appear to be.”

Caroline: “They’re a good match,” Caroline agrees. “She seems to make him happy.”

GM: “She wouldn’t even admit that Luke was her boyfriend at first. She’d just say that quote about ‘youth being a time for love, not romance.’ But after all that’s happened they’ve definitely been spending more time together, and been more obvious about it.”

Caroline: “It’s still early, but let’s be honest, there are only some many people that understand what it is to be in either’s position socially. I think that counts for a lot: shared territory. Both had family tragedies close to each other.”

And he’ll have another, Caroline thinks sadly.

GM: “Or understand what it is to be in that position emotionally,” her mother concurs. “They haven’t lost a daughter, but Luke was right there when they nearly did.”

Claire sips her champagne. “Life goes on. I’m glad theirs has brought them closer.”

Caroline: “Is Gabriel seeing anyone?” she asks.

GM: Her mother laughs faintly. “Of course he is. He’s been dating that girl Linda for literally years.”

Caroline: “They’re still a thing?” Caroline asks doubtfully.

GM: “For now. He wants to go to the same college as her, but… well, that doesn’t always work out.”
Her mother purses her lips. “Her family’s not really from an Ivy League background. But they’re well-off enough that no university is going to score points for socioeconomic diversity by admitting her.”

Caroline: “Let him be young and sweet,” Caroline answers.

GM: “Gabriel wants your father and I to help get her admitted, actually.”

Caroline: “I’m sure that was well-received,” Caroline replies.

GM: “He doesn’t see why not. Her grades and extracurriculars are as good as his.”

Caroline: Caroline smiles. “He’s too nice for this family.”

GM: “Part of me says why not. He’s caused so few problems, over the years, I suppose why shouldn’t he have this.”

Caroline: “And part of you says he needs to move on,” Caroline fills in.

GM: “More that pushing people at Cornell for this girl’s admission costs social capital without any likely returns.”

Caroline: It’s telling how like another Ventrue her mother sounds.

GM: “Very few high school sweethearts last, after all,” Claire continues. “Their paths could still diverge anyway. And it’s not even as if she’s the ideal match. She’s a sweet girl, well-behaved, but she’s not from a family like Cécilia’s.”

Caroline: “Two schools of thought. One, that with Westley and I out of the picture, a match needs to be carefully arranged for him, since it’s down to Luke and Gabriel.”

“Another, that he’s buried a brother. He’s going to bury a sister. Let him have this.”

GM: “Exactly,” her mother nods. “We have plenty of cousins, of course, even Thomas’ and Carson’s children here in the city, but… call me old-fashioned, it’s important the direct family name should go on. Matt’s never gotten over how his own isn’t going to. And while things look promising with Luke and Cécilia, after all that’s happened lately… I’d sooner not put all of the family’s eggs in one basket.”

Caroline: Caroline nods.

GM: “College deadlines are approaching, but I suppose I should wait to see how he takes your death, at the very least.”

Claire shakes her head. “When was the last time you talked with anyone else in the family, by the way? You should hear things from more of us than just me.”

Caroline: “Not recently enough,” Caroline answers. “That last dinner conversation was… uncomfortable.”

GM: “They’re talking about how long it’s been since you were in touch. Not a great deal, life today being what it is, but they’re remarking on it.”

Caroline: Caroline takes another drink of the poison, wishing she could feel its effects.

GM: “It’s believable you wouldn’t have contact with Matt or Orson, after how many times you’ve made them explode.”

Caroline well recalls the results of that $50,000 Harrah’s spending spree. Her mother actually has to authorize transactions and withdrawals above a certain amount. The family no longer trusts her to manage money responsibly.

“Luke’s run into you a few times. But it’s odd how little you’ve had to do with Gabriel or Carson. You were always close to them.”

Caroline:“It’s all complicated by the Albino,” Caroline answers. “He’s not exactly sympathetic towards family visits, and he has a lot of power.”

GM: “Texts, calls,” her mother ticks off.

Caroline: “I’ll make some calls,” Caroline agrees.

GM: “Christmas is approaching, speaking of visits. We’ll be having the usual family gathering at Orson’s.”

Caroline: Caroline doesn’t quote groan. She’d almost forgotten that particular event.

“No doubt they’ll want to see that I’ve turned myself around,” she replies.

GM: “They will. It’s unfortunate you can’t yet take the bar.”

Caroline: “The good news is, short of coming out or bringing home a black man, I don’t know how much further their opinion could fall.”

GM: “Your father will be there. It could be the last time he ever sees you, Caroline,” her mother says quietly.

Caroline: Caroline looks away. “He’ll be fine either way.”

GM: “He’ll go on. He won’t be fine.”

Caroline: “It’s almost like you’re having doubts about this,” Caroline replies.

GM: Her mother shakes her head. “We’re long past the time for doubts.”

Caroline: “There are things I’ll miss… and maybe with another family it could be done.”

GM:“It is what it is,” Claire says.

Caroline: It was one of her mother’s favorite sayings even before Caroline’s death. It is what it is.

The catchall for all manner of unpleasantness in life and death. Still, it has a certain familiarity that provides its own comfort.

Caroline V, Chapter XII
Reasons for Being

“May you find the truth you seek.”
Antoine Savoy

Tuesday night, 13 October 2015, PM

Caroline: Amid her investigations into Wells’ lost memories, amid searches for her future haven and ideal candidates for her businesses, Caroline continues to dig into her own past, into a night she doesn’t remember. The night she died.

She has leads, and amid everything else consuming her lengthening evenings the Ventrue tries to pursue them, not as doggedly as she might wish, but neither without passion. Not willing to journey into the Dungeon herself, not yet, she chases her own leads into it: a missing ghoul, those that come and go, and those that only enter, never to emerge. There are other more mundane approaches as well. Tax records, utilities, ownership. Everything has a paper trail, and she doggedly pursues it.

GM: Looking into the Dungeon reveals that it’s an industrial and metal-themed bar/nightclub off of Bourbon Street. It has its own Yelp and Facemash pages, and caters mainly to goths and newcomers who want to experience its novelty. Variously called, “the worst-kept secret off of Bourbon,” they describe it as “Crazy,” “a hidden gem,” “dark and gothic,” “cool dark and scary,” “professional security,” “dark but fun,” and “legit hole in the wall.” There is an adamant “no phones and no pictures” policy. Caroline even finds it featured on a “where to drink in New Orleans” flowchart:

Are you from here? —> Yes → Where are you? —> Downtown → What’s most important tonight? —> Conversatin’ → Are you homeless? —> No → Are you a vampire? —> Yes → The Dungeon.

Caroline: Caroline gives a dry laugh at that.

GM: There are also a number of stories floating around about the Dungeon. One rumor claims that there is a “second level” holding a real BDS&M dungeon staffed by professional dominatrices. Less a rumor and more a subject of several police reports is the sighting of several missing persons around the club. No action or follow-up seems to have been taken by NOPD. Indeed, one of their better-known detectives, Ricky Mouton (who has the ear of his uncle Delron, the district commander), is a sometime patron of the Dungeon’s. Indeed, for all that Caroline and Emmett have suffered within its walls, the vice den appears to hide in plain sight. As one Qeeqle reviewer describes it,

“Dark, grungy, and true to its name, there is a constant feeling that you might be tortured and murdered at any moment. One of the few bars that doesn’t try to coast off the reputation of the city. Instead it touches that dark place in us all.”

Caroline: Caroline steadily deposits such offerings where they belong: in the garbage.

GM: A casual search into the Dungeon’s neighbors turn up Funky 544, a nightclub, Molly’s Irish Pub & Restaurant, the historic Hotel Maison De Ville, and Ra Shop, a cigarette store. Antoine Savoy’s favorite restaurant, the eponymous Antoine’s, is also not far off. Some of these places and additional neighbors maintain security cameras, and some of them do not. Of the ones that do, all but one have since thrown out the months-old tapes.

The exception is Ra Shop and its night manager, a portly and black-wearing man named Stephen who is an ardent follower of LaVeyan Satanism—and morbidly curious about what “really” goes on at the Dungeon. He’s been there on many occasions, of course, and likes the ambiance. But he’s heard there’s a lot more to it. He repeats everything from an underground sex ring to a “hardcore” Satanic coven to a real BDSM dungeon where safewords and consent don’t exist.

Stephen hasn’t been able to get anything out of the Dungeon’s staff, who always laugh the rumors off. He tried pressing one of NOPD’s visiting officers, asking why there were semi-regular visits but never any arrests. He received a gut punch that “made me feel like I’d been shot” and cold warning not to ask so many questions. All he can do is sit on tapes and fantasize.

One of the many benefits to having ghouls working for her is that Caroline doesn’t need to personally watch the hours-long security tapes for items of interest. When Autumn is finished, she has several cars leaving the choice limited-parking spots (it’s at a premium in the Quarter) during approximate times that probably belong to employees. She runs down license plate numbers and traces owners (a task that would surely be easier with access to police databases). Most are either mundane or dead ends.

The exception belongs to a man named Jayden Proctor. He does not work for the Dungeon, but has been seen there on a number of separate occasions. He recently sold his car, terminated the lease on his apartment, and purchased a one-way flight to the Cayman Islands, all several nights after Caroline’s Embrace. He was last seen leaving for Louis Armstrong Airport in the company of a muscular man with jet black skin. Autumn identifies the latter.

Kâmil. A ghoul to Philip Maldonato.

Caroline: Jayden Proctor’s life becomes the subject of Caroline’s most recent interest, and the Ventrue heiress sets about tearing his life into bloody pieces to get to the bottom of his own (perhaps all too obvious) allegiances. If he came into the service of Maldonato, she wants to know when. If not, she wants to know who he serves, or at least served.

She’s moderately certain that he is long since departed not only the city, but also the living. Still, his present activities, be they on beaches or among the fishes, are of little interest. She wishes to know his part in something specific: her own departure from the living.

GM: Jayden Proctor was born in Frederick, Maryland on July 7th, 1981. His father worked for the IRS. His mother was a homemaker. He seems to have lived a comfortable life, attending private school and finally leaving home for college at UT Austin in 1999. He never graduated, though. Indeed, he held no jobs that any of Caroline’s investigations can find after he dropped out.

Financial records indicate this was seemingly no impediment to him living in a posh apartment in a nicer part of town. Proctor drifted through his 20s and 30s without any apparent path in life: he spent a few more years in Austin and moved to a number of other cities, including Los Angeles, New York, and Las Vegas. He held no employment in any of these cities except for Las Vegas, where he got a job as a croupier that lasted for several months out of his two-year stay. He was arrested twice in LA for drunk driving but charges were dropped.

Proctor moved to New Orleans in 2013 and was active in the city’s club scene (including, apparently, at the Dungeon’s), though by that point he was starting to get a little old for it. Indeed, by mid-2014, he seemingly found religion: he attended regular Catholic Mass and had stopped partying. He still does not seem to have held a job, but maintained leases for two apartments in the French Quarter and CBD.

Following 2015’s Southern Decadence, of course, all of this abruptly ends.

Caroline: It’s a frustrating and almost nonsensical trail. Was he René’s ghoul? Another’s ghoul? It’s almost impossible to tell. The question is all the more complicated by details of her interest she can’t share. She solicited opinions from Autumn—she cannot cut the investigative ghoul out entirely anyway.
The lack of clear revenue and ways in which various institutions controlled makes her suspect he was far from a normal kine.

GM: “We could try and follow up on this guy in the Caymans,” Autumn suggests. “Though that’ll probably be harder. I have no idea what the all-night society there is like.”

Caroline: “Have you ever heard of another Kindred moving around so frequently with their ghouls?” Caroline asks. It’s a long shot.

GM: “Some might. Nomads don’t stay in any one city. The Krewe doesn’t like them. They come in, make a mess, and leave the locals to clean it up.”

Caroline: Caroline clearly doesn’t like the answer, but less for its source than its content. She drums her fingers on her desk in thought.

“Kine only.”

The use of the word has come easier, more readily to her over time.

“And small-time investigation. Just a few pictures. Proof of life, see if we catch him with anyone that they just can’t,” she grins, “seem to get a clear picture of.”

GM: “Yeah, that’s actually a dead giveaway to people who know what to look for,” Autumn nods.

“I mean, you guys can ‘turn it off’, but that’s only helpful when you know someone’s watching.”

“But anyway, yeah. Couple kine is probably best. Cheaper too.”

Caroline: Caroline nods.

GM: “All right, I’ll look into who to send.”

Saturday night, 7 November 2015, PM

Caroline: Much of the investigation is relatively mundane, as so many are. Following money trails. She has Autumn follow up with his landlord and the person he sold the car to. Investigators are dispatched off to the Cayman Islands. She’s fishing for anything unusual, anything that confirms theories about his origins, or points to a domitor, or ties him to other points of interest. Neighbors are canvassed at his apartment. Did anyone know him? Know of him? What was his schedule? Money changes hands with the landlord, if they’re so inclined, for any postage left behind or coming in after he departs.

GM: Jayden previously lived at 833 Howard Ave # 700PH in the Central Business District, rented by Latter & Blum Inc. Relators. He also lived at the historic Lower Pontalba Building on St. Ann Street, right along Jackson Square, which is owned by the city government. Caroline even knows one of the tenants, or at least tenants in the neighboring Upper Pontalba Building (Luke’s girlfriend Cécilia).

Caroline confirms that Jayden was often away at all hours of the night, even after he’d given up his partying lifestyle. He was friendly with his neighbors, who liked him. He never talked much about himself, but he talked someone from the Louisiana State Museum (which owns the building) into installing new counter tops and cabinets in some of the older units, and at the state’s expense. That made him popular—the museum previously had tenants pay for such upgrades. They’ve apparently reinstated that policy since he left, too.

Jayden spent less time at the Pontalba after he started attending religious services, at which point he also started renting his CBD apartment, but he was still by maybe a couple nights a week. He didn’t break his lease, anyway. Remaining postage at Proctor’s apartments was junk mail, which Proctor was apparently uninterested in claiming, and his landlords have since thrown out. He sold his car to Del Cid Auto Sales Inc., rather than a private individual. Autumn reports that the car (a red 2015 Scion FR-S) has yet to be re-sold.

The ghoul also turns up that one of Proctor’s neighbors (in the CBD) admits to having spotted him feeding a significant wad of cash into a nearby ATM late at night. She (the neighbor) thought it looked sketchy, but Proctor just laughed it off and said he’d had a lucky night at a casino. She saw him do that several further times, but didn’t feel comfortable approaching him again. Proctor looks to have been a very lucky man.

Caroline can find no evidence to link Proctor to any specific domitor. Of course, such evidence could exist in abundance, and Caroline is merely overlooking it. She still doesn’t have many contacts among her fellow Damned (though she has been working to rectify that), which stymies attempts to uncover Kindred-specific information. Mortal channels can only tell so much about a ghoul’s possible domitor.

The PIs she’s hired from Paradigm Investigations take some extra time (and fees) for the international case, but return with findings contrary to her initial expectations: Jayden Proctor is alive and well.

He’s currently staying at the Margaritaville Beach Resort Grand Cayman in George Town, the capital of the Caymans, and has been for some months. There are no apparent irregularities in any of the nighttime photographs that Paradigm’s people took of Proctor, though this was a “small time” investigation at Caroline’s request. They could put him under continuous surveillance for a longer time period if she wants to potentially turn up more. They also obtain the phone number for his hotel suite. She can contact Proctor herself if she would like to.

Caroline: She toys with the thought, and brings it up one night after a night of excitment with Jocelyn. “He may be one of the only people left that know what happened that night,” she muses.

She’s always gotten contemplative after ‘sex’. Even when she was still alive.

GM: Jocelyn turns over in Caroline’s low, black-sheeted bed. Even nude, the room’s low temperature doesn’t bother either vampire. “Yeah. Definitely. You should try and get to him, somehow.”

Caroline: “What kind of ghoul though travels from city to city for years at a time though?” she asks.

GM: “Maybe he works for an archon like my sire. Or he’s just a nomad,” Jocelyn thinks.

Caroline: “I hope not,” Caroline replies, rolling over onto her back. “I’d hate to piss one of them off.”
She laughs lightly. “Do you think it’s worth trying to fly out there?”

GM: Jocelyn thinks for a moment. “That’d be… interesting. The Caymans aren’t that far away.”

Caroline: “Just dangerous, trying to make it out and back in a night, and visiting another city where I don’t know anyone.”

GM: “We,” Jocelyn says with some emphasis, “could stay the day, find a hotel or something. It might be kinda nice, just to get out of the usual rut. Meet some Kindred outside the city.”

Caroline: “I can’t imagine there are that many there,” Caroline replies, thinking. “There’s only what, 50,000 people in the Caymans? We looked at it in one of my economics classes.”

GM: “Bet there’s a bunch of licks with their money parked there though. I mean, that’s true even for kine. Well, probably more elders than licks. And blue bloods like you.”

Caroline: “It depends. Any lick, or almost any, could accumulate a lot of money pretty quickly if they wanted,” she contemplates. “You could, for instance, with a few months of work set yourself up so you don’t have to worry about it for decades, especially the way you spend.”

GM: “I dunno, I never really got into that whole finance game.” Jocelyn grins and starts running a finger along one of Caroline’s blood-encrusted breasts. “I think I’d rather mooch off you…”

Caroline: Caroline laughs. “It’s not hard. Honestly, I could probably set something up for you with just a little bit of base capital that when invested within a couple years could support you on its own. Build it behind a trust. Market rate of return is really good right now. It’s a good time to start investing.”

GM: “Huh, I didn’t know that. But I guess everyone is saying the economy is pretty good.” Jocelyn thinks. “Okay, if you wanna set it up, that sounds worth it.”

Caroline: “It’ll take a few years to start to matter, but the earlier you start, the easier it is,” Caroline assures her. “I’ll have to set up something to shelter the investments and pay out—since I can’t exactly have it pay to a dead woman, but that’s just some paperwork. Once it’s sustaining there’s only really one rule: don’t touch the principle.”

GM: “I’m actually not dead,” Jocelyn mentions. “Well, legally, anyway.”

Caroline: “You’d mentioned, but I’m sure you’ve got a plan to do so eventually, right?” Caroline asks.

GM: “Yeah, eventually,” Jocelyn nods. “Just always seems like a hassle to do right now, and no one’s breathing down my neck about it.”

Caroline: The Ventrue laughs. “Must be nice.”

GM: The Toreador pauses. “It has its pros and cons. But I guess the grass always looks greener on the other side and all.”

Caroline: “I can fix that for you.” She leans over the Toreador’s form and breathes on her with cold, unliving breath.

GM: Jocelyn laughs as Caroline’s hair brushes over her stomach. “Oh gosh, I don’t feel it. Must not be a big deal. Or maybe it’s just how cold you like this room.”

Caroline: “You don’t like it?” she asks distractedly, licking some mostly dry blood off Jocelyn’s side.

GM: Jocelyn giggles at the sensation and squirms a little, making Caroline work for it.

“I don’t really notice it. Like your breath.”

Caroline: Caroline laughs lightly and pricks an elongated canine of her lover’s side, below her breast.

GM: Jocelyn’s own fangs show as she reaches up to knead one of Caroline’s. “God, I wanna just puncture these, like melons, spray the blood all over the walls…”

Caroline: “Like you’re Jackson Pollik?” Caroline laughs, watching a tiny trickle of blood roll down the brunette’s side hungrily. “I bet that’s a thing among Toreador artsy circles, isn’t it? Blood splatter art?” The elongated fangs slightly complicate speech, but she’s had enough time to get accustomed to it. The blood runs.

GM: “I’m not normally into drip painting… except when I’m…”

Jocelyn doesn’t finish the thought. Her eyes are hungry as she lunges up, mouth open, and sinks her fangs into Caroline’s breast. Blood flows over her face as she bites down over the pale flesh and shakes hungrily. The Ventrue’s Beast instinctively rises in arousal and counter-challenge.

Caroline: There’s a flash of pale flesh as Caroline climbs more fully atop the Toreador artist, taking a dominant position even as she surrenders into the kiss.

Wednesday night, 11 November 2015, AM

GM: Fresh blood coats dried blood as the pair’s Beasts eventually spend themselves. Caroline’s whips Jocelyn’s into submission, and she’s on top, as ever, as their blood cools. At this point the Toreador doesn’t even try to fight back. The sense of power is an intoxicating as any vitae. Part of Caroline, perhaps the Beast—but perhaps not—whispers that she could take Jocelyn here. Drink her utterly dry. No one would stop her. Not the seneschal. Not the prince. No one. Here, she has the power.

Caroline: The thought comes unbidden, and is equally unwelcome. It scares her a bit, the idea of drinking someone dry for no other reason than because she can, even if the most the act could do to Jocelyn is torpor her. She enjoys the control, the power, she has each night she spends with the weaker Toreador, but likes to believe she has more control than that. That she has limits. Places that she will draw the line.

She likes to believe that, but the fact that she’s even thinking about it makes her think that is a lie.

GM: It wouldn’t be the first comforting lie that’s crossed over to a hard and undeniable truth.

Jocelyn, meanwhile, rests her head against a newly-bloody hand. “So… what do you think about the Caymans?”

Caroline: “I think it’s still dangerous, but could be a lot of fun.” Jocelyn tagging along presents its own complications. There are secrets that she has to keep, even from the Toreador, and this one sits near to the top. “The other option is visiting the Dungeon.”

GM: Jocelyn looks at her for a moment. “Uh, I think the Caymans might be safer. A lot safer.”

Caroline: “I’ve heard things,” Caroline agrees quietly.

GM: “Horror stories,” Jocelyn echoes. “They say anyone who goes in there, if they even come back out, gets their life destroyed. Unless they’re already… ‘one of them.’”

Caroline: “One of whom?”

GM: “The people… things, Kindred… whatever there. The ones that live there. Make it what it is.”

Caroline: Caroline wiggles. “I can attest to that.”

GM: “There’s some parts of the city, that are just… where everything that’s wrong with it, everything that’s dark and awful and out of control, I guess, just… grows and breeds, like mold. Where the sin’s thick enough it stays on your skin, maybe your soul, like soot.”

Caroline: “You’re saying if I go in, I’ll come out stained?”

GM: Jocelyn’s voice is quiet. “I don’t know. I’ve never been inside or anything. It’s just… there’s just some parts of New Orleans that feel… dark, wrong. Maybe sick, like nowhere I’ve seen. Maybe that’s what ruins anyone who goes inside. The… all that’s bad there, clings to them, and spreads and infects everywhere they go.”

Caroline: Caroline lays in thought. Maybe she’s right. Maybe that’s what’s wrong with her.

It’s easier to think that than face the truth.

GM: “That’s how it is in photography. Or really, art in general. You darken one element in a piece, by enough, and your entire perspective changes. The entire composition changes. Even if you haven’t altered anything but that one element.”

Caroline: “Afraid you won’t recognize me if I go in, even if I come back out?” Caroline asks.

GM:If you come back out,” Jocelyn says. “They say lots of people who go inside never do.”

“But it’s not even that. It’s just…”

She looks at Caroline helplessly for a moment. “Why chase this? I mean, I get wanting to know why you were turned, why all of this happened, but… your sire’s ash. Is knowing everything about him, why and how he Embraced you, really going to change anything?”

Caroline: Caroline is silent for a moment.

“I don’t know. It’s hard to know what I’ll find waiting at the end of this chase, but I know that the longer I wait, the less chance I have of learning anything. As you’ve said, I can’t exactly ask René about it now, can I?”

She bites her lip. “That night… there’s so much that I don’t understand about it. About what happened, or why.”

GM: “But does it really matter, anymore?” Jocelyn entreats. “I mean, he’s gone… you’re your own Kindred now.”

Caroline: “I matters to me. Matters why I exist. Why my sire chose me.” She grinds her teeth. “You probably know as much about him as I do—or even more—and I don’t even know if I was chosen, or if I was anything more than a mistake.” She pauses. “And I don’t want to be, don’t want my entire Requiem to be an accident.”

“I can accept that my Embrace is, ultimately, the result of my sins in life, but why did he think that I had to die, and… so awfully.”

GM: “Well… okay, look,” Jocelyn says, turning over onto her stomach and resting her chin against a hand. “Even if you don’t find anything in the Caymans, it could at least be a fun trip. We could meet new Kindred, even people, enjoy some beaches… night beaches, anyway. You could network and maybe have fun with some offshore tax haven stuff. I mean, sure, things could go wrong, but they could also go right. I don’t see any way that the Dungeon ends up going right.”

Caroline: “You don’t think I’d make friends there?” Caroline asks sarcastically.

GM: “I dunno who would,” Jocelyn answers, not all sarcastically.

Caroline: “My sire, for one,” comes Caroline’s more serious answer. “All the same, I’m willing to give the Caymans a shot first. Is there anyone you can think of who might have visited in the past, to make sure we’re not violating some kind of fraternal Kindred bylaw?”

GM: “My sire, grandsire, or great-grandsire, maybe?” Jocelyn seems to guess. “Beyond that, I dunno.”

Caroline: “Well, if you want to make a couple calls, I’ll book tickets. Do you have a passport?”

GM: “I have a passport. But making calls to my sire is… hard. She can be out of contact, for months, and she always changes numbers. She’s pretty paranoid the government could be spying on her.”

Caroline: “I mean, the government is definitely spying on her,” Caroline fills in. “They’re spying on all of us. It’s why I try to avoid saying anything specific to us on the phone.”

GM: “Really? We’ve said a fair amount of sensitive stuff over the phone. I mostly just use a secure text app and call it a night.”

Caroline: “I mean, sensitive to a point, and maybe in emergencies I’ve gotten lax, but you haven’t seen me waving a vampire flag around various texts or calls since after René got ashed.”

GM: “I guess that’s safe. Safer, anyway. But it might be a while before I can talk with my sire. It’s more she calls me than the other way around.”

Caroline: “We’re not in an immediate rush, are we? And we don’t have to wait, I just thought it would be a nice touch.”

GM: “That’s true, on both counts. You wanna go soon?” Jocelyn asks.

Caroline: “I’ll book for a couple weeks out. If we hear from her, great. Otherwise, we’ll just keep a low profile. Enjoy the change of scenery.”

GM: “Great! That sounds like it’ll be fun,” Jocelyn smiles.

Caroline: Fun.

Yes, not at all dangerous and potentially lethal.


She’d almost forgotten that word.

Thursday night, 19 November 2015, AM

GM: Antoine Savoy receives Caroline as cordially as ever from his and Preston’s usual table at the Evergreen. “So what can we do for you tonight, my dear—or are you merely feeling charitable enough to brighten the Evergreen with your presence?” the French Quarter lord idly asks, draining the last of the blood from his glass.

Caroline: “It’s quite your own fault, my lord,” Caroline replies mischievously. “Every time I appear with my hand out you can’t seem to resist the urge to leap up, take it, and dance with me. You and I may be dead, Lord Savoy, but chivalry appears to be far from it.”

GM: “Some say that the age of chivalry is past, that the spirit of romance is long dead. The age of chivalry is never past, so long as there is a wrong left unredressed on earth,” the French Quarter lord smiles.

Caroline: Caroline smiles in turn. “Ah, well, in the interest of redressing wrongs and not dancing around the matter overly much, I had hoped to call in a boon you’d offered, Lord Savoy, in pursuit of more knowledge of my Embrace.”

She briefly explains her interest in Jayden Proctor and his current location without touching on details such as his arrival at the airport with one of the seneschal’s ghouls or her earlier suspicion that he was the seneschal’s ghoul and instead focusing on his involvement in her Embrace and his many moves across the country.

“I was considering a field trip, but thought it wiser to seek out a more worldly Kindred for guidance,” she smiles.

GM: “Pursuit of the truth is as worthy a venture as any could pursue, my dear. What guidance would you ask of me?”

Caroline: “I know little of the Caymans, and any such journey seems fraught with enough peril by its nature. I had hoped you might know something of them, and any Kindred expectations on them, Lord Savoy.”

GM: “Guidance easily and gladly offered,” Savoy smiles. “They’re the private domain of an elder by the name of Prospero.”

“He’s neutral in the Jyhad. He’ll allow anyone, or their money, on his islands. Be they Camarilla, Sabbat, independent, or anything in between—all are welcome so long as they keep the Traditions and cause no trouble.”

“Anything worse as well as in between, sir,” Preston notes. “Prospero is reported to allow Kindred guilty of atrocities for which you and Prince Vidal would both order them slain on sight.”

“Neutral is neutral, Nat. But it’s true one can run in to… interesting characters in the Caymans,” Savoy grins.

Caroline: The Ventrue considers. “Probably not a place that Prince Vidal, or many Sanctified as a whole, endorses for vacations, then?” she asks dryly.

GM: “You might be surprised how many Camarilla luminaries have had dealings with Prospero, my dear,” the Toreador answers. “Queen Anne of London, Prince Vitel of D.C., Princes Michaela and Panhard of New York… them and many others. Including at least a few elders in this city. The Caymans are rather conveniently close by for us.”

Savoy smiles easily. “It’s not hard to see why Kindred deal with him. Visitors and foreign investors alike are free to conduct their business without disturbance. Whatever a Cainite’s sins may be outside the Caymans, they don’t matter a whit on those three islands. So long as you play nice while you’re there, Propspero will allow you.”

Caroline: “Yes, I can see that being very appealing to some,” Caroline nods, clearly faintly disturbed.

GM: “It is uncanny how our world can so mirror the kine’s at times, isn’t it?”

Caroline: “It is,” Caroline replies. She clears her face of concern purposefully and smiles again. “You’ve given me a great deal to go off of, Lord Savoy. I appreciate your time. And of course, the boon is more than fulfilled.”

GM: Preston taps away into her tablet.

“I assure you, my dear, your mere presence at the Evergreen is boon enough,” Savoy grins.

Caroline: “Charmer.”

GM: “The word you’re thinking of ends with a ‘d’, actually,” Savoy idly corrects, then grins. “But truth be told, Miss Malveaux, I often feel as if I’m taking advantage! So I’ll do you one better, if you’ll allow me—I’ve had a few dealings of my own with Prospero. I could write a letter of introduction for you to bring along, if you’d like, or send my herald Mélissaire to accompany you.”

Caroline: “As always, Lord Savoy, your charm is exceeded only by your generosity. One of these days you’ll have to let me pay you back.” There’s an alluring smile there she seldom shows, one half-playful and half-inviting. “I expect traveling with Mélissaire would raise some interesting questions, but if I make the trip I may indeed take you up on the letter. I’ll be certain to reach out if that’s the case.”

GM: Savoy raises his empty glass in seeming toast.

“If it is, my dear, may you find the truth you seek.”

Friday night, 20 November 2015, AM

Caroline: Raymond. Everything seems to come back to Raymond. Her own Embrace. The auction. Matheson. Desirae Wells. The latter gives her ample excuse to investigate him. A convenient shroud for her real purpose. A paranoid part of her mind screams it’s too convenient, but then that part is always screaming these days. If she listened to it she’d spend most of her time crying in her bedroom, rendered motionless by all too justified paranoia.

He’s not exactly the sort she can investigate using her mundane resources, but fortunately her less mundane ones are growing, albeit less quickly than she might wish. She asks friendly Kindred about the Caitiff if they know about him and tries to figure out if he’s still operating in the city, and in particular if he has contact with Matheson and Adler. She tries to investigate ‘the auction’.

GM: Jocelyn initially has no idea who Raymond is. After some prompting, she goes, “Oh yeah, some lick who showed up to a few Elysia. I think he got kicked out of the city?” She doesn’t remember anything else about him.

Peter Lebeaux is willing to part with what he knows about Raymond for a boon owed.

Gus Elgin makes Caroline the same offer.

Alder, of course, she’s declined to ask at all.

Caroline: Of course. No one is willing to help for free.

For now, Caroline tables incurring further obligations in favor of what her own efforts can uncover.

Thursday evening, 26 November 2015

GM: Claire has remained in New Orleans after Westley’s funeral in order to “take care of things” with the family. She takes occasional flights up to DC and drives out to Baton Rouge to see Gabriel every weekend or two. Caroline’s youngest brother is otherwise spending his last year in high school by himself, which Claire thinks is good for him. It’ll prepare him for being fully on his own next year at Yale. Caroline’s mother stays at the Hotel Monteleone, as Matt seems to have grown sour over letting relatives stay in his Audubon home for free. A few family rumors say that Vera has sent more PIs to scope out the place for evidence Matt is keeping any mistresses there, but nothing comes of it.

The three brothers’ families reunite at Orson’s home in the Garden District for Thanksgiving. The largest spat of drama surprisingly centers around Luke, who’d wanted to invite Cécilia (and who he seems to have grown increasingly close to since Westley’s death). Cécilia’s mother, however, was extremely firm about keeping her family together for Thanksgiving. It’s not a French holiday, but after ten years in the States they’ve “gone native” enough to enjoy celebrating it anyway. When Luke thought to simply have dinner with them, there was nearly as much objection from the Malveauxes. Vera considered it particularly baffling when “he isn’t even engaged to this girl.”

In the end, Luke and Cécilia decide to spend their Thanksgivings with their respective families. Perhaps they’re all tired of fighting, or Westley’s death is still casting a long pall over events. Something simply feels subdued even as the family avidly talks and heaps their plates with turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, and pecan pie with whipped cream.

Caroline: Caroline’s memories of what food actually tastes like become more and more indistinct over time, and by Thanksgiving, only a couple of months after her Embrace, so much of it seems like nothing but the next rotation of foulness she has to endure as part of her own private Masquerade.

She tries to keep a lower profile at dinner, out of the spotlight and grateful for Luke’s soaking up of the heat. Though she’d never admit it to the rest of the family, part of her suspects that the entire dust up was kicked up on purpose to take people’s minds off of the past. Luke’s good like that.

GM: If Caroline’s suspicions are true, Luke does not come forward with them, and the rest of the family’s speculation remains minimal (at least for the holiday). Congress has a state work period during Thanksgiving, which means all the politicians and big-name donors are spending time with their families, and allows Caroline to briefly see her father again. Clare makes a point of seating them next to one another. Nathan tells his daughter that he’s pleased to see her “doing well,” and is sorry he can’t attend her graduation. His schedule is packed.

“But I’m proud to see you moving forward, Caroline,” he remarks between a bite of the bourbon-infused pie, a local twist on the classic recipe. “It’d have been twice the tragedy if we let Westley’s death stop anyone else’s life.”

Caroline: The words feel so hollow and empty. The shell of what she once wanted just like she’s a shell of what she once was. But she knows what he wants to hear, and more importantly what her father wants to hear.

“You’re busy with actual important things. It’s just a self-indulgent ceremony anyway.. Nothing we haven’t both already seen,” she answers. And there’s truth to it, even if Caroline won’t see another.

GM: “I’d have had my degrees mailed if it weren’t for appearances,” her father agrees between a bite of pie.

Caroline: “Postcard to a beach somewhere?” Caroline puts on a smile. “It’d certainly be a more productive use of time.”

GM: “There’s no time for those either with the election in 12 months,” Nathan replies. “Senator Kelly’s going to face an actual primary challenger instead of the usual Democrat sacrificial lamb.”

Caroline: “Cherry again?” The heiress asks.

GM: “Some rabble-rouser crawled out from the swamps. He claims to be the son of Earl Long, but none of the family know him.”

“Cherry wouldn’t run in a Republican primary. Journalists would consider it a good day’s work if they caught you making such a stupid gaffe,” her father reproaches, cutting another slice of bourbon pecan pie.

Caroline: Caroline’s skin might flush with embarrassment if she were still living. She’s not.

“If that’s all they got you might too.”

GM: “He’s probably just trying to get his name out,” Claire remarks. “Kelly will win, but this is going to be his last term.”

Caroline: “Where’s he from?”

GM: Nathan shrugs. “Nowhere we’d set foot.”

Caroline: “I can’t help but wonder how many of your colleagues would say the same of us,” Caroline offers.

GM: Her father takes another bite of pie.

Her mother asks, “I’m sorry, Caroline?”

Caroline: “Baton Rouge?” she offers. “How many senators could find it on the map much less see it as worth visiting. It’s easy to look down on people.” She carves off a piece of her own slim slice of pie.

“And just as easy to forget that as foolish as others look as they crane their necks at you, so too do you to others in kind.”

GM: “I could find every state capital on a map when I was 15. I’ll welcome the ignorance of any opponent who can’t,” her father answers, pausing to dab some cream off his mouth with a napkin.

Caroline: “And so will Mr. Swamp Thing,” Caroline offers. She bites her lip.

GM: “There still remains a world of difference between rural swamps and state capitals,” her mother states.

Caroline: Caroline carves off another revolting slice of pie.

“A fact not lost on me… or the hicks.”

GM: “There’s a young woman in Washington state who ran for state legislature when she was only 24 years old. What are you doing like that after you graduate?” her father asks.

Caroline: “Shouldn’t you be telling me the answer to that question?” Caroline asks and answers.

GM: “You’re going to work on Senator Kelly’s campaign, then. Caleb will arrange things,” her father replies without missing a beat.

Caroline: “What an excellent symbol of solidarity,” Caroline replies with a fake smile.

GM: “Charlotte’s involved too in a less direct capacity. You’ll be able to learn from her good example.”

Caroline: “I suppose someone in the family has to set an example for others.”

GM: “Someone does,” Nathan agrees with complete seriousness.

Caroline: “I didn’t realize what high esteem you held her in. I’m glad you have at least one person that doesn’t disappoint you.”

GM: “We are proud of you for getting things so well back on track, Caroline,” Claire states, her eyes briefly meeting her husband’s.

“Yes, we are,” Nathan agrees simply. “It’s more than Westley ever did. It’s good progress. Don’t accept it as a substitute for success either.”

Caroline: “And here I thought we were talking about what a success Charlotte has been,” Caroline replies mildly. She slides the last sliver of her pie into her mouth, chewing on the ashes.

GM: “We were. She’s far from the only success in this family,” Claire answers.

Caroline: “That’s true. I suppose none of Matt’s children have strayed from the path.” She slides her plate away. “I wonder why that is.”

GM: The barely-chewed physical matter slides down Caroline’s esophagus with all the pleasure castor oil. It will not be long before she has to vomit and heave out last crumb from her forever-empty stomach.

“Because he no longer has any who have,” Nathan answers. Around them, the low din of conversation from siblings, uncles, and cousins continues to sound. Orson has eaten no fewer than four very generous slices of sweet potato and bourbon pecan pie. No one makes any jokes. Caroline’s father looks as if he could say a good deal more, but perhaps bearing in mind their present setting, he simply stares directly at her.

“Failures are failures because they no longer have any future. Spend more time thinking about yours.”

Caroline: “But why, when you send so much time thinking about it for me?” Caroline asks quietly. She holds her father’s gaze for a moment, but only just, before she sighs, seeming to deflate in place. She looks away, and returns in a gentler voice, “Why do we always do this?” Caroline’s pride still stings, but she’s too conscious of a truth her father is bitterly ignorant of: this may be the last time they are in a room together.

GM: “That’s exactly what I am wondering, Caroline,” Nathan answers in the same unyielding tone. “If you resent us for telling you how to live your life, why don’t you simply live a productive one on your own? Luke has done almost everything since graduating under his own direction. He’s turned out fine.”

Her father doesn’t sound quite regretful, but at least puzzled.

Caroline: “I should think Susan makes that point bitterly clear.”

GM: “You can live a thousand other lives than Westley’s or hers.”

Nathan doesn’t say the name around the rest of the family. No one does.

Caroline: “The last time a woman went against the family’s direction they ended up in a convent, Dad,” Caroline says very soberly, but quietly. “How many of us do you think are eager to try our luck?”

GM: Her father frowns deeply at the further mention of Susan. He doesn’t look away from Caroline, but he’s plainly listening more closely to the three families’ (or at least Orson and his brothers’ families) chatter around the great table. They are mostly finishing up desert and carrying on slower conversations amongst themselves. Orson has started a fifth pie slice but is eating that more slowly too.

“One woman,” Nathan notes. “There was one man who also did, and he wound up dead.”

Caroline: The Ventrue tilts her head to the side, her face slightly downcast.

“You put me on a path, Dad. For better or worse, I was afraid to step off of it. Maybe I should have. Maybe things would have gone differently. But I wanted,” she closes her eyes and shakes her head just a bit, “so badly for you to be proud of me. To do what I thought you wanted. Did I ever have plans of my own? Things I wanted to do and achieve beyond the plan?” She shrugs. “Of course I did. I just didn’t want them as much as I wanted that.”

GM: “Don’t talk in the past tense like that, Caroline,” her father reproaches—and might even entreat. “You have your entire life ahead of you. Twenty-five is still just a kid. I didn’t want you to drop out because I didn’t want you to lose stride and become accustomed to failure. You can still be more. Much more.”

Claire doesn’t interject as she silently sips her wine. But it’s few mothers who wouldn’t be hanging onto every word.

Caroline: More than you know.

Caroline stares down at her empty place setting for a long moment.

“What can I become?” she asks.

GM: “A senator, governor, CEO, senior partner, attorney general, Supreme Court justice, and a great deal more, if you maintain the necessary commitment.”

Caroline: Caroline nods mutely. “And is that what you want?”

GM: “Yes.”

Caroline: Her father’s glass has run empty, but her own, barely touched, sits more than half full. Orson’s tastes have seen to the bottles on the table aptly. She pours half of her glass into his own.

“To the future then, and opportunity.”

She looks at her father, but also past him, to where her mother watches.

GM: Both her parents raise what remains of their glasses.

“To the future.”

“And opportunity.”

Caroline V, Chapter XI
Desirae Wells

“Good or bad, truth is truth and worth knowing.”
Desirae Wells

Wednesday night, 7 October 2015, PM

Caroline: Among the great many projects Caroline undertakes, perhaps the closest to her dead heart is setting up of ‘her’ firm. It isn’t in her name, of course, and few will ever know the truth of her influence, but it is her brainchild nonetheless.

The processes is not without its stumbles. Caroline cannot finance the firm out of pocket and several of the individuals she would have dearly liked to bring into the process are unavailable: hidden behind the aegis of their own jealous but opaque Kindred masters.

Nor does she want to rely entirely on Matheson’s loan to make the firm possible. She’s forced to compromise. Change. Carve and cut away. Gone is the image she once saw of a perfect glass and steel empire, gone with the favor of the seneschal and the years she’d hoped to have. Tonight she settles for function. She draws in her once-time ‘boss’ and pairs the sensual brunette with Gerald Bishop, once of Bishop, Pearl, and Park (now Pearl & Park). The ancient attorney is well past his prime and recently bought out of his own firm amid quiet allegations that he’d been conducting himself in an untoward manner. Seething, resentful, and hurt on the surface, he was a tailor-made acquisition. He’d given his life to the firm, three wives, and two estranged children. Most importantly for Caroline’s purposes, ‘bought out’ meant sitting on his own extensive capital with every reason to pursue a ’comeback.

Every reason, including those that Caroline did not knew at first, for she was not the first Kindred to have turned her gaze towards him.

GM: Indeed, between the ghoul’s recollections, Autumn’s reports, and Caroline’s own investigations (which draw heavily on Becky Lynne’s continued tutorship), the Ventrue is able to piece together the following:

Before Hurricane Katrina, Francesca Dumont was Clan Ventrue’s representative on the Cabildo. Dumont was one of the now much-reduced “old guard” Embraced from the city’s French-speaking Creole population. She met final death during Hurricane Katrina (Caroline isn’t certainly exactly how) and left behind two kin, both of whom vied to assume her place on the Cabildo: her nephew-in-blood Pierpont McGinn and her childe Rebecca DeMatthews. Of the Gerousia, Matheson was exiled, Smith had never enjoyed Vidal’s favor, and Guilbeau was brand new to the city. Many assumed the position would go to to McGinn, due to his seat on the Gerousia, the many accolades heaped upon him for his decisive leadership during Hurricane Katrina, his advanced age, and simple right of primogeniture.

But Rebecca put up a surprising show. While McGinn had carved out his own power base, Rebecca stayed by her sire’s side as a lieutenant. She was thus more familiar with the inner workings of Dumont’s (larger) holdings and contacts network, and in a better position to take them over than McGinn. Indeed, while her cousin-in-blood led much of the city’s Invictus to Baton Rouge, Rebecca stayed in New Orleans to consolidate her hold over Dumont’s assets—and to get in on the ground floor of what a post-Katrina New Orleans would look like. Before Katrina, Rebecca was also an attorney with a law firm she claimed as her personal domain, and she used to offer legal counsel (or take care of greater legal matters) to Kindred willing to go to another of their kind for such services. Between this and the perception that Rebecca was a less ardent (or at least less vocal) proponent of Ventrue superiority than McGinn, she was a more popular primogen choice among the other clans. The Ventrue primogen has naturally always sought to advance their own clan’s interests, but it remains a position that deals significantly with non-Ventrue, as opposed to purely internal positions like the Gerousia (which are not even spoken of among outsiders).

However, McGinn was far from unpopular himself. During Hurricane Katrina, he led the Invictus on an arduous journey to Baton Rouge through perils ranging from Strix to Loup-Garoux. He negotiated a favorable “refugee settlement treaty” with the new prince, Lawrence Meeks, who had just overthrown Marcel Guilbeau in a surprise coup d’etat. Pearl and Accou had stayed in New Orleans, Matheson was exiled, and Dumont and Dominique Toutain, the only other two members of the then-Prima Invicta, had both met final death. McGinn provided decisive leadership to the First Estate and many of New Orleans’ Kindred during their hour of need and won much acclaim for his deeds. Vidal appointed him as regent of Uptown (a newly-vacant regency thanks to the storm) and elevated him to the Gerousia in recognition for his valor. McGinn was also his cousin-in-blood’s elder by many years, had more friends among the city’s elders (as opposed to neonates, Rebecca’s primary “clients”), and was without doubt the more personally powerful of the two. Rebecca had a chance at the Cabildo seat, but she was always the underdog candidate.

The contest between Dumont’s two relatives came to an abrupt halt when one of the deceased primogen’s former ghouls, driven mad from a shattered blood bond, sent a letter to a tabloid newspaper. He claimed that he and Rebecca were vampires, and that she had “murdered our maker.” He then went fully rogue and attempted to drain his replacement domitor of her blood. Rebecca dealt with the ghoul and barely halted the letter’s publication, but the damage to her reputation was done. She was perceived as unable to control her own servants, and having shown poor judgment in choosing to retain the ghoul’s services at all.

McGinn ruthlessly capitalized on the scandal and used it as pretext to annex Dumont’s financial holdings, while also citing right of primogeniture. The Gerousia was unanimous in its support. Rebecca was left with nothing except her law firm, which had itself lost employees to Katrina, and been further neglected by its mistress while she attended to her newer acquisitions. Dumont’s youngest childe sold the firm and joined the exodus to Houston, perhaps in search of better opportunities—another soul displaced by Katrina. But unknown to many, the ghoul responsible for Rebecca’s woes yet lives—Gerald Bishop.

While others view the old man as washed-up, Caroline discovers more precisely that the old man is washed-up and dried-up, as well as a cautionary tale against the twisted brand of loyalty the blood bond can inspire. Caroline has no idea why he’s still alive. Bishop doesn’t either. He took to drinking in the days after Dumont’s final death, he says. Hell, he might’ve been drunk when he tried to kill “Miss DeMatthews.” He has a dozen different explanations for how that night went down, why he is still alive, and why he tried to kill her, a topic he recounts either numbly or with bitter tears that can still flow, so many years later. Sometimes he thinks Rebecca deserves it. Sometimes he weeps that it’s the most terrible thing he ever did.

