“A woman without love wilts like a flower without sun—and yet your flower would seem in full bloom.”
Monday evening, 14 September 2015
GM: Caroline gets picked up by Turner and cruises the streets. Last night she wanted something more wholesome than more bathroom sex with a stranger.
Caroline: She showered. She changed. She scrubbed the blood from her hands and face. She still feels dirty. Worthless. Awful. It’s fitting for what she’s about to do.
She forgot for a while that she wasn’t a monster. That there were consequences for other people. For people she loves. Or loved. She wonders, ideally, if she’s even capable of that with how she’s acted.
In a week she’s murdered. She’s mass murdered. She’s seen to the mass murder of others. She framed a conman for murder. She’s stuck the demon inside her in the minds of her friends and family and felt around inside their heads like they were her own playground. She’s drawn at least three other women into her decaying orbit.
And yet she still finds some excuse every night to get up and suck the life from other people. To keep going down this road. There’s always an excuse isn’t there? Wrapped in that self loathing she wants to feel worthless. Wants to feel ashamed. And she knows where she can find someone that will help her.
The seedy side of Riverbend isn’t really that seedy. Just enough.
GM: The mostly residential neighborhood lacks the true slums of Central City and the Ninth Ward. The closest it has are working-class families living in the shadow of the more well-off ones, toiling away in the service industry or support of Tulane’s and Loyola’s campuses.
But simple working-class drones offer little sustenance to the Ventrue. Her prey must attend institutions of higher learning. Turner cruises the neighborhood. She pulls in at a ratty-looking O’Tolley’s not far from Tulane.
The flabby Asian boy from earlier smiles widely at Caroline. “Hey, it’s you!”
Caroline would think she need hardly draw upon her powers to secure his acquiescence to a sweaty bathroom tryst. “I—are you sure?” he babbles.
The grimy restroom has “Fuck you” scrawled over the toilet seat and “your penis is only a trip, looks like an ocean” over one of the walls. The boy licks his lips as he places sweaty palms on Caroline’s shoulders, his eyes wide with disbelief.
He scrunches his eyes and then seems to freeze in place. His mouth puckers into a flabby “o”.
A low wheezing noise emits from his mouth. He runs a hand over his sweaty forehead.
Then he looks down at his feet.
“Um. Can we…”
His cheeks are flushed red.
Caroline: She peels off the tank top she wore out for this purpose—she has a bag in the SUV for the opera.
“Whatever you want.”
GM: The boy’s cheeks turn even redder. “N-no, I… I mean…”
The bulge in his crotch is sagging.
Caroline: Her hand on his neck. “Can we what?”
Caroline notices the wet spot on that same area of his crotch.
“D-do this… l…”
Caroline: She pulls him closer instead with the hand on the back of his neck.
“It’s okay, it happens. Just stay with me.”
Her lips close on his throat. Just a little suck to get it started.
GM: The boy’s skin is even sweatier and greasier than last time. Caroline can feel the pulse past his many chins and smell his hot blood pumping underneath, like succulent fruit past a slimy and inedible skin.
His eyes roll back, then clamp shut as Caroline’s canines pierce his neck. He awkwardly (or simply dazedly) simply stands there in the middle of the bathroom, leaving the Ventrue to cup a hand around his unwashed hair or push him against one of the grimy walls. He moans like an ox in heat. Warmth and life floods Caroline’s mouth, enough to make even her squalid surroundings momentarily fade away.
Caroline: She rides him into a wall, sucking greedily to escape the horror of it all. She can get lost in the blood for a moment, and it’s so good. It’s life rolling across her tongue.
It’s over all too quickly.
GM: The boy is left a sweaty nigh-drooling heap on the tiled floor when Caroline is done with him. He gazes up at her with out of focus eyes and pants,
“W… w… WOW!”
“Can I… have your Facemash?”
Caroline: She pulls her top back on as he lies on the floor, silent as she closes the door behind her and makes for Turner’s waiting car.
GM: “H-hey, wait!” the boy calls.
Monday evening, 14 September 2015
GM: Compared to New Orleans’ other arts centers, the Orpheum Theater’s exterior is not particularly grand. The gray-bricked building is tall and narrow, at least from the front entrance, and decorated with sculptures of neoclassical faces. A green marquee that reads “Orpheum Theater” looks as if it belongs on an old movie theater. Caroline might have attended a few of the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra’s (LPO’s) concerts there as a child, but she’s been dragged to a lot of formal events.
Hurricane Katrina, she recalls, saw the building damaged by floodwaters and closed. Ten years and a $13 million renovation later, which Caroline remembers her aunt Vera (or maybe it was her mother) being somehow involved with, and the historic theater has finally been reopened to the public. Some of her family had said something about wanting to attend. Maybe going together with her. It all seems so unimportant now.
The lobby’s terra cotta ceiling as well as the ornate plasterwork throughout the space have all been restored by hand, leaving the paint color scheme precisely as it was in 1921, or so the flyers say. Overlooking the Roosevelt Hotel two stories above is the mezzanine, a beautiful space that includes a full bar, nearby restrooms, and elevator access.
The amphitheater itself is a spacious venue, complete with an orchestra, loges, balcony, and gallery that offer newly-installed upholstered seats and comfortable accommodation for 1460 guests. The site easily transforms from an intimate concert venue to corporate meeting and convention space with perfect sight lines from each of its seats. An adjustable orchestra floor and customizable floor seating plan accommodate, as advertisements boast, “banquets, weddings, luncheons and receptions.”
The mortal owners, however, likely weren’t counting on some of their building’s uses.
Caroline sees them for what they are: the pale figures flitting among the theater patrons like wolves in sheeps’ clothing. Most of their faces are strangers to her, and she has known little save violence and cruelty at their hands. The kine chat and laugh amongst themselves, oblivious to the monsters they sit but a hand’s span away from. Compared to Caroline’s last Elysium at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, this one seems to require far more subtlety from the undead. One foolish enough mistake, and a whole orchestra house of witnesses could see the Kindred for what they are.
The show, however, goes on. Tonight’s features a famed pianist who is playing Mozart. The program advertises, World-renowned concert pianist Anne-Marie McDermott returns to New Orleans, bringing her delicate touch to Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 21. The program opens on a humorous note with Moz-Art à la Haydn, Alfred Schnittke’s tongue-and-cheek homage to both composers. Following the pure melodies of Mozart’s concerto, the concert concludes with Jean Sibelius’ expansive Symphony No. 5.
Caroline: Maybe it’s the awfulness of the last week, maybe it’s her own impending final death, but in the moment Caroline is struck by the beauty of it all, and moved by it. She finds herself losing minutes watching and listening, taking it all in. There’s a melancholy to the music that touches her. Like the last taste of the fall before winter.
GM: “Ah, Miss Malveaux. I see we are becoming an Elysium regular?” greets a man’s voice.
