“Here to their bosom mother earth, take back in peace what thou has given, and, all that is of heavenly birth, God in peace recall to heaven.”
Cypress Grove Cemetery motto
Sunday night, 4 December 2011, AM
GM: “Here to their bosom mother earth, take back in peace what thou has given, and, all that is of heavenly birth, God in peace recall to heaven.”
So reads the motto crowning the entrance to Cypress Grove Cemetery. The cemetery, laid out with a 28-foot-wide central avenue flanked by narrower aisles, has a monumental entrance gate in the Egyptian Revival style, suggesting a triumphal passage from one world to the next. Although Mid-City’s cemeteries are not as well-known as some of the city’s other ones, most tourists are still impressed. Rows and rows of above-ground mausoleums stretch on for as far as the eye can see. Graves here could actually be sunk six feet without reaching water, Ayame heard somewhere, but the preference for above-ground tombs persisted. Old habits die hard.
Tombs are arranged in a grid formation with a broad, paved walkway, called Live Oak Avenue, forming a long, central, north-south axis from Canal Street to Banks Street. The walkway is flanked by narrower parallel and intersecting paths named after locally favored plants and trees, including myrtle and rose. Two live oaks stand on the eastern perimeter of the cemetery, their moss hanging low and grazing the tops of the graves below. Elaborate marble, granite, and cast-iron tombs populate the cemetery and serve as examples of memorial architecture. The cemetery’s irregularly shaped lot cuts diagonally across a city block, and is separated from St. Patrick Cemetery No. 1 to its east by a wall of “fours,” or stacked burial spaces.
At the dead of night, it stands silent and abandoned. Everyone from the city, and any tourist who’s done their research, knows the cemeteries are not safe places to linger after dark.
Perhaps they think it’s because of gangs and criminals.
Oftentimes it even is.
But sometimes the gangs and criminals know to stay away, too.
Some of them know there are things in the city, that emerge after dark, with which you do not fuck.
There’s at least a dozen of them, silently stealing into the cemetery. Some bound over the walls in mighty leaps. Some climb up with a swiftness and sureness no mortal hand could match. Some descend on literal dark wings. Some stride through the front entrance as if they own the place, invisible to mortal sight. Pale-faced and cool-eyed predators, most of them young among their own kind, but all of them secure in their place as apex hunters among a world of prey.
Ayame: Criminals, vagabonds, ruffians… that’s what the kine call ‘em, but Ayame knows them for what they are: Anarchs. A whole lot of them, too. Gathered together in the cemetery precisely because the rumors say it isn’t safe. Less chance of an unsuspecting breather walking in on them like this.
That thing that goes bump in the night over in Cypress Grove? High chance it’s a lick. Maybe a few of them. Playing games, tearing each other’s throats out, pumping other people full of lead. Those’re the kind of games the Anarchs play. Nothing pretty.
Nothing sweet, not like the face she’s got: heart-shaped, pale skin, big eyes. Hazel. Somewhere between green and blue and gray. Mostly they’re gray. Stormy, like the fog at sea. It’s an enchanting face… or would be, if it ever moved. White marble, hardly any inflection. A mouth that’s made for long, solemn glances. Ayame doesn’t smile. Not with her mouth, not with her eyes. She makes other people smile though. Red smiles, right across their throat.
She doesn’t walk so much as slink, long strides in leather leggings made longer yet by the thigh-high boots. Rail-thin, all hard edges and angles, the kind of predator you don’t want to run into in a dark alley. Or maybe you do, until her lips part and you see those long, sharp, glinting fangs.
Maybe she chose the clothes because they’re black on black on black. They blend so nicely with the night, don’t they, some sort of urban camouflage that lets her slip in and out of the silver moonlight that breaks through the clouds. The sweater’s hood is pulled up over her hair, its form loose on her slight frame. Black gloves—biker gloves—complete the look.
Near-silent footfalls see her through the rows of gravestones, the mausoleums, the little blocks of marble on the ground with their names and dates and whatever bullshit saying someone carved onto it because people think that it means something.
She’s killed enough people to know it doesn’t. They all die screaming.
Ayame is nothing more than a shadow that steals through the darkness as she takes the place she has carved out amongst her kind.
GM: It is not overlong before their gathered faces become plain to her:
Many of the shadowy figures dressed in leathers and studs, wifebeaters, and gang trappings. Some might say these licks play at being gangsters, but it might be more apt to say that gangsters play at being licks. Who’s better at sucking the lifeblood from a community?
Other attendees, though, are incongruently well-dressed for their present surroundings: Prada, Armani, other high-end fashion brands. Looks might not be able to kill, by themselves, but they can advertise. It’s the rare lick with money not stained by someone’s blood.
A few of the present vampires look downright pedestrian. Ordinary jeans and sweatshirts. Ordinary Johns and Janes, just out past their bedtimes. It’s getting to be an increasingly popular look as the 21st century rolls into its second decade. The wolf doesn’t want the sheep to know it’s there.
Veronica Alsten-Pirrie shows up with Pietro Silvestri, sneering and looking gorgeous doing it. The now krewe-less pair used to run in a coterie with some other Anarchs, Ayame’s heard, who didn’t survive Katrina. Now it’s just them. Immortality gets lonelier with every decade.
Two still beats one, though. Micheal Kelly’s krewe was also decimated down to just two licks, but his former krewemate Shep went off to found his own coterie. Had to have been some kind of dispute, though, because Coco’s older childe now stands alone.
Ed Zuric and Jack McCandles make up another duo. Two-fifths of the Armstrong Five who liked the Anarchs enough to join up.
The Kindred Liberation Front seems enormous next to those duos and solitary licks. The city’s oldest surviving Anarch krewe includes half a dozen Kindred: Jonah Freeman, Maxzille Babineaux, Dr. Petrowski, Laura Ravenwood, Eris D., Simon Jones. They lost people, too. Everyone did. Some clearly lost fewer.