What if is far less uncertain, however, is that without a domitor, Gerald no longer had a steady supply of vitae. The abrupt cut-off did not help the ghoul’s already precarious mental state, and even he admits that he showed astoundingly poor judgment in attempting to contact his former mistress, begging for forgiveness—and another hit. Or at least Gerald might have done that. Maybe he failed to establish contact with Rebecca—Kindred can be very hard to reach. Maybe he succeeded, but she refused to answer him. Or maybe he never tried to contact her at all, and the hazy memory is nothing more than a figment of too much booze and an unhinged pysche. He’s not sure if she still knows whether he’s alive or not.

All he really remembers is those months spent waiting for, then pleading with, Rebecca to return. His vitae ran dry, and every fix he could beg, borrow, or steal soon trickled away like his false youth as he aged years in only month. He did dirty things. “We all did dirty things during Katrina,” he slurs. Few ghouls wanted anything to do with him. Not after failing to save his first mistress, then turning upon his second one. The only bright side to his rapid aging was that it left him physically unrecognizable. The Kindred might have hunted him down. Or maybe they wouldn’t have. To say there other matters occupying their attention during Katrina would be like calling the hurricane “rather wet.” And few Kindred really pay that close attention to ghouls. Masters rarely do to servants.

And so without Rebecca, he withered and aged. He could not even try to help her by transferring assets to help set in Houston. She was out of contact (or refusing contact), and McGinn took over everything left in New Orleans. Yet some part of him desperately believed that she’d be back for him. That she would call him to her. He loved her! But he waited in vain. Months turned into a year, and a year turned into several. The bond did not vanish, but at least ebbed, and he finally at least half-aware of the cruel reality of his abandonment. He was cut off, left out of the cold, just another orphaned or abandoned Katrina ghoul skulking along the margins of the all-night society. Some went on to find new masters and mistresses. He was not one of them. Maybe he judged it too dangerous. Maybe he just didn’t have the heart to try. The most he remembers from those years is the drinking.

To those who knew him, it was as though the storm ripped out his heart. He lost his way with people, that “edge” which made his legal career so successful. His hair thinned and turned white. He added glasses as his eyesight dimmed. He had to leave the firm, of course. Nothing could explain how he rapidly aged so many years. Besides, the firm was barely left after Katrina. He thinks either Rebecca or McGinn cannibalized what was left of its assets. He did too, and embezzled as many funds as he could before becoming another Katrina statistic. It wasn’t as painful as the first mortal life he’d left behind. That one had a wife and three now-adult children.

The next decade was spent in the wine, withering and drying up (well, at least of vitae) like a tree downstream of a dammed river. He ruminated what was and what might have been. He ruminated growing old, and how his best memories were like his best years, now far behind him. It was a decade spent waiting to die.

All until Caroline the levee-breaker comes along, bringing new vitae and new purpose… and taking from him once more. What little he has to give. Many of the ghoul’s memories are fragmented by the shattered bond, washed away by drink, and buried under a decade of regrets, recriminations, and trauma. He knows little of the all-night society: many Kindred choose not to expose prominent mortal pawns to others of their kind. He knows few of his mistresses’ secrets: Rebecca was the younger and more trusting of the two, but she was his domitor for less than a year. Francesca was old and guarded, and told him almost nothing. He abandoned his name over ten years ago. His nest egg has had just as long to run dry. He now supports himself through theft, facilitated by the preternatural charm he developed under his first mistress.

But all he can do is give.

Caroline: And give he does.

Gives counsel.

Gives liasoning in the legal community.

Gives what little he knows about his mistress’ secrets.

Gives Caroline a reason not to drag someone she knows, like Denise, screaming and crying into the all-night society.

Gives what wealth he has left, that together with Caroline’s capital and (most of all) Matheson’s loan, is enough get ’Caroline’s’ firm off the ground. Enough to pay assistants and contractors. Enough to bring in paralegals. Enough to woo away Bowden from her own job.

Enough to begin.

Thursday night, 15 October 2015, PM

Caroline: Caroline’s setup of her business continues unabated amid the tangled web of Ventrue internal politics. Really, the most difficult part is identifying ideal candidates to helm the firm from within the relatively conservative area in which she has to work. Those talented enough to be successful, and to make the firm successful, while also remaining fresh enough that they’ll jump at the opportunity.

Ultimately she settles on Dustin Reffett and her longtime associate Denise Bowden. Reffett is talented and relatively desperate. While his work is well known, so too is his prior stint in a psych ward—enough to blacklist him with nearly everyone in terms of ability to make partner.

Bowden’s own personal matters are well-documented for Caroline. Both are ideal, if not perfect for her needs.

She’s is all but ready to move forward when Autumn all but drops Gerald Bishop in her lap. Though the former Janus ghoul has reservations about the relatively damaged old man, she’s heard stories about him—that he was previously in the service of Rebecca DeMatthews, the last Kindred to dig her fingers into the practice of law in New Orleans. Checking around with other contacts reveals he’s relatively well known among city attorneys, though the conscientious is that his star as faded. Caroline suspects she can polish a bit more shine onto it, and it keeps her from immediately ghouling Denise.

The startup money feeds at first from several sources: her own accounts as they shift away from her legal name into fictional ones, money diverted from victims, and finally, most heavily, the loan provided by Gerousiastis Matheson. It’s the latter that lets her frame the firm as she’s wished, vice as she can afford, bringing in new constructions and casting it in glass and steel.

GM: The next months are busy ones.

Widney has her hands full with her domitor’s financial manipulations. She asks Caroline several times if she can meet with Becky Lynne to coordinate things, or at least a ghoul in service to the other Ventrue, and is disappointed when her domitor tells her no. Matheson’s childe was clear: other Ventrue cannot help Caroline in her agoge. She must navigate Whitney Bank’s red tape on her own, even as Becky Lynne (by her own admission) is studiously monitoring financial records for irregularities that could draw attention from kine authorities and threaten the Masquerade.

It’s an inconvenience, but perhaps also a blessing. The fruits of Caroline’s labors will be hers alone.

Caroline: Caroline spends much, perhaps too much, of her own time reviewing the records as well to assist the ghoul. She lacks the financial background specific to Widney—it was after all a major factor in her decision to ghoul the adviser—but brings her own keen eye for detail and experience with the principles of financial manipulation: god knows the family does enough of it when funding her father’s elections.

At least they had an early start with her own finances.

GM: Indeed, Caroline finds that many of her financial plans with the firm dovetail with her personal life’s. For her family has not forgotten about the $50,000 hole she supposedly burned at Harrah’s. Her uncle Orson summoned her to his Garden District house for a meeting with Matt. The latter reamed her through the ear about “disgusting” and “reckless” financial irresponsibility.

“Oh, you can save the life of a bank CEO’s daughter, but you can’t manage your money—our money—without acting like a backwoods hick who’s won the lottery?!” Orson announced that Caroline would be put under a tight financial leash as a safeguard against further reckless spending.

Yet the Harrah’s incident, Widney explained, was perhaps a blessing, as it explains where her money has been disappearing. Even as the mortal identity of Caroline Malveaux continues to unravel like an old and falling-apart sweater, its same threads are re-spun into a glorious new tapestry. Only one night after she’s chewed out by her uncles, Gerald Bishop presents her with a sleek-looking business card for the new firm of Bishop, Reffet & Bowden.

“We could also do Bishop, Bowden, & Reffet, ma’am. Which do you think sounds better?” the elderly-looking ghoul asks.

Reffet, he reports in the coming weeks, is a workaholic who’s still on anti-anxiety medications and has a habit (therapy technique?) of sometimes closing his eyes to recite the names of inanimate objects in his immediate vicinity, but Bishop believes that the firm’s new partner is a valuable asset who does good work. He just needs someone else to “mind him” for particularly high-pressure stuff.

Caroline: “Is that you?” Caroline asks.

GM: “Doesn’t have to be. Denise or even an associate could do that too,” the stringy-haired, prematurely graying man answers. He doesn’t sound like’s asking asking Caroline for permission. She’s since picked up that Bishop already assumes he’s in charge of the firm. After all, he’s the oldest partner (by far), and the only ghoul as well.

Caroline: And the public face of the start-up. Caroline largely agrees with his conclusions and encourages him to keep the others on a short leash: they’re both flawed.

At the same time she does the same with him. While she does not run the firm’s day to day routine, she demands regular reports on both the start up progress, on clients, and on others, as well as his own health—mental and otherwise.

GM: As for Caroline’s former boss, the Ventrue has already interned underneath her and knows about the quality of the work she does. Bishop has no complaints there either.

But Caroline’s assessment proves apt when Bishop reports that Denise has slept with her first intern.

Caroline: Caroline instructs him to observe and document. Make sure no interns are getting ideas. Ultimately it sets up for Caroline to sweep in and use some of them for her own purposes in the same way (her herd is coming along, but could use a manager), so it’s an expected result. So long as it doesn’t affect work product, Caroline isn’t particularly concerned.

GM: It’s not much longer that Bishop reports Denise is getting bolder. She’s slept with two paralegals. People are telling stories about her around the water cooler.

At Caroline’s instruction, Bishop steps in with Reffet and tells Denise that there is a limit to her fucking the help. She is who they thought she is, and they knew that, but she needs to show the bare minimum of discretion.

Caroline: If necessary, Caroline steps in for a conversation of a different tone with her former “boss”, offering the carrot to the stick offered by the partners, taking a gentler tack.

GM: Denise makes various promises to Caroline and the other partners. Bishop’s worst fears that she will sleep with a client don’t (yet) come to pass, and Denise apparently restrains herself from screwing (more) people with permanent positions at the firm.

Water cooler stories are still being told, and Bishop reports that lower-level employees don’t take Denise as seriously as they do him and Dustin (and Dustin less so than him). Bishop doesn’t consider this a necessarily bad outcome, though… it cements his position, and Caroline’s by proxy, without the need to obtain more direct forms of leverage over the other two partners. Caroline’s old boss ultimately remains an addict, and does not consider the consequences of her addiction in logical terms.

Caroline: They’re all addicts in the end, Caroline can’t help but think.

At least Denise’s addiction never killed anyone.

GM: Bishop, in response to his domitor’s earlier instructions, insists he’s the “picture of health” now that he’s “back on the good stuff.” He says he doesn’t need to drink as much, either, with Caroline’s vitae to “take the edge off.” He uses her vitae being “good for his health” as an excuse to wheedle the Ventrue for more frequent hits. He insists they keep him on the straight and narrow, good at his job, and that Caroline can view it as a direct investment.

Meanwhile, her and Widney’s behind-the-scenes financial manipulations bear fruit as the firm’s doors open and Bishop, Reffet, & Bowden takes its first clients. While Bishop admits the three’s reputations may cause things to be “slow” for the firm at first, greater success should come as a result of Caroline’s extralegal manipulations, and cut the ground out from beneath the firm’s skeptics and critics. The lack of Kindred competitors in the area of law practices will also help in this regard—that’s one thing Caroline can thank Katrina for.

Caroline: The Ventrue is, true to form, willing to provide vitae as a reward for particular achievements, though she’s less willing to give out hits that are ‘extorted’ for simple good behavior.
Though her tastes run towards college students, most of her victims of late, given Rocco’s territory, are older, typically professionals pursuing continuing education. It’s a harder crowd for her, but it has certain advantages, like the positions of influence and wealth that many old… and the skeletons Caroline is uniquely suited to drag out of their closets in her role as a wolf of god.

Several find their fortunes imperiled by newfound legal troubles, while others find themselves possessed by a desire to lay to rest old troubles. Many find their way to the newly found firm as they go seeking representation. Child support payments unpaid, adulteries uncovered by jealous spouses, delinquent taxes, and contracts poorly written are all fertile ground for problems, and Caroline finds them easily enough.

Caroline shares almost none of this of course with Bishop—better to let the attorney build his confidence—and calibrate his expectations.

GM: The ghoul tells Caroline that he’s “stunned” by the rapid influx of business the firm is getting. He’d been confident in the work that its newly-assembled staff could do, of course, but he’d figured the reputations of the three partners would make business “slow at first.” That they’d need to prove they could do good work before many clients came. It’s perhaps a credit to the subtlety of Caroline’s manipulations that the experienced ghoul even asks her about “nudging” clients in the same conversation as he remarks on the firm’s success.

Caroline: Caroline is pleased by the firm’s success, but is relatively firm that its successes should be just that, its successes. She is not interested in having to babysit and drum up business, and makes clear that Bishop would have to provide a compelling case for her to do so.

GM: Bishop is quick to assure Caroline that the firm can stand on its own feet and be successful on its own. He merely means to state that her assistance will make it even more so. The more money it brings it in, the more satisfied clients it leaves behind, and the more professional contacts it makes, the more useful a resource it will be. Widney does agree with Bishop that it will be a useful place to launder money through.

Slowly but surely, the Ventrue’s dream is coming together.

Monday night, 2 November 2015, PM

Caroline: As the firm’s resources come online Caroline is quick to begin their tasking. There will be no idle hands as mortal clients trickle in. Her investigators have their marching orders almost as soon as they are hired. Her researchers much the same. Paralegals pour over court and property records under the “Wells” name, looking for any hit then tracking it down, running it to ground. Investigators dig into missing persons cases and follow leads uncovered by paralegals that are not on paper, including necessary interviews and follow-ups. Caroline also leans on Autumn, and in turn on Autumn’s own contacts in the ghoul community. Turnover may be relatively common among them, but certainly some may know something—a Kindred with no memory must have sparked some Krewe interest.

Beyond the name, which Caroline trusts little of—a too convenient awakening with no memory sounds too much like a setup of some kind—Caroline bounces the photo she received off missing persons databases independent of the name.

GM: Caroline’s ever-increasing numbers of agents begin their search. No matter what they come back with, simply having so many people all working towards enacting her will may be a salve upon the Ventrue’s battered pride.

The fastest results come from Autumn. Even as shrouded in secrecy as Kindred affairs may be, the fact remains that there are far fewer Kindred than kine. Kindred-centric investigations are not uniformly faster, but they can be.

Autumn says that Desirae Wells is a Caitiff, first of all, though she’s one of the few to earn some modicum of acceptance among the Camarilla. In fact, though Autumn doesn’t say so outright, she actually sounds more respected than Caroline at this point. Wells is one of the Night Axles, an Anarch krewe that’s taken up with Savoy, though Wells herself remains on cordial enough terms with Coco’s Anarchs. Most Kindred see the amnesiac Caitiff as a harmless and moderately interesting curiosity. She gets along well with people. The Anarchs have actually made her their official representative to the other covenants, for business which Coco or Opal don’t personally handle. Still, Wells’ clanless blood means she will only rise so high.

More relevantly to Wells’ origins, however, Autumn picks up that there was another amnesiac Caitiff active in New Orleans not too many years back. His name was Raymond. He seems to be gone from the city now. A few rumors hold that he is actually a Ventrue or Tremere. One even says he is Giovannini, one of the strange and exotic non-Camarilla clans Caroline has only recently heard of.

Caroline: Another call back to him. Caroline smiles as she gets the report from Autumn.

GM: Tracking the name Desirae Wells is both easy and tedious. There are numerous Desirae Wellses across the country, and probably even more beyond. But Caroline has provided a picture to go with the name. “All” that her investigators need to do is run down names and plug them against the picture. And plug and plug and plug away.

They have nothing for her after the first few days. That’s to be expected. There are a lot of names to run down.

They have nothing for her after a week. That’s not unreasonable.

They have nothing after several weeks. The search starts to seem unfruitful.

It’s after a month that Autumn, long since reassigned from Kindred-focused investigative work, tells Caroline that she doesn’t think Desirae Wells is the real name of Desirae Wells. They’ve thrown countless hours and bodies looking for a Wells that matches the photo. Autumn can keep throwing more, but it’s been a month.

Caroline: Caroline doesn’t disagree: she has new matching orders for them. Split the name and the picture apart. Attack them independently. If a Desirae Wells visited New Orleans, or one is missing, she wants to know. With the existing resources they’ve poured into the name, this half of the investigation needs little more horsepower. People re-read the names they’ve covered attacking simple missing persons or visitors to the city.

The bulk of their efforts attack the photo. Whatever her name might have been previously, her appearance is unlikely to have shifted dramatically. Work backward. Investigate missing persons in the proper age range and demographic. Run it through various programs and databases. Caroline dearly misses her old police contacts, but dares not make more. Instead she leans on a new one at the DMV. If ‘Wells’ was a New Orleans resident she had a photo ID somewhere. Paging through all IDs issued would be a tedious chore to end all others, but breaking down by gender, age, race, height… the list of names grows short. Names that, helpfully, all come with a picture.

GM: Narrowing down the many Desirae Wellses to ones in or formerly in New Orleans proves a simpler matter. The investigators already started by checking out the closest local ones, just in case. They re-do their earlier efforts with follow-up interviews to the Wellses themselves or people who knew them. Most detective work is really just talking to people.

The most promising lead finally comes from a Desirae Wells who checked into the Empress Hotel (far cheaper than its name) during Mardi Gras and complained to the manager of having lost a shirt. He’d snorted that, “People can lose a lot of things during Mardi Gras. You’re lucky that’s all it was, girl.”

Caroline: That hotel and the area around it becomes an place of interest, especially as it ties in with what she knows of ‘Wells’ and her story.

GM: Caroline follows up with “her” Desirae Wells and asks if she still has the shirt with her name, which she does. Autumn tries to compare the handwriting sample on the shirt with any from the Empress Hotel, but the manager doesn’t have anything this many years later. The ghoul and two PIs catch a flight to Scottsdale, Arizona, the last known address they have for the “other” Desirae Wells.

Caroline: In the meantime, Caroline pulls police reports from the time and area, looking for points of interest. Mardi Gras is chaos in the city, but Caroline isn’t going to overlook an easy layup if it’s there. Knowing anything obviously Kindred related will be covered up actually gives her something to go off of: anything too neatly wrapped up—missing persons, assaults, murders—gets flags for special attention. That such ‘closed’ cases tend to have records as public record aids her, especially in the absence of her once friends on the force. The entire thing, every time she sees the NOPD logo, dredges up bitter and uncomfortable memories.

GM: Autumn calls Caroline the night after landing, and confirms that there was not a handwriting match. The other Wells (a 27-year-old Olive Garden waitress who went to New Orleans for Mardi Gras) didn’t know anything about their Wells. She got hammered pretty hard during the festivities. She must have been one of the many women to bare their breasts from a balcony (gallery in New Orleans), but unlike most of them, she never got to put her shirt back on. She scoffs at the notion she’d label her clothes (“what kind of dweeb do I look like?”), but she is adamant that the shirt Autumn brought along is hers. She also wants it back. “Look, I don’t make a lot of money. Clothes cost.”

Caroline: Caroline authorizes Autumn to compensate the waitress, especially if she’ll relate more about her trip. In particular, any people that may stick out in her blurry memories.

The shirt is still coming back.

GM: Autumn already has letters of authorization to withdraw funds from the Ventrue’s accounts, but at her domitor’s instruction, she does so to compensate Wells-the-waitress. For enough money, she could care less about the shirt, which isn’t even in the best condition anyway. Autumn records a video interview over her phone and arranges to compensate Wells-the-waitress for any follow-up questions she may ask later.

The waitress’ trip proves no more notable than any other visitor’s to New Orleans, but Caroline seems to have conclusively established that Desirae Wells is not Wells-the-Caitiff’s real name. The handwriting on the shirt does not match with hers. Wells mentioned she’d already tried that.

Digging into 2013’s Mardi Gras proves its own proverbial needle-filled haystack. Emergency services receive thousands of calls during Carnival, with the largest volume of all on Fat Tuesday.

Additionally, police reports are not public information. Almost none are posted online. To obtain them, request forms must be filled out, and mailed or delivered to the appropriate police department. In typical Louisiana efficiency, these forms are almost invariably lost or never followed through on unless accompanied by a bribe. No one at the NOPD seems to give a fuck about a citizen’s curiosity, about doing their job, or about much of anything except lining their own pockets.

It’s like everything else in this city. Nothing is difficult, unless it has to be. But nothing is ever free.

While her PIs feed more money into NOPD’s ever-hungry gullet, Caroline sends others after hospitals. Autumn is adamant that she should send only mortal agents into Tulane Medical Center, in particular, lest a ghoul’s presence be spotted and taken for yet another intrusion into the Krewe’s domain. More bribes are furnished to jog three-year-old memories.

Several hundred dollars and several days on Autumn’s and the other PIs’ parts later, local hospitals have nothing to show for a Desirae Wells. If anyone by her description checked in, it’s been buried beneath the tide of injured persons that floods them every Mardi Gras.

However, something eventually comes of the police reports. Desirae Wells may now seem useless as a name, but the cops do turn over what missing persons cases they had for young African-American women. Autumn and the other investigators run down each name back to a home city and call public records offices. When this meets with few results, they try registered addresses, and look into the owners of the buildings in question. They call landlords and send emails of the picture, asking if there’s a match. More moneys are furnished. Almost three years after Wells’ disappearance, some landlords and property managers have changed, and Autumn needs to track them down too. After enough man hours, however, the ghoul produces a match between the picture and one of NOPD’s names. Hannah Forbes is a community college student from Lafayette, Louisiana, whose friends reported her missing during 2013’s Mardi Gras.

Not long afterwards, Caroline gets a report from Lance Pertkin, one of the better PIs she’s hired. He has an exact match for Desirae Wells’ photo with Megan Frate, a Home Depot employee from Salt Lake City, Nevada. Her former landlord says she broke lease in 2011.

A day after that, Autumn confusedly reports a third match. Madison Hamer works, or at least used to work, at a call center in Baltimore, Maryland. Her former landlady says she broke lease in 2008.

Widney interjects at this point to say that the identity of Desirae Wells, or whatever her real name is, is irrelevant to her. The ghoul points out they spent thousands of dollars and man hours on this months-long goose chase only to get “results” that would seem to point more towards Autumn’s ineptitude than anything else. Does Caroline believe this investment, because that’s what it now is, will yield any meaningful returns if she continues to supply it with funds?

Caroline: Caroline is far from receptive to Widney’s concerns. The reports coming in have almost entirely captured her interest. In her haven-based office an entire board has now taken over a wall, with the modern picture of Wells at the center. Threads tie her to each of the reported sightings, below which are tacked reports, accounts, documents, and most importantly any pictures investigators are able to turn up about each of those identities. The accountant has severely miscalculated in this chosen battle.

“Three names matching one face across five years and three states… and perhaps more to come… and you think this is a waste of time or incompetence? On the contrary, I’d say she—and the investigators—have done quite well.” She laughs, somewhat cruelly. “There’s something here, Widney. Something… interesting. I don’t know what it is yet, or even where it’s going, but it’s somewhere we need to go. Or did you think friends, favors, or secrets among Kindred were easily, or cheaply bought?”

She stares at the board. “No. We go ahead, and from now on this is to be conducted with the utmost discretion. I fear we may have stumbled into the briar patch.”

GM: “As you say, ma’am,” the ghoul relents at her explanation. Perhaps a little skeptically, but she chooses not to fight this battle any further. “Not all investments pay monetary dividends.”

Caroline: Details of the investigation move to her haven and nowhere else. Reports are made independently of one another. Investigators running down each name work them with no knowledge of their fellows. Caroline also has Fuller bring in his own surveillance on Autumn during the day.

“In the past, others have thought to use her without her knowledge—or my permission—as a spy. It’s no fault of hers, but I’ll suffer no other to do so again.” Descriptions of other known Krewe ghouls that dominated Autumn previously are given to security as points of particular attention. Those that seek to repeat such an action are in for a rude surprise.

The investigation proceeds, with a particular focus on gathering information on each past identity. Any next of kin listed for them, friends or landlords or neighbors that remember them. School or work records are pursued, credit histories checked. In particular Caroline is focused on answering one, most important question: was ‘Wells’ Kindred or a ghoul prior to her fateful visit to New Orleans.

Are there any pictures under those other names on social media, perhaps posted by an old friend and never taken down? Are there any in the daylight? Has she visibly aged? And… are there other names that share her likeness further into the past?

Caroline keeps her own theories to herself, but she has twice before seen how deeply games are played by the powers that be. This time she has little interest in stumbling in blindly. Absolute silence on the details of the investigation is to be observed outside of the inner circle.

GM: The Ventrue elects against sending any of her ghouls abroad and has Autumn make phone calls, look up records, and coordinate efforts with hired PIs from New Orleans. Mortal investigators are left to do the groundwork, which is where many of Caroline’s answers will probably lie: simple interviews with people who knew Wells under her various identities.

Madison Hamer of Baltimore, Maryland, has no credit history or next of kin. She began working for a call center in June 2007 and disappeared in November 2008. There was no break-in or signs of violence in her apartment. Her boss was sleazy and either never the checked the information on, or never even used, a W-2 form. He effectively paid her under the table with prepaid debit cards used by disreputable employers together with greedy banks, which charge the user’s account to make purchases, withdraw cash, or even view balance. Her former boss, who now works as the manager of a phone store in a Philadelphia shopping mall, confirms that she was active during the day. He’s stunned anyone cares about her after this long, though he supposes he liked her enough while she was around. Her co-workers liked her too, he said. She was fairly popular. There are no photos of Wells during this time period.

Megan Frate of Salt Lake City, Utah, has no credit history or next of kin. She worked at a Home Depot from August 2010 until February 2011, when she disappeared from her apartment. There was no break-in or signs of violence. Her boss seems to have also paid her under the table, but with cash that time. She had a boyfriend named Mitchell Jones, who was also her co-worker. He cared about her enough, certainly everyone at work did. He wondered what happened to her for a while, but he eventually moved on and more or less forgot about her. He has a new girlfriend now, who’s pregnant and he’s thinking of proposing to. He confirms that Wells was active during the day, and has a number of leftover (daylit) Facebook pictures handy, in which Wells looks slightly younger. He admits to missing her more now that he’s thinking about her again.

Hannah Forbes of Lafayette, Louisiana, has no credit history or next of kin. She attended South Louisiana Community College for two semesters, Fall 2012 and Winter 2013. She never declared a major, though she got good grades and her professors and classmates liked her. She attended only night classes. None of her friends can report seeing her during the day. It doesn’t seem like it bothered them. They say she was just a night owl. Hannah Forbes apparently did not rent an apartment, instead couch-surfing with her various pals. She never talked about holding any job and they didn’t ask. In fact, she was usually the one to pay for tabs at bars and restaurants.

Further efforts by Autumn and the other investigators pulls up another visual match in Sante Fe, New Mexico, 2009 named Janice Brown, and a second visual in Tacoma, Washington, fall 2011, under Paula Weaver. The investigators have not yet dug into those.

Lafayette is pretty close by, Autumn notes… she wonders if any Kindred there might know more about Wells, who sounds like she had been Embraced by then. Autumn doesn’t know anything about the Cajun city’s vampires, though. “The Krewe only cares about New Orleans. Anything outside isn’t their problem.”

Autumn clearly isn’t expecting any surveillance to come from Caroline. Fuller and his men may not have physical descriptions of any Krewe ghouls who’ve dominated Autumn previously, but they do uncover proof that she is using her disciplines (both ones learned from Caroline and already known to the ghoul) to skim cash from a variety of sources, and slowly building up a nest egg.

Caroline: That news is not met gladly by the Ventrue, and she coldly orders that surveillance continue on Autumn. She doesn’t like secrets—at least those she is not privy to. The new names for Wells go on the board, the timeline growing, but Caroline’s next direction of investigation is less overt. Few are the Kindred that travel between cities frequently, but she’s heard tale of one group, and so fortunate is she that she knows the childe of one. She turns the topic—innocently—towards Jocelyn. Archons travel frequently, presumably with their own ghouls and such. She digs—as gently as she can—into what her paramour knows about their methods.

GM: Jocelyn doesn’t seem to pick up Caroline’s casual mid-conversation references to her sire’s occupation. She has no idea how often most archons travel, just how often her sire does. Sally seems like she moves around pretty frequently. At least once a year is probably fair. She’s often out of contact for long stretches of time.

Jocelyn is positive that Sally travels with ghouls. “I mean, she’s as helpless during the day as the rest of us, right?” She’s not sure whether her sire generally leaves any behind or not—“I guess, if she wanted someone to keep an eye on things”—though she did loan Jocelyn one of her servants once, as the Toreador described earlier. Her sire was not happy over how that turned out, and has not loaned her any further ghouls.

Caroline: The Ventrue thoughtfully logs that information away. Not definitive, but it certainly seems to support a theory she’s working—and makes this entire investigation a fair bit more dangerous than it otherwise would be. For now it remains a secret she is unwilling to share, and she lets the line of questioning die.

GM: Fuller’s reports of Autumn sightings turn up nothing else of relevance. It is not much longer before Autumn herself reports to Caroline that Fuller ordered one of his men to follow her. She mesmerized the information out of him, then wiped his memory. He doesn’t know that she knows, and she’s been going about her routine as normal.

Caroline: “Yes, I asked him to keep an eye on you,” Caroline replies casually, comfortably.

GM: “Mind if I ask why?”

Caroline: “Others have previously used you as a means of digging out knowledge as to my activities—for instance, approaching and dominating you during the day. It seemed prudent to take steps to ensure it was…. marginally more difficult to do so in the future.”

GM: “The Krewe isn’t doing that anymore. Not that I know, anyways, but it’s harder with me living here, and they don’t have much reason with you no longer breaking the Masquerade all the time. They’re pretty easy to get along with if you aren’t doing that.”

Caroline: “You’ll understand that while I’m happy to get along, I’ve grown fond of verifying instead of trusting.”

GM: “About that. No offense, but Fuller’s guys suck at tailing people. Not as badly as I sucked missing them the first time, but these ex-Army meatheads are amateurs next to the Krewe’s spies.”

Caroline: “Of course they are,” Caroline agrees. “They weren’t exactly making a business of hiding.”

GM: “Sorry?”

Caroline: “More valuable to me than catching someone trying to mind-rape you is preventing someone from trying to mind rape you.”

GM: “I’ll echo that. Thanks for the bodyguards, then.”

Caroline: Caroline’s next avenue of attack is delving deeply into Wells’ last identity, the one that brought her to New Orleans and saw her ‘Embraced’. She backtracks financial records on her friends that reported her missing, mapping their journey to the city, their hotel, where they went. She sends interviewers for them, seeking the exact night that Wells went ‘missing’ and what might have occurred along the way,

As that information comes in she sets a meeting with Coco: this is going a layer deeper than she’d like.

GM: Jennifer Haley answers the number Caroline calls and asks the basic nature of the business she wishes to discuss with her mistress.

Caroline: Caroline is vague about specifics, mentioning an interest in both repairing damage done with Coco’s bloc—or at least among it—and in learning more about the Anarch Movement as a whole.

GM: Desirae Wells’ friends were three women by the names of Felicity Gonzalez, Isabel LaCroix, and Stephanie Rawls, ages generally mid-20s. Digging into their finances reveals that all three were fellow students at South Louisiana Community College. Isabel lived with her parents and was on food stamps, while Stephanie and Felicity shared an apartment subsidized through public housing and had significant credit card debt. Purchasing histories reveal tight budgets spent on rent, utilities, groceries, tuition, and little else. The four traveled to the city together in a car registered under the names of Isabel’s parents and made several stops for gas. They stayed at the Empress Hotel, where they all shared the same room—except Wells, who rented her own, a fact the budget-minded other three did not appear to find unusual. The hotel manager, already interviewed over a month ago, only shrugs and said it never occurred to him they were part of the same group. He doesn’t remember their names. The remainder of their purchase histories include a few toiletries and meals from inexpensive dining establishments like Lil’ Dizzy’s. The four appear to have been as budget-minded in New Orleans as they were in Lafayette. At least until Mardi Gras, when its infectious spirit tempted them out for a night of drinking. That’s when Wells disappeared. Fat Tuesday.

Between the parades, crowds, dancing and drink, it was hard to keep track of one another. They were all just having fun, and had their phones in case they needed to get ahold of one another. The last hard sight they had of Wells was around 11:30 at Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop. They tried calling her, after they realized she was missing, but no one answered. They asked around at Lafitte’s and went to the police. They filed the missing persons reports and tried to talk with a detective. But one missing girl on Mardi Gras was a needle in a haystack. They stayed in New Orleans for a while longer and did their best to find her. They even located her phone outside The Lamp Light, but weren’t able to get anything else. Eentually their funds ran out, school was soon to start back up, and they admitted defeat. They haven’t heard from Wells ever since. They’re grateful to see someone finally taking an interest and wish they could be of more help. Wells was a “good friend.” Isabel kept the phone in the back of her closet for close to three years now and turns it over. She’s not been able to do anything with it in all that time.

However, it is other sources that finally yield the most substantive information.

It takes weeks, and Widney never fails to remind how much money it’s costing, but Autumn and the PIs (who now include Pinkerton) finally turn up a birth certificate for Desirae Wells. More than one. And around a dozen different identities, scattered over just as many cities. Missoula, Montana. Jacksonville, Florida. Austin, Texas. Chicago, Illinois. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Mobile, Alabama. Wells has been everywhere over the country. None of the identities have much in the way of solid documentation. The last one to actually have a birth certificate was a then-18-year-old Ursula Stanfield, who enlisted in the Air Force upon graduating high school. She disappeared before completing basic training. Before she did, she lived in a foster home and was fully in the system, with everything from dental records to SAT scores. She generally did well as a student, but had no next of kin, and upon being expelled from the foster system, would have had no home. Her chosen career was likely one of the few real futures still open to her.

Ursula Stanfield’s lived as opposed to documented identity, however, only goes back two or so years. She was found wandering the streets of Greensboro, North Carolina, at 16 years old by social services without any memory of her past. Doctors looked her over, declared a case of retrograde amnesia, and sent her off to the foster care system.

Wells has half a dozen more identities as an adolescent and even child. Every time, it’s the same story. She shows up somewhere, be it Florida, Oklahoma, California, Massachusetts, or wherever else. She claims no memories of her past, doctors and social workers look her over, shuffle her off to the foster system, and she stays for a while before disappearing again. Sometimes she lived in group homes, sometimes with a foster family. She was even adopted once. She was generally liked by peers and considered well-behaved by adults, but otherwise unremarkable.

However, some of the people to get closest to Wells’ various identities appear to have come down with amnesia too. Friends and foster parents suffered only partial lapses of memory. Her adoptive family, a pastor and his wife in Oklahoma City, do not even remember adopting her. Caroline’s investigators only find that connection by looking into records and talking with social workers.

Their search finally seems to come to an end with a girl named Mary Coleman. She was born in Camden, Pennsylvania, on March 5th, 1989. Her father was an automotive mechanic and her mother was an office secretary. Mary Coleman disappeared when she was 7 years old. As with all of “Wells’” other disappearances, there were no signs of violence or abduction. One day, she simply vanished—and the family does not recall losing or even having a daughter. Both parents appear to have come down with early-onset Alzheimer’s and have been placed in a nursing home.

Caroline’s wall of pictures and notes has now grown quite expansive—and coherent. She has dozens of pictures lined up in chronological order, starting with 7-year-old Mary Coleman who grows into 8-year-old Evelyn Turner, 10-year-old Raleigh Young, and a dozen more names spread over equally many cities and towns. Her potentially final destination as a mortal woman was Jasmine Reed of Shreveport, Louisiana in early 2012. There is a several-month gap before she re-emerges in Lafayette as Hannah Forbes—and, Autumn believes, one of the Damned.

After all these months of toil, Autumn thinks they have dug up everything they can about Desirae Wells, Mary Coleman, or whatever the hell her name really is. The narrative of her mortal past stretches all the way across the wall in Caroline’s office, telling its bizarre tale through pictures, maps, and neat little dated labels of an amnesiac who flitted from place to place and identity to identity as she grew up. The only witnesses left to canvas are other vampires. Wells’ krewe and fellow Anarchs. The Kindred of Lafayette. The unknown sire who cursed her with a clanless Embrace, whoever he or she was—and Desirae Wells herself. Whoever she is.

“I don’t know what the hell to make of this,” Autumn finishes with her last report.

Caroline: Caroline nods. “It’s certainly interesting. Let’s look at a couple other matters.”

Caroline runs background checks on each of her foster families, seeking out evidence of criminal activity or abuse in their records. She doesn’t expect to find any. She has interviews scheduled with several other children in the same foster family backgrounds.

She also runs down every contact in the phone recovered, running names and numbers against databases to see which numbers are still in use, and who they are registered to. It’s straightforward work with the resources the firm brings to the table. Mostly Caroline is searching for any numbers that stand out, and any disconnected: in the age of cell phone numbers migrating across carriers few people cancel outright.

GM: True to her expectations, Caroline finds no evidence of abuse or criminal activity. Just a few counts of shoplifting. Three years after Wells’ disappearance, some of the numbers in her phone are disconnected. The majority are still there, include the three friends she went to Mardi Gras with, a few less close neighbors and acquaintances, and a few work contact numbers for her job as a waitress.

Caroline: Caroline’s next stop with the unusual case is her mother—one of the only supernaturally aware beings she nominally ‘trusts.’ She lays out what she’s found, and more importantly, her going theory.

“The nearest thing I can figure is a city hopping Kindred wanted to keep her relatively close for some reason. At first I’d thought she was simply a ghoul, some servant, but that doesn’t quite add up.”

GM: Claire frowns as she considers Caroline’s findings.

“I suppose that’s possible. A nomadic leech taking her from place to place and setting her up with new identities. But if they were capable of manipulating memories to that extent, I’m not sure why they’d set her up with such frankly undesirable identities. There are worse ones a leech could engineer if they wanted to be punitive.”

Claire shrugs.

“Then again, perhaps whatever happened to her had nothing to do with your kind. At first, at least.”

Caroline: Caroline tilts her head and bids her mother continue.

GM: Her mother looks as if she could shrug again. “It’s a vast and dark world out there. Leeches aren’t the only things that go bump in the night. I don’t know enough about this Wells, or whatever her name is, to say anything definite about what happened to her.”

“Or enough about whatever has been happening to her, I should say. You’ve certainly uncovered a thorough enough profile of her life. I wonder if the parents on her first birth certificate are really hers or not, though. A DNA test would establish that.”

Caroline: Leeches. The word gets under her skin mostly because it also refers to her. Mostly. She pushes it aside.

“I’d thought about it, some kind of curse or outside power, but the falsified documentation looked too deliberate.”

GM: “Was it false? If an amnesiac child winds up in the foster care system, a new birth certificate would eventually get issued if no one could find anything. There’d need to be some kind of legal documentation that they were alive.”

Caroline: “And the travel distances?” Caroline asks.

GM: “I don’t have any explanation for you there.”

Caroline: The Ventrue smiles, showing too much teeth.


Monday night, 16 November 2015, PM

GM: It’s another three nights before Coco receives Caroline at her usual corner table at Blaze. In the several months since their last meeting, the Brujah has become a platinum blonde, and now has curly instead of straight hair. She’s dressed in a black wool turtleneck, dark brown leather jacket, low-rise blue jeans, and knee-high boots. Her ghoul Haley is also present, conferring with her mistress over the screen of an Solaris. Coco dismisses her with a gesture and motions for Caroline to take a seat.

The past months have been eventful ones in Mid-City, Caroline is at least dimly aware. She socializes with few of her kind, but Jocelyn said something in passing about lots of licks moving out of the Anarchs’ parish—and back into it. More fallout from the split over Matheson.

Caroline: Caroline slides into the seat opposite the Brujah matriarch. Time has given her a better appreciation of Coco’s efforts at keeping her appearance fresh and dynamic—though she’s not tempted anything so reckless as outright dyeing her hair, she’s experimented with smaller cosmetic changes with limited success.

GM: “Speak. You don’t need my leave,” Coco bids over a nauseous-smelling pink drink. It’s the one element of her appearance that incongruently stands out in the rough-and-tumble punk bar. Almost a flaunt. Caroline has yet to see any patrons bother her for it.

Caroline: “Of course.” After all the time she’s spent in stuffy Ventrue etiquette lessons and the generous but eggshell-like meetings with Savoy, the Brujah’s direct mannerisms are a welcome change. Ten different lines jump to mind, pleasantries and indirect ways at getting at the topic, but something bids her to be more direct.

“I’m certain you’re quite busy, but I wanted to give you an advanced look on something I was working on, and perhaps ask an opinion, Primogen Duquette. Do you know much of Desirae Wells?”

GM: “I’d hope so, lest I be a poor spokeswoman for the Movement’s licks.” She then adds, “And it’s Coco. You can take the Ventrue out of the boardroom, but you can’t take the boardroom out of the Ventrue.”

Caroline: The familiar term is a trap, but not one Caroline can resist.

“I suspect you could,” she offers, “but also that much like a fish out of water, they’d not survive long outside of it.”

GM: “That which cannot adapt to the world is doomed to pass from it.” Coco motions. “But we’ve strayed from the subject you’re here over, Desirae Wells.”

Caroline: “I suppose that depends, Coco, the world is 71% water, but you’re quite right. Ms. Wells has… an interesting history.”

GM: “All of us do, if you look deep enough.” Coco motions again as if for her to expound.

Caroline: “More than a dozen names, a dozen cities…” Caroline offers.

GM: “And what sparked your interest in her past?”

Caroline: “She asked,” Caroline replies easily. “And it seemed something I could do. Something manageable. I’ve caused many troubles, I thought I might try mending some.”

GM: “That’s not a poor idea. Yet it’s clearly more than a simple mending of troubles if you’re coming to me with your findings.”

Caroline: “Call it a courtesy, lest I kick over any rocks in your field.”

GM: “Wells wants to find answers to her past. I’m sure she’d appreciate hearing your findings, if you haven’t passed them along already. The courtesy call’s appreciated too. Those are usually smart to make.”

Caroline: It takes Caroline a moment to recognize the feeling in the pit of her stomach. That ache if defeat, of disappointment, of hollowness. It’s loneliness. Loneliness, not born of the absence of others—that’s not a problem Caroline has ever experienced. This is something else, something deeper. It’s the loneliness of realizing that once again someone she’d thought would care simply doesn’t. The feeling of searching a crowd after a triumph to find your father on the phone, or your mother’s back turned. Or no one at all.

GM: “Oh, don’t look so glum. Wells wants to know who she is. And why shouldn’t she? Do we not have a right to know where we come from? I’m sure you’re glad for the chance to win another Kindred’s goodwill.”

Caroline: “Lafayette. I think she was Embraced in Lafayette originally.”

GM: “The dream of every Caitiff to know their sire. Perhaps she’ll brave the wilds and the Loup-Garoux to find their face, if you don’t already have one to pass her. Perhaps she won’t come back. But some truths are worth dying for.”

Caroline: “Are they?”

GM: “The individual with no cause to die for has nothing worth living for.” Coco flicks a hand. “But go on. Dispel the darkness of Wells’ ignorance with your truth’s light. And if she doesn’t mind you sharing the full details with me, I’d be similarly intrigued to finally know the origins of New Orleans’ mysterious amnesiac.”

Caroline: Caroline frowns, then nods. “As you’d prefer,” she agrees.

GM: “Now Jen said you were here for something else too. Learning about the Movement, was it?”

Caroline: “Something they teach painfully little of in Ventrue finishing school,” Caroline agrees.

GM: “All right. Ask.”

Caroline: Caroline folds her hands. “Why does the Movement exist as a stand-alone, outside of established institutions?”

GM: “What makes you describe us as a stand-alone?” Coco asks in turn.

Caroline: “Outside descriptions, I suppose. The appearance of standing apart from, for instance, the Lancea et Sanctum.”

GM: “Yet this to a greater extent than the other covenants?”

Caroline: Caroline thinks. “To a greater extent than some.”

GM: Coco gestures for her to expound.

Caroline: “I suppose I don’t understand what in the Lancea et Sanctum and and Anarch Movement is irreconcilable, as an example. Though perhaps that’s in a misunderstanding, or simple lack of, of the Movement as a whole.”

GM: “The Movement believes in the inherent equality of all Kindred and their right to self-government,” Coco explains. “The Sanctified believe we are wolves chosen by God to cull sinful mortals from the flock. These are gross simplifications of both ideologies, but to my mind, they aren’t inherently incompatible. There is no prescription against Kindred belonging to both covenants.”

Caroline: “But it’s uncommon.”

GM: “I can name a fair few Kindred who do. But they are a minority. Few Kindred can long serve two masters. Or the cause of personal liberty and a master concurrently.”

Caroline: “And how does personal liberty reconcile among us, and the slavery that is in our blood, or our ability to control the hearts, minds, and even memories of each other and the kine alike?”

GM: “It is due to these qualities and abilities that the need to exercise and respect personal liberty is all the more important. Abuse of such powers upon one’s fellow Kindred can, have, and does ferment discontent and revolution. Within New Orleans’ local Movement, we have outlawed all nonconsensual bonds of blood and impositions upon the wills of other Anarchs. Violators can be subject to temporary or permanent banishment, or other punishments decided by a jury of their peers.”

“As Kindred we are inherently bloodthirsty and self-centered beings, but through the application of higher reason and due process of law, we may attempt to rise above our base nature. Just as man must.”

Caroline: Caroline cannot help but notice that ‘jury of their peers’ leaves open the same room that any trial does. She doesn’t comment upon it. No system is perfect.

“How then are disputes decided?”

GM: “In New Orleans’ Movement, if a dispute cannot be resolved between individuals, or a third party mediator—often me—it is brought before the community and decided by majority vote.”

Caroline: “Presumably that’s in poor taste.” She leans back. “What’s the vision, the dream?”

GM: “On the contrary. Sometimes the blood runs too hot, or the matter disputed is too large, for it to be resolved privately. There is no shame in our democratic institutions being exercised as intended.”

“The dream is the same I have always pursued. Liberté. Egalité. Fraternité. Within New Orleans at large, we are Prince Vidal’s subjects. Within Mid-City, we have the right to self-government. All decisions that Miss Opal and I would normally make as regents are put up for popular vote. One Anarch, one voice, one vote, equal to that of his or her brethren.”

Caroline: Meaning he or she who controls the mob, controls Mid-City, Caroline’s political mind translates. The very idea cuts into her from both sides. On one, it’s the model of American democracy, the very one her family has exploited for generations. Political power through controlling the mob, and the Malveaux family is, for everything else, thoroughly Americanized.

On the other, the idea of rabble having an equal voice, of claiming parity with the most vulgar Kindred cuts against their upper-class upbringing. Against her upbringing. To say nothing of the Ventrue lessons she’s slid into. The Clan of Kings. The blue bloods. There’s a degree of not only truth, but also appeal in such titles. Everyone wants to think they’re better. Everyone wants to be better. And some, especially in a society of immortals that grow only stronger with age, truly are.

And yet… across from her sits a queen of the Damned in this city, centuries old and skilled enough, intelligent enough, strong enough. Enough to crush others if she so desired. Instead she plays that game. It’s difficult to judge it, to scorn it.

GM: “Our political system is not without flaws,” Coco continues. “Democracy is not without flaws. It is vulnerable to internal and external dangers that we must maintain constant vigilance against. But we strive to realize libertas within our corner New Orleans as best we can, and I believe Anarchs residents within our parish possess greater personal freedoms than any of their neighbors do.”

Caroline: “Such as?” Caroline inquires curiously.

GM: “The freedom to establish and maintain domain by one’s own blood and toil, the right not to surrender the fruits of one’s labors to distant elders through corvée, the right to treat and be treated by one’s fellows as a social equal, the right to raise and resolve disputes without recourse to violence, the rights to freedom of assembly, religion, and speech—including the rights to debate, criticize, satirize, mock, and insult perceived leaders such as myself without fear of violent retribution, to name a few.”

Caroline: Caroline tilts her head. “Carve out their own domain? How does that interact with the lack of violence and the limited area?”

GM: “Public hunting grounds are allotted to ensure that no Anarch wants for vitae. Many krewes and individual Kindred claim further territory of their own, granted by popular vote in recognition of past services and contributions to the Movement, or the simple smooth-talking and demagoguery to which any democratic assembly is susceptible, and revocable by a two-thirds supermajority vote. Spheres of mortal influence extend as far as it takes for other Anarchs to cry foul, and if need be, bring the matter before public assembly. Trespass within another Anarch’s domain is punished by fines, the loss of one’s own domain, or banishment from Mid-City, as arbitration or community-wide judgment and established precedent finds appropriate. Most Anarchs do not infringe upon the domains of their fellows. Non-Anarch trespassers or poachers may be expelled by means of violence without stigma.”

Caroline: May be expelled. Caroline has the good sense to keep the savage grin off her face at that thought, but she doesn’t try to dance around it. “I do regret what happened between us.”

GM: “I’m sure.”

Caroline: A wolfish smile. “Deeds more than words. With that in mind, by your leave, I’ll not keep Ms. Wells waiting longer than necessary. Perhaps in the future we could speak more of the Movement and its history.”

GM: “You’ll find that it’s indelibly soaked into every street, corner, and execution chamber where Kindred blood was spilled by elders’ hands. But perhaps we shall.” Coco lifts her pink-hued drink in a motion of seeming toast and farewell.

Wednesday night, 18 November 2015, AM

Caroline: The Ventrue spends a fair bit of time debating where to hold her meeting with Wells—debating between the incomplete office and her more established position in the Giani Building. Ultimately, the latter wins out. She makes the call herself rather than pawning it off, informing Wells that she has uncovered some information about her past, and is available to discuss it the following evening at any time after 10pm at the Giani Building’s deck.

GM: Wells agrees to the meeting at 1 AM and enters the building on foot.

Caroline: Waiting for her in the lobby are two Autumn and Fuller, who politely chaperon her up the roof. Caroline has taken over the now ‘closed’ upper deck and sits with another ghoul, Widney, going over financial reports when the Anarch is led out onto the deck. The night air is cool without being cold, and on the cloudless night the moon shines brightly upon them.

GM: Wells sits down at the table across from Caroline. She’s dressed in a simple button-up white shirt and pair of dark pants.

“Good evening, Ms. Malveaux. You said you’d found something regarding my past.”

Caroline: Caroline is dressed in a short sleeved black top and matching black pencil skirt cinched at the waist with a glossily leather belt. “We’ll finish later,” she tells Widney as Wells approaches. While the ghoul closes the binder they were working on and withdraws, Caroline turns her attention across the table.

“I’m happy to report that I have, Ms. Wells, with some difficulty.”

GM: “I’d imagine so. Our first talk was some time ago,” the Caitiff replies.

Caroline: “A wise man one said, ‘good things come to those who wait’.” The Ventrue heiress smiles with evident amusement. “I confess there are some hole in what I’ve discovered, but I can say with some certainty that you are not Desirae Wells. That name—and the shirt you woke up with—belongs to a 27-year-old Olive Garden waitress who lives in Scottsdale, Arizona. She visited New Orleans in 2013 for Mardi Gras, around the time you reported coming to with no memory.”

Caroline extends a hand, and Autumn slides a thin folder into it, which Caroline extends to the Caitiff.

“She is, sadly, unremarkable in almost every way.”

GM: “I see. Well, I have to admit I half-expected something like that,” Wells admits. “Do you have another name for me, or will it continue to be Desirae Wells?”

Caroline: Caroline’s grin is positively wolfish. “I do, but first, a note. Ms Wells was unremarkable in almost every say, save one: she did not write her name on the shirt, and her handwriting—you’ll see the sample on page three—does not match the writing. Some third party wrote her name on it before it passed into your hands—why, I cannot tell you.”

“What I can tell you is that you came to New Orleans in 2013 under the name Hannah Forbes. She was a college student from Lafayette attending Southern Louisiana Community College from 2012 into 2013. She was well liked, received good grades, and came to New Orleans with three friends,” Caroline holds out another hand, and another folder passes into it, which she once more passes to Wells.

GM: Wells opens it up and thoughtfully pages through it.

Caroline: “It’s all in the file, including short names and profiles for those three. They were quite disturbed when you vanished, and even spent time searching for you. They last saw you around 11:30, and their search turned up your phone but little else. They were, even now, rather gladdened to hear that someone was interested in Hannah’s disappearance, relating that you were a ‘good friend’.” Caroline pauses to let the other Kindred page through what was, for a time, her life. “Their numbers are also in the file, if you want to contact them.”

GM: “I’d thought that might have been the case too. I suppose it’s like that quote says, the person without friends is either a beast or a god.” Wells looks up from the folder. “That’s who I am, then? Hannah Forbes?”

Caroline: “That,” Caroline replies, “is a very good question. One I don’t have a firm answer on. What I can tell you is that you were not Embraced in New Orleans, or in 2013.”

GM: Wells frowns. “You’re sure? Do you have another date and place? I’d always supposed I was one of the Carnival Embraces.”

Caroline: “There is neither a single picture, nor account, nor record of Hannah Forbes ever appearing during the day. She never held a job of record, but always had money available. She took all night classes.” Caroline grins. “I’m fairly certain.”

GM: “That’s a fairly compelling case,” Wells grants, then frowns thoughtfully. “But why would I lose my memory as a Kindred?”

Caroline: Caroline bites her tongue for a moment, before continuing in a less certain voice, “The most obvious answer would be that someone broke into your mind and removed those memories.”

GM: “My entire life? That’s a rather scary thought to swallow, Ms. Malveaux,” Wells offers with a humorless smile.

Caroline: “And yet, far from an impossible answer. I can think of few crueler—or perhaps kinder—things to do to someone, and I’m told that Kindred passions run hot during Mardi Gras.”

Caroline does not sound as though she is trying to convince her.

GM: “If you say so. I’m not altogether sure what someone might’ve hoped to gain by erasing a newcomer’s past life, but that’s an equally frightening thought to think of it as a ‘kindness’.”

Caroline: “Knowledge can be a dangerous thing, I’ve learned, Ms. Wells—forgive me, I don’t know if you still prefer that name. There are plenty of secrets worth killing for, and just as many worth dying for.”

GM: “This is all a little much to digest,” Wells says slowly. “I’m not sure of much, but one thing I am is that I’ll stay Desirae Wells at least until I’ve read all of these files.”

Caroline: Caroline nods. “I understand. This must be quite a shock.”

GM: “I suppose I hadn’t expected you to turn up much of anything, truth be told. Lord knows I’ve tried to. Where did you dig up all of this, or is that in the files?”

Caroline: “It was… not easy. There are thousands of man hours in this investigation already. Beginning with the name and face, then just the name, then just the face. The picture you provided was really the biggest piece—without it it’d have been a much more difficult investigation.”

GM: “I suppose it’s as you’ve said. You can change a name without much trouble, but a face is another matter.”

Caroline: “We fed them through databases, combed through missing persons reports, investigated every lead. Autumn,” she gestures to the auburn-haired ghoul, “did much of the leg work.”

GM: Wells looks down at the files, then back up at Caroline. “And all of this is about my mortal life in Lafayette as… Hannah Forbes? There’s nothing for who I might have been Embraced by, or why they did it?” The Caitiff’s calm voice finally starts to show some strain.

“Not to sound ungrateful, of course. This is all… far more than I imagined anyone would ever dig up. It’s the name I never thought I’d find.”

Caroline: Caroline’s expression tightens. “Hopefully it’ll bring you some peace, Ms. Wells. I know well enough how… uncomfortable it is not knowing. How many questions often surround our Embraces, and how painful those can be without answers. These are not answers, but they might be… the beginning of them. I suspect more lie in Lafayette. Perhaps most, but I’m also told that is a dangerous journey.”

GM: Wells nods at Caroline’s statement. “Yes, there’s certainly visiting Lafayette’s Kindred to see if they know anything. I suppose I made the trip once already too, Loup-Garoux or no. But I’m getting ahead of myself.” The Caitiff neatly stacks the files over one another. “I’ll need some time to read these over and digest them. I’m sure I’ll have more questions when I’m done. And then we can discuss what I owe you, of course.”

Caroline: “A few more moments of your time, and perhaps an honest word to others,” Caroline offers in response to the last.

GM: “Is that so? Well, I suppose we can get the first of those out of the way right now,” Wells remarks, looking towards Caroline.

Caroline: Caroline interlaces her fingers. “There’s more.” She gently holds up a hand to forestall an interruption. “Nothing complete. Nothing that makes sense. Pieces mostly.”

GM: “I’m certainly still ears.”

Caroline: “I don’t want to lie to you, nor would I presume to make the decision for you, Ms. Wells… but,” she extends her free hand again, and this time Autumn produces a larger brown fold over folder.
Caroline sets it on the table, but does not slide it over.

“I don’t know that any good will come of what is in here. It does not, seemingly, concern your Kindred life, but it does concern you. If you want it, it’s yours, but I’d ask you wait, look at what you have already and whether it brings you any peace, and decide in a night, or a week, or a month if you want to dig further back in truth. I suspect what is in here is… dangerous.”

GM: Wells frowns a little, but doesn’t take long before she replies, “Well, that’s fair enough. I’ve waited a long while for answers as it is, and I’m sure there’s enough in these folders to keep me busy over the next night or two.” She rises from her seat. “I’ll be in touch. Thank you, and Autumn, for all you’ve uncovered so far.”

Caroline: Caroline rises with her. “Hopefully I’ve been of some help, Ms. Wells. You know how to reach me… and if you should decide you wish to journey to Lafayette, you might reach out as well.” She smiles. “I’d like to think I could provide more than simply folders.”

Caroline watches her go with mixed emotions. She wasn’t lying about her own feelings on her own past—the feelings of confusion and lack of belonging. The anger and frustration that of not knowing why. But nor was she lying in her caution: her own delve into her own past brought only dangerous secrets, not satisfying truths.

Wednesday night, 18 November 2015, PM

GM: Wells calls and returns to the Giani Building to meet with Caroline the next night. She’s read all the files, she says. What the Ventrue uncovered of her life as Hannah Forbes is very thorough. That’s what makes it all the more puzzling how everything stops at 2012.

“Is that what this other file has? The rest of my life before then?” the Caitiff asks.

Caroline: When she arrives Wells is met in the lobby and escorted once more to the roof, this time by an unfamiliar ghoul that bears a striking resemblance to Caroline. She informs Wells that Caroline is on her way, and apologies for the tardiness: the Ventrue was out in the city when security reported Wells’ arrival. She asks if there are any ‘refreshments’ they can provide while she waits. Whether she declines or accepts, she is not kept waiting.

Once more Caroline greets her guest on the roof. Tonight the Ventrue is dressed more casually, a pencil skirt and a tucked spotted gray and white blouse. She arrives several minutes after the Caitiff, carrying a small hand bag, evidently not expecting Wells to drop in so quickly and with little notice. “I apologize, Ms. Wells, hopefully they were accommodating in my absence?”

To the fellow Kindred’s question Caroline nods, “Yes, and no. I have bits and pieces of your life before your Embrace. If it were so simple as a name, face, and home town I’d, of course, have given it to you. This is… something else.”

GM: Wells appears in another button-up light blue shirt and tan khakis. She says she’s already fed, but thanks the ghoul for the offer, and pages through her phone during the few moments it takes for Caroline to arrive.

“Oh yes, everything I’d expect from a blue blood,” she responds to Caroline’s question with some humor. It fades as the two address the next subject.

Caroline: “Ah, you have no idea how reassuring that is to hear.”

GM: “Really? My pleasure then. In any case,” Wells continues more seriously, “That sounds better than nothing, Ms. Malveaux. I’ve thought about what you said. Perhaps you’re right that I won’t like whatever’s in there. Perhaps I’ve done some bad things in my earlier life. Maybe worse than I can imagine if they happened after I was Embraced. But good or bad, somebody already knows them. And good or bad, truth is truth and worth knowing. I suppose I’ve hung out with too many Brujah.” There’s another mostly humorless smile. “Whatever it is, I’m prepared to accept it.”

Caroline: Caroline nods knowingly. “Far be it for me to tell you what your path should be Ms. Wells.” She gestures to the ghouls standing some distance away, and a moment or two later the blond look-alike returns with the brown folder from the night before. Caroline first digs out a sheet and slides it across to her guest. On it are a list of names, cities, and date ranges. “Those are all names you lived under before your Embrace. The earliest record is under the name Mary Coleman, from 1989 in Pennsylvania. She disappeared at age 7, resurfacing as Evelyn Turner, then two years later as Raleigh Young… it goes on and on.”

The list fills the page in small neat font. “The last mortal identity I was able to pinpoint was as Jasmine Reed, in Shreveport Louisiana, back in 2012. Early 2012.”

GM: Wells looks the list over, frowning. “I’m not sure I understand, Ms. Malveaux. These names couldn’t have all been me.”

Caroline: Caroline begins digging out folders from the larger brown one. On the front of each is as clear a photo of the various Wells identities they could uncover. Evidently the Ventrue put time into the presentation of the folder, whether or not Wells came back for it.

GM: The sight of the photos finally seems to give Wells pause. In more ways than one. These may well be the first pictures of her younger self she can remember seeing.

Caroline: The photos show a regression in age, year by year, all the way back to Mary Coleman, a grinning seven-year-old.

“I don’t know if that’s actually your birth name. Both parents are still alive, even though they’ve suffered some form of ‘early onset memory loss’. If you’d like I could try to arrange a DNA test. That memory loss is a common fixture with many of your various foster families though—many don’t even remember you.”

GM: “I’m sorry, memory loss?” Wells frowns.

Caroline: Caroline nods. “It’s all in each folder, but most of the story of each of these identities was pried loose from records, rather than interviews. I don’t know the how or why of it. If you wanted a best guess I’d offer the meddling of a Kindred in your life, but that’s very thin, and mostly bending facts to meet records. The alternative is that all, or most, of these records were forgeries, but that would be an elaborate ruse indeed, towards a purpose I couldn’t wrap my head around.”

GM: Wells pages through the folders and pictures, her fingers lingering on the final seven-year-old.

“I’m… really not sure what to make of this, Ms. Malveaux.” Her gaze sweeps over the rows of laid-out documents again.

Caroline: “There’s also another matter of some, perhaps in truth unrelated, significance.”

GM: “And that might be?”

Caroline: “You likely already know, Ms. Wells, but there was, and by some unsubstantiated accounts still is, another Caitiff in New Orleans of late that claimed to have no memory of his own past. Given the memory loss present in so much of your past, it is… not implausible that he could have been your sire.”

GM: “You mean Raymond? Yes, I’ve heard of him. Or looked into him, I should say. I thought he turned out to be Tremere.”

Caroline: Caroline smiles and nods. “He returned to the city claiming such a background—though how he came to the conclusion was less clear. My source reported the Tremere had little contact with him, and there were rumors he was a Ventrue, or a Caitiff.”

GM: “Well, I suppose it’s impossible to know for sure without asking him or the warlocks. Not that the latter are likely to be talkative.”

Caroline: Caroline’s smile turns tight. “I suspect the answer, if it exists, lies less with him directly and more with Shreveport or Layfayette. If there is any relation of note to you. As I said, I’m leaning heavily upon the simple unlikelihood of two Caittiff both appearing from outside the city within a short time period, both with memory loss, and one with a past that indicates others in close contact with suffered memory loss.”

GM: “That might well be,” Wells concurs. She looks over the latest of Caroline’s folders. “Well, I’ll probably be at least a few nights looking everything here over and deciding what to do next. I’m sure I’ll have more questions, as before. But you’ve found the answers I asked for, or at least a good lead on them, even if they don’t make too much sense yet. What would you ask in return?”

Caroline: Caroline sits back, then gestures. “Might I ask, what do you know of me, Ms. Wells?”

GM: “To be honest, Ms. Malveaux, not a whole lot that’s good,” Wells answers. “I didn’t recognize you at first. But it wasn’t too long ago the Anarchs were all talking about the grudge you had with Eight-Nine-Six. They say you poached in their turf, dragged in cops after they beat you senseless, then got the sheriff to take away their turf because they’d attacked a blue blood.”

Caroline: Caroline tries, and fails, to keep her expression neutral, and bites her tongue for a moment before replying, “I’ll not try to feed you my version of those events. You either knew, liked, and believed Eight-Nine-Six, or you trusted as always, the truth is a three-edged sword. I will offer this, though. The night I fought with the Eight-Nine-Six was my third into my Requiem, one with neither sire, nor mentor, nor friend. Take of that what you will in how you will.”

GM: “I’m sorry if that’s not the impression you’ve wanted to foster. Good or ill it’s what I’ve heard. Beyond that, licks say you’re the sheriff’s new favorite between how he dealt with Eight-Nine-Six, then caught your sire for you.”

Caroline: The flash of anger that slides across Caroline’s eyes is oh so violent. She buries it, or at least tries to, forces a tight smile back across her face.

“I appreciate your candor, Ms. Wells.”

GM: "Otherwise, they say you’re the Creoles’ new golden girl after getting initiated into the Sanctified by the prince "

Caroline: “It’s so very interesting how differently things look from different sides,” she grinds out, taking a moment thereafter in stillness and silence before continuing. “In any case, your observations speak to a basic truth, the unfortunate circumstances of my Embrace, and subsequent missteps thereafter amid the minefield of Kindred politics I didn’t know was there has created an unfortunate perception. One that I do not think is reflective of my present circumstances. For this,” she gestures to the folders, “I would ask only two things of you.”

GM: Wells’ pleasant expression would seem to indicate that she continue.

Caroline: “First, speak to others you may know that need similar assistance. I’m afraid, as you observed, my social clout is limited, but as you see, my resources are significantly greater—and I’m open for business, to anyone.”

GM: “I’m sorry, Ms. Malveaux, assistance in researching lost pasts?” Wells asks with some confusion. “I can certainly pass that along, but you’ll be lucky to get many licks interested besides me. Or did you simply mean investigative work in a more general sense?”

Caroline: “Investigative assistance. Financial assistance. Research assistance. Legal assistance—especially putting Masquerade related matters such as identification or ownership records in order. Security or simply neutral ground or a neutral arbiter in a matter,” Caroline replies easily.

“I’d not ask you to sell me in the street corner to everyone you meet, merely that you offer a referral if the opportunity presents itself. Such is likely to matter far more coming from someone within the Movement, than it is coming from an outsider with an… unfortunate past history.”

“I’d like an opportunity to show, rather than try to tell, that I’m not quite the character various rumors have made out.”

GM: “I can certainly put the word out in the way you’re asking, Ms. Malveaux.” The Caitiff pauses. “But fair warning that it’s not just… bad rumors you may have to contend with. Eight-Nine-Six were committed Anarchs. Brothers and sisters in the cause, with friends. Everyone admired Bliss for her moxie. They say she had the stones to punch out Micheal Kelly in his own bar, back when everyone believed that nonsense about him fighting in WWII.”

“They were brutalized by the sheriff, at least according to popular view, and were summarily executed for a Masquerade breach no one even saw. We held a wake for them the night after the trial. They were martyrs killed by elder tyranny.”

“Now I suppose you haven’t asked me for advice,” Wells admits, “but you haven’t asked me for a great deal more either, so I guess you can consider this a freebie… if you really want to make inroads with the Anarchs, show that you’re sorry how things turned out with our lost friends.”

Caroline: Caroline is quiet for a moment. “I’m sorry for how things began. I don’t know that we’d have ever been ‘friends’, but I didn’t have any ill will towards them prior to the back alley brawl, or even know I was doing anything wrong.”

GM: “That’s not an unfamiliar story to many neonates,” Wells observes. “Or many Anarchs.”

Caroline: Caroline nods. “It’s funny that you think I’m the sheriff’s new favorite, or that he ‘caught’ my sire for me. But then, I guess he isn’t in the habit of explaining himself, and I haven’t exactly been the most social.”

GM: “That’s never too late to rectify, Ms. Malveaux. Coco likes to say that if we don’t speak up for ourselves we let other people speak for us.”

Caroline: “Isn’t it?” Caroline asks genuinely. “Actions speak louder than words, and however differently I might describe things, the truth is their friends are dead. Your friends. How many Anarchs would look favorably upon an outsider that saw four of their own executed. Nor do I think the truth of that tale is one they wish to hear about their martyrs.”

GM: Wells shrugs. “Personally, I’d simply express sympathies and regrets. It was still the prince who ordered their executions, and if you still consider it fair repayment, I’m willing to put out the good word for your ‘business’.”

Caroline: “I’ll be happy to convey such sentiments to anyone that asks, Ms. Wells, but I’m not exactly a welcome fixture at the Anarch political rallies,” the Ventrue responds. “All the same, thank you for the advice. There is only one more thing I’d ask.”

GM: “What would that be?”

Caroline: “If you should choose to investigate ‘Raymond’, that you involve me in that investigation.”

GM: “Why, certainly. I expect your findings here should keep me busy for a bit, but you know what they say about leaving no stone unturned.”

Wells re-orders all the pictures and documents back into the folder, then rises from her seat. “I believe that’s everything at least for now, then. Thank you once again for looking into this.”

Caroline: “In that case Ms. Wells, I wish you good fortune.” Caroline rises. “If you need anything else, hopefully you shall keep me in mind.”

Monday night, 23 November 2015, PM

GM: It’s about a week before Caroline gets her next ‘client’. Tina Baker is a brown-haired, athletic- and -young-looking woman associated not with the Anarchs, but the Invictus (no relation to Jocelyn Baker is immediately apparent). She wants information on a Brujah non-native to New Orleans named Lucas Gates.

Caroline: Two ghouls greet the young Kindred in the lobby and once more lead an unfamiliar Kindred to the roof. Tonight Caroline is dressed in gray and black. She end her phone call when the door to the elevator opens and gets introductions out of the way politely. She listens to Ms. Baker’s interest and probes gently for a bit more information: does he reside in New Orleans now? Does she have a description for him, any locations or assets he might hold, or any additional starting points? Further, is Baker interested in his mortal dealings, or in his Kindred ones? The questions are asked not with the intention of probing Baker’s actual interests, but simply towards laying out a starting point for the investigation, and towards filtering what she need make record of.

The Ventrue takes notes in neat precise handwriting onto a number of forms, checking boxes in some areas, filling out blocks as needed. She also inquires as to whether there is a timeliness to her need for the information (whether she wants regular updates) or if she’s interested in a more full report when Caroline has one ready for her.

GM: Tina Baker is more casually dressed in a white top, short black coat, blue jeans and boots. She’s about 5’6," with a trim and well-toned frame, and has her straight brown hair cut chin-length. She’s notably pale despite her fit appearance, her Embrace probably having stripped away the healthy complexion she might have once had, but it’s left her with a certain feline appeal.

Pic.jpg The Brujah states that Gates has been to New Orleans before, and even stayed “a little while,” but she isn’t sure if he’s there right now or not. She supposes “it’s possible,” but doesn’t know. Lucas Gates is a Caucasian male in his late teens (visually, at least), short in height (“about as tall as me”), and has a pale to fair complexion. Brown eyes, short hair, no facial hair. He likes to carry knives. Baker does not know anything about Gates’ held locations, though last he was there, he “holed up” at the Rosebush Apartments in the Ninth Ward. Baker says she’s re-checked them and that he’s not staying there. She can’t say for sure about Gates’ assets. “Probably not a lot, but I don’t know for sure.” Baker expects mostly mortal dealings, but Kindred ones would be of interest to her too. “I’ve heard you’re pretty new, but also cheaper than the Nosferatu.”

“I already know some of the highlights of his mortal history, though. He’s a serial killer wanted in Florida, Louisiana, and Mississippi, and a suspect in sixteen murders. He used to be on the FBI’s Most Wanted List, back in the 2000s.”

Caroline: Caroline laughs lightly at the comparison to the Nosferatu. “A very flattering comparison for me, Ms. Baker, but I’m not certain that it’s an accurate reflection: after all, they’re masters of their craft, while I only dabble in research.” When the topic of Gates’ mortal life comes up, Caroline tilts her head. “Not exactly a inconspicuous Embrace.”

GM: “I know some of the killings were after he got turned. Maybe most.”

Caroline: Caroline nods and smiles. “With any luck I’ll be able to give you a full list.” She looks down at her notes. “Those should be all the questions I have for you, Ms. Baker, unless there’s anything else you’d like to add that you think might be relevant?”

GM: Tina rattles off a phone number she can be reached at.

“Not much besides that.”

Caroline: The Ventrue heiress closes her notes and rises to see Baker out, sitting down with her ghouls on the matter only when the other Kindred is safely away. Seated at the table of Autumn, Widney, and Fuller, each of whom has a part to play. First up is anything Autumn has on either their client or her mark, which transitions into Fuller and potential security concerns with a particularly murderous Kindred as their ‘mark’. Finally they move onto resources that can be shifted and directed towards the investigation. Overall Caroline’s mood is quite pleased: she’d not hoped to get another ‘client’ in so short a time, but it’s clear her interest is in providing something of value.

“Word of mouth is potentially our biggest asset, and right now it’s trending positively. We need to keep it that way.”

GM: Autumn and Widney are in rare concurrent, and Fuller agrees too from his experience running a gym. Autumn, however, knows little of Baker. “Which I guess could be good, if the Krewe wasn’t all talking about her.”

She shakes her head over Gates too. “Before my time, probably. She said this guy got the most notice in the mid-2000s. I can say the Krewe would’ve ashed him if he pulled anything like that here, and not bothered with any warnings. FBI’s Most Wanted is WAY too much attention.”

Caroline: “This feels personal to me. Victim, sire and childe… something. My guess is information on one will lead to another, so we chase both down whenever possible. Let’s start with running down his mortal life. Family, origins, upbringing, along with his victims. Look for ties to New Orleans—and ties to Baker. If he was active in the FBI top ten list, we should have plenty of public information available to start with.”

Caroline’s investigators aggressively pursue decade old cold cases, generating victim profiles and reports on victim family backgrounds. Each murder is plotted on a map, along with all available details on how he identified, encountered, and disposed of them. She’s particularly interested in tracking changes in his methods over time and how each kill was identified to him given the lack of forensic evidence left behind by Kindred. For a time she hopes to generate a regular stomping ground, or path he follows, but she has little luck with it.

She tracks his living family, generating profiles on living relatives, building information on each. The most interesting evidence is the frequency with which he seemingly returns to New Orleans—during Mardi Gras.

GM: Autumn and the firm’s hired PIs put together that Gates was Embraced in the Florida Panhandle during the late 1970s.

He harbored a pathological hatred of women fitting Baker’s demographic profile (young, attractive, white, educated) born from rejection and inherent antisocial personality tendencies. Almost all of his victims fit that profile. There are some even younger girls too.

His killings started in the Florida Pandhandle upon his Embrace. Caroline’s agents can find no killings before then. No pattern to his movements at first, beyond being run out of town by law enforcement, though he gradually seems to have learned greater restraint and discretion (though still not much). The killings stop in 2004,and he fell off the FBI’s Most Wanted. There are several killings by him in New Orleans that same year.

Gates has no mortal associates of any kind, beyond the occasional ghoul used as an accomplice. Usually white male youths from a similar background as him. Gates doesn’t appear to have much interest in playing influence games.

He has an uncle in Charlotte, North Carolina, and a sister in Virginia Beach. His parents are both dead.

Caroline’s rough psychological profile suggests that Gates would have been a serial murderer while alive but simply lacked the requisite upper body strength. He’s a short and fairly scrawny-looking kid. If both were mortal, Tina could probably beat his ass easy. He had a persistent record of getting into trouble at school, being bullied by boys, teased by girls, doing poorly at academia, and generally being a problem child. The Embrace seemed to have allowed an (incredibly) violent outlet for long-harbored feelings, and to have made them that much worse.

The FBI’s recorded murders all end in 2004. He’s either stopped or gotten better at hiding them. Gates always killed his victims with the same kind of knife, which was helpful to the FBI in identifying them.

Last but not least for the ex success, he was last in New Orleans during 2004, where he was violently confronted by a coterie of five neonates that included Baker and Becky Lynne Adler. This is concurrent with when he fell off the FBI’s list. The coterie itself seems to have broken apart too, either on its own or because of Katrina.

Caroline: Caroline puts together her findings into a dossier and reaches out to Baker.

GM: The Invictus Kindred returns to collect them, and like Wells before her, takes some time to look over the information and ask follow-up questions. She’s impressed with what Caroline has found and asks what she wants in return.

Caroline: “I have my people cross-referencing all missing persons that match his victim profile, along with murders of the same, seeming if perhaps he changed his methods… after his meeting with you and Ms. Adler.”

GM: “I suppose information is what I asked you to find,” Baker replies.

Caroline: “That said, what you’re probably the most interested in is these.” She slides over the reports she has of his more recent sightings. “He’s been resurfacing of late. Not up to his old tricks, but there are reports that he’s been seen.”

GM: Baker looks them over. Rather stonily, to the Ventrue’s eye.

Caroline: “You’re concerned he’s going to return,” Caroline offers quietly.

GM: Baker tidily re-orders the dossier. “His mistake if he does.”

Caroline: “Did he send you something?” Caroline asks quietly. She tilts her head. “Ten years is a long time to suddenly develop a renewed interest in something.”

GM: “I’m ready to talk price, Ms. Malveaux,” Baker answers. “Call this at a boon owed?”

Caroline: “Of course Ms. Baker, your secrets are your own. Should I conclude that this concludes your interest in the matter with me?”

GM: “If you uncover more of what his later activities I’d still be interested.”

Caroline: “I’ll leave it open, then,” Caroline offers. “As for the current findings, a boon owed seems equitable. I’ll reach out to you and we can discuss further prestation if I discover anything else of particular interest or get word of another sighting, particularly as they relate to New Orleans.”

GM: Baker nods. “That’s fair. You have my number if you do.”

Caroline: Caroline smiles and rises. “If there’s anything else I can do for you, Ms. Baker, please don’t hesitate to reach out.”

There’s a slight emphasis on the word anything.

Tuesday night, 24 November 2015, PM

Caroline: Caroline is too proud—and too isolated, in truth—to go about begging forgiveness and making apologies. She’s also intelligent enough to realize that without change she’s unlikely to see herself on very many Anarch Christmas card lists or enjoying a great deal of patronage from them—much less fielding many invites to Anarch events or cultivating allies. That’s not something she can, for all her wealth, afford.

Instead she humbles herself by the smallest of margins. She goes out of her way to talk with Anarchs. She (with Coco’s permission) stakes out Blaze on occasion to chat with members of the faction as they come and go, and generally does her best to show face—and in particular not as as an ivory tower Ventrue hidden in the CBD.

GM: Caroline’s first challenge to overcome is finding a place where she can talk to Anarchs when Coco denies her permission to do so at Blaze. The Brujah does not initially state why, although her eyes look faintly amused by Caroline’s request.

Caroline: The Ventrue doesn’t dwell overly long on Coco’s refusal, nor does she take it personally. Having an ill-begotten and ill-regarded Ventrue hanging around is a political liability Caroline well understands. Does she dismiss it because of the bond? Doubtful, she’s been at the center of such games since she was a child, even been a pawn in them before. Certainly her mortal family used her towards that end, and mortal bonds of blood were more than enough there.

Instead she approaches Wells on the topic, inquiring as to whether there are other areas Anarchs frequently meet or gather that are neutral enough that she could put on an appearance. She also makes it a point to put on additional appearances at Elysia, and takes what opportunities present themselves to interact with Anarchs there, limited though they may be.

GM: Wells answers that Blaze is the closest thing the covenant has to neutral ground. Many Anarchs hang out in City Park and Mid-City’s numerous cemeteries (considered notoriously dangerous spots among the kine). Cypress Grove is a popular meet site for the entire covenant, as is (somewhat less often) Delgado Community Colllege. Fairgrounds is also a sometime hangout, even if the horse races are over by the time vampires wake up. Music spots such as the Banks Street Bar & Grill, Chickie Wah Wah, and Rock-n-Bowl (Coco has evidently pulled strings to keep it open, albeit under new ownership after the drug bust) are also popular. So are a couple bars like Finn McCool’s. Beyond these spots, most Anarch krewes have their own private hangouts, where they sometimes meet with other krewes, but principally regard as theirs.

The concept of ‘neutral territory’ in Mid-City is somewhat ambiguous. The aforementioned sites belong to the Anarchs, who do largely as they like there. For the most part, that involves hanging out and enjoying the areas’ inherent attractions and entertainments. Sometimes Anarchs do ‘serious’ business with one another there, and sometimes they just want to have fun. (The cemeteries and Fairgrounds, Wells adds, are where many Anarchs play ‘games’ with each other that would break the Masquerade if witnessed by mortals.) The covenant isn’t big on formalities. If Caroline wants to deal with Anarchs in Mid-City, she can essentially expect to do it in their dens and living rooms while they’re playing Xbox. They don’t really have a dedicated entry hall or office space. Well, except for Blaze. That’s the closest thing because Coco is the Anarch who many outsiders (and most older vampires) deal with, and most licks know better than to start trouble under her roof.

Elysium is another matter, but presents its own obstacle: Caroline does not actually recognize more than a handful of Anarchs by face. There could be dozens of Anarchs at the city’s Elysia for all she might know. Or maybe she’s right it’s not their scene, and there’s only a few.

Caroline: Caroline leans hard upon her bought and paid for guidance from Ms. Adler in identifying Kindred, their clan, and their varied covenants, but really she has few expectations to make great progress at Elysia—the venue provides too many opportunities for misunderstanding and further conflict.

Instead she ventures into Anarch bars, meeting them on their own ground where possible, beginning with those that have not been overtly hostile.

GM: Finn McCool’s is a traditional-feeling Irish pub with the usual soccer-blaring TVs and large assortment of beers on tap. Wood rather than metal predominates the decor. Individual planks are visible on the ceiling and walls, the latter of which are crowded with an assortment of mounted rifles, crucifixes, and plaques, one of which reads ‘BEST IRISH BAR’. The smoke is heavy and the crowds heavy. They also seem notably diverse, from the usual blue-collar Mid-City types to a few rougher-looking gangbangers and more adventurously-inclined preppies and yuppies. Skin colors range from black to white to brown to yellow.

Caroline spots the two Kindred by the pool table in the back of the bar.

The first one is a freckled, button-nosed, Caucasian woman in seemingly her early 20s with blonde hair. She’s dressed in a tie-dye skirt, camo-patterned tank top, and brown cowboy boots. Her slender but scar-nicked arms have their shape further emphasized by the large assortment of beads and bangles dangling from her wrists, while separate necklaces with a silver peace sign and an ankh hang from leather cords around her neck. A flower is tucked into the rim of her cowboy hat. All told, her fashion resembles a distinctive cross of Cajun chic and ’60s flower girl.

The second vampire is a black man who looks maybe half a decade older. He’s taller, wider-shouldered, and wider-faced, with a fully shaved head and neatly-maintained mustache and beard. He’s dressed in blue jeans and a black t-shirt with white lettering that reads Black Lives Matter. A necklace with a tiny quartz heart pierced by a fingerbone rests over his chest.

“Ain’ often we sees many blue bloods ’roun dese ’ere parts,” the woman drawls. She plants both hands on the tip of her pool stick, lays her chin on her hands, and plants the stick on the ground, then leans forward in a motion that should be awkward but seems oddly lazy instead, slowly rocking back and forth on her heels.

The man looks up at Caroline for a moment but says nothing, leaning back down over the pool table as he slowly lines up a shot at one of the balls.

Caroline: Caroline has dressed conservatively down for the event—or perhaps dressed up for the Anarchs—in a black turtleneck, matching pencil skirt, and silver chain belt. It still doesn’t quite fit the bar, but given the diverse crowd she’s less concerned about blending in completely. She laughs lightly at the woman’s remark. “Was it that obvious?” She glances around and smiles. “Well, I guess it is.”

GM: “Ya done guessed raht,” the woman answers, leaning forward again on the pool stick.

There’s that distinctive snapping sound as the man sends several balls rolling across the table’s green-felted surface.

Caroline: “I guess I’ve done something right then?” Again that easy smile. “I’m Caroline, but then you probably knew that too.”

GM: The woman bends over the table, squints with one eye, and takes another tap-shot of her own. There’s a plunk as one of the balls rolls down the hole at the table’s corner.

“Sure do. Eight-Nine-Six had a lot to say about you,” the man answers.

Caroline: The Ventrue’s smile slips away, though not slowly. It’s more a setting sun than a falling star, “I suppose they did. I wish they’d had more to say to me, but from what I’ve heard that was Ms. Jackson’s way—action first, talk later, and I can see how the circumstances didn’t exactly lend themselves to a casual conversation.”

GM: The woman offers a tranquil smile of her own as if to offset Caroline’s fading one. “Poachin’ on somebody’s turf will do dat.”

Caroline: A nod. “Yes, I imagine it will. A lesson I learned painfully, and they more so for it. I wish, after that first night, there’d been an opportunity to change things, or perhaps make them whole, but it’s difficult to blame them for getting their ‘Irish’,” there’s only a whisper of levity in the comment, “up over things, and I don’t know that I’d have known what to do, or even how to reach them, even if I had realized just what I’d done. Back in those first couple of nights after my Embrace I was still arrogant enough to think I was entitled to everything, and they were in the wrong.”

GM: “Coulda tried sayin’ sorry. Ain’ a word in too many blue blood vocabs, dat fo’ sure,” the woman offers with the same tranquil smile.

“We make our own opportunities,” the man agrees, bending back over the pool table.

“But hey now,” the woman continues, her smile widening like a ceshire-cat grin, “ya din’ know.”

Caroline: Caroline shakes her head. “That wasn’t a good excuse then, nor is it one now, and I didn’t come here to wave it in your face tonight. You lost friends, Eight-Nine-Six lost their Reqiuems.” She bites her lip. “So, no, no excuses, I’m sorry for the loss of your friends, for what part I played in driving them into their doom.”

GM: “How old ya peg us for, Miz Caroline?” the woman asks. “Take ya bes’ shot in da dark. Ah won’ min’ if ya peg me older, not like Ah’m e’er gownna wear it.”

Caroline: The Ventrue considers them. “As a shot in the dark? A couple of decades in maybe?”

GM: “Das’ both o’ us, den?” the woman drawls, leaning back forward on her pool stick.

Caroline: Caroline tilts her head. “Old enough that you’d rather talk than fight, young enough that you’re not beating people for using a disagreeable pronoun.” She stops the tilt. “Sure.”

GM: “Your turn,” the man says to the woman. She gives another lazy smile and saunters over, squinting again at the pools as she takes her shot. Click. Clunk. Thump.

She lifts the pool stick back up and balances it against her shoulders. “Desirae been singin’ ya praises, fah diggin’ inta dat gian’ question mark dat’s ‘er past. I asked her why. Why-oh-why, darlin’, ya be usin’ ya singin’ voice on jus’ a nutha’ blue-milk swappin’ o’ boons. Ya jus’ in da mood fa singin’, an’ dat da firs’ thing runnin’ through ya head?”

The woman lays the pool stick back down, leaning forward with her hands resting on the tip. “Mah sire Embraced me ‘roundabouts da tahm Lee Harvey Oswal’ shot Jay-Eff-Kay. Jonah here got turned roun’ da same tahm.”

‘Jonah’ glances at the woman, then takes his own pool shot. Click. Clunk. Thunk.

“An’ in all dose years, Ah learned me a few things, darlin’, an’ one o’ ‘em, which Ah have learned an’ re-learned tahm an’ ‘gain, is dat dere ain’ no such thing as a free lunch.”

“So, Miz Caroline, ya been layin’ outcha honey wi’ Desirae, an’ ya hopin’ ta catch some flies. Now what flies be dey, ta bring ya roun’ dese parts, givin’ Anarchs free ones, sayin’ how sorry ya is o’er our dead pals?”

The woman rocks back on her boot heels, looking towards Caroline expectantly.

Caroline: “I should think my motives are transparent, and I never pretended otherwise with Ms. Wells. We all make mistakes, some of us are fortunate enough to live long enough to regret them, and a rarer few still have the opportunity to try and make some small amends, and perhaps learn from them.”

Caroline moves around to take a look at the current state of the game: she only ever played occasionally as a child among children in a well appointed lounge, but her uncle told stories of playing in his college days. “Or from others.”

“I made a lot of mistakes in those first few weeks. Took and ruined lives. Hurt people and rocked every boat around with all the waves I made. Extensions really of my mortal life.” She pauses and looks up from the table back at the older Kindred. “I’m a Catholic and I’m a pragmatist. Sometimes those two things line up.”

“I did a lot of wrong among the Anarchs of the city. I’d like to make it right where I can, and I don’t want to spend the rest of my Requiem looking back at those first few nights and letting them define me, in my own eyes or those of others. I might very well have been the bitch that Eight-Nine-Six talked about—though I don’t doubt they embellished just a touch—when we crossed paths. But I’d like to think that I could learn from it.”

“So here I am. Telling you about how sorry I am over your dead pals. And Ms. Wells… well, let’s just say that not knowing about your past, or about your sire specifically, I can sympathize a lot with. I know that I’ll never get any closure on my Embrace, but if I can help any other Kindred get some, it makes me feel a bit better. And if it catches me some flies… all the better. God knows I could use them.”

GM: “What were deir names?” the woman drawls in query.

Caroline: Caroline smiles bitterly. “Would you like me to start at the beginning, with the first person I maimed after I woke up alone, or skip to Bliss Jackson and go from there?”

GM: “Dawlin’, most o’ us got bodies ta our names, an’ if Ah spared a tear o’er e’ry one by e’ry lick in dis city, da streets’d run red.”

“She’s not asking about people she doesn’t know,” Jonah cuts in, looking down at Caroline.

The female Kindred just gives that same tranquil smile.

Caroline: The smile gives way more bitterly. “It’s what we do, right?” she replies to the woman. “Cherry Nines, Milagrosa Arencibia, and Trent Ambrose.”

She runs her tongue over her fangs, remembering each. Remembering the last time she saw those three in vigor through the haze of the Beast, all flashes of blood and violence.

“Yes, I do remember them. And I will.”

GM: “Catchin’ you some flies now. Dat do explain it, don’ it Jonah?” the woman asks, glancing back towards her friend.

“Sure does,” the male Kindred answers.

“Oda blue bloods ain’ lettin’ ya join in deir reindeer games, now is dey, afta rockin’ da boat-”

“-and still getting Vidal’s pat on the head,” Jonah remarks.

“-so ya slummin’ it wit’ da unboun’… or ya scared da sheriff won’ cova ya ass if any Anarchs ‘cide dey gonna da for ya what ya done fah Eigh’-Nine-Six?”

The woman smiles again. “Dem’s some pretty words, an’ ya ‘least got da names right. But one thing Ah done learned o’er ma fifty years, when somebody’s talkin’, tune out da words, plug ya ears, look at what dey actually doin’, an’ dat’ll tell ya da real score. An’ pluggin’ ma ears-” and here the 70+-year-old woman smirks faintly as she sticks her fingers into each one, but she doesn’t look like a silly young girl. More like an artist’s impression of one.

“-Ah sees a poachin’, sheriff-tattlin’, Masquerade-breakin’ blue blood who’s taken it upon ’erself ta lay out some honey for da Anarchs, ’cuz sorry as she be, she need her some flies too.”

She removes her fingers and picks back up the pool stick, striding over to the table.

“But hey now, ya here. Ya really sorry, try layin’ out da honey when ya don’ need da flies… or gettin’ dem fine blue blood clothes dirty ta lay out ya honey. An’ maybe den Ah’ll un-plug mah ears.”

Caroline: Caroline gives a low and joyless laugh. “It seems like you’ve only been plugging your ears when it suits you, if you don’t mind me saying so.”

GM: “Ya can say as ya please, darlin’. It be a free parish,” the woman with another cheshire-cat smile.

Caroline: “Is it?” Caroline asks. “What exactly does that mean? What exactly am I free to do here?”

GM: “The freedom to swing your fist ends where another man’s face begins. Your freedom here ends where anything that pisses off another Anarch begins,” Jonah answers.

Caroline: “What a lovely paraphrasing of Zechariah Chafee, Jr., but I confess the back end leaves much room for interpretation. For instance,” she gestures to the table, “if I were to beat you, would that be the end of my freedom here?”

GM: “Perhaps ya’d care ta back up dem words, lil’ greenfang,” the woman drawls in a low voice.

The man sets down his pool stick and stares at Caroline. There’s the expected look of counterchallenge there. And equal parts, oddly enough, disgust.

Caroline: Caroline’s Beast wants to rise to the challenge, it wants to take the offered opportunity presented by the misunderstanding to smash and crush and destroy and establish its own superiority.

Instead, the Ventrue laughs lightly, disarmingly, trying to play off the misunderstanding as she walks over to the rack on the wall and examines the available cues.

“I’ve never actually been a particularly good player, but things can change. What should we play for though, I don’t think drinks have quite the proper meaning between us.”

GM: “‘Pends if we play. Ya gon’ humble dat blue blood pride an’ say ya sorry an’ meant nothin’ first?” the woman posits with another tranquil smile.

Caroline: The Ventrue laughs lightly again. “I don’t usually take requests, but I suppose I can make an exception for distinguished personages such as yourselves.”

She sets her expression more severely and squares up on the two Anarchs. “I meant no offense, and certainly did not mean to give the impression that I wanted a fight with either of you, much less both, on your own ground, over nothing. You have my sincerest apologies if that was the impression I gave.”

GM: “Well now, ya heah dat, Jonah, she done think we be persons o’ distinguishment,” the woman grins.

Jonah’s expression doesn’t fully abate, but does lose its edge.

“Attacking Anarchs in their own territory over nothing isn’t an ‘impression you’ve given’, blue blood. It’s something you’ve done, and it’s something everyone remembers. Don’t think we were the ones being unreasonable.”

“But hey,” the still-grinning woman remarks, “ya din’ mean it.”

“Zilly and I were having a friendly no-stakes game,” the man remarks over Caroline’s interest in joining. “But that does raise an interesting question. What do you have that you think we’d want to play for?”

Caroline: The constant harping on something the two know very little about wears painfully on Caroline’s patience, but she again bites back a response on the topic.

“I imagine the usual. Boons. Blood. Drinks. Information.” She doesn’t so much list them off as identify them.

GM: “Cou’ do dose,” ‘Zilly’ half-shrugs, half-nods. “It be ya idea, darlin’.”

Caroline: The Ventrue smiles. “Did you have something else in mind? It’s your party, after all.”

GM: “Ya idea, darlin’. We don’ play for nothin’ ’cept da game, mosta da time.”

Caroline: “Why don’t we start casual, then? I wouldn’t want to disrupt your routine more than I already have. Call it nothing for the first game, and a boon for the second?”

GM: “Your boons are worth less than ours,” Jonah remarks.

“Eh, whateva, game be dame,” Zilly shrugs. “I’m fine uppin’ dem stakes if ya wantin’ ta end bigger dan we start.”

