“Are you… a vampire?”
Saturday night, 12 March 2016, AM
Celia: Despite the fact that Randy isn’t who and what she wants, Jade lingers in his arms for long moments while the emotions run their course. When she finally pulls free she whispers a quiet thanks, smoothing out his shirt where it had been rumpled by her body pressed against his. She asks him to see to Mabel and make sure her needs are taken care of, and warns him that she’s emotional. She’ll need supervision.
Jade raids his kitchen for a container of salt while Randy puts Mabel to bed, and locks herself in his bathroom for a moment. Her hands blur across her face as she reworks her image to become Celia once more, the Celia that the world knows. She raids his closet for one of the outfits she had left here prior, something loose and comfortable, something that isn’t the ballgown she had worn to Elysium. When he comes back down the stairs she presses a kiss against his cheek and wishes him good evening. Then she’s out the door, aura dampened with a stray thought, to find Roderick’s kid sister.
Maybe not a kid anymore, she thinks as she gets into her car. Only a few years behind Celia, isn’t she? Mid twenties. She wonders what she’ll say to her. How she’ll explain things. How much she needs to explain. Preston and Savoy had mentioned that she knows enough, at least, which begs the question how long she has been like this. It’s not as if she and Roderick have any contact.
Celia drives toward Beach on Bourbon, the last place Dani had been sighted, to look for her trail.
GM: Late Friday night is when all the clubs’ monsters come out to play. Sweaty bodies are crammed so tight they can barely move, but they dance no less furiously. The musk of sweat, alcohol, and perfume is omnipresent. Love & Liars’ “Brother, Brother” pounds in Celia’s ears at triple decimals. Angry and disaffected youth dance to the entropic chord of oblivion.
Celia knows the lyrics well. Andi didn’t say the names Caine or Abel, but the subject matter of a man who murdered his brother cannot do aught but speak to their kind. The punk screams her fury, her pride, her curses upon the Almighty.
The Toreador’s predatory vision cuts expertly through the club’s dim lighting as she searches between faces. Stephen’s little sister is no longer so little. She’s a woman grown, dressed in a revealing black minidress with fishnets and heeled boots. There’s a lustful wildness to her eyes as she pounds her feet and grinds against her partners. Celia sees a young child of the night, heady with her newfound power and immortality, all-too ignorant of the elder terrors that have already taken umbrage at her impudence. A heartbeat still pounds in her chest. She does not smell lie Kindred. As the Toreador watches, she wraps her arms around a man and feeds from him in the middle of the club. Nobody pauses to stare amidst the revelry.
Celia: Convenient, she thinks, that Dani is here again.
And stupid. So very, very stupid. Even the Maxen of her mind agrees with her verdict as she watches Dani feed on someone in the open, flaunting the Masquerade like only a fledgling without a sire can.
There are things called bathrooms. Or corners, at least. Not in the middle of the crowd. Not that she doubts the girl’s cojones; it takes a lot of balls to sink fang-deep into someone like this in unfamiliar territory. An idle thought crosses her mind, wondering if the pair will be interrupted by the holder of said domain, but she imagines that the eyes Savoy and Preston have put on the young almost-lick prevent the club’s proprietor from getting too grumpy about it.
Perhaps, though, the feeding in the middle has merit. Maybe she knows that everyone is so busy grinding and playing grab-ass around her that they won’t stop and stare at the vampire in their midst.
She gets a drink for herself at the bar while Dani feeds, sliding a twenty to the bartender to keep her own mask firmly in place. Drink in hand, Celia joins the throng of sweaty mortals on the floor. She dances with various partners while the girl feeds, spinning and twisting and dipping her way across the floor, keeping an eye on Dani all the while.
She waits for the right moment to pounce.
GM: It’s as the DJ mixes in Andi’s “Damage Control,” seguing flawlessly from a brother’s murder to cleaning up a murder, that Dani pumps her fists, spins, and finds herself almost chest to chest with Celia. Her eyes flash with surprise.
The Toreador can make out her fangs. They’re tiny things, barely more than normal teeth with sharpened points.
Celia: Dani is hardly the first thin-blood that she’s seen. But this is the first she’s been so close to. Celia, master of deception, feigns surprise as the crowd brings the pair of them together. She woos with the opening chorus of Damage Control, voice pitched high to match the sirens in the song that Andi so effortlessly belts out every time she sings.
Celia passes her drink to someone else—someone who is happy to accept the full cup from the pretty girl—and draws Dani into her arms as if she were any other girl on the floor as the music throbs around them.
GM: If Dani is taken aback, it’s only for a moment.
She leans in to Celia’s embrace, then sinks her fangs into the other vampire’s neck.
Celia: Oh. Well. This is awkward.
Celia’s hands fist through Dani’s hair, but she doesn’t jerk away. She presses herself closer to the thin-blood as fangs find her neck, knowing that to pull away would only draw attention.
She lets the thin-blood take a hit, long enough that the bond will settle into place. And then she murmurs in the girl’s ear, “Greedy little lick.”
GM: Dani’s kiss doesn’t feel as good as other vampires’. It doesn’t leave her weak in the knees with ecstasy. It’s merely pleasant. A nice feeling. By way of comparison, it’s like having sex with a virgin, or a guy who’s only half-hard.
Celia: She wonders how weird it’s going to be when she tells Roderick she half-fucked his kid sister.
With her itty bitty baby fangs.
GM: Stephen’s sister blinks.
“WHAT DO YOU MEAN, GREEDY?” she shouts over the music to make herself heard.
Celia: Does she not recognize what Celia is by taste alone?
A frown mars her features. She leans into Dani, but her words are lost to the music and bodies around them. Shaking her head, Celia takes her by the hand to pull her off the floor and find a quiet corner where they can chat. Perhaps the aforementioned bathroom. Or outside, even, before Reynaldo sends someone to deal with the thin-blood feeding so blatantly in his club.
GM: Dani stands still for a moment, then seems to consider and follows after Celia.
The bathroom is less loud, but no less distracting. Sounds of fornication emanate from within. Many sound pained.