The speaker is Gus Elgin, a stunted creature with a rounded, crushed-in head. His block-like nose and pudgy jowls remind people of a bulldog’s, and his large frame hovers in a nebulous area between fat and muscled, like a retired prizefighter who’s spent too many hours channel-surfing and guzzling beer on the couch, but still hasn’t completely let himself go. The Nosferatu stands a full head below somewhat tall men, which together with his girth, makes him seem built like a dwarf—short and stout. He wears a black tuxedo that incongruently contrasts with his deformed features. None of the kine pay him a glance as he walks openly among them.
Caroline: The deformed Nosferatu breaks her from her trance and she turns to address him.
“One can only hope,” she offers with a smile. “It’s a beautiful venue and selection. I think I visited here some years ago. I didn’t quite appreciate it at the time.”
GM: The Nosferatu offers an ugly smile of his own in turn. “The music is striking, is it not? Though Longinus forbids us from revealing ourselves to the kine, they may yet speak to our condition through our music. And we may appreciate it together, if for different reasons. Two worlds become as one.”
Caroline: “Or even three worlds,” Caroline ventures.
GM: “An intriguing supposition, Miss Malveaux. Should I take you to mean those who serve?”
Caroline: She bites her lip. “I confess, that term is lost on me, but I can observe well enough that there is a degree of stratification among us even greater than in the modern mortal era.”
GM: “Indeed. It is a degree of stratification inherent to a far earlier age—but then, aren’t we?” Elgin smiles dimly, though Caroline is unsure whether he is speaking in true jest or merely amused by the irony. “As to the term, Miss Malveaux, it is in reference to ghouls.”
“‘Let those who serve be named greatest of the Children of Seth, and most privileged.
Let them enjoy the fine cloth of the Kindred.
Let them enjoy the gentle music of the Kindred.
Let them know the sweetness of our wine.’”
Caroline: She cocks her head. “What is that from?”
GM: “It is scripture, from The Rules of the Canaille. Words of wisdom attributed to our Dark Father’s own lips.”
Caroline: She nods. “Perhaps I’ll have a copy someday.”
GM: The Nosferatu emits a throaty chuckle. “Perhaps, Miss Malveaux. I consider myself fortunate to have read what fragments I have.”
Caroline: A frown. “There’s no collected volume?”
GM: “Such physical documents would endanger the Masquerade by their very nature. And our kind are loath to share.”
Caroline: “I see.” Another frown. “That explains… honestly, a great deal.”
GM: “I endeavor to be of service,” Elgin replies with another faint smile. “In any case, Miss Malveaux, allow me to bid you welcome to tonight’s Elysium. The first few hours will be filled with the programs listed on the flyer. Further entertainments exclusive to our kind will be held once the kine attendees have departed.”
Caroline: “Is it expected, or in good taste, for all to attend?” She bites her lip. “I apologize. That was rude. Might I ask as to that foundational bit of etiquette, and for the formal title I should use to address you?”
GM: The master of Elysium offers another faint smile. “The term of address you may refer to me by is ‘Master Elgin’, Miss Malveaux. ‘Keeper Elgin’ is also technically correct. As to your second question, attendance is voluntary. I expect some Kindred to leave when the kine’s shows conclude, others to stay, and others still to newly arrive.”
Caroline: “My thanks, Master Elgin.” She pauses. “If I might venture, if you should happen to see Primogen Duquette, would you inform her that I am prepared to speak whenever is most convenient to her?”
GM: “Primogen Duquette is enjoying a private box alongside the seneschal, Primogen Chastain, Primogen Opal, and Primogen Poincaré, I believe, should you wish to inform her of such. I am afraid I have many functions to perform this evening.”
Caroline: “Then I shall not delay you any longer in your duties, Master Elgin.”
GM: Another dim smile. “A word of parting advice, Miss Malveaux. If your information sources have yet to uncover your sire’s banes, I would press them harder.”
Caroline: “Or seek a more reliable source?” she asks with a hint of a smile.
GM: The Nosferatu emits a throaty chuckle. “There are as many as one has the resourcefulness to find.”
Caroline: Himself, doubtlessly.
“Ah, but I’ve heard of one above all others. A secret thing.” That smile blossoms. “My thanks for your offer. Few enough Kindred have been willing to extend aid against my sire.”
GM: The Nosferatu inclines his misshapen head. “May you enjoy tonight’s Elysium, Miss Malveaux. Do not hesitate to call upon me should you have any further needs.”
Caroline: She bids him goodbye and sets off on her own, her moment with the performance gone.
GM: Caroline proceeds into the venue hall proper. Tickets go from $20 to several hundred, with the cheapest purchasing a seat among the masses, and the most expensive buying a place at a private VIP box, complete with a private table at the bar and free selection of wines and desserts.
There are a few pallid faces Caroline recognizes as she scans the crowd. Harlequin’s gilded domino mask and gold-threaded costume is impossible to miss, but as with Gus Elgin, guests don’t seem to pay the slightest heed to the appearance of the Krewe of Janus’ leader. Their comeliness notwithstanding, her fellow neonates Becky Lynne and Jocelyn look almost drab in comparison. Besides those four, all the finely-dressed Kindred in attendance are strangers to Caroline… save for the red-haired, blue-eyed woman and dusky-skinned man seated at a private box overlooking the common seats.
Caroline: And yet, there is a charm to those that command less attention from the crowd. And one face in particular calls to her.
GM: She finds Jocelyn seated among the common masses. The Toreador is somewhat dressed up for the occasion in a knee-length, V-necked blue dress and pair of black heels.
Making her way past the rows of filled seats with an “excuse me” here and “pardon me” there is an awkward process for Caroline. There are so many of kine, all packed so closely together, some disgruntled as they watch the Ventrue pass through. Her Beast paws anxiously.
Jocelyn’s eyes, though, follow after Caroline. There is a just-longing quality her gaze that wasn’t present during their last meetings.
“I think you have friends waiting up by the bar,” she states to the man sitting next to her, the slightest inflection to her voice.
“You’re right. Save my seat?” The man gets up and leaves.
Caroline: Caroline is happy to do so, sliding into the seat beside the brunette.
GM: “This life has its perks,” Jocelyn remarks as the seat’s former holder heads off.
Caroline: It does, Caroline reflects as she looks at her fellow Kindred. “Few enough though they may be.”
She doesn’t mention how that particular seating availability perk has never been an issue in a box.
GM: “I swear Gwen uses that trick every time she drives now. Cops are always ticketing her. Or, well, trying to.”
Caroline: “You have to find some positives,” Caroline murmurs back.
GM: “Yeah. I might’ve been able to get a box seat when I was alive, but the Creoles don’t like company.”
Caroline: Caroline looks up briefly. “So we enjoy the crowd. That doesn’t seem like a recipe for disaster.”
GM: “Only so many private seats to go around though, I guess. And we could all get in if we just mindscrewed the ushers.”
Caroline: “That would be in bad taste,” Caroline agrees. “How are you?”
GM: There’s a slight set to Jocelyn’s jaw, but it relaxes as her gaze lingers on Caroline.
“Kinda wanting a break, honestly. Roxanne’s been really losing it over Bliss.”
Caroline: “What happened?”
