“There’s a lot of dark things out there going bump in the night.”
Friday night, 11 March 2016, AM
GM: At 5 AM, Celia’s back in Pete’s office at the Evergreen. He gives a nodded, “Celia,” after she knocks and steps inside.
Celia: Celia smooths her skirt down after she shuts the door. She takes the seat across from him and can’t help but think that every time she’s in this office she feels like she’s in trouble. She’s glad that her hands can’t get clammy.
“Hello again, Pete. How was the rest of your evening?”
GM: “A gutter punk threw up on my shoes.”
Celia: “Was he aiming for your shoes? Or was it just a crime of opportunity?”
She’s decidedly not smiling.
GM: “She. I’m undecided whether it was deliberate, but inclined to think it wasn’t premeditated.”
Celia: “Lesser sentence, there. Good counsel, she could be out in five.”
GM: “Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending how you look at it, good counsel is rare for their ilk. We have one of the most overworked public defender systems in the country.”
Celia: “She’ll think twice before she barfs on another innocent pair of shoes.”
GM: “How was your evening?”
Celia: There’s a loaded question.
She’d lied to her brother about not hearing back from Isabel. Technically she’d phrased it as not a lie, I messaged her a few days ago but haven’t heard back, which is… true. She hadn’t heard back because Isabel is dead, though, which she left out. Celia is still debating what she can do with her identity. She had retrieved the phone from its hiding place, though, and brought it with her.
She’d also told Alana to be nicer to Emily and her mom since she’s going to have to pretend to be Celia for the next few days while they figure out this hunter stuff. And so she can trade in the old car. She’d been very, very thorough in her explanation about not saying anything sensitive in the car because it might be compromised and had given her explicit instructions on what kind of vehicle she is looking for. Told her to take Randy, too.
Then a back-and-forth with Roderick over whether or not he should come as far into the Quarter as Jade’s haven is, and they’d decided to go back to the same one from the night before since no one else knows about it. Except the sheriff, which she hadn’t told him, and considering he’s never come by twice in a row she figures it’s a safe bet.
No call from Veronica, either, which is less surprising than annoying.
She finally fixes Pete with a bemused smile.
“All right. Mom force-fed me dinner and talked about wanting a man in her life.”
“D’you still enjoy food, Pete? She sent me home with leftovers.”
GM: Logan hadn’t responded.
Alana was contrite.
Roderick was amenable.
Veronica was typical.
“Pawn it off to your renfields,” he says. “Someone might as well eat it.”
“Or Tantal, when you fix his face. He loves food.”
Celia: “I will. Might make him feel better after… well, the pain.” He knows how unpleasant it is. Celia does what she can to lessen what they feel, but there will always be a price to pay for the way she sculpts the flesh.
“Hey Pete, can I ask you a question before we get started?”
GM: “Go ahead.”
Celia: “Do you know of anything that eats souls?”
GM: He frowns.
Celia: “Yeah, like… human souls.”
GM: “Depending on who you talk to, those things are either closely related or only superficially so. Some insist ghosts are real people, just missing their bodies. Others think they’re just cheap copies and knock-offs going through the motions.”
Celia: “But there’s something that eats them?”
GM: “Well, we certainly don’t. We take enough from people as it is. But we stop at their bodies.”
“The concept of soul eaters exists in a few mythologies. Choctaw and African-American, to cite the most local ones. I can’t claim to have heard of a specific entity that eats souls, although the existence of one wouldn’t surprise me either. Souls are a form of energy and everything needs energy to sustain itself, even dead things like us.”
“I suppose it also wouldn’t surprise me for a creature like that to exist in this city. Ghosts are common as fruit flies here, especially in the Quarter.”
Celia: Celia nods. She doesn’t have much to go on. Em hadn’t been very specific, and the dream… she doesn’t remember a lot of the dream, really, just impressions. But the fact that something is eating ghosts, that she needs to kill things for him… she remembers that.
“Oh. I heard something about it, and I figured… well, maybe you would know.”
GM: “If Grunewald were still around I’d have recommended you talk with him. He was our ghost expert.”
“But in lieu of him, there’s Rosa Bale.”
Celia: “Yeah. I can give it a go. More interested in the what than the ghosts, really.” She lifts her shoulders, shrugging. “Plus I figured since you and I are best friends you’d be the lick to talk to.” She beams at him. It’s a pretty smile, even if the words are facetious. She’d meant what she said earlier: that she trusts him.
GM: “That’s us, staying up every morning to do each other’s hair and nails,” the Tremere deadpans.
“But as far as licks. There was a bloodline, once, that devoured souls as well as blood. Stole them right out of people’s bodies. Licks and breathers. Worshiped demons too, if that all wasn’t enough. My clan wiped out most of them a long time ago, but sometimes a survivor pops up. Does that sound anything like what you’ve heard of?”
