“We don’t live in a world of fairy tales, just of monsters.”
Monday night, 21 March 2016, AM
GM: Caroline’s phone rings. The hour is late. The caller ID reads,
Rosure, Emily—Tulane. Pre-Med
Caroline: Caroline looks down at her phone.
The heiress doesn’t get many calls these nights. And after midnight typically only means one thing. Which makes it all the more unusual that it’s a contact saved in her phone that’s distinctly not one of the damned.
She doubts it’s a social call.
She accepts the call, sliding the green phone icon up after several rings and putting a false fatigue in her voice.
Support: “Hi, no, it’s… it’s Celia.”
“I’m… I’m sorry to bother you, but I… I need a favor. Please.”
Caroline: Caroline is getting awfully damn tired of doing people favors.
“Last few people I did favors for didn’t end up so well,” she observes icily.
That Celia’s sire was directly responsible for their execution, and almost certainly because of their limited association with Caroline, is more than a sore spot.
Support: There’s an intake of breath on the other end of the line.
“Okay,” she says quietly. “That’s—okay, yeah, this was probably a bad idea.”
Caroline: “Probably,” she agrees.
There’s a beat. Why does she bother?
“What’s the favor?”
Support: A pause.
“Remember when I came over, and my mom saw you and May, but she thought it was the two of us, and it was all real awkward and we had to explain it? It’s kinda like one of those.”
Caroline: “You think it’s a misunderstanding I could help clear up with someone else for you?” Caroline muses.
What is she even doing?
“You know it’s a lot harder if you’ve let those sorts of things fester. This a recent thing?”
“Very recent. Just now, actually. I thought maybe we could clear the air before things got too out of hand.”
Caroline: Caroline bites her tongue.
It could be bait. But if it is, it’ll be on her terms.
Silence for a moment as she considers.
“I’m make you the same deal I make all my friends when these things happen. Bring over some drinks and we’ll sit down with your friend, talk it out, see if we can’t resolve it.”
Support: “Right. Ah. Problem is, I’m with my daughter tonight, and it’s a little past her bedtime.”
Caroline: “Meaning drinks are off the table, or meaning you want a house call?” Caroline asks.
She almost laughs at the second option.
Support: “Was hoping for a house call. But if you can’t make it tonight, I understand.”
“Can you—one sec.”
There’s a brief wait.
“Ah, I don’t have a sitter. If you can’t make it it’s no big, I can probably find a local.”
Caroline: That’s not a hard question for her.
“It’s a little late for me to go out. Plus, you know how I feel about that side of town.”
“If a local is a better fit, I won’t take it personally.”
Support: “You at home? I’ll make it work and call you if I can’t.”
Caroline: “Call ahead if you decide. I’ll be around.”
Support: “I will. Thank you.”
Tuesday night, 22 March 2016, AM
Support: The next night, Celia calls to confirm that she’s still coming over.
Caroline: Caroline answers: she was generous enough to provide Celia with her direct line, rather than the one to her assistant. She covers any surprise at Celia’s call and provides a time. She hints that her price, such as it is, remains the same.
There are no games this evening when the Toreador arrives at the Giani Building. There’s a familiar blonde in a pantsuit waiting for them in the lobby that gets them past a smiling doorman. The blonde looking perhaps a little worse for the wear than the last time Celia saw her, though she’s tried to cover up the dark circles with heavier makeup.
Support: Celia greets her politely, announcing herself to Caroline’s ghoul. She arrives with Lucy and her mother, the latter carrying the former.
Caroline: The ghoul answers in kind, welcoming her to the Giani Building.
It’s a far cry from the reception Jade and her ghouls received. She’s even polite enough not to comment on bringing a child to a vampire’s haven in the dead of night.
She swipes a badge on the elevator and presses the button for the roof when everyone is inside. The ride up is quick.
The doors opens to reveal the Ventrue seated at a table inside beside the redhead from the Walter Robinson House. They’re hunched over a folder that snaps shut rapidly as the door opens.
“That’ll be all, Autumn,” she directs.
Support: She steps forward to greet Caroline, outpacing mother and sister.
“Thank you for seeing me. I appreciate the quick response at the inconvenient time.”
GM: “All right, see you,” Autumn nods as she gathers the folder and gets up to leave.
The vampire’s mother looks terrible. Physically and otherwise. She looks like she’s gotten out of bed after hearing some of the worst news of her life. The look on her face is not a dissimilar look to the one Caroline’s mother wore after Westley’s death. Before her own.
She was all smiles and sweetness at the Walter Robinson House.
She has no smiles tonight.
Lucy doesn’t look so alive as she did there, either. She looks sleepy and scared. She clings to her grandmother’s side.
She reminds Caroline of Simmone.
Caroline: “There’s never a convenient time in my experience,” Caroline offers gently.
She can read the room.
“Please, have a seat,” she extends the offer to all the guests with a wave of her hand.
“I know it’s late.”
GM: “Thank you,” Mrs. Flores responds tonelessly. She sits and pulls Lucy onto her lap.
The child ventures a glance up at Caroline, but doesn’t speak.
Support: Celia watches Autumn go, then takes a seat between her family and Caroline.
Her tired smile doesn’t quite reach her eyes.
“My mom knows,” she says without preamble.
Caroline: Caroline bites her lip. “Oh.”
She turns her gaze from Celia to Diana. “I imagine that was rather quite the shock.”
GM: Mrs. Flores looks more numb than shocked.
A moment passes before she responds.
“She’s still my daughter.”
Caroline can picture the dance teacher at her mother’s house laughing and making a quip about something.
Caroline: The heiress smiles tightly. “Of course she is.”
She looks between Celia and Mrs. Flores.
Support: “She took it well,” Celia offers. “Only it’s been a little hectic, and, ah, Lucy kind of overheard some things.”
GM: The child remains very quiet.
Mrs. Flores squeezes her hand.
Caroline: “Ah,” Caroline answers.
“Some of the things we discuss aren’t things children should hear about.” She runs her tongue across her teeth.
“I presume that’s the favor you wanted?”
GM: “We want her to have a normal life,” says Mrs. Flores.
“Monsters under the bed don’t need to be real.”
Lucy turns away and plants her head against her grandmother.
Caroline: With a vampire mother, vampire aunt, and a ghoul grandmother. I’m certain it’ll be totally normal, Caroline doesn’t say.
“I can get behind that.”
GM: Mrs. Flores wraps wraps her arms around the girl.
“Celia says you can take away the bad memories.”
Support: “I thought it would be the best way to prevent any more of… this. Any interference. I was exposed young and I’d rather Lucy not be.”
Caroline: “I can,” Caroline answers. “Within reason. It requires some knowledge. Some planning. It doesn’t always take in the long run—it’s not quite the blunt instrument some people use it for. The more precise I can be in what I’m looking for, in where things happened, in what their emotional state was at the time, the better a job I can do with it. The more likely it is to neatly smooth over.”
“The less careful, the less information, the more likely that it becomes a sort of mental scab that they’ll pick at. It’s not actually that dissimilar to surgery in that way.”
“It’s good that Celia brought you here. There are a fair number of people that don’t use quite the same gentle touch.”
To say nothing of the fair number that would charge an arm and a leg for it.
GM: “Lucy was awake when we thought she was in bed and asleep,” says Mrs. Flores. “Can you just tell her that she was sleeping?”
Support: “I don’t know if it works like that, Mom,” Celia says, but she looks to Caroline for confirmation. “Unless she thinks the whole thing is a weird dream or nightmare.”
Caroline: Caroline nods with Celia and turns to meet Mrs. Flores’ gaze.
“I could, Mrs. Flores, simply paper them over with bad dreams. Assuming you could tell me which dates and times we were talking about. But I suspect if I did so, it’s the sort of thing that she’d pick at for years in the back of her mind. People are good at detecting falsehoods, understanding when things don’t match with how they should have felt. Especially if you give them enough time and similar situations, if that makes sense.”
She gives a sharp smile. “It’s much better to find something that fits neatly into the context—for instance, a homophobic woman walking in on two women together.”
GM: Mrs. Flores silently follows Caroline at first, then frowns sharply.
Support: Celia’s lips flatten.
Caroline: Caroline’s smile doesn’t fade. “When done properly, you align emotional state to memory, and the person in question doesn’t think twice about what they now believe they remember.”
GM: “You’ve been in my head,” Mrs. Flores states slowly. There’s no fear in her voice, though, but what sounds like growing anger.