GM: “Roxanne’s had us all turn her into a mental vegetable, but she doesn’t know anything about Evan. So Roxanne’s been ordering her to do a bunch of other stuff, just to see if the mind control is working. She’s gone apeshit a couple times. It’s… ugly.”
Caroline: “She wasn’t far from it when I met her the first time.”
GM: “There was a fight or something, wasn’t there?”
Caroline: “Something like that.”
Caroline shivers as she remembers Bliss’ skull caving in like a pumpkin in her hands.
“We had a misunderstanding. She got the worse end if it.”
GM: “Sounds like it. Both times around, even. She… really doesn’t seem like she knows anything.” Jocelyn seems to slump a bit.
Caroline: Caroline slumps in turn. “I’m sorry. How long has he been missing?”
That tightness in her shoulders slowly melts as she just talks, talks with someone. Something.
GM: The Toreador looks like she might sigh. She no longer has any need.
“Few weeks, give or take. It’s been… rough on the krewe.”
Caroline: “Eight-Nine-Six was your last lead?”
GM: “Yeah. And Roxanne’s always been… well, she knows what’s what, but a little bitchy. Like all blue bloods.” Jocelyn pauses at the remark. “No offense.”
Caroline: Caroline actually laughs lightly. The first time she’s made that sound in what feels like a decade.
“You’re not wrong, though.”
GM: Jocelyn actually looks somewhat taken aback by the response. Caroline isn’t sure if she’s dipping a further toe in the waters or joking when she adds, “Try adding ‘ice queen’ on top too.”
Caroline: Caroline smirks. She’s been called that herself. Usually by soon-to-be ex-boyfriends.
“How did you end up with the krewe anyway?” she asks.
GM: “Me? Well, I ran into Gwen not long after I was Embraced. We were both torries, and, well, I actually felt a little sorry for her, I guess. Her parents were Quiverfulls. You hear about that movement?”
“She was really broken up over how she couldn’t get married and have kids,” Jocelyn continues, “And her sire… I don’t know, I guess didn’t stick around for long. Or maybe got ashed. But she was new to New Orleans, and from Houston, which didn’t score her many points with the prince either. After the whole… mess after Katrina.”
“But she seemed like a natural Sanctified, and my sire said she’d be an investment. And also like I said, I felt a little sorry for her.”
Caroline: “So the two of you started the Storyvilles?”
GM: “Yeah, with my sire’s help. Evan fell in with us a few months later. So for a little while we were an all-torrie krewe.”
Caroline: “Good times?” Caroline seems to be enjoying the story hour.
GM: Jocelyn seems mildly surprised by the question at first, then contemplative.
“It was… simpler. Definitely.”
Caroline: “So where does Roxanne enter in?”
GM: “Well, Evan met Roxanne, and they hit off really well. So he brought her in. Then Gwen met Wyatt a few months later. Roxanne thought we should do things a bit more, well, blue blood-like.”
“I remember from a psych class I took, something about three being the largest ‘small’ group of people you can have. When there’s four or more, things get more… what’s the word? I just remember that at four or more, it becomes easier for people to get ignored. Four’s a crowd, not three, and you need more organization.”
“Roxanne was good at that, and Evan helped her along. He was… the sort of person who I guess never really disagrees with anyone, and who everyone’ll listen to. Roxanne had the brains, but she’s always been, well, like I said. A little bitchy.”
“So they were a good pair. I guess you could say they just handled a lot of stuff for the krewe, organized and planned a lot of things, and Gwen, Wyatt and me were happy to follow along.”
Caroline: “But without him the entire dynamic falls apart.”
GM: Jocelyn nods. “I mean, Roxanne’s the best to be leader, no question, but it was even better when she had Evan too. And it was more than that. Evan, he… he really cared about her.”
Jocelyn’s voice is quiet as her eyes drift back to the orchestra. “You don’t see a lot of that.”
Caroline: The words cut like razors though Caroline, like a cold November wind through a thin summer dress. She shivers again.
“It’s so miserable,” she murmurs.
GM: “Yeah…” Jocelyn stares ahead for a moment longer, then scrunches her face a bit. “But it’s what we deserve.”
Caroline: “Is it?” Caroline asks quietly.
GM: Jocelyn nods adamantly. “Everyone gets Embraced for a reason. Every Kindred I’ve asked—been able to ask—they’ve all done something horrible in their mortal life. God wouldn’t have us exist by accident.”
Caroline: “I know that,” Caroline acknowledges. “I just mean… you’re the first Kindred I’ve met that wasn’t interested in beating me, mind-controlling me, whipping me, or otherwise abusing me. We create our own hell for each other here.”
GM: Jocelyn looks taken aback. “Really? I mean, a lot of them are, but… you’ve really not met any others? I don’t count Roxanne or Gwen trying to do those things, at least.”
Caroline: “A couple since. But the first odd dozen?” She shakes her head. “It’s been a bad week.”
GM: “I bet. Gwen doesn’t like to talk about Houston much.”
Caroline: There is genuine hurt in her voice. "Good news is only one more. "
GM: Jocelyn looks unsure of what to say a for moment.
Caroline: “No.” The word is sharp and curt. “You have nothing to apologize for. It’s what we deserve. What I deserve.”
She blinks away for a moment as her voice cracks. “Besides. You’ve been the one bright spot in this.”
GM: Jocelyn doesn’t look fully certain to say to that either. “Maybe you should talk to more neonates. Elders are… well, elders. They’re the ones who do most of the beating and mind-controlling and abusing, like you say.”
There’s a pause. “But, thanks. Or, you’re welcome.”
Caroline: “What did you do, if you don’t mind me asking? In your life that is. To deserve this.”
GM: Jocelyn is quiet for a moment at that question. Her eyes draft back towards the Mozart-playing orchestra.
“I destroyed my… I destroyed a guy’s life. He killed himself because of me.”
Caroline: “I’m sorry,” Caroline murmurs.
GM: Jocelyn stares back with that same look Autumn wore. “So what’d you do?”
Caroline: “I…” for a moment Caroline pauses, not wanting to go on. That word looms, mammoth, crushing. A word she’d never have admitted before.
GM: The Toreador waits. There’s expectation behind that look too. She told Caroline.
Caroline: That words dances around like a bull in a china shop in her mind, and she finds herself worrying, for a moment, that Jocelyn will think less of her.
“I…” She runs her tongue across her fangs. “I poisoned someone.”
A truth, but not the truth, and she knowingly, obviously, dances around it in a way that might seem coy if she weren’t so obviously distressed by the subject.
“Because they were inconvenient. World have destroyed my carefully crafted life and image.”
GM: Jocelyn is quiet for a moment at the ‘confession’.
“I guess we both took after Caine, then. Not many sins worse than murder.”
Caroline: Caroline’s brow furrows. “After Caine. I didn’t even really think of that.” She gives a little laugh. “There’s more symmetry than I’d thought.”
It’s not a joyous laugh.
GM: “That’s what Father Elgin and all the other priests say we’re cursed to do, as Kindred. Repeat the sin of his murder, forever.”
Caroline: “No, I mean…” There’s a tight-lipped frown.
GM: Jocelyn looks slightly confused. “Sorry?”
Caroline: Caroline squirms in her seat beside the Toreador. “It’s….”
Does it even really matter? She’s going to be dead in a week, and as desperately as she wants Jocelyn’s approval, even it feels like such a distant and disconnected thing. It’s like looking at the world from up on a mountain, even right here, so close she can smell the blood in the other Kindred veins, she feels so far away.
GM: Jocelyn stares back at Caroline, then leans slightly closer across her seat. The music from the orchestra seems little more than a distraction.
“You wanna go somewhere else?”
Caroline: It’s a firm reminder of how dead she is that her heart doesn’t quicken and her breathing doesn’t change, even as the words burn in her ears.
“We can’t go too far. I need to talk to Primogen Duquette,” she says. But the excitement shows in her eyes.
GM: Jocelyn nods and responds with a simple, “Okay,” before getting up from her seat. Listening to another Kindred say “excuse me” to the seated kine as she tries to avoid brushing against too many peoples’ knees feels unusual. Caroline can’t picture Donovan or McGinn ever doing the same.
The Beast growls at the delay. It would be so much faster—and satisfying—to kill one of these juicebags and put the rest in their place.
Jocelyn makes her way up the rows of seats, past the auditorium’s double doors and back into the mezzanine. As she approaches the elevator, a uniformed employee speaks up, “The-”
Jocelyn just glares, heels still clicking against the floor as she demands, “Let us through.” Caroline can feel the sudden force of the Toreador’s presence washing past her like an unseen tide.
The wide-eyed man doesn’t formulate an answer. He just stands aside.
Caroline: She follows after the older Kindred, cutting through the crowd.
GM: The Toreador walks in, waits for Caroline, and pushes a button. The elevator doors open after a brief ride. They walk down a hall, past some people who might be employees, and open the doors into a dark projection room filled with bulky sound equipment and black-monitored computers. Music is still audible from the window overlooking the theater’s stage, but Jocelyn looks like she’s hardly listening. She gets the employees to clear out, then pushes Caroline against the wall and plunges her now-protruding fangs into the Ventrue’s neck.
Caroline: It’s one of the best feelings of her life. Better than hunting. She writhes up against the other Kindred, pressing all of her body against her. One hand cups the back of Jocelyn’s neck, holding her close, while the other wraps up from under the Toreador’s arm, to her shoulder. Caroline pulls on her and digs her nails into Jocelyn’s smooth skin. She whimpers.
GM: Passion rises, and blood with it. Jocelyn literally growls as Caroline’s nails tear into her flesh. She pulls her mouth away from the Ventrue’s freshly-bleeding neck, flashing a red-streaked… it’s not quite a smile. She runs a tongue over her lips, savoring the taste, then kisses Caroline full on the lips. She pulls away after their tongues meet, planting a far from playful nip in between each kiss. Taking a bit here, a bit there.
Jocelyn pushes Caroline onto the floor, tugging at her clothes.
Caroline: It’s twisted. It’s sinful. The kind of image that would set her family off like a powder keg and set the tabloids printing like the building was on fire.
She doesn’t care. Everything else fades away, and there’s only this moment, away from everything else. She takes advantage of Jocelyn’s attention on her clothing to slink a hand around her neck, pull the other Kindred’s head into the crook of her elbow, holding her tight, and sinking her own fangs into the Toreador.
GM: Bliss beyond any kine’s blood floods Caroline’s mouth, making Aimee’s taste like one of the Victory’s skeezy businessmen in comparison. It’s hot, it’s sweet, it fills her up and eases the dull ache inside her chest. For a moment, Aimee, her sire, Eight-Nine-Six, her mortal family, all her worries and concerns are swept by away by simple pleasure of the moment.
Jocelyn’s blood isn’t so rich as McGinn’s or Donovan’s. But this is blood Caroline has seized for herself. The Toreador thrashes underneath Caroline at first, arching her back, then goes weak as her body slams against the floor. She whimpers as the Ventrue reclaims what was taken from her.
Caroline: It’s only with effort that she pulls herself from Jocelyn’s neck, sucking, then licking sweetly upon it, before finally rising up from her position, straddling the Toreador, and looking deep into her eyes. She bites her lower lip in want, and need, and… nervousness?
GM: Jocelyn stares up, her mouth hanging open. Caroline’s blood is still smeared over her lips. The machines’ beeping green and blue lights flash against the Toreador’s red-streaked canines.
Caroline: It’s… beautiful. A moment of perfection. The dark she sees through. The light. The glint of blood across the other Kindred’s teeth. She nervously, almost shyly, bends to press her lips to Jocelyn’s, exploring her mouth with her tongue, tasting her own vitae, licking it lightly off the Toreador’s teeth.
GM: Blood—life—mixes, and two lives become as one. Caroline hasn’t done this before, would normally sit back and let the (marginally) older vampire take the lead. Her Beast doesn’t care. It wants. Blood, dominance—everything. Jocelyn snarls and rips at the Ventrue’s clothes, but Caroline’s Beast has already seized the advantage and won’t soon surrender it. She pins the Toreador’s wrists to the floor and ravishes her as she lies struggling. Jocelyn resists at first, meeting each bite and snarl of Caroline’s with her own, but the Ventrue barely registers them. All she sees is the pinned girl lying struggling beneath her, and with that final image, her sight goes red. Jocelyn’s moans continue to sound, but her struggles go limp. Caroline’s Beast relishes the dominance over a rival predator. To see her give in. Surrender. Submit. She could kill Jocelyn, rip out her throat and drink her vital essence, and the Toreador would moan like a bitch in heat. It’s a sensation as intoxicating as any vitae.
One of her father’s favorite quotes runs through Caroline’s mind: Power is the ultimate aphrodisiac.
Caroline has the power. Jocelyn does not.
Caroline: When she finally comes to, breaks out of it, she collapses on the ground beside the Toreador. She expects to be sweaty and out of breath. Expects fatigue. Exhaustion. But instead she just feels… alive. Or at least close to it.
She looks over at the Kindred next to her.
GM: Jocelyn isn’t flushed or panting like a mortal partner might be. Her face, however, is messily smeared with Caroline’s (and own) blood, and her clothes are savagely torn. A snapped bra strap hangs halfway down her arm. One of her shoes is missing. Her hair is a frazzled mess.
Her mouth hangs open for a moment before she whispers, “Your blood… it’s so strong…”
Caroline: Caroline laughs lightly. “That’s what you have to say after all of that?”
GM: Jocelyn still doesn’t pant. She just stares, her red-smeared mouth hanging open. “I’ve… never…”
Caroline: “Done anything like this?”
GM: She shakes her head. “That was…” Jocelyn sounds almost as if she means to say something like ‘amazing’, but then she just reaches out an almost tentative hand, tracing a finger over Caroline’s still heart. Her clothes are in better condition, but not by much.
Caroline: Caroline slides over beside her, slipping Jocelyn’s head into the crook of her arm to lay across her chest, and laying her own hand in turn across the Toreador’s chest.
