Campaign of the Month: October 2017

Blood and Bourbon

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Story Six, Caroline IX

“I fucked up, Jocelyn… badly. Maybe I fucked everything up.”
Caroline Malveaux


Sunday night, 20 September 2015, AM

GM: Caroline finds herself in a bare office room draped with plastic sheets. A bandaged, maimed, bruised Turner lies in a heap on the ground. Her vision is angry and unfocused. The Hussar stands nearby, holding a handgun with an attached silencer.

“The seneschal has said you may say what you will to her,” the scarred ghoul declares, his teeth visible through the hole in his burned cheek.

Caroline: Caroline aches, not just in her body, but down to her very soul, and the sight of the wrecked Turner does little for her. She turns her gaze from the Hussar to the maimed ghoul.

“Turn-” she stops. “Amanda?” she asks.

GM: “Hell’s going on? Where am I?” the Blackwatch merc grits out. Hurt as she is, her state looks little different than when Caroline saw her last in the Ventrue’s own home, all the way down to the bandages swathed around her shot-off, missing ear and crippled hand.

The Hussar stares impassively.

Caroline: “Just… I’m sorry, Amanda. I tried. I…” She looks away. "There’s nothing I can do. I’m so sorry. I… "

She looks back, fighting tears, and draws in a staggered breath.

“I need to know, is there anything you want? Any last requests. Anything I can do for you, or give you before the end?”

GM: “The fuck are you talking about, the en…”

Her gaze drifts towards the Hussar’s firearm.

Takes in Caroline’s dismayed expression.

Caroline: “It’s my fault, Amanda. You never did anything wrong… you did everything I ever asked of you… they’re punishing me with you. I never meant for it to happen… I…”

She wipes away the beginnings of bloody tears.

“I’m sorry can’t make it right. But I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.”

GM: A shadow crosses the already scarred, disfigured, bandage-enshrouded woman’s face. It’s one of the blackest, ugliest looks Caroline has ever seen, and not because Turner isn’t going to win any beauty pageants.

“This is what I get!?” she spits.

Caroline: Caroline takes the look, the hate within it. A knife into her chest beside the still bleeding wound in her heart.

“If you need to yell at me, hate me… I understand.”

She continues, “And if there’s anything else you want that I can give you. Last messages, wishes, anything.”

GM: “Oh shut the fuck up, you pampered blubbering cunt. Do it yourself if you’ve got the guts.” The mercenary’s bulging, black-rimmed eyes stare daggers at her domitor.

Caroline: Caroline looks to the Hussar.

GM: The dark-eyed ghoul merely stares back at her.

Caroline: “Will you permit it?” she asks.

GM: “That’s right, you little bitch, go ask permission. Wouldn’t want my murder to be inconvenient, huh!?” Turner snarls.

Caroline: Caroline clenches her teeth.

GM: The Hussar impassively stares at Caroline only to finally reply, “Mesmerize her into holding the gun to her head, then pull the trigger yourself. The death is to resemble a suicide.”

Caroline: “I understand,” she replies, tears still in her eyes as she turns her gaze back to Turner.

“Is there nothing else you want, Amanda?” she asks, pain in her voice.

GM: “Yeah, there’s one thing.”

Caroline: Caroline waits for her to name it.

GM: “C’mere.”

Caroline: “Are you sure you want to do this, Amanda?” Caroline asks gently. “You’re better than that, much better than me, than I ever was.”

GM: “You’re just another job, cunt. And backstabber. You don’t get to call me Amanda.”

There’s no warning. Suddenly, the upright mercenary bolts towards Caroline with an awkward half-shuffle, half-blur of motion. It’s a bizarre sight, and not fast enough for Caroline to avoid catching the fist that drives at her face.

“Stop,” the Hussar orders imperiously.

Caroline: Caroline meets the ghoul’s eyes.

“Stop.”

GM: Amanda’s eyes rivet to the Hussar’s. The tension in her muscles goes slack, then she crashes to the ground in a heap.

Caroline: Caroline shakes her head gently from side to side, but she obliges.

“I know you must believe that, Turner. That I betrayed you. But I never did. If I had the power to spare you… they didn’t give me a choice.”

GM: “Enough of this,” the prince’s ghoul declares with a rising impatience. He extends his firearm to Caroline.

Turner looks up and spits in the Ventrue’s face.

Caroline: Caroline pauses and wipes the spit from her face. She takes the .44 Magnum from the Hussar and puts it to Turner’s head.

Grip the weapon here,” she orders, turning over the grip. “Hold it here.

“If it makes you feel better, Turner, I suspect I’ll see you in Hell before long.”

GM: Turner’s livid face becomes a blank mask as she robotically accepts the gun and presses it to the side of her cranium.

Caroline: “Goodbye, Turner… and I am sorry.”

GM: “Fuck you,” the ex-Marine snarls.

Caroline: She squeezes the trigger.

GM: Turner’s head explodes, blood flying every which direction like spray from a violently shaken soda can. The Ventrue heiress is showered in gore, skull fragments, and pulped cranial matter. The smell is ungodly. Turner’s ruined, half-upright corpse slumps onto the plastic-coated floor with a messy wet thump.

The Beast, mad and ravenous, surges against its bonds.

Caroline: Caroline closes her eyes against the spray of gore and steps away. She bows her head in quietly murmured prayer. In truth it’s as much out of need as want. The Beast is tearing apart her already aching chest, screaming its rage and need. Need for violence, for blood, for revenge. The Hussar, so close might as well be a busty co-ed for how demanding the Beast is for his blood. Turner’s own foul ichor calls to her. Perhaps it’s only because it’s a rage she has felt so many times already, perhaps it’s only because of how dead she feels already tonight. Maybe the Beast is as tired as she is. She lets out a slow shuddering breath amid her quiet murmur.

“Eternal rest, grant unto her, O Lord,
and let perpetual light shine upon her.
May the souls of the faithful departed
through the mercy of God rest in peace.
Amen.”


GM: The Hussar’s lip curls in the aftermath of Turner’s death, as if he is about to speak, but the old ghoul remains silent through the prayer.

Caroline: She opens her eyes and looks back to the Hussar.

“Thank you.”

GM: The Hussar regards Caroline with the same impassive stare as before.

“You will not testify on Mr. Matheson’s behalf at the trial. You will personally notify him, at your soonest convenience, of your apologies for wasting his time.”

Caroline: “May I give him any reason for not offering such testimony?”

GM: “Yes,” the Hussar haughtily declares with all the disdain of a man regarding a child who is picking their nose, “it is the same one for which you will tender apologize to Mr. Savoy for.”

Caroline: “My gross ignorance and rudeness?”

GM: The dark-eyed ghoul only stares.

Caroline: Caroline mentally prepares herself for another beating at the hands of the sadistic elder.

GM: “You will attend the trial for the sole purpose of your release, which shall be in name only and occur but for the sole purpose of the Church Eternal’s public image. Prince Vidal’s absence from the proceedings cannot be excused, so he will similarly lack cause not to perform the ceremony with his own hands—a privilege for which you are entirely unworthy,” the prince’s herald pronounces in a haughty tone that sounds as if he is simultaneously swallowing bile.

Caroline: Caroline is already so far beaten into the ground as to show little response to the Hussar’s cruel words.

She nods her head and murmurs, “I understand,” while coated in the blood and brains of her once-protector.

The protector she murdered. In less than a night her entire world has come crashing down again.

GM: “Sheriff Donovan will contact you at a later date to coordinate efforts against Claire Malveaux’s hunter network,” the Hussar finishes. “You may go.”

Caroline: “Thank you.”

Caroline glances down once more at the mangled corpse. Another life destroyed. She turns and walks out of the room.

GM: The last words she hears are uttered by the Hussar into his phone:

“Disposal.”


Sunday night, 20 September 2015, AM

GM: “Caroline? Where are you?!” Jocelyn exclaims over the Ventrue’s borrowed phone.

Caroline: The Toreador’s voice is like a cool breeze blowing over a burning wound, a gentle balm that doesn’t heal the damage, but soothes it in the moment.

“I… Perdido House.”

She just wants to cry. To curl up in a ball.

“I fucked up, Jocelyn… badly. Maybe I fucked everything up.”

GM: Its lender, a broad-shouldered African-American man in a black suit, sunglasses and ear radio, stares ahead at the descending elevator’s buttons. He’s not making any sudden moves, but Caroline can tell the posture of a security contractor who’s expecting trouble. The pounding of the man’s jugular and the hot blood rushing through the man’s body is simply maddening to the starved Ventrue.

Caroline: She turns away from him, closes her eyes, focuses only on the sound of Jocelyn’s voice on the phone.

GM: “Okay… calm down, you’re still alive, that’s… that’s big. The seneschal let you live!”

Jocelyn’s voice tries to sound joyful, but Caroline can all but see her fragile expression. Like a cracked and teetering piece of pottery about ready to fall off a ledge.

Caroline: “Yeah,” Caroline replies, trying to put false happiness into her voice, like a dying parent trying to comfort a scared child.

“He… it’s… it’ll be okay… I… Jocelyn, I hate to call you like this again. I hate to ask you for anything after this, after you already put everything on the line with him… there’s no one else to call. I’m going to hurt someone, Jocelyn… I’m so close right now. I need to get out of here before I try to hurt one of the prince’s ghouls…”

GM: “Okay, I can drive over… but I don’t have any juice or anything, not without time to hunt…”

Caroline: “I’ve got some at my house… maybe enough. I just… if I have to lose it it can’t be here… it can’t be on anyone here.”

GM: “How am I gonna get into your house, though, even if the guards outside let me in? I mean… is there a burglar alarm or whatever, if I break a window?”

Caroline: “The alarm should be off… there’s a spare key under the brick in the planter closest to the door on the left, if he even bothered to lock up. The place is trashed…” Talking to Jocelyn helps keep her mind off everything else, but especially the hunger.

“The alarm should be off…” Talking to Jocelyn helps keep her mind off everything else, but especially the hunger. “I don’t know if he locked it…” God it hurts. Everything hurts.

GM: “Well, if I break in… there’s some pretty serious security there, I might not make it out.”

Caroline: “No!”

The word comes out too sharply.

“No.”

She’s practically shaking with need, but the thought of something happening to the Toreador is too much, it cuts through the raw physical need like an emotional razor.

GM: “So… so what do we do, if you’re about to go apeshit?” Jocelyn worriedly asks.

Caroline: “The trunk. I just have to get out of here. I could get in the trunk to get away… I couldn’t hurt you from there.”

GM: “Okay, I guess I can’t think of anything better… hold on, I’ll be there in a bit.”

Caroline: “Can you stay on the line?” Caroline asks. “You’re helping me keep it together.”

GM: “Okay, sure, uh… how’d… whatever happened, go? You didn’t get killed, at least?”

Caroline: “It’s… complicated. He was going to.”

Caroline keeps her eyes closed, focuses entirely on the conversation. Anything to block out the raging Beast.

“He was going to fucking do it right there, Jocelyn. On the spot.” There’s genuine fear in her voice.

GM: “Oh shit, that’s… heavy…”

Caroline: “I managed to convince him to give me some time… just a bit of time. I can’t even tell you what it cost. Can’t imagine what it already cost you, all of this. God, I’ll make it up to you.”

She can barely hear her own voice over the raging of the Beast inside her and the sound of beating hearts around her.

GM: “Time? What do you mean, this isn’t over?” Jocelyn asks.

Caroline: “It’s complicated… I’ll tell you details in person. In private.”

GM: There’s a dinging noise. The ground under Caroline’s feet stops descending. She hears the doors rumble open.

“Stay in the elevator,” the lender of Caroline’s phone says tersely.

The irresistible thump-thump-thump of blood coursing through his veins grows slightly more distant. But not nearly enough.

Caroline: She backs herself into the corner, sagging against the modern finish of the shining steel box.

GM: “God, can’t we just… get a break!?” Jocelyn’s voice demands in frustration.

Caroline: "I have to arrange my death… I had to kill one of my ghouls… "

GM: “Oh, jeez… why?”

Caroline: “When the Hussar came to get me he attacked me… I lost it. I guess tore him up pretty badly.”

GM: “Oh shit, you attacked the prince’s herald!?

Caroline: “I lost it,” she repeats. “So that was the prince’s cut on things….”

GM: “Caroline… you can’t keep doing this! They’re gonna kill you!”

Caroline: “I know!” It comes out as a near-shriek of frustration. “I didn’t know all of this was going to happen. I didn’t wake up and decide to attack him. But this is it, Jocelyn… no more chances. No more mistakes.”

GM: “Fuck, Caroline, just… what happened there?”

Caroline: “I’ll tell you everything that I can,” she replies. “Everything.”

GM: “Okay… where do you wanna go when I get there, your house?”

Caroline: “It’s probably best. I have enough on hand there… to get stable maybe. Stable enough. I don’t know what I would have done, Jocelyn, if you hadn’t picked up.”

GM: “…called a Ryde?” The Toreador sounds like she’s trying to joke. It doesn’t like even she finds it funny.

Caroline: “I hear RydeEats is supposed to be a thing…”

GM: “Really? I didn’t know about that, is it like… food delivery?”

Caroline: “Meals on wheels,” Caroline tries to joke back.

Anything to stay in the moment, rather than in the next.

GM: “I heard there was a lick who got one of them to come over or something, just for kicks.”

“But it seems kinda mean, they’re just volunteers getting food to old people.”

Caroline: “I mean… depends on how old the lick is, right? They might have just as much right to service for the elderly.”

GM: “I dunno, I think our elders can manage.”

Caroline hears a car pulling into the underground parking garage. A door opens and shuts.

“Okay, I’m here, where are you?”

Caroline: “In the elevator.”

GM: “Okay, come out.”

Caroline: Caroline opens her eyes and takes a step out.

GM: Jocelyn’s white Toyota Yaris is parked a short ways away. Jocelyn is standing outside the car with her phone, looking around.

The Beast salivates and gnashes its teeth. All that luscious blood, that she’s already partaken of…

Caroline: Caroline sets the phone down right outside the elevator and crosses the parking lot at a brisk walk. There’s a pained smile on her face.

GM: Its lender picks it up from the corner of her eye. Jocelyn looks over and smiles back at first, but the already strained expression swiftly gives away to alarm.

“Oh god you’re a mess, get in the trunk, quick!”

Caroline: Caroline doesn’t need to be told twice, but tries to keep the smile on.

“Just pop it when we get there. Let me go inside first,” she says, hurriedly, as she climbs into the cramped dark space.

GM: The lid thumps shut behind Caroline. The cramped space has several prominent stains and smells strongly of bleach.

Caroline: It’s all she can do to stop herself from licking at those stains.

It’s an uncomfortable and humiliating way to travel, made worse by the all-consuming hunger and ever-present pain.

GM: “Okay, Meg, you can take off,” Caroline makes out Jocelyn’s muffled voice as saying. The ground shifts out from under her as she feels the car move.

Caroline: Still, as bad as it is, it carries her away from what was almost certain doom.

That has a merit all its own.


Sunday night, 20 September 2015, AM

GM: Torturous minutes pass. Jocelyn makes conversation. The car finally comes to a stop.

“Okay, we’re outside Audubon… how do we get in?”

Caroline: The Ventrue twists. “Can you pass your phone through the seats?”

GM: There’s a pause from Jocelyn. “Meg. What’s this doing here?”

“I… I thought you could use it! To heal if she hurt you!”

There’s a sigh from the Toreador.

“You lucked out, Caroline. Meg ‘thought’ to bring some more juice.”

Caroline: Caroline doesn’t growl audibly, but that monster inside of her growls with its need. Ignorant beast that it is, the Beast can still understand Caroline’s own reaction to the words. the quickening of her breath… the raw need it induces…

“Remind me to thank her later.”

GM: Caroline sees the trunk’s cover go up, but only for a split second before it’s slammed closed. An Android thumps to the trunk’s bottom.

“The PIN’s 3537.”

Caroline: Caroline unlocks the phone. “Just wait a minute.”

She opens the browser and locates the phone number for the gatehouse, pausing only to confirm that Meg has an ID in her own name before dialing in.

GM: “Yeah, Meg’s got an ID.”

Caroline: “’Good, that should make it easier.”

She hits call on the phone.

GM: She’s answered by a stone-voiced Blackwatch guard. He confirms her transmitted entry code, and after a slight pause for Meg to show the guards her state ID, Jocelyn’s car rolls into Audubon.

Caroline: Caroline lets out a sigh of relief as the car gets moving again without further interruption.

“Let me run in when we get there, before you get out.” She thinks. “It shouldn’t take me more than a couple minutes to find it and get…. less like this.”

GM: The car soon comes to a stop.

“Okay, but I could just toss you the juice here first?” Jocelyn half-remarks, half-asks.

Caroline: “The stuff you brought… I don’t know that it would be enough on its own… if it’s not the right… kind it takes a lot more to satisfy the Beast…”

The comment drags her back to memories of drinking from half a dozen grubby businessmen with wandering hands. Of how dirty she felt afterwards.

“A lot more.”

GM: “Okay, well, we’re outside… make a dash for it.”

Caroline: “Is it clear?” Caroline asks.

GM: “Yeah, it looks like.”

Caroline: She waits for them to pop the trunk then slips out and hustles to the house.

GM: There’s a pause, then she hears footsteps approaching the back of the vehicle. The trunk abruptly springs open, but Caroline doesn’t see anyone there. There’s a simultaneous slam from one of the car’s other doors.

Caroline: The Ventrue knows exactly where she’s going, where she left the neatly stacked pile of cold blood in the fridge. It’s not a pill she’s eager to swallow, but under the circumstances it might as well be nectar of the gods. Anything that might sooth the ravening monster that wants to crush everything—those few precious things—she has left.

She makes for the house.

GM: The house lies in the same state of tornado aftermath-like devastation that Caroline last saw it in. To her chagrin, it appears that not even her refrigerator has not been spared her invaders’ scrutiny. A swirling black mass of hungry, buzzing flies is alighting upon a mountain of tossed-out, now-spoiled food. The stench is an altogether different kind from Turner’s ‘suicide’, but close to equally horrific.

Flies crawl over the blood’s sealed plastic coverings.

Caroline: Beside the roaring the Beast’s need the disgust brought on by the flies outside the bags is hardly noticeable. She gathers up the bags all the same and quickly bears them into another destroyed room, away from the worst of the smell—splattering her dress with some degree of ruined food along the way—and begins to greedily suck down the plastic bags.

Life-saving blood sufficient—and intended—to save a dozen trauma victims flows into the Ventrue. College blood drives have always been popular, and donating blood as a whole has always been popular among the young. It’s little surprise then that she has success in drawing from among the bags more than one that tastes less like piss and more like warm flat soda.

After the first couple of bags it becomes a nausea inducing experience unto itself. The smell is nothing next to the taste—and aftertaste—of the chilled blood. She fights back her body’s revulsion and continues to drink until the hunger of the Beast is a dull and distant thing. Only when she’s confident in her control does Caroline head back to the front door and gesture for Jocelyn and her ghoul.

GM: Jocelyn and Meg approach the front door. The Toreador wrinkles her nose at the sight of the even more disheveled Caroline.

“You look awful. No offense.”

Caroline: “It’s been a bad night, it’s appropriate.”

GM: Meg seems to be studiously trying not to remark anything, but glances at her domitor several times. The two walk inside. Meg closes the door behind them.

“So… what the hell happened?” Jocelyn asks.

Caroline: Caroline looks at Meg. “It would be better if she took a walk, or waited somewhere else. It’s not a matter of trust, just that this is dangerous stuff for her to know.”

GM: “All right, Meg, go take a walk or wait in the car, I guess.”

The painfully thin ghoul gives Jocelyn a more than somewhat antsy look, but after her domitor gives her an answering ‘just do it, okay?’ one, she hands over a plastic bag of blood and quietly slinks away.

Jocelyn looks around, fully taking in the disheveled house.

“What the hell happened here, also?”

Caroline: Caroline sighs and sits upon a splintered thing that was once a coffee table.

“What do you remember about my call to you last night?”

GM: Jocelyn simply sits down cross-legged on one of the floor’s cleaner spots.

“I guess all of it, or maybe most? Maldonato said that the evidence you had on Matheson was all a lie or hadn’t been verified or whatever. Honestly, I don’t care about it at this point. All it did was get you in trouble.”

Caroline: Caroline bites her lip. Jocelyn is right. She should just let it go…

“The last thing I remember was a text from you that you were coming over right before dawn. I didn’t think that you’d gotten through to your contact, so I’d sent my ghouls out with the tape to stash it. They didn’t react well when they found out. Tossed the house.” She gestures to the destroyed home.

“Looking for surveillance, I’d guess. For something fake, the seneschal was mad enough that…” Caroline bites her tongue. “When I woke up it was to this and instructions not to leave, then the Hussar showed up and attacked me. I lost it…. tore him up pretty badly I guess.” Another pause. “They executed my ghoul for it…. or rather let me do it. It’s what she wanted. Anyway… when I woke up the seneschal talked with me for a while… told me some things…”

GM: Jocelyn slowly takes that all in with an almost ’you’re kidding’ expression, but doesn’t yet speak.

Caroline: “Decided to execute me for… well… everything.” Caroline’s eyes are downcast. “But ultimately settled on giving me a year to essentially prove that I can be something other than a problem. There’s things I can’t tell you about it. That I wish I could… and someday will. There’s just no more room for mistakes,” she finishes. “No more help.”

GM: Jocelyn’s face is strained when she finally speaks.

“Caroline… you can’t keep doing this.

Caroline: Coming from anyone else right now Caroline might scream or shout, or argue. Instead she simply nods.

GM: Jocelyn looks around the ruined home, a seeming witness and living testament that’s all been going on. “So…” she sighs, “what’s next?”

Caroline: Caroline looks up. “If you want to go, I’d understand. For me, first, I have to contact Matheson and tell him that I can’t help him with the trial. In person.”

GM: “Why can’t you do that anymore?”

Caroline: “Seneschal’s orders.”

GM: “Okay, that’s weird… but his call, I guess.”

Caroline: “I’d be a liability,” she offers.

GM: “So…” Jocelyn frowns a bit. “Is that all you can say, that it’s all secret? I mean… what happened, and what else is gonna happen? Is this all over when you go see Matheson?”

Caroline: “Not quite…” Caroline murmurs. “When I said I had a year to prove myself, I meant it. If I can’t hit various checkmarks. The immediate danger is Matheson… but this is only the beginning.”

GM: The Toreador uneasily waits to hear the rest.

Caroline: “Some of it is,” she pauses, “easy.”

The word hangs in the air with her for a moment, the weight of the very idea of what she’s about to suggest, much less that it’s easy bearing down on her.

She abruptly continues, “Like faking my death. I knew it was coming eventually… attending executions of all illicit Embraces from here on.”

GM: “Okay… so that first one could be worse, but that second one is just weird,” Jocelyn frowns.

Caroline: “They’re pulling the prince’s decision to give them a chance, Jocelyn. Because of me.” Even as she says it though, those words feel hollow. Because of her… yes. Certainly her own actions contributed, but this grand game going on pollutes the entire topic. Even for a Catholic having that guilt shoved down her throat is a bitter pill.

GM: “Oh.” Jocelyn doesn’t look sure what to say to that. “Well… at least you got off in time.”

Caroline: “How many other Kindred, through no fault of their own, just because of their sire’s lawlessness, are going to die in the next year? How many executions am I going to get to see?” She shakes her head. “Obviously, no more lawbreaking. His patience is at an end. Past its end.”

GM: Jocelyn shrugs helplessly. “If they were mosquitoes, they’d have died anyways, at least. I guess that next one isn’t too bad either.”

Caroline: “I have a better handle on a lot of it… I’m just worried about what Matheson is going to do… how he might choose to take out his anger, and how that might… well. It wouldn’t be hard to dump me out on the street hurt and near-starving… or kick me out before dawn… or throw in a bunch of mind-fuck programming…”

GM: “Maybe try… I dunno, calling him first, just to see how things are?” Jocelyn offers.

Caroline: “I don’t even think he has a phone, much less knows how to use one or would react well.”

GM: Jocelyn can only shrug helplessly again.

Caroline: “Anyway… after that… there are other things I have to do. More difficult ones.” She forces a smile. “At least I have some time to do it this time, though.”

GM: “Well, like what kind of things?”

Caroline: “Big things. Difficult things. Like catching my sire was. Even telling you though, Jocelyn… it would put you in danger.”

GM: “Well, then…” Jocelyn sighs. “I dunno what to do here, Caroline. I really don’t.”

Caroline: “You don’t have to do anything. You’ve done enough… he told me about what you did.”

GM: “Yeah, for all the good that did,” the Toreador says flatly.

Caroline: “Look… Jocelyn… I wasn’t lying when I said you were the best thing about my Requiem. And I want it to stay that way, but that doesn’t mean that you have to carry my burdens with me. These are big and dangerous things that I need to do… and they’re going to force me to do some terrible things to have a chance.”

“You don’t have to be a part of that… but I do want you to be a part of my Requiem outside of that… assuming you still want me in yours. We can carve out a night, or times each week. I will make time for you outside of all this.”

GM: “Honestly, Caroline, I dunno what to make of all this. I’d just like… I dunno, to feel like there’s not gonna be so many problems all the time,” Jocelyn says lamely. “Or to just feel like I can do something or… whatever.”

Caroline: Caroline goes quite still, the silence dragging out. At last, she gives a very shallow series of nods. “I… I understand.”

The nods don’t stop. They’re more a rocking of her head.

GM: Jocelyn frowns. “Huh?”

Caroline: “That I’ve been nothing but a problem for you as well.”

GM: “Well… okay, I’m not saying that… I just wanna feel like I can do something. About all that’s gone wrong. But that there’s not gonna be so much stuff always… going wrong, either.”

Jocelyn gestures vaguely at the house.