Caroline: “Once before,” Caroline admits.
“I don’t make a habit of it, but it was better than the alternative. I use the example to illustrate the point.”
GM: Mrs. Flores’ eyes narrow.
“I see. And what was that alternative?” she asks in a low voice.
Caroline: If Caroline notices the anger, she doesn’t react to it. “The damaging of your daughter’s Masquerade, and the dragging of you and your family into this world.”
GM: Mrs. Flores doesn’t look away from her.
“Did you know and approve of this, Celia?”
Support: “I knew of it,” Celia says quietly, “but I didn’t ask her to. You walked in on the two of us. And later that night was, ah, was when some worse stuff happened, so I thought it would be better to focus on that.”
“I got in trouble for trespassing. The sheriff threw you off the roof to make a point. I was more worried about him killing you than making you forget your daughter has lesbian tendencies.”
“Then you got sick. And Maxen came back. And everything else happened.”
GM: “You will not attempt to break inside my head again. Ever. I have had enough vampires in my head without my consent. If you do, I will know, and I will make you dearly regret it. Are we understood?” Celia’s mother tells Caroline.
Support: “Mom, why don’t you let me talk to Caroline alone for a minute,” Celia says quietly.
Caroline: The Ventrue’s eyes flash, and not kindly.
Support: Celia rises.
“Let’s take a walk, yeah? Outside? So we can discuss this.”
Caroline: Caroline doesn’t rise. She calls over to the blonde they arrived with, still waiting by the elevator.
“They’ll be leaving now, Widney.”
“Good luck with your granddaughter, Mrs. Flores. I’m certain your daughter can find someone else more understanding. I might suggest you move quickly—few of us can do more than a day or two into the past. I also recommend you keep a civil tongue in your head with them. Very few of us are as forgiving as I am.”
She turns to Celia. “Celia, I look forward to hearing about how you resolved this by tomorrow night. I would hate to have to report this sort of ugly Masquerade breach to the Krewe. You know how unreasonable they can be, and how seriously they take this sort of thing.”
Support: The color drains from her face. She rounds on her own mother, hurt and anger in her eyes.
“Mom,” she hisses, “stop it. We came to her for help. She didn’t hurt you. She doesn’t know what you’ve been through or why what she did has such an impact on you. You don’t threaten people who are trying to help you. Apologize. Now. Please.”
Celia whirls toward Caroline.
“Caroline. Please. How many boons? I’ll pay. I’m sorry. I’m sorry for her outburst. She didn’t mean to threaten you. She’s had a really rough few nights, she’s never been around other licks before. Can we just talk about this, please? Privately?”
GM: Mrs. Flores wordlessly rises from seat and picks up Lucy. Caroline’s words stiffen the dance teacher’s spine until her daughter cuts in.
The ‘please’ seems to be what finally does it.
“I will give the benefit of the doubt,” she says slowly, “that you wanted to do right. That you wanted to keep my family and I out of… this world. I’ve had other vampires abuse me. Stay out of my head and I’ll have no bone to pick with you. I learned yesterday that one of my children is dead. I don’t want anything to happen to Lucy. She’s innocent. She’s six. She’s done nothing. Please help us. I just want her to live a normal life.”
Widney looks expectantly towards Caroline, as if to see whether her orders stand.
Support: Celia also looks to Caroline, pleading with her eyes.
“I don’t trust anyone else with them. Please. I have something you might want.”
Caroline: When did I become this way? Caroline wonders.
When did she become so imperious? When did she let the arrogance seep in so far that a demand that she not rape another person’s mind was enough to set off her temper? When did she start viewing the kine as just that, not even people? As being not worthy of respect. As being she should threaten and lord over. As being she should punish physically for speaking out of turn.
The thought is short-lived.
She is what she is, what she has become. She’s become what she has to.
The kine’s words don’t touch her heart. They don’t warm it, or stir it. She has no sympathy for her buried child or past abuses she might have suffered.
There’s similarly no love for the girl cradled in her grandmother’s arms, and no bond between them and she. The list of mortals she genuinely cares for is preciously short. It costs her nothing to throw them out. It would make her feel powerful. It would free the time she’s earmarked for this meeting, spare her the use of the precious vitae she has so little spare time to acquire these nights.
