“Why gamble something as precious as life for so very little?”
Wednesday night, 23 September 2015, PM
Rocco: An ineffable pall falls over Harrah’s New Orleans. The dark contours of the upscale casino and high-rise hotel Tbask in the glow of the city’s nightlife. Neon light signs, trimmed palm trees. A monument to decadence and debauchery. A haunt for cretins and losers of many shapes and vices.
Caroline: We’re all losers Caroline reflects, picking her way through the crowd of dejected faces: the desperate, the lonely, and the bored. Some of us have simply lost more than others.
Rocco: Some of us are merely lost.
A seemingly endless stream of people passes, exits, and enters the smoke-filled casino. The building’s front doors are watched by imposing black-uniformed security guards. A pedestrian crossing separates the casino from Harrah’s twenty-six story hotel.
An obese man—or perhaps boy—of below average height hauls himself out of a taxi cab. He wears a dark sweatshirt with its hoodie drawn all the way up, leaving his face only half-visible. It looks unattractive and normal enough, at a casual glance. When Caroline’s stare lingers, though, the visage melts away into something truly hideous. His plump face is covered in unkempt dark fur except around his mouth. He has a snout instead of a proper nose, dark beady eyes, enormously oversized teeth, and equally huge ears. All that’s missing are the whiskers and facial structure: his head, at least, is still human-shaped. He looks as much like a rat as a man.
His companion is little better. Caroline looks at her and sees someone who has stopped caring. She’s portly and has bad skin and greasy hair. She smells bad. She doesn’t smile. She’s dressed in threadbare clothes with several holes and stains. Her beat-up tennis shoes look equally due for replacement. She doesn’t look like she cares. There are scab marks over her hands. She carries a large bag that conspicuous squeaks emanate from.
The chubby boy makes his way up to the guards, hands stuck in his sweatshirt’s pockets.
“I’m here to see my… dad.”
Rocco: One of the doormen reveals a clipboard and asks for the chubby boy’s name as a formality. It’s not long before the trio are then directed into the hotel’s foyer. A young bellhop who looks no older than ten stands by the service desk with a neutral expression.
“It’s my pleasure to welcome you on behalf of your father, Andrew,” the small greets says, looking brightly up at the group. His voice is low and polite. “Please follow me. Your father’s party is on the top floor.”
The small boy leads the way. He eventually directs and patiently waits for the group to enter an elevator, taking an out-of-the-way position beside the lift’s console. He has to stretch on his toes to reach number twenty-six.
GM: The hoodie-wearing boy and his two companions follow the small child. Other guests continue to arrive. Gwendolyn Wade gets out from a Ryde, while a chaffeur opens the door to Becky Lynne’s silver Audi. Both Creoles wear shorter semiformal dresses.
“Oh, how lovely to see you, Miss Wade, fancy us arrivin’ at the same party. Now did you…” the Ventrue chats as they approach the casino. The faces of the other Storyvilles, Roxanne and Jocelyn, are already known to Caroline. There’s also a handsome young man with wavy brown hair wearing a black sports coat. Another one of the faces among the guests is known to Caroline from the trial: a well-endowed, comely young woman with messy blonde hair that falls to her waist. She’s somewhat dressed up in a cheap-looking pink party dress that still has a price tag attached to it. That has to be deliberate.
Last of all are two further apparent youths whose identities are unknown to Caroline. Both are dark-skinned and look anywhere from their late teens to early twenties. Their short hair is braided into cornrows, and their garb hovers somewhere between practical and street casual: scuffed baggy jeans, thick cotton gray sweatshirts, and heavy work boots. Their wide, strong-angled but hairless faces and loose, curve-hiding clothing makes it difficult to identify their genders.
“What, you’re just walking in without me like an asshole?” the messy-haired blonde calls towards the plump boy who’s already well inside the building.
The boy turns away from the elevator. “No, Arzie, it’s not like-”
“Yeah, I bet it’s not. And here I got all dressed up for you.”
“You look like you got that from Herricks’ clearance rack.”
“Stole it on my way here, actually, but good guess.”
The Storyvilles watch the Nosferatu’s display with visible distaste.
“I reckon that makes you a speedier dresser than me, Miss Boudon,” Becky Lynne laughs. “Lord knows how long it took me to decide what to wear, but there you went, decidin’ the same as me after you stepped out the door! There’s really no color that pairs with blonde like a good, feminine pink, now is there?”
The Ventrue’s own dress is a paler hue of the same color, even if its origins look a good deal less… shoplifted.
Caroline: Caroline’s own appearance is subdued, arriving via Ryde in her typical black. The already tall Ventrue towers over the masses in heels. To a casual observation she looks well-fed, but there’s a tightness too her motions and expressions, like a coiled spring. There’s pressure there and energy ready to burst into motion. Potential energy waiting for release.
Rocco: The bored-looking security guards ask for the names of each newcomer. A dark-haired woman recognizable as Hound Agnello’s herald appears inside the main foyer, ready to greet the latest slew of guests. She keeps a particular eye on the uninvited blonde, though. She can easily be seen waiting and watching through the hotel’s glass doors.
GM: Among the new names Caroline hears are June and Cleo, the two cornrow-haired apparent youths. June is the one to introduce a silent Cleo. The male Kindred sticking with the other Storyvilles is Wyatt. Becky Lynne gives her name as Rebecca, “Though if they’re callin’ me by first name, it’s usually Becky Lynne instead.”
Roxanne Gerlette looks less than pleased by the guard’s bored look, and sharply tells him to show respect towards his employers’ guests.
“Yeah, guess not,” Arzilla Boudon responds to Becky Lynne with an almost wary tone. A devious grin spreads across her face at Roxanne’s words as she saddles up to the nearest of the bored guards. “Aw, slow night, boys? All you need is a lil’ sugar.” She abruptly pulls the man into a full french kiss.
Caroline: Caroline watches the pair of crass displays from closer to Becky Lynne and trades a glance with the much shorter blonde Venture. She offers no comment on the pink dresses.
Rocco: The guard abruptly pulls away from the blond woman, eyes bulging as he wipes spittle from his mouth. For a moment he just dry-wretches. Then a stream of vomit spews from his mouth as he keels over. “Hol-ly sh-shit!” he gags.
The other doorman, initially flabbergasted and perplexed at his partner, rushes to his partner’s prone form.
“Jerry!” he yells. “What’sa matter with you?”
“It’s disgusting, Phil!” Jerry yells back, wiping bile from his mouth. “She’s fucking disgusting! I can’t get the taste out of my fucking mouth!” The man’s eyes are red and watering. He turns his head and pukes over the sidewalk again.
“Shit! I am so, so sorry!” Phil says, looking up at the group of newly arrived guests. “Please! Please just go inside!”
GM: Arzilla blows the gagging man a kiss as she walks off. A few of the other invited Kindred cast glances that range from amused to disapproving to indifferent.
Becky Lynne smiles at Caroline, seemingly paying no mind to the nearby commotion. “What an unexpected pleasure to see you here, Miss Malveaux. You’re acquainted with Mr. Agnello?” she asks, notably using a mortal form of address.
“I guess that’s one way to speed up the line,” Jocelyn remarks to Wyatt.
Andy just gives a few snorf-like laughs. “It’s okay anyways, guys, my dad knows them all.”