Risen from Katrina’s ashes are the Night Axles. Isa Suarez, Marcio de la Cuz, and Bliss Jackson all follow the hulking Shep Jennings’ lead, though Ayame hears Bliss has been making noise about wanting to start her own krewe. The Brujah are not too good at being followers, sometimes.
The newest de facto krewe hasn’t even decided on a name yet. Roderick Durant, Christopher Guilbeau, Hezekiah Santana. Ironic to see the three golden sons, the first licks Embraced in the city post-Katrina, all go Anarch. Says a lot, if you ask the Anarchs. But so does Veronica’s childe Jade not doing the same.
The Twenty-Twenties are another new one. Gerald Abellard, Arzilla Boudon, Andy Philips. Two sewer rats and a Gangrel ugly enough to pass for one. Misery must love company there.
The Lost Angels, the last krewe, have gotten thoroughly lost after Katrina. They can’t show their faces in Mid-City after what went down during the storm, though Ayame hasn’t heard exactly what. Oh well. There’s few enough angels here anyway.
All told, the gathering comes out to around two dozen licks. Two dozen blood-drinkers standing around in a cemetery. Even if it feels like there’s still a lot of empty places, God help the tourist hapless enough to wander into this midnight lions’ den.
Ayame: Ayame stands apart, close to the krewe of “golden sons” but not so close that a casual observer would think she were one of their numbers. All three of them young yet, like her, but already shining above the trash and rats. She spares a nod toward Christopher. Ayame has carved herself a place here among these Anarchs, but she has made no overtures to claim membership within one of the assembled krewes. Apart, but not alone; though no one watches her back these nights neither have any painted a target upon it, and these are the people among whom she has made her home. Her cool gaze descends upon the others assembled, unflinching in the wake of their appraisal while her own mind does the mental calculations. A group of predators who jostle and claw their way to the top, and she as a dark ghost among them.
How quickly they would descend upon an intruder, though; she has seen it happen, a handful of licks around an unsuspecting mortal who was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time, torn to pieces before he could even wonder at the error.
She waits, as they do, a stone statue amidst the graves. Dead men meeting in the cemetery—now there’s a funny thought.
GM: But dead men are missing something without living people to visit them.
Ayame thought bringing lots of renfields to the rants was a no-no. But they slowly trickle in, as she stands so still. Men and women who don’t smell dead, who don’t sound dead, with hearts still audibly beating in their chests. They don’t invade the cemetery like the others do, scaling or leaping over the walls like they’re no more than bothersome speed bumps, or not even that. These less-dead people simply walk in through the front gates, fully visible to Ayame’s ears and eyes.
They don’t walk the same, either. They don’t stride in like they own the place, jungle cats among a jungle of prey. Their strides are slower and less certain. Many of them are dressed worse, too, in threadbare thrift store clothes. A few look like they’ve dressed up in their Sunday bests—not dressing to kill, like the sleek urban predators in their luxury brands, but dressing to look nice. But far more of them sport the ‘dressed like an ordinary breather’ look. Plain jeans, sweatshirts, jackets. Unremarkable and unthreatening.
Some of the Anarchs give low hisses at the first ones to arrive. Eye them like mountain lions around housecats. Sure, same diet. Same fur, same tails. But not the same league.
First there’s just a few. Alone among the mass of bigger, badder predators, and all-too vulnerable-feeling.
But then there’s a few more, and there’s half as many eyes on the initial ones.
And then a few more.
And then a few more.
And then a few more.
And eventually, there’s maybe as many ‘people’ with beating hearts as there are ones with still hearts.
Some of the predators are starting to look nervous.
Sure. You might be a match for one of them.
Two of them.
But this many?
Some whispers are audible around Ayame.
“I didn’t think there were this many.”
“Where’d they come from?”
“Who the fuck is actually siring all these abortions?”
There’s some glares among the new arrivals and hisses of, “Duskborn.”
Children of the dusk. Of neither the day nor the night. Caught between two worlds. Crushed under both.
Or perhaps until now.
Try to crush this many, and you just might get crushed too.
Ayame: Ayame isn’t one of those who overtly hisses or bares hateful fangs at the half-breed mongrels. The others echo her own sentiments well enough. Bad enough that Caitiff are running around, but these? They deserve whatever knife they get. Her weight shifts from foot to foot until she is closer to those neonates she’d eyed—the golden ones—than further apart. For all their differences they, at least, are legitimate childer.
Not this mess of nobodies.
GM: “You too good to stand next to us, fat-blood?” one of them growls at Ayame. She’s a dark-skinned woman with only a single visible fang when she opens her mouth. Her other canine is just as flat as the rest of her teeth.
There’s three others of her kind standing right next to her. All looking at Ayame too.
Ayame: “Making room,” Ayame shoots back at her.
GM: “Thoughtful,” answers the guy next to her. He’s a thin and gangly-looking man with two fangs, but they’re small and dull-looking things. Ayame has to wonder how easily they can draw blood. “You can try to shut us out. But there’ll always be more of us.”
Ayame: Maybe they all carry knives. She would, if she were made of the same garbage that these people—not licks, not Kindred, just people, and that’s pretty fucking generous—were.
She makes a gesture towards the space between her and the next krewe. The shining suns—sorry, golden sons—is a welcome presence at her back. Maybe they’ll prove that they were worth it if it comes to that.
They, at least, aren’t walking accidents.
GM: “It looks like there will,” answers one of the ‘golds.’ Roderick Durant. Coco’s childe. He’s one of the Kindred who’s dressed up in a professional-looking suit under his coat.
“But that’s why we’re all here tonight. We can either keep butting heads—nonproductively when there will, as you say, always be more of you—or find some way to coexist.”
Ayame: She’d heard that he was Ventrue, like the lick next to him. Must be the suit.
Ayame doesn’t smile. Her mouth isn’t made for it; she’s got the sort of lips that are made for pouting, and maybe kissing when she still drew breath. Now, though, she dips her chin as if she agrees with his words, her eyes still on the would-bes. Appraising.