But there is something with Celia. A bond of fathers, or of sires, or of experiences. It’s not the begging of the kine that moves her. It’s the begging of the Kindred.
“Mrs. Flores, I have none of the sadistic tendencies of many of my kind. So I will not, as many of them might, break into your mind and force you to cut off your granddaughter’s fingers one by one with a kitchen knife to prove a point about how you fit into this social hierarchy. But you would do well to remember that you are not even a person where we are concerned. I would be more likely to be held accountable for allowing that sort of arrogant trespass on your part to pass without response than for harming you or any member of your family. Those are the stakes of every meeting with a Kindred for every ghoul, Mrs. Flores.”
GM: Lucy finally starts crying in Diana’s arms.
Caroline: She rises and starts towards the roof.
“Quiet the child while the adults speak.”
GM: “Stop frightening the child if you don’t want her to cry,” Mrs. Flores glares back, rocking Lucy back and forth as she rubs the girl’s head.
“As for my ‘arrogance’, I’ll tell you this, Caroline. I know too well how vampires treat their ‘ghouls’ and that is not me. Not ever again. I am not part of your hierarchy. I am not part of your society. Celia and I are equals. If that’s offensive to how other vampires think, we will be happy to stay away from them.”
Support: Celia touches a hand to Diana’s shoulder in quiet solidarity, though when she looks back to the Ventrue there’s apprehension in her eyes. Waiting for the derision, scorn, and contempt that so many of their kind would harbor for such a statement. She opens her mouth to speak before any more venom can be spit this evening.
“Momma, I’m going to make arrangements with her, we’ll be back in a moment.” Celia touches a hand to Lucy’s head as well, leaning in to murmur that it’s going to be okay. Then she follows the Ventrue out onto the roof proper.
GM: Celia’s mother raises no objection to that. Lucy gives a sniffled, “I wanna go home…” at Celia’s touch. “I know, Luce, I know,” murmurs Diana, stroking the child’s back.
Support: She waits until they’re outside to break the silence.
“I’m sorry,” she begins. “I thought it might be better to not bring her, but she’s not letting Lucy out of her sight right now.”
Celia shoves a hand through her hair, looking for all the world like the almost-child she died as.
“I’m in over my head,” she admits, “and I don’t trust anyone else with them. I figured since you already knew about me…” She trails off into a sigh, then finally shakes her head. “She’s been through a lot the past few nights. Please excuse her rudeness.”
Caroline: Caroline offers the ghoul no further regard as she makes her way out onto the patio. The chilly night air helps clear her head, wash away the fury the ghoul inspires.
“You need to break her of it,” she almost snaps. “Before she gets herself killed.”
Support: “What would you have me do,” she snaps back, “beat my own mother?”
Caroline: “If necessary. I’m sure Jade would be up to the task.”
“She was,” Celia says bitterly. “How do you think I found out she was a Malkavian’s doll?”
Caroline: “Do you think your sire would be as forgiving as I have been?” Caroline asks pointedly.
Support: Her laugh lacks humor.
“My sire would kill me if he knew I’d come here. I have no intention of bringing Diana into Kindred society.”
“If you’re not interested, then say so. Donovan will have no trouble erasing the memories and child both.”
Caroline: “It never works.” She shakes her head. “You try to keep them half-in, or mostly out, and they’re just drawn in, like moths to the flame.”
Support: “You have a family,” Celia points out. “Sisters. A mother.”
Caroline: Caroline’s eyes glitter. “And they, with the exception of my mother, are not a part of this world.”
“And she is more than capable of taking care of herself.”
Support: “No doubt. I learned long before all of this that-”
GM: Celia’s next words die in her throat as she tries to speak.
Support: Her mouth opens. Closes. Opens again.
No words come out.
Celia sweeps her gaze across the city.
“Powerful,” she says.
Caroline: “There are parts of her life she keeps from even me,” Caroline answers.
“But I’m not surprised. She has no more affection for the life of any Kindred or kine not of her blood than you or I might for an insect.”
A beat of silence.
“How many nights of memories, for your sister?”
Support: “Do any of us?” Celia asks in turn.
Caroline: A nod. “Since I presume neither of them is intended to serve as a vessel, you’ve got something else to offer?”