Celia: She almost huffs at him. Best friends don’t have to do each other’s hair and nails. Life—unlife—isn’t a teen movie. She’ll get him a bracelet, though, for next time. “BFFs” or something similar. Braided rope, plastic beads. Maybe one with a heart on it. He’ll love it.
She keeps her mouth shut, though, as he speaks. Does it sound like what she’s heard of? She doesn’t think so, and she’s almost positive she knows what he’s talking about. The same thing she’d warned Jon about a month ago. Does he know she knows? Does he know Savoy has evidence of their presence in the city? Hadn’t Savoy said he tells Pete and Preston everything?
No lick tells someone everything. That’s just bad politics. Why not tell Pete about it, though, if he’d trusted her to tell the archon?
Unless Abélia is a soul thief. Does she eat licks, too? She could ask Em, next time he visits… if he visits… she supposes she has something for him. Four bodies. Her meeting with Ron. She’s looking forward to seeing him again in her dreams.
Finally, she shakes her head.
“I don’t think so. I got the impression she ate them mostly after they were dead.”
Souls for power, though. That makes sense. That’s a demonic thing, isn’t it? Classic demon worship. And licks are dead.
GM: Pete raises his eyebrows.
“She, you say?”
Celia: …whoops. Alarm flashes across her face for half a second before she can smooth it out.
Celia nods, though. Glances over her shoulder at the locked door. Lifts her brows back at him, as if to ask if he’s got some sort of privacy magic he can do.
GM: “There’s no such thing as a perfectly secure room, but this one is as secure as I can make it, short of you leaving your phone outside the door,” answers Pete.
Celia: She responds by pulling the battery out of her phone and setting it aside.
GM: “Smart,” says the Tremere. “It actually is possible to eavesdrop through phones that are just turned off. It’s less convenient, but it is possible.”
Celia: “Oh. Well. Better… to make it less convenient then.”
She’s quiet for a moment, chewing over the words. What to tell him. How to start. Her finger taps against the desk. Nerves. She pulls her hands back onto her lap, sits on them to keep from fidgeting.
GM: “It’s a trick with the gyroscope. The tiny vibrating chip that tells your phone whether it’s in horizontal or vertical position. It’s sensitive enough to still pick up soundwaves, so software can turn it into a crude microphone.”
Celia: “Oh,” she says again. Good to know.
GM: “It only picks up a fraction of words spoken nearby, and if someone wanted to use it to overhear a credit card number, there’s probably only a 50/50 chance they’d get the full thing.”
“But it’s something rather than nothing.”
Celia: Well, she did what she could anyway.
“I spoke to a ghost the other day. Who told me that there’s a… thing. She eats ghosts. And maybe people.”
GM: “But not a lick?”
Celia: “I don’t… think so. The ghost knew what I was, so I think if she was the same it’d have said that.”
GM: “If you’ve got a haunting problem, they can’t cross an unbroken line of salt. Hurts them. Getting salt over their bodies by any means hurts them.”
Celia: “No, that’s not the point. I mean, that’s good to know, but it’s not bothering me.”
She leans forward in her chair.
GM: “This sounds like something you might be better off leaving alone. There’s a lot of dark things out there going bump in the night. More than just us.”
Celia: “Right, well, I would. Only my mom goes over the house a lot.”
GM: He actually blinks.
Celia: “And her daughter is a lick.”
GM: “Uh, your mom should stop.”
Celia: No shit.
GM: “Ghosts aren’t unstoppable menaces, but they can be trouble. Something that’s adapted to prey on them sounds like something that could prey on licks pretty well too.”
“It’s like lions and tigers eating herbivores rather than each other. If you want a consistent diet, you prey on something that’s weaker than you.”
“And devouring souls is the blackest sort of magic. Can you think of anything worse, than destroying someone’s chance at an afterlife? That one piece of them which is truly immortal?”
Celia: Celia shakes her head.
“No. I thought we didn’t get an afterlife, though. Doesn’t the Embrace kind of kill all that, too?”
GM: Pete laughs.
“Sorry. Flattered you’re asking, but even Tremere don’t have all the answers.”
“That really comes down to what you believe. To faith.”
“I believe we get an afterlife, though. That we all face justice for our actions in life, and the Requiem. Hauled before the ultimate cop high up in the sky.”
Celia: Straight to Hell for her, then.
“Right.” There’s a brief pause. “So… your suggestion is to just leave the scary thing alone.”
GM: “You have any particular reason not to?”
“You sound like you don’t know a whole about this thing. There’s a lot of cops who are former military, and I’ve heard plenty say that bad intelligence is one of the most surefire ways to get somebody killed.”
