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Blood & Bourbon

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Caroline VI, Chapter VII

Empire Building

“My immortal soul? Fuck my immortal soul."
Caroline Malveaux

Saturday evening, 26 December 2015

Caroline: Caroline’s meeting with Adam is shorter. She declines his offer to take confession, joking that, “Haven’t you heard I’m going to be excommunicated soon? Uncle Orson would be furious.”

Despite the levity of her words, they’re more bitter than she wants to admit.

GM: Adam humorlessly replies that her excommunication has not yet occurred, and states that “Confession is always good for the soul.”

Caroline: Can anything be good for a soul condemned to Hell?

She’s curious as to his read on all of this—being someone who’s close to Orson and has gone along with everything the family wished of him. She asks if he ever regrets just doing everything they wanted for him. She also asks what he thinks she could do, in general, now.

GM: Adam states that if Orson’s heart attack had been fatal, there would still be a Father Malveaux. Against that, nothing else matters. Even what regrets he himself may have.

He brings up Caroline’s prior confession to having killed a man and asks how she thinks that action has weighed upon her soul. He asks if she has fulfilled the penance he assigned.

Adam has seen many parishoners confess to a single misdeed before never hearing from again. Confession may be good for the soul, but it is only half the process. Confession alone cannot grant absolution, only set one upon that path. He believes Caroline is still hiding the truth of what she is from the family, and that guilt over her crime (and perhaps further unrevealed circumstances pertaining to it) are the true source of her “fall from grace,” far more than even her sexuality.

He expresses grave concern for the state of Caroline’s soul. Murder is no small sin, and absolution will not come easily. Further, it will come harder now. This man’s loved ones have assuredly moved on—and suffered—in the months since his death. He can understand if Caroline has avoided them out of guilt and even fear, but such actions will only cause her and them greater harm.

Or perhaps Caroline has simply not thought of them. If so, the peril to her soul is even greater. Adam urges her to make right for this sin while there is still time. Perhaps she feels she is irredeemable, but God knows and judges all. The church may be soon to excommunicate her, but only God can judge her immortal soul. Ones guilty of greater sins than hers have still been saved.

Caroline: The lecture and concern comes at a poor time for Caroline. “My immortal soul? Fuck my immortal soul,” she almost snarls. The family doesn’t care about immortal souls, they care about scandal and appearance. Orson himself literally ordered his servant to murder Caroline’s girlfriend, and the whole family approved of abortion if needed to protect the family name. They’re all hypocrites.

Her whole life is coming apart—her family, her faith—and he wants to lecture her about making amends.

GM: Adam accepts his cousin’s vitriol with apparent calmness. “Let us assume you are right and that our family are unworthy servants of Christ. Do you still hold faith in Him?”

Caroline: Caroline looks away and down, bitterly shamed by her cousin’s response. Does she believe in God? Of course. She’s a walking, talking, example of His wrath, of the kinds of damnation that can await sinners. A ‘wolf of God.’ Believing in God is oh so easy. How could she not believe in God.

But faith is another matter. Faith implies trust. The things she’s experienced have torn away at faith. Carved at it, mutilated it as she remembers being carved upon in the last night of her life. Trust in a God that allowed such things to happen, even to a sinner like herself, is hard in coming. Faith also implies some manner of reciprocal relationship. The things she’s done, the people she’s hurt, bear down on her more heavily than all the awfulness of the rest of the world combined. A great weight on her conscience that drives her to her knees and bows her head. How can she even begin to have a relationship with God, after all that she has done?

That same weight weighs upon her as she tries to look up, to meet Adam’s steady gaze. She knows what she wants to say. A quarter century of faith cannot be stamped out, not entirely, by a quarter of awfulness. There’s something there to her still, that quiet voice that wants to give the answer she knows Adam too wants to hear.

An answer that would give catharsis to them both. It swells in her breast like a deep breath, straining for release as she forces herself to look up from the ground, struggles against the weight. If she can simply say the word she knows so much of it will be lifted. She draws in a breath to speak, that simple word crying out for release.

It’s too much, no one can lift that weight. Another word escapes like a serpent, slithering from between her open lips like the lie that it is.


She stares at her cousin’s chest, unable to look upon the disappointment in his eyes or written across his face.

“No,” she says again, the lie growing easier to accept each time she tells it. “I’m sorry,” she says, rising quickly, hurriedly, and turning from him. “I shouldn’t have come.”

GM: With her gaze turned away from Adam’s, Caroline cannot see whatever expression crosses her cousin’s face at her answer.

“‘The Lord does not delay His promise, as some regard delay, but He is patient with you, not wishing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.’”

Adam pauses after the scriptural recitation, then continues,

“Worse sinners than you have returned to the fold and made right their sins. But remember first that excommunication is separation from the church, not from God. No one can separate you from God. Peace be upon you, Caroline.”

Caroline: The Ventrue is, for once, grateful for the shame that has hidden her face from her cousin. It helps to hide the bloody tears that well in her eyes at his patient response. He might be the best of the family. A rare good apple to fall from the poisoned tree. All the same, he’s wrong. So very wrong.

God has no mercy for the damned. All she ever feels in His churches, or when the cross’s shadow falls upon her, is His scathing hatred for her sins and all those she inherited from her sire. Whatever tie she had to Him exists now only in her damnation. And why not? She’s done horrible things. Awful things. Murdered with her hands and her words. Ruined lives. Enslaved people with the poison in her. Wrecked the family, betrayed her mother’s trust to her death, left her brother to die. All that before her nightly treating of people like little more than cattle, feasting on them, hurting them. Not just to survive—she could feed half as often and do that. She’s not just a coward clinging to her Requiem out of fear of Hell. She’s an active participant in her own damnation night after night as she tries to claw something out of this wretched existence.

Excommunication may only be separation from church, but it comes far too late, a formality of function. Her separation from God happened months ago.

She flees her cousin’s mercy without a further word. Away from the righteous and God’s gaze. Back to the dark where she belongs.

Saturday night, 26 December 2015, PM

GM: Summer Greer hasn’t done anything to leave a paper trail since her disappearance. No ATM withdrawals, credit card use, and so on.

It takes no small amount of hassle, but Caroline and her private investigators eventually locates Summer Greer at a cheap French Quarter apartment. The place has lots of dirty laundry and smells like weed, but she’s alive and seemingly unharmed.

“No, I wasn’t kidnapped,” the girl declares with a huff when Caroline asks about that.

She doesn’t look as if she was going completely to ground Lou style either. She still has her phone.

Caroline: No small amount of hassle is right. The PIs fell through and Caroline had to get personally involved.

She’s glad for her working relationship with Savoy. She could have told Neil and Angela that the teenager was in the French Quarter, yes, but she’d sooner question Summer herself first.

She doubts Angela is any slouch at locating missing girls, given her vocation. And not being able to find her own sister? Something doesn’t add up, for Summer to vanish so completely.

In fact, she’s positive that Summer should not have been able to. The amount of effort (or rather, lack thereof) she put into hiding her whereabouts simply does not match the amount of hassle, legwork, and hoop-jumping that Caroline’s team had to go through to track her to this crummy little apartment.

She asks if the girl wants to go back to her family.

GM: Summer answers that she does not. She’s been in contact with her birth mother, but doesn’t seem to care that Angela, her father, or her stepmother are upset.

Caroline: “Fair enough,” Caroline answers mildly. “What do you plan to do next? I hear you’ve missed class.”

GM: Summer says she’s dropping out from Tulane to spend time on “more important things”. She’s tired of living the life they’ve all planned out for her and being treated like a child.

Caroline: “What sorts of things are those?” Caroline asks, without disagreeing.

She covertly looks over the girl for signs of being fed on.

GM: Summer does not appear to have been fed upon. She seems a little distracted and out of it, and Caroline doubts that weed smoked itself, but that’s as far as the harm to her goes.

Caroline also observes some cut-up and spliced-together debit cards, bus transfers, dollar bills, and assorted (messily) handwritten notes indicative of cut-up technique.

Caroline: Caroline looks over the cut up materials and expresses to her without skepticism that they explain why she was so difficult to find—her sister couldn’t do it. She asks if she’s been able to affect any other real effects, or if it’s her first.

She also asks if Summer would be willing to do a proof of life photo just to keep her family from going nuts. She tells the girl she completely understands wanting to get away from the life her family wants and have her own space. It might help them move on a bit and bother Summer less if they know she’s not lying dead in a gutter or being held captive in some sex dungeon.

GM: Summer warily says that she can do other things, and has done so before—but not very well.

She emphatically does not want any photos, is glad to be causing them so much worry, and doubts they can find her. They haven’t so far. She’s done with that life. They can all rot.

Caroline: Caroline asks her if that’s what she’s dropping out to pursue, but seems generally supportive. Basically she tries to suss out what Summer’s experience is with magic. She’s also curious as to what the tipping point was? She relates her own growing family frustration (relating to her) with managing other people’s expectations.

GM: Summer says that is what she’s dropping out to pursue. It’s the “one thing I can do that Angela can’t” and she seems to take savage pleasure in that notion.

The tipping point was meeting the ‘vampire’ in the Abbey. Summer had just been blindly groping along before meeting her. But after her, it all came together. She showed Summer things. Things that scared her. Things that hurt. Things that hurt in ways she couldn’t have even imagined, that she’s still struggling to accept. Sometimes she wanted to go back. But it was like “a switch just flipped”. All of it comes to her easily now. She can’t go back—even if she wanted to.

She is glad Caroline “understands what it’s like” and how empowering it is to douse those expectations under kerosene and watch them burn.

“You should leave,” Summer says quietly. “I don’t think my teacher will like visitors.”

Caroline: “If you want me to leave, I will,” Caroline answers diplomatically. “Two questions. Is the vampire your teacher? What’s their name?”

GM: Summer is quiet at Caroline’s queries, then abruptly screeches, “I TRUSTED you! She was right! You’re a LIAR! I can’t trust ANY OF YOU!”

Autumn looks to Caroline, as if about to say something, when the dingy apartment’s lights suddenly blow out with a shower of sparks. Green’s hand snaps towards her sidearm. The short girl’s eyes flash as she takes an angry but unafraid-looking step towards the three.


Caroline: Caroline determinedly meets her gaze and gives a command rather than a request this time.


GM: Summer’s will doesn’t accede to Caroline’s so much as collide against it before buckling under. The girl’s face goes still.

Autumn quickly hits her phone’s flashlight icon and shines it over Summer. “She down?” the ghoul queries.

Green’s gun trains on the now-illuminated Summer’s center mass.

Caroline: “For the moment,” Caroline answers Autumn, stepping closer to Summer and examining her closely. Incidentally coming between Green and her shot. “Did you get a read on what it was that set her off?”

GM: Green lowers her gun.

“No more than you did,” Autumn answers, shaking her head. “I can try to scry her. What do you want me to find out?”

Summer breathes normally and remains still.

Caroline: The Ventrue instructs Summer to follow her orders and tells her to have a seat before turning back to Autumn. “Can you find out what made her so angry?”

She never takes her eyes off the ‘girl.’ This normal-looking teenager who was so hard to get a handle on. A girl who is clearly far more than that.

GM: Autumn stares at her for a moment.

“It’s… poking into her ‘vampire’, I think. She doesn’t wanna talk about that, at least to you.”

Caroline: Caroline folds her arms. “Specifically to me?”

GM: Autumn’s brow furrows. “That’s… further than I can see.”

Caroline: “Was she more afraid of discussing them, or angry at me?” Caroline asks.

GM: The ghoul’s eyes glaze over for another moment.

“Some of… both… but I think more angry.”

Caroline: Caroline nods as she continues to stare at the teenager. “She’s different. Not just an ordinary mortal.”

GM: “That makes none of us,” Green mutters.

“I could scope her out some more, with some juice,” Autumn volunteers.

Caroline: “No,” Caroline shakes her head. “Look around this place. Find me something useful. If her teacher is actually a mortal, there will be signs of two people living here. If it’s a Kindred, you should be able to tell the difference.”

GM: The two look around the dingy place. It’s not well-kept. Rumpled clothes lie scattered over the floor. Dirty dishes pile up not just past the sink, but the adjacent countertop. There’s stains on the walls and ceiling. The carpet looks like it hasn’t been shampooed in a long time. Assorted detritus of daily life from deodorant sticks to Cheese-It boxes are piled everywhere.
It doesn’t take too long before Autumn locates a laptop and cracks it open.

“Looks like she was keeping a personal journal on this.”

Summer continues to stare sleepily ahead.

Caroline: “Pull up this week,” Caroline instructs.

GM: There’s the light sound of Autumn’s fingers moving across the keys, then she stops.

Green readies her sidearm again.

“Someone’s coming,” she whispers.

Caroline: Caroline frowns at Green’s words and orders Summer to sit on the bed. “Copy the diary,” she tells Autumn, before moving towards the door to be with Green.

GM: Summer sits down. There’s a few more sounds from the keyboard with Autumn.

None emerge from behind the door.

Green looks at Caroline questioningly.

Caroline: Caroline remains tensely by the door, but looks back at Autumn and Summer. “The last couple days, Autumn, I want to know about this teacher of hers.”

GM: “We can just take the laptop, we don’t need to copy it,” she whispers. “But… maybe we should get out of here?”

Caroline: Caroline nods and quietly instructs Summer to follow Autumn. “We’re taking her and leaving.”

GM: Autumn snaps shut the laptop under her arm and gets up.

“So do you want to get us fucking going or what?” Green mutters.

Caroline: “Let’s go,” Caroline gestures towards the door to Green.

GM: The ghoul pulls it open. No one is visible in the dark and moldering hallway.

“Lights are out here, too?” Autumn frowns, holding up her phonelight so she and Green can still see.

Summer stares tranquilly ahead.

Caroline: Caroline’s vision is not so encumbered by the lack of light, and she steps into the hall.

GM: No force arrests her progress.

Caroline: She proceeds forward down the stairs.

GM: “What the FUCK!” Green shouts, swiveling her gun.

Caroline: Caroline spins. “What?”

GM: The ghoul unloads her .45 Browning into an apartment unit’s door. The brutal pistol all but explodes it apart. A gory pulping, heavy thud, and cut-off scream sound from inside the unit.

Caroline: “What the fuck!” Caroline all but yells, witlessly echoing her ghoul as she sprints up the stairs to the bullet-riddled door.

GM: “Summer’s gone!” Autumn yells.

Caroline: “What do you mean, ‘gone’!?” Caroline snarls, looking through the holes created by Green’s shots.

GM:YOU FUCKER!!!” Green screams, barreling past Caroline.

A bleeding, bullet-ridden and dark-skinned man in sweatpants lies sprawled over the unit’s floor. Red froths from his mouth as he screams insensibly.

“She’s GONE! She just vanished!” Autumn yells.

Caroline: Caroline grabs Green and whirls her around. She wants to snarl, to ask her why, but refrains. Instead she simply slams into the mercenary’s will with her own.

“Stop it!” she commands.

GM: Green’s furious expression goes slack.

Caroline: Caroline presses further into her mind, taking control of it. “Go out to the car, get in it, and wait for me to come down,” she orders.

GM: The ghoul calmly heads down the stairs without a further word.

The shot man’s frothy screams ring in their ears.

Caroline: “Autumn,” Caroline hisses as she moves in on the screaming man to examine his wounds.

Caroline moves to check the man’s injuries, then decides she doesn’t have time before an emergency services response to do a proper job of it and feeds him her blood—just enough to stop the worst of the bleeding and keep him alive until someone else responds. With the poison running through his veins she then reaches into his mind and restructures his memory of the sudden, unprovoked attack.

It wasn’t some crazy woman. It was a couple of gangbangers. They tore up his apartment looking for a quick score and fled with a laptop, some cash, and a couple pieces of jewelry.

While she works on his memory she has Autumn (quickly) make a show of riffling through the apartment. The ghoul adds weed lifted from Summer’s apartment to the man’s living room. The two are gone within a couple minutes.

GM: The shot, newly-ghouled man hacks and curses weakly after the ‘gangsters’ who invaded his apartment, but there’s no true anger behind his barely comprehensible words. Not anymore. He sucks and licks at Caroline’s wrist until she forces his lips away. His needful moans follow the pair down the stairwell. The other units are deathly quiet, though Autumn murmurs on their way out, “Heard crying from one of those. Breathing from a few more. This… probably isn’t the first shooting for a lot of these people.”

