“What is there in truth? Where’s the money, the feel-goods? People want whatever makes them feel good.”
Friday night, 11 March 2016, PM
GM: The Ogden Museum of Southern Art is located in the CBD next to Lee Circle, the traffic circle dedicated to the eponymous Confederate general. It’s a five or so minute drive.
The tall and looming building almost resembles a prison, with an impassive male face staring through a partial cage of iron bars. It’s a popular Elysium locale, and Celia has even been there a few times when she was alive with her parents. The Ogden’s collection, she knows, consists of work by artists from or associated with fifteen Southern states and the District of Columbia. Since its foundation by Roger H. Ogden, the museum’s collection of paintings, watercolors, drawings, prints, photographs, sculpture, wood and crafts has grown to include more than 4,000 works donated from individuals and collectors from across the US, and constitutes the largest and most comprehensive collection of Southern art in the world.
Celia: It’s a five-minute drive that turns into ten. Roderick’s words linger in her mind: make sure you get it all. She doesn’t need the harpies tittering over the state of her on top of whatever other perceived slight they’ll find to mock this evening. Even those inside the circle are torn viciously apart by their barbed tongues. So she uses a wipe between her legs before she even puts the car in gear, another at a red light—and wouldn’t that be a sight if someone happened to be around this hour of night, a woman with her dress hiked up around her waist and a hand between her legs—and a final time before she gets out. She smooths her dress back down prior to opening the car door. No need to flash anyone, at least not for free.
Legs lengthened by the heel on her shoes, Jade unfolds from the vehicle and glides towards the entrance of the museum.
GM: It’s too bad Randy isn’t here to drive her. She could get everything. While he watched.
Celia: She gets everything anyway, it just takes an extra minute.
GM: Maybe he’d make do with sniffing and licking the wipes while he rubbed one out, after she left.
Celia: That boy needs to get laid.
GM: She’s also late. There’s no way around it. Jade doesn’t see any other vampires entering the building, though maybe that’s just them being discrete.
There’s one Kindred, though, who’s seemingly waiting outside. Becky Lynne Adler stands near the museum’s front entrance, conversing with a ghoul while she taps into a phone. Embraced in the flower of late adolescence, she has delicate features, soft sun-blonde hair that falls slightly past her shoulders, and deep brown eyes. Jade knows her to smile easily and often, which together with her slight build and short height (she barely breaks 5’0"), give her a harmless appearance—the sort of girl who couldn’t intimidate a grade schooler. She wears a strapless white evening gown cinched at the waist with a pink bow and matching heels. Two diamonds glint from her ears, while a silver heart-shaped locket rests on a chain around her neck.
“Oh, hello, Miss Kalani,” the Ventrue smiles as Jade approaches. “I had a hunch you’d be here… what do you say we go in together, so there’s less stir with the harpies?”
Celia: Jade’s smile stretches across her face as the sight of the stiff waiting for her. Her eyes sweep the blonde’s form, taking in the dress—white? that’s brave—with the cutesy bow and heels, the jewelry at her ears and throat. Tasteful, as always. Effortless, or at least that’s what the Ventrue would have them believe. Just as she’d have Jade believe that she happened to be caught up outside. Had a hunch? Indeed.
She halts just before Becky Lynne, for once a giant among her peers. In height, at least. Heels may be the great equalizer, but someone as short as this one would need to don the platform pumps of Veronica to put her on even footing. Still, it would be a silly lick indeed who let her small stature fool them into thinking she’s harmless.
“Good evening, Lady Speaker.” Were they not on the grounds of Elysium they would both let their masks slip enough to refer to each other more familiarly as they often do but here, at least, they play their roles. “I am always happy to share your presence. Doubly so when it allows us to duck their ire.” Jade flashes her a conspiratorial grin.
GM: Becky Lynne smiles back. “My mama always liked to say—trouble’s gonna come after you at some point, so no sense in goin’ after it yourself. Same with harpies and their ire!”
She turns to her ghoul. “Peggy, can you be a dear and wait outside with the car, usual time?”
“Yes, ma’am,” the ghoul nods. She’s also short blonde, and comely enough, but pudgier of face and more plainly dressed than her mistress. Everything about her looks like a plainer version of her mistress. She inclines her head and moves off.
“Good thing we’re showing up without any ghouls, too,” Becky Lynne smiles again. “My brother was telling me about a Kindred who showed up to Elysium with half a dozen ghouls, once, and the harpies just never let it die down. Which makes sense enough—we all have them, so no sense in showin’ off that we do. Less there is more, I think.” She gives a light laugh. “Unless we’re able to make them into ensembles as stylish as Regent Harlequin’s, of course.”
She reminds Celia of her mom, in some ways.
Blonde cutsey Southerners eager to make nice.
Celia: Is she, though? Eager to make nice for niceties sake? Hardly. Even Diana has a purpose for being as sweet as she is, and she doubts that Becky Lynne’s motives are as altruistic as she would have people believe. A Southern woman grows up learning how to put poison into her smile.
Jade has never brought her ghouls to Elysium. It isn’t their place.
“Less is more with many things,” Jade readily agrees. “Easier to add something than to take it away once it’s in the pot, as they say.”
Still, the sweet-as-pie Becky Lynne is preferable to the caustic tongues of some others she could name. So long as she’s aware of what the girl is she’s hardly a knife in the dark. Jade even likes her for all that because she gets it. She does the same thing. So it’s not as if she needs to feign interest in the blonde or force a smile, and her company is hardly a chore. She appreciates the cover with the harpies; solidarity in numbers and all that.
Even if her brother is slumming it and her sire is the most hated lick in the city.
“I suppose it wouldn’t be in line with my clan to confess that I couldn’t think of a more aesthetically pleasing exhibit for ghouls than Regent Harlequin has. I hope you won’t tattle for my lack of artistic bodily expression.” The wink is implied. “Think we should make the rounds and pretend we were here the whole time or throw ourselves into the thick of it?”
GM: Alana had always wanted to go. On her hands and knees, wearing a collar and leash, for everyone to see how Jade owns her.
“Oh, I think bodily expression is exactly what the artist behind Flawless is known for,” Becky Lynne smiles back, then taps two thoughtful fingers against her chin.
“Hmm. Makin’ the rounds makes it easier to slip under the radar. A harpy who notices might think we’re trying to fool them, though, and nobody likes that.”
“Goin’ right into the thick of it is bold. That might mean something, but it’s also a lot more scrutiny, and it’s always easier to get bad attention than good.”
“What do you think we oughta do, Miss Kalani?”
She seems to think some more. “Hm, or actually… maybe the best trick is to distract them with something else. Something more worth talking about than the fact of our arrival.”
“I wonder what we could do there?”
Celia: Jade had been about to suggest that they cozy up to the most important lick in the room and simply pretend that their presence was so much more important than that of the tongue-wagging harpies. Someone like sheriff. Not that her eyes seek him out. Oh no, not even a little bit. Not even a glance.
Well, maybe a glance. Once around the space to see if he’s there.
Other targets, though. Any of the elders, really, what harpy could complain about that? McGinn or Marcel, Becky Lynne is friendly enough with both of them, isn’t she? And it would cut through trying to deal with Josua if the blonde could get her an audience.
But dangling something shiny in front of those wagging tongues is certainly just as appealing—more believable and spreads what needs spread.
“Well…” Jade trails off thoughtfully, as if she doesn’t know exactly what the girl is thinking, “I suppose we’d have to share something scandalous.” She waits a beat.
GM: The Ventrue draws in a little (and needless) breath, the tips of her fingers fluttering over her mouth as her eyes scan their surroundings. But there’s some amusement dancing in them, too.
“Oh? Did you have somethin’ in mind for us to share, Miss Kalani?”
Celia: About your brother’s affair? Maybe the prince’s unknown childe? Or his diet of neonates?
Not the sort of thing she’d like to speak aloud in a place like this. Especially to a stiff. Something less volatile, then.
GM: Smith spoke ideas like those aloud.
Vidal could only execute him once.
Celia: And Smith was a somebody. Relatively, Jade is a nobody. She can’t imagine that the prince would be any more lenient towards her. Would he execute her publicly, she wonders, or have her abducted in the middle of the night? Maybe she’d go the way of the rest of the Storyvilles and serve as his midnight snack.
She wonders if her sire would be stirred to action should his liege order her execution. Maybe he’d be sent to deal with her. He’d berate her for the clumsy handling of the information he wanted her to spread. Would he use the sword? That new gift she gave him? Simply rip her heart out of her chest, poetic justice at its finest? After all, it has always belonged to him.
The amount of times that she has pictured her death at his hands makes her stomach clench.
No, none of those will do. And the others… she can think of too many ways that the information would be more useful in the hands of someone wiser. If only Savoy had sought fit to see her prior to this evening to offer guidance; what a field day she’d have with it now.
Jade tucks a curl behind her ear and bites her lip. Finally, she lets out a breath as unnecessary as the Ventrue’s earlier gasp.
“Well,” she says slowly, “it’s about a neonate, and it’s a little gauche…”
Exactly the sort of thing they’d like to sink their teeth into.
GM: It does make her stomach clench.
But perhaps the danger is part of the appeal. She can’t picture Roderick ever doing something like that.
Except when he loses it and really manhandles her.
“Well now, it’s all in how one presents it, isn’t it?” Becky Lynne smiles.
Celia: The difference between Roderick and her sire is the systemic destruction versus mindless chaos. Roderick losing control is bedlam, a whirlwind of rage, literal frenzy. An inferno. He obliterates everything around him. With Roderick she can only attempt to throw herself from his warpath and hope he passes her harmlessly by, then console him when it is over.
Her sire is a different beast altogether. Beautiful. Meticulous. Frozen. Utterly lethal annihilation. He does not smash; he shatters. He lays ruin with exact precision, destroying only what he wishes to see ruined. A scalpel to Roderick’s hammer. The difference between fire and ice.
His is a controlled burn.
And it terrifies her, how close she seeks to put herself to that cold fire. That she would let it—him—consume her. Have it. Have it all. Keep it, if only he’ll keep her too.
The thought is disquieting. She does not let it linger. Her eyes seek those of her would-be conspirator.
“Then I suppose, Lady Speaker,” she says at last, “that we must dazzle them.”
She leans in, lowering her voice.
“Perhaps you can assist me with neatly packaging this: I found one of the Storyvilles on a cam site.”
GM: “Oh my goodness,” Becky Lynne murmurs, holding a hand to her mouth.
Celia: Gauche, as she said.
GM: “She might be very, very grateful if that were to remain between us three.”
Celia: Jade acknowledges the point with a dip of her head.
“She might be.”
If only she weren’t dead.
GM: Talking further, Beck Lynne (perhaps unsurprisingly) seems to think that she and Jade stand more to gain by helping Storyvilles save face than spreading rumors about them. She won’t stop Jade if she wants to do that, though—including to her as an apparent explanation for the Toreador’s tardiness.
Celia: Jade supposes that Becky Lynne is right. Or at least she supposes that she doesn’t care enough about the Storyvilles to save or ruin their reputation, and every moment she spends out here debating the merits of spreading a rumor versus not is another moment she could be doing… literally anything else. She’s unsurprised to learn Becky Lynne’s stance on the subject; apparently she only hangs around the harpies so she can listen to rumors and refrains from spreading any herself, angel that she is.
Deft maneuver, she can’t help but note. She gives in graciously—there are other stories she’d prefer to spread about the coterie anyway—and offers to let Becky Lynne lead the way.
GM: The two make their way inside. A crowd of Kindred is gathered around what looks like a central exhibit.
It sounds as if Celia and Becky Lynne have missed the opening prayer and whatever opening words Gus Elgin had to greet the attendees with. A glassy-eyed mortal man in fine eveningwear next to Gus Elgin sleepily recites,
“…the act of wrapping objects and binding things together is as ancient as mankind itself. Weaving is at least 12,000 years old (recent discoveries suggest possibly 27,000), and the world’s oldest sewing needle (made of bird bone possibly by Denisovans) dates back to approximately 50,000 years ago. While it is an ancient and very human act, perhaps the inspiration arose from observing nature. Spiders bind filaments together to form a web, and wrap their prey in silk. Vines wrap and cling for support and movement. Birds build nests and bagworms build homes through binding objects together. Each and every one of us begins life bound within the womb, one life entwined with another. Perhaps that is part of the primal urge to wrap objects: to protect them, hide them, contain them. Wrapping can be a preservative endeavor, like the mummy’s quest for immortality. It can be a violent act, like the coil of the snake or the chains of human bondage. It can be an act of solidarity and devotion, as with the hand-fasting rituals of marriage. Every wrapped package or bound bundle contains a secret—a hidden thing, the unknown—and activates the very human emotions of curiosity or fear.”
Music soothes the savage beast. Calm and reflective words seem to to have a similar enough effect upon the assembled predators, each one’s pale and motionless face concealing so very savage beast. One misspoken word, one shed drop of blood, and perhaps this hapless kine would lie screaming for his life as the city’s Kindred fell upon him like a pack of wolves, staining the hardwood floor red with his blood. For now, listen attentively, like civilized people who go to art museums do. But in each and every one of their breasts lurks a monster that couldn’t give two shits about the subtleties of object-wrapping next to the hot taste of blood.
“From Native American sacred medicine bundles to the Jewish laying of tefillin, wrapping and binding have been used as a symbolic device by humans throughout history. Both the ritual act and the act of creating art are ways of putting concrete reality to abstract ideas. Drawing inspiration from the traditions of various cultures—Haitian Voudou, Appalachian broom-making, Calabrian silk production, Peruvian rope coiling, Congo Nkisi—the contemporary artists in this exhibition engage wrapping and binding as both symbolic aesthetic device, and often as a ritual practice within their work.”
The children of the night have come out in all their pageantry. Philip Maldonato’s tall frame, garbed in archaic-looking Muslim robes, is immediately noticeable. Antoine Savoy wears an Enlightenment-era courtier’s outfit. Vidal and the Baron are not present, likely to the surprise of few. They rarely are.
Among the primogen, Jade espies Pearl Chastain in a hennin and medieval-era gown. Little interest passes over her face. Jade may wonder if she has anything better to do. Accou, unsurprisingly, remains close to his sire’s side in more recent but still centuries-dated finery. Coco opts for more modern garb in a black turtleneck and dress slacks. Roderick looks at Jade as she arrives, but moves away his gaze after a moment.
How much is he thinking about the things he’d like to do with her, once Elysium is finally over?
Von Steinhäuser stands present and impassive in an archaic Enlightenment-era gown of her own, as if to say everything is still normal for the Tremere. Miss Opal, alone among the primogen, is not present tonight.
But he is there.
He isn’t tall and dark. He’s dark and feels tall. He’s dressed in the same utilitarian black garb that could come from any number of decades. It reveals nothing of his origins—no more than his expressionless, marble-like face reveals of his feelings.
He does not spare Jade a single look.
Celia: How fitting, the topic of the evening. Bindings. It has long been on her mind, the question of why he will not take her fully. Why he will not let her have that third sip from his wrist. She has her own private theories why he denies it, none of which give her comfort. She’s often wondered how angry it would make him if she were to take that step with someone else. What he’d do to her. To them. Or if he’d care at all.
Looking at him now, in his dark garb of no note with his eyes resolutely turned away, she doesn’t think that he would. A flicker of emotion passes through her, something like yearning. For him, even now, fresh from a tumble with someone else, late because she had fallen into the arms of another lover. What would it be like to be able to stand beside him in a place like this? What would it be like to be known as his childe, not the childe of the vicious slut? How might her Requiem have changed?
Not at all, she thinks. It isn’t as if he and Doriocourt canoodle in a corner. And she knows why he has done it. Why he ignores her. Why he sent her off with Savoy. She knows, or thinks she knows, and if it is a lie she tells herself then it is a beautiful lie and she clings to it with every bit of delusional strength she has. It is her light in the darkness, her secret fantasy, and she will not let it be snuffed out.
Jade does not let her gaze linger on the dark one. She sweeps it past Roderick, no flicker of emotion giving away the squirming of her insides. Not here. Here she beats it down. Roderick is nothing to Jade, no matter how Celia may want him.
Perhaps she should take some sort of public lover, someone to hide their dalliance from the rest of their kind. The art thief, maybe; she’s been seen arm and arm with him before, and it isn’t as if he expects monogamy. He might even find the whole thing amusing. Or Gui. Now that she’s had him she wants him again. Years of flirtation finally paid off, and what a delicious paring it was. And it would make sense, wouldn’t it, two young bloods from Savoy’s faction shacking up. More sense than the decades-older thief, anyway.
She can’t imagine it would go over well with Roderick. He, at least, is hot-blooded enough to get a rise out of. In a hundred years she wonders if that will still be the case, if he will still be the same man that she met in college. Do they change at all once they die, or is he stuck at 22 like she is stuck at 19? She’d like to think she has changed. Can change again, be the girl he wants her to be. But isn’t that the girl he knew back then, the sweet one who would do anything for her family, who died to save her mother, who made a devil’s bargain for the desperate chance to finally do something for once rather than continue to sit idly by?
Isn’t that still her? If she ignores the rot that has taken hold of her, the Beast inside her chest that eats away at her humanity bit by bit, she thinks it might be. Only he doesn’t know what she’d done the night she died, the way she had given in to the darkness, let it consume her. Only when her psyche had begun to shatter did she pull back.
She died broken. Perhaps that is who she will always be. Perhaps the girl he thinks he loves is what died that night, stripped away with the rest of her innocence.
Jade pulls her thoughts from that downward spiral. Pulls her gaze from the assembled primogen and sheriff—her thoughts flicker his way once more, wondering if he is wearing the gift beneath his clothing (and what else he’s hiding beneath that dark garb, and if he’ll ever—), but she does not let either linger overly long. She moves it across the room once more before finally settling on Savoy. She has so much to tell him. Already she’s looking forward to tomorrow when she can present him with everything, where he will tell her how smart and capable she is, pat his lap for her, let her curl up, whisper in her ear. She’ll convince him to get rid of Preston for an hour. Maybe they’ll soak in the hot tub once they’re done tearing each other apart, and he’ll tell her… tell her that he’s proud of her? No, she doesn’t think that’s what she wants to hear from him. That he’s pleased with her, maybe. Yes. Pleasure. That’s what she wants from him.
Perhaps she’ll take Mel up on her offer to come naked to a meeting and see how that plays out.
Two minutes in and she’s already lost sight of what she came here for. She looks for her pretend sire, or Marcel’s most recent fuck toy.
GM: She espies Veronica among the other harpies. The Toreador wears gold sandal heels and a black and brown dress that Jade doesn’t have to be an esthetician to identify as being made from human hair.
Perhaps, she may wonder as she looks upon her purported sire’s so-often sneering face, that’ll be her in a hundred years.
Perhaps a hundred years ago, Veronica was Celia Flores. A well-meaning girl in over her head and driven to darkness.
Celia: Veronica was never a girl like Celia.
GM: Maybe that’s what the neonates will say about her in a hundred years.
Jade Kalani was never a girl like them.
Celia: Then again, she’d just wondered why Veronica would wear a dress of human hair when it could be human skin, and she’s been dead less than a decade.
Perhaps she really will gift her “sire” something from her new line.
GM: Veronica’s bitch isn’t there. “Micheal,” if one were to be kind and use his name. Shep also seems to have skipped Elysium, but Pietro’s there next to her, along with the other harpies. Adelais and Sundown and Marguerite and Katherine and Harequin, and the rest of the in crowd, plus the hangers-on (like her) hoping to someday join their ranks. There are worse Kindred to be childe to than a harpy, than a primogen’s childe and a leader among her covenant, whatever her reputation.
Jade could have gotten saddled with someone like Isabel’s sire, and been a mere handful of steps away from Dani’s fate.
Or she could have been turned by whoever cursed Roderick’s sister with their feeble brand of dime store damnation.
Celia: There’s a thought. Celia the thin-blood. She doubts she’d even have to make a new name for herself if she were to have gone that route. Who cares about another half-breed mongrel, anyway? She’d have been slaughtered with the rest of her kind. Turn in by her boyfriend’s sire. Would he have protected her, she wonders, or just stood idly by while the murder brigade did their ghastly deed?
She couldn’t help but notice Opal’s absence this evening. Planning another massacre?
Jade is glad she doesn’t need to worry about such things, at least. And Pietro is a welcome sight at her sire’s side, in any case. These events are always brightened by his droll humor.
Her eyes and thoughts flit back to the speaker and the exhibit.
GM: “…each artist in this exhibition approaches the simple acts of wrapping and binding from a unique perspective. Some are involved in the haptic absorption of repetitive handwork—a sort of ritual meditation on texture and rhythm. Others are exploring the symbolic power of the physical act—weaving narratives through form, image and materials. This exhibition contains a feast of texture and a vast range of materials—clay, fabric, rope, egg tempera, driftwood, loofah, antler, bone, wire, coffee, ashes, teeth, yarn, wool, chalk and a plethora of found objects. Through wrapping, painting, weaving, coiling, drawing, or knotting, each artist binds their own unique and thoroughly contemporary vision to an ancient, universal and very human practice.”
Celia: If only the ancients among them would allow for the introduction of more contemporary visions.
GM: There’s a few final words before the assembled predators start to disperse into their own cliques and stroll down the museum’s empty halls. Perhaps this man has some inkling of how much safer he now is. Sundown starts off the conversation with a joke about spiders in the centers of their webs. Binding and weaving is an all-too familiar practice to the Kindred. Katherine Beaumont concurs and draws comparisons to the chains of blood that bind them to their clans and kin. The ties binding mortals to their lives and duties are weaker, Gus Elgin states: “Just as one must tie an object more securely to withstand a hurricane than a summer breeze, the ties that bind us to eternity must by necessity be stronger than the ties binding kine to mortality.”
Some of the present Kindred seem to be following along and considering the conversation. At least as many others are exploring the museum exhibits on their own, or in discussions with their other cliques.
But there are still plenty of cold eyes resting upon the tardy arrivals.
Celia: Bully for them and their cold eyes. Jade would roll her own if she were anywhere but here. She doesn’t bother to move closer to them to join their discussion, turning instead to begin her own with the Ventrue at her side.
“Interesting,” she remarks to Becky Lynne, her voice quiet so as not to compete with the others, “his comments on the mummies and their bindings. It isn’t why they wrapped their kin, but I suppose he couldn’t resist the tie-in.”
“It was actually,” she continues unprompted, “because of their obsession with order, and their desire to defeat chaos. As a concept.”
GM: Those cold eyes include her purported sire’s.
And the other harpies’.
And assorted other Kindred of greater standing than the neonate’s.
Celia: Ah, right. Fuck her for trying to engage with something other than vicious gossip. Cold stares and wagging tongues really makes her glad that she bothered to show up instead of turning around to find literally anything else to do when she realized she’d be five whole minutes late.
Personally, she thinks the discussion on Ancient Egypt is fascinating, but clearly the harpies never heard that “Great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, small minds discuss people” quote.
Jade can dig into the mud with the best of them. She gives Becky Lynne an apologetic smile. For a moment longer she talks about Egypt and their burial customs, chaos, the historical idea of evil, and the afterlife. She manages to tie it together and swing it back around to something that someone as vapid as the harpies can understand in the end:
“…which is why I think that Storyville started on the cam site, you know, and there’s months of content. It’s tragic. You should see some of those videos…”
GM: Becky Lynne listens attentively to Jade’s initial explanation. There’s a lot more interest on her face than Roderick’s, but Jade supposes the Ventrue hadn’t just heard her sister was a thin-blood.
“Oh my goodness,” she repeats upon hearing the salacious rumor, covering her mouth with several fingers.
“Yeah, I don’t buy that,” says Duke Elmhearst. The Sanctified neonate has a face with eyes meaner than a gator’s and a sneer that could shame a rattlesnake, all framed by a shock of dirty blond hair. Jade has heard a few of Savoy’s people make fun of Duke’s face for “looking like an internet picture that gets you idly thinking of ways to murder him, ten minutes after you meet.”
But Vidal’s people probably don’t say anything nicer about Jade.
“Sin against God to endanger the Masquerade like that. That isn’t them.”
Amused eyes among onlookers flicker between the two neonates.
Celia: Duke looks like the kind of guy that might benefit from visiting a cam site himself. All that pent-up male aggression, she bets he’d get off on telling some poor slut what to do. She’s not put out by his doubt, though. She glances at him and smiles. It’s a pretty smile, like the rest of her. Regardless of what Vidal’s people say about her, they can’t take that away. She waves him over.
She’s happy to discuss it with a doubter.
GM: He smirks and saunters over.
Celia: Jade smiles up at Duke. She hasn’t gotten to know him well, but she’d like to. She likes the cut of his jib. Likes his arrogance. Likes his swagger, even, in an “I’d like to punch him in the face” kind of way. But she’s enjoyed plenty of people like that. She stands close to him—really close, Jade likes that physical contact—and shows him the screenshot on her phone.
It’s a pretty standard-looking still from a cam site. A girl on her knees dressed in skimpy attire, bra and panties, black lace. It’s almost beautiful against her pale skin. But instead of a dick in her mouth it’s a long dildo, cheeks bulged out around it. The screenshot includes the chat telling her to suck it, the recent donation of $5. Jade swipes right and shows him the next one, where the girl in the picture puts the dildo—purple, huge, spiraled—into herself with her legs spread wide. Her eyes are closed and her mouth open, like she’s panting heavily. The donation line reads $15 this time, and the chat is wild with people telling her what to do, to fuck herself, to show her pussy, to spread herself wide, that they want her to bend over and take it like the slut she is.
Even with her eyes closed, Roxanne’s face is unmistakable.
Jade looks up at Duke, brows raised.
GM: Duke eyes the playing video. His face briefly catches.
It really does look exactly like Roxanne.
“That’s so fake,” says the Brujah. “It doesn’t even look like her.”
Celia: Her brows threaten to disappear into her hairline.
Jade swipes right once more. It’s another screenshot of Roxanne. Only this time she’s got a dude in the photo with her. Two dudes. It’s pretty clear what’s going on: one is fucking her from behind while the other cums on her face.
GM: Titters and knowing glances start to go up from the onlookers. Perhaps they can’t all see exactly what’s happening, from this distance.
But they can make out enough. They can read the two licks’ expressions.
And there are assuredly at least several Kindred here with very, very good eyesight.
Harlequin starts to laugh.
His four ghouls are with him tonight, like they are every night. Each one dressed in nothing except chain links over their naked bodies. Their faces are hidden beneath silver masks that resemble deformed infants with varying, eerily adult expressions of lust, contempt, horror, and despair.
As one, they clutch their hands to their masked faces. As one, laughter spills from their concealed lips.
Veronica starts to laugh, too. The other three harpies do not take overlong before joining in. Elyse Benson makes a remark disdaining the “imperfections” of such a lust-driven creature. Randolph Cartwright sneers how much she looks like she’s enjoying herself. Esther Sue Parker shakes her head disapprovingly. Speculation starts to go up about Roxanne being a pervert. If she actually enjoys doing it the breather way.
The Ventrue are the only ones not to laugh. They just don’t say anything.
Duke rolls his eyes. “I don’t know any blue blood who’d take money to do something like that. Ha ha at the fake video, I guess.”
He stalks off to salve his pride.
Just like that, Jade fees welcome in polite company again.
Celia: Jade slips the phone back into her pocket. She watches Duke disappear into the crowd, wondering if there’s something she can do there to soothe his wounded pride. He could have spun it another way, she thinks, laughed along with them, nudged her in the ribs, made it look like he only asked because he wanted to show the rest of them what a little whore Roxanne is. She’d have winked at him and played along and let him save face.
Ah, well, they can’t all be winners.
GM: Becky Lynne smiles and politely excuses herself. She’s played her part.
“I want to see this up close,” declares Veronica, striding up to Jade’s side. Pietro, Abraham Garcia, Andy Philips, Will Carolla, and Laura Ravenwood all seem to want a closer look too.
Celia: Jade is happy to show the harpy who claims to be her sire. She pulls her phone back out to show Veronica and the assorted others who crowd around her, scrolling through photos as needed. She’s pleased with the turnaround.
Pleased, too, that Carolla came to her and not the other way around. She hadn’t thought to approach him directly, but when he falls so perfectly into her lap… well, she’s never been one to pass up an opportunity. She catches his eye across the little circle.
GM: All of them. All of them laugh. All of them mock.
Where did Jade ever find these?
She doesn’t find it hard to catch the Brujah’s gaze. He’s a strong-jawed and thick-framed young man with brown hair dressed in a dark suit.
“I know some people who might pay big bucks for her as a prostitute, if she’s looking for work,” he remarks with amusement.
Celia: “Mmm, the whole thing was quite by accident, really. My ghoul, you know, he’s very into movies, so apparently when he’s not busy he likes to watch them online, only the thing he was trying to watch wasn’t available on his preferred platform in our country, so he got around that with a VPN, and I guess he forgot to switch it off when he went browsing further because there she was. So he calls over to me, ‘hey don’t you know her?’ and points her out. Naturally I did a little digging, and there it was: tons of past videos. Apparently if you pay enough you can get the models on these sites—yes, really, they call them ‘models’—to do anything, so I thought about what a lark it would be to tell her to fuck a dog, and, well…”
Jade trails off, lifting her shoulders in a shrug.
“I guess when you’re desperate for money you’ll let anyone put something inside of you.”
She smiles at the Brujah. She tells him that she’d love to get together some time to talk about it.
And other things, is the unsaid implication.
GM: Laughter goes up from the clique.
“I suppose she’d be in good company,” Pietro remarks with amusement.
“More like the dog would be in bad company,” sneers Veronica.
“Maybe the dog should get paid,” says Laura.
There’s more laughter.
Carolla remarks with some amusement that he should meet with Roxanne, if they’re talking about ‘work,’ but assents to see Celia later. He’ll have one of “his people” contact hers to schedule a time.
As far as her implication goes, the Brujah looks as if he wouldn’t mind fucking her.
Like almost everyone.
Celia: Almost? What. Who is holding out?
No one she cares about, surely.
She winks at the Brujah and says she’s looking forward to it.
GM: Well, probably Emily and Celia’s mother.
Celia: She hopes so.
Emil too, she bets.
He taught her about VPNs, so he’s on her mind.
GM: If Em were here, he’d probably say the only thing Emil wants to stick his cock inside is a computer port.
Celia: Too true.
She pushes the hacker from her mind, though. He has no bearing on this event. No bearing on the Brujah in front of her who is, decidedly, easy on the eyes. Maybe not the one she wants warming her bed, but she wouldn’t mind ‘getting to know him,’ or whatever the kids are saying these days. She lets her gaze sweep his form one last time, knows he’s doing the same to her. He’s not the only one, either.
Jade smirks up at Veronica, waiting until the harpy and her clique has had their fill to put her phone away.
GM: The others have their laughs and start to drift off into the museum.
“Clementine said you’d called about some filthy little idea running through your filthy little mind,” Veronica remarks.
Celia: “Mhm.” Jade nods once they’re relatively alone, watching the last of them disappear down the halls. Never truly alone, not in a place like this. Ears everywhere, she knows. She turns to regard Veronica with a sly smile.
“I did. I don’t know if it can top the filth that was just shared, though.” Privately, that means. Veronica is coy enough to get the message, she’s sure.
GM: She, Mélissaire, and Savoy had all instructed Jade in that much. Assume anything you say out loud in Elysium will be overheard.
“Probably not, unless you wanted to suck a cock right here.”
Celia: Oh, no, that’s for later.
She’d need a bucket of them, anyway, to outdo her sister.
She says something witty. Something clever. Something that lets her “sire” know, in no uncertain terms, how unlikely that is. It’s not as if she’s ever admitted her perversions to the harpy or engaged in that sort of sexual deviance in front of her. She’s not entirely sure why anyone would think she’d have done so, really. Hadn’t Roderick made that comment a few times, something about Veronica belittling her for it? As if she’d tell. It’s like everything else to do with the blood: she’s perfectly capable of controlling herself.
She doesn’t point out to Veronica that perhaps it’s her reputation that makes the city come down so hard on Jade when the only person Jade has ever admitted it to and engaged in it with is the same boy whose mind she plans on blowing later tonight. If Veronica weren’t such a voracious slut maybe they wouldn’t feel the need to up the ante with her childe.
But fuck her, right?
Regardless, if Veronica doesn’t want to bite then Jade is happy to end their conversation and seek out someone else with whom to spend her evening.
Maybe she’ll find a few cocks to suck while she’s at it. Since apparently that’s all she does.
GM: The harpy seems amenable enough, her caustic words notwithstanding. Both to conversing now and meeting in private later. She does seems amused, though, by her alleged progeny’s soreness.
Celia: The soreness that she didn’t let slip at all because she’s better bred than that, but sure. Veronica’s amused by everything, why not this too.
There’s a smile somewhere in her toolbelt. She reaches for it now. Lets it stretch across her face, lift her eyes, wipe whatever imagined emotions people think they see from her face.
She makes plans to meet with Veronica at a later time.
GM: Jade’s sire takes her leave. Meanwhile, the rest of the exhibition awaits.
GM: She spends a little time observing the exhibits before Laura Ravenwood circles back to her. The other vampire is a slender, pale-skinned woman in seemingly her early 20s with wavy auburn hair. She wears a shape-hugging black silk dress with heels and lipstick that are the same deep red hue as her nail polish.
It’s a comely enough package for the creoles to overlook the Caitiff’s clanless heritage. Enough, at least, to let her into Elysium.
“I heard you talking earlier about why the Egyptians wrapped their mummies, Miss Kalani. You’d said it was to defeat chaos?”
Celia: If Jade is bothered by the Caitiff’s origins it doesn’t show on her face. She offers the same smile she’d give to anyone with a real bloodline.
“Indeed, Miss Ravenwood. The concept of chaos, rather. Their whole society was based around the flooding of the Nile, you see. Every year it would flood at the same time and deliver the sediment and nutrients at the bottom of the river to fertilize their soil. If it were ever to flood too early, too late, or not at all, their whole society would be in shambles. They were obsessed with order. Maintaining things exactly as they are. We see this in their graves and their attitudes towards the afterlife. They thought that by preserving and wrapping their dead it would allow them some measure of control over the decay, which they viewed as another form of chaos.”
“They also,” she adds, “used to use green wrappings, which was symbolic of life to them.”
GM: “Oh, that makes perfect sense,” she nods at the explanation. “I didn’t know they used green wrappings. We think of mummies as having sand-colored ones.”
Celia: “It might have changed over time,” Jade admits, “but when they began the process it was green. Their maps were different back then. You know how kine say ‘up north’ even though north isn’t really up? Back then ‘up’ meant topological.” Which, she realizes, is off topic, and only on her mind because of the mention of maps. She reins it in before she hits lecture mode.
“But they used blue to color the Nile, and green for the fertile area around it, and brown for the area beyond that where there was no life. Green was life. So they used it to fight against death, which they viewed as chaotic.”
“If I’m not mistaken, theirs was among the first cultures to turn death into a business.”
“In that they sold things to help you get into the afterlife or serve you once you were there, I mean. And the things they sold, the things archaeologists found in their graves, suggests that their idea of order persists into the afterlife with them.”
“It was just another way for them to impose order on chaos. Another ritual to keep it at bay.” Much the same as their kind dress up and play this polite charade of art critics to stave off the snarling Beasts inside them all.
GM: “I once read a comic about a high priest who unwrapped a mummy, threw it out of the tomb, wrapped himself up in its bandages, and then killed himself, all so he’d be able to enjoy the same afterlife as his pharaoh.” The Caitiff smiles with amusement. “I doubt something like that actually happened, but when you say they turned the afterlife into a business… it’s only natural some people would want to steal the merchandise.”
“They thought you could take it with them, didn’t they, which was why they buried the pharaohs with so many treasures?”
“Well, entombed them.”
Celia: Jade’s lips twitch in amusement at the mention of the comic.
“It could have happened,” she allows with a grin. “Like stealing someone’s car to make off with whatever they’ve got inside. But yes, even tombs of normal people had things inside of them. Cosmetics, combs, tools, food… things that wouldn’t really help in the afterlife. It’s part of what made the archaeologists and anthropologists believe that their afterlife is exactly like the real world, but better. A step up. Everything tastes, smells, feels better. They thought they would need to take these things with them. They even had these little statues they would buy to serve them in the afterlife, so that they didn’t need to do work.”
GM: “I thought the Egyptians believed in reincarnation, too, after their hearts were judged and they didn’t get eaten? Was all of that essentially just temporary?”
Celia: “Sort of. Their whole view of what it took to get into the afterlife is pretty fascinating and there are a bunch of steps. First, you die. You lose all of your senses. Then there’s a ritual performed on you by Anubis, the opening of the mouth. You’re essentially ‘reborn’ and you regain all of your senses, which I believe is what you’re referring to. Their idea was that you are more ‘alive’ than you were back then. You can see more, hear more.” Sort of like their Kindred senses, she realizes.
“Then you go through 22 gates. Each of the gates is guarded by a god, and you’re asked by the god to give a negative confession. ‘I did not do this thing.’ Scholars aren’t sure if this meant that you needed to stick to a moral code or if you were fine as long as you confessed and repented, but this is one of the first examples of an afterlife we’ve seen where personal choice seems to matter. Between the gates were what is essentially chaos. Scorpions that multiply if you attack them. Beetles that are twenty feet tall. Things that are changed from the natural order. In order to get past these things the people would need spells from the book of the dead, which was just another way for them to make money through all the customization that they could do, to put things back to their natural order. Then the weighing of the hearts. Those who were balanced would move on to the Field of Reeds.”
GM: The more vivid senses bit does sound a lot like Kindred existence.
It seems like an open question, though, what’d happen to her if her heart got weighed.
Laura, though, listens to the impromptu mythology lecture with interest. So do a few other Kindred within nearby earshot.
“I knew the part about evil hearts getting devoured by a monster,” she says. “But good hearts, too? What happened to those?”
Celia: “Well, that’s when we kind of get into the idea of good versus evil. Their idea of evil wasn’t bad acts, it was chaos. So if your heart was balanced, it was ordered, which is good. You got to move on to the Field of Reeds.”
GM: “Oh, that makes sense. What would a person do that was chaotic versus how we’d define evil now, simply not follow cultural norms and keep faith in the gods?”
Celia: “Very similar to what we’d consider evil today, to be honest,” Jade admits. “Their scrolls—the book of the dead—they had these list of negative confessions that they would have to offer to the gods before the gates. If they wronged someone, false feelings, slept around, committed fraud. The basics.” She smiles. “They also apparently had a very dim view on liminal states.”
“That being said, their moral transgressions were not inalienable. Scholars have found tons of graves with these little sculptures, Heart Scarab Beetles, that had phrases carved into the bottom. The gist of it was, ‘heart don’t sell me out when you’re on the scale.’ And the confessions before the gods, the chaos that they fought between the gates, that all helped re-order their hearts.”
“Both of those things were purchases people could make. Their rituals of death became very economics-based.”
GM: “That sounds similar to papal indulgences,” remarks Abraham Garcia, a slender Hispanic man with deep brown eyes, thick black hair, and a large nose.
“Actually, it sounds exactly the same. There’s always plenty forgiveness to spare, so long as it makes somebody a buck.”
Celia: Jade inclines her head toward Garcia. The topic is something a little too hot-button for her to take up in Elysium, of all places—her own opinions smear the church and religion itself pretty hard for all that she’s a member of the Sanctified—but she gives him the benefit, at least, of agreeing.
“It’s a profitable business. Just look at what the kine have done with it. Funeral homes make tons of money for all that they’re selling a box to bury someone in. Even urns get costly.”
GM: “Well, at least those look pretty. People will always spend money on pretty, even if it’s pretty they won’t get to see. But with those scarabs the makers could sell people absolutely nothing at all.”
Celia: “They sold them the idea of eternity.”
“Which, in and of itself, is beautiful.”
GM: “I’m sure it seemed even more beautiful if you were in the scarab business. Who wouldn’t want to sell ideas, rather than material things?”
“The scarabs were material things,” says Laura.
“But only as a means to an idea. I’m sure they made them as cheap as they could.”
Celia: “Of course they did. That’s how a business operates. Is selling an idea any less viable than selling an experience?”
“They’re not tangible things that you can hold onto, experiences, but you can treasure them all the same.”
“So it goes with ideas. If I said to you that I could sell you something for a trivial amount that would assure you a happy unlife, would you not be tempted?”
GM: “There’s no one who wouldn’t be, unless the happiness was predicated on false premises. But I’d probably give you at least 50/50 odds of still getting customers then. People don’t care about truth next to feeling happy.”
Celia: “We do so love our beautiful lies. There are entire industries that have developed due to that intrinsic desire to feel happiness.” Jade offers him a smile. “But I would also concede that those 50/50 odds depend entirely on the speaker.”
GM: “I think it depends on your point of view,” says Laura. “Baudelaire said imagination is the queen of truth. Doesn’t that just seem so exciting, if you think about those words, for the possibilities they open up? Everyone can be a queen. Everyone can enrich the world through their truth.”
“But are you defining truth as an objective measure of reality, or simply what makes you feel satisfied?” asks Roderick Durant. He glances briefly at Jade. “Those are two different things. Everyone likes to throw around ‘truth’ as a rhetorical construct, but we shouldn’t lose sight of what the definition actually is. It’s the measure of reality, nothing more or less.”
“Well, that’s an unpopular view these days,” drawls Garcia. “People like the good Caitiff here are a lot more common. What is there in truth? Where’s the money, the feel-goods? People want whatever makes them feel good. And they feel even better about feeling good if they can find ways to philosophically justify it. To turn their feelings into validation that they’re right about the world. People love feeling right as much as they love feeling good.”
Laura seems to bristle a little, but doesn’t say anything.
Celia: If Jade is bothered by Durant’s sudden appearance it doesn’t show on her face. Her expression stays perfectly neutral at the interjection.
“I might have to say that I disagree with you, Mr. Durant. Truth can be entirely subjective. There are such things as symbolic truths. Shakespeare, for instance, wrote about the truth of family dynamics, war, and romance with Romeo and Juliet. Were they two real people? Is their story objectively true? No. But symbolically? That is truth.”
“And isn’t feeling good, feeling happy, someone’s truth?”
Religion is a symbolic truth. The Bible. Neither of which she will bring up here. Perhaps later they can have their own debate on things that would label her blasphemous.
“Such things would hardly hold up in court, I imagine,” she acknowledges with a smile.
Mr. Durant, though. She can’t think of the last time she called him that. It brings all sorts of things to mind that she shouldn’t dwell on: a wooden ruler, knee-high socks, the plaid skirt in her closet.
One of these nights, she thinks, she’ll learn that mind-to-mind communication trick so she can plague him with these images at times like this when she has to stand across from him and pretend they barely know each other.
GM: Perhaps he’d have his share to plague her back with.
Though maybe she’d win that round. Is her mind dirtier than his?
“Truth is the state of being in accordance with reality,” states Roderick. “Since ‘reality’ encompasses so many things, it’s important to exercise specificity in language. As a historical record, Romeo and Juliet isn’t in accordance with reality. As you say, the characters weren’t real people and the events described never happened. But it does accurately portray the culture and social environment its characters lived in, so by that metric Romeo and Juliet is true. It also contains moral lessons and insights into human nature, though the truth of those is more debatable.”
“But again, when we talk about truth, we have to be specific in our language. Saying ‘happiness is in accordance with reality, which we define as truth’ means absolutely nothing when you pause to deconstruct it. Mr. Garcia is, unfortunately, right that many people would rather feel better about themselves than know more of truth.”
“Well, you can’t blame them either,” says Garcia. “Everyone likes that metaphor of ‘truth as light,’ but it’s a damn painful light. Who wants to burn their eyes when it’s nice and cool in the dark?”
“If you’re blind either way, I’d rather be blinded by truth than lies,” says Roderick.
“Truth can be painful. But we can grow accustomed to pain, and to excessive light.”
“Ironic that all of us can see in the dark so well,” observes Laura with a faint smirk.
Garcia laughs. “It’s not ironic. God knows truth has even fewer adherents among us than among the kine.”
Celia: Jade tilts her head to one side. He’d said something similar to her once about preferring truth to beauty. Then he’d smashed her face in when she’d given it to him. He’s doing it again now with the wilful ignorance in which he regards his sire.
“I believe we’ve circled back to the preference of beautiful lies and ugly truths.”
Ah, truth to beauty, she gets it now. By attacking her he’d made his thoughts clear. He’d ruined her face and no more. The pretty thing about her.
“Though I suppose,” she says at length, “that the real determining factor is how much pain an individual will weather when their truthful light would ruin a beautiful lie.”
GM: “I imagine you’d suffer any amount of pain for the truth, isn’t that right, Mr. Durant?” asks Garcia. He isn’t quite leering, but there os a look approximating one on his face.
“That makes it sound more heroic than it is,” answers Roderick. "Lies are their own pain. "
“Only if you find out they’re lies,” observes Garcia.
“Truth always comes out.”
“Were you in the Boy Scouts?”
“Oh, no reason.” There’s a faint grin on Garcia’s face.
Celia: He knows something.
Jade doesn’t know what it is that he knows, but she’d like to find out. Her expression mirrors her clanmate’s, amusement tugging at her lips while she watches the exchange.
GM: “What about you, Mr. Garcia? How much pain would you suffer for truth?” asks Roderick.
“Miss Ravenwood and Miss Kalani, I think, would prefer beautiful lies. I may disagree with their values, but I can respect their consistency. I’m less certain where you fall.”
“Mm. I suppose it’d depend on the lie and how beautiful it was,” answers Garcia.
Celia: “I would ask that you not speak for me, Mr. Durant, as my preference depends entirely on the speaker and the situation.”
“Were it someone that I don’t care about or would never see again, then beauty would suffice. Were it someone I respected or felt some measure of affection for?”
“Truth, then. Always truth.”
GM: “I’d say that too,” agrees Laura. “Most of the time, I’d prefer beauty. But every time? Some lies can be too harmful, even if they’re beautiful.”
“Life is shades of grays, when it comes down to it. I don’t think any of us can say we’d always prefer truth or always prefer lies without being dishonest.”
Celia: “Those of us who do are simply lying to ourselves.”
GM: “Maybe so,” Roderick grants. “But there’s appeal in that sort of purity.”
Celia: “Is it appealing? There is a saying about trees that have learned how to bend so they do not break. Can the same not be said of us? After all, the plants that learn to flourish in various climates are those that would outlast the others.”
GM: “They might. But are those trees the tallest ones, that inspire so many others with their majesty?”
Celia: Her smile flickers, the retort dying on her tongue. To delve into this topic is too akin to bad-mouthing those mighty “trees” in public, and that is something she cannot do.
“I recall learning in grade school about the different levels of the rain forest. How each of them adapted to their position in certain ways. The flora at the bottom have giant leaves to soak up what little sunshine filters through. Is that not also majestic?”
GM: “I’d say it’s efficient and successful at adapting to its environment. But majestic? That word makes me think of soaring trees.”
Celia: Jade bites back the insult to his clan. She takes a moment to consider her response, eyes sweeping toward the floor before finding his face once more. She looks up at him through long, black lashes.
“Perhaps beauty is simply in the eye of the beholder, Mr. Durant. Personally I find it compelling when things can thrive in otherwise hostile or derelict environments.”
As much as Jade wouldn’t mind passing her evening engaged in debate with Roderick, she has other people with whom she needs to speak. This exchange of words is doing neither of them any good: not only are they unlikely to change their minds and must bandy their words with care, but they shouldn’t be so publicly amiable. She also fully intends to spend the remainder of her evening debating the merits of various surfaces in her haven with him. Wordlessly.
She inclines her head toward Roderick and Ravenwood, thanking the latter for the conversation with an invitation to continue their discussion of mythology at a future date, and the former for his lively debate. She turns to regard Garcia.
“Will you walk with me, Lord Garcia?”
She hopes that their shared covenant will prevent him from snubbing her.
GM: The other two Kindred exchange parting pleasantries and take their leaves.
“I’ll never say no to a sexy lady’s company, Miss Kalani,” her clanmate smirks. “I wonder what those pieces are, over there.” He points. “They look like… brooms?”
Celia: It’s not that she goes out of her way to put a little extra sway in her step. She’s always sashayed like this. Really. It has nothing to do with Roderick watching her go, arm in arm with her clanmate.
Her eyes follow Garcia’s pointing, brows lifting at the sight of… broom heads. She lifts her brows.
“Perhaps there’s more to it than meets the eye from over here. Shall we?”
