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Blood and Bourbon

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Story Thirteen, Celia III

“This wasn’t how it was supposed to go.”
Roderick Durant


Sunday evening, 13 March 2016

Celia: When the shower is over and Roderick is finally out the door and on his way (with the promise to fill her in on what she misses and keep an eye on Elyse), Celia pulls her phone from her pocket to call her favorite mobster. She wasn’t going to tell Roderick that she had him in mind, and she supposes he’ll see the cowboy soon enough if he’s down to deliver a message for her, but that’s altogether different than admitting she’s got the boy on speed dial.

She listens to it ring while she peruses her closet for an outfit for the evening.

GM: Being friendly with a mobster is a small deceit next to this latest one, anyway.

Gui picks up after a couple rings.

“Evening, lush.”

He’s probably getting ready for Elysium himself.

Celia: His voice always makes her smile. It takes the sting from what she’s just done.

“Hello, darling. Do you have a free minute? I was hoping to beg a favor from you, with reciprocity if you think it’s warranted.”

GM: “I’d say I hate to listen to a beautiful woman beg, but I’d be lying if I did.”

Celia: “I’d offer to get on my knees,” she purrs, “but I don’t think that does it for either one of us anymore.”

GM: “Only if you don’t take a nip too.”

Celia: “Well if you’re offering…”

GM: “We’ll let that be the reciprocity then, if I think it’s… warranted.”

Celia: Low, throaty laughter floats down the line. She sounds delighted

“I won’t be able to make it to the party tonight, but I thought that if you’re going anyway you might be willing to bring a gift from me.”

GM: “I’ll have one of my people swing by to pick it up. Who for?”

Celia: “The little Benson girl.”

It almost sounds like they’re talking about an actual birthday party for a child.

GM: “Let me guess. It’s a doll.”

Celia: “It is,” she admits. “Handle with care and all that, don’t need her getting upset.”

GM: “All right. Where should I tell my girl to pick it up from?”

Celia: Celia tells him where his girl can meet hers in about 30 minutes. Celia’s house, the one Dani had been staying at; it’s compromised anyway.

“Thanks, darling. I appreciate you.”

GM: “I’m sure you’ll show me just how much.”

Click.

Celia: She doesn’t have long to get ready if she’s to meet the messenger in thirty minutes.

Celia pulls the dolls from their assorted positions around her haven, running through a mental comparison on who she can send. Lucy and Lotus are out, obviously. Blossom is finally happy with her new beau, and the nameless one wouldn’t deign to be used in such a fashion even if she were to be so presumptuous as to ask.

Princess will make a good messenger. Princess isn’t as formidable as Lotus, but Princess is sweet in the way Elyse likes her dolls. She’ll be able to broker peace if anyone is. And all she has to do is deliver a message.

Celia disappears because Celia is a human and this is a message to dolls and their maker. Mother Elyse. The dolls’ father.

It makes sense somehow.

Lotus smiles across the bedspread at Princess and tells her about what she needs to say to Elyse: she’s sorry. She lost control and didn’t mean to. She wants to make it right and offers a boon for the inconvenience and insult, a second if Elyse will meet with her to speak of it and hear her out face to face. Perhaps in Marigny.

It’s flowery prose that Lotus tells to Princess to pass on, contrite and remorseful.

GM: Princess listens, sadly and silently, with her wide eyes and heart-shaped little face.

Can the doll pass a message on? Elyse seems to think so. Elyse says that all dolls talk to her.

Celia: Celia plans to send a letter as well. Nothing by half measures.

But Lotus waits to be sure that Princess knows what she’s to do.

GM: Princess stares back at Lotus with her wide, so-trusting eyes. She looks so sad. Surely if any of Jade’s dolls can, it’s Princess. Princess hates fighting.

Celia: Lotus tells Princess that she will see her again soon. She’s going on a trip. A big adventure back to Elyse. And then they’ll be back together.

It’s just for a little while.

And when Lotus is sure the message has been received she says goodbye to her sister.

Celia writes a letter with the same sentiments. She addresses it to the lady interpreter rather than Elyse; she thinks that Elyse might not want Jade to call her Elyse anymore, which is sad. But she powers through the letter, writing out the same message she’d given to Princess just in case Princess gets suddenly shy.

When it’s done she packs the two of them away in a little box for their trip through the city and goes to meet the messenger.

GM: The woman Gui sends smells like a breather and looks like a moll or higher-end prostitute. She’s pretty. “I’ll get this to the boss man,” she says as she takes the box.

Celia: She is pretty. But Celia is prettier, and she knows she’s Gui’s type. This breather has nothing on her. Celia thanks her with a smile and a few words before she’s on her way with the box.

Celia watches them go, hoping that this will pan out and that everything she’s done and offered and sacrificed is worth it. Two letters and a doll with a message ought to be enough to get the word to Elyse, and two boons should be enough to even the scales. More than even the scales; it puts power firmly in Elyse’s corner.

It’s enough, isn’t it?

It has to be.


Sunday evening, 13 March 2016

Celia: There’s a list of small errands to run tonight that she’d like to accomplish before she can meet with Roderick again, most of which she’ll need to be Jade for. It’s not ideal; she expects to be picked up at any given moment for something, but what other option does she have? Twiddle her thumbs until her boyfriend calls? Stay inside all night, afraid of leaving her own haven? Burn through blood with the constant face changing?

She’d done what she could to smooth things over. Time will tell if it’s enough.

In the mean time, she has shit to do.

She dresses for the night in a dress that’s the sort of thing Jade or Celia might wear, black and clingy, casual enough to be worn to a party or a club or even a decent dinner. Too risqué for a first date, but maybe it would be at home for a third date.

She heads to the Cat’s Meow to hunt; Dani had said she wasn’t hungry so Celia doesn’t feel too bad about leaving her behind. And, as someone with furry feet once said, there’s always second breakfast if the other girl later changes her mind.

Dress.jpg
GM: Jade thought it would be hard to find a flavor of blood that tops Celia’s mother’s. Perhaps it’s not so hard, though. The good-looking Toreador has no trouble at all finding an eager sexual partner, and in short order his car is bucking back and forth from their coital motions. He’s black, buff, handsome, and feels like he does this a lot, but doing it in his car (when Jade hears how far away he lives) really turns him on. There’s the thrill of transgression, getting caught, putting on a show for bystanders. When one man walks by and pulls out his phone to snap a picture, Jade’s partner just laughs and pumps harder. She’s reminded, too, of the time that Celia and Stephen did this, literally another life ago.

And possibly conceived a new life.

Perhaps the memory makes her feel alive. Perhaps it makes her sad for what she’s lost. Perhaps it’s bittersweet. But something of the moment feels as if it lives on in her. The way she fucked Stephen silly to silence the voices in her head, how flabbergasted he initially was, and then how into it he got, yelling for that bystander to “come get some.” Jade feels electric. She feels some of that same manic, irresistible energy in her skin, coursing through it with a low hum. All she has to do is touch someone to pass it on. To make them do something crazy too.

Celia: It would have been easy to take him into a bathroom to feed on him there. Easy but dirty, and it reminds her too much of picking up Dani and the sad, sorry tale she’d had to listen to afterward.

Jade isn’t the type of girl that fucks in public bathrooms. She deserves to be seen, to be admired, so when the boy mentions that his place is far Jade has no problem taking him right there in the car. He’s big but she’s small, and they make it work; her dress hikes up around her hips to let her move over him, and once he’s gotten close to that edge of climax she shoves him over with two points of fire in his neck.

Electricity floods her veins.

She’s on top of the world.

Flying.

Falling.

Spiraling.

In such a delicious, delicious way that she doesn’t want to stop. She wants to keep this big, buff black man as her pet. She wants to take him again, to bottle his essence, to make him hers so she can have him on tap and drink down this euphoria whenever she wants it. She takes enough to whet her appetite without being a glutton, still in control; even her Beast enjoys the fare.

When it’s done she nuzzles his neck, murmurs that she hopes it was as good for him as it was for her—he’d heard how much she enjoyed it when he found the right spot—and that maybe she’ll see him again sometime.

She leaves him with a long, lingering kiss before she’s gone, disappearing into the night with a swagger in her step.


Sunday night, 13 March 2016, PM

Celia: After her hunt, Celia calls Randy to let him know that Jade is on her way.

Dani will be there, she knows. It’s a risk to let the thin-blood know who she is, but she’s trusted Randy and Alana for years with the secret; what’s one more person? And if not, she can’t take Dani around to meet with anyone, which means they really will just be sitting at home waiting for Roderick to call. Sidra, after all, has no reason to speak to Celia Flores.

GM: Randy drives back to meet Jade at his house.

“Yeah, babe?” he asks. “Was helping Reggie find some guns to pick up.”

Celia: “Then who is watching Mom?”

GM: “Alana. She finished up at the spa.”

Celia: Alana isn’t much of a fighter, but it’s better than nothing.

“I’ll make it quick so you can get back with Reggie, then. You wanted a hit, and I need an introduction to Dani with this face so she doesn’t think I’m coming to kidnap her.”

GM: Randy’s face lights up at the offered hit.

“You gonna drop all this different face around different people stuff? I already had to tell Reggie and Rusty how you could change how you look.”

The Toreador recalls them not being surprised to see someone besides Jade.

Celia: She’d wondered about that.

“I don’t know,” Celia admits. “A few people like me know, but I thought it was safer for my family if it didn’t get out. Probably don’t tell them I can change my actual face though. I usually pretend it’s shadow dancing or that I see a night doc.”

GM: “You got it, babe. Secret’s safe.”

He introduces her to Dani, who’s still where Celia left her last on the borrowed laptop. The thin-blood is surprised by the new face, but accepts Randy’s explanation after asking Celia several questions only her brother’s girlfriend would know. (“What did you wear when we first met?”)

Celia: She even tells her about the dropped side dish and how Celia had offered to pretend she hadn’t seen.

“I have a friend who can do this kind of work,” she explains to Dani, but otherwise says she’s just borrowing Randy for a moment before they head out.

GM: “Can I learn to do that? It’s so… it could be so useful!” Dani exclaims.

Celia: Celia offers to teach Dani shadow dancing. She’s going to teach her mom, too, so she might as well do both. She says it’s similar, but that the night docs are pretty secretive and generally don’t teach it to others.

GM: “Great, I’d love to learn,” smiles Dani.

Celia: She takes Randy upstairs with her into his bedroom and asks if her mother is already asleep.

GM: His bedroom is a mess.

“Ah, she kinda has the munchies,” says the ghoul. “She’s been staying up hoping you’ll come back tonight. She’s been doing a lot of cleaning.”

Celia: Diana is cleaning everywhere but here, it seems, but Celia doesn’t seem to mind. She has eyes only for Randy.

“Can I ask you something?”

As if she wouldn’t ask anyway. But what she means is: can you be honest with me for a minute?

GM: Randy says that he asked her mom not to tidy his room.

“Anything, babe,” he nods at her question.

Celia: Even with Jade’s face, some of Celia shines through. She lets him see her vulnerability, her uncertainty, and the trust that she’s always placed in him. Even though she’s never slept with him, even though she’s never let him have her like that, he has the rest of her. He’s been around her family the most, has been her sounding board on more than one occasion; before Roderick re-entered the picture he was, and sometimes still is, her source of emotional support when the nights get too dark. She needs it from him now.

“D’you think I’m doing the right thing with my mom?”

GM: “Sure, babe,” he nods. “I mean, it was the right thing for my brothers and me, right?”

“We get stronger and faster and we get to live forever.”

Celia: “And Rusty gets to walk again.”

GM: “Yeah. I mean, it’s great.”

“It’s… it is kinda… I don’t think you need to punish Alana and me for stuff, though.” Randy’s eyes flicker. “Like you did that one time she lied.”

“And it’d be really weird if you… punished your mom.”

“Like, I can’t even picture doing that to my mom. Punishing is what parents do to kids, you know?”

“Hell, my mom still grabs us by the ear when she’s pissed. Actually still hurts.” He rubs his ear.

“So yeah, I’d just not do that with her. It’s just not the way things are supposed to be, kids punishing parents.”

Celia: “I know.” Celia never really had punished him for what he’d done in the sewers anyway; she hadn’t had it in her. She doesn’t like being that person. She doesn’t want to be that person.

She’s not even supposed to be having these conversations with them. Like they’re people. But they are people. And she’s still young enough to want them to remain people. Mel said it would fade eventually, but she’s seven years deep and she’d like to think she’s not a monster.

She can’t imagine her sire having a conversation with his ghouls about their feelings.

“I don’t like doing that to you,” she says finally. “It’s just how… how it’s supposed to be, in public. If I don’t, they see me as weak, and then they push me around, and then it’s bad for everyone.”

She tells him about Micheal.

GM: “…that’s so fucked up, babe,” says Randy.

“How does he just… why doesn’t he just make a run for it?”

Celia: “Honestly? I don’t know. I think he might be mindfucked.”

GM: “I guess.” Randy shakes his head. “That’s so fucked up, though.”

“Is he just gonna be their bitch forever?”

Celia: “I don’t know. I’ve never really spoken to him.”

GM: He wears a gag pretty often anyway.

Veronica says he has nothing of value to say.

“Well, long as you don’t do anything like that, I’d say you’re good.”

“I mean, you’re gonna live forever, why not keep around your mom?”

Celia: Because she’ll always be someone that people can use against her. Because it’s not natural. Because she’s going to turn her mother into an addict. Because if she’s not serving a purpose then she’s a waste of blood.

She doesn’t share any of this with Randy.

She doesn’t have an answer for him.

GM: “Can I have the hit?” he asks, smiling.

Celia: “Thanks,” is all she says. She goes to bite her wrist but thinks better of it; she pulls him in instead, slicing a fang across her tongue and pressing her lips against his in a desperate attempt to feel something human again.

It’s just another lie, though.

She’s a monster and he’s an addict, and that’s all they’ll ever be.


Sunday night, 13 March 2016, PM

GM: Celia looks around and finds her mother doing a load of laundry. She looks up at Jade with some surprise.

“Oh—are you a friend of Randy’s or his brothers?” she asks.

“Ah, this is Celia, Mrs. Flores,” says Randy.

He and Jade briefly explain why she looks different.

“Well, ah… I suppose if I’ve seen you turn into a cat, another person isn’t too big a stretch…” Diana says with a mildly forced chuckle. But she sets down the boxers she was folding and moves to hug her daughter.

Celia: Once again, Celia is thrown by her mother’s calm acceptance of what she is and what she can do. It’s not normal.

“Mom, you’re… awfully calm about all of this. Even Randy screamed when I showed him my fangs the first time.”

“This isn’t the first time you’ve experienced this sort of thing, is it?”

GM: “Is it?” Diana asks, her face flickering.

“I… think it is, sweetie?”

“I did scream,” Randy admits somewhat sheepishly.

“I’ll leave you two together, anyways. Thanks for doin’ the laundry.”

“You’re welcome, Randy. You three really need a lady in this house!”

Celia: Celia gives Randy a peck on the cheek.

“It’s a lot to take in. I’ll see you in a bit.”

GM: Randy kisses her back. “Heh, we’ll see,” he says to Celia’s mom, then takes his leave.

Diana looks back towards her daughter.

“This is about when I’d offer to fix you up some food, but, well… are you hungry, sweetie?”

Celia: “No,” Celia tells her, “I just fed. And you can’t keep giving like that without any regard to your own self. You’ll get hurt.”

GM: “I’ll be fine, sweetie,” her mom smiles. “I just want you to be full and happy.”

Celia: “No, Mom. You need to trust me on this. One person isn’t enough to sustain what I need. I’d drain you dry.”

GM: “Okay, if you say so,” her mom agrees. “I’ll wait until I’ve had some eggs or fish to offer again. You know, Vitamin D.”

Celia: “You’ve definitely done this before.”

GM: “Are you sure? I don’t think I have. I have donated blood at hospitals before, though they usually give a cookie and some juice.”

Celia: “I could dig into your memories, if you want.”

“Since we’re being honest with each other, how did you end up getting together with Ron that night?”

GM: Diana blinks. “I’m sorry, sweetie?”

“I’d had a lot to drink, like I said. Altogether… altogether too much.”

She doesn’t look happy to revisit the subject.

Celia: “You wouldn’t have, though. Not after what you’d been through.”

GM: Celia’s mother just closes her eyes.

“Please, sweetie, I don’t… want to talk about that.”

Celia: Her lips flatten into a thin line.

“No, you just want to learn everything about me and tell everyone else, but not tell me why I exist.”

GM: Her mom is quiet for another moment. “Look, I’ll… I’ll tell you about that night,” she says defeatedly. “Just… let’s talk about happier things too, when we’re done?”

Celia: “Of course.”

GM: Her mom makes a limp motion for her to proceed as she returns to folding clothes.

Celia: “You said you met him at a party. But it was after everything happened to you. And you were fighting with your mom.”

GM: Diana looks down at the shirt in her hands. “Yes, that’s right. We’d been fighting, so I went out drinking.”

Celia: “Why were you fighting?”

GM: “We just never got along, sweetie, not since your grandfather’s death. And how she didn’t approve of ballet, and how strict she was… the teenage years never are that happy, even under the best of times.”

Celia: “You were fighting even after she sent you to that school?”

“How, um. How did he die, anyway? You and Dad never really talked about it.”

GM: “Your grandpa died of heart failure,” Diana says, not without a note of sadness. “Ironic, I suppose, for the man who was a heart surgeon.”

“He worked at Charity Hospital, back when it was open before Katrina. I really wish he and Emily could’ve known each other. Two doctors in the family and all.”

“I really wish he and you could’ve known each other, too. He was a very sweet man. Kind and gentle. I like to think I take more after him than your grandmother. The two of us were so close when I was growin’ up.”

Celia: “I’d have liked to meet him. But you said after he died you and your mom started fighting?”

GM: “We were never really had all that much in common, to be honest. But after he died, things got so much worse. His death was very hard on the family.”

“Very hard on your grandmother, too. She used to smile more, when your grandfather was alive.”

Celia: That’s hard to imagine.

“So you two got into fights. You went out a lot at night. Your grades were slipping. She sent you to the dollhouse. You were released early. Then what?”

GM: Diana closes her eyes and covers her ears when Celia says ‘dollhouse.’

Celia: She’s going to be a terrible ghoul.

“So after that?” she prompts.

GM: “What after that, sweetie?” Diana mumbles, staring intently at the pants she’s folding.

“I went to school, I got together with your dad, he stopped your grandmother from murdering you in the womb… that was that.”

Celia: “Ron. The party. My conception.”

GM: “Right, yes, that was when your grandmother and I were fighting.”

Celia: “I need details, Mom.”

GM: “Sweetie, why does this matter to you so much?” her mom asks glumly.

“You’re here. God obviously wanted you to be here.”

Celia: “Because it’s literally the reason I exist. Because you never told me. Because now you know what I am and I want to know how I came to be. Because I think someone set the whole thing up and I’d like to know who and why.”

GM: “What? Why would… why would somewhat set that up, sweetie? How would they even do that?” Her mother looks at her confusedly.

Celia: “We have powers. We can make people do things.”

GM: “All right, but… but why? I was just a teenage ballerina.”

Celia: “That’s what I’d like to find out.”

“And I have zero leads to follow if you don’t talk to me about it.”

GM: “I don’t see why someone would do that, sweetie. I was just a ballerina.”

Celia: This whole thing was a mistake.

GM: “Your biological father was just a Hollywood writer or director or… whatever he then was, who hadn’t made it big. I just don’t see why…”

Celia: Big mistake.

She’ll just have to find someone to edit the memories for the past night. Her and the ghouls. Fuck it.

“And. Again. I’m trying find out. I’d appreciate it if you could work with me here instead of making it more difficult.”

GM: Her mom hangs her head again as she moves on to a pair of socks. “I’m sorry. I’m not trying to make things difficult for you. What… what do you want to know?”

“I just don’t know what you’re looking for, but I’ll answer what I can…”

Her mother looks up her, more plaintively. “Just tell me what to do, sweetie, I don’t want you to be mad. Just tell me what to do.”

Mel always said she’d be a great ghoul.

Celia: They can’t do this.

They can’t have this relationship.

She has turned her mother into a fucking addict. She’s not the same woman anymore. She’s just broken, a shell, soon she’ll do anything for a fix. Celia doesn’t trust her to keep her mouth shut. Randy has already proven he can’t keep his mouth shut. He’s not interested in the truth or being there for her, just the red stuff in her veins. Alana just wants to fuck. Reggie just wants to fuck. Rusty wants to walk again, and maybe he’s the only one with any genuine depth to him. And Roderick… she’s fucked so hard with his mind that she doesn’t even trust him anymore.

She’s alone.

Utterly, completely alone.

She can’t even fix what she’s done. Doesn’t have the ability to mind wipe someone like that and extract what she doesn’t want them to know.

Elyse could. Reynaldo could. Pete could.

But not her.

Useless.

“You went to the party,” she eventually says, “then what?”

GM: “Well, I had a lot to drink,” her mom falteringly starts. She folds some more socks. “I talked with some people, I danced with them… I remember complaining about my mother, about school, how much I didn’t care, I had more to drink… I met your biological father, he gave me more to drink… it’s very hazy, sweetie, I just remember waking up… waking up and feeling very, very dirty…”

Her mother hangs her head again, red coloring her cheeks, but she steals a glance at Celia’s wrist.

Celia: “Who did you talk to? Dance with? What did they look like? What part of town were you in?”

GM: “It… it was a house party, by some other girl at McGehee… her parents were gone for the weekend, it was a dodgy party, I can’t imagine they’d have…”

“I don’t really remember a lot, it was so long ago, I’d had so much to drink… they’d have been girls at McGehee, born around the same time as me, in a nice part of town…”

“I think… maybe St. Charles Avenue…?”

Celia: “Which part of St. Charles?”

Not that she expects Diana to remember.

But it’s worth a shot.

GM: “Like I said, sweetie, this was years ago… but I think the residential portion, outside the CBD?”

Celia: “And Ron was, what, some random adult that showed up to a high school party?”

Creep.

GM: “I think he was, maybe there were others, but it was a kids’ party.”

Celia: She asks if her mom happens to remember anyone else of note.

GM: Her mom squeezes her eyes. “Sweetie, this… this is hard… I felt so good when I had some of your blood, it made my leg feel better, maybe if I have a little of that…?”

Celia: “Sure,” she says, “after you tell me what I need to know.”

GM: “Sweetie, please, this is hard!” her mom exclaims again. “It’d really help me think better, it made me feel just so good…”

Celia: “No.”

GM: Her mom starts crying. “Celia, I’ve been thinking about it all day… it made me feel all better, no pain, just no pain, don’t you understand what that’s like…?”

Celia: “Do you know,” she all but snarls at the crying woman, “what people like me do to people like you that beg for blood? Shall I get Alana for you to tell you about what happened to Clem when she got uppity with her domitor? Do you want to see what they do to juicebags at the parties, how no one bats an eye if you rip out their throat, how they use ghouls as playthings and fucktoys and do whatever they want with them and no one cares?

“I have been patient. I have let you in on everything that has kept our family protected since I’ve died. I will not sit here and give you blood because it feels good. Of course it feels good. It’s a fucking drug. You’re an addict now. Congratu-fucking-lations.”

GM: Her mother sinks to her feet as she cries into her hands. “Sweetie, don’t call me that… please don’t call me that… I just want something, for the pain, that’s all…”

Celia: She doesn’t bother to hide the disgust that crosses her face.

This was a mistake.

This whole thing was a mistake.

GM: Her mother looks up at her face, then just cries more and looks away.

“Please… please don’t look at me like that, baby… please don’t… I’m sorry… I’m sorry…”

“Just tell me what to do…”

Celia: Celia just turns away.

“I’m leaving. Go to bed. You’ll feel better in the morning.”

GM: “Celia, wait!” her mother exclaims, hurrying after her daughter and wrapping her arms around her. “I’m sorry, baby, I’m sorry, just tell me what to do. I don’t want us to go to bed mad, just tell me what to do, okay?”

Celia: “I can’t do this, Mom. You can’t be like this. You need to be a mom, not an addict, not a servant, not a slave. I can’t do it. I can’t. I can’t watch you become like this.” At some point the tears start, red liquid that rolls down her cheeks. “You have other kids to take care of; you can’t spend all your time with me and ignore Emily or Lucy or any of the others. They need you, too.”

GM: Her mother sniffs along with her, though her stare lingers long on those heady-smelling tears. “I won’t, sweetie, I love them every bit as much as you, I always will, of course I’ll always be their mom.”

“I know this is hard, I know how scared you must have been, to tell me all these things. I want to be here for you. I don’t want you to look at me that way.”

“Just tell me what you need, okay? Just tell me how I can be a good mom for you, because I’ll always want to be that.”

Celia: No. She’ll just want blood. More blood. Constantly. She’ll beg for it. She’ll run her mouth. She’ll threaten Celia’s Requiem through her mere existence.

This is why they tell you not to keep a family.

GM: “I think…” Her mom closes her eyes and seems to desperately wrack her brain, “there was Fred Pavaghi, Warren Whitney, the junior one, and Lori Lancaster, Drouillard then, I think they were there, does that help you…?”

Celia: No. She’s grasping at straws anyway. None of it matters. She was just an accidental rape baby; there’s nothing poetic about how she came into the world. No one pulled strings. No one orchestrated this. The only person who gave a shit when she was still in the womb isn’t even her dad, and he’d hate her if he found out the truth. Accidental birth, accidental Embrace, useless fucking fuck-up.

Celia finds a cup. She sinks her teeth into her wrist and bleeds into it for her mom, thrusting it at her when she’s done.

GM: Her mother looks at it falteringly, then back up at Celia.

“Do… do you not want me to drink it, sweetie…?”

Celia: She doesn’t care anymore.

“Drink it.”

GM: Her mother gives her another faltering look, then obeys. She swallows, smiles, and closes her eyes.

“Oh… that really is better, sweetie…” she murmurs contently. Her smile spreads. “My leg doesn’t hurt at all…”

“Let’s dance!” she exclaims brightly, taking Celia’s hand.

Celia: Celia yanks away from her mom.

“Go to bed.”

GM: Her mom’s face sinks. “Please don’t shut me out, Celia. I just want you to be happy.”

“I dance with girls every day, every school day at least, I just thought that’d be fun.”

Celia: Okay, well, that’s not possible. You don’t fucking listen to me. You do whatever the fuck you want regardless of how it’s going to affect me. “Let’s tell Emily about your real dad.” “Let’s keep secrets you want to know but blab everything else.” “Let’s tell Emily you’re a fucking vampire too, get the whole family killed, that seems real fucking swell.” “Oh, you worked hard at keeping everything separate and now in one night four separate people found out because I wouldn’t just listen to you when you showed up to save me and now you’re expending all your resources to keep me safe? You know what would make you feel better? Giving me blood. Wasting more resources on me.”

She bites back the words she wants to spit at her mother. Her Beast, at least, approves of this subservient kine who wants to keep her happy; it hadn’t even stirred when she’d cut herself open to feed the bitch. Just another thing they disagree on.

“The fact that you don’t feel pain doesn’t mean that the injury isn’t there. You’re still hurting yourself when you dance. Yeah, the symptoms are gone, but the source remains. So take it easy. Go to bed. I’ll see you later.”

GM: “Oh. Okay.” Her mom looks a little crestfallen at the news her leg isn’t better, but nods and manages a little smile at Celia’s next words. “All right. I’ll trust the MD.”

“If you want to stop by later as a kitty, by the way, I bet Lucy would love to play with you.”

Celia: “Maybe,” is all she says to that.

She walks away before she can implode the relationship any further.

GM: “I love you,” her mother calls softly after her.


Sunday night, 13 March 2016, PM

GM: The Evergreen is quiet when Jade swings around. Perhaps the most so at any point during the week. Many of the Kindred are at Elysium, while it’s a week night for the kine. (Fridays see the place similarly empty of Kindred, but are obviously busy nights for the kine.) Mélissaire is around, though, and says Lebeaux can be expected back when church services are over. She’d be happy to convey a message if Jade doesn’t want to stick around.

“You seem a little tense, Miss Kalani. Anything up?” the ghoul asks sympathetically.

Celia: She supposes she hadn’t really expected to see him here. Everyone who doesn’t have fifteen fires to put out gets to go to Elysium, while she’s running around like… like this.

One night. How had everything turned to shit in one night?

Is she ever going to feel like she’s not drowning?

She’s being pulled in so many directions at all times that she can’t even think straight. She doesn’t know what’s next. She doesn’t know how to fix it. She doesn’t want to admit that the thought of killing her mom to get rid of the problem or giving her back to Elyse is really, really tempting.

She seizes the offer to talk to someone that isn’t obsessed with her.

“I made a mistake. I don’t know how to fix it.”

GM: “Oh, I’m sorry to hear that,” says Mélissaire. “Here, I have just the thing.”

She leads the Toreador to one of the Louis XIV-style sitting rooms, asks her to lie down on one of the couches, and starts massaging her back. “I admit I’m not a professional, like you, ma’am, so feel free to point out any errors in my technique,” the ghoul smiles as she begins.

Her touch isn’t professional, and speaks as to a lack of anatomical study. But it’s lights, sensuous, caring, and hits many of the right spots, likely gleaned from observing her partners’ reactions. Jade doubts any of the men she massages have complaints.

She leaves it to Jade whether she keeps her clothes on or off.

Celia: Celia stays silent while Mel works on her—clothes off, because who gets a massage with clothes on?—and listens to the ghoul speak.

GM: Her mom had actually wanted to keep her clothes on, the first time, until Celia explained how that was silly.

Another stupid thing the woman did.

“Most mistakes are fixable with a little creative thinking,” Mel remarks. “Sometimes they can even be turned into assets.”

“Lord Savoy thinks that’s the mark of a truly clever Kindred. Young licks see elders as all-knowing and able to anticipate everything through elaborate games of eight-dimensional chess, but it’s impossible to predict everything, or to never slip up. He believes what really counts is adaptability. Improvisation. Coming up with new plans on the spot when old ones fall apart.”

“It’s a sentiment we see in a lot of other places, too. I once watched a play where one actress ran into another actress and made her spill a full tea tray. She looked so angry as she picked all the broken china up. It was a good scene. I later found out the whole thing had happened by accident, the first actress was just clumsy. But the second one ran with it, incorporated it into the play, and the audience was none the wiser.”

The ghoul smiles as she works her way down Jade’s back.

“But I’m yammering. You made a mistake and you’re not sure how to turn it around.”

“Tell me about the mistake, ma’am. I’m sure there’s a way.”

Celia: She’d thought that she was adaptable. That she could turn mistakes into assets. She’s done it before, hasn’t she? She’s always so good at playing the room, knowing what to say, taking the best path before her even if it’s through shark infested waters. Hasn’t she shown she’s able to adapt? Hasn’t she thus far rolled with the punches and come out victorious on the other side? Isn’t that her whole deal, that she can change course, adapt as needed, be the chameleon?

Why, then, can’t she do it with her mom?

Maybe it’s too close to home.

Or maybe she’s not as clever as she thinks.

“I turned my mom into a ghoul.”

“I thought I was saving her life. Now she knows everything.”

Celia fills in the gaps of the story for her.

GM: Mélissaire listens attentively as she rubs the Toreador’s shoulders.

“I think you were under a lot of pressure, ma’am, and did the best thing you could have at the time,” the ghoul says thoughtfully. “After all, the sun was about to come up, and the woman wasn’t otherwise in any state to listen.”

“You’re very strong not to have frenzied at her, given all that stress.”

“But you’re concerned that she’s useless now—a vitae sink with no appreciable skills, a weak spot for your enemies, a blabbermouth, and an addict and slave instead of your loving mother.”

“Worse than useless. Does that just about sum it up?”

Celia: “Yes. Exactly.”

She hadn’t felt strong at the time. She’d felt desperate. But maybe that’s what she’d needed to be to beat back the thing inside of her. She appreciates the sentiment, anyway.

GM: “My, that’s frustrating,” the ghoul says as she continues to work. “There’s a lot of licks who might just decide she’s more trouble than she’s worth, and get rid of her.”

“But your grandsire likes to look for the potential in everyone. I think that’s what he’d do here.”

“Obviously, there’d need to be some changes. If things continue with you and your mother as they now are, it’s probably going to end in tragedy.”

“You aren’t the first lick I’ve seen to ghoul a close family member, ma’am,” Mélissaire adds ruefully. “It can be very hard to be objective about those people.”

Celia: “I didn’t want this for her. I just wanted her to not be put into an early grave because of me. I want her to be… normal. Human. Not a ghoul.”

“Fifty years from now I’m not supposed to still have a mom.”

GM: Mélissaire nods. “I know you want the best for her. I remember how much trouble you went to, seven years ago.”

Celia: She’d died for her.

Maybe she should have stayed dead.

GM: “At this point, though, I think it may be too late to come back from that. She’s tasted your blood, she’s seen a great deal, and she’s felt a great deal too. A mindwipe is likely to be very patchy.”

“All mesmerism can alter is her memories. She’ll still hunger for your blood, and she’ll still feel however she feels about the past 24-ish hours.”

“Lord Savoy, Warden Lebeaux, and a couple other Kindred can all give her a mindwipe, but I think there will be just too many opportunities for it to unravel, and there could be further damage to her sanity if that happens.”

Celia: She doesn’t think she can ask Lord Savoy anyway. Not with this. Not when she’d failed to deliver Roderick in a timely manner.

“So I’m stuck with her like this.”

GM: “Stuck with her as a ghoul, maybe. But that doesn’t have to mean stuck with her as she now is.”

“That, like I’ve said, will probably end badly. Because right now she’s a vitae sink with no appreciable skills, a weak spot for your enemies, a blabbermouth, and an addict and slave instead of your loving mother.”

The ghoul smiles. “So, I’d think about how we can change those things. Let’s start with skills, since that’s the whole reason any Kindred wants a ghoul. Because they can do something useful.”

“What does your mother do for a living, ma’am? What is she good at?”

Celia: “She’s a dancer. She used to be a ballerina, but my dad tried to take her leg off with a hacksaw and she never got to go further than where she was. She was good, though. She teaches dance now. At McGehee.”

Another problem: the Garden District.

GM: “Oh, that’s promising,” Mélissaire says thoughtfully. “You might laugh at this, but here’s one idea… bodyguard.”

Celia: “Fencing?”

GM: “I see someone knows her ballet history,” the ghoul smiles. “Lord Savoy knows a few things about ballet. Louis XIV adored it as an art form—he introduced it to France, I think from Italy. Where, yes, I believe it had its origins in fencing.”

“There was also another Kindred who came to the city a few years ago, for Mardi Gras. She was a dancer. But she was also a… I’m not sure quite what I’d call her. I wouldn’t use the term martial artist.”

“But she enjoyed the similarities between dance and unarmed combat. She turned murder into a dance form. She was riveting to watch. I hear she made nasty work of some Sabbat.”

“I think her name was Miriam. Miriam Caravaggio. She was the bodyguard to, who was it, I think the prince of Atlanta or San Francisco. A Toreador dancer like her, instead of some hulking Brujah or Gangrel.”

“Did you meet her, ma’am? She was really something.”

Celia: “I remember her.”

That was the Mardi Gras she’d met Kirsten, the lick from Bolivia (apparently not her real name, just what she uses in the US). She’d been enraptured by the Hispanic beauty and spent most of her time tangled up with her, but they’d both been present at the party and vied for Miriam’s attention there. Jade had won a dance with her.

GM: Jade had thought she was fast, since dying. But it was impossible to keep up.

“Excellent,” smiles Mélissaire. “I bet she or someone like her would be the perfect teacher for your mother. Though anyone who’s good at fighting could probably also serve in a pinch.”

Celia: “My sister is dating a fencer.”

GM: “Perfect,” beams the ghoul. “That’s some quality time he could spend with his girlfriend’s mom.”

“It might take a little time to train your mother, in either fencing or unarmed combat, but I think there could be significant cross-transfer of skill. She already has years—decades?—of experience honing her body at a very physically demanding art.”

“And, it’s hard to think of a bodyguard who could be more devoted than one’s own mother.”

Celia: “I can fix her leg,” Celia adds after a moment of silence. “I didn’t before, because how would I explain it, but… I could now.”

GM: “There we go,” smiles the ghoul. “There’s obviously no Masquerade to worry about anymore.”

“This may also channel her energy in a positive direction. I’m sure she worries a lot. I’m sure she just wants to feel useful and like she’s helping you. People get depressed and do foolish things when they feel like they’re burdens.”

“So this would be for her as much as you. I think it would be good for her to develop her skills at something she can take pride in, and that she knows her domitor values.”

Celia: Maybe Lebeaux will finally take her out, too. No Masquerade to worry about.

She can already hear his sigh.

“Thank you, Mélissaire. I was really floundering for something to do with her. This is really helpful.”

GM: “Oh, I’m so happy to have helped, ma’am,” Mélissaire beams. “There’s a second thing you might be able to do with her, too.”

“You know how en vogue it is for your clan to ghoul artists and show them off. I know feelings among the elders are a little mixed, regarding makeup, but ballet is a very respected form of art.”

“I’m sure your mother could be a smash hit at parties and impress your clanmates with her skills. It would reflect well on you to have a talented artist under your wing.”

“I’m sure you don’t want them all to know she’s Celia Flores’ mother, of course, much less Jade’s too. You could bring her in disguise.”

Celia: Since Celia can’t impress them herself with her own chosen form of art, since she’s lying about that too.

“Good thing I have that skill, then.”

GM: “Indeed. You could even give your mother separate faces in her roles as your bodyguard and your dancer.”

“Who needs to know your pet artist can fight, after all?”

Celia: “Alana is going to be jealous that I’m taking my mom to the parties and not her,” Celia says with some wry amusement. “I suppose I’ll need to see what I can do with her. My mom almost had a heart attack when she saw her sitting on my lap.”

Not to mention her reaction to walking in on her kissing Caroline.

“She reacted well, though. My mom, I mean. To everything. So that’s good, right?”

GM: “Yes. I said your mother had a good temperament for a ghoul, too. Very submissive.”

“Being a prude is problematic, but the Blood tends to increase our libidos. You can probably train the prudishness out of her. Or at least inure her to Kindred society being what it is.”

Celia: Maybe see how well she can recondition her mom to enjoying sex after Elyse trained it out of her. Train it back into her.

That’s not weird at all.

But Mel has a point about it, anyway.

GM: It’s no weirder than ghouling her.

Celia: She bets Reggie would be up for the task.

She’s seen Elyse train women to like men.

It’ll be like that. Only with pleasure.

GM: “As for being a weak spot,” Mélissaire continues, “that’s easy. Disguise her when she’s around you as Jade. You’re very good at that, ma’am.”

Celia: “You don’t think that McGehee is going to cause too much of a problem?”

GM: “I don’t think so, as long as she keeps her head down. I doubt the prince stations any ghouls in a girls’ school, much less ones who are also capable of detecting other ghouls.”

“She shouldn’t have anyone capable of anima visus trying to taste her blood unless something has already gone very wrong.”

Celia: “And she’s going to know shadow dancing, too, in case of that.”

GM: “Even more safe,” Mélissaire smiles.

“I also wouldn’t overlook what her job could do for you. It’s one of the city’s best schools. She might be able to put you in touch with the families of her students, if she’s popular with them.”

Celia: “Everyone tells me she’s the favorite teacher.”

GM: “There you go. I guess that’s no surprise, either. Dance must be easy to get good grades in.”

Celia: “Plus the dress down days on Fridays. Big hit.”

“I always regretted not being able to take her class there.”

GM: “Oh, you weren’t? That’s very sad, I’m sure it would have been fun to learn dance from your mom.”

Celia: “She taught me privately, and when we were kids, but once they split my dad didn’t want me to see her. We didn’t really reconnect until I went to college.”

GM: “Ah, yes. I suppose that’s no surprise either.”

“You care about her a lot. I’m sure this past night must have left you on the verge of crazy.”

Celia: “It’s been a lot.” Celia finally releases a long exhale as Mel’s hands find a spot on her shoulders that want to make her melt into the couch. “I had a meeting with my grandsire last night that I was looking forward to and it didn’t go as planned. And then I lost a friend. And then my mom. It’s just… lonely sometimes. I know a lot of people but no one I can talk to about it, you know? Randy just wanted a hit, Alana is jealous, the other two aren’t really involved in all of this… everyone has an agenda.”

There’s a slight pause when Mel hits that spot again.

“Thank you for listening. And giving advice. I really, really needed it.”

GM: “It’s my pleasure, Miss Kalani,” the ghoul smiles, at both Jade’s words and reaction. Seeing the latter, she kneads away.

“It’s hard being Kindred. It’s hard being a ghoul. But there’s a lot to make it worth it.”

Celia: “Is there anything I can do for you?”

GM: With her face turned away, Jade can’t see the look on Mélissaire’s.

But she feels the ghoul absently brush her wrist, as though it’s part of the massage.

Celia: Celia can handle that much, at least.

She waits until the massage is over to rise, still naked, and cut into her flesh with her fangs to offer it to the ghoul that has been with her since the beginning of her Requiem.

Not hers, but part of her story all the same.

GM: Mélissaire receives the hit rapturously. She doesn’t moan and all but hump the wrist like Randy does. She closes her eyes and sips from it slowly, quietly, savoring the taste, letting it spread to every part of her.

She opens her eyes when Jade’s given enough and slowly licks her lips.

“Thank you.”

Celia: “No, Mélissaire. Thank you.

GM: The ghoul smiles back. “If I may… some further, perhaps timely advice.”

Celia: “Please do.”

GM: “Your mother is an addict now. I’m afraid there’s no way around that.”

“All of us, and all of you, are addicts.”

Celia: Celia nods.

She’s already experienced her mother begging for blood.

GM: “But we can at least be functioning addicts.”

“Lord Savoy is very clear with me about when and under what circumstances I receive his vitae. I know when and why I receive extra, and when and why I receive less.”

“Your mother would likely also benefit from clear expectations. She probably just expects to get blood whenever she wants, because she’s your mother, and then when you say no, she feels hurt.”

Celia: The rest of them, as well. She has been too soft with them, too willing to share blood that she needs for herself.

“That’s… very wise, yes. I’ll have that talk with her. Thank you.”

GM: “You’re welcome,” smiles the ghoul. “If she’s new to the Blood, she’s likely going through a lot of very conflicting feelings. She may be ashamed of them. She may take some time to come to terms with the fact she is an addict.”

Celia: “And I need to be more patient than I have been with her.”

GM: “This is where clear structure and expectations help. They’re for you as well as her.”

Celia: “You warned me about this. Those early evenings of my Requiem.”

GM: “Oh, did I? About handling ghouls?”

Celia: “About not getting too close. I asked you not to call me ma’am. And you told me that young Kindred always go through this.”

GM: “Ah, yes,” Mélissaire smiles. “Your mother can still be your mother. Ma’am. But when it comes to vitae, she is not and cannot be your mother.”

Celia: “Is there a good way to explain that? Shifting the dynamic after years?”

GM: “Is it such a shift? From what you tell me, this is a woman who’s been used to obeying other people for all her life. If she were more independent, more domineering, I’d say ghouling her is probably more trouble than it’s worth. Just because the notion of a child being in charge of their parent is likely to offend someone like that. But that isn’t her.”

“I think you should make clear to her what your relationship now is, and that it’s one where you are in charge and she must obey you. That also doesn’t have to be a bad thing. You can be a benevolent master. Obeying you can actually make her life better.”

“I don’t know what ways she likes to express being your mother, but I’d still let her do those if they don’t undermine your authority. I’d also perhaps carve out moments where a more traditional parent-child dynamic can still exist.”

Celia: Mel had told her years ago, and now as well, that Diana would make a good ghoul. Subservient. Already used to listening. Loves her fiercely. If Celia can direct that energy toward something useful, can turn her into a showpiece and a bodyguard, then this can work. It’s just going to be a difficult transition, maybe, but as long as Celia is clear on the rules…

“I think she’d like that. I can think of a few things. And… it’ll be easier, you know, now that she knows. She’ll stop trying to give me food or ask why I don’t come over during the day.”

She doesn’t have to be a useless waste of vitae. She doesn’t have to kill her own mother, or give her back to the dollmaker.

GM: “Exactly,” smiles the ghoul. “This can be a good thing for you both. I’d emphasize that. I’d make clear how much you love and accept her. You just want the best for both of you.”

“She’s probably very confused, ashamed, and uncertain right now, and looking for comfort and assurance. A good domitor provides that.”

“A firm hand, but a comfortable one. A guiding one.”

Celia: She can do that. Firm but comfortable. She’s done it with the others, right? Or has she been too weak there?

It’s something to think about, anyway. Maybe she’s gotten too comfortable with them.

But this doesn’t need to be the end of her relationship with her mother. It can be a good thing, like Mel said. And Celia can teach her mom shadow dancing. Can show her how it’s done so they can be completely safe. Maybe Alana will want to learn how to dance so she can be shown off at parties, too. It’ll be a bonding experience for them both. And if she can get ahold of Miriam…

It’ll work out.

It will all work out.


Sunday night, 13 March 2016, PM

Celia: After visiting the Evergreen, Celia heads back to Randy’s house to pick up Dani and Lucy (the doll, not the sleeping child). She’s not quite skipping, but she does have a spring in her step that wasn’t there when she’d left, and her heart feels lighter than it has in… well, not days, but a few nights now. Settling things with Diana has let her focus her attention elsewhere: Dani and Roderick.

Celia checks to see if Randy and Reggie have finished with their guns for the evening; Reggie is supposed to be with her tonight, and while she has no doubt that she can take a handful of thin-bloods or kine if it comes down to it, she’d rather not have to rely on that if she can help it. The point of muscle is to be muscle, right?

GM: The brothers have found two off-duty cops and one bounty hunter from LegalWings to come guard the house. Doubtless, if Rusty were here, he’d remind Celia that she is paying for them.

All three stare at Celia appreciatively, like all men do.

Celia: She’d assumed as much. Things will be less frivolous for a bit, but she doesn’t really need a new handbag or shoes or that dress she saw in the window the other night.

Then again, Roderick still offered to pay for destroying her haven, so if she really wants to be a mooch…

No, no, that’s wrong.

Pietro might just nick it for her, though, if she asks nicely.

GM: “You seem in a good mood,” Dani smiles as they set off.

Celia: “I am,” she says to Dani with a smile after winking at the boys Reggie and Rusty had gotten to watch the house. That frees up the ghouls to be with her, which is ideal.

“I had to speak to someone about some of the issues coming up around my mom, and it went well. So I feel better about the whole thing.”

“And, after we run a few errands, you get to meet someone special.”

GM: “Oh, that’s good. She seemed really down after you left,” Dani remarks next to Celia in the back seat as Reggie drives. “Who’s the special someone?”

“Was she? I could cheer her up,” smirks Reggie.

Celia: “It’s a shift in dynamic that I wasn’t prepared for. She and I just need to talk it out now.”

“Reggie, if you touch her without permission I’m going to geld you,” Jade says sweetly.

GM: “Ah, but then I couldn’t touch you anymore, at least not in the ways that make you flush and cream your panties.”

Celia: Jade, sitting behind him, leans forward to whisper in his ear. It’s the sort of threat that makes his blood run cold, but not the sort of thing she wants Dani to overhear: a graphic warning on what, exactly, she’ll do to him if he doesn’t knock it off in front of the kid and her mom.

She finishes it with “save it for the bedroom,” which lets him know she’s happy to let him touch her and talk to her like this—but not here, and not now.

She makes sure to let him see her fangs when she pulls back, smiling at him in the rear-view mirror. He knows what she can do with those fangs, the sort of pleasure or horror they can bring to him and people like him.

GM: His smile, and initial words about “doing you and your mom together, so you can be sure I’ll treat her right,” die under the vampire’s threat.

He clears his throat and stares ahead at the road.

Celia: It’s not that she minds the way Reggie talks. She really doesn’t; sometimes it even turns her on when she gets to be treated like another piece of meat. There’s a reason she’s kept him as a part-time lover for the past six years, and he definitely delivers. But not in front of Dani, and certainly not in front of her mother.

Jade—Celia?—returns to the conversation with Dani once the driver remembers who she is.

“The boy I was telling you about. But first we’re meeting some other people.”

“A fortune teller and some others like you. Maybe. If we can find them without getting too close to the border. People are looking for me, and I’d prefer not to make it easy on them.”

If Sidra is there, anyway. She might have gone to Elysium as well.

GM: Dani looks a little less enthusiastic over meeting Celia’s abuser, but asks, “Are fortune-tellers for real?”

Celia: “You believe in vampires but not fortune tellers?” Celia winks at her. “Some of them, anyway.”

“And listen. About the guy. If you don’t change your mind upon meeting him, I’ll end things.”

GM: “Really? Could we ask them to tell our futures?”

Dani looks surprised by Celia’s turnaround, but nods, “Okay. Good.”

Celia: “She might want something in exchange, but if you want to try then yes.”

GM: “I’m surprised more people don’t. She must be rich if she can actually predict the future.”

Celia: “Might be complicated by you being duskborn. We’ll see.”

GM: “Oh. She won’t because she hates duskborn?”

Celia: “I don’t know her personal views, but most of them do.”

“I think we could pass you off as a ghoul for a while if you keep your fangs away.”

GM: “I guess we better, yeah,” Dani says, not without some bitterness.

Celia: “Hey,” Celia says to her, “listen. I lie to everyone about everything. No one knows I’m Celia Flores. They think I’m Jade. I act completely different around everyone else depending on who I’m with. It’s just a way to keep safe. It’s masking. Ghouls pick up all sorts of things people don’t realize; we trust them with our secrets and our daily affairs. Some of them are really powerful. Just think of it like that. You’re just pretending to be someone else to get to do what you want.”

“You just pick a persona and play it. It’s kind of fun sometimes. And once we teach you shadow dancing you’ll be even better at it.”

“And if you want… once you’re done with school we can change your whole identity. Keep your dad safe.”

GM: “I guess you’re right that everyone pretends. It just feels bad that they’d hate and discriminate against the real me.”

“You think my dad would be in danger?” Dani asks worriedly.

Celia: “Maybe. That’s why I kept my mom in the dark for years. I only told you about me because, well, you’re you.”

“It’s usually a good idea to create a new name, at least. A lot of people fake their deaths. But… you can still be around during the day, with your dad and all, and if you don’t have a Beast then honestly it’s pretty safe. You don’t have to worry about losing control.”

“Actually…”

GM: “Yeah?”

Celia: “So. I’m thinking. We teach you shadow dancing and how to taste like a mortal. All of my boys know it except for Randy, and I’m going to be teaching my mom anyway, so you’ve got a lot of people to help you learn. We keep you as a duskborn on the down low. I can talk to my surgeon, see if she can make a mask for you that’s easily applicable to pretend to be my ghoul, that way if you are spotted and tasted by someone in Riverbend during school no one connects us. Guy who runs the place is, uh, real asshole. He’d kill you. Frankly. Then when you’re done with school we get you a new identity.”

“So you still get the pride of finishing school on your own, we can pad your resume if you want, and you basically get to have it all.”

GM: “Okay. That seems smart,” Dani nods. “Should I be meeting this fortune teller right now, though, if we don’t have a mask for me?”

Celia: “Nope. We can meet her tomorrow instead.”

GM: “Okay. Let’s do that, then.”

Celia: Celia checks the time.

“We have some free time. What’re you interested in?”

GM: “I’d like to meet some other licks, but if that needs to wait… is there anything you’d recommend?”

Celia: “You know who Andi Brooks is? Love & Liars?”

GM: “Yeah, I’ve heard of her. I listen to some of her stuff.”

Celia: “She and I are pretty tight. A few years ago she showed me this place that she likes to practice new material under her alias. Bad feeding so no one runs it, but they have poetry slams and open mic nights if you want to check it out.”

GM: “You know her?” Dani asks, impressed.

“Wow, though I guess you are kinda famous too.”

“I’ve actually been getting random followers and friend requests and since you friended and followed me.”

“But that sounds fun, anyways. It’d be nice just to do something… normal.”

Celia: “She’s part of my krewe,” Celia explains. “She might like you, actually. She’s Caitiff. No clan. Gets the same sort of second-class treatment as you do for it, and she’s very into raging against the machine and the status quo.”

“When she’s back in town I can bring you to meet her.”

“She’s pretty cool, to be honest. And way more famous than me. Surprised you got followers out of me following you, ha.”

Celia gives Reggie the new address.

GM: Reggie drives.

“You mentioned krewes,” says Dani. “They’re like cliques of friends, aren’t they?”

Celia: “Yeah, basically. We help each other out. Hang out.”

“Two of mine travel a lot. Andi and Tyrell. He deals in antiques and things like that, so he and Andi travel together when she’s on tour. Safer. He’s… a real sweetheart, honestly. You don’t usually expect it from someone that age. Or at all. He’s just got his way about him, you know?”

“Roxy is the fourth and the leader. She’s older. Been around longer. That kind of thing. When those two are in town we hang out more.”

“Roxy has some stuff going on with her sire she’s looking into. I was helping until, well, life blew up. So when all this calms down I’ll see where she’s at and how I can get back into it.”

GM: “Could I join your krewe?” Dani asks.

Celia: “Maybe! Roxy makes the decisions and we talk about it before we vote anyone in. I’ll put in a good word for you, though.”

GM: “Thanks. I’d like that. To have some friends who are licks.”

Celia: “Thing is about lick friends,” Celia says to her, “is that everyone has their own agenda. It’s not like human friends. So I’d be wary what you share with them when you do make some. Like, none of them know I’m Celia either.”

GM: “But I know you’re Celia and I’m a lick.”

Celia: “You’re different. I knew you before I was turned. I trust you. And I’m trusting you to keep it to yourself.”

GM: “I will,” Dani nods. “Lawyers have to be able to keep our mouths shut.”

“But that sounds like you don’t really trust them, and that’s too bad.”

Celia: “It’s not that. It’s just… everyone has an angle, you know?”

“And being a lick is very cutthroat.”

GM: “You haven’t seemed that way.”

Celia: “We don’t get into a lot of physical brawls, so reputation means a lot. I’m that way around them.”

“I wouldn’t sell out my krewe or my sire or my patron. But I’m happy to collect information on people in case they move against me.”

GM: “Maybe they’re only that way around others too, and they just need to be a little vulnerable.”

Celia: “Maybe. It’s hard to trust. It’s kind of isolating. We were humans once, and humans are pack animals. Cut them away from that and they get a little… crazy.”

“There was a study once about apes. Guy wanted to see what happened to them if you isolated them. So he did. And it was really fucked up. Moms killing their babies, loss of will to live.”

GM: “That’s worse than I thought, but not that much worse. Social isolation is linked to all sorts of negative health outcomes.”

Celia: “Everyone wants to be on top. So we fight and claw our way up there. And it’s a real long fall if you lose your footing; no one wants to start over.”

“So we just… don’t trust easily. One wrong word can be the end of you, you know?”

“You tell someone I’m Celia. They see me in their territory and suddenly my identity isn’t safe. I get picked up for trespassing. Can’t visit my grandma or my brother. Someone reports that I’m posting photos online and it’s against the Masquerade. Then they want to know who does my work for me.” She gestures at her face.

“I piss someone off and they go after my mom, Lucy, or Emily.”

GM: “That sounds like an awful way to live.”

“I’m glad we can be honest, at least.”

Celia: “It can be really, really lonely.”

GM: Dani wraps an arm around her shoulder in a half-hug.

“You’re not alone.”

Celia: Celia returns the embrace. For all that Dani is a pawn in this game, Celia is happy to have her.


Sunday night, 13 March 2016, PM

Celia: Open mic night turns out to be a pretty good time for the two of them. As Celia had told Dani, the feeding isn’t good, but it’s not for lack of people. Just lack of privacy. There’s only one room with a slightly elevated platform to serve as stage and a bar that serves coffee and liquor at all hours of the day, which Dani helps herself to while Celia snags them a table. When Celia orders a drink eventually she quietly explains that it’s better for the Masquerade to be seen at least pretending to eat and drink in public. Dani finishes most of the cappuccino for her, which Celia appreciates. She doesn’t want to spend the precious blood keeping it down.

There are a handful of acts at open mic: a blonde girl with a country twang and a guitar, a red haired bombshell that belts out blues and jazz and could give Veronica a new obsession if she were so inclined, and an older gentleman that brings a few of the crowd to tears with his spoken word.

The two girls are able to relax and enjoy the night, and when Celia’s phone eventually buzzes they’ve made tentative plans to come back and try their own hand it. Celia asks Dani if she has any artistic talents like that, or if she still writes.

Reggie watches with them. Celia thinks he appreciates it more than he lets on, but either way his presence puts her at ease.

Celia has him drop off Dani at Celia’s place, explaining to the girl that she needs to pick up her friend so she can get him into the Quarter. They work for opposite sides. She reminds her to keep an open mind about him, and says that she’s pretty sure Dani will end up liking him. She also asks, again, that Dani not tell him about the shared blood.

“Just in case.”

Outside, Celia tells Reggie to watch the place. Discreetly. To use his shadow dancing to make himself look human so that her friend doesn’t smell him, and that if he tries to get out with Dani to stake him.

She’s pretty sure Savoy has people around since he had said as much—she thinks they’ve been followed all night—but she wouldn’t put it past Roderick to try something because he thinks they’re alone.

Bases covered, Celia goes to pick up Roderick. She greets him with a kiss at the door, smuggles him into the car so he can sit in the trunk, and asks how Elysium went.

GM: Dani doesn’t mind the coffee at all, and thinks it’s too bad Celia can’t enjoy it.

Roderick’s eyes shine when he sees her. He tries to do with Celia right then and there upon her kiss.

“Dani can wait…”

Celia: Oh. Well then.

They can do this instead.

“Twenty minutes,” she tells him, then pulls him against her.

GM: The lovers’ coupling is swift and passionate. Roderick can’t get enough of her. He pulls her into a lap dance position, sitting down on his knees and pulling her onto his lap with her back against his chest, her legs spread over his knees, and her head thrown over his shoulder. His hands roam her body constantly, squeezing, caressing, feeling her everywhere as he thrusts into her and she grinds down on him. It’s an excellent position too for him to feed from her neck, though he needlessly refrains from drinking straight from the source.

He can’t get enough of her.

Celia: It’s a new position for the two of them, but one that Celia thoroughly enjoys if the way she moves and the sounds she makes and the multiple times she finds release (even in their brief time) is any indication. She likes being spread open like this on his lap; he can touch everything he needs to, and it’s perfect for his fangs to find a perch.

She returns the favor when he lets her shift to face him instead, and only once they’ve each satisfied themselves and each other does she ask, giggling, if he missed her.

GM: “My god, yes,” he murmurs, planting a kiss on her lips. “Elysium just seemed like such total bullshit tonight.”

Celia: Sunday services usually are.

“Nothing exciting, then?”

GM: “The bishop wasn’t there.”

Celia: “Oh. Weird. I wonder why.” She can’t recall a mass without the albino. “Who did the service?”

GM: “Maldonato. Rumors are spreading, though.”

“I heard it’s been a week since anyone saw him.”

Celia: “Huh. Maybe he left. Off to diddle little boys like his Catholic counterparts.”

“What’re the rumors?” She retrieves their clothing while they talk, handing him his pants and shirt. She slides close to help him with the buttons.

It’s really an excuse to kiss his neck.

GM: Roderick talks in between several of his own.

“That he’s been summoned by the cardinal in Corpus Christi, who wants him to replace Vidal when the prince enters torpor.”

“Though that seems off. He’s not thrown his hat into the ring.”

Celia: “Thought the sheriff was replacing Vidal.”

GM: “Vidal hasn’t said a word about who’s replacing him.”

Celia: “Hasn’t said much of anything in years.”

GM: “True. Though other talk says Malveaux’s going to be the sheriff’s seneschal.”

“Another one was that Malkavians kidnapped him. He’s supposed to be pretty friendly with them, but being friends with any Malkavian is a double-edged sword.”

Celia: “Because they’ll turn on you at any moment? Or because their crazy rubs off on you?” She brushes against him at the word “rub.”

GM: He pulls her close and starts to steadily kneed her breasts. “Because they’re crazy period.”

“You’re friends with one, how has it generally worked out?”

Celia: Her nipples stiffen at the touch.

“We’re crazy for each other,” Celia says with another kiss against his neck.

“Mm, aside from the fact that I hurt her? All right.”

“Oh, you mean Andi?”

GM: “Yeah. We are.” Another kiss.

“She’s Caitiff. I’ve heard. That was just a rumor.”

“Lucky for her, because I don’t think the Malkavians believed it. They know their own.”

Celia: “Ah. Yeah. Her sire was as crazy as they come, to hear her tell.”

GM: “Speaking of Benson, she’s getting ordained next week.”

Celia: “Oh?”

GM: “Yeah. Congratulations to her, I guess.”

Celia: “I’ll have to send flowers.”

GM: “You’re not attending?”

Celia: “I meant before then. I don’t know. If everything goes well then yes I’ll be there.”

GM: “Katherine Beaumont was talking shit about you. Two consecutive weeks is a lot of Elysia to miss. For someone who hangs out with the harpies, anyway.”

Celia: “I’d talk shit back, but she’s low-hanging fruit.” Celia shrugs. “She’s mad I’ve been tapped to help the archon. Whatever.”

Celia can’t even remember what she was doing last week to miss it. Hunters?

Or was that the night she got high?

It all blurs together.

GM: “I’d be careful. The other harpies weren’t really leaping to your defense.”

Celia: “Oh.”

Why?

GM: “Yeah. Are those rumors about you and the archon true?”

Celia: “Yes.”

GM: “Which ones?”

Celia: “Uh. Which rumors exist?”

“I guess I should have clarified before blindly agreeing.”

GM: Roderick gives a somewhat dry look. “He didn’t actually tap you, did he?”

Celia: Celia blinks at him, momentary hurt crossing her face that he thinks she wouldn’t be chosen for something like this.

“He reached out to me directly and asked me for assistance. We’re meeting when he gets back into town.”

GM: “It’s just… no offense, but you seemed pretty clueless about the city’s stability and the possibility of civil war until we talked. And if the archon was here for anything, it was that.”

Celia: “Mmm. Maybe he just wanted to fuck. I’m very pretty. I’ve heard it’s my only talent.”

GM: “It’s not your only talent. You’re plenty smart too.”

Celia: “Really? I seem to recall you almost calling me stupid the other night.”

GM: Remorse flashes across his face. “I didn’t mean it. I stuck my foot in my mouth.”

Celia: “You also just called me clueless.”

GM: “About the city’s political stability, yes. And you were. But the important thing is you aren’t now.”

Celia: “Or maybe I’m privy to things you aren’t.”

GM: “I find that unlikely, given how seriously the elders are all taking the possibility of civil war.”

Celia: “Or maybe you just expect me to be an idiot and me asking a follow up question during our discussion makes you think I’m just a dumb broad.”

“But hey, at least the sex is good, right?”

GM: “I don’t think you’re an idiot. This was just a topic you didn’t know much about. There are plenty of topics I’m ignorant of.”

Celia: “Yes, Roderick, I don’t know anything about the politics in the city I live in. You’re right.”

GM: “I didn’t say all politics, I said stability and the possibility of civil war.”

Celia: Celia waves a hand. She stops pretending to help with his buttons. When she pulls away only two have actually been fastened.

GM: He doesn’t resume them. “I’m sorry if I made you feel like I was belittling your intelligence. I know how much your dad hurt you by doing that. I don’t want to hurt you.”

Celia: “You know Preston said that to me last night, too. That I’m stupid. When I pointed out my medical degree she scoffed because I had the misfortune to be Embraced before I could graduate and wasn’t about to beg a favor from the sheriff to finish up at Tulane, even if I could go during the day. I paint faces and that’s not real art, so my clan talks a bunch of shit too. I went to school online because that was my only option. I spent years being told I’m stupid by my dad to the point that I internalized it. And then I died.”

Celia gives him a flat look.

“You know what people do when they think you’re stupid?”

GM: “What?”

Celia: They underestimate you and share all sorts of juicy tidbits.

“Can’t remember, my brain doesn’t hold that much information.”

GM: “Your brain is amazing. I’ll challenge Preston to a duel if you want me to pay her back for saying those shitty things about you.”

“Online degrees are accredited. They’re just as valid as traditional ones.”

Celia: “And if you were talking to anyone else I bet you’d say differently.”

“So think what you want about whatever you want. The archon wanted me.”

GM: “Okay, I’ll take your word for it. The archon wanted you.”

“And I wouldn’t say differently. There are lots of licks who earn online degrees. They can’t attend day classes or classes at X location and still want to better themselves, like you did.”

“You aren’t stupid. I don’t have a medical degree. You know way more about anatomy, medicine, and the physical sciences than I do.”

Roderick’s unbuttoned shirt is still just hanging there.

He hasn’t yet brought up wanting to see his sister.

Celia: He still doesn’t believe her.

She’s not going to be the one to remind him about his sister. He can wait until tomorrow for all she cares.

GM: He lays his hands on her shoulders.

“Tell me how I can make this right. I don’t want you to feel like I think you’re stupid. I know how much that hurts you.”

Celia: Celia lifts her gaze to his face. He can see it in her eyes: the hurt, the wounded pride, the fear that he still thinks she’s stupid, that she’s not good enough, that she’ll never be good enough. That he doesn’t believe her. She swallows, dropping her eyes for a moment. She starts to shake her head.

“I don’t know.”

Then, a second later, she looks up again.

“No, I do know. Who’s your shadow dancer contact? I don’t have the patience to teach my mom and I want her to learn. Quickly.”

GM: She sees pain equally written in his face too, at first. Perhaps it’s real. Perhaps it’s the second drink. Perhaps it’s both. But it’s there.

“The Churchmice,” he answers. “They’re mutes, but they’re great at making themselves scarce.”

“I thought you wanted to keep her secret from other licks, though.”

Celia: Her mouth forms a little “o” as his words sink in, as she realizes what she asked.

She abruptly turns away, pressing a hand against her mouth as if that will stop the trail of red that leaks from her eyes.

“St-stupid,” she stutters out.

GM: “You’re not stupid!” Roderick exclaims, hugging his arms around her.

Celia: “Ev-everyone says so. They all think so. You think so. You-you don’t—you don’t even trust me to-to take care of Dani because you think I’m… you think I’m dumb.”

GM: “I’ve trusted you to do that for nights,” Roderick insists. “There’s no one else I would. No one. Not my krewe, not Coco, no one.”

“You’re the only one smart enough and trustworthy enough.”

Celia: Celia thinks she might have taken this train as far as she can ride it.

She lets the arms around her pull her back against his chest, lets him calm her like he thinks he’s doing. She settles against him, the tears slowing to a trickle, and finally she wipes at them with her hands.

“O-okay,” she says in a small voice.

GM: He holds her close and runs his hands up and down her.

“You aren’t stupid,” he repeats. “Only your dad is for not recognizing what an amazing mind he had in front of him.”

Celia: “He… he said he was sorry. Last night. At dinner.”

Like Roderick is doing now, but she doesn’t point it out.

GM: “I don’t buy that. ‘Sorry’ does a fat lot of nothing to make up for the abuse he put you and your family through, anyway.”

Celia: “There was more to it than that.” Celia shakes her head. “It doesn’t matter, I guess.”

GM: “Just so long as you told him where to stick it.”

Roderick smiles. “Did you give him a kiss, by the way, with those lips that had just sucked my dick?”

Celia: “No,” she admits, “I didn’t want to kiss him.”

GM: “I’m sorry. I completely forgot to ask how that dinner went. There’s just been so much else on my mind.”

“At least I still got a blowjob.”

Celia: “Two.”

GM: “I owe you still.”

Celia: “You do,” Celia agrees.

“Later tonight, maybe. Or tomorrow.”

GM: “Right.” He shakes his head. “Dani is waiting.”

Celia: She’d rather go see her now and let him return the favor tomorrow. Or after. So she doesn’t need to think about his sister while he’s going down on her.

GM: Roderick finishes with his clothes.

He hoists her up in his arms once she’s dressed.

“I still mean that. You’re too pretty to have to walk.”

Celia: “You can carry me down the aisle after we get married,” Celia promises him.

GM: “I’ll carry you a lot further than that,” he says as he carries out to the car. “You fit so perfectly in my arms. You were custom-made for them.”

Celia: They really do fit together nicely.

She distracts him with her mouth on his lips and neck while he carries her, and only once they reach the car does she desist.

GM: He sets her down reluctantly, but still enjoys opening the car door, setting her down onto her seat, and closing the door for her.

Celia: At least she got to keep her panties this time.

GM: Roderick gets in the trunk and pulls it closed. He has reasons. Staying hidden.

But it’s hard not to think back to another Brujah doing that around Celia’s pretend sire.

Another probably mindfucked Brujah.

Celia: It’s different.

Celia is doing it out of love.

Veronica is doing it to be a cunt.

GM: They drive until they reach Celia’s apartment. Roderick gets out and follows her upstairs.

Celia: On the way, though, Celia sends a text to Mel, letting her know about the Churchmice. Coded. Obviously.

GM: The ghoul thanks her for the notice and says they’ll alter plans accordingly.

“Hair and coat aren’t too mussed?” he asks.

Celia: Celia checks over Roderick before they head upstairs. She fixes a stray hair for him and straightens his tie, then gives a nod.

“Look good.”

GM: He knocks on the apartment door when they’re there. “I’m not sure how you re-introduce someone to the brother they thought was dead.”

Celia: “I didn’t tell her,” Celia warns him. “She… thought this was the only thing she had done that you hadn’t.”

GM: “Ah. Crap.”

Celia: “I didn’t want to break her heart without being able to also introduce you.”

GM: “All right. Let’s do this.”

Celia: Celia takes his hand and gives it a squeeze. They’ve got this.

GM: “Is that you?” calls Dani from behind the peephole.

Celia: “It’s Celia,” she confirms.

GM: She opens the door.

She looks at Roderick.

Her hands fly to her mouth as she gasps.

“Hi, sis,” he smiles.

“St… ephen?!” Dani gets out.

She stares at him for a while, then finally looks between him and Celia.

Celia: Celia gives Dani a gentle smile.

GM: “It’s me,” he nods. “I’m here.”

He notably doesn’t say ’I’m alive.’

He steps forward into the apartment and hugs her.

Celia: Celia follows him in, closing the door behind her.

GM: “I’ve missed you.”

“H… how?!” Dani exclaims, though she returns the embrace.

Celia: “I told you,” Celia says quietly, “a lot of us fake our deaths.”

GM: “He’s… he’s a vampire?”

Celia: “He’s a vampire.”

GM: Dani looks back towards her brother, who’s still holding her.

He opens his mouth and shows his fangs.

“We… we thought you were dead!” Dani exclaims.

“I know,” Roderick replies. “I can’t imagine how hard that was on you b-”

“It destroyed Dad!” Dani interrupts.

“You just… you let us think you were dead?!”

Celia: “Dani,” Celia interrupts, “let him explain.”

“It’s hard. I told you. Mostly people leave their families behind.”

“They have to. It isn’t safe. You saw what happened with mine.”

“And Rod—Stephen is…” she’d explained it. “Brujah.”

GM: Dani looks at Celia, then back at her brother.

“I’m sorry,” Roderick answers. “I hated doing it. It tore me apart to do it. You have no idea how many times I’ve cried.”

“Well, actually,” he adds more quietly, “you probably do.”

“I did it to keep you and Dad safe.”

“I don’t s…” Dani starts.

“You remember that argument? Where I tore up the house?” Roderick asks.

“That’s when I knew. It wasn’t safe for you and Dad to be around me.”

Celia: Celia gives Dani a private look over her brother’s shoulder. Remember what I said he did to me? that look says. Not safe.

GM: “My sire… erased some of your and Dad’s memories. You don’t remember the worst of it.”

Celia: Celia looks sharply at Roderick. He’d never told her that.

GM: He looks at her apologetically, then back to Dani. “I wanted to stay with you, as long as I could. My sire kept telling me it was a bad idea. I didn’t listen.”

“I only listened once I’d come within a hair’s breadth of killing you both.”

Dani doesn’t say anything for a few moments. Just silently processes.

“You hit Celia,” she says. “She says you beat her.”

Celia: Whoops.

GM: “What?!” Roderick exclaims.

Celia: “I was trying to explain the Brujah thing,” Celia says.

GM: “What, is she lying? Have you ever hit her?”

“I… yes, I have-” Roderick starts.

“Oh my god!” Dani exclaims.

“It wasn’t me!” Roderick protests.

“You said you hit her! How many times!?”

“We’re all that way!” Roderick starts to explain. “All my clan! Think of it as… a genetic disorder, it afflicts us all, no matter who we were.”

“A genetic disorder that makes you hit your girlfriend?!”

“Yes! That makes us do a lot worse than hit everyone! All Kindred have a Beast, but ours is worse, so much wo-”

“I don’t have a Beast!”

“All right, all tru-nightborn Kindred, we have Beasts, but you don’t!”

“Why?!”

“I don’t know! I’m not going to deny responsibility for what I’ve done to her, but it has a mind of its own and it does things that horrify and sicken me, things that I’d never countenance. Celia understands. That’s why she didn’t leave me, because she has one in her too.”

Celia: “It—it’s okay, Dani. He doesn’t mean it.”

Exactly like Diana used to say.

“He can’t help it. I told you. It’s the Beast.”

GM:I’ve never seen the Beast,” says Dani.

“You don’t want to,” says Roderick.

Celia: Celia shakes her head at Dani, as if to confirm his words. And remind her: be careful.

GM: “Should I be scared of you?” Dani asks her brother.

“I don’t want you to be,” he answers.

“That doesn’t answer the question.”

“Under these circumstances? A little, yes. I was… expecting this to go differently.”

“My dead brother is actually alive, but made us all think he was dead because he was scared of, what, hitting us like he hits his girlfriend?”

“Dani, calm down-”

“It destroyed him, Stephen! He’s got this… this permanent shadow over him, that you can see in his eyes, even when he smiles!”

“I know.” Roderick’s voice breaks. “I know, I can onl-”

“You haven’t lived with us these past four years! You haven’t been part of our family! How could you do that to us!?”

“I was trying to keep you safe!”

“I went into law! Because I thought you were dead!”

“You’ll be a great lawyer, you’ll be grad-”

“No! I’ll be a terrible lawyer, next to Stephen! Stephen, captain of the debate team, when I lost all my cases! Stephen who’s top of his class, who’s better at everything, who Dad wishes was alive instead of me!”

Roderick tries to respond to that, but can’t.

“It’s true! Tell me, it is, isn’t it?! You’re better at everything, Dad loves you more!” Dani accuses.

Celia: Celia doesn’t try. She lets Dani go. Girl has to get it out.

GM: “It’s… it’s true,” Roderick says quietly.

Celia: Celia gapes at him.

She can’t believe he just said that.

It’s one thing to admit to her, but to say to Dani?

GM: “I’m not going to lie to her, Celia,” he says in that same quiet voice.

He turns to Dani. “For what it’s worth, I know Mom loves you more too.”

Celia: “Your dad thinks you’re dead,” Celia says to him, “he shouldn’t still have you on a pedestal.”

GM: Dani just looks at her brother for a moment.

Then she starts crying.

Celia: Celia glares at him.

She brings the crying girl into her arms, offering what comfort she can.

GM: They’re pinkish, partly-coppery and partly-watery-smelling tears.

Dani hugs Celia and cries into her shoulder for several moments.

Celia: “It’s okay,” Celia murmurs to her. “It’s okay.”

GM: Roderick stands there haplessly.

Celia: She rubs her hand up and down Dani’s back in soothing gestures.

GM: Dani pulls away after a little while and glares at her brother.

“I’m glad you said it, finally. We all knew it was true. But it’s nice, not to be lying about it anymore. Dad loves me less. I’m the second-place child. You know, the backup, the spare. And I guess not even a very good one, what with how he never got over your death.”

“That’s just by one criteria,” Roderick starts. “Dani, you can be good at other th-”

“Like what!? Dad always said that! ‘Good at other things.’ What fucking things, growing up in a house where law might as well be the Bible?!”

“Well, what else do you like to do, besides law school?”

“No! I don’t do anything else! I never have!”

“Dani, you have not done nothing el-”

“Stop telling me I’m not cut out for law!”

“You just said you weren’t hap-”

“I didn’t say that!”

“What? You’re not even making sense-”

“Stop fucking saying to just toddle off and do other things! Everyone does it!”

Celia: Celia doesn’t quite wince, but she wants to. She’d done the same. She thought it would help. Obviously, it hadn’t.

GM: “So, what, you think you suck at law, and you still want to do it?”

“Oh that’s nice to hear, I suck! I can’t just be second-best, I have to suck too!”

“I didn’t say you suck!”

“Yes you did!”

“You don’t suck!”

“Then why am I middle of my class, whe-”

“That’s a false equivalency, I never even said-”

“So I suck! You think so!”

Roderick throws up his hands. “What do you even want from me?”

“I don’t know, maybe to not be fucking second place for once, maybe to feel like Dad loves me, maybe to just fucking be someone outside of Stephen’s shadow!”

“You are someone!”

“Don’t start with that!”

“You just said you wanted-”

“Well I’m not!”

“Yes you are! Go ahead, name something! Right now, name something you can do that I can’t!”

“I-”

“Seriously, just try!”

Dani glares, but pauses.

“I can walk in the sun.”

Celia: It’s a pretty big thing, too. Celia has occasionally missed the sun.

GM: “Oh, yeah, there’s that,” says Roderick.

“What, you don’t think it counts?”

“It is something you can do that I can’t,” Roderick says. “Congratulations.”

“You don’t think it counts, does it? I can tell.”

“What do you mean, I think it doesn’t count?”

“Just the way you looked! You think it’s bullshit, why?”

Celia: He thinks she shouldn’t exist. That she’s an abortion. Better off actually dead, hadn’t he said that?

Celia doesn’t say it, though. She looks away.

“Some of the other duskborn still burn in the sun,” she supplies. “Maybe that’s just what he was thinking?”

GM: “Was it, Stephen? You think walking in the sun doesn’t count, because other duskborn burn instead?”

He might clear his throat if he were alive. “That isn’t it, no.”

“Tell me what you really think, then. We are honest in this family.”

“I think it’s a consolation prize,” Roderick answers quietly.

Celia: Oh boy.

Celia’s eyes widen.

GM: “What, because being duskborn sucks? That’s what Celia tells me all the other licks think.”

“It… yes.”

“Oh, okay. What clan are you?”

“I’m sorry?”

“What clan are you? Celia’s told me about them, a bit, and how she’s one of the Toreadors.” Celia knows the word does not have a plural form. “Which one are you?”

Celia: Now isn’t the time to correct her, though.

GM: “I’m a Brujah,” Roderick answers.

“So tell me about them.”

“I’m sorry?”

“You’re a Brujah, tell me about Brujah.”

“We’re… a clan of philosopher-kings and warrior-poets. Passion burns in our blood. Passion keeps us warm through endless night. There’s a fire kindled inside us that’s kindled in few other Kindred, though that fire burns dangerously hot. Some call us the Learned Clan, for scholarship and study are also our deathrights. We trace our heritage to the first beacons of Western civilization in Greece and the great utopian experiment that was Carthage. All of us argue what Carthage was and what it means, but we each seek to recreate it in our own way. To build anew that shining city upon a hill. Each of us is a Prometheus, seeking to steal fire and wisdom from the gods and deliver it to mankind. In our own way, all of us want to see mankind achieve its full potential, and each of us believes we know the best way. Revolution is our anthem, struggle our battle cry. We are warriors and visionaries each set upon our own crusade to change the world. Though we have fallen far from our heritage in the eyes of many Kindred, I am proud that Troile’s blood runs true in my veins.”

Roderick’s voice lifts as he describes his clan. The frustration in his features gives way to the same look he gets when he speaks about law and justice.

Celia: And he’s right, but it’s certainly a rose-tinted way to look at his clan. Celia’s lips twitch. Most of the Brujah she’s met aren’t like that.

It’s certainly not “all of us.”

GM: Dani listens quietly to Roderick’s speech, then says, “Okay.” She also looks a little less angry.

“From everything Celia tells me, no one wants to be a duskborn. So, I want to join your clan. I want to be a Brujah instead. I like what you’ve described, I like what Celia described.”

“…I’m sorry, Dani,” says Roderick. “You can’t.”

“What, you don’t think I’m good enough, middle of my class law student like me?”

“It isn’t a question of qualifications. You simply can’t. Clans are like families, and-”

“You can join families. You can get adopted in. Celia’s family adopted Emily. So, adopt me as a Brujah.”

“I’m sorry, Dani, that’s not possible.”

“Why not? You don’t recognize adoptions?”

“In a word, no-”

“Fine.” She turns to Celia. “Make me a Toreador, then. Adopt me in.”

“She can’t adopt you either,” says Roderick. “I’m sorry, but none of the clans will.”

Celia: “There are others,” Celia tells her, “the clanless. I told you about Andi, you remember? You’re not the only one like that. And Andi is a badass. Famous rock star.”

“What we can do,” she says after a brief pause, “is find out who your sire is and see what clan they are, maybe. And bring them to justice for what they did to you. or all of it, Dani.”

GM: “I’ll be glad to see that,” says Dani. “But I don’t’ want to be a second-class citizen all my unlife, either-”

“It’s more like third-class, honestly,” says Roderick. He glances at Celia. “Andi might be Caitiff, but she’s still a true-blood.”

“A true-blood? So what does that make me?” Dani asks.

“…a thin-blood,” answers Roderick. “Though the acceptable name these days is, as you’ve heard, duskbor-”

“Why do they call us thin-bloods?” asks Dani.

“Because your blood is thin and weak,” Roderick answers. “You can’t do many of the things that true-blooded vampires can do.”

“Excuse me, my blood is weak?”

“Through no fault of your own, but yes.”

Celia: “It’s the generation thing,” Celia reminds her, “the distance from the first vampire.”

GM: “Right. The further removed you are, the weaker your blood gets-” Roderick starts.

“Why don’t you explain this generation thing to me again,” says Dani.

“Okay,” says Roderick. “So, it’s like if you have a cup full of water, you’re pouring it into a smaller second cup, and then pouring from that cup into an even smaller third cup. The more times you pour, the more water gets lost.”

“The first vampire, Caine according to the myths, was all but a god. His childer and grandchilder, the second and third generations, are only spoken of in legends. They weren’t far behind him. The fourth and fifth generations, too, are like unto demigods and all but gone in the modern era. The sixth and seventh generations are the most potent-blooded Kindred that anyone is realistically likely to meet. You’re still only really likely to encounter the sixth generation in Europe and the Middle East, but there are seventh-generation Kindred in this city who I’ve talked to, pretty much all of them elders. The eighth generation isn’t too far behind them. Most of the city’s other elders are of the eighth generation, and I don’t think there are any neonates here with blood that close to Caine’s. Maybe Becky Lynne, but I’m not sure—it’s rude to ask someone’s generation. There’s also a moderate number of eighth-generation ancillae.”

“The Blood gets steadily weaker after that. For a neonate, being nine steps removed from Caine is something to be fairly proud of—like I said, I can’t name any really young neonates with stronger blood. There’s also a lot of ancillae at the ninth generation. At the tenth, you’re nothing to write home about around elders, though you’re a little above average around other young licks. There’s probably as many neonates as there are ancillae at that generation. The eleventh generation is nothing to write home about to anyone. It’s not bad around other young licks, but for an ancilla it’s a mark against you—I think the only one in the city with blood that weak is Sundown. Opportunities start to get a lot scarcer at ‘neonate generations.’ At the twelfth generation, even other neonates will tell you that your blood is below average, but whatever, you’re still a vampire. The thirteenth generation, finally, is the thinnest blood any vampire can have and still be called a proper vampire. But there’s some stigma attached to being so far removed from Caine, because you can never sire a ‘real’ childe. You’re the end of the road for vampiric evolution, and elders aren’t likely to forget it. The thirteenth generation is just a step above worms in their eyes.”

“Then, finally… you have the fourteenth and beyond. Thin-bloods. ‘Vampires’ who are caught between worlds and are as much mortal as Kindred. Some of us call them half-bloods for that reason, alongside ghouls. The usual laws and limits of our race don’t seem to apply to thin-bloods—for instance, how you can walk in the sun, though I’ve heard of plenty of thin-bloods who couldn’t do that. The Curse of Caine becomes an almost border condition for them. But the price for that is their blood is too weak and diluted for them to do many of the things vampires can do. I’m hazy on how it works, but I don’t think you can learn disciplines in the same way we can—those are Kindred powers like superhuman strength, turning into animals, or mind control. I don’t think you can create ghouls, or create other vampires with any certainty—I’ve heard some thin-bloods claim that trying to make a childe only leaves behind a corpse. The fourteenth and higher generations are an almost distinct species from stronger-blooded vampires. It’s like comparing dogs to wolves. There’s a lot of social stigma against them. They’re not seen as real vampires and they aren’t legally considered people under our laws, the Six Traditions. It isn’t a crime to kill thin-bloods like it is a crime to kill true-bloods.”

Roderick pauses for a moment. “I could go into more depth there. But I just want to emphasize that all of what I’ve said is the ‘standard’ Camarilla view, the one pushed by highly prejudiced elders who are centuries behind us in their ways of thinking. These are the same elders who might have believed in the divine right of kings when they were alive.”

“Younger vampires are less likely to care about generation. In so many words, it’s vampire eugenics. It’s literally blood purity. Elders believe that it defines who you are, but I’ve known plenty of low-generation shitheads. It’s purely a privilege of birth, or death in our case. The society-wide prejudice against the higher generations blinds the Camarilla to their qualities as individuals. Kindred are so much more than just their blood.”

“Celia’s told me about what a racist her father is. How he called her adopted sister a ‘subhuman mongrel’ for being multiracial. But she’s attending medical school and will be a doctor soon.”

“That’s essentially the same as what elders do when they fixate over generation. There are some actual, physiological differences and advantages associated with thicker blood, but so much of it still comes down to social-”

“What generation are you?” Dani asks, having listened to her brother’s explanation with a patient but very quiet look.

“I’m ninth.”

He doesn’t repeat that it’s rude to ask.

“Okay, so you have the purest blood that a new vampire can have,” Dani says.

She just gives a little nod and turns to Celia.

“Remind me what generation you are again? I think I asked earlier, but the numbers didn’t mean anything to me without context.”

Celia: Even though she had explained all of this to Dani before, it’s interesting to hear how Roderick puts it for his sister. She’d tried to go over everything that she could, but she had dumped a lot of information on the girl in short order the other night. No wonder she needs a refresher.

“Ninth,” she tells Dani. She doesn’t appear offended at the question.

GM: “I see,” says Dani.

“Who’s your sire?” she asks Roderick. “Since she’s eighth generation and an elder, right?”

“Her name’s Coco Duquette. She’s on the primogen. You might think of that as the city council, or a king’s privy council,” her brother answers.

“Oh, lucky you,” says Dani.

Her tone is light.

Celia: Her lips don’t do so much as twitch.

GM: “Who’s your sire?” she asks Celia.

Celia: “Veronica isn’t an elder,” Celia supplies.

GM: “But she is eighth generation. Pretty well-off?”

Celia: “In a vampire sense? Yes. Sort of. She’s not a primogen or anything.”

GM: “So what does she do, if she’s not on the king’s privy council? I guess they can’t all be.”

Celia: “A lot of us get up to our own things on our own time and don’t really have a position like that. But she’s a harpy. Like a clique.”

“Like, ah, you’ve seen Mean Girls?

GM: “Yeah,” says Dani.

“So she’s part of the coolest kids club.”

Celia: “Sort of.”

“It’s… I mean, honestly, the movie does a good example with their behavior. You’re there because you take it, not because you’re handed it or appointed. They keep track of social things. Boons, faux pas, things like that. Tear you down with a look if you’re late to a party or if you skip because you have other things to do.”

They’re basically bitches with social power.

GM: “Sounds pretty important,” says Dani. “Or at least seen that way.”

“But eighth generation, I guess that’s no surprise she’s someone important.”

Celia: “A lot of it has to do with age,” Celia says. “The longer you’ve been around the more opportunities you get.”

“Like there are some who haven’t done much with their Requiems, but if you want to do things then there are chances.”

“Like, ah, there’s a guy on Greek Row who’s been around for like fifty years and all he’s ever done is a keg stand.”

GM: “I think he’s an ’80s Embrace,” says Roderick. “But, yeah. Three decades and he’s done squat.”

“He’s one of my clan, to boot.”

Celia: “Roderick likes to think they’re all philosophers, but a lot of them are rebels without a cause.”

GM: “You should tell that line to that Roderick guy,” says Dani, before looking back to her brother.

“How do you and your sire get along? Tell me about that.”

Her tone is still light and calm.

“We’re very close,” Roderick answers. “She’s… she’s a lot like Dad, in some ways. She has one of the most brilliant minds I’ve ever known. I respect the hell out of her, even when… we don’t always agree on issues. But she pushes and challenges me to be better in a way no one else has. She’s taught me everything I know about the Requiem, and so much else too. I want to make her proud. I love just talking with her and spending time with her. She’s everything I wanted Mom to be.”

“Do you love her more than Mom?” Dani asks.

“Honestly? Yes,” says Roderick.

“Sounds like you’ve really lucked out as a vampire, then. Pure blood. Awesome sire. Important sire.”

“I have, yes.”

Dani looks between her brother and his girlfriend for a moment, then balls her fists and screams at the top of her lungs,

“NO!!!”

“Dani-” Roderick starts, raising a hand.

“NO! Not! Again! I am—NOT—being this—agai—NOO!!!" Suddenly, Dani’s in her brother’s face, shrieking and slapping at him.

“Dani, stop it!” Roderick shouts back, easily fending off the uncoordinated slaps.

His sister just sputters and flails, crying pinkish tears as she starts throwