“This wasn’t how it was supposed to go.”
Sunday night, 13 March 2016, PM
Celia: After visiting the Evergreen, Celia heads back to Randy’s house to pick up Dani and Lucy (the doll, not the sleeping child). She’s not quite skipping, but she does have a spring in her step that wasn’t there when she’d left, and her heart feels lighter than it has in… well, not days, but a few nights now. Settling things with Diana has let her focus her attention elsewhere: Dani and Roderick.
Celia checks to see if Randy and Reggie have finished with their guns for the evening; Reggie is supposed to be with her tonight, and while she has no doubt that she can take a handful of thin-bloods or kine if it comes down to it, she’d rather not have to rely on that if she can help it. The point of muscle is to be muscle, right?
GM: The brothers have found two off-duty cops and one bounty hunter from LegalWings to come guard the house. Doubtless, if Rusty were here, he’d remind Celia that she is paying for them.
All three stare at Celia appreciatively, like all men do.
Celia: She’d assumed as much. Things will be less frivolous for a bit, but she doesn’t really need a new handbag or shoes or that dress she saw in the window the other night.
Then again, Roderick still offered to pay for destroying her haven, so if she really wants to be a mooch…
No, no, that’s wrong.
Pietro might just nick it for her, though, if she asks nicely.
GM: “You seem in a good mood,” Dani smiles as they set off.
Celia: “I am,” she says to Dani with a smile after winking at the boys Reggie and Rusty had gotten to watch the house. That frees up the ghouls to be with her, which is ideal.
“I had to speak to someone about some of the issues coming up around my mom, and it went well. So I feel better about the whole thing.”
“And, after we run a few errands, you get to meet someone special.”
GM: “Oh, that’s good. She seemed really down after you left,” Dani remarks next to Celia in the back seat as Reggie drives. “Who’s the special someone?”
“Was she? I could cheer her up,” smirks Reggie.
Celia: “It’s a shift in dynamic that I wasn’t prepared for. She and I just need to talk it out now.”
“Reggie, if you touch her without permission I’m going to geld you,” Jade says sweetly.
GM: “Ah, but then I couldn’t touch you anymore, at least not in the ways that make you flush and cream your panties.”
Celia: Jade, sitting behind him, leans forward to whisper in his ear. It’s the sort of threat that makes his blood run cold, but not the sort of thing she wants Dani to overhear: a graphic warning on what, exactly, she’ll do to him if he doesn’t knock it off in front of the kid and her mom.
She finishes it with “save it for the bedroom,” which lets him know she’s happy to let him touch her and talk to her like this—but not here, and not now.
She makes sure to let him see her fangs when she pulls back, smiling at him in the rear-view mirror. He knows what she can do with those fangs, the sort of pleasure or horror they can bring to him and people like him.
GM: His smile, and initial words about “doing you and your mom together, so you can be sure I’ll treat her right,” die under the vampire’s threat.
He clears his throat and stares ahead at the road.
Celia: It’s not that she minds the way Reggie talks. She really doesn’t; sometimes it even turns her on when she gets to be treated like another piece of meat. There’s a reason she’s kept him as a part-time lover for the past six years, and he definitely delivers. But not in front of Dani, and certainly not in front of her mother.
Jade—Celia?—returns to the conversation with Dani once the driver remembers who she is.
“The boy I was telling you about. But first we’re meeting some other people.”
“A fortune teller and some others like you. Maybe. If we can find them without getting too close to the border. People are looking for me, and I’d prefer not to make it easy on them.”
If Sidra is there, anyway. She might have gone to Elysium as well.
GM: Dani looks a little less enthusiastic over meeting Celia’s abuser, but asks, “Are fortune-tellers for real?”
Celia: “You believe in vampires but not fortune tellers?” Celia winks at her. “Some of them, anyway.”
“And listen. About the guy. If you don’t change your mind upon meeting him, I’ll end things.”
GM: “Really? Could we ask them to tell our futures?”
Dani looks surprised by Celia’s turnaround, but nods, “Okay. Good.”
Celia: “She might want something in exchange, but if you want to try then yes.”
GM: “I’m surprised more people don’t. She must be rich if she can actually predict the future.”
Celia: “Might be complicated by you being duskborn. We’ll see.”
GM: “Oh. She won’t because she hates duskborn?”
Celia: “I don’t know her personal views, but most of them do.”
“I think we could pass you off as a ghoul for a while if you keep your fangs away.”
GM: “I guess we better, yeah,” Dani says, not without some bitterness.
Celia: “Hey,” Celia says to her, “listen. I lie to everyone about everything. No one knows I’m Celia Flores. They think I’m Jade. I act completely different around everyone else depending on who I’m with. It’s just a way to keep safe. It’s masking. Ghouls pick up all sorts of things people don’t realize; we trust them with our secrets and our daily affairs. Some of them are really powerful. Just think of it like that. You’re just pretending to be someone else to get to do what you want.”
“You just pick a persona and play it. It’s kind of fun sometimes. And once we teach you shadow dancing you’ll be even better at it.”
“And if you want… once you’re done with school we can change your whole identity. Keep your dad safe.”
GM: “I guess you’re right that everyone pretends. It just feels bad that they’d hate and discriminate against the real me.”
“You think my dad would be in danger?” Dani asks worriedly.
Celia: “Maybe. That’s why I kept my mom in the dark for years. I only told you about me because, well, you’re you.”
“It’s usually a good idea to create a new name, at least. A lot of people fake their deaths. But… you can still be around during the day, with your dad and all, and if you don’t have a Beast then honestly it’s pretty safe. You don’t have to worry about losing control.”
Celia: “So. I’m thinking. We teach you shadow dancing and how to taste like a mortal. All of my boys know it except for Randy, and I’m going to be teaching my mom anyway, so you’ve got a lot of people to help you learn. We keep you as a duskborn on the down low. I can talk to my surgeon, see if she can make a mask for you that’s easily applicable to pretend to be my ghoul, that way if you are spotted and tasted by someone in Riverbend during school no one connects us. Guy who runs the place is, uh, real asshole. He’d kill you. Frankly. Then when you’re done with school we get you a new identity.”
“So you still get the pride of finishing school on your own, we can pad your resume if you want, and you basically get to have it all.”
GM: “Okay. That seems smart,” Dani nods. “Should I be meeting this fortune teller right now, though, if we don’t have a mask for me?”
Celia: “Nope. We can meet her tomorrow instead.”
GM: “Okay. Let’s do that, then.”
Celia: Celia checks the time.
“We have some free time. What’re you interested in?”
GM: “I’d like to meet some other licks, but if that needs to wait… is there anything you’d recommend?”
Celia: “You know who Andi Brooks is? Love & Liars?”
GM: “Yeah, I’ve heard of her. I listen to some of her stuff.”
Celia: “She and I are pretty tight. A few years ago she showed me this place that she likes to practice new material under her alias. Bad feeding so no one runs it, but they have poetry slams and open mic nights if you want to check it out.”
GM: “You know her?” Dani asks, impressed.
“Wow, though I guess you are kinda famous too.”
“I’ve actually been getting random followers and friend requests and since you friended and followed me.”
“But that sounds fun, anyways. It’d be nice just to do something… normal.”
Celia: “She’s part of my krewe,” Celia explains. “She might like you, actually. She’s Caitiff. No clan. Gets the same sort of second-class treatment as you do for it, and she’s very into raging against the machine and the status quo.”
“When she’s back in town I can bring you to meet her.”
“She’s pretty cool, to be honest. And way more famous than me. Surprised you got followers out of me following you, ha.”
Celia gives Reggie the new address.
GM: Reggie drives.
“You mentioned krewes,” says Dani. “They’re like cliques of friends, aren’t they?”
Celia: “Yeah, basically. We help each other out. Hang out.”
