“I’ve never promised my subjects democracy. But I do promise them happiness.”
Monday night, 23 July 2012, PM
GM: It’s several nights later that Roderick takes Celia with him to the Anarchs’ next ‘rant’ at Delgado Community College.
“They’re a Brujah thing, but they’ve sort of caught on with all of the Anarchs,” he explains as they drive. “Everyone who wants to speak gets a turn, and can introduce an issue for everyone else to vote on.”
“Which with you will be joining the Movement and getting to hunt and hold domain in Mid-City.”
“We almost never actually turn down new Anarchs, but it’s obviously a better thing if you make a strong impression on everyone.”
Celia: Presumptuous, she thinks, but doesn’t say. He’d said himself that the hunting in Mid-City is less than ideal, and she’s already been given a club on Bourbon Street thanks to Savoy’s generosity. Why, she thinks, would she resort to the slim pickings in Mid-City?
“Make a strong impression with words or fists?” Just how violent do these things get?
GM: “Words, most of the time. Violence on the floor isn’t allowed.”
“But it’s not unheard of for licks to ‘take things outside.’”
Celia: Violence isn’t allowed at a Brujah thing? Amusing. She doesn’t comment; he’s already apologized a handful of times for the beating he’d given her, no need to bring it up again.
“Do they know you’re bringing me?” ‘They’ is Coco, really, but she doesn’t need to specify.
GM: “Yeah, I’ve told the licks I’m closest to. But if someone wants to bring a guest, the usual attitude is ‘whatever.’”
“It’s more and less casual than an actual Brujah rant in some ways.”
Roderick is dressed down next to the suits he usually wears to Elysium. Dark jeans with nice leather shoes, casual blazer, white button-up shirt without a tie and the top button undone.
Celia: “Who’re these mysterious licks you’re close to? Anyone I need ‘to take outside’?” She shoots him a grin. Despite his best efforts, she still isn’t a brawler. Then again, every time they’d started throwing punches they’d gotten distracted once the blood started flowing, and one thing lead to another… she’s not complaining.
It’s nice. Almost like a date. It’s so… normal.
Still, he’d warned her not to wear the frilly dresses for this, so she’d abstained in favor of leather and boots, gray deep V-neck blouse.
GM: “There’s my krewe, obviously. Chris and Hez. We’re also on pretty good terms with the licks in the KLF.” The Kindred Liberation Front, the Anarchs’ oldest kewe. “I’m also pretty tight with… most of the sewer rats, because of Coco.”
“Some of them don’t like us for being good-looking, I think.”
“But Miss Opal is tight with my sire, and they generally do things her way.”
“The Axles can be trouble. Shep Jennings disagrees with Coco a lot.”
“Isa Suarez is sometimes hard to figure, but Desirae Wells is pretty reasonable.”
“Eight-Nine-Six were the ones who made fun of me for ‘being Ventrue.’ They’ve cooled off, since I shot them, but they’re generally agitators. In the less constructive way.”
“The malks in all the krewes are… well, who the fuck ever knows with them.”
“And Eris D. is almost as kooky.”
Celia: “So I should avoid the rats because I’m pretty, but play nice because you like them since you’re not?” Celia bats her lashes at him. They’re nowhere near as long as she normally keeps them; she’d said something about not wanting them to get ripped out in a catfight when Alana had asked earlier.
She slides her hand across the center console to twine her fingers through his. She’s nervous. Doesn’t want to look bad, or make him look bad. She takes mental notes as he speaks, but she doesn’t know enough about any of the others to comment or ask for clarification.
“Ronnie gonna be there?”
GM: Roderick smirks at the initial banter, but gives her hand a squeeze as she takes his.
“Yeah, pretty rare she’s not. Have you two not talked about coming to the rant?” he asks, seemingly surprised.
Celia: Celia shrugs.
“I’ve been spending more time with Pietro lately. She knows, but we haven’t really discussed it in depth. Not like you’re doing.”
GM: “Hm. I guess.” Roderick looks thoughtful.
“What’s that look for?”
GM: “Honestly, sometimes it feels to me like Veronica isn’t that much of an Anarch. I don’t think she cares about what we’re doing in Mid-City or reforming Kindred society into something more equitable. She just wants power in any group where someone else isn’t the boss of her.”
“She was Invictus for the better part of a hundred years until your great-grandsire woke up from her nap.”
Celia: “You know, I mentioned being interested in the Invictus a while back and I thought she was going to tear my head off for it. ‘What do you want with that old bitch,’ or something similar.”
GM: “Ha. Yeah, I can really picture that.”
“But I mean, it sounds like she hasn’t even tried to recruit you.”
Celia: “Anyway, hard to escape to a place where someone isn’t the boss of you. Someone’s got the power no matter where you go.”
Celia lifts one of her shoulders in a shrug.
“I… we talked about it a little. Not like. A lot. But… you were there, and I didn’t want to invade your space or anything. She rolled her eyes at me but didn’t push it.”
And Savoy has kept Celia pretty busy, if she’s being honest. A lot of people think he’s just paying lip service to the Lance, but he’d made sure that she would know what she’s talking about if anything ever got brought up. Not personally, but she’d had instructors. All the better to keep her from looking foolish and making a mockery of her true grandsire.
GM: “Yeah, I guess that sounds like her.”
“How are things with Pietro? He should also be here.”
Celia: “Interesting. He’s terribly amusing.”
Especially when Veronica isn’t around to throw a tantrum, but Celia doesn’t need to tell Roderick that, nor would she be so blatant. She dances around the fact that he’s the reason she is who she is, too; there’s no reason to remind Roderick that Pietro was the one who brought her back to his apartment and got her into this whole mess.
“I asked him to teach me how to lift cars. Want me to steal you something fancy?”
Shadow dancing is their true lesson, but she trusts that Roderick is smart enough she doesn’t need to spell it out.
GM: “Huh. Tempting,” smirks Roderick. “How about some evidence to get a few mobsters in trouble?”
Celia: “Who do you have in mind? I’m game.”
GM: “Any of them, really. They’re all scum. Though the higher-ups obviously do more damage than the little guys. There’s this one mobster, Benny Giacona, who had this massacre and giant fire happen at his house maybe five years back. Even when it was in the middle of the Quarter, the cops didn’t arrest him over anything.”
Celia: “I mean, does he have backers like us?”