Celia: “That’s why I asked you. Obviously I don’t want to poke it with a stick.”
GM: “Your mom seems to have a habit of doing that.”
Celia: “My mom wants to get back with Maxen.”
GM: “Longinus in fucking lingerie,” Pete spits.
Celia: “That’s what I said.”
“She started going on about how she misses him. How he took care of her. How it was so long ago. How Jesus wants people to forgive.”
GM: “Jesus forgave a lot of people. Know where that got Him?”
GM: “Yep. Hands and ankles nailed to a cross, dying a slow and torturous death from exposure.”
“But He got to die for our sins, because God was His old man. Is God your mom’s old man?”
Celia: I fuckin’ hope not. Apple fell pretty far from the tree if my mom is Jesus.
“To be fair, he died before I was born, so it’s entirely possible I’m wrong.”
GM: “I recommend she leave the forgiving rapist abuser scumbags to Him, either way.”
Celia: “Should have just put him down that night.”
GM: “What-ifs are useless.”
Celia: She sighs, rubbing a hand across her face. “I know, Pete.”
GM: “I also haven’t been able to reach my former partner. Find her another man.”
GM: “Gettis was never my partner.”
“Also not someone I’d have recommended to a delicate flower like your mother.”
Celia: Her hands drop back to her lap. She peers across the desk at him.
GM: “I am still not interested,” he says flatly.
Celia: “You are, that’s what bothers you. You just don’t want to risk it.”
GM: “Find an actual living breathing man, Celia.”
Celia: “I didn’t even say anything, Pete. I just looked at you.”
GM: “Uh huh.”
Celia: She just smiles at him.
GM: “Women all do that.”
Celia: “Look at you?”
GM: “Say things with looks and glances, instead of out loud, so they can play the doe-eyed innocent when it’s convenient.”
Celia: “That’s kind of sexist.”
“Further, like it’s been drilled into me, I’m not a woman anymore.”
GM: “Doesn’t make it wrong.”
“And you’re not. But old habits die hard.”
Celia: “Effective habits.”
“Got you thinkin’ about it, anyway.”
“Your surgeon friend didn’t know what to make of it either, though.”
GM: “Don’t tell me you tried to set up him,” Pete groans.
Celia: “No, actually.” Not really, anyway. She’d have slept with him, but she’s not going to tell Pete that. “Why, is he celibate?”
GM: “By our very natures, none of us are.”
Celia: “You know what I mean.”
GM: “Unfortunately so. Keep your mother away from the monsters. Mortal and otherwise.”
Celia: So much for finding out if North ever talked about her. Aren’t Tremere supposed to be tight?
Pete is the worst best friend.
“What, me too?”
“I’m trying to convince her to leave the city, to be honest, but I don’t even know if she’d be better off somewhere else. At least I can run interference here.”
“She just has a way of bumbling into danger.”
GM: “I don’t know how much luck you’ll have getting her, or anyone, to leave willingly if you can’t explain your reasons.”
“As far as that though, I’d say it depends. Are you good for each other? Have you ever lost control around her?”
Celia: “No. Never. I wouldn’t put them at risk by being around them like that.”
GM: “You’d be surprised how many licks do, through ignorance or carelessness. Or just flat-out feeding on their families.”
Celia: “I would never feed on them. I make sure I’m not hungry when I go over.”
GM: “Then I’d say you’re more considerate than those licks, and otherwise a good influence in one another’s lives.”
Celia: “They’re one of the only good things I’ve got going for me. Why would I mess that up?”
GM: “People do stupid and senseless things all the time. But I’m glad you’re not.”
Celia: “I’ll keep her around for you, no worries.”
GM: “Like arguing with a brick wall…” Pete mutters.
Celia: “I’m your favorite,” Celia tells him with a grin.
GM: “Right.” Pete glances at the time. “Don’t think you’ll have time to give Tantal his makeover tonight.”
He pulls out a cup from his desk. “Bleed into this if you still want to go ahead.”
Celia: “…is it going to hurt, Pete?”
GM: “It shouldn’t, beyond the initial prick.”
Celia: “I mean whatever you’re about to do.”
“What are you going to do?”
“Pull answers from nowhere, for all intents and purposes to a layman.”
Celia: “That’s it? Just answers?”
GM: “That’s all. You’ll see the blood go poof.”
“What do you most want to find out about these guys?”
Celia: Celia doesn’t need to cut herself again. She reaches into her purse and pulls out a small vial of red liquid.
“I took a sample earlier. I didn’t know if I’d burn through it trying to blend in at my mom’s.” She flashes a smile, then upends the vial into the offered cup.
GM: His eyes silently follow the sanguine trail.