Caroline: “We met briefly at an event, and again at church,” Caroline offers. “A charming man, relative to his peers.”
She looks over at the vomiting guard. “And it seems he throws quite a party.”
GM: “How lucky for you, Miss Malveaux. The good hound is a good friend to have.”
Caroline: “One of many.” She smiles sweetly at the other Ventrue.
Rocco: The clicking of heels against hard tiling breaks up the small conversation. The dark-haired woman watching the group earlier approaches.
“It’s my pleasure to welcome you all on behalf of Mr. Agnello,” she says, offering the group a gloomy smile.
“It’s Mr. Agnello’s wish that you all go up in small groups,” she explains, “so that he may properly welcome each of you into his home.”
The ghoul gives a demure laugh as she eyes their reactions. The ghoul then looks to the twin youths and the hoodie-wearing overweight young man.
“It’s Mr. Agnello’s wish that his family go up to greet him first,” she says, indicating the three.
“Please follow Simon to the elevator and he will take you to the twenty-sixth floor.”
The young boy leading Andrew earlier peeks his head out from an elevator, smiling brightly at the group. He waits for the trio of ‘family members’ to enter the elevator with him.
GM: “Oh hey, Bella,” Andrew remarks as the three Gangrel make their way over to the elevator. Rocco’s childe catches a look from Arzilla, who he motions to come along with him.
Rocco: The two ghouls remain quiet on the matter, cordially accepting Andrew’s wish to bring along Arzilla. They both appear suitably blank-faced.
GM: The four neonates step in. There are looks from some of the other Kindred, but they soon turn back to talking amongst themselves—or their ghoul attendants, in the cases of those who’ve brought servants.
Another car soon arrives with a comely curly-haired Kindred in a tight red dress who Caroline saw in passing at Blaze. Annabelle knows better as one of the guests. She asks the others what they’re “waiting around for,” then joins a soon-forming clique with Gwen and Jocelyn.
Rocco: Bella simply smiles blandly, waiting patiently for Simon to return to bring the next group of guests up.
Caroline: The tension of the coiled spring that is Caroline only seems to tighten down at Bella’s declaration of the hound’s intent: that most of the group be kept waiting. Then you should stagger your invitations, she thinks to herself, even knowing that it isn’t actually about that.
Keeping them waiting is about the same things that having her evicted a day before the meeting was about: showing power. How little he needs to care about them and their time. It all but screams ’you’re on my time’. Her uncles are fond of the tactic: she knows Matt habitually schedules meetings with subordinates 15 minutes early so that he’s never kept waiting and they often are.
GM: It doesn’t endear them to him, but they never waste the middle Malveaux brother’s time that way. He considers it an acceptable trade.
Most of the neonates simply chatter among themselves. Becky Lynne has a servant hand over an Sunpad that and connected Bluetooth that she starts tapping on and requesting that someone on the other end “please run these figures for me, will you?”
Her father’s recommended “counterattack” was to never let whoever is keeping you waiting feel like they are able to waste your time.
Rocco: The group is only left waiting a few minutes before the elevator doors re-open and the young, impressionable-looking boy rejoins them with an infectious smile.
“Lady Rebecca Adler, Advocate and Speaker,” she says, addressing Becky Lynne Adler in a formal, respectful tone, “if you would be so kind as to follow Simon to meet with Mr Agnello on the top floor.”
The young boy directs his smile at Becky Lynne, beaming up at the pretty Southern belle.
GM: Becky Lynne spares the ghoul her own a smile and a “thank you most kindly” back, but doesn’t stop talking into the headset. Her assistant follows her in with the tablet.
Rocco: The group is left waiting a few more minutes once again, although eventually Simon returns a third time, this time taking the curly-haired Kindred up with him. The Storyvilles and Caroline are left waiting another few more minutes.
GM: By this point, most of the krewe are looking noticeably irked.
“This is the stupidest power game I’ve ever seen,” Jocelyn mutters in a low voice.
Rocco: Eventually, Simon returns to take Caroline and the Storyville Krewe up to the twenty-sixth floor. The young boy looks positively delighted, reaching up on his toes to press the button in the elevator to take them to the party and meet with the others.
GM: All of the neonates glare as they step in.
Rocco: The young boy, sensing the mood, bows his head in silence. Perhaps he’s afraid they will reprimand him.
Caroline: Caroline says nothing to the boy, her cold, hard, eyes seeming to stare through him. She slides into the elevator near Jocelyn.
Rocco: The elevator lightly jolts and the small group feels a sense of moving up. Unobtrusive elevator music plays in the background as numbered lights at the top of the lift ding with each passing floor.
Eventually, the small group reach the 26th floor. The elevator doors open with the smallest jolt and reveal a spacious, richly-decorated room. A plain-faced musician plays the grand piano. Murmurs of polite conversation are also audible.
A boyish-faced, wavy-haired young man dressed in a plum-colored suit approaches the group. His light, purposeful walk is reminiscent of a cat’s stride. Simon looks up at him with naked reverence. The young man greets the group with a bow from the waist.
“I am glad you were all able to make it to my small get-together.”
Caroline: Caroline regards the hound warily, like a predator backed into a corner. Twice before she took him at face value, and twice before she’s come out the loser for it, despite all of his benign—or even benevolent—intentions. The boyish face is a lie, the smile a jest at all the world. Evil wears many faces.
But then, it also wears her own.
“How could I refuse, Hound Agnello?” Caroline asks with a smile that doesn’t quite reach her eyes. “Your invitation was as unexpected as waking up with your face glued to the floor, but fortunately much more pleasant. It’s a beautiful venue.” She gestures to the room.
Rocco: “I very well couldn’t hold a party without someone as noteworthy as yourself, Miss Malveaux,” the Gangrel mafioso replies, charmingly. “I very well couldn’t hold a party without a krewe as notable as the Storyvilles in any case, either.”
GM: “That’s kind of you, Hound Agnello,” Roxanne answers. Her krewe-mates offer several similar platitudes.
Rocco: “You’re welcome, Miss Gerlette.” Hound Agnello then looks to Simon who is still staring up at his domitor with adoring eyes. “You can receive the refreshments for our guest now, Simon,” he says, looking back to his newly arrived guests with a confident, raised brow as he continues, allowing the group to enter the room and experience the full atmosphere. The small, well-dressed boy springs to action right away, passing a corner as he receives the ‘refreshments’.
Caroline: Truly a personal meeting worth waiting for, Caroline thinks with bitter humor.
“Don’t worry, Hound Agnello, I promise not to get any blood on your nice hardwood floor,” she replies in seeming good humor at his remark about her noteworthiness.
Rocco: “It’s always nice to have such a thoughtful guest,” the hound remarks ruefully, “especially when I plan to formally invite you as a tenant as part of the celebrations tonight.”
Caroline: Caroline shows little surprise at the invitation. “That’s very generous of you, Hound Agnello, especially given how your domain seems to be flourishing.”
Rocco: “You’re too kind, Miss Malveaux. I think it’s important as a show of solidarity and goodwill to establish good ties with the rising stars of our covenant,” he adds, praising her in front of the Storyville Krewe.
“It didn’t escape my notice that you managed to embarrass and thwart the now defunct Eight-Nine-Six on more than one occasion. The fact you managed such a thing on your own is more-so impressive.”
Caroline: “Not entirely on my own,” Caroline deflects gently. “Your other guests here,” she gestures to the Storyvilles, “were instrumental in helping as they grew increasingly unstable.”
Rocco: Hound Agnello appears suitably impressed as his focus is directed to the Storyville Krewe.
“It’s a wonder you haven’t formally invited Miss Malveuax to join the Storyville Krewe,” Rocco says rather offhandedly. “That’s quite impressive.”
GM: The Storyvilles, for their part, continue to converse among themselves as they wait for Simon to arrive with the refreshments.
“We’re closed for new members right now,” Roxanne answers at Rocco’s remark. “Miss Malveaux has a promising enough track record, but we don’t feel it’s a good time with one of our founding members still missing.”
Rocco: “I’ve actually been looking into what happened to Mr. Bourelle,” Rocco says with a thoughtful look on his face as he holds his chin. “There’s certainly some peculiarities in his disappearance.”
GM: “Most of the other Kindred we talked to had the same opinion,” Roxanne grants.
Rocco: “I admit part of the reason I invited your group is to discuss his disappearance in detail,” the hound continues, smiling. “I understand the last time Mr. Bourelle was seen was entering the Baron’s territory. It certainly breeds questions.”
GM: “We last turned up that he was in New Orleans East,” Jocelyn says with a puzzled frown.
Rocco: “That is very interesting.” Rocco adds, “I can look into the matter some more, make sense of our conflicting accounts for a small price if you’ll humor me.”
GM: “There’s always a price,” Wyatt ventures. Not quite a quip, and not quite somber either.
Rocco: The hound laughs, taking on a more boyish demeanor. “You’re quite right, Mr. Jenkins,” he replies, “but I assure you all it’s rather simple.”
He sets his eyes on Caroline.
“I consider myself a proud proponent of my faith and supporter of my covenant. I consider myself personally responsible for our newest members’ betterment.”
“Which brings me to my point. I want Miss Malveaux to join the Storyville Krewe. I’d be wholly irresponsible if I didn’t expect a tenant of mine to be under the protection and guidance of one of our foremost coteries.”
GM: The Storyvilles trade brief looks with one another. They’re less than comfortable ones.
“We’re honored by your consideration, Hound Agnello,” says Roxanne. “We’d like to find Evan, though, before we induct any new members.”
“We’re just not in a good space right now,” says Gwen.
“We’d be glad to trade a boon or whatever else for anything you might know,” Jocelyn adds.
Rocco: Rocco’s smile lessens, turning away from the conversation in apparent boredom.
“It appears your refreshments have arrived,” he says coolly.
Caroline: Caroline doesn’t quite squirm, but can’t hide her discomfort about the exchange from Rocco. It’s embarrassing for all parties involved. Rocco caught without knowing the game, much less all the cards on the table. Roxanne without the ability to offer a satisfactory answer. And herself as the source of it all.
GM: Gwen looks more than a little disomfited by the hound’s cool tone. Jocelyn and Wyatt look uncomfortable too. Roxanne hides it better than her krewemates, but Caroline’s assessment seems apt. Embarrassing for all parties involved.
The Storyvilles look towards the center of the room and the approaching Simon.
Rocco: Simon is flanked by a group of six glassy-eyed mortals. They appear look like lobotomies dressed up in sensuously form-fitting attire. Empty smiles adorn each of their faces in caricature. Simon presents the ‘refreshments’ with a flourish of his hand and another deep, respectful bow.
“I hope these ‘refreshments’ are to your liking,” the small boy chirps, continuing to bow, withdrawing from the group with backward steps.
“Thank you, Simon.” Hound Agnello claims one of the kine first, leisurely pulling a woman to his side.
GM: The awkwardness in the air fades just a bit as the Storyvilles turn to regard their vessels. Most are black women, their faces dolled up with heavy rouge and blood-red lipstick that emphasizes their large lips. They are clad in wide, tightly crisscrossing strips of cashmere leather that reveals at least as much as it conceals. The largest gaps are left along their bellies, thighs, and breast areas. Knee-high stiletto-heeled boots of the same cashmere leather hug their legs up the knee. The leather’s muted red-brown texture goes with their dark skin like flakes of cinnamon over chocolate pudding. Their long curly hair hangs wild and loose, like free-floating smoke any of the neonates could inhale. All present Kindred look notably aroused, including Roxanne.
The other Kindred mill about the room as the pianist plays. They appear divided into two cliques. Andrew and Arzilla are talking with, or perhaps simply talking to Becky Lynne, for the rat-faced boy is snickering over something while the Ventrue wears the same unwavering smile as before. The two dark-skinned androgynous Kindred are conversing with the shapely redhead. Or at least, one of them is. The slightly shorter of the pair seems to be listening but speaks little. The redhead is anything but, and grins as she leans against the half-exposed chest of a tall, tan-skinned man.
“Just look at this one. Italian and Puerto Rican… dangerous combination,” she purrs, stroking his biceps.
There look to be about as many of the scantily-attired, vacant-faced kine as there are Kindred. One of them is a blonde girl who Caroline recognizes from a few functions. Bentley Downs. She’s the daughter of Alec Downs, the fifty-something president of a boat-building company and Lakeview’s Southern Yacht Club, which her Uncle Matt also belongs to (though he’s always had more interest in cars than yachts). Caroline remembers talking to Alec at Cécilia’s charity event, though Bentley wasn’t there. The twenty-something college graduate still lives with her father, and last Alec mentioned at Em’s party, was trying out being a talent agent.
Right now she looks like a whore in the outfit Rocco (or his ghouls) have picked out. Next to the black women and half-Latin man, her white skin particularly stands out against the cashmere leather, making her seem all the more naked and exposed. She wears the same vacuous smile as her fellows.
Caroline: The sight of the fellow socialite dressed as a whore and paraded as little more than mindless walking cattle brings a sick feeling to Caroline’s stomach. Not for the vapid girl, but for how easily it could have been her, or anyone she knew.
For not the first time she wonders how many holes in her memory exist from her mortal years, what pushes and pulls were exerted on her, and how much of her life was really her own. Was she ever a doll at a party like this? The ease with which mortals can be controlled does not leave her missing her mortal life, even as her condition provides only a marginal protection against it. As much as she has been controlled by forces from the outside as one of the Damned, there exists at least the outside potential for her to carve out a path of her own. As just another one of the kine, her fate was a certain as that of any animal at the slaughterhouse.
GM: Meanwhile, as the six enthralled kine halt in front of the Storyvilles, so too do the eyes of the eyes of the other six Kindred guests come to settle upon Rocco, as if waiting for some word or speech now that all of the presumed guests have arrived.
Rocco: Hound Agnello cannot help smiling. “I am glad to see such hungry eyes,” the hound says. “It warms my heart knowing the effort my servants and I put into tonight’s party isn’t underappreciated. We are creatures of the night, of course. We are blood-drinking, immoral monsters. We are wolves among the mortal flock.” The hound looks about the room as all Kindred eyes fall upon him. “This is a night to enjoy ourselves,” he says, “but it’s also a night to reflect on our natures and the laws that our Kindred hold sacrament. It’s also a night I wish to use to welcome and extend a formal invitation to my domain.”
A motley of ghoulish mafiosos enter the spacious room, pulling in a couple of struggling, tied-up mortals. Their leader is dark of hair, dark of eye, and dark of expression, but still handsome enough. He carries a gold-pommeled walking stick against his shoulder, brandishing the item like a club. Caroline recognizes him from Perdido House.
“We are not monsters without reason!” Hound Agnello calls fervently. He then gives the goateed ghoul a meaningful look.
Caroline: She listens to Rocco’s speech as she surveys the room, ‘her’ kind wrapped up in his words and the mortals surrounding them, picked out for them. She pauses her examination only as Rocco pauses, his smoldering gaze locked on the handsome ghoul with the walking stick.
GM: As Caroline’s gaze sweeps the room, it becomes apparent that Bentley isn’t the only mortal she knows.
She almost doesn’t recognize Emily Rosure, the med student at TMC she’s ‘acquainted’ herself with. The moderately tall, black-haired woman is dressed up in the same revealing leather attire as the others instead of her dreary hospital garb. She looks as delectable and vacantly content as any of the other vessels.
Caroline: The sight sends another shiver through Caroline. It feels wrong, invasive, seeing these people she knows like this. Dressed as cheap whores, treated like worse. It’s worse than spying on them in the midst of an intimate act.
Rocco: The pair of tied-up mortals watch on with confused, darkened eyes. The messy, crumpled appearances of both suggest a struggle. They are dressed in boxer shorts and singlets. It looks like they were taken or abducted while they were still sleeping.
“I want you to kill the son first,” Hound Agnello orders, directing his gaze to the younger of the pair. “The son’s sins are the fault of the father’s, so the father must suffer most.”
GM: The father, a portly older man with receding graying hair and crow’s feet around his eyes, is silent throughout the hound’s bizarre (to a mortal) speech.
He gapes incredulously at the sheer abruptness of Rocco’s declaration at its end. This can’t be real.
Caroline: The turn towards violence is not particularly surprising, but it is startling. Her lips press into a thin line.
GM: But it is real. All-too real.
The ghoul cracks his cane across the equally stupefied young man’s face. There’s a sickening crunch from his nose, flecks of red, and a hard thump as the youth’s head smacks against the floor. He screams and strains against his bonds. The father screams too—that he’ll pay Rocco back. Pay him back double. Triple, even. The ghoul brings down the cane again. There’s another gory crack. Two more screams. More drops of red, now over the ghoul’s tight-knuckled hands. He raises the cane again.
Again. Again. And again.
There’s no art to what the ghoul does. No finesse. Not even any spectacle. Just the sickening crunch of human bones shattering and white flesh being beaten red, then blue, then black. The man screams the entire time. The father finally just screams his son’s name, over and over as he sobs. “Paulie! Paulie! PAAAAUULLIEEE!” The son’s cries grow increasingly raw, hoarse, and unintelligible. The ghoul’s body isn’t spattered with blood, but he really went to work on Paulie’s nose, and his hands drip red.
The smell in the air, even past blood’s heady coppery aroma, is exceedingly foul. Killing human beings is messy business even with efficient instruments, and a cane is not an efficient instrument. The father’s screams finally give way to broken sobs. It would be hard to call what comes next mercy, for the man’s fate is the same as his son’s. Just as long. Just as messy. Just as brutal. The ghoul with the red-slick hands wordlessly looks up at his boss once the all but pulverized corpse has stopped twitching.
The silence in the room is deafening.
Caroline doubts this is the first death any of the room’s Kindred room has witnessed. But the sheer abruptness, savagery, and lack of pretension or spectacle around the cold-blooded murders seems to have left the still-young vampires at an absence for words.
Their collective eyes slowly turn towards Rocco.
Caroline: Caroline’s glad she no longer eats: the scene might have made her lose her lunch. She’s killed, and more than once. But never so coldly. Never so brutally. Never so senselessly.
GM: Even more tellingly than their eyes, though, are the fangs jutting from the vampires’ lips. Already titillated by the far comelier and more enticing vessels, the room of predators cannot help but show themselves for what they are. Even the so-often smiling Becky Lynne displays two obvious white fangs past her lips.
It takes a moment before the gathered crowd seems to be conscious of that. That they are not merely stunned bystanders. A new feeling seems to slowly settle over many of the gathered Kindred, one that offers all the comfort of a soaked blanket:
Caroline: Caroline’s gaze sweeps the room, skips over Jocelyn’s toothy vestige, slides off Becky Lynne, tries to pretend she isn’t seeing what she’s seeing. Maybe it’s the smell, not quite right. Maybe it’s her relative ‘youth’. Her face is carved from marble and just as smooth.
GM: Jocelyn looks… uncertain, more than anything else. There’s shock, if not horror, but most of all, confusion. Her eyes have moved towards Rocco’s, as if in search of some answer. Some explanation to cast events in a new light.
Becky Lynne’s expression is simply present. Neither smiling nor frowning. Neither condemning nor approving. Neither soft nor hard. Simply present. Her eyes don’t waver from Rocco’s.
Rocco: Rocco watches the gory show with a bemused look in his eyes. His smile never leaves his face.
“We are monsters, but we are not monsters without reason,” the hound repeats leisurely. “I don’t take pleasure in death, but I won’t shy away from my nature as a wolf among sheep. These men thought they could cheat in my house without repercussion. They thought to gamble their lives and even their family’s lives. Why gamble something as precious as life for so very little?”
The hound taps his chin thoughtfully, continuing to smile to himself. He laughs lightly.
“I suppose it’s time I get straight to my point, however,” the hound continues, “but I do hope you enjoyed the little show.”
Hound Agnello motions for all eyes to move to Caroline. He also signals for Emily Rosure to be by his side. He takes Emily’s hand and offers it to Caroline.
“If you would accept this vessel as a token of my offer, Miss Malveaux,” the hound says, “will you pledge me a tenant’s oath of fealty?”
Caroline: It’s hardly the first time Caroline has been placed on the spot in a crowd, and though she’s grown quite adept and managing such things, she’s never grown particularly comfortable with it. It attacks her sense of control, her sense of power. She likes to know the itinerary ahead of time, to know the acts and motions before they ever come up. Not that Kindred society has let her do that yet.
She smiles, the expressions not quite reaching her eyes. Decisions and calculations made in an instant. She’s not quite surprised—it’s another move along the series she’s already seen from the hound. He likes to be in control, likes decisive action, likes to place others off balance, and simultaneously show his own power and influence. Very different from Donovan, in ways both good and ill. Unpredictable, but predictable in it.
Her gaze sweeps over the room, just once, building that second of anticipation for her answer. Respond too quickly and you risk appearing scripted, or overeager. Besides, it gives the crowd a moment to turn its gaze, for the slower thinkers to catch up to what is happening.
It’s not as though she has much choice right now. Even if she could decline, to do so here, now, in public, would make an enemy of the hound. He’s stacked the deck so heavily, boxed her in. It would hurt his pride. She has enemies enough right now. It does beg the question of why he’s so interested. Simply opportunistic? Part of another plot? Does he know? Questions that she doesn’t have answers to as she speaks.