Caroline: The heiress haggles with some amusement with the two Anarchs over exactly what they’ll play before before agreeing and taking up the pool cue. She’s played before, mostly in her uncle’s den, and casually at that. It’s much less skill that guides her than the raw grace she’s enjoyed since her Embrace, effortless ability that overcomes her lack of experience.

Perhaps not, though, against these fellow monsters.

GM: Caroline finds the two to be seemingly uninterested in further haggling, but she gets a similar impression so far as her opponents’ levels of skill. Both seem like they only do this for idle fun. It’s a notable contrast from the vocations Caroline threw herself into mastering as mortal, to satisfy peoples’ expectations. There simply isn’t any burning desire to be the best.

But they are still her fellow monsters.

What the two Anarchs likewise seem to lack in practice, they make up for with preternatural grace of their own. Pool sticks slide across the table and send balls scattering with all the ease that a child’s fingers would scatter marbles.

Caroline shoots and pockets her object balls, and then finally the 8-ball before Jonah, who is several balls behind her. The Ventrue and Zilly pocket all of their object balls at the same time, but the final shot and pivotal 8-ball go to Caroline.

“Nah bad, greenfang,” the Anarch declares, idly twirling her pool stick.

Caroline: Caroline leans on her own.

“Better lucky than good.”

Caroline V, Chapter X; Rocco IIS, Chapter IV
Evan Bourelle

“I’m tired of always getting shit on by everything! I’m tired of no one giving a damn!”
Jocelyn Baker

Friday night, 25 September 2015, AM

GM: It takes longer than one night, but Jocelyn eventually puts together a lengthy and semi-organized Word doc that she sends to Caroline:


Jocelyn knows little about Evan’s early background. He didn’t talk much about his mortal life, beyond vague references and anecdotes. Now that Jocelyn reflects, he was always good at deflecting the topic without really seeming to. His surname, though, is obviously Louisianan. He fell in with Jocelyn and Gwen in 2013. It was around then, the early-mid 2010s, that things were returning fully to ‘normal’ among the local all-night society after Katrina. New Orleans’ kine population still hadn’t climbed back to pre-Katrina levels, but the city was recovered enough for Vidal to remove his moratorium on new Embraces. He was also more permissive towards newcomers who wanted to make their havens in the city. Evan was just… another face in the crowd during that period. He said he came from a “small town” and was looking to make it in the big city, now that more Kindred were being allowed in. He never talked about his Embrace.

“Gwen doesn’t either,” Jocelyn remarks. “Some of us… well, I guess we’ve got a lot more skeletons in the closet, or just more things we don’t want people to know, now that we’re dead.”

Places Frequented

In contrast to Evan’s background, Jocelyn has a great deal of solid information to offer regarding his usual haunts.

Evan was a tenant of Sundown, the regent of Faubourg Marigny. He always liked the Bohemian district’s vibrant clubs and nightlife more than the sterile downtime environs of the CBD. “It doesn’t even feel like New Orleans there,” he’d say. Jocelyn admitted he was right, the CBD isn’t her favorite part of town either. But it’s the best part that has a Sanctified regent. The other Storyvilles weren’t enthused about Evan swearing fealty to Sundown, but given the Nosferatu’s unswerving political neutrality, it was probably the next-best choice after a Sanctified regent.

Evan spent a lot of time in Marigny, in any case. He liked to hunt in the popular night spots, but he also enjoyed them in their own right. His favorite club was the Spotted Cat, which is more music- than dance-oriented. He avoided feeding there.

Another notable locale is the Frenchmen Art Market. Evan, Gwen, and Jocelyn would sometimes go on outings there—just spending the evening browsing everything the local artists had on display. Roxanne and Wyatt weren’t as into it. “Total stereotype, I guess, but we had fun,” Jocelyn admits. “It was nice just to look at all the arts and crafts, talk with people, and forget about being vampires for a while.”

Much more to Jocelyn’s disapproval, however, was Evan’s proclivity for visiting the French Quarter. It was an irregular enough thing that Jocelyn and Roxanne were able to keep it secret from Gwen and Wyatt, but they were adamant that Evan needed to stop. He usually agreed with them and would keep doing it anyway. He “didn’t see the harm. That’s the most I got out of him,” Jocelyn elaborates. “He said he wasn’t hunting there, wasn’t talking with Savoy, wasn’t doing anything important… I mean, I guess that could be worse, but still… he shouldn’t have been doing that.”

Despite his distaste for the CBD, Evan spent a fair bit of time there as a result of the other Storyvilles making their havens, personal and communal, in the downtown district. He’d spend the night with Roxanne in her haven on a semi-regular basis. Often enough, in fact, that “Maldonato might’ve, or maybe was gonna, ask him to finally just swear fealty. He spent like every other day at her place.”

As for Evan’s own haven, he has an apartment in Faubourg Marigny that is currently sitting empty. It’s been long enough that his landlady was ready to throw out his things. Roxanne “mindscrewed her several times,” but revisiting her lover’s empty haven seems to pain the Ventrue, and she’s told the other Storyvilles to handle it. “I’m not sure what we’re supposed to do though. The landlady keeps remembering it’s sitting vacant. I don’t wanna turn her into a ghoul, she’s not really done anything wrong, but I don’t want Evan to lose his place either,” Jocelyn gripes, plainly frustrated that the world is all-too willing to move on without Evan Bourelle.

Friends and Enemies

Jocelyn compiles a number of names under this section, with several further sub-headers. Evan was fairly social.

Pearl Chastain: Jocelyn admits she exaggerating how ‘in’ she was with her clan’s primogen, just a bit, during that first night at the Orpheum. The Toreador matriarch does not like Jocelyn’s artwork or her chosen medium, at all. It was mainly Evan who got her into the elder’s, maybe not good graces, but at least ‘tolerated’ graces, by playing up Jocelyn’s bloodline. “She thought my sire, grandsire, and great-grandsire were all right. So… I guess that carried over. Elders care a lot who your ancestors were, I’ve found.” As for Evan himself, Jocelyn doesn’t doubt that Chastain liked him more than her. She found him well-mannered and properly deferential without being dull. “He was always a bit of a lady’s man, but mainly with older women,” Jocelyn mentions. “He said his first crush as a kid was on Mrs. Robinson—from the movie. And that his first time when he was 16 was with a friend’s mom.”

Caroline: Caroline’s list of Kindred to visit grows long indeed, and dangerously so. Names on a list of powerful individuals—in some cases the most powerful in the city. While she works to arrange those meetings—and to arrive to them with something of interest enough to draw upon the interest of such personages—the Ventrue offers to help with some of the lingering loose ends, such as Evan’s haven. It would be a small matter to allocate some funds towards that purpose, and, with Sundown’s permission (pending her own meeting with the Nosferatu) plant a smaller more enduring lie in his landlord’s mind—that he was perhaps out of town on a trip—to explain his absence.

GM: Jocelyn’s dossier continues:

Sundown: As Jocelyn mentioned, the regent of Faubourg Marigny was Evan’s landlord. The Toreador doesn’t know as much about Evan’s relationship with Sundown as she does about his relationship with Chastain. However, she knows that the Nosferatu harpy generally “liked his style,” as the Toreador puts it, and they seemed to get along. Sundown also probably knew more about Evan’s nightly activities than Chastain did. Beyond simply being Nosferatu and the Toreador primogen existing in a more or less permanent funk, “I also hear that Sundown pretty much always asks for his corvée as information. Same thing with Gus Elgin. That’s sewer rat regents, I guess.”

Marcel Guilbeau: Caroline’s elder clanmate is known for taking semi-regular lovers, always two at a time, and living with them in a menage a trois. Evan was one of these lovers for maybe half a year or so. “I’m not sure who the third lick was in their three-way.” So far as Jocelyn knows, their parting was amicable enough. “I think so, anyway. He hooked up with Roxanne not too long after. Evan’s actually always been a little possessive. You don’t really notice it at first, since he’s pretty laid back, and let Roxanne take the reigns of the krewe. So he doesn’t really seem like he wants a lot. But when he has something, that he really does want, he doesn’t like to share it. That’s part of why we don’t want him to lose his haven… I know he was pretty attached to it.”

Marguerite Defallier: Evan was also a sometime associate of Defallier’s. “That thing for older women again,” Jocelyn admits. “Helps that she actually does look older than he does. Not like some of the other elders Embraced around our age. Also, they’re both poseurs. Kind of. Evan wasn’t… he wasn’t really much of an artist. That’s the thing in my clan. You can either be good at art, and be an artiste, or you can suck at it and be a poseur. Poseurs are usually airheads Embraced for their looks. I guess we tend to do that a lot. The poseurs usually try to get by as critics, patrons, whatever.”

“Evan’s tried to fit in by practicing music. He’s okay. I mean, he doesn’t suck or anything, but whoever Embraced him probably didn’t do it because they thought he was gonna be the next Louis Armstrong. Defallier’s a poseur too, but tries to be an artiste. So I guess that was one thing they had in common.”

Amandine: Amandine is a Cajun girl and Vodouisant associated with the Baron’s Acolytes. “Yeah, I know,” Jocelyn remarks. “Evan wanted to convert her to the Sanctified. Said it wouldn’t be impossible, that Marie Laveau was a Catholic too and all. Plus I guess they both small-town Cajuns, so he figured he had a shot. Roxanne thought he was wasting time but didn’t see the harm.” Jocelyn isn’t sure what clan Amandine is, but knows she can be found in Tremé and the Seventh Ward. She’s a neonate who first showed up in the city after Katrina.

Jocelyn’s profiles on the next names are shorter. Caroline should ask her if she wants more information on individual ones.

Abraham Garcia: Another post-Katrina and fellow Toreador with pull in the media.
Maxzille Babinfeaux: A Cajun Toreador and one of the older Anarchs (“She was totally Embraced in the ’60s”) who’s stayed with Coco after the recent factional split. They liked each other.
Carter Landry: Unaligned post-Katrina neonate in Riverbend. Jocelyn isn’t sure of his clan. “I don’t think he belongs to any covenant.”
Mallory Yang: Jocelyn isn’t sure where Yang lives or what clan she is. She is Asian, which somewhat stands out. “Don’t think there’s that many Asian licks. I think she’s another post-Katrina too.”
Arthur Duchamps: Another post-Katrina Toreador who likes to hang out in the French Quarter. He and Evan sometimes partied together. Jocelyn isn’t sure of his allegiances. “But if he’s in the Quarter, Savoy might’ve gotten his slime over him.”
Marisol Beaugendre: An older Toreador, but still a post-Katrina arrival. Doesn’t belong to a covenant either, which is particularly notable for an ancilla.
Edward Zuric: A busker who plays in Faubourg Marigny and the French Quarter. “He gave Evan music lessons. He’s a Gangrel, but my clan likes him. We let him into the Guild of Apollo, actually. We do that sometimes, with other licks who show they really appreciate art.”
Josua Cambridge: Another post-Katrina Toreador, and one of Marcel Guilbeau’s current lovers. “Someone Embraced him without permission, but Marcel took him in.”
Becky Lynne Adler: Caroline is better-acquainted with her clanmate than Jocelyn is. The Toreador only knows she and Evan were acquainted and on friendly terms.
Yellow Sidra: A fortune-teller in the French Quarter. Evan wasn’t exactly friends with Sidra, but he believed in her powers. “Which I guess isn’t that crazy. If vampires can be real, why can’t fortune-tellers be right?” Jocelyn isn’t sure how old she is, “Though she still tells fortunes on the street, which I can’t see someone as old as the prince doing,” and thinks she’s either a kook or a warlock. “Watch out either way.”
Tina Baker: A post-Katrina Invictus Brujah who Evan got along with.

Last Place Seen

Jocelyn writes that the last place she saw Evan was at the krewe’s communal haven in the CBD. They’d just gotten back from hunting on sinners in Central City. “It was around 4 AM, so the night was winding down.” The krewe watched a couple TV episodes of War of Crowns over Omni TV. There was maybe an hour left before dawn when the show’s credits started rolling. Jocelyn, Gwen, and Roxanne wanted to see what happened in the next few episodes, so they decided to spend the day at the group haven. Wyatt and Evan passed (Wyatt had already seen the show) and drove back to theirs.

Jocelyn looks up at Caroline when she’s finished reading. “‘Tell me if any more characters bite it.’ That… that was the last thing Evan said, before he left.” The Toreador’s eyes start to rim with red. “Like… like he’d be back any…”

Caroline: “Any minute.” Caroline does her best to comfort Jocelyn on the topic. The report she’s generated is a great starting point and gives her a dozen leads to follow. Perhaps the most interesting to Jocelyn however is the one that the Krewe couldn’t bite on. “Hound Agnello claims he knows who Evan was ‘last seen with’ and where, but he wasn’t willing to come off the information for me.” She bites her lip before continuing, “Who’s Mabel?”

GM: Jocelyn does not seem overly comforted as she blinks slowly and wipes her eyes. “I… what? Why not? He still got his panties in a bunch over us not letting you in?”

Caroline: “He’s an ancilla and a powerful one at that. Did you think he’d take kindly to being told he couldn’t have his way, in his own home, by a group of neonates that couldn’t give him a good reason why they told him to pound sand?” She doesn’t sigh, it’s part of her respiratory pause that like so many habits of the living is sliding away, but she does pause in her response. “Who’s Mabel?”

GM: “Well, fuck him then! It’s none of his damn business who’s in our krewe, especially if he doesn’t wanna do jack when one of us goes missing!” Jocelyn snarls, the sadness and worry on her face turning rapidly to anger. “I guess that’s what being a good Sanctified does for Evan, huh? And you know, throwing a tacky party where he’s a cock to everyone, that’s just the cherry on top. Just, fuck. Him.”

Caroline: The Ventrue suffers Jocelyn’s tirade quietly, and is almost as quiet in her response to it.

“Joceyln, I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know better than I do.” She bites her lip. “It’s just who they are. Take it from me, trying to swim against that current isn’t pleasant or productive, for you or for Evan. Gwen is one of his tenants, as far as he’s concerned he owns part of the krewe. He’s also got the ability to make life very unpleasant for her—and now me—so yell at me about it, but step outside and put on a smile for him when he next invites you to a ‘tacky’ party. In the meantime, he’s hardly the only person who probably has information, and for what it’s worth, I’d rather go out and get it from them on our terms than beg it from him.”

GM: “No. The Storyvilles have done… we’ve done everything right. We don’t deserve this. Evan doesn’t deserve this. Not from him. And I’ll damn well skip his next stupid party where all he does is bully younger licks while being too chickenshit to invite anyone his own age. Guess the Boggs sure did a number on him.” Jocelyn gives a half-hearted roll of her eyes, but it mostly comes out as a glare. “And fuck begging him for anything. The sewer rats will all know whatever he thinks he does.”

Caroline: If nothing else, Caroline can understand being sick of begging.

Monday night, 28 September 2015, AM

Caroline: It’s not long after her last conversation with the Lord of the French Quarter that Caroline finds herself opposite the Toreador’s warden at a table in front of a steadily dying down bar in the French Quarter. When asked, Lord Savoy had been rather clear that he and Evan had very little contact outside of at Toreador functions and had suggested if she had concerns he could arrange an introduction to Lebeaux, who might have his things to say on the matter. Caroline’s heard of him in passing. Coco’s childe.

The Ventrue is in white and black this evening—hardly unusual—in a long sleeved black top and thin pencil skirt that hangs to her knees broken up with a thin black belt. Heels are, of course, mandatory.

GM: Peter Lebeaux is short but well-built man, nearly stocky, with a square jaw line and a full but well-maintained mustache. His gray eyes take silent note of Fuller, but he does not otherwise comment on the ghoul’s presence. The French Quarter’s warden wears a gray trench coat that he’s taken off inside the bar, plain pants, a white button-up with the sleeves rolled up, and a navy tie. The clothes (and the man) have a slightly worn edge that makes them seem one grade short of professional. It’s a look Caroline has seen on a lot of cops. All that’s missing is a cigarette dangling from his lips.

“Lord Savoy said you have a missing persons case, Miss Malveaux,” Lebeaux says.

Caroline: Caroline’s own coat hangs over her chair.

“I do, Warden Lebeaux. At least I hope that is what it is. Are you familiar with Evan Bourelle?” she asks.

GM: “In passing,” the Kindred cop answers. “He isn’t a resident of the Quarter, so he’s outside my usual jurisdiction.”

Caroline: “He’s been missing since August 18th. No one seems to know anything about where he went, and all I seem to hear is how great he. How well liked.” She swirls her drink. “In fact, the only thing I’ve heard that’s even a little out of the ordinary is that he has a habit of visiting the French Quarter.”

GM: “Well, there’s a difference between being liked and having clout.”

The Kindred cop takes a pull of his drink.

“Kid might have more people looking for him if he had the latter.”

Caroline: “Given,” Caroline agrees, “but no one seemed to know anyone that had it out for him, which makes me wonder who benefits from him disappearing.” She gestures to herself. “Me, I can see why plenty of people would want to put me in the ground—and often for good reasons. With him though…” She takes a drink. “Here I am, following the one piece that looks different than the rest.”

GM: Lebeaux nods. “The first question any cop asks in an abduction or murder investigation is who benefits. Materially, politically, or just emotionally, if they had a reason to dislike him. I don’t know how deep you’ve been looking into Bourelle and whether it’s possible to rule out that last one. Not everyone advertises their grudges. Smart licks don’t.”

Caroline: “True, and maybe I missed something, but… I get to thinking, what brings a good little Sanctified boy down to the French Quarter that isn’t Lord Savoy and isn’t hunting?” She runs her tongue over her fangs. “Something he doesn’t want to talk about, or tell anyone about?”

GM: “Kid did a poor job if that was the case. More licks than me could tell you he’s been seen with Yellow Sidra at Jackson Square.”

Caroline: The taste left over in her mouth by her greyhound is foul, but she’s getting better and hiding it. She can even keep it down for a couple hours now.

GM: “Probably getting his fortune told. Going back more than once suggests a motive beyond simple novelty. Could also have been something else, though. You’d have to ask Sidra.”

Caroline: “More of a lead than I had before,” Caroline smiles at the cop. “Is that all he was getting up to in the Quarter?” she asks probingly.

GM: “All that I know of,” Lebeaux answers.

Caroline: The Ventrue takes another sip of her drink. “I guess I should pay her a visit.”

GM: “Could probably do worse,” the Brujah nods. “Now most mortal murders and abductions are committed by someone who has a prior relationship to the victim. That’s still a useful avenue to investigate with us, but not always as useful.”

Caroline: She can see something of his sire in the Brujah’s (ironically) calm, patient nature.

“You think it could be completely unrelated?”

GM: “Could be the kid got ashed by hunters. We’re not in the ‘90s anymore. Tech can be as much a liability as asset these nights. More unexplained disappearances than ever can be chalked up to licks who don’t watch what they say online or over their phones, and that number’s probably going to keep going up. Could also be he was ashed by some older-school hunters with bibles and holy water.”

Caroline: The Ventrue pays attention to the Brujah’s words carefully. “Keep your business quiet?”

GM: “Always,” Lebeaux answers, taking a pull from his beer. “Society’s more interconnected than ever. More eyes on everyone than ever.”

Caroline: “The government is watching all the kine, makes sense that they’re watching us too.”

GM: “Not even just the feds. Local cops have been busting or at least inconveniencing licks for years. That’s also easier now than ever.”

Caroline: “Doesn’t seem to be slowing you down, Warden Lebeaux.”

GM: Lebeaux grunts noncommittally. “So far as Bourelle, could also be he got on the wrong side of Caitlin Meadows. She’s ashed her share of recent licks.”

Caroline: “Does she have any reason to?” Caroline asks by way of counterargument.

GM: “Possibly. Bourelle’s trips into the Quarter.”

Caroline: “You think he’s ash though, at this point,” Caroline asks soberly.

GM: Lebeaux shakes his head. “I’m not on this case. There are possible reasons he could have disappeared and still be unliving. But I am observing there are a lot of things that could have ashed him, while lacking a personal connection that’s easier to investigate. Maybe he felt like seeing some nature and met an angry ’loop outside the city. Maybe he felt like playing tourist and snuck inside the LaLaurie House.”

Caroline: The Ventrue arches an eyebrow at the last.

GM: “I don’t speak eyebrow, Miss Malveaux,” the Kindred cop remarks over another pull of his beer.

Caroline: “Haunted houses, Warden Lebeaux?” she replies with amusement.

GM: Lebeaux stares back at Caroline without a trace of humor.

“Some dumb kids, kine, went into that ‘haunted house’ not too long back.”

Caroline: “I’m well aware. One cop in the hospital. Another gone insane trying to murder teenagers. Two young girls shot. A third in a coma from a fall.” She recounts in the shakiest tone he’s heard from her, the first time she’s seemed to be in anything but complete control. “I didn’t realize it had to do with the house, though.”

GM: “Two cops and one lawyer dead,” Lebeaux corrects. “And I suppose you didn’t, as a breather.” He gives a humorless smile. “But then, you probably thought vampires belonged in movies and sappy teen novels too.”

Caroline: Caroline frowns. “Detective Gettis and who else?” she asks.

GM: “May I ask what their names are to you, Miss Malveaux?”

Caroline: “I was there when he started shooting,” she replies.

GM: Lebeaux simply nods at this.

Caroline: “Tried to save as many as I could, but afterwards everyone clammed up. Police didn’t want to talk about it. I never got the full story.”

GM: “Mitchel Lowenstein was shot dead by several officers after Gettis used him as a human shield. Emil Kane died from a a cerebral hemorrhage in the hospital. Gettis was shot dead by SWAT, but I expect you heard that on the evening news.”

Caroline: She bites her lip. “I hadn’t heard that Detective Kane had passed away. He seemed a man of principle.”

GM: “What made you feel so there, Miss Malveaux?” Lebeaux asks.

Caroline: “We spoke in the hospital, when I was still alive. I tried to convince him that it would be better if he played ball with the narrative that was being pushed. He wouldn’t budge and tried instead to convince me that I should confide in him.” There’s a contemplative tone to her response.

GM: “People who won’t catch the ball can get hit by the ball.”

Caroline: “Principles tend to have a cost,” Caroline agrees.

GM: “And one that can be well worth it, but a man who’s smart as well as principled shops around and uses coupons.” Lebeaux takes another pull of his beer. “What sorts of things did he seem to want you to confide in him?”

Caroline: “He wanted to know what I wanted. Seemed interested in proselytizing. Believed some higher power had been involved in how he stabilized the girl, Ms. Savard.” The sour look on her face is far worse than when she sips her drink. “Went on and on about how the duty of the police was to the people.”

She looks down and away. She almost looks ashamed.

GM: “His death wasn’t your fault,” Lebeaux says.

Caroline: “No,” she nods in agreement, “but maybe if I’d listened to him I could have prevented my own.” She takes another deep, bitter, sip of her grayhound. “I was out drinking that night. That entire weekend really. The drunkest I ever remember being, trying to block out the thoughts of everything associated with that night. Guilty conscience, I guess.”

GM: “Listened to him, and done what?” the Brujah poses. “It doesn’t sound as if he told you to be a teetotaler. Doesn’t sound as if teetotaling would have been too reasonable under the circumstances either.”

Caroline: “You sound like you’re speaking from experience, Warden,” Caroline replies.

GM: “I’ve seen and known a lot of people who drink to cope.”

Caroline: “Even when you were alive?” she asks. “The job never got to you?”

GM: “It gets to everyone. We all have ways of coping. Homicide detectives—and paramedics—have some of the blackest, most disparaging humor about dead people you’ll ever come across.”

Caroline: “You must have fit right in after your Embrace.”

GM: “Most don’t actually mean it.”

Caroline: “Maybe not then,” she replies evenly.

GM: “If you’re serious about Bourelle, I’d start by interviewing his known associates and stopping by his usual haunts and last known whereabouts.”

Lebeaux finishes his beer.

Caroline: “Thanks for the advice.”

Yes, she can see plenty of Coco in him.

GM: Lebeaux rises to pull on his coat.

“Here’s another piece, too, for the road. Stay away from haunted houses.”

Caroline: “That one I think I can manage.” She has a little of her drink left. “Have a good evening, Warden.”

GM: “I’d find it of interest if you discover what happened to Bourelle. One murder or disappearance can be relevant to a whole lot else, sometimes.”

The Kindred cop dons his hat.

“See you, miss.”

Monday night, 28 September 2015, AM

Caroline: After finishing her drink and paying, Caroline departs with her ghoul in tow. She heads towards Jackson Square. It’s still early enough in the night, and she expects it’s a lead that the Storyvilles did not follow up on that closely given its location.

GM: Jackson Square is full of its usual crowds of tourists, panhandlers, musicians, and occasional police. St. Louis Cathedral looms high over the iconic statue of Andrew Jackson on his horse. The French Quarter was always Westley’s preferred playground over her own, but Caroline has been to the famous cathedral and its surrounding square on innumerable Sunday services led by her uncle.

Tonight, though, it’s the square’s psychics, mediums, fortune-tellers, and other professed diviners draw the Ventrue’s attention. Uncle Orson never had favorable words for any them, but dying changes a lot of things.

Jackson Square’s psychics are a similar bunch. Almost all of them are older women. Some dress in colorful shawls, scarves, and bangled earrings to play up the ‘gypsy fortune-teller’ aspect, while others simply wear glasses to give themselves a more understated oracular look. All of them have colorful signs marked with palms, eyes, or suns and moons advertising their services, and no apparent shortage of customs.

The predator among them hides in plain sight. She’s dusky of skin and could be either Latina, Roma, or some typically New Orleans mix of races. She stands out somewhat for young she looks (around maybe Celia’s age), but is dressed similarly to her peers in a purple gypsy skirt, a low-cut black and white-striped shirt, and a top hat threaded with red and purple scarves in place of a band. Gold glints from her ears and fingers. Her inky black hair is a wild and untamed forest that plays sometime home to a monkey wearing a purple vest and miniature top hat of its own. The tiny animal occasionally scampers across her shoulders and uses her hoop earrings as swings while remarkably shuffling a tiny deck of tarot cards: tourists pause to snap pictures of the critter, which the young fortune-teller smiles for. The critter is probably good image branding. Her sign advertises a variety of divinatory methods: palm readings go lowest, but she’s also willing to peer into her crystal ball, consult her tarot deck, and perform “other divinatory methods upon request.” She would look identical to the square’s other charlatans, but for the fact Jade’s Beast instinctively growls at the presence of another predator.

Caroline: Caroline lets her ghouls mill about the square while she approaches the fellow Kindred alone. Her more professional garb stands out clearly against the more bohemian fortuneteller and marks her as an outsider. “I was hoping you could tell me someone’s fortune, palm reading.” She smiles more with her eyes than her teeth. “I’m concerned about a friend. Particularly his lifeline.”

She’s relatively straightforward about her interests but willing to throw flattery at the fortuneteller. Evan Bourelle is missing. Has been missing. No doubt a fortune teller of means knows that: Caroline hopes she knows something more, and she’s willing to pay (one way or another, within reason) for that information. She’d heard that Bourelle was relatively close to her.

GM: “Missing friends? That isn’t what people usually come to me for,” the fortune-teller remarks idly at Caroline’s initial request.

Sidra just gives a knowing ’I’ve heard it all’ look at the flattery, but once the Ventrue starts quoting prices, she’s all business. The two haggle for a few minutes. Sidra performed several readings for Evan, and agrees to give Caroline the last (“probably most important” one) for a boon owed. If the Ventrue finds it useful, she can pay her for the others. Client confidentiality isn’t really a thing among fortune tellers, but as far as Sidra is concerned with Evan, it’s nothing at all.

“Because he’s dead.”

Evan’s “fate line” indicated doom. His lines were also very dark—literally dark, which meant they were “danger points.” Those indicate accidental or sudden deaths. The chimp on Sidra’s shoulder screeches and tugs on her earrings at that prophecy.

“He wasn’t killed by another lick, though, and there’s a powerful force that might avenge his death. Or might not. He broke off the reading at that point, and I couldn’t get anything else.”

The fortuneteller flicks a stray hair out of her face. “And now he’s been missing for weeks? You don’t need my gifts to put two and two together. Evan Bourelle is ash.”

Caroline: Caroline asks a few other related questions: when Sidra last remembers seeing him or giving him the last reading, before she takes her leave from the fortuneteller, trying to keep her irritation over the vague guidance from showing.

Not as bad as Wright, assuming it pans out, but close to it.

Tuesday night, 29 September 2015, PM

Caroline: The Ventrue is not content to take Sidra’s answer for all that it is: an end. While the fortuneteller was perhaps her most interesting lead, many others remain on Jocelyn’s list of interest.

For more, for lack of a better word, mundane Kindred she’s content to take opportunities to speak with them as they arise about Evan. Her inquiries are not particularly subtle: she’s trying to discover what may have become of him, and key to it is identifying where he was seen in the nights and hours before his demise. Still, she’s not overly pointed with them and takes what they will give her, using the opportunity presented by the inquiries to introduce herself.

Less ‘opportunity-driven’ is her meeting with Sundown. The Nosferatu is a power player in the city, and Caroline is far too skittish to approach him casually. Instead she picks her night to approach him on his own turf, rather than in Elysium. Her pitch is simple: one of his tenants is missing, she’s interested in discovering what became of him and would like to poke around Evan’s haven and perhaps favorite areas, to discover if there’s anything to be found. She see’s an alignment of interests that costs the apolitical harpy little. If the Nosferatu shows interest in his missing tenant, she’ll offer her own knowledge of when he went missing, and where he was last seen to bait out similarly information of relatively low value. If pressed, she reveals she’s concerned that hunters may have slain the missing neonate.

Marcel Guilbeau she inquires politely of, after her first meeting with him for Ventrue matters goes well. She does not accuse or pry into his life, but instead simply inquires as to whether or not the Ventrue has seen the well-liked Toreador in recent months.

Finally, amid her Kindred inquiries, the heiress does not forget the value of more mundane searches. He was last seen in his car. Where is the car? It takes special skill or influence to check impound yards, and local streets around his haven. If Sundown can be persuaded she visits Evan’s haven itself to poke around for anything out of the ordinary. She digs into his cell phone bills: when was his last call made? Are there any cameras in the vicinity of his haven that might have captured him—blurred as he might be—on the night he disappeared, or those leading up to it?

GM: While Jocelyn is able to provide some of the nightclubs that Sundown is often seen at, Caroline finds herself halted on the way to the VIP area by a handsome black ghoul in a casual jacket and button-up who introduces himself as the club’s manager.

“Afraid you’ll need to call ahead. Keeping everyone at his clubs happy is a full-time job for Sundown,” the man smiles over the thumping music and neon-drenched, dancing crowds. Though he takes Caroline up to the manager’s office, introduces himself as Wayne and is nothing but cordial, it is plain the Afterhours King does not meet with just any neonate off the street. If Caroline does not wish to approach the Nosferatu harpy in Elysium, or does not know a mutual acquaintance to introduce them (a good idea even in Elysium), the price for his time is a boon owed—unless she can convince the “doorman” that what she has to say is already worth his master’s time.

Caroline’s pre-existing relationship with Marcel Guilbeau, on the other hand, grants her opportunity to speak with the prince-in-exile in a week’s time. His ghoul agrees to pencil in Caroline after her meetings with Hurst and the other gerousiastes.

Caroline: Caroline presents a very blunt and direct pitch to the ghoul, not actively dismissing him, but also not coaching her commentary in the same flowery language that she might for the Kindred himself: she’s happy to meet on the Nosferatu’s terms. The subject is his missing tenant, Evan Bourelle, and her desire to investigate his disappearance. She’d prefer to meet with the Nosferatu, but is willing to work through the ghoul for permission to investigate in his territory. She’s willing to pass on all of her findings to him.

GM: Wayne seems amiable when he hears what Caroline wants to meet Sundown for—locating his domitor’s missing tenant, and for free no less. The ghoul says that he is “sure Sundown will want to see you about this, ma’am.” He will get to back to the Ventrue when there is an opening in his domitor’s schedule.

Monday night, 5 October 2015, AM

GM: A night later, he does. Several further nights later, Caroline is granted audience with the Nosferatu regent. (Weekends, regrettably, are a very busy time for the nightcub owner.) The Midnight Bayou seems like many of the other Quarter clubs Caroline has been to. She’s not as acquainted with the Marigny ones. Crowds of dancers writhe and undulate under pulsing red lights to pounding music that’s almost loud enough to split one’s head. Here, the dead feed with impunity among the teeming throngs, and can feel ever-so-briefly alive.

The upstairs VIP lounge is a more subdued affair. It’s done in a similar color scheme to the downstairs floor, with dark walls and low red lighting. Patrons lounge about in leather booths and chairs, talking quietly, admiring the art on the walls, and sipping expensive drinks. Soft background music replaces the headsplitting blare downstairs. Smiling waitresses glide across the floor, relaying orders between customers while a bartender expertly mixes drinks in the back.

Caroline can’t spot any obviously hideously ugly or disfigured Kindred in the room who match the Afterhours King’s purported clan. The club employee who led Caroline upstairs ushers her into a seat at the rear-most booth and says “Calvin” will be with her soon. A waitress takes her drink order.

Caroline smells the other vampire when he approaches. He’s a racially indistinct, slightly tan-skinned gentleman with dark hair who appears somewhere in his 30s. He’s good-looking, too—not so attractive as to be threatening, but more than handsome enough to put everyone around him at ease. He’s dressed in a gray sports jacket, collared blue shirt with the top buttons undone, and no tie—a “casually professional” outfit that seems equally at ease is a club floor or a corporate lobby.

“Miss Malveaux, I presume,” the man smiles as he assumes the booth seat opposite of Caroline’s.

Caroline: “Correctly,” Caroline replies with a matching smile. “Regent Sundown?”

GM: “The same,” the Nosferatu answers. He takes an order of his own from the waitress as she sets off. “No need to actually drink that. We have enough privacy here.”

Caroline: “I’d expect nothing less based on how others speak of your clubs, Regent.” Tonight the heiress is dressed in a black dress that is a little shorter than her father might prefer, but blends neatly with the club crowd.

“I look forward to a night in which I can more thoroughly enjoy all that it no doubt has to offer, sadly, this is not entirely a social call.”

GM: “In a hurry somewhere?” Sundown asks, seemingly more idly curious than wounded. “You should stop and smell the roses, Miss Malveaux. You’ll find time is one of the Requiem’s great blessings.”

Caroline: “Too often in a hurry. I shall enjoy, I think, finding that time in the future,” Caroline agrees. “But then I’m certain that someone as astute as yourself, Regent, no doubt deduced that I would not presume to spend your own time simply for my own amusement—no matter how charming a host you may be reputed to be,” she continues coquettishly.

GM: “And here I thought licks only came for the clubs,” Sundown chuckles faintly. “That’s flattering of you, Miss Malveaux. But all right. You’re here over Evan Bourelle?”

Caroline: “As well-informed as you are accommodating, Regent,” Caroline quips.

“Yes, I’ve been looking into his disappearance for a friend and had two matters that I believed it wise to approach his regent for, before I trespassed. The first was the matter of his haven. I’d like to examine it to see if any evidence is available that he was perhaps attacked or abducted there. The second is the simple matter of arranging for payment on the apartment’s rent until such a time as I complete my investigation or he returns. I’m happy to do so, but wouldn’t wish to give the impression I was attempting to strong arm or establish a foothold in your domain.”

GM: “Naturally not,” Sundown nods. “That’s thoughtful of you to pay his rent. The Storyvilles are lucky to have another Kindred concerned for their missing krewemate.”

Caroline: “His disappearance weighs heavily upon them,” Caroline replies. “More than anything, I think they just want an answer.”

GM: “Yes, I’m sure they must.” The waitress sets down a frosted drink Sundown doesn’t touch, along with whatever Caroline ordered. “The permission’s yours to do both of those things, if you’d like. I can’t say whether they’ll help, but his krewemates should feel better knowing more’s being done.”

Caroline: “I’m certain they will—and will be grateful that his regent was concerned enough to throw his own support behind the investigation, should I discover anything,” Caroline replies.

GM: “The Guard de Ville, too.” Sundown offers a faintly amused smile. “My clan’s not normally in the habit of giving out free information, but Hound Agnello was here not too many nights ago, and wanted to look into Bourelle’s haven as well. Four eyes can pick up more than two, if you’d care to coordinate efforts.”

Caroline: “I may reach out,” Caroline replies diplomatically. “But it can also be helpful to reach independent conclusions.”

GM: “It can,” the Nosferatu nods absently. “Miss Baker and the Storyvilles should be impressed if you turn up anything on your own.”

Caroline: “I’ll be certain to relate anything of value I discover to you as well, Regent Sundown. You have a stake in the matter after all.”

GM: “Give my clan some credit, Miss Malveaux,” the Nosferatu smiles deprecatingly. “But that’s gracious of you to offer all the same. And if you do happen to find anything of Bourelle, you’ll have my gratitude. He was a good tenant, and by all accounts a good Kindred.”

Caroline: “All the credit in the world cannot buy respect,” Caroline quips, “and it would be a poor showing of it not to show it directly. All the same, I take your meaning, Regent.”

GM: “Just as I take yours, Miss Malveaux. I’m sure things have been rough without a sire, but respect will take you far. Not every Kindred learns it.”

Caroline: “There were benefits, Regent,” Caroline replies. “Sometimes it is the burnt hand that teaches best.”

Monday evening, 5 October 2015, PM

Caroline: Caroline continues her investigations into Evan’s disappearance. She’s been true to her promise to Jocelyn and keeps his apartment paid for despite his obnoxious landlord. She combs through it for any information that might point towards his disappearance. Evidence of surveillance, forced entry, a struggle, or anything out of the ordinary—insomuch as any Kindred’s existence can be ordinary.

GM: Evan Bourelle’s Marigny haven is a two-bedroom and one-bathroom apartment located at 922 Elysian Fields Avenue. Rent is $1,800 a month and the owner pays for utilities. Pets and smoking are not allowed on the premises, which Caroline supposes is a useful set of criteria for narrowing down buildings where Kindred may make their havens.

Margaret Ingram, the landlady, is not inclined to let Caroline look around on the premises, and must be compelled into doing so through Caine’s gifts. The woman’s reason is fairly simple: someone lives there. The apartment’s occupants are a one Mabel Beasley and Evan Bourelle, a single divorced mother and her adult son. Like many millennials, Evan was still living with his mom to save on living expenses in a tough economy. He recently went missing and Mabel has been beside herself. She also fell behind on rent… Margaret was willing to cut her some slack, but in the end, she isn’t running a charity here. Mabel eventually sorted out her financial issues, but has fallen into a deep depression, and is often absent from the building. She is not currently here.

Jocelyn replies with an LOL when Caroline texts her about that fact. No, Mabel isn’t Evan’s mom. He just thought it was a good cover, since she looks several decades older than him. And she actually did seem to dote on him in an almost mom-like way. He’s always been a hit with older women. They’re his favorite donors. Roxanne didn’t approve of his using their real names, but Evan didn’t think it was a big deal. He said it “wouldn’t tell anyone a lot anyways.”

The Toreador says Evan spent a lot of nights over at his lover’s haven, as well as the coterie’s communal one. Roxanne was constantly bringing up moving to someplace nicer, but Evan liked the building and didn’t seem interested in doing so.

The apartment itself is neat and tidy, to the sort of degree that’s only really possible when keeping it clean is one person’s paid job. Furniture is relatively new and comfortable. Various effects, such as laptops and phones, are missing: Jocelyn says that Roxanne took them, along with “a couple other personal things.” She preemptively adds that no, Evan’s phone wasn’t among them, and yes, they have tried to track it through “a million different ways.” None begot any results.

The bedroom that looks like Evan’s, if the heavy-duty window curtains are any indication, feels a little empty. There’s posters for music bands on the walls, a closet with neatly folded, mostly casual men’s clothes, a small collection of somewhat dated FPS and action RPG video games, a few paperback books, and a trash bin that’s a minor giveaway as to its owner’s undead nature given the lack of tissues, food wrapping, and other garbage one might expect from a living person (Evan’s is mostly ticket stubs and empty cologne bottles—there’s not even any used deodorant sticks, given their kind’s lack of perspiration). All told, it feels a lot like the bedroom of most any twenty-something male of moderate means. The only really personal touch still remaining is a photograph of Evan and his paramour. The missing Toreador is a young man of average height and build with auburn hair and boyishly good-looking, clean-shaven features. He’s dressed in swim trunks and his arm around Roxanne’s waist, who’s wearing a one-piece bathing suit and has hers hooked around his shoulder. Both Kindred are smiling, an expression that looks all-too natural on Evan’s face and out of place on Roxanne’s, but not unpleasantly so—it’s like seeing a long-haired woman who’s finally let her hair down. A sandy beach’s midnight-black waters stretch endlessly into dark skies behind the couple. Unlike most of Jocelyn’s pieces (her name is signed in the bottom corner), it’s also in color. The two’s otherwise pale complexions look ruddy, perhaps from feeding, or perhaps simply from Jocelyn’s choice in lighting, and almost alive. It’d be easy to picture the college-age two as boyfriend and girlfriend if the image showed them during the day.

Caroline: It feels like invading someone’s privacy to rummage through the apartment with no one present, but it’s hardly a first for Caroline. Even stripped of the ‘personal things’ that his lover absconded with, it’s still a look into his interests and his past. The picture of the missing vampire with Roxanne makes Caroline’s skin crawl for the sheer personalness of it. Just two ‘people’ seemingly in love. A look into their past, into their feelings. She doesn’t know if she’s ever seen Roxanne smile before.

GM: She’s fairly sure she hasn’t.

Caroline: The heiress takes the ticket stubs—later using them to build a timeline in the immediate past for the missing Toreador. What were the last shows he went to? Did they point to a routine? She has Autumn take the rest of the trash out and dump it on principle.

GM: The stubs are mostly for shows in Faubourg Marigny, and a few in Mid-City and the Seventh Ward. Evan appears to have enjoyed live music and attended concerts on a regular basis. All of this is leaving live bars that do not require reservations. Jocelyn adds that his favorite venue was The Spotted Cat Music Club.

Caroline: The heiress plots out the nights of each show closest to his disappearance. Of particular interest are any shows that he threw away two tickets to.

GM: Caroline finds none, although that does not entirely rule out Evan attending them with company.

The one thing Caroline discovers out of order isn’t even in the haven proper, but outside of it.

Bird poop.

There’s not much left. Time and weather has washed almost all of it away. Caroline has to ask Autumn to take a closer look with her preternatural senses. But there’s enough concentrated in a single area (around the trees a short distance away from Evan’s window) for Margaret Ingram to confirm that there were a fair number of birds roosting around the area some weeks ago—when Evan disappeared. There weren’t flocks of them, but now that she thinks about it, she couldn’t look at the window without seeing at least one.

Caroline: The bird droppings are interesting. It’s thin, but thin is far better than nothing, and the first indication that there was someone, or something, more unusual about his disappearance than the going ‘hunter’ narrative. She’s seen the ability to control animals in action—though her actual understanding of it is somewhat limited by her lack of experience or proficiency with such gifts. The heiress bounces the idea of someone spying on him using birds off Autumn, seeking any guidance she can provide as she continues to look around.

GM: Autumn answers that the Gangrel and Nosferatu are the only clans in the Camarilla with any inborn proficiency for the discipline. Getting birds to follow someone isn’t a particularly advanced application of its powers—even a dabbler could do it. Even she knows someone could use the discipline towards that end, and she freely admits to not knowing very much about how it works. “The Krewe sometimes uses animals to spy on people. Wasn’t my department, though.”

As far as she knows, barring wholly individual anomalies of the Blood and other niche circumstances, Kindred proficient with bestiae sermo (known less formally as taming and doolittling) can affect all animals equally. Users may prefer to utilize certain types of animals, but these preferences are no more binding than Caroline is bound to use her own mental powers on people from a certain demographic.

Caroline: The Ventrue digs into the birds with Margaret, seeking more information. Does she remember what kinds of birds? When they first showed up? When they stopped coming around? She plays with the woman’s trust, lulling her into a sense of security as the Beast wears at her mind, gets her to open up and care about this so mundane topic for a stranger. When was the last time she saw Mabel? How is she holding up?

While they talk, Caroline has Autumn ‘document’ the bird’s appearance with a few photos of their leavings, in case someone decides to clean up afterwards. Her final question is whether she’s mentioned the birds to anyone else.

GM: Margaret isn’t sure exactly what kind of birds they were. “They were ordinary little things, really.” Maybe sparrows? Songbirds? They’re the kind you see everywhere and don’t really think about. There were maybe some crows. They weren’t owls or eagles or “any ones really recognizable like that.”

They showed up a few days before the reported date of Evan’s disappearance. She can’t remember noticing any the day afterwards.

She saw Mabel about four days ago. The woman remains deeply depressed over the disappearance of her ‘son’, and Margaret could see her eyes were red from crying. She is somewhat puzzled where Mabel is spending her time, but figures the apartment maybe has too many reminders. His bedroom is right next to hers, after all.

As long as rent keeps getting paid, though… whatever.

No, she hasn’t mentioned the birds to anyone else. She hadn’t even thought about them before Caroline brought the topic up.

Caroline: The heiress thanks the landlord for her help and texts Jocelyn about the birds. Can she check around their communal haven, and ask Roxanne to check around her own?

GM: Jocelyn is surprised to hear about the birds, although she has to ask Caroline what’s significant about them. She’s heard that some clans can control them, but it’s plain she doesn’t have much idea how. The possibility the birds could have been used for spying on Evan is very alarming. Could that mean it was a Gangrel or Nosferatu who had it out for him?

You mean you wanna come over? I can ask, but I don’t think Roxanne’s gonna like the idea…

She adds that they’ve looked around their own havens already, although admittedly not that thoroughly next to Evan’s. Is there something specific they should be looking for?

Caroline: Caroline’s willing to come over and look if she’d prefer. She doesn’t want to be perceived as prying through into the Storyvilles’ havens. The evidence at Evan’s house, she explains, was thin but relatively straightforward: trace deposits of bird shit on the tree branches, railings, and so forth around his haven, and even on the sidewalk. Not the type of thing that would normally stand out, but for the fact that it wasn’t in areas that birds typically spent long periods of time—long enough for any accumulation to build up. Combined a mention from his landlord that she’d seen a lot of birds… it was enough of a tip off for Caroline’s increasingly paranoid mind. It’s not exactly glamorous to look for though. If they have cameras set up (she doesn’t pry into the rest of the krewe’s security systems) that actually record digital data rather than record over regularly, that might also provide ready evidence. Even shadows on the ground might give away the presence of the birds, if the cameras weren’t aimed up.

She explains that the appearance just before, and disappearance immediately after strikes her as incredibly suspicious, and that someone used them to spy on him—likely someone involved in his disappearance—seems very likely to her based on the timing and her understanding of how animals can be used by those with the appropriate abilities. If they were also spying on Roxanne’s haven and/or the Storyville communal, it would have given someone a good opportunity to plan their when and where to strike at him. She no longer thinks it likely he was attacked by hunters.

GM: Jocelyn is mortified when Caroline passes along the additional information of the birds’ timing. That is starting to look like another Kindred was behind it.

The question of whether more birds were spying on their krewe gives her pause. She says she’ll pass that information along to Roxanne and see what the Ventrue thinks, as well as inquire into the matter of any security footage.

Her answers prove somewhat disappointing. She says Roxanne didn’t see any birds in the tapes she had, but also that they don’t go back very far. Roxanne didn’t have any left from the time of Evan’s disappearance.

I guess that’s our lesson… :(

What do u think we should do?

Caroline: The heiress isn’t really shocked they don’t have long-term surveillance, though she advises them to make the ‘mild’ investment into it. Digital storage is cheap, especially at the comparatively lower quality of most video surveillance (they’re not recording in 1080P). She recommends keeping at least a month of records (and anytime something significant happens, archiving that month and starting a new hard drive). Beyond that, birds are something else to keep an eye out for—and animals in general behaving oddly.

For now, she advises they simply update their security—and investigate (if possible) to see if they’ve been under similar surveillance by more mundane means—by looking around. She’s happy to do it for them if they’d prefer. While they decide, she’s going to talk to Evan’s landlord about it. She presumes as a (powerful) Nosferatu with an interest in Evan’s whereabouts, the harpy might be both willing and able to do some further digging. Maybe even with the birds directly. Songbirds have short lifespans and brains like those of a goldfish, she recalls. But ravens and crows on the other hand are smart birds. Very smart birds. Smart enough that they might remember who asked them to look around even weeks later.

GM: Caroline goes through the last ghoul of Sundown’s she dealt with, who arranges an audience with his domitor some nights later in an upstairs club office. The Afterhours King taps his chin in thoughtful emphasis as the Ventrue relays her findings.

“Not a bad night’s work, Miss Malveaux. Birds, and specifically crows. You’re right they’re smart animals. It’s a needle in a haystack to go looking for specific crows, admittedly, but this is something to go on. It suggests quite a few possible things.”

“You’ve given me an initial lead so far as what happened to my tenant. What boon would you ask in exchange?”

Caroline: Caroline interlaces her fingers in front of her. “I looked into his disappearance because it was of some importance to others I cared for. It seems selfish to ask for a boon in return.”

She smiles. “But if it one were to be granted, I would ask for two matters, Regent Sundown. First, if any further leads develop, I would very much appreciate an opportunity to be a part of that following investigation. And second, credit where due if and when others inquire as to this matter.”

GM: “Easily done,” the Nosferatu replies. “Not a bad choice, Miss Malveaux. Reputation is worth its weight in gold… and perhaps red.”

Caroline: “Two of my favorite colors, Regent Sundown,” Caroline grins savagely.

GM: The Storyvilles, meanwhile, are thrilled by the news that Caroline has given them their first solid lead to go on in… well, ever. They start speculating as to Gangrel and Nosferatu who could’ve had an axe to grind against Evan. Maybe it was Lidia Kendall. She’s a well-known Gangrel high in the Baron’s favor. Roxanne is pleased enough, in fact, to offer another boon of her own to her younger clanmate.

Caroline: Caroline makes the rounds, if invited, to check the main Storyville haven and Roxanne’s own for signs of animal based espionage, though she admits in advance that such evidence might be something of a long shot given the time frame, and understand if they’d rather keep their secrecy.

GM: Roxanne, for all her gratitude, does not invite Caroline to either haven.

“Sorry,” says Jocelyn. “If it makes you feel any better, I haven’t seen hers either. I don’t think she let anyone except Evan.”

Caroline: The blonde vampire laughs it off. “In that case I’ll assume it’s because she has the walls painted bright pink, plastered with ‘My Little Pony’ art, and every surface covered with stuffed animals, rather than any personal slight.”

GM: Jocelyn laughs at that. “Yeah, I bet. She’s just a softie deep down.”

Her lover’s face grows a bit more serious. “I know she seems kind of bitchy, but… I think-”

Caroline: The heiress interrupts, “I don’t have any room to complain about her acting like, or at least being perceived as, a bitch. We all are who we are, and we also all only get to see shadows and reflections of each other. Everyone is someone else’s close friend or lover for at least one good reason.”

GM: “Well, true,” Jocelyn says. “It’s just… I think her breather family’s really screwed up. I know she came from a pretty rich one, like yours, and everyone was supposed to be really successful. Which I guess is also like yours. The screwed-up part was how her dad used to beat her mom. I overheard it once, when she was talking with Evan. She said she remembered, when she was a kid, seeing her mom lying face-down on the stairwell carpet, and not being sure if she was dead or alive. And her dad just got angry and pretended it never happened whenever she brought it up, so they didn’t.”

The Toreador grows a little more quiet. “I think that’s why she likes Evan. He’s really gentle, but without being a pushover.”

“And, well, that’s why she’s… the way she is herself, to most people.”

Caroline: “Jesus,” Caroline replies. She spends a moment picturing her own mother covered in blood at the bottom of a flight of stairs. Her family has always been messed up—and perhaps never more so than recently—but she never felt physical fear of them, or for them, as a child. “I guess we don’t really know what’s going on in someone else’s head.”

She lets a second of silence pass. “I don’t hold any of it against her if that’s what you’re worried about, Jocelyn. I don’t know if we’ll ever be BFFs—I think we’re both just a little too used to domineering and getting our way—but I don’t have any hard feelings towards her. Maybe it’s a blue blood thing—either by nature or our respective breather nurtures. I don’t see very many of us that seem that close to each other.”

GM: “Oh really?” Jocelyn says thoughtfully. “Becky Lynne and her brother Hurst seem pretty close. And she’s more like, well, a camellia than cast iron.”

Caroline: Caroline shakes her head. “I wouldn’t sleep on Becky Lynne if I were you. She’s just, I think on account of her sire, far better at hiding it than most of us. Even then, she’s way better at playing the polite and meek part than actually living that. I swear, it’s like rich girls from controlling families with daddy issues are catnip for blue blood sires.”

GM: Jocelyn laughs at that. “Speaking from experience?”

Caroline: “Yeah…” she bites her lip. “I guess I fit the mold. I always wanted my father’s attention. Thought maybe if I was perfect enough he’d have time for me instead of just using me as a campaign prop when it suited him. I’d guess that’s what a lot of sires see: someone eager to please. And one looking for another father figure.”

GM: “Well, at least your jerk vampire dad got what was coming to him, right?” the Toreador says with a waner smile, obviously trying to cheer Caroline up.

Caroline: The blonde Ventrue shakes her head. “Justice is for the prince. I want something sweeter.” She gives a fang-filled grin. “Victory.”

GM: “For sure, me too. But didn’t you already get that over your sire?”

Caroline: “I’ll have it when I’ve taken back everything that I lost,” Caroline replies. “Directly or indirectly. It’s not enough to make someone else suffer. Thriving is the real victory. And it’s coming, more quickly than anyone might think.”

Sunday night, 11 October 2015, AM

Caroline: Caroline clues her own landlord in to her findings, mostly out of respect, but also under the theory that someone else in the loop from within the prince’s faction is likely to help her out at some point—or at least unlikely to hurt. Especially if that other can likely do his own follow-up with the birds and beasts. Almost forgotten is how it seems like the decent thing to do, since he’d also bothered to investigate the missing Toreador.

Rocco: The respect is appreciated. Rocco is only too happy to offer Caroline his aid and even pledges her a boon in reward for her efforts. He shares his findings on Bourelle’s disappearance, which largely overlap with Caroline’s.

“I understand Marcel Guilbeau used to be an old lover of Bourelle’s,” Rocco mentions off-handedly, “and when I spoke to Marcel, he mentioned that Evan was trying to convert a member of the Crone to the Lancea et Sanctum. This could be related to his disappearance. It’s also interesting to note that someone who’s already been linked to his disappearance happens to have an affinity with animals, being Yellow Sidra. What are you thoughts, Miss Malveaux?”

Caroline: The heiress seems to think on that one. “She seemed to be selling me quite hard on the idea that it was some third party—hunters for instance—that killed him,” Caroline agrees of Yellow Sidra.

“I guess what perplexes me there is motive. I haven’t really seen anything to suggest he was on bad terms with anyone, and the birds make it seem like whatever went after him it wasn’t purely a crime of opportunity. It feels premeditated.”

She taps her fingers on the arm of her chair. “I could see Yellow Sidra selling information on his comings and going though to someone—or his meetings with her seeming like enough pretext to hurt him for someone that had strong feelings on dealing with those outside of the Sanctified…”

Rocco: “You have spent more time with the Storyville Krewe than I have, Miss Malveaux. Do you consider any of them to be reasonable suspects, possibly responsible for Evan’s disappearance?”

The thought crosses Rocco’s mind that his own sire could be responsible, but he isn’t entirely certain if utilizing birds to spy on her victims beforehand is the scourge’s usual method of course.

He adds, “I am curious to know what Bourelle’s ghoul Mabel knows about the Crone he was trying to convert. You will acquire this ghoul for me as corvée for this month, Miss Malveaux. You may question her before giving her to me under the proviso that you share with me everything she tells you.”

The hound, of course, plans to personally follow-up on Caroline’s findings that birds compelled by mystical means were present at Evan’s haven before his disappearance.

Caroline: Once again Caroline taps her fingers on the chair’s arm before responding to the question about the other Storyvilles. “I think it unlikely that any of them were involved, Hound Agnello. Among other things, I don’t believe that any have gifts that would allow them to control birds—nor do I think any would have a need to do so. I believe they also all have alibis for the night of his disappearance. Finally, they lack a motive. He was well liked by his krewe members.”

She runs her tongue across her teeth at his assignment. “Of course, Hound Agnello. Will there be anything else?”

Rocco: “There will not, Miss Malveaux. Good evening.”

Monday night, 12 October 2015, PM

Caroline: Caroline finally hires a mundane PI to stake out the haven and report when Mabel returns, and in turn sends Autumn and Fuller to pick her up for an interview when she resurfaces.

GM: Autumn texts Caroline around a week later that they’ve picked up Mabel. She was returning to clean Evan’s room and an inconsolable mess upon being confronted. She also claimed to be working for and staying with Roxanne Gerlette, and to be maintaining Evan’s haven under the Ventrue’s instructions.

You want us to let her go with a memory wipe?

Caroline: Bring her in, Caroline sends back. After a moment she amends, Be gentle.

When the ghoul arrives Caroline does her best to soothe her, slicing through her fears and anxiety with her supernal charm to calm her down. She has Autumn bring out a stiff drink for her and sits her down in a comfortable chair across from the Ventrue, smiling softly and assuring her that she has no desire to hurt her or blame her, but that she has a few questions she’d like answered as part of her effort to find Evan.

She asks about the night Evan went missing, and the nights leading up to it. Certainly she’s been interviewed before on this topic—probably extensively by the Storyvilles—but Caroline probes. Was there anything unusual in the area she saw? Animals acting bizarrely? Neighbors acting weird? Was there any sign of a struggle anywhere outside or inside the building that night or morning? Any vehicles hanging around? The probes piece by piece, trying to build a picture and tease out any details that may have escaped her.

Next Caroline moves onto Evan’s activities. She heard that he was trying to convert someone in the nights before he disappeared. Does she know anything about that? Did she hear or see anything about meetings with other Kindred? Does she remember any names that might be helpful? Did he ever return harmed, or with ripped or torn clothing? Did she overhear any phone calls with raised voices?

She asks, at last, as gently as possible whether she has any reason to think ill has befallen Evan.

Throughout the interview she’s reassuring, patient, and kind to the woman. She knows she must have been asked a lot of this in the past, but any detail might help. Anything others may have missed. It’s possible that something was overlooked, that might break the entire thing open. A small tape recorder runs, recording the conversation.

GM: Mabel is a comely-looking and long-haired blonde woman in her middle years with a full and curvy figure. Caroline can see her matching the ‘Mrs. Robinson’ type Evan preferred to a ‘T’.

Or at least, once matching it. The woman’s gaze and expression are dead. She hasn’t applied any makeup, her clothes have a rumpled, slept-in look, she doesn’t look as if she’s washed her hair recently, and her eyes are still red and puffy. She doesn’t smell as if she’s showered in a while either.

The ghoul has clearly been mesmerized by Autumn or Fuller. When she’s released, she immediately begins screaming at the top of her lungs and attempts to flee. She screams for Roxanne. She screams for Evan. She screams for her kidnappers to let her go. Only Caine’s gifts manage to still her cries and panicked flailings.

Caroline fails utterly to sway Mabel’s emotional state. That power of the Blood is not hers. The best she gets is stopping the ghoul from screaming any further, now that they are ‘friends’, but there is no life or warmth to her despair-empty eyes. She doesn’t even touch the drink. She just stares numbly ahead.

Evan’s name is what finally brings the first onset of tears. Caroline may not blame her for Evan, but it is all-too plain that the inconsolable ghoul blames herself.

She does not recall any odd happenings with animals. Evan himself appeared notably anxious during the last few nights before his disappearance, though he tried to put on a brave front for his krewemates. He wouldn’t talk to her about what was wrong, though. “Her boy” put on a brave front for her too. He was “such a good boy. Such a sweet boy.”

“And he… my boy… he’s gone… gone…” the woman piteously sobs.

The Crone is named Amandine. Mabel doesn’t know (or simply remember) her last name. She seemed like a “nice girl” for a Vodouisant. She thinks Evan “liked” her. She also thinks they shared blood—Toreador lovers, after all, are not known for their faithfulness. She doesn’t think he wanted to get away from Roxanne. They “had something.” But he wasn’t averse to “having more,” so long as his Ventrue lover didn’t know. She’d probably have reacted… well, how any of the Kingship Clan would, to a straying lover. Roxanne always saw herself as the one wearing the pants, and Evan never fought his paramour in contests for dominance. That wasn’t his way.

She knows he went to see Yellow Sidra shortly before he disappeared. There was his krewe. He also went strolling along the Lower Garden District, shortly before he did, and said he ran into Accou Poincaré. He said he’d always admired his elder clanmate’s style, and the way he “looked after his ‘mom’.” He didn’t seem any less anxious, but perhaps more “resolved,” at least for a few hours.

Caroline: News that Evan was intimate with Amandine is interesting, and complicates Caroline’s analysis. She could definitely see Roxanne taking such infidelity very poorly indeed. It also begs the question as to whether or not Roxanne knew, or knows now. She tables that question for the more pressing one that Mabel alone might answer: about the details of his meeting with and relationship to Amandine. There aren’t so many opportunities for a Vodouisant and a faithful Sanctified to meet that would readily lend themselves towards such a relationship. Caroline digs into all manner of questions about its nature.

GM: Evan didn’t take Mabel along or tell her the full details, but from what he said, Amandine was a “clever girl” with an “attitude” that he liked, and who came from a small-town background that he had in common with her. She wasn’t anywhere nearly so stiff and formal as Roxanne could be. As far as Mabel knows, they went to some bars, music concerts, and events “off the beaten path” away from other Kindred together. They both liked music, as well as the outdoors, but Evan also thought that she “understood him” or at least “one side of him” in a way his krewemates weren’t able to. He also thought that “not everything she did was that bad.” She was just trying to get along in her Requiem like any other person saddled with the curse of undeath, and did it without reveling in what she was or leaving bodies and misery without concern for the kine. The only reason he could see that she opposed Vidal and aided his enemies was because Vidal criminalized her beliefs, which in no way undermined his, and those same enemies offered her guidance, community, and mentorship that no other Kindred did.

She believed what she believed, and he believed what he believed. Did they have to hate each other for it? Wasn’t there enough misery in the Requiem already?

“He’s such… such a sweet boy…” Mabel continues to weep with heart-shaking sobs.

Caroline: Caroline considers pushing further, but ultimately decides the woman is just too fragile. Especially if she presses hard on these already sensitive topics. She encourages her to have a sip of her drink while she steps off to make a call to Hound Agnello—or whatever proxy he has designated for her. She relates that she’s ‘interviewed’ the ghoul, but that there’s a potential complication: Roxanne has claimed her as her own. She inquires as to whether he still wishes for Caroline to turn Mabel over to him or if he’d prefer she be released to avoid the potential incident? She relates that she has the name of the Kindred he was interested in: Amandine.

She also relates, politely, that the ghoul’s mental state is extremely poor, and inquires whether he intends on releasing Mabel when he’s finished.

Rocco: “You did very well, Miss Malveaux,” the hound answers after a moment of silent deliberation. “You may let her loose as I have no further use of the ghoul. Did you find anything else of importance in this case?”

Caroline: There’s a slight moment of pause. “She related that he appeared notably anxious in the nights prior to his disappearance,” the Ventrue adds. “And that he briefly met with Primogen Poincaré in that time as well.” Another slight pause. “There may be another matter as well, but I’d like to follow up with it first. If it plays out into anything I’ll pass on the full story, Hound Agnello.”

Rocco: “I will meet with Primogen Poincare in that case, Miss Malveaux,” the hound answers. “I will also extend to you an offer to accompany me and make introductions in exchange for your continued compliance in this matter.”

Caroline: Rocco isn’t there to see what flashes behind Caroline’s eyes at the invitation. “I would be honored to accompany you on such a distinguished meeting, Hound Agnello,” comes her smooth reply across the line.

“Is there a particular night and time, or shall I keep my schedule open?”

Rocco: “Keep your schedule open, Miss Malveaux. I will be in touch. I advise that during the interim you think of and acquire a suitable gift for Primogen Poincare to make a strong impression.”

Caroline: The heiress bites her lip. “Thank you for the recommendation, Hound Agnello. I will do so.”

Monday night, 12 October 2015, PM

Caroline: The heiress wipes the ghoul’s memory of their encounter and puts her to sleep, instructing Autumn and Fuller to return her to her home. Once they’re on their way she calls Jocelyn and asks if she’s available to entertain. Caroline has a couple things she’d like to talk about.

GM: Jocelyn almost always is for her lover, especially where news about Evan is concerned.

Caroline: The heiress meets Jocelyn at her haven. She mentions that she hasn’t heard back from Rocco or Sundown yet about any follow-up with the birds, but that she did come across some concerning information about Evan’s activities. In particular, his attempts to ‘convert’ a Vodouisant. Convert and quite a bit more, from what she’s heard. She asks if Jocelyn heard anything about that, about any relationship with another Kindred along those lines.

GM: Jocelyn hasn’t heard of many cases of ‘star-crossed lovers’ between the Crones and the Sanctified. There’s a fairly well-known story about Duncan Priory, a visiting Sanctified of some repute, and some little Gangrel Acolyte he’d had a fling with before killing, and before being executed himself. Jocelyn frowns. “Maybe I’m getting the details wrong.” It was the case that first brought Hercule ‘Monty’ Lestrange to prominence as an investigator for hire among the Damned. “We actually wanted to go to him over Evan, but… it didn’t pan out.”

Jocelyn knows nothing about Evan’s (full) relationship with Amandine, though, and is surprised to hear that news. “Wow. I mean, go him if he wanted to score some more action, but that’s pretty risky with a Crone. No wonder he didn’t tell us.”

Jocelyn seems a little hurt by the fact her krewemate felt he had to hide things, but then wonders, “Or maybe that’s just how he was trying to win her over. I mean, our clan are the Cam’s sex kittens. Yeah, that actually does seem like an ok idea to me.”

Caroline: The heiress listens with interest to the story of Monty, but more so when Jocelyn talks about Evan’s potential relationship. She frowns at Jocelyn’s characterization of the idea of sleeping around behind one’s lover’s back to try and lure someone into the church, but says nothing of it for the moment. Instead she bites her lip and asks, “How do you think Roxanne would feel about that if she found out? I kept the details about Evan and his little Crone side-piece quiet, but my impression is that she wouldn’t take something like that well. If it gets out, that’s just shy of motive for her to attack him, maybe in a frenzy…”

She looks the Toreador in the eye. “Do you think she knew about it?”

GM: Jocelyn frowns.

“So, I told you about that thing with Roxanne’s mom and dad, and how he just acted like it wasn’t happening. But, it was kinda more than that. He would flip out over… well, Roxanne said this one time she tried to help her mom, by getting an emergency kit, her dad walked in and asked what she was doing. And when she said her mom was hurt, he grabbed the kit and threw it in the toilet, and screamed at her that she was lying. That she was a filthy liar and just screamed his head off and broke a bunch of shit, about how he wasn’t raising his kids to be liars. And he’d do that any time the abuse came up, or it seemed like she was thinking about it. Just go ballistic about what a liar she was. I don’t think he ever hit her, or at least she never said he did. But it really fucked her up, how her… well, you heard it.”

“My point is,” Jocelyn says slowly, “Roxanne hates liars.”

“Now, sure, everyone in the masked city lies about shit, and I think she’s basically had to make her peace with that. But there’s been a couple times when some of us, in the krewe, lied, or she just thought we did, and she went apeshit over it, saying we were ‘trying to tell her what’s real’ after she calmed down. And she went on about how ‘I know what I saw’ and… well, you can probably guess.”

“My point is, I think she’d explode if she found out Evan was sleeping around and lying to her. That’s why he and Marcel broke up, just so she wouldn’t have anything to be jealous over. So when Evan decided to sleep with someone anyway… I guess he just decided he’d tell no one but Mabel.”

The Toreador gives an uncomfortable frown. “Yeah, I guess that does sound like a recipe for disaster.”

Caroline: The heiress taps her fingers on the arm of the comfortable sofa, one hand held in a fist in front of her mouth in thought. After what seems like an eternity she finally stands, walk towards the window, then turns back to her paramour. “You should ask her to come over,” she finally decides.

“That’s really bad, Jocelyn.” She runs her hand through her hair and continues, “And that she’s almost certainly known about this other lover on the side for a while and hasn’t mentioned it to anyone else during the investigations? Not even to the rest of you? Honestly, it puts her near the top of the suspect list. There aren’t very many other licks out there with a motive, and none with one as good as hers. Especially if she did something in a rage, like we’re all prone to do?”

GM: “No!” Jocelyn declares emphatically, shaking her head. “Roxanne wouldn’t! I didn’t know about Evan sleeping with Amandine, so how would she? And what about the birds? Roxanne doesn’t know how to doolittle, none of us do.”

Caroline: “And if she found something that made her suspicious? Two ticket stubs in his pocket to a show, or the taste of someone else’s vitae in his blood, or him not going where she thought he was going? She could have easily offered a boon to someone to keep an eye on him, confirm her suspicions using the birds—that’s a damn small ask,” Caroline counters logically.

“I’m not saying I think she did it,” the heiress clarifies. “But if I take what I have—and what you just told me—to either Sundown or Agnello, she’s suspect number one, and my guess is their conversation is a lot less cordial than inviting her over to your place for an uncomfortable talk.”

GM: Jocelyn’s eyes flash. “No! FUCK Rocco! We are NOT dragging him into this, you hear me, we are fucking NOT!”

The Toreador actually gives a half-mangled hiss, and Caroline can see her jaw clamp and canines elongate as she strains against her Beast. She finally snarls out again,

“Fuck. Rocco.”

Caroline: The heiress puts up her hands, palms out, towards Jocelyn. “Hey, hey,” she tries to calm her. “I’d love to… but he’s not really my type,” she murmurs defusingly, slowly lowering her hands. She cracks a wan smile and pauses for a moment before she continues,

“I’m not going to throw her under the bus to him, but he’s digging, and I can’t stop him. Or Sundown for that matter. What do you think he’s going to do when he gets his hands on Amandine? Or just finds the right witness that mentions them swapping fluids? He’s the one who dug up that lead in the first place, and he’s not going to let it go. And what do you think he’s going to do me if he finds out that I kept all of this from him?”

She pauses, before continuing, “I’m not afraid of him, but he could make my life really uncomfortable as long as I’m his tenant, to say nothing of as a hound.”

GM: The worst of the tension fades from Jocelyn’s jaw, though her eyes remain flat as she says, “Yeah, you got screwed getting him as your landlord. I hope he does go after Amandine though. The Baron doesn’t have a lot of licks, and they really look out for their own.” She mutters, “More than the Sanctified sometimes do.”

“I… I guess you’re right, though. We need to at least clear her. I still don’t think she did it though, she isn’t on good terms with really any redbones or kaintucks.”

Caroline: “I’ve been known to have good ideas every now and then,” Caroline replies. She picks up the Toreador’s phone from where it’s charging on the coffee table and hands it to her. “And sooner is better. He’s meeting soon with Primogen Poincaré. I don’t know what Evan told Poincaré, but he was one of the last licks Evan talked to.”

GM: Jocelyn unlocks the phone’s screen, looks at it for a moment, and then looks up to Caroline.


Caroline: The heiress grits her teeth, thinking she’s received a call or message. “You want me to step out?”

GM: “What? No,” Jocelyn shakes her head. “I’m just thinking, if this goes far enough… well, Rocco’s already involved, and you’ve brought up Sundown and Accou. They aren’t bad, but… well, what would you think about bringing this to Skyman, calling him in?”

Caroline: The heiress bites on the end of her thumbnail lightly, a nervous habit Jocelyn doesn’t often see. “I don’t think he’s particularly fond of me at this moment. And right now I don’t really have anything to bring him except—for the most part—things you all already knew. Well… some of you at least.”

“Maybe if we come up with something real, something actionable. Otherwise it just feels like going to him with another problem, asking for more table scraps.”

GM: “Fair enough,” Jocelyn grants. “It just… seems like our only trump card here.”

Caroline: “Maybe he is, but that’s the key with Bridge. Knowing when you need to play a trump, and when you can still win in suite.”

Tuesday night, 13 October 2015, PM

GM: Jocelyn has Caroline and Roxanne meet in her haven the next night. Meg anxiously hovers over her mistress’ guest at first, but an all-too sharp glare from the older Ventrue sends the anorexic ghoul scurrying away. Roxanne herself is accompanied by two other ghouls who she has wait outside.

“Jocelyn said this was about Evan,” the Ventrue says as she sits down on the couch and regards Caroline expectantly.

Caroline: Roxanne’s ghouls find company with Fuller, who drove Caroline over. The heiress crosses her legs.

“It is,” she replies. “Evidence has come forward that Evan was spending a great deal of time with another Kindred, a Crone named Amandine. I was hoping you could shed some light into the nature of that relationship.”

The heiress holds a thin moleskin notebook in one hand and a pen in the other.

GM: “Not much more than Jocelyn could probably tell you,” Roxanne answers. “He thought he’d be able to convert her to the Sanctified. I thought it was a stupid idea, but he was sold on it and ran everything past me, so I granted him permission.”

Caroline: The heiress scrutinizes the her dark-haired companion. “Permission? Permission for what? To talk to her?” Caroline prompts.

GM: “Permission to make extended contact with the enemy. There are risks. This is my krewe. So yes, he needed permission. Just like Jocelyn would.”

The Toreador looks at her, but doesn’t disagree.

Caroline: Caroline bites her lower lip, then sighs, “I’m just going to come out and ask, because I like you way too much to play this game: did you know they were fucking?”

GM: Roxanne’s already sharp gaze hones to a serrated edge as she leans forward. Her pale face is still, but Caroline can make out the faintest of tremors behind it.

“Excuse me?”

Caroline: “That they were swapping blood,” Caroline repeats, her gaze settled just as sharply on her fellow Ventrue, trying to read her expression and reaction. “That’s what it looks like, at least.”

GM: Roxanne is silent for a moment—then literally howls as she launches herself at Caroline, eyes mad with the Beast.

Caroline: Roxanne howls, all clawing nails and snapping teeth as she leaps over the table at Caroline, only to find her fellow Ventrue all too ready for her. Caroline blurs away from her rush and kicks the raging Roxanne in the back and into the sofa she occupied only a moment before. She snatches one of the dark haired woman’s arms, even as she steps in and plants her knee in her back, shoving her chest and back into the cushions. It’s not even close to fair even before she drives an elbow into the back of her attacker’s head, burying her face in the cushions and muting even her howls.

Jocelyn is there a moment later with a stake, but Caroline waves it aside with a shake of her head. “Just hold her,” she says, shifting her grip on Roxanne’s wrist for better control. Her voice is thick and heavy.

With Roxanne planted harmlessly in the fabric the Toreador grabs her krewe-mate’s other arm struggling arm and plants her own weight alongside her lover’s with another knee in Roxanne’s back. The two hold the struggling, raging, and screaming (into the the pillows) Ventrue like parents holding down a misbehaving child in the supermarket until her struggling ceases.

GM: It’s a testament to how impotent that struggling is rendered when Meg re-emerges from deeper within the apartment, evidently having been drawn by the initial sounds of struggle if her fear-struck features are any indication. They turn more confused, though, when she sees the two vampires holding down Roxanne so totally, so soundlessly, that it doesn’t even look like a fight is taking place.

“Meg, what are you-” Jocelyn starts in a half-irritated voice.

“J-Jocelyn? I thought I heard…” the painfully thin ghoul squeaks, looking between her, Caroline, and the all-but-asleep-looking Roxanne.

“We’re fine, Meg, go clean or something,” Jocelyn sighs.

Caroline: “More than fine,” Caroline snarls, grinning triumphantly.

GM: “O-okay, her purse is…” the ghoul hesitantly points at the knocked-over purse and its spilled contents. It’s the one sign of evident violence in the room. Caroline feels a muffled vibration coming up from Roxanne between the pillows.

“Okay, sure, pick that up,” Jocelyn grants in that same half-irritated tone.

Meg gives a furtive look between Caroline and her domitor, then scampers over the assorted items and starts picking them up. Her thin hands are full when she seems to realize she needs the purse. She awkwardly shuffles over to it on her knees, not seeming to want to stand over the also-kneeling (if seated) Caroline’s and Jocelyn’s heights. She tries to pull over the purse with one hand while holding all Roxanne’s assorted things against a single arm when she had previously required two. Some of them inevitably fall out.

“S-sorry, Mis-tress—Ms. Malveaux…” she mumbles, furtively glancing at the two Kindred again before quickly trying to sweep as many of Roxanne’s dropped items back into the purse as she can.

Jocelyn gives a long-suffering sigh.

Caroline: Caroline shakes her head and slowly mouths one word at Jocelyn, away from the struggling ghoul. Hopeless.

GM: Jocelyn rolls her eyes.

“Sorry…” Meg apologizes again, though with her gaze fixed on the purse, she couldn’t have seen either Kindred’s expression.

It’s as she’s pawing through Roxanne’s things that the ghoul pauses and falteringly asks, “M-mistress?”

“Yes, Meg?” comes the tired response.

“I’m not… sure where this should go…”

“The purse. It all goes in the purse,” comes another tired response.

“No, this… doesn’t look like it goes…”

“If it came out of the purse, it goes back in the purse.”

Caroline: The heiress spares a glance back to the hapless ghoul.

GM: Meg darts her head up, and upon meeting Caroline’s gaze, quickly looks away. She holds up the item in her hands like an offering to ward off the Ventrue’s displeasure.

Maxen_Flores.jpg It’s a small picture, about the size of one that goes in a wallet. It depicts a slightly younger-looking Roxanne, but whose gaze is notably less severe, dressed in a long-hemmed white dress with a crucifix-set silver ring bearing the inscription ‘I will wait’. Caroline recognizes the attire from the purity ball (or at least one like it) she attended with her father to win support among the state’s northern evangelicals. The older man in the picture (for there is always an older man) is an equally familiar face to the Ventrue, though. Caroline recognizes him as Maxen Flores, one of her father’s long-time political allies, and the current senate majority leader in Baton Rouge since the Malveauxes took their name back to Congress.

Caroline: Surprise blossoms across Caroline’s face a moment before she all but snarls, “Maxen Fucking Flores is her father?”

GM: Jocelyn gives a confused look. “Sorry, who?”

“I guess he does look like her dad, though. That’s… a little weird she’d still carry his photo…”

Caroline: “It’s always the dad in pictures like that.” She should know, she still has that ridiculous ring buried in her jewelry box somewhere. Or at least, did. It’s been a while since she’s gone looking for it.

GM: “I guess so. I’ve heard of those things. They honestly sound a little creepy.”

Meg continues to hold up the photo, but spares another quick glance at Caroline’s face.

Caroline: “You have no idea,” Caroline answers, sparing the picture another glance. “Put that thing back in her purse,” she snaps at Meg. “God, why would she carry something like that around.”

GM: “You had me wondering the same thing,” Jocelyn says. She frowns. “Roxanne’s last name isn’t Flores, though. It’s Gerlette.”

Meg actually drops the picture with an audible squeak at Caroline’s tone, stammers another, “I’m sorry…” and scrambles to stick it back in the purse.

Caroline: Caroline rolls her eyes when Meg drops the photo, but has an idea. “Is there anything on the back?” she asks as the ghoul fumbles to pick it up.

GM: The ghoul ventures a quick peek at it. “Y-yes there is, ma’am,” she nods falteringly while still putting it away.

There’s a few more motions and muffled vibrations from the restrained Roxanne.

Caroline: The blonde heiress twists a little harder on Roxanne’s wrist, tightening the joint lock. Until she stops struggling, Caroline can’t be sure she’s done. “What is on the back,” she patiently asks. If she were living the words might have been preceded by a tremendous sigh.

GM: “W-writing, ma’am,” Meg answers with another furtive peak as she tries to scoop more things back into the purse as quickly as she can.

“I-I don’t remember what it said, says, I’m sorry…”

Caroline: The heiress is silent for a moment, biting back the response she wants to give. “Pull out the picture and read what the back says,” she directs, like she’s giving instructions to a child.

GM: The ghoul does so and reads in a squeaky voice,

“‘Girls are like apples on trees. Their fathers are the farmers, whose job is to care for them. He must protect his apples from pests and disease. He must guard them against thieves who may pick his apples prematurely. Neither those at the top nor those at the bottom can help their location. But, when each reaches peak ripeness, it is the farmer’s job to harvest that fruit and give it to whom he will, to those in need. So there is nothing wrong with the apples still on the tree and nothing wrong with the boys who seek them. But it is the farmer’s duty to provide for both, in due season.’”

“It’s in… green and red letters, and some brown… it doesn’t look like handwriting… but there’s another part that is…” Meg ventures.

Caroline: “Then read the other part,” Caroline answers, with exaggerated patience, shifting her elbow in Roxanne’s upper back.

GM: “‘Isabel,
I feel so blessed every day to have you in my life. Stay pure.
Dad,’” the ghoul recites.

Caroline: Caroline nods and looks to Jocelyn. “Isabel Flores. That’s her real name. You didn’t know?” she asks.

GM: “Um… no,” Jocelyn admits with a frown.

“So did you know her family or something?”

Caroline: The heiress nods. “Yeah, I’ve met her dad a bunch of times. He used to work with mine all the time. Ended up succeeding him as majority leader in the state legislature. He was weirdly intense, but I never got the ‘I go home and beat my wife’ vibe off him. I think he was the one that turned my dad onto the Purity Ball thing.”

GM: “I guess you never know what someone’s like behind closed doors, unless you’re closed in with them.”

Caroline: “Yeah,” Caroline agrees. “Guess we all have our secrets.” She looks back to Meg. “You can put it away now.” She shifts again for a better grip on Roxanne. “Jesus, you can stop struggling anytime!” she hisses with annoyance at the helpless vampire.

GM: More softly muffled hisses go up from the still-impotent creature.

Meg scurries to follow Caroline’s order and stuffs the photo away.

“That’s almost weird to think Roxanne has this whole family,” Jocelyn frowns. “I mean, I’m pretty distant from mine, and they’re all the way across the country.”

Caroline: The heiress bites her lip. “We all have our secrets,” she repeats. “Let’s hope that’s the only real one here. Tempted to say though based on her reaction that she was a little shocked to hear that he was shacking up with the Crone while he was playing house with her.”

GM: “God, I don’t even know. Her family looks, is, so screwed up.”

Caroline: “They all are,” Caroline confesses quietly.

GM: “All of her family, or all families period?” Jocelyn poses only semi-facetiously.

Caroline: “Show me a family that doesn’t have dirty secrets and I’ll show you their magic underwear and copies of the Book of Mormon,” Caroline grins.

GM: Jocelyn shakes her head. “You know, I bet she has a bunch of brothers and sisters. Dads like hers always want big families. It’s still weird to think she has all these relatives we, her krewe that is, never knew about.”

Caroline: “Yeah, you can ask her all about it as soon as she’s done eating your sofa if you want.”

GM: “The Evan news must’ve really gotten to her if she’s still apeshit…” Jocelyn frowns.

“Funny to think, but there’s probably a bunch more licks just like her. Younger ones especially. Who have these breather families and lives they don’t talk about.”

Caroline: “Can’t blame her, not really. For either. Lot of licks would just try to use the family against her, and the Sanctified teach you to keep away, right? Work to severe ties? And I can’t say that I’d react especially well if you went missing then someone told me you were screwing around with some nasty lick on the side.” She grins. “And I don’t have half as many control issues.” She takes her elbow off Roxanne’s upper back for a moment, letting her raise up her head. “You done yet?”

GM: Louder hisses go up.

“So, maybe this is premature, and maybe exactly the thing Roxanne, or I guess… Isabel, wanted to avoid, but I think I’d really like to hunt her dad. He sounds like a huge cock. And exactly the sort of sinner we’re supposed to punish.”

Caroline: “Good luck with that one. Pretty sure District 9 is Riverbend. The sheriff isn’t great at sharing in my experience. Especially with VIPs like that. But then you all are the golden children of the Sanctified, so maybe.”

GM: “Ehhhh, no thanks. Sheriff probably knows about him anyway. And glad you knew that.”

Caroline: “Electoral politics. It’s one of the only red seats in New Orleans,” Caroline answers, shoving the hissing Ventrue back into the pillow. “I’m really glad she doesn’t have to breathe.”

GM: “G-f f-f me!” comes a muffled voice from under Caroline.

Caroline: Something calls to Caroline, tells her to assert her dominance more fully, to punish this impotent lick that tried to attack her, but Caroline grins through it and climbs off Roxanne’s back, incrementally removing her elbow, then her knee, then finally releasing the joint lock on her shoulder and wrist. She takes a couple steps back, away from Roxanne. Giving her space—or maybe creating space if she tries to lash out again.

GM: Jocelyn gets off her too. Roxanne glares daggers, but then simply continues as if nothing has happened, “Do you have anything to support those accusations, Ms. Malveaux?”

Jocelyn gives her a krewemate an initially weirded out look that then gives way to one of almost piteous understanding.

Caroline: There’s a cat-like swagger as Caroline takes Roxanne’s previous seat, leaving her the sofa. Whatever the social dynamic, all three Beasts in the room know who’s at the top of the food chain now, and she carries that confidence like a mantle.

She pulls out a small electronic recorder. “Are you good, or do you need a minute? None of this is easy to talk about, I know.” She asks quietly.

GM: “Play it,” Roxanne replies tersely.

Caroline: The heiress cues up the first short clip she made from the original tape. It’s perhaps a minute of Mabel monologuing, in her sad, tear-filled voice, about Evan’s relationship with Amandine, and his relationship with Roxanne. She’s purposefully left in the notionally unrelated line about how he ‘had something’ with Roxanne. She lets the short clip finish.

GM: Roxanne listens to the tape with hard eyes, then pulls out a phone and taps it several times. “Greg? I want Mabel naked and tied to the bottom of the stairs by the time I’m back.” She ends the call perfunctorily.

Jocelyn stares at her in bewilderment. “Roxanne, what the fuck!”

“She’s hiding things, after all I’ve done for her,” the Ventrue replies acidly.

Caroline: “She’s a wreck, and terrified of you,” Caroline interjects quietly.

GM: “She’ll learn to be terrified now. I’ve been too gentle. And this is how she rep-”

“Are you fucking nuts?!” Jocelyn interrupts. “This is Mabel, don’t you remember how she used to be? She got us-”

“That’s not imp-”

“She didn’t even feel like a ghoul, half the time! You’d have really thought she was Evan’s mom!”

Caroline: “More to the point,” Caroline interject again, more loudly and pointedly, “if you hurt her or kill her—even accidentally—you’re going to make this look even worse for you than it does already.”

GM: Roxanne’s eyes are chips of flint. “Explain. Jocelyn, do not interrupt m-”

“Oh just fuck off, Roxanne, we beat you up like a bunch of fat kids whaling on a candy pinata.”

The Ventrue’s lips pull back, revealing once-more protruding canines as she snarls-

Caroline: “Knock it off,” Caroline interjects loudly, her voice icy and commanding as she flashes her own toothy grin. “If,” she stress the word, “if Evan was fooling around with Amandine, it gives you a pretty significant motive to have harmed him, either maliciously or in a fury, and with Mabel in your custody since his disappearance very few licks are going to believe that you had no idea until now that was happening. And if you kill Mabel, that’s just going to look like you cleaning up evidence. Is that clear enough?”

GM: “You make it sound like other Kindred are following what’s happening here, Ms. Malveaux,” Roxanne replies with a too-tight yet studiously controlled voice.

Caroline: “Fortunately for you, Ms. Gerlette,” Caroline replies slowly, “the list of people that know about Evan and Amandine’s potential relationship is short indeed. Because I lied to Hound Agnello about it and kept Mabel out of his hands. But it’s not likely to stay that way, with him and Regent Sundown both digging into the disappearance again, and Hound Agnello specifically chasing the link to Amandine like it’s a porterhouse steak on a line.”

GM: “Thank you for the warning, Ms. Malveaux, even if I’m still curious what would make Mabel hide so much from her domitor but not an outsider-”

“Call your ghoul, Roxanne. Call him off,” Jocelyn glares.

“Mabel won’t be perma-”

“I don’t care if it’s not! Do you even hear yourself? Fucking Mabel!” Jocelyn yells.

Caroline: The heiress gives Roxanne a very serious look. “How fine of a point would you like me to put on the answer to that question, Ms. Gerlette?” she asks. Her gaze sweeps to the ruffled pillow that is the sole testament left to the Ventrue’s ‘frenzy’. “I can think of at least one fairly good reason she might have been less than forthcoming to you, and an array of less excellent but understandable ones. Especially if she’s still collared to him.”

GM: “God knows that’s true,” the Toreador says disgustedly. “You know, when it was just Bliss… fine. But let’s go ahead and call Gwen and Wyatt, see how much they’re fans of this latest shit. I bet-”

“Jocelyn, we do not discuss internal matters with outsiders-” Roxanne reproaches severely, and only to be cut off as Jocelyn yells back,

“Oh, just cut that shit! Just cut it! You’re shit without Evan, you know that? You know he just let you go around saying you were the boss and giving him permission, because you’re such a control freak you’d explode if you didn’t get to? No wonder he didn’t tell you about Amandine! And you haven’t done shit to find him! Every step, it’s been Caroline!”

Roxanne stares daggers at the Toreador, but her voice is tight and controlled again as she hisses, “Keep this up, Jocelyn, and you’re out of the krewe.”

“Yeah, right! You don’t even get to decide that! Lucky thing, ‘cuz if Caroline was in, she’d have probably taken over by now-”

“Shut UP!” Roxanne snarls, her gray eyes flashing.

Jocelyn rocks back dumbly, a too-familiar glazed look to her eyes.

Caroline: Caroline is on her feet so fast it looks as though she didn’t move at all. She snarls in anger, her Beast rising up around her like the hair on a cat’s back, its intensity suddenly an overbearing presence in the room and utterly directed at her fellow Ventrue.

“Let her go. Now,” she demands, her voice low, controlled, and commanding as she matches gazes with the older Ventrue, fangs bared.

GM: Roxanne’s fangs jut in an answering hiss that’s as abruptly cut off as the force of the younger Ventrue’s Beast hits her. She looks away as Jocelyn blinks confusedly.

Caroline: The heiress sweeps her gaze between the two, standing over them. “I’d be a damn ungrateful bitch if I was trying to hurt you, Ms. Gerlette, after you and your krewe bailed me out of some very tough spots with René. I sure as hell wouldn’t have lied to my landlord if I was trying to set you up to the nth degree.”

She gestures to Jocelyn. “And just to put you at ease, her first reaction was to snap at me and defend you when I brought this up last night. I thought she was going to bite a hole in her lip her fangs got so big at the idea that you’d hurt him. And the ghoul,” she doesn’t address Mabel by name, “she was so damn loyal to him and you that she was terrified of saying anything that might hurt your relationship when he came back that I had to lay it on awful thick to get her to chat. To say nothing of being afraid that you’d throw her out in a rage, stop paying for his place, or hurt her.”

She leans forward. “Hopefully that’s enough that no one here means you any actual ill will, Ms. Gerlette, and we can turn our attention to the people that might very shortly? And maybe we can hold off on waterboarding the ghoul until we’ve talked through some things here? I’ve met her, she isn’t going to run off anywhere.”

“But it’s your call,” Caroline continues. “Your ghoul, your krewe, your investigation really. I’m just trying to return a favor.”

GM: Roxanne does not look pleased as she raises her gaze to meet Caroline’s again, but finally replies, “We’ll discuss that first, Ms. Malveaux, before any of the other relevant issues. What ‘people’ do you think might mean me ill will?”

Jocelyn looks between the two Ventrue, frowns, and even moves to open her mouth with an outraged expression, then finally holds her tongue.

Caroline: “Honestly, anyone who has reason to think you are responsible for his disappearance. Hound Agnello jumps immediately to mind, once he learns of Evan’s indiscretions. Perhaps Regent Sundown for the same. You will be the prime suspect,” Caroline replies plainly. “If it goes up, maybe even the sheriff.”

“Beyond that, since I don’t think you actually did make him disappear, whoever was actually responsible, depending on their motive for attacking him.”

GM: “There’s us, Mabel, and Amandine. Who else knows about her and Evan?” Roxanne asks.

Caroline: “I guess that depends on who he told, and who she told,” Caroline answers. “That’s the list I have, but he may have also discussed it with Primogen Poincaré.”

“And of course whoever was spying on him. They almost certainly know.”

GM: Roxanne scowls. “If Amandine and Mabel were the only loose ends we could have silenced both. But that’s too many other possible ones. We need to find the actual culprit. Jocelyn, we need to interview Primogen Poincaré. Set up a meeting with him.”

“Uh, he’s not exactly-”

“Figure it out,” Roxanne snaps. “You’re clanmates, if nothing else. Go through Garcia if you can’t manage on your own. He likes you, and he’s the primogen’s grandchilde. Ms. Malveaux, where did you hear that Primogen Poincaré was one of the last Kindred to speak with Evan?”

Caroline: “Your friendly ghoul, Ms. Gerlette,” Caroline supplies patiently. “Hound Agnello is scheduling a meeting for himself with the primogen. I don’t expect you’ll be able to get in earlier,” she continues. “I was invited to join him, however, in that meeting.”

GM: “That could be an in,” Jocelyn says, seemingly more hopeful at the prospect of getting something on Evan than pissed at Roxanne. “Though why does he want you coming? I mean, since that would actually involve being helpful, and not a giant cock.”

Roxanne doesn’t disagree.

Caroline: The heiress shrugs. “Lots of upside for him. He gets to appear powerful and influential to me. Benevolent and commanding to the primogen. Gets an extra set of eyes and years at the meeting that he already knows are fairly sharp,” she recites and ticks off on her fingers as she does. “And that’s just assuming that he is pursuing entirely material and social clout.”

“If you need more than that, I’d point you to his intense interest in taking me on as a tenant, in me joining the Sanctified, and in my landing with the Storyvilles as a group of upright Sanctified to keep me on the ‘right track,’” Caroline continues. “If I had to guess, based on how he’s acted, I might even speculate that he’s doing it out some sense of allegiance to the old sheriff. Or to René. They go way back, right? Maybe he thinks he’s doing right by them ensuring I don’t fall in with the wrong crowd. Maybe it also ties into his own relationships. It didn’t exactly seem like his childe was a big fan of him at the party.” She crosses her arms. “Or maybe your boss put him up to do it, and I’m completely wrong. Hard to say.”

She looks to Roxanne. “Either way, lucky for you, Ms. Gerlette, since it means not only are you likely to get answers you want from a meeting with the primogen, but I can clue you into which direction his own investigation goes.”