“Two of mine travel a lot. Andi and Tyrell. He deals in antiques and things like that, so he and Andi travel together when she’s on tour. Safer. He’s… a real sweetheart, honestly. You don’t usually expect it from someone that age. Or at all. He’s just got his way about him, you know?”
“Roxy is the fourth and the leader. She’s older. Been around longer. That kind of thing. When those two are in town we hang out more.”
“Roxy has some stuff going on with her sire she’s looking into. I was helping until, well, life blew up. So when all this calms down I’ll see where she’s at and how I can get back into it.”
GM: “Could I join your krewe?” Dani asks.
Celia: “Maybe! Roxy makes the decisions and we talk about it before we vote anyone in. I’ll put in a good word for you, though.”
GM: “Thanks. I’d like that. To have some friends who are licks.”
Celia: “Thing is about lick friends,” Celia says to her, “is that everyone has their own agenda. It’s not like human friends. So I’d be wary what you share with them when you do make some. Like, none of them know I’m Celia either.”
GM: “But I know you’re Celia and I’m a lick.”
Celia: “You’re different. I knew you before I was turned. I trust you. And I’m trusting you to keep it to yourself.”
GM: “I will,” Dani nods. “Lawyers have to be able to keep our mouths shut.”
“But that sounds like you don’t really trust them, and that’s too bad.”
Celia: “It’s not that. It’s just… everyone has an angle, you know?”
“And being a lick is very cutthroat.”
GM: “You haven’t seemed that way.”
Celia: “We don’t get into a lot of physical brawls, so reputation means a lot. I’m that way around them.”
“I wouldn’t sell out my krewe or my sire or my patron. But I’m happy to collect information on people in case they move against me.”
GM: “Maybe they’re only that way around others too, and they just need to be a little vulnerable.”
Celia: “Maybe. It’s hard to trust. It’s kind of isolating. We were humans once, and humans are pack animals. Cut them away from that and they get a little… crazy.”
“There was a study once about apes. Guy wanted to see what happened to them if you isolated them. So he did. And it was really fucked up. Moms killing their babies, loss of will to live.”
GM: “That’s worse than I thought, but not that much worse. Social isolation is linked to all sorts of negative health outcomes.”
Celia: “Everyone wants to be on top. So we fight and claw our way up there. And it’s a real long fall if you lose your footing; no one wants to start over.”
“So we just… don’t trust easily. One wrong word can be the end of you, you know?”
“You tell someone I’m Celia. They see me in their territory and suddenly my identity isn’t safe. I get picked up for trespassing. Can’t visit my grandma or my brother. Someone reports that I’m posting photos online and it’s against the Masquerade. Then they want to know who does my work for me.” She gestures at her face.
“I piss someone off and they go after my mom, Lucy, or Emily.”
GM: “That sounds like an awful way to live.”
“I’m glad we can be honest, at least.”
Celia: “It can be really, really lonely.”
GM: Dani wraps an arm around her shoulder in a half-hug.
“You’re not alone.”
Celia: Celia returns the embrace. For all that Dani is a pawn in this game, Celia is happy to have her.
Sunday night, 13 March 2016, PM
Celia: Open mic night turns out to be a pretty good time for the two of them. As Celia had told Dani, the feeding isn’t good, but it’s not for lack of people. Just lack of privacy. There’s only one room with a slightly elevated platform to serve as stage and a bar that serves coffee and liquor at all hours of the day, which Dani helps herself to while Celia snags them a table. When Celia orders a drink eventually she quietly explains that it’s better for the Masquerade to be seen at least pretending to eat and drink in public. Dani finishes most of the cappuccino for her, which Celia appreciates. She doesn’t want to spend the precious blood keeping it down.
There are a handful of acts at open mic: a blonde girl with a country twang and a guitar, a red haired bombshell that belts out blues and jazz and could give Veronica a new obsession if she were so inclined, and an older gentleman that brings a few of the crowd to tears with his spoken word.
The two girls are able to relax and enjoy the night, and when Celia’s phone eventually buzzes they’ve made tentative plans to come back and try their own hand it. Celia asks Dani if she has any artistic talents like that, or if she still writes.
Reggie watches with them. Celia thinks he appreciates it more than he lets on, but either way his presence puts her at ease.
Celia has him drop off Dani at Celia’s place, explaining to the girl that she needs to pick up her friend so she can get him into the Quarter. They work for opposite sides. She reminds her to keep an open mind about him, and says that she’s pretty sure Dani will end up liking him. She also asks, again, that Dani not tell him about the shared blood.
“Just in case.”
Outside, Celia tells Reggie to watch the place. Discreetly. To use his shadow dancing to make himself look human so that her friend doesn’t smell him, and that if he tries to get out with Dani to stake him.
She’s pretty sure Savoy has people around since he had said as much—she thinks they’ve been followed all night—but she wouldn’t put it past Roderick to try something because he thinks they’re alone.
Bases covered, Celia goes to pick up Roderick. She greets him with a kiss at the door, smuggles him into the car so he can sit in the trunk, and asks how Elysium went.
GM: Dani doesn’t mind the coffee at all, and thinks it’s too bad Celia can’t enjoy it.
Roderick’s eyes shine when he sees her. He tries to do with Celia right then and there upon her kiss.
“Dani can wait…”
Celia: Oh. Well then.
They can do this instead.
“Twenty minutes,” she tells him, then pulls him against her.
GM: The lovers’ coupling is swift and passionate. Roderick can’t get enough of her. He pulls her into a lap dance position, sitting down on his knees and pulling her onto his lap with her back against his chest, her legs spread over his knees, and her head thrown over his shoulder. His hands roam her body constantly, squeezing, caressing, feeling her everywhere as he thrusts into her and she grinds down on him. It’s an excellent position too for him to feed from her neck, though he needlessly refrains from drinking straight from the source.
He can’t get enough of her.
Celia: It’s a new position for the two of them, but one that Celia thoroughly enjoys if the way she moves and the sounds she makes and the multiple times she finds release (even in their brief time) is any indication. She likes being spread open like this on his lap; he can touch everything he needs to, and it’s perfect for his fangs to find a perch.
She returns the favor when he lets her shift to face him instead, and only once they’ve each satisfied themselves and each other does she ask, giggling, if he missed her.
GM: “My god, yes,” he murmurs, planting a kiss on her lips. “Elysium just seemed like such total bullshit tonight.”
Celia: Sunday services usually are.
“Nothing exciting, then?”
GM: “The bishop wasn’t there.”
Celia: “Oh. Weird. I wonder why.” She can’t recall a mass without the albino. “Who did the service?”
GM: “Maldonato. Rumors are spreading, though.”
“I heard it’s been a week since anyone saw him.”
Celia: “Huh. Maybe he left. Off to diddle little boys like his Catholic counterparts.”
“What’re the rumors?” She retrieves their clothing while they talk, handing him his pants and shirt. She slides close to help him with the buttons.
It’s really an excuse to kiss his neck.
GM: Roderick talks in between several of his own.
“That he’s been summoned by the cardinal in Corpus Christi, who wants him to replace Vidal when the prince enters torpor.”
“Though that seems off. He’s not thrown his hat into the ring.”
Celia: “Thought the sheriff was replacing Vidal.”
GM: “Vidal hasn’t said a word about who’s replacing him.”
Celia: “Hasn’t said much of anything in years.”
GM: “True. Though other talk says Malveaux’s going to be the sheriff’s seneschal.”
“Another one was that Malkavians kidnapped him. He’s supposed to be pretty friendly with them, but being friends with any Malkavian is a double-edged sword.”
Celia: “Because they’ll turn on you at any moment? Or because their crazy rubs off on you?” She brushes against him at the word “rub.”
GM: He pulls her close and starts to steadily kneed her breasts. “Because they’re crazy period.”
“You’re friends with one, how has it generally worked out?”
Celia: Her nipples stiffen at the touch.
“We’re crazy for each other,” Celia says with another kiss against his neck.
“Mm, aside from the fact that I hurt her? All right.”