“Hound Agnello, you do me too much the honor by asking.” The smile doesn’t slip.
She remembers her discussions with others about Rocco as a landlord. His preferences and inclinations. Her gaze bores into the hound.
“And with the details pending,” there’s a hint of a real smile there, “it would be my honor to accept.”
GM: The other nine Kindred don’t yet applaud, but look back towards Rocco once Caroline accepts. Attentions still seem half-split, or at least still somewhat shaken by the cold-blooded murders… this is no audience of jaded elders.
Rocco: Nonetheless, Rocco isn’t shy about showing violence to neonates. It does them good.
“That is an excellent answer, Miss Malveaux,” he says, clearly pleased with the outcome. He gives Emily’s hand to Caroline, offering the vessel to Caroline as a token of their public, newly-formed agreement.
He then turns to the rest of the gathered neonates.
“Business is done,” the hound says with a humorous lilt to his voice, “and so I encourage you all to simply enjoy yourselves now.”
Rocco then steps away from the limelight, casually disentangling himself from Caroline and the Storyville Krewe.
GM: “Then might we begin by offerin’ our congratulations to Miss Malveaux on her new tenancy. And to you, Hound Agnello, on your domain’s new tenant. May her pending oath bring much prosperity to you both,” Becky Lynne finally smiles as she offers a light round of applause. The other ten-some Kindred follow suit in clapping.
The ghoul, meanwhile, starts to carry off the two bodies.
Rocco approaches Amaryllis, and finds he needs to do very little cajoling to get Veronica’s childe to take the stage—though she does tease him about “flying by the seat of his pants.” But then, she continues, “that’s just how you do things, isn’t it? Shoot first. Ask questions never,” the Toreador purrs, running a hand along his chest.
At least she isn’t grabbing him by the balls.
“Hey… Angel Eyes! Hol’ up tha’ skank, s’my turn on the stage!” slurs a voice.
The Leaning Tower of Pisa. That’s the first comparison Rocco can’t help but draw with the thin-waisted, willowy-figured young woman who’s swaying precariously in her tall heels as she addresses him. Her subsequent hiccup and clearly inebriated state as she swishes from a bottle of something alcoholic only further cements the impression that she’s about to topple over. She’s hazel-eyed and dark-haired, and features that would normally be pretty if not sultry are bleary and unfocused from drink.
“You don’t look like you could even find your way up,” Amaryllis scoffs.
“Wash’ me!” the newcomer slurs. Without waiting for any response from Rocco, she stumbles her way up to the microphone set by the piano. The seated player starts to say something before she waves her bottle precariously close to his head, spilling a small stream of booze over his shirt.
The woman grabs up the microphone. “I heard thish ’un from a… nother singer I… like…”
She takes another pull from the bottle.
“Like uh flower… ben’ing in th’… breezhe, dansh wi’ me… make me…”
“No, fuck, ish ‘ben wi’ me’,” she mumbles, taking another pull. “Beeeeen’ wimne, swaaaay wi’ me… no, ease… fuck it.”
“When we dance you have a waaaaaay wimme…”
“Staaaay wimme… swaaaay… wimme…”
“Staaaay with… me, swaaaaay with mee…”
“Sw… swaaaay, with…”
The woman’s voice falters as her face turns green. She abruptly drops the bottle, which shatters as it hits the floor, then doubles over and throws up.
“Oh, god!” the piano player exclaims, recoiling in disgust. The looks on the room’s gathered Kindred acutely mirror his own. Only the dressed-up vessels continue to smile vacantly.
The woman screams as she lands bottom-first on the bottle’s clear fragments, though it also might be over the vomit messily running down the front of her tight dress. She drunkenly tries to half-crawl, half-drag herself away from the glass-littered floor, screaming “ows!” but only succeeds in further cutting her hands and thighs. A coppery red aroma bleeds across the room. She slumps to a stop, holds up her cut and vomit-smeared hands, and abruptly starts crying.
“Oh, g-god! God! OH, G-GOD!”
Caroline: It’s like dropping a bag of dimes in a room full of Goldenbergs. Caroline awkwardly watches the scene, waiting on someone to claim their ghoul.
GM: No one does. The Kindred in the room, even entwined with their vessels, cannot help but stop and stare at the scene. A bizarre blend of equal parts disgust and arousal is written on many faces.
“What the hell is this?” Roxanne snaps over the woman’s crying.
Caroline: “A lost lamb?” Caroline offers with a hint of amusement in her voice.
GM: Arzilla laughs. “Your bad luck, lil’ lamb…”
Caroline: “Is it?”
Caroline’s heels click across the floors. She draws to a stop before the sobbing mortal. So close the blood in the air is so tempting, even to the well-fed Ventrue.
GM: The smashed-drunk woman only seems to half-take in the vampires’ talk as she wipes her hands over her dress. She blearily looks up as Caroline approaches.
Caroline: “You seem to have lost your drink,” she observes, not unkindly. “I guess it’s that kind of party.”
GM: “Oh, g-god, I’m a m-mess…” the woman whines softly.
Rocco: A small, sympathetic smile crosses Hound Agnello’s face as he approaches the prone figure of the drunk, nonsensical singer. His words come soft and soothing.
“Miss Matranga,” he says, helping the woman up and holding her steady, “do you want some help to the bathroom so you can get cleaned up, so you can perform?” He ignores the blood-hungry eyes watching the exchange.
GM: The rugged-looking ghoul who beat the two men to death also moves to steady the woman.
“She’s drunk off her ass, boss. Again. She should be in bed.”
The woman grogs as the two pull her up. The heady scent of her vitae wafts up Rocco’s nostrils. He has not taken a vessel for his own.
Rocco: Hound Agnello gives the handsome ghoul a blank, almost-unreadable look, nodding his head softly.
“You’re right, Guilo,” he answers, finally looking around to smile devilishly at all the curious onlookers. “Thank you for your concern, and do I hope you’ll forgive my short absence while I take Miss Matranga to bed. Please continue to enjoy yourselves and I promise to return shortly.” He motions for Guilo to help carry the singer to the elevator.
GM: Guilo pulls one of her arms around his shoulder, letting Rocco do the same with her other one. ‘Miss Matranga’ groans and says something unintelligible. The elevator doors close over the three’s faces.
For a moment, with the cat away, the mice are left free to make play.
Wednesday night, 23 September 2015, PM
GM: But the cat is not that far off. Perhaps sensing the imminence of his return, the gathered Kindred limit themselves to gawking over the recent spectacle. Wyatt remarks the woman probably isn’t going to come back. Gwen says she might, depending what sins she’s guilty of. Roxanne scoffs that she’s guilty of making a mess of herself in public, for one. Arzilla snickers that she thought it was funny. Andy concurs. The two nameless black Kindred say nothing, but look towards Amaryllis when she takes the microphone. The Toreador’s song prompts Jocelyn to muse about the starkly illustrated differences between Kindred and mortal performers. There was art in this, in a way. Arzilla laughs that “you divas would find art in your own shit, if you still shat out any.” “Aren’t you sewer rats the ones rolling in shit?” Jocelyn retorts. The back-and-forth, however, ends once Rocco returns. Becky Lynne initiates another round of polite applause once Amaryllis steps down. “That was lovely, Miss DeCur, just lovely.”
All the present Kindred partake of their vessels. Some, like Amaryllis, take slowly and savoringly. Others like Andrew chow down once, lapping up as much blood as they can, as fast as they can. Becky Lynne takes sups from her vessel at a more measured pace, perhaps little surprise to Rocco when he spots Andrew drinking from the scantily-attired kine he’d selected for the Ventrue. Nevertheless, Matheson’s childe makes no mention of it to Rocco or his own progeny. Caroline, however, may be pleased to note the presence of a dark-skinned, sultry- (if somewhat worn-)looking woman who tastes ‘like college’ to her refined palate.
No one drinks too deeply. Once the last Kindred have finished partaking of their vessels, they look towards Rocco to see if he has anything else planned. In the event that he does not, the Gangrel’s guests listen politely to his parting words, thank him for the enjoyable evening, promise to invite him to events of their own, and then make their way out. Becky Lynne and Roxanne offer further congratulatory words on his new tenant (and to Caroline on her new lord) that the other Creoles swiftly echo. Gwen compliments Rocco on the fine and specific quality of the vessels chosen. Even Arzilla agrees with that.
Those Kindred whom Rocco wishes to meet with after the party are agreeable, and either pull out phones or summon their ghouls to keep occupied until the hound is available.
Jocelyn doesn’t waste a moment as she makes her way up to Caroline and furiously whispers, “Did you hear him, earlier? He knows something about Evan!”
Caroline: Caroline is more skeptical. “Maybe, or perhaps it was bait on a hook.”
GM: Jocelyn shakes her head. “Rocco wouldn’t just make something up, not if he was actually gonna trade it for a boon or whatever. You’ve got to make him spill—this could be our big break!”
Caroline: Our big break. Caroline tries to hide the sting from the fact that even in the inclusive word, she’s been excluded in truth.
“I’ll talk to him… maybe pitch it as aligning with his desires.”
GM: “Whatever it takes,” Jocelyn repeats. “The Baron being behind it would make so much sense. No wonder Wells didn’t turn up anything.”
Caroline: “Why does the Baron make more sense?” Caroline asks, quietly nursing her own theory.
GM: “Because we’ve harassed a bunch of voodoo gangbangers in the Ninth.”
Caroline: “So, payback? Abduct one of yours?” Caroline nods her head from side to side. “That might make sense, but why not do anything other than abduct?”
GM: Jocelyn falls quiet. After the amount of time that’s gone by, she’s clearly hoping that all the Baron did was abduct him.
Caroline: Caroline bites her lower lip. “Sorry. I’ll dig into it.”
GM: “I guess you have some leverage. He really seemed like he wanted you to join the krewe.”
Caroline: “Yeah, he’s been… oddly helpful. Or at least interested. Controlling,” Caroline offers.
GM: “Wonder why?”
Caroline: “Me too,” Caroline offers more darkly.
Thursday night, 24 September 2015, AM
GM: “Hound Agnello, now what can I do for you?” Becky Lynne smiles at the hound after the pair have made their way down to his shipping container ‘office’ after the party’s dispersal.
“I certainly hope it’s somethin’ by which I can show my appreciation for these past few hours of fine entertainment and finer company.”
Rocco: “You’re certainly a credit to your sire, Miss Adler,” the hound responds with genuine smile, offering a seat to the Southern belle.
“I can say with the utmost confidence that the party would have been dimmer without your presence, and for that presence I am thankful. I was hoping to discuss the recent trial and wish to know your thoughts.”
GM: Becky Lynne gracefully assumes a seat opposite of the hound.
“I’d say you’re much too kind, Hound Agnello. But my mama always taught me never to spur another’s kindness, so I’ll simply say I’m much obliged.”
“And my goodness, the trial, now where does one even begin.” The Ventrue taps her chin as she gathers her thoughts. “I’m very grateful that Prince Vidal found my sire innocent, of course, and showed such clemency to my brother. There’s no beatin’ around the bush over it either, Mr. Smith said some very contentious things. But the Invictus won’t soon forget His Majesty’s verdict towards one of the Prima Invicta, nor will I. Whether the times ahead are easy or hard, it’s my hope that the events of last week will remind our covenants of their common bonds and inspire even closer relations.”
Rocco: “I agree. Very contentious. I understand Mr. Smith was close to your sire before recent events obviously got out of hand,” the hound says casually, “as he was the one to interview the neonates that visited your sire at his plantation. In any event, I admit the main reason I wished to speak to you tonight is that I am worried that the lies Mr. Smith told will create trouble for you. I want to make sure that Prince Vidal’s verdict is respected.”
Hound Agnello then asks bluntly, “Do you know if anybody is targeting you personally or your sire’s interests in reprisal of the verdict?”
GM: “Oh, Hound Agnello, that makes feel just so good that the Guard de Ville is concerned for my safety,” beams Becky Lynne. “I’m sure y’all have a million things on your plates right now.”
“If I had to expect trouble from anyone, I’d expect it of Mr. Savoy’s people or the Anarchs who’ve also taken up with him,” the Ventrue answers. “I don’t know that I’ve been targeted by anyone specifically, but the possibility hasn’t escaped my sire or brother-in-blood.” She smiles again. “I feel like a lucky girl to have such concerned family.”
“As for my sire, I suspect he’d be a target of reprisal before me in some ways, and after me in others—he’s the one who His Majesty’s dissenters are so spittin’ mad over, but also a less convenient target than I am.”
She gives a little laugh. “I’m sure none of this is news to the Guard de Ville, though, y’all didn’t get where you are by only havin’ only one oar in the water. I wish I had more to pass up.”
Rocco: Rocco gives a soft, boyish laugh. “I apologize for my bluntness, but I assure you I only ask with yours and your kin’s welfare in mind. I can’t allow anyone to undermine Prince Vidal’s judgment. I only ask, Miss Adler, that you let your sire know of my concern and let him know that he can count on me as an ally at this time. In that regard, I was also hoping to set up a meeting with your sire to thank him personally for helping me out with a spot of recent bother.”
GM: “Oh, I should offer my own apologies, Hound Agnello, if I gave the impression any were needed! My mama always said to never apologize for carin’, and I don’t reckon you should either.”
She smiles at the Gangrel’s subsequent statement and request. “My sire and I won’t forget who our friends are, Hound Agnello—and I hope you know you can count on us, too. I’ll be only too glad to arrange a meetin’ between you and my sire. If I might ask as to what times would be most convenient…”
Becky Lynne listens to Rocco rattle off the next convenient openings in his schedule, then says she will see which times are most convenient for her sire.
Rocco: “Very kind of you, Miss Adler.”
The hound adds as an afterthought, “I am curious, is your sire still looking for neonates to give him company?”
GM: Becky Lynne laughs. “Oh, right now he’s more than willin’ to bear the solitude, lest any further meetings give rise to more bad rumors. He’s being very careful about that sort thing right now. If any neonates have the inclination to seek him out, I think he’d prefer if they met him in coteries—or better yet, accompanied by older Kindred. Just so there’s less basis for rumors.”
Rocco: “I only ask with my own childe Andrew in mind,” the hound replies.
GM: “Perhaps the two of you might make the trip out together? A long drive is so much shorter with fond company,” Becky Lynne smiles.