Jade leads or lets him lead the way, making idle commentary on the other pieces that they pass. Her eyes roam the halls even as she speaks, searching the faces of those licks who remain. She looks for her sire. Her true sire, not the woman whose blood she claims.
She turns the conversation around as they walk, spinning it back toward Durant and Ravenwood. More idle commentary on the art around them, though it relates back to the subjects they had just been speaking of. Finally, she says,
“I wasn’t aware you and he were well acquainted.” A question colors her voice despite the lack of upward inflection at the end of her sentence.
GM: “We aren’t, personally, but I still know him fairly well.”
There’s a sardonic leer.
“He’s an idealist.”
Celia: Jade’s lips curl, an amused smirk gliding across her face.
“And what are you?”
GM: “Someone with open eyes.”
Celia: They reach the things that look like brooms. Jade tilts her head in quiet examination, finally flicking her eyes back toward Garcia.
“What do you see?”
GM: He shrugs. “I’m a photographer. Broomheads against a wall. Good shot, though if it wasn’t a good shot in a museum, the people responsible should be fired.”
“Symbolically, a look up close at domestic labor.”
“The silent worth and dignity inherent to the work.”
“A look up close at daily existence for the migrant maids in our houses.”
“I don’t think that’s what it’s actually ‘supposed’ to be about, to the artist, but what fucking ever. Stick some broomheads on a wall and you’ll get different opinions.”
Celia: She manages to contain her peal of laughter. It isn’t hard, being dead, but she touches her fingers to her lips anyway as if it might be stolen from her.
GM: He smirks. “So what do you see?”
GM: “You should forget being a makeup artist. Be a broom artist. Stick a plaque saying ‘Disillusion’ under those and they’ll still mean a million things to people.”
“But a different million.”
Celia: She wasn’t talking about the brooms. But she smiles all the same.
“That’s the appeal of art, I believe.”
“The fact that it is subjective.”
She thinks, though, that her own art is less subjective, and perhaps his as well.
“I have seen some of your work, you know. Pictures are a thousand words and all that…” she pauses, offering him a small, private smile. “Yours, though, perhaps more.”
Unlike the elders of their clan, she does think photography is a valid format.
GM: Garcia smiles back. “That’s why I prefer photography. There’s subjectivity, but it’s over something tangible. Look at the picture of the lonely pretty girl. Is she ‘sad’ lonely, is she ‘wants to fuck’ lonely, or is she not actually lonely. How does the shot composition change which she seems like.”
Celia: “That is the trouble with those who simply pick up a camera to point and click, is it not? They give no thought to composition, framing, or lighting.”
“So we are inundated with photos, particularly now with the move to digital media, that fail to tell a story or move its viewers.”
She lifts one shoulder, a half-shrug to go with her wry smile. Perhaps she is wrong. She is, after all, one of those would-be photographers who takes pictures of her face to plaster them across the Internet.
“Have you dabbled in film at all?”
GM: “Sure. Digital didn’t exist when I started out. Everyone shot with film. Lots of photographers these days are all saying how great it is and how people should at least try shooting both to get a complete picture of photography as a practice.”
Celia: “My apologies, I meant more film in line with movies.”
GM: “Nope. Photography and movies are as different as drawing and sculpture. One uses two dimensions. The other uses three.”
“But as far as Facebook pictures, I don’t see those being less intelligent as a problem.”
“Any more than you probably see non-professionals being able to use makeup in their own homes as a problem.”
Celia: “How selfish of me if I did.”
GM: “Sexy women are always a little selfish.”
“Or a lot.”
Celia: That earns a smile.
“I hope you won’t tell on me.”
GM: “I’d rather show.”
She feels a hand idly caress her rear.
Celia: Expected. But thrilling, isn’t it, to know she can wrap them so quickly around her fingers. All the same, she’s too aware of how public this scene is, too aware of her lover in the next room, to let this go any further than what could be perceived as an accidental touch. She takes a tiny step closer, putting her hand on his shoulder as if to steady herself.
It tugs at her. The bond she has recently renewed with Roderick. She hardly thinks that canoodling here with Garcia is going to do any favors for her in that regard, despite how it adds to their cover. This is who Jade is: flirty, sexy, social butterfly, flitting from group to group, chatting and laughing and touching. It’s who she has been for years. It’s who they expect to see.
Not monogamy. Does he expect it from her still? They hadn’t had that talk. She thinks that he does. She blames him, really, for this show here in the corner with Garcia. If he hadn’t approached, hadn’t spoken to her, she wouldn’t have had to move off with someone else. But people watching—people are always watching—will know that the Brujah means nothing to her. Safer that way, even if it threatens to pull apart that thing in the middle of her chest.
She could whisper the words that Garcia expects to hear. Agreement. Encouragement. They would fall from her lips like the well-practiced lies that they are. After all, she’s played this game for a long time. She knows what to say to get their blood pumping, even if it’s a forced gesture from their kind.
She could, but she doesn’t.
After a brief moment Jade extricates herself from Garcia, giggling about public spaces.
GM: “Hate to see you leave, but love to watch you go,” he smirks after her.
Jade leaves and goes to find her grandsire. She finds him conversing with Coco Duquette over a piece of art depicting a chained man struggling to burst the links of his fetters. The two elders’ faces are smiles (wider in Savoy’s case), but beneath the surface meanings and artistic critiques, one can see their debate over the meaning of the man’s struugle is a battle of words over whether Vidal’s reign can hope to endure. Whether its ‘chains’ will be shattered by time and struggle. Spectators from both sides of the political divide watch the debate avidly.
“With respect, my lord, this debate accomplishes little,” Preston interjects. “We hide behind nuances and doubletalk when we should simply say what we mean: the prince has slaughtered over a dozen Kindred on the last occasion he went out in public. How many more unlives will he destroy before torpor claims him?”
Scandalized looks and furtive whispers greet the Malkavian’s open declaration.
Savoy raises his eyebrows.
The French Quarter lord offers her several conversational outs to downplay the severity of her words. Preston ignores them all, stating, “We all know it. An archon was even here for several nights. The justicars sent North to evaluate the situation. Even they believe things have gotten out of hand under Prince Vidal’s rule. If we do not resolve the situation, a justicar may do it for us.”
Louder sounds of offense go up at the Malkavian’s words.
Pierpont McGinn raises his eyebrows and smirks at his lover Adelais.
Celia: Ballsy, some part of her thinks.
Suicidal, whispers another.
Amongst the crowd, Jade watches the play between Savoy and his steward, biting her tongue to keep from interjecting her unwanted neonate opinion into… into what, she’s not sure. A ploy to make Savoy look more moderate? A sacrificial offering of the Malkavian to the powers-that-be?
She doubts that this is anything but scripted.
GM: The scent of blood in the water, though, swiftly draws sharks. Marguerite and Veronica both appear alongside Adelais. Benson and Doriocourt bring up the rear guard. It’s just as two of the harpies begin to ‘converse’ with Preston that Savoy interjects, and calmly brings up how the Malkavian has some pressing civic affairs in the French Quarter to attend to—he supposes he’ll be joining her shortly as well.
Preston mutely inclines her head and departs the Elysium.
Whispers blossom up like weeds in her wake.
Celia: Her desires with the halls of Elysium suddenly seem less pressing than the bomb that Savoy and Preston just dropped upon the city’s Kindred.
And here she is with the detonator.
She watches Preston go, listening to the buzz of whispers around her, watching the faces of the Kindred in the crowd to find those who seem more receptive than derisive of the Malkavian’s bold words. It would be easy to titter with the others and make “she’s finally showing her crazy” jokes, but Jade has another play in mind.
At last she turns to the lick who stands beside her, one Reynaldo Gui, and says to him the words that are sure to have even more people talking.
“I hope he isn’t too harsh with her. When I met with Archon North he implied the same.” Quietly, but who is she kidding? This is Elysium. Everyone hears everything in Elysium.
GM: True to Jade’s expectation, quite a few Kindred are tittering and making “finally showing her crazy” jokes. Some are wittier than others. Adelais’ icy barbs and Marguerite’s droll observations both draw laughter. Elmhearst’s mean cracks draw less. Roderick rationally points out that Preston is as crazy as any other Malk. A few members of the Moon Clan seem indignant, but they’re mostly younger ones. Harlequin only titters and makes references as to Preston’s “enlightenment.” The older ones never see their crazy as a curse.