Support: “Does one of them do it for you?” Celia asks with some amusement. “I’ve heard blue bloods are picky eaters.”
GM: It’s impossible to say for sure without a taste, but not unless the 6-year-old girl and 40-something schoolteacher are taking college courses.
Support: “Happy to let you sink into me if not,” Celia adds, twirling a strand of hair around her finger.
Caroline: It’s not that it isn’t tempting.
“We know how your mother feels about that,” Caroline observes.
Support: “Shame there’s no one around to make her forget.”
Caroline: Caroline arches an eyebrow. “Shame she’s made it so firm how she feels about that. And I do so tremble at the thought of a furious schoolteacher.”
Support: Celia giggles.
“Next time, then.” She reaches into her purse, pulling out two containers of blood. “Two hits here,” she says, “and this one is… lucky.” She indicates the second.
Caroline: Caroline arches an eyebrow.
She hasn’t had great experiences with bottled vitae.
“What does lucky mean?”
Support: Celia can’t help but smile.
“Thought that might get your attention. Things go well for you when you drink it. I’ve seen it firsthand, and I’ve experienced it myself. I watched a man lie down in traffic and cars swerved around him. I’ve seen him get picked up by ghouls whose weapons misfired and ricocheted off the walls to strike themselves in the knee. I’ve seen handcuffs meant to constrain him pop open.”
Her smile fades.
“I thought to use it to prevent love from slipping through my fingers, so I suppose like all magical things it doesn’t work that way. Otherwise, though, you’ll find yourself with the advantage in most situations. Just until you use it. Or drink from another source, I assume.”
Caroline: Caroline runs her tongue across her fangs. She can think of more than a few uses for something like that.
The dimming of Celia’s smile snaps her back to the moment. “We don’t live in a world of fairy tales, just of monsters.”
“I need something else as well, from your mother.”
Support: “From my mother?”
Caroline: “Simmone is in a delicate place. Your mother is one of the few people she trusts outside the family. It would be better if she didn’t go anywhere. I’m certain her introduction into this world will pull at her desires, but I want her to remain Simmone’s teacher. For at least a year.”
Support: Silence lingers.
“Her leg needs repaired,” Celia says at length. “The old injury has flared up, which is part of why I pushed her to stop. I’m working with a night doctor to make it happen. The bone she needs will be harvested tonight.”
A brief pause.
“She won’t be harmed while in your domain. The Garden District, or your home.”
GM: Cécilia told Caroline that Mrs. Flores was canceling the lessons on account of her personal health a little while ago. She referred them to another dance teacher who she said she’d known for decades and would be a great instructor.
Caroline: Caroline nods. “We’ll extend all hospitality to her, and expect her to return it in kind. I’m certain you’ll give her no cause to seek anything more than the lessons in my mother’s home.”
Support: Celia’s flashed smile contains fangs.
“I have no desire to tangle with your mother.”
“Or you,” she adds. “Not in that way, at least.” The smile turns sly.
“And you’ll keep her employment at McGehee to yourself. I’ve no wish for another visit from the prince’s agents.”
Caroline: “My sire has rather more important matters to see to than a ghoul with no desire to interact with Kindred society. Unless she finds herself engaged in some manner of behavior untoward, I have no reason to point them to her.”
To say nothing of how few of her sire’s agents would care for anything she had to say.
Support: “I’d assumed,” Celia says with a nod, “but I’d rather not take the risk with her life. She’s been through more than enough.”
She’s quiet a moment, then adds, “If your sister needs a playmate, and my mother accepts, Lucy might offer some measure of companionship.”
“While I loathe the idea of offering the pair of them up on a platter, I’d prefer not to make an enemy when there could be… something else.”
“And if I ever meet the fate of my sister, I’d like to know that at least someone they know might be inclined to glance in their direction once or twice, if not look over.”
Caroline: “I’ll leave that to your mother’s discretion. I have no opposition in principle.”
That it might be the greatest protection that could be offered to Lucy from Abélia’s casual snuffing out of her young life is left unsaid. Celia need know nothing of the family’s internal politics.
Support: Celia only nods.
“What do you need to know to set her to rights, then?”
Caroline: “Dates, times, locations. Her emotional state if you can pry it from her. If there’s a cover you’d like, I can see if I can make it work. Otherwise I’m likely to go with something that checks the appropriate boxes. Perhaps her seeing one of you with someone. That’s the sort of thing likely to create the same anxious, uncomfortable, and curious feelings she felt in the moment.”