Celia: Hardly the ideal location. She imagines that the predators who have orchestrated those pained cries are too busy taking advantage of their victims to pay attention to the girls tottering into the only stall left.
At least the Ventrue won’t find them here. Awkward to explain that she’s trespassing in his club.
GM: Dani doesn’t walk into the stall immediately. She pounds her fist against the filthy, obscenity-scrawled door the cries sound from, blinks only once when it comes open unocked, and yells, “HEY! FUCK OFF!” at the larger man sodomizing a crying teenage boy.
The man’s eyes widen for a second like Dani is the bigger, stronger one, then he barrels out.
She kneels down by the teenager and asks, “Hey, are you-” but he just screams, slaps at her, and runs off.
Celia: Hip against the dirty counter that holds a handful of sinks, Celia crosses her arms over her chest to watch the display. Something that might be amusement dances in her eyes at the sight of the man running from the girl. It dies once the hand finds Dani’s cheek.
GM: “You try to do the right thi…” Dani starts, then trails off at Celia’s touch.
Celia: “They never thank you for it,” she says to Dani. “But it’s admirable to try.”
GM: Another guy comes in, gives an annoyed grunt at the full urinals, and starts pissing into the sink.
Celia: Celia gives the man a look that could curdle milk.
GM: “You want a drink, bitch?” he leers at her.
Celia: “I choke on small things.”
GM: “Fuck you, cunt.”
He moves his junk to start peeing over her.
Celia: “You’d like to.” Her head tilts to one side. Her eyes might flash, but maybe that’s a trick of the light. She smiles at him. It’s a little wider than it needs to be. Shows a little too many teeth. Not fangs, never that, not with this face.
At least until he moves.
Then she sends it out of her in a wave of crushing emotion. He does want to fuck. But he doesn’t want to fuck her. He wants to fuck the stall door, the place where it latches to close. Such a small hole is the perfect size for his dick.
GM: Celia nimbly sidesteps the stream of piss. The man’s sneering expression suddenly gives way to a look of lust. He shakes out the last piss from his newly-erect willy, pulls open the door, and starts trying to pound the tiny hole.
“Perhaps another venue,” she says to Dani.
GM: Dani looks between the man and Celia, then Celia and the man.
Then she nods.
“Ah, FUCK!” he yells, grabbing the door with both hands.
Celia: Celia takes her hand once more to avoid getting lost in the crowd. They step out of the bathroom and Celia worms through the mass of writhing bodies toward the front door.
She leaves the man with his toy.
She’s done enough good deeds for one night.
Saturday night, 12 March 2016, AM
GM: The pair make their way out into the night, heels clicking against the asphalt. Love & Liars still pounds from outside, but it’s low enough to make themselves heard, at least insomuch as one can in the Quarter on a Friday night. Drunken tourists and club-goers stumble along the streets, laughing or yelling about things that only make sense to themselves, some with open carry cups in hand. A few obvious tourists wear Mardi Gras beads, which Dani rolls her eyes at.
She finally looks back at Celia, questions dancing in her eyes. And some measure of apprehension.
“How did you do that…?”
Celia: Even outside, Celia doesn’t let go. She knows there are other dangers in the evening, and she won’t be the one who loses Dani because she hadn’t been paying attention. They look like just another pair of drunken college co-eds, tottering their way from bar to bar.
“It’s a trick I picked up a long time ago. A combination of tricks, actually. Usually it makes them want to focus on me.” She flashes Dani a sly smile. “You used something similar earlier. To make the man run when he was hurting that boy.”
“Have you done that before? Used the charm like that?”
She keeps her voice low, conscious of prying eyes and ears.
GM: Maybe a little old to be co-eds, if someone were to ask their ages. But still fun-seeking 20somethings, unburdened by the responsibilities of real adult life.
“Yeah,” Dani says slowly. “Are you… a vampire?”
Celia: Gui’s earlier commentary about the V-word comes to mind. She almost laughs at how different this is from her first “talk.”
“Yes. There are other words for it, but yes. Like you.” Her eyes move toward Dani. “How long?”
GM: Not really like her.
But close enough.
“Just this week,” says Dani. “You?”
Celia: A week?
“Since 2009. How did it happen?”
GM: Dani blinks. “That’s… when you broke up with Stephen.”
Celia: “That’s why I broke up with Stephen. I didn’t want to hurt him. And it wasn’t safe, if I were around him.”
GM: Emotions swirl over Dani’s face. They aren’t happy ones.
“You really hurt him, you know. He never got over you.”
Celia: “I know,” Celia says quietly. “I had to live with that for a long time.”
“I still… I still have to live with that. Knowing what I said to him. I assume he told you.”
GM: “He said you’d cheated on him.” Dani’s voice is stiff.
“I remember what I said to you, at that dinner. How he was really into you.”
“He never got over it. And then he died.”
Celia: “I told him I cheated on him,” Celia says. The words are bitter. “I told him what I thought would prevent him from coming after me, because if I hadn’t he would have looked for, chased after me. I’m not proud of it. I should have handled it better. There’s no easy way to tell someone who is still alive that you’re not.”
GM: “You could have just told him the truth.”
Celia: “A week ago, would you have believed me?”
GM: “I’d tell him. If he was still alive.”
“You could’ve shown him. The fangs.”
Celia: “I thought about that. Telling him. There are people that help us during the day, when we sleep. I thought about turning him into that, bringing him with me into this. But it’s… I couldn’t do that to him. I thought he deserved better than that.”
GM: “Help us during the day?” Dani looks confused.
Celia: “Do… do you sleep during the day?”
GM: “Well, sure.”
Celia: “Because the sun burns.”
GM: “No it doesn’t.”
Celia: She actually blinks at that.
GM: “The sun doesn’t burn. I looked it up in Dracula. It didn’t for him either, he just lost his powers. I guess that’s how it works.”
“What, does it for you?”
Celia: “Have you been in the sun since you were turned? Tested this?”
GM: “Yes, I tried my toe first, to see what would happen.”