Gui raises an eyebrow. “Oh, you met the archon?”
Nearby Kindred talking amongst themselves make only the vaguest pretense of not listening in over that tidbit.
Celia: Jade doesn’t make a spectacle of nodding. The movement itself is tiny, as if she doesn’t realize that others are listening.
“I did. He asked to meet with me.” She’d positively preen if she weren’t in the middle of Elysium. As it is, she doesn’t even allow herself a satisfied smile. “We had a very illuminating discussion. We met in Faubourg Marigny, at the Carnival Club.” Sundown’s domain. Neutral territory. “Have you been there? It’s lovely.” Idle words, or a glowing recommendation.
GM: “I have. The Afterhours King knows how to throw a party.” The Ventrue smiles faintly. “You also thought the archon was there to evaluate the city’s situation for the Camarilla?”
Celia: Jade leans in, lowering her voice further.
“He mentioned that he was interested in taking action against a problem in the city.”
GM: That draws even more glances and whispers.
“He left pretty soon afterwards,” says Gui. “The Tremere seem like they have a lot on their minds these days, I suppose. Maybe there’ll be another archon.”
“Or maybe he addressed the problem already,” speculates Anthony Brodowski.
Celia: “Perhaps,” Jade says to Anthony. “Only, well… he was most eager to meet with Lord Savoy, and it was so soon before he left…”
It’s clear by her tone, though: whatever drew the Tremere archon away from the city, it wasn’t that the issue was dealt with.
GM: “So he wanted to meet with Lord Savoy. But I don’t think he met with the prince, did he?” asks Gui.
“It’s possible they did in private,” says Brodowski.
“That would be quite the snub if our prince didn’t,” says Gui.
“It’s also possible North isn’t an archon any longer. There’d be no snub then,” says Brodowski.
Celia: “I doubt the prince wanted to meet with him after how he greeted Lord Savoy.” Right in the center of Elysium, for the whole city to hear: Lord.
After all, if the prince let off a known headhunter simply because he was a clanmate and old friend and searches for any excuse to slaughter his enemies under the vaguest of pretenses, why would he care about offending an archon?
There’s a word for that. It starts with “tyrant.”
“Besides,” she continues, “he was looking for an assistant specifically within the city. I highly doubt that’s the sort of thing an ex-archon needs.”
What’s that called? Server? Servant?
Servire. That’s the one.
GM: “The prince still granted North permission to remain in the city on a provisional basis,” says Brodowski. “I don’t think he was happy over the breach in etiquette, but it was a more measured response than simply throwing him out. Or doing what the Southron Lords did and shipping pieces of him back to his justicar by railroad.”
“Mmm,” Gui agrees noncommittally. “A servire, though? That’s interesting. I wonder who he had his eye on.”
The Ventrue smiles like it’s not obvious. A few more Kindred talking among themselves try not to look equally obvious in their glances towards Jade.
Celia: She knew she liked the cowboy for a reason.
She smiles prettily for him, making the same sort of noncommittal sound at Anthony’s words.
GM: “I don’t envy them,” says Brodowski. “Tremere archons blood bond all of their servires.”
“Whoever they might serve before, they serve the Tremere clan after they swear their oath.”
Celia: Jade slides her tongue across the long fangs in her mouth, as if she doesn’t mind the thought of sinking them into the very, very handsome archon she’d took a spin on the dance floor with.
He’s reaching, anyway. The archons bond their ghouls. And the servires generally only serve for a specific instance.
But whatever makes the little boy happy, she supposes.
“I guess that prospect should make the most of their remaining time as a free agent.” Sarcasm? From Jade? Never.
Jade turns an appraising eye to Gui. She lifts a brow, head canting to one side. Her eyes flick toward the exit. “I suppose we’ll hear all about it tomorrow. But if you’re free this evening…”
Tomorrow. Lord Savoy’s Elysia. In case the licks behind any of those not-so-subtle looks directed her way want to swing by and see what passes for a fun time in the Quarter.
GM: It’s rare that Lord Savoy’s court fails to draw invitees, but perhaps tomorrow it will draw still more.
“I can always find time for a beautiful woman,” smiles Gui. He nods towards his clanmate. “Mr. Brodowski, a pleasure as always.”
“Likewise, Mr. Gui, Miss Kalani.”
Celia: “Good evening, Mr. Brodowski.” Jade inclines her head toward the Ventrue, a pleasant smile on her lips. It widens when she returns her gaze to Gui and the two of them start toward the door.
GM: She espies Roderick and Abraham Garcia engaged in a debate over an art piece as they leave. It sounds heated.
Onlookers watch with looks amusement and entertainment.
Celia: Interesting indeed.
Jade gives a gentle tug on Gui’s arm, nodding toward the bickering couple. She smirks at him, lifting her brows in amusement, and drifts that way.
GM: He looks equally amused and drifts over to watch. Roderick does not look happy at the mafioso’s presence, but doesn’t let it distract him from Garcia as the verbal arrows fly.
Things start to get personal when Roderick accuses the Toreador (in barely veiled terms) of being a sellout who’s compromised all his principles and Garcia accuses the Brujah of being a privileged elder’s pet.
Celia: She should have expected this.
Maybe she did expect this.
Because it’s not as if she doesn’t know what this is about: Garcia grabbing her ass. She’d wondered what would come of it. Had expected a private argument between the pair of them later this evening. Maybe a beating. But the way Roderick is going on… she sees the logical end result: challenging Garcia to a duel.
Some part of her is flattered. Isn’t this every girl’s fantasy, a boy she likes challenging another boy over her? Her honor, or his honor, or someone’s honor.
In her dreams it had always been Roderick and her sire, and the winner would get to have her hand in marriage.
Her dreams are very sexist and archaic like that.
She supposes that Gui’s presence does little to calm the Brujah. She wishes he were anyone else. And that there weren’t any harpies around to watch this little tiff. But she does what she can, because she loves the poor sap arguing in front of her, and she’s not going to let him get humiliated if he loses to Garcia.
“I love their passion,” Jade murmurs to Gui. “What do you think has him all riled up? Do you think it’s a lover’s spat? Something like that I’d save for the bedroom, but… well, this is terribly amusing.”
She rakes her gaze down the Brujah’s form.
“I heard,” she continues to the Ventrue, “that he recently took out a whole cell of hunters by himself. Middle of the day and everything.”
That asshole Chris had been all but crowing about it to anyone that would listen.
Her tongue runs along the sharp points of her fangs. Maybe she’s thinking about asking him to show her what’s underneath that suit of his.
GM: She supposes her mom and dad would both approve of those dreams.
Well, her dad would probably still find something wrong with them.
Celia: That’s okay, Savoy walks her down the aisle and gives her away in those dreams.
GM: Laughter goes up from some nearby Kindred. Some eyes cut towards the present harpy, Katherine Beaumont.
“I didn’t figure them for an item,” Tina Baker remarks amusedly.
“Opposites attract,” says Frank Larsen.
“Oh, it’s true, he did,” remarks Amaryllis DeCuir, who was has not directly spoken to her pretend-sister since before the trial. “Whole cell of hunters. Jumped him in his haven and everything.”
“Did you, neonate? Tell us of this,” Katherine Beaumont requests.
“Yes, let’s hear it in Elysium if it’s already being told on the streets,” echoes Elyse Benson.
Roderick doesn’t look thrilled to be put on the spot, but goes on, “So it started when…”
Maxzille Babineaux approaches her sire and starts talking him with about other art. He takes the window to avoid a duel with the angry Brujah.
Gui smirks and heads off, clearly expecting Jade to follow if she’s already heard the story.
Elyse’s eyes briefly meet Jade’s before returning to Roderick’s.
Celia: She’d give a nod to Elyse on her way out, but the Malkavian has wanted to keep their association under the radar.
GM: She’d said the maintenance work on Lucy would be done soon.
Celia: Jade will need to pencil in a visit, then. She misses the doll something fierce.
Satisfied, Jade leaves Roderick to look like the hero while she slinks away, content with her role with… well, whatever this makes her.
GM: Perhaps a puppeteer. Someone who pulls strings from the shadows, where no one can see and no one can hurt her, because to do good is to look weak.
Perhaps that simply makes her another Kindred.