“As he says, I am sure we will find common ground.”
They’re almost licks, anyway.
GM: “We’ll see,” answers the woman.
There’s a sharp whistle from another space in the roughly ring-shaped gathering that’s formed.
“All right, y’all, thanks fah comin’ ’ere tonight,” calls out Maxzille. She’s a caucasian woman in seemingly her early 20s with long blonde hair. She’s dressed in a camo-patterned jacket, blue jeans, a brown cowboy hat, and matching boots. A necklace with a silver peace sign and an ankh dangles from her neck.
“Big mama an’ big sistah ain’ here tonight, so looks like us kids are hostin’ all y’all first-timers.”
“And why aren’t they here?” calls one of the thin-bloods.
“They too good to share a cemetery with us?” asks another.
Rumblings go up from the crowd.
“Dey ain’ here ‘cuz dere’s a conclave up noahth in Atlanta,” answers Max. “One das’ aimed at addressin’ y’all Duskborn’s issues, ‘mong other things. Dey thought it was important for da Big Easy ta have a voice when a justicar’s makin’ noise ‘bout y’all, an’ Ah agree with ’em.”
“We do things heah in Mid-City by majority vote, fer those of y’all who ain’ familiar. One lick, one vote. Ah like havin’ two moah voices ta listen to much as da rest o’ y’all do, but missin’ two voices ain’ gonna slow us down too much.”
She looks around at the thin-bloods.
“And by mah count, we got a lot more dan two new voices ‘ere ta make up fer da missin’ ones.”
There’s some murmurings from the crowd.
“Order o’ business a lot o’ us want ta bring up tonaht’s pretty simple, Ah think. How we all gonna get along.”
“For dose of y’all who ain’ heard yet, dere’s word ferm on high, at da Venice conclave this year. Buncha princes, justicars, an’ assorted Camarilla bigwigs all say, time fer nightborn licks ta stop comin’ down so hard on da duskborn ones.”
“Is that what they said?” calls a thin-blood from the crowd. “I heard they told the princes ‘good job’ and gave them a slap on the back for ten years of genocide.”
“That wasn’t genocide-” scoffs another voice.
“The deliberate and systematic extermination of an entire group of people,” cuts in the thin-blood next to Ayame. “The institution of a political office in Camarilla cities solely responsible for carrying out duskborn killings. That sounds plenty like genocide to me.”
“It was genocide,” Roderick answers. Heads turn towards him. “Some licks here might deny it, but I won’t, and that’s why I’m here. Because the Camarilla’s period of sanctioned genocide is over and I want to help figure out what the future between nightborn and duskborn Kindred is going to look like.”
“And you’re right,” he says as someone else starts to interject, “the Camarilla didn’t say the genocide was over, or call it genocide, or apologize for it. They said the threat posed by duskborn Kindred was contained and called on princes to ‘direct their energies to the 21st century’s other challenges.’”
“It’s the same tactic as when they said ‘mission accomplished’ over the Red Question,” speaks up Jonah Freeman. He’s a thick-bearded black man in jeans and a leather jacket. A necklace with a tiny quartz heart pierced by a fingerbone dangles over his chest. “They realized the quote-unquote ‘problem’ was too big for them to deal with. That they couldn’t destroy every single text asking ‘why do you obey?’ that every single Anarch had. So rather than acknowledge they’d lost, they just said they won. That they were taking their toys and going home. When they say ‘this threat’s contained,’ they’re saying ’it’s too big for us to contain.’”
“Remember that?” guffaws Andy Philips. “Vidal said we’d be in soooo much trouble if we had any of the Red Question’s stuff! Well who here does?”
Ayame: “The difference,” Ayame cuts in with barely a look towards the rat-faced Philips, “is that the duskborn did not ask to be created this way, just as you did not ask to be black, you did not ask to be white, and I did not ask to be Asian. So if the genocide is over then let it be over. We can hem and haw all we want over definitions and unrelated instances of ‘justice,’ or we can learn from it, better ourselves, and find a way to coexist. Which I believe,” she glances at Max, “is the purpose of this evening.”
GM: “Is he black? I can’t tell past all the hair,” shoots Bliss Jackson.
There’s some snickers.
Ayame: No wonder they never get anything done.
GM: “Is she not a slut? I can’t tell past all the cleavage,” leers Gerald Abellard.
There’s some more laughs. Hardest from Andy.
“I’ll beat your fuckin’ ass, sewer rat!” Bliss shouts back, taking a step forward.
Ayame: Ayame hopes she does. The rats are hardly a step up from the abortions in their midst.
“Easy,” she says instead. They don’t need infighting with all these unknowns.
GM: Shep and her krewemates clamp hands over her shoulders.
Andy Philips flips his middle fingers.
Abellard mimes a handjob with his mouth open.
“Cut dat shit, y’all!” Max interjects with a pointed glare between the three. “Dis how we gonna conduct ahselves when da big mama an’ big sistah ah away? Sure proves dem eldahs righ’, don’ it, dat da Anarchs are just a buncha unruly kids good fah nothin’ but fightin’ an’ fuckin’? Too immature ta make deir own decisions, better leave dat ta da older an’ wiser heads?”
Bliss just glares.
“This sure fills me with a whole lot of faith,” comes one thin-blood’s voice.
“We’re all less than perfect,” answers Jonah Freeman. “Just like the Camarilla is a hell of a lot less than perfect. That’s the world. We’ve got a common oppressor and we can learn to coexist, like Ayame says, or else… what? What’s the alternative?”
Ayame: “Tear each other apart,” Ayame finishes for him, “like the others think we eventually will. Prove them right that we need a firm hand.” She lifts her shoulders in a shrug. “I do not know about the lot of you, but I am not interested in my Requiem being scripted for me by the ‘powers that be.’”