“Because that’s how people get away with stuff. I didn’t know it then, but… that’s the truth of it now. If you’ve got friends in the shadows you’ll get out of your tight spots.”
Like Maxen had.
GM: “Probably,” says Roderick. “He’s in the Quarter, after all. Savoy’s in bed with the Mob. And there’s that absolute scumbag Gui. It’s bad enough our kind support and enable the Mafia, but to actually Embrace one of those people?”
He shakes his head.
Celia also well knows that her grandsire is quite close with the Mob. Their criminal activities are a vital part of his domain.
Celia: Her loyalties war within her. She can’t betray her grandsire. She owes everything she is to him. Without him she’d be dead, or worse.
“Gui’s sire was one of those scumbags, though. Stands to reason he’d bring one in. But hey, pick a target outside the Quarter, I bet you and I could do some damage.”
Outside the Quarter Savoy’s influence over the Mob has to be weaker, right? Two birds: take out some scumbags for Roderick, take out some rivals for Savoy.
GM: “There’s also Rocco. See what I said about Embraced absolute scumbags.”
Roderick’s hands tighten around the wheel.
“But he’s a hound. So we have to play nice.”
Celia: “Do we? Seems to me if we’re sneaky enough we can get away with all sorts.”
GM: “What about Gui, though? He’s just a neonate. Easier to go after.”
Celia: “He’s pretty highly regarded by Savoy.”
“Might be more difficult than you think to get him.”
“Isn’t there another lick in with the Mob? I hear him muttering about it sometimes. Toyota?”
GM: “Ha ha,” Roderick says at the mangled name. “Yeah. He’s a Brujah and in with the First Estate.”
Celia: “So what about him, then?”
“Isn’t he just a neonate, too?”
GM: “Yeah, he is. I’ve heard some odd stuff about him, but he is.”
“But we were dancing around it a little, weren’t we? You’re in the Quarter and could get in trouble if you make trouble for your landlord, and I could get in trouble by straining things between Vidal’s people and Coco.”
Celia: “What odd stuff?”
Celia lets out a puff of air from between her lips. She doesn’t quite pout, but she wants to.
“I suppose that’s the heart of it,” she acknowledges. She looks out the window. This relationship is going to be tougher than she thought to manage.
“Obviously we just find a patsy.”
GM: “Why are you with Savoy?” Roderick asks. “I mean, Veronica is your sire, and she’s an Anarch.”
“Or was it… how your family lives in the Quarter?”
Celia: “We think, as humans, that we understand what’s going on in the world. We look at politics and cast our votes and think, I’m in control. I have a voice. But that’s not true, is it? We don’t. There’s always someone pulling the strings behind the scenes.”
She’s quiet for a moment, thinking about what to tell him. How much to say.
“You know that the sheriff controls Riverbend. Tulane. He portions it out as he wants, but he still has Audubon. Emily used to come back to the dorm in the middle of the night, bloodless. She was always tired, pale. I didn’t know at the time, but I recognized it later. Someone was feeding on her. My family lives in Audubon. His territory. His domain. I don’t know if he’s the kind of Kindred to break into places in the middle of the night and feed on people, but I needed someplace to keep them safe. Savoy… I met him, early on, when I still had no idea what was going on. And the detective, Lebeaux…”
Celia trails off. She finally shakes her head, looking over at him.
“The sheriff is my dad’s ‘friend in the shadows.’ I saw him. When I was a kid. He’s a… he’s… God, I think he took me one night. I don’t want that for them. He was all I knew, when I became this. When I heard that Savoy was opposed to him, it just made sense to me to move them to the Quarter, and… I stayed. To keep them safe.”
GM: Roderick’s face falls.
“I know you were Embraced before me.”
“But… I’m sorry I couldn’t be there.”
“That Coco couldn’t be there.”
Celia: “I was kine.” Celia waves a hand. “I was nothing to Coco. Just another scared soul. Savoy… I think he just knows that about people. What to say, how to say it. It made sense. And then he gave me the loan for my business and…” She squeezes his hand. “He doesn’t control me. I’m here, with you, because I want to be. But I’m also very, very aware that I owe a lot of my comfort to him.”
“I wonder, you know, about that. What would have happened if you were Embraced first.”
“If you had been there.”
GM: “I guess that’s just his way, isn’t it? Reeling people in,” says Roderick, taking one hand back off the wheel to interlace his fingers with Celia’s.
Celia: “Don’t laugh,” she tells him, “but I picture something very romanticized if it had been you first. Like Twilight. You’d sneak in and lay with me at night and I’d be none the wiser.”
GM: The Brujah laughs out loud.
Celia: “I told you not to laugh!”
GM: “I’m sorry,” he snickers, “it’s just… Twilight.”
“But don’t worry, I’d have made it very romantic.”
Celia: “Yes, well, I didn’t have a lot of material growing up.” But she’s laughing too, so that makes it all okay.
GM: “Oh, you know. Jumped up to your window, curtains drifting in the wind. Acted all dark and mysterious. Held out a hand. Leaped on top off the roof with you in my arms. Sex under the night sky.”
“With a mattress or something already out on top, because sex on a roof sounds really uncomfortable.”
Celia: Celia makes a show of fanning herself.
“You can still do that, you know.”
GM: “That’s right, I could. And you look so fucking hot in all that leather.”
“You do a better Brujah than I do.”
Celia: “Hotter than in nothing at all?”
“Maybe I’ll let you rip it off me later. If you come through my window and take me to the roof. I’d like to see you jump that high.”
GM: “And here I was about to ask you how long we had before the rant started…”
Celia can see Roderick’s fangs protruding from his mouth.
She can feel the ‘boner’ she’s getting in her own.
Celia: That’s all the prompting she needs. She’s on his lap before he’s even fully pulled the car over, an echo of last time, though her kisses hold more teeth than tongue these days.
GM: Celia distantly hears the car bump against something as Roderick hastily parks it, probably not within the lines. One of his hands squeezes and fondles her breasts while his other one presses over her belly, pulling her fully onto his lap. There’s no bulge in his pants and that makes it delightfully easy to saddle up to him. To be close to him, her leather-clad rear grinding against his crotch, as their mouths meet and his fangs pierce her skin.
“God, you’re so fucking hot…!”
Celia: Of course she’s hot. He’s telling her something she already knows. She growls at the reminder though, glad that in the here and now there’s no room for him to maneuver himself to be on top. She’s tired of him always putting her on her back. Now her back is to him and she’s in charge, grinding down against his flaccid cock as if that does anything for either one of them, when the distant thud reaches her ears.
Her body stiffens. She twists away from him to look around. What had he hit?
GM: He’s dented someone else’s car. Pretty badly.
And as his fangs pierce her neck, it doesn’t seem like he much cares.
Celia: She doesn’t much care either, if she’s being honest; when her skin splits and the blood flows into Roderick’s waiting mouth it’s all she can think about, back arching to press herself more fully against him. Her knee hits the horn on accident as she shifts, writhing, and she yanks it away with a breathless laugh.
She does use the last moment of her awareness, before sinking into bliss, to see if someone is around that saw them hit it, or if the car has people inside. That will be awkward.
GM: It doesn’t look like anyone is here. Yet.
Celia: Then she gives zero fucks.
Except the fucks she gives Roderick.
Monday night, 23 July 2012, PM
GM: “…blood all over your leathers. You really do have the Brujah look down,” Roderick laughs faintly. He’s got his arms wrapped across Celia’s stomach, the Toreador still seated on his lap.
He nuzzles her hair.
“Seriously, don’t even dry clean it. Just let that stuff dry.”
There’s blood all over their shirts. All over their necks and faces.
Celia: She’s glad she wore dark colors to this event. Somehow she’d known she would end up covered in blood. She purrs, contentedly, as he nuzzles against her.
“These will be my Brujah pants,” she tells him, “so I suppose I can’t let you shred them later.”
GM: “Hah. Yeah. I think we have might have missed the rant, though.”
He gives another faint laugh.
“Whatever. We can just go to the next one.”
Celia: “Did we?” She checks the clock. How long had they been wrapped around each other?
GM: Long enough, it looks like. They’d have to drive like mad to still be on time.
Celia: “Are you faster than a car?” she asks him, twisting to nibble at his neck.
GM: “…I’m not sure. Haven’t tried to outrun one before.”
There’s a sudden sharp bang against the window.
Celia: Celia’s eyes cut that way, narrowing.
GM: It’s a man. Dark skin. Glasses. Clean-shaven. His face looks perpetually pissed off.
But right now, it looks especially pissed off.
Celia: Celia’s face twists momentarily into horror. She slides off of Roderick’s lap, wiping at the blood on her face in the moments they have before he cracks the window. There’s nothing to do for the shirt; it’s light enough that the blood is obvious, but she can zip her jacket up over it, and she does so. At least the stains aren’t as apparent against the leather.
“I think you hit his car,” she whispers to Roderick.
GM: “…ah, shit.”
Celia: “We could speed off.”
“Windows tinted, maybe he doesn’t know we’re here.”
GM: “I know you’re there,” comes the man’s tight voice. “It isn’t that dark out.”
“Sure isn’t dark enough to hide what you did to my car.”
Celia: At least the car hadn’t been bouncing as it would if they were human.
GM: “I’m an attorney. Give me a good reason not to file civil suit against you.”
Celia: Celia shares a look with Roderick. Then she sends it out from her in a wave, the opposite of dampening her aura: she extends it. Makes herself sound powerful. Important. Desirable, even, though that isn’t her primary focus here.
She checks her face in the mirror, then opens the car door and steps out. Her smile is friendly.
“Well, if you press civil charges we might get caught up in court and that will take ages. I can pay you for the damage now, and then we’ll be out of your hair.”
GM: “Why, that’s very generous of you,” the man replies. His smile is thin and flickering, like it doesn’t come easily to him. It looks like a pair of pants several sizes too small. “Something like this can often come out to several thousand dollars.”
Celia: Celia barely refrains from scoffing at him.
“Sir, they make dent removal tools that cost about twenty dollars. Any body shop who charges you several thousand for something like this is significantly overcharging. I’d be happy to provide an alternative to your usual mechanic; no one should be that gouged on pricing.”
“The paint isn’t even scratched.”
“So you won’t need a new anything. A quick pop out and you’re good to go.”
Celia glances into the car at Roderick, lifting her brows at him. Can he pop it out?
Or pay. Since it’s his fault. He called her cute and made her climb on his lap and then hit the car because of it. He should know better than to compliment this Toreador. She smiles winningly at him.
GM: “It’s true some repair jobs can run that cheap,” the man says with that same shabbily ill-fitting smile in an equally ill-fitting amiable tone, “but some can can run that expensive. I’m sure that we can reach an equitable way to handle this.”
“I’m sure we can too,” Roderick says smoothly as he gets out. The man doesn’t blink at the blood on his clothes, or how Roderick raises an eyebrow at Celia.
Celia: Celia lifts her brows at Roderick. What, does he have a better idea? She doesn’t want to be late to her first rant.
GM: “Okay, I’ll cover this. What’s your name and phone number?” he asks the man as he pulls out his Solaris.
“Herman Lewis.” Roderick taps into his phone after Herman gives his name.
“Okay, I just sent you enough to cover your average repair job over Qeeqle Pay. Call me if it’s not enough for this one.”
“I’m pleased you could see reason so quickly and accept responsibility for your actions,” Herman replies with another ill-fitting smile. “However, this doesn’t cover the inconvenience of being without my car, the time I’ve spent here, or the time I’ll spend taking my car in. I’ll send you a bill at my hourly rate for that.”
“You seem like a reasonable man, so I don’t think there’ll be any need to file suit against you.”
“That’s very magnanimous of you,” Roderick responds dryly.
Herman offers another thin smile.
“An apology would also demonstrate your and your girlfriend’s sincerity.”
Celia: A dozen different snide things to say come to mind the moment he demands an apology: blatantly telling him to fuck off, being a sarcastic prick, asking in what world any insurance company would pay him for his time, offering to phone the police and let them file a report. She even considers ripping his throat out for the sheer gall of speaking to either one of them this way.
Celia chews it over. She doesn’t need to get into it with this breather and kill any chance of showing up on time. Finally, her lips curl upwards in something that’s an approximation of a smile, though it doesn’t go so far as to meet her eyes.
She nods at Roderick to get in the car. She’s done wasting her time here.
GM: “Yeah, sorry,” Roderick glowers. “Send me the bill.” He opens the door for Celia, pointedly turning away from the man as he does, then gets in himself without waiting for a response.
“What a prick,” he says as he pulls the car out.
“We did both hit him with star mode, right?”
Celia: “I can’t believe him. What a—”
She pauses. Looks at him.