“I didn’t burst into flame, so I tried the rest of me. I’ve gone outside a few times.”
Celia: “And it doesn’t hurt? At all?”
GM: “I don’t like how it feels. I’m tired and it’s bright without sunglasses. But I can if I want.”
GM: “That’s not how it works for you?”
Celia: “No. We burn, usually.”
“Sometimes our Beasts take over to prevent us from even trying. Its survival instinct is… strong.”
Celia: “The thing inside you. The monster.”
GM: “What thing?”
Celia: “The… the thing.” Celia stops walking. She turns wide eyes on Dani. “You don’t feel it? Pacing, snarling, always hungry? When you get mad or scared it takes over.”
GM: Dani gives her an odd look. “I’m thirsty for blood, sure.”
“Uh. Sorry for… drinking from you.”
Celia: Celia waves a hand.
“I baited you. I knew you were here. It’s fine.”
GM: “Your blood tasted… really strong.”
Celia: “I’ve always been curious, you know. What I taste like.” She lifts her brows at the girl.
GM: “Sort of like… it reminded me of makeup. Really sweet, too.”
Celia: Celia laughs at the description.
“That makes sense. Have you met others like us?”
Us, she says kindly. No reason to make Dani feel bad.
GM: “No. I thought I might’ve been the only vampire in the world. Are there many others?” She looks at Celia curiously.
Celia: “Not even the one who turned you?”
GM: Dani’s brow furrows.
Celia: “Do you remember how it happened?”
GM: “I was… here at the club, drinking. I used common sense, I watched the bartender mix everything, but someone must’ve… must’ve slipped me something. Maybe it was the bartender.”
“I don’t remember a lot after that.”
Celia: Celia nods. She’d expected as much, that Dani doesn’t remember.
GM: “I woke up in a garbage dumpster. That was fun.”
Celia: “Oh. That’s… not ideal.”
GM: A fitting origin, for the thin-blooded.
Baptized in garbage.
Celia: Celia doesn’t say that, of course.
Her fingers drum against her thigh.
“I thought I was in Hell when I woke up. There was a man standing over me and I thought he was the devil.” She gives Dani a wry smile. “Without knowing about this beforehand, there’s no easy way to transition. But to answer your earlier question, yes, there are a lot of us. A lot of us in the Quarter, a lot of us in the city, a lot of us in the world. We’re all over.”
GM: “Oh,” says Dani.
She seems to think.
“Do you want to sit down? My feet are getting sore in these shoes.”
Celia’s haven’t once gotten sore. One of the perks to undeath. She can wear whatever she wants, as high as she wants, for as long as she wants.
Celia: “Of course.” Another note to file away.
Celia leads her down the street to an empty bench. She looks around them as they walk, watching the tourists and clubbers as they go about their business. She nods to a pair of mortals that pass them by.
“What do they smell like to you?”
GM: “What do you mean?” Dani asks as she sits down.
“I can smell their blood. That’s stronger.”
Celia: “Yes,” Celia says, nodding. “But they smell human, right? Like… prey. Food?”
GM: “It smells good, yes.”
Celia: “Okay. Now focus on me for a minute.”
GM: Dani looks at her.
Celia: Celia lets her aura drop. The thing that masks her Beast disappears between one moment and the next.
GM: “Is there something I should look for?”
Celia: “Do I smell different?”
GM: Dani pauses, leans closer, and sniffs.
Celia: “Sometimes,” Celia says slowly, choosing her words with care, “we can recognize each other on sight. The reason I’m asking is because I need to know what you can do. How much you know. So I can fill in the gaps.”
“People like us,” Celia explains, “they’re not always friendly. And if you’re caught somewhere you shouldn’t be… it can get ugly.”
GM: “Well, I guess you do smell stronger. But that might be confirmation bias, since I think that’s how you… taste, too.”
Celia: Celia nods her head. “Older blood will taste stronger. Generally.”
GM: “What do you mean, we’re not friendly? Do we have a… society?”
Celia: “Sort of. It’s like… it’s like gangs, right? The older you get the stronger you get. And the strongest are in charge most of the time. They divide up the city into little chunks and parcel it out. And it prevents chaos, so we don’t fight with each other over resources. Keeps us from feeding in the same area too often so we don’t tip off the people who shouldn’t know about us. Everything is secret.”
That’s kind of a rosy way of explaining it.
“Because there are people who want to kill people like us. Just for being what we are.”
GM: “Like… Van Helsing?” Dani asks.
Celia: “Pretty much.”
GM: “Van Helsing and his people did kill Dracula.”
Celia: “These people kill licks.”
GM: “I reread the book. Looked around on the internet. I don’t know how much of it is true and how much is just… pop culture.”
“Licks is our name for vampires?”
Celia: “I’d like to help. To fill you in. Keep you from getting in trouble.”
GM: Dani nods eagerly. “Yes, please! Whatever you can tell me. You sound like you’ve been… doing this for a while.”
Celia: “Lick is the common name. Kindred is the… eh, socially acceptable term. Lick is slang.”
GM: “I’m not sure where to start. I have so many questions…”
Celia: “All right. Well. The first rule of lick club is that you don’t talk about lick club.”
GM: “Oh. Ha. That makes sense.”
Celia: “I’m happy to answer your questions, though. And to offer you a place to hunt. And stay, if you need it.”
GM: Dani pulls up her feet onto the bench and sits cross-legged as she listens.
“Hunting is feeding, I’m guessing?”
Celia: Celia nods.
GM: “Okay, dumb question. That’s… what predators do.”
Celia: “Nah. There are some weird terms sometimes, it’s not a dumb question.”
GM: “True. I’ve mostly been hunting here, this past week. I’ve been hoping someone might come by with answers. But it’s been a week, and I’ve not seen anything.”
“I talked to the bartender and he just said he didn’t see anything. And denied spiking my drink.”
Celia: Celia is about to tell her that she doesn’t want the guy who holds the domain to find her when that bartender comment stops her in her tracks.
“What did you say to the bartender?”
GM: “I told him I thought I’d been drugged, and how I woke up in a dumpster. I didn’t say I was a vampire. But I got really in his face. He just repeated he didn’t know anything.”
Celia: “What exactly do you mean by getting in his face?”
GM: “I cornered him when he got off work, not just at the bar. I stood in front of his car door and yelled at him. He didn’t blow me off. He broke down and just said how he didn’t know anything. That he was sorry.”
“I think I did it to him. That same thing I did to the rapist.”
Celia: “It’s a useful trick.”
GM: “It’s not always useful. Sometimes I can’t do it.”
Celia: “Can you do anything else like that? Anything… unusual?”
GM: “That’s it, really. I can’t fly or turn into a bat or anything like that.”
Celia: “Ah, well, very few of us can fly.”
“How long after you woke up did you corner him?”
GM: Dani raises her eyebrows at that, but answers, “Maybe 24 hours after. I was… trying to sort my own shit out, first. And I figured he’d still be there at the club.”
Celia: Celia nods again. “What day was this?”
GM: “Sunday, technically. A Saturday late enough to bleed over into Sunday. That’s when I became a vampire.”
“So this would’ve been Monday night, AM, when I talked to the bartender.”
Celia: “All right. I have some theories, but I need to do some digging to see what else I can find. See if we can track down who did this to you and why.”
GM: “You said this was like gangs, with territory. Have I been in someone else’s…?”
Celia: “Ah, yes. But I have my own, and I’ll show you where it is, and you can feed there. Discretely.”
GM: Dani’s face flickers. “I’d also like to know. Who did this to me. I think I, that I might’ve been…”
Celia: “The guy who runs this place, though—”
She cuts off.
GM: “I woke up in a dumpster.”
Celia: “Might’ve been…?”
Don’t say raped.
GM: Dani blinks. Angrily, helplessly.
Celia: “Oh, sweetheart…” Celia leans over, pulling Dani into her embrace. “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry this happened to you.”
“We’ll find the bastard.”
GM: Dani breaks down crying against Celia’s shoulder.
“I… I shouldn’t have been here, drinking… fucking off law school… shows what, what I get…”
Celia: She was going to law school?
Celia’s heart clenches. She was trying to fill Stephen’s shoes.
She runs her hands up and down Dani’s back while she cries, letting her get it all out, making encouraging noises to her. Sometimes that’s all someone needs, a firm hug and a friendly ear, and Celia knows that she’s been in this position enough times to want to be able to be there for someone else. Especially Stephen’s sister. But not just because of that, no. She’d liked Dani. Really liked her. She thinks they would have been close if Celia hadn’t… died.
“I’m not going to say it’s okay,” she says quietly as she holds Dani, “because it’s not. It’s not okay what happened to you. And I hate to tell you that I… that I’ve been there, I get it. It’s awful. What some of them do, it’s awful. But we’ll get you through this. And it will be okay, even if it’s not right now.”
GM: Dani sniffs as she clings to Celia.
Sniffs, like a breather.
“Tha… thanks… I don’t, I’m not gonna let them to get away with this, it’s not right…”
Celia: “It’s not,” Celia agrees. “It’s not.”
How can she tell her?
How can she say that there might not be anything they can do… all because of what she is? Someone had called her half-human once, like an insult, because she fucks and her heart beats and she breathes without conscious effort. But that’s the Blood doing it for her, keeping her skin warm. With Dani… it’s just blood. Lowercase B. She really is half-human. At least.
She wonders if Dani even tastes like she’s human.
GM: It’d be easy to find out.
“I’m so glad… I’m so glad you’re here, Celia,” Dani sniffs, holding on to her brother’s ex. “I just felt so alone…”
Celia: “You’re not alone anymore, Dani. I’ve got you.”
GM: “I’d love, I’d love to stay and…. hunt with you, that’s really nice of you to offer…”
Celia: “Then it’s yours. Now, dry eyes.” Celia pulls back, using her fingers to wipe away the tears on Dani’s face. “Chin up. We’re in this together. Come on; I’ll show you everything.”
GM: Pinkish, half-red and half-clear tears come away under Celia’s fingers. She can smell the diluted coppery tang.
Celia: She’ll pass her off as a ghoul. She’s already working through the logistics in her mind.
GM: Dani takes a steadying breath.
“Okay… where to?”
Celia: “Down Bourbon Street. I’ll show you my clubs and explain the rules as we go, and then I’ll take you to my place. I don’t stay there every night, so you’ll have it mostly to yourself. It’s comfortable and clean and you can help yourself to my clothes. I have some ideas for you, but there are some things I need to look into as well…”
Celia rises, taking Dani’s hand once more. She gives her a squeeze that reinforces everything she just said: they’re in this together.
Saturday night, 12 March 2016, AM
Celia: Celia talks as the girls travel down Bourbon Street. She explains the rules to Dani in as kind of language as she can find, filling her in on her new life. Unlife. Requiem. Whatever word Dani wants to use for it, but Celia provides the alternatives. She talks briefly about their society at large but most of her focus is on the city: the factions, the cold war, the way the territory is split. She’s alarmed but unsurprised to find that Dani lives in Riverbend and attends Tulane, and she makes sure to tell her that… well, that she needs to stay out of Riverbend. If Dani asks why, Celia tells her about the sheriff. She tells her about what happens to people who trespass, but how for Dani it might be worse.
There are rules, she explains, about turning someone into what they are, and it sounds like whoever did it to Dani didn’t have permission, which essentially makes her illegal. So, too, does her ability to walk in the sun. Duskborn, she says, not thin-blood, but as politely as she can she explains how others will see her.
The Quarter is safe, she tells Dani. The lord who runs the Quarter allows duskborn to settle in his domain, but everywhere else they’re hunted. If Dani makes noise about leaving the Quarter Celia quietly tells her about the massacre her friend had once witnessed, and says that getting caught is… well, she won’t have much to worry about anymore because, frankly, she’ll be dead.
She makes sure that Dani understands the severity of the situation before she moves on.
Celia takes Dani to the two clubs in her domain, Bourbon Heat and The Cat’s Meow, though they linger outside rather than going in since Dani has apparently already fed. She explains how her domain stretches down the block, that all of the residences along Orleans St, St. Peter, and Dauphine along this block are hers as well. Feeding at the club is always easiest, though.
“Except the Gardette Mansion. It’s haunted. I’d avoid it.”
At Dani’s look of interest Celia explains that they’re not the only monsters that go bump in the night. There are ghosts and werewolves (Celia calls them “loops,” like with the P at the end, which she thinks started as a joke but the term stuck so that’s what she uses now), people with magic, and more besides. Cities are safer, but even licks like them will fight and kill each other.
She warns her about feeding publicly. Warns her about cameras. Warns her about hunters, and that she was picked up by a pair at Bourbon Heat, so she’d avoid it for a week or so.
Eventually Celia takes Dani back to her place. The one she owns as Celia rather than the one she owns as Jade, since Alana might be at the latter. It’s not a large place, but it’s comfortable enough for a girl on her own, which is exactly what Dani is.
Stocked kitchen, Celia tells her, in case she still likes normal food.
Then she has questions of her own: Dani’s plans for the future. What she’d like to do. Her address in Riverbend so that Celia can retrieve her clothes and other necessities.
GM: Dani listens attentively as she walks with Celia. She has many questions, but she lets the Toreador tell things at her own pace too. Dani does ask why she can’t go to Riverbend, citing how all of her things are there. Plus school. The factional cold war seems like a little much for her to digest at once, and she asks about the larger Camarilla (“Who’s in charge? How are they elected?”) and its laws. The bit about the Fourth Tradition hits hard. Dani does not look happy to have broken the law through her simple existence.
She’s confused as to why duskborn are so hated.
She does ask why she can’t leave the Quarter. She does appear to grasp the severity of the situation, or at least as much as anyone can who’s brand new to all of this.
“I don’t… I don’t understand. Why do they hate me just because I can walk in the sun? How can they even know I can do that, if I don’t say so?!”
Dani is thankful, at least, that Celia shows her the clubs where it’s legal to hunt. She uses that word a perhaps unsurprising number of times. “Legal.”
She is very interested to hear that monsters besides vampires are real. “So, are mummies? Aliens? Dragons? What isn’t real?”
Dani is mindful of Celia’s warning and says she’ll avoid the Bourbon Heat. There’s no reason to go there when there are other clubs.
She likes the apartment and compliments Jade on how neat, clean, and well-decorated it is.
“It’s actually nicer than my current place, so no complaints…”
Celia: Celia answers Dani’s questions as best she can. She doesn’t know about aliens—“though how could we possibly be the only life forms in the universe?”—and doesn’t think dragons are real, but she says she knows a girl who experiments with animals who might be working on one, she’s just stuck on the fire part. And the wings part.
She’s glad that Dani likes her haven, in any case, and hands her a key as they take a seat on the couch together.
As far as the duskborn, though, she doesn’t have a good answer. Honestly, sometimes… she doesn’t understand it herself. Even Roderick had a strong response. She wonders if there’s something wrong with her. If she’s broken in some regard. Or if the fact that she appears more human than she is, that her life is so tied to the mortal she used to be, keeps her mind open.
Maybe she just misses the sun on her skin.
Or maybe she needs this to work so badly with Roderick that she’s swallowing down every bit of revulsion that she feels.
Regardless of the why, the fact remains that duskborn aren’t well-received in other parts of town, and even here they’re barely tolerated. Celia tells her that she’ll work on a cover story for her. She tells her that maybe they can say she’s a ghoul. As long as she isn’t seen feeding it might be a good cover for now.
She warns her about technology, too, and to not send anything sensitive over text or email or even look it up on the internet. It can all be traced back to them, and there are… well, a lot of hunters in the city.
“How much longer do you have left in law school?” Celia wants to know.
GM: Dani looks askance at the fact duskborn are so hated.
“So why don’t I just say I can’t walk in the sun, then? Is that all it is?”
Celia: “No,” Celia says with a sigh. “It’s… you read differently. Smell differently. Like a ghoul, not a vampire. They’ll know.”
GM: “That sounds like… Jim Crow. Discrimination. Just because I can walk in the sun.”
“Worse than Jim Crow. Ethnic cleansing.”
Celia: “It’s more than that, I think. The blood is power. The closer you are to the original vampire the stronger you are. The further away, the more generations removed, the… the weaker the blood, essentially. And that’s how they all see it.”
GM: “The original vampire? How close are you?”
Celia: “Nine steps removed.”
GM: “Weaker how? How many am I?”
“Sorry, lot of questions. This is all just… so much to take in.”
Celia: “Ah… I’m… I’m not sure for you, but I can test it, if you want.”
“You could be fourteen, or… maybe fifteen.”
GM: “Those numbers don’t really mean a lot to me without any context, sorry.”
Celia: Celia reaches for her hand. “May I?”
GM: Dani nods. “Okay. Go ahead.”
Celia: Celia lowers her mouth to Dani’s wrist. Her fangs sink into her skin. She draws the blood forth. She doesn’t take much, just enough to get a taste.
GM: Dani flinches slightly, but waits to see what Celia does.
Celia: The blood touches her tongue and Celia has her answers. She licks the wound to seal her flesh back together, pulling back as the sanguine liquid slides down her throat. Thin. Nothing like her brother. Similar to a ghoul, but there’s no strength to it, no potency. And no other licks in her system, none but her. It had been a long shot, anyway, long ago as her Embrace was, and even if she had tasted someone else she might not have recognized it.
Pete could tell her, she bets.
And, perhaps most telling of all, there’s no collar that slaps into place around her neck. She hadn’t waited long enough to let it cool, a risky guess but one she wanted the answer to. And now she knows.
“You can taste the difference in the blood. Recognize what clan someone belongs to, how strong their blood is, who they’ve been feeding from recently. Things like that.”
GM: “Oh. What’d you taste from mine?”
Celia: “I… I have a friend,” Celia says slowly, “who could use a sample to maybe find out more. I don’t know how soon he can see me, but if you want I can look into it, get some decisive answers.”
“You taste like a ghoul.”
There’s not a polite way to say it.
“It’s possible you can pass for one.”
GM: “Okay, so like a black person passing for white.”
Celia: “More like a mixed person passing for white.”
GM: Dani doesn’t look happy at the idea of having to hide what she is. But also like she has has no idea why she should be offended to pass as a ghoul.
Celia: “To be honest, the fact that you can move around during the day is a boon. Other ghouls can, so it can help sell the idea. And if you want to be a lawyer you could still practice. I know it’s difficult to keep jobs for a lot of people when we have to sleep during the day.”
GM: “Okay. You did ask about that, but I’m just struggling to understand. Why do they hate me?”
Celia: “Because they’re old and awful and set in their ways.”
“Because they don’t change and can’t accept anything new.”
“Because they were born hundreds of years ago and some of them are still racist.”
“Because the idea of anything that is different than them is scary.”
“Because some of them are so old they don’t know how phones work, or how to drive.”
“And they can’t keep up with the idea of a changing world.”
“And it really just comes down to something like racism.”
“That was a pretty spot-on assessment.”
“There are clans, all sorts of clans, and some of them hate each other for no reason, and some think they’re better than the others, and everything happened so long ago that no one even has the right story and it’s ridiculous and stupid but it’s just passed on and on and on for no reason.”
“I’m sure they think they have a reason. But it’s like any white person hating any black person without knowing them. It’s just… bigotry.”
GM: “So it’s basically just… beat me to it. It sounds exactly like racism.”
Celia: “That being said, there’s someone I can talk to about this. I’m seeing him tomorrow. He might have a better answer as to the why. I can’t promise anything, but I’ll see what I can find out.”
GM: “I think they must be jealous of duskborn, is why. That we can walk in the sun and they can’t.”
Celia: “Could be.”
GM: “I don’t like this. It’s… unjust.”
Celia: Celia smiles at her.
“You sound like Stephen.”
GM: Dani smiles back. A little sadly, but there’s fondness in it.
“I guess I do.”
“I miss him.”
Celia: “I imagine losing him was hard. On you and your dad.”
GM: “It was. My dad… God, I don’t know how it didn’t destroy him. It nearly did.”
“I’ve gotten over it. I’ll always miss and remember Stephen, but I’ve moved past it.”
“My dad never has. I don’t think he ever will.”
Celia: “Parents shouldn’t bury their children.”
GM: “Stephen was just… his everything. Everything in our family’s past, everything in its future.”
Celia: “I know,” Celia says to her, “I know. I thought that same thing, when I heard. We’d talked about it. How… how he wanted to carry on the family line, continue the work of his father and grandfather. How our kids would…”
She cuts off, shaking her head.
She would have married him. Had children with him. Watched them grow up to be just like him. They could have had that. And now they’re both dead. And Dani is dead, or half-dead, or something, and their dad… their dad is all alone.
She wipes at her eyes. This isn’t about her. Or Stephen.
GM: Dani squeezes Celia’s shoulder.
“Yeah. He wanted that too.”
Celia: “I’ve adapted, you know. Got used to it. Like you, I didn’t have a choice. And I’m happy most of the time. But… Christ, do I hate them for what they took from me. I remember those first nights. Hearing him on the phone, not able to understand why I couldn’t see him. And leaving him. Breaking his heart. I was… I couldn’t stop crying. Two nights, three nights before I died, we’d finally said it, you know? That we loved each other. And then it was over. I was dead. Then he…”
“And no one on this side cares what your life was, not unless they can use it against you somehow, so there was no one to talk to about it.”
“Sorry. This… not about me, sorry.”
GM: Dani hugs her.
“I’m sorry. It sounds like… it sounds like you didn’t want to hurt him. That means something.”
“It does. It really does.”
Celia: “I hated myself for what I did to him. I still do sometimes. It creeps up on me.”
GM: “It wasn’t your fault. You didn’t have a choice.”
Celia: It almost comes pouring out of her then: how she’d thought she was making things right when she’d been snatched up and killed. But the words die in her throat, and she just nods her head, hugging Dani close to her. She doesn’t sniff, not like Dani had.
“I’m sorry it happened to you this way,” Celia finally says, pulling back. “I’ll find answers for you, see what else can be done. Right now the safest place is the Quarter, though, and… I mean, your status aside, it’s the best feeding in the city, so that’s good at least. Lots to do and see. If you don’t have a Beast it’s safer for you to be around people, too. Maybe convince your dad to move to the Quarter?”
GM: “That… might be hard. He doesn’t really have a reason to, does he?”
“Unless we tell him the truth. He was a federal prosecutor, he won’t blab. He can keep secrets.”
Celia: Celia shakes her head.
“You can’t tell anyone. Ever. If you do, they die, you die. It’s not my rule, it’s just how it is. There are people who make sure that you don’t talk. They’ve got eyes and ears everywhere.”
GM: “They can’t know everything.”
Celia: “You’d be surprised.”
“Don’t tell him. Put him off for now if he wants to see you. Make excuses for your classes. Let me talk to a few people, see what arrangements I can make.”
None with her sire, she already knows that much.
There’s no way he’d let her in.
Celia: “It can be problematic if you don’t have a way to hide. None of the licks know me as Celia. Fake names, all sorts of stuff.”
GM: “He… told me a lot, by the way. About your mom and dad…” Dani’s face turns sympathetic.
Celia: “He helped my mom and I out of a really bad situation. I don’t know that I’d have had the strength to leave without him.”
GM: “I’m glad he was able to do that. That’s what he and Dad always wanted him to do. Make things right through the law.”
Celia: The law hadn’t really helped much, not with Maxen.
Though she supposes some of that is on her.
Warning her sire. Selling out her family.
GM: “It’s… it might mean a lot to my dad, to hear from you that there’s more to the story, and that Stephen helped your family.”
Celia: “Do you want to know something silly?”
“Stephen and I used to talk about getting our parents together. Your dad and my mom.”
GM: Dani laughs. “Cue a bunch of ‘what are you doing, stepbro’ memes, I guess.”
“That’s sweet of him, though. He really did just want to make people’s lives better.”
Celia: Celia can’t help but laugh along with her.
“I said the same thing when he brought it up. I can talk to your dad, though. We can just say we ran into each other. I can’t tell him the full story, not about being a vampire, but I’d be happy to talk to him again. I really liked your family. That first dinner we had together… well, Stephen told you. Dinner wasn’t like that at my house.”
GM: “He did tell me that. The worst dinner of his life, he called it.”
Celia: “It was bad.”
“Is your dad still in Uptown?”
GM: Dani nods. “He still is. He keeps saying the house is too big for him, though. He’d wanted to pass it to Stephen, when… when I guess the two of you had kids.”
Celia: Celia swallows.
“That would have been really nice of him. I would have liked that. We both would have.”
GM: “I think he still wants to do that for me, at least, when I do.”
Celia: “I’ll talk to the regent. See if I can arrange to visit. Or maybe we can have your dad come here, that might be easier.”
GM: “I could call him. He’s really busy, usually, but he’d make time for Stephen.”
Celia: “That works. We can set something up.” Celia glances at the time.
GM: Definitely too late to talk to the man, but there are some hours in the night remaining.
Celia: “Probably wait until tomorrow.”
GM: “That still seems so weird you need to talk to a…. regent, just to see someone.”
Celia: “It’s not ideal. I used to think ‘hello yes you’re an immortal vampire now, please stay inside the lines.’ But they’re very… strict. You’d be killed.”
“The one where your dad lives is, uh… he was one of the licks who helped kill all those duskborn I told you about. Was happy to do it.”
“Not everyone is bad, but some of them really are monsters.”
GM: Dani shakes her head. “I still can’t believe that’s a thing.”
Celia: “It’s a big change from what you’re used to.”
GM: “Why the fuck do they hate us, just for not combusting in the sun?”
Celia: “Because they’re a bunch of assholes.”
GM: “I mean, sure, jealousy, but what you’re talking about… I just can’t picture it.”
Celia: “It’s like any culture. They marginalize what is different. What they don’t understand.”
GM: “I don’t know what I want to do, if I have forever, but I’d like to change that. It isn’t fair. It isn’t just.”
Celia: “There are a lot of people who agree with you. And you’re right. You shouldn’t be persecuted because of an accident of Embrace. It’s backwards thinking. But you have to keep in mind these people don’t change. Hundreds or thousands of years old, they’re the ones making the rules. And if you do something the wrong way, if you voice something the wrong way, if you don’t address them with the proper title, they’ll use it as an excuse to berate, hit, torture, kill.”
“I was late to an event this evening. Five minutes or so. And the looks I got?” Celia shakes her head.
“I got caught somewhere I shouldn’t be earlier this week. The person who caught me threw my mom off a roof. Told me to catch.”
GM: “What? Oh my god, did you?!”
Celia: “Yes. She’s fine.”
GM: “That… doesn’t sound fine.”
“Does she know about vampires, now? What you are?”
Celia: “No. The person who did it altered her memories. She can’t know. If she knew, she’d die. I’d die.”
GM: “What about if I want to have a husband? Kids?”
Celia: There’s silence for a beat. Can thin-bloods have kids? Her heart still beats, but…
“Vampires can’t have kids. And if you take a husband it would need to be someone who knows. Another vampire. But they don’t really marry, not like that. They have blood marriages, but it’s… the whole thing is kind of weird. We take lovers. But not really husbands.”
GM: Dani takes that in slowly.
“Why not? And we… we really can’t have kids?”
Celia: “It’s a different culture. Like if you went to Africa or Russia.”
GM: “I’m pretty sure I want them, some day.”
“Not right now, obviously, but I do.”
Celia: “So. I’ll be honest. Your kind, the duskborn, they’re new. Not a lot is known about them. I can’t have kids. My body is dead. But you still breathe, still have a heartbeat, still taste almost human. I can look into it, see what information I can find. We can run some tests on you, see what you’re capable of. I think you need to know anyway. I have some theories, but nothing proven.”
“That being said, socially, keeping a human family is very, very frowned on. If the wrong people knew about mine they’d be killed, maybe. For various reasons.”
GM: Dani looks relieved. “Okay. Like I said, not something I’m worrying about right now, but that’d be nice to know.”
“But that’s ridiculous. Keeping a family is… it’s an intrinsic right.”
“There was this court case, actually. About a deadbeat daddy who kept having kids with more and more women, and who never paid child support. He had an insane number of kids.”
“A judge ruled that he couldn’t have more until he coughed up child support for the ones he’d already had. But a higher court overturned the ruling. The right to reproduce and make babies was a fundamental human right.”
“They could throw him in jail if he didn’t pay child support, but they couldn’t order him to stop having kids. Not even being able to have a family is simply insane.”
Celia: There are plenty of people Celia thinks shouldn’t be breeding.
“Hard to have kids in jail. But I believe it. And I get it. You have to understand, though, things are different in this life. There’s no court. No arguing your case. The guy in charge says you’re guilty? You’re guilty. He kills you. Done.”
“I’ve been nice to you. I know you. And I’m not a monster. But if the guy who owned the club you were at found you? He’d have taken your head. At least.”
“And he’s not even the worst of them.”
“That’s also part of why we left. He and I are friendly, but if he’d caught me there I’d have been in trouble too.”
GM: Dani slowly shakes her head disbelievingly. “You said there were laws, with the Traditions. There has to be a channel through which to settle legal questions and to revise and update laws as needed.”
Celia: “There’s not.”
“The Traditions keep the powerful people powerful. That’s all they care about. All they respect.”
GM: “But that isn’t how the law works. Even Roman law, two thousand years ago… you had lawyers. You had magistrates. The law is an imperfect and constantly evolving body.”
Celia: “To humans.”
“Because humans change. Adapt. Vampires don’t. It’s static.”
GM: “If you don’t have that, what you’re describing sounds more like… gang rules than actual laws. A code of behavior that’s completely arbitrary and up to the whims of whoever’s enforcing it.”
Celia: “We’re not human anymore. Some of them get offended if you call them man or woman. We’re vampires. That’s it. Corpses. Dead. Sexless.”
GM: “That’s also stupid. I’m still a woman. You even say I might be able to have kids, and you don’t get much more womanly than that.”
“And, okay, even if I can’t, a woman is more than her uterus.”
Celia: “You’re thinking about it from your human perspective. What you think of as normal isn’t normal all over the world. Some places there’s still slavery, women are castrated, are seen as property. Language is different. Food is different. Religion is different. Look at any culture and you’ll see that. Even basic human biological needs: here in the States we have whole rooms devoted to using the bathroom. Some cultures just do it out in the open, right in the street. It’s not weird to them because it’s what they know. There’s no universal ‘normal.’ It’s all relative.”
“And now you’re part of a new culture. It’s enculturation. Growing up to think that what you know is normal.”
“And it’s not wrong, not morally. That’s how humans live. But we have our own culture with our own rules. And the people who don’t support what’s already in power are marginalized. Killed. Exiled. Et cetera.”
“So the Traditions… they’re put in place and maintained by the rich white men of America, basically. If you need a comparison. And you’re a poor black lady.”
Not even that.
Maybe a dog.
GM: Dani doesn’t look terribly happy at that.
In fairness, the kine are animals. Literal cattle. Thin-bloods and ghouls are a step up.
But only one step.
“All of this sounds wrong. Everything about the society you’ve described.”
“Does it do anything good?”
GM: It’s kept her posh and comfortable.
Celia: “There are people who are good. Who fight for change and equality.”
“Who want better for everyone.”
GM: “Are you one of them?”
Celia: “I’d like to think so. I could have killed you and no one would have stopped me. I try not to hurt people.”
GM: “Well, I’m glad you didn’t kill me.”
Celia: “But even the people in charge of those people, the ones who fight for change, only want some change. They set up that slaughter. They’d sell you out if it suits them.”
GM: “They don’t sound like they actually want change, then. Or they only want change for themselves. Sort of like how a lot of Second Wave feminist leaders were white and didn’t want to be associated with black feminists.”
“I’d like to meet some of those licks, anyway. Who want actual change that applies to duskborn too.”
Celia: “I’ll see what I can do. A lot of them are pretty quiet about it.”
GM: Dani nods. “Okay. And thanks. I’m not mad at you, I’m mad at this system you’ve described.”
Celia: “I know. I get it. I would be too. I was for a long time.”
“The people in charge play games with people like us. Younger licks.”
GM: It helped that she benefited from the system. Strong-blooded Toreaor childe of a harpy like her.
Celia: It did help.
But she doesn’t rub it in.
“Stupid games because they’re petty.”
Besides, she thinks that being Savoy’s lapcat has done more for her than being Veronica’s childe.
GM: “I guess that’s what people in charge will always do, even if it’s worse here.”
Celia: She’s glad Roderick had his meltdown when Dani wasn’t around to see.
GM: “Hey. This might seem silly, but do you want to take a picture?” Dani smiles.
Celia: “That might not be a good idea. Your face isn’t going to change as you age. Staying out of photos should start now.”
GM: “Oh.” Dani looks disappointed. “But it has been just a week, and you’re on social media…?”
“Please? You’ve been so nice, you’re my brother’s girlfriend, and I’d really, really like to have something of us together here.”
Celia: What’s the worst that happens?
Dani gets found out as a thin-blood. They trace her back to Celia. Celia’s identity is blown. Someone kills her family. Someone kills her. Hunters tear her apart, or make her watch them kill Roderick, or…
Any number of things, really.
But she runs that risk already, doesn’t she?
GM: “I could keep it off social media. I’d just send it to you and my dad.”
“Or just you, if you’d rather talk to him first.”
Celia: “Okay,” Celia finally says with a smile. “Sorry, I know I sound paranoid. Sometimes we come out wrong in photos.”
GM: “Oh, it’s okay, all of this does sound really serious. I guess you’re used to being safe and not sorry. But, anyway!” Dani fishes out her phone from her purse, wraps an arm around Celia’s shoulder, holds up the phone, and smiles towards it. The device gives a click. She takes a couple photos, moving the camera for each one.
Celia: Celia reminds her to keep her lips together to hide her fangs. After that she smiles for the camera, making sure she’ll show up properly.
GM: Dani licks her teeth and says she doesn’t feel any. “They sort of just… appear, sometimes, when I get ‘in the mood.’ I guess like a boner.”
Celia: “That’s their term for it when they get turned on. Boner.”
GM: “That’s hilarious.”
Celia: “I thought so too.”
“I’ve seen duskborn with permanent fangs. You’re lucky yours hide.”
GM: “That does sound pretty inconvenient,” Dani frowns. “What’s your number?”
Celia: Celia gives it to her.
“Don’t send anything sensitive over text. The photo is fine. But no talk of vampires.” Celia had already told her, but she needs to make sure that Dani understands.
GM: Dani nods. “Okay, no vampires. These two came out crappy, but the others are good.”
Stephen’s sister taps off a text. The photos ping up on Celia’s phone. They show her and Dani sitting on the couch, the latter still in her club clothes sans boots. Her face and makeup look worn as if from a long night out, and perhaps even like they’ve shared something significant. But the photos are happy ones, showing the two with their arms around each others’ shoulders as they smile up at the camera like a pair of 20something breather girls.
They look like friends and equals, not a thin-blood and a true-blood.
Celia: Celia grins down at the photos. She’s happy she found Dani this evening, that she could give her a warmer welcome into the all-night society than she would have received from someone else. She’s pleased she has enough territory to share; she’ll just rely on her business a little more, feed from a few more clients to make up for the lack of hunting. And now Dani has someone that Celia thinks she desperately needed.
Maybe, she thinks, this can work. Maybe it won’t all blow up in her face.