GM: “No kidding his childe isn’t a fan,” Jocelyn scoffs. “I can’t even imagine what it would be like to have that asshole as a sire. Give 50/50 odds he asks you to be his whore around the primogen, though. I don’t think he’s even capable of doing anything that isn’t awful.”

“That’s enough, Jocelyn,” reproaches Roxanne.

“Oh, don’t give me-”

“This is a lead to finding Evan, unless you’d prefer Ms. Malveaux said no. Would you?”

Jocelyn looks at Caroline, but doesn’t say anything.

“That sounds acceptable, Ms. Malveaux. Jocelyn will stay in touch with you,” Roxanne finishes.

Caroline: “Just a few more matters tonight, Ms. Gerlette,” Caroline answers, making no move to leave. “As convincing as you were earlier, I’d like to hear from you directly that you both knew nothing about the possibility of Evan straying, had nothing to do with his disappearance, and aren’t withholding anything that might be salient to his disappearance. And I’d like you to do so while Jocelyn scries you.”

GM:Excuse me, Ms. Malveaux?” Roxanne repeats sharply. “Are you implying that I’d mislead my own coterie’s investigation?”

Caroline: The heiress doesn’t unfold her arms. “Would you trust me in the same circumstance, Ms. Gerlette?” Caroline asks. “And even if you did, wouldn’t you want some layer of insulation? Besides, there’s probably some irony in Jocelyn poking around your mind a little bit after you casually invaded hers earlier.”

“I’m not asking you to submit to my examination. I’m not even asking you to let me poke around your head. Simply that you offer the bare minimum of guarantee that I’m working to find Evan and keep your good name clear, rather than unknowingly helping you cover up a murder.”

“I respect your privacy, Ms. Gerlette. I respect your desire to maintain the secrecy of your haven, to keep the details of your life secret, and to maintain the privateness of your relationships. But there’s a limit to how far I’m willing to climb out on a limb.”

She arches an eyebrow. “Unless you have a better suggestion, Ms. Gerlette?”

GM: Roxanne’s sharp gaze looks more than critical at Caroline’s mention of the details of her ‘life’, but the other Ventrue does not address that tangent as she continues,

“Let’s get one thing straight, Ms. Malveaux. You are looking into my coterie’s investigation, at Jocelyn’s invitation, with my permission. I am your oversight, not the other way around.”

“You want Jocelyn to scry me? We’ll consider the earlier boon I was maybe too generous offering rescinded, and she’ll scry you too. Otherwise, you’ll continue your investigation without.”

Caroline: Caroline’s expression shifts from detached, to icy, straight to furious. This time she comes over the table, crossing the distance between the two in the blink of an eye. “If you think that’s straight, let me help you. Again. Because you’ve got this as crooked a politician the day after he was elected,” she all but spits in the ‘elder’ Ventrue’s face.

“I came to help you. I came up with the only two leads you have. I shook the hound off what would have been your trail, I volunteered to share his findings with you—at significant risk to myself—and I gently held you down like a struggling child until you were done with your fit instead of staking you like most licks would have. There is no ‘investigation’ without me, and plenty of just as interested and twice as powerful Kindred that would’ve given me, and still will, more of greater value for the information I brought only to you out of respect for our meager history and shared blood.”

She jabs a finger at Roxanne. “I ignored your little outburst and overlooked your mindscrew of Jocelyn in the interest of politeness and respect.”

“But I’m not your dog. You’re not my krewe leader—let me remind you that you don’t want me. And we both sure as hell know that I’m pretty far from your bitch.”

“You want me off ‘your’ investigation. Fine. Have fun. Jocelyn has my number. I’ll quote you my ‘asshole’ rate if you call. I’ve got enough licks that are eager to shit on me already for free, Ms. Flores.” She blurs towards the door and grabs her coat.

GM: There’s a choke-like sound of sputtering rage, but Caroline doesn’t see whatever expression might be darkening, if not twisting, Roxanne’s face as she turns her back on the two Storyvilles.

“No! Caroline, please! We have to find Evan!” Jocelyn calls, her own form blurring to intercept Caroline in front of the door.

Caroline: The Ventrue’s towering thunderhead of a temper rolls around her, but doesn’t lash out at the Toreador.

“I’m not done,” she replies, anger bleeding away from her voice as she directs the words at Jocelyn. “But since I’m off ‘your’ investigation I guess I should go clue in Agnello as to what I’ve got, and jump on board with his.”

She looks back at Roxanne. “You can have your boon back. Take it as an apology for wasting your time tonight.”

GM: Roxanne’s pale face somehow looks even paler with rage, and her gray eyes wide, mad, and livid like she’s been slapped.

“How dare you! You bastard-sired-”

No! You can’t br-” Jocelyn begins.

Caroline: “Remember those words,” Caroline snaps at Roxanne. “I will.”

GM:NOT ROC-!” Jocelyn yells, anger matching the raw desperation in her voice, only to just as suddenly interrupt herself. “MINDFUCK ROXANNE! Make her forget this! Make her apologize! Whatever you want, you’re in charge, I’m fine with that! Roxanne’s shit! Just FIND EVAN!”

WHAT!?” Roxanne screams, whirling to face Jocelyn as her fangs re-distend. “You TRAITOROUS CUNT! I’ll MAKE you loy-!”

Caroline: “Jesus, fucking look at you two!” Caroline shouts in frustration. She looks back and forth between them.

GM: The Ventrue barely has a second.

“She’s fucking crazy! Oh no, you have to save me, Caroline!” Jocelyn manically exclaims, grabbing a lamp off the table and chucking it at Roxanne’s head.

The other Ventrue gives a strangled shout as she awkwardly tries to catch the too-fast lamp while running around the table. Jocelyn blurs behind the couch.

“Huh? Huh?! Daddy’s home, you filthy fucking liar! Why’d you never help your mom, Isabel?!” the Toreador mockingly shouts, flinging cushions at her krewemate as she circles around the couch.

Caroline: Caroline raises her hands. “Goddamn it! STOP!” she shouts at them both, baring her fangs as her Beast roars out to fill the room again.

GM: It’s much too late for that as Jocelyn’s venomous words hit home. That same Beast overtakes Roxanne’s eyes once again as the frenzying Ventrue lunges across the sofa. She smashes into Jocelyn and sending her crashing to the floor as she screams, “CAROL-!”

Caroline: And then Caroline is there again, tearing the frenzing Ventrue off of her paramour.

GM: The fight is over with quickly. Caroline snakes her elbow around Roxanne’s throat as Jocelyn kicks, yanks the frenzying vampire off of the Toreador, pivots, and tackles Roxanne to the floor, holding her down in a lock just like earlier as the other Ventrue thrashes and howls.

Caroline: Almost like earlier. As she drives her clanmate onto the ground Caroline’s hand snakes out for the stake from earlier, forgotten on the ground. She wrestles herself into a mounted position on Roxanne’s back and drives the stake viciously through the dark-haired woman’s back until she stops fighting and goes still, then kicks her over onto her back.

GM: Jocelyn emerges from behind the sofa, her eyes wide with simultaneous fear, smugness, and even arousal as she clutches her bleeding throat, sashays over to Caroline, and drops to her knees, nuzzling her head against the Ventrue’s neck.

“Oh, Caroline, thank God you were here…” she whispers into her ear with a shudder.

Caroline: Caroline stares down at her twice-defeated ‘foe’. Her fangs show fully in her mouth and her eyes are wide with exhilaration and arousal as she physically releases the other Ventrue, only to seize Jocelyn by her pale, bleeding throat.

She shoves the smaller Kindred against the wall. Caroline stares Jocelyn in the eyes with raw animalistic lust, then drops her mouth to lick the slowly oozing blood. In seconds she’s cleaned up all the running blood from Roxanne’s attack, but the lust hasn’t faded from her eyes.

She tears open Jocelyn’s top, her eyes fixated on the Toreador’s pale and already torn throat. The smell of the Toreador’s blood fills her nose.

GM: “I’m yours, Caroline, you can do whatever you want with me…” Jocelyn purrs over the sound of tearing cloth, then eyes Roxanne’s prone body and smiles wickedly.

“Let’s just do it on top of her…”

Caroline: The heiress looks back to the lifeless woman, then whirls Jocelyn around and drives her down, face first, on top of her krewe-mate, landing in a straddling position on top of Jocelyn’s lower back.

“Why,” she growls throatily as she drops her mouth again to the fresh little trails of vitae at her lover’s throat, turning her head back and forth to expose each side of her throat from behind. “Why did you do that,” she hisses, between eager, starving, licks across her lover’s skin. Jocelyn’s face is buried in Roxanne’s breast, not far from where the tip of the stake peaks out.

GM: “So you could do this,” Jocelyn giggles darkly. She doesn’t fight back as Caroline drives her face into the stake and still-enraged-looking Roxanne’s breasts, but runs her hand across her bloody throat, and then runs that along the stake’s tip. She wraps her lips around the red-streaked piece of wood and begins to suck it back and forth, casting a sly look over her shoulder at the Ventrue’s reaction.

Caroline: “I can’t… fucking believe… you did that,” Caroline gasps out between furious laps at what blood she can find on her lover. When she sees what Jocelyn’s doing with the tip of the stake she digs her fingers viciously into her shoulders. She tears away the back of Jocelyn’s shirt and snaps open the back of her bra.

“I should punish you,” she whispers in the Toreador’s ear. Her canine drags along one side of Jocelyn’s cheek.

GM: “Mmmf… chouldn’ fop you… even’f… I wan’ed ’oo…” the Toreador gasps out, still fellating the blood-lathered stake as twists her head so that her mischievously glinting eyes can take in Caroline’s answering look.

Caroline: “I didn’t realize you were so eager to suck her off,” she hisses, straddling Joceyln and raking her nails down the Toreador’s back.

GM: “Prehy shore… ish yours… ‘oo plan’ed i’ there…” Jocelyn starts to say, then moans as Caroline’s nails leave bloody red streaks along her flesh.

Caroline: As the blood flows Caroline lewdly runs her tongue up and down her lover’s back. It’s still not enough. She jerks Jocelyn’s head to the side, thrusting out the side of her neck for herself. Her teeth run against the thin skin separating her from the Toreador’s so sweet vitae.

“You want a bite, don’t you?” the Ventrue growls huskily in her lover’s ear, but it’s all too plain who desires what in her voice.

GM: The lovers consummate their sanguine union atop Roxanne’s staked corpse. One more sip would spell total ensarement to Jocelyn, and a further loss of control to Caroline. But as the two writhe, hiss, and scratch, lapping up the too-cool streams of blood running down one another’s pale skin, it’s hard to feel like that would be such a bad thing—either in and of itself, or to just take, directly from the source, to consume one’s lover completely and utterly, to take all of what animates them into one’s self.

Roxanne’s gray eyes seem to stab out at the two with blistering fury as they copulate, and that third party’s hateful attentions only seem to further stoke Jocelyn’s lusts. There’s not even a pretense this time of who’s ‘on top’. Jocelyn surrenders utterly. She has Caroline furiously drag her by her hair to throw against the wall. She moans for the Ventrue to hit her, to beat her, with a rolled-up belt like Caroline can vividly remember McGinn’s ghouls doing to her with a whip. “Bet your daddy… did this to you… all the time!” she yells, though whether her words are meant for Roxanne or her lover is unclear. She has Caroline wrap the belt around her neck like a too-literal collar and choke her, forcing her to her knees as she laps at the drying streams of blood around the standing Ventrue’s sex. She moans for Caroline to make a fist in her hair and pull until she rips it out. To make her suck off the stake again. To put her over her knee and spank her like a disobedient child until her ass is raw and bleeding too. Their bloody copulation finally culminates with Jocelyn lying back-first on the floor, her sex pressed into Roxanne’s paralyzed face as a seated Caroline’s feet drive down into both of their throats, literally grinding them under heel. Jocelyn moans as her tongue worshipfully laps the taller vampire’s bleeding soles:

“You’re in charge… you decide… you call the shots… you own us… you’re in control… you’re in control…”

It’s hard to say whether her lover’s words or blood are a greater aphrodisiac to the power-ravenous Ventrue.

Caroline: The Ventrue is insatiable, fully wrapped up in the darker impulses of both the Beast and her own soul as she savagely and joyously dominates Jocelyn. The implications of what they’ve just done fade away amid the sanguine-soaked romp atop the other Ventrue. It’s only when she falls onto the sofa at the conclusion, her Beast purring like a contented lion after a kill, that consideration for what they’ve done creeps back into her mind.

She looks down at Roxanne’s staked and blood-splattered corpse, as if to remind herself that it’s there. She growls in frustration when she finds it still present. An unwelcome intrusion in her bliss.

“When she wakes up, you realize that she’s still going to want to kill you, right? She’s not going to forgive what you said,” she languidly asks her oh-so-wicked lover.

GM: “No she won’t, not if you erase her memory,” Jocelyn smiles, running a fang over Caroline’s cheek.

Caroline: The heiress gives a short laugh. “That’s what you wanted from the beginning, wasn’t it? You evil little thing. Save me, save me,” she mocks.

GM: “That was so fucking hot how you did,” Jocelyn answers huskily, tracing Caroline’s cheek some more.

Caroline: Caroline laughs again, but it’s a satisfied and triumphant laugh. “I should still make you deal with it all,” she half-teases. “Force you two to kiss and make up.”

GM: “Sounds good to me,” Jocelyn smiles. She saddles off the couch, kneels by Roxanne, and raises her wrist her mouth. There’s a flash of fangs, and then she presses her bleeding limb to the other Ventrue’s slack lips. Her gray eyes seem to blaze with anger that suddenly sputters like water poured onto a fire.

“You should do her too, now. She’ll be less of a bitch to us both.”

The Toreador’s smile widens. “She doesn’t need to remember this part either.”

Caroline: The heiress shakes her head uncomfortably at the suggestion. “Suspicious, waking up from getting staked and going all doe-eyed. You should take a sip from her though. It sounded like you’ve got a lot of bad blood on your end too, and as long as you’re going to be part of the same krewe, it’d be better to have at least some positive feelings going both ways.”

GM: Jocelyn looks irritated for a moment, but then flashes her lover and starts running a fang over the staked Roxanne’s cheek. She picks up the Ventrue’s dumbly slack hand and starts running it along her breasts.

“You want to share me, Caroline? You suuuure? See me collared to someone else? Roxanne already likes Toreador, and I guess she is getting… lonely…”

She leans in and starts kissing the motionless Ventrue’s equally slack mouth.

Caroline: The low and dangerous growl that escapes Caroline makes it clear just how she feels about that. “Just take a sip,” she answers tersely, her face twisted with jealousy. “You don’t have to look like you’re enjoying it so much.”

GM: “But I am enjoying it so much already, Caroline… I mean, you’re in charge… if you don’t want to just make her forget this happened, I guess I’ll have no choice but to enjoy it even more…”

Jocelyn works down from Roxanne’s slack mouth, pulls open her blouse, and starts kissing, nipping, and slowly running her tongue along the other Ventrue’s pale breasts.

Caroline: Caroline stalks over the Toreador, grabbing her off the floor by the back of her hair with one hand and drawing her close with her other hand across her lower back. She drives her again into a wall before seizing both of Jocelyn’s wrists and pinning them out to either side and running her all-too-visible once again fangs across the Toreador’s throat.

“You’re mine,” she snarls. “Mine.” As if to stake her claim she crushes her smaller paramour into the wall, grinding her body against her own. “You can joke around, but we both know that’s all it is. Because she’s a joke compared to me.” It’s hard to tell where her voice starts and the thoughts of the Beast end.

GM: Jocelyn doesn’t, and likely couldn’t, resist as Caroline all but throws her around. She smiles impudently up at the Ventrue from between her pinned wrists and laughs,

“Oh, yeah, this is a joke! It’s not anything outside bed! You just torped her ass twice and fucked me on top of it, and you’re too scared! Wow, I bet Roxanne’s thinking! Pretty nice way to make out with Caroline giving her a free collar and sharing, to make up for winning! We could stuff her to the gills with juice, snoop out her secrets, and fill her head with bot switches, and you’re too big a pussy! I thought your dad was supposed to be some crazy never-compromise extremist who pal-d around with wife-beating psychos to get ahead, but guess that’s only you during sex! Like any of that was actually real! You’re too scared to finish the job! Guess Roxanne’s right, I know what she really thinks of you!”

Jocelyn laughs harder. “Caroline the joke! Caroline the butt monkey!”

Caroline: Sanity and madness battle for control as Jocelyn rants and mocks her, but sanity seems to narrowly win out. It almost visible takes something out of her to do so as she swallows rage, pride, and arrogance.

She lets the Toreador go and whirls away in disgust, almost shaking with rage, before looking back, “Is that what you really want? Me to break open Roxanne’s already fragile mind like an egg? To make her our broken little slave? She’s already barely holding it together behind the illusion of control,” she spits. “I thought she was your krewemate. Someone you gave a damn about. I thought the Storyvilles were something you gave a damn about. Because if I do that, your gang is done. And even if you don’t give a damn about that anymore, how do you think your benefactor is going to react?”

Anger blends with disgust as she continues, “I thought you had some standards. That maybe there was something human left inside, the same thing that drove you to churches to pray. But if that’s how you treat licks you called your friends last night, I obviously don’t know you at all. And I don’t think I want to.”

GM: “EVERYTHING’S GONE TO SHIT WITHOUT EVAN!” Jocelyn screams, her eyes wide and mad as her chest heaves with needless breaths. “You’re our best, only shot of finding him, and seeing Roxanne piss all over you because it offends her ego… just fuck her!” she rages, fangs flashing in a snarl.

“I’m tired of always getting shit on by everything! I’m tired of no one giving a damn! I’m tired of Rocco making Gwen a fucking whore! I’m tired of Skyman saying we’re so special and doing shit! I’m tired of the sewer rats, of Monty, of Marcel, of everyone else, all saying how great Evan was, and doing shit! I’m tired of Sally being gone, I’m tired of everyone shitting on you, of Skyman saying you couldn’t join, I’m tired of Roxanne being so horrible to us all, and saying we don’t care about Evan, and I’m not putting on the collar because we stood up for once, and I’m not, I’m not, I’m n-”

GET OUT, MEG!!!!!” she shrieks, her eyes swelling to practically the size of dinner plates. Caroline only has a second to see the ghoul literally lapping up the floor’s drying blood like a dog going after spilled scraps. The haphazardly chucked lamp smashes against the wall several feet off and sends her terrifiedly scampering away.

Jocelyn stares after her retreating servant for a second, as if about to grab another object, and then her lip quivers. She abruptly slumps to the floor like a string-cut marionette, fat and bloody red tears leaking from her eyes. Her voice is small and trembling when she sniffs out,

“I just… I just want… everything to go back… to how it was…”

Caroline: The Ventrue stands above her, looking down. She doesn’t get down and hold Jocelyn—neither one of their Beasts would tolerate such a thing enough for either of them to ever draw real comfort from such a human act, but after a moment she quietly extends her hand to the weeping Toreador and lays it on her shoulder.

“I can’t turn back time,” she quietly tells her paramour. “I can’t make it how it was. But I’m working to make it better than it used to be. To find Evan. To take my place in the city.” She moves her hand and cups Jocelyn’s face. “I wasn’t trying to punish you, but the Storyvilles can’t exist if you hate her. And I don’t exactly get the impression that membership is entirely optional.”

GM: “It’s… it’s not,” she glumly admits as she looks up at Caroline, “but I… I wouldn’t wanna leave. I just want you to find Evan, so that things…”

She trails off. A few stray droplets of blood trickle over the Ventrue’s cupped hands. She rubs her nose against Caroline’s palm and manages,

“Just make her forget all this, and I can deal. Turn back that.”

Caroline: Caroline nods and takes Jocelyn’s hand, helping her to her feet. “You can even help build a proper narrative for her to remember instead. It seems to work way better if it’s something plausible to begin with, something she’d actually do, things she’d actually say.”

The two set about ‘fixing things, but first, they get what Caroline wanted out of her: a look inside her head. Restrained and helpless, the two invade her mind capriciously to ’verify’ she isn’t hiding anything further about the investigation and had nothing to do with Evan’s disappearance. If Jocelyn pushes that they could take more Caroline arches an eyebrow disapprovingly and points out that they’ve come away with a great deal from her as is. The Ventrue is mindful of the time they’ve already spent.

When they’re done that memory is wiped away in all of its indignation, along with the entire argument from before her staking. The ‘new’ events differ in character, though the outcome (Roxanne’s frenzy) remains the same. Caroline leans heavily on Jocelyn while writing these new memories in capturing likely reactions from Roxanne and her pattern of speech. She also pays attention to the details, especially the time difference created by their romp across her lifeless body and the blood that’s stained the clothing of all three. Their conversation is extended, and Roxanne’s second frenzy is lionized into a less one-sided confrontation that includes her getting a mouth full of Jocelyn before Caroline stakes her.

She also has Jocelyn double check Roxanne’s back to make sure she didn’t have a recording going of their meeting on her phone or elsewhere, and brings in Meg to alter her own memory as well to match Roxanne’s (though in far less detail). She doesn’t actually expect most would think to check on the pathetic ghoul, of whom she remarks to Jocelyn (while the ghoul is dazed under her control), “What was it you said, suicides need a reason to live, Jocelyn? Honestly, I need a new reason to live every time she opens her mouth.”

It’s not really that different than cleaning up a Masquerade breach. A different masquerade of sorts: that monsters can get along.

GM: Roxanne is mad with rage when Caroline and Jocelyn first remove the stake, but Caroline’s Beast has overcome her only marginally elder clanmate’s so many times already. Winning yet another contest for dominance is an all but a forgone conclusion. Her face goes slack as the younger but stronger-blooded Ventrue meets her gaze and tells her what to remember.

Jocelyn, meanwhile, is still more than happy to scry her krewemate and reports that Roxanne did not have any part in Evan’s disappearance—at least so far as she can detect. The Toreador appears relieved by that news. At Caroline’s suggestion, she snoops through Roxanne’s head for further secrets and reports, with some surprise, that the Ventrue knows who Evan’s sire and grandsire are. She’s not sure who they are themselves—Roxanne doesn’t seem to know that. But she does get an image of their faces. “So, she’s seen them somewhere? Weird. Evan… never talked about who his sire was, with any of the rest of us. It was kinda a big mystery. Still not sure why he’d have been hiding it.”

Caroline: When that mess is ‘cleaned up’ she returns her attention to their investigation—a rare point of consensus. She carries on as though nothing has happened. What do Roxanne and Jocelyn know about the Toreador primogen? His temperament and mood, and importantly, his preferences? Making a good impression may cause him to be far more open…

Saturday night, 17 October 2015, AM

GM: Accou receives Rocco and Caroline at 1216 Camp Street in the Lower Garden District, one of the primogen’s and his sire’s public havens. It’s a Greek Revival mansion with the iron galleries so typical to the city’s architecture and a slim front profile, with several trees growing in the front of the house and another larger one from the fenced-off courtyard.

The pair are received by a ghoul in her seemingly mid-teenage years with unblemished, milk-pale skin, and a too-still gaze that strangely contrasts her heart-breakingly beautiful face. She’s garbed in a flowing white gown made from a gauzy material that strikingly highlights her waist-length red hair and gives her an almost ethereal appearance. She dips into a low curtsy as she receives the two, but otherwise remains utterly silent as she leads them into the parlor.

The home’s tall-ceilinged interior feels more spacious than its outside. It’s decorated with a variety of traditional African and and jazz-themed art pieces, as well as a few Cuban ones. An array of house plants make it feel like some of the greenery from outside has been transported within. The fireplace goes typically unused.

The house’s master appears shortly after the pair are seated. Accou Poincaré is a lighter-skinned man with handsome, clearly African features who wears an old-fashioned, tailed suit with gold cufflinks and a bowtie. He appears younger than Caroline and only a few years older than Rocco at a casual glance, but there is a subtle, marble-like pallor to his too-still features and an indelible weight behind his brown eyes that gives immediate lie to any impression of youth. Even the shadows around the lines of his face look deeper. They’ve grown darker too in recent decades, Rocco has observed, though the primogen’s pearly-teethed smile is still quite bewitching when he chooses to show it.

His handsome looks, however, do not extend towards his hands. The joints are misaligned and splayed in obviously wrong, out-of-sync directions, as if messily crushed and improperly healed, or as the result of some equally unsightly birth defect. Caroline can only think back to her and Jocelyn’s torment of Mouse, and imagine how much uglier the Toreador’s fingers must look outside of his wine-colored kidskin gloves.

The silent ghoul finally speaks as Accou enters the room to announce in a high, clear voice,

“Rise in the presence of the Good Alder Accou Poincaré, Primogen of the Cabildo, Steward and Viscount of the Lower Garden District, Councilor of the Prima Invicta, Librettist, Player, Secretary, Speaker, and Master of the Guild of Apollo.”

Rocco: “Thank you for seeing us and may I say I hope you’re doing well, Primogen Poincaré,” Rocco says with a polite nod, smiling broadly. The hound carries a gilded birdcage with two tweeting Cuban todies.

He adds, “I brought a gift.”

Rocco holds up the cage and presents the birds for Accou’s inspection. “I understand Cuban todies are native to your homeland of Cuba, Primogen Poincaré.”

The hound’s herald Annabelle stands behind Rocco with a gloomy smile etched on her face, having accompanied the hound and carried the caged birds until now.

GM: Accou surveys the birds with a clearly pleased eye and silently looks towards the youth-faced ghoul, who moves to retrieve the cage.

“One of my homelands, Hound Agnello, and an adoptive one. But a place I am no less proud to consider home all of the same—or any less pleased by this charming reminder of it. Your taste in gifts is as impeccable as ever.”

The Toreador elder turns a pearly white smile towards Caroline. “Havana was one of our city’s most vital trading partners for hundreds of years, young one, if you were not already aware. The loss of that partnership was never recovered from—though the present thaw in Cubo-American relations gives me much hope.”

Caroline’s father fiercely criticized it and did everything he could to block its implementation with his Senate colleagues.

Rocco: Rocco nods at Accou’s words. “I don’t know if you have been properly introduced to Miss Caroline Malveaux as of yet, Primogen Poincaré,” the hound remarks as the room’s attention moves to the youngest Kindred in the room.

GM: “I have not, Hound Angello. Perhaps some genteel soul will see fit to rectify that state of affairs,” the Toreador smiles between the two as he takes his seat on an overstuffed chair.

The tranquil-faced ghoul remains standing.

Rocco: “Perhaps so,” Rocco answers, taking a seat as he introduces the statuesque Ventrue. “Then it is my pleasure to introduce Miss Malveaux to you, Primogen Poincaré.”

Caroline: Caroline, towering over Rocco even before he finds his seat, and in her trademark black curtsies with a deft grave that belies her long frame and heel-clad feet.

“It is my great pleasure and privilege to meet such a distinguished personage, Primogen Poincare,” Caroline continues when Rocco has finished speaking.

The heiress has dressed up for the meeting and wears an elegant sleeveless black dress that leaves her pale arms and chest bare and accentuates the the area around her collarbones and neck before pulling tight above her waist and flaring again at her hips.

GM: Accou makes pleasant small talk for a few minutes concerning the Gangrel’s gift and the behaviors, life cycle, and colorful plumage of the Cuban tody. The primogen asks if Rocco would exercise his “powers of bestiae sermo” so that his fille à la cassette might release the ghouled bird from its cage. He remarks appreciatively on the tody’s tiny size: it can literally fit into the palm of his gloved hand.

“I have always wondered if you were of Wotan’s line, Hound Angello, for you both come bearing gifts,” Accou smiles.

Rocco: “Who am I to disagree with such a flattering comparison, Primogen Poincaré? It’s certainly possible given how many outlanders claim descent from the All-High,” Rocco remarks knowingly, pleased with Accou’s kind words. In the meantime, he is only too happy to use his gifts on the already blood bound birds to ask them to sing and entertain the small gathering.

Caroline: Caroline spoke to Jocelyn at length regarding Accou. Her lover’s ‘advice’ so far as the primogen was that he was a pianist, likes Cuba, likes classical as well as jazz music, is very devoted to his sire, is ancestor to much of the local clan, likes beautiful things (though what Toreador doesn’t?), cn be in a lady’s man when he’s in one of his better moods, but the stress/hassle of looking after Pearl and doing her jobs for her while carrying dead weight would turn his hair prematurely gray if he were still alive. Jocelyn shit-talked Pearl a lot. Caroline was amused to discover that Toreador don’t adhere to anywhere close to the same degree of solidarity as Ventrue.

Caroline offers several witty remarks, trying to get a feel for Accou, including one about a “bird in the hand” to his taking of Rocco’s gift literally in hand. If and when she has his attention, she offers him her own gift in an oversized sleek black folder much like one would find a diploma or other important document in.

Hearing Accou is a pianist and fan of jazz, Caroline digs out the original sheet music for Sophisticated Lady, written by Duke Ellington back in ‘33, complete with his own hand-written notes on the margins. She’d been holding onto as a gift for her father’s birthday, but it seems so petty a concern tonight. She presents it to Accou as something that she hopes someone that treasures the past and the genre might appreciate.

She’s happy to make small talk—including how she acquired the sheet music—for as long as Accou desires. When he indicates he’s done with such talk, she explains that she (and Rocco) were separately looking into Evan’s disappearance and tells him about the birds and the Crone Evan was spending time with prior to his disappearance. She politely inquires if he might be willing to share any details from the last time the two talked that could give insight into Evan’s mental state and concerns or interests.

She does not disclose having heard of the Crone and Evan fucking on the side.

Rocco: Rocco frowns and interjects, “Is that the full story, Miss Malveaux?”

GM: Accou chuckles that at such a friendly gathering he’s inclined to take Rocco’s lovely and thoughtful young tenant at her word. He’s certain that what’s come up here is nothing but a simple miscommunication, or something Caroline had intended to say anyway.

Caroline: Caroline clarifies with a grateful smile to Accou that the Storyvilles were aware of Evan’s ongoing efforts to lure Amandine into the fold of the Sanctified, and that she’s glossed over several details—for instance Evan’s visits to Yellow Sidra and his growing sense of fatalism—in the interest of not boring the distinguished primogen with minutia.

Rocco: Rocco nods at this and indicates for Caroline to proceed all the same.

Caroline: Caroline brings up Accou’s meeting with Evan and inquires what the (esteemed) elder’s read on Evan was, since he was one of the last people to chat with Evan—and certainly the last entirely beyond suspicion.

“Another question, Primogen,” Caroline adds. “Did you happen to notice any birds watching yourself or Mr. Bourelle that night?”

The Toreador elder, she’s certain, is a master of soul scrying.

GM: “There were birds in the area,” Accou confirms, “though that is not an uncommon occurrence. They may or may not have been under the thrall of bestiae sermo. There is, alas, no easy way to tell—another reason why sensitive conversations are best held indoors.”

As to the pair’s topics of conversation, they discussed his (Accou’s) sire, and how Evan thought it had to say a lot about her character that she could inspire such devotion from her childe. Accou was pleasantly surprised to find a neonate with so favorable an opinion of Pearl. The two had a prior if casual association first, of course, as is relatively well-known. Evan always liked ‘older women’.

As Accou speaks with Rocco, his voice sounds in Caroline’s head, though his lips do not move.

:: And now, my dear, I would hear what you have uncovered that was important enough to lie to your landlord over. ::

Caroline: The heiress keeps her expression steady as the elder’s voice fills her mind, locked in an interested smile. If there’s a moment of hesitation from her, it is ever so slight.

:: Mr. Bourelle was intimate with Amandine. A fact he kept closely from his krewe, and specifically his lover within it, Primogen Poincaré. I don’t think she had anything to do with his disappearance despite that, but I don’t expect that most will take me at my word—or her at hers—in that. ::

Unfamiliar with the manner of conversation, the thoughts are mostly formed in her mind alongside memories conjured up of her interview with Evan’s ghoul and of Roxanne frenzying at Caroline’s question.

GM: :: Continue, Miss Malveaux. ::

It soon becomes plain the elder expects the details of Evan’s relationship with Amandine (including how Caroline found out when Evan’s own krewe didn’t) in return for what he knows.

Caroline: The heiress willingly comes clean with him and thanks him for covering for her earlier with Rocco. She reports that she enthralled Evan’s ghoul, who had hidden the matter from Roxanne out of fear of the Ventrue and to protect Evan’s memory and relationship.

GM: “Mr. Bourelle also inquired as to my sire’s herald Cloe,” Accou continues. “He seemed interested by her dollmaking and origami-crafting hobbies, and complimented the novelty of her leaving the latter as calling cards.”

“He also inquired if Cloe was more ‘modern’ than Kindred elders of equivalent age. I answered they could be, though I have seen my share of ghouls who adapted to the modern world as poorly as their domitors.”

The primogen smiles faintly. “He also expressed that she was ‘very pretty’ and inquired where he could meet her to commission a doll or figurine. I told him Cloe can often be found attending my sire, and that Elysium is as good a place as any to find either.”

There were birds present, but that’s not atypical. The (Lower) Garden District is absolutely full of birds with how green and leafy it is, especially during the summer months. Accou clarifies that he and Evan met one another outdoors, on the historic district’s streets. It’s actually quite common for Toreador to take evening strolls through the area and to simply bask in the sight of its lovely historic architecture and equally lovely gardens. “One may even perchance to meet a tourist and combine pleasure with… further pleasure.” His meeting with Evan was (seemingly) a spontaneous rather than prearranged one.

Caroline: Caroline asks if he didn’t notice if a number (likely not many are active at night) followed Evan when he left? She understands otherwise since it was a while back, but she’s asking just to be sure. Birdsongs can start as early as 4 AM (a fact that all Kindred know well), and it was around that hour that Accou met with Evan.

Rocco: Rocco also asks more about the birds.

GM: “Hmm, yes. I suppose some birds did take off when Evan left,” the Toreador considers, now that he thinks on it.

Caroline: Caroline chats with him a while further, feeling out his interests if he’s willing. Does he often take strolls through the Garden District? Is there anything he would point out in particular? She seems content (if not thrilled) that this lead has been followed up on and is mostly interested in furthering a good impression on the elder.

GM: Accou answers that he often takes strolls through the district. So do many other Toreador, not just ones who live in the area. Plenty of kine tourists do that too. The neighborhood is gorgeous and taking walks through it is a very popular activity. Accou is especially partial to St. Alphonus Church and Coliseum Square, but anyone native to the city knows that you can just wander around the area and see a lot of pretty things.

Caroline: Caroline also mentions, if Accou maintains the telepathic contact, that she does intend on sharing the matter of Evan and his infidelity with Agnello—she’d just rather do so with all the evidence (especially any that might help exonerate Roxanne) rather than early.

GM: :: Very good, Miss Malveaux. No doubt your clanmate will appreciate the merits of this course of action. ::

Rocco: “What do you know of Amandine, Primogen?” Rocco inquires.

GM: “I know her to be one of the Crones, Hound Agnello. I am to understand she is considered a promising blood sorcerer and a subject matter expert, or would-be expert, on the Birds of Dis.”

Rocco: Rocco asks if Accou knows of any plans Evan had after their meeting, specifically ones that could have included meeting up with someone or going somewhere? Not immediately afterwards, more in the instance about Evan mentioning his plans potentially in the following nights, assuming he’s been commissioned to create some artwork or whatever else might occupy his time.

GM: Accou answers that Evan didn’t go into much depth there—though Accou does add that Evan was a member of the Guild of Nemesis, and so was unlikely to take any artistic commissions. The boy had little talent for producing art himself.

Rocco: Rocco muses that since Evan was a critic, maybe it’s possible he offended someone in the past or created enemies of people. “Do you know of any potential enemies or anybody recently offended by Mr. Bourelle, Primogen?” Rocco inquires.

GM: Accou clarifies that Evan was simply a poseur. He was not a dedicated critic and was relegated to the Guild of Nemesis by default, like all poseurs are. Evan in fact generally preferred to praise and compliment rather than criticize.

“This makes little name for oneself among a guild of critics,” Accou smiles knowingly.

Rocco: Well, at least it’s unlikely that whoever’s responsible has an ‘artistic motive’ as far as Rocco knows now. They haven’t been killed.

GM: Accou does agree that seems unlikely as a motive. The clan has plenty of scathing critics already.

“Such as my sister-in-blood,” he chuckles.

Rocco: Rocco smiles back. “Has anyone else asked after Bourelle, Primogen?”

GM: “You and Miss Malveaux are the first Kindred to make inquiries of me, Hound Agnello. Not even the Storyvilles did so.”

Rocco: Rocco asks what Accou knows about Yellow Sidra. He fills Accou in on the particulars of that, telling him that Yellow Sidra is the last person to be seen with and that it was in Jackson Square.

GM: Sidra’s clan is an open question to many, ranging from Malkavian to Caitiff to Tremere, but Accou has heard that she’s actually a Ravnos. He doesn’t know if that’ll grant any further insight into the investigation, but it may into Sidra, and perhaps the former as a result.

“I have heard she is a Ravnos.”

Rocco: Rocco bristles. The deceivers lie as easily as they smile. And they smile all the time.

GM: The group exchanges final pleasantries. Accou seems interested in being kept in the loop on Evan. He speaks favorably of the missing neonate, though Caroline can’t help but recall Jocelyn’s words.

Everyone all saying how great Evan is and doing shit.

Tuesday night, 20 October 2015, AM

Rocco: In the nights that follow, Rocco decides to look into the whereabouts of Evan Bourelle. His initial investigations take him to Marcel Guilbeau.

GM: The pair’s heralds work out scheduling. The prince-in-exile receives the hound several nights later aboard the Alystra. Rocco has heard that the riverboat is the same vessel on which Guilbeau fled Baton Rouge in the wake of Lawrence Meeks’ coup. In the ten years since, he’s had it converted into a fabulous casino.

The office room in which Rocco is received practically oozes money. Warm woods are accented by soft yellow lights from torch-like metal holders. Luxurious red and gold-patterned carpets accent the floors. Crystal gleams from the room’s chandelier and (needless) ashtray on the teakwood desk. Tastefully arranged white, purple, and blue magnolias peak from hand-painted china vases.

Paintings, too, adorn the walls. The one that occupies the place of greatest prominence behind the manager’s desk, however, is of a Neo-Gothic, castle-like turreted building surrounded by a grove of trees and cast iron fence. A young couple wearing a dark 19th century suit and pink dress survey the building from beyond the fence, arms linked.

A wide window on the room’s right side overlooks the Mississippi. Bright lights, lively music, and sounds of laughing, carousing patrons spill out from the boat’s lower decks, but are comfortably muffled into low murmurs and soft glows. The office seems to almost bask in the afterglow of it all, as if to say, “this is where the money all flows.”

It’s a saying that the casino-owning Gangrel is well familiar with.

Marcel Guilbeau rises from his high-backed leather chair as staff escort Rocco into the room. The exiled prince is a tall and deeply handsome man with rectangular features, a strong nose, dark caramel-brown hair sculpted into a neat mustache and goatee, and deep blue eyes. Two pale gold crucifix earrings hang from his ears. He is garbed in a dark suit, white silk dress shirt, and necktie of the same color. A matching folded handkerchiefgh rests in the jacket’s front pocket.

Rocco: “Thank you for taking the time to see me, Prince Guilbeau,” the hound says affably. He waits for Marcel to sit back down before taking his own seat opposite the taller vampire. “I hope you’re doing well these nights.”

GM: “Hound Agnello,” Marcel smiles as he shakes the Gangrel’s hand, then seats himself. “Better for your company. We should see each other more often, if only to exchange tips on managing pit bosses. What can I do for you?”

Rocco: Hound Agnello is obviously pleased by Marcel’s compliment. An easy smile appears on Rocco’s face as he casually crosses his legs. “You’re right. We don’t see each other nearly enough, Prince Guilbeau,” the hound replies agreeably.

“It’s a shame. You always seem like the life of the party in Elysium.” Rocco’s eyes move away from Marcel as he casually takes in the office’s opulent decor. His eyes, looking past the exiled prince, finally settle on the room’s most prominent painting situated right behind Marcel. “It’s quite a beautiful painting you have there, Your Majesty,” Rocco remarks, wistfully. “I recall seeing a similar piece.”

Rocco adds, “It’s the Old State Capitol,” as his eyes turn back to Marcel. A benign smile rests on his face.

GM: “How good of you to recognize it, Hound Agnello,” the prince-in-exile smiles back, clearly pleased. “You should see it in person. It makes for a striking sight today—it’s an almost medieval castle plopped right in the center of downtown. There are weddings, dances, art exhibits, and a museum hosted there. I had it declared Elysium years ago.”

Rocco: “I plan to see it in person one of these nights,” Rocco replies, clasping his hands together just beneath his chin. The angelic mafioso pauses for a brief moment, looking pensive. “Do you mind if we get down to business now, Prince Guilbeau?”

GM: The Ventrue languidly motions for him to proceed.

Rocco: “Excellent.” Rocco then continues, “My main concern is the disappearance of a neonate named Evan Bourelle.”

GM: “Ah yes, I’m familiar with Bourelle,” Marcel answers with a slight drop in his smile. “I hope nothing has become of him, but it’s been some time. What brings you to me over this, Hound Agnello?”

Rocco: “I understand you and Evan were lovers, Prince Guilbeau,” Rocco freely admits. “I thought it respectful to keep you apprised of a lover’s disappearance and allay any worries you have.”

A small, unassuming smile remains on Rocco’s face. “I also hoped you could share with me anything noteworthy that may help me find or at least find out what happened to Evan Bourelle.”

GM: Marcel initially looks somewhat amused, but answers, “Yes, he lived aboard the Alystra for some time as well. We called things off after he got together with a neonate from my clan, Roxanne Gerlette. She didn’t like to share.”

“The poor boy went out of his way to placate me, but he needn’t have bothered. Lovers are like chips in a casino. They come and go. If all you do is hoard them, you’ll never get to play.”

Just outside the office’s windows, scintillating lights reflect down on the Mississippi. There are distant sounds of laughter, clinking glasses, and dice rolling against hard surfaces. It’s a familiar overture to the casino-owning Gangrel.

“But I wouldn’t presume to know what the sheriff and his hounds have already uncovered in their investigations,” Marcel continues, leaning back in his chair. “What questions can I answer for you?”

Rocco: Rocco nods his head, seemingly happy with Marcel’s answer. Nonetheless, the amicable demeanor belies a discerning gaze.

“You say Evan tried to placate you, Prince Guilbeau. What do you mean exactly?”

GM: “He took pains to explain the situation and apologize over it to me. He offered me a boon, though I told him he needn’t bother.”

Rocco: Rocco taps his chin thoughtfully, seemingly pleased. “I have to applaud Evan’s propriety, though,” the Gangrel answers. “Do you know of any enemies that he had that could’ve led to his disappearance?”

GM: “Naturally. There’s the Baron’s followers, for one. I suppose Mr. Savoy’s could’ve had the motive too,” Marcel speculates, “but the boy was always telling me about the hell he and his krewe were raising in the poorer parts of town. Showing the ‘voodoo heathens’ the price for straying from Christ’s path. I imagine they could’ve twinked some Crone’s nose if they weren’t careful.”

Rocco: “I have it on good authority that Evan was last spotted in the French Quarter with Yellow Sidra,” Rocco states rather plainly.

GM: “The officers of the prince’s justice would seem to have done their homework,” the Ventrue smiles. “You probably have a better idea than I do what he’d have wanted with her, though. Bourelle never mentioned Sidra to me.”

Rocco: “Evan had an interest in getting his fortune told by her,” Rocco says, filling in the holes. “It’s certainly odd that Evan never mentioned her, though. I understand that he used to get his fortune told quite frequently.”

The Gangrel would sigh, but the impulse is as long-dead as his lungs.

“It must’ve been a recent interest.”

GM: “Perhaps it was. Or he simply didn’t think it was worth bringing up.” The prince-in-exile smiles knowingly. “Lovers harbor secrets too.”

Rocco: Rocco’s gaze lingers on Marcel’s smile.

“I take it you’re being forthright with me, though,” he mentions offhandedly, innocently.

GM: That smile subsides as Marcel makes a tsk-tsk noise at Rocco’s tone.

“You may speak how you please of the young whelps, Hound Agnello, but that will not do here.”

Rocco: Rocco bows his head slightly. “I hope you can forgive me, Prince Guilbeau,” the Gangrel says, calmly. “I meant no disrespect. You’ve been so kind to lend me your time tonight and I would hate for your impression of me to sour.”

GM: Marcel motions with his right hand. It bears a diamond-set gold signet ring not so unlike the ones Rocco has observed on Vidal and Maldonato.

“To receive the Guard de Ville aboard the Alystra is itself a sign of respect. No harm done, Hound Agnello.”

Rocco: “Thank you, Prince Guilbeau. In any case, I really should take my leave now,” Rocco says, awaiting the Ventrue’s own leave with a parting smile.

GM: The exiled prince rises as Rocco does. “I’ll say this much else about Bourelle, there was a Crone girl he was hoping to convert to the Sanctified. Adrienne, Adele, something with an A. I told him it was a silly idea, but he didn’t seem to think so. Perhaps it’s nothing. Perhaps it’s not.”

The Ventrue smiles again and extends a hand. “Stop by sometime if you fancy a game of baccarat in a change of surroundings.”

Thursday night, 22 October 2015, AM

Rocco: After meeting with Marcel Guilbeau aboard the Alystra, Rocco makes further plans to look into Evan Bourelle’s disappearance. His next lead is the fortuneteller Yellow Sidra. Rocco understands that she is the last one to see Evan Bourelle. He also understands she makes her home in the French Quarter. In his pursuit for more information, the hound decides to visit the Carnival Club in Sundown’s domain.

GM: Rocco finds the party in full swing as he enters the Carnival Club—not that it ever isn’t at this hour. Sweating bodies writhe and undulate to pounding music. Conversation without shouting is close to impossible. The scents of alcohol and cigarette smoke further lace the air. Scintillating lights play over every surface, shifting from red to purple to blue and back again. The sounds of the kines’ thumping heartbeats are almost as audible to Rocco as the hammering music. In such an environment, even the dead can feel alive again—if only for a few moments.

For most of them, that’s enough.

Dead men and women weave through the teeming throngs like sharks, scenting blood, going through all the motions of seduction, and stealing away with the choicest vessels. The Afterhours King and patron of New Orleans revelry distantly surveys them from his seat on the second-floor lounge.

He has some company, too.

Rosa Bale is biracial woman in her early middle years with a bush of straw-like salt-and-pepper hair tied up in a brown scarf. Her garb consists of a plain maroon cotton dress, and a dark shawl with swirling yellow, black, and white patterns. Beaded necklaces with a crucifix and tiny leather pouch dangle from her neck. A featureless, milky-white glass eye stares blankly from her right socket.
Rocco, looking from afar, studies the pair with interest.

The two appear engaged in conversation with one another, although their exact words are impossible to make out between the distance and blaring music. Sundown’s body language is relaxed. Rosa’s is more reserved, though neither does the Ventrue mambo appear hostile.

Rocco: The hound, sifting through the crowd, makes his way to the crowded bar to order a drink.
His peripherals remain on Sundown and Rosa Bale, although his focus is split between them and any other vampire that may catch the hound’s eye.

GM: The bartender, a dark-haired and slightly harried-looking Latina woman, promptly mixes up whatever he asks for. Not that it makes any difference to the century-dead man.

Rocco: A polite smile appears on Rocco’s face as he proffers cash over the bar, exchanging it for a couple tequila sunrises. His expression doesn’t change as he then deftly moves through the crowd toward Sundown to announce his presence.

