“What is your offense, young one?”
John Harley Matheson
Friday night, 18 September 2015, AM
GM: Autumn and Caroline don’t drive far. The CBD has more homeless people, or at least more visible homeless people, than Riverbend does. Being confined to Storyville limits the scope of their search.
Autumn reports that she researched missing persons reports, homeless shelter lists, recently released mental patients, discharged vets, and as many other sources of homeless people that occurred to her. It gives Caroline a few leads, but not a lot. Much of the information Autumn wanted simply isn’t possible to find online vs. on the streets. “The problem with bums, real bums who can disappear without anyone caring, is that a lot of them aren’t in the system,” the ghoul remarks.
Caroline: Caroline doesn’t argue the point. She keeps her eyes open as they drive through the streets. Turner would be better at this, she admits, but she’s unwilling to call the maimed mercenary. She needs to recover. Needs to heal up. Needs a bit of time away from all of this.
GM: The two work with what they have. Caroline eventually finds what she’s looking for curled next to a Subway’s trash dumpster. He’s still wearing a dirty green parka jacket despite having a sleeping bag tugged up to his neck. He has a haggard, deeply-lined face, and horseshoe mustache that might’ve once been brown and is now mostly gray. A cardboard sign lying next to him reads,
Homeless War Vet
Please help me survive
Caroline: Caroline mesmerizes him, dominates him, and has him follow them to the car. She tries to ignore the nagging screaming in the back of her head at how wrong this is. She told her mother she was trying not to be a monster. Now she’s plotting to hand over multiple people to Donovan to be nothing more than cattle.
Once she has her tentacles in his mind she tries not to focus on him. Tries to avoid thinking about him. Pretends he isn’t there. She cracks the window so she doesn’t have to smell him, letting the wind blow across her face.
GM: The old (or simply old-looking) man snorts in his sleep as Caroline roughly shakes him by the shoulder. She sees the fight-or-flight instinct flash across his brown eyes as he wakes up, blended with equal parts confusion. She isn’t the sort of person he normally sees.
His mouth opens, but not before hers does. His lined face sags and eyes glass over at the command to follow. He rises from the sleeping bag to follow Caroline, takes one step, and then falls flat over his face, moaning as his chest hits the asphalt. Outside of the sleeping bag, she notices he’s missing one of his feet.
Caroline: Caroline grinds her fangs as she helps him hobble.
GM: Autumn looks at the man and doesn’t say anything as she pulls down the minicooper’s front seat. Caroline helps him into the low-ceilinged car.
The expression on his wrinkled face furrows. “My crutch is back there,” he says in a thick voice, like a sleeping man trying to wake up. “So’s all my stuff.”
Caroline: “You’re fine,” Caroline answers softly. “It’s taken care of.” She wanders back to examine his ‘stuff’.
GM: Beyond a chipped metal crutch that looks like it’s seen better days, Caroline finds a plastic bag containing a razor, deodorant stick, Irish Spring soap, a straw, small towel, sunglasses, toilet paper roll, notepad, blue pen, and stainless steel tag (the usual chain it goes through is missing) that reads:
The plastic bag of ‘stuff’ is stuck inside in the rim of the sleeping bag. The man clearly didn’t want to leave it somewhere visible for anyone to wander up and take as he slept.
Caroline: She gathers up the bag, looking at all these human things she has no use for, and the crutch. They’re gone from the scene in less than two minutes total. The whole thing hurts, digging into her chest like a rusty blade.
GM: The old man’s half-asleep, half-frantic expression doesn’t calm as Caroline enters the car with his ‘stuff’ and crutch. “I can’t leave my sleeping bag, lady. What am I gonna sleep on?”
Caroline: “Don’t worry. We’ll take care of it all,” Caroline assures him.
GM: The old man’s expression does not calm, but his next words come out even thicker. “I can’t… leave my… sleeping bag,” he slurredly pleads.
Caroline: She reluctantly goes and quickly collects the bag for him.
GM: The sleeping bag’s exterior is slightly damp and has several faded stains. The old man’s (Grant’s, if the tag is accurate) expression calms as Caroline passes back the rolled-up bedding.
Caroline: She places it back over him.
“Go to sleep,” she directs as they drive away. Halfway there.
GM: The old man slumps against the back seat, his eyes closed. Even with the deodorant stick Caroline found among his belongings, his smell is all-too ripe in the small car. Autumn rolls down the windows.
Caroline: Caroline tries not to watch him, but she can’t get away from her thoughts.
“How much blood could you get from the Krewe by Sunday? If it came to that?”
GM: “I don’t know, sorry,” Autumn answers. “I didn’t work for Dr. Gremillion and I know as much about hospitals as the next person. However much they feel won’t endanger the Masquerade. I can ask, though.”
Caroline: Caroline bites her lip.
“Four people’s worth,” she spits out. “By Sunday. That’s what he wants.”
GM: “That’s a lot.”
Caroline: Caroline gives a slight nod. “I suspect that the goal is not the blood.”
GM: She frowns a bit. “Why’s he asking for so much? This isn’t corvée, is it?”
Autumn’s eyes seem to be remaining deliberately off the sleeping homeless man in the back.
Caroline: Caroline nods again. “Because I had friends in the police,” she replies. “The sheriff’s double showed up this evening at my home. With a head in a box.”
GM: Autumn grimaces. “They’re… protective.”
Caroline: “My guess is the intent is either to panic or push me into a Masquerade breach, which he could bond me for or force me to request a sip instead of the amplified demands.”
GM: Autumn immediately shakes her head. “The Masquerade’s the First Tradition for a reason. They don’t play around with it.”
Caroline: “Of course not, which is why they’d have to teach me a lesson.” The bitterness and disillusionment in her voice is obvious.
GM: “No, Caroline, you… look, you don’t get it,” Autumn says. “They don’t screw around with the Masquerade. A neonate like you isn’t worth it.”
Caroline: “What the fuck else is going to happen when you put someone under that kind of deadline?” she snaps. “You’re asking for someone to make a mistake somewhere.”
GM: “You could make four people disappear in four days without risking the Masquerade. And there’s lots of ways to get blood besides killing.”
Caroline: “Four people no one would notice, and smoothly?”
GM: “Sure, if you’re subtle. I mean, there’s over a hundred licks in New Orleans already, and that’s leaving out the Quarter Rats. And like I said, you don’t have to kill people to get that much blood.”
Caroline: “Buy it from the Krewe. Boons for it with another Kindred.” Caroline ticks off on her fingers. “Drain people to a lesser extent.”
GM: Autumn nods. “The Krewe doesn’t like killing. It’s worse for the Masquerade.”
Caroline: “Did I miss anything?”
GM: “Well, buy from the Krewe, boons, don’t kill people, draw on herds… there’s also admitting you can’t do it. Taking a blood bond, or trading something else, like service or information. Probably at a markup.”
Caroline: Caroline bites her lip again.
GM: “You don’t need to kill this guy,” Autumn says quietly, her eyes flicking from the road. “There’s better ways. Practically, not just morally.”
Caroline: Practicality, or is that poison, wars with Autumn’s words.
“Like what?” Reluctance and desire war in her voice.
GM: “Like I said. Trade boons to someone for blood. Have me try again with the Krewe tomorrow. Drain this guy a little and let him go.”
Caroline: “Hope it all works out?”
There’s a cynicism hiding hope there. A want to believe.
GM: “No more hope than if you’re kidnapping and draining four people.”
Caroline: “Two more,” Caroline corrects.
She imagines this must be something like how as armed robber feels like the first time, only like them she’s stealing lives. If she was still alive, she knows her hands would be shaking now.
“I don’t want to hurt him,” she admits.
GM: “You don’t have to. There’s other ways.”
Caroline: For a moment all Autumn hears is the wind rushing past the car.
GM: “Where do you want me to take us?” she finally asks in a quiet voice.
Caroline: “Somewhere private. Not my house, where we can take a ‘safe’ amount,” Caroline finally murmurs, still not facing the ghoul.
Even if she were facing Autumn, it’s would be difficult to say whether relief, determination, or fear is written across the Ventrue’s face.
GM: Autumn nods as the downtown cityscape rolls past.
“Okay, just tell me where…”
Friday night, 18 September 2015, AM
Caroline: It’s not so hard to find a place out of the way, and dominated as he is the man is in no condition to resist as the ghoul hooks him, cuts into his skin, and drains as much blood as she thinks is safe. Caroline waits outside the car, in the night. It’s better for her to be away from the blood, even when it’s outside of her range. She runs his dog tag over in her hands as she very intentionally looks away from the scene.
She returns only to lick the cleaned wound closed, spitting out the small bit of his foul tasting blood. The two dump him a block away from where they found him, complete with his stuff and no memory of the event and a crumpled, dirty, $20 bill shoved in his pocket. He’ll want something when he wakes up in the morning. Whether it’s food or his alternative drug of choice is his problem.
GM: Autumn insists that Caroline wake him up first and wipe his memory of the event, as well as add receiving the $20 from a passerby. It rarely hurts to be cautious, and certainly doesn’t here, the ghoul emphasizes.
The man isn’t awake to moan as the two lay him down by another dumpster. Autumn unwraps his sleeping bag and pulls it over his legs and torso. His worn hand lying limp against the pavement is the last sight the two see as their car drives off.