GM: “Because I can’t imagine how much bigger a prick someone could be without it.”
Celia: “I’m an attorney,” she mimics. “The fuck kind of insurance company does he think is going to pay him for his time for shit like this?”
“If we’re going to miss the rant just stop at an ATM and I’ll get you back for it. At least half of this was my fault.”
GM: “He doesn’t. He’s just counting on the fact that most people would rather pay him for his time than risk a lawsuit, once they hear he’s a lawyer.”
“And thanks, but I’m not paying him for anything besides the repair job.”
Celia: “The fact that you can sue anyone for anything…” Celia shakes her head.
GM: “Yeah. Even if a judge throws it out as frivolous, still goes through the courts.”
Celia: “If I had the right face on I’d have just name-dropped my grandmother and told him good luck. Christ.”
GM: “Ah, she’s a criminal judge. This is a civil matter. Might work if he wasn’t also a lawyer.”
Celia: “Oh. Whoops. Good thing I’ve got you on my side to keep me from saying something silly, then.”
GM: “It’d work on most other people, probably. Say ‘judge’ and they’ll go ‘oh no’ if lawsuits come up.”
“But let’s talk about something that doesn’t make my worse half want to cave in faces. You talk with her much these nights, still?”
Celia: “Grandmother? Yeah. Momma doesn’t want to take Lucy to see her so I’ve been, when I have the time.”
GM: “Oh, why doesn’t she?”
Celia: “Some long ago fight over whether or not Momma should have aborted me.”
Celia waves a hand.
“They’re both still mad at each other. Personally I think there’s more to it, but no one is talking.”
GM: “Geez, your grandma wanted her to abort you?”
Celia: “Mom was like… sixteen.”
“So I get it.”
“I mean, you and I almost had to do that.”
GM: Roderick can’t sigh without forcing it. But he looks like he could.
“I’m not about to endorse the idea of teen pregnancy, but… no complaints how that worked out for her.”
Celia: “You mean because I’m amazing?” she grins at him.
GM: “And hot, smart, funny… world would be a worse place without you in it.”
Celia: “Really trying to make us miss this meeting, eh? Should we go hit another car?”
GM: “Nah, variety’s good. We’ll do it on a roof for our next time.”
“That’s a shame about your mom and your grandma, though. My grandpa was such a huge part of my life. He was everything to my dad.”
Celia: “I feel bad for both of them. Grandma is missing a kid, Momma is missing a mom. Her whole family, almost. Doesn’t talk to her sister, either. Just like… make up already, damn.”
Celia isn’t sure what to say to him about his dad. She could offer to change his face, maybe, but that wouldn’t let him be part of his family like she is with hers. She takes his hand instead, letting him know she’s there for him.
GM: He squeezes her palm.
“That really is too bad for them. Your mom’s been through a lot. So has your grandma, to know what she’s been through.”
Celia: “Mmm, well, last time I tried to fix something for my family I ended up dead, so.”
GM: “You still fixed it.”
“And you can only die once.”
“Maybe I’m biased, but my grandpa was just such an enormous presence in my and my dad’s lives. He died when I was only 7, so I don’t remember a ton about him, but his presence was everywhere in the house. Dad was constantly talking about him, sharing stories, showing pictures and newspaper articles, and people at work all remembered him too. So I feel like I still got to know him really well.”
“I can’t imagine not having that. To just not be talking.”
“And I’d have loved for Grandpa to actually be alive and directly a part of my life.”
Celia: “I feel pretty lucky that even though they weren’t talking I still got to have a relationship with my grandmother. I’m sorry you didn’t get that with him for as long.”
GM: “Still do get to have it,” Roderick remarks. “I don’t know, if it were me, I’d fight like hell to get them to make up. Or at least sit down together.”
“You only get one family.”
Celia: “I’ve been trying, trust me, it’s not like I just threw up my hands about it.”
GM: “Your mom is kind of a pushover. How hard can it be?”
Celia: “That’s what I don’t get! She’s a pushover about literally everything except this one issue.”
“I can look at her sideways and make her cry, but God forbid I bring up Grandma.”
GM: Roderick gives a short laugh.
“Sorry. I guess that isn’t actually funny.”
“But I guess we all have our lines in the sand.”
Celia: “It’s gotta be more than what they’re telling me, right?”
“I mean I’m the one who should have been dumped into a trash can and I’m not mad about it.”
GM: “Might be. ‘Just’ an abortion seems like something to get over by now.”
Celia: “Too bad I never picked up that mind-reading trick. They both just purse their lips and make veiled comments.” She huffs. “I guess I could throw some star power at them and see what sticks.”
GM: Roderick frowns deeply.
GM: “That’s… a line I don’t think we should cross, feeding on family or using powers on them.”
Celia: “That’s why I haven’t done it yet,” Celia admits. “I’m glad to hear you say that, though. I almost said the same thing and thought you would think I was silly for not.”
“It just feels skeevy to manipulate them like that.”
GM: “Why the hell would I think you’re silly over something like that?”
“That’s anything but silly.”
“Dead serious, actually.”
“And maybe your sire and the other harpies would laugh about it in Elysium, but whatever.”
Celia: “That’s the problem, isn’t it? Everyone else is so far gone that showing any amount of compassion or emotion gets you labeled as weak or ridiculous.”
“It’s like they just use what’s inside of us as an excuse to be a bunch of assholes.”
GM: “We try to be better than that in Mid-City.”
Celia: “You think any of them would have paid the man? No. They’d have just gone for the jugular.”
GM: “The guy was an enormous prick, but he wasn’t completely wrong. I did dent his car. I’m not too far gone to think I shouldn’t pay for that.”
“Jugular is bad for the Masquerade, anyway.”
Celia: “That’s the only thing that reins some of them in sometimes.”
“‘Is the sheriff gonna send his hounds after me for this? Better not.’”
GM: “Or the Krewe. They’re supposed to be everywhere.”
“Or hunters. I mean, lots of reasons not to make a mess, ethics completely aside.”
Celia: “That’s the thing, though, isn’t it? How many of them care about the ethics versus the repercussions of their actions?”
“I mean just look at the way they treat their ghouls.”
GM: “It can vary a lot. But that’s sort of the problem.”
“Just how much it actually can vary.”
“I feel like your sire has to be one of the bigger pricks there, no offense.”
Celia: “None taken. She’s not me.”