Caroline: “This kind of craziness,” she gestures to the house, “can’t continue. And after the meeting with Matheson things should settle a bit… I need time to do things. Move assets. Recruit new ghouls. Some of those things are slow going, assuming I don’t step on toes doing it like with… well… Jessica.”

“If you really want to help, that’s one place… I don’t have a good feeling for who has what things under their umbrella, but you’ve been around longer… I also need to make some less awkward introductions. And this thing with Matheson… right now I have no ghoul, no phone, and no car. If Meg could help out with the middle one of those…”

GM: “Okay, but just… did the seneschal say you can’t say anything about what’s going on?” Jocelyn looks frustrated. “I mean, Skyman was really clear with me, no talking about anything ever.”

Caroline: “What do you mean? To you or others? There are a few subjects he explicitly forbid to anyone. I guess… what do you want to know? The details of what else he wants?”

GM: “Sure, I guess. Just… what’s gonna happen next.”

Caroline: “I have to meet with Matheson. Then the prince is going to release me tomorrow night, officially.”

GM: “Okay, so that’s good…”

Caroline: “After that… he left it pretty open. I’d like to draw in more ghouls and start transferring assets out of my name for when I fake my death. With the way the trust is set up, I couldn’t just transfer all of it in a day even if I wanted. I also need to move out of here.” She gestures. “I have my brother’s funeral and the family shit show that is going to bring on… but I think that can be mitigated.”

GM: “Well, if you wanna move somewhere, the CBD isn’t bad. You could get a ritzy penthouse.”

Caroline: “I don’t think the seneschal would want me there right now… and I have to swear an oath of fealty to the sheriff. It was one of the conditions for staying here in the first place. Fuck,” she growls, “I still owe him corvée this week.”

GM: “Oh. Is that why you had all that blood?” Jocelyn asks.

Caroline: Caroline nods in frustration. “But it wasn’t enough anyway… you have more experience with this than me… do you think he’d go for accepting a blood bond rather than the elevated punishment for the bit with the police?”

GM: “I’m… not sure, honestly,” Jocelyn admits. “But they do that as punishments, so why not?”

Caroline: Caroline bites her lip. “Anyway, yeah, I don’t expect moving out of Riverbend is an option—though I may be wrong. We’ll see how the sheriff reacts tomorrow to my release. I got the feeling he was all in favor of just executing me out of hand.”

GM: “Yeah, Donovan’s a pretty cold guy…” Jocelyn murmurs.

Caroline: “Either way, this place is… bad for a lot of reasons: too many memories, too exposed, not safe. And probably still full of bugs.”

GM: “Well, you can swear yourself to more than one regent, if you wanna move out but still hunt around here. I haven’t done it, but there’s other Kindred who do.”

Caroline: “So you’d owe them both service?”

GM: “Yeah, I think that’s how it works. Kinda like feeding rights, but you can live in the district too.”

Caroline: Caroline thinks. “I don’t know if that’s any better, but I need to see what’s going on after tomorrow. I don’t even know what the seneschal wants done with regard to his earlier demands with the Storyvilles. Either way though, this house dies with Caroline Malveaux, so… in the long term it’s not manageable.”

GM: “It’s kind of a wreck too. No offense.”

Caroline: “None taken. Between Wright, the Hussar, Eight-Nine-Six, my own frenzies… it’s been through a lot.”

GM: “Don’t envy the cleaning lady who’s gonna pick it up.” Jocelyn looks around again. “Cleaning ladies, more like.”

Caroline: “If it weren’t so bad for the Masquerade, I’d say just burn it down. But anyway, settled is the first goal… I can’t do any of the normal things a Kindred is expected to as long as my life is a rolling train wreck. Ghouls, security, assets, a secure haven.”

GM: “Yeah, this place is a total sand castle. If you wanna borrow Meg, it’s not like I’m taking her to Elysium. But didn’t you have another ghoul, a redhead? What happened to her?”

Caroline: “She’s good… helpful… but she can’t do everything. And the seneschal won’t let her go until after the trial. God knows what kind of condition or state she’ll be in by then.”

GM: “Okay, that isn’t too long. Trial’s at midnight tomorrow.”

Caroline: “If Meg could get me a phone during the day today though, that would be a big help.”

GM: “Sure, you can just borrow hers. Or I guess go buy one if you give her the money.”

Caroline: “I can do that. Basically… the next couple of months should be busy… but hopefully not crazy.”

GM: “You said something about Maldonato having… demands for the Storyvilles?”

Caroline: “No, I just meant his earlier demands, and whether they still stand. Or if he wants me as far away as possible.”

GM: “Well, if it’s the Storyvilles, I guess that doesn’t apply to us? Like if a player quits a baseball team or whatever.”

GM: A ringing sounds from one of the ransacked home’s landlines.

Caroline: Caroline is silent.

GM: “You gonna get it or what?”

Caroline: With a start Caroline leaps in search of the mystery phone.

GM: The preternaturally swift Ventrue easily reaches the distinctly new-looking phone that’s been placed by an outlet in what’s left of her living room.

“Hello, Miss Malveaux, this is Questor Adler. How’s the night findin’ you?” her clanmate greets.

Caroline: Caroline doesn’t quite groan, but the thought passes through her mind.

Can’t I get a few fucking minutes?

“I’ve had better evenings, Miss Adler.”

As you no doubt know by the timing of your call and this fancy new phone.

GM: “Questor Adler when it’s just us blue bloods, remember. Practice makes perfect,” Becky Lynne smiles. “In any case, I’m awful sorry to hear about your night. If you’re the kind of gal to find peace of my mind by gettin’ things done, though, that’s why I’m calling—at least, on Gerousiastis Matheson’s behalf.”

“It’s all been squared away that you were off on business with the seneschal, but with the trial loomin’ tomorrow—well, hours left in the night are close to scarce as hen’s teeth, but Gerousiastis Matheson would like to request your presence at his estate to take care of a few last-minute details for the trial. Goodness knows this all must seem so slapdash to you as a real lawyer!”

Caroline: “We are not alone, Miss Adler,” Caroline corrects in turn. Politely.

GM: “Then I stand corrected, and thank you for showin’ me my error,” Becky Lynne smiles over the phone. “Maybe it won’t be too much longer until I’m takin’ lessons from you? In any case, Gerousiastis Matheson would be most obliged if you could grace us with your presence. If your chauffeur’s gone home for the day, we’d be happy to send one on over.”

Caroline: Caroline grabs the back of her neck and squeezes in frustration.

So he can beat me again? Or is he going to feed on me this time?

GM: Becky Lynne offers no response to Caroline’s unspoken thoughts.

Caroline: “I could only hope to follow in your example, Miss Adler, never exceed you. And I of course would not be so rude as to refuse the request of such distinguished personage, along with the offered transportation. Did Mr. Matheson have a time that would work best for him?”

GM: Becky Lynne answers with a light laugh, “Well I’ll be if that answer isn’t an example of its own to follow, Miss Malveaux. We’ll have someone over in short order, so see you soon.”

Caroline: “My thanks, Miss Adler. I’m sure we’ll see each other shortly.”

GM: “Until then,” Becky Lynne states in farewell as she hangs up.

Jocelyn doesn’t look sure what to say over the exchange.

Caroline: Caroline hangs her head for a moment before looking up at the Toreador.

“He’s sending a car and knows about the meeting with the seneschal.”

GM: “Well… I guess it’s what it is.”

Caroline: “He’s going to ask for me to do something the seneschal… and where the fuck did that phone come from?!” she snarls, ripping it out of the wall and throwing it across the room.

GM: It lands with a crash among so much other debris.

Caroline: Her nerves are worn so raw, every new touch sending a shock of agony through her already tortured mind and psyche.

GM: Jocelyn flinches just a bit. “What do you think he’s gonna ask?”

Caroline: “For testimony at the trial at best. He’d intended on representation… God, hopefully not still that. The seneschal was very clear that I was to have nothing to do with the trial.”

GM: Jocelyn frowns again. “Why was that?”

Caroline: “Other than the fact that I may have cost them the trial with the tape business? I’m an unreleased fledgling that’s managed to give offense to a fistful of elders—including Savoy by ignoring his ‘invite’ when I was forbidden contact with him. No doubt he thinks that I’ll just screw it up.”

GM: “Maybe you could tell him you will, if he still wants you in the trial? That could be safe.”

Caroline: “I will screw it up?”

GM: “Yeah. That he should pick someone else or whatever.”

Caroline: “That’s all there is, but I don’t expect him to like it.”

GM: Jocelyn can only give another helpless shrug.

Caroline: Caroline squirms. “Look… given how I expect this meeting to go… would it be too much to ask for your help tomorrow evening, before the trial, with hunting? I expect to make it home in pretty rough shape…”

GM: Her lover nods. “Sure. Though we’ll have to do it in the CBD.”

Caroline: “That’s not a problem, I just don’t want to make a mess.”

GM: “Never a rest, huh?”

Caroline: “No… there will be a rest… there will be time that isn’t crazy. I promise.”

GM: Jocelyn smiles wanly. “Appreciate it, but pretty sure that’s out of your hands.”

Caroline: “No.” Caroline’s expression turns more serious. “There are things I can’t tell you, but someday it’ll get better. I swear. And that day isn’t that far away.”

GM: “Well, I hope so,” Jocelyn answers. “But you should go clean up if you’re gonna visit Matheson. You’ve got… food over your dress.”

She sounds more off-put by that than the blood.

Caroline: “Yeah…” Caroline peels away part of the dress to expose the not-quite gaping hole in her chest.

GM: By this point Jocelyn looks entirely unsurprised by its presence.

“Least we have another excuse to go shopping now, probably.”

Caroline: “And for a bedroom set.”

GM: “And an everything set. This place is a wreck now. Really don’t envy the cleaners.”

Caroline: “House hunting,” Caroline offers with a faint smile.

GM: “Yeah. You really should come live downtown. There’s nothing in Riverbend except Tulane.”

Caroline: “If the sheriff will let me go and the seneschal would have me,” Caroline promises. “Join me upstairs while I wrap this up.”

She gathers up the remaining blood packs and throws them back in the fridge.

GM: Jocelyn follows the Ventrue up the stairs, the singular part of Caroline’s house that seems to have escaped any lasting damage, notwithstanding the pictures that have been knocked off their walls.

“Well, I dunno if Donovan would give up the free juice every week. It’s probably either him or both.”

Caroline: She peels off her soiled gown in her room, throwing it into a heap as she proceeds towards the bathroom.

“Yeah… I just… there’s going to be so much else going on that supporting the demands of two seems like a problem.”

Caroline breaks out the first aid kit under her sink, wincing as she pulls it out.

GM: “True enough, I guess.” Jocelyn looks through her clothes. “Most of these don’t look too bad, apart from lying on the floor for a while.”

Caroline: “Pick me out something?” Caroline takes an alcohol wipe and wipes smeared blood off her chest and quickly slaps a bandage over it. “Something that will cover this up.”

She tapes on the bandage across her chest from all four sides using medical tape and wraps a wrap around her chest, back, and then around again. It’s not comfortable, but it stops the remaining trickle of blood, and she’s worn more uncomfortable things. If the price of not being a walking Masquerade breach is some discomfort, she can deal with it.

GM: “Aw, nuts. This would look pretty good if your chest wasn’t so messed up.”

Pic.jpg
Caroline: Caroline peaks her head out. “Love that one. I wore it to my father’s victory party. Good memories there.”

GM: “Oh, you mean when he got elected senator?”

Caroline: “Yeah, nationally.”

She warms and wets a washcloth and sets to wiping and scrubbing as much other filth away as possible.

GM: Jocelyn meanwhile rummages through more of Caroline’s scattered clothes.

“Guess that must feel like a downgrade, having René as your sire.”

Caroline: “He was able enough in his own right,” Caroline demurs.

GM: “Geez,” Jocelyn’s voice calls, “you never think about it, but there really are not that many dresses without any neckline.”

“Okay, this one looks pretty good. It’s also the only one I can find.”

Pic.jpg
“Also,” Jocelyn’s voice turns a touch amused, “you have such a blue blood’s wardrobe. I don’t think there’s anything here more casual than black tie. Do you ever wear jeans?”

Caroline: “Is that a suggestion?” Caroline asks.

GM: “Genuine curiosity. I can’t even find any pants.”

“Picturing you in jeans is pretty weird, though. Like the prince or seneschal in anything but a suit.”

Caroline: “There are a few pantsuits in the closet down the hall,” Caroline offers, amused.

GM: “Oh, for shame. I thought your dad was a Republican.”

Caroline: “One of many shameful secrets.”

GM: “None as scandalous as blue jeans though. Such a blue blood.”

Caroline: “The pantsuits,” she says as she takes the dress from the Toreador with a bit of mock offense, “were required for work. Apparently it’s not enough to simply be fabulous all the time.”

GM: “Sorry, that’s my clan’s job.”

Caroline: Caroline fights her way into a new bra—an unpleasant experience with the bandage across her chest, and begins sliding into the dress.

“Maybe you can adopt me when the Ventrue kick me out.”