Caroline: It’s only when they’re driving away that Caroline can look Autumn in the eye again.
GM: “You’re welcome. What for?” Autumn asks, seemingly surprised.
Caroline: “I was getting ready to do something terrible.”
GM: The ghoul nods after a moment. “I never really did anything like… that for the Krewe. Just cleaned up messes that were already made, or stopped stories from getting out.”
Caroline: “It’s so easy to view people—people you don’t know at least—as nothing more than a means to an end. I don’t know if it’s everything I’ve already done, or if it’s the nature of this existence, but if you hadn’t said something I would have just thrown him to the wolves. And no one deserves that.”
GM: “Well, glad I did. Homeless people have it pretty rough already.”
Caroline: “That’s what I’m getting at. In that moment, he wasn’t a person. He was just… a means. To making my life easier.”
GM: Autumn nods again. “Glad I spoke up, then. A lot of the nasty stuff Kindred do… leaving aside morals, it’s impractical. Bad for the Masquerade.”
Caroline: “Anytime you see me doing that sort of thing. Losing touch. Point it out, please.”
Caroline bites her wrist and extends it upside down to the ghoul, blood welling slowly up.
“I’ll always make it worth your while.”
GM: Autumn clears her throat, trying not to stare at Caroline’s wrist too intently while she’s driving. She only partly succeeds. “You don’t have to ask me twice.”
Caroline: “Pull over,” Caroline directs.
GM: The ghoul readily finds a spot by the curb.
Caroline: Caroline gives her what she wants.
GM: Autumn falls on her wrist with an ardor beyond mere want. It’s need. Caroline’s conscience may fade.
But a ghoul’s hunger surely will not.
Friday night, 18 September 2015, AM
GM: Caroline calls the number provided by McCullem. A dry-sounding man’s voice greets her cordially, if stiffly, and announces “the master” would be pleased to receive her at ten o’ clock to-morrow. He adds that “the master” values punctuality, and advises that she show up several minutes early to be certain she will not be late.
Caroline: Caroline thanks him for arranging the meeting and so lays her plans before retiring to daysleep.
Friday evening, 19 September 2015
Caroline: Caroline sleeps and rises. She spends the early evening hunting before texting Jocelyn that she’s on her way and arriving, via drop off by Autumn, early enough to be safe.
GM: Still lacking a car of her own, Autumn chauffeurs Caroline to a Moonbucks through what sections of Riverbend she is allowed to hunt. It’s a bitter pill to swallow how much of Tulane remains off-limits.
Friday nights are good times to hunt, however, and it doesn’t take Caroline long to strike up a conversation with a slim and glasses-wearing young man who’s antsy over the fact Tulane is considering expelling him for placing his dorm room on Airbnb to make some extra cash.
“It’s bullshit. They actually mandate you live on campus your first year. What do they care where I live so long as my parents are paying tuition?”
Caroline: Caroline is happy to agree, distantly recalling that she had to put on an appearance of living on campus.
GM: The kid, who gives his name as Nathaniel Hite, seems at least as happy to have found someone willing to listen to him vent.
“You have any idea how much money that would’ve added up to, if I rented my dorm room for a year? I mean, yeah, maybe most people wouldn’t want to still live with their mom, but that’s a lot of student loan payments I wouldn’t have to make.”
Caroline: Caroline feels her interest fade in anything other than his blood running across her teeth and down her throat.
GM: It doesn’t take long to lure him into Autumn’s car with her powers. He moans and tastes like all the rest do.
Caroline: Not all the rest. It isn’t as often as she’d like that Caroline gets to indulge in her preferred demographic, and as boring as Nathaniel is, his blood still excites her and leaves her fulfilled in a way his pathetic conversation never could.
GM: The college student groggily ambles out of the car when Caroline is done with him, rubbing his head.
It is so rare that she feels satisfied in this life.
Friday night, 19 September 2015, PM
GM: Autumn chauffeurs her domitor to a walled estate in the Garden District. It’s nestled in a quiet part of Chestnut Street and not too far away from her Uncle Orson’s home. The house proper is smaller than most set back from the road, veiled from the sight of the outside world by means of a row of carefully cultivated greenery, the centerpiece of which is an ancient live oak tree, draped in a beard-like coat of Spanish moss. A tastefully elegant wrought-iron gate spans the driveway, connecting two brick columns on either side. A flat plaque on the face of one column welcomes visitors to the address in stylish gold ormalu. The home’s white front porch is decorated with several potted plants and a white swinging bench.
The gate swings open after Caroline identifies herself through the intercom. Armed guards watch her vehicle proceed through.
Caroline: Caroline has dressed tastefully up for the occasion, in her typical black, with a small clutch bag. Small diamond studs glitter at her ears, and a gold necklace with a diamond pendent graces her pale throat.
GM: A seemingly forty-something man in an old-fashioned butler’s suit and white gloves cordially receives Caroline in the entry hall and demurely compliments her appearance before escorting her into the parlor room, a richly appointed affair characterized by soft reds, antique furniture, and ornately-patterned Persian rugs. An old portrait of a man Caroline doesn’t recognize hangs over the empty yet ash-strewn fireplace.
A solitary figure sits on an adjacent upholstered chair.
He has a rectangular, clean-shaven face, a long Roman nose, and sandy blond air pulled back in a short ponytail. He looks around the same age as Nathaniel Hite, and younger than Caroline by about half a decade. That is only at a casual glance. There is an distinctly marble-like cast to his pallid features, as if Caroline were not staring at a real person but a frighteningly well-crafted statue. His clear blue eyes are cool and distant. They have the dangerous glint of a man who is rarely denied the things he wants.
Caroline: Caroline has scarcely finished taking in the decor—polished and refined, if somewhat more traditional than she prefers—when her eyes move to the well-dressed man. There’s something distinctly otherworldly about him, and for a moment Caroline can hardly believe that something like this exists, can exist, without others instantly realizing what it is, so far from human.
GM: Indeed, in comparison to the only other true elder she has met, Philip Maldonato, the figure before Caroline is an unliving anachronism. Where the seneschal merely nodded towards tradition with his golden cufflinks, Matheson is dressed in full 19th century garb, replete to the tailcoat and ascot tie that went out of fashion before her family’s name was wealthy.
The butler raises his hand and gravely intones, “Kneel in the presence of the Honorable Sir John Harley Matheson, Alder, Earl, Secundus, Commissioner, Interpreter, Senator, Steward, Solitary of Die Nachteulen, Officer of the Most Noble Fellowship of Artemis, Knight Banneret of the Order of the Silver Wyrm, Whip emeritus, Gerousiastis, Blue Consul of the Assembly of Colors, Brother of the Order of the Crescent Moon, Member First Class of the Order of the Hawk Royale, and Knight Banneret of the Order of the White Cross.”
Caroline: That moment vanishes all too quickly when the butler speaks. Kneel. It’s a command she does not appreciate. One that speaks a great deal to the tastes of this man, but it’s one she nonetheless obeys, however it might grind against her pride. If this is the price she has to pay, it’s still a far gentler one than she’s payed in the past. She’s briefly grateful for her more flowing wardrobe choice—she’d debated on something more form-fitting, and kneeling in that would have been much more uncomfortable.
Many of his titles follow over her like so much clear water—empty of anything of worth—but a few do stand out, none more than gerousiastis. She has too many enemies on that body. She could dearly use an friendly voice.
GM: Matheson does not blink, move, shift expression, nor even breathe as he wordlessly stares down at Caroline. As if waiting for something.
Caroline: The moment drags on as she waits. It’s nervewracking, as the silence continues, but she’s relatively certain that any anger for her silence may be outweighed by irritation for speaking out of turn.
GM: Matheson studies her for over a minute before finally pronouncing, “You have my leave to speak, young one.”
Caroline: “Thank you for receiving me, Gerousiastis Matheson. I am Caroline Malveaux, childe of René Baristheaut, childe of Robert Bastien, childe of Lothar Constantine, childe of Dominic de Valois-Burgundy, childe of Gaius Pedius Marcellus, childe of Alexander, childe of Ventrue.”
She doesn’t let her eyes rise and works to keep her voice steady through the long—and rehearsed in private—speech. Something she burned into her mind after the humiliation she suffered at McGinn’s hands.
“I am tremendously grateful for the opportunity to meet with such a distinguished elder.”
GM: “You may seat yourself, Miss Malveaux,” the elder Ventrue pronounces. A living man might indicate a chair. Matheson does not.
Caroline: “Thank you, Gerousiastis Matheson.”
Caroline rises with a grace any gymnast could only envy and finds a seat, careful to keep her eyes downcast.
GM: Matheson’s marble-like facial expressions are difficult for Caroline to read, but the younger Ventrue can make out a note of marked disapproval.
Caroline: She glances up at him, meeting his eyes for the first time.
GM: Matheson’s cool, almost transparent blue eyes stare back at hers. His expression is not friendly, but no longer appears actively disapproving.
Caroline: She holds those eyes then, it belatedly occurring to her that among Kindred matching gazes might hold different meaning than among men.
GM: “I have been informed that you are a solicitor, Miss Malveaux. How many cases have you successfully argued before a judge?” Matheon inquires.
Caroline: “I beg your pardon, Gerousiastis Matheson, such is my aspiration, not yet my profession. I’ve argued no cases.”
GM: “Then it is your intention to practice law among the kine, Miss Malveaux?”
Caroline: “It seemed an area in which one could carve out a beginning, Gerousiastis Matheson. If not among them, then perhaps around them. I suspect there are areas in which the law can be used and bent towards the use of the Kindred of New Orleans,” she replies. “Especially in administrative matters.”
GM: Matheson spends several minutes questioning Caroline as to her knowledge of legal procedures, recent court decisions, points of protocol as they pertain to her desired profession, and how she would argue a variety of hypothetical cases before judges and juries alike. It only takes the younger Ventrue a few moments to ascertain that her elder’s legal knowledge is as antiquated as his garb (he keeps using the term “solicitor”)—and that he doesn’t seem to care, about either the state of his knowledge or even Caroline’s own. Indeed, she estimates, Matheson seems to be evaluating her by some other criteria. Grace under pressure? Well-spokenness? Propriety?
By the conclusion of his ‘interview’, at least, he seems to find her adequate. Enough.
Caroline has a nagging feeling that her testing is far from done.
Caroline: Caroline does her best not only to field his questions, but also to do so in a way that is readily accessible to the elder. Just being in the room with him is exhausting though, as she tiptoes around what she cannot help but feel is something of a minefield with each question.
GM: “I have been informed that your sire abandoned you upon your Embrace, Miss Malveaux, and that you are regrettably—and unacceptably—ignorant of our clan’s ways and customs,” Matheson finally declares.
Caroline: “My apologies if I’ve given any further offense, Gerousiastis Matheson,” Caroline answers, feeling more uncomfortable by the moment. “I’m certain my manners are far below reasonable Ventrue expectations, for which I would make no excuses.”
GM: “I trust you are aware, Miss Malveaux, of the slanderous allegations put forth against me,” Matheson states.
Caroline: “Yes, Gerousiastis Matheson,” Caroline replies, before continuing somewhat boldly, “Rumors and allegations find fertile soil in times of prosperity. Especially in those who have have found themselves outside of that prosperity. From what little I’ve the rumors about you in particular are most at home among the least socialized Kindred—which I suspect speaks for itself as to their veracity. Those with problems of their own making are often eager to latch onto any perceived or alleged failing in others.”
GM: Matheson’s eyebrows do not raise, but something in the Ventrue elder seems as if it has sat up and taken greater interest in Caroline’s statements… though whether that is benign or sinister is not yet apparent.
“Indeed, Miss Malveaux? Whom would you name among my detractors?” Matheson inquires.
Caroline: “I confess, Gerousiastis Matheson, I have no names for you directly, but what I’ve seen among the Anarchs has been a significant level of hostility and conflict among them. Not two nights ago when I went to speak with Primogen Duquette I was accosted by several very concerned with how I feel on the issue, and I’ve heard much the same from others I’ve spoken to. I had been very much focused on beginning to right the wrongs of my own Embrace, and making right my own transgressions against others until very recently.”
GM: “Rabble bark as rabble always will,” Matheson declares upon Caroline’s mention of Anarchs.
“Are you aware of the source from whence these allegations originate, Miss Malveaux?”
Caroline: “I believe I heard talk that they originated with Gerousiastis Smith,” she replies mildly. “And that they surfaced in relation or proximity to allegations that he had committed a severe breach of the First Tradition.”
GM: “You are incorrect, Miss Malveaux. It is thanks to Mr. Savoy that they have spread.” Matheson’s clear blue eyes regard her with steady, unblinking intensity. “No junior clanmate would dare besmirch my dignitas with such slander.”
Caroline: “I am in your debt then, Gerousiastis Maheson, for correcting my understanding of the matter.”
GM: “Nor would any Ventrue of even the poorest breeding conceive to impugn my dignitas in such a way.” Matheson’s stare lingers upon Caroline’s eyes. “What do you make of Mr. Savoy for spreading these rumors, young one?”
Caroline: “I have not met him, Gerousiastis Matheson, and being an unreleased fledgling without a sire, I do not know that it is my place to speak ill of an elder, but I would say that what knowledge I have of him might speak for itself. For instance, he shelters many of the city’s less desirable individuals, or so I’ve been told. He sheltered my own sire when he was sought for my Embrace. It was in the French Quarter that I was so illicitly Embraced. He spreads malicious rumors about distinguished elders I’ve heard little else to speak for save hearsay.” She holds his gaze. “I suspect that any reasoned individual could draw their own reasonable opinion. Not that every individual is reasoned, or every opinion reasonable.”
GM: Caroline’s cheek explodes with pain as she is violently knocked off her chair and crumples to the floor, awkwardly tangling her dress.
Caroline: The Beast surges forward, but Caroline crumples it even as she stomps down on the near-instinctive desire to rise and meet this new threat.
GM: Caroline sees no one in the room besides Matheson, his butler having withdrawn. The elder Ventrue’s expression does not change as he stares down at her.
Caroline: She stays on her knees, even as she pushes up with one hand to pull her face off the floor. She spits through split lips, “Please accept my apologies for the offense I have offered, Gerousiastis Matheson.”
She looks up to meet his eyes. Her mouth is full of blood—her own blood, and she swallows it down like a bitter pill.
GM: “What is your offense, young one?” he inquires.
Caroline: “Not answering the direct question I was asked, Gerousiastis Matheson. Presuming to know my place better than my elder.”
GM: “That is correct, Miss Malveaux.”
Caroline: “Yes, Gerousiastis Matheson. My thanks for the lesson.”
GM: “You may seat yourself, Miss Malveaux.”
Caroline: She rises to retake her seat at his instruction.
GM: “I had thought to call upon the Hague for an arbiter to represent me before the prince’s court,” Matheson states. “They are proficient rhetors, yet by the nature of the accusations leveled against me, the word of a local neonate will carry greater weight than that of a foreign ancilla.”
Caroline: “I am certain that any number of proficient neonates would leap at the opportunity to defend such a distinguished personage from such allegations, Gerousiastis Matheson.” Caroline’s cheek burns, but she resists the urge to heal that pain, to make it go away.
Besides, it’s so little beside the agonies she’s faced in the past. She remembers the bite of the whip, and it helps her put the sting of the slap out of her mind. She needs this. Needs his approval. Certainly enough that she can live with a slap. There is, in fact, very little she wouldn’t live through.
GM: “Few possess the requisite breeding, knowledge of protocol, rhetorical skills, and willingness to defend my name that I would permit them to do so,” Matheson declares.
Caroline: She swallows more blood. “No doubt there is a standard that must be upheld. Not only as an elder, but as a gerousiastis among the Ventrue,” Caroline agrees. There’s a bit of relief at his declaration.
GM: “Your poor upbringing has left you grossly ignorant of our society’s ways and customs.”
Caroline: “Yes, Gerousiastis Matheson,” Caroline agrees.
GM: “I shall have a tutor instruct you in the Camarilla’s laws and workings, as well as our clan’s history and customs. In return for this considerable service, I will assess your learning with an oral examination. You may then perform one of several services for me.”
“If I find you to have been a poor student who learned little of what your instructor had to teach, you will owe me a debt for the use of her time. You will testify neither upon nor against my behalf in the upcoming trial.”
“If I find you to have been an adequate student, you will testify on my behalf as a witness.”
“If I find you to have been an exceptional student, I will consider whether to select you as my arbiter against the other neonates who have volunteered their services. If I should select you, you will earn my goodwill, dignitas within our clan, and may be tapped for membership within the Hague. I find such an outcome unlikely, but I have seen many unlikely things over the course of my Requiem.”
Caroline: Were she living, Caroline’s heart might skip a beat. As it is, she simply goes still, forgetting for a moment to breathe (not that she needs to). With neither Kindred so much as breathing, the room is very quiet indeed at his declaration. She stares, and after a moment speaks,
“It would seem there is little time for me to waste then, with the trial approaching so swiftly.”
GM: “That is correct, Miss Malveaux, there is little. Your tutor will be my childe Questor Adler.”
Caroline: Oh hell, Caroline only thinks.
“As you say, Gerousiastis Matheson.”
GM: “How will you entreat with her, Miss Malveaux?”
Caroline: “As a superior in virtually all things, Gerousiastis Matheson. Both in position among the Ventrue, in standing among the Camarilla, and as the representative of an elder in this matter. At a time and place of her direction.”
GM: “By what specific means shall you do so?”
Caroline: “Upon direction, I would seek her out, likely reaching out through a ghoul that serves herself and Primogen Hurst, McCullem, to arrange instruction this night. Were there more time, I might seek her out more directly at an Elysium.”
GM: “And there you would speak to her of the instruction she will provide?”
Caroline: “No. Matters internal to the Ventrue should not be aired publicly. I would request to speak with her in private before bringing the matter up.”
GM: Caroline’s other cheek abruptly explodes with pain. The young Ventrue flies off her chair, painfully crashing into the fine house’s wall.
Caroline: Again the Beast rears its ugly head, and again—more narrowly—Caroline shakes it off. Her head spins and it takes her a moment to reorient herself between the struggle with the Beast and her own location, once more on the ground. Her mouth is full of blood again.