“Very special,” she fills in. She smiles, though the Toreador can’t see it, and laughs lightly. “Even if you did wreck my clothes.”
GM: Caroline remembers how odd it was at first, sitting next to Jocelyn in her car. Two statues sitting side by side. Now, it’s more like two tigers draped over one another after an exhaustive mating.
Jocelyn lies against Caroline’s lap in seeming contentment. A submissive position, her inner monster purrs in satisfaction.
“We look like… a couple of abuse survivors, or something, if someone walked in on us,” she smiles after a moment. “I know, Masquerade and all, but it’s… actually funny to think of some techie walking in and going ‘what the fuck!’”
Caroline: “Well, you did hurt me so good.”
She tangles her hand in Jocelyn’s hair. It takes all of her self-control not to lick the blood off the other Kindred’s face. To draw her into another embrace. To just extend this moment forever. No fatigue, no exhaustion. She could keep going all night long.
“But maybe he could loan me a shirt.”
GM: Jocelyn’s eyes follow Caroline’s hand in a manner not unlike a cat watching a dangling bit of string. She smiles again, displaying a still-distended fang.
“Yeah. We’re messes.”
Caroline: It’s damnably hard to concentrate on anything else with her so near at hand. With her own dead flesh pressed up against Caroline’s own.
“It was… or would have been… my child.”
GM: “You mean…” Jocelyn trails off after a moment. The lingering passion of the moment isn’t fully gone from her eyes.
“I don’t think you’re the only Kindred to. To’ve lost kids, or never got to have them. Most don’t talk about it, and… I don’t know that makes it any better, but… you aren’t alone there.”
Caroline: She lets the sober thought hang for a moment to cool things down.
“I know. That’s the irony I meant earlier though. That I killed my child, and now I have to try and kill my sire. There’s a nice symmetry to it at least.”
GM: “Kinda a morbid one…” Jocelyn trails off again, realizing the obvious thought. “Well. I guess so are we.”
The Toreador frowns in seeming concern as she nuzzles her head against Caroline’s still blood-smeared neck.
“But that must be… there’s no way I could kill my sire. She’s over a hundred. There’s no way that I could.”
Caroline: “Over one hundred. Former hound to his sire, the former sheriff. Former soldier before he was Embraced.”
There’s a bitter edge to her voice, but also a bit of resignation.
GM: Jocelyn pulls up a bit from Caroline’s half-embrace, frowning. “Wait, he used to be a hound? To another sheriff?”
Caroline: “The last one, before Sheriff Donovan.” Her head swims a bit at the name.
GM: “Oh. Well, I guess it makes sense there’d have been one before.” She frowns more deeply. “That’s kinda fucked up the current hounds are sending you after him…”
Caroline: Caroline shrugs. “Could have just executed me. It’s a chance. A small one.”
There’s a small smile to go with it.
“But more than I deserved.”
GM: Worry flickers in the Toreador’s eyes. “How are you gonna do it, though? It sounds… I went apeshit around my sire, once, and she just held me down like it was nothing.”
Caroline: A crack shows in her mask.
“I’m not sure. Draw him out, away from his allies. I can’t touch him as long as he is hiding behind Savoy. Explosives, maybe. Rig up a trap. Or maybe… someone mentioned he might have an applicable bane.”
GM: Jocelyn slowly takes that all in. “That would help. Maybe you could ask the Nosferatu, see if they know?”
Caroline: “They know something. I’m just… they want a boon for the information, which I don’t even know will help. It seems stupid… execution six days away, but… I hate the idea of being that far in debt, potentially for no reason.”
GM: Jocelyn seems to think mightily. “Well… I could ask my sire for you, if that’d help. She might take a while to get back, though.”
She frowns. “But, no. Look, if the Nosferatu can’t help, there’s someone else who might be able to. My clan’s primogen, Pearl Chastain. She liked my great-grandsire, and I think I made a good impression on her at the last Elysium.”
Caroline: It’s like a life line thrown out to a drowning woman, that most seductive of emotions, that false promise. Hope. It wraps around her like a constrictor, trying to cloud her judgment, to ensnare her mind. Another equally old Kindred, or a elder, and all approached by someone else. No groveling required.
It calls to her. Asks her to take it. Just send Jocelyn to go ask. What’s the worst that could happen? At least to Caroline. She’s going to get executed anyway. They can’t kill her twice.
But as she meets Jocelyn’s eyes, she knows what a lie hope is, and she knows the foolish lengths affection will drive someone else, even before you wrap them in a blood bond.
“I’d be grateful if you asked your sire if she knew anything about him, or if she remembered anything that might be helpful.” She picks around her words carefully. “But going to an elder and trying to get them involved sounds… dangerous. Risky.”
GM: Jocelyn stares up Caroline. Perhaps ignorant of the exact thoughts going through the Ventrue’s head, but not to her worry.
“Well, you could offer her a boon. She’d probably want something in return anyway, for big enough help.”
Caroline: She bites her lip. “If they’d even move quickly enough to matter.”
GM: “But you have to try something,” Jocelyn presses. “I mean, it doesn’t matter how many favors you owe if you’re dead, right?”
Caroline: The bite of the whip. The taste of that ungodly strong vitae in her mouth. Serrated knives cutting into her skin. Coco’s overwhelming presence.
She shakes her head. She doesn’t want Jocelyn to brave the threat of any of that on her behalf. Not when she’s so… influenced.
“I have a couple of meetings set, and I’m waiting to hear back from the sheriff.” She forces a smile. “I’ll figure something out. Don’t worry.”
GM: Jocelyn, though, still looks worried. “Really, though, I bet she could help. She’s like an old grandma, really big on manners. Which all you blue bloods are good at. And she likes my bloodline. I think we could get a good deal, together. But the sheriff, he’s just a hardass. Not to mention fucking scary. He’s not gonna do anything for you.”
Caroline: Caroline feels a surge of irritation when Jocelyn dismisses Donovan so casually, but she puts it aside.
“She’s an elder that doesn’t even know my name. I just don’t see going to her hat in hand going well. It’s disrespectful.”
She bites her lip again, licking the remains of Jocelyn’s too sweet blood off of it.
“If I get down to the wire, though… we’ll reconsider it. All right?”
GM: Jocelyn nods. “Okay. I just want to help you. You also said you wanted to do something with Coco?”
Caroline: Caroline props herself up on her elbows. “I need to deliver something to her, and apologize for what’s going to happen with the rest of Eight-Nine-Six.”
GM: Jocelyn rests her chin over her hands as Caroline pulls her own arm away.
“Maybe I should do that too, if she’s going to blame anyone. On behalf of the Storyvilles.”
The Toreador’s eyes have an adoring look not unlike Autumn’s.
“Less that falls on you.”
She then frowns. “Though Creoles usually don’t accept just apologies if they’re angry…”
Caroline: “I don’t think she’ll be angry, and we have a bit of an established relationship. Today just made clear they aren’t going to meet anything go, and I’d rather not surprise her with it. And if she happens to know anything about my sire…”
GM: “I guess she is old enough…” Jocelyn muses. “I just wish there was more I could do.”