The joking and smiles are a weak cover for the nervousness she feels over the forthcoming meeting, a front as much for herself as for Jocelyn.

GM: “I don’t think I’m old enough to adopt,” Jocelyn remarks while still seemingly scanning the piles of clothes for anything besides formal dresses, “but you wanna meet some new licks, you could come along to one of my clan’s balls.”

Caroline: A few other articles stand out. Sundresses, skirts and blouses, light coats, and yes, some more casual clothing. No jeans, though, no t-shirts. She has to set a standard.

“How are those?”

GM: “Sorry? And oh wow, I think I found a few things you couldn’t wear to a White House inaugural ball.”

Caroline: “Correspondents’ Dinner is a real thing,” Caroline replies. “And I mean the Toreador balls. How does that usually go? Is it like Elysiums?”

GM: “Well, lots of them are thrown at Elysium, sure. Others aren’t. Accou threw the last ball at one of his houses. There’s one every month, on the night of the full moon.”

Caroline: “Ooooh, spooky.”

GM: “Not as spooky as the Grand Ball. That’s always on Halloween.”

Caroline: “Oh? Good time?”

GM: “The best. No clan throws parties like ours.”

Caroline: Caroline peeks out the window between picking out jewelry to make certain there isn’t a waiting car. At the same time she does the clasp on a necklace.

“My ride is here. He seems to be chatting up your ghoul.”

GM: “Okay, great.”

Caroline: “Sorry. I have to go.” Caroline looks herself over in the mirror once more. “I’ll see you tomorrow?”

GM: Caroline has cleaned her chest, but her face remains smeared with blood from messy, barehanded feeding on the blood bags. And from killing Turner. Her hair is equally gore-stained, and not just with blood, but pulped gray brain matter. The mercenary’s last wish was to make her death as inconvenient as possible for Caroline, and at least in some respects, she has succeeded.

She sees Meg talking to a white-gloved, suit-wearing man next to a parked black Rolls Royce.

Caroline: She searches the ghoul’s expression for that dazed gaze.

“Ugh.”

Caroline snatches up a towel and heading downstairs to the kitchen, stepping around the pile if food near the fridge, and careful to avoid stepping in it, she snags a ripped-open and half-spilled container of kosher salt and starts the water in the sink.

GM: It’s not without some irony that Caroline finds herself following Becky Lynne’s prior tip. By the time she’s finished and toweled off, her still-moist hair looks like it’s been through a lot, but is at least improved upon her prior state.

Caroline: She pins it up quickly and looks to Jocelyn. “Wish me luck?”

GM: Jocelyn looks up from her phone. “Your hair still looks pretty bad, but knock ’em dead.”

Caroline: “Is it bloody? Or gory?”

GM: “Just wet and messy.”

Caroline: She examines her pinning job. “Thank you.”

It would usually be where someone kisses another, instead Caroline mimics Jocelyn’s earlier gesture and runs a fang over the Toreador’s cheek.

GM: Jocelyn smiles a bit but turns away after a moment.

“Your ride’s waiting.”

Caroline: Caroline grimaces, then nods and heads out to her fate.


Sunday night, 20 September 2015, AM

GM: The patiently waiting driver is a middle-aged man with a short mustache wearing the traditional chauffeur’s black suit and cap. He greets her cordially, holds the door open for her to get in, bids goodbye to the somewhat awkwardly waiting Meg, and makes small talk on the drive over about recent news.

“Firebombing in Rampart Street not too long ago. They say it was racially motivated, but no one hurt.”

Caroline: “Tonight?” Caroline asks.

GM: “Few days ago, I think,” the driver remarks.

Caroline: “City is going to hell,” she observes.

GM: He chuckles. “Good time to pray.”

Caroline: “Always a good time. When were was this trip called in?” she asks.

GM: “Not very long, ma’am, but I don’t work for an agency. I’m on standing retainer to Miss Adler.”

Caroline: “That must be a pleasant job.”

GM: “Oh yes, she’s a very sweet girl. Odd hours sometimes, like right now, but a very sweet girl.”

Caroline: “Been with her a while, then?”

GM: “Not too long. Two years now.”

Caroline: “Enough to get comfortable,” Caroline smiles.

GM: The chauffeur smiles back. “The pay’s real good. ‘Nother guy does her day driving, so I’ve got all day to spend with the grandkids. And she is just the sweetest, nicest, most thoughtful girl.”

“I’ll be happy to be her driver for as long as she wants.”

Caroline: “That sounds like a peaceful life. Lots of grandkids?”

GM: “Just two for now, a boy and a girl. Like to help me on Indian costumes. I’d show you their pictures if I wasn’t driving.”

Caroline: “Indian costumes?”

GM: “The Mardi Gras Indians,” he laughs like it’s obvious. “You new to New Orleans, ma’am? Carnival’s a while off, but you want to start on a suit nice and early. I like to give it the same time it takes a baby—nine months.”

Caroline: “Good to have a hobby,” Caroline agrees with a masking smile. “Though with that much time it sounds more like an ordeal.”

GM: The chauffeur laughs. “Don’t say hobby around some of the chiefs. It’s a way of life to them. All worth it on the big day.”

Caroline: “And it gives you something to look forward to.”

GM: Concurrently, guards wave the car through the iron gate to Matheson’s hedge-surrounded Colonial-style mansion. Caroline’s driver drops her off by the front steps, gets out, and opens the door for her.

“There you are, ma’am. Have a pleasant evening. Or maybe morning, more like.”

Caroline: “Thank you.” Caroline climbs out of the car.

GM: Two guards stop Caroline outside the house’s doors, search her purse, and give her a full body pat-down before letting her in.

Caroline: Caroline doesn’t quite snarl at the treatment, but she can’t claim to be entirely surprised.

GM: The ghoul butler as before cordially receives Caroline and guides her into the home. He does not lead her to the parlor, however, but a smaller sitting room appointed with classical paintings and antique furniture. Becky Lynne sits on one of the couches, wearing in a light pink dress and working on a incongruently modern Sunpad. She sets it aside as the butler announces Caroline’s presence and smiles at her clanmate.

“Miss Malveaux, so glad you could make it. Please do take a seat. I’m afraid Gerousiastis Matheson is unavailable right now, so it’ll be just us hens.”

Caroline: “I do hope that Gerousiastis Matheson is well,” Caroline half-comments, half-inquires.

GM: “Oh yes, he’s as fine as a fiddle, thank you on his behalf for askin’. You had a pleasant ride over too, I hope, Miss Malveaux?”

Caroline: “I’d have expected nothing less. Your driver is a gem, Questor Adler.”

GM: “I’ll be certain to pass along those compliments to him,” her clanmate beams. “Good help can be so hard to find.”

Caroline: “I was impressed that he was able to get through security so easily as well.”

GM: “It wouldn’t do for him to bother you askin’ to be let in, now would it?” Becky Lynne laughs lightly. “A good chauffeur anticipates everything the lady he’s drivin’ might need. But if you’re curious how, I just told him to ring up one of the sheriff’s people inside Audubon.”

Caroline: “How considerate of you, Questor Adler, especially given my recent communications difficulties.”

GM: “Oh now? I had no problems ringin’ up your place.”

Caroline: “I’m afraid I’m in the middle of some redecorating.”

GM: “It’s easy for us to get set in our ways,” Becky Lynne nods. “A little change to break up old ruts, even just the decor, can be good. There’s a few ghouls I can refer if it’s anythin’ that’s a no-no with the Masquerade.”

Caroline: “That’s very generous, Questor Adler, but for now it’s nothing so serious. Or rather, nothing so directly threatening. Simply a mess to be cleaned up. In the literal sense,” she continues with a smile.

GM: “Oh wonderful, hopefully your help will soon have everything spick and span.”

Caroline: “Time will tell, it may yet be that I will take you up on that offer down the line, Questor Adler.”

GM: “If by chance you do, Miss Malveaux, you can reach them at these numbers.”

Instead of rattling them off for Caroline to enter in a phone, however, Becky Lynne instead writes them down on a piece of notepad paper that she hands over.

Caroline: Caroline takes the paper into her hand.

“As always, Questor Adler, you’re too kind.”

GM: “Kindness costs less than a lottery ticket and can win an even bigger payout, my mama liked to say,” her clanmate smiles.

Caroline: “I’m not certain that our mothers would have gotten along especially well,” Caroline smiles in return. “But I’m not convinced your own was wrong.”

GM: “She also liked to say if you can’t see to eye with some folks, that’s just opportunity to see a new point of view.”

Caroline: “A very progressive attitude,” Caroline replies.

GM: “Attitude’s a thing to watch like the family jewels—it’s the first thing about you anyone notices. That’s another sayin’ she liked, while I’m quoting away.”

Caroline: “I feel as though you could keep going with those sayings all night, Questor Adler.”

GM: “Just you try me, Miss Malveaux,” Becky Lynne winks.

“But I’m afraid that won’t be this night—we don’t even have ourselves enough hours left anyway. Now, our real business tonight is the trial…”

Caroline: “Yes,” Caroline agrees somewhat hesitantly. “And I’m afraid that in that regard I may be naught but a disappointment to you, Questor Adler…”

GM: “Oh, nonsense, Miss Malveaux. My sire wants me to administer your exam in his place, but we went over things very thoroughly last night—I’m sure you’ll do better than fine.”

Caroline: “I’m afraid my suitability for aiding Gerousiastis Matheson in this matter is more complicated than my understanding of etiquette, Questor Adler.”

GM: “Go on then, let’s see if we can untangle it,” Becky Lynne encourages.

Caroline: “The topic of the trial came up with the seneschal earlier tonight, and he was magnanimous enough to observe several major concerns that I had overlooked. Among other things, past offense I’ve offered to elders, debts that Mr. Savoy could call in, and potential buried commands that might be lurking as a result of my repeated run-ins with my sire and other hostile Kindred.”

GM: “Oh now, is that so? Then I suppose that lets you off the hook, so far as testifyin’… goodness knows that must be a relief.”

Caroline: “No, not at all,” Caroline replies to the other Ventrue’s comment on relief. “In fact, much the opposite. Gerousiastis Matheson and yourself, Questor Adler, have been too kind in efforts to assist me in not besmirching the good name of Ventrue everywhere, and after our meeting yesterday I had looked forward to having some small opportunity to repay Gerousiastis Matheson for his hospitality, counsel, and aid.”

GM: Becky Lynne smiles back, clearly happy with the response.

“That’s mighty generous of you, Miss Malveaux, even precious little as we may have had to give in so short a time. But you know, there’s no reason our association needs to end with the trial. Have you given much thought as to whether you’d like to join the Structure once you’re released?”

Becky Lynne explained what the Structure was to Caroline yesterday. Clan Ventrue’s internal organization and hierarchy within the city and world at large.

Caroline: Caroline brings a hand up to her chin. “Not a great deal to date,” she smiles. “After all, without the lessons of last night I knew nothing of it. On its face, however, joining such a distinguished peerage seems an honor that only a fool would decline…”

The pause is not quite long enough for Becky Lynne to interject.

“That said, I don’t wish to go to such a prestigious body with hat in hand. Even were they so magnanimous as to take me within the fold, I do not wish to bring so little to the table.”

GM: Becky Lynne laughs. “Oh, do go on, Miss Malveaux—you and the clan happen to have the very same idea. Joinin’ up and becomin’ an eiren, you see, isn’t automatic—you have to first pass the Test, which I think we might have touched on last night. That nicely ensures only clanmates who have somethin’ to bring the Structure are allowed ‘full membership privileges’, as it may be. Unlike the other clans, you see, we have higher standards than simply being released before the prince. That only allows prospective members to begin what you might think of as an extended application process.”

Caroline: Everything is a test.

It’s not such a new idea to the heiress. Every milestone of her childhood was a test in its own way, even if the stakes were usually more personal than they have been as a Kindred. Impress. Wow. Demonstrate. It’s the same thing all over again, only this time she’s been thrown to the wolves, tossed into the spotlight time and again, not with the tutoring of her mother, grandmother, and the finest instructors in etiquette, but rather so hopelessly alone.

There was a time when she’d looked down on, scorned, those pathetic souls that mucked up debutante balls, or humiliated themselves in public at social functions. Those publicly cruel laughs, dipped in the thin shell of good humor, and snide jokes in private have become blades without hilts that cut just as deeply in hindsight given her present circumstances.

GM: “Now, most neonates are able to pass just fine and get in,” Becky Lynne continues, “since their sires give them very thorough educations—you might think of the Test as more like a high school diploma than a PhD. It’s not a trophy to brag about, just a sign-off that you’re good enough to go on to bigger things.”

Caroline: How must it have been to have been thrust into those circumstances when unprepared? When managing trials and tribulations without the advantages she herself had. Caroline no wonder has to wonder. She can already see where this is going with Becky Lynne, however.

GM: “Your situation is a lil’ sticky without a sire, as we well know,” Becky Lynne continues. “Tradition, however, does dictate that all of our senior clanmates play some part in showin’ the prospective neonate the ropes of things, which can be quite an educational experience in of itself. Gerousiastis Guilbeau, for instance, had me help run his casino, and taught me all of night-to-night lil’ things he does to keep it runnin’ smooth.”

Becky Lynne taps her chin. “Now, you might lean on that custom more heavily than most—or, if you’d like an extra leg up, Gerousiastis Matheson is willin’ to extend the duration of our prior arrangement. Naturally, this is all if you’d like to join the Structure. If not, you and the clan can simply go our separate ways after your release, to no ill will.”

Caroline: Caroline rolls all of that over for a moment.

“Is such an invitation only offered once, or does the Test and such an education follow a set timeline? That is to say, Questor Adler, that while the arrangement you have suggested is extremely appealing, it would seem wise to place my own house in order, such as it is, before undertaking any such endeavor. As you’ve noted, in the absence of a sire my circumstances have been somewhat… complicated, and I would not again commit to any course as I already did once before with your sire before seeing to those matters.”

GM: Becky Lynne pauses thoughtfully, then gives a light laugh. “Truth be told, Miss Malveaux, I don’t rightly know—I can’t think of any Ventrue in the city who’ve not wanted to join after their accountings, but later changed their minds. If you like, I can give my brother a ring to see if he knows.”

“But that said, havin’ your house in order just to undertake the Test isn’t necessary. It and the remainder of the agoge take months. Their whole point is to set up the newly-released neonate with their own house. If it helps, you might think of your release as your high school diploma, passin’ your Test and being made an eiren as your undergraduate degree, and joining the peerage or some higher rank as a ‘real’ job.”

Becky Lynne taps her chin again.

“There’s one last lil’ thing. The private gatherin’ of our clanmates, where the released neonate announces their intention to continue their agoge, traditionally takes place immediately after their public release before the other clans. I haven’t known Prince Vidal to personally attend any recent accountings—he usually just sends his herald in his stead. Your release, however, will take place right after the trial, at His Majesty’s own hands. As such, you’ll have the honor to announce your continued pursuance of the agoge in front of our strategos. My guess is that isn’t likely to happen again.”

Caroline: Were she mortal the mention of the prince might quicken her pulse and flush her cheeks. The prince, who she must so impress if she’s to live a day more than a year.

Thankfully, Caroline is not living. She bites her lower lip.

“Then I would be a fool to decline such an opportunity, though I presume declaring such an intention among non-Ventrue, at my release, would be in bad taste? "

GM: “Clan business is never discussed among outsiders, Miss Malveaux,” Becky Lynne declares seriously. “There’ll be a private gathering after the other clans take their leave.”

Caroline: “As you say, Questor Adler,” Caroline replies seriously. “Is that to mean that outsiders are not to even know that, for instance, one Ventrue or another is in good standing with the clan?”

GM: “That’s right, Miss Malveaux. Clan business is not discussed among outsiders,” Becky Lynne repeats. “It’s just fine if they know that Ventrue’s standing among the Camarilla at large, but if it’s only our clan, it’s only our business. They don’t have any dog in our fight, or any horse in our race. If they think they do, we just smile and say we’re one big happy family, and that everyone in it is doin’ just great. Always show the world a united front.”

Caroline: It’s no different than her own family, not really.

“Internal matters are internal.”

GM: Becky Lynne nods agreeably.

Caroline: No hard feelings. Yeah… right.

Caroline’s been a part of enough in clubs to know bullshit when she hears it. Outsiders are outsiders—you don’t actually have to hold something against them to do plenty to bend them over—and god knows there are plenty of Ventrue already that would love to make her life harder…

Including, almost certainly, Gerousiastis Matheson. Even if he knows nothing about the tape—unlikely given his relations with the prince and the increased and oh so specific security here—it seems unlikely that he’d be so magnanimous as to forgive her wasting of his time.

The entire thing smells like a setup… on the other hand, going off what she was told last night, there’s enough truth in Becky Lynne’s description of Ventrue practices that joining the clan organization as a whole is wise…. to say nothing of how not trying to do so may look to the prince.

Either way, she’s crawling into bed with a bunch of snakes…

“Gerousiastis Matheson’s offer then is that you continue to serve as a tutor, in exchange for a greater degree of indebtedness to him?”

GM: “That’s the right of it, Miss Malveaux,” her clanmate nods.

Caroline: “Gerousiastis Matheson was somewhat vague as to what degree of indebtedness I’d already incurred,” Caroline tiptoes around.

GM: “There was a great deal yet to be determined, Miss Malveaux, including the nature and effectiveness of any testimony you might have lent on his behalf. Your lessons with me last night amounts to a boon.”

Caroline: Caroline cannot quite keep the surprise off her face, but covers it up quickly.

“Presumably each continued night of instruction would be rated as a similar, in boons to himself?”

GM: “It was a night of my time that he lent out, Miss Malveaux, and further compounded by the importance of the information to you,” Becky Lynne explains. “But no, goodness knows you’d be hopelessly in debt if every night was worth more prestation! I guess you could say there’s a bulk discount, where such things are concerned.”

Caroline: Caroline puts a smile on her face. “As you say, Questor Adler. Did he have a rate in mind for continued services?”

GM: Becky Lynne nods. “Another boon for a further week of continued instruction, and two more boons for an extended education the clan would consider adequate for a sire to spend on their childe.”

Caroline: The heiress runs her tongue over her teeth from behind her lips. More debt to an already offended elder for an instruction that might well be poisonous…. well. Less likely given the boon exchanged. On the other hand… what Becky Lynne has already shared… if she’d known it a week ago how much trouble would it have saved her?

“A few more questions then, Questor Adler, if you don’t mind? Would that include topics such as who has stakes in what areas, businesses, and industry? Would it by necessity begin immediately and consecutively? And is this an exploding offer, or one to remain open for a time?”

GM: “A general overview would fall under the week of instruction, I think, with an in-depth one bein’ part of the fuller education a sire would impart. I don’t see any reason it has to happen straight away or uinterrupted, but hammerin’ out a schedule would likely be helpful—we all have our own Requiems to lead and only so many hours in the night to spend as we will. My sire didn’t say one way or another if the offer was to stay open. Naturally you can approach him later, but I don’t know if he’ll change his mind or not.”

Caroline: An old warning of her father’s comes back to her about high pressure deals, limited time frame deals. On occasion they’re actually time sensitive. More often, they’re designed to push you into a poor decision, or add stress. Further debt to the cruel and haughty elder is… far from ideal.

On the other hand… in for a penny, in for a pound. The old saying has some merit, especially in personal dealings. Being in debt to someone on some level concerns them with your welfare. A lesson she learned with her uncle, as he learned it.

It’s the elder bit that makes it hard to read. More affronted and vengeful or intrigued and willing to make a long-term play? And does it even matter? One boon vice two is a small difference given the resources he already has…

“Could we begin with one and potentially expand the scope if such seemed productive?”

GM: Becky Lynne seems to think over Caroline’s request. “That doesn’t seem too unreasonable, Miss Malveaux. I should still note that I’d plan to use our time together in different ways, dependin’ on whether we have only a week or a fair bit longer.”

Caroline: "Of course, overviews vice in depth, and I appreciate the flexibility you’re willing to offer, Questor Adler. "

She chews the offer over for another moment.

GM: Becky Lynne smiles, waiting until she’s finished.

Caroline: “I am delighted to accept Gerousiastis Matheson’s terms, for intermediate level instruction—given your flexibility on the matter—with the potential for growth.”

GM: “Isn’t that just dandy then, Miss Malveaux,” her clanmate answers. “I’ll be sure to let him know when next I see him. Now that you’re off the hook for testifyin’, that leaves us only a few things to go over tonight… might I first ask as to the particulars of the elders you believe you’ve offended?”

Caroline: “Oh, Questor Adler,” Caroline laughs lightly, sardonically, “I don’t know that we have enough hours left in the night. Bereft of your valuable education, I’m afraid I’ve been little better than a savage all but raised by wolves.”

There’s a seriousness that undercuts the laugh, makes it almost cruelly cutting towards herself.

“There’s first the matter of the little dust ups with Eight-Nine-Six and subsequent meetings with Primogen Duquette. Then the snub I unintentionally offered Mr. Savoy by ignoring his invitation to meet with me.”

GM: Becky Lynne nods. “Well, it’s good for us to suss out those now, so we can be sure they won’t crop up as problems durin’ your release. Might I inquire as to the full particulars of what may have given those two offense?”

Caroline: “With the understanding that this is all being disclosed in confidence, bound within the context of our arrangement?” Caroline inquires.

GM: “Of course, Miss Malveaux. Just like an electrician who needs a peek inside your home so he can fix up the lights, that’s all I’m here to do.” Becky Lynne taps her chin. “Although a lawyer askin’ about the particulars of his client’s case might be a better example for you, I reckon.”

Caroline: Caroline considers for a moment, but only a moment.

“Eight-Nine-Six I first poached from, then beat into torpor or had beaten into torpor. Not content with the sheriff’s sentence upon each of us, they attempted to continue the feud by seizing one of my ghouls and turning her into a brainwashed weapon when she was returned as part of a hand off—I responded by killing a number of their own at other scenes during the hand-off, which unbeknownst to me prior was being mediated by Primogen Duquette. In their rage and fury, it seems they did something quite foolish and earned their pending execution. You can understand, however, how such things must look to Primogen Duquette. I somehow doubt that I’ll be on her Christmas card list for some time.”

GM: “That certainly is a pickle,” Becky Lynne nods. “Were these ghouls of Eight-Nine-Six’s in Primogen Duquette’s territory when you got back at them?”

Caroline: Caroline nods.

“She expressed her displeasure over the act in our last meeting and made clear her position going forward. But you can see how such a series of events and the position it creates does not inspire confidence in my ability to make a positive impression.”

GM: “Well, Miss Malveaux, it doesn’t seem to me like there’s too much else you can do but say sorry and take your licks. The usual sentence for trespassing and poachin’ in or otherwise disrupting someone’s territory is a sip from their wrist.”

Caroline: “So I’ve learned,” Caroline offers. “Matters with Mr. Savoy are more straightforward, he extended an invitation to meet with him last week, when I was still in the midst of the hunt for René Baristheaut, then sheltered with Mr. Savoy. Having been given instructions not to have any contact with him by the sheriff and his hounds, I foolishly chose to ignore the invitation.”

GM: “Hold up a moment on Mr. Savoy if you’d so please, Miss Malveaux. May I ask if you’ve yet accepted a drink from the good primogen?” Becky Lynne patiently asks.

Caroline: “I have,” Caroline replies.

GM: “Splendid,” her clanmate smiles. “Have you considered promisin’ her a boon, or perhaps better yet, doin’ something to help her out by means of further apology for the Anarchs she’s lost?”

Caroline: “I have, and we spoke at some length, though the details of that conversation are unfortunately private. Suffice it to say, the primogen seemed receptive, but not totally convinced to date.”

GM: “That sounds like a promisin’ start to things, Miss Malveaux,” Becky Lynne nods. “If you’re aimin’ to turn them around fully, you have my two cents. Now, so far as Mr. Savoy…”

The other Ventrue tilts her head. “I hope you’ll forgive me once again for bein’ forward in the interests of your instruction, but one thing my mama taught me is that sarcasm is like pickin’ your nose—it doesn’t impress friends, and just gives extra ammo to naysayers. It’s a habit that you can only help yourself by breakin’.”

Caroline: Caroline bites her lower lip and pauses.

“Thank you for the correction, Questor Adler. I let my frustration get the better of me.”

GM: “Better you lose your religion in front of me than in front of the prince,” Becky Lynne states agreeably.

“Now, so far as Mr. Savoy for real… that is a pickle. Might I ask if there’s anythin’ you’re already planning on doin’ to mend fences?”

Caroline: “I confess I know little of him, and thought to gauge his temperament before deciding on a course—be it offering a boon with an apology, or some other mark of my contrition.”

GM: “Well, I don’t know if you’ll have too much time for that, Miss Malveaux. I’m sure he’ll be at the trial, and thus your release.”

Caroline: “Ah, I should clarify, I’d intended to try and speak with him prior to my release in this matter, though as you note, time is of the essence, and I’m certain that he has little to spare.”

GM: “The trial is tomorrow, Miss Malveaux,” Becky Lynne states emphatically. “I don’t reckon it’s impossible that he might grant audience to a neonate—he is rather open next to most elders—but with this little notice and so much loomin’, you might have better odds findin’ a needle in a haystack.”

Caroline: “Would you care to make a recommendation then, Questor Adler?”

GM: “Well, I imagine the trial is goin’ to have a recess or three—it could well last all night—so that could be a fine time to deliver your apology and whatever else you intend to do in person. May I ask if you already know any Kindred who are personally acquainted with him?”

Caroline: She decides René is not the answer Becky Lynne is looking for.

“None that jump directly to mind. Mr. Elgin perhaps, or one of the prince’s Hounds… Hound Agnello, though I don’t expect they would be on particularly pleasant terms from what I’ve heard.”

GM: “Well, that is a pickle, Miss Malveaux,” Becky Lynne ponders thoughtfully. “I’m not sure how else you’ll be able to address him, not without bein’ frightfully rude, at least. Master Elgin,” she corrects, emphasizing the Nosferatu’s title, “I’m sure is personally acquainted with him, but seein’ as he’s one of our prince’s partisans, he’s not the ideal Kindred to introduce you. Likewise for Hound Agnello, and I’m not sure he’ll even be around for the trial.”

Caroline: Caroline arches an eyebrow. “Other matters occupying his attention? I imagine that being a hound must be busy work.”

GM: “Yes it is,” Becky Lynne nods, “so it’s anyone’s guess if he’ll be gracin’ us with his presence or not. But let’s stay on track now, as he’s not the best Kindred to make an introduction to Mr. Savoy in any case. You’re certain there’s no others you know who could approach him on pleasant enough terms?”

Caroline: Caroline thinks for a moment.

“Not that I myself on are pleasant enough terms with.”

GM: “Well, I confess I’m not too sure what to tell you then, Miss Malveaux. Who you know is everythin’ in this life too.”

Caroline: “I’ll find a way to make it work, Questor Adler. Reach out, speak to some other Kindred and try to find a thread that can be pulled upon.”

GM: “That sounds like a fair idea, Miss Malveaux. What do you mean to say to Mr. Savoy once you’re introduced?”

Caroline: “That would depend on the circumstances, Questor Adler, who was present, what else was going on, who made the introduction. In principle however, my pleasure in making his acquaintance, my thanks for his time, and my apologies for my prior snub.”

GM: “That’s wonderful,” Becky Lynne smiles. “Now, my advice would be to offer your apologies as soon as possible into the trial. You don’t want an unhappy elder peerin’ over your shoulder at your release.”

Caroline: “I’ll do just that, Questor Adler,” Caroline replies.

It’s like being talked to like a child. The assumption that she knows nothing. That she must be walked through every matter hand by hand.

And yet, as infuriating as it is, Caroline cannot deny that she’s given ample cause for such treatment. Perhaps that’s what gets under her skin the most. Her failures and weakness out in the open for this too-smiling elder’s childe to scoff at and dissect like the judge at a science fair would dissect a child’s misfiring baking-soda volcano.

GM: “That’s so good to hear,” Becky Lynne responds, either oblivious to or saying nothing of her younger clanmate’s resentment.

“Now, I believe that leaves our clan gatherin’ after your release as the last thing to go over tonight…”

Caroline: Envy. It’s an ugly emotion, and one she’s never had cause to feel. Perhaps that’s why it takes so long to recognize it. Not that it does her any good when she does. The world is what it is, and there is little she an do but sit and try not to let it show so clearly upon her face.

GM: “The name for that gatherin’, formally, is the Presentation. The way it goes, your sire would show you off before the praetor—Prince Vidal, in your lucky case—and you’ll be expected to answer a few simple questions, usually pertainin’ to dignitas or the Ethic of Succor, just to show you have a basic grasp of what it means to be Ventrue.”

Caroline: “Lacking a palatable sire of course makes it more complicated,” Caroline fills in.

GM: “Yes, it somewhat does. Gerousiastis Matheson wishes me to convey that he will be willin’ to introduce you before the clan in your sire’s place, for a commensurate show of gratitude.”

Caroline: “Such as?” Caroline already knows the answer.

GM: “I’m layin’ it on rather thick already, Miss Maleaux,” Becky Lynne winks. “It’s passe to ask—and expected for other Kindred to know what’s expected.”

Caroline: The thought of the treacherous old Kindred introducing her—and of going further into debt to him—is stomach-churning, but she has so little time to make anything happen. So few contacts. Too many questions about his motives and feelings. Does he know what she did? Hate her? Resent her? Want to punish her? It’s impossible to know, though his security measures are certainly something new.

On the other hand, everything she knows paints this as something that does him no good to set her up for… and she’s already in so deep. And, perhaps most importantly, there isn’t a better option. Not in the time that she has.

“I suppose it’s a fortunate thing that someone provided an education in these matters, then?”

GM: “Just in the nick of time, I’d reckon,” Becky Lynne smiles.

Caroline: Caroline puts on a smile. “Another boon, then? At this rate I’ll have to sell the farm.”

GM: The other Ventrue nods at her price. “That seems fair as rock-paper-scissors.”

Caroline: Caroline blinks and the moment hangs in the air before she forces on a smile.

“As you say, Questor Adler, that’s more than fair. I’d be grateful for his aid.”

GM: “Wonderful, Miss Malveaux. I’ll let him know,” Becky Lynne smiles back. “Now, just to be sure we’re all prepared, do you remember what dignitas and the Ethic of Succor are?”

Caroline: “Essentially prestige among fellow Ventrue earned through accumulating influence, power, and notable deeds, with a focus upon those that bring greater prestige and influence to Clan Ventrue.”

“And, of course, the obligation to help another member of Clan Ventrue if they should ask, but also the call not to do so unless such aid is truly required.”

GM: “That’s a good bit of what dignitas is,” Becky Lynne nods, “but how does it translate into a Ventrue’s night-to-night behavior ’round other Kindred?”

Caroline: Caroline chews on the question, “Conducting ones self with the poise and manners they should have learned in their mortal life. Being careful not to give or take offense. Maintaining control and perspective.”

GM: Becky Lynne nods. “And what are the consequences for spreadin’ unpleasant gossip about a clanmate, or tryin’ to accumulate more dignitas at their expense?”

Caroline: “Loss of your own status. Alienation among Clan Ventrue. Their own ire towards you, with varying consequence depending on the offense and individual in question.”

GM: “And why is it all so important to us, Miss Malveaux? Why do we pitch fits over things the other clans might laugh off?”

Caroline: “Because it’s the bedrock of the Ventrue as an institution, and institutions are the bedrock of true and lasting power. It gives individuals something to strive for, brings power and influence to the whole, focuses attentions externally rather than on self-cannibalization, and pushes to the front the successful and driven. In short, because it is what the Ventrue are.”

GM: “Very good, Miss Malveaux!” Becky Lynne smiles, clasping her hands in a motion reminiscent but not quite as emphatic as clapping them. “There is a reason we’re finicky about who we Embrace, wantin’ only the best—the sorts of folks who take to our clan’s traditions like fish to water.”

Caroline: It’s what the Ventrue are.

Caroline’s own words chase her and she almost doesn’t notice Becky Lynne’s first words. A group that pulls strings all over the globe—that perhaps pulls more strings than she’d ever dreamed. A group of similarly ambitious individuals working together, burying their petty matters as they seek to acquire more power and influence. A group bound by shared blood.

She’s not thinking about the Malveaux family.The Clan of Kings McCullem said. It hovers at the edge of her reach, that promise, dangling like a golden apple over her brow. A place she might yet belong. Forever.

It’s the last word, the last thought, that drags her back from the precipice. Forever. As a bloodsucking damned monster. Just reach out and take the golden apple, take a bite of the poisoned fruit, a part of her urges. That cold part. The cunning part. The part so like her father. Her father whom, Caroline is quite sure, would have no difficulty with this existence. An old man’s words come back, heavy with their wisdom.

Poison and I only know how to lose more slowly.

The two war in her soul, maybe over her soul. It’s not good and evil. No, the battle is more subtle than that. It’s two less nebulous, less ethereal things that turn and burn and run red the recesses of her soul. Pride and Penitence. That need to belong. The need to be special. The need for a place and a seat and a victory. The need to believe. And the knowledge that such a seat, such a ‘uniqueness’, such authority and yes, dignitas will be bought not in her own blood and suffering—a price that she can take pride in—but in that of others. Even then, it’s so seductive. That slow poison. That voice whispering that with greater power she can do greater good, or at least less harm. That she can make right her wrongs.

It’s a lie that she so wants to believe.

GM: The other blonde-haired princess sitting across from Caroline can only smile at her apparent acceptance of that belief.

The Clan of Kings.

Caroline: Another smile.

“Are there any other matters that need be seen to tonight, Questor Adler?”

GM: “Let’s see, now for the Ethic of Succor, three last questions. How does a Ventrue need to conduct herself when she asks for aid, what are the consequences if she doesn’t manage to, and under what circumstances is it a no-no to help a clanmate who’s asked in all the proper ways?”

Caroline: Caroline thinks for a moment. “There are specific phrases that must be used in asking for aid, and it should be requested only when their is a genuine need. They should be forthright as to the problems and the need.”

“The consequences for such failure varies, depending on the aid requested, the individuals involved, or the reasons why attempts to help failed. As a rule, however, one should attempt to aid another in good faith, just as one should ask in good faith. The degree of consequence varies depending on the failure, but carries a loss of dignitas in essentially failing, and more so, failing another Ventrue and Ventrue interests as a whole.”

Caroline pauses to collect her thoughts for a moment before continuing, “Generally speaking, it’s never acceptable to refuse a reasonable request, though circumstances may vary what constitutes reasonable. In short, when such aid would damage the standing of all Ventrue or another Ventrue specifically.”

Another pause.

“I should clarify, I would expect that the consequences for failing to aid another Ventrue of sufficient power or influence could have further consequences, significant further consequences if they were powerful or influential enough, up and including final death.”

GM: Becky Lynne nods again. “All right, Miss Malveaux, I think you rightly have the gist of it. Lord knows we could spend months goin’ into the nitty-gritty of things, but you won’t need to know that much just for your Presentation. Is there by chance anythin’ else you’d like to go over tonight, or shall we see each other tomorrow at the trial?”

Caroline: “A million things, perhaps,” Caroline offers lightly, with a smile. “But might we go over exactly what goes into a release?”

GM: “That isn’t too complex. The prince will read a passage from the Testament of Longinus, anoint you with a sinner’s blood, and simply ask if you’re of a mind to join the Sanctified. All you need to do is kneel and answer yes. If you don’t mean to join the Sanctified, of course, you should answer ‘no’ in such a way that makes clear you’re honored by the invitation, and still wish to serve God in your own way.”

Caroline: Not an option.

She catalogs, “Can you walk me through the lead up to that moment Questor Adler? Staging, dress code, and similar? And following activities of course, if only in brief.”

GM: “Of course! In terms of dress, you’ll want to show up in your Sunday finest—it is bein’ held in a church on Sunday, after all. Your release might get pushed back a night or two, dependin’ on how long the trials take, but you should dress the same either way.”

“You’ll sit in the front pew when the prince reads from the Testament, as I’ve said. Once the prince says it’s time for you to take your place among the Sanctified, that’ll be time for you to step up to the altar, and to kneel in front of him.”

“He’ll then ask whether you want to join the Sanctified and anoint your head if you say yes. You should say somethin’ nice to the crowd about how much it means for you to join, or to serve another covenant, but no longer than a sentence or two—it’s not a pulpit to make a speech on.”

“You’ll then swear a brief oath of obedience to the prince and his laws in the name of God, Christ and Longinus. The prince will say he accepts, you’ll kiss his ring, and return to your seat. He might then say a few final words, but that’ll be all you need to do.”

“Oh, and for that matter… don’t say you want to join the Sanctified unless you’re well and truly of a mind to. The presidin’ priest will say a prayer and work some kind of magic spell that lets him tell if you’re talkin’ with your tongue out of your shoe.”

Caroline: “A question of desire or of commitment to the precepts of Longinus?”

GM: “I’m sorry, Miss Malveaux?”

Caroline: “The ritual of the priest?” she prompts. “Does it seek a question of commitment or a question of desire to learn and grow? Or is it like so much else, a mystery?”

GM: “I’m afraid I don’t rightly know, Miss Malveaux. All I do is that if your reason for wantin’ to join the Sanctified don’t track with the facts, they can tell.”

Caroline: Caroline nods. “That’s very helpful.”

GM: “I’m so glad to hear,” Becky Lynne smiles. “Now then, do we have anythin’ else to go over?”

Caroline: “I think that you’ve covered everything I can think of, Questor Adler,” Caroline replies. She brings a hooked finger to her lips, “My thanks for your time this evening.”

GM: “You’re most welcome, Miss Malveaux. Good luck at your Presentation tomorrow night.” She winks. “Hopefully you won’t need it.”


Sunday night, 20 September 2015, AM

Caroline: Caroline catches a ride home courtesy of Becky Lynne again. The home is the same destroyed mess it was a couple of hours ago, but Caroline has little time. She quickly picks out an non-wrecked outfit for tomorrow and makes once more for the attic, her one-time refuge, tucking herself as far back as she can manage and under insulation. It’s an uncomfortable fit, but one safe from daylight and not immediately apparent to those that might search the house.

GM: Becky Lynne’s chauffeur drives Caroline back to Audubon and wishes her a good night (“or good morning, at this hour,” he laughs). Dawn soon overtakes the wrecked house, and Caroline with it.

She can only pray no one else will invade the place.

She remembers the slang term Jocelyn used to describe the insecure haven.

‘Sand castle.’


Sunday evening, 20 September 2015

GM: Consciousness returns. Caroline’s limbs don’t feel nearly so sore as she might expect, but compared to the past week she’s spent in comfortable beds with Egyptian cotton sheets, or even the cot in her panic room, her present accommodations in the back of an attic feel distinctly lacking.