GM: At least several other Damned stand out like beacons to the Gangrel’s watchful eye as he does do. They could be competitors here, his Beast growls. Pietro Silvestri, whose handsome looks and curly black hair seem to have won him some female attention. A plainer but still pretty-looking young woman with shoulder-length brown hair. And a green-haired, discordantly giggling young woman whose skeleton-pale makeup and spiked leather collar stands out next to her more unobtrusively-dressed fellows.

Rocco: Rocco turns his focus away from the gang of monsters and makes his way through the crowds and up the stairs to the club’s second level. He approaches Sundown with an easy smile.

“Good evening, Sundown,” he says loud enough to be heard over the music’s blare.

GM: Rocco finds that he does not need to raise his voice overly much. The club’s second level is actually behind a wall of glass, with a single ‘cut out’ section that allows easy egress up or down the staircase. A well-stocked bar with several overhead television screens sits in the corner. Tables are positioned to overlook the dancing throngs on the first floor. The lighting might be an unchanging blue here, and the music might be softer, but this place is more intermission than respite from the revelry below.

Rosa Bale stares at the Gangrel, her voice as cool as the glass surface of her false eye.

“Regent Sundown is engaged, Hound Agnello. Your presence is unwelcome.”

Rocco: The hound gives Rosa Bale a cool, unaffected smile in return.

“You wound me, Rosa. I even bought you a tequila sunrise.”

He makes a slight show of looking at Rosa’s empty-handedness. The hound tries to disarm the Acolyte with a boyish smile.

GM: Rocco’s glass slips from his fingers. Cat-quick, the Gangrel catches it before it can strike the floor. The surface of the alcohol ripples. It catches Rocco’s eye. An echo rings against the edge of the glass. The liquid has gone still. The sound still reverberates. He strains his ears. There’s something…

Get… out…

The noise of shattering glass unravels it all. Orage liquid seeps past his shoes.

A few heads from the nearby tables turn and look.

Rocco: Rocco, careful not to cut himself on any broken glass or let any alcohol spill on his clothes, gives Sundown an apologetic look, excusing himself from the two vampires as he makes his way to the nearby bar.


He can’t help feeling suspicious of Rosa Bale, although admittedly he didn’t spot any wrongdoing.
Staff from that same bar show up with paper towels and a hand broom to sweep up the glass.

Rocco places his remaining drink down and looks for a toilet to wash his hands. He apologizes to the staff when given the chance, trying his best to look the part of a polite 21-year-old. He doesn’t like the extra attention.

GM: The staff assure him that it’s fine, and he finds his way to the restroom without incident. The attendant hands him towels and offers a stick of mint-flavored gum.

Rocco: “No thank you,” Rocco replies in regard to the stick of gum, cleaning his hands and looking over his clothes to make sure they’re unsullied.

Once happy, Rocco exits the bathroom and scopes the place, deciding to socialize with some unknown kindred while he waits for Rosa Bale to finish speaking with Sundown. Rocco makes his way toward the green-haired woman with cat-like poise.

GM: Lights play over Rocco’s face and music thumps in his ears as he approaches the other Kindred.
Eris seems to vary her appearance nightly. He’s seen her wearing tie-dyed skirts one night and red leather the next. Her green hair is frizzy as if from too many dye jobs, though even that element hasn’t been consistent—on other nights it’s been perfectly straight, or even shaved off. A smirk plays over her black-painted lips as she spots the approaching Gangrel among the dancing throngs.

WHAT DO YOU CALL A HOUND WITH A SURROUND SYSTEM?” she shouts over the music.


GM: “A SUB-WOOF SYSTEM!” she giggles, or at least looks like she does. Rocco can’t make out the sound.

Rocco: The hound gives the green-haired woman an affable smile, saddling up beside her as he finally frees himself from the sea of club-goers.

“Nice joke,” he says over the music, closing in on Eris to be more easily heard as he tries to rope her in to a conversation. “Here’s one for you: how many anarchists does it take to change a light-bulb?”

“The answer: it doesn’t matter, they’ll never be able to change it, or anything else for that matter.”

GM: “Ohhh, I was going to guess one, because two couldn’t agree on anything…” Eris’ eyes run over Rocco as she licks her black-painted lips, saddling up behind him. “Shows what I know!”

Rocco: An amused, half-smile appears on Rocco’s face as he tries to make heads or tails out of her. She’s a strange one. “I don’t think we’ve ever formally met,” Rocco says, deciding to get introductions out of the way.

GM: “Reaaallly? And why not?” the woman asks, pumping her limbs to the music as she circles around Rocco again. “Maybe we met in Hades, or the Pre-Illusion… what were you before you existed?”

Rocco: “I was nothing,” Rocco replies, looking uncharacteristically humble for a moment. “As the Council of Alexandria once said, I reject the idea of preexisting souls.” He gives Eris a cheeky, boyish grin after his explanation.

GM: “Oh, that’s too bad. Personally, I like the idea—but then I’m a proponent of other types of recycling, also. I think we could reduce a lot of spiritual waste by reusing old souls, so hopefully that’s what we’re doing.”

Rocco: “I suppose in a sense we are recycled people,” Rocco says, thoughtfully. He looks amused by the idea.

“I am Rocco,” he finally says, giving Eris a familiar look.

GM: “I’M ERIS, AND THE MUSIC HERE IS LOUD!” she shouts back as the DJ starts up a new mix.

Rocco: “Do you want to find somewhere more quiet?” he asks, flirtatiously.

GM: Eris’ face turns red and then blue under the scintillating lights as she tilts her head. “YOU SHOULD SPEAK UP, BUT I’M GAME!”

Rocco: Rocco offers his hand, signaling for Eris to let him take the lead. He looks for a quieter, more private nook for the two to talk.

GM: A quick scan of the teeming dance floor leads the Gangrel to conclude that is what the club’s second level, where he spoke with Rosa Bale, is for.

Rocco: Rocco heads there, taking Eris by the hand.

GM: Eris giggles at the Hound’s show of seeming affection, but plays along. The two make their way back up the club’s second level. It’s much as it was when Rocco left, though the broken glass and spilled sunrise have been mopped up. Sundown and Rosa Bale are still conversing at their table.

Rocco: He leads them to an empty table to speak privately. Rocco, looking down at Eris’s hand as they finally settle, gives her a cheeky smile.

“Have you ever gotten your palm read?” he asks, conversationally.

GM: “Oh lots of times, in at least this life,” Eris nods. “The different methods can give such different results, it’s interesting to compare them with each other.”

Rocco: “I never knew there were different methods,” Rocco admits. “I’ve only recently become interested.”

GM: “Oh huh, why’s that?”

Rocco: “Do you know of someone named Yellow Sidra?” he asks. “I heard she might be able to read my palm and tell my fortune.”

GM: “Question for a question, huh?” Eris asks, looking amused. “Yes, she reads palms in Jackson Square, because where else.”

Rocco: Rocco looks amused, giving Eris a devilish laugh at her answer. “Would you be able to introduce me to her, Eris?” he asks, charmingly.

GM: “Shy?” the woman smirks.

Rocco: “I always am when talking to beautiful women,” he replies, toothily.

GM: Eris laughs at Rocco’s initial remark. “All right, sure. You have a sense of humor, for a hound. Although you know what Harlequin says about masks…”

She tilts her head as she regards the Gangrel, something dancing in her eyes, and then produces a card.

Rocco: The hound’s eyes light up, impressed.

GM: “It’s for you,” Eris clarifies. “I’d say you’re a pope now too, but the power was really yours all along.”

“There’s a number on the back you can call me at when you want to meet her. I should mention I’m not always that reliable, so you might have to try a couple times.”

“You can pay me back by printing some more of those cards, I’m always giving them away.”

Rocco: “In contrast I am quite reliable,” Rocco answers, happily taking the card. "Thank you, Eris. It’s been a lot of fun getting to know you tonight.

Saturday night, 24 October 2015, PM

Rocco: It is a simple affair.

The hound organizes the meeting to take place in Faubourg Marigny. He asks for Yellow Sidra and Sundown to meet within the latter’s domain to discuss Evan Bourelle’s seeming disappearance. He understands that Evan used to go to Yellow Sidra to get his palm read and that Sundown was his regent, and the hound hopes to glean clues from the pair as to the neonate’s fate. Ostensibly, he is on official business for the Guard de Ville.

GM: The Midnight Bayou is a typical Sundown club. Crowds of dancers writhe and undulate under pulsing red lights to pounding music that’s almost loud enough to split one’s head. Here, the dead feed with impunity among the teeming throngs, and can feel ever-so-briefly alive.

The upstairs VIP lounge is a more subdued affair. It’s done in a similar color scheme to the downstairs floor, with dark walls and low red lighting. Patrons lounge about in leather booths and chairs, talking quietly, admiring the art on the walls, and sipping expensive drinks. Soft background music replaces the headsplitting blare downstairs. Smiling waitresses glide across the floor, relaying orders between customers while a bartender expertly mixes drinks in the back.

Rocco finds Sundown sitting at the rear-most booth, dressed in a “stylishly minimalist” maroon button-up shirt and dark slacks. His conversational partner stands out somewhat more. She’s dusky of skin and could be either Latina, Roma, or some typically New Orleans mix of races. She looks somewhere in her 20s, much younger than most fortune-tellers, but is dressed similarly to them in a multicolored gypsy skirt, a low-cut black and white-striped shirt, and a top hat threaded with red and purple scarves in place of a band. Gold glints from her ears and fingers. Her inky black hair is a wild and untamed forest that plays home to a monkey wearing a purple vest and miniature top hat of its own. The tiny animal sits on her shoulder and occasionally tugs at one of her earrings, but is otherwise still—even attentive-looking. It’s an uncommon gathering of three Kindred who may all be able to converse with the creature.

A meeting between one of the sheriff’s hounds and a Jackson Square fortune-teller would be uncommon too—anywhere outside of Faubourg Marigny.

Vidals’ and his rivals’ supporters may bare their fangs at one another, but for now, the parish remains neutral ground.

“Hound Agnello. Glad you could drop by,” Sundown smiles casually.

Rocco: “Thank you for having me, Regent Sundown,” the hound replies, returning the smile. His smile doesn’t leave his face as he studies the gypsy and her monkey.

GM: “Hound,” Sidra states.

A waitress comes by to get the three’s drink orders. “No need to actually force those down,” the Nosferatu remarks after she leaves.

“Some perks to owning the club, Regent?” Sidra remarks.

“A few,” Sundown smiles faintly, before shifting his posture towards Rocco. “Now then, Hound Agnello, why don’t you tell us what we’re here for tonight?”

Rocco: The hound looks up as Sundown addresses him with a relaxed expression. “Evan Bourelle,” the hound answers in a swift tone. “I understand that Mr Bourelle was your vassal. As such, I assume his disappearance holds some importance to you, Regent.”

His focus suddenly shifts to Yellow Sidra. The hound’s boyish smile grows. “It’s good to finally make your acquaintance, Yellow Sidra. I understand that Mr. Bourelle enjoyed getting his fortune told and saw you frequently.”

GM: “He might have. He might not have,” the fortune-teller answers noncommittally. “What’s in it for me if he did?”

“A night of hunting in my territory. Perhaps more, and perhaps something from the hound, depending on what you have for us,” Sundown answers.

Rocco: “I plan to thank you properly for your trouble, Yellow Sidra,” the hound follows, nodding his head at Sundown’s answer. “I also plan to thank Eris D. properly for helping make this meeting possible.”

GM: Sidra looks between the two ancillae. “Okay. Sure. I read his palm a few times.”

The monkey nods its tiny head along.

Rocco: “When was the last time you saw Evan?” he asks, trying his best to ease Yellow Sidra’s reservations. His body language is calm, casual, and friendly. He keeps eyes contact. His smile never wavers.

GM: The fortuneteller looks back. “August 16th. Never saw him again after that. Sounds like not too many other licks did either.”

Rocco: The hound sits back and looks prayerful for a moment. “What did the pair of you talk about?” he asks, trying to calculate Evan’s time missing. “I would greatly appreciate as many details and oddities that you can recall as possible. I am particularly interested in any conversations you had with him leading up to his disappearance.”

GM: “I read his palm, twice. The first time maybe a week before that. We spent a little while talking, after his first reading. About life and love and shit. He was pretty in the dumps. Wasn’t he, Cayce?” she asks the monkey.

The tiny primate bobs its head several times.

“We didn’t talk too long after the second reading. He seemed in a hurry to get the hell away,” Sidra goes on. “Customers don’t always like what they hear.”

Rocco: An understanding look crosses Rocco’s face as he listens.

GM: Several things occur to Rocco over the course of the trio’s conversation.

First, Sidra isn’t uncomfortable in the pair’s presence, nor is she fishing for sympathy. She slowly doles out information through sensational descriptions of Evan’s reactions without stating the cause behind them. It’s almost a story, the kind that leaves her audience wanting to lean in and ask, “Why?”

And the why behind Sidra’s tactics is plain and simple. Like most fortunetellers, she’s a saleswoman… and Rocco gets the distinct sense from the shrewd cast to her eye that she is jacking up her prices.
It’s a confident cast, too… there’s a reason she thinks that’s a safe bet.

The first substantive piece of information Sidra agrees to part with is the results of Evan’s second palm reading—the one that sent him fleeing Jackson Square, deeply rattled, after which no one saw him again. Sidra claims to have divined Evan’s final fate, for she is of the line of Tryphosa, the great seeress of Rome, and the Sight runs true in her blood.

Rocco: Rocco isn’t sure who “Tryphosa” is, but he’s pretty sure that’s bullshit.

An amused glint appears in his eyes. Nonetheless, the Gangrel hound discusses the price of this information with sincere interest. “I am happy to owe you a boon for both readings, Yellow Sidra,” he says, even if he doesn’t fully trust her word.

GM: “Okay. Evan Bourelle is dead.”

Sidra goes on to explain that Evan’s “fate line” indicated doom. His lines were also very dark—literally dark, which meant they were “danger points.” Those indicate accidental or sudden deaths.

The ghouled chimp on Sidra’s shoulder hoots and tugs her earrings in emphasis.

“He wasn’t killed by another lick, though. My reading also said that a powerful force may avenge his death… or maybe not. Bourelle broke off and bolted at that point.”

Rocco: The hound looks very interested at that last revelation, and doesn’t even try to hide it, smiling broadly at Sundown for a moment before turning back to Yellow Sidra. “You have been a great help, Yellow Sidra,” he states, “but unless you have anything more of value to share, I would like to discuss things with Regent Sundown in private now.”

GM: “Suit yourselves,” says Sidra. “Thanks for the hunting.”

“Enjoy yourself,” smiles the Nosferatu.

The fortuneteller disappears, no doubt to avail herself of her feeding rights.

Rocco: “I don’t entirely trust everything Yellow Sidra had to say, but I believe some of what was said is worth following up,” the hound says without much preamble. “What are your thoughts, Sundown?”

GM: “Follow-up usually is worth it,” the Nosferatu agrees. “The question is usually ‘where’ rather than ‘if.’”

Rocco: “I am hoping to secure your permission to investigate Evan’s old haven in that case, Sundown,” the hound says, “and if you have the whereabouts of which, that would be an incredible help. I also plan to track down and speak to any of his ghouls.”

GM: “All possibly fruitful leads,” the regent remarks. “What’s your interest in finding Bourelle, Rocco?”

Rocco: “I have a vested interest in those whose allegiance belongs to His Majesty, of course,” the hound explains, cheerfully. “It’s always been my intention that those who are loyal to His Majesty will be rewarded with loyalty in return.”

GM: “How thoughtful of the Guard de Ville,” Sundown smiles. “I think the other Storyvilles have taken in his ghouls. If you want to find Bourelle’s haven, I’d recommend talking with one of them. The permission’s yours if you want to poke around the area.”

Rocco: “Thank you, Regent Sundown,” he replies, “but if you’re already aware of Evan’s haven’s location and willing to part with this information, I’d be willing to part with a nexum munus.” He eyes the Nosferatu carefully.

GM: Sundown waves him off. “You already footed the prestation with Sidra, Hound Agnello. I don’t make it a habit to spy on my vassals, of course,” the Nosferatu remarks, “but I suppose desperate times have called for desperate measures. Better to find Bourelle by finding his haven, than both to stay unknown.”

He provides an address.

“I’ll still be obliged if you informed the Storyvilles before looking around. The others aren’t my vassals, but I can understand them feeling protective towards the space.”

Rocco: “I will do such. Your kindness and understanding in this matter is commendable, Sundown, so I thank you once again,” he says, preparing to take his leave and tend to other business.

GM: “Stop by anytime, Rocco,” Sundown says, rising with the hound as he moves to leave.

“Bring guests, friendly or otherwise. Everyone will always be welcome at my clubs.”

Late October—early December, 2015

GM: Jocelyn’s eager anticipation for news of Evan gives way to nights of waiting with bated breath.

A week passes.

Then another week. Jocelyn mentions the Storyvilles have been in touch with Sundown, and that they’re antsy for news. At the advice of Roxanne’s sire, they aren’t pushing things. The Nosferatu do things at their own pace. You can’t really rush them.

Another week goes by.

Then another. The Storyvilles grow increasingly impatient over the Hidden Clan’s efforts. Jocelyn admits to approaching Sundown on her own. He told her that his clan was “‘more information brokers than investigators’—what the hell is that even supposed to mean? Don’t brokers need to dig up their information from somewhere?” the Toreador remarks crossly.

More weeks go by. There is no news on Evan Bourelle.

Sundown finally invites Caroline up to one of his clubs’ offices in early November. “Thanks for being patient, Miss Malveaux. Not much luck finding Evan Bourelle, I’m sad to say. Finding a few specific birds is finding a needle in a haystack, and there’s always other things.” The ‘handsome’ Nosferatu smiles. “Never enough hours in the night even when you’re immortal, are there?”

The Afterhours King is polite about it, but the gist of his statements essentially seem to come down to: Evan isn’t important enough to spend this much effort on. Sorry.

“Still,” the Nosferatu continues, “you wanted credit for your part in things, and you did bring us actionable information. What would you say to repayment in kind? As any of my clan can well tell you, there’s few currencies of greater value.”

Caroline: Caroline’s own frustrations mount as her investigations come for naught. They multiply like gremlins when she settles on a prime suspect that everyone seems to know about but no one seems to want to mention, much less follow up on. By the time the Afterhours King invites her for a meeting she’s all but resigned to the answer: even if people care, they don’t care that much. Not enough to tangle with her.

So she sits quietly through Sundown’s pitch, and smiles knowingly when he’s done. “I understand, Regent Sundown. There are other tenants,, and an entire domain to consider. I would, of course, be grateful for whatever you might share in turn.”

GM: The handsome-appearing Nosferatu motions. “Then ask away, Miss Malveaux. Customer’s choice, within reason.”

Caroline: The heiress’s smile is razor sharp. “If it pleases you, Regent Sundown, I’d know of Caitlin Meadows.”

GM: The sewer rat raises an eyebrow, but nevertheless continues, “What about her?”

Caroline: Caroline is interested in Meadows’ past and present in the city. She relates that she’s heard a fair number of whispered tales about her, but suspect that many have been exaggerated—she doesn’t think Meadows has three heads and two hearts for instance. If he can shed light into who she was, perhaps it would shed light into why she’s been so aggressive and violent of late.

GM: Sundown relates what is relatively well-known of the savage scourge to Caroline and seems willing to entertain a few follow-up questions concerning that information.

Caroline: Caroline is very interested to learn that the monster terrorizing much of the city is the sire of her current landlord. She asks a few more pointed questions about exactly when she went off the rails, so far as anyone can tell, and what disciplines she’s previously shown proficiency with. It becomes quite apparent (if it wasn’t already) that she regards Meadows as the primary suspect in Evan’s disappearance.

GM: “You wouldn’t think so at a glance, would you? He’s certainly prettier than she is,” the Nosferatu chuckles at Caroline’s initial reaction.

Sundown reiterates that Meadows seemed to go rogue after she reappeared from a several-months absence. It’s also relatively well-known that she can sprout horrific, knife-like claws that she prefers to do her fighting (or perhaps more aptly, killing) with.

It will be a separate transaction with the Hidden Clan if Caroline desires more specific detail regarding which Cainite gifts Meadows is proficient at.

“Though you’re right to imagine we do keep track of those, Miss Malveaux,” the Nosferatu smiles faintly. “We keep track of everything.”

Caroline: Caroline laughs lightly at the last admission and replies amusedly, “I shudder to think what you might have to say about me, Regent Sundown.”

Thursday night, 3 December 2015, PM

GM: In the aftermath Caroline’s Sundown meeting, Jocelyn wants to hear all about how it went and really wants some kind of actionable lead to follow. The Storyvilles aren’t taking things well, especially Roxanne. She’s frenzying more, and worse, getting snappish and irritable. Jocelyn’s not sure how long this can last.

Caroline: Caroline relates that the primogen didn’t have much to offer. Caroline has a few plans and ideas. Among them are contacting Evan’s sire (he may have felt if Evan was actually killed) and reaching out to the Crone he was trying to convert to find out if she knows anything.

She talks with Rocco about whether he’s had any luck locating Amandine.

GM: The hound has unfortunately been occupied by his duties to the Guard de Ville. He is leaving the matter to Caroline.

Caroline: The Ventrue talks to the Storyvilles about how Evan got in contact with her in the first place, and whether or not they know of a to reach her. If that fails, she seeks her out at Elysium. If that fails, she asks the Nosferatu for info on how she might find her, offering a boon in exchange.

She suggests to the Storyvilles at large (without letting on that she knows Roxxy knows) that if anyone knows Evan’s sire, they should reach out to them and try to find out if they felt anything when he went missing. She understands that it’s a private matter, but it may be the only way they get any closure at this point.

GM: Jocelyn lets Caroline know that no one knew about Evan’s sire—until she scryed on Roxxy. He hadn’t talked about where he was from or how he was Embraced with his other krewemates (or at least her) at all.

Caroline eventually locates Amandine in one of the Friday Elysia hosted in a less formal venue. At first glance, she isn’t much to look at. A bit plain in the face, with tan skin, but good cheekbones and full lips. Her hair is a simple brown and worn away from her face in a ponytail. She wears plain blue jeans, hiking boots, boy’s dress shirts that look like they were bought at a thrift store, and a leather messenger bag.

Caroline: Caroline approaches Amandine and engages her in small talk, trying to feel her out and learn more about her.

GM: Amandine is barely civil to the Sanctified Ventrue and blows her off. Onlookers look amused by Caroline’s attempt at conversation.

Caroline: Caroline is friendly in her acceptance of the brush-off and looks for a better opportunity to engage with the young heathen. She texts Jocelyn and asks if she wants to help her find an in with Amandine. She also texts Rocco—knowing he’d been looking for her. Caroline surreptitiously keeps an eye on those the other vampire interacts with, looking for any common ground (or at least neutral ground).

GM: Jocelyn has no clue who Amandine is beyond a Vodouisant sleeping with Evan and doesn’t know what to do, but is game if Caroline has any ideas.

Caroline observes Amandine speaking with Desirae Wells. Elysium this week is also held at a less formal venue, with fewer Creoles in attendance.

Caroline: Caroline approaches Wells about Amandine, both in the context of their relationship and in the context of Wells working as a midde-woman between some of the different groups in the city and trying to keep conflict down.

She’d like the Caitiff emissary to help set and facilitate a chat with Amandine (with Wells as the third party there). In return, she’ll clue Wells in as to something that Amandine should know, that she’ll probably appreciate, and that she might take better from someone she knows (namely that Rocco is looking into the matter and looking for Amandine specifically).

GM: Wells is amenable to arranging the meeting between Caroline and Amandine, but she doesn’t think Amandine is very likely to want to talk to Caroline. The news about Rocco is likely to make her double down with her own covenant. The hound is known for his bullying ways, but he might well bite off more than he can chew if he expects to make a victim of a lone neonate. The Crones look out for their own people. Rather more than the Sanctified admittedly do. Going after Amandine is likely to pick a fight with Doc Xola, who is infamous for acting as the Crones’ protector.

Caroline: Caroline suggests that if Wells can help her get Amandine to open up—after breaking the news about Rocco—that she might convince Rocco to back off. Even if the Crones look out for one another, it’d be one less headache for Amandine. “We all do too much looking over our shoulder as it is.” She also mentions the entire matter concerns the disappearance of someone Amandine was spending time with—and that it’s possible information she has could point towards an answer about what happened to him. She’s careful not to point a finger at Amandine, and instead alludes to (without outright stating) Meadows.

GM: Wells thinks Amandine could be amenable to this proposition and gets back with the news that she’s arranged a meeting in Mid-City several nights from now.

Caroline: Caroline arrives at the meeting with Jocelyn and a couple ghouls that split off before Amandine arrives. If asked, she simply points out that she’s far from the most popular lick in Mid-City. They’re not here to interfere with the meeting—or even be a part of it—but Caroline would rather not visit alone. She asks Jocelyn to keep her eyes on the three other licks from the other side of the bar. The ghouls will keep their eyes on Jocelyn’s back and the door.

GM: Wells isn’t okay with that when she sees the ghouls and insists that Caroline send them away. The Ventrue isn’t the only Kindred to have friends or ghouls, and Amandine isn’t planning on bringing any to the meet site—and if she does, Wells will request she send them away too. If the two can’t manage that degree of mutual trust and courtesy before the talk begins, there’s no hope at all for the talk itself.

Caroline: Caroline is okay with that and sends her servants to wait a ways off.

GM: Amandine arrives in short enough order. The Crone doesn’t look much happier to see Caroline than last time and clearly isn’t interested in small talk or pleasantries. She tells the Ventrue to get to the point.

Caroline: Caroline starts out pleasantly enough, but when it becomes clear that Amandine isn’t interested cuts straight to it. She knows Amandine and Evan had a relationship. Evan is missing. Has been missing. She wants to know if Amandine knows anything about his disappearance. Barring that, when she last saw him, and whether she saw anything unusual in the nights before he disappeared in their time together.

She makes it plain she isn’t accusing Amandine of anything. She’s just following up with the lick that might have been the last person to see him, while also tipping off the Crone. She knows there are a lot of licks that wouldn’t have looked kindly on the two spending time together, on both sides of the aisle, and at this point just wants to get some closure on the whole thing. She asks that if Amandine had any affection for him at all, she share what she knows. She asks if anyone else knew they were spending time together. She’s all but the last lead in the trail for Caroline.

GM: Amandine tells Caroline not to ever presume to know a thing about ‘her side of the aisle’.

“You don’t know shit about us, lance.”

Caroline: “You’re right,” Caroline admits. “I don’t really. I don’t think I’ve even really talked to someone on the ‘other side’ before I approached you the other night. I don’t know many on this side that have. I guess it’s easy to assume you feel the same way about us that most of us seem to feel about you. That you view all of us as just another ‘lance’, just like we view you all as just another ‘crone’.”

“Hi, I’m Caroline.”

GM: “Hi, I’m Amandine,” the brown-haired Kindred replies.

She just gives a cool look at the statement she and Evan had something, and refuses to confirm or deny it. She bluntly says she doesn’t care whether it’s Caroline’s last lead or not. “Some missing Lance isn’t my problem.” The Ventrue had better do better than that if she expects any help.

Caroline: “What would you like?” she asks in turn. “I don’t exactly have a king’s ransom to offer, but finding out if he’s truly gone, and who did it if so means something. It should mean something, even if no one else seems to care. No one seemed to have anything but nice things to say about him, but the only other lick lifting a finger is doing it more to be vindictive than anything. I thought you might be an exception. He cared enough about you to talk about it with his ghoul. Was worried enough about it to hide it from his krewe.”

GM: “Still don’t know what you’re talking about,” Amandine replies with a completely straight face.

“That’s a good question what I’d like. I’m sure not looking for a handout. And I don’t trust any promises. Every time someone in my club has reached out to yours, your prince has stuck a knife in our backs. Every time.”

Caroline: “And the last person from my club that reached out probably got iced, and definitely got hit by a lick,” Caroline agrees. “Hell, I could end up on some licks’ hit list just for talking to you, and I think you know who.”

She gives what might be a sigh if she were breathing. “Which makes it awfully difficult for us to have a dialogue of any kind.” She bites her lip. “Look, I’m not trying to screw you over. I haven’t even finished the mandatory decade of getting bent over by my own people. Hell, it was only a couple months ago they were ready to take off my head with a quickness. I’m just looking for answers.”

“Maybe there are some I could give you?”

GM: “You could also get ahead by screwing me over,” Amandine retorts. “It’s like you say. Just talking to me is trouble, and scores a few points with your own people. Win-win.”

Desirae looks between the two Kindred. “Perhaps you’d both feel more at ease knowing none of us were recording this conversation.” The Caitiff reaches into her pocket, pulls out a phone she turns off, and then sets down.

Amandine looks towards Caroline, then after the Ventrue does so, similarly pulls out and shuts off her phone. Her expression looks maybe marginally more at ease.

“All right, answers. What do you know that’d be useful to me?”

Caroline: Oh the things I could tell you, Caroline thinks. Mostly things that would get her killed, though Caroline isn’t sure that would be a bad thing for the selfish lick. She shakes her head.

“Too vague,” she replies. “I could go on and on about things you don’t give a damn about. Give me at least a couple topics of interest, and I’ll let you know if I have anything of around them.”

GM: Amandine looks dubious. “No offense, but you got turned basically last night.”

“It’s understandable either of you wouldn’t want to tell a lance or crone about your interests,” Desirae starts.

“Still don’t know why I’m even here,” Amandine states.

“Maybe you could share a few topics that are publicly known or essentially harmless?” Desirae offers.

“Only one I can think of that’s either of those are the Strix.”

Caroline: She files the name away to review later but keeps her face still. “If that’s truly the only matter you would discuss, or have an interest in, then it seems like we’re at an impasse.”

GM: “Seems like it,” Amandine remarks. “I thought the owls were the one thing every lick could agree is worth putting aside the usual bullshit politics and screwing each other over.”

Caroline: “Sorry, must not have gotten that lesson yet, but then, as you said, I basically got turned last night. I’ll reach back when I catch up. Assuming whoever offed Evan hasn’t offed you too by then. Unless there’s something more proximate that you think we could discuss now?”

GM: “You don’t know what they are, do you?” Amandine looks at her. “Then consider this your public service announcement. They’re demons made of smoke that don’t have anything better to do than fuck everyone. If someone has yellow in their eyes, they’ve been possessed. Cure it by burning them."

Caroline: Caroline looks at Amandine curiously, then to Wells to judge her reaction to this ‘advice’. “That sounds… unpleasant. And extreme. Are they a particularly common problem?”

GM: The Caitiff looks grim, but not disagreeing. “It might be extreme, but it’s kinder to the victim.”

“Lone ones are common as any other boojum,” Amandine states. “Two or more together is an ill omen. The more the worse. They showed up in droves for Katrina.”

Caroline: The heiress rolls the information over in her mind several times before she replies. “I thought I was supposed to give you information?” she asks half-seriously. “I don’t have anything I can add to that, but I’ll be straight with you on what I can: the only Kindred interested in Evan’s disappearance are Sundown and Hound Agnello—and neither seem terribly invested in it, though neither exactly clue me into their plans either.”

“I was looking into it for his krewe, and had a lead on someone watching him, using birds to do so. Damn things followed him all the way into the Garden District and to his haven, but no one got a bite on it—if they even went looking.”

GM: “Sounds like Evan wasn’t that important to anyone,” Amandine shrugs. “What’s it to you why he’s gone? Most missing licks don’t ever turn back up.”

Caroline: “A lot of different things,” Caroline replies. “Maybe it’s for his krewe, who helped me out when I was sunk. Maybe in the hope that someone will notice. Maybe more than a little bit because I hate the idea that someone that apparently no one has anything ill to say anything about vanished, with no one giving a damn about it. Especially when everything points to another lick.” She shrugs. “I may not have known him, but a lot of licks I do know match that same profile.”

GM: “Evan’s ash, greenfang. Get a magic man to confirm it if you want to, but he’s ash. I know, because my club did. Baron confirmed it for us weeks ago, when talk about one of us doing it started to float around. As far as I’m concerned, his word’s as good as Bondye’s, God’s, whatever you want to call the Almighty’s.”

“Another Baron of ours, Samedi, says two dirty coppers are all anyone’s worth in the end. I think there’s a discount when they’re your prince’s lances. You—and Evan—signed up for the wrong club if you want someone to give a damn when you disappear. And if you keep digging into this, you probably will too.”

“Either way, Evan’s not coming back. There’s no probably to that.”

Amandine looks at Desirae. “Remind me again what you’re getting out of this?”

“Just knowing how things here with Evan pan out.”


Desirae just nods. “Jonah says hi.”

“Tell him hi back.”

Amandine rises, her business with the two seemingly at an end.

Caroline: The heiress rises, but does not move. “Not that I don’t appreciate you sharing your Baron’s word, but you know something more,” she states, rather than asks. “Someone, some lead, some secret. Did you know about his meetings with Yellow Sidra, now so eager to sell his death at the hands of hunters? Did someone see you two together?”

She taps her fingers on the table. “Maybe I’m just a greenfang, but it seemed to me like you liked Evan enough to at least talk to him, and spend time with him. Now you say he’s ash and you can’t even be bothered to level on it. You came in here and got real defensive about him, about the whole thing.”

Her eyes narrow. “What I can’t figure out is, If it wasn’t your club then you have all the reason in the world to spill it, since it not only takes the heat off you, but also puts it somewhere else. Are you really going to tell me you wouldn’t prefer to not look over your shoulder for an angry hound out to prove himself after the Boggs thing or a krewe of distraught licks that might try something stupid? Maybe I’m just a ‘greenfang’, but honestly, I can’t think of a good reason for you not to set a bunch of Sanctified against each other or some other group, if that’s what really happened.”

She produces a small card with only a phone number on it.

“In case you find your conscience, or get tired of that over the shoulder thing. Or you find yourself being hunted by whoever the hell did him in. I’m sure we both have a couple ideas.”

GM: Amandine’s eyes narrow.

“That’s real sweet you’re worried about me, Lance. Real sweet. Don’t worry, though. The Baron actually gives two fucks about his people. So no thanks, if I’m ever in trouble, I’m going to him. Not you. If Agnello or those misfits or anyone else want to make a run at me, which I’m sure would be a complete coincidence if it happens after this fun little chat, well, that’s their funeral."

Caroline: Caroline gives a short laugh. “It’s flattering that you think a greenfang would be able to influence Hound Agnello—or anyone else like that. I’m just looking down the tracks at where the train’s headed.”

GM: Amandine rolls her eyes.

“Sorry to waste your time, Desirae.”

The Crone turns and leaves.

Caroline: “He was jumping ship, wasn’t he?” Caroline asks pointedly at the Crone’s back. “Or at least thinking about it.”

GM: “Believe what you want, Lance.” Amandine doesn’t look back as she strides through the bar’s chattering crowd.

Caroline: So much for that.

Caroline matter-of-factly relates to Rocco that she thinks Amandine knows more than she let on. She believes that Amandine thinks Evan is dead, but that their side says they had nothing to do with his death.

GM: Rocco receives the news courteously. He idly speculates what makes Amandine so sure. Caroline does not know.

And, at least for now, neither will the Storyvilles.

Evan is just another neonate gone missing in a city that doesn’t care.

Thursday night, 4 December 2015, AM

Caroline: The Ventrue largely drops the investigation into Evan following her last round of meetings. No one seems to have much interest in assisting in locating Evan’s killer, and she’s hit another wall. She gives the news to the Storyvilles without passion, simply with frustration. She’s fairly certain Evan is dead, and suspects that Meadows was behind the hit. She can’t prove it. Even if she could, no one seems interested in bringing her down even after her attacks on far more ‘important’ Kindred. She doesn’t expect Evan’s murder to galvanize anyone to action.

GM: The two are in Jocelyn’s haven when Caroline breaks the news. Her paramour receives it in poor spirits. She can see the way Jocelyn’s face lights up at first, like it always does, when she mentions the news is about Evan. It sinks when the Toreador sees the look on her face, that says this news isn’t good. And then, like a trapdoor pulling out from under someone who’s already been kicked down, then kicked while they’re down, it sinks even lower.

“That’s… that’s IT!?” she exclaims. “THAT’S… all those weeks, all those months for… THAT’S HOW THIS ENDS?!”

Meg, sweeping in the corner, flinches at her domitor’s raised voice.

Jocelyn just stares ahead for a moment, then slowly says, “I guess you did the best you could. Thanks for that. Better than I could’ve done. Better than Roxanne ever did. More than anyone else did for us. Beats not knowing.”

She sits back down. “Guess it makes sense. He broke the rules. He broke the rules, so Meadows killed him. Meadows killed him, and nobody gives a shit.”

Her voice is empty.

“You know… fuck everyone.”

Caroline: The Ventrue bites her tongue, at a loss for words, for anything. It bites at her to see Jocelyn so… empty. She wants to make her happy, wants to comfort her, but this isn’t something she can simply ‘make’ right. She takes a seat beside the Toreador and wraps an arm around her narrow shoulders.

Jocelyn doesn’t push her away, but doesn’t lean in. She stares at a blank spot on the wall.

“We did… we did everything, everything we were supposed to do. And this is what it gets.”

“The one thing we wanted. The one thing that really mattered.”

“This is what it gets.”

“Jack. Shit.”

Caroline bites her lip, then replies quietly, “the strong take what they want. The weak get what’s left. It’s not really any different among the kine, they just hide it better.”

“Evan wasn’t weak!” Jocelyn flares. “We’re SHIT without him! And Roxanne knows it!”

“You’re weak without him,” Caroline agrees, more mildly. “I’m not blaming you, but why should anyone else care what you want? Because you’ve done what they expected? Do you know how many ‘loyal’ employees my uncle lays off every year that haven’t done anything wrong? People a year or two away from retirement, because he can?”

Jocelyn stares at Caroline, almost incredulously at first, then slowly says, “Then maybe we shouldn’t be loyal, if this is what it gets.”

“Fuck the Sanctified.”

“Fuck Vidal.”

“Fuck Longinus.”

“Fuck God.”

“And fuck your uncle.”

“No.” The faint coppery taste of blood hangs in the air from where Caroline bit her lip. “How far have the Anarchs gotten, quibbling in the streets of their domain about how free they are? Did any of them raise a hand when the 896 bite it? What about all the licks in the French Quarter begging off of Savoy? Do you think their life is better than yours?”

She shakes her head, “Rebellion doesn’t get you anywhere. Power… power is the only thing that matters.”

“Power in faith—like Father Malveaux. Power in ability, like the sheriff. Power socially, like Sundown. There’s no right way there, but as long as you’re happy to just go about your Requiem, anyone, everyone, is going to try to take advantage of you.”

“You think I got the time of day from Sundown or Poincaré because they liked my smile?”

Jocelyn gives an empty laugh.

“So what, you think they’ll let you in the club?”

“Yeah. That’s what we thought too.”


“That’s what Evan thought.”

“Gee, look how that worked out.”

Caroline: “There’s no club to join, Jocelyn, no points to earn. You think you buy your way in doing favors?” Caroline shakes her head.

“They listened because I had something to offer. Not much, but something. Something they couldn’t ignore.” She tilts her head, “who has more influence right now, the Storyville Krewe in its entirety, or me?”

“They’re predators, Jocelyn. Just like you and just like me.”

“But they haven’t seen your teeth yet—none of yours.”

GM: “You’re right,” Jocelyn says slowly. “That’s the only way to make this right.”

She turns away, digs through the small cabinet next to a couch, and pulls out an old-fashioned flip phone. She hits a button. A 2000s-era ringtone goes up. There’s a muted sound, then she hits the speaker function.

“-ocelyn? What’s happened?” sounds a woman’s concerned voice.

Caroline’s lover looks as if she could take a breath. “There’s… there’s a lick who’s killing us, Sally.”

“The Storyvilles. She started with Evan. We need to ash her before she ashes me.”

Caroline: Caroline’s eyes flare in alarm.

GM: “Tell me more,” replies the woman.

Caroline: “We don’t know it was her, or that she’ll come after you,” Caroline growls quietly.

GM: “Jocelyn, what was that?” comes the woman’s voice, suddenly sharper.

Jocelyn looks at the Ventrue. “Caroline, this is my sire. She has, uh, good hearing. Sally, this is Caroline. I’ve told you about her.”

There’s silence from the line. Not even breathing.

Jocelyn quickly interjects, “Don’t hang up! Don’t hang up!”

“You were not to share this line, with anyone,” comes the woman’s half-hissed voice.

“Fine, hang up then, I’m gonna die soon. You said to only use this for an emergency. Well it’s an emergency.”

There’s silence from the line. But not yet a click.

“It’s so stupid how paranoid you are,” Jocelyn snaps. “You always said you were gonna throw out the phone as soon as we talked over it anyway.”

Caroline: Pot, kettle, Caroline thinks, but doesn’t say.

But that’s not it, is it? She’s seen this behavior from Jocelyn before.

GM: “Caroline’s legit, and she knows a lot more about the lick who’s killing the Storyvilles than we do.”

“Caroline, tell her about Meadows.”

Caroline: The Ventrue bites her lip. “The scourge has been on a rampage of late, attacking several licks. No one has the stomach to stand up to her. It seems… likely that she killed Evan for perceived disloyalty. He was not the first, or the last, to die in recent months.”

GM: The voice finally replies.

“It ‘seems likely’? Jocelyn, you said she had killed Evan. How do either of you know this?”

Caroline: “Evan was spied on prior to his death by animals. He had been associating with another lick, one of the Baron’s people, in the weeks leading up to his destruction. When we brought the details to his regent and to the hounds, neither was willing to touch it,” Caroline provides.

GM: “Rocco was willing to lie all about the Baron doing it though, to rope us in on some stupid scheme,” Jocelyn adds.

“I’d need more information than this to want to touch it either,” Sally responds to Caroline. “Any Kindred or ghoul in the city could have potentially sent animals to spy on Evan. How do you know they were Meadows’? What evidence do you have that she killed him?”

Sally still appears in a poor mood, but pointedly questions Caroline as to the details—all of the details, from the primary vantage point of ascertaining whether Jocelyn and her coterie are in danger. She sounds deeply skeptical, suspicious, and irritated over her childe’s actions.

Jocelyn pulls up her phone and shows Caroline a message she’s tapped onto it.

Tell her Meadows did it. She won’t help if you don’t.

She’s tough and smart. She’d help a lot.

Caroline: Caroline types back on her own between Sally’s questioning, Is that what you really want? To send her against Meadows? How does that help you?

GM: We’ll ALL do it. Rocco’s vampire mom won’t stand a chance.

Caroline’s second question is only met with a furiously pained stare.

Caroline: We’re not done talking about this, the Ventrue taps out. She stops short of outright lying to the archon, but she does her best to spin what they know to fit Jocelyn’s narrative. Meadows has been on a rampage and is the most viable suspect in the (nonthreatening and well-liked) Toreador’s death. The stonewalling by others and lack of interest in any further investigation points towards something others don’t want to talk about.

Even if, it wasn’t Meadows, someone took a very deliberate and calculated shot at one of Jocelyn’s closest companions and got away with it completely clean. It could have just as easily been the young Toreador artist. That’s not the sort of thing that’s going to discourage them from doing it again.

GM: Sally’s questioning reminds Caroline of one of her law professors poking through a student’s legal argument—and finding it wanting. At length, she replies,

“You know what kills people, Jocelyn? Not just bad intelligence. Misleading objectives.”

“She killed Evan, Sally! I KNOW she d-”

“You suspect that. You haven’t confirmed it. Either that it was Meadows, or that he’s dead.”

“Oh, REALLY, you think he’s still ALIVE?” Jocelyn all but shouts, red leaking from her eyes. “He’s just OUT THERE, is that it, WAITING FOR US, so where—where the hell—?!”

“No. I think you’re right to assume he’s dead at this point. Maybe in torpor if you’re lucky.”

Sally doesn’t correct her childe’s use of ‘alive’.

Caroline: “What would you advise, then?” Caroline interjects. The Ventrue’s tone suggests a genuine question, rather than a rhetorical one.

GM: “Jocelyn could start by not misleading her sire into a fight that could get her killed too, and roping her lover along into it. I heard those taps.”

“Oh, that’s such BULLSHIT!” Jocelyn cries, red running down her cheeks. “You’re just l… like every other lick, who won’t stand up to her, who doesn’t give a damn-!”

She furiously wipes her eyes, scattering blood over the sofa. “You’ve killed PLENTY of licks, I know you have-!”

“I do give a damn, Jocelyn. About my unlife. You know how long it took me to kill my last target? No, actually, I’m not going to give any dates over this line. I’ll just say a very long time, by your standards. I gathered information on them. I learned their routine. I learned their nightly activities, their associates, their feeding patterns, all the features and details of their haven. I learned more about them than their closest allies. Then I waited for even longer, just in case I’d missed anything. Only then, when there was as little up to chance as possible, and I’d stacked the odds to be as unfair as possible, did I move against the target directly.”

“I’m not your hitwoman. I don’t kill people lightly for the Camarilla, and I’m not killing someone lightly for you. I’m going to assume you misled me out of misplaced admiration than actually being comfortable with the thought I could lose my unlife.”

“Well I guess that makes YOU just as FUCKING USELESS as all the others!” Jocelyn cries, red continuing to stain her face. “I’m SICK OF IT! I’m SICK of, of no one putting ANYTHING on the line, giving ANY kind of shit, all being COWARDS, even wh-”

“Stop that,” Sally’s voice cuts her off. “Grow up, Jocelyn. Your friend isn’t entitled to justice.”

Caroline: Caroline snatches up the phone and turns off speaker.

“I’m sorry, Archon. I’ll have her reach out to you another time.”

GM: “Put me back on, please. I’m getting rid of this phone, like she said, and she won’t be able to call me again for a long time.”

Caroline: “As you wish.” Caroline turns the speaker back on.

GM: Sally’s voice sounds like she could sigh. “Thank you.”

Jocelyn, already furiously trying to snatch the phone back, is somewhat awkwardly left to just glare when Caroline turns the speaker back on.

“WHY’D YOU EVEN TURN ME?!” she shouts. “I’m NEVER gonna be good enough, am I?! You were just… horny, and got carried away! I know! I kn-”

“You had feelings for him, didn’t you?”

That seems to stop Jocelyn in her tracks. Another few trickles of red drop onto her legs.

“How many times did you do it?” asks Sally.

Jocelyn looks at Caroline for a moment.


Caroline: Jocelyn has seen more emotion from a stone.

It makes sense—and makes it all the more painful a slap in the face that she hadn’t seen it before.

The mask cracks, and it’s not anger that shows through.

GM: “Look.” There’s what sounds like a sigh from Sally. “Take some time off. Have a change of scenery. Bring Caroline with you, if she wants to go. Take your mind off things. What’s here for you, anyways, besides her and the Storyvilles?”

Caroline: The Ventrue puts the phone down on the table and stands.

GM: Jocelyn looks up at her uncertainly. “Caroline?”

Caroline: “You should finish your conversation with your sire,” Caroline replies, her voice flat. “As you said, you won’t have another chance for a while.”

GM: “Wait,” the younger Toreador entreats. “I, I want you to be here. I’ve always wanted you to meet her. Even if it’s… gone to shit.”