GM: “I think it’s problematic to phrase things like that,” interjects Laura Ravenwood, a gothic-looking and wavy-haired young woman in black and red silk. “We share a common oppressor, but the duskborn have it so much worse than we do. The Camarilla tried t-”
“-we can speak for ourselves, thanks,” interrupts the one-fanged thin-blood next to Ayame. “And we’ll thank any nightborn here not to speak for us about how bad we have it.”
“I’m not trying to speak for you. I’m Caitiff, I understand what it’s like to be-” replies Laura.
“-you don’t understand,” interrupts another thin-blood, an overweight black man in a navy sweatshirt.
“This isn’t productive,” speaks up Dr. Petrowski, a bookish-looking older man in glasses and a tweed jacket. “Can we simply acknowledge that-”
“Did you obtain tenure?” asks the thin-blood by Ayame.
Petrowski’s brow furrows. “What in the world does-”
“You were a professor at Tulane. Did you or did you not obtain tenure?”
“Yes, I obtained tenure. How di-”
“Because I remember your face from Tulane, though I’m sure you don’t remember mine. I was also a professor there. But I was an adjunct. I worked my ass off for years to be treated like barely more than a slave. I told a nightborn she shouldn’t speak for duskborn, because she hasn’t experienced our some level of oppression, and you’re telling everyone it’s nonproductive for me to correct her. It presumes a position of superiority to judge what is and is not productive, and makes talk of equality between us seem like a lie.”
Petrowski’s brow remains furrowed. “Miss, what in the world does my tenure have to do to with those points of contention?”
“Because you’re talking down to me from twice the position of privilege, and that pisses me off!” the thin-blood yells angrily.
There’s angry murmurs of agreement from the others.
Ayame: Annoyance shoots through her.
“We all have unique experiences and trials. There is no reason to turn this into a pissing contest about who has it worse and how the other side either does or does not understand. Trying to make other people see eye-to-eye with you is a futile waste of time, and while we say it is unlimited for us now, I can think of plenty of other things I would rather do than sit around and compare dick lengths.”
“We do not have to be friends. We do not have to even like each other. We only have to exist in the same space without resorting to squabbling.”
GM: “And what about when nightborn presume to tell us what is and isn’t productive for us to talk about?” asks another thin-blood, a black man with dreadlocks in a cotton zip jacket. “We ask to be treated as equals, nothing more or less. Is that a pipe dream?”
Veronica rolls her eyes as Pietro smirks.
Ayame: “I literally just agreed with you. Are you looking for an argument?”
GM: “You said we should stop comparing dick lengths about who has it worse,” answers the man. “Okay. I agree with that. Do you agree it was wrong for glasses guy over there to judge what is and isn’t productive for us to talk about, because it presumes nightborn are better than duskborn?”
Ayame: “I think this whole conversation is unproductive,” Ayame says flatly, “and we are all just looking to claw our way to the top and somehow be above someone else for whatever reasons we think we should be. We can all find a reason to hate each other and think we know best. But are all here for the same purpose, are we not? Survival, certainly, but beyond that we seek to thrive. So let us thrive.”
GM: “We are better than you,” says Christopher Guilbeau. “I’ll say the quiet part out loud.”
Shouts of outrage erupt from the thin-bloods.
Ayame: God damnit.
GM: The Ventrue’s voice booms over the yelling throngs like he’s speaking into a megaphone.
“We’re. Better. Than. You. Let that sink in. But guess what? Just because we’re better doesn’t mean you don’t have a place here. I think you’d all make great Anarchs. We’ll give you a better deal than the Camarilla ever will. I won’t lie to you about what that means, though. Anyone who says you’re equals is just telling you what you want to hear.”
Roderick slaps his palm over his forehead.
The shouts of outrage continue unabated. Some of them are coming from true-blooded Kindred.
“That is such a Ventrue thing to say!”
“Take him down!”
“Fuck you! He’s right! We are better!”
“Go back to China, you stupid chink!” someone yells at Ayame.
Ayame: “I’m from fucking Texas, you shit-for-brains.” She doesn’t even know who she’s talking to at this point. The voices of outrage are too many to keep up with. Her gaze cuts towards Max and Jonah, then Veronica and Pietro, as if one of them is going to step in and fucking do something in lieu of Opal and Coco.
It’s not even worth it to point out that she’s Korean, besides.
GM: “No you’re not! You’re fucking Chinese, rice-for-brains!” shouts back Bliss Jackson.
“Ching chong chinagirl, go do math!” yells a white male thin-blood.
It looks like they’ve found something to agree on.
Ayame: Bully for them.
GM: Veronica and Pietro sneer and laugh to themselves at the uproar. It doesn’t look as if much action is going to come from either.
“Everyone, JUST BE QUIET!” Roderick shouts over the noise, or at least tries. When it doesn’t stop, Maxzille sticks two fingers in her mouth and gives a shrill, ear-piercingly loud whistle.
“All right, Y’ALL JUST COOL IT!”
“Chris here maht think he’s better’n some licks, an’ das’ his right ta buhlieve whatevuh da fuck he wants ta believe, but it sure ain’t what Ah believe. Who else ‘ere don’ buhlieve what Chris buhlieves?”
“I don’t believe what he believes,” says Jonah. “We’re all Bondye’s children.”
“I sure don’t,” says Roderick. “Believing nightborn are better than duskborn is the logical extension of the Camarilla’s belief system. It’s to buy in to elders’ rhetoric that someone’s generation counts for more than character. It’s to accept that someone’s worth as an individual is determined by an accident of death: by what sire happened to slit a wrist over their mouth, rather than how by how they’ve actually lived their Requiem. I thought we all agreed that was bullshit.”
Ayame: Smaller words, Durant, you’ve lost half of them.
Ayame crosses her arms. She gives a curt nod of assent.
“They keep us divided to keep us small. If we let it work, they win.”
GM: “There are no rules anywhere,” giggles Eris D, a green-haired girl in a leather jacket. “The goddess prevails. Curb your dogma. The enlightened take things lightly. Reality is the original Rorschach.”
“Fucking Malks,” someone ‘mutters.’