Caroline: Once back in the car Caroline has Autumn drive and Green sit in silence while she makes a call to Lord Savoy’s herald to explain that there was an incident while she was looking for a kine. A man was shot in his (crummy) apartment, but she doctored the scene and will continue to follow up, if he’ll allow it, to ensure there are no lingering loose ends to tie up.

She takes Green’s firearm from her (it’ll be given to Diego later to be sold on the black market—and likely used in another crime which will connect it to an existing criminal).

Only when those matters are done with does she release the hold over Green’s mind. She demands to know what the merc saw and what prompted her to start shooting.

GM: “Sounds like an exciting evening, Miss Malveaux,” Melissaire purrs over the line. “His lordship more than trusts you to take care of things… by all means, please do. You can impress us with the full story at the Evergreen.”

Green looks at Caroline shakily.

“I… dunno why I did that.”

“Saw a woman. Said it was horrible what you were doing to Summer… that you were gonna hurt her. That she was just a kid. Said I needed to, to give her a distraction. So she could get Summer out.”

“I… dunno why I did that,” the blonde merc repeats.

Caroline: Caroline digs a thin flip book out of the holder behind Autumn’s seat and passes it to Green along with a pen. “Everything you remember about her. Tone of voice, what she was wearing. Hair color, style, length. Eye color. Everything,” she demands.

“Did you see anything, Autumn?” Caroline asks.

GM: The other ghoul shakes her head. “Summer just… disappeared. I mean literally. I was looking right at her, then she was gone.”

Green’s pen starts scratching. The ex-SWAT’s face looks increasingly red.

“I’m… not sure we shoulda stuck around after she mentioned that ‘teacher’ coming back,” Autumn ventures. “What do we want to do, still find her?”

Caroline: “Maybe. If we even can. I want to know what that diary says.”

She looks back at Green. “He’ll live, by the way.”

GM: “Well, we got her laptop, it’s not even password-protected.”

Caroline: The scowl that’s been on Caroline’s face since they left doesn’t abate. She mutters something unkind under her breath.

“I want background on that building too when we get back,” she adds for Autumn.

Sunday night, 27 December 2015, AM

GM: Caroline returns to her haven in the Giani Building after departing the French Quarter. Green announces to no one in particular that she’s going to get drunk. Autumn turns over the laptop she retrieved from Summer’s apartment. The ex-college student’s journal is a LibreOffice document where she’s jotted down her various thoughts and feelings on each of her day’s events (an idea recommended by her therapist). She hasn’t bothered to write entries for every day, and they increasingly taper off in recent weeks. A few entries stand out to Caroline among the more mundane ones.

Summer’s interest in magic goes back some years to her reunion with her birth mother, a Latina woman whose own grandmother was a curanderismo: a spiritual healer who uses traditional herbs and remedies, and is often considered a leader in the local community in contrast to the more malevolent-tempered Brujo, or witches. Caroline is uncomfortably aware that she did not even know what a curanderismo was several weeks ago, and still cannot account for how Abélia impregnated her mind with its present trove of occult lore.

Summer’s interest in Mexican folk magic was mostly passing, and a way of reconnecting with a heritage she hadn’t been aware was hers. Her father was white, her skin was as pale as his, and people always treated her like she was white. She didn’t know she was part Hispanic until she was in her early teens, which she describes as “actually really weird” to suddenly find out.

Regardless, it was that initial interest which got Summer started. Her journal is light on further specifics, but it seems like that passing interest became more than passing by the time she was in college. She read several books of Angela’s that her older sister denied being hers and appeared flummoxed by Summer’s possession of. After Angela confiscated the books, Summer kept her interest hidden. She continued to find more books in their dorm room, which seemed strange, given how ardent Angela was about them being “a distraction” from her coursework. Did her big sister think she was too stupid to find something there on a bookshelf?

She “learned things” from those books. Things she’d never learn from any of her classes. She started skipping (“it’s so great how college professors don’t care if you don’t show up”) to spend more and more time in her dorm room reading those books.

Summer mentions a dorm party at Josephine Louise back in August where she felt “just really drawn” to an out of order bathroom. Inside, she “saw… I don’t know what the fuck. It feels insane to be writing this. Something in the bathroom. There was SOMETHING there. I could feel it. The mirrors were fogged. And smashed in. It was so cold. And whispers, and I just felt so sad. There was SOMETHING there.”

She also recognized the line of salt scattered across the doorway. Caroline, too, (somehow) recognizes salt as a symbol of purity and simple ward against incorporeal entities such as ghosts. Someone else had been in the ‘out of order’ bathroom before Summer… and her opening the door broke the line of salt that kept “the presence” trapped inside.

Summer doesn’t remember exactly what happened next. She’d wanted to commune with “the presence”, like she’d read she could do. But seeing that broken line of salt, the smashed, fogged-up mirror, the impossible cold… her guts suddenly turned to water. She was terrified like she’d never been in her life. She could have sworn she heard screaming in her ears, and after that… she’s not sure if she fainted or ran away or what, but when she came to, she was huddled on her dorm room’s bed drenched in a cold sweat. When she ventured outside, the partygoers had all come down with influenza.

Subsequent journal entries are incoherent, missing, or entirely mundane. Summer talks about her sister coming down with the flu, “crashing hard,” and scaling back on her commitments. There are also a few comments on her new boyfriend “Nelson or whatever” whose name Summer eventually remembers as Neil, and describes as “kind of nice, but kind of a wimp, and always really tired. Perfect match for Angela I guess.”

Summer complains about her sister being a bitch and “always siding with [her] parents” (well, technically dad and stepmom) and college being “still basically high school”. She felt depressed over having no idea what she wanted to major in, and spend her semester taking semi-random classes (mostly ones that met her graduation requirements) which sometimes interested her and sometimes didn’t. Professors didn’t mother her like high school teachers and her grades didn’t do so hot. Cutting classes made them do even less hot. Her dad wasn’t happy, and compared her with Angela—who still maintained a perfect 4.0 despite “doing so much more stuff” than she did. She’s not sure she’d have even gotten into Tulane if it weren’t for her sister being a “legacy member or whatever”. Her stepmom never brought up her grades, but Summer “could tell” she was disappointed too. “She has no fucking right. Why does she give a shit? I’m not really her daughter.”

She and Angela got into a huge fight when her older sister caught her photoshopping a screenshot of her grades to list better ones than she actually got. Her dad had threatened to take away privileges if her grades kept slipping, and Summer just felt less and less motivated as the semester wore on. “And of course he doesn’t ask Angela to do that, he just believes everything she says.” Angela wouldn’t cover for her, and lectured Summer “about being dishonest, and lying, and telling the truth and blah blah blah JUST FUCK THAT STUPID BITCH SHE NEVER NOTICES WHEN I DO NICE THINGS JUST FUCK HER.” She was going to tell their dad—not just about the bad grades (“JUST FUCK HER”), but how Summer was doctoring the screenshots she sent. “JUST FUCK HER FUCK HER FUCK HER.”

At that moment, Summer “just saw fucking red.” Angela was suddenly blasted off her feet and smashed against the wall like a rag doll.

Summer stared for a moment, then ran out the door.

She didn’t come back.

Summer lapses in keeping her journal entries after that. The next one picks up with Summer thinking about going back to her “REAL mom”, but deciding on “my vampire” instead. “[Her] vampire” told her that she had “done well”, but advised her that it would be in her own self-interest to exercise greater discretion in the future—there were “more subtle ways” to avenge herself against “those who would stifle my potential”. Her vampire said there was nothing for her at Tulane. She could be so, so much more. More than Angela. Summer was delighted when “[her] vampire” pointed out that her older sister could never do any of the things she was capable of.

“[Her] vampire” also seemed different. When they met, she’d been “more I guess playful”. She was “a little scary”. Actually, she “could be really scary.” But that was “to that douchebag who wouldn’t leave us alone”. It never felt like she’d wanted to scare Summer. “She kept saying how much ‘more’ I could be, how amazing I was.” After her fight with Angela, things became… different. She got “pushier”. Less fun. But not at all “like Dad”. Summer wanted to please her, wanted to impress her.

Caroline has to read between the lines, because Summer’s words on the subject are very terse. But it sounds like they were starting to have sex—and that the experience was deeply traumatic for the former coed. She mentions her vampire laughing when she screamed. She mentions bleeding, including when she took shits, losing sensation between her legs, and “hurting everywhere”. There are long showers, “black steel”, horrible nightmares, and incoherent ramblings where Summer doubts whether her experiences are even real, or just things she’s dreaming. She didn’t really leave the apartment much. Or want to. Her developing powers were “like a drug.” She could make the bleeding stop. She could “make [herself] feel good.” She could levitate objects. She could hear neighbors’ conversations. She could know what they were thinking. She could do things to them: give them headaches, make them hot, make them cold, make them horny, make them trip and bang their heads, fall asleep, talk in voices that weren’t theirs, hear things no one said, see things that weren’t there… Summer could “do anything to them”. Summer could “do things” on her phone and laptop too: write blocks of text without touching the keyboard, access Angela’s email account without the password (she was “really pissed” at some of the stuff she read), make her phone keep running when the battery was dead…

She even fought back once, and sent her vampire flying across the room like she did Angela. Her vampire said she was “progressing well”.

The journal abruptly ends there.

Autumn turns up some information on the building by the time Caroline has finished reading. It was built in the 1950s along Rampart Street and but has since been almost exclusively rented by low-income black tenants. There’ve been numerous building code violations, shootings, and similar incidents that make it a place where few individuals would desire to live. It’s passed from slumlord to slumlord before finally winding up in the Pavaghis’ hands during the ’90s.

“Just a random shithole hideout, I guess,” Autumn concludes. “We could look into if there’s a lease agreement, but my guess’d be they’re not coming back.”

Monday night, 28 December 2015, AM

GM: Becky Lynne remains true to her word to utilize the services of Caroline’s law firm and sends a ghoul to the Giani Building to take care of it. Caroline has seen the modestly-dressed, chubby-faced, and short-framed blonde woman hovering around her mistress in a personal assistant-like role a few times before. She smiles as she introduces herself as “one of Questor Adler’s people, ma’am, I reckon you’ve seen me around a few times.” The ghoul’s attitude is pleasant and agreeable, but it also becomes evident as the pair converse that Becky Lynne doesn’t have a specific purpose in mind for which she wants to utilize Caroline’s law firm. The ghoul seems happy to arrange anything that she calls “reasonable.”

Widney is quick to privately point out that while a “high-profile client is good PR,” this seems like an under-utilized opportunity. Wouldn’t it be even better if they had something Becky Lynne specifically wanted the law firm to handle—and felt was important enough to attend to personally? Widney is unclear exactly what kind of sway Matheson and Becky Lynne hold over Whitney Hancock Bank, but the 237-branch financial institution is worth $27 billion in assets. This could be a significant opportunity.

Caroline: The heiress has several ideas for ways in which to better flesh out their business relationship. Among other things, like all major corporations, Whitney Hancock Bank no doubt has to hire out a significant portion of its litigation to outside counsel, despite maintaining its own (very significant) in-house legal office. Not only does the ebb and flow of such work mean that at times the amount required far outstripes the amount of work their own staffs can produce, there are always questions of conflicts of interest for bank attorneys given prior cases (and even the entire legal branch), interoffice disputes that require outside arbitration and counsel, matters better handled outside of the office more discreetly (particularly those involving impropriety by bank executives), and (of course) simple quality assurance and ‘double checking’ of work on importance cases and simple contracts (especially employment contracts) both. And of course any acquisitions or mergers—which are almost always handled out of house due to conflicts within (and heavily scrutinized by the bank’s own attorneys).

Any of those are matters that the firm could assist in, which would bring in potentially significant business with marginal risk to the bank or Becky Lynne’s assets. With the possible exception of mergers and acquisitions.

She also proposes using the firm to help manage contracts for acquisitions and transfers of property or funds, and for contracts that may have Kindred undertones driving them—for instance the use of services by other Kindred at reduced rates in exchange for boons and other favors. Essentially anywhere that such transactions might otherwise raise eyebrows from the kine.

GM: Becky Lynne’s ghoul seems to think on Caroline’s words, and then replies that there is a matter which seems like it would fit the bill (“literal and otherwise,” she adds with an airy laugh) for what the Kindred lawyer is describing. As Caroline heard at the dinner with Warren Whitney not too long ago, the bank is relocating from its historic St. Charles Office and six other scattered buildings to the roomier One Shell Square (to be rebranded as Hancock Whitney Center), along with moving over a number of assets from Gulfport to further centralize operations. As Caroline has mentioned, there are a number of interoffice disputes involved in the move, especially pertaining to the Gulfport asset transfers. Some employees in Mississippi are going to lose their jobs. “No real way around that, sadly.” Some business relationships in New Orleans are also taking hits. Whitney Hancock Corp did not own all seven buildings that the bank’s prior operations were conducted in, and the holding companies that do own them are not pleased to have lost rent from one of their largest tenants.

The chubby-faced ghoul continues that a further and related area of concern is what these parties may make of Gerousiastis Matheson’s and Questor Adler’s plans for the historic St. Charles office. They intend to keep it vacant for “at least the immediate future.” The city government is very sensitive about potential damages to historic properties. Becky Lynne has considered whether parties who oppose Whiney Hancock’s move may seek to get the building declared a historic landmark through the Historic District Landmarks Commission, or possibly the state-wide Louisiana Office of Cultural Development’s Division Of Historic Preservation. This could tie the two Ventrue’s hands regarding future uses for the building, or at least result in costly legal action. Either way, the parties opposed to the bank’s move may hope to bring them back to the negotiating table.

Currently, none of those parties have actually pursued legal action against the bank. Becky Lynne would like to ensure things stay that way. While the ghoul frankly states that affairs pertaining to other Kindred are beyond the scope of the authority her mistress has vested in her, if Caroline can lubricate the process of the bank’s relocation and ensure things go off without a hitch (which is to say, no costly lawsuits), then she will no doubt “look mighty favorably” upon doing further, more directly Kindred-centric business with Caroline’s firm.

Caroline is more than happy to take on the ‘project’ with her firm. It’s the kind of thing she’d dearly like to seek input from her Uncle Matthew on—given the numerous acquisitions and consolidations he’s helmed—or even her brother Luke or cousin Savannah. Lacking any of the three, she’s forced to lean more on her own limited legally focused experiences, what she recalls of his truncated observations in the past, and the aid of her own ghouls.

The first matter is having the transition, handling of the leasing contracts, and the personnel matters officially under the firm’s legal umbrella. Obviously the company will dictate its own personnel requirements, but hiring out the process of handling terminations, separations, and contracts both significantly reduces the liability of the bank and gives the firm legal standing to deal with matters that might come up in the process directly.

When it comes to actually assisting in the move, she starts with mitigating and otherwise limiting any litigation from disgruntled employees. With the firm helping ‘provide direction’ on cost efficiency of consolidation, on which positions can and should be terminated, and so forth, questions of impropriety in the process are more insulated from the bank legally. After all, who can challenge that an outside agency with no stake in any personnel matters was impartial in its selection of who can stay, and who must go? The truth—that their projections and decisions will always match almost exactly with what the bank wants—matters far less than the fictional appearance of impartiality. The firm provides ‘studies’ and ‘statistical analysis’ to support its decisions—but as the saying goes: lies, damned lies, and statistics. Caroline (and ‘her’ attorneys) can make those studies say whatever she wants. Not that they’re filled entirely with nonsense.

Built into those studies is actually useful information available through varying bar associations—tables on how severance in varying amounts aligns with declines in litigation historically. How much salary is required to get a certain percentage of those affected to sign severance agreements. How many personnel can be laid off in advance of the closure of various branches and departments without undue suffering of production is more a question for the various departments (especially outside of New Orleans) she leaves to the bank to decide, but she’s firm (remembering her both the admonishment of professors and her uncle) that the more people they can get rid of before individual offices are moved, the fewer problems they’ll have. The goal is a more incremental draw down, rather than a massive wave of pink slips: employees let go alone or in small groups are less likely to seek litigation as a group, and more likely to find quicker success in the job market with less competition. It also allows those hired on early by other businesses after their firing to provide windows for newly unemployed personnel to crawl through into new careers. The less time terminated employees spend on the job market, the less likely they are to sue.

When it comes to actual terminations, the proposal she (and her attorneys) come with is for the individual managers, vice presidents, and so forth of each affected business or branch do the firing of their own people. Caroline relates the anecdote she heard once from her uncle, “people take bad news from someone they trust far better than from a stranger”. Wherever possible, those handing out pink slips are those that have every incentive to sell it well—they’re sold on how performance reviews have shown that they’re the ones the bank wants to keep, how they’re the elite, those worth the cost and expense of moving. For some of them it’s even true. For those that it’s not worth moving, or who prove unwilling to move, severences more generous than those they’re giving out are available.

Contingent upon any severance for any employee is of course a iron-clade waiver of any right to future legal action. If asked, Caroline explains that some degree of severance—in some cases only a week’s salary—is required to make those waivers enforceable. Essential elements of a contract being the tendering of the offer, acceptance of it, and, pointedly, some form of consideration offered for acceptance. Included in the waiver of legal action however is more than just a waiver of a right to sue for termination—there’s an enforcement clause for any that disparage, unethically share information about the bank, or otherwise attempt to damage the bank in any way. Caroline recalls more than one legal headache discussed by Mark Stines at a high level social function created by a disgruntled former employee leaking information to some opposition group during the (brief) era in which her uncle doggedly refused to pay out any severance to employees terminated for ‘cause’.

Handling the (in some cases) understandably disgruntled landlords of buildings and properties the bank is vacating is a more complex matter. The first step is ensuring the bank isn’t in violation of any contract provisions on their end—especially for early termination. The next is documenting or ‘identifying’ all manner of contract violations by the landlords. Asbestos, corroded pipes, rotten drywall, mold, bug infestations, and simpler (more mundane) more easily overlookable contract breeches are shockingly ‘discovered’ by Caroline’s ‘investigators’ in each building being vacated. Sometimes they don’t even have to plant or create these breaches.

All of them give Caroline ample ammunition against any of the property owners and managers that might seek to cause problems for the relocations. In some cases Caroline strikes early and fast—threatening breaches of contract litigation against them and seeking compensation. The goal of these threatened actions is never to take the matter to trial, and instead to seek settlements that indemnify both parties from disparagement and any future action (among other things). She’s happy to settle such matters quickly—much to the benefit of landlords. It would be a shame if the properties were tied up in litigation for months—or even years—as evidence in potential lawsuits. In others she holds it in reserve should they seek threaten action against the bank. As much as it might hurt to lose a major tenant, Caroline can and will make it hurt far worse if they want to make something of it.

When it comes to the St. Charles office, Caroline is more blunt. If the building goes up for review, it will likely be deemed to be of historical significance. It’s also highly probable that even if no hostile party (and there are many hostile to Gerousiastis Matheson in the city beyond the mortals affected by the move) seeks to take such an application before the committees, that a historically minded citizen is likely to do so. That means they need to either defeat or delay any such designation. There are several paths they could follow. Most unscrupulous among them, members of each committee are prohibited from discussing the matters of specific proposed locations with outside parties. If they do, they must recuse themselves from discussion and votes. Get enough members so tainted (conventionally or otherwise) and the matter, even if before the committee, cannot be properly nominated and supported by three other ‘seconds’. Failure there results in a mandatory year wait before further consideration. Better though, if a majority of the committee does not support such a nomination, it cannot be reconsidered at all for five years. Given that many committee members also serve year after year, any tampering might produce benefits for many years to come. That option is, however, significantly above Caroline’s ‘level’.

Two more indirect—and more conventionally expensive and time consuming—options are available. The first is to backlog the committee with applications. It meets a single time each month. The staff that sets the agenda has to verify applications before they can come before the committee. That staff is small and already overworked. If it’s Adler’s preference, Caroline simply flood them with applications, creating a massive backlog until her own affairs and plans for the building can come to fruition. That option works better on a more limited timeline—a year or two at most. The other option—which can be utilized in kind—is to submit the building application first, then pull it before it comes to the committee. No building can have more than a single application in for consideration, and those submitting may withdraw their submission at any time. By controlling the submission they can, in theory, work to ensure it never comes up to a vote.

Finally, if they’re concerned about outside meddling, and direct meddling with the committee is a concern (by outside forces or themselves), Caroline purposes they could bring the matter to the committee instead as one that the elder Ventrue desires. There are advantages to having the building declared historically significant, particularly in terms of it’s regard by other Kindred, how it’s regard by the city, and even in terms of taxation and legal protections. If the committee is actively hostile or controlled by a hostile group, creating the appearance of desirability on their part is the surest way to see it rejected—and the matter punted for a minimum of five years. Failing that, the committee cannot make rulings on matters before the review of the city council—if that venue is more welcoming to Gerousiastis Matheson.

All of the above is to say Caroline can delay such a consideration by a number of possible means, depending on what best suits Adler—but delay is all she can do is directly.

GM: Becky Lynne is exceedingly pleased with her clanmate’s assistance. It’s far more than she or her sire expected from some random neonate they were throwing a bone to. They are inclined to go to her law firm for further business of more substantial and sensitive natures, as well as to involve her in more Kindred-related matters.

Bishop and the other lawyers are happy just to have six months of billable work, and the prospect of further work for Whitney Hancock makes them even happier. The firm is clearly starting things with a bang.

Monday evening, 28 December 2015, PM

GM: Savannah meets Caroline at her posh high-rise apartment in the CBD. It’s been a while since the Ventrue has seen her cousin wearing casual clothes instead of formal businesswear—or for that matter, mourningwear. Savannah offers to get drinks for the pair (“I think tonight calls for some hard bourbon”), sits down with her by a scenic view overlooking the Mississippi, then gets right to the point.

“So you like girls. I do too.”

Caroline: Caroline accepts the drink from her cousin and clinks glasses, taking a seat beside her and letting the stillness of the moment hang in the air. She takes a sip of her drink after Savannah’s admission, then looks back to her. “I know,” she admits with a soft smile.

“I have for years.” The smile turns shy. “Susan and I followed you, years ago, to a meeting.”

GM: “Shit,” Savannah says, though whether at Caroline’s years-ago snooping or the reference to Susan is unclear. “Well, thanks for not telling anyone, if the fact they didn’t fucking excommunicate me is any indication.”

Caroline: “Susan doesn’t know. Or at least I don’t think she does,” Caroline clarifies. “She was waiting to prank you in the bathroom.”

“And as for me… well, even before I found out—quite recently—that I enjoyed the fairer sex as well, it didn’t seem worth ruining your life over,” Caroline replies knowingly. “And to be clear, that’s what they’ll do if it ever comes out. Excommunication is… well, if not the least of my worries, then certainly the least of the physical ones.”

“They’ll tell you a story about what happened the night Orson had his heart attack, because you can’t have the black sheep painted in any other light, but if things had worked out just a little differently… well.” She pauses to take another sip of her bourbon. “We wouldn’t be having this conversation. And it won’t just be you they go after.”

GM: Savannah’s eyes narrow in seeming thought for several moments.

“Pretty convenient for you that fat bastard had an attack. Did you slip him something?”

GM: Savannah’s eyes narrow in seeming thought for several moments.

“Pretty convenient for you that fat bastard had an attack. Did you slip him something?”

Caroline: Caroline shakes her head. “Quite the opposite. Or did you really think his brute had the presence of mind to call the paramedics and perform CPR until he got there? I got lucky—and I guess so did he in some ways. For this I’m to be excommunicated—from Church and family. Cut off of all support and contact from the family forever more.” There’s more than a trace of bitterness in her voice as she recites her ‘sentence’ as though making a decree.

“Better than what they had planned when I arrived though, so maybe God has a sense of humor. If you ever wondered why Susan went along with the demand to join the covenant and meekly retire from public life, let me assure you that the other option they offered was far less merciful.”

Her eyes meet Savannah’s. “I wouldn’t count on betting so lucky as I did, Savannah, and they’re going to be positively out for blood and jumping at every shadow.”

“I didn’t do you any favors by getting outed. I’m sorry.” She tosses back more of the foul smelling, fouler tasting, bourbon.

GM: Her cousin sighs.

“First girl I opened up to pulled out of her school and was dead by the end of the year. I’ve learned to be careful.”

Caroline: Rather before you opened up, Caroline thinks, but she keeps that thought to herself and instead bites her lip before nodding. “That’s what he said. He wanted her found. Wanted ‘the degenerate’ found. Wanted her killed.” There’s a hardness in Caorline’s voice as she speaks, an edge sharp enough to cut through steel.

“I should have let him die,” she spits out. “But I don’t think we’d be having this drink if I did.”

GM: “Probably not,” Savannah agrees, then shrugs like it’s turned out to be an oil reserve not worth the cost of extraction. “Either way, he’s alive. Don’t think the family’s going to be out for blood so long as he’s in the hospital though, which should be a while. My mom and dad are probably uncorking champagne at that news, not to mention actually fucking talking to each other. Your dad’s busy in DC, your mom’s been a wreck ever since Westley, and this isn’t any of the others’ fight.”

She sips her drink. “If you want to get out of New Orleans, now’s the time. Don’t think there’s really anything here for you anymore.”

Caroline: The idea holds a certain appeal, in the same way she might have fantasized about going to school abroad, or about which celebrity she would have wanted to date. Wouldn’t it be fun to go to school in Paris? The thought has as much meaning now as it did then, and for the same reasons: she won’t be allowed to leave. Even if she wished to flee the city, flee the seneschal, and flee her oblivious sire, someone would either conspire to bring her back, or more likely destroy her. For better or for worse, her fate is tied to New Orleans for reasons she can’t express.

“Where would I go?” she asks lightly, ideally. “Some big and liberal city? New York? Let them run me out of New Orleans like a tramp in the night?” Caroline laughs and shakes her head. “No. There’s still.. well… Some things here. And even if there weren’t, I wouldn’t run.”

GM: “Can understand that,” Savannah grunts. She takes a sip of bourbon.

“Was planning on getting myself inseminated at some point, you know,” she remarks conversationally. “Family wouldn’t be happy over the whole ‘no husband’. But it’d bury the lesbian talk for good. Might do that sooner depending on what shape dear old uncle is in after he’s discharged. And how right you are about being out for blood.”

Caroline: Caroline looks grim at severity of her cousin’s plans. Better to be a single mother than to care for someone unacceptable. The twisted nature of the family on full display. “I imagine it might. Might be worth waiting to see how all of this plays out though. In a few years… well. Things can change as the old guard changes,” she agrees. “You and Emilia?” she asks.

GM: Savannah grunts. “Not in a hurry. Our generation’s of age though, like it or not. Gabriel’s the last one going to college. Our parents are waiting to be grandparents.”

Caroline: “I get the feeling Luke is going to kick it off here shortly.” Caroline agrees with a genuine smile. “Maybe it’ll give them all something else to focus on for a while. Or maybe not. After him it’s you—I think Charlotte has a few more years before it starts to become expected.”

She gives a laugh. “Have you always known? That you liked women?”

GM: “I tried to fool myself for a few years. Boys kept getting pissed when I wasn’t into kissing and pushed them away. Even sat down in front of some porn videos, bless me father for I have sinned,” Savannah traces a sarcastic cross in front of her face, “and tried to get off to those. I started to get a clue when I realized how much I was looking at the women.”

Caroline: A more genuine laugh follows. “That must have made for some awkward confessions.” She tries to picture the scene. “You’ve managed it well. Far better than I did. I won’t offer any condescending talk of ‘how confusing it must of all been’. I don’t think either of us have ever really been much for seeking sympathy or a shoulder to cry on—and it sounds as though it was a long time ago besides.”

GM: “It was.” Savannah sips her drink. “So who’d they catch you in bed with?”

Caroline: “No one you’d know. Artist type. Photographer. Moved here from California.” A smile slips across Caroline’s face unknowingly. “The whole thing moved so fast. Felt so easy.”

GM: “Another California liberal, huh? Seems you have a type.”

Caroline: “Decently,” Caroline replies with another drink.

GM: “You like men still, or turns out no?”

Caroline: “Equal opportunity,” Caroline quips. “That’s the stupid part about all of this. Could’ve been happy with someone more ‘acceptable’.” She shakes her head.

GM: “Spilled milk,” Savannah shrugs. “Enjoy your photographer. Live the life you want to lead and all that shit.”

Caroline: “Yeah.” Caroline looks out on the night, then back at her cousin. “I should have reached out earlier. I’m sorry.”

GM: Savannah shrugs again. “Regrets and two bucks will get you a cheap bag of pre-sliced cheddar.”

Caroline: “Shame they’re so worthless, since they come so easily,” Caroline remarks before finishing her drink and setting it down on the small glass table between their chairs.

“I don’t imagine we’ll have another chance to chat. At least not anytime soon.” She looks over at her stern, serious cousin. “Take care, Savannah.”

GM: Savannah finishes hers. “Take more care yourself. Give a shout if we do get that chance.”

She rises from her seat. “Wishes though have about the same market rate as regrets.”


Monday night, 28 December 2015

GM: Autumn earns enough credits to graduate from Tulane at the end of December. (She isn’t graduating in spring quarter because she took classes at an uneven rate while working for the Krewe.) Whether she is happier to have a journalism B.A. or to no longer be a viable food source for her mistress is difficult to say, but Caroline can smell at a whiff that the recent college graduate is no longer a suitable vessel.

She brings up again how it will be good for the Masquerade if she holds some kind of paying job, as well as Caroline’s earlier promise to find her a place at her law office. She reiterates how “that’s where the real game is played with the Masquerade, in law offices and boardrooms… elders are all basically committing a ton of white-collar crimes to keep their empires running. Cleaning up bodies and bloodstains feels kind of, like I said, crude next to that.”

Caroline: If Caroline is disappointed by the ghoul’s removal from her eligible ‘herd’ she says nothing of it, though perhaps her gaze hovers just a moment less on the ghoul in early evening meetings before she’s gone out to find her next victim, and her teeth are just a little less pointed in those same meetings. She congratulates Autumn on the achievement and even has a small ‘bonus’ waiting for her.

She’s true to her word with the firm. A Bachelor’s of Arts with no official job history of note is not exactly a sterling resume. Caroline could find a dozen recent college grads that would be thrilled simply to get some kind of internship (and several others that would be happy, though less thrilled to get an unpaid one). One of the benefits however of controlling the firm is less of a need to justify the hire, review a resume, or even have Autumn submit one. A position appears for a director of media relations. It’s a nicer term for ‘spin artist’, and that’s a job that Autumn is quite qualified for. Officially her duties involve helping frame narratives around cases that gain (or require) media attention and getting out in front of media reports and stories that might involve clients or points of interest to the firm. The office is not immediately luxurious or even particularly large, but it serves a purpose, and the requirement that she stay ‘on the button’ with and maintain ties to various media sources is a ready explanation for her somewhat irregular hours.

Among other things it legitimizes Autumn’s income and gives her access to the firm’s resources. Caroline is clear that it’s right at the edge right now of what she can justify. Were it not for Autumn the position would not exist, and Autumn does need to work to grow it into something of merit for the firm while also juggling her own duties to Caroline in the evenings. The Ventrue is open to the ghoul’s suggestions as to ways she can better do so, and it becomes apparent that she is, for now at least, content to give Autumn her head to discover the best way to do so. She mentions, however, that if Autumn does intend to step further into that arena that she’ll need to stretch beyond a B.A. She stops just shy of suggesting the ghoul should return to school. At least immediately.

GM: Autumn initially points out, half-seriously, that she does have a sterling resume. It’s just one that mortal employers can’t see.

Bishop vouches for Autumn at the firm. He says that while the other partners raised some eyebrows over creating a brand new paid position for a fresh college graduate, they seem willing to see how things work out after he recommended her. He lied about being friends with one of her professors.