GM: “Coco’s told me about some city in Scandinavia or maybe northern Russia where ghouls and Kindred are essentially equals. They actually sit on the primogen. They’re treated like partners rather than servants.”
“Because it’s so far north and the days are so long during summers. The Kindred there are almost completely dependent on their ghouls.”
“That might’ve been motivated by self-interest, but after so long I’d think a lot of those feelings are real.”
“Obviously how things work there isn’t how things work here. But it makes you wonder what’s possible and whether the way we do things has to be the only way.”
Celia: “Of course it’s not the only way. That’s why you and Coco are fighting for change. Just because something has been done one way for hundreds or thousands of years doesn’t mean it’s the only way. We look down on the breathers like they’re nothing, their lives are fleeting, they’re food. But we were there once. Look what they accomplish in their short lives. Look how things change for them. They’re constantly searching for better, more effective ways to do things.”
“I mean it’s evident even in their technology.”
“Technology that so many of the elders don’t even bother to learn about.”
“They’re stuck in the literal dark ages.”
“They stop changing. They get power and then that’s all they care about, holding onto it.”
“They act like they’re all knowing beings when they don’t know anything because they won’t open up their minds to a new perspective.”
“Or new ideas.”
GM: “It’s because they’re never faced with their own mortality, or at least unavoidable end to their power. They never have to consider what’s best for the next generation, or really think about the future. For them, there’s only an eternal present where they’re the only people that matter.”
Celia: “They’re like gods. Or they see themselves that way. Like the Greeks or Romans. They’re powerful, but they’re not all-powerful, and they spend their time squabbling and posturing and interfering in the realm of humans instead of doing anything.”
“How do you make someone like that change?”
“Without, you know, sending hunters after the lot of them or burning down their havens.”
GM: “If there were an easy answer to that, believe me, we’d have made Vidal change by now.”
“But there isn’t one.”
Celia: “But you and Coco have some ideas, surely.”
“You asked me earlier. About Savoy. Why I’m with him. And you said something about him knowing how to reel people in, and that’s true. But just… I mean, look at the differences between their rules. Savoy asked me what I wanted. I said, ’there’s a hierarchy and I’m at the bottom, I’m not sure that matters.’ And he said the thing about hierarchies is that they change. That you have to bring in new blood and new ideas. I know you don’t like him because of his connections to the Mob, and I’m not telling you to jump ship. I think what you and Coco are doing with the Anarchs is necessary. But can you imagine, truly imagine, Vidal saying that same thing to a neonate?”
GM: “Absolutely not. I mean, you barely even see Vidal anyways. I can count the number of times I’ve seen him at Elysium on one finger.”
“He’s not even around for that many Cabildo meetings. Usually leaves them to Maldonato.”
Celia knows that Roderick serves as the scribe at those. The note-taker. It’s an envied position for a neonate to hold. They’re not supposed to talk, but they hear and transcribe everything the assembled elders say.
“But at least with them you know what you’re dealing with.”
“I don’t think Savoy is actually sincere.”
“He still has ultimate power in the Quarter. He puts a nicer face on it, but does he actually put real policy decisions up for public vote like we do in Mid-City?”
Celia: “He has an open forum where people can bring their issues every week.”
GM: “But do they actually get to decide anything? Or is he the one who makes the calls?”
“Because Coco can get overruled if the majority isn’t with her.”
“One lick, one vote.”
Celia: “He has his own council,” Celia admits. “I’m not saying it’s a perfect solution. But even in kine politics you see the same. Someone in charge and councils making decisions for the masses. And maybe, if you and Coco brought your ideas to him, he’d listen. Change things up.”
“If both Mid-City and the Quarter are doing it, it spreads from there.”
GM: “But here’s the thing about those councils that make decisions for the masses.”
“We elect them.”
“And if we don’t like their decisions, we can vote them out.”
Celia: “Can Coco be voted out?”
“She’s there because Vidal lets her be there. He put her there. And she’s put a new system into place, and that’s amazing, it is. So what’s to keep her and you from spreading it further?”
GM: “Mainly the fact that other elders aren’t interested in giving up power. But if what we’re doing here stands on its own merits, we don’t need to. Licks who want to be part of what we’re doing can come to us. Like you are.” Roderick smiles briefly.
“But to answer your question, Vidal recognizes Coco and Miss Opal as the parish’s regents. In his eyes, decisions that come from Mid-City are only valid because Coco and Miss Opal choose to allow them, and putting things up for popular vote is simply a quirky way to arrive at the decisions they do. And while that might be aggravating to know the prince doesn’t consider Mid-City’s democracy to be ‘legitimate’, fuck him. It doesn’t change the reality on the ground, where every resident gets a vote in what happens. One Anarch, one vote. If Coco or Miss Opal tried to overrule the majority and say ‘no, we’re doing things way,’ it would destroy faith in what we’ve built and expose them as hypocrites. So if they don’t vote with the majority, too bad. The majority gets what it wants and they don’t.”
“Savoy, in contrast, doesn’t hold any kind of elections for his council, and I don’t see much indication he actually shares power with them. They’re his subordinates rather than a check on his authority. He puts a nicer face on things, but ultimately, he governs the same way as any other elder. Where he has all the power and younger licks have none.”
Celia: “Then change it. We spoke about this before, that you want to change things, and that you think it can’t happen all at once. And maybe you’re right. You’re probably right, that this won’t ever be a widespread thing, like the Scandinavians with their ghouls. But if it works for Mid-City, why wouldn’t it work for the Quarter as well? What do you have to lose by trying?”
“Don’t be someone else’s ‘no.’”
GM: “I don’t want to, I just want to be realistic. Say we asked Savoy if he wanted to institute a direct democracy in Mid-City. Maybe even offered to bring some things to the table if he did. What do you think he’d say?”
Celia: “I think he’d be amenable to trying it.”
GM: Roderick looks dubious.
“Do you really think so?”
Celia: “I do. He’s more reasonable than most elders. Lay out the facts. Make your presentation. If he’s going to be the one to say no, let him do it. Sincere or not, he wants our kind to be successful. Neonates as well as all Kindred. Do you think he’d have given me the time of night to tell him my business plan if he didn’t want to see people like us succeed? Smart and capable, that’s what he said to me. What he values.”
“And if I’m wrong, then I’m wrong.”
“But I don’t think I’m wrong.”