“Oh, you mean Andi?”
GM: “Yeah. We are.” Another kiss.
“She’s Caitiff. I’ve heard. That was just a rumor.”
“Lucky for her, because I don’t think the Malkavians believed it. They know their own.”
Celia: “Ah. Yeah. Her sire was as crazy as they come, to hear her tell.”
GM: “Speaking of Benson, she’s getting ordained next week.”
GM: “Yeah. Congratulations to her, I guess.”
Celia: “I’ll have to send flowers.”
GM: “You’re not attending?”
Celia: “I meant before then. I don’t know. If everything goes well then yes I’ll be there.”
GM: “Katherine Beaumont was talking shit about you. Two consecutive weeks is a lot of Elysia to miss. For someone who hangs out with the harpies, anyway.”
Celia: “I’d talk shit back, but she’s low-hanging fruit.” Celia shrugs. “She’s mad I’ve been tapped to help the archon. Whatever.”
Celia can’t even remember what she was doing last week to miss it. Hunters?
Or was that the night she got high?
It all blurs together.
GM: “I’d be careful. The other harpies weren’t really leaping to your defense.”
GM: “Yeah. Are those rumors about you and the archon true?”
GM: “Which ones?”
Celia: “Uh. Which rumors exist?”
“I guess I should have clarified before blindly agreeing.”
GM: Roderick gives a somewhat dry look. “He didn’t actually tap you, did he?”
Celia: Celia blinks at him, momentary hurt crossing her face that he thinks she wouldn’t be chosen for something like this.
“He reached out to me directly and asked me for assistance. We’re meeting when he gets back into town.”
GM: “It’s just… no offense, but you seemed pretty clueless about the city’s stability and the possibility of civil war until we talked. And if the archon was here for anything, it was that.”
Celia: “Mmm. Maybe he just wanted to fuck. I’m very pretty. I’ve heard it’s my only talent.”
GM: “It’s not your only talent. You’re plenty smart too.”
Celia: “Really? I seem to recall you almost calling me stupid the other night.”
GM: Remorse flashes across his face. “I didn’t mean it. I stuck my foot in my mouth.”
Celia: “You also just called me clueless.”
GM: “About the city’s political stability, yes. And you were. But the important thing is you aren’t now.”
Celia: “Or maybe I’m privy to things you aren’t.”
GM: “I find that unlikely, given how seriously the elders are all taking the possibility of civil war.”
Celia: “Or maybe you just expect me to be an idiot and me asking a follow up question during our discussion makes you think I’m just a dumb broad.”
“But hey, at least the sex is good, right?”
GM: “I don’t think you’re an idiot. This was just a topic you didn’t know much about. There are plenty of topics I’m ignorant of.”
Celia: “Yes, Roderick, I don’t know anything about the politics in the city I live in. You’re right.”
GM: “I didn’t say all politics, I said stability and the possibility of civil war.”
Celia: Celia waves a hand. She stops pretending to help with his buttons. When she pulls away only two have actually been fastened.
GM: He doesn’t resume them. “I’m sorry if I made you feel like I was belittling your intelligence. I know how much your dad hurt you by doing that. I don’t want to hurt you.”
Celia: “You know Preston said that to me last night, too. That I’m stupid. When I pointed out my medical degree she scoffed because I had the misfortune to be Embraced before I could graduate and wasn’t about to beg a favor from the sheriff to finish up at Tulane, even if I could go during the day. I paint faces and that’s not real art, so my clan talks a bunch of shit too. I went to school online because that was my only option. I spent years being told I’m stupid by my dad to the point that I internalized it. And then I died.”
Celia gives him a flat look.
“You know what people do when they think you’re stupid?”
Celia: They underestimate you and share all sorts of juicy tidbits.
“Can’t remember, my brain doesn’t hold that much information.”
GM: “Your brain is amazing. I’ll challenge Preston to a duel if you want me to pay her back for saying those shitty things about you.”
“Online degrees are accredited. They’re just as valid as traditional ones.”
Celia: “And if you were talking to anyone else I bet you’d say differently.”
“So think what you want about whatever you want. The archon wanted me.”
GM: “Okay, I’ll take your word for it. The archon wanted you.”
“And I wouldn’t say differently. There are lots of licks who earn online degrees. They can’t attend day classes or classes at X location and still want to better themselves, like you did.”
“You aren’t stupid. I don’t have a medical degree. You know way more about anatomy, medicine, and the physical sciences than I do.”
Roderick’s unbuttoned shirt is still just hanging there.
He hasn’t yet brought up wanting to see his sister.
Celia: He still doesn’t believe her.
She’s not going to be the one to remind him about his sister. He can wait until tomorrow for all she cares.
GM: He lays his hands on her shoulders.
“Tell me how I can make this right. I don’t want you to feel like I think you’re stupid. I know how much that hurts you.”
Celia: Celia lifts her gaze to his face. He can see it in her eyes: the hurt, the wounded pride, the fear that he still thinks she’s stupid, that she’s not good enough, that she’ll never be good enough. That he doesn’t believe her. She swallows, dropping her eyes for a moment. She starts to shake her head.
“I don’t know.”
Then, a second later, she looks up again.
“No, I do know. Who’s your shadow dancer contact? I don’t have the patience to teach my mom and I want her to learn. Quickly.”
GM: She sees pain equally written in his face too, at first. Perhaps it’s real. Perhaps it’s the second drink. Perhaps it’s both. But it’s there.
“The Churchmice,” he answers. “They’re mutes, but they’re great at making themselves scarce.”
“I thought you wanted to keep her secret from other licks, though.”
Celia: Her mouth forms a little “o” as his words sink in, as she realizes what she asked.
She abruptly turns away, pressing a hand against her mouth as if that will stop the trail of red that leaks from her eyes.
“St-stupid,” she stutters out.
GM: “You’re not stupid!” Roderick exclaims, hugging his arms around her.
Celia: “Ev-everyone says so. They all think so. You think so. You-you don’t—you don’t even trust me to-to take care of Dani because you think I’m… you think I’m dumb.”
GM: “I’ve trusted you to do that for nights,” Roderick insists. “There’s no one else I would. No one. Not my krewe, not Coco, no one.”
“You’re the only one smart enough and trustworthy enough.”
Celia: Celia thinks she might have taken this train as far as she can ride it.
She lets the arms around her pull her back against his chest, lets him calm her like he thinks he’s doing. She settles against him, the tears slowing to a trickle, and finally she wipes at them with her hands.
“O-okay,” she says in a small voice.
GM: He holds her close and runs his hands up and down her.
“You aren’t stupid,” he repeats. “Only your dad is for not recognizing what an amazing mind he had in front of him.”
Celia: “He… he said he was sorry. Last night. At dinner.”
Like Roderick is doing now, but she doesn’t point it out.
GM: “I don’t buy that. ‘Sorry’ does a fat lot of nothing to make up for the abuse he put you and your family through, anyway.”
Celia: “There was more to it than that.” Celia shakes her head. “It doesn’t matter, I guess.”
GM: “Just so long as you told him where to stick it.”
Roderick smiles. “Did you give him a kiss, by the way, with those lips that had just sucked my dick?”
Celia: “No,” she admits, “I didn’t want to kiss him.”
GM: “I’m sorry. I completely forgot to ask how that dinner went. There’s just been so much else on my mind.”
“At least I still got a blowjob.”
GM: “I owe you still.”
Celia: “You do,” Celia agrees.
“Later tonight, maybe. Or tomorrow.”
GM: “Right.” He shakes his head. “Dani is waiting.”
Celia: She’d rather go see her now and let him return the favor tomorrow. Or after. So she doesn’t need to think about his sister while he’s going down on her.
GM: Roderick finishes with his clothes.
He hoists her up in his arms once she’s dressed.
“I still mean that. You’re too pretty to have to walk.”
Celia: “You can carry me down the aisle after we get married,” Celia promises him.
GM: “I’ll carry you a lot further than that,” he says as he carries out to the car. “You fit so perfectly in my arms. You were custom-made for them.”
Celia: They really do fit together nicely.
She distracts him with her mouth on his lips and neck while he carries her, and only once they reach the car does she desist.
GM: He sets her down reluctantly, but still enjoys opening the car door, setting her down onto her seat, and closing the door for her.
Celia: At least she got to keep her panties this time.
GM: Roderick gets in the trunk and pulls it closed. He has reasons. Staying hidden.
But it’s hard not to think back to another Brujah doing that around Celia’s pretend sire.
Another probably mindfucked Brujah.
Celia: It’s different.
Celia is doing it out of love.
Veronica is doing it to be a cunt.
GM: They drive until they reach Celia’s apartment. Roderick gets out and follows her upstairs.
Celia: On the way, though, Celia sends a text to Mel, letting her know about the Churchmice. Coded. Obviously.
GM: The ghoul thanks her for the notice and says they’ll alter plans accordingly.
“Hair and coat aren’t too mussed?” he asks.
Celia: Celia checks over Roderick before they head upstairs. She fixes a stray hair for him and straightens his tie, then gives a nod.
GM: He knocks on the apartment door when they’re there. “I’m not sure how you re-introduce someone to the brother they thought was dead.”
Celia: “I didn’t tell her,” Celia warns him. “She… thought this was the only thing she had done that you hadn’t.”
GM: “Ah. Crap.”
Celia: “I didn’t want to break her heart without being able to also introduce you.”
GM: “All right. Let’s do this.”
Celia: Celia takes his hand and gives it a squeeze. They’ve got this.
Sunday night, 13 March 2016, PM
GM: “Is that you?” calls Dani from behind the peephole.
Celia: “It’s Celia,” she confirms.
GM: She opens the door.
She looks at Roderick.
Her hands fly to her mouth as she gasps.
“Hi, sis,” he smiles.
“St… ephen?!” Dani gets out.
She stares at him for a while, then finally looks between him and Celia.
Celia: Celia gives Dani a gentle smile.
GM: “It’s me,” he nods. “I’m here.”
He notably doesn’t say ’I’m alive.’
He steps forward into the apartment and hugs her.
Celia: Celia follows him in, closing the door behind her.
GM: “I’ve missed you.”
“H… how?!” Dani exclaims, though she returns the embrace.
Celia: “I told you,” Celia says quietly, “a lot of us fake our deaths.”
GM: “He’s… he’s a vampire?”
Celia: “He’s a vampire.”
GM: Dani looks back towards her brother, who’s still holding her.
He opens his mouth and shows his fangs.
“We… we thought you were dead!” Dani exclaims.
“I know,” Roderick replies. “I can’t imagine how hard that was on you b-”
“It destroyed Dad!” Dani interrupts.
“You just… you let us think you were dead?!”
Celia: “Dani,” Celia interrupts, “let him explain.”
“It’s hard. I told you. Mostly people leave their families behind.”
“They have to. It isn’t safe. You saw what happened with mine.”
“And Rod—Stephen is…” she’d explained it. “Brujah.”
GM: Dani looks at Celia, then back at her brother.
“I’m sorry,” Roderick answers. “I hated doing it. It tore me apart to do it. You have no idea how many times I’ve cried.”
“Well, actually,” he adds more quietly, “you probably do.”
“I did it to keep you and Dad safe.”
“I don’t s…” Dani starts.
“You remember that argument? Where I tore up the house?” Roderick asks.
“That’s when I knew. It wasn’t safe for you and Dad to be around me.”
Celia: Celia gives Dani a private look over her brother’s shoulder. Remember what I said he did to me? that look says. Not safe.
GM: “My sire… erased some of your and Dad’s memories. You don’t remember the worst of it.”
Celia: Celia looks sharply at Roderick. He’d never told her that.
GM: He looks at her apologetically, then back to Dani. “I wanted to stay with you, as long as I could. My sire kept telling me it was a bad idea. I didn’t listen.”
“I only listened once I’d come within a hair’s breadth of killing you both.”
Dani doesn’t say anything for a few moments. Just silently processes.
“You hit Celia,” she says. “She says you beat her.”
GM: “What?!” Roderick exclaims.
Celia: “I was trying to explain the Brujah thing,” Celia says.
GM: “What, is she lying? Have you ever hit her?”
“I… yes, I have-” Roderick starts.
“Oh my god!” Dani exclaims.
“It wasn’t me!” Roderick protests.
“You said you hit her! How many times!?”
“We’re all that way!” Roderick starts to explain. “All my clan! Think of it as… a genetic disorder, it afflicts us all, no matter who we were.”
“A genetic disorder that makes you hit your girlfriend?!”
“Yes! That makes us do a lot worse than hit everyone! All Kindred have a Beast, but ours is worse, so much wo-”
“I don’t have a Beast!”
“All right, all tru-nightborn Kindred, we have Beasts, but you don’t!”
“I don’t know! I’m not going to deny responsibility for what I’ve done to her, but it has a mind of its own and it does things that horrify and sicken me, things that I’d never countenance. Celia understands. That’s why she didn’t leave me, because she has one in her too.”
Celia: “It—it’s okay, Dani. He doesn’t mean it.”
Exactly like Diana used to say.
“He can’t help it. I told you. It’s the Beast.”
GM: “I’ve never seen the Beast,” says Dani.
“You don’t want to,” says Roderick.
Celia: Celia shakes her head at Dani, as if to confirm his words. And remind her: be careful.
GM: “Should I be scared of you?” Dani asks her brother.
“I don’t want you to be,” he answers.
“That doesn’t answer the question.”
“Under these circumstances? A little, yes. I was… expecting this to go differently.”
“My dead brother is actually alive, but made us all think he was dead because he was scared of, what, hitting us like he hits his girlfriend?”
“Dani, calm down-”
“It destroyed him, Stephen! He’s got this… this permanent shadow over him, that you can see in his eyes, even when he smiles!”
“I know.” Roderick’s voice breaks. “I know, I can onl-”
“You haven’t lived with us these past four years! You haven’t been part of our family! How could you do that to us!?”
“I was trying to keep you safe!”
“I went into law! Because I thought you were dead!”
“You’ll be a great lawyer, you’ll be grad-”
“No! I’ll be a terrible lawyer, next to Stephen! Stephen, captain of the debate team, when I lost all my cases! Stephen who’s top of his class, who’s better at everything, who Dad wishes was alive instead of me!”
Roderick tries to respond to that, but can’t.
“It’s true! Tell me, it is, isn’t it?! You’re better at everything, Dad loves you more!” Dani accuses.
Celia: Celia doesn’t try. She lets Dani go. Girl has to get it out.
GM: “It’s… it’s true,” Roderick says quietly.
Celia: Celia gapes at him.
She can’t believe he just said that.
It’s one thing to admit to her, but to say to Dani?
GM: “I’m not going to lie to her, Celia,” he says in that same quiet voice.
He turns to Dani. “For what it’s worth, I know Mom loves you more too.”
Celia: “Your dad thinks you’re dead,” Celia says to him, “he shouldn’t still have you on a pedestal.”
GM: Dani just looks at her brother for a moment.
Then she starts crying.
Celia: Celia glares at him.
She brings the crying girl into her arms, offering what comfort she can.
GM: They’re pinkish, partly-coppery and partly-watery-smelling tears.
Dani hugs Celia and cries into her shoulder for several moments.
Celia: “It’s okay,” Celia murmurs to her. “It’s okay.”
GM: Roderick stands there haplessly.
Celia: She rubs her hand up and down Dani’s back in soothing gestures.
GM: Dani pulls away after a little while and glares at her brother.
“I’m glad you said it, finally. We all knew it was true. But it’s nice, not to be lying about it anymore. Dad loves me less. I’m the second-place child. You know, the backup, the spare. And I guess not even a very good one, what with how he never got over your death.”
“That’s just by one criteria,” Roderick starts. “Dani, you can be good at other th-”
“Like what!? Dad always said that! ‘Good at other things.’ What fucking things, growing up in a house where law might as well be the Bible?!”
“Well, what else do you like to do, besides law school?”
“No! I don’t do anything else! I never have!”
“Dani, you have not done nothing el-”
“Stop telling me I’m not cut out for law!”
“You just said you weren’t hap-”
“I didn’t say that!”
“What? You’re not even making sense-”
“Stop fucking saying to just toddle off and do other things! Everyone does it!”
Celia: Celia doesn’t quite wince, but she wants to. She’d done the same. She thought it would help. Obviously, it hadn’t.
GM: “So, what, you think you suck at law, and you still want to do it?”
“Oh that’s nice to hear, I suck! I can’t just be second-best, I have to suck too!”
“I didn’t say you suck!”
“Yes you did!”
“You don’t suck!”
“Then why am I middle of my class, whe-”
“That’s a false equivalency, I never even said-”
“So I suck! You think so!”
Roderick throws up his hands. “What do you even want from me?”
“I don’t know, maybe to not be fucking second place for once, maybe to feel like Dad loves me, maybe to just fucking be someone outside of Stephen’s shadow!”
“You are someone!”
“Don’t start with that!”
“You just said you wanted-”
“Well I’m not!”
“Yes you are! Go ahead, name something! Right now, name something you can do that I can’t!”
“Seriously, just try!”
Dani glares, but pauses.
“I can walk in the sun.”
Celia: It’s a pretty big thing, too. Celia has occasionally missed the sun.
GM: “Oh, yeah, there’s that,” says Roderick.
“What, you don’t think it counts?”
“It is something you can do that I can’t,” Roderick says. “Congratulations.”
“You don’t think it counts, does it? I can tell.”
“What do you mean, I think it doesn’t count?”
“Just the way you looked! You think it’s bullshit, why?”
Celia: He thinks she shouldn’t exist. That she’s an abortion. Better off actually dead, hadn’t he said that?
Celia doesn’t say it, though. She looks away.
“Some of the other duskborn still burn in the sun,” she supplies. “Maybe that’s just what he was thinking?”
GM: “Was it, Stephen? You think walking in the sun doesn’t count, because other duskborn burn instead?”
He might clear his throat if he were alive. “That isn’t it, no.”
“Tell me what you really think, then. We are honest in this family.”
“I think it’s a consolation prize,” Roderick answers quietly.
Celia: Oh boy.
Celia’s eyes widen.
GM: “What, because being duskborn sucks? That’s what Celia tells me all the other licks think.”
“Oh, okay. What clan are you?”
“What clan are you? Celia’s told me about them, a bit, and how she’s one of the Toreadors.” Celia knows the word does not have a plural form. “Which one are you?”
Celia: Now isn’t the time to correct her, though.
GM: “I’m a Brujah,” Roderick answers.
“So tell me about them.”
“You’re a Brujah, tell me about Brujah.”
“We’re… a clan of philosopher-kings and warrior-poets. Passion burns in our blood. Passion keeps us warm through endless night. There’s a fire kindled inside us that’s kindled in few other Kindred, though that fire burns dangerously hot. Some call us the Learned Clan, for scholarship and study are also our deathrights. We trace our heritage to the first beacons of Western civilization in Greece and the great utopian experiment that was Carthage. All of us argue what Carthage was and what it means, but we each seek to recreate it in our own way. To build anew that shining city upon a hill. Each of us is a Prometheus, seeking to steal fire and wisdom from the gods and deliver it to mankind. In our own way, all of us want to see mankind achieve its full potential, and each of us believes we know the best way. Revolution is our anthem, struggle our battle cry. We are warriors and visionaries each set upon our own crusade to change the world. Though we have fallen far from our heritage in the eyes of many Kindred, I am proud that Troile’s blood runs true in my veins.”
Roderick’s voice lifts as he describes his clan. The frustration in his features gives way to the same look he gets when he speaks about law and justice.
Celia: And he’s right, but it’s certainly a rose-tinted way to look at his clan. Celia’s lips twitch. Most of the Brujah she’s met aren’t like that.
It’s certainly not “all of us.”
GM: Dani listens quietly to Roderick’s speech, then says, “Okay.” She also looks a little less angry.
“From everything Celia tells me, no one wants to be a duskborn. So, I want to join your clan. I want to be a Brujah instead. I like what you’ve described, I like what Celia described.”
“…I’m sorry, Dani,” says Roderick. “You can’t.”
“What, you don’t think I’m good enough, middle of my class law student like me?”
“It isn’t a question of qualifications. You simply can’t. Clans are like families, and-”
“You can join families. You can get adopted in. Celia’s family adopted Emily. So, adopt me as a Brujah.”
“I’m sorry, Dani, that’s not possible.”
“Why not? You don’t recognize adoptions?”
“In a word, no-”
“Fine.” She turns to Celia. “Make me a Toreador, then. Adopt me in.”
“She can’t adopt you either,” says Roderick. “I’m sorry, but none of the clans will.”
Celia: “There are others,” Celia tells her, “the clanless. I told you about Andi, you remember? You’re not the only one like that. And Andi is a badass. Famous rock star.”
“What we can do,” she says after a brief pause, “is find out who your sire is and see what clan they are, maybe. And bring them to justice for what they did to you. or all of it, Dani.”
GM: “I’ll be glad to see that,” says Dani. “But I don’t’ want to be a second-class citizen all my unlife, either-”
“It’s more like third-class, honestly,” says Roderick. He glances at Celia. “Andi might be Caitiff, but she’s still a true-blood.”
“A true-blood? So what does that make me?” Dani asks.
“…a thin-blood,” answers Roderick. “Though the acceptable name these days is, as you’ve heard, duskbor-”
“Why do they call us thin-bloods?” asks Dani.
“Because your blood is thin and weak,” Roderick answers. “You can’t do many of the things that true-blooded vampires can do.”
“Excuse me, my blood is weak?”
“Through no fault of your own, but yes.”
Celia: “It’s the generation thing,” Celia reminds her, “the distance from the first vampire.”
GM: “Right. The further removed you are, the weaker your blood gets-” Roderick starts.
“Why don’t you explain this generation thing to me again,” says Dani.
“Okay,” says Roderick. “So, it’s like if you have a cup full of water, you’re pouring it into a smaller second cup, and then pouring from that cup into an even smaller third cup. The more times you pour, the more water gets lost.”
“The first vampire, Caine according to the myths, was all but a god. His childer and grandchilder, the second and third generations, are only spoken of in legends. They weren’t far behind him. The fourth and fifth generations, too, are like unto demigods and all but gone in the modern era. The sixth and seventh generations are the most potent-blooded Kindred that anyone is realistically likely to meet. You’re still only really likely to encounter the sixth generation in Europe and the Middle East, but there are seventh-generation Kindred in this city who I’ve talked to, pretty much all of them elders. The eighth generation isn’t too far behind them. Most of the city’s other elders are of the eighth generation, and I don’t think there are any neonates here with blood that close to Caine’s. Maybe Becky Lynne, but I’m not sure—it’s rude to ask someone’s generation. There’s also a moderate number of eighth-generation ancillae.”
“The Blood gets steadily weaker after that. For a neonate, being nine steps removed from Caine is something to be fairly proud of—like I said, I can’t name any really young neonates with stronger blood. There’s also a lot of ancillae at the ninth generation. At the tenth, you’re nothing to write home about around elders, though you’re a little above average around other young licks. There’s probably as many neonates as there are ancillae at that generation. The eleventh generation is nothing to write home about to anyone. It’s not bad around other young licks, but for an ancilla it’s a mark against you—I think the only one in the city with blood that weak is Sundown. Opportunities start to get a lot scarcer at ‘neonate generations.’ At the twelfth generation, even other neonates will tell you that your blood is below average, but whatever, you’re still a vampire. The thirteenth generation, finally, is the thinnest blood any vampire can have and still be called a proper vampire. But there’s some stigma attached to being so far removed from Caine, because you can never sire a ‘real’ childe. You’re the end of the road for vampiric evolution, and elders aren’t likely to forget it. The thirteenth generation is just a step above worms in their eyes.”
“Then, finally… you have the fourteenth and beyond. Thin-bloods. ‘Vampires’ who are caught between worlds and are as much mortal as Kindred. Some of us call them half-bloods for that reason, alongside ghouls. The usual laws and limits of our race don’t seem to apply to thin-bloods—for instance, how you can walk in the sun, though I’ve heard of plenty of thin-bloods who couldn’t do that. The Curse of Caine becomes an almost border condition for them. But the price for that is their blood is too weak and diluted for them to do many of the things vampires can do. I’m hazy on how it works, but I don’t think you can learn disciplines in the same way we can—those are Kindred powers like superhuman strength, turning into animals, or mind control. I don’t think you can create ghouls, or create other vampires with any certainty—I’ve heard some thin-bloods claim that trying to make a childe only leaves behind a corpse. The fourteenth and higher generations are an almost distinct species from stronger-blooded vampires. It’s like comparing dogs to wolves. There’s a lot of social stigma against them. They’re not seen as real vampires and they aren’t legally considered people under our laws, the Six Traditions. It isn’t a crime to kill thin-bloods like it is a crime to kill true-bloods.”
Roderick pauses for a moment. “I could go into more depth there. But I just want to emphasize that all of what I’ve said is the ‘standard’ Camarilla view, the one pushed by highly prejudiced elders who are centuries behind us in their ways of thinking. These are the same elders who might have believed in the divine right of kings when they were alive.”
“Younger vampires are less likely to care about generation. In so many words, it’s vampire eugenics. It’s literally blood purity. Elders believe that it defines who you are, but I’ve known plenty of low-generation shitheads. It’s purely a privilege of birth, or death in our case. The society-wide prejudice against the higher generations blinds the Camarilla to their qualities as individuals. Kindred are so much more than just their blood.”
“Celia’s told me about what a racist her father is. How he called her adopted sister a ‘subhuman mongrel’ for being multiracial. But she’s attending medical school and will be a doctor soon.”
“That’s essentially the same as what elders do when they fixate over generation. There are some actual, physiological differences and advantages associated with thicker blood, but so much of it still comes down to social-”
“What generation are you?” Dani asks, having listened to her brother’s explanation with a patient but very quiet look.
He doesn’t repeat that it’s rude to ask.
“Okay, so you have the purest blood that a new vampire can have,” Dani says.
She just gives a little nod and turns to Celia.
“Remind me what generation you are again? I think I asked earlier, but the numbers didn’t mean anything to me without context.”
Celia: Even though she had explained all of this to Dani before, it’s interesting to hear how Roderick puts it for his sister. She’d tried to go over everything that she could, but she had dumped a lot of information on the girl in short order the other night. No wonder she needs a refresher.
“Ninth,” she tells Dani. She doesn’t appear offended at the question.
GM: “I see,” says Dani.
“Who’s your sire?” she asks Roderick. “Since she’s eighth generation and an elder, right?”
“Her name’s Coco Duquette. She’s on the primogen. You might think of that as the city council, or a king’s privy council,” her brother answers.
“Oh, lucky you,” says Dani.
Her tone is light.
Celia: Her lips don’t do so much as twitch.
GM: “Who’s your sire?” she asks Celia.
Celia: “Veronica isn’t an elder,” Celia supplies.
GM: “But she is eighth generation. Pretty well-off?”
Celia: “In a vampire sense? Yes. Sort of. She’s not a primogen or anything.”
GM: “So what does she do, if she’s not on the king’s privy council? I guess they can’t all be.”
Celia: “A lot of us get up to our own things on our own time and don’t really have a position like that. But she’s a harpy. Like a clique.”
“Like, ah, you’ve seen Mean Girls?”
GM: “Yeah,” says Dani.
“So she’s part of the coolest kids club.”
Celia: “Sort of.”
“It’s… I mean, honestly, the movie does a good example with their behavior. You’re there because you take it, not because you’re handed it or appointed. They keep track of social things. Boons, faux pas, things like that. Tear you down with a look if you’re late to a party or if you skip because you have other things to do.”
They’re basically bitches with social power.
GM: “Sounds pretty important,” says Dani. “Or at least seen that way.”
“But eighth generation, I guess that’s no surprise she’s someone important.”
Celia: “A lot of it has to do with age,” Celia says. “The longer you’ve been around the more opportunities you get.”
“Like there are some who haven’t done much with their Requiems, but if you want to do things then there are chances.”
“Like, ah, there’s a guy on Greek Row who’s been around for like fifty years and all he’s ever done is a keg stand.”
GM: “I think he’s an ’80s Embrace,” says Roderick. “But, yeah. Three decades and he’s done squat.”
“He’s one of my clan, to boot.”
Celia: “Roderick likes to think they’re all philosophers, but a lot of them are rebels without a cause.”
GM: “You should tell that line to that Roderick guy,” says Dani, before looking back to her brother.
“How do you and your sire get along? Tell me about that.”
Her tone is still light and calm.
“We’re very close,” Roderick answers. “She’s… she’s a lot like Dad, in some ways. She has one of the most brilliant minds I’ve ever known. I respect the hell out of her, even when… we don’t always agree on issues. But she pushes and challenges me to be better in a way no one else has. She’s taught me everything I know about the Requiem, and so much else too. I want to make her proud. I love just talking with her and spending time with her. She’s everything I wanted Mom to be.”
“Do you love her more than Mom?” Dani asks.
“Honestly? Yes,” says Roderick.
“Sounds like you’ve really lucked out as a vampire, then. Pure blood. Awesome sire. Important sire.”
“I have, yes.”
Dani looks between her brother and his girlfriend for a moment, then balls her fists and screams at the top of her lungs,
“Dani-” Roderick starts, raising a hand.
“NO! Not! Again! I am—NOT—being this—agai—NOO!!!" Suddenly, Dani’s in her brother’s face, shrieking and slapping at him.
“Dani, stop it!” Roderick shouts back, easily fending off the uncoordinated slaps.
His sister just sputters and flails, crying pinkish tears as she starts throwing punches.
“Stop this! You don’t want to make me angry!” Roderick growls, catching her fists and holding them in place.
“Let GO OF ME!” Dani shrieks.
“Stop trying to hit me! You have any idea what I might do if you actually succeeded!?” Roderick growls, and Celia can see the flash of fang in his mouth. “I’m Brujah! This hasn’t been easy, keeping my Beast in check, and you are NOT helping! We’re lucky you don’t have any training!”
“THIS IS BULLSHIT!” Dani cries back, tugging at her caught hands. “It’s all BULLSHIT! That’s what I think! You just want, you just made this all up! You’re lying! You just want me to be, fucking second best, your little pet-!”
“What!? You think Celia and I are lying about generation, about thin-bloods, as part of some convoluted scheme to give you an inferiority complex forever?! That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard!”
“PROVE IT! You haven’t proved it! You’ve just said I’m worthless, I’m useless, I’m second-class, but I’ve never seen it! You’re making it up! Let go of me!”
“Do you have any idea how idiotic that sounds!?”
“PROVE IT! LET—ME—GO!”
Roderick grabs his sister by the hips and hurls her across the room like she weighs nothing. She shrieks, and then Roderick suddenly blurs across space. Dani lands with a hard thump on a chair that wasn’t there a moment ago. Roderick lifts it, and her, above his head without visible strain.
“Put me down!” Dani exclaims, her eyes wide as she clutches the armrests.
Roderick shifts his grip and throws his sister off the chair. She lands on the couch face-first with an oomph. She twists and around sees her brother advancing towards her, chair still in his hand. He snaps it apart like it’s made of balsa wood.