Autumn is grateful for the position, especially the ‘bonus,’ and rapturously tells Caroline in the ‘post-coital’ glow that she will make the most of it. Her dad will be happy to hear she landed a salaried job this fast, too. She figures doing well on the next couple cases will be enough to quiet any doubts the firm’s other employees may have about her. She ‘agrees’ she should also focus on work and balancing the new job’s responsibilities with her ones towards Caroline before thinking about grad school.

Wednesday night, 30 December 2015, AM

Caroline: It’s after Christmas when the appointed meeting with Yi Huang rolls around. Caroline hasn’t made a habit of visiting sewers—in fact, she hasn’t visited them at all—but she agreed to meet with the misshapen Nosferatu on his terms. She takes his advice and trades heels for watertight boots, pairing them with burgundy athletic pants, a dark sports bra, and a plain black top.

She arrives at the appointed manhole cover at the appointed time. Not only does it present the opportunity to interact more with the principled Nosferatu, it’s also a ‘chance’ to see something of their underground empire. Not bad for a social call. Even if it is in a sewer and requires ‘practical shoes’.

GM: A rat leads Caroline a little ways in to the sewers. She’s soon soaked, fouled, and completely covered in shit. She looks as ugly as any Nosferatu.

Huang says he’s willing to talk there when Gerald Abellard shows up. The second Nosferatu taunts Caroline for probably not being tough/strong enough to survive a journey to the clan’s warrens. “Huang’s going easy on you,” he cackles. “Oh, and those pictures of your tits have gotten even more likes. Couple ghoul fapped to them. Got a video of that if you wanna see it.”

Huang neither condemns nor acknowledges the profane talk. He’s willing to talk with Caroline at either location, here or the warrens, and expresses interest in what manner of atonement she’s pursued for her various sins.

Caroline: Caroline tolerates the filth surprisingly well—no doubt aided by being dead. She tolerates the taunts from Gerald far less so, commenting clippedly on how difficult it must be to be one of the few Nosferatu so ugly on the inside as well.

GM: Huang seems ready to instantly turn against Caroline without an immediate and profuse apology to his clanmate for calling him ugly.

Caroline: Caroline wavers for a moment in her anger before offering a short but genuine apology for attacking his physical appearance. By no means does she seem ready to ignore Gerald’s taunts, but she seems to genuinely regret having gone to such a petty place.

GM: Gerald cackles that “down here you’re as ugly as me anyway.” She should look in a mirror. He lays off after getting in the last word, but repeats how it’d be “absolutely hilarious” to see a “spoiled princess like her” just try to make the descent all the way down.

Caroline: Caroline is happy to chat with Huang here—among other things deferring to his decision on the meeting place—though at the end of their conversation she mentions that in the future she’d rather they gave Gerald nothing to laugh about if they continue to meet.

She asks him about his views on atonement and his own attempts to find it. If he’s willing to share, she asks what his sins in life were. She mentions that the Sanctified dogma of hunting the evil has its appeal to her. She’s emphasizes that she’s committed to the Church Eternal and is grateful for her elders’ guidance. Still, hurting and killing people to make up for… hurting and killing sometimes leaves her feeling empty. To say nothing of how difficult it can be to target specifically those that fit the mold. Left unsaid is that more powerful and influential vampires who lead the Sanctified often suffer no such difficulty.

She’s mostly interested in just chatting, discussing rights and wrongs, and hearing another opinion on how to fulfill one’s Requiem.

The conversation passes pleasantly enough, but ultimately doesn’t soothe the canker in her soul. She supposes, upon reflection, that little else drives her besides her acceptance by her sire. Besides being worthy of him. Being more than just some other spiritually lost neonate on the street.

Right and wrong have always been a distant second to that.

Monday night, 2 January 2016, PM

GM: In January comes the bar exam, which Caroline may take to finally become a bar-certified lawyer. The exam location is in Kenner, which is within the New Orleans metro area. It is held from the hours of 7 AM to 5 PM over the course of three days.

Caroline: The heiress considers several approaches to the question of the bar, from extremely overt interference in the entire affair with Kindred supernatural powers to more nuanced options that rely on them not at all. There are several hurdles to be overcome in the process that affect both plans.

Among other things they include the need to put someone in a physical seat during the Monday, Wednesday, and Friday of the bar’s administration, the need to insert her own answers, and the need for those answers to be convincing to graders that are of yet unidentified. Caroline knows that many practicing attorneys in Louisiana (especially older ones of good standing and repute) are called on to anonymously grade various exams, and that trying to identify which has hers would be a monumental undertaking. To say nothing of the more personal question she wrestles with: she doesn’t simply wish to cheat her way through the bar. There’s a matter of pride in passing on her own. The difference between being an attorney and ‘near-attorney’ is very much the difference between being a success and a failure.

Some problems have immediate solutions. Say what she might about Ferris’ men’s investigation, they threw a passable lookalike into her path. Passable to the unfamiliar eye, at least. She can put a body in the seat during the day, even if it isn’t her own.

That still leaves two questions: that of the exam itself, and how she will insert it into the others. Unlike many professional exams, the bar is not multiple choice. It’s a series of essays that are graded against a set ‘correct’ pattern answer created by the same author as the questions themselves. The exam is designed to require over twenty hours of outlining and writing to complete broken into a trio of seven-hour sessions. It also changes for every single test, semi-annually. It’s not something that one can readily ‘cheat’ in the same way that she knows a fair number of her fellow debutantes cheated on the SAT, MCAT, and similar tests.

Which isn’t to say that there aren’t plenty of ways that enterprising young would-be attorneys have tried to get an edge. The easiest is getting the test questions ahead of time. They’re tightly controlled, but ultimately they’re not nuclear launch codes, and several people have access to them. In a city as notoriously corrupt as New Orleans, it’s even considered sporting for certain people to get leaked early ideas of what the questions might be. Or at least the topics in question, if you know the right people: mostly judges.

More tech-savvy law grads have aggressively taken the opportunity presented by the ability to bring a ‘vetted’ laptop using special software to introduce all manner of ‘cheats’ for themselves, from references to samples of past test answers (supposedly destroyed but flourishing on the darkweb). That accommodation, presented mostly for the ease of reviewers who grew tired of reading hand-written exams some years ago, has been a boon for would-be cheaters.

Caroline intends on making use of both paths. She needs to see the exam question early to have a chance to work on them during the nights in advance, and she’ll use her new ghoul (and the opportunity presented by the laptops) to insert her answers without extra duplicity or need to compromise the entire testing process by ‘injecting’ her tests into the bank.

She’s aggressive in her courting of those that might have those ‘early looks’ at the exam, leaning heavily on enthrallment where personal charm fails to make new friends and pry potential truths from others. Some connections she already has—former teachers, business associates, family connections. Others lead from one to another, a chain of hunting for literal answers at legal events (often and so helpfully hosted at night due to the schedules of the judges).

She simultaneously hires on a programmer to create a break into the bar exam’s testing software. Perception Questionmark is a solid program that essentially locks out the computer with everything other than the testing software while in use. It’s not really designed however to be tested. Most companies that use it (including the armed forces) do so on their own computers which have their own firm administrator controls built into every computer on a given network—often in relation to a single server. When exposed to administrator controls on a private laptop, it’s almost trivially easy to build in a backdoor to do something as simple as allow copy and paste from a root directory… and if one happens to have been built specifically to hide answers in a null format… well. That’s too bad. Honestly, Caroline doubts someone cheating a pre-written answer into the bar in that particular way is a concern that most are actively concerned about: if you know the questions ahead of time, why risk the headache when you can simply tailor your studies? Who would both need to and be able to cheat in pre-written answers like that? Who indeed?

It’s perhaps especially true because the actual ‘right’ answers (i.e. the model answers graders are required to score to) are typically not provided until after the exams have been proctored, and even then only to the graders. It’s ostensibly a form of protection against them being compromised. Caroline knows that there’s some truth to the two jokes told about them: first, that given the scale of the work, the ‘answers’ often aren’t ready at the same time as the test. Second, given there is no review available applicants of grades, and given who ends up doing most of the grading, graders don’t look at the ‘real’ answers half the time anyway. In short, anyone trying to cheat the bar in that way would have to be able to answer the questions anyway. Research might help with some, but they’d be on an abbreviated time anyway to do so.

Caroline’s own time is certainly ‘abbreviated’ when it comes to working on her own answers, even once she gets the questions. Unlike kine, she can’t exactly spend all day and night researching and cramming ahead of the bar. Even when the gets the answers she doesn’t have, in truth, much more time than the average person taking it. The nights leading up to it are the weekend—Elysium nights she can ill afford to spend buried in books and writing papers.

GM: Caroline retrieves her copy of the exam’s questions from Richard Boner, an associate judge for the Criminal District Court of Orleans Parish, the same court on which her cousin Carson serves as chief justice. The Ventrue remains inconvenienced by that court’s location inside Mid-City: Anarch territory. She settles for tracking down each judge’s home address and waiting until they venture to a more readily accessible location. Most people of means have business in the CBD at some point, and it’s then that she makes her move, invading the elderly man’s mind as she has so many others. Her own intimate knowledge of the legal field’s workings significantly lubricates the process: perhaps another Ventrue who desired the bar exam’s questions could simply obtain what they wanted through brute force, ordering the criminal judge to fork them over like a mindless drone, but Caroline leaves him thinking he turned them over of his own violation for entirely understandable reasons.

Widney takes care of the details in hiring Trevor Nguyen, a Vietnamese-American computer science student at Tulane and gray hat who has no apparent reservations over helping someone cheat on the bar exam in return for a respectable cash payment. If Caroline inquires as to details, Widney mentions that he actually some apparent ethical objections, but these took a back seat to his desire to quickly pay off student loans. He cracks the program and has it working to the Ventrue’s specifications in short enough order.

Gerald Bishop, who’s obviously taken the bar some years earlier, remarks that Caroline is the first Kindred he’s seen to acquire a law degree after her Embrace. He applauds her for still wanting to pass the exam under her own merits, and even recommends that she answer its questions in an unfamiliar setting and under a time limit over the course of three nights, if she wants to recreate as ‘authentic’ an exam-taking experience as possible.

Caroline feels very good about how she does on the Code I, II, and III essay questions for the first ‘day’. The next ’day’s’ Code of Civil Procedure, Torts, and Business Entities doesn’t feel like she’s knocked it completely out of the park (which she’s adamant she absolutely did yesternight), but for someone who’s had relatively little opportunity to study next to many other would-be attorneys, she feels pretty good. The last ‘day’ brings Constitutional Law; Criminal Law, Criminal Procedure, and Evidence; and Federal Jurisdiction and Procedure. Caroline feels like the exam is starting to wear on her. She has so many other worries and concerns and literally life or death deadlines the bar is ultimately irrelevant to. Still, she reflects as she shuts down her laptop for the third and final night, her efforts are something to be proud of. Many of her kind’s elders, for all their knowledge and power, would likely fail the bar outright. She can do something they can’t.

Audrey reports no problems sitting in for Caroline and substituting the Ventrue’s answers for her own.

Once the exam is taken, there is nothing to do but wait, at least for most would-be attorneys. Exam results are mailed out after two months. Names of passed applicants are posted on the doors of the Louisiana Supreme Court. Caroline can’t make that happen any faster—but she can revisit Judge Boner and ‘ask’ that her cousin’s work associate grade her exam first.

Several nights later, she holds that graded exam in ‘hand’. Her weighted score is 900.

It will be several months before her name graces the front doors of Louisiana’s highest court. It will be several months before she can tell her mortal family what she now is. But she knows.

Caroline Malveaux, attorney at law.

Caroline: The sight of the graded exam fills Caroline with a whirlwind of emotions. First pride, in having not only passed, but done so in such a glorious fashion despite so many items of importance competing for her attention and robbing her of the study time she always imagined she have. A third of test takers fail outright. To crush the exam so thoroughly is a reaffirmation of the self-exceptionalism she’s long believed, but so often had cause to doubt over the last year. She didn’t even have to ‘cheat’, beyond as needed to get the exam in the first place.

That glowing pride rapidly gives way to outright joy and excitement. Another dragon slain, a great accomplishment that she can’t wait to celebrate. She laughs and smiles like she’s alive, jumps up and down for a moment, and has her phone in her hand to text someone—anyone and everyone—when the next emotion hits like a bucket of cold water: emptiness. She looks down at the glowing screen as her smile fades and her laughter dies.

She can’t call her family—for many reasons—to tell them about it. Not even her mother is likely to appreciate it. She’ll comment on how Caroline’s a monster for having pried the grade out earlier and turn up her nose in conviction that Caroline cheated. Of her Kindred ‘friends’ and associates, she doubts many, if any, will understand what it means to her, or even why she bothered. She’s going to die relatively soon, isn’t she? Why should she care if she can pass some stupid test? Why go through the trouble? It’s not as though the piece of paper attached to a dead woman’s name is going to impress them. And that assumes any even believe that she passed it straight up, actually taking the test instead of simply cheating her way into it.

That leaves her ghouls—some of which will understand: Bishop for his experience with the exam and Kindred society, Ericson for the first but not the last. Others, no doubt, the collar will pull into joy on her behalf, but she knows it’s empty. It’s like celebrating at home with your pet dog and a bottle of boxed wine. Bragging and celebrating with them is a hair past pathetic.

Which leaves her pride. Always pride, in herself. In her accomplishments that no one will ever really appreciate, even if they know and believe. She looks down again at the weighted score: 900 / 900. Her success, entirely on her own merits. One she knows about, even if no one else does.

The score still makes her smile.

Maybe that’s enough.

Sunday night, 3 January 2016, PM

GM: Father Malveaux is formally consecrated as Bishop Malveaux in a glorious ceremony attended by the whole of the city. Donovan is given a special place of honor as the one to cut the sacrificial victims’ throats. The newly-elevated bishop exalts the sheriff’s piety and labors on behalf of the Church Eternal in his sermon. It is plain to all who Malveaux supports as Vidal’s heir—and that such support carries no small weight.

Donovan appears at the Board’s next Tuesday meeting. Father Malveaux sets an ornate silver pin recognizing vital friendship with the Ventrue clan upon his breast.

The hounds, especially Camilla Doriocourt, are increasingly seen by the bishop’s side in the coming weeks. Some take to calling them “the bishop’s guard.”

The other priests increasingly fall within their newly-elevated no-longer-peer’s orbit. Father Polk reaps the benefits of his loyalty as he and his long-time mentor receive enlarged hunting grounds and domain within the Garden and Central Business Districts. Sermons at Midnight Mass are conducted by the bishop now, with the other priests in supporting roles. Bishop Malveaux performs every transubstantiation and ritual feeding of Longinus’ vitae to congregants.

Firmer policies are set down aimed at weeding out the “spiritually indolent” within the church. Congregants whose confessions their priests seem lacking and “empty of faithful works” are prohibited from receiving communion at the next Midnight Mass, their shame made obvious to all. Caroline herself is prohibited from taking communion on more than one occasion. Some faces are more absent than others, but most seem eager to demonstrate loyalty to the new bishop. Donovan expresses his approval of the bishop’s new methods, declaring that the Sanctified shall be sharpened into a blade that might “strike down all enemies of our faith.” Rumor abounds the two have reached an accord for Bishop Malveaux to serve as Seneschal Malveaux under a Prince Donovan.

Monday night, 4 January 2016, PM

GM: Becky Lynne receives Caroline at her sire’s Garden District haven. She listens patiently to the younger Ventrue’s story of the aid she has rendered in ensuring Sarah’s online comments over the Amelie were kept from the public domain. She pulls up her Solaris and taps into it for several minutes (“You’ll pardon my bein’ rude here”) before telling Caroline to consider one of the boons she owes her sire repaid. She then proceeds to discuss the circumstances under which the other Ventrue will sever ties with Sarah.

Caroline: Caroline readily excuses the delay, and thanks Becky Lynne for the repaid boon—it wasn’t something she’d have thought to bring to her attention normally: preserving another’s domain seems like it should be minimally troublesome efforts on behalf of another Venture. As to splitting with Sarah, she sees several options she night pursue towards that end, each with its advantages and disadvantages.

First, she might simply ghost Sarah, continue to avoid her, and work behind Sarah’s back with those trying to keep them in contact to keep her away until the teen leaves for college. The disadvantage is that it’s slow, it isn’t the hard break.

