“This thing is dynamite. It’s… way above our pay grade, honestly.”
Saturday night, 19 September 2015, AM
GM: Some ten minutes later, Caroline is upstairs in her unsecure panic room with her phone. Autumn is downstairs, not having wished to fully abandon her mistress.
Caroline: Caroline hits play.
GM: “…I suspect that any reasoned individual could draw their own reasonable opinion. Not that every individual is reasoned, or every opinion reasonable,” Caroline hears herself say.
There’s a pause. Caroline doesn’t hear her face being struck.
“Give yourself to me,” Matheson orders, his voice low and thick.
Caroline hears the muffled sound of her heels against carpeted floor.
“Gerousiastis Matheson, I advise against this,” cuts in a sharp voice. Male. English accent.
Caroline can’t hear what happens next.
“Gerousiastis,” the voice cuts in again, sharper. “You will have opportunity to feed on as many neonates as you please after the trial. The odds of your being apprehended for feeding on this fledgling are low—but they are not nonexistent. One moment of pleasure is not worth endangering a Requiem that has spanned four centuries.”
“You are correct, advocate,” Matheson states slowly.
“Stand in the corner,” he orders.
Caroline hears more muffled footfalls against carpet.
“What is your estimation of this ill-mannered fledgling, Advocate?” Matheson inquires.
“Ignorant. A useless witness at best, an active liability at worst,” the British voice crisply assesses.
Caroline: She lets out a low growl.
GM: “She is also desperate, possesses a background in law, and looks presentable. She is precisely what we require.”
“Tell me of this… device you will use upon her, Advocate.”
“The term for it is an earpiece, Gerousiastis Matheson,” the British voice replies. “I will be able to speak to her, unheard, during the trial. I will tell her everything to say. You will look as if you retained a local neonate as your advocate. I will enjoy your and His Majesty’s gratitude. She will even get the public credit for defending your name. Everyone wins.”
Matheson never smiled in Caroline’s presence. She has a hard time imagining what it looks like. But it sounds like it’s there. Maybe.
“But for Gerousiastis Smith.”
“The Gerousia is well-served for his loss,” the British voice replies crisply. “I will inform His Majesty that the fledgling is being publicly retained as your arbiter. I will further advise you to still have Questor Adler instruct her in the rudiments of Camarilla and Ventrue protocol. She will be less likely to misstep before an audience, even if she repeats me word for word.”
“I concur, Advocate. It is so much the better if she owes me a boon.”
“You say she is precisely what we require, Advocate,” Matheson repeats slowly.
“I do, Gerousiastis.”
“Whom do you serve?” Matheson sharply demands.
“Myself,” Caroline hears her own voice answer.
“Name the last elder you engaged in conversation,” Matheson orders.
“Coco,” Caroline answers.
“Name the preceding elder you engaged in conversation.”
“Name the preceding elder you engaged in conversation.”
Matheson interrogates the younger Ventrue as to the nature of her dealings with both elders. Perhaps to her chagrin, Caroline hears herself repeat her confession to Maldonato about her unborn child’s death.
It’s when Caroline explains her more recent dealings with Coco that Matheson sounds considerably more interested. He presses for details regarding how Eight-Nine-Six met their ends. Caroline is slow to talk. Matheson presses down upon her will. Caroline hears herself grunting and softly whining.
Finally, she screams.
Caroline: It’s hard to listen to. Her own screams. The sounds of her suffering she can’t remember. She digs her fingernails into her palms, fists tightly balled at the forgotten trauma, and squeezes her eyes shut. As clinical as she was with Autumn earlier over the topic of her domination, listening to it is another story.
GM: Caroline hears a soft thud over the tape. More low whimpers.
“Most intriguing,” Matheson remarks.
“Another elder,” the British voice remarks. “She could have been placed as a lure with which to sabotage your defense during the trial.”
“That would require intimate—and recent—knowledge of my affairs,” Matheson remarks.
“The majority of our discussions took place in His Majesty’s presence,” the British voice crisply assesses. “Anything with the power to eavesdrop upon those is beyond our ability to plan around. If there is a leak, it came from one of four sources. Yourself. Myself. Prince Vidal. Seneschal Maldonato. No Kindred save the seneschal is realistically likely to have entered your mind, and even he would not lightly attempt to do so. A leak from either the prince or seneschal is indicative of a larger conspiracy. That leaves me.”
“That is correct, Arbiter. Let us not forget your sire’s and grandsire’s opposition to the Southron Lords. Nor the fact Prince Vidal arranged your services.”
Matheson’s voice grows lower.
“Nor that you have already betrayed your ostensible client.”
The British voice grows noticeably tighter. “I understand, Gerousiastis. I consent to give you access to my mind.”
“Thank you, Arbiter.”
Silence at first. Then grunts and whines, so much like her own.
“I trust… I have… satisfied… Gerousiastis,” the British voice raggedly states.
“For now,” Matheson answers in a low tone.
“You understand, of course, that several of these discoveries cannot remain in your mind, Arbiter.”
“…yes, Gerousiastis,” the British voice replies.
Matheson orders his arbiter to forget everything past his interrogation of Caroline regarding Eight-Nine-Six’s fate.
“Very well, Arbiter. I am satisfied that this fledgling is suitable to our needs,” Matheson states. “I have no present further need for your services. I am certain, however, that your other client would hold otherwise.”
“He would. I will return tomorrow, Gerousiastis, to finalize matters with the fledgling. By your leave.”
“By my leave, Arbiter. You may inform my other counsel that her services will no longer be necessary.”
Caroline can picture Matheson’s addressee bowing. There’s the soft sound of shoes against carpet.
“Come closer,” Matheson orders.
Muffled heels against carpet.
“Forget all of this conversation following your mention of Mr. Savoy.”
There’s the sharp sound of Matheson’s hand striking Caroline’s face.
“Please accept my apologies for the offense I have offered, Gerousiastis Matheson,” Caroline hears herself say.
The recording ends.
Caroline: Caroline lets out the breath she didn’t know she’d been holding.
Saturday night, 19 September 2015, AM
Caroline: Caroline gathers up the phone to head downstairs to Autumn.
GM: She finds the ghoul has fallen asleep on the downstairs couch.
Caroline: She’s so tempting. So vulnerable. Weak. Perfect.
Caroline rests a hand on Autumn’s shoulder and gives a gentle shake. Were she living, she might kneel to get closer and avoid startling Autumn, but getting that close is a poor idea.
Another thing that René took from her.
GM: Autumn has clearly only been asleep for a few minutes, as it doesn’t take much effort to rouse her. She groggily looks up.
“Zwu… you heard?”
Caroline: Caroline nods. “Private meetings with the prince about the trial doesn’t exactly give the appearance of impartiality.”
GM: Autumn gives another half-awake nod. “Whole thing’s… a sham. He’s guilty, prince wants to keep covering it up.”
Caroline: “You look exhausted.”
GM: “Uh… I guess…”
Caroline: “It’s my fault. I’ve been asking too much of you.”
GM: That seems to wake Autumn all the way up.
“No, no, it’s fine. I can keep up.”
Caroline: “No, it isn’t fine, and I should have noticed earlier. How many hours of sleep are you getting a day?”
GM: “Well, it depends,” she answers, somewhat hemming. “Not a lot tonight, but not every night’s like this one.”
Caroline: The evasive answer does not appear to impress her domitor.
“Not enough, then,” she sighs. “Autumn, what you do for me is staggering, and I don’t know what I’d do without you.”
If the ghoul senses the ‘but’ coming, she’s not wrong.
“But, that’s exactly why you need to speak up. I’m not going to get angry because you need a bit of time to keep your life in order, or, you know, sleep.”
GM: Autumn just shakes her head. “I’m doing fine. I want to help you, anytime I can.”
Caroline: “I know, but what if you’d fallen asleep tonight? Or if you run yourself into the ground and get sick? Or if your family starts asking questions?” she probes.
GM: “I didn’t. I catch a few winks when it won’t be a problem. And I’ve never heard of any ghoul getting sick on the Blood. That stuff can put AIDS or cancer in complete remission. My family’s not a problem. I know how to maintain the Masquerade around them. Ex-Krewe, remember?”
Caroline: “We’re going to figure out a schedule that lets you actually get some rest and see to your other needs,” Caroline decides, then sighs. “But it won’t be today.”
GM: “I can cut back on things,” Autumn adds. “The job, the only reason I had it was because I wanted my own income. I didn’t want to be dependent on you for money, and I also gave 50/50 odds on you getting ashed.”
There’s guilt on her face.
“I’m sorry about that. I guess it didn’t really hurt you, but I wasn’t giving you much credit. I didn’t see how strong you could be.”
Caroline: It does hurt, a little, but Caroline understands.
“I thought I was going to get ashed,” she admits. “You were being smart. Looking after yourself. Your smarts are one of my favorite things about you, Autumn. You don’t have to apologize.”
GM: There’s the slightest of pauses before Autumn continues, “I’ll quit now, of course. I’ll draw a little more from those accounts, but it’ll be one less thing in the way of me helping you.”
Caroline: “It’s going to get better. Easier,” Caroline promises. “I should be able to get Turner back on her feet… and the Storyvilles…. well.” She gives a smile. “It’ll be better.”
GM: Autumn nods and smiles back. “Well, I should still quit anyway. I’m on the student paper at Tulane and an intern at the Picayune. Those are Donovan’s and Abraham Garcia’s domains, so that’s a no-no. Seeing as I’m yours.”
Caroline: Caroline’s eyes glaze over for a moment as she’d taken back to how the prince responded to ‘infringing’ on his domain.
“That might be best. I wouldn’t want either of them to do anything rash, thinking I was trying to infringe on it,” she says quietly.
GM: “Yeah… Garcia’s actually not that bad a lick, but it’s still a bad idea. The Krewe of Janus had a deal with him, to let me be there. I should’ve quit as soon as they kicked me out.”
Caroline: “But it’s hard to give up on something you wanted… and to be entirely dependent on someone else.”
GM: “That was part of it, but also…” Autumn looks uncomfortable. “I was trying to cut a deal with his ghouls. See if he’d take me on if you got ashed. I’m sorry. I went behind your back because I didn’t think you were going to make it.”
Caroline: “Stop apologizing,” Caroline replies. She forces a smile across her face. “There’s nothing to forgive.” The smile is forced, but more by other circumstances than the ghoul’s actions.
“We do have some work to do, though, and not a great deal of time. You probably still understand better than I do what the tape means. It’s radioactive.”
GM: Autumn nods soberly. “This thing is dynamite. It’s… way above our pay grade, honestly.”
Caroline: Caroline nods. “I need to make a call. Several, really. While I do that though, I need you to book hotel rooms in a few hotels in Riverbend in my name, and after I crash for the day, I need at least three copies of the tape made, and it deleted off your phone.”
GM: Autumn nods again at the request. “Probably better I don’t ask what you’re doing with those.”
“Also, might be better if I just destroy the phone and buy a new one. It’s amazing what dedicated techs can recover.”
Caroline: “Do that, then.”
GM: “The CBD has better hotels than Riverbend too, unless you’re wanting to stay on the sheriff’s turf?”
Caroline: “The latter. I’m not actually staying there, but is an array of false trails someone might follow.”
GM: “You’re not staying here, then. Everyone and their mother knows where this place is.”
Caroline: “I don’t think I have much choice tonight, but I am going to call for some extra security attention. I don’t think very many Kindred would want to invade Donovan’s domain and get into a shootout in the street.”
GM: “You could stay at my family’s house,” Autumn offers. “It’s not the perfect hideaway, but not as many Kindred know about it as your haven here.”
Caroline: Caroline shakes her head. “No, I don’t want to put them in the firing line in any way. It’ll be fine here today, and I can start looking for a long-term solution. For now though I need to make this call, before it gets too much later.”
GM: “But this place isn’t safe,” Autumn presses. “Licks have just been waltzing in.”
Caroline: “Licks aren’t going to waltz in during the day,” Caroline counters. “And I’m leaving as soon as the sun goes back down.”
GM: “Well, ghouls too.”
Caroline: “Which is why the Blackwatch guys will shoot to kill. But I don’t really anticipate anyone trying anything today.”
GM: “Daytime is the Krewe’s favorite to send their removers,” Autumn says darkly.
Caroline: “Do you think the Krewe is out to get me right now?” Caroline asks seriously. “Right now the only people that could be would be Savoy or McGinn, and neither of them, I think, are so brazen as to risk the sheriff’s ire over a story forced out of me and thrown into the wind already.”
GM: “Well, the Krewe aren’t the only Kindred with ghouls on call. I don’t think they have much stake in the trial. But… they would not be happy to find out about that missing Tinder guy. Dropped off the map, and was last seen driving to your house. The Blackwatch guards all saw his face. Buzzed him in. Never buzzed him out.”
Caroline: Caroline sets her jaw grimly. “If you want to follow up on it today, I won’t stop you. Right now though, given everything else in play, my first priority is seeing to the tape. Which I’m going to do.”
“Going somewhere else, like your home, wouldn’t help me if the Krewe has already decided to ash me in any case, not today. Today I need you to make the reservations, talk to the Krewe about more blood, as we discussed, and make the copies of the tape.” She frowns. “And be here tomorrow night at nightfall.”
GM: Autumn shakes her head at Caroline’s earlier statement. “If the Krewe was coming for you, they’d go after someone you loved first. That’s strike two. But okay, I can do all of those.”
Caroline: “Otherwise, try to get some sleep. Tomorrow night is going to be…. rough.”
GM: “I can stay over. Actually, you thought any more about me moving in?”
Caroline: Caroline frowns. “I’m sorry, honestly I hadn’t. I don’t object in principle, but I’d rather you not today, unless you don’t feel safe in your home. If someone does come looking, I don’t want you to be the one that they find.”
GM: “What about you, though? Turner’s the only other person here and she looks, well, half-dead.”
Caroline: “I don’t want her either. Look… if worse comes to worst and someone attacks here, past the Blackwatch guys in the sheriff’s domain, they’re not going to kill me.”
GM: “The Blackwatch guys are just breathers, though. How many times have you seen licks get past them?”
Caroline: “I’m leaving at sundown, Autumn,” Caroline says again. “It isn’t perfect, but I’d rather focus on the known threats than the nebulous might happen, especially given the nature of those known threats tomorrow.”
GM: The ghoul bites her lip. “Well, okay. Is there anything else I can do?”
Caroline: “Shit,” Caroline murmurs to herself.
GM: “What is it?”
GM: Caroline’s phone buzzes with a text.
Caroline: She looks down at it.
GM: The sender is Jocelyn.
just rembrd, therell be refreshments with skyman. come hungry!
but not murder on the street hungry
Caroline: She holds up a hand for Autumn, and hits send in response, dialing to the Toreador.
GM: Jocelyn picks up after the first ring.
“Hey, what’s up?”
Caroline: “I may have found myself in something of a situation,” Caroline begins. “With Matheson.”
GM: “Wait. He didn’t feed on you, did he?” Jocelyn asks, audibly frowning.
Caroline: “Well, let me ask this first.” Caroline is clearly choosing her words carefully. “Do you know where Skyman falls with regard to Matheson?”
GM: “Uh.” Jocelyn pauses. “I’m not sure I should talk about that.”
Caroline: “I understand, and normally I wouldn’t pry, but… well, let me put it this way. Would Skyman be interested in evidence that Matheson not only feeds on neonates, but plans to continue doing so, and others are aware of that fact? Because I don’t know what to do with it otherwise, since I’m supposed to meet him early tomorrow, and I expect he’ll find out that I have it at that point.”
GM: “Holy shit,” Jocelyn exclaims. Her voice turns angry. “He fed on you, is that what happened?”
Caroline: “No, someone else talked him out of it. Said he’d have plenty of other opportunities to do so.”
GM: “Whoa, whoa—okay, start at the beginning maybe? Just what the hell happened there?”
Caroline: “I went to talk to him, and apparently a couple minutes into the conversation he dominated me.” The last three words come out through gritted teeth. “And told me to ‘give myself to him.’ But a third party intervened. Told him it wasn’t worth the risk right now, and that he’d have plenty of other opportunities in the future. Ventrue. English accent. Invictus.”
GM: “Oh my god. They just… let you walk away?”
Caroline: “Instead he spent a while digging through my memories of… well, just about everything of note. Tried to get me to give up Skyman, but I don’t think that I did. At least, I didn’t hear myself say anything. Then he dominated me to forget it all…. but I was recording it all as well.”
GM: “Holy shit,” Jocelyn repeats.
Caroline: “He told me to come back tomorrow, Jocelyn… I think he’s going to dominate me again, and if he finds out about the tape…”
GM: “Oh, holy shit,” Jocelyn repeats. “But if you say no…”
Caroline: “That’s why I was asking if we could move the Skyman meeting. But, that aside… the tape, it’s explosive, Jocelyn. They talk about closed-door meetings with the prince.”
GM: The pause isn’t long so much as it’s deep. “I can’t believe this! Prince Vidal said he wasn’t a headhunter! He LIED!”
Caroline: “Maybe he doesn’t know?” Caroline counters. “Or…. maybe he has something on the prince? A boon?”
GM: “No. He wasn’t lying. You’re—” There’s another pause. “Well, it… actually on the prince, maybe… oh god. This—this is all wrong. Maybe someone’s messing with your memories. Or it’s a trick, from Savoy, to turn us against the prince. He wouldn’t lie, not about this.”
Caroline: “Listen, Jocelyn, what’s important… I need to know what to do with this. Or more precisely, what Skyman wants done with it. Released entirely it would be… bad. But just the opening, the headhunting admission, and someone else knowing. If he does have something over the prince, some boon or something, used correctly, this could clear that slate.”
GM: "No. No, he couldn’t have a boon. Not one he could use like this. Prince Vidal wouldn’t let him. This… " Jocelyn lets out a needless breath. “We’ll take this to Skyman. All of it. He’ll know what to do. He’ll make it make sense.”
Caroline: “I meet with Matheson at 9 PM.”
GM: “Oh, fuck…”
Caroline: “Yeah… I have a bad feeling that if I walk in that house, I probably won’t walk back out.”
GM: “God fucking…!”
Caroline: “Short of…” Caroline’s voice is thick and heavy. “Well, even that might not work.”
GM: “I,” Jocelyn stammers, “I can’t get ahold of Skyman. I don’t ever talk to him, except when he wants to talk to me. Just one of his ghouls.”
Caroline: “Calm down,” Caroline replies. “Look… really it boils down to this. Would Skyman want the tape?”
GM: “Uh, well, he’d…” Caroline can all but see Jocelyn’s face struggling. “…yeah, sure, any elder would want it!”
Caroline: “There’s really two options then… stand him up, or…”
GM: “I’ll… look, I’ll pass this on to Skyman’s ghoul. He can get in touch with his boss. He has to, for something this big. I mean… if he wants you first thing tomorrow… god!”
Caroline: “Failing that,” Caroline’s voice is quiet, “I either don’t show up, or… show up but not let him dominate me.”
GM: “What? You can’t stop him from doing that, he’s got puissance.”
Caroline: Caroline swallows. “Eye contact, right?”
GM: “I guess? I dunno, I can’t mindscrew people that way.”
Caroline: “It requires eye contact.”
GM: “He can make you look at him.”
Caroline: “Not if I’m blind.”
The words are soft, like a great weight laid on a feather pillow.
GM: There’s a silence.
Caroline: “Not a lot of options,” Caroline replies.
GM: “Look. I’m gonna pass this on, right now. I’ll call you back. Okay?”
Caroline: “I’ll be here.”
GM: The line clicks.
“Jesus,” Autumn repeats. She looks like she’s been attentively listening the whole time.
Caroline: Caroline lowers the phone to look at the ghoul. “Hum?”
GM: “Putting out your eyes.”
Caroline: Despite her talk, Caroline shivers as Autumn says the words, but she nods as well.
GM: “Who’s this Skyman guy?” she frowns.
Caroline: “Better if you don’t know. In fact…. I should probably remove all memory of that conversation, for what it’s worth.” Caroline makes no move to do so. She just looks tired.
GM: Autumn looks a little hurt. “I could help you find out more about… Skyman. It didn’t sound like you knew a lot about him.”
Caroline: “The Krewe has been sending a ghoul to dominate you and report on my dealings,” Caroline replies quietly.
GM: Autumn looks simultaneously surprised and not-surprised at that.
Caroline: The Ventrue nods softly.
“That’s why there are certain things I’ve tried to keep away from you. Keep you in the dark on. Things they don’t need to know, which do not relate to the Masquerade. Until now it’d worked out pretty well…”
“And I guess it still can, it just means I have to do things I don’t want to do. Go into your mind and play with your memories. As though I don’t trust you.”
GM: Autumn looks helpless as she turns that question over. Finally she ventures, “You could just… give them what they want, and they’ll stop. Do better keeping the Masquerade, that is.”
Caroline: “In the long run, maybe. But tell me, Autumn, how long do you think it would take to earn their trust, and do you think they’d ever want to stop watching?”
GM: “What? Actually, yeah, they don’t spy on every lick. That’d just take too much manpower, pull them away from too many other things. They only keep an eye on the ones they think will be problems. And honestly… you are being a problem. That Tinder guy was sloppy.”
Autumn stares for a moment.
“Oh, hell. Now you have to fix things with the witnesses.”
Caroline: There’s a flash of anger across Caroline’s face, especially when Autumn mentions Trenton, but she bites her tongue on it.
GM: “I’m just saying, you can either keep butting heads with the Krewe in a spat you can’t win… or make them happy doing something that’s in your own self-interest anyway. If the Krewe hears you’ve cleaned up a potential breach like Tinder guy, that’ll help convince them to let off.”
“And I know you said I’m free to take care of it, but honestly, this isn’t a breach I can cover up by myself. I mean, I can try to fix things with any camera recordings that show Tinder guy’s car, but I can’t mindscrew, bribe, or get blackmail material—as easily, anyway—on the guards who buzzed him in.”
Caroline: The heiress sighs.
“I don’t know what you want me to do right before sunrise. Or tomorrow with Matheson. Or the next day with the trial.”
GM: “Well maybe you should figure out how to make it work, I thought Ventrue were supposed to be take-charge types who got stuff done.”
Caroline: Caroline’s face flashes again with anger, and she pinches the bridge of her nose between her eyes.
“The suicide modality rate among transgendered individuals is 40%, and is most highly expressed among those of Trenton’s age.”
“If something comes of this before we can get in front of it with Blackwatch, the story we are spinning is that when she was turned away by me she, faced with rejection and already unstable, must have committed suicide.”
GM: Autumn thinks.
“Okay, that sounds believable. We could use some evidence for it.”
Caroline: Caroline continues, “I don’t think that Blackwatch keeps the tapes on the gate for very long, but talk to Turner, she can probably tell you more about their protocols. I am almost sure that they don’t keep a camera on the exit gate. They used to, but a couple residents complained about their mistresses getting caught on tape leaving late. Again, Turner might know for sure.”
GM: “Okay, I can ask her. If that’s true, only big concern is any friends or family who go looking for him.”
Caroline: Caroline crinkles her nose at the pronoun choice but says nothing of it.
“You’ve got her name, details. Go looking, find out about her. Depending on how far it’s gone we can fake a suicide note, and when I get a free minute we can cover down on Blackwatch at the gate with the combination of bribes and some mind-fuckery. I’d send Turner to go chat with them now, but as messed up as she is she’d just raise more questions.”
GM: “Yeah, she would. But okay, I’ll see what I can find out.”
Caroline: “What else?”
GM: “You mean, is there to do?”
Caroline: Caroline nods. “You know more about what the Krewe expects than I do.”
GM: “Oh, the Krewe. Well, so far as that… honestly, that’s it. Just showing you’re doing a good enough job keeping the Masquerade on your own they don’t need to watch you as a potential threat. Could try looking for any other licks’ breaches to clean up. Hell, they’d owe you for it too.”
Caroline: “Down the line, yes, that’s on the agenda,” Caroline replies. “I am not content to eke out an existence on the sidelines, nor do I expect that I’ll be permitted to. Now… for what you’re not going to like.”
GM: Autumn’s face falls a bit. “Can you tell me one thing, after you’re done? What’s next, now that your sire’s gone?”
Caroline: “Yes.” Caroline bites her lower lip. “But it’s complicated. This I mean.”
She seems uncomfortable and pauses for a moment.
GM: “Well, I don’t think you’re the only Kindred who’d describe things that way.”
Caroline: “No, I mean, here and now…”
She runs her tongue over her fangs behind closed lips before continuing.
“I need some from you first,” she finally admits. “Or at least it would be better. Safer.”
She looks away.
“I’m sorry… I hate to ask you…”
GM: Autumn looks distinctly uncomfortable at that question.
“Like, right now? I’ll have all day to buy from the Krewe…”
Caroline: “I’m sorry… I used so much healing from Matheson’s beating…” Caroline looks ashamed. “And I’m so close to…” She clenches her fists.
GM: The ghoul’s discomfort abruptly melts away.
“Can I have a hit when you’re full, later?”
Caroline: “Yes, though given everything going on I can’t promise exactly how much latter it’ll be. It could be this weekend, it could be next week,” Caroline answers. She turns back to meet Autumn’s gaze. “You know I’ll always take care of you, Autumn.”
She moves as though she wants to reach out to the ghoul, but stops herself.
GM: Returning apprehension wars with craving in Autumn’s eyes.
“If you’re really hungry, I should… do it away from you,” she ventures.
Caroline: Caroline shakes her head. “It’ll be okay… trust me, I won’t hurt you, Autumn.”
There’s a hunger in her eyes that almost matches Autumn’s own.
Hunger is winning out over shame as she extends a hand towards the ghoul.
GM: “Uh, if you’re ‘so close to’ that you need my blood… I really think it’s better if I bleed myself…” Autumn points out as she backs up several steps.
Caroline: “I know where my limits are,” Caroline growls in irritation as the ghoul retreats. “There’s no reason you have to hurt yourself.”
GM: “I’d… still feel a lot better that way, thanks,” Autumn says warily.
Caroline: There’s hurt in Caroline’s eyes but she makes no move to stop the ghoul, only lowering her hand and averting her eyes.
GM: A noticeably paler-looking Autumn looks rather more hurt when she returns with a bandaged wrist and two red-filled plastic bags.
She drops them on the couch next to her domitor.
Caroline: “I’ll make it up to you,” she promises the ghoul, but her attention is clearly on the bags. She runs her tongue over her teeth.
GM: Autumn extends a straw.
Caroline: Caroline has a brief and fleeting image of simply tearing into the bags, of sheer animalistic pleasure in bathing in the blood—a vision which grows darker still at the thought of the other eager blood pumping in Autumn’s veins. So close…
She slams down on that image with a steel vice in her mind and takes the straw ashamedly. The cost of this blood was too high. To Autumn. To her relationship with Autumn. To her own self-respect. She sucks it down, through the straw, eagerly, heavily, trying to take in every drop, before setting the red-stained bags aside for now.
GM: Autumn’s gaze lingers on the bags.
“There anything else?” she asks in a flat voice.
Caroline: The Kindred clenches her jaw as the words tear at her. “No, Autumn, you have your instructions for the day.” She stares at the ghoul.
GM: It would be a misnomer to say that Autumn stares back at Caroline, even if she looks back. The young woman’s gaze is still somewhat out of focus.
“All right. See you tomorrow.”
Caroline: “Autumn,” Caroline says, perhaps more sharply than she intended, as the ghoul turns to depart.
GM: Autumn turns back, some amount of trepidation creeping onto her face. “Yeah?”
Caroline: “You did really well tonight, Autumn.”
GM: Autumn looks unsure of how to respond for a moment. The praise is a figurative band-aid on an all-too literal and dripping wound. But her eyes still light up with that longing to please that’s lit up even Turner’s flinty ones. The two emotions, quiet hurt and desperate longing, fit together like an overcoat on a July heat wave.
Caroline: “No, I mean…” She sighs, then brings her wrist to her teeth. “I care about you, Autumn.” She extends that wrist.
It’s so empty, so hollow.
But it’s what she can offer.
GM: Autumn doesn’t so much as blink before falling on it.
At least one of them gets to be happy.
Saturday night, 19 September 2015, AM
GM: Autumn and her car take off. Caroline is left alone in her house with the other servant who has given so much for her.
A text eventually buzzes from Jocelyn.
Im coming over. Stay up ok?
Caroline: Be careful, comes her response as she feels a flush of anxiety at the prospect of her paramour traveling at the edge of dawn. She finds herself standing near the door looking out into the street.
GM: Caroline blinks and she’s lying on her back in the compromised panic room’s cot.
Caroline: She sees to a few matters as she waits. There’s an instant of panic as she can’t recall how she got there. She tries to stand, stumbling back into a corner to get her bearings.
GM: She rises without hindrance.
Caroline: She digs around her cot and the corners of the room for her phone, trying to determine how long it’s been.
GM: Caroline looks and looks, but there is precious little space to scrutinize. Neither the phone nor its charger are present.
Caroline: She brushes her hair out of her face with a hand and makes for the exit.
GM: Caroline finds her way out impeded by her clothes. Each one has been yanked off its hanger, turned inside out, and tossed onto the floor.
Caroline: She lets out a silent snarl at the newest invasion of her home, but she continues on.
GM: The office outside the panic room is in complete disarray. Pictures knocked off walls. Lamps tipped over, their shades ripped off. Furniture toppled onto their backs and sides, pillows and cushions slit open. Bookshelves stand empty, their books tossed onto the floor. Cabinets are yanked open with papers tossed everywhere. The room’s phone is also missing.
Caroline: Another snarl. But something else as well. A stab of pain. Her life torn apart. Her ‘home’ turn apart. Her privacy nonexistent. She continues onward searching for any sign of life or a means of reaching an outside entity.
GM: The house looks as if Hurricane Katrina tore through it. Every room, from the living room to the kitchen to the bathrooms, is in the same chaotic state as the office. There are no signs of life. Turner’s room is empty. There is, however, a note lying just by Caroline’s front door.
Do not leave your house.
Caroline: She stares at the note before gathering it up. She has a cross-cut shredder upstairs, somewhere in the pile that used to be her office. She’s hungry. Time is counting down with Matheson. She distantly worries about Autumn and Turner.
GM: She finds it lying among the other detritus, ripped open and the already-shredded paper strewn everywhere like confetti, but otherwise in functional condition once she puts it back together.
Caroline: She feeds the note into it.
GM: The machine spits out barely recognizable shreds of paper.
Caroline: It does nothing to shake her deep unease over all of this. Her sense of helplessness. How much did she tell them? What are they planning? There’s no good answer to either question for her. Cut off from the outside world. Isolated. Her home torn apart. She wonders if they found what they were looking for. Another smirk.
GM: A knocked-over clock steadily ticks. 8 PM.
Caroline: Caroline heads back upstairs and picks through those things that still hold some sentimental value to her. Some jewelry that has been in the family for generations. A rosary she received when she was confirmed, and her Bible, its fine leather cover hiding within worn pages. A couple picture frames, their glass shattered by careless hands: herself with Westley when they were both much younger, the whole family from the Mexico trip, herself with Aimee goofing off only a few weeks before her Embrace, herself with her father at the district fencing finals.
The small trophy she got for winning regionals is, to her dismay, broken. Knocked over or thrown down by a careless or vindictive hand and stepped on. The plastic name plate reading “Caroline Malveaux” is broken into a dozen pieces along with everything else.
She piles those things work salvaging, that she cares to keep, into a bag. Into the pile goes the broken plastic name plate, the dried glue still stuck to the back. It’s not meaningful work. Not really. But it gives her something to do other than wait. Keeps her occupied. Keeps her mind off of everything else. It’s something.
She sets the clock where she can see it.
Saturday night, 19 September 2015, AM
GM: Night hangs over New Orleans, still and heavy as a corpse-shroud.
Dark, overcast skies cast their gazes glumly east for relief, but dawn is still an hour off. The old man clings to the gloom like a familiar cloak as he approaches his destination.
Audubon Place is a fortress neighborhood and gated community with some of the most expensive residences in the city. It’s home to John Dyer (the owner of the Saints), Edward McGregor (the president of Tulane University), Maxen Flores (the state senate majority leader), Ernie Marchesi (a Mafia capo of Lou’s acquaintance), and other business and civic leaders who don’t want to associate with “the riffraff” that is the district’s middle-class homeowners and the Tulane and Loyola student bodies… to say nothing of the elements that prey on those students after dark.
The gated community isn’t easy to get inside. High concrete walls tipped with barbed wire declare the neighborhood’s desire to divorce itself from the rest of the world. A grilled iron gate and adjacent guard house control vehicle access. Masked Blackwatch mercenaries (“security contractors”) patrol the perimeter with leashed attack dogs, bored and tense for action. Lou knows the type. He can picture them laughing when the snarling German shepherds snap at frightened college students who wander too close.
Walls, guards, and dogs alike are irrelevant to the parakeet that simply flies over them.
Caroline’s home at 18 Audubon Place is a three-story, turn-of-the-century mansion that sits on a large 100×200-foot lot with a swimming pool and private backyard oasis. It, like all other Audubon Place homes, feature breathtaking views of the private park, but one step onto the grand veranda and the Beaux Arts mansion would likely immediately impress.
Lou doubts even Caroline’s family would be inclined to buy such an expensive property if she was only going to live there while she attended college. Perhaps there’s a further story. Only a single car, a midnight-black Range Rover Sentinel, is parked in the driveway.
Louis: The neotropical parakeet alights on a branch of a looming tree. It flicks its green feathered head once, then twice as it regards the environs and potential means of ingress.
GM: Caroline’s haven has multiple, wide-framed windows. Few have their shades drawn… the fledgling that resides within has clearly not made any effort to sun-proof the entire structure, in the off-chance that circumstance should force her outside the room where she sleeps.
The colorful bird’s sharp eyes make out the outlines of two tall male figures garbed in dark suits. They are conversing with a tall, blonde-haired woman who can only be Caroline.
Louis: At least for now, the parakeet maintains its vigil, camouflaged behind the arboreal veil.
GM: Caroline and the two male-shaped figures remain standing as they speak to one another for some length. Eventually, the three leave the room together.
Louis: The beshadowed parakeet flits stealthily to another, closer branch to continue its nocturnal voyeurism.
GM: The bird’s vantage is poor, or perhaps its guiding mind simply too paranoid. But a single further detail is discernible as the trio withdraws: one of the figures’ faces.
It’s a horribly burned, dark mass of scars. He is half-bald, with his remaining black hair neatly combed back from his scalp. His thick mustache and short beard are only partially successful in hiding the teeth visible through his right cheek. His eyes are dark and hooded.
Louis: The Hussar. His presence causes the parakeet to draw back deep into the trees, silent as the sinking moon.
GM: The parakeet waits. The moon sinks. The sun rises, tinging the sky orange-yellow like glowing embers against navy blue clouds. But the parakeet knows that these embers will never blaze into true fire. Dawn’s rays will not banish these monsters.
Louis: Hidden behind oak eaves and Spanish moss, the bird waits a bit longer. Even if it cannot see events inside, it hopes to hear the dread visitors depart in their vehicle. Hope is typically the province of fools, but sometimes patience prevails.
GM: Time stretches and stretches. Dawn’s deep navy clouds give way to morning’s clear white ones. Finally the Hussar emerges from the house. His dark gaze sweeps the perimeter.
Louis: The parakeet remains still behind its concealing tree branches and hanging moss. Still, but observant.
GM: The prince’s herald remains still. His scarred lips slowly move as his hooded eyes scan the surrounding area. It is no human tongue the parakeet discerns, however, but a series of low atavistic trills, chirps, growls, and whistles, all the more alien for the lack of single species they resemble.
The Hussar’s dark gaze lingers for another moment.
Finally, the ghoul gets inside the Rover Sentinel, starts the engine, and drives away from Caroline’s haven.
Louis: The parakeet waits silently till the disfigured ghoul departs. Its head rotates in both directions as it takes in its surroundings.
GM: The house and its surrounding environs are still and quiet. Not so much as a bathrobe-wearing man emerges from any of the neighboring houses to retrieve a newspaper.
Louis: The avian creature waits another cautious minute before flitting down to a lower perch where it cranes its beaked head to surreptitiously peak inside a window, as if incidentally glancing inward while otherwise inspecting woodwork for insectile morsels.
GM: The house’s interior is a complete wreck. Pictures knocked off walls. Lamps tipped over, their shades ripped off. Furniture toppled onto their backs and sides, pillows and cushions slit open. Bookshelves stand empty, their books having been tossed onto the floor. Cabinets are yanked open with papers tossed everywhere.
Louis: Time to rein in the sorority parties, girl, the old man inside the bird sardonically muses.
After snatching up nearby rollie-pollie, the parakeet takes another sweeping glance, then flies up and away from the house’s windows. It lands two streets down on a similarly sleepy sidewalk, ducks behind another house’s flower beds, and inexplicably vanishes mid-waddle.
Saturday evening, 19 September 2015
Louis: Sunset on Audubon heralds the return of both twilight and the monk parakeet. It settles on a gable of a distant, but not too distant, house. In the dusky gloom, it scans the surroundings, paying particular attention to Caroline’s house.
GM: The home’s lights are off. No cars are parked in the driveway or surrounding streets. But for the tweets of the odd jay or bluebird, the area is utterly silent.
Louis: Silent, but far from peaceful, at least for the parakeet. The bird waits several minutes before eventually flying over to its previous morning’s perch. Once again concealing itself within the arboreal screen, it peeks down to the windows of Caroline’s house to check for movement or any other signs of habitation.
GM: The house is in the same wrecked state the parakeet observed at morning. It also spots Caroline, dressed and seated, staring at a clock with a dispirited expression.
Caroline: She languidly rises and begins moving about the room, picking up the pieces of her home—or at least some of them.
Louis: Upon spotting her–and no one else–the bird scans the surroundings one last time before stealthily flying up to the house’s chimney, and then swiftly disappears down the flue. A few seconds later, there is a tapping against the chimney’s shut damper.
Tink, tink, tink.
Tink, t-tink, tink, tink.
Caroline: Caroline drops the torn diploma she was in the middle of picking up to go investigate the noise, eventually arriving at the chimney. She pauses to bite her lip, then lays the back of her hand against the shut damper. Finding it cool to the touch, she gathers up a weapon and tentatively opens the damper.
Louis: With equal tentativeness, a soot-covered monk parakeet emerges. It shakes off most of the soot, revealing its neotropical green and white plumage, than regards Caroline and her weapon.
Caroline: She puts the sword between the bird and herself quizzically.
Louis: The bird raises one of its legs, revealing a tightly wound band of paper of the same hue as its bare leg.
Caroline: She glares at it for a moment, then sighs, shifting her sword to her other hand and keeping it between the bulk of herself and the bird. With her other hand she reaches for the paper band. She dexterously removes it from the bird and takes a step back.
GM: The band contains a message:
Caroline: Caroline grimaces and shakes her head, the sword’s point dipping slightly.
“I can’t. They took everything.”
Louis: The bird looks up with avian eyes and hops down and away from the hearth. There’s a hand-scrawled note next to the printed username and address:
Get me letters. Keyboard, scrabble tiles, handwritten letters, anything.
The bird chips expectantly at the woman.
Caroline: She watches the bird. “This is crazy.”
Louis: If a bird can shrug, this one does.
GM: And yet, the Ventrue cannot but recall Becky Lynne explaining the powers some Kindred wield over animals.
You never know what lil’ birds might be listenin’.
Caroline: The Ventrue shakes her head, bites her lip, but finally leaves for a moment to recover several sheets of paper and a sharpie. She sets about tearing it into more than two dozen pieces, writing letters as she goes. She talks while she works, not even knowing for sure if he can hear her.
“You’ve picked a bad time, old man. I’m just getting ready for my swan song.”
Louis: While Caroline prepares the sharpie-scribbled letters, the bird flits about the house, as if searching for something.
GM: The bird finds the house completely infested with bugs. Most individuals would not think to search an already ransacked home for surveillance devices, and the parakeet spots several tiny cameras and microphones scattered at different vantage points throughout the room. The disheveled surroundings leave so many places to hide electronic eyes and ears.
As well as ones of other varieties.
Several more mice, patiently hidden among the tossed-over furnishings and accounterments of Caroline’s life, squeak at the bird’s presence and abruptly flee every which way.
Louis: After uncovering that foreboding panoply, the bird chirps at Caroline with what might be a glare.
GM: The scurrying mice rapidly vanish like escaping tendrils of white smoke.
Caroline: Caroline doesn’t quite scream at the mice, but she does climb and balance atop a broken table to get her heel-clad feet away from the scurrying creatures.
Louis: Seeing Caroline drop the slip of paper, the parakeet flits across the room and snatches it up into its beak. It then nods back to the half-drawn and torn letters. Urgently.
Caroline: Caroline bites her lip, but seeing the bulk of the creatures have withdrawn, continues her work, quickly tearing the paper into crude shapes.
Louis: As soon as Caroline finishes, the parakeet hacks up the paper into her hand. It does not hesitate as it begins to tap out letters.
It halts a half-second to make sure Caroline is ‘listening’. It then continues, this time tapping with preternatural speed.
D E S T R O Y N O T R A C E
Caroline: Caroline shakes her head at the bird and taps out her own message. I ’M S O R R Y T H I N K T H I S I S T H E E N D.
Louis: The bird instantly pecks at her to stop once she tries to tap out the message. It gives her an avian deadpan look as if to say, I’m not deaf. It then glares up at the slip of paper.
Caroline: She takes the paper, rolls it into a tiny ball, and shoves it towards the bird’s beak.
Louis: It shreds the slip and begins swallowing the ripped-up remains.
Caroline: “I messed up. Can’t tell you about it. But I am sorry.”
Louis: Does the bird wince as it swallows down the paper? Regardless, it looks back up to Caroline, chirps once, then begins to tap out another missive. R E N E
N O T S I R E
Caroline: Caroline frowns.
Louis: The bird glances up at the digital surveillance and then adjusts itself to ensure the cameras have a clear view as it types out:
D O U B L E A G E N T
D O N O V A N
W I T H S I R E
It looks up at the cameras then to Caroline.
Caroline: Caroline’s frown only deepens.
“Then… who? Why? It doesn’t make any sense…”
Louis: The parakeet pecks out another missive:
T E L L H I M
E X O D U S
It grabs the sharpie and makes several crude slashes. First two, then three, followed by two and two again.
Caroline: Caroline thinks for a moment. “You’ll serve… for me?”
Louis: The parakeet’s feathers bunch up like hackles. It’s neither a denial nor confirmation. But the bird looks up at Caroline with what can only be sad regret. It slowly re-pecks an earlier message:
D E S T R O Y N O T R A C E
It then holds up a claw and points it towards itself.
Caroline: Caroline looks at the bird.
“Now?” she asks.
There’s a sadness in her eyes.
Louis: The bird dips its head once in a solemn nod.
Caroline: She nods and raises the sword.
“If I don’t see you again… thank you. For everything. For giving me a chance.”
Her free hand twitches, like she wants to reach out and touch someone.
Louis: The bird stares up at her, eyes open, unflinching.
Caroline: She frowns. There’s a flash of steel.
Louis: But her hand and footing betray her. To the centuries-old duelist, the slight shift and alteration of Caroline’s grip signal her intent to subdue rather than slay his avian shell. That same avian body remains still until the last moment, when it pushes forward in a flurry of wings, flying under the errant blade which conceals the bird’s movements, as it performs supernaturally swift aerial acrobatics, whirling between the vampire’s legs and veering in a spiral out and up into the hearth.
Caroline: Caroline curses as the bird escapes her pursuing blade with its uncanny speed. For a moment she can only stare after it in frustration—but only a moment.
She gathers up the letters and heads for the kitchen, running the sink and dropping the paper down the disposal. She’s careful where she steps after seeing the horde of mice.
GM: The monk parakeet, meanwhile, shoots out of the chimney, wings beating furiously. The night sky rises before it.
A dart whizzes at the parakeet, plunging into its flank. The tiny bird feels its muscles spasming as the electric current plays havoc with its tiny neural system.
Louis: So impaled, the bird plunges to the nearby night–darkened street, where it takes a drunken step behind a bush and disappears.
GM: A shadow passes over the moon, jetting towards the fleeing parakeet with the relentless trajectory a cruise missile.
It’s one of the biggest, ugliest birds of prey Lou has ever seen. Its molasses-brown feathers, almost pitch black against the moon’s obscured glow, are torn and ragged like the raptor was swallowed whole by the Devil, chewed up, and spat out—or perhaps tore its way out. Jagged scars crisscross its legs and beak. Two unblinking eyes burn red and hot like smoldering coals.
Wings beat. Talons flash. A shadow descends.
The tiny, preternaturally fast parakeet dives for the street like a plummeting comet. Air beats past from the larger bird’s wings as the burning-eyed raptor emits a guttural shriek as much mammalian as avian.
There’s another rush of beating wings. Then, razor-sharp and crushingly hard talons snap around the monk parakeet’s tiny body like steel cables.
A second dart whizzes through the night air, plunging into the parakeet’s breast. It throbs and pulses with electricity.
Louis: The parakeet’s lidless black eyes stare up into the raptor’s furious ones. The tiny bird might smile, if birds could.
Then it explodes.
Gore, bone shards, and bright green feathers fly in every which direction, riding the explosion’s blast wave and its cloud of billowing, blood-admixed smoke. Lou doesn’t even have a chance to hear if the raptor shrieks, much less see whether it perishes, before his own tattered psyche hurls across the Big Easy’s skies like so much shrapnel.
Saturday evening, 19 September 2015
GM: Lou comes to in the guest bedroom of Maria’s house. The old man feels horrible. His head pounds, his ears ring, his vision swims, and he feels like he’s swallowed a pack of razor blades. It’s all he can do not to throw up.
Jacques’ shade floats nearby. His empty eye socket seems to bore into Lou with the same intensity as his one remaining eye.
“Je vous ai dit que le jeune était un piège.”
(“I told you the fledgling was a trap.”)
Saturday evening, 19 September 2015
GM: The tiny artifact salvaged from the detritus of Caroline’s life ticks and ticks. The hands advance to 8:30.
Caroline: She stares at it.
Do Not Leave Your House.
Windows closing. Opportunities disappearing. She considers the likelihood that she’s just being fed to the wolves in this matter. Considers how Matheson is likely to react to standing him up. Watches the clock tick forward again.
GM: The thin second hand steadily ticks forward.
Tick. Tick. Tick.
Caroline: What else can she do but wait? Anger one elder. Anger another. The devil’s choice. She tries not to look at the clock as the minutes tick down.
GM: Tick they do. The shorter, black minute hand makes multiple full rotations, and even the shortest and thickest hours hand crawls along. 9:00.
Caroline: Her worry for her ghouls intensifies as she doesn’t see or hear from them even as the hour grows late. There’s little she can do in the moment, but it doesn’t stop her from worrying.
GM: At 9:30, a knock sounds against her door.
Caroline: She moves to open it, having settled in the living room while she waited. A peak through the side window before she does so.
GM: A pair of dark and hooded eyes stare straight back at the Ventrue.
The figure’s face is a horribly burned, dark mass of scars. He is half-bald, with his remaining black hair neatly combed back from his scalp. His thick mustache and short beard are only partially successful in hiding the teeth visible through his right cheek.
He wears a pair of crisply pressed black pants and jacket, not a business suit’s, but one reminiscent of a military’s Class A Uniform. Its gold buttons and his black leather shoes are polished so meticulously that Caroline can just make out her reflection in them, even through the house’s window.
His dark eyes carry a look that has grown unmistakable to Caroline in recent nights.
Caroline: There’s a gun in the bag on the scratched table in the living room. A sword. Several thousand dollars in cash. Enough to run, maybe. Or to fight. Against the Hussar, though…
It doesn’t make any sense. None of it makes any sense.
GM: The ancient ghoul holds Caroline’s gaze, then turns away.
A click sounds from the door.
The knob begins to turn.
Caroline: She turns the nob ahead of him and lets the door swing open slowly.
GM: The tall ghoul strides in and closes it with a single weathered hand behind him, not breaking Caroline’s gaze.
Caroline: Caroline refuses to meet his eyes, shifting her own gaze to his throat.
GM: “Be still.”
Caroline: Caroline stops moving.
GM: The ancient ghoul’s sharp Spanish staccato drives through Caroline’s ears like a blade forged from Toledo steel—but avoiding his dark and terrible gaze, it merely drives past them. The Ventrue can almost feel the air swish by overhead.
One of the ghoul’s worn, veined hands stabs forward, clamping around Caroline’s neck like a steel cable.
Caroline: Worn, veined, steel tables that she almost instinctively ties in knots as she loses all control at the contact. The monster inside of her has been pushed one too many times. Maybe she could control it in the presence of an elder, superior, predator, but it does not recognize this ghoul as such. It roars to the forefront even as her teeth elongate and she dives towards the ancient half-mortal’s throat.
GM: Caroline’s foe is strong. Monstrously, inhumanly strong. But arrogant. Maybe he expects little of her. Maybe he wants a “sporting” fight. No matter why, Caroline twists in place like a serpent, and plunges her fangs into the neck of the prince’s ghoul. It’s like gnawing solid iron. Caroline nearly gags at the taste of his blood, and the aftertaste of his master’s power. Headier than either of her ghouls’. Headier than even Jocelyn’s.
But the Hussar neither stops nor slows as Caroline slakes her thirst. The vice-like hand forces her away and shoves her to her knees with a slam hard enough to leave cracks through the hardwood floor. A stake appears in the ghoul’s hand and plunges towards the vampire’s heart.
Caroline: Or at least, he tries to do so. The Ventrue heiress is inhumanly quick even with his hands around her, and she twists like a squid around his arm, her legs wrapping around his incoming arm, leveraging her entire body to keep the the stake from finding its way home.
GM: The sharpened stake cracks against hardwood as Caroline twists aside. The Hussar’s teeth glint through the hole in his fire-charred face. His vice-like hand is still clamped around her neck. He suddenly lifts her completely off her feet, spins her around, and slams her face-first into the floor. Caroline feels her nose messily crunch even as a sudden pain stabs through her heart. She can’t move. She’s paralyzed.
Even facing away from the Hussar, she can feel the haughty contempt in his stare.
The hoary ghoul rolls her onto her back.
He meets her eyes.
He says something.
Everything goes blank.