“Celia!!!” Dani cries, shrinking against the couch.
“Do you believe me now, Dani!?” shouts Roderick. “Do you think we’re just making this up to put you in your place?! We’re not! This is why thin-bloods get treated like dirt, why they get no respect! Because we’re predators and they’re weak!” He throws the chair’s pieces aside with a clatter.
Celia: Celia’s attempts at interjection are drowned out by the two siblings yelling in each other’s faces. It’s when Dani says the word “pet” that she sees what’s about to happen.
Roderick loses control. He kills his sister. No one knows if the thin-bloods can be torped (or at least Celia doesn’t), so simply beating her into unconsciousness might not be an option.
And if Celia weren’t worried about her dying then maybe she’d just let him.
But she’s not a monster. No one deserves to be beaten by a Brujah. Celia launches herself into their midst as the chaos unfolds and Dani goes flying. She steps between them with her back to Dani like a tiger protecting her cub, staring down her brother with a look that could stop a train. Her eyes smolder. Fangs distend from her mouth.
“Get a grip,” she hisses at him, reaching out with the power of her clan, her Beast, and the electricity thrumming through her veins. A hand on his chest sends it sparking through him, too.
GM: Roderick’s fangs retract as his angry features slowly calm.
He looks between his lover and his sister, then his shoulders slump.
He sits down heavily on an intact chair.
“This wasn’t how it was supposed to go,” he says in a deflated voice.
Dani just looks at him fearfully.
Celia’s fortunate to have headed it off before the Brujah reached a full frenzy.
Celia: Celia hovers between them, ready to interject again if needed, though she tries not to be obvious about it.
GM: Neither sibling says anything.
Celia: “I’m sorry,” she says to Dani.
GM: Dani steals another apprehensive glance at her brother.
Celia: Her fangs disappear. She straightens her shoulders, and turns to face the girl.
“I’m sorry,” she says again, “I should have given you more of a warning. After what you said I thought… I thought it would be best if he explained himself. I didn’t think it would go like this.”
GM: “What… what happens to me?” Dani asks in a small voice.
Celia: “We proceed as discussed. You’ll finish school. We’ll get you a new identity afterward. You don’t have a Beast so there’s no lapse of control for you. If you want to change your face we can do that once you’re done to keep your dad safe.”
GM: “You’re not safe here,” Roderick says.
Celia: “She’s not safe in Mid-City,” Celia shoots back. “She’s safe here.”
GM: “Dani…” Roderick starts gently. He gets up, but when she flinches he sits back down.
“They kill thin-bloods here. Massacre them, just for being what they are. I’ve seen it. They can survive in the Quarter, but they’re penned in, and treated like garbage.”
“Houston is safer for you. They’re still looked down on, but attitudes are more tolerant. Much more tolerant. There’s no policy of genocide like there is here.”
Dani just looks at him for a few moments, as though afraid of how he might respond.
“I want to stay with Celia.”
Celia: Celia, too, looks at him at that.
She tenses, ready for another fight.
GM: Roderick looks about to say something, then just looks down at his hands.
“Yeah. I guess you do.”
“I’m sorry,” he continues. “I wasn’t… I just wanted you to see the truth. Because it was safer if you saw it here, from us.”
Celia: “I’ve called in some favors,” Celia says quietly. “I have things in motion to keep her safe. I know you’re worried. I know you love her. I’m doing everything I can to protect her.”
Like she’d just done.
GM: “You’re going to be a political hostage, Dani,” says Roderick. “The elder who rules the Quarter isn’t friendly with my sire. He’ll use you to get to me. If he treats you well, it’s only so he can keep you as leverage over me.”
Celia: “That’s literally what every elder does. We’re all pawns to them.”
GM: “Some are…”
He starts to say ‘better,’ looks at his sister, then just trails off.
“I’m sorry,” he repeats. “Wherever you go, whoever you stay with… you won’t have a future. As Kindred.”
“I don’t know what to do about it. I didn’t want this for you. You didn’t deserve this.”
Celia: Celia makes a choked sound. She presses a fist against her lips.
GM: He looks up at her, some apprehension in his eyes.
But not regret.
Celia: “I said the same thing to him,” Celia tells Dani. “When I broke up with him I thought that I was doing the right thing. That it would keep him safe. We fought and I… I was new. I lost control and started to feed from him. And I was scared I’d do it again. I wanted him to do something better. To do something good. And it just… leaving like that just left him open for…”
She blinks back tears.
GM: Roderick gets up and wraps his arms around her.
“My sire had her eye on me before you did.”
Celia: “She wouldn’t have taken you if we’d been together. She told me that.”
GM: “Maybe. But that’d have only happened if you never got Embraced.”
“Blame your sire, if we have to blame anyone.”
Celia: She doesn’t blame him for anything.
“Or Pietro. Or my dad. Or any number of people.”
GM: “These things are usually bigger than just one person. Complex chains of events usually are.”
“It wasn’t your fault. Okay?” He rubs her shoulder.
Celia: Celia shakes her head at him. Now isn’t the time.
“Sorry,” she murmurs, wiping at her eyes.
“I really liked your family,” she says to Dani, including her in the conversation. “I wanted to be part of it. But not… not like this.”
GM: “You are part of it,” says Roderick, squeezing her shoulder again. “We’re going to get married, still. Only difference is we won’t have kids. But there’s plenty of couples who don’t do that.”
“Oh. Congratulations,” says Dani.
She still sounds a little muted.
“I’d like some space. With Celia.”
“Oh. Sure,” says Roderick. He doesn’t sound mad as he gets up.
“I’m sorry how this went. I just want… the best for you, sis. I just want you to be safe and happy.”
“Right. Thanks,” says Dani.
It isn’t coolly. Just a little quiet.
“I’ll get a cab,” he says. “And pay for the chair too.”
Celia: Celia rises with him. She hesitates for only a moment.
“Are you going to be able to make it back on your own?”
GM: “Yeah. I’ll wait out of sight until it arrives.”
“One drive isn’t… too big a risk. Especially if they already know I’m here.”
Celia: “Just… stay at my place? That way you’re not seen leaving?”
GM: “All right.” He gives her a kiss. “I love you.”
He looks back at his sister. “I love you too, sis.”
“Yeah,” says Dani.
Celia: Celia’s hand lingers in his.
“Tomorrow,” she tells him, “eleven. If I’m not there today I’ll be there in time to bring you. I love you.”
GM: “Right,” he says at ‘bring you.’ He gives the pair a wan smile, then closes the door behind him.
He knows better than to try to hug her.
Monday night, 14 March 2016, AM
GM: “I don’t even know what say,” Dani says numbly.
Celia: Celia takes a seat beside her on the couch. She’s there if the girl wants a hug, but she doesn’t force herself on her.
“It’s a lot to take in,” she says quietly.
GM: Dani doesn’t seem to right now.
“He’s honest. He’s always been that.”
“When he isn’t lying about being dead.”
Celia: “I didn’t know he’d gone after your family like that. I’ve never… I’ve never done that with mine. It wasn’t until last night that my mom finally found out. It’s… part of it is control, you know, but a part of it… what he didn’t tell you about the Brujah is their anger is very, very intense.”
“It’s not safe to be around. You… well, you saw.”
GM: Dani looks after the door.
“You’re still with him.”
Celia: “There are a lot of really terrible licks. He’s not one of them.”
GM: “He was in the Boy Scouts, you know. He made Eagle Scout. Dad was really proud. I was in the Girl Scouts, and he liked that, but he wasn’t as proud.”
Diana signed up Lucy for the Girl Scouts, Celia’s pretty sure.
“I mean, Eagle Scout is a big deal. Looks really good to colleges. If you join the military I think they give you a higher rank or extra pay.”
Celia: “I didn’t know that.”
GM: “One president, I think Gerald Ford, said being made Eagle Scout was the proudest moment of his life.”