GM: Matheson imperiously stares down at her.
“Questor Hurst’s ghoul reports you have asked him to relay an apology on your behalf, pending a further apology delivered in person. That is all you would offer my childe for your rudeness? Mere words?”
Caroline: SMASH HIM. KILL HIM. RIP OUT HIS THROAT.
The urges of the Beast are so difficult to resist even under the best of circumstances, and on the ground again, battered again, is hardly ideal. Shame burns alongside her smashed face, and she takes a deep breath. She wants to lash out. Wants to resist. Wants to fight back. Instead she unclenches her fists through force of will.
“No, Gerousiastis Matheson.”
It hurts to look back up at him, and for more than one reason, in more than one way.
“But as he observed, and as I agreed, apologies are better delivered in person, than through third parties. And I did not think to trouble a distinguished elder with such a matter.”
GM: “You will pledge a boon to Questor Adler in apology for your gross rudeness and thanks for her prior courtesy and assistance. If you are unable to comport yourself towards my Blood with further disgracing your own, I have no use for you.”
Caroline: Blood runs between cracked lips. Her blood. It’s her own fault. Her fault for forgetting the first rule of dealing with elders: everything has to be awful.
She wipes that blood away with one hand before it can fall and stain the expensive carpets, pushing herself up again with the other hand. Her head’s spinning again. It doesn’t matter that she’d planned on doing so anyway. Doesn’t matter that the offense was a trivial as a petty smug smile. All that matters is she’s on her knees again, at the mercy of another elder Ventrue.
Really, it’s the utter helplessness that’s more terrible than his blows, no matter how powerful they are.
It take her a moment to compose herself fully, a moment before she looks up at him again.
“Of course, Gerousiastis Matheson. Thank you for reminding me of my manners and duties.”
GM: Matheson’s pale blue eyes linger on Caroline’s battered form for an uncomfortable moment.
“You may seat yourself,” the elder pronounces.
Caroline: She drags herself off the floor with one hand, again careful not to smear her blood across his expensive rug, and retakes her seat. She doesn’t like the predatory look in those eyes, but there’s little she can do.
GM: Matheson pulls a hanging silk cord with a gold tassel. The butler appears after a moment.
“Summon the lady speaker,” Matheson orders.
The butler bows low and departs.
Caroline: Caroline says nothing, grateful for the opportunity to compose herself as they wait.
GM: The elder Ventrue turns to regard her.
“Show me that you are capable of entertaining with conversation until she arrives, Miss Malveaux.”
Caroline: Her relief is of course short-lived and she lets out a mild smile. “Are there any topics of particular interest, Gerousiastis Matheson?”
GM: “There are none for this present occasion, Miss Malveaux.”
Caroline: Of course not. If you gave me any guidance at all you wouldn’t get to beat me more for not choosing a subject to your satisfaction.
Caroline swallows the bit of her own blood still in her mouth, taking the opportunity to run through several topics, before deciding on one that seems inoffensive.
“Current high society among the kine is in something of an uproar at the moment. The previous scandal was Robert Argabrite III allegedly striking his date to a gallery opening, but it’s been somewhat forgotten by the recent stalker that followed Cécilia Devillers home—to say nothing of her sister Yvonne’s near-murder at the Eighth District station shooting.”
“The Devillers are relatively new to the city, immigrating only in the last decade or so from France to ‘look after’ the city, but have already taken a dominate position in the dealings of the upper class, and any scandal surrounding them is enough to set off a firestorm. For instance, how did this black stalker even know her?’ It might have been interesting to watch play out, but by now it’ll be swept away.”
GM: “The emancipation of the negro has served but to worsen the fortunes of both races,” Matheson agrees.
Caroline: That comment is far from unexpected.
“The statistics agree, especially over the last sixty years.”
GM: “I have some use for able-bodied negroes on my land. Has this one been claimed by another Kindred?”
Caroline: “Not that I know of, Gerousiastis Matheson, but I do not know how useful he might be. He’s weak, small, and very dim.”
GM: “A pity. I shall trust the kine authorities, or failing them, the Sanctified, to remind this… ‘stalker’ of his place.”
Caroline: “That seems a safe place to place trust,” Caroline agrees. “In any case, the scandal he caused should blow over quickly, with the death of Westley Malveaux to distract people.”
GM: Matheson’s expression seemingly indicates for Caroline to go on.
Caroline: “He was unfortunately drawn into the chase between my sire and I, and handed over to the Dungeon in a bid to force me to surrender myself. Exactly what happened I don’t know, but his body was found yesterday, and no doubt it’ll cause some interest however it is framed for First Tradition purposes: he had a history of poor decision making, drug use, and other indiscretions that will make even a mundane passing plentiful food for the gossips.”
GM: Matheson draws out the conversation with Caroline for some length. He listens more than he speaks as his younger clanmate shares the latest news and gossip among mortal high society, occasionally veering off to matters of Kindred politics where the two subjects overlap. Matheson interjects with the occasional question, opinion or anecdote, the latter usually relating to human history or behavior at large rather than matters specific to New Orleans. To Caroline’s estimation, he is not especially impressed with her efforts, but he appears to find the discourse adequate… or at least adequate enough not to strike her for.
Caroline: His comments give her an interesting look into his mind, but Caroline is mostly focused on trying to avoid a misstep that will get her struck again.
GM: It is not long before the butler reappears and announces, “May I present the Lady Speaker Rebecca Adler, Alder Secundus.”
Becky Lynne is present alongside him. The shorter blonde wears a knee-length white dress with a yellow bow at the waist, open-toed heels, and a pearl necklace and earrings.
She dips into a curtsy and inclines her head at Matheson’s presence.
There is a higher inclination and no curtsy for Caroline.
“Questor Adler,” Matheson responds. “There are several matters at hand for which your presence is required. The first of these pertains to Miss Malveaux.”
He turns his distant gaze upon the youngest Ventrue.
Caroline: Caroline knows she must look terrible. Either side of her face smashed and bruising, split lip. Her once-spotless black clothing marred by the array of fibers picked up from her unwelcome meetings with the ground and wrinkled by those same journeys. She raises her gaze to Adler.
“Questor Adler, allow me to begin by expressing my apologies for my rudeness when we last met. Please accept a boon as a token of my sincerity.”
GM: Becky Lynne smiles back at her. “Pleased is what I am to accept it, Miss Malveaux. I wasn’t sure how we got off on the wrong foot, but it’s never too late to start walking with the right one, not really.”
“Questor Hurst relayed your apologies to me, by the way, and those were mighty thoughtful. I’ll have to do that, too, if I’m ever apologizin’ to someone and can’t see them first thing.”
Caroline: “You did nothing, Questor Adler, I was in a foul temper and mistakenly took it out on you.”
GM: Caroline notes the flicker of disapproval crossing Matheson’s impassive face.
Caroline: Caroline bites the inside of her split lip, half-expecting another ‘slap’. “That is to say, the fault was entirely mine, Questor Adler.”
GM: “Perhaps good things might come of it, Miss Malveaux, if it introduces you to my brother-in-blood on good terms,” Becky Lynne smiles, before returning her gaze to her sire.
“Please seat yourself, Questor Ader.”
A living man might motion to a chair.
“Miss Malveaux, you may heal your wounds.”
Caroline: Caroline’s lips move a fraction of an inch, but she closes her mouth, seemingly biting back her comment before responding, “My thanks, Gerousiastis Matheson.”
GM: Becky Lynne assumes one of the room’s other seats. Matheson briefly explains the full nature of the situation with Caroline and how Becky Lynne will act as her au pair for the remainder of the night. He states that he will subject Caroline to an oral examination on Saturday at 4 AM, at which point he will decide what role she will serve in his trial.
Becky Lynne nods her head in understanding. “There might not be time to give her as thorough an education as you gave me, Gerousiastis, but I’ll do my best to do yours proud.”
“The two of you may strike further arrangements following my trial, should you wish. Such is of no present concern to me,” Matheson answers. “You may use the study and library for your purposes. Go now. You have little time to spare.”
Becky Lynne rises from her seat and inclines her head again. “Gerousiastis.”
Caroline: “My thanks for the instruction, Gerousiastis Matheson.”
She sinks to her knees again as she says so.
It’s clear that’s where he prefers her.
Friday night, 19 September 2015, PM
GM: Matheson gives the pair his leave to depart. Becky Lynne raises her head and exits the parlor with Caroline, leading her down one of the house’s portrait-lined hallways.
“Well, Miss Malveaux, I reckon we’ve got no time to waste,” she declares. “I’d thought to start us off with titles and terms of address, so we’re clear what to call one another. You can also heal up those boo-boos you’re sportin’, as my sire said.”
Caroline: “Of course, Questor Adler.”
Caroline doesn’t consciously react as bruises fade and split flesh knits, but the coiled tension in her shoulders shifts. Doesn’t fade outright as a more predatory poise slinks its way in, but certainly lessens.
“Whatever course is best.”
GM: “Beyond those subjects, well, there are certainly plenty other areas to cover. Are there any ones you’re particularly fixin’ to?”
Caroline: “General etiquette, social norms, and expectations would seem the most immediately applicable, Questor Adler. But no doubt someone with more experience and accomplishment within Kindred society has a better view on what may be essential.”
Though bruises and cuts fade, even her inhuman healing can’t hide the signs of violence. The black gown covered in rug fibers, the general disarray of her outfit. The blood quietly wiped across the side of the dress.
GM: “All righty then, we’ll start off with terms of address,” Becky Lynne nods as the two arrive at the house’s study, a bookshelf-filled room with several comfortable chairs and classical statues.
Becky Lynne assumes one of the seats and crosses her legs.
“Now then, the basic way to refer to any Kindred is their title, followed by their surname. For example, Prince Vidal, Primogen Hurst, or Sheriff Donovan.”
Caroline: Caroline waits to take a seat until indicated.
GM: Becky Lynne laughs lightly. “Oh, please take a seat, Miss Malveaux. Truthfully, you don’t need my permission to sit on down, I’m hardly as old as my sire.”
Caroline: Caroline takes a seat across from the elder Ventrue.
GM: “If someone happens to have more than one title, you use whichever one is most immediately applicable. For instance, someone from Uptown might address Pearl Chastain as Primogen Chastain, but someone who’s her tenant in the Lower Garden District might call her by Regent Chastain, when dealin’ with her in her capacity as regent. ‘City-wide’ titles like primogen, by the way, take precedent over ‘localized’ ones like regent, all other things bein’ equal.”
“If you’re talking to someone who has no title—and the honest truth is, most Kindred don’t—a simple ‘mister’ or ‘madam’ followed by their surname will do just fine. So will a plain ‘sir’ or ’ma’am’—if they’re older than you, that’s just bein’ polite even in mortal society, after all.”
“‘Miss’ also deserves some special mention. Used to address female neonates, it’s just fine, so long as they still look fairly young too. For anyone older, it’s just bein’ rude and pickin’ fly droppin’s out of pepper.”
Caroline: “What if I am uncertain as to someone’s titles?” she asks.
GM: “Luck’s on your side there, since as I said, as most Kindred don’t hold formal titles in the Camarilla. There are a bushel and ten pounds more in the clans and covenants, of course, but outsiders usually aren’t expected to know those.”
“Some will actually take offense—it’s a no-no for anyone but a Ventrue to refer to me as Questor Adler, for instance, as we like to keep our business to ourselves. And lord help the poor Kindred who does that around a Tremere!”
Caroline: “I confess, that’s another distinction I’m unclear on. While I understand that there are a number of clans, the distinctions between them are somewhat unclear.”
GM: The look across Becky Lynne’s face can only be described as pity.
Caroline: Caroline clenches her jaw. It hurts more than the slap.
GM: “All right them, Miss Malveaux, if there’s any place to be honest, it’s right here. Better you say you don’t know somethin’ here than in front of the harpies at Elysium. How much would you say you understand about clans already, or would it be better if I started from the beginnin’?”
Caroline: “Very little outside of generalities, and even then of a limited nature.”
She bites her lip, and if she could flush with shame, she would.
“That the Toreador are focused on arts of various kinds, the Nosferatu deal heavily in information, that Ventrue tend towards leadership and are more… selective in feeding habits.”
GM: “Yes, that is the right of it,” Becky Lynne nods. “You could think of them as extended families, nationalities or ethnicities, cultures in their own right, and in some cases, fraternities and political parties, all rolled into one.”
Caroline: Caroline nods.
“Of others, like the Tremere, virtually nothing,” she admits.
GM: “All right then, I reckon I should start from the beginnin’, as the clans go almost as far back. Our story begins with God, as you might expect. The good lord cursed Caine with vampirism for the murder of his brother Abel.”
“Caine discovered he could make others like he was through the Embrace. He created childer, who made childer of their own. There were only three generations of Kindred, in the start—before the Great Flood.”
Caroline: “The Biblical Flood? Noah’s flood?”
GM: “The very one,” Becky Lynne nods. “But the world grew wicked and sinful, as the Bible says, and Caine and his descendants certainly played no small part in that. So God called down the Great Flood in punishment, and after the floodwaters receded, Caine vanished and the Second Generation was destroyed—some accounts say at Caine’s hands for their role in causing the Flood. The surviving Third Generation became known as Antediluvians. That literally means ‘before the flood’ in Latin.”
Becky Lynne pauses in the narrative.
“Are you familiar with what generation is, Miss Malveaux?”
Caroline: “Presumably one’s distance from Caine?” Caroline fills in from context.
GM: “Yes, though it’s more than that. With each step away from Caine—each generation of Kindred—we get a lil’ bit weaker, a lil’ bit closer to mortal. Lord knows what state the world would be in if we were all like Caine!”
“The Third Generation are the founders of the clans—we’ll get to that in a bit—the fourth and fifth are figures out of legend, the sixth through eighth are our still-unlivin’ elders, the ninth and tenth are ancillae, and the eleventh through thirteenth are neonates.”
“This isn’t exact, of course, just a general picture. An eleventh-generation Kindred who fought in the War Between the States and rules a large domain as regent isn’t a neonate, though he’ll likely be a mite bit embarrassed to be as far removed from Caine as he is—and it’d have been a mark against him when the prince was decidin’ who to award that regency to. Likewise, the eighth-generation childe of a prince who goes around callin’ herself an elder is getting more than a bit big for her britches if she was Embraced only last year.”
Caroline: “It’s more a function of potential, then?” Caroline asks.
GM: “Potential,” Becky Lynne nods. “That is the right of it. Your blood will thicken with age, Miss Malveaux, and your powers will increase with it. But at a certain point—your generation—it’ll stop. That’s why not many princes, at least of the bigger cities, are more than eight steps removed from Caine. The closer a Kindred is to the Dark Father, the purer their blood is, and the prouder of it they have a right to be.”
Caroline: Caroline nods, committing it to memory.
“What happens past thirteen?” she asks.
GM: “Oh, that’s… that’s not something that’s talked about in polite company, Miss Malveaux, so you know.” Becky Lynne sounds as if Caroline were asking her about the particulars of crack addiction.
“We don’t Embrace past the thirteenth. That’s simply not to be done.”
Caroline: Caroline bites her lip and nods.
“I’m glad that I brought it up here then, vice elsewhere. But I’m sorry, I’ve been jumping all over in topics.”
GM: The other Ventrue smiles. “I suppose one way we could think of it is paintin’ a portrait. The first few strokes might look a mess, but it’ll all come together.”
Caroline: “All the same, the original topic was clans, unless I miss my mark.”
GM: Becky Lynne nods. “Oh, one more thing about generation first.”
She leans slightly closer to Caroline and adds with an almost conspiratorial whisper, “Never ask someone her generation, Miss Malveaux. It’s like askin’ a woman her age or weight—frightfully rude.”
Caroline: Caroline cracks, but only cracks, a smile.
“Then why do Ventrue recite their lineage to each other? Isn’t it essentially the same thing?”
GM: “Lineages are usually recited between peers or juniors to their elders—for instance, I imagine you rattled off yours to my sire, but he didn’t to you.”
“The context is also different. When you recite your lineage, you’re givin’ an account of your ancestors, some of whose names might be known for great deeds, and showin’ where you fit in the line of Caine and our own extended family. There’s no shame in that! But just asking somone their generation, by itself, that’s terribly rude.”
Caroline: Caroline nods. “With Gerousiastis Matheson it’s apparent, though. How does it work between two Ventrue where it is unclear what their social position is with regard to each other? Or is that simply a matter that should almost never happen given a proper education?”
GM: “The latter, truth be told—but if by some chance you honestly aren’t sure, I find it’s better to err towards respectful. If someone’s too polite to you, after all, they can just smile and say ‘oh, there’s no need for all that.’ But lord help the neonate who’s rude to an elder by accident!”
Caroline: Caroline knows nothing about what might happen in that case.
“Does every clan have a specific trait, specialty, or matter to distinguish them from each other on a more…. physical level? As with the Ventrue… selectiveness?”
GM: Becky Lynne nods. “History and culture are arguably the biggest things that distinguish the clans, but talking pure ‘genetics’—yes, each clan has three disciplines that instinctively come to them, without the need to be taught. Every clan but ours also suffers from a curse, handed down long ago by Caine, and passed down the generations.”
“Some are physical, like the Nosferatu’s, as you say. Others are psychological, or psychophysiological. Brujah can get mad enough to kick in stained glass windows if they’re bishops, while the Malkavians are all crazy as betsy bugs.”
Caroline: “Brujah, Malkavians, Tremere, Nosferatu, Ventrue, Toreador. Who am I missing?”
GM: “Also the Gangrel,” Becky Lynne answers. “Have you met any in New Orleans yet? Hound Agnello puts a rather charmin’ face to them.”
Caroline: “Only Hound Agnello, that I know of. Though I don’t exactly go around asking other Kindred their clan.”
GM: Caroline’s clanmate nods. “That isn’t quite impolite on the level of generation, but it’s rather like asking someone if they’re Italian or German. Not offensive, but rather funny to ask.”
Caroline: “In truth, I haven’t asked other Kindred much of anything. I’ve been… somewhat reluctant to entreat with very many, given the circumstances.”
GM: Becky Lynne’s smile brightens. “That’s fortunate for us you’re here tonight, then. Once Gerousiastis Matheson finished my initial education, it was a whole new world to finally explore.”