Most the true-blooded Anarchs take turns voicing similar sentiments. Some are more enthusiastic than others. Some give speeches. Others just nod. Christopher walks back on his words, a little, in a way that sounds like it’s being apologetic without actually apologizing. Veronica and Pietro make caustic remarks about their grandsire without saying a word on thin-bloods. Perhaps little surprise, when they’re the closest vampires to Caine out of any here.
Ayame: Her eyes follow the speakers, and once the Anarchs are done they settle on the single-fanged thin-blood next to her, and the dulled bite beside that one.
She is distinctly unsurprised when the exiled prince’s childe minces his words as hard as he does, or that the two older Toreador make vague noises while getting in a dig at Chastain. Their exemplary packages contain nothing but rot.
GM: “Okay, you’re all willing to pay at least lip service to equality. I’m not going to say that’s everything, but it’s a hell of a lot better than we’ve been getting from the Camarilla. It’s a start and it leaves me hopeful for the future. Maybe we all can get along,” answers the single-fanged thin-blood.
Murmurs of assent go up from the two or so dozen others.
“That brings us to the point of this meeting,” says the dull-fanged man next to her. “The Camarilla says its policy of genocide towards us is over. Okay. I’ll take that, even if they aren’t saying it openly. What do we want to do from here? Should we have a place among the Anarchs? If so, what would that look like?”
“To start off with, I’d say that should look the same as any nightborn’s place,” says Roderick. “Equal voting rights in all decisions that affect Mid-City. The same privilege we all enjoy. One Anarch, one vote.”
“Do we want to vote on that now?” asks Laura.
Support: “Hold up,” says the tattooed man in a minister’s garb. “I’m not sold that most of us actually want to do the right thing by our weaker cousins. If we were saints, most of us wouldn’t be here.”
He looks to the Duskborn professor who called out Petrowski. “May I know your name, ma’am?”
GM: “Patricia Stratton,” answers the single-fanged vampire.
Support: He inclines his head to the dead educator. His voice rises in volume as he talks, his tone firm and unapologetic but also devoid of cruelty, of spite.
“I don’t hate you, Patricia. I don’t think most Kindred hate the Duskborn, even if it is our nature to disdain them. That’s really what Christopher was saying, even if he said it like a blue blood. We’re stronger than you, and that’s why any resolution to treat you the same is just that, a promise that’s on us to keep. And if things were different, I would be honored to fight for you. But things aren’t different. We are rapists and killers. Thieves and adulterers. Whores and liars. Monsters, not men and women and children. Some of us recognize that, and others deny it. But we know it is true when we hide from the sun. You are not a proud woman fighting for the right to life. You are a proud monster fighting for the right to talk to other monsters, and even if you get it most of them will not treat you as equals except in these meetings. What would you use your power here for? What do you want, besides to see the next night? That is what will draw my vote or lose it. Everything else is just talk, and most of us don’t really come here for that.” Fangs flash. “I don’t.”
GM: Murmurs sound throughout the crowd of Anarchs. Some angry, especially from the thin-bloods. But some also agreeing.
“So you would judge our right to political representation on the basis of our moral worth as individuals,” Patricia answers. She gives a shrug. “That’s a fairer shake than the Camarilla gives us. Than many Anarchs give us.”
“To that I’ll say that we duskborn are better people than nightborn are. Or worse monsters, depending on how you look at it.”
“On average, at least.”
“Our Beasts are silent. We don’t lose control.”
Support: Hez raises an eyebrow. He hasn’t heard that.
The Brujah seems almost wistful, for a moment.
GM: “When we kill, it is always premeditated, and when we are sound of mind. We can continue to live among our friends and loved ones without recklessly endangering them.”
“I’ve never killed. I don’t ever plan to, except in self-defense. How many other nightborn here can say that? How can you judge my moral worth next to licks who’ve left behind trails of bodies, and find mine anything but superior?”
Shouted opinions go up from both sides.
“That’s bullshit! You duskborn go apeshit just like we do!”
“Who the fuck are you to say you’re better than us!?”
“I haven’t gone apeshit, not even once!”
“I’ve never killed!”
“I’m a virgin too!”
“Yeah, you and half the city, right?”
“I knew a duskborn who went apeshit! Saw it with my own eyes!”
“Yeah, it’s just harder for them!”
“They’re telling the truth! I’ve never seen one lose it, not like we do!”
“Bullshit bullshit bullshit!”
Ayame: “Anecdotes are not evidence. Further, why judge on morality at all? We don’t sneer at the lion who slaughters the lamb.”
Support: Hez smiles faintly at her. “We are monsters of conscience. I believe in a God, and I believe that if we have the capacity to feel guilt for our crimes, it is for a reason. But I only give sermons on Sundays.” His laugh is a battle-scarred, violently merry thing. “I know how I’m voting.”
GM: “Only because the lion lacks sufficient intelligence to judge the morality and consequences of its actions,” Patricia answers Ayame before turning to Hez. “If our political representation is decided on the basis of our demonstrated moral worth, I’d say you should get more votes than her, at least.”
“Say we do vote ta gave y’all equal votin’ rahts ta us nahtborn,” says Maxzille. “Dat it? Dere ain’ anythin’ else y’all think we oughta suss out?”
“Hunting territory,” says the overweight black man in the sweatshirt. “I don’t wanna starve. I’m sick of going hungry.”
“Yeah, you look like you’d hate going hungry!” jeers Andy Philips.
“You look like shit scraped off my shoe, sewer rat!” the thin-blood yells back.
“What, you make a habit of stepping in shit? Even we don’t do that…” leers Gerald Abellard.
“Can we please just stop taunting each other like middle schoolers?” Roderick glowers. “Feeding territory. That’s a legitimate issue to discuss.”
“One block per duskborn krewe,” declares Shep Jennings. “You don’t need as much as we do. You don’t get as much as we do.”
“One block’s ridiculous!” counters the dreadlocked thin-blood in the cotton jacket. “Who are any of you to presume how much juice we do and don’t use?”