Caroline looks out into the night.
“I can give you a few minutes to figure it out. And obviously tonight.”
She bites her lip. “Does she have a pet?”
Support: “Seeing me with someone,” Celia echoes, amusement writ across her face. “I’d had the same idea, that she’d walked in on me with someone Diana wouldn’t approve of. It was… tense. Very tense. Maxen was there for dinner. Diana found out about Isabel.” A pause. “There was vomiting. A fire. And this evening she heard me talk about… this. Erasing her memories.”
She touches a hand to the bridge of her nose, as if pinching it does anything to stem the headache that this night has brought.
“She has two cats. Family pets. Victor and Shadow.”
Caroline: “Pet’s illness or death might cover a lot of the feelings from tonight. The foreign location, strange scary people, scary discussions.” She shrugs. “I’ll let you figure it out with your mother. If she balks, maybe Victor could spend a few nights at the ‘vet’ with another ghoul.”
Support: “I’ll discuss with her. I think finding out her mother is a lesbian might be enough, but I’ll see what my mother has to say.”
Celia appraises the Ventrue before her.
“Thank you,” she says at length.
Caroline: Caroline muses, “I had a similar situation, very early in my Requiem. When I went to someone for help they forced me to ghoul the mortal. To make them my servant.”
“Such a simple thing, an exertion of ones powers, and they made it an ordeal. She’s dead now. And before she died she hated and feared me.”
“I’ll give you and your mother a few minutes.”
Support: Celia blanches.
“Thank you for not repeating that with me. I can’t think of what sort of monster would ghoul a child.”
“I’m sorry that you lost someone.”
Caroline: Caroline doesn’t share that it was a valuable lesson about the difference between Kindred and kine.
Support: Was it? Or is that just what she tells herself to sleep at dawn?
Tuesday night, 22 March 2016, AM
Support: Celia pulls away from the whispered conversation with her mother, rising to her feet to nod to Caroline.
GM: Mrs. Flores rises alongside her, hoisting up Lucy in her arms.
Caroline: The Ventrue tucks away her phone and heads back inside.
GM: Mrs. Flores directly meets the Ventrue’s gaze with head held high. Her face does not have a trace of the subservience or humility endemic to ‘broken in’ ghouls.
It reminds Caroline of Diego’s last phone call, and the way he swore at her and hanged up. He, too, never accepted his domitor as his superior.
Nevertheless, Mrs. Flores waits for Celia to speak.
Caroline: She remembers well how Diego’s story ended. On his knees in a dirty abandoned home.
She doesn’t share that.
Support: Celia doesn’t quite smile. Perhaps the pair of them aren’t intimidating to the prince’s childe: the sheriff’s bastard and the schoolteacher, neither one of them more than a handful of inches over five feet tall, neither one of them brawlers.
But together… together there’s some steel in the spine. Together they’re a united front, mother and daughter and granddaughter, a family that loves and is loved in turn.
All of this to protect a child from the truth and horror of their world. To let a young life continue in ignorance rather than subject her to what lurks in shadows.
“My mother thinks that I’m being overcharged,” Celia says baldly. “That a year of dance lessons isn’t worth two nights of memories. I’m inclined to agree. I believe there’s more that we can negotiate to make matters more even.”
Caroline: The smile behind Caroline’s eyes doesn’t fade as she settles into a chair.
“Does she now? Well, please, I’d be fascinated to hear about the dynamics of Kindred boons through the eyes of a just ghouled dance instructor.”
GM: “Certainly,” replies Mrs. Flores as she sits down across from Caroline. Lucy doesn’t turn to look at the vampire.
“One year of weekly lessons comes out to approximately 50 hours of my time.”
“Will what you are doing take 50 hours?”
Support: “Someone did this before for me. She only asked for juice. But as I said, I’m willing to negotiate my mother’s time. There are other things I could use some assistance with that should cause you no undue stress.”
GM: “We will negotiate your mother’s time,” Mrs. Flores corrects, then turns back to Caroline.
“Celia and I have discussed our options for Lucy. You are not our only one. There is another vampire we can go to for help with her memories. I have no attachment whatsoever to that vampire being you.”