Celia: “On Friday he was made fun of for it at Elysium.”
GM: “What, being a Boy Scout?”
Celia: “Yeah. An idealist.”
GM: “This is… Eagle Scout vs. Girl Scout. Just all over again,” Dani says numbly.
“He does a major community project. I sell cookies.”
“I never earned the Gold Award. The Eagle Scout equivalent.”
Celia: “It’s not your fault. Society treats girls differently. When we were dating, Stephen told me that a female lawyer would never be as respected as a male. It’s just how people look at girls. Like we’re less than. I mean, look at any insult people throw at men, right? Bitch. Pussy. Cunt. Man up. Sack up. Nut up. It’s sexist and supports the idea that men are somehow inherently better because they were born with a dick. And the people in charge like it that way because they’re all men.”
GM: “I mean, he’s right. Female lawyers aren’t as respected. In the courtroom, at least. They just aren’t.”
Celia: “God forbid you have a set of tits,” Celia mutters.
GM: “I’d still be Stephen’s #2 even if I didn’t.”
“I clung to that for a while, that it was because I was a girl, but I was really just objectively inferior.”
“Eagle Scout vs. no Gold Award. It’s even more common for girls to earn the latter. Five-point-something percent vs. 4%.”
Celia: “I was never a Girl Scout,” she admits. “My dad thought it was a waste of time.”
“They had this thing when I was younger. Indian Princesses, I think. Where you got to go away for a weekend with your dad and do fun things together, like canoeing and horse rides and archery and building campfires. I begged him to go. All my friends were going. He told me that I didn’t need to know how to do any of that, that my place was in the house.”
“I caught him in the garage once showing David how to change the oil on the car. And the tires. You know, basic maintenance. When I asked if I could learn, too, he told me I didn’t need to know that either, that I’d always have a man to do it for me.”
Celia gives a little shrug.
“I don’t think you’re lesser because you didn’t get the Gold Award.”
“I don’t think you’re lesser because you’re duskborn.”
“I think we all have different skillsets.”
“And I think that makes us valuable.”
“And I think sometimes society doesn’t know what to do with people who fall outside their little lines.”
GM: “Your dad sounds like an ass.”
“Stephen already told me how he was, but. Y’know.”
Dani looks at the floor.
“I’d really like to believe all of that. But it’s hard.”
Celia: “We’re working it out.” Celia puts a hand on Dani’s shoulder. “You’ll work it out, too.”
GM: “He’s back and I don’t have the Gold Award all over again.”
“And I should be happier he isn’t dead. What’s wrong with me.”
Celia: “He is dead, if it helps.”
“But, Dani… it’s a lot to take in. You’re allowed to feel your feelings. Whatever they may be. Don’t beat yourself up about it.”
GM: “He’s better than me. Again.”
“I guess that’s just my destiny.”
Celia: “He’s not better than you. He’s blinded by his sire’s faults and believes every word that comes out of her mouth. He has plenty of shortcomings.”
GM: “Still has a city council member sire he loves and respects instead of waking up raped in a dumpster. I’d trade.”
Celia: “I know a girl,” she says after a moment, “whose sire abandoned her too. She was really torn up about it for a long time. Thought she wasn’t good enough. But she is good enough. She’s always been good enough. Her sire is an asshole. And how other people treat you is a reflection of them, not you.”
GM: “I know. I’m just… tired of being treated badly when he’s not. Him having everything when I have nothing.”
“I never got that whole generation concept, until he explained it. It makes complete sense now. It’s another metric by which Stephen is better than me.”
Celia: “Sorry,” Celia says again, “I guess I didn’t explain it very well the first time. There was a lot to tell you about.”
“But… it doesn’t mean he’s better than you. There’s more to life and unlife than who Embraces you.”
GM: “It was a lot to take in. I couldn’t get it all.”
Celia: “Stephen got lucky.”
GM: “He gets lucky a lot.”
“I’m not even a real vampire.”
Celia: “He was born white and male in a privileged family. He pretty much hit the lottery.”
“You drink blood. You have fangs. That’s real enough for me.”
GM: “He threw me around like I was nothing.”
Celia: “If it helps, he can do that to me too. His clan is strong and fast, but that’s kind of all they can do.”
“Don’t tell him I said that, but he has a very rose-tinted view on them. Most of them are angry, moronic thugs.”
GM: “Oh. I guess that’s something.”
Celia: “Mine are elitist art snobs. If you’re not an artist you’re a poseur, and they hate you for it.”
“And they only like certain forms of art. Anything new doesn’t count. Photography is laughed at. Digital art is laughed at. There are bad spots to all of us.”
GM: “Yeah. I guess no one has it all.”
Dani looks down at her feet. She’s pulled them up onto the couch.
“I’m just… so tired of getting the short end.”
Celia: “Well, what do you want to do about it? How do you want to move forward?”
GM: “I wish I knew.”
Celia: “You’ve got time. All the time in the world. And anything you need from me, I’ll help.”
“You’ve read that book about the wizard kid, right? The series?”
GM: Dani doesn’t say anything to Celia’s first words, but finally leans against her.
“Yeah. Who hasn’t?”
Celia: Celia puts an arm around her shoulders.
“Well, my mom for one. And Lucy. She thinks it’s satanic. Regardless.”
GM: “Wait… really?”
“But listen. You’re like his friend, right? You’re muggleborn. People think that they’re better than you because you aren’t a pureblood like the blond asshole. But she was the top of the class every year. She got the best marks. She was always the first one to master the spells. Brightest witch of the generation, they called her.”
“She wasn’t naturally gifted. But she was smart. And she worked her ass off.”
GM: “Do you think I can do that too, as a thin-blood?”
Celia: “Work your ass off and be just as good? Yeah. I do. I think you’re going to face a lot of stigma about it. I think it’s going to be hard. I think you’ll work three times as hard for half the credit. And I think that there are ways that you can make it work for you.”
“You just have to learn to bend so you don’t break.”
“One of Stephen’s shortcomings is his inability to bend. He’s very rigid. Very moral. And there’s nothing wrong with being moral. But if he weren’t lucky, like he is, then he’d make all sorts of enemies. There was another girl who tried to be like that. Very rigid in her beliefs. Wouldn’t bend on anything. And she’s been eating shit since her Embrace.”
“And having his sire doesn’t mean that she’ll do jack shit for him if he really fucks up. His elder brother-in-blood is basically a bitch now.”
GM: “I wonder how long Stephen would last if that was him eating shit.”
Celia: “He wouldn’t. He’d let his pride get in the way.”
“I had to deal with some sewer rats the other night. Surrounded by them.”
GM: “The ugly ones?”
Celia: “Yeah. They like hazing people like me. Pretty people. Toreador.”
Celia tells her about it.
About what she’d had to do to get out of there alive.
GM: “Oh my god, that’s… disgusting,” Dani says, appalled.
Celia: “Wasn’t worth a fight. I know my strengths. Combat isn’t one of them. And they were… well, they were all around me. Their turf.”
“So I bent. And I got out. And now I can take my time getting even.”
“Stephen would have gone down swinging. And he’d have lost.”
GM: “Okay. I guess you’re right, and that going forward that way is the only thing to do,” Dani nods. “I’d just ask… be fully honest with me, okay? You’ve told me so much and been so helpful, and you didn’t lie about anything. But I feel like you were trying to spare my feelings, next to Stephen, and maybe painting things as less grim than they are.”
“Some of the stuff he said hurt, but I’d rather have the whole truth. Even if it hurts.”
Celia: “Okay,” Celia says. “You’re right. I did want to spare your feelings. It’s… hard waking up as a vampire and not having someone be there for you. My sire isn’t known for being gentle.” She squeezes Dani. “I’ll be more up front.”
GM: “Thanks.” Dani rubs against her.
“Whatever else, both of us want truth.”
Celia: That’s what she’s worried about.