Second, she can be direct with Sarah. She can tell her off in rude and no uncertain terms: she has better things to do than spend her time on a brain damaged teenager, or in some similarly rude way. She might even ‘come onto’ heras a means of pushing her away and alienating her.

Third, she—or they—can manufacture external pressures on Sarah to force her away from Caroline. This isn’t difficult: the disowned Malveaux scion is in disgrace with her family. Much of her social standing has been significantly diminished. Association with Caroline (especially publicly) is ill-advised. This would be particularly effective if Sarah’s family also worked to push the narrative.

All three have advantages and disadvantages, both for Sarah and for Caroline. The harder Caroline’s alienation the more disruption to Caroline’s own plans (Sarah’s boyfriend’s family is significantly influential and owns the Giani Building, and Sarah may be making an enemy for ‘life’ of both) and to Sarah’s own life (she’s likely to face ostracization, repercussions, or retaliation if she becomes beligernate towards Caroline from others, while Caroline’s own belligerence could lead her down negative responses from the girl).

So, how aggressively does Gerousiastis Matheson wish for her to break with Sarah? Caroline will carry any costs on her own end—the cost of doing business—but she’d not damage Sarah’s standing as part of the elder’s domain without his direction.

GM: Becky Lynne replies that “unpleasantness” and sexual harassment—the former logically following the latter when Sarah turns down Caroline’s advances—is the ideal course of action for her younger clanmate to pursue. “The latter in particular is a very good idea of yours, Eiren Malveaux. It pairs with the existing narrative like beans with rice.” Becky Lynne and her sire “will take care of” further external pressures on Sarah to end their association. “You won’t need to fret about your haven. This shouldn’t take more than a few nights.”

“A good, clean break is best in all things, Eiren,” the shorter blonde finally nods. “You set the wound and move on. Leavin’ things messy just invites more messes down the line.”

Caroline: “As you wish, Questor,” Caroline agrees. “Let’s hope she doesn’t make things awkward by not declining.”

Caroline allows the thread with Sarah to play out, lessening her resistance to the younger girl’s attention with another meeting with the twins in which she lets her eyes linger just a bit too long on her, lets her hands linger just a moment too long on Sarah’s own when she corrects something, and in which she continues to insist, especially in the brief moments in which they’re physically closer, that being closer to Caroline is no good for Sarah.

It’s in the second follow up in a more relaxed environment in which Caroline sets her barb. The gathering is small, intimate. Caroline, the twins, Sarah, and a few others at the Devillers’ house—organized by the twins with Caroline ‘dropping by’ at the twins invitation—notionally killing two birds with one stone by coordinating with Cecilia at the same time for the wedding. Drinks are flowing, though none of the high society girls are there specifically to get drunk in the way that many of their male counterparts might. Still, it helps, that slight social lubrication, for Caroline’s purposes.

She continues her press on Sarah, hands that maintain contact a little too long when passing a drink. All the ways a man has ever made her uncomfortable, thinking he was ‘pursuing’ her when really he was hunting her. And the last, when Sarah sneaks off to the bathroom after her latest glass of wine. Excusing herself to follow. Catching Sarah alone in the vast house.

GM: Sarah doesn’t take long to pick up. To her credit, she doesn’t get flustered, only stops asking for drinks. When she sees Caroline by the bathroom, she actually looks relieved. “Caroline, I’m glad you’re here. I wanted to talk in private.”

“You’re an amazing person. You saved my life, and probably my granddaddy’s too. I’ll never forget that. I’ll always, always be grateful to you. Any boy would be beyond lucky to have you. Or girl.”

“So it’s not you, Caroline, not at all… I’m just not into girls. You’re a wonderful, an amazing, person. And I’m sure you’re scared what your family would think, what they’d say, if they knew. Maybe I can help?”

Caroline: Caroline’s face goes through a range of emotions, but seems to settle on haughty annoyance. “How do you know?” she asks pushily, standing too close to Sarah. “I didn’t until I tried it.”

GM: “Maybe, but I have a boyfriend. I don’t want to hurt him,” Sarah offers placatingly.

Caroline: “Would he have to know?” she asks, one hand pushing a stray hair out of Sarah’s face, behind her ear.

GM: Sarah’s posture tenses at the contact. “I don’t want to hurt him, Caroline,” she repeats. “Please.”

Caroline: “What he doesn’t know wouldn’t hurt him,” Caroline repeats. “Aren’t you at least a little curious?”

GM: “It would hurt me,” Sarah insists. “Come on, let’s get back to the others. Yvette always has such funny videos.”

Caroline: Caroline doesn’t let up, “I wouldn’t hurt you.” The younger girl can feel Caroline’s false breath on her skin.

GM: “I’m sure you wouldn’t. But I’d hurt me. I’m sorry, Caroline. Come on, they’re missing us.” Sarah starts making her way back to the living room.

Caroline: Caroline’s arm bars the way, planted against the opposite wall. “After all of this, after I tried to push you away that’s what you want?” There’s suddenly venom in her voice.

GM: “I’m sorry, Caroline. I always wanted us to stay friends. I still do.” Sarah’s is quiet. She rests her hand on Caroline’s arm she gently tries to guide it away.

Caroline: Caroline’s arm is like iron. “I tried to make this easier,” she spits. “Tried to make it a clean break.” Her eyes burn with anger. “You were the one that came back to me.”

GM: “You’re starting to scare me. I just want to be friends.” Sarah’s tone isn’t getting softer, though, but firmer.

Caroline: “I don’t,” Caroline snarls. “But that doesn’t matter to you right? It’s about what you want.” She shakes her head, then catquick leans in, one hand catching the smaller girl’s head even as she closes the distance, her mouth closing over Sarah’s savagely, her tongue snaking out. She breaks away after a moment. “So you know what you missed. Keep away from me, you little snake.” She draws her way blocking arm back.

GM: “Gf-off-!” Caroline feels Sarah pushing against her as their lips meet, but it’s over with too fast for her struggles to grow too animated. Sarah’s chest heaves as she looks Caroline up and down. Color is rising to her cheeks.

“What… what happened to you?” she whispers.

Caroline: “This is who I’ve always been,” Caroline replies, licking her lips then wiping clean her smudged lipstick. “You’re the one who changed. Or maybe just woke up? Welcome to the real world, Sarah.”

GM: Her jaw sets. “I don’t believe that. I never wanted to hurt you.”

Caroline: Caroline laughs bitterly. “You failed.”

GM: She doesn’t say anything for a moment. “Are you lonely? How long have you been hiding this?”

Caroline: The laugh turns condescending. “I don’t need saving. Certainly not by someone who can’t save herself. And you had your chance besides. You don’t get to have second thoughts now.” Her hand comes up again, and pushes that pesky stray hair back. “You’re beautiful, Sarah, but I don’t need a tease, and I don’t want a friend.”

GM: Sarah reflexively steps back this time when Caroline reaches out to touch her. She pauses for a moment, then says, “I think you could. I’m not giving up on you, Caroline. I’ll see you same time next week with the twins.” She turns to head back to the others.

Caroline: “Is that so?” Caroline grins savagely, still in the other girl’s field of view, and reach’s up smear her lipstick and ruffle her hair again. “We’ll let’s go then.”

GM: Sarah looks at her, but then goes. The sound of peoples’ chatter is audible from the living room.

Caroline: Caroline follows the flushed girl with similarly smeared makeup with a grin back to the others.

GM: Sarah stops for a moment to fix her face in a hand mirror. She moves to chat up Yvonne and Yvette. Caroline gets curious looks.

Caroline: Caroline casts suggestive glances to Sarah at the curious looks, but departs before long.

GM: True to her word, a determined-looking Sarah shows up with Yvette and Yvonne for their next training session.

Caroline: Caroline is positively vicious towards her. She loudly belittles form, too forcefully corrects, and whenever the other girls aren’t looking takes the opportunity to grope her or brush up against her suggestively and whisper bitterness in her ear.

“Why are you here?”

“You like that, don’t you?”

“You keep coming back.”

GM: Sarah pushes and then swats away Caroline’s hands with a firm but quiet, “Stop that.”

Perhaps the twins notice. Perhaps they don’t. But they are clearly uncomfortable at Caroline’s viciousness towards their friend.

“‘Ey, let up, she’s lots better than me…” Yvonne protests.

Caroline: “Is she?” Caroline makes it a point to dismantle Sarah’s flaws in form. By the end of the night Caroline leans in close once more, whispering in her ear, “You’re wasting both of our time. Don’t come back.”

GM: The twins disagree that Sarah’s form is so terrible and are clearly uncomfortable at how the training session went. Sarah primly packs up her things at the end, though with perhaps more force than is strictly necessary.

“I’m coming back,” she glares. She keeps her voice a whisper. “But the next time you grope me, I’m not staying quiet. Stop that.

She leaves with Yvonne, who tells her comforting things about how her form was really just fine. Yvette stays behind.

“What the ’ell were you being so mean to Sarah for?” she asks frankly.

Caroline: Caroline eyes the younger girl. “She can’t take a hint,” she admits after a long pause.

GM: “Over what? ‘Er form _wasn’t_ that bad, and you know it,” Yvette accuses.

Caroline: “That she should get away from me,” Caroline answers.

GM: “Why?” Yvette asks.

Caroline: “We had a falling out.”

GM: “Why?” she repeats.

Caroline: “It’s personal,” she responds, then sighs when it becomes clear that answer isn’t going to be sufficient for Yvette. “Does it matter? I told her to leave me alone and she keeps insisting on inserting herself.”

GM: “What the ’ell?” Yvette says. “Sarah’s nice, Caroline! You saved ’er life, she loves you!”

Caroline: “Does it matter?” Caroline asks. “I never said she was a bad person. I said I didn’t want her in my life.”

GM: “It does matter! We’re all friends and you want to, what, just shove ’er out?”

Caroline: “No,” Caroline replies bluntly. “You three are friends. You, your sisters, and I are friends. Sarah…” She frowns. “Sarah is something I can’t have, and that I’d rather not have waved in my face constantly.”

GM: “Why?” Yvette asks again, just as bluntly. “Why are you being so mean to ‘er? She loves you, she’d do anything to make you ’appy!”

Caroline: “No, she wouldn’t!” Caroline all but snarls. “Trust me when I say she won’t.”

GM: “Why?! Why are you so mad at ’er!” Yvette demands.

Caroline: “Because I can’t have her,” Caroline snaps.

GM: “Says ‘oo? ’Er family loves you too! Sarah’s grandpa ’ad ’is ’eart broken when ’is daughter died, ’e loves you for saving Sarah!”

Caroline: “Says her,” Caroline replies.

GM: “What are you talking about? Says Sarah? She’s trying to be nice!”

Caroline: “What she wants and what I want are not the same thing,” Caroline replies with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer.

GM: Yvette blinks.

That, at least, finally silences the teenager’s objection. A moment passes.

“Ah guess A’ll see you later,” she says roughly.

She closes the door with somewhat unnecessary force as she leaves.

Caroline: Caroline rubs her head after the last of her students leaves.

She’d thought, for a moment, Father Malveaux was alone in the unreasonableness of his demand.

Wednesday night, 6 January 2016, AM

Caroline: Caroline’s interest in Summer remains—and grows—as she reads through the girl’s journal. She castigates herself for letting the mage slip through her fingers—not following up on her ‘vampire’ and once more for letting someone take her out from under her.

She brings in a sketch artist to work with Green to get a description of the woman she saw, and begins quietly running the name ‘Dusk’ through ‘friendly’ Kindred channels. She does as promised to Angela and puts out Summer’s name and picture to her contacts and P.Is, with an emphasis on local groceries and bolt-holes: places she expects that she has to pop up eventually. She quietly offers an added reward for information leading to her location.

The Ventrue even devotes her own time to the matter. She’s known all-too much about such occult esoterica since her encounter with Abélia, but perhaps it’s enough to come up with possible countermeasures to Summer’s seeming ‘methods’ of hiding her tracks. Her own commitments unfortunately limit the time she can personally spend on the matter—no matter how interesting.

GM: Searching the name “Dusk” draws only blank looks from Wells, Tina, and Jocelyn. “Kind of a pretentious name though,” her lover remarks.

Ghouls to “Prince Guilbeau,” Questor Adler, and “Coco” inform Caroline that their domitors do not have time in their busy schedules to see her over a matter this trifling. They’re polite enough about it, next to McGinn’s ghoul, but the sentiment is the same.

Cecilia apologizes that she doesn’t know of any Kindred by that name. She advises against bringing the matter to her mother’s attention. “Maman could feel like you were taking her for granted, to ask about something this… well, in her eyes, small.”

The Hidden Clan, however, comes through where the others do not. Gus Elgin states that he can identify the face—in return for a boon owed. Sundown’s ghoul states that her master can also do the same, in return for a boon repaid.

Caroline: Caroline takes the many rejections in silence. Polite or not, it’s clear where things stand: she’s unimportant in the eyes of these Kindred.

She decides to hold off on cashing in the boon from Sundown for now. She’ll look into things on her own end first.

Monday evening, 11 January 2016

GM: Caroline’s landline gets a phone call from a reedy-voiced man who identifies himself as, “Lance Pertkin. I’m a P.I. Private eye. That’s what that means, if you didn’t know. You might not have. Some people don’t know and get it mixed up. Stupid of them. Maybe they’re not always stupid, but they are stupid there.”

He says he’s the former boyfriend of Jessica White, who was “killed, murdered by some voodoo freaks, fucks, a few months ago, if you didn’t hear. Didn’t know. She’s dead. Those fucks.”

He was going through some old things of his girlfriend’s, he continues, when he found an item on a to-do list that mentioned a Caroline, a medical examiner’s report, and “a few other details. Sketchy details. Not many details. I’m not a P.I. for nothing, but I wouldn’t have taken that as a case. Probably. Not, that is, probably not. They weren’t good details. They were very bad details.”

‘Bad’ details or not, Pertkin put together who the Caroline referenced by his former girlfriend was, as well as the report she was looking for. He dug up the details there.

“Girl with her eyes gouged out during Southern Decadence. Most of them, that’s not technically accurate. The optic nerve was still in, partly in, a Dr. Leah Crawford, the surgeon at Tulane, had to remove what was left to prevent infection. They weren’t gouged out either. They were cut out. Very unpleasant. Very upsetting for the family. Very upsetting for her.”

“Jessica wrote ‘medical examiner’s report.’ Well, a few things, you can’t look at a medical examiner’s report. For minors. You need parental consent, from the deceased minor, that is, their parents, to look at the report. It’s private information. Inconvenient, but a good thing. For people like you and me. When we’re looking for details and we don’t know the parents, of the deceased minor. It’s private, so that’s good. For them, I mean. It respects their privacy. But it’s not insurmountable. We can get permission, by asking them, but we have to find them. That’s what you have a P.I. for. Finding them so it’s not private, but in a good way. I mean, by asking permission. It’s good to ask permission, of the parents. So it all happens with consent.”

“The girl in question is named Brenda Allen, female, I said she’s a girl, Caucasian, twelve years old. At the time of her mutilation, her loss of sight. She’s thirteen now. Statements and phraseology, some yours, some by Dr. Neil Flynn, a resident doctor, I interviewed him, he treated her and implied she was dead, but she isn’t. She’s alive. She lost her eyes, but she is alive. She’s thirteen years old and she lives in South Sioux City, Nebraska, with her parents. Obviously, so do most girls her age, boys as well, but she might live with them a while. After turning 18, that is. Depends how she adjusts. I expect a lot of mental problems. Compounding the physical ones, she’s obviously without sight, and that’s significant.”

“Now, I can’t give you a medical examiner’s report, like was on Jessica’s list, because there isn’t one. There is no report. The girl is alive, so there never was a medical examiner’s report. There’d only be one of those if she was dead. That’s good. Not good for her, obviously, but—better. Better blind than dead.”

Pertkin passes along the phone number where the Allen family may be reached. He also provides email addresses, social media handles, and a home address in South Sioux City.

“It’s what Jessica wanted. For you to have this. It was on her list of things to do. I can’t give you a medical examiner’s report, because there never was one, but this is the closest thing. This is what she wanted to do, for you. And now it’s done. It’s months late, I don’t know if it still matters to you, but the important thing is Jessica wanted to do it, and now it’s done. Call me if there’s anything more you want to do. I want it to be done right, the way she, Jessica, would have wanted it. I’m very skilled at what I do. So let’s, let’s make sure that it’s done right. Goodbye, thanks. Bye.”