He waits, though, to hear what she’s looking for.
Celia: Celia stares down into the cup. What she wants to know. Something to find out who is behind this all, mostly, but she doesn’t know if the blood can tell her that. And she might already have the answer. She looks back up at him and asks anyway.
“Who is behind all of this. What they want. How they’re finding us.” Her hand clenches into a fist. “How to stop them. Something to just ruin their whole operation.”
GM: “The bigger or broader your question, the vaguer your answer.”
Celia: Right. Even magic doesn’t make things easy.
“Is this like a twenty questions thing?”
She could ask if her own identity is shot. But she’s always been willing to sacrifice for the people she cares about, hasn’t she. It’s less important than finding out if someone sold him out or if he just got sloppy.
“Is who they’re working for too vague? I don’t even know if they’d know. How they found us, I guess.” She eyes him across the desk. “It’s not going to spit out something about GPS, is it? I mean how they found him to get to him. His place.”
“Because he said it was hidden behind a handful of pseudonyms. So it’s possible he just got tagged while he was out and followed home, and it’s all just a happy accident.”
And it’s possible these are the people the elders are working with and Roderick is just the first round of sacrificial lambs. Even if they’re “not religious.” How many groups of hunters are really in the city, though? But that doesn’t make sense if Coco is one of the people throwing names in, since she arranged for him to be protected before. Why throw him in the ring now? To make herself look innocent? Because she knew he could take them? Because she knew Celia would be there? Had Roderick told her even after they’d discussed not doing so? Maybe that’s why she sent them today (yesterday?), so that he’d have backup. Or it’s someone else working against the Anarchs. Someone with a rivalry, maybe. Savoy? But he’d sent her to collect Roderick, why move against him? He’s the in with the Calbido. Because he knew she’d be there—no, she’s overplaying her own importance. There are plenty of ways for him to get rid of her if he wants to.
It’s also possible that they followed her even though Pete already said that’s unlikely.
And maybe they’re not connected to licks at all and she’s searching for threads when there aren’t any.
Fuck, maybe it’s ghost boy, jealous that she’s back together with her ex when she said they could… what had she said? Dream together? Does sex with a ghost count as sex if it happens in a dream?
On that note, maybe it’s even Don—no. Better not even think that.
He’d been at the apartment, though. Had seen the mess left behind. Hadn’t asked about it, but he’d been in her head; who knows what sort of things he had pulled out of her.
She doubts he cares that much.
Cared enough to drop off a loose end, though.
And promptly throw her mom off a building the minute she’d admitted to a mistake. Maybe he thinks Roderick is a mistake. Maybe he doesn’t want her distracted. Maybe he doesn’t want Savoy to have an in.
And people with no regard to human life, sure sounds like him, doesn’t it? Pete said that wasn’t the point he was getting at, but…
“Yeah. How they found him. If he was sold out. By whom, if so.” She lifts her brows at him. “If that’s not too much.”
GM: “I guess we’ll see.”
Pete gestures sharply and barks several harsh-sounding phrases in a tongue that mostly feels like Latin to Celia, but something about the accent is… off. The blood in the cup writhes in place, splashing against against the rim like a giant spider that’s been stabbed through its abdomen by a knife. Helplessly flailing its eight many-jointed legs. Low hissing noises that sound like screams to Celia, yet no louder than a whisper, waft up from the blood’s angrily bubbling surface as an unseen force seems to burn it from within. The hissing liquid rises above the cup in a cloud of scarlet vapor.
Celia makes out crude figures in the mist. The three hunters, talking to two men. Dark and tall figures with metallic voices, droning words she can only partly make out. Address… where you’ll find him… last assignment… deliver staked… glinko…
Celia: Celia looks past the vaporous, bloody figures to Pete. None of this is new. Of course the hunters were given the address. Of course they wanted him staked.
Her brows lift.
There has to be more.
GM: The coppery-smelling fumes shift. Celia sees the hazy outline of a large and foreboding-looking building with monolithic architecture, the kind that makes everyone around it feel small and puny. It seems like something the prince would approve of. Heavy rhythmic thumps, like the disciplined march of an army, distantly echo.
Celia: It reminds her of every shitty cop show she’s ever seen, trying to put together the pieces of a crime scene or camera feed with only half the information or grainy images. Where’s the enhance button when you need it. She leans forward in her chair to see if she can make further sense of the vision.
If glinko is some sort of organization (the church? Does that mean Pete was wrong earlier when he said they weren’t religious, or just that they no longer need to be because no one is actually religious anymore so what does it matter?), who is the man on the ground? Who sold out Roderick? Who passed his information along to these two? How did they find out about him? Maybe she can’t go after an entire organization by herself, but she can find the rest of the puppets and cut their strings.