She thinks for a moment, then looks up.
“Hey, you could join the Storyville Krewe. Then the others could help.”
Caroline: Caroline contemplates the idea for a moment, her eyes lingering on the barely-clad torrie, and the sweet vitae that speckles her form.
“How would everyone else feel about that?”
GM: “Another member’s another member, and you helped out with Eight-Nine-Six.” Jocelyn’s eyes linger on Caroline’s near-equally bloody and undressed form.
“Though you have to join the Sanctified when you’re released. And you have to be loyal to the prince, not Savoy.”
Caroline: Caroline’s gaze is forced away by her discomfort. “Some of the things Father Malveaux wants from me… they feel wrong.”
GM: “Like what, hunting people? If you think about it, it’s… not really that worse than what we do every night. The Sanctified just want us to do it to bad people.”
Caroline: “Hunting down past victims and torturing them. Even if they were just… convenient. Killing people for… relatively minor things. I feel like he wants me to turn into a monster.”
GM: “We are monsters,” Jocelyn repeats, licking a bit of now-drying blood from her lips. “But I’m sure they had to have done something bad if he wanted you to kill them, wouldn’t they?”
Caroline: “Like being gay?”
GM: “Well…” Jocelyn frowns. “I’m still getting used to how the priests are saying that’s a sin. It wasn’t any big deal to me when I was alive. But that is the first time I’ve heard about killing any kine for it.”
Caroline: “I killed a girl. A few nights ago.” She doesn’t meet Jocelyn’s eyes. “I was starving, and hurt, and she… she thought we were going to do something. That was it. I lost control. He was… proud of it. Satisfied when I told him.”
GM: “Oh.” Jocelyn’s quiet for a moment. “Well, I guess he figured if you had to lose control… but you’re sure he was proud? I mean, apeshitting isn’t a good thing. ‘Submit to God, not the Beast.’”
Caroline: “I don’t really know,” Caroline admits. “He’s so hard to read. I’m just…”
She runs one hand through her hair. “Is it the only way? To be monsters? To kill and terrorize people? I remember the church, how utterly empty I felt.”
GM: Jocelyn nods. “I know, it’s… hard to wrap your head around, at first. Especially around churches… some you don’t feel anything in, but the really old ones…”
“But we’re monsters who drink peoples’ blood. It’s not like we can be the good guys here. The best we can do is punish the people who are already bad, for God. I mean, it’s either that or feed on innocents, right?”
Caroline: Caroline nods solemnly, thinking on all the people she’s hurt already.
GM: “If you don’t like Father Malveaux, though, maybe you could see another priest? I mean, it’s like with the kine, some priests maybe aren’t a good fit. There’s more than just him.”
Caroline: “I don’t know how well that would go over.”
GM: Jocelyn seems to think.
“Yeah, I guess I can’t really think of a good way to broach it either.”
Caroline: “What does joining the krewe mean? Other than getting to see you more.”
GM: Jocelyn gives a sanguine smile at that. “Well, the rest of them would all help you out. No boons or haggling every time. ‘All for one, one for all,’ and all that. You’d also help them with things, and we’d do stuff together like hunting heretics in the Ninth Ward. Or even just… well, hanging out. Sometimes we just watch Game of Crowns together and chat about stuff. They’re a good bunch. And we’re in good with the prince, too. The Hussar’s let us go hunting in the Arts District a few times, for all that we do.”
Caroline: Oh, just ‘hunting heretics’, a part of her snidely remarks. But that voice is very quiet indeed. She’d belong to something. Have people she could talk to.
Loyal to Vidal? The seneschal is… just enough. And she doesn’t have any reason to want to jump ship to someone she’s never met that’s sheltering her sire.
GM: ‘Snuggles’ isn’t the right word for it. Not when they’re coated in each other’s drying blood. But Jocelyn does fit her arm around Caroline and lay her head against the Ventrue’s shoulder.
“This all must be… so hard, so much to take in, without a sire… I don’t know how you’ve done it. But I wanna help, if there’s any way I can.”
Caroline: Is it rash? Yes. Making a commitment without seeing all the options? Certainly. She’s seen enough hard sells on people to know that logically she should seek out more information. Look at other options. When emotion is driving you, you’re making poor choices. She knows she isn’t in her right mind. And yet…
It all sounds too good to be true, and that same voice is screaming that it probably is. That quiet voice. That annoying voice. Why won’t it just shut up and leave her in peace?
Her free hand caresses Jocelyn’s throat gently. “I’m not helpless. I wouldn’t be a burden.”
GM: Jocelyn’s eyes follow Caroline’s fingers. “I know. You’re strong.”
Caroline: It’s what Father Malveaux wants.
It’s what Hound Agnello wants.
It’s what Jocelyn wants.
And… it’s what she wants.
“I want to join you.”
GM: “Great!” Jocelyn smiles brightly. “I’ll bring it up with Roxanne. She’s back at the krewe haven, with Bliss. We could do it all tonight.”
Jocelyn leans in to Caroline’s face and licks her nose. It doesn’t tickle so much as stir the memory of the sensation. “Blood on your nose.” The Toreador smiles. “You’re a mess.”
Caroline: “Could we… at the same time?” Caroline runs a finger over Jocelyn’s throat.
GM: Jocelyn doesn’t answer. She just nuzzles her face into the nape of Caroline’s neck. The Ventrue can already feel two small, sharp points pressing against her skin.
She feels a second pair pressing against her own teeth. Jocelyn’s pale neck, indistinct (to mortal eyes) by the room’s darkness but occasionally lit up by the odd flashing green light from the sound equipment, beckons invitingly.
The two Kindred slide to the floor, pushing themselves onto one another. For a second time, two lives become as one.
Monday night, 14 September 2015, PM
GM: The two vampires eventually—and all-too reluctantly—break off the blissful union. Jocelyn’s face is caked with Caroline’s blood. Her blue dress hangs off one of her shoulders in almost literal tatters.
“My luck to pick that color. Should’ve gone with black. These stains won’t ever come off!”
She looks around at the vitae-smeared floor and lets out a needless breath, trying to blow away some of the bangs plastered over her face by Caroline’s blood. “This is way messier than sex.” She grins, revealing two still very much protruding fangs. “Worth it, though.”
Jocelyn mock-reluctantly extracts herself from the Ventrue, rummages around for her purse, and fishes out a phone.
“Meg? Stop by the krewe haven and bring me some clothes. Panties and shoes too.” She thinks for a moment. “Oh, and some towelettes, bleach, and a paper towel roll, there’s a mess for you to clean up.”
She looks up at Caroline. “You need any clothes too, or can you have a renfield bring some?”
Caroline: Caroline’s own black dress has seen better days, but at least she was able to find both of her shoes.
“I’ve got a couple of outfits in the car. I was going to ask you…”
“Though… Turner makes an entrance. Do you think she could stop and pick them up on her way in?”