The phone message ends with a click.

Caroline: The call out of the blue months later digs up ugly memories of Jessica’s head in a box, killed by Caroline’s abject ignorance and the sheriff’s cruelty. The feelings it conjures are no less ugly and cruel on their own. She was never physically sadistic in life.

She’d almost forgotten the request, the girl, and her first ‘attacker’ on the night of Southern Decadence. Things that had seemed so important months ago that now seem almost meaningless. Does she really care anymore, especially with the secrets the coin revealed to her about her Embrace? She goes back and forth on it, and eventually decides it’s a wound she can leave unopened with the girl—and one she’s not willing to risk sending her people to investigate outside the city. She returns Pertkin’s call and thanks him for his effort on her behalf—and to cross off those last items Jessica wasn’t able to get to before her murder. She spends a couple minutes talking, if he’s so inclined, fondly about the deceased police officer and ends the call.

She places the notes from the message—the girl and her family, the doctor, all the contact info—in a folder and buries it in amid so many of its kind. Perhaps another time.

Thursday evening, 21 January 2016

Caroline: Amid their other shopping, Caroline brings up ‘shopping’ for ‘something else’ they can both use. As much as she enjoys their bloody nights together, they both know the dangers of them—not the least of which is the bond. The Ventrue genuinely enjoys the increasingly less subtle tug towards her lover it creates, but if they’re going to keep going as they have they need to find other ways to express themselves.

Random victims of the night have some appeal, but lining up their tastes with a sinner and enjoying victim in a significant way with more than sips for each of them is similarly a difficult product. She brings up the idea of introducing a ghoul into the mix, made for that purpose. Someone attractive enough for their tastes, that they can keep going throughout the night with their vitae if they so desire. Someone that, not incidentally, might also help fill in some of the holes that come with having only a single anemic ghoul available to Jocelyn.

Obviously a great deal would depend on who exactly they decided on to fill that roll, and they wouldn’t be an every time thing. Just an option they could add.

GM: Jocelyn thinks the idea of ghoul “birth control,” as she terms it, is interesting. She doesn’t seem to mind the thought of bringing in a third partner to their bloody evenings. They’d even talked about it in passing earlier.

She’s more reticent at the thought of keeping that ghoul for herself, though, and brings up (again) how seemingly all she’s managed to do with her previous ones is get them killed. Her sire won’t even loan her any anymore, calling it a “bad investment.” Besides, Meg does all the basic stuff she needs a ghoul to do: it’s still been years since the Toreador did her own laundry, vacuumed her own floors, ran her own errands, and so on.

Still, it becomes a matter of logistics when the pair consider Caroline’s ghouls. The Ventrue already has many mouths to feed each month, and hunting has been growing more onerous to meet their demands. Jocelyn also admits that none of Caroline’s current ghouls “are really ones I’d want to bring into bed, sorry,” which leaves only the Toreador as a domitor for this new possible ghoul.

And maybe things will be different this time around. Meg has lasted a while. Jocelyn says she’s willing to try the idea out.

Caroline: Caroline laughs in a genuine mixture of amusement and mortification at Jocelyn’s apology about bringing any of her ghouls into bed. “Oh God, no.”

She briefly mentally runs through her roster and simply shakes her head, tongue out, and shudders to clear the image from her mind and the bad taste it brings from her mouth.

“They’re many things, but desirable in that particular isn’t exactly one of them, and even if they were, none of them are the right flavor.”

Wednesday evening, 27 January 2016

Caroline: As Mardi Gras approaches Caroline remains mindful of Tina Baker, her interest in Lucas Gates, the murderer’s predilection for visits to New Orleans, and the ties to Becky Lynne. It’s something of a long shot, but it’s one that for the moment has relatively small costs associated with it, especially given how difficult it is to track a Kindred with no interest in power games traveling across the country.

She directs her attempts at tracking to focusing on the disappearances or deaths of those that match the demographic profile for Gates’ preferred victims: young, attractive, white, educated women. The good news is that such disappearances and deaths tend to generate far more media coverage than, for instance, the death of random immigrants or criminals. The bad news is it’s a massive drag net. She sorts through that by trying to organize them by date reported and geographic location, then mapping them visually to a literal map by color to try and identify any patterns or or series to deaths that might indicate a pattern of movement: i.e., deaths in sequence along a path. If she finds that she expands her interest along it, looking for anything that could more definitively tie it to Gates. A witness account, a person of interest described, a blurred image in a surveillance tape. Something.

GM: Lucas Gates has changed a great deal since 2004 in some ways. In other ways, he hasn’t changed at all.

Gates’ stint on the FBI’s Most Wanted seems to have engendered greater caution in the violent-tempered Brujah. Caroline already established that Gates more or less fell off the map after his violent confrontation with Tina’s and Becky Lynne’s coterie in 2004, and resurfaced in 2012 around Miami.

There are no longer any dead women directly linked to him. Caroline’s efforts do, however, turn up a higher than typical spike of Miami women from Gates’ preferred demographic who went missing in 2012 and were never found. Autumn speculates that Tina’s sire “learned to clean up.” Missing persons obviously generate less heat than murders do.

“Still kind of a slow learner, though. I mean, we pinned down he was Embraced in ‘78. That’s 26 years to finally learn maybe you don’t want to go leaving bodies everywhere.”

Caroline’s dragnet does not turn up any bodies since she last looked into Gates. But there are multiple missing persons who match his preferred demographic in Shreveport, Louisiana, over the past few months. Kathleen Cohee, 24, Jennifer Graham, 22, and Olivia Largent, 23, are all still fervently sought by friends and loved ones. It’s an unfortunate fact that young, attractive, white, and college-educated women rarely live socially isolated lives.

There are any number of reasons those women might have disappeared, of course. Caroline well knows by now that Lucas Gates’ brand of monstrosity is hardly unique. What appears to link him to those three Shreveport women is the fact that a fourth woman, Lisa Conway, 25, was murdered by a one Mark Chappell, 24, around the same time as the three’s disappearances. Chappell’s mugshot depicts an obese and acne-ridden young man who news stories state was a self-professed “incel” and active on several of that community’s online boards. He shared some college classes with Conway, but she never filed any reports of stalking or harassing behavior. There are no accounts of him even speaking to her. His apartment, though, was full of printed-out pictures from Conway’s Facebook album that Chappell masturbated to (and onto). Several more photoshopped images show her face plastered onto a BDSM porn model being led around on a collar and leash. No one expected it, though, when he bought a $100 HP22 from a pawn shop, followed Conway to the Moonbucks where she spent her lunch breaks, and put four .22 rounds into her head as she was leaving with a salted caramel mocha. Chappell was apprehended by police shortly after fleeing the scene, still clad in the same blood- and coffee-spattered black sweatshirt. He currently awaits trial from the parish jail.

It’s Autumn who thinks to go on the /r/incels subreddit where Chappell was active and interview other posters about his change in behavior. Some consider him to have gone too far, while others consider a Chappell “a martyr” or simply take bleak satisfaction from his murderous actions. Efforts to contribute to his legal defense fund have raised a grand total of $128. What most interviewees agree on, though, was that Chappell “didn’t seem like he had the balls” to actually kill someone. He was bitter, introverted, misogynistic, lacking in social graces, and a host of other unpleasant personal qualities, but that was it. It’d be easy to dismiss Chappell as just another maladjusted young white male lashing out at the world for denying him his perceived due—if not for the fact that one reddit poster, who met Chappell while in Shreveport, also met a “houseguest” his fellow incel had over. The description matches what Caroline has on Lucas Gates to a T.

“He was ‘scary as shit,’” Autumn says the poster described. “‘Something about him was just, completely wrong. He looked like the kind of guy who would shoot up Virginia Tech, and not even care if they were Chads or Stacies or Beckies.’’”

Sunday evening, 31 January 2016

Caroline: As information on Gates comes in, Caroline reaches out to Tina Baker again with the news: she has a location on Lucas Gates, and the name he’s using. If she’s interested, they should meet.

GM: Tina accepts and does so the very next night. The brunette arrives in jeans, a blouse, and knee-high brown leather boots.

Caroline: Once again the heiress receives the Brujah on the roof of the Giani Building. The unseasonable highs of late December have been long forgotten in favor of chillier nights in January, and tonight is no exception. Caroline has moved inside the deckhouse tonight, rather than out on the deck, and the glass doors to the deck are tightly shut, keeping in the warmth of the room.

She’s had a small coffee table and two matching chairs moved near to those glass doors though, and the lights are dimmed when the elevator doors open for the Brujah (escorted by Fuller), and is tapping away on a tablet. It’s dim enough that on the clear night, even with the lights of the city, Caroline can still faintly make out the stars. She reaches for a small plastic remote when the Brujah enters and dials the lights back up to full brightness, even as she darkens the tablet and rises gracefully to her feet to greet her and invites her to take a seat with her.

She explains that she’s been keeping an eye out for anything that might tip her off as to the locations or habits of Gates, and finally caught a break. Her last information has him in Shreveport, about three hundred miles away, using the name Adam Keller. He’s not changed his previous pattern of behavior, and continues to murder young, attractive, and successful young women, though he’s gotten better at hiding the mess.

If asked why she continued to investigate him after their previous meeting, Caroline replies wryly, “A dangerous and murderous Kindred with an affinity for young women that enjoys visiting New Orleans and previously clashed with a number of other Kindred from that demographic within the city? Honestly, Ms. Baker, I’m not certain that I shouldn’t have paid you the boon for tipping me off to him in the first place.”

GM: Tina assumes the seat across from Caroline and listens raptly, if stonily, to the Ventrue’s findings. She remains mostly quiet until Caroline gets to Gates’ latest victims. She asks for details. All of the details. It’s hard to read Kindred faces, at times, which do not flush red with embarrassment or anger. Caroline can only read partially incongruent expressions—and of course the eyes.

It’s only after the detail of Conway’s salted caramel mocha hitting the floor as the four .22 rounds penetrated her skull that Tina’s eyes give way to all-too familiar passenger’s: the Beast’s. The Brujah literally roars as she shoots to her feet and hurls the glass coffee table aside like it’s nothing—and falls upon the bearer of the that grisly news.

Caroline: Caroline, in control rather than in a rage, throws the Brujah using her own momentum past her as the brunette’s teeth snap in front of her face. There’s a moment of shock as she realizes just how damn strong the other woman is, before she’s turned around and coming back at Caroline, seemingly unfazed by the hard landing on the tiled floor.

It’s nothing like her previous fights. Tina’s raw strength is something totally different, especially combined with the Beast’s animalistic fury. Caroline turns, twists out of the way of the Brujah’s next lunge and tries to grab her arm, to twist it into a lock, but loses control as her opponent all but throws her off. The Ventrue lands with unearthly grace, but finds herself with her back against the wall. Gritting her teeth she stares down Tina as the Brujah gathers for another feral leap at her, and the two collide violently: one all snarling fangs, power, and brutal violence with almost discordantly matching speed and grace, the other exclusively grace and technique. Caroline digs her elbow into the Brujah’s throat, her fist planted in the wall behind her, as Tina’s fangs snap inches from her face. Her other arm works wildly to keep too-strong hands from finding purchase… and then the ghouls are there, and the notionally fair fight becomes far less so.

Brian isn’t tall, but he’s nothing but muscle, as solid as a rock. Muscle only further enhanced by Caroline’s potent vitae in his veins. Curtis is tall, and no slouch himself… especially also on the blood. Both are far more than comfortable with the kind of brute force grappling the frenzing vampire attacks with. Against three fighters, and locked in her frenzy, Tina doesn’t have a chance. She rages like a lion and twists like a serpent, but the three take her down like a pack of hyenas, never letting her bring her strength to bear. In moments it’s over. Caroline holds a broken and blood splattered table leg slick with Tina’s vitae over the torpid Brujah while the two ghouls gasp for breath after the ferocious struggle. There’s blood everywhere. Splattered across the glass windows. Dripped across the tiled floor. And of course splashed across Caroline and both ghouls.

The heiress throws away her improvised club and wipes the splatter from her face, then, after a half-second of pause she licks it off her fingers with a savagely satisfied grin that takes a moment to fade. Not unlikely a cat cleaning their claws. After checking to make certain neither ghoul is badly hurt Caroline has them gather up Tina and bring her downstairs to the ‘guest’ apartment Caroline has set up. She directs Widney to get the mess upstairs cleaned up and has the two other ghouls go clean themselves up as well with thanks for their timey efforts.

In the apartment she quickly strips and showers, washing Tina’s blood off and throwing her own splattered clothing in a trash bag she seals tightly, before changing into a new set of clothes. She picks out three different outfits from the ‘guest closet’ that she thinks might suit the Brujah. Finally, she handcuffs the torpid Brujah (hands in front), on the off chance that she loses control again.

Only when she’s done does she open her wrist and allow vitae to flow into Tina’s mouth, quickly withdrawing her wrist when she starts to stir.

GM: Tina’s eyes bat open. A palette of emotions runs over her face, from confusion to fear to sudden alarm. She forcefully throws out her arms from one another, and Caroline can already see the too-taut steel links bending out of shape.

“What’s going on?!”

Caroline: Caroline holds her hands out in front of her. “Relax! You flipped out earlier. I just wanted to make sure if it happened again when you woke up that I’d have a fighting chance. Just calm down and I’ll take those off. I thought it would be better if you didn’t come to in a room splattered with blood.”

GM: Tina looks at Caroline searchingly for a moment, then simultaneously lowers and extends her hands.

Caroline: The heiress lets out a breath she didn’t know she was holding and digs the small metal key out of her pocket. She reaches out to undo the cuffs as she gestures with her other hand, “I laid out some clean clothing if you’d like to change. There’s a bathroom down the hall if you want to clean yourself up. I’m sure you feel like hell.”

GM: “Not the first time I’ve woken up something like this way,” the Brujah grants. She rubs her wrists, then her split lip, shattered nose, and black eye start to fade into nothing as dead flesh knits, though a too-familiar hunger starts to edge into her eyes.

There’s a faltering step up, then that grows obviously less painful too after another moment. Tina looks down at her torn and bloody shirt and jeans. A frown and also too-familiar look of slow-dawning fear appears on her still-bloood-streaked face.

“Did I… hurt anyone?”

Caroline: “Not seriously,” Caroline replies as she watches the Brujah knit herself back together. “Sorry about the face, there wasn’t really a better option at the time though. You’re way stronger than you look. Faster too.”

GM: “Guys tend not to like that either, even if you don’t have bulldyke muscles.”

She rubs her neck as she looks over Caroline, then looks down to the Ventrue’s feet.

“Huh. You lost your shoes. Heels’d be a bitch to fight in.”

Caroline: “I don’t know, it seems like a perfectly serviceable face to be honest,” Caroline replies deadpan to the Brujah’s first remark.

“They were a bitch to fight in,” Caroline corrects, “It took a minute to kick them off when you were trying to eat my face. I really wish you’d’ worn less practical shoes yourself.” The heiress is barefoot now. “Learned that lesson though. For now at least.”

GM: Tina, for her part, is wearing a brown (and now red-streaked) pair of knee-high boots.

“Yeah, I’m not a big heel fan for that reason,” she answers as she looks up. “They leave you too helpless. Strapless ones might be more up your alley, though. Only a second to kick those off.”

Something stirs in her eyes. “Though even a second can count, in some fights.”

Caroline: “Sounds like you’ve had a lot of experience with that type of thing,” Caroline hazards. “You were definitely anything but helpless upstairs.”

GM: “I did martial arts when I was alive. The world isn’t safe.” She looks down at her bloody clothes again. “It got even less safe after dying.”

Caroline: “Really?” Caroline asks, “In what way have you found? I mean, obviously there’s hunters and the like—including asshole sires, and the further you go out from the city there’s all kinds of weirdness, but at least now you have some idea what’s out there, and have some of the tools to fight it.”