GM: “I think you might be,” Roderick says frankly. “But there’s nothing lost bringing it up. If anything, it exposes him as a hypocrite if he says no, so… I guess that’s a win either way.”
“Why don’t you bring it up, tonight, when it’s your turn to speak? See what everyone thinks and establish a commission to approach Savoy.”
“If, uh. We aren’t late.”
Celia: “Is… that wise? I’m nobody to them. You don’t think they’ll react the same way you did?”
GM: “I’m just one voice. One perspective. Who knows what everyone else will think?”
“You can also bring up how it’s a win-win.”
“Either we spread democracy or we expose hypocrites.”
Celia: “Roderick… we just talked about how I can’t cause waves. My family is there. I’m happy to speak about bringing this to Savoy, I can’t go around publicly talking about trapping him. Further, it doesn’t really expose him as a hypocrite. I’m the one saying this, I don’t speak for him.”
GM: “I’m saying it would expose him if he says no,” Roderick offers.
“But, all right. Say you tell everyone you’re going to bring this to him.”
“Then he says no, he looks like a hypocrite.”
“He blames you. So that isn’t good.”
“What do you think we should do instead?”
Celia: “Why would he look like a hypocrite, though?”
GM: “Because licks like you think he’s a substantially different alternative to Vidal, only when asked if he actually wants to do something substantially different, he says no.”
Celia: “I think, then, that I should speak to him before I bring this up publicly, and let him know that I’m… making assumptions and negotiations on his behalf.”
“He’s a friendly tiger, but he’s still a tiger.”
GM: “Okay. You still want to try to make the rant tonight, or save that and your debut for next week?”
Celia: “I think it would be more impactful to bring something of substance to the table.”
GM: “Okay, that works.”
“Want to bang on a roof?”
Celia: “I thought you’d never ask.”
Thursday night, 26 July 2012, PM
GM: Jade tells Mélissaire that she wants to see her grandsire. Several nights later, she does so at the Evergreen’s rooftop garden. As usual, Jade can come dressed, in a swimsuit, or naked. Or go from one state to the other.
Celia: Jade comes dressed, of course. She plans on losing it later, if she’s being honest with herself, but the gown is custom made; it would be remiss not to show up in it after she’d went through the effort of having it commissioned.
The dress tells the story of her Embrace.
At its base it is navy. Deep, dark navy that bleeds into black at the fringe. It is the color of the Gulf upon which her body was destroyed when she hit it after falling through the sky. White flourishes dance along its length: the crest of the waves, the clouds that hid her body from the mortals on the ground while he held her in his arms…
The innocence she lost that night.
Stolen, as she was, by the beast in the shadows. The hues bleed one into another, navy into azure, azure into cobalt, cobalt into cerulean. White and silver encircle her waist, a smattering of Swarovski crystal and diamond that make up the constellations in the night sky, picked out among her tightly-clinging bodice. Her shoulders and neck are bared by the cut of the dress, the straps hanging loose across her upper arms. Stars, for the sky in which she died. For the name that her parents gave her: Celia, of the heavens. Lord Savoy had been the one to point that out to her when he had woken her from torpor.
She does not walk in the dress so much as float. The skirts swim around her heels with every step that this ethereal ocean goddess takes. A white gold chain is fastened at her neck beneath the pile of curls atop her head. Its pendant is a teardrop, a blue sapphire surrounded by an outline of more white gold and diamonds on the rim. When the light catches the gem just right the star is visible inside, white against its darker backdrop. She wears simple stud earrings, square cut diamonds. On her finger is the only other piece of note, a ring of gold and opal and diamond, three bands soldered together to look like a sun.
Her eyes, ringed as they are by the liquid liner and lashes that are ever present on her face, seek those of her grandsire. She had requested a private meeting, no distractions from Preston or Lebeaux. Her heels click across the floor of the garden with each steps that she takes, lips pulled into a smile as the birds trill and butterflies flutter around her.
This is, she reflects, one of her favorite places in the city. Not only for the ambiance itself, the reminder of waking up in the literal lap of luxury after her untimely demise, but for the Lord who presides over it.
GM: Jade finds Preston seated at the delicate iron table beside her grandsire, tapping periodically into her tablet as they speak. The Malkavian takes her leave, though, at Jade’s arrival. The French Quarter lord is dressed tonight in a burgundy-hued sports coat, maroon silk shirt, black slacks, and anaconda scale loafers that match his belt. Same signet ring with its fleur-de-lis coat of arms. He grins widely at the sight of the younger Toreador.
“I dare say you’ve outdone the inhabitants of Mt. Olympus tonight, my dear,” he remarks with a sly glance at some of the neoclassical statues nestled amidst the rose rushes and fruit trees. “Aphrodite may have emerged from the sea upon her birth, but you have taken the sea along with you.” He places a tender kiss upon her hand.
Celia: “My lord,” Jade sketches a curtsey with her dress as he takes her hand, rising only once he releases her. “You flatter me as always, though my ears will never grow tired of hearing you sing my praises. Aphrodite, you say, for love and beauty, and yet this evening I would wear her other mask: that of the more manipulative sort, the teeth behind the smile.”
She does not take a seat at the table. She sits instead on the lap of her grandsire, planting a kiss on his cheek. It is a familiar pose, if her ease at the position is anything to judge by.
“I’ve brought you a gift.”
GM: “The sight of you in that dress is gift enough, ma beauté,” he murmurs, his hands stroking her sides as he traces a fang along her cheek in answering ‘kiss.’
“We’ll have to find a soiree for you to attend later tonight. It’d be unthinkably selfish to keep such a gift all to myself. What second gift have you brought along with you?”
Celia: “Soon my ego will have me floating away, Lord Savoy, not only for your words but for the very idea that you’d pull a soiree from your hat at which I can shine for you.”
Her eyes close briefly at his touch. She is not immune to the charms of the Lord of the French Quarter; indeed, she has been taken with him for some time, and did she still need to draw breath she might find it hitching at his touch. A hand snakes inside the folds of her gown, drawing forth a small box. Green velvet adorns the outside, a sun emblazoned on its top. Inside her lord will find a ring.
It isn’t like hers, with its feminine cut. She’d asked the jeweler if a man could wear the ring that ornaments her finger currently, the sun with its opal and diamonds, and he had told her that the band is too feminine for a masculine wearer. Jade had not been sure that her grandsire would agree, but she is no jeweler, and so she had deferred to the experts.