GM: Jocelyn has both of hers, but they’re also stained with blood, and the straps on one are broken. Caroline’s might be suitable to wear after getting wiped down with a towelette.
“You mean have my ghoul bring them up? Yeah, sure.” Jocelyn gives the relevant instructions over the phone and hangs up.
“Meg’s a little weird. She tried to kill herself.”
Caroline: “How’d that happen?” Caroline asks with some interest.
GM: “We shared a dorm room together in college. I walked in on her after she’d overdosed on sleeping pills, called 911, and that was that. My sire said she’d make a good ghoul. Suicides need someone to live for.’”
Caroline: “That makes sense,” Caroline nods. “Aimee tried to kill me. Twice. Eight-Nine-Six loaded her brain up with all kinds of buried commands.”
GM: “Oh, wow. I didn’t know you could do that.”
Caroline: “I… it makes sense. It was still a shock though to see how little time it took them to turn her into a weapon.” She frowns. “I’m still not sure what I’m going to do when she wakes up.”
GM: Jocelyn frowns too. “Huh… well, maybe Roxanne could deprogram her? I don’t know much about mind control, but she does.”
Caroline: “I tried, a little bit. Even afterwards though, she’s having a hard time adjusting.”
GM: “Maybe trade her to someone else? Is she good at anything?”
Caroline: Part of her wants to fib, but a look at Jocelyn’s face washes that away.
“Not really, though she could be in a year or so if she can get her life back together.”
GM: “Well, Meg isn’t good at a whole lot either. We could swap if you really want.”
Caroline: “No, thank you though. It’s… complicated, but I’ll figure it out.”
GM: “Okay. I wonder sometimes though if she’d be better off with another domitor.”
As they wait for the ghoul to arrive, the two blood-streaked, half-naked vampires have little else to do besides listen to the concert below. It’s stately, leisurely, and peaceful, reminding Caroline of the classical music her parents liked to play on relaxing Sunday brunches, after the family got home from church.
GM: ‘Meg’ eventually steps into the darkened room. Jocelyn’s ghoul is a short, watery-eyed, and painfully thin creature who proves almost depressingly eager to please. She gladly gets down on her knees to spray bleach over the bloodied floor and scrub it dry while the two vampires pad themselves down with towelettes and change into clean clothes. Jocelyn goes with another knee-length dress in dark green, and a second pair of black heels. Getting blood out of her and Caroline’s hair proves a tedious endeavor, so she has Meg do it while she fiddles around on her phone. The task proves sufficiently arduous that even Meg has to make a trip downstairs to fill up a water bottle and use it to rinse out the two vampires’ hair. Jocelyn isn’t happy how it turns out when she stares into the mirror. Meg looks almost ready to cry at the condemnation, prompting Jocelyn to finally assure her that “it’s great, you did better than I could have.”
Caroline: “Do you share her, in the krewe?”
GM: “No,” the Toreador answers, “she’s collared to me.”
Caroline: “Good. And your hair looks gorgeous.”
Caroline’s own has picked up a bit of a red tinge that won’t come out until she can use her more dedicated tools back at home.
GM: “Well, you know how it is at Elysium. The harpies will seize over any little thing, and we can smell blood like… well, sharks.” Jocelyn frowns in consideration. “You know, actually, I’m gonna take off. Not worth everyone smelling juice on me. Unless you want my help with Coco or anything.”
Caroline: It’s so tempting to ask her to do just that, to stay around and stay close.
Caroline reluctantly shakes her head. “Go have fun. I’ve got some business, as I said.”
GM: “Won’t be as much as I did with you,” Jocelyn counters, grinning.
Caroline: “Call me tomorrow?” she asks, grinning back.
GM: “Something better, actually,” the Toreador answers.
“I’ll show you then. We’ve stayed up here long enough it’s probably day…”
Monday night, 14 September 2015, PM
GM: Meg stays upstairs to continue fervently scrubbing away the evidence of her mistress’ liaison. The two Kindred make their way downstairs and reluctantly part ways. It’s far from dawn, but the show is over. Crowds of dressed-up patrons are filing outside the building.
“Caroline, is that you?”
The speaker is a tall, well-groomed, and handsome man around Caroline’s age. He shares her high-cheekboned features and smooth pale skin, though not their mother’s blonde hair. In another era, he would look the part of a young lord of the manor, ruler of all he surveyed by right of birth. In 2015, he’s merely poised to become CEO of the family company—if Savannah doesn’t get her way. He’s dressed tonight in a semiformal dark jacket and tie.
The woman by his side is an equally lovely, willowy-framed figure with clear blue eyes and long pale blonde hair that falls past her shoulders. She wears a knee-length and sea-green semiformal dress.
“It’s so good to see you, Caroline,” Cécilia beams, pulling her into a hug. “It feels like it’s been forever. My sisters talk about you all the time—we really have to get together again.”
Caroline: Caroline reflexively stiffens at the hug. She stifles her groan over seeing her brother right now, but the smile she puts on for Cécilia is all-too genuine.
‘Forever’ doesn’t begin to cover it.
“Luke. And Cécilia. What a surprise to see you two together.” She puts on a knowing smirk.
“How is Yvonne doing?” Her smile dips somewhat that question.
GM: “Perhaps more surprising to see you alone, Caroline. A woman without love wilts like a flower without sun—and yet your flower would seem in full bloom. Who is your sun, I wonder?” Cécilia replies with a knowing smirk of her own.
Luke doesn’t hide the amusement in his smile. “There’s no fooling a Frenchwoman when it comes to romance, I’ve learned.”
Caroline: “A lady would never kiss and tell, Ms. Devillers,” Caroline replies with mock stiffness. “Isn’t that what you told me… oh, eight years ago, at that ball? And I enjoyed it, but I suspect that I found, as did you, the pairing to be what brings out the true elegance.”
Her smile dims a bit. “How is Yvonne doing?”
GM: “A lady may tell nothing of her own kisses, but prying eyes and ears will tell stories of their own,” Cécilia playfully retorts.
“Yvonne’s doing better,” she then answers. “She’s not ready to resume school yet, but we’ve moved her back home. It already feels like that’s doing a lot of good.”
“Just being in a hospital puts you in the mindset that you’re sick,” Luke says.
Caroline: “It does,” Caroline agrees. “I’m glad she’s home and recovering.”
And she means it. Gettis dead. Yvonne discharged. Maybe one person whose life was almost destroyed by that night can start to move past this.
The news is almost enough to alleviate her guilt over Sarah still lying comatose in a hospital bed.
GM: “In any case, it’s too bad we missed you earlier, Caroline. It was a lovely concert,” Luke remarks.
“Didn’t you say your dad liked to play the 21st Concerto during breakfast on Sundays?” asks Cécilia.
Luke nods. “Yes, he did. But the piece before that…” He trails off wistfully. “Old paired with new, tranquility with melancholy. As Caroline says, it’s a pointed study in contrasts.”
Caroline: Caroline laughs lightly at her brother and locks eyes with Cécilia. “Well, he’s charming at least, and he won’t forget your anniversary.”
GM: “He has yet to do that,” Cécilia smiles back.