The time reads 7:33. The hours until midnight stretch before her.

Caroline: She heads downstairs and dresses for hunting, an eye out for any sign of tampering over the day.

GM: Caroline cannot find any sign that further intruders have been present in the compromised haven. But given the utterly disheveled state, it’s so hard to tell.

Worst of all is the reek emanating from the kitchen. The rotted, left-out food has had another day to ferment.

She has to wonder what her Uncle Matt would think of what’s happened to his house.

Caroline: It’s not something she worries about overly long. Instead she uses her archaic landline to call a Ryde to the entrance of Audubon Place and heads into the night. She has stops to make, the first of which, though mundane, is quite important. Best Buy may not be a particularly flashy location, but it does have the benefit of being open later than carrier stores and selling phones…

GM: Caroline swiftly finds that all of her landline phones are (still) missing from the ransacked house. Perhaps to her chagrin, she also finds that her only means of hailing a Ryde is to pick up and fix the brand new landline that she so furiously hurled across the room in front of Jocelyn.

The cab arrives in good time after only several minutes. The Hispanic thirty-something male driver makes little conversation except to ask where to. Caroline, not used to doing her own shopping, soon finds out that New Orleans lacks a Best Buy. The nearby suburb of Elmwood has one, which takes some fifteen minutes for the cab to reach.

Caroline also surprisingly finds that she recognizes the neighborhood from her prior car trip with Lou. It remains the same banal suburbia that seems stuck in the white flight of the ‘50s. Incomes, too, still don’t seem to have increased much since Eisenhower’s presidency in the almost exclusively Caucasian neighborhood. The houses need just a little too much repair, the shopping center’s parking lot is a little too deserted, and the skinheads stalking the vandalized playgrounds just a little too angry. The place is so far removed from the city’s hustle and bustle, and so thinly-populated (at least in comparison) that Caroline has a hard time seeing many of her kind holding much interest in the area.

The Elmwood Shopping Center is a conglomeration of retailers and big-box stores selling clothing, electronics, crafts, and other such typical shopping mall staples. Lights glow from the rows of stores, promising distraction but not refuge from the night’s lurking terrors. It would be so easy to feed here, Caroline notes. Corner some lone shopper walking out to their car. The darkness between the streetlights stretches so long and thick. Caroline has a hard time picturing other departing shoppers noticing. She has an even harder time picturing them caring. Not when they could simply take their purchases, drive back to their homes, and pay no mind to what’s happening by that other car. Human life becomes just another commodity at the strip mall. It’s just as easy to cynically speculate how many minimum-wage retail employees would consider her kiss an exciting diversion from their monotonous jobs, so long as she didn’t kill them.

Yet Caroline sees few opportunities to find out. Few cars are parked under the dark lot’s headlights. Massive iron security grilles have turned the rows of shops into lines of prison cells. The warden of Best Buy’s is a middle-aged, tie-wearing rent-a-cop who is neither fat nor thin, but that nebulous body weight broadly describable as ‘portly.’ The streetlights’ dim glow wanly reflects off his wire-framed glasses as he looks up at the approaching vampire.

“Sorry, lady, just closed.”

Caroline: Just closed.

There’s a flash of irritation. Wasted time. It wouldn’t be so difficult to bully her way past him, to bend him to her will… but it’s a senseless risk. Too many cameras. Too little benefit. Even if it means she’ll have to suffer instead.

“Not even if I know exactly what I want?” she asks, bereft of her supernatural presence, offering only a too human smile.

GM: The rent-a-cop gives a hapless ‘what could I do?’ shrug.

Caroline: “I’ll be in and out before the shoppers you’ve still gone inside,” Caroline promises sweetly.

GM: The middle-aged man chews his lip.

“All right, missy, but if you’re the last one out, you’ll be in trouble.”

Caroline: “You’re a dear.” She smiles sweetly.

GM: Caroline heads into the swiftly-emptying store, makes her way to the rows of laid-out phones on white mats, and picks up a 64G Solaris 6 Plus from the Sunburst section. The Solaris 6S is due to come out in only five days, she distantly recalls, but five days is a while to go without a phone.

At her rate she might need another one by then anyway.

The blue-shirted cashier rings up her purchase for $749 and gives her the usual retail pleasantries of thanks for shopping and to please come again.

Caroline: She drops most of the packaging in the trash outside as she turns on the glass and plastic and sets it up to sync with her profile and SunCloud contacts, apps, and the like.

GM: Caroline reconnects to the twenty-first century but finds comparatively few texts and emails. There are a few more messages from various family members asking if she’s heard anything new about her brother, but for the most part, they simply seem increasingly irritated by her poor communication under the present circumstances.

Caroline: She uses an app to order up a ride back to her more traditional hunting ground and sends a text to Jocelyn that she’s all right.

GM: lol was that in doubt? good to hear though Jocelyn shoots back.

Meanwhile, lights in the rows of stores slowly wink out, enshrouding the mall under a blanket of night.

Caroline: Darkness Caroline might have feared once. She checks the status of her ride.

GM: The Ryde cab still has several minutes to arrive. There is also some good news shared with the rest of the family by her brother Luke. Cécilia Devillers’ stalker was just sentenced to a year of jail time in Orleans Parish Prison, one of the worst jails in the entire country, for some, for some unrelated offense. They have their cousin Carson to thank.

Caroline: A sad smile spreads across her face, as tart and bittersweet as an unripe cherry. She spits it out. While everyone else is gloating and celebrating she remembers the sound and feel of his fingers snapping, of his cries and tears, the running snot, and his inability to understand. Mouse isn’t a monster. Autistic. Socially awkward. Perhaps hopelessly so. But he’s as dangerous as a houseplant.

Part of her wonders how he’s gotten into this mess again, but as she closes the message out the truth is she just don’t have the energy to care. Not with the night’s events, and last night’s events, and the night before’s event’s all the way back to her Embrace weighing upon her.

GM: The pit hits the pavement with a sad plunk. Not so much as a dent against her prior suffering—or Mouse’s, over the course of the coming year. After several minutes, a lone Ryde cab pulls in to the darkened parking lot. The rent-a-cop squints and frowns at Caroline’s headlight-illuminated silhouette.

Caroline: She climbs in. Other places to be. Things to do. Just having a phone, being connected again, is a weight off her back.

GM: The car’s driver is a relatively good-looking young man with short, wavy brown hair, a wide nose, and crinkles around his eyes. He smells just right.

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“Hey, where to?” he half-asks, half-greets.

Somewhat needlessly. Their app tells them where to go.

Caroline: Caroline only just manages not to lick her lips by licking her fangs from behind those closed lips as she slips into the backseat. Usually that question from Ryde drivers irritates her. Even the mentally deficient could figure out where to go from their app.

Tonight, however, the very smell of him is too much to let something that silly irritate her. She smiles into the rear view mirror from the backseat.

“Just looking for a good time. How about you?”

GM: “Oh, nothing exciting. Just another evening earning some extra tuition money,” the young man answers as the car takes off, in seeming testament to the pointlessness of his initial question.

Caroline: “Is that all you want?” Caroline replies, amused, from the backseat.

GM: “Maybe to magically land a full ride scholarship in my senior year,” Caroline’s driver kids. Despite her good looks and flirtatious tone, though, the young man’s smile doesn’t seem interested.

Caroline: “Oh, lord, that’s so dull,” she laughs. “You’re not a Mormon, are you?”

GM: There’s the slightest pause in that smile. “Baptist, actually.”

Caroline: “Southern, of course.” She laughs. “At least you don’t wear the magic underwear.”

Still, she doesn’t like the pause. She lets a bit of the Beast bleed through, its presence bearing down on him, clouding thoughts.

GM: The driver’s eyes instantly turn up from the road as his expression turns awed.

“Yeah… I’ll take getting baptized as a grown-up any day, thanks,” he jokes back. Almost nervously.

Caroline: Putting him at ease. She keeps her own eyes on the relatively empty Sunday evening roads however.

“Are you particularly religious, Eddie?”

GM: Eddie, or so Caroline’s Ryde app named him, initially looks just so slightly defensive at the question. Then the Ventrue’s Beast pressed down, and he lets out a deflated sigh like a punctured balloon.

“Honestly… not really.”

Caroline: She quickly scans his fingers for a ring.

“Ah…”

GM: None is visible on the college-age man.

Caroline: “So what is it, Eddie, you don’t like blondes?” she asks.

More forwardly than she might have without the Beast clouding his mind.

GM: “It’s not you,” Eddie says embarrassedly. “I’m just more of a… noirette guy.”

Caroline: “Noirette,” Caroline repeats, more amused than offended. “Has that ever actually worked? I mean, with that particular word choice?”

GM: “Hey, I think it’s clever!” he protests. “There’s blondes, brunettes, and redheads, but no name for guys with black hair.”

His face goes abruptly still.

Caroline: Caroline lets out a light laugh. “Yes, it is clever. Too clever, really.”

She studies his reaction. “Family doesn’t know? I can sympathize.”

GM: Eddie clears his throat as his eyes drift back to the road.

“Don’t we all? Who doesn’t have secrets?”

Caroline: “It’s not easy to live a lie. I’m still trying to figure it out.”

GM: “Oh, are you into girls too?”

Caroline: “Everyone has something to offer if you look hard enough,” Caroline replies.

GM: “Depends what you’re looking for too, I guess. Some elements can’t form ionic bonds.”

“Sorry, chemistry major.”

Caroline: Another smile, and another sweep of the street.

“Don’t apologize for who you are.”

GM: His face falls a bit at that. “Yeah, guess we shouldn’t.”

Caroline: “Don’t guess,” she replies. “You are what you are. Someone has to be.”

GM: “Be yourself. Everyone else is taken.”

Caroline: Another light laugh.

“Story of my life.”

She arches an eyebrow into the rear-view mirror.

GM: The Beast stares back at her from Eddie’s too-open, too-trusting face.

Caroline: She lapses into silence as he drives. She doesn’t really want to know more, not about this next victim.

GM: The car hits an abrupt jolt and comes to a stop.

Caroline: She looks around to see what the boy has hit. “Is there a problem?” she asks.

GM: Caroline does not see anything from her position in the back seat. Eddie frowns as he unbuckles his seatbelt. “Maybe we have a flat. I’ll check.”

The pair’s car is near a Wallgreens pharmacy. A dully glowing sign proclaims, “Nice! 2 / $5…” before trailing off into illegibility as it advertises some useless food product to the vampire. A second, clearer advertisement hawks “Select Nuts.” Although the hour is not especially late, only several cars are parked by the pharmacy/convenience store entrance. Rows of dark trees extend along the sidewalk’s adjacent lawn. It’s the sort of deliberately cultivated greenery one finds in neither the city nor the country, but feels like a hollow facsimile of the latter. The entire scene—a suburban drug store on a quiet Sunday night—feels like it warrants barely a footnote in her life’s current chapter, and could easily skimmed over by bored readers. Her kind’s name for such banal, desolate (for them) places again springs to mind.

Outlands.

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Caroline: Caroline doesn’t need this tonight. She scrolls through her phone while she waits for Eddie to figure out the cause of his calamity, trying to decide if she just wants to order another car now.

GM: The door shuts as Eddie heads outside. His head disappears from the window’s view as he presumably bends down to inspect the state of the vehicle.

Caroline: Caroline cracks the door to look out at what he’s doing.

GM: Eddie is stooped down on his haunches by the side of the vehicle, grunting.

Caroline: “Tire?” she asks, almost bored.

GM: “Ngh…”

Caroline: She frowns and steps out to look more closely at what he’s doing.

GM: The chemistry student is squatting down by the car, his back to Caroline, but his hands aren’t touching the tires. He rocks slightly back and forth on his haunches, grunting as he does.

“Nngh…”

Caroline: She reaches out a hand for him.

“What’s going on?”

GM: Eddie jerks under Caroline’s touch as his head swings up to look at her. Sweat streaks his face. His throat bulges as he gulps night air with tightly clenched teeth.

“Nnn-gghhhh-hhh…!”

Caroline: She slaps his back. “Eddie, what happened? What do you need?”

It’s more instinct and training taking over than real humanity—lessons she had beaten into her in pre-med and first aid training. Assess, communicate, calm down.

GM: He flinches at Caroline’s second touch, wheezing as head jerks away from, and then back towards the almost-doctor. His eyes madly dart across his surroundings.

“H.. g… nh… ge… ou…!”

Caroline: She tries to help him into the backseat of the car. “Just breathe, Eddie, breathe. What happened?”

Her own eyes sweep across the surroundings.

GM: The unsteady, sweat-faced Eddie has to be half-dragged into the car by Caroline as he gags and wheezes.

“G… f… get… ou…!”

The Ventrue’s eyes make out nothing.

Her ears register a faint rustling from the bushes under the Walgreens sign.

Caroline: She shoves him into the backseat and slams the door, keeping an eye on the bushes.

GM: Eddie clenches his eyes as he hacks and spits flecks of dark blood over the seats. The vampire’s Beast growls hungrily in her ear.