Caroline: Caroline rolls her eyes at Mrs. Flores’ opening argument. “Do you use this same line of reasoning with your doctor or lawyer? Do you think they do the same with their grocery bagger?”
“Our skillsets are not equal. If there are ten Kindred in the city that could do what I do with similar proficiency, I would be very much surprised. Most of those would execute you and your daughter out of hand.”
“You are also approaching this with a shortsighted view of here and now, and failing to understand the basis for Kindred economic functions—which your lessons would allow you to facilitate for both you and your daughter.”
GM: “Actually, I think my skillset is the higher valued one here,” replies Mrs. Flores.
“Leaving aside your implicit comparison between dance and grocery bagging—because oh boy, don’t get me started—-I trust that Celia’s other vampire is just as qualified to erase Lucy’s memories as you are. I also trust that Lucy will be at least as safe in their hands as yours.”
“You, on the other hand, already have a referral for another dance teacher. Naomi is just as qualified to teach ballet as I am. You could find another ballet teacher if you don’t want her. You don’t need me if you want Simmone to learn ballet. But Simmone doesn’t like strangers.”
“I’ve taught her enough lessons by now to see, don’t pardon my bluntness, what a mess she is.”
Support: “Regardless, Caroline, there are other things I’d ask for before we barter out my mother’s time for a year. Can we discuss?”
Caroline: “Your daughter is an illegally Embraced lick. There are painfully few doors open to her.”
“If your daughter genuinely believed your other option could do the job as well, as immediately, and without risk, she would have called them first. Don’t sell her short to make your argument. There are plenty of second-rate licks on the street that can paper-mâché over a memory, but the further in the past it was, the narrower that list becomes. Doing so with a solid enough foundation that it won’t crumble if she picks at it over time becomes even narrower still.”
“If you want to go with someone else, by all means. But when they botch the job, don’t come back to me in a month and ask me to pick up the pieces.”
“But by all means, what else would you ask of me, Celia?”
Support: Celia stares across the space at Caroline. There’s no anger on her face. Just hurt.
“Are you threatening me?” she asks quietly. “I am not my sire, Caroline. I don’t know what hatred you have for him or why, but if it is your intent to turn me in for my illegal Embrace then I ask you take my head yourself and spare me the ordeal of being dragged before the city. I’ve no wish to make him murder his own childe.”
“I thought…” she trails off, looking down at her hands. “Jade told me what happened when she came to visit. She told me that she’d recorded the… the correction, that she made you listen, and that you threatened her afterward.” She swallows, looking back up to Caroline. Pink colors her cheeks.
“I thought maybe it meant something, that you’d defended me. I apologize if I misunderstood, or my misplaced affection is an inconvenience. I wanted help. I thought of you. That’s all.”
Caroline: “Wiser not to speak of him,” Caroline answers firmly.
“But if I intended to turn you in, I’d have done so. I think your mother simply fails to understand the position you are in. She imagines some egalitarian world in which all doors are open.” She turns back to Diana. “They aren’t.”
“That I am not simply taking what I wish from you should be a clear demonstration of my affection. And that I was interested in cultivating continued connection between us—connection that would make your execution inconvenient for me—through your mother’s lessons would have been evidence enough of that.”
She should have simply let her mother do as she’d intended. Part of her would enjoy watching this arrogant ghoul shattered by the loss. Instead, she’s here trying to make it work. Taking attitude in her own haven, in her own domain, from a ghoul with even less time in the Blood than any of Caroline’s own.
No good deed goes unpunished.
GM: Diana follows the two’s conversation with increasingly narrowed eyes.
“If there is one thing I know too well, Caroline, it’s that absence of abuse is not affection.”
“If you’re threatening us, do it openly. If you’re not threatening us, then don’t. But don’t say ‘I could threaten you, but I’m not’ and expect gratitude for it.”
“I am more than willing to entrust another vampire with Lucy’s memories. Celia says this vampire can and will help us. I believe her. I do not believe we need you.”
“How much you want me as Simmone’s dance teacher and what you’re willing to pay for it is up to you. But I will not give 50 hours of lessons for two nights of altered memories. Celia, lay out the other things you want.”