“Yeah, nightborn are always coming after us! We have to mend up all the time!” shouts a thin-blood who looks barely old enough to be in high school.
Ayame: Ayame might say something here, but every time she opens her fucking mouth she gets shot down by both sides, so she doesn’t. She wonders if they realize how hypocritical the preacher sounds. How he’d called them all monsters—rapists and murderers and whores and liars—and then backtracked when she’d said maybe they shouldn’t judge each other for it.
Far be it from her to bring rhetoric to a former professor. No wonder she was an adjunct.
She simmers. She doesn’t speak. She lets the others have it out, another instance of devolving into a bullshit argument that is unproductive, but God forbid she fucking say that because, apparently, they all care about each other’s feelings now.
She waits for a minute. Silent. Until no one else points out what she thinks is fairly obvious.
“If you are throwing in with us, does it not stand to reason you should add that to the discussion? No random attacks between the nightborn and duskborn from either direction?”
There, bitch. Take your fucking morality and shove it up your asshole.
“The goal is to coexist with minimal conflict, is it not?”
GM: “Absolutely,” says Roderick. “Violence between Anarchs isn’t tolerated. That should fully extend towards duskborn.”
“I’m not naive enough to think there won’t be continued violence,” says Patricia. “Between duskborn. Between duskborn and Anarch nightborn. Between non-Anarch nightborn and Anarchs born during any time of day.”
“So yes, we’ll need to spend juice to heal injuries we sustain, the same as the rest of you do.”
“That’s one reason we should receive equal hunting territory.”
Ayame: “No one should go hungry. Perhaps territory by krewe size?”
GM: There’s grumblings from some of the true-blooded Kindred, but the thin-bloods vocally agree—“Same size as a nightborn krewe would get!”
Ayame: “I suppose it is another thing to vote on.”
GM: “Feel free not to vote if you don’t like doing it,” calls one thin-blood.
Ayame: Why, she wonders, is it always an argument when she is literally on their side? Her comment was only to the effect of, “add it to the ballot.”
These fucking people will get offended over a sideways look. Thin-blood? Try thin-skin.
She’d roll her eyes but she’s made the motion so many times this evening that she’s pretty sure she’s got muscle strain. Correcting them is a waste of breath, too.
GM: “So equal rep’sentation an’ equal territorah,” says Max. “What else y’all dink we oughta suss out?”
Ayame: Ayame’s shoulders lift in a shrug as her gaze sweeps the assembled licks. She’s got nothin’. Nothin’ that needs to be brought to light tonight.
Maybe whether or not any of this conversation matters if they’re missing the two regents, but she supposes that this is a test of their democracy.
GM: “There’s our future,” says another thin-blood, an older-looking black man who’s actually walking with a cane. “Supposin’ we join the Anarchs. Y’all give us equal representation and feeding territory. Okay. That’s a good deal. What happens after?”
“What do you mean, what happens after?” asks another thin-blood, a short white man with acne-splotched skin.
“What I mean, young man, is we’re still second-class citizens. Or I suppose third-class, next to the Caitiff. Mid-City ain’t the whole city, isn’t it? Prince still gonna treat us bad. So what are we gonna do about that?”
“The prince treats all Anarchs bad, grandpa,” leers Arzilla. “Welcome to the club.”
“Prince Vidal has shown he can be negotiated with and evolve with the times,” says Roderick. “We take the democratic rule we have over Mid-City for granted, but my sire, Miss Opal, and earlier Anarchs like Annie Pope had to fight tooth and nail to make those gains possible. Ditto for their Cabilo seats.”
“Yes, he’s an overbearing hardass, but he can be budged and positive change can be effected. I think that’s a worthwhile line of-”
“-yeah, with respect, stuff it,” interjects Christopher.
“You want to know how our Ventrue prince thinks? Well look further than yours truly, since like I bet you all remember, I’m a Ventrue too. And he’s not going to do shit for duskborn, Anarchs, or anyone besides the Sanctified, unless someone makes him.”
“Sure. He gave us Mid-City. Well, we Ventrue study our history, and it was close to worthless land when he did. Go ask the big mama and the big sister about that, sometime. Vidal only did that as a bribe to keep the Anarchs from falling in with Savoy.”
“He doesn’t give a shit about the Anarchs. He’d lop off all our heads if he thought it was more convenient.”
There’s angry murmurs of agreement from the crowd. Thin-blooded and true-blooded.
“So to our new duskborn pals, I say prepare to get shat on forever by the prince. The end.”
Ayame: Someone should start a slow clap for Chris. Not her, but someone. She waits a beat, then says,
“Perhaps it is time we all work toward a better future, then, unless we are content with our position. Push for more.”
GM: The crowd looks angrier at Chris’ words. But there is no slow clap. Most of them look like they agree with his conclusion.
“So how do you suggest we push for more? What’s the best way when he holds all the power?” asks Patricia.
Ayame: “If I am not mistaken,” Ayame’s eyes slide toward the primogen’s childe, “your sire does not believe in violence. She wants to work within the system, yes? So we work within the system. They expect us to be angry, violent. We can be angry. But violent? No. We show them a better way. Our numbers have doubled,” she gestures toward the thin-bloods that have joined them, “but our space remains the same. It is logical, is it not, for a territory that has expanded in numbers to expand in size? Else we risk a breach of the Masquerade simply by existing, simply by slaking our hunger.”
GM: “An apt assessment,” rings a low and powerful voice.
The crowd’s collective eyes turn towards its source.
Donovan strides into the cemetery, garbed in black with a sheathed blade at his hip. He’s flanked by Camilla Doriocourt and Father Malveaux, both pale-faced and pitiless, and several ghouls.
A heavy thump sounds as Alexander Wright vaults over the wall and lands on the grass, titanium bat in hand. Several more ghouls land after him.
One moment there’s empty air. The next, Caitlin Meadows’ snarling visage is visible. The nearest Anarchs flinch back.