One of those experts being Pietro. As successful as her business has been, her grandsire’s intended ring was still a little outside her price range. But Veronica’s cousin had laughed that “money is no object if you’re not spending money,” and he had stolen it for her after some verbal fellating to swell his ego.
This ring has a thicker platinum band. Onyx and diamond embellish the sides, cut into the metal in a shape that is suggestive of a rose stem, and blooming at its heart a cloudy green stone. Not jade, though the color is reminiscent. She tells him that it is meteorite, made from one whose trip around the sun is stuff of legends. She is shy as she presents it to him. She has not yet given him a gift, and she knows the custom among the breathers, though this is no engagement piece, no favor that he should feel compelled to wear. A simple token of her esteem, a reminder of where he came from and how far he might yet go, as the comet in his ring can no doubt attest.
It is sized for him, though she is not so presumptuous to slide it upon his finger.
She is no fool. She is aware that her position here, physically and within his domain, is a result of luck and his amusement. He is no iron-fisted Vidal to smack down her reaching hands, though elder he remains. Were they not alone she would never so blatantly drape herself across him, would never drop the formal decorum that his position demands.
Even without flaunting it the power rolls off of him. She would recognize it across a crowded room by the way it has ensnared her, caught and pinned her so helplessly beneath his great paw. He is the lion and she the cub he lets bite his tail and leg, yowling as if she has won this bout when they both know that a quick swipe would lay her out. He lets her cut her teeth, no more.
She will never be his paramour. She can pine for him all she wants, but his Requiem is hundreds of years longer than her own. The elder and the neonate would be a sick joke at Elysium. No, if he beds her at all it will be a secret thing, like a mistress of old. The lord and his whore. She is not so delusional that she cannot see it. Nor is she free to take him up on it were he to offer, degenerate rose that she may be.
And so when she presents this gift to him there is a part of her that thinks he will not wear it. He might not even like it. Their tastes may differ, and why should they not? She had looked at scores of bands and gems and metals and stones, each as different as the last. Rings are personal things. Perhaps she should have gotten one to remind him of the Quarter where he reigns, like the silver fleur-de-lis already on his fingers, instead of being so bold as to suggest he take more. Perhaps he thinks it a cheap trinket. A trap, like it is for the kine. Or the sun is an affront, not the symbol she means it to be.
She doesn’t watch his face. She cannot. Her eyes have dropped down to her own manicured nails after an instant that feels like hours, something seizing in her gut that twists in turmoil.
GM: Savoy gently lifts Jade’s chin to meet his eyes.
“You know, my dear, the Sun King turned everything in his palace into a ritual. Everything. Being there as he dressed. Being there for his daily shave. Being there for his bowel movements. To participate in any of these rituals were privileges for which men schemed and intrigued.”
“Fashion, of course, was a ritual too. Louis chose the style of his court. Those who were part of the ‘in’ crowd wore virtual uniforms designed by him. A single one of those, threaded with gold and trimmed with lace, could cost as much as a luxury car does today, and you needed an entire wardrobe. Courtiers could bankrupt themselves just keeping up appearances. So they took out loans from the king, and further placed themselves under his power. Louis truly was the sun around which all life in Versailles orbited. Every ritual in his palace was designed to remind his subjects of their sovereign’s exalted place.”
“But this need to be the sun, and these rituals to sustain his orbit, stemmed from fear, my dear. The country’s nobles were very powerful. Louis’ father had fought a bloody civil war to curb their power. As a child, Louis was once almost kidnapped from Tuileries, and that experience drove him from Paris to a hunting lodge. Versailles was a gilded cage for the nobility, where they would be constantly under his watch and too occupied by his rituals to plot and scheme. But you don’t build a cage for something unless it threatens you. Every rule of court, every ritual, was a bar in that cage, designed to shield the Sun King from the ravenous beasts trapped within.”
“It’s no different in Kindred society, except the beast we cage lurks within our own breasts. Every rule of our own courts, every little ritual—the ritual of whom to address and how, the ritual of how to comport oneself before the prince’s, the ritual of what clothes to wear and when—is another bar in the cage that keeps the Beast at bay. Ritual keeps us safe from that which we most fear.”
“Even the ritual of what rings one may gift one’s elders.”
The French Quarter lord slips Jade’s ring onto his finger.
“My reign is not one sustained by fear and ritual, but the love and loyalty of my subjects. I couldn’t ask for a finer symbol of that rule, Jade—or a finer subject to whom to owe that rule.”
Celia: Chastisement would hurt less than the swelling of her heart within her breast. The eyes he lifts to look upon him shine with the promise she pledged him years ago—that she is his if he will have her in his kingdom. The breath she seeks to draw catches in her throat. She cannot find the air with which to speak, the words with which to laud him.
Her fingers circle his. A gentle motion has his hand elevated through the air, and Jade presses her lips to the skin above the ring. An old gesture of fealty. A renewed pledge to serve. A promise of loyalty and love.
“You are this city’s preeminent ruler, my lord, and I will see you ascend to further yet.” He is transcendent. Unparalleled. There is no choice but him. No future but that by his side. Beneath, behind; it makes no difference to her, so long as she can stand within the circle of light he casts.
GM: Except, of course, her own sire.
Celia: The sire who abandoned her? That sire. The one who threw her from the clouds to smash, broken, upon the waves. Who left her for nineteen years with the monster that wore her father’s face. The one whose face still haunts her dreams, day and night alike.
Of course. That sire.
Life, death, her Requiem—it is not a mountaintop upon which her goals and aspirations perch, with only one road to lead her there.
She could spend the evening seated upon Lord Savoy’s lap, trading whispered secrets and tantalizing sweet nothings, cavorting about his rooftop garden that she once so fleetingly thought was Hell. But there are no butterflies in Hell.
Just her stomach, as she looks upon the face of Lord Savoy and tells him why she came. It is not to curry favor, not to bow obsequiously or kiss the hem of his robes. She has come for the Anarchs, to expand his rule, to give him power.
And so she tells him.
“I do not presume to think that you trouble yourself with the going-ons of all your subjects, my lord, or those with whom we dally. I tell you thus that I have taken for myself a lover from among the Anarchs in Mid-City. Primogen Duquette’s childe, the neonate who serves as scribe to the Calbido.” She pauses. She thinks to tell him that she knew this Kindred in life, that perhaps her sway over him is greater than what passes for relationships among their kind, though perhaps it does not matter.