“Yes, and we are sorry for that,” Sally says with another not-sigh. “Jocelyn’s had a lot to say about you, Caroline. A lot of good things. Our clan doesn’t pay as much attention to… decorum as yours, or keeping our dirty laundry out of sight.”

Caroline: “Just more honest,” Caroline replies flatly. “It’s something I always liked about Jocelyn.”

Is she in New Orleans?

She doesn’t know as much about archons as she would like.

GM: “I… I wasn’t sure how to bring it up,” Jocelyn says falteringly. “It would’ve destroyed the Krewe, if it came out. You’ve seen how Roxanne is. I haven’t left out anything else about Evan, I swear. It just… didn’t seem important.”

“People prefer to decide what facts are important for themselves, Jocelyn. Anything you hold back on might turn out to be important, in someone’s eyes. But maybe Caroline is also hurt from feeling as if you didn’t trust her.”

“I…” Jocelyn’s eyes well again. “If, if Evan came back, I just didn’t wanna ruin things…”

Caroline: Caroline bites back her response. Jocelyn and Sally might be more open, but Caroline isn’t. Hasn’t ever been, even before her Embrace. She hates airing her dirty laundry. She hates even having it.

“We can talk about it another time,” she replies stiffly.

GM: “All right. Look, Jocelyn. Evan did get a raw deal. Staying around that is just going to make you feel worse. Why don’t I take you with me someplace?”

“I thought you said that was a bad idea.”

“Permanently, maybe. But there’s more to unlife than work for the Camarilla.”

“I’d like if Caroline came.”

“That sounds like a conversation for you both to finish. But she’d be welcome.”

“I hate the guilds here.”

“You’ve said. They’re better in other places. You’d get the recognition you deserve.”

“I wouldn’t miss Roxanne, honestly. But I would miss Gwen and Wyatt.”

Caroline: The Ventrue looks away. She takes several steps into the unused apartment’s kitchen to let them talk. And to hide her expression, collect her thoughts.

GM: “That’s not even her name. She’s really Isabel Flores. Her dad used to be, well, I guess is, buds with Caroline’s.”

“Well, everyone lies about their names. But Ventrue can start earlier.”

“Sally isn’t yours, is it?”

“I’ve always liked Sally better.”

Caroline: Jocelyn leaving New Orleans… moving onto another city. She doesn’t know how to feel about that. An hour ago she’d have shouted no, but…. the secrets with Evan sting. If it was just a secret it would be bad enough, but she can’t help but feel as though Jocelyn was using her.

Her paramour’s attempt to manipulate her sire only makes that more acute, reminds her unpleasantly of the night not long past when she manipulated Caroline into staking her clanmate.

GM: The apartment’s kitchen does look used to Caroline’s casual inspection. Not as used as some, but there’s a few dishes in the sink, a box of cereal and condiments out on the table, and a refrigerator still in place.

Caroline: All the more complicated, the truth is getting out of New Orleans might actually be better for Jocelyn. She’s heard her paramour’s complaints about the guilds, about how her art goes completely unappreciated by the elder Toreador of the city.

And New Orleans isn’t getting any safer.

It was not a stretch to suggest Jocelyn could have easily met Evan’s fate to Sally.

GM: Jocelyn and her sire talk, but not for that much longer. Sally recommends she take pictures, and wistfully remarks on how it’s too bad she couldn’t have snapped any during their fight. Jocelyn agrees. They’d have been such intense, personal things, like the ones she took of Lizzy after she died. They’re her finest pieces, if more than a little morbid—“Well, that’s why. There’s so much of you in them,” Sally says.

Caroline: She listens, but their conversation, the normalcy of it also stings. She turns on the sink, drowning out the conversation as best she can with the noise and the mundane task of washing the few dirty dishes. At least it feels productive.

GM: The older Toreador eventually says she has to go. Jocelyn looks reluctant at that thought, but acquiesces. Sally asks her to bring her paramour back into the room, adding,

“Caroline, I was very happy to meet you, even under these circumstances. Jocelyn’s had so many good things to say… about how smart you are, how devoted, how you have so many plans for her and you both.” There’s a faint chuckle. “And how you spoil her rotten with new clothes all the time. I’ll be in the city eventually… we can do this over, and properly.”

Caroline: “I’ll look forward to it,” Caroline replies, putting on a friendly tone.

GM: Jocelyn seems reluctant to end the call, but eventually does after exchanging final goodbyes with her sire. She looks over the kitchen with Caroline curiously.

“Were you washing those, the dishes?”

Caroline: “It was something to do,” Caroline replies, the false life of her goodbyes with Sally gone.

GM: “Kinda figured you’d never have done that yourself before. No offense.”

Caroline: Caroline chuckles. “We only had a maid 9-5.”

GM: “Well, that’s one upshot to being dead. Meg’s one 24/7.”

“The dishes are hers, you probably guessed. Not that she really eats a lot.”

Caroline: “Yeah.” Caroline looks to the drying dishes, then back to her paramour.

“So… you’re leaving New Orleans for a while?”

GM: Jocelyn hesitates, then answers, “It’s a pipe dream. Skyman…”

“Or, well, maybe. I could ask. But I can’t just skip out.”

Caroline: “You should go,” Caroline replies. “If you can. It sounds like you’d enjoy some time with your sire.”

GM: “Yeah, I probably would. But… I don’t know. Who knows.”

“I’m sorry about hiding the Evan thing.”

Caroline: Caroline gives a not-sigh that is reminiscent of Sally’s. “Did you love him? Want to be with him?”

GM: Jocelyn seems to think. “I liked, cared about him a lot. As a friend, and in the sack. Is that love if someone checks both boxes?”

Caroline: “Maybe,” Caroline replies dully. “I’m sorry I couldn’t find him for you.”

GM: “It’s not your fault. Sally said she thought you were right. That he’s… ash.”

“But I’m not sure I’d have wanted to be with him. It was fun. Exciting. But… he and Roxanne were a thing. She was a lot better when he was around.”

Caroline: I should pick a fight.

This would be a great excuse to split with Jocelyn. Caroline’s seen how Evan’s disappearance has affected the Toreador. She doesn’t want to imagine how her own disappearance will. Especially given how dangerous poking around into it would be. That’s the most likely outcome, she has to admit. That she’ll fail, get executed by one side or the other.

Red tears well in the Ventrue’s eyes. She should say something, something cruel, hurtful, something to shove Jocelyn away.

Those words don’t come.

“You made a mess of the couch,” she says instead, looking at where the Toreador’s bloody tears have stained it. “And your shirt… and your jeans.”

GM: Jocelyn walks up to Caroline, standing to her tiptoes to wipe the taller Kindred’s tears away.

“Hey. You can buy me new ones.”

Caroline: “Even if she came, even if she killed Meadows, it wouldn’t make life better,” Caroline says, more soberly.

GM: Jocelyn pauses, the mirth on her face fading.

Caroline: “I want you to be happy,” she continues, taking Jocelyn’s bloody hand in hers. “And safe, but I can’t do what you need to do in order to achieve that.”

GM: “I know. I’m not asking you to take on Meadows without Sally.” Jocelyn closes her eyes. “But I… I can’t do it. I can’t go on like this just hasn’t happened.”

Caroline: “I’m not asking you too,” Caroline replies. “Be angry. Be upset. Let the memory of this matter to you, and do something with it. Something that lets you change things.”

GM: “The Sanctified aren’t what I thought,” Jocelyn says.

“It’s like… waking up from a spell.”

“I wasn’t that religious when I was alive. They said they had all the answers after I got turned.”

Caroline: Caroline bites her lower lip. “I can’t tell you what to do with your faith. I won’t tell you that the Sanctified have provided me with great comfort. You know, I think, better than anyone how tenuous that relationship has always been. Father Elgin has been better than it was, but I know his patience is growing… thin.”

GM: “Can see why, honestly. You’re a pretty lame Sanctified not trying to keep me on the bandwagon.”

Caroline: “So sue me for not proselytizing, if you can find another lawyer lick.” Caroline gives a wry smile. “But let me finish first.”

“Like the Catholic Church, the Sanctified ultimately seem worried about your soul, and about your purpose in God’s plan. Even if I weren’t a walking corpse I’d believe in God; as one I think you’d have to be a fool not too.”

“They want to save as many as they can, so yes, they tell you they have every answer in the same way a man trying to coax a drowning man into a lifeboat might promise him anything.”

“But while the church might offer spiritual succor, save for the few that make up the clergy—and few enough of them even—it cannot offer you temporal purpose.”

GM: “I’m not sure about that. I mean, the prince, the seneschal, most of the hounds, even Savoy, aren’t all clergy. But you have to be in the club.”

Caroline: “There’s a difference between being in the club, and making the club your purpose unto itself. The prince, seneschal, hounds… their power is not tied to their service to God. Prayer and adherence to the tenants of Longinus does not alone a comfortable Requiem make. Anymore than attendance of mass and regular tithing makes the average parishioner… well, a Malveaux.”

GM: “So you’re saying, what, God and Longinus just aren’t really that important?”

“I think you’re right, anyway, that there’s not really explanation for why we exist without God. But, well, screw the church.”

Caroline: “I’m saying there are a lot of people that go to church every Sunday because they think if they do God will make them rich and solve all their problems, and most of them live out pretty mundane lives.” She bites her lower lip again.

“Look at all the people that follow Ole Josteen and the bullshit prosperity gospel he preaches—and look at how few of them actually go anywhere. And you know who the saddest ones are? The people that buy all his books, that listen to his podcast, that volunteer at his megachurch, that spend all their time trying to mirror him. Because they’re chasing something in faith it’ll never bring.”

“I’m saying take the faith. Even take the church, but don’t make it the center of your Requiem.”

GM: “It sounds to me like you’re saying it’s all a scam. I can buy that. Look where it got Evan.”

Caroline: “Which probably isn’t going to make me popular in any Sanctified circles, but… how many Kindred do you see who are just good Sanctified?”

GM: “Evan was a good Sanctified. Look where that got him.”

Jocelyn pulls out her phone and sits back down in the living room. “God, how to even break this to the others. Wyatt and Gwen will just be sad. Roxanne will fall off a cliff.”

Caroline: “You don’t. Don’t burn bridges for no reason. Don’t make a big show of leaving the Sanctified, just… start taking care of yourself.”

GM: “I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about telling the others Evan’s dead.”

“I dunno. Just have to break it to them like anything else, I guess.”

Caroline: “What do you want out of it?” Caroline asks quietly.

GM: “Well, Roxanne not to completely lose her shit. I’m pretty pissed at her, but… she’s not gonna take it well.”

Caroline: Caroline nods. “What else?”

GM: “Just that, really.”

Caroline: The Ventrue frowns.

GM: “What?”

Caroline: Caroline shrugs. “Nothing. It’s just…. do you actually want things to change?”

GM: “Uh, right now I’m a little more worried about Roxanne going off the deep end. She’s going to explode over this.”

Caroline: “Maybe,” Caroline replies. “But perhaps not. It’s a question of how you present it.”

GM: “Well if you have some idea how to stop her, I’m all ears.”

Caroline: Caroline shrugs. “She’s smart, Jocelyn, smart enough to know what the odds are now of a happy ending…”

“Just don’t beat her over the head with it. The longer it goes…” She shrugs again.

GM: “I’m not gonna drag it out, no. It’s been awful having it in the air for so long already, and to just keep getting strung along.”

She closes her eyes for a moment.

“I think I always knew. Just kept and kept hoping.”

Caroline: “There’s always hope,” Caroline replies. “We haven’t actually seen his death.”

“But it’s time to move on. I just want to make sure you all do it in a way that keeps this from happening ever again.”

GM: “Like how, besides not screwing any of the Baron’s people on the side?”

Caroline: Caroline gives a sharp laugh. “I guess that’s one way, but I mean more generally, not being in a position where your continued existence is entirely at the whim of whatever mediocre lick or nutjob human takes offense to you.”

She gestures around them. “I worry about you here. Worry about just you and Meg. About how easily what happened to him could happen to you.”

GM: Jocelyn looks at Caroline. “Okay, you’ve been acting kinda weird this whole conversation. Say what you’re getting at?”

Caroline: “Honestly?” the Ventrue sighs. “You got super pissed off about all of this, but you don’t seem to be willing to actually do anything about it except throw a tantrum and ask others to fight for you. Like… any of you. You’ve been in New Orleans for how long? And how much do you have to show for it? I get that you all aren’t trying to be blue bloods, but hell, no wonder other licks fuck with you guys so much.”

“Why wouldn’t Rocco make Gwen suck dick to punish her? Why wouldn’t Meadows—or whoever—just clip Evan without worrying about repercussions? No one looked at it a second time or gave it a second thought because you guys don’t matter, and because any number of possible reasons are plausible for his destruction—from lone hunter to random lick.”

“In my first few nights after the Embrace, I had my haven invaded half a dozen times. Every time I got pissed… but you know what I did? Something fucking about it. And yeah, I’m not invincible, but Wright would sure as hell think twice about storming in with a bunch of ni—gangbangers tonight.”

“Your reaction was to call your sire? There’s four of you!” Caroline almost snarls. “Four!”

GM: “No he wouldn’t,” Jocelyn interrupts. “And four of us are not fucking Meadows! You can’t win against licks like them. You just lose even if you do.”

Caroline: “It’s not about winning.” Caroline replies.

GM: “Well that’s what I want, I want Meadows DEAD! Excuse me for trying to call in the trump card when I really needed it!”

“And she did shit still. You know, I can’t believe I’m not upset at her. Evan’s still dead and her best idea was ‘take a vacation.’”

Caroline: “And what happens next time a lick kills off one of you? Or beats you into torpor? Or when a hunter that isn’t a joke makes a run at one of you and you’re nothing but ash? What’s your plan for when the city falls into chaos and infighting if the prince goes to sleep?”

GM: “I don’t fucking know, Caroline,” Jocelyn says tiredly. “Get out like Sally’s saying. I don’t know.”

“The harpies make fun of you,” she suddenly says. “For how you drag so many ghouls everywhere. Like somehow only you know how to shove juice down a breather’s throat. Rich girl can’t handle not being on top.”

Caroline: Caroline laughs, “Of course they do.”

GM: “I don’t know if you think you’re doing better than us or whatever, but you’re not. Your thing with the ghouls. It’s just stupid. And you can be all ‘whatever, I don’t care what they think’, but you’re not above them. Above any of us. Meadows could ash you like Evan and how many licks would give a damn? How many would actually do jack, huh?”

Caroline: “They want you weak, Jocelyn. They want you doing exactly what you’re doing. They make fun of me?” She laughs again, bitterly. “Of course they do, because if what I’m doing succeeds that’s fucking terrifying to them. You think they’re up at night worrying about Anarchs playing billiards in a bar or stomping around the poor neighborhoods in packs?”

GM: “I can’t believe your ego,” Jocelyn scoffs. “You do realize no other lick does what you’re doing, with the renfields? The whole reason they’re laughing is you’re NOT succeeding. Wake up, fucking ANYONE can make a renfield! You’re not special for having a bunch! And I can tell you this, a whole bunch of Anarchs have a whole lot more respect than you do. It’s not even just Coco. But you can’t even imagine it with your ego. You’re just such hot shit, right?”

Caroline: Caroline feels her blood rising, feels the Beast stirring, but tries to shove it away. It’s like trying to stop an avalanche.

“You’re right. I should take a page out of the Storyvilles’ book,” she spits venomously. “You all seem so happy and well-treated as lapdogs. Just keep doing what you’ve been doing. That seems to be working well.”

GM: “And maybe we should take one out of yours and make a million more ghouls to fellate our egos, since no other licks’ll do it for us,” Jocelyn says with a roll of her eyes. “You keep doing what you’ve been doing, too, since that seems to be working well. At least we aren’t getting laughed at.”

Caroline: Caroline falls silent, staring balefully at Jocelyn.

Finally, she speaks again. “Est via uno modo vitare reprehensionem, nihil dicam nisi quod est nihil.”

She smiles. “It’s from Aristotle. Something my father used to say, back when he was just starting out in politics. When he was running for state office.”

“There is only one way to avoid criticism: Do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing.”

“I don’t have all the answers, Jocelyn. I don’t even have most of them. But I do have one: doing what all the other young licks are doing—the ones that don’t have some powerful sire propping them up like Becky Lynne—doesn’t seem to get you very far.”

“And if I’m going to fail, it’s going to be going out like Icarus.”

“I’m not better than you. Not in any way but one: I’m not going to be stopped by what someone says, or what someone might do.”

“I don’t know if I would have been willing to do that if I hadn’t been forced to, if I hadn’t been pushed out, had some outside influence. Maybe I would have been comfortable just eking out an existence waiting on my blood to thicken. Waiting on some fortune to fall in my lap. On others to make a mistake. On my ‘loyalty’ to be rewarded a century down the line. But I did get that push. I’d like this to be yours.”

Her smile softens, loses the hard edge it had, “That doesn’t mean I think you should go make a half dozen ghouls each. It doesn’t mean you have to fill every waking hour of every night. But you can’t tell me that with four of you that if you were so inclined, you couldn’t do more. Maybe you didn’t have any reason to until now. Maybe you were comfortable pretending like nothing changed, like you were still just twenty-something kine going about your nights.”

“And hell, you still can. But that’s the price.” She gestures to Jocelyn’s bloody clothes. “And one night the price is going to be someone else crying over you instead.”

GM: Jocelyn gives Caroline a look that’s at once plaintive and tired. “Look, I’m not… I’m not a lot of things. I just don’t want any more of my friends to die, and to have a Requiem where I’m not always getting shat on. So if you have some plan or idea for how to make that happen, I’m all ears. Really. Just…”

She gestures haplessly. “Just be a bit less Ventrue about it to me, okay?”

Caroline: “You’re the only person to ever say that to me,” Caroline replies.

“Look, I’m not saying you all should copy me, but I am saying of each of you took on one more ghoul, someone capable, and dug out a niche, there’s no reason you couldn’t be way more influncial.”

“Using your art skills to help people maintain their Masquerade, and maybe picking up some classes on the side in forensics. Maintaining a little herd that could be loaned out, even if mostly to each other. Identifying marks for other licks…”

GM: “Marks?”

Caroline: “Potential victims? I’d much rather go snack on some douchebag, but spare time to find only the bad shitty people isn’t exactly overflowing. I bet you could find a market amoung the Sanctified for identified assholes in need of correction.”

GM: Jocelyn looks dubious. “How does that work?”

“Forensics classes sound boring. But if someone wants to pay me to doctor some photos, sure, I wouldn’t say no.”

Caroline: Caroline shrugs, “the forensics stuff is mostly a mindset. Attention to detail, and knowing how other people might try to take apart your work makes it easier to get around it.”

GM: “Look, this is the most un-Ventrue thing to say ever, but… I’m not an, what would you call it, I guess entrepreneur. A be your own boss and go network and whatever type. I’d rather someone just… tell me what to do. If that means things will turn out okay, I’m happy with that.”

“I just want to do my art and have a non-horrible Requiem. I thought the Storyvilles were a way to that, but…”

* “I just want to do my art, hang out with my friends, have a non-horrible Requiem. I thought the Storyvilles were a way to that, but…”

She pauses for a moment, then says, “But they’re not. Not Skyman, and not Roxanne, not now that Evan’s… dead.”

“So just… just tell me what do, Caroline, so things will stop being horrible.”

Caroline: Caroline isn’t sure if it ever stops being horrible, but she doesn’t say that. Not now.

Just because it hasn’t for Caroline, doesn’t mean it won’t.

“Are you actually ready to change things?” she asks.

GM: “No, I’m indecisive and just completely changed my mind about everything again.”

Caroline: The Ventrue shows fangs in a toothy smile. “Fine, first, anytime one of the Storyvilles need something, point them or nudge them towards me.”

GM: “Okay, sure.”

Caroline: “Second, we’re going to find you a ghoul you can put up with that’s a little more… useful, than Meg, as proof of concept for the others.”

GM: “Meg is useful,” Jocelyn protests. “She’s just… not a Casquette Girl.”

“I haven’t really needed any others though. I’ve got enough juice for Meg, but more’d be pushing it.”

Caroline: Caroline arches a very skeptical eyebrow.

GM: “I’m not kidding. She does what I need and doesn’t take a lot of juice.”

Caroline: “She’s a great servant,” Caroline agrees. “Saying she’s ‘just not a Casquette Girl’ is like observing I’m not the sheriff’s favorite lick in the city. The Pope isn’t a Protestant.”

GM: “Yeah. You’re… kinda lucky he hasn’t offed you.” Jocelyn looks uncomfortable.

Caroline: “If he thought he could, he probably would,” Caroline clarifies. “There’s no luck involved.”

GM: “Uh, no offense, but, if the sheriff wanted to, I think he could.”

Caroline: “Physically, probably,” Caroline agrees. “But it’s pretty far from that simple.”

GM: “Actually, no, you… kinda don’t have any friends.”

Jocelyn’s brow furrows.

“That’s really weird. That he hasn’t.”

Caroline: Caroline’s green eyes are hard, “killing me would be extremely inconvenient for the sheriff,” she says again, firmly.

“For a number of reasons, none of which I advertise, and none of which involve luck or him waking up every night and deciding to be charitable.”

GM: “Well, I hope you feel you can share with me.”

Caroline: “Because you don’t have any secrets from me?” Caroline reproaches.

Her tone softens as she continues, “In broad strokes, like you’ve painted, my entire Requiem is built around not getting executed or casually destroyed like so many other licks have.”

“From the agreements I made after the Matheson fiasco and whom-with, to my induction into the Sanctified, to the ghouls I bring with me everywhere, to the fortification of my haven, to the liasons with other powerful licks, to the secrets I have on a dead-woman switch, to the ways I’ve colored so carefully in the lines over the last six months, I’ve built almost everything around it being too costly, too risky, and too inconvenient to kill me off.”

“You scoffed when I commented on Wright storming the Giani Building, but there’s truth to what I said. It’s probably one of the ten or fifteen most heavily fortified havens in the city. The sheriff could take it, like any castle can be taken, if he really wanted to, but it would be bloody, noisy, and drawn-out, and he’d have to come himself. And I wouldn’t just wait in my penthouse for him to cut through ghouls and steel doors.”

“The harpies can laugh all they want about my entourage of ghouls, but it would make it damn inconvenient to make me disappear without a trace—and probably costly.”

“That’s on the physical side—actually making it happen, especially without a fuss.”

“There’s the other, Masquerade-specific problems too. I didn’t just hold onto my place within the Malveaux family for so long because I was stubborn. Killing off another senator’s child in short order is the type of thing that would invite all sorts of attention, and my kine family is far from the only group of influential and interested kine.”

The Ventrue’s tone is sharp, justifying rather than explaining. “And the politics of it all? You know better than anyone my joining of the Sanctified wasn’t entirely due to my deep faith in the Testament of Longinus, especially at the time. That was as much politics as anything, for everyone involved. It was good optics for the prince to have a new member of the flock in the aftermath of the trial, and that had lingering value as well: executing the person you just propped up as an image of your mercy doesn’t exactly play well with swing voters.”

“The Ventrue stuff? I probably would have played ball anyway, but there was a lot more incentive to bend the knee to everyone involved because it had the right look to powerful people, and continued the narrative, and didn’t give anyone a reason to agree with offing me officially.”

“And so on, and so on. Every move weighed against commitments I’ve made. Every agreement balanced to keep me inoffensive, to leave doors open, as I’ve slowly built something for myself that might become something more.”

“And beyond that, the other factors in play. The doubt that enters the mind of the plenty of Anarchs that’d like to make a run, at the way the previous ones got their fucking heads cut off. The questions people have about how René got delivered to the prince—because the sheriff and his hounds sure as hell know the story about them having anything to do with it is as full of shit as a Christmas turkey.”

The Ventrue scowls. “Lucky? If you think luck is the reason I’m here you’re as happy as a dead pig in the sunshine.”

GM: Jocelyn looks at Caroline with what’s by turns.

“You know… I kind of wish you had an elder like Matheson for your sire. It’d… it’d suit you.”

Caroline: Caroline tries to keep her face impassive. “Yeah, well… how great has that worked out for plenty of them?” she lies.

“I’m sure that for every Becky Lynne there’s plenty of Emmanuel Costas.” She bites her lower lip. “For now, I’m content to be Caroline Malveaux, and whatever comes of it… well, at least it’ll be because of what I’ve done.”

There has to be a reason, she tells herself. Some valid reason, some plan, behind everything she’s gone through. Behind waking up alone in the night, behind being dogged every night of her Requiem by her sire’s servants.

It’s all for the best, she trusts.

She just wishes she felt that way too.

Caroline V, Chapter IX
Emmett's Last Use

“Sucks to be you. Though still not as much as me.”
Emmett Delacroix

Wednesday evening, 14 October 2015, PM

Caroline: There’s so much to do, seemingly every night, and only the addition of further servants to Caroline’s retinue makes it manageable. In particular, Ms. Widney aggressively plans out Caroline’s evenings, filling in meetings and keeping them firmly to task within their lanes. She cuts out extraneous distractions. It makes time for things otherwise impossible to manage. Things like…

Framing Em, to have the one time small time crook brought back to the city for testimony, and thus far earlier access for Caroline, is not terribly difficult in principle, especially with the forensic samples Turner and Autumn acquired when dropping off the corpse of Eight-Nine-Six’s ghoul. Clothing, hair from a brush. It’s the basis of a narrative, when combined with a few rumors spread by Diego’s criminal contacts—another welcome addition—and Caroline’s own powers of manipulation. Em, not the criminal mastermind, not the vicious killer, but Em, with his fingers in so many pies, with connections to so many killers.

And many of those killers are still active, and the killing has not stopped. It’s a delicate thing, putting that narrative in place, tying him to them carefully enough that the police are interested. Tying him to recent atrocities and violence tightly enough for the police to tug on the thread, and pull him back within Caroline’s reach. But then, Caroline’s touch is increasingly delicate. Emmett, the concierge of crime. She doesn’t quite smile at the thought. With the police already so hot about him and his family, it’s not as hard a sell as it might have otherwise been.

She keeps Savoy in the loop—as she said she would—but very intentionally does not go to him for guidance. She plans, executes, and informs—taking on changes he requests but not seeking them. After all she has asked already, and the assistance he’s giving her elsewhere, she’s determined to let this project stand on its own—at least in these early stages.

The Ventrue tries not to tell herself that she’s trying to prove something to the charismatic Toreador, but she’s far to intelligent to run from the fact that trying to impress him, or at least not disappoint him, isn’t far from her mind.

GM: Emmett’s second framing proceeds along.

Caroline had the “luck” to be present at the Central City shooting with Eight-Nine-Six. Beyond that, it swiftly becomes apparent that the privileged heiress knows little about what crime is like in New Orleans’ poorer neighborhoods. Her starting point is the public crime statistics she can pull up on a Sunpad from her room in Harrah’s New Orleans Hotel. Perhaps to her surprise, the infamous Ninth Ward does not rank among the top three. The neighborhood with the highest crime rate is Little Woods, located all the way off in New Orleans East—practically in the bayous. The second-highest is Central City, closer to Em’s usual stomping grounds. The third-highest is the French Quarter, and was where he lived.

Antoine Savoy gratefully receives Caroline’s updates on her progress and supplies her with the occasional piece of information, but otherwise does not indicate any desire to micromanage. He talks with her about semi-related topics just as often. He confirms that yes, crime rates in the Vieux Carré are higher than in the Ninth Ward, but those statistics are skewed—there are streets where crime is much worse than others, and then of course there are the types of crimes and times they are committed. Rampart Street is more likely to see spillover from gang activity in Tremé or the Seventh and Eighth Wards, while sexual assaults and other less obvious crimes are higher on Bourbon Street.

“The tourists think they’re safe,” the Toreador elder smiles, “and so long as they do, that’s enough for NOPD.”

It wouldn’t surprise him, he continues, if the French Quarter has one the highest rates of unreported crimes. There are more Kindred in his parish than any other in the city, and they are more likely to clean up their messes than mortal criminals. The Eighth District cops, too, are particularly likely to fudge details on reports, or simply neglect to file them altogether. The French Quarter offers so many diversions and temptations to those who wear the crescent badge. There is a reason the Eighth District is the most desirable posting in the city.

“Crime is more art than science,” Savoy chuckles. “And crime is good! At least for us. The more of it there is among the kine, the less our own crimes stand out. There’s more than one reason well-to-do suburbs like Metairie don’t have many Kindred residents. But what I’m getting at, Miss Malveaux, is that NOPD’s corruption in such an already… diversion-filled part of town should play to your favor.”

Caroline, meanwhile, looks around for a prospective ghoul who has a better knowledge of the city’s mean streets than she does. She’s initially not sure where to start, and neither are Autumn or Widney: none of the women actually know any criminals.

It’s half out of whim that she turns to her sometime-housekeeper, Carla Rivera, figuring the illegal immigrant might know other people who live outside the bounds of the law. She is pleasantly surprised to learn that Carla’s brother Diego actually runs with a Latin gang called the Cottonmouths—even if she has to rape the single mother’s mind to find that out (Carla naturally being reticent to disclose such information to an employer). Carla is dubious that her brother would want anything to do with Caroline until the Ventrue once again ‘persuades’ her to set up a meeting anyway.

Diego Carlos Rivera is 20-something man with a shaved head and dead expression. He wears a wifebeater with dark stains that shows off his bulging biceps, ripped chest, and full-sleeve tattoos of a skull-faced woman with chains for her hair. A gold cross glints from around his neck. The knuckles gripping his firearm are thick and scarred.

He calls his sister’s sometime-employer a chifaldo and does not hit off with her until the Ventrue lets her supernal mien wash over him. Diego reacts with horror when Caroline reveals what she is, and mouths a prayer while drawing a cross in the air to drive off the vampiro. He does not want her blood and fears what it will do to his soul. Caroline has to forcefully mesmerize him into drinking it. He accepts the second and third drinks willingly, and is soon awash with the possibilities of what his new powers and Caroline’s patronage can do for his gang. They’ll crush the last of Terrytown’s black gangs that weren’t flushed out by Katrina. “We’ll run every corner south of the Mississippi!” he exclaims. Then he explains to Caroline what a corner is. It’s a spot where his people can sell drugs. Gangs fight over them.

Indeed, it does not escape Caroline that she has relied nigh-exclusively upon her supernatural powers to establish this foothold in New Orleans’ underworld. Diego will have far more autonomy over his gang’s operations than her other ghouls will have over their own areas of responsibility. Or as Autumn warily puts it, “In a tight pinch, you could do my job or Widney’s job… but I don’t think any of us could do his job. I mean, I don’t know the first thing about running a gang.” Outside matters of criminal law and Kindred politics, Caroline will be the one listening to Diego.

Nevertheless, now that the gangster is brought in, Caroline tells him and Autumn to handle the matter of Em’s framing. Antoine Savoy offers his own advice on related matters.

“Be careful in the Outlands, Miss Malveaux. They’re where things from the Dark start to bleed in, so not many Kindred choose to travel there. Be prepared to fight for whatever you claim.”

Caroline: “We’ll see if it’s worth fighting for first, Lord Savoy.”

GM: “Make sure you mind our prince’s laws if you decide to stay,” Savoy smiles in a chiding tone. “The sheriff and hounds still make semi-regular patrols through the area.”

Caroline: “Of course, Lord Savoy. I am, as are we all, the prince’s sworn servant after all. I wouldn’t dream of dishonoring my oath to him.”

GM: The Toreador grins and strokes his ten o’clock shadow, as if in contemplation of what further sage advice to dispense. “Silver bullets aren’t a poor thing to have on hand either. Loup-Garoux are all but unkillable otherwise.”

Caroline: Caroline smiles when he brings up silver bullets. “What else would you keep in your gun, Lord Savoy? Lead? Like a peasant?”

GM: Savoy just laughs. “A born Ventrue if I’ve ever seen one!”

Tuesday evening, 20 October 2015, PM

GM: Around a week later, Autumn reports back to Caroline that she and Diego took care of Emmett’s second framing with only a few hiccups. Louisiana’s cops are a different flavor of corrupt in Terrytown than they are in the French Quarter. Some timely applications of mesmerism smoothed over her and Diego’s occasional stumble, and they lined the cops’ pockets with bribes so that everything still adds up in their heads.

“It’s insane, just insane, how lazy these guys are. You should have seen the looks on their faces when they realized the guy they needed to catch was already locked up.”

Emmett has been linked to a drug bust in the French Quarter, and should thus be held in Orleans Parish Prison, where Cécilia’s stalker Mouse was also sent—and Amelie Savard is due to be sent, if she wakes up from her coma in time. (Caroline hasn’t heard any news on that front.) All that remains is to gain access.

Caroline: Even as the framing is in progress (perhaps as a sign of her confidence in Autumn’s ability to pull it off) Caroline sets a meeting with Coco to discuss gaining access to the prison—or at least not stepping on any toes as she arranges it. She tells herself that her pull towards Coco is purely practical, but can’t resist the tingle in the back of her head as she arranges the meeting.

GM: Jennifer Haley tells Caroline to come by Blaze in several nights. The shithole bar is as loud and raucous as ever, and the Mardis Gras beads spelling ‘FUCK YOU’ are missing several beads at the top of the ‘o.’ Coco sits at a table in the back, nursing a rose cocktail. She wears a black tank top under a leather jacket that’s less scuffed than the other patrons’. Her once-red hair is now pale blue.

Caroline: Caroline smirks as she considers how much easier it is for Kindred to manage that kind of rapid and frequent shift in hair color. No worries about damage to hair from frequent dye jobs. After introductions she takes a seat opposite the Brujah primogen with her own drink.

“Do you shave it then re-dye it in the morning?” she asks, answers.

GM: “The late evening, usually,” Coco replies.

Caroline could picture another Kindred smirking. But the elder Brujah’s eyes don’t seem to fully take in the Ventrue. Her lips remain still.

Caroline: Caroline fights to keep the frown off her face as she continues, “I was hoping to arrange a visit with someone in your domain. Well, nominally.”

GM: Coco absently motions for her to go on.

Caroline: “He’s currently staying at the parish prison.” The Ventrue opens her folded hands on the table.

GM: “I’m sure he’ll appreciate the visit. It’s not a fun place to spend one’s time.”

Caroline: Caroline smirks. “Well, I do try to spread joy wherever I go.”

GM: “You have my leave to spread some to the local jail. But given the rightness of your purpose, maybe you shouldn’t have to ask me.” Coco takes a sip of the reddish-pink drink. “Que chacun se met à sa place.”

(“_Let every man put himself where he pleases.”_)

Caroline recognizes the quote. It’s what Louis XVI supposedly told his domestic servants after participants in the Women’s March on Versailles all but forcibly relocated his family to Tuileries Palace in Paris.

Caroline: “Est-ce qu’il a réellement dit cela?” Caroline asks with a smirk.

(“Did he actually say that?”)

GM: “What made Napoleon a strategic genius was his ability to organize,” Coco remarks, her eyes still only half there. “He determined that what would make an army unbeatable was its mobility and capacity to adapt faster than the enemy to changing circumstances. He broke his forces into small divisions and gave his field marshals freedom to make decisions in the moment without having to consult him. This led to chaos, but he enjoyed the room for creativity it allowed. He encouraged soldiers on all levels to show initiative, and gave them the chance to rise from the bottom to the top, just as he had done. This Grande Armée did not merely fight in the Revolution’s name, but implemented its ideals on a strategic level.”

Caroline: “C’est donc avec vous?” Caroline asks.

(“So it is with you?”)

GM: “It worked masterfully. Napoleon won battle after battle,” Coco simply continues in English. “He would not march to proscribed places to meet the enemy in open battle, but threw his divisions into scattered patterns. Depending on how the enemy reacted, he would close in from several directions. His revolution in warfare was strategic, not technological. He had a better idea and exploited it to the maximum.”

“Napoleon’s model for success did not die with him. It’s applicable to any group operating in a transitional period in history—where speed and mobility triumph over ponderous older methods. It means paying supreme attention to how one’s group is organized and creating a structure that fits the times.”

“We’ve seen it even among modern tech companies. Macroware operated with layers of bureaucracy, gigantic staffs of engineers, and intensive testing of all products prior to their release, which was handled by large-scale sales and marketing teams. Their machine was slow and lumbering, and rolling out new products took years. Hooli, in contrast, had a small engineering staff, no marketing or sales team, and self-managed employees who were encouraged to release early and often, and to independently research new ideas. They undercut Macroware’s monopoly just like Napoleon smashed coalition after coalition of rival nations’ outmoded armies.”

“Hooli’s company culture promoted the idea they were the spearhead of a revolution: the company that would give the entire world free access to information. Macroware’s employees simply collected paychecks. Again and again, during times of great transition, small bands of men and women with great ideas march forward to change the world. And they do. Then they stop changing, and the world passes them by.”

“The Grande Armée’s rapid forced marches and proclivity for living off the land served it well in the geographically small, densely populated, and agriculturally rich central Europe. Old order Austrian and Prussian armies were left dazed and confused. But Russia was geographically vast, thinly populated, agriculturally sparse, and had a poor network of roads. Troops grew sick drinking mud puddles and eating rotten food and forage. They hadn’t even intended to take Moscow, initially, but Napoleon wanted the costly campaign to be worth it. He was not prepared for the Russians to simply let him have the city. They knew the harsh winter would drive him out within the year. And it did. Napoleon had stopped thinking in terms of tactical realities and instead let his ego drive his actions, refusing to adapt his tactics to changing circumstances. He become as lumbering and obsolete as the very armies he had once smashed. The changing world passed him by.”

“Already we see indications of that obsolescent thinking in today’s tech companies and social revolutionaries. I wonder what their Russia will be.”

Caroline: Caroline listens to the elder’s lecture.

“Has the Brujah primogen found herself out in the cold?” she finally asks. “I find that hard to believe.”

GM: Coco gives the nauseous-smelling concoction in her glass another swish. “People I knew believed in Napoleon with all their hearts, and died for him in Russia. For his mistakes.”

Caroline: Caroline’s eyes glitter. “Ah, this is a cautionary tale then.”

GM: “I don’t know why I had a ghoul rouse me to catch a glimpse of his funeral procession. The sun’s rays burned no less painfully, for all the day’s cold. The people had turned him into a god, but he was never anything but a man.”

Coco’s gaze lingers on her glass. “Go visit your friend, Caroline.”

Caroline: The Ventrue’s gaze lingers on the Brujah elder. “Just like that?”

GM: “Just like that.”

Caroline: Wisdom and experience bid Caroline to take it and go, but something else pulls on her.

“Are you quite all right, Coco?”

GM: Coco looks several years younger than Caroline does, now that the Ventrue considers it. Her facial features have less definition; less firmly set aspects, fewer character lines that would have eventually become wrinkles. It’s an almost incongruent detail. She isn’t a marble statue like Matheson, or timeless like Maldonato, whose medieval garb in his Moorish palace seemed like the dominant reality rather than a discordant anachronism. The Brujah’s facial expressions, body language, and other subtle ways of comporting herself simply seem more like Claire’s than a 20-something’s. But they are more languid, more reserved, than even Caroline’s mother. They have more in common with those elderly Okinawans who continue to run, swim, and sweat alongside their great-grandchildren. It’s only when Caroline really looks at Coco that it becomes apparent the elder Brujah could pass for one of the giggling coeds she feeds upon. Could have been one of those giggling coeds, if she were born in another time and place.

“I’m just fine, Caroline,” she answers. “Nowhere that I haven’t been before.”

The echo of a smile brushes over her lips. “That’s the great comedy of it all. I’ll be just fine.”

Caroline: Eternal youth. What a lie. Caroline can see the years weighing down on Coco, centuries of life, and loss, and suffering. Of decisions made and prices paid. How many years has Caroline aged in the last couple of months? How much do those choices weigh upon her? And she came from everything, a mortal life lived in comparable splendor and comfort.

How old does Coco feel? How tired of fighting?

And how capable is she? In months Caroline has found within herself a lethality, cold-bloodlessness, and brutality she’d never known. How much more dangerous is a Kindred that has lived through centuries. The thought sends a shiver through Caroline.

Why then does she press on? Is it the blood bond? The subtle but impossible to ignore pull toward Coco? That twisted pull of affection that she knows, if she were to drink again, would pull her further and further towards infatuation? Or is it her own weariness, and her own loneliness. Her own frustration. Even as she’s filled her life with ghouls, with plots, with plans, Caroline feels more alone now than she ever has in her life. Distant from her ‘family’ with the great plunge coming. Family that has meant so much, that has dominated her life. Distant in faith, which she clung too, and still does, in its own distorted, perverted form. She is so alone.

Idiot. From the French, idiota meaning ‘an ignorant person’ and in turn from the Greek ‘idiōtēs’ meaning a private person. Aristotle called humans social creatures, insisted that it was in the nature of man to crave connections to others, and that those that were isolated from their own kind, the hermits, the outcast, were less than human. She certainly feels that way, and knows it can’t continue. She has plans within plans. Plots within plots for the future, but in this seeing moment of opportunity, she can’t resist. Can’t help herself.

“I’m certain that you’ll survive, and once more emerge from it stronger than before,” she begins. “But fine is another matter altogether.” Caroline shuffles. “I don’t think I’m on your Christmas card list right now, but I don’t know that I have to be to see that something is clearly bothering you, eating at you. Everything I’ve seen suggests you deserve better.”

Caroline digs out a card and sets it on the table. It’s simple, plain, heavy weight paper with ten numbers and two dashes.

“This is direct, not to my ghoul like the number I called Ms. Haley on. If there’s something I can do, please call.”

GM: Coco’s eyes drift towards the professional-looking phone card. “That’s thoughtful of you to offer.”

“I’ve not known many people, or Kindred, who got what they deserve. But it’s touching you think I should be one of them.” The Brujah finishes the last of her pinkish cocktail, leaving only the cherry at the glass’ bottom. “You should visit your friend, Caroline.”

Caroline: Caroline nods. “Good advice.” She finishes her own drink—more to prove a point than anything, and rises.

“The offer remains open, in any case, Primogen Duquette. A pleasure, as always.” She leaves the card on the table.

Thursday evening, 22 October 2015, PM

Caroline: The Ventrue digs through her own contacts—and takes advantage of the prison’s proximity to the CBD—to build her plan for reaching Emmett in the prison and getting out. She targets deliveries to the prison in the evening for entry and egress, working to get official (or at least official looking) credentials for the name she’ll be using to gain entry and egress.

At the same time she digs around the prison’s staff, particularly ‘corrections officers’ (a nice euphemism for often sadistic and poorly educated ‘not police’ that administer the prison) picking out targets that she can plant buried commands in to deliver Emmett to a meeting with her during her ‘brief’ visit. It’s not so easy as it seems, but she’s able to draw heavily on Diego’s knowledge (and more, that of his associates) of the prison and how it functions to identify the proper positions that need either bribes or controls to make her plan work. Emmett’s status as a death row inmate makes it more difficult, but Caroline has resources available that no normal mortal might, and with the ability to literally plant commands in people’s minds to execute… the impossible becomes possible. Even if she is forced to shy away from the handful of sheriffs that she has to work around, rather than through.

It’s a massive undertaking nonetheless, one that she can think of few circumstances it would be worthwhile in… but an opportunity to have the tale of her night in the Dungeon… to get some of the truth of her Embrace… it’s worthwhile. Worth something.

GM: Diego laughs at Caroline when she asks about Orleans Parish Prison and chides the pampered white girl for her ignorance. He knows more about OPP than she does, yes (he’s known people who did time there), but Terrytown is part of Jefferson Parish. When he and his people saw the inside of a parish jail, it was in Gretna’s Jefferson Parish Prison. The Mississippi might as well be a wall as far as Terrytown’s criminals are concerned. What, does she imagine they take drug-filled cars on daily ferry commutes to New Orleans?

“Make us sitting ducks for 5-0,” he chides again, but he seems more amused by Caroline than anything else. “You just leave this business to me, amiga. It’s not your territory.” The ghoul’s tone is considerably less deferential than Caroline’s other servants.

Caroline: Caroline ignores it for the moment, but only just. Time will tell how useful a servant—or not—he will be to her.

GM: The easiest way to gain access to an inmate in Orleans Parish Prison, Caroline soon discovers, is to simply visit them through legal channels. Regular inmates are allowed up to three visitors with active status on their visitation lists, with visiting hours of 8 AM to 5 PM and 8 PM to 10 PM on Tuesdays through Saturdays. Any Kindred could visit Em without recourse to Caine’s gifts.

True to the Ventrue’s prediction, things are less straightforward in Em’s case. As a death roow inmate, he is only authorized to receive a single visitor on Sundays between the hours of 9 AM and 3 PM. One of Caroline’s ghouls could get to Em legally, but the grifter remains inaccessible to Caroline if she is not willing to brave Sol’s burning eye—at least, through public channels.

Some casual research by the almost-lawyer turns up that Orleans Parish Prison has something known as professional visiting rooms. These are available for use by the professional community, who include attorneys, bondsmen, law enforcement officials, licensed private investigators, approved counselors, approved clergy, approved medical professionals, approved media representatives, and approved paralegals. An inmate may receive any number of professional visits, and can even receive them outside of normal visiting hours. The warden retains discretionary authority to restrict, deny, or suspend a professional visitor’s privileges.

The legal ground is once again somewhat blurrier in Emmett’s case, but death row inmates are permitted lawyers like anyone else. Even if a prisoner is beyond all possibility or parole or judicial appeal, they still have one last option—a plea to the governor, who may exercise their power of pardon if they are sufficiently moved. Caroline remembers studying the topic only last semester under Tulane’s Professor Isaiah Wellington. The gray-haired, craggy-faced old man had described it as, “The last vestige of the divine right of kings,” because,

“The power of pardon was one of the attributes of divine right. The king could only exercise it because, as the representative of God on earth, he was above the ordinary human justice. In passing from the king to the presidents of republics, this right lost its essential character and therefore its legality. It thenceforth become a flimsy prerogative, a judicial power outside justice and yet no longer above it; it created an arbitrary jurisdiction, foreign to our conception of the lawgiver. In practice it is good, since by its action the wretched are saved. By nature, however, it is ridiculous. One has but to imagine Earl Long or Jim Jameson invested with the attributes of divinity to come to this conclusion.”

Whatever opinion Caroline’s former professor may hold on pardons, however, Em still has valid pretext over which to see a lawyer. Most death row inmates are not eloquent writers and rely on attorneys to draft their written pleas to the governor. Caroline could be that lawyer. While the names of attorneys who visit Orleans Parish Prison must appear in the current edition of the “State’s Bar Association” manual/website, and Caroline’s currently does not, paralegals are also allowed to visit inmates in a professional capacity if they have an attorney’s authorized letter designating them as that attorney’s representative.

Caroline: Caroline briefly—very briefly—toys with the headache required to get her name on the list as a licensed attorney. She ultimately settles for the easier option, roping in Denise Bowden as a potential representative for Emmett and herself, or at least an identity that shares her face (she cannot, after all, be linked to Emmett), as a paralegal for the licensed attorney in an early evening meeting.

The extra hours in the night as they race towards winter works to her advantage, even as it drives home how bitterly short the nights will be in the summer. She idly considers the idea of a summer home, some day, to rotate between the seasons. Somewhere on the far side of the world. The idea of jetting to some foreign palace for to escape the long days in the summer, the reverse of so many tourists, is a pleasant thought. It’s only a thought though.

GM: After confirming plans by phone, Denise meets with Caroline several nights later at the Caribbean Room, the fancy dining room of the small but elegant Pontchartrain Hotel in