GM: Celia can’t make out anything more through the dissolving red plumes.
But she can hear something. A sibilant whisper against her ears.
There’s another faint, almost scream-like hiss in Celia’s ear as a coppery smell wafts across Celia’s nostrils, and then it’s gone. Pete’s cup sits empty.
Celia: It’s not a name she recognizes, but the prevalence of social media sites means she has a direction to go, at least. Maybe this “Lee” can provide her with more information. She’ll have to pay him (her?) a visit.
Tomorrow, though. Tonight she has more pressing matters to attend to, not the least of which is the rapidly approaching sunrise.
Her eyes find Pete.
GM: “You want to follow up on this?” he asks.
Celia: “Does that word mean anything to you? Glinko?”
GM: “Can’t say it does.”
Celia: “Church though, wasn’t it?”
GM: “Didn’t look especially church-like to me. No cross or stained glass.”
Celia: “Churches are usually distinct,” she agrees, “maybe more of a concept… organized religion. Catholicism. Army.” She turns the idea over in her head. Maybe she’s wrong.
“Throw childer to Inq. pyres,” she says quietly. She watches his face, to see if the words mean anything to him.
GM: He raises his eyebrows.
Celia: “The attack on Vienna.”
GM: Pete shrugs. “We squashed that. Anyone who’d make a run against our oldest elders on their home turf has a death wish.”
“Some of those Tremere were old when feudalism was new.”
Celia: “Glad to hear it. But it’s spreading. The people behind it.”
GM: The Tremere smiles humorlessly. “It’d chill your blood to learn just how far our elders go to get revenge, and how many ways they know to cause pain.”
“If any of the idiots behind that run on Vienna are still alive, they’re assuredly wishing they weren’t.”
Celia: Celia taps a finger against her thigh. She considers him, then finally just nods. She’d been hoping he could get her a quicker meeting with Savoy, but she thinks that she’s going to need to spill everything to him to get that, and she doesn’t have the time.
“I’m glad we’re friends then, Pete.”
GM: “Me too. Good luck with Roderick. Your grandsire will be very happy to flip him to our side.”
Celia: The smile she gives him doesn’t quite reach her eyes. It’s even a little bit sad, just one corner of her mouth ticking upward. Resigned, maybe.
“I hope so.
Celia doesn’t need to cut herself again. She reaches into her purse and pulls out a small vial of red liquid.
“I took a sample earlier. I didn’t know if I’d burn through it trying to blend in at my mom’s.” She flashes an apologetic smile, then upends the vial into the offered cup.
GM: “What do you want to find out most?” he asks.
Celia: “Do you have time to do one more, or do you think the sun will catch me on my way back home if we try it?”
GM: Pete glances at the time.
“Shouldn’t take long, so long as we don’t spend a while flapping our gums.”
Celia: Celia gives a brief nod. “I’d like to speak further with you about what we just saw, when we both have time. I believe it’s related to the information I have for Lord Savoy. Tomorrow?”
GM: “Elysium Primo’s tomorrow evening. I’m also on police duty, starting midnight. Saturday is better.”
Celia: She gives another brief nod. “I will make myself available. I’ll be around to fix Tantal tomorrow, anyway, if he’s here. Just have him text me.”
GM: “He’s here. He isn’t leaving until his face is his again.”
Celia: “I’ll do it first thing. Sorry I got caught up with talking to you earlier. I should have come by to fix him first.”
GM: “He doesn’t mind spending some off time here.”
“If your grandsire’s good at one thing, it’s keeping people entertained.”
Celia: She’ll have to ask the ghoul what he gets up to tomorrow when she works on him. Maybe he’s enjoying the girls Mel rents out.
“Don’t want to leave you without the help, though.”
GM: “He isn’t a cop. I don’t have him with me then anyway.”
Celia: “Well pardon me for worrying about you.”
GM: “It’s a grave sin, but I suppose I can if you’re contrite.”
Celia: “I’m not, really. Told Mom I’d look out for you.”
GM: “She should forget about me. In any case, what do you want to find out from this second sample?”
“As before, the more narrow your question, the more specific your answer.”
Celia: “So something like, ’what’s the worst thing this person has ever done’ or ‘what secret would they kill to protect’ might not fly?”
GM: “Almost anything flies, but you’ll get a vaguer and more cryptic answer if those sins and secrets aren’t recent ones.”
“There’s a saying among diviners. ‘Ask small questions, get big answers. Ask big questions, get small answers.’”
Celia: She doesn’t know what else to ask, though. She can look into Caroline’s public life herself. Roderick had told her how she’d been messing with the Anarchs, which is all mostly known by the rest of the licks. None of that really serves her purpose. He’d tasked her with bringing her to heel. That involves… dark things. She’s already planning on how to spin something else to blame the blonde if she moves against her…
Celia finally forces a sigh.
“I doubt anyone will take my word for it if I say I did it with a blood ritual anyway. Might as well see what it turns up that I can dig further into.”
GM: “So what do you want to shoot for?”
The detective adds dryly, “I also wouldn’t mind knowing whose blood this is.”
Celia: “She’s an enemy of Lord Savoy and stands directly in the way of what he wants. And she messed with my mom.” Quiet, but bitter beneath the tightly controlled words when she mentions her mother. “She’s the one with the mom who eats souls.” A look at him at that revelation, brows raised; after what he said about that sort of act she can’t imagine that he wouldn’t want to know what’s in this sample.
“Worst thing she’s ever done, then.” Maybe her ghost friend can help her uncover some secrets.
GM: Pete’s eyebrows raise too, but it’s not enough to eclipse the angry look his eye gets after Celia mentions Diana.
“She did, did she?”
“Tell me how.”
Celia: There’s a tale.
Celia keeps it brief.
“My mom teaches dance, as you know.” Does he know? She thinks, based on his reaction, that he pays more attention to Diana than Celia had realized. “Private lessons sometimes. She had a session with the lick’s kid sister at their house and she got emotional, and she was hit by some charm and some mind-fu—uh, mind twisting, memory stuff. And then she started crying outside and talking about Maxen taking her daughter away, and she got sick early the next morning and Maxen showed up. And Emily told me that she threw out her pain medication for her leg because she thought it made her say weird things and I think it was just a lingering result of the mind-twisting, and she’s refusing to take her meds now and she’s in pain and now I’m like well I better go see what Xola wants to fix her leg because otherwise she’s going to not be able to walk or something.”
Clearly exasperated, Celia looks like she wants to start pacing or throw her hands up in disgust. She does neither, but her fingers twist together on her lap.
“She’s delicate. She can’t take that sort of mind-bendy garbage and just… just bounce back like nothing happened.”
“And I don’t know maybe it’s all just a big coincidence but it sure doesn’t feel like one.”
GM: Pete gives a low growl.
“Keep your mom out of that damn house, you hear?”
Celia: “I’m trying. She doesn’t want to listen to me and it’s not like I can tell her the real reason.”
GM: “So lie about something. I know you’re pretty good at that. Or take some damn executive action, and put your foot down that she’s not going, you’ve decided she isn’t allowed anymore.”
Celia: “Yeah,” she says quietly. “I’ll figure it out.”
“…d’you think Xola would…? Your friend said he might teach me, but he’s gone now, and if she’s not on her meds anymore…”
It’s such a human problem that she feels ridiculous bringing it up to him, but she searches his face for an answer all the same. There’s no disguising the hope, desperation, and apprehension in her eyes. As if waiting for him to tell her to make it worth his time to even talk about it.
She’s asking, she realizes, if he’ll go with her again. As much as the back alley doctor hadn’t really phased her the first time she’d met him, Roderick’s warning rings in her mind.
GM: “Jesus Christ, kid,” Pete sighs.
“Leaving aside all the ways that’s a bad idea—and there are a lot of them—how the hell are you going to explain to your mom why you’re taking her to see a ghetto back alley doctor like Xola? Who can somehow work miracles a proper doctor can’t?”
Celia: It’s been a long time since she’s heard his voice in her head. But there it goes, whispering that word she hates so much.
She doesn’t say anything. Just nods her head, trying to control the desperation that makes her look for any answer to keep her family safe.
GM: “Put your foot down. Tell her she’s taking her meds. For good or ill, she’s used to someone telling her what to do.”
Celia: She nods again. She doesn’t trust herself to speak.
Celia: He has to be thinking it. That’s she’s stupid. Incompetent. He’d almost said as much two nights ago with his thinly veiled comments about the time she spends online. Do they regret fishing her out of the water?
She’s not. She’s not stupid. She’s useful, she can be useful.
“Vidal’s kid,” she says finally. “The blood. You asked who. That’s… that’s who. He has a childe. A new one.”
Less eloquent than normal. She must be rattled.
GM: Pete actually blinks.
Celia: “He has a childe. A fledgling. Months old.”
GM: “Yeah, and I’m actually Hardestadt’s.”
Celia: Celia blinks at him this time. Her brows furrow, but no crease dares to mar her perfect skin.
“Why would I lie about that?”
GM: “So just what is it that makes you think so?”
Celia: “I met her. Last night. She was in the Garden District, bold as brass, like she had every right to be there. And we shared blood, and she was… I mean, it was potent. Hers, and the stuff inside of her too. It’s not like I go around chomping on elders but… Pete, I’ve never tasted anything like it. And you know that trick with the speed, how you can share it? She did that. Months old.”
And her sire confirmed it, but she doesn’t think she should tell him that.
GM: “There’s other ways of pulling that off. And getting strong blood.” Pete gives an ominous look. “Some pretty nasty.”
“I’d be more inclined to suspect those.”
Celia: “Maybe,” Celia says. “Considering whatever her mom is, sure, I could see that. And maybe she’s just a natural with the speed. It makes more sense than the alternative. And I’d probably believe that if she hadn’t sicced the sheriff on me and he hadn’t threatened me for interfering with the prince’s business.” She tries to make her voice sound like his: cold, imperious. She doesn’t quite manage. Why else would Donovan have used her mother as an example?
GM: “That all sounds pretty anecdotal to me. Vidal’s had hundreds of years to Embrace. He hasn’t. Pretty unlikely he’s about to start again.”
Celia: Celia looks like she wants to sigh at him. And maybe at herself for even bothering to bring it up. She should just take the bitch out and be done with it.
“Pete,” she says quietly, “he told me. He said it, that she’s the prince’s childe.”
GM: Pete looks at her strangely.
“Have you been spending time with Malkavians?”
Celia: “Just Preston.”
GM: “Okay, I’ll play along. Why would your sire randomly decide to tell you that she’s Vidal’s childe?”
Celia: “I don’t know. I don’t pretend to know what goes on inside his head. Why did he Embrace me? Why did he abandon me? It’s not like we sit down and chat over a pint of blood like Roderick gets to do with Coco because she’s so fascinating and knows so much and she’s just so smart and amazing and pretty but let’s ignore the fact that—”
Celia cuts herself off. She stares down at her lap, where her claws have sprung free from their fleshy prison. She swallows the hurt and bitterness and jealousy, watching them sink back into her flesh as if they had never been.
“Sorry,” she mutters. “I don’t know. I didn’t ask why he told me. He just said that she’s the prince’s childe and to stay out of the Garden District and then he threw my mom off the roof to prove his point.”
GM: “I find it extremely improbable that Vidal would have taken another childe, or that Donovan would have felt any particular reason to share that with you. Maybe he’s feeding you lies to further some scheme.”
Celia: “Maybe,” she allows. “Could ask the blood. I thought… I dunno, maybe there’d be… better questions for it, or something, and I was trying to… to not be emotional, not waste it on my own petty revenge…” Questions, she says, but she really means uses. She thinks it might be rude to blatantly say as much, though.
GM: Pete shrugs. “It’s either confirm something that’d be a real game-changer, or get something on a neonate of no particular importance.”
Celia: Celia smiles at him. Her lashes flutter, just a little, as if to say, See, this is why I let you guys do the heavy thinking.
“Okay,” she says. “Should we… do that now, or… should we get Lord Savoy, in case he wants to know..?”
GM: “He’ll take my word if the results are positive, and we’ll have wasted his time if they’re not.”
Celia: His word. But not Celia’s.
That’s not a bitter pill at all.
She just nods.
GM: Pete repeats his ritual. Pours in the blood. Mouths the incantations. Caroline’s face forms from the scarlet plumes.
They shift into another a face Celia can only recall seeing a bare handful of times, at a bare handful of Elysia. Most recently Matheson’s trial.
[[File:117971 | class=media-item-align-center | Augusto_Vidal.jpg]]
Celia: She doesn’t say told you so. But she definitely thinks it.
GM: “Longinus in fucking lingerie,” Pete exclaims.
The plumes shift again, into two more faces.
The cup stands empty.
“Why the fuck is she running around saying she’s René’s childe?” Pete speculates aloud.
Celia: Celia shrugs.
“Same reason we say I’m Veronica’s childe, maybe. Maybe they thought it would be less of a target on her back. Roderick told me that she was causing all sorts of issues with the Anarchs. Like trying to make deals and just being kind of…” cunty “… not very friendly. Like how she couldn’t stand the thought of being this sireless nobody after, y’know, who her parents are. Maybe she’s… a plant? Or like, trying to spy? Or she was an accident?” She’s doing a terrible job at it, if that’s the case.
“I didn’t tell him,” she adds, as if expecting the question. “I didn’t tell anyone.”
GM: “Spy or accident both seem very unlikely,” Pete says, shaking his head. “Any other lick could serve as a spy. And Vidal making that kind of rookie mistake, for an accident? I don’t see it.”
“But there’s obviously a lot here that I don’t see.”
“The results don’t lie. Lord Savoy will hear about this. He’ll know what to make of it.”
Celia: Pete knows more about their prince than Celia does. She’s inclined to trust him in this matter. If he says she’s not an accident or a spy then she isn’t an accident or a spy.
Not an accident.