Rocco: “I like the sound of that.”
GM: The Ventrue inclines her head. “I’m so very pleased to hear, Hound Agnello.” She supplies him with a phone number. “You can give me a ring after you and Mr. Philips have hashed out schedules, how does that sound?”
Rocco: “Very good, Miss Adler,” he says, returning the polite gesture. “I am finished with my business. Is there anything further you wish to discuss with me?”
GM: Matheson’s childe nods. “Oh yes, just one last itty-bitty thing—there was a bit of a mix-up on my way over to your party, and I arrived a few minutes before it was due to start. If your people think they made me wait and are frettin’ over it, I just want you to know they don’t need to—the fault was mine. In the future I’ll try to be more punctual so as not to spook them.” She smiles. “That isn’t advice just for tardy folks.”
Rocco: Hound Agnello gives the Southern belle an understanding, apologetic look in response. His angel eyes twinkle with apparent sincerity.
“I will certainly let them know, Miss Adler,” Rocco responds, getting the real message, “and thank you for your patience and will see to it that you’re invited earlier on purpose in lieu of waiting at all in the future.”
He smiles, then rises from his seat, waiting for Becky Lynne to take her leave.
GM: Becky Lynne smiles and rises in turn.
“Good things come to those who wait, it’s said—and I’d say an early invite to Hound Agnello’s next soiree more than qualifies.”
She dips into a curtsy and exchanges final pleasantries, re-stating that she will contact Rocco soon with her sire’s answer, and takes her leave.
Thursday night, 24 September 2015, AM
Rocco: Rocco summons Caroline to meet with him next. Simon tells her that it’ll be at Hound Agnello’s office. The ‘office’ is located inside a shipping container beneath Harrah’s New Orleans in its employee’s underground car park. The exterior is a cold, industrial blue, although its inside has been refurbished expensively.
Rocco stands to one side, stroking his chin thoughtfully. He smiles leisurely as Caroline enters, gesturing for her to take a seat next to her vessel of the night: Emily Rosure. A tall ghoul with a slim build stands behind the bar and polishes glasses. He stares unflinchingly.
GM: The ghoul is a gaunt-faced man with thinning, slicked-back hair. A pair of round spectacles remain precariously perched on the end of his slightly hooked nose. He wears a dark suit, and bowtie, and a simultaneously thoughtful and unctuous expression that leaves his brow in a seemingly permanent crease. He remains silent in the vampires’ presences.
Rocco: There is a pause as Rocco waits for Caroline to sit or stand. “Do you want a drink, Miss Malveaux?” the hound asks, smiling wryly.
Caroline: Caroline slinks into the offered seat with feline grace. Her almost lackadaisical motions belie a coiled energy. Her gaze sweeps over the too-stoic ghoul after taking in the container. It’s a unique setting, bizarrely dark and morbid in its offered exterior. She distantly wonders if that’s more for effect, or if he’s ever actually had the container moved for convenient meetings.
She smiles at last. “I think not yet, Hound Angello. Business before pleasure.”
She tries to keep the chill of it out of her mind, tries to keep the blood of the young woman beside her off her mind—aided only by how off she smells. Like overripe fruit. Rotten.
Between the setting, the young woman beside her, and the casual brutality of the evening already, to say nothing of being homeless for the first time in her life, her nerves are already worn thin.
Rocco: “Thank you for your directness, Miss Malveaux,” the hound answers, turning to face the statuesque blonde more properly.
His smile wavers. “I hope you found some interest in my choice of vessel for you tonight. I hope you can forgive that she does not fit your tastes, although bringing her here serves a salient point.”
He then asks, “What is your relationship with Emily Rosure?”
GM: Emily stares sleepily ahead. She’s still ‘dressed’ in the same tightly crisscrossed strips of cashmere leather that reveals more than it conceals. Her heavy rouge and blood-red lipstick looks a bit smeared and her hair is somewhat mussed.
Caroline: “Hardly your fault, Hound Agnello. Some of us are just picky.”
“As to Ms. Rosure,” Caroline turns to face the whored-up girl, “she attended several undergraduate classes with me before taking her current position. I’d stayed in touch—family habit, I suppose, of cultivating potential assets—though I’d not characterize our relationship as particularly close.”
Rocco: Rocco frowns, shaking his head in a disapproving manner. His tone remains patient, though.
“You won’t succeed without being more careful than that, Miss Malveaux. Emily Rosure is an employee of Tulane Medical Center. Tulane Medical Center is the domain of the Krewe of Janus. I am not unfamiliar with your attempt to cultivate potential assets within the police force. I don’t want to see you repeat the same mistakes, especially now that I am inviting you into my domain. Do we have an understanding?”
Caroline: Caroline sets her expression in stone.
“Hound Angello, it almost sounds as though you’re accusing me of deliberately cultivating assets within the Krewe’s center of influence despite having had no contact with her since my Embrace.”
Rocco: “I don’t have time for your games, Miss Malveaux,” Rocco answers blandly, “but I will make note that your legal mind is exactly the reason I am interested in you as a tenant and see you as a potential asset. I will say upfront that I have not seen an outright breach of domain, but I want to make a point that your direct and indirect actions as of late are not beyond the scope of my notice. I will also note that hard evidence isn’t a factor if the Krewe of Janus decide to act against you. They can act against you with impunity, although I would prefer you give them no reason to. If you don’t want to see any negative backlash from the Krewe of Janus, will you accept some advice?”
Caroline: “If your guidance was intended as an intervention, Hound Agnello, perhaps it would have been more effective prior to the sheriff’s delivery of a dear friend’s head to me in a box without warning, along with at tripling of my corvée for the week.”
The Ventrue’s eyes are clear of anger, but there’s something else there.
Rocco: “I am sure you have more dear friends, Miss Malveaux,” the hound replies, “and I am sure you don’t want to see their heads being delivered to you in a box, as well.”
He indicates the blank-faced Emily Rosure is off to the side.
“I am not your enemy. I am offering my patronage, but trying to teach someone unwilling to learn does get tedious after a while. In any case, I suggest you offer the Krewe of Janus an apology in case of any offense you caused. You don’t have to take my advice, of course—but I think it’s the most expedient way for you to preempt any potential reprisal.”
Caroline: Caroline’s expression shifts to more wary, and a bite of anger takes a chunk out of her composure. the hound’s words might as well have been followed by an ‘or else.’
Rocco: Rocco pauses a moment, taking in Caroline’s reaction. He then continues, “I will also offer some advice in regard to using mortals belonging to someone else’s domain. Say you want Emily Rosure to make an appearance at a party you’re throwing, it’d be prudent to ask the Krewe of Janus if that’s all right with them while offering them a boon in payment for that service.”
Rocco leans back, comfortably clasping his hands together with an oddly warm smile on his face.
“Do we have an understanding?” he asks, cheerfully. “I would very much like to move forward and talk about the terms of your tenancy.”
Caroline: The Ventrue ‘heiress’ stares at the older Kindred. There’s something different about him, something since the last meeting they had at Perdido House, when Autumn and Aimee and Gabriel were at the center of attention. When he’d seemed… less aggressive in his interactions.