A hawk soars over the other wall. It lands and shifts into a grim-faced Charlie Harrison.
More ghouls clamber after their master. Duke Elmhearst hits the ground with another thump and cocky smirk. A satisfied-looking Roxanne Gerlette, not wearing a skirt or dress for the first time Ayame can recall, brings up the rear with several more renfields.
All are armed.
Predatory hisses go up from the gathered Anarchs. Some draw weapons or sprout claws. Other look towards the nearest exits.
The thin-bloods, most of all, look terrified. But just as many of their faces set in anger.
Ayame: Her gaze snaps towards the sheriff and his assembled squad. Two tiny steps take her backwards, falling in beside Roderick, Christopher, and Hez. A primogen’s childe, a hound’s childe, and the childe of an exiled prince. Perhaps here, at least, there will be less attention, less ire, from those who have come. She is glad that she stilled her tongue before suggesting anything more.
GM: Two more birds land, shifting into the forms of Rocco Agnello and Joshua Pacuad. More ghouls file in through the cemetery’s front entrance.
Pierpont McGinn is the last to swagger in, along with Joseph Doyle and a larger contingent of ghouls than anyone’s except Donovan’s.
About a dozen Kindred. Two or three times as many ghouls.
Ayame: Hadn’t she just been thinking earlier about the man who’d been ripped apart by licks because he was in the wrong place at the wrong time? Now she’s him. Wrong place. Wrong time. Her eyes search for a weak spot in the line of those assembled, desperately looking for any escape. The absence of Opal and Coco makes so much more sense. This is nothing short of an execution squad.
GM: Maxzille is the first of the Anarchs to speak. Her tone is faux-casual.
“Can’t say we were expectin’ guests. Y’all fellas-”
Donovan interrupts. The words are cool and emotionless, but roll over her voice like thunder.
“True-blooded Kindred who do not interfere will not be harmed.”
Ayame: They’re going to make us watch.
They’re going to make us watch them slaughter the thin-bloods.
They can’t win. There’s no chance. This isn’t a fight. It’s…
A message. To the thin-bloods. To the Anarchs who would treat with them. Ayame blinks back the horror. Brilliant. Despicable, but brilliant.
What nightborn would lay down their life for their lesser-bred cousins? None. None of them. Her nails dig into the leather covering her thighs. Don’t get involved. Don’t get involved and she’ll be fine. Don’t scream, don’t run, don’t speak, don’t even think too loudly. She doesn’t dare draw breath less they think that she, too, is one of them. A target to be annihilated.
GM: “They’re trying to divide us!” shouts Roderick. “Look at this! We’re the ones who outnumber them. We’ve got two dozen nightborn, two dozen duskborn, against a dozen nightborn and two dozen ren-”
Coco’s childe topples over as a stake plunges through his chest.
There’s a black blur, almost invisible against the night, and then his corpse is lying at Donovan’s feet.
“For his sire’s Blood, he shall be spared,” the sheriff impassively intones.
“I promise no such mercy to Kindred of lowlier stock.”
There’s a few angry looks at Roderick’s ‘privilege.’
But there’s a lot more scared ones.
Ayame: Her elbow is halfway towards Roderick when his form crumples. A warning, too late, to shut his mouth. She thinks to reach for him but he is gone before she can begin the motion, halfway across the cemetery in a pile at the feet of that cold, merciless thing.
She is still. Her eyes do not meet the sheriff’s, but stay on the form at his feet. A message indeed: Durant was the most vocal of those who stood with the duskborn. Without him, there is no hope of rallying together, no hope of unity. Without him, the wall that she had built around herself of important childer is down to two, and she is left exposed. An unimportant lick, no important name to drop to save her should she make the wrong move.
Not my fight, she thinks, over and over again, to prevent herself from doing something stupid.
They don’t stand a chance. Outnumbered or not, they don’t stand a chance. The sheriff or the scourge themselves could take out all two dozen duskborn without so much as a scratch.
GM: The execution squad marches closer, forming a wide circle around the smaller circle of Anarchs.
“Any Kindred who would be spared have ten seconds to relocate behind Sanctified lines,” Donovan continues coolly.
“Y’all can do as y’all like, but Ah ain’t goin’ along with this,” declares Maxzille, crossing her arms.
Ayame: Ayame might not be the first to move. But perhaps she is the first to move towards Max. She doesn’t touch the other lick, but she stops to speak with her.
“Do not test him, Max,” she whispers, though she has no doubt the others can hear. She cannot say more. Cannot say what she is thinking: that this entire evening is a set-up. “There is more yet that you can do if you get out.”
GM: “Nine,” sounds the sheriff’s voice.
Ayame: Sanctioned, she mouths at the Toreador. She has to know. Has to suspect. There is nothing they can do. They will throw away their own eternity—and for what? To prove a point? There is no point to be proved. They are at Vidal’s mercy within this city. If he sends his hounds to do his bidding, they will do it, and gladly. Max will be just another slaughtered Anarch who died for nothing.
GM: The Toreador gives Ayame a sad, rueful look, seemingly between them.
“Dey don’t got da balls ta slaughter all o’ us!” Maxzille answers loudly. “Oh, no! Dey-”
“Eight,” sounds the sheriff.
“-know dat’ll drive all Anarchs, ever, right ta Savoy, make him a bonafide hero!”
Jonah stands next to his krewemate, arms wordlessly crossed.
“Seven,” sounds the sheriff.
The crowd is sweating. Many of the Anarchs’ eyes are cutting between Ayame, Max, the sheriff, and the thin-bloods. Some with fear. Some with guilt. Some who just don’t look like they want to be labeled the ‘first deserter.’ The thin-bloods are howling and drawing what paltry weapons they have.
“Think, y’all—dis ain’t cost-effective!” Max bellows. “Less y’all pussy out! Grow-”
“Six,” sounds the sheriff.
“-some balls, see if da prince really willin’ ta go dat far! Watcha bet Rod gonna be da sole Anarch not ta get ashed, huh!?”