Caroline: “Just breathe, Eddie.”

She slides into the driver’s side of the car and turns the ignition, seeing if the car will start up. Whatever thing attacked him, she has no interest in a fight, on this of all nights.

GM: Eddie did not turn off the car, and the ignition remains on as Caroline takes the wheel. The former driver, meanwhile, wheezes and hacks, his face turning red. He gives a single terrific gag, then expels a clot of dark, coagulated-looking fluid over the back seat. He slumps back and closes his eyes, lightly wheezing.

Caroline: She pauses to glance back to make sure the fluid isn’t some monster, then turns and accelerates away from the scene.

GM: The bloody goop hacked up by Eddie is motionless to the Ventrue’s sight. Slathered underneath it, however, is a skinned-colored, roughly ovular-shaped object no longer than a woman’s fingertip.

A human toenail.

Caroline: “Jesus Christ,” she mutters. The car continues to flee the scene. She looks back to see if there’s anything in the road in the rear view.

GM: The cloying suburban landscape rushes past the speeding vehicle’s mirror. The glowing Walgreens sign’s font grows smaller, then illegible, swallowed up by the hungry night.

Caroline: “Eddie, are you still with me back there?” she asks.

GM: “Yeah…” the college student pants.

Caroline: “What the fuck happened?”

GM: “I dunno… though we hit something, or a flat…” Eddie mutters, his eyes still closed.

Caroline: “Eddie, talk to me… what happened when you got out of the car?”

GM: “I got down… took a look… then I just… I dunno, felt funny… something inside me… had to get it out, like a hair you’ve swallowed…”

Caroline: She doesn’t look at the toenail. “What were you trying to say to me earlier?”

GM: “Get out… something in me, had to get out…”

Caroline: Caroline says nothing to that as she continues to drive.

GM: “I… think I heard something like…” Eddie adds, his eyes finally cracking open, “I dunno… a click…”

Caroline: “A click?” she repeats. “You just coughed up a toenail, Eddie… and blood.” The last word comes out with something else on it. Not quite emphasis.

GM: “W-wha-?!” Eddie exclaims.

He wildly looks around the car’s seat.

“Oh my god! That’s… I… what the fuck!?”

Caroline: She drives on.

“I don’t know,” she snaps back, irritation rising.

The outlands. She’ll be happy to get out of them.


Sunday night, 20 September 2015, PM

GM: Caroline has no idea at what point she returns to civilization proper, or if such a division even exists as anything but an arbitrary point in her own mind. The night is just as dark in Riverbend as it is in Elmwood. The mortals just as oblivious to the things lurking in the shadows.

Caroline: At least the darkness here is familiar. The monsters ones she recognizes. Like the one in the mirror.

GM: Audubon Place’s high concrete walls loom before her, all-too ineffectual at keeping such monsters at bay.

Caroline: She continues past it, away from prying guards and security cameras, before she pulls the car over and climbs out of the driver’s seat. Sliding around she opens the back seat and leans in to look at Eddie.

“Are you going to be okay?”

GM: Eddie has been largely quiet for the drive over. He finally stirs at Caroline’s question.

“I… I guess.”

He dumbly looks at the bloody toenail.

Caroline: She focuses instead on his eyes.

“Tell me what happened.”

The force of her presence washes over him like a tide.

GM: The young man’s eyes widen for a moment. “I don’t know. I seriously don’t.”

Caroline: “Why did you stop?”

GM: “I thought we hit something. Or the tire was flat.”

Caroline: “Why’d you think that?”

GM: “The car bumped against something.”

Caroline: So he knows nothing. It’s both reassuring and concerning, but she takes the opportunity to slide in beside him and get a better look at what he spat up while he’s caught in her thrall.

GM: After several minutes of inspection, Caroline identities the messy cocktail over the back seat as predominantly blood, with a side of bile, phlegm, and saliva. And not all of it Eddie’s. The latter three fluids she can’t be sure of, but the vampire knows blood. It even smells just right for a college student. The toenail had to have been lost recently, and from a comparatively small population size.

Blood. Not all of it Eddie’s. But all of it just to her tastes…

Caroline: It’s too much. This close to him, with the blood in the air, she can’t quite resist it. It’s all she can do to resist lapping up the vomited blood and bile, instead she turns her gentle attentions on Eddie.
And in the dark car, already under her sway.

GM: The dominated college student doesn’t resist or even particularly respond as Caroline’s fangs sink into his neck. The taste of his blood more than makes up for it. It’s refreshing, clean, and just a tad… almost salty, metallic. Mostly pure, too. Someone who takes care of himself, clearly a science major as he’s said, and just a whiff of some hot and smoldering, almost scared undercurrent. Clearly repressed, too.

Caroline: It flows across her like the life that it is. His life. Her life. And he’s oh so fresh and clean, with none of the fatty and disgusting undercurrent of at least one of her recent victims. She licks closed the tiny wounds when she’s taken, if not her fill, then enough for now. She plucks the disgusting toenail from his seat and flings it into the dark gutter.

“What have you been doing?” she wonders to herself, before sighing. He doesn’t need to remember this mess.

She makes him produce his wallet and takes a picture with her phone of his license and student ID so she can find him later, then turns her influence upon him more forcefully.

The ride you gave before me was really sick and puked in the back of your car on the way to the hospital, not you. We never stopped earlier, you drove the whole way, but you’re going to clean up this mess before you give any further rides.

She looks him over for a moment.

And you’re going to go pick up a burger and go home tonight and get some sleep immediately thereafter.

She leans forward and kisses him on the forehead.

“Take care of yourself.”

GM: Eddie sleepily nods his assent to Caroline’s various commands, then drives off without a word.

Caroline: Welcome to undeath, where getting a cellphone is a traumatic experience.


Sunday night, 20 September 2015, PM

Caroline: Caroline rises to take her leave from the blood-spattered car—at least not her fault tonight. As she does, she shoots off a text to Jocelyn.

Still want to get a bite?

GM: Jocelyn’s reply shoots back after a few moments. oh i forgot sorry. meet you later at church?

Caroline: Aiming for 1130ish, she fires back.

GM: ok cya then

Caroline: She’s already called up a fresh ride. The Beast is still so hungry. While she waits she sends off a message to her mother.

Meetings could have gone worse. We need to talk. When is the funeral?

GM: There is no immediate reply from her mother.

Caroline: While she waits for the car to show up she sends off another text to a similarly beleaguered soul from recent nights, Sasha McMillan, inquiring as to how she’s holding up.

GM: Caroline’s former victim honestly seems surprised at first that she’s calling, but glumly answers, “My mom thinks I should see a therapist. I don’t know.”

Caroline: “Anything to fill your days and nights,” Caroline offers. “You’re not just sitting at home, are you?”

GM: Caroline feels like there’d be a shrug over the other end of the line.

“Guess I am.”

Caroline: “That’s awful,” Caroline replies. “Have you even eaten anything today?” she asks.

GM: “Yeah. Some toast.”

Caroline: Caroline rolls her eyes. “I’m going to bring you something. I’ll see you soon.”

GM: There’s a long pause. Caroline can’t tell over the phone whether the grad student’s eyes are warring with desire to stew in her misery against desire for company.

Or if they’re simply misty recalling the bliss of the vampire’s kiss when she was aching for it.

“All right,” she finally says.

Caroline: “I’ll see you soon.”

Caroline hangs up and calls in a food order to a late night Chinese place on the way, updating her travel itinerary appropriately in Ryde.

It brings up uncomfortable questions as she waits for the car. Does she actually care? About Sasha? About Eddie? About her mother? About Aimee or Turner? All the lives she’s casually destroyed or thrown to one wolf or another. All the people that whatever her altruistic actions often end up as just so much sustenance for her—victims of a brutal invasion of their bodies and often minds.
Would she be visiting poor grieving Sasha if the Beast inside of her wasn’t licking its lips?

Probably not.

But does that also mean she can’t do some good with it? That the passage of a monster, a predator, cannot have a positive effect on others? It’s pathetically too soon to say. But pulling Eddie away from whatever that was in the bushes, wiping his memory of the traumatic event, and delivering some manner of comfort to the grieving doesn’t rub her the wrong way.

Maybe it’s a small price to pay for what she takes. A small act of contrition for the sins she partakes of. Alongside their blood.

GM: Caroline drops off by Sasha’s apartment with her takeout order. It turns out to be in the CBD. It’s not nearly so nice a place as Caroline’s home used to be, but it’s better than the ratty apartments most newly-independent college kids are likely to occupy. The Ventrue picks up that Sasha is actually a graduate student and earning a master’s in architecture. Caroline pays little attention to what they talk about, however. The Chinese takeout boxes sit cooling and unopened as Caroline sups from the crying woman’s neck.

Caroline: Still, she’s merciful enough to make the woman eat something and put the rest of the food away in the fridge when she puts Sasha to bed and lets herself out.

GM: Watching the kine eat isn’t actively nauseous, but it is unpleasant. Caroline watches as she spears a fork through the dead plant matter, sticks it in her mouth, munches it under her teeth like a cow would chew its cud, then swallows the pulped, saliva-laden matter down her throat. She’ll subsequently expel what her body couldn’t use from its rear orifice in a brown stinky stream. The kine’s fragile, sweating, mortal body seems so inefficient at its purpose. Literally creating stinking, useless waste.

It takes the teary-eyed, indecisive kine so long to eat, too. There’s that stupid, cow-like way she has to chew up her food, because she can’t just directly consume it. It isn’t even very efficient at its intended purpose. It clogs her arteries with cholesterol and saturated fat, spikes her blood stream with sugar highs that’ll lead to crashes and decreased efficiency. “It’s the dose that makes the poison,” Caroline remembers one of her biology professors saying. “Even water, revered across so many cultures as a bringer of life, is toxic when ingested in sufficient quantities.”

But that isn’t true for her. Caroline could sup on Sasha’s blood forever and be none the worse for it. She’d be considerably for the better. Even if one were to excise all the harmful compounds from the kine’s food (it’s pathetic how they’ll sacrifice their long-term health for fleeting sensory stimuli), and strip it solely down to its beneficial nutrients and fiber, consuming it would still only serve to ameliorate the symptoms of her fragile, fallible body’s defects. It wouldn’t sustain her forever.

As Caroline sticks the boxes of salty, fatty, saliva-smeared organic matter into the fridge’s cold space, a stupidly necessary precaution to prevent it from fermenting into poison—or at least a much higher dose of poison—it’s hard not to feel that her own deathless body is simply better.

Caroline: Hard, but not impossible. Laying like the dead throughout the day. Feeding only on the living. Pleasure only in inflicting pain upon them… and she’s not yet far enough removed that she doesn’t miss food. Memories of heavenly meals war with instincts that make the very idea physically revolting, but perhaps, for now, the memories win out.

No meal ever tasted so good as Sasha’s warm blood. Sex was just as good as her violent, blood-filled night with Jocelyn. But then no one ever got hurt eating a beignet, and every romp in the hay wasn’t one that risked the intoxicating artificial ties of fellowship her blood brings.

GM: And, as Caroline leaves the apartment and its not-quite-widowed occupant, that blood calls.


Previous, by Narrative: Story Six, Mouse X
Next, by Narrative: Story Six, Mouse Epilogue

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Next, by Character: Story Six, Caroline X, Cletus I, George II, Rocco I

Comments

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Turner’s Death

Man, what an awful scene in every way. The setup to it, the fact that Turner was ever loyal, the horrible series of events that happened to Turner, and that she met her end in such an inglorious and ignoble way. Awful. I was pretty shocked that the setup there though was sufficient to break the bond flat out, given all the things in play (obvious distress for Caroline, serious wounds on Caroline, third party she was differing to, etc), though once it snapped I wasn’t surprised by her reaction of lashing out and being violent and vindictive towards the end. Really I didn’t see so much of a sliding scale as I did two wildly different possibilities as to how she’d react, depending on the bond. I’m kind of sad that she had to go out so badly. I’d hoped that Caroline could give her some peace before she died, but I guess I’ll settle for what happened, which was an opportunity to show off Caroline’s more penitent side, even if doing so effectively risked her life to do so what with the frenzy risk and other circumstances (e.g. danger of the Hussar being the one she frenzied on, already starving, etc.)

Overall Turner’s arc was pretty tragic, and I was sad that she never had an opportunity to come around and achieve any real success or happiness. The character as designed was intentionally pretty sad, but I’d intended on my end of trying to create a degree of satisfaction for her within her life as a ghoul during the downtime skips, and had hoped that given all that she’d survived up until that point she’d have an opportunity to grow into something more (even if I hated, and continue to hate, the art change with her).

I definitely felt dirty with her paying the price for Caroline’s mistakes, and though she’s replaceable (to a much easier extent than Autumn – and Caroline would have made the same choice with regard to who to save if Maldy had given her the choice for most of the same reasons he cited and a few more besides) she’s not forgettable to me as a character, and her loss is certainly both a mental and temporal blow to Caroline. Turner will be missed.

Story Six, Caroline IX
False_Epiphany False_Epiphany

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