Part of her wonders if it’s a product of her release, if he’s simply less ‘accepting of errors’ if she’s supposed to be one of the Damned. But she also remembers the expressions on the faces of the other Kindred during the father and son murders earlier. Not the hunger and excitement that came later as the blood flowed. The surprise and discomfort.
Whatever the cause, it’s not worth fighting, not worth swimming up river against, not when he’s already displayed the lengths he’ll go to wrangle her into this position. Not anymore. It’s not as though he’s actually listening, or anyone is watching. She’s made her point, for what it’s worth. He can push her around, shove her, force her. Tonight he holds all the cards. But if that’s what he wishes it, he’ll have to push.
“I certainly hope so, Hound Agnello,” she replies to his question, making no commitment. “But yes, let us move onto more personal matters. You did, after all, go through significant trouble to make that discussion possible, Hound Agnello. How many I be of use?”
Rocco: Rocco leans back, giving Caroline a self-satisfied smirk. “Good.”
He asks, “Are you at all familiar with a man in the Orleans Parish Prison named Salustio Matranga, Miss Malveaux?”
Caroline: “I have,” Caroline answers. “A mob boss whose trial hasn’t rolled around yet.”
Rocco: “I have a vested interest in seeing that this man is free from prison. Now,” Rocco continues, casually, “the problem is I am no lawyer. I can certainly hire mortal ones, but there is a distinct advantage in utilizing a Kindred lawyer like yourself.”
Caroline: Caroline nods. “I could certainly see that position, however I find it difficult to believe that all of this has been for the sake of a single mob boss.” She smiles. “Certainly it would have been easier to offer a boon in that case.”
Rocco: “What lengths would Father Malveaux go to protect his own vested interest in any one of your family members?” Rocco asks rhetorically. “I have political reasons for not wanting to offer a boon to the one impeding Salustio’s freedom. The chief reason is that it’s a direct rival of mine.”
Caroline: Caroline smirks. “I’m sorry, you mistake my meaning, Hound Agnello. I meant it would seem to have been easier to offer a boon to myself, or to the sheriff, for my services, rather than go through the trouble of having me evicted for the sake of a single trial.”
Rocco: “You are correct, then,” Rocco freely admits without losing his smile. “It may have been easier.”
The Ganrel rubs the bottom of his chin for a few moments with a musing expression. He then returns his brown eyes to Caroline. “In any case, this is what I have in mind for our tenancy agreement…”
The terms of Rocco’s tenancy are straightforward: he will grant feeding rights to Caroline, allowing her to hunt in his domain with the exceptions of Harrah’s and Fulton Street. Caroline will also be allowed to make a haven and conduct business in Rocco’s domain, too—so long as any influence she attempts to cultivate is vetted through the hound first. In corvée, Rocco wants a simple favor every week.
GM: The ghoul behind the counter seems to have finished polishing his glasses. He doesn’t make any polite pretense of re-cleaning them. He just stares at Caroline. The terms of Rocco’s tenancy are straightforward, but unlike last time, the Ventrue is aware that haggling over those terms is also allowed.
Emily continues to stare vacantly ahead.
Caroline: Caroline’s terms in response are not complicated: she wants assets and resources cultivated in the domain unmolested and (certainly) not revoked over spats. She wants her services to him to him not others without prior arrangement. She also wants reciprocity on terminating their arrangement and lead time if such becomes necessary. It’s rather clear that her experience with Donovan in which she was granted essentially nothing then summarily evicted without notice has scarred her.
She is also rather clear, upfront, that she intends on accumulating significant influence, and that let to do so, she’ll be among the most useful of tenants, one that only ever increases in value and power, but if his intentions are to keep her in a box, he’s sought the wrong neonate out.
Rocco: Rocco smiles at Caroline’s desire to be a useful tenant, but is rather prickly on the idea of letting her cultivate any influence she wants. In combination with Caroline’s ability to terminate their agreement on a whim, that would disadvantage the Gangrel rather significantly.
As Rocco continues to listen to Caroline’s demands, baring an unreadable, easy smile, he looks to his willowy ghoul.
“Can you please get Annabelle, Corbin?” he asks.
GM: “Right away, boss,” the ghoul quietly responds with a thinner, almost vulture-like smile. He doesn’t stride so much as slink away.
Rocco: The hound turns back to Caroline with a glint in his eye. His smile has grown just a little.
“Forgive my pause in our talk, Miss Malveaux. I thought it would be prudent to receive my herald as she will be handling the bulk of my dealings with you,” he explains.
In a matter of moments, Rocco’s raven-haired herald is let into the ‘negotiating room’. A gloomy, subdued smile rests on her face as she’s directed by the hound to take a seat next to her domitor. Corbin reenters the room, closing the door behind him as he slinks back behind his counter.
The hound turns to Annabelle, smiling affectionately. “I was hoping you could help with the negotiations taking place between Miss Malveaux and I, Bella. I am peckish and can’t help being distracted.” His eyes linger on Emily’s neck.
“Of course, Hound Agnello,” Annabelle answers demurely. She gives Caroline a neutral smile and effortlessly takes over where her domitor left off.
Caroline: Caroline attempts to build her case for tenancy, to lay out her own desires and requests. She’s summarily taken apart by the ghoul, with the backing of the hound, who lays out demands and summarily dismisses Caroline’s own with equal ease.
In the end, between her prior agreement to be his tenant and his overwhelming positional authority, there’s little she can do. In another circumstance she’d walk out. Instead she agrees to his terms.
When they’ve finished ‘negotiations’ on tenancy Caroline turns the topic back to the Storyvilles. “You’d alluded to knowing something about the disappearance of one of their members, Hound Angello.”
Rocco: the hound’s herald bows her head, eyeing her domitor wistfully as he reenters the conversation. The young man’s demeanor is like a cat who’s had their fill of milk.
“I did,” Rocco says, “but I have no interest in helping anyone who has no interest in helping me.”
Caroline: “And what of myself, rather than for them?” Caroline asks.
Rocco: Rocco leans forward, eyes studying Caroline more seriously.
“What’s your interest in the matter, Caroline?” he asks.
Caroline: “Other than the question of the welfare of one of the faithful?” Caroline asks with some innocence. “It is not difficult to see why the Storyvilles would be both preoccupied with their own matters with one of their own missing—they’d be a poor krewe if such were not a foremost concern—but also reluctant to take on a neonate with little public or private credit to their name.”
“And whether or not they were willing to change their minds in light of, say, uncovering evidence related to their missing member or not, doing so could only improve my standing among others in the Sanctified as a whole. To say nothing of how it would give me a reason to meet with many others among the Sanctified under a… respectable pretense.”
Rocco: Rocco appears unconvinced by Caroline’s rhetoric, but sighs a little as he relents.
“I know where Evan Bourelle was last seen, who he was last seen with,” Rocco admits, “but a little more legwork is necessary.”
The hound rubs his chin. “I would be willing to trade these two pieces of information for a price, of course.”
“I want you to procure a ghoul for me. The ghoul goes by the name of Mabel and is currently in the Storyville Krewe’s care. Are you interested?”
Caroline: “Interested, certainly, Hound Agnello,” Caroline replies smoothly.
Rocco: “Good. Our business is concluded, then.”
Caroline: The heiress makes her polite withdrawal.
The meeting’s fruits aren’t everything she hoped for, but they’re better than she had when she came in.