Support: Celia is quiet for a moment. She doesn’t quite meet Caroline’s eye. Or her mother’s. She might even squirm, if licks could do such a thing, but perhaps that’s merely a trick of the light. There’s a shine to her eyes not so often found in the faces of the dead when she finally rises, shifting seats in a quick movement to put herself next to Caroline.
She takes the Ventrue’s hand.
“Caroline,” she murmurs, “you told me once that you’d do anything for your family. I watched you with your sister. I know you’re scared for her, just as I’m scared for my daughter. I can’t be with her during the day anymore. My mother has to look over her now. She just found out I’m dead. And Isabel…” Celia trails off. Caroline can smell blood, but the Toreador looks away.
She’s quiet while her mother talks. Finally, she looks back to the Ventrue.
“There’s someone who asked me to do a favor for them. I’m having a difficult time with it. I don’t know enough about dark magic and curses to break this spell. I thought maybe you… would be able to help. And there’s…”
Her jaw sets. Finally, she looks angry.
“You recall the two ghouls Jade brought with her when she visited? One of them is dead. I found out that Jade—”
Her fingers clench into fists. She breathes in sharply through her nose.
“It doesn’t matter. One is dead, the other is missing. I’d like to find him and I don’t know where to begin. Your team seemed competent.”
“It’s just a time crunch.”
Caroline: “You want me to beseech my mother to intervene on your behalf, and to meddle in the domain of another vampire, within the French Quarter, who is no doubt already on high alert following the death of one of their ghouls?” Caroline restates more flatly.
Support: “I didn’t say anything about your mom,” Celia points out, “but if you think she could help, sure.”
Caroline: Caroline shakes her head.
“I have no interest in jumping in the middle of whatever fucked up games you and Jade play. I think we’re done here. Good luck with your other option.”
The Ventrue watches them go from her seat.
GM: Mrs. Flores rises from her own seat.
“I loved teaching all of your sisters,” she says. “Each one of them was and remains a delight to have in my classes. I was delighted to see and teach Simmone outside of school. I regretted canceling her dance lessons. I never did them for the money. Cécilia insisted on paying me for my time, but I got a big insurance settlement some years back. I’m very comfortable financially. The time I spent with your sister was time I could have spent with my granddaughter. I normally don’t give private lessons during the school year, either, just the summer months. I made an exception for Simmone because Cécilia asked me and because Cécilia was one of my favorite students. I also thought it was worthwhile to teach dance to a badly traumatized child, and that maybe I’d even be able to help her in some small way. I wanted to help your family because I liked them. I felt honored that Cécilia trusted me enough to do that. I felt honored that Simmone trusted me enough to do that. I thought there was friendship and goodwill between our families.”
Mrs. Flores shakes her head.
“I thought wrong.”
“I’m glad Celia and I have another option.”
“I don’t know where your mother went wrong with you, but you are the one Devillers I regret knowing. If your sisters were as heartless as you, I’d have wanted nothing to do with them. I hope you have brought less unhappiness to your family than you have brought to mine in our brief time together. Because in my experience, people who are cruel outside their families are cruel inside their families. In my experience, cruelty poisons love. And I’m sorry for your sisters, that they have such a cruel person in their lives.”
She adjusts Lucy in her arms.
“Tell Cécilia I said hello.”
Caroline: A million petty responses flow through Caroline’s mind as the schoolteacher rants. This pathetic kine that doesn’t even know Caroline has already once saved her entire life from demolition by powers she can’t even imagine, much less fight.
At its most petty she could assert her power, force Diana to jump in the pool or throw her granddaughter in to prove the point.
But there’s no need. The way she’s behaving, the way she’s interacting, tragedy will come home to her soon enough.
“One night, probably soon, you’ll look back on this night and regret that you didn’t listen to me, Mrs. Flores. Or your daughter, for that matter. When that happens, do drop me a line.”
Support: Celia rises abruptly to her feet, anger in her eyes. But not at Caroline. Oh, no, not at Caroline at all. The budding fury is not directed at the Ventrue, is not present when Celia manages to bite out a “thanks for your time” before she stalks toward the elevator. She grabs her mother’s elbow with slightly more force than necessary on the way.
“Congratulations,” she snaps at the kine, “your stupid pride and your insistence on getting something else means we’re all dead. If we make it through this I’m having your memories wiped too.”
The door closes on that threat.