Ayame sees it. Perhaps the only one to see it. Veronica starting towards Max from behind, violence in her smoldering eyes.
Ayame: She’s seen that look before. Of all of them, only Veronica and Pietro weren’t surprised at this reveal. Is she looking to make a move, then? Up her status by taking out the competition?
Ayame cuts in front of the green-eyed, gorgeous lick. Steps right up to her, not so much blocking her path as simply slowing her down.
“You can be a hero.” The words are barely a breath, an almost-silent plea from Ayame to Veronica. There doesn’t need to be more violence. They don’t all need to die. Veronica can drag the girl out and the others will follow. She has that much clout, at least, and the Anarchs will owe her for saving them all. She doesn’t need to say that; certainly Veronica realizes it.
GM: The Toreador smirks.
“Five,” sounds the sheriff.
Veronica’s gone, then she’s thrusting the stake into the air where Max was standing. The younger Toreador backflips away cat-quick, her sprouted claws slashing wet red lines across Veronica’s perfect face. The harpy snarls as another stake plunges into Max’s chest from behind. Pietro, smirking, stands over the fallen Anarch—and doesn’t seem to see it coming as Jonah barrels towards him like a speeding freight train.
Ayame: Ohfuck. Ayame is quick to dart out of the way of both claw and stake as Veronica, Max, and Pietro duke it out. She backpedals away from Jonah’s charging form. Her wrists flick and the steel inserts inside of her leather gloves are released, springing forward to become cat-like claws on her fingers.
She drops into a crouch over Max’s form as Jonah flies past her. She’s not going to let the bitch die on a technicality. She slides her fingers under Max’s arms and starts to drag her out of the circle.
GM: Ayame has ample distraction. Pietro goes down hard under Jonah, whose blurring fists smash his face bloody. Veronica blurs away from Max and plunges her stake through the Brujah’s heart.
“Four,” sounds the sheriff.
Support: Hez doesn’t try to stand up to the sheriff. Doing so is foolish and probably pointless.
He does, however, derive some satisfaction from hooking a hand under Stratton’s arm while attention is occupied on the nightborn, and throwing her to an undisclosed location.
He locks eyes with his sire and coughs, looking abashed.
GM: Stratton might start to say something. Yell something.
Then she’s barely audible as her thrown form hurls through the night sky.
When Ayame is the first Anarch to cross the Sanctified line with the Movement’s staked leader, a fatal crack seems to run through everyone else’s resolve. Christopher is the next Anarch to make a jog towards the Sanctified.
Veronica hefts Jonah’s corpse over her shoulder and blurs ahead of him, her slashed face already hale again.
“Don’t say I never did anything for you,” she calls back. She doesn’t look back.
Pietro is next.
After him, Andy—“I’m not dying for a bunch of abortions!”
And just like that, the Movement deserts its thinner-blooded ‘comrades.’
Support: Hez stays where he is.
GM: All but one, at least.
Support: “Never should have Embraced a man with a conscience, Alex,” Hez murmurs.
GM: “Three,” sounds the sheriff.
Ayame: She had to. They would have slaughtered everyone. Everyone. She’s heard what sort of “mercy” the sheriff has: none.
Ayame drops Max as soon as she passes the line. Her eyes turn toward the sole remaining lick inside.
Support: He shrugs, sad but resigned.
“Somebody needs to.”
GM: “Two,” sounds the sheriff.
“Get the fuck outta there, you dumb motherfucker!” yells his sire.
Support: Hez seizes two more and launches them in opposite directions. Let the sheriff work for his slaughter.
He looks his sire in the eye. “You knew what you were getting into, Al. I wish you saw what you looked like now.”
He steps in front of another Duskborn, and folds his arms.
“One,” he finishes.
GM: The first (or, at rather, second) thrown duskborn, the man with dreadlocks, doesn’t make it past Caitlin Meadows. The scourge soars into the air with a stupendous leap. There’s a manic scream that abruptly cuts off, and when the Gangrel lands, her face and claws are caked with blood. Shredded gore half-wrapped in clothing hits the grass after her with soft thumps.
The next duskborn, the elderly man, hurls through the sky with a startled yell that just as abruptly cuts off. Camilla Doriocourt fires a bolt of crackling lightning after the thin-blood, but all it hits is his metal cane. It thuds against the grass with a low sizzle.
Support: “Kinda like skeet shooting, I think,” Hez says helpfully. “Not everybody’s cut out for it.”
He never liked that bitch.
GM: The enraged and terrified thin-bloods, even as this all transpires, fall upon their treacherous ‘comrades.’ Or at least try to. Some of the pitiful half-vampires tackle a few of the true-bloods, only for their nightborn fellows to kick and shove them off as they scramble towards the Sanctified lines. A few thin-bloods with guns try to fire them, then look puzzled when bullets don’t come out.
But all that stops with Hez’s actions.
They swarm around him like moths to a flame, pushing and shoving and screaming to get as close as they can. They clamor about the Brujah like he is the messiah, weeping watery red fluid that resembles neither blood nor tears, but some wretched thing in between.
“Me! Me! Throw me!” “Please! Me! I have a daughter!” “Please, me! me!” “I have a son!” “A baby girl!” “Please! Please!” “I can pay you back!” “My grandma has no one-” “My family needs me-” “My wife’s pregnant-” “I have-”
Support: He saves as many as he can. He knows it will not be enough.
But it will be everything for them.
GM: He’s also forestalled by the stake that plunges into his heart from the dark-clad blur that speeds back behind Sanctified lines just as Donovan utters, “Zero.”
“It’s Wright, you stupid motherfucker,” the hound glares down at him, then picks back up his titanium bat.
The sheriff thrusts his sword forward.
As one, the prince’s executioners charge the encircled thin-bloods.
As one, two dozen raw and terrified screams go up from the huddled mass of half-vampires as the prince’s blades raise over them.
Then as one:
The blades fall.