It shouldn’t make her think of her sire, but it does. That he’s also not the type of lick to make a rookie mistake. That he did mean to Embrace her, that he chose her.
She pushes the thought aside. It doesn’t matter. She already thinks she knows why, and it has no bearing on this conversation about Vidal and his childe.
She nods at his statement.
“I’m supposed to see him on Saturday. I was trying to get an earlier meeting to tell him about it, but…” she lifts her shoulders in a gesture that might be a shrug. “You know how it is, when they’re busy. Better this way, I think. To confirm it.”
Celia: “Hey Pete,” she says after a minute, “that was Sumerian, right? The thing at the end? You went through their whole line?”
GM: “I did. It looked Middle Eastern. Why?”
Celia: “Well. ‘Cause the other night, with Roxanne, she mentioned something about Vidal being the childe of Longinus. Sounded like she was convinced of it. She was… real fanatical about it, kind of like he’d, I dunno, collared her a few times. It reminded me of how ‘Lana gets about me. And it didn’t make much sense.”
She repeats part of the conversation for him. How she’d said Vidal is not Kindred, not Ventrue, but touched by God.
GM: “Your sister was cracked in the head,” says Pete. “You said it yourself. Crazy even before she died.”
“Pretty common for Vidal to collar licks who get on his bad side, though. Can’t imagine that helped.”
Celia: “You think she was on his bad side?”
GM: “The Storyvilles had their lips pressed to his ass, by all accounts. I doubt she wanted to be. But it’s possible she did something stupid and wound up on it anyway.”
Celia: “Oh. ’Cause I have her ghoul. The MILF. I thought maybe she might… know more, or something.”
GM: “Might be she does. I suspect your sister’s particular basket of crazy was exactly that, but renfields can pick up some interesting things.”
Celia: “I’ll see if I can get it out of her, then.”
“The blood thing you do. Is that something you can detect with it? Collars, or memories, or…?” She trails off.
GM: “There isn’t much my clan elders can’t do with a blood sample,” Pete answers with a humorless smile. “But that isn’t something I can.”
Celia: Celia nods, as if she’d expected that answer. She’d been asking about Roxanne, but some nagging thing inside of her thinks that Roderick might be triple bound to his sire, and she’d been thinking about stealing a little bit of it to find out.
Probably better that she not betray his trust like that, anyway.
“Thanks. Just figured I’d ask. Any chance you want to teach me that phone finger wavey-thing you do so I don’t have to ask you to get into them all the time for me?” She flashes a hopeful grin his way.
GM: “Might take a pretty long while. It’s not a parlor trick.”
Celia: “I can be patient.”
“I bet you’d be a good teacher, too. Very patient. Like my mom.”
“You guys have a lot in common.”
She beams at him.
GM: Pete groans.
“It isn’t ever going to sink in, is it, no matter what I say?”
Celia: “She’s a good-looking lady. Has to beat them off with sticks these days.”
“Anyway, you’re the nicest person I know. That means you’re meant to be together.” There’s sincerity in her words despite her tone. She really does appreciate him.
It’s why she teases him so much.
GM: “I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it every time. Find her a real man. Should be pretty easy with you keeping her so good-looking.”
Celia: “Mr. Landrenau said the same thing earlier this evening. Asked if she was single, then said that maybe he’d have to start going to the spa if my work was that good.”
“I don’t want to step on my grandsire’s toes, though.”
Not that she thinks Diana will do anything with Ron. He’s… not her type. And she’d already found Mel and had picked out two of her girls to send over as an apology for interrupting his evening. They’ll meet with him tomorrow and he’ll forget all about Diana.
No, now she’s just baiting the Tremere.
GM: They’re probably more his type than Diana is, too.
Celia: She’s pretty sure Diana could give those girls a run for their money in flexibility, though.
GM: She’s pretty sure the former ballerina would beat them. Emily says their mom still does lots of stretching exercises around her and Lucy. “I swear that her joints are slinkys.”
Celia: She’ll make some man real happy one of these days.
GM: “Doesn’t hurt to be considerate,” says Pete. “Plenty fish in the sea and all that.”
“I’ll get this to your grandsire. He should hear fast.”
Celia: “Thanks. He should.” She glances at the clock. “I should get going, anyway. Meeting Roderick.”
This close to dawn, the implication is clear: they’re definitely sleeping together.
“Convenient that his haven was compromised.” Idle words, but she watches his face, wondering if Savoy had pulled some strings to give her a better chance at flipping him.
GM: “Sounds like it,” says Pete. Celia doesn’t spot anything on the Tremere’s face.
He sees her to the door. “Good luck.”
Celia: It was worth a shot, anyway.
“Have a good night, Pete. I’ll see you tomorrow.”