GM: Tina soberly shakes her head. “There’s always more, always worse out there. At least when you’re alive, there are… limits, I guess. Anyone with an internet connection can look up Auschwitz, or child porn, or any other awful thing you can think of. And I know how awful the world can be, and how big the gulf between knowledge and experience is. I’ve been raped.” Her face sets for a moment at that admission, but she goes on, “But all of that is, on some level, a known thing. You know it’s out there, and can even prepare for it, even if you haven’t experienced it.”

“But on the other side of the curtain… you can’t. You have to find it all out firsthand. And all of the monsters and awful things are worse. And for every new one you see, and think ‘this is as bad as it gets’, there’s always more. Always worse. And you never know what it’s going to be, when it’s coming, or just how bad the very worst, the bottom of that Pandora’s box, really is. I don’t think I’d want to know, either.” She pauses. “No, I know I don’t want to know.”

Tina looks down at her bloody clothes again. “So… yeah. I’m stronger and faster than just about anyone still alive. I can get up from a beating that’d leave me in ICU for god knows how long. But next to how much worse the worst of our world gets, whatever that worst might even be… I really don’t think that we’ve come out ahead.”

Caroline: If they were alive Caroline might try to reach out and physical comfort the Brujah with the admissions, but it just feels… wrong for what they are. Instead she bites her lower lip. “It’s bad,” she agrees. “Before, well, all this,” she gestures to herself. “Rene took me down into this place called the Dungeon. I guess it’s the place for a lot of the more sadistic types from among our kind. I don’t remember a lot, but what I do I wish I didn’t sometimes. Things so awful there aren’t words for it in any of the six languages I learned growing up. I’m glad we don’t dream, because I know I’d have nightmares about it every night.”

“But that was always there. Every day and every night it was there, and I was just going about in blissful ignorance. It was always there. The only change is that I know it’s there. And maybe I’d rather not see it, rather not have the memory of what was done to me there, and of what I saw done, but when I’m laying there when the sun’s coming up with nothing but my thoughts, I can’t honestly say that I’d want to go back to before. To being completely helpless and ignorant to even my own helplessness.”

“I thought I was safe. Thought I was the daughter of privilege, and tough enough besides that nothing could really hurt me. Really, I was just the happiest most privileged cow in the slaughterhouse. There’s a lot I don’t forgive my sire for. But there’s worse things than knowing, I think. And I’m not even a badass Brujah martial artist that can snap handcuffs.”

GM: “Well, it’d take me a little while to completely snap them. Actually faster just to have you use the keys,” Tina answers with a faint smirk.

“I think there’s a lot to be said for knowing what’s out there. Up to a point, maybe, but forewarned is forearmed. It’s just that… after you’re on the other side, you have a front row seat to all of the world’s real awfulness. When you’re alive, it’s possible you might get led into the slaughterhouse, but there’s a lot of sheep. You have fairly decent odds that you might not be the one.”

“But there’s a lot fewer wolves than sheep. And we all see each other.”

Caroline: The heiress nods, not disagreeing, “True, but I’ve found that not all the other wolves are bad.”

GM: “Not all, but a lot more than there are bad sheep.”

Caroline: “It is true, my social circle is way smaller than it was when I was still breathing.” Caroline admits with mock seriousness.

GM: “I guess it’s moot anyway. We’re wolves and… well, that’s what we now are.”

“But wolves can hunt in packs, at least. My old coterie was, is, there for each other in ways we wouldn’t have ever been as breathers.”

Caroline: The heiress arches an eyebrow, “Sounds like either I have the wrong kind of Kindred friends or you had the wrong kind of kine ones.”

GM: “Maybe both. You already heard me say my parents are assholes. But we were… well, I guess ‘memorable’ enough for the masked city to be talking about for a while. You ever hear of the Armstrong Five?”

Caroline: Caroline shakes her head, turning and sliding into a chair as their conversation continues, “I can’t say that I have.”

GM: Tina sits down on the living room’s sofa. She unzips her blood-stained boots and kicks them off. “I guess these are going in the trash.”

“There were five of us, anyway, like the name implies. Me, Lou Maddox, Jack McCandles, Ed Zuric, and Becky Lynne Adler. The prince didn’t want to spread around the details, but we all woke up in Louis Armstrong Park together the night after 2004’s Fat Tuesday. We didn’t have any idea who our sires were, or that we were even vampi…”

Tina’s face suddenly freezes as she looks at Caroline. “You collared me.”

Caroline: Caroline stares with rapt attention, and can’t quite keep the shock off her face at the reveal about Louis Armstrong Park, and their wakeup there, but shifts to a more guilty expression, “I’m sorry, I thought you realized when you woke-”

GM: “Of course I realized!” Tina interrupts. “I still shouldn’t have said that!”

Caroline: “Did you hear about where I woke up, after I was Embraced?” Caroline asks in turn, seriously.

GM: “No. Just that you’d been turned without permission and your sire was getting ashed.”

Caroline: “I woke up in Louis Armstrong Park, alone, with no idea what I was, or how I got there.”

GM: Tina stares at her. “You’re kidding.”

Caroline: The heiress shakes her head. “Not at all. I just about ripped this poor girl’s throat out when she stumbled across me.”

GM: Tina stares at her. Harder. “You’re fucking kidding me. We did too.”

Caroline: Caroline shakes her head. “She and her boyfriend were fooling around. I didn’t even think about it.” She stares at Tina like she’s seen a ghost.

GM: “You’re scrying me,” Tina answers disbelievingly. She pauses, then continues, asking as much as declaring, “you knew about us from somewhere.” Another pause and a shake of her head, “that’s too insane to be true!”

Caroline: “You can check the records. I carried her to the hospital after I realized what I’d done,” Caroline replies quietly. “I’d never heard of you as a group before. I’d assumed that Becky Lynne had been Embraced in privilege, on account of her sire and all that, and that you two just ended up with shared interests.”

GM: “Pull them up. Those records,” Tina says, warily. “I can wait.”

Caroline: Caroline pulls out her phone and sends a text to Widney to bring down the file from upstairs. “That’s unbelievable,” she murmurs while they wait.

GM: “Yeah, it is,” Tina simply repeats.

Caroline: “It was on the last night of Southern Decadence,” she continues.

GM: “Okay. I guess that better explains you finding someone to feed on,” the Brujah says, though the all-too mutual alarm in her eyes doesn’t fully die.

Widney, meanwhile, texts back an affirmative response. After a brief yet agonizingly too-long wait, the ghoul enters the living room carrying the requested box.

Caroline: Caroline takes the box from her at the door and sends her back on her way. She sets the box between herself and Tina. “Have a look. I picked up the tab for her medical expenses afterwards.” She bites her lip. “I felt bad. Didn’t want to ruin her life. I thought I’d gone insane or something.”

GM: “Becky Lynne wanted to do that too,” Tina says as she pages through the files. Her pace slow a bit as her eyes grow distant with memory. “She was just a kid. Only turned 18 a few weeks ago.”

Caroline: “But you didn’t,” Caroline fills in.

GM: “No,” Tina says quietly. “We just called 911 on her cellphone, back when everyone wasn’t carrying one of those, and took off. She’d wanted to use it to call her mom and dad.”

Caroline: “How the hell did you all end up there together?” Caroline asks.

GM: “It’s a long story.”

Caroline: “Does it involve something called ‘the Auction’?”

GM: Tina gives her a blank look.

Caroline: “Something I’d heard that might have been related to my Embrace,” Caroline answers. “I’d heard that Becky Lynne’s sire was involved somehow.”

GM: She continues to page through the box’s files. “What’s the Auction?”

Caroline: “I wish I knew. It came up with regard to Mr. Matheson and another Kindred named Raymond. I never found out much about it.”

GM: Tina finally pulls out the records concerning Lauren Peterson. She reads them over.

“Well,” she finally says, “these look legit. I’ve seen my share of medical records.”

Caroline: “From when you were a breather?” Caroline asks curiously.

GM: “Yeah. I double majored, I know, useless, in sports medicine.”

Caroline: “I mean, I was a pre-med that went law. I can’t really talk,” Caroline replies. She gives a wan smile. “I suffered through Organic Chemistry for nothing.”

GM: “Maybe not. Learning is learning, but having a degree doesn’t really matter on our side of things.”

Caroline: “Do you believe me now?” she asks, gesturing to the records. “I couldn’t read your mind even if I wanted to.”

GM: Tina pauses. “I need to run this past the others. What to do… isn’t, shouldn’t, be just my call to make.”

Caroline: Caroline bites her lip, but nods. “That’s fair, especially with the collar partly on. It’s a lot to ask.”

GM: “Yeah,” the Brujah answers. “I shouldn’t have told you as much as I did, even if that might have been for the best.” She frowns thoughtfully. “How did your juice bring me around, anyway? You got turned practically yesterday.”

Caroline: “What do you mean?” Caroline asks, frowning.

GM: “That’s not how it works. Someone’s blood needs to be a lot stronger than yours to bring you out of a dirt nap. And you said there wasn’t a stake.” Wariness starts to return to Tina’s eyes.

Caroline: Caroline shakes her head. “Another mystery I’m chasing about my Embrace, and what exactly my sire was up to. Keep that one between us though and I’ll keep everything else about tonight the same though.”

GM: Tina frowns again, but replies, “All right, sure. But that’s pretty strange. You should find some lick more in the know to ask about it.”

Caroline: “Usually those licks more in the know want to know more than you want to give them—if they’re willing to give you anything to trust at all,” Caroline replies warily.

GM: “Well, there’s some who specialize more than others. The Dragons aren’t that powerful and would probably know more. Or a younger Tremere, if you’re desperate enough to trust a warlock.”

Caroline: Caroline laughs bitterly. “Some secrets can wait. Besides, I don’t even think I know a Dragon.”

GM: “Lidia Kendall’s supposed to be one. There’s not many in the masked city here, admittedly. It’s Houston that’s supposed to have a lot.”

Caroline: “Next road trip I guess, whenever that happens,” Caroline replies. “I’ve heard that kind of stuff is super dangerous. And I’m pretty sure if I go hang out with her though it’ll get me off the Sanctified’s Christmas Card list, for like…. forever,” she laughs.

GM: Tina looks mildly weirded out by the Ventrue’s ‘casual’ tone, but answers, “What they don’t know doesn’t hurt them. The other clubs at least don’t have any real stake in the prince’s feud.”

Caroline: “Other than that when it comes to an end, their slice of the pie is going to grow?” Caroline nudges.

GM: “Sure, though that goes for any of them. Nature abhors a vacuum.”

Caroline: “What about you?” she asks.

GM: “What about me?” Tina asks back.

Caroline: “Do you have any skin in the great battle of our time? And also the last hundred years?”

GM: She shrugs. “My club’s nominally friends with yours, but past that, why should anyone? It’s all just the same three elders bickering for power. The only other licks with skin are ones who figure they’ll come out ahead supporting the winner—or who’ve bled and want to get even.”

Caroline: Caroline nods. “I can see that. Maybe I’m just more accustomed to that type of thing because of the political family. There’s been an ‘us’ and a ‘them’ my entire life.”

GM: “You’re also at the bottom of the pecking order here, unlike there. I’d think about how much skin you really have in that game.”

Caroline: “It also wasn’t exactly an offer at the time,” Caroline clarifies. “I think the prince wanted some kind of positive news since he knew he was going to execute a dozen and one Kindred. So here I am.”

GM: “Why did you wake up in Louis Armstrong?” Tina asks.

Caroline: “And other questions I never got to ask,” Caroline replies. “Maybe he knew about you all and thought it would be funny, or send some kind of message.”

GM: “I guess that’s not impossible, but it doesn’t seem likely. That was twelve years ago and he was new to town. The masked city forgot all about the five greenfangs abandoned together after Katrina.”

Caroline: Caroline shrugs. “I never thought anything of it—and no one ever saw fit to mention you all. Not even the seneschal when I was brought before him or Father Malveaux. I thought it was where he happened to dump me—or someone did.”

GM: “Saw fit to mention to you, maybe. Elders never tell the full truth.”

Caroline: If you only knew, Caroline thinks to herself.

Tuesday night, 9 February 2016, AM

GM: Mardi Gras approaches. Jocelyn tells Caroline how amazing it is. She has so many things she wants to do together. So many colorful licks show up. You can feed wherever you want. And the parties, and the costumes, and the…

None of it matters.

The night before Fat Tuesday, when Caroline is making her weekly report to Donovan, the sheriff casually picks up a stake. The next second, Caroline suddenly topples over backwards. The stake is rammed through her heart. Donovan impassively orders a ghoul to “store her with the others” and then goes back to reading a paper like she’s not even there.

The ghoul who answers is the same leering, dark-skinned man who slugged Caroline in the face months ago. He fondles the Ventrue’s breasts as he hauls her off to an empty room with several other staked Kindred, then unceremoniously dumps her on the floor.

Time passes. Caroline can’t say how long. All she can do is stare at a blank wall.

Finally, the ghoul approaches her, carries her staked body to the front entry hall, then removes the stake and expels her from the house without a word.

Caroline checks her phone.

It’s the night after Mardi Gras. There are anxious texts from Jocelyn about where she is.

Caroline: The experience is deeply traumatic for Caroline. The inexplicable assault. The powerlessness of it, both physically and socially. Again. Despite all that she’s achieved and learned, despite her victories against others, it all comes crashing down.

Monday night, 1 February 2016

GM: Caroline isn’t a stranger to the old Garden District house where Tina contacts Caroline to say they’ll meet Becky Lynne the next night. They meet in the same tastefully, if traditionally appointed sitting room where Matheson first struck her.

Caroline: And mind-raped her. And demanded she ‘give herself to him’. The room where she recorded it all, and that recording exploded her entire unlife, like a stick of dynamite shoved in a stuffed animal. She puts the negative thoughts out of her mind and leaves her ghouls behind in the two SUV’s that delivered her.

GM: Becky Lynne is there with Tina and better-disposed than she might have been, before Caroline’s assistance with Whitney Hancock’s business. She cites the “mighty odd peculiarities” in the circumstances of their Embraces, but is her usual pleasant self in letting Caroline approach the subject initially how she wills.

Caroline: Caroline is polite to her more senior (if even less so than she’d expected) Ventrue, more stiff and formal than she was around Tina alone. She agrees that it’s very bizarre to have had her dumped in the park just like they were. She’s had a million questions about her Embrace (don’t we all?), that she never got answered by René or anyone else, but until now that one was far lower on the list. She lets the Brujah or the other Ventrue come out and say it, but it’s plain she doesn’t think it’s a coincidence, and once it’s out in the open, suggests that barring something about the park she doesn’t know, that it means someone had a specific purpose in trying to emulate their own first awakening after their Embrace. Whether that purpose was political, social, or something else she can’t say.

She admits she still doesn’t know how she got to the park, despite her investigations into her Embrace, but is more than willing to share the events that followed it—maybe something else will stand out to them. She stops shy of asking them about the details of their own Embrace and awakening. It’s clear that she is very interested in their own Embrace, and all the associated details, but don’t want to bluntly ask the question and pry into their secrets.

GM: Tina and Becky Lynne are relatively open about some things, like the fact they don’t think it’s a coincidence where C was Embraced (or at least, left). They ask her at length about the events following her Embrace, but don’t seem able to draw many firm conclusions from those. The Kindred they’d really need to talk to is René, but that’s obviously off the table now.

Becky Lynne asks Caroline what she knows about her sire’s associations and relationships. She specifically brings up the Ordo Dracul and asks if René had any ties to them—or if he’s spent much time in either Houston or Charleston.

She finally thanks Caroline for her cooperation and volunteers that the full story behind the Armstrong Five’s Embraces is not a matter of public record, but it too was no accident, and they too did not remember the circumstances that led to their being in the park together—at first. They were able to regain those memories over time through a number of ways, the first of which was simply revisiting Louis Armstrong. She and/or other members of the Five could go there with Caroline to guide and assist her in this.

Tina, Caroline pegs, looks inclined to bring up her unusually powerful blood—and that she seems to think there is a strong potential link between that oddity and the circumstances of their Embraces.

Caroline: Caroline is willing to return if they think that might help. The thought hadn’t occurred to her, and she’d expected any forensic evidence (where she tends to focus) would be long washed away by the time the matter was of significant interest to her (and she had any time to worry about it). If she goes back, she’d rather do it with one or more of the Armstrongs, given where it is.

Caroline shares what little she knows about René. He traveled frequently, so it’s entirely possible he spent time in Houston and Charleston, but almost all of her info on him is second hand. That he took her to the Dungeon to torture her on the night of her Embrace.

GM: Becky Lynne answers that not all evidence is forensic—and other varieties may linger for much longer.

Both Kindred stop when they hear about the Dungeon. Becky Lynne asks if she remembers anything of that place.

Caroline: Caroline admits that she does remember parts of the Dungeon—far more than she’d ever wanted—though mostly what was being done to her than anything actionable.

GM: Becky Lynne thinks details might help if she can stomach sharing them.

Caroline: Caroline’s body language clearly says that she does not want to talk about it.

GM: Becky Lynne doesn’t push her, and in fact suggests they speak of other things.

Caroline: Regality and poise seem to melt away as Caroline reflects on those memories, and she’s silent for a long moment before finally insisting (unconvincingly) that it’s fine. She’s not some fragile kine that can’t talk about unpleasant things. Mostly she, she repeats, she remembers things done to her. Tortures that started recognizable and continued into things there aren’t words for. Rape of the body, mind and spirit. She remembers a voice. She remembers wanting to die. Her white dress turned red and dripping with blood. Her voice is hollow, almost lifeless as she recounts things, but she doesn’t speak for long. She looks down and finds her hand shaking, and finally agrees that perhaps it’s better that they move onto other things.

GM: Tina and Becky Lynne prove a sympathetic audience. Neither vampire touches her, but they offer what comfort they can. They say she was brave. Baker says she’s been sexually victimized, too.

Caroline: Caroline appreciates the sympathy, to an extent. It’s better treatment than she’s gotten from many Kindred.

But mostly, it was her own pride that got her talking. She didn’t want to seem like she couldn’t talk about it. Like she needed sympathy. Like she was fragile. She insists she’s fine, even though she’s not really close to it over literally getting tortured past death and suddenly remembering it later.

She tries to continue to lean on Tina to not share the matter of her blood without Becky catching on.

GM: Tina eventually shakes her head and says this is simply too consequential not to bring up. She relays the circumstances of her frenzy and Caroline’s blood reviving her. Becky Lynne is very interested to hear this, and remarks that “You were certainly correct there, Miss Baker. That is not how it normally works—at all.”

This is germane to them, however, for one key reason: the Ordo Dracul was involved in the circumstances of their Embraces. The two Kindred appear reluctant to go into further details at this point, but state that “many of the normal rules” stop applying where the Dragons are involved.

Becky Lynne takes out her phone and says she’s “sending a few things” to her brother and sire, who may be able to help them more. She and Tina both ask if Caroline knows anything more regarding the unusually potent efficacy of her blood. This could well be why she was Embraced (or simply left) where she was.

Caroline: Caroline is not thrilled when Tina spills the beans. She cites already having enough targets on her back as a sireless, and krewe-less neonate in the divided city. Her meaningful glance to Becky Lynne also no doubt alludes to her lack of particular affection within her clan as well, though she doesn’t say as much.

She’d rather not be a point of interest for some other unknown party. Plenty of neonates have disappeared of late as it is, and it’s not as though anyone would care if she vanished tomorrow. She admits to knowing very little about the Ordo Dracul, beyond that they don’t (to her knowledge) have a big presence in the city.

Caroline tries to dodge the broad question about her blood by weaving obfuscation with truths. She admits that various disciplines have come quite easily to her—at least so far as she can tell in comparison to her peers in the blood, but she hasn’t exactly had much basis for comparison. She repeats that she only spoke with her sire a single time, but that she doesn’t think he intended to Embrace her. He showed no affection for her in that meeting, and in fact threatened to destroy her.

GM: Becky Lynne corrects Caroline that is not how the Blood works—but seems at least to buy that Caroline doesn’t know how it works either, and inclined to further pursue the Ordo Dracul lead.

She says she’ll work out a time for the Armstrongs to all visit the park with Caroline.

Caroline: Caroline is a little peeved to have given up big pieces of her story and had Baker leak some details she’d wanted more private, for essentially a ‘catcha later’’. Still, she is too polite to show it, especially to Becky Lynne. She expresses gratitude over their willingness to help.

Caroline leaves Tina with a sealed dossier on the remaining information she has on the Brujah’s sire as her meeting with the two Invictus ends. “There’s a fair bit in there I’ll leave you to peruse at your leisure,” she tells the older vampire.

GM: Tina is grateful for the information and says she’ll “owe you one” for this.

Caroline: Caroline’s pleased enough by that resolution. Who knows what may come of the Armstrongs, but a boon is a boon.

Wednesday night, 10 February 2016, PM

GM: Autumn is able to track down Lauren Peterson relatively easily. She is no longer enrolled in Tulane University or a resident of New Orleans, having transferred to Furman University in Greenville, South Carolina. Autumn interviews her over the phone. She was upset by the attack and no longer felt safe in the city. She doesn’t remember much about the events leading up to it. She’d had a lot to drink and the whole thing happened a while ago—she takes a couple moments just to remember the name of the guy she was with. She does remember that it was a mistake to go off alone with him, though. She should’ve stayed together with her friends. She doesn’t know what got into her that she didn’t. Or maybe she shouldn’t have gone to Decadence, or New Orleans, at all. Autumn represented herself as a party to the anonymous benefactor who paid her bills, and Lauren was very grateful. When she asked why this was coming up now, Autumn said her boss had simply been “thinking about her” and “wanted to be sure she was all right.” Lauren was touched and said thanks again, thanks so much for everything, but didn’t inquire as to who her benefactor was.

“You want, I could fly out to Greenville and bring her back if we want to grill her deep, but I dunno what licks that city has,” Autumn says. “Doesn’t feel to me like there’s much of a Masquerade breach here though. It’s been half a year. I get the sense she’s moved on with her life.”

Caroline: Caroline demurs on bringing back Lauren. They can leave the girl be.

GM: The planned meeting with the Armstrongs has “hit a bit of a snag,” in the words of the plump-faced ghoul who Becky Lynne has sent to treat with Caroline before. The Baron’s heralds, unfortunately, have refused the Sanctified Ventrue permission to enter their master’s domain. It was always a 50/50 proposition that Caroline’s elder clanmate would be able to negotiate that. The ghoul doesn’t mention the possibility of trespassing within a regent’s territory after being refused permission: somehow, Caroline has a hard time seeing Becky Lynne doing something like that. The ghoul cheerfully tells the younger Ventrue not to give up hope, however, as her mistress “can be mighty persuasive” and will “do her best to work the Baron’s people” to see if she can make them come around.

Wednesday night, 10 February 2016, PM

Caroline: Following her meeting with Becky Lynne and Tina, Caroline coordinates with them to reconvene at Louis Armstrong Park to continue their investigation into the many parallels between her Embrace and their own. Before doing so, she has Autumn follow up with her first victim—inquiring subtly—or less so and then mesmerizing away her memories—about the events that led her and her paramour of the night to the park where she was injured. Her first approach is as a party to the anonymous benefactor that paid for her medical bills. She also takes the opportunity to doctor any memories as needed if Autumn discovers any lasting incongruent memories associated with Caroline’s attack on her that night. That ‘report’ is among others she brings with her to the meeting, along with several ghouls.

She relates what she knows of René’s side of the story—that he took her into the Dungeon to kill her—and believed that he had when he left her. She relates some of her own: that someone drugged her and her mortal companion the night of her Embrace, that she was attacked by thugs and ‘rescued’ by René. That she awoke within the park to find two victims wandering her way. How she nearly killed one, and left the other behind as she tried to save the first. She relates again that she does remember things about the Dungeon, but incomplete memories. Her investigations into that night showed a way into madness, and she broke the mind of the other she knew was there—the now-executed Emmett.

Until recently she knew nothing of the ‘Armstrong Five’, but thinks the ‘coincidences’ of their Embrace are too significant to be simple coincidence. Someone either intended to mirror the Armstrongs, or to send a message.

Thursday night, 11 February 2016, PM

GM: Caroline reads in her news feed that Emmett Delacroix was the first man executed by the state of Louisiana in several years. She knows all-too well the cause of that delay: a 1993 law makes it illegal for the state to execute inmates by any means other than lethal injection, and there was a years-running dispute with the supplies of the necessary drugs. So for quite a while, Louisiana physically lacked the means to execute its death row inmates, even ones who waived their appeals. Noelle Cherry, as Senate minority leader, managed to build a bipartisan initiative to abolish capital punishment on the grounds that it wasted taxpayer money to house inmates in the more expensive death row when they couldn’t be executed anyway.

No legislation came of it, obviously. The Senate judiciary committee and Caroline’s father, back when he was majority leader, spent over a year slogging through non-conclusive negotiations with assorted pharma companies before finally opening more promising-looking talks with Magadon Incorporated. After her father was elected to federal office, his successor as majority leader, Maxen Flores, pledged to continue his work. Flores then opened negotiations with Weide GmbH, a rival of Magadon’s, which led to even longer delays. The senator maintains that playing the two companies against each other let the state get a better deal when they finally awarded the contract to Magadon.

All those years of negotiations have finally paid off. Emmett Delacroix is the first man to die under the needle in four years. His last meal was a nutella crepe. His last words were, “I deserve to die. But I’m no judge of anything, so don’t take my word for it.”

Caroline: The news leaves Caroline feeling cold. Another death she’s responsible for, if indirectly, and one that plagues her conscience (or at least what’s left of it) more than most. She doesn’t remember everything of her time in the Dungeon, but she remembers now that he was there too. She remembers him losing his legs, remembers the monster eating them as he screamed. Remembers him watching her suffer, and watching him suffer in turn. Remembers the relief and following shame when they went to go cut on him for a time instead of her and she had to listen to his screams. They shared a moment together at what she can only imagine was the absolute worst point in their lives. A moment when she wasn’t Caroline Malveaux and he wasn’t Emmett Delacroix. A moment when they were both nothing but victims in ways that still tear at her sanity to think about.

Mostly she remembers his cries and screams when she invaded his mind, when she forced him to relive it again. When she became the torturer and he became her victim. The Emmett she remembers was objectively a bad person, but he wasn’t that terrible a one. He didn’t deserve what happened to him in the Dungeon, and he didn’t deserve to be forced to relive it in the horrific way she forced him to, when she was groping around in the dark for answers. It’s a bitter lesson in unintended, or at least unconsidered, consequences of single-minded pursuit one’s own desires, and she regrets it in hindsight. Caroline hopes that the broken man found some peace in death. She certainly hasn’t.

Caroline makes it a point to visit St. Patrick’s Cathedral despite her excommunication to include him in her prayers. It’s ann empty gesture in the face of an uncaring God that certainly has no time for the words of a monster like her, but one she finds the time for.

GM: Her cousin Adam is not. The serene stained-glass visage of Christ pulling St. Peter from the sea silently stares down at her.

It’s a peace she can but hope Emmett will also receive.

Sunday night, 14 February 2016, PM

GM: Donovan is ordained as a priest by Bishop Malveaux. Father Donovan will enjoy a number of privileges he previously did not as deacon, including receiving confession from the tenants of his domain. Rumor abounds that the bishop is tutoring the priest-sheriff in theban sorcery, further adding to his puissant reputation.

The Storyvilles are among those Sanctified who espouse their support for Vidal’s would-be successor. Jocelyn encourages Caroline to do the same. “He’s the only Sanctified ‘running’ and the frontrunner… I know you haven’t gotten along, but with the way things look… all I’m saying is, it could make things easier on you.”

Caroline: Only in the short term, Caroline bitterly thinks.

Tuesday evening, 16 February 2016

GM: It’s not too much later that Caroline receives another piece of news regarding an old acquaintance.

Yvette sends Caroline an enigmatic text about “getting even for my sisters and Sarah, Hannah too” with a link to her friends-only Instagram account. The page contains a video showing a starved and emaciated figure, with limbs as thin as sticks, chained to a hospital bed. There’s thick mittens over their hands, a black hood over their head, and a brown-stained diaper around their pelvis. They look male: the chest beneath their hospital gown is mostly flat. A feeding tube hooked to a nutrient bag snakes up underneath the figure’s hood.

The video plays at a choppy fast-forwarded speed: the room goes from light to dark and dark to light more times than Caroline can count. It slows down at multiple points, though, where the chained-up figure thrashes and screams. They are ghastly, horrified and strangely muffled sounds concurrent with their worst thrashings. Sometimes there are broken sobs, incoherent wails, furious screams, and insane garbling that doesn’t make any sense. Sometimes it sounds like the figure is crying. Sometimes they try to tear off their hood, but it’s a futile effort with their chained and mittened hands.

Nurses appear during some of the figure’s most violent episodes to inject their stick-thin arms with a sedative. Contrary to how such drugs are depicted on TV, it takes several minutes before the figure goes completely limp. Nurses pull off the figure’s hood when this happens, revealing a bulky, helmet-like contraption with a bite-preventing guard that goes over their mouth. Amelie Savard’s gaunt, haggard, and too-pale face is underneath when they take it off. Nurses inspect the young woman’s head for a few moments, then fit the helmet and hood back on. They also change her fouled diaper and inspect her body for bedsores around once a day. Sometimes they don’t bother and runny brown stool leaks over the sheets. The invariably different nurse who has to change them looks annoyed. Amelie’s hood and helmet come off less often, usually concurrent with sponge baths, and only after she has been sedated.

The video appears to play out over the course of several weeks. For 24 hours a day, Amelie is kept chained to her bed in a state of complete sensory deprivation and social isolation, and left to stew in her own excrement. Her struggles grow weaker as her screams and cries taper off into low moans. Nurses check her pulse, but seem satisfied by what vital signs they detect.

Yvette includes a single caption below the video:

Suffering :)

Caroline: The heiress is taken aback by the savagery of Amelie’s fate. She remembers a very different image of the mannish and stocky ‘girl’. The two visions are almost impossible to reconcile with each other. Both are disturbing in their own ways, but this one is far more so. Disgusting, even. This half-living creature is more ghoulish than any of her own ‘ghouls’. Caroline’s disgust is only amplified by Amelie’s too-human needs and the way they are so crudely on display. The feeding tube. The vile brown sludge she produces. It’s revolting, almost nauseating.

She chokes back her disgust. What does she care about Amelie? The girl irritated her during their brief meeting. Even if she weren’t simply kine, she’s kine that Caroline has no ties to, no affection for. There’s even some justice to what Yvette is doing. Isn’t Amelie a sinner? Isn’t this the very path that Caroline has been put upon as a member of the Sanctified? To punish the wicked? She’d never thought to do so in such a thoroughly wicked way, but what was it Abélia said, “my daughter Yvette would never hesitate to take up a weapon”? She almost wonders if there’s a lesson here for her.

There certainly is one for Yvette. Caroline doesn’t critique her decision to take her revenge on Amelie, but she does offer a critique on the decision to put it on social media, even a private account. Such things are never as private as they might appear to a teenage girl. Caroline suggests an alternative: a private server where these things could be hosted with true security. She could even have such a thing set up and maintained for Yvette.

GM: Yvette says that sounds like a great idea and she’d “definitely appreciate it.” She already got in trouble with her family over posting some other pictures of Amelie (“tamer ones, where I literally ’ad ’im licking mah boots,” she describes with a smirk) on a public blog, but she’s not sure where else she’s supposed to post her stuff. “Ah mean, qmail’s just owned bah another company, no? Ah want to ’ave somewhere I can share it.”

As long as her friends can watch Amelie suffer along with her, though, she’s happy.


For those curious about game mechanics…

Back when Caroline took the bar exam, under Storytelling/NWoD rules, we had her roll Int + Academics (Law) three times, one roll per exam session. Total (OOC) successes x 75 = total (IC) points earned on the exam. Successes on the first day count double, and successes on the second day count half. Characters who spend a while studying can earn up to a +3 bonus. An Int 3/Academics (Law) 3 student who gets perfectly average rolls would thus earn a score of 675/900, or 75%, which is slightly over the average bar exam’s scaled 70% score.

Caroline was incorrect that no one would have cared she passed. Jocelyn would have.

Caroline VI, Chapter VII
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