Caroline: “I can only imagine that education must have been somewhat more stringent than this more informal question and answer.”
GM: Becky Lynne nods. “It was, admittedly. But as my as my mama liked to say, we don’t pick what ingredients are in the pantry when company arrives, just what dinner we serve up.”
Caroline: “What about Caintiff? How do they fit in?”
GM: “Do you mean Caitiff there, Miss Malveaux? At any rate, the clanlesss are… they’re not a subject for polite company either, let’s just say. You should keep your distance from them. Keepin’ company with Caitiff would reflect on you very badly among our clan.”
“All of the clans have their own history, worth, and honor, since we can all trace our bloodlines back to Grandfather Caine, but the Caitiff exist outside of that all. You might think of them as the untouchables from India’s caste system.”
“‘Caitiff’ is a real word, you know, not that it sees much use nowadays. But it means someone who’s a yeller coward. Or otherwise base and despised.”
Caroline: “Clanless. By Embrace, rather than choice, I gather.”
GM: “That’s right. Clan is somethin’ you’re simply born into, can’t change it any more than who your parents were. Or, I should well say, Embraced into.”
Caroline: “Can we talk about what makes each clan distinctive?”
GM: “Certainly. I’m most acquainted with our own, as I’m sure you can imagine, but where would you like to start?”
Caroline: “As I said, I’m most familiar with the Toreador and Nosferatu—familiar as a relative term of course. What about the others, in order, beginning with Brujah?”
GM: “Well, let me see,” Becky Lynne says, tapping her chin in thoughtful emphasis. She’s quiet for a moment, then gives a light laugh.
“I’m sorry, Miss Malveaux, I’m afraid this is awful hard, in some ways. Or at least a tricky creative exercise. It’s rather like tryin’ to explain what Chinese people or Italian people are, to someone who isn’t familiar. There’s just so much to cover!”
“Brujah are the Learned Clan, or at least they used to be. In old times, they were a clan of philosopher-kings and warrior-poets, and in fact peers to our own. These nights, well, they’re seen as punks, thugs, rabble-rousers, and ne’er-do-wells of all stripes. Quite a few are Anarchs.”
“The thing that defines them, really, that’s their passion. Brujah and causes go together like eggs and grits. They’re never happy to accept things as they are. Always, they can be better. For a lot of rabble—that’s their nickname—it means they can be fixin’ to tear down more often than build up.”
“They’re also close to the Beast. So much as look at a Brujah wrong, and why, they’ll throw a hissy fit with the tail still on it. They’ll frenzy at the drop of a pin, if they’re good and riled up.”
Caroline: “Anarchs,” Caroline comments. “I’ve heard the word, and even fought with some that claimed the title, but I don’t really have a good idea of what exactly they are, other than particularly riled up at the moment.”
GM: “Well, I’m not sure how many of them do either, truth be told. They’ll talk your ear off about everythin’ wrong with the Camarilla, and how our clan runs things, but not too many have viable alternatives of their own to float back.”
“Most of them, that is. They do in fact have two elders on the Cabildo, Primogen Opal and Primogen Duquette. Not all Brujah are Anarchs, either. Hound Wright is one of the sheriff’s deputies on the Guard de Ville.”
Caroline: “They’re the leftist college kids of Kindred society,” Caroline offers. “As a whole, not specifically of course, I wouldn’t speak ill of their elders.”
GM: “Of course,” Becky Lynne smiles. “Although hoodlums and gang members might be a more on-point example than college students.”
Caroline: “I’m sorry, it was just the comment about having plenty of ideas about what was wrong, without any ideas as to how to fix them, that set me in that direction.”
GM: “Yes, I can see. Colleges aren’t an unpopular place for older Brujah either, now that you make me think. The ones with more intellectual sensibilities, who’ve got brains and experience to back up their passion for change can be… well, a storm to just listen to.”
Caroline: Caroline nods. “What about the Tremere?”
GM: “The Tremere are wizards. Magicians, like Simon Magus. Magic runs in their blood, but not the Biblical miracles like the Sanctified perform. The Tremere’s variety of magic is… darker, you might say. I don’t know that God would approve of what they do. They have a sinister reputation.”
“They’re the smallest clan, and insular enough to make us look downright social. They supposedly all sleep together in the same haven—that’s just one of their strange ways. If you pick a fight with one of them, you pick a fight with them all.”
Caroline: Magicians. That word again.
“The Gangrel?” she prompts.
GM: “They’re the Beast Clan. The ones closest to nature. When you picture a vampire turnin’ into a bat or a wolf, that’s them. They keep to the wilderness, more than any of the other clans do. Most of them don’t enjoy gussin’ it up for Elysium, but they aren’t as hankerin’ to tear down the Camarilla as the Brujah either. For the most part, they want to go their own way.”
Caroline: “They can actually turn into animals?”
GM: “That they can. Bats, wolves, and lord only knows what others.”
Caroline: “And the Malkavians?”
GM: “Madder than a hatter, each one, but they know a frightfully great deal about the funniest things. Tryin’ to describe them all is rather hard.”
Caroline: “In what way?”
GM: “If you’ll pardon me for seemin’ oblique, Miss Malveaux, in what way do they what?”
Caroline: “I’m sorry, Questor Adler, their knowledge,” she clarifies.
GM: “Ah, well, they just seem to know things, that you wouldn’t expect them to ever know. But they don’t sell it for information, like the Nosferatu do. They’re more… I reckon you could say seers or oracles, than spies. Each and every one is crazier than a dog in a hubcap factory, as I’ve said. With some it’s plain as day, and for others it might be murky as a foggy night, but they don’t see the world like we do.”
“The clan has a habit of, well, their term for it is ‘pullin’ pranks.’ It’s less banana peels on the floor, though, and more rearrangin’ someone’s furniture while they sleep. I’m not sure why they do it, but ‘why’ is about as useful a question as a trapdoor on a canoe when it comes to the kooks.”
Caroline: Caroline stifles a laugh at the trapdoor comment. Her mirth seemingly carries over to their next topic.
“The Toreador? Artists?”
GM: Becky Lynne nods. “Artists, romantics, and pleasure-seekers of all stripes. In some ways, they’re the clan closest to how the kine see vampires… or at least, want to see them. They’re the beautiful ones, and the clan closest of us all to mortals. Except for maybe the Brujah.”
“Naysayers would tell you they’re shallow hedonists with the attention span of fruit flies, movin’ on from this artist or that vessel to whatever catches their fancy. And like all stereotypes, there’s some amount of truth to it. They’re the most accomplished clan after ours, I reckon, when it comes to politics and social graces. They tend to get caught up in the now, while we look towards the big picture.”
“Our clan might be the one with the most princes, but I’d bet my bottom dollar they’re the one with the most harpies.”
Caroline: “That leaves Nosferatu, I believe.”
GM: “I recall you sayin’ you knew a fair bit about them already, Miss Malveaux? In any case, I’m afraid we are getting just a bit off topic… Gerousiastis Matheson wants me to teach you etiquette, first and foremost, so that you can testify on his behalf when the trial rolls around.”
Caroline: “Yes. Again, my apologies. It seemed a baseline understanding would be essential to basic etiquette.”
GM: “Oh yes, it certainly is, we just don’t need to retread areas you’re already familiar with.” Becky Lynne smiles again. “So right now’s as good a moment as any for a pop quiz to see how you’re pickin’ things up. What is the proper form of address for a non-Ventrue to use with me and my sire?”
Caroline: Caroline frowns. “For Gerousiastis Matheson it would be whichever of his many other titles not associated with clan Ventrue was most important to the moment—I confess I’m uncertain as to what many are and their applicability. Perhaps earl? The same would be true, however, even from another Ventrue if they were in mixed company. For yourself, Lady Speaker, unless that too is a Ventrue title. Madam or miss, failing that, if you had no other titles.”
GM: Becky Lynne shakes her head. “All of Gerousiastis Matheson’s titles save whip emeritus are associated with either the Invictus or Clan Ventrue. Earls, barons, and so on are addressed by ‘lord’ rather than their specific title, as well. That’s true among kine, not just Kindred.”
Caroline: “Only an Invictus would use an Invictus title then, much like Ventrue with Ventrue titles?”
GM: “Yes, someone doesn’t remember me mentionin’ that,” Becky Lynne winks. “There was another bit I mentioned, too, so far as defaultin’ to ‘sir’ or ’ma’am’ if you want to sound respectful but aren’t sure what to call someone. It’s always better to default to what you know is safe than to risk makin’ a gaffe with a title you aren’t sure over.”
“So all that said, what is the proper term of address for a non-Invictus, non-Ventrue Kindred to use for me?”
Caroline: “’Ma’am’ or ‘miss’. More likely ‘miss’.”
GM: “You can only choose to call me one when you’re addressin’ me, Miss Malveaux,” Becky Lynne winks. “What do you want to go with? Unless you want to go with ‘miss ma’am’ or ’ma’am miss’, of course, but that’s crazier than a soup sandwich!”
Caroline: A faint smile. “I would go with ‘miss’.”
GM: Becky Lynne nods. “That’s right, I am still a neonate. Now, so far as titles, we can get into the tricky areas now that we’ve covered the basics. Why, to your estimation, is ‘miss’ a rude term of address to use for older female Kindred?”
Caroline: “It’s a discounting of her experience and power, often in favor of a superficial appearance from their, often much briefer, mortal life.”
GM: Becky Lynne nods approvingly. “That’s right, Miss Malveaux. It also implies their marital status is more important than their Requiem’s accomplishments, when of course the former is irrelevant now. ‘Mrs.’ is never used for that same reason. ‘Til death do you part’, after all.”
“You’d think ‘Ms.’, that is, ‘Ms.’ with a period rather than double-s would go over well, but not so much, as the elders tend to view it as a modern affection. So ‘madam’ it is, unless you’re dealin’ with someone clearly young enough—and young-lookin’ enough—to warrant a ‘miss’.”
Caroline: “Is Gerousiastis Matheson’s title in mixed company really ‘mister’?” Caroline asks, somewhat skeptically.
GM: “Gerousiastis Matheson holds no current titles in the Camarilla,” Becky Lynne nods. “That much said, here’s the tricky bit I mentioned… some clans and covenants consider it acceptable for outsiders to use their titles, even if they don’t expect it, while others view that sort of thing as a no-no.”
Caroline: “Such as our own.”
GM: “That’s right, Clan Ventrue keeps its business to itself. The Invictus and Lancea et Sanctum are more open. So someone who wanted to get on Gerousiastis Matheson’s good side would address him as Alder Secundus.”
“The Circle of the Crone and Ordo Dracul keep more to their own, as do the Tremere and of course our clan. The Toreador are just fine with other Kindred using their titles, while the other clans simply don’t have any at all.”
Caroline: “When in doubt, however, ‘mister’ and ‘madam’ are the safe bets.”
GM: “And if there’s no doubt someone doesn’t hold any titles,” Becky Lynne agrees.
Caroline: “What about the use of ‘you’? That seemed to offend Gerousiastis Matheson earlier.”
GM: “Addressin’ your elders as simply ‘you’ is rude, Miss Malveaux, even among mortal society. You don’t see too many folks calling kings and queens by just ‘you’, after all.”
Caroline: “Where is that line drawn, between elders and peers?”
GM: “Truth be told, that line isn’t always too clear. It’s a combination of age, generation, and any titles or accomplishments the Kindred in question has—that’s where knowin’ your neighbors helps. But if you’re not sure, being on the respectful side never hurts.”
Caroline: “And presumably ‘your’ is just as rude? For instance, ‘your hair’?”
GM: “Only so long as it’s not followed by their proper address. ‘Your hair, Lady Councilor’, for example.”
Caroline: Caroline nods. It’s not so very complex, in truth.
GM: “Now then, we won’t spend any time tonight on Invictus titles and styles of address, as we don’t have a whole lot—time, that is, certainly not titles to go through—and you aren’t expected to know those. You are expected to know the Lancea et Sanctum’s titles, but those are pretty easy, lucky us.”
“Fathers or mothers are simply addressed as ‘father’ or ‘mother’, followed by the surname. Likewise for deacons. If we had a bishop or archbishop, we’d refer to him or her as ‘Your Excellency’. We don’t, of course, so you’ll use that style of address about as much as a pogo stick in quicksand.”
Caroline: “Likewise as in, they are still mothers and fathers, or as in ’Deacon Surname?” Caroline clarifies.
GM: “Just ‘deacon’, followed by their surname. It’s gender-neutral. All Sanctified of priestly rank—that is, fathers and mothers and higher up—are known as the Anointed, but that’s not a specific title to address them by. Rather, it’s a name for a group.”
Caroline: “And those titles are expected to translate and be used even outside of the Sanctified?”
GM: “That’s right, Miss Malveaux. New Orleans is their house, so it’s their rules, so to speak. It’s traditional, at least in cities ruled by the First or Second Estate, to mandate the use of their titles and honorifics by Kindred of all covenants.”
Caroline: “I’m sorry, the Estates? Presumably the Sanctified and the Invictus?”
GM: “In reverse, Miss Malveaux. The First Estate is the Invictus. The Second Estate is the Sanctified. They’re technically nicknames, nothin’ official, but acceptable to use in polite company.”
Caroline: Caroline nods again. “Are there more?”
It’s a stupid question, but one better asked here than elsewhere.
GM: “It’s taken from the mortal French estate system. Somehow, though, calling the Anarchs by ‘the Third Estate’ never quite caught on,” Becky Lynne smiles. “And yes, there are plenty others. The covenants have been around for Lord only knows how long, after all. The Sanctified also go by the Church Eternal, the Church of Night, and the Judges, though that last one’s derogatory.”
Caroline: Caroline takes it all in, trying to assimilate the onslaught of knowledge.
GM: “A few more popular ones for the Invictus are the Conspiracy of Silence, the Ordo Equitum Solis—that literally means, ‘Empire of Night’, the Unconquered, and the Society.”
Caroline: “The Invictus are, essentially, the nobility, or the upper class?”
Another stupid question.
GM: Becky Lynne gives a light laugh. “I suppose that’s one way to put it, Miss Malveaux. Yes, we are the lords and ladies of the night, and in most cities we see to temporal governance of the Camarilla’s holdings. The Sanctified usually see to the spiritual welfare of a domain’s residents. New Orleans is somethin’ of an exception, since the Lancea et Sanctum is in charge here.”
Becky Lynne taps her chin. “Though I suppose calling us the upper class isn’t exactly the case. Lookin’ to mortal society again, the second estate wasn’t poor by any stretch. They simply had different responsibilities than the first estate.”
Caroline: “More formalized then. Structured?” Caroline asks, probing.
GM: “I’m sorry, Miss Malveaux, I’m not sure I understand your meaning?”
Caroline: “No, I was unclear, Questor Adler. I simply meant that the Invictus were, relative to others, more formalized and structured. I could not help but notice Gerousiastis Matheson’s many titles, for instance.”
GM: Becky Lynne gives another light laugh. “Yes, that’s one reason most neonates can thank their lucky stars we aren’t an Invictus city, or all Kindred would be expected to know and use those. At least in polite company, anyway.”
“The Lancea et Sanctum have a formal structure, as you say, and they have their share of titles too, though the fact their leaders here are lay members mean we don’t see as many as we might. But even if Prince Vidal was one of the Anointed, you’re right the Invictus has more titles and offices than all the other covenants put together.”
Becky Lynne smiles again. “What’s that quote Napoleon said? ‘Men are ruled by toys’?”
Caroline: “Now and always,” Caroline agrees.
GM: “Jokin’ around aside, though, our members all have very clear ideas of their roles in the covenant. Everyone knows their place.”
Caroline: Know your place. Caroline doesn’t think she’s ever explicitly used that phrase, but she’s certainly conveyed the meaning in the past many times.
It’s disquieting how it feels with the shoe on the other foot.
GM: “About half my sire’s titles are Ventrue ones, I should also add,” Becky Lynne continues. “You’ll be expected to learn all of those. We probably have the most out of all the clans.”
Caroline: Still, she can see how a ladder to climb, and knowing exactly how and where you stand is valuable and appealing to many.
“Of course,” Caroline agrees again, easily.
GM: “We’ll get to that in a just a bit, though. Backtrackin’ to what you said about the First and Second Estate, and how they relate to the upper class—well, that’s more a matter of clan. Kindred upper class, if you will, are our clan, the Toreador, and the Tremere if you’re feelin’ generous. The titled nobility are the Invictus, while the clergy are the Lancea et Sanctum. But just like many bishops and cardinals came from prominent noble families, Prince Vidal is also a Ventrue from a very old and distinguished bloodline.”
“And just to complicate things even more, you might say that here in New Orleans, we also live in the old Papal States—where the church were temporal as well as spiritual leaders.”
Caroline: Or post-Henry England? she thinks to herself wryly, smiling faintly.
Given the heavy Catholic borrowings, though, they probably are about as fond of the idea of the ‘Church’ of England as Uncle Orson.
It’s a lot to take in, but Caroline is fairly good at these broader concepts, and social structures as a whole. It’s just another layer of scaffolding on top of the existing at this point.
GM: “Now then, let’s finish up styles of address,” Becky Lynne remarks, pressing her palms together in emphasis.
Caroline: She has Caroline’s full attention.
GM: “Ghouls, for the most part, don’t have any. They can be referred to by their given or surnames, or even just a simple ‘you.’ Heralds of elder Kindred are referred to by a simple ‘mister’ or ‘madam’, followed by their surname. The one exception there is Prince Vidal’s herald—he’s referred to as Capitán Gaultierrez, his old rank in the Spanish Army.”
Caroline: “By that do you mean any Kindred that is your elder, or only actual elders, and does that rule apply even if the ghoul is quite young?” Caroline asks, thinking of Haley.
GM: “Good question. Yes, if the ghoul is still young, she can be a ‘miss.’ If she’s speakin’ with her domitor’s voice, and her domitor is your elder, then it’s a smart idea to err on the respectful side.”
Caroline: “Is it common to interact with the ghouls of another when they are not doing so?”
GM: “I’m afraid I don’t understand your question, Miss Malveaux? Talkin’ to other Kindred when their domitor’s not around is the whole point of heralds, after all.”
Caroline: “Yes, but what I mean is, wouldn’t that herald normally almost always be speaking with their domitor’s voice?”
GM: “That depends on their domitor, really. Some Kindred are fine with their heralds sayin’ just about anything—to a point, of course—while others don’t let their heralds make so much as a peep without their sayso.”
Caroline: Caroline nods. “That makes sense.”
GM: “Now, last of all are the circumstances when it’s okay not to be so formal.”
“If an elder gives you leave to address them in a more… familiar voice, you should of course go along. Primogen Duquette for instance prefers Coco over her formal title, and Primogen Opal likes to go by Miss Opal, heaven knows why.”
Caroline: Caroline nods. “Though you should still address them by their proper titles when referring to them in outside company?”
GM: Becky Lynne nods. “Outside Elysium and away from any elders, of course, neonates from other clans tend to be more informal. Usin’ only given names and the like. It’s not a crime, but Clan Ventrue strives to provide a model example at all times.”
Caroline: “Conduct yourself appropriately, in so many words?”
GM: “At all times, Miss Malveaux.” Becky Lynne offers another smile. “You never know what little birds might be listenin’.”
Caroline: It’s too true.
“What’s next, after forms of address?”
GM: “A proper Ventrue education, of course, would go on for much longer than this, both to fill your noggin with more learnin’ and to make sure what you have learned has sunk in there to stay. Of course, we don’t have ourselves that kind of time, I know I must be soundin’ like a broken record there.”
“What we can do,” Caroline’s slightly older clanmate continues with another tittering smile, “is have you take notes. That way we can be sure my whole mouthful did sink in, and let you reference it later.”
Caroline: “If you made materials available, I’d happily do so,” Caroline answers.
“And no, you, Questor Adler, don’t sound like that at all, rather, it sounds like someone mildly concerned that someone else has been, and might still be, running around undercutting a dignity and respect cultivated over thousands of years, and similarly interested in helping to set that individual up for success.”
“And I do intend on making good on your efforts, Questor Adler. Whatever mistakes I’ve made in the past, out of ignorance, I do not intend in repeating in the future.”
GM: “Why, hearin’ that makes me happy as a possum munchin’ on a sweet tater, Miss Malveaux,” Becky Lynne smiles widely, clearly pleased. “That’s very well-put of you!”
“That’s what it all really comes down to in the end, you know. Intentions. Recognizin’ the clan’s history and dignity. Any Ventrue who wants to do those proud can go far among us.”
Becky Lynne tugs a cord like the one in Matheson’s sitting room. The butler appears. She asks him to bring them some paper and pens, and thanks him after he’s done so. She then asks Caroline to write down as much as the younger Ventrue recall, a process that requires her to think very hard on Becky Lynne’s prior words. Matheson’s childe smiles that they can think of this as another examination, to see how much information Caroline has retained. Asking some repeat questions is unavoidable, but Becky Lynne childe eventually nods her satisfaction.
“All right, next of all… what do you want to cover first: offices and societies within our clan, how violence and use of disciplines is viewed by the Camarilla, or the trial’s legal procedures, such as those may be?”
Saturday night, 20 September 2015, AM
GM: It’s 5:20 AM when Caroline finally lays down her pencil. For all that Becky Lynne might say about this not even being close to a proper Ventrue fledgling’s education, Caroline’s mind feels crammed to bursting, and she has a small binder’s worth of handwritten notes.
“All right, Miss Malveaux,” Becky Lynne declares with a (needless) stretch of her arms, “sunup is in an hour, and that’s a good rule of thumb for how much time you want between your haven and you. Gerousiastis Matheson wishes me to convey that you’re welcome to stay the day, which would let us fit in another hour.”
Caroline: “I fear that doing so would be robbing Peter to pay Paul. After this evening it would be better if I had an opportunity to hunt before his interview tomorrow, and I have a few matters with my ghouls that need to be seen to. I had not anticipated matters going in this particular way tonight.” She bites her lip.
“I should also disclose, I have an appoint tomorrow night at 11 PM that I cannot reschedule or miss. Or at least that I believe can be rescheduled—I’ll look into the matter on the way back tonight.”
GM: Becky Lynne nods. “Gerousiastis Matheson will expect you by 9 PM tomorrow, though I’m afraid I can’t say for how long he’ll want to keep you. It’s goin’ to be a busy night, with the trial this very Sunday.”
Caroline: “Then I shall attend Gerousiastis Matheson as promptly as possible prior to 9 PM.”
Her head is still spinning from all the knowledge Becky Lynne has been feeding her, and she can feel her Beast’s angry stirring with all the blood she paid to knit her rent flesh.
GM: “Very good then, Miss Malveaux. I reckon I’ll see you tomorrow,” the other Ventrue smiles as she rises from her seat.
“You did very well tonight, by the way! I’m rootin’ for my sire to select you as his arbiter.”
Caroline: Somehow she doubts the elder is doing the same.
Saturday night, 20 September 2015, AM
Caroline: Caroline politely—using Becky Lynne’s new lessons—takes her leave from the mansion and its inhabitants, catching a ride with Autumn back to her ‘home’. She slides into the back-passenger seat rather than sit beside the oh so delicious smelling investigator for the ride, and rolls her window half down as well.
For a brief and fleeting moment that monster inside her was perfectly contented. No wounds, no hunger. It was brief and fleeting. Between the hunger building and the Beast’s anger over its assaults, she’s too aware of her tenuous grasp over it.
“So,” she says, once they’ve pulled away.
GM: Autumn doesn’t ask Caroline how the meeting went. She was listening to the whole thing, thanks to her mistress’ forethought.
“I feel like we’ve landed in a pit of snakes,” the ghoul answers.
She’s not smiling in the least.
Caroline: Caroline nods, an action Autumn can see in her rear view mirror.
“Did he alter my memories, that you could tell?”
GM: “Oh hell yes he did. He’s a headhunter. Everything Savoy says he is.”
Caroline: There’s a flash of anger, but not surprise.
“Fed on me?”
GM: Autumn shakes her head.
“He seemed like he was going to. But the other guy talked him out of it.”
Caroline: “The butler?”
GM: She shakes her head again.
“An elder like Matheson would probably, I don’t know, cut off his tongue for voicing an opinion. It had to have been another lick. The voices didn’t sound the same, anyway.”
Caroline: “I’ll need you to go through the recording today, trim down the parts that are most meaningful. And make a few copies.”
GM: “Listen, what’s on there—it’s big.”
Caroline: She grimaces. “I’m sorry, long night into a long day.”
GM: “The whole trial’s a sham. A setup.”
Caroline: “In what way?”
GM: Autumn grimaces, trying to keep her eyes on the road.
“I think you might wanna just listen to the recording yourself. I made a note at the part where things got… well, as they did. Jump back maybe a minute before that.”
“That was pretty smart, by the way. Keeping your phone on and having me listen over the other end.”
Caroline: “I’ve been known to have an idea on occasion.” A predatory smile.
GM: “Matheson’s as smart a bastard as any elder, but he doesn’t know anything about modern tech.”
Caroline: “It’s too bad he didn’t feed on me, though.”
GM: “Look, just… listen to what’s on my phone. You might reconsider.”
Caroline: “How long is it? The meaningful portion?”
GM: “Not that long. Maybe a couple minutes. After that it’s just hours with Becky Lynne.”
Caroline: Caroline frowns.
“When we get back to the house I’d like you to copy the recording before you play it for me. The meaningful portion.”
GM: “You think you might do something to destroy it?”
Caroline: “I think it doesn’t hurt to be careful.”
GM: “I didn’t hear Matheson give you any commands there. He did a bunch of other things to your mind, though. But you’re right, it doesn’t hurt to wait a few minutes.”
Caroline: “I’m not simply worrying about what he might have done to me,” Caroline responds tightly.
GM: “I’ll leave you alone with it,” Autumn says.
Caroline: “You’ve a lifesaver, Autumn,” Caroline murmurs.
GM: The ghoul’s eyes shine with adoration.
Caroline: She flashes a tight smile at the ghoul.
GM: “You know I’d do anything for you.”
Caroline: “I know, you already do everything.” There’s genuine affection in Caroline’s voice.
Only when the moment fades does she look down, dig out her phone, and send off a message to Jocelyn.
Meeting went fine. He wants to see me at 9PM tomorrow though.
GM: oh thats great! youll need to wrap at 11 tho
skyman is ok with you seeing matheson btw
Caroline: Is there any chance he could meet earlier, before Matheson?
GM: no way, i dont ask skyman to change plans
Caroline: Thought I’d ask. Matheson wants me to testify for him. Don’t want to step on Skyman’s toes there. Seems like it’s a big deal among movers and shakers.
GM: id volunteer to pass along, but you can tell skyman yourself tomorrow
or well maybe skymans
youll see tomorrow
Caroline: See you.
GM: you will!
Caroline: Caroline bites her lip at the XOs, and sends only one word in response. Love. As she stares down at the screen though something eats at her, something Becky Lynne said.
…with the attention span of fruit flies, movin’ on from this artist or that vessel to whatever catches their fancy. And like all stereotypes, there’s some amount of truth to it.
It’s perhaps telling that those words haunt her the rest of the drive back more than anything else on the night.