“We spoke a few evenings ago about the way things are, the hierarchy you and I once discussed when I was freshly pulled from the Gulf. The pyramid that those like me can only hope to climb to reach the loftier heights carved out by Kindred such as yourself.”
“There was a proposition.”
“And I thought to bring it to you straight away, before the others had chance to comment or begin to plot, for it would rely on your goodwill. Your say-so. Your influence, as it were. Expanded. To include their lot.”
GM: “A comely face and a sharp mind are a dangerous enough combination, my dear. But when that face comes bearing gifts of beauty in one hand, and gifts of aid in her other, that combination is fatal,” Savoy murmurs. He twins his fingers through Jade’s and raises her hand to his lips, planting a tender kiss upon it in mirror of her own.
“My heart stands open to you, Jade. It could not do otherwise. By what key and gift of aid have you opened it?”
Celia: Jade cannot help but flush. Her blood betrays her, staining her cheeks a milk pink that stands out even amidst the creams and powders on her face. He is too good to her. And she wishes to be worthy of the praise he lavishes her with.
“They speak of democracy in Mid-City. One Kindred, one vote. But it is not true democracy, not while Prince Vidal—” she affords him the title even here, courtesy demands it “—appoints the true regent of that domain. Though Primogen Duquette and Miss Opal rule in name, they stand aside if their subjects vote another way. The Anarchs want true democracy.”
“Not here,” she is quick to add, “not within the Quarter; this is yours, as is right. But there. Mid-City. They wish to be formally recognized as democratic. It was implied that, should you be so willing, there is much they can bring to the table.”
GM: “Oh?” Savoy asks. “My recognition of popular sovereignty in Mid-City wouldn’t change too many things there, while the prince’s law still holds sway. I could make a show of it, but they’d be fools to offer me anything of substance in return.”
Celia: Jade shakes her head.
“You promised Madam Alsten-Pirrie something three years ago when she was here, for letting me out of our bargain, for claiming me as hers. I won’t pretend to know what it is. But I do know that our plans can be longer lasting than those political machinations of the kine. You had said that you wanted to sway her, that you just moved up the timeline. If she is being swayed to your side, why not bring the lot of them with her?” It would be like what he had done with the Quarter: they are already so firmly entrenched in Mid-City that Vidal would be hard-pressed to push them out.
GM: “That certainly does have its appeal, my dear. Bringing even a good chunk of the Anarchs over to my side would give the prince something to lose sleep over!” Savoy chuckles. “You think you’ve found a way to pull that off?”
Celia: “I’m to speak at their next rant. But I think my… my relationship with Mister Durant would go a long way in convincing his sire, and if you have the two primogen behind you… Lord Savoy, that is a considerable loss for the prince, and it would put you in a greater position to expand.”
Expand, she says, though they both know she means something else.
“Can you tell me what it is that you promised Madam Alsten-Pirrie that night?” she finally asks. “If you can tell me, I will have a better understanding of what it is that they want, and can better leverage my relationship to your benefit.”
GM: Savoy chuckles and taps a finger to Jade’s lips. “Let’s just say, my dear, that Madam Alsten-Pirrie’s business with me is personal and separate from what the Anarchs may want. But I think that’s very promising of you to have established the relationship with Mr. Durant that you have! That can only be a boon to us in the nights ahead. I would stay close to him, and make as many friends as you can at the rant. More friends can always pay dividends down the line.”
Celia: “Of course, sir.”
She is glad that there is no one here to witness his abrupt dismissal of her question. The humiliation alone at the rebuff for being so forward is not as lightened by his suggestion as he might think. Her gaze drops once more to blue, pointed nails with their own constellations written in polish.
GM: “And here’s some food for thought, too,” the French Quarter lord remarks, tilting Jade’s chin to meet his gaze. “To consider while you see Mid-City’s democracy in action… how many times have Coco and Miss Opal been outvoted by their subjects?”
“How many times have they both been outvoted?”
“What matters were they outvoted on, and how much did they value those matters?”
Celia: She does not study her nails long. She does not need to; he has given her the answer to the question that she long chewed over these past few nights: the ‘democracy’ within Mid-City is another game. A sham.
“Would you, then, if the time were right, support their version of democracy if it meant winning them to your side?” The question is blunt. Here, on this rooftop garden, she feels secure enough to speak freely to him.
GM: “My dear, there is no such thing as democracy,” Savoy answers her, just as frankly.
“Perhaps I’m biased. Louis was an absolute monarch without compare.”
“But even here in the United States… oh, the people elect their representatives, but it’s the people who donate to their campaigns whose calls they actually take, and whose input they seek when writing bills.” He chuckles. “Or ask to write their bills. You’d be surprised how many politicians don’t even do that, these days! I’m afraid true democracy only exists in theory.”
“No ones like to share power. Kindred or kine.”
“But would I support the Anarchs’ political vision, and the system they’ve set up in Mid-City?” He chuckles again. “If Prince Vidal can be open-minded enough to, shame on me if I can’t! Mid-City’s Kindred seem happy enough with it.”
“I’ve never promised my subjects democracy. But I do promise them happiness.”
Celia: “He isn’t, though,” Jade cuts in, brow furrowed. “Mr. Durant told me that Prince Vidal doesn’t truly recognize their democracy as legitimate. He only sees the actions and decisions that come from Mid-City as valid because Primogen Duquette and Miss Opal approve of them.”
GM: “Oh, but he does. Prince Vidal cares a great deal what his subjects think, my dear. At least as much as I do, in his own way.”
“He knows what levers of power are pulled and by whom. Saying he only recognizes the decisions of the parish’s regents doesn’t change the reality on the ground in Mid-City, and he knows it, but it’s a minor rebuke. His way of reminding his Anarch subjects that only so much democracy exists in his city. That he, himself, will not ever recognize it as valid, and that the laws and hierarchy of his archdiocese come first.”
“But as for me? If one of my vassals wanted to democratize decisions in their territory, I would recognize the popular consensus of its resident Kindred as valid. I do so desire to make my subjects happy.”
Celia: “Then… with your permission, I would present this at the rant, to earn the status that I need so I may further ingratiate myself among them and bring them to your side.”
GM: Savoy motions grandly. “Granted, my dear. And you can be certain that you’ll be rewarded accordingly for those efforts! My rule won’t ever be democratic. But my subjects will always be happy.”
“And speaking of,” he smiles, “let’s find an event for you to attend in that dress…”