“Cécilia raised an interesting point earlier when we were talking about the concert,” says Luke. “About contrasts and duality, and how powerfully they speak to us. Or in some cases, how we try to ignore them. Like those Instagram rich kids you mentioned?”
“Yes,” says Cécilia. “Yvette recently showed me some of their pictures, which I thought were fairly tasteless—people lying in bathtubs with bottles of champagne, exclusive credit cards in their mouths, and dollar bills thrown everywhere like confetti. But they were also telling as displays signifying disdain for cost and gratification in denying others the experience of wealth rather than sharing it. Cultural prohibitions against the flaunting of wealth, however, were dominant in earlier time periods. In the fifteenth century, Dutch painters would sometimes mark a skull in the back of portraits of their affluent sitters to remind them of life’s ephemeral nature and its earthly pleasures.”
Cécilia pauses. “‘Dance and make merry, for life is fleeting.’ Duality is a fundamental aspect of the human condition. It’s why art like that concert speaks to us so powerfully.”
Caroline: “Life and death? Joy and sorrow? Eternal and yet oh so brief? Like the notes of music—preserved forever, and trotted out for hundreds of years, and yet gone the instant they leave the performer’s instrument?”
GM: “The audience can preserve those notes forever on their devices,” Luke observes.
“But listening to a recording isn’t the same experience as attending a live performance, either,” Cécilia says. “I don’t think it’s possible to preserve the past exactly as it is—maybe it’s better to live in the moment, and accept for all things, their season.”
Caroline: “Is nothing eternal, then?” Caroline asks, clearly expecting an answer and waiting with response.
GM: “That’s starting to get into science,” her brother muses. “Matter can’t be created or destroyed, but essentially exists in a state of constant flux.”
“I think whether something has really been destroyed depends on the criteria you’re using,” Cécilia says. “You won’t destroy a painting’s matter by burning it, but it won’t be a work of art you can enjoy anymore, either. Nothing stays the same forever.”
Caroline: “And what of the notes of a song?” Caroline poses. “Or the music itself?”
GM: “You can record a song and replay it later anytime. But that’s not the same experience as a live performance, is it?”
Caroline: “Would you not argue the music is eternal, and yet also so very temporary? A paradox.” Caroline smiles. “In any case, I should let you two get along.”
GM: Cécilia nods at Caroline’s initial statement as Luke smiles back. “There’s one last thing. I’m sure Blackwatch is still doing a fine job protecting Audubon Place, and Cécilia happens to be in the market for a bodyguard. Are there any you’d recommend?”
Caroline: “Oh? Something happen?”
GM: “Yes,” Cécilia frowns, “there was a black boy who called me over the phone and followed me back to my apartment.”
“Security dragged him off,” Luke adds, “he was arrested, and Cécilia’s filing for a protective order, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry.”
Caroline: “That must have been terrifying,” Caroline observes, hand over her mouth. “He didn’t hurt you, did he? How did he even get your number?”
GM: Cécilia sighs. “Yes, I know it’s nothing next to what Yvonne and Sarah went through, of course. Or even the others when they got arrested. It was all over very fast, but I was still scared. He seemed… well, mentally ill from our conversation over the phone, and there’s nothing a court can convict him for that’s worse than a misdemeanor…”
Caroline: Caroline’s face sinks a bit at that reminder before she does some math.
“He probably won’t even see jail time. That’s awful. I’m so sorry this happened to you, Cécilia. Unless… did he strike you in any way?”
GM: Cécilia shakes her head. “No, he got inside the building, but not past my apartment’s front door. He said he wanted help organizing a charity event for a friend who’d lost his legs. I wasn’t going to do something like that for a stranger, of course, but I didn’t see the harm in just giving him advice…”
“As for how he found Cécilia’s number, he must have looked through the yellow pages,” Luke answers. “It was her landline he called. She’s blocked the number he called from, and if he tries again, he’ll be in violation of the protective order.”
Cécilia nods. “I’m very glad he never got inside my apartment, of course, but all they could get him on was stalking, ordinance violation, and assaulting the building’s security. The law is only truly helpful, it seems, when someone is past the point of being helped.”
Caroline: “It can be.” Caroline seems contemplative. “If you have his name, I could make a call, see what the police have him on and if there isn’t anything else that they can find. Beyond that, if you’re looking for someone from Blackwatch just for the peace of mind… Daniel Hayes.”
GM: “Really, could you? Adeline’s floated the idea of filing civil suit, but I don’t want his money… I just want to be sure he’ll leave me alone. Maman and Yvette want to ruin his life, but like you said, he might not even see jail time for this.”
“His name is Mercurial Fernandez,” Luke supplies. “And his ‘friend’, imagine this, is some grifter named Emmett Delacroix. Carson says he was recently charged with first-degree murder. Some sort of drug deal turned massacre… that was how he lost his legs.”
Caroline: Caroline’s eyes narrow. “Good lord. If he’s mixed up in all that… I’m just glad you’re safe.”
GM: “Yes, I suppose it’s… some silver lining he went after me in my apartment, where there were security guards and a locked door, instead of at work or on the streets.” Cécilia smiles. “Still, I’ll have a bodyguard to protect me there now, thanks to you.”
Caroline: “I swear, Uncle Orson is right. This city gets more degenerate every day. I’ll let you know what I find out about him.”
What the hell were you caught up in, Emmett? Caroline wonders in passing. Either way, it’s not her problem. It seems like he got what was coming to him anyway.
GM: The pair both nod.
“I’m hiring my own bodyguard too,” Luke states. “I probably would’ve had to later in life, but we might as well start now.”
Cécilia inclines her head. “Thank you, Caroline. Maybe your uncle is right about the city, but it’s easier to sleep knowing that people like your family are trying to make it a better place.”
Caroline: “Better sooner than later,” Caroline agrees with her brother. “I’ll leave you two to your evening, hopefully involving happier subjects… or activities?”
GM: “Tongues may wag, but a lady’s remains still,” Cécilia only smiles.
“You should stop by for dinner sometime,” Luke says. “Cécilia’s mother has a fantastic chef.”
“My sisters would love to see you again, Caroline,” her brother’s girlfriend adds. “You’ve done so much for our family, I can’t believe we haven’t at least had you over.” She smiles. “You can bring your sun, too.”
Caroline: Does Caroline’s smile fade just a bit? It feels like a lifetime ago that everyone was celebrating her as the heroine of the hour.
It feels like two lifetimes since she felt like she deserved it.
“You’re right, we should do that. Life’s been crazy with law school starting back up, but I’ll be in touch.”
It’s an easy enough lie.
“Au revoir, Cécilia. Ne vous amusez pas trop avec lui.”
(“Goodbye, Cecilia. Don’t have too much fun with him.”)
GM: “Paroles et langues, Caroline. Et si peu que votre propre a dit. J’ai hâte de rencontrer le soleil qui brille sur votre fleur,” Cécilia declares with a knowing smile.
(“Tells and tongues, Caroline. And so little that your own has told. I look forward to meeting the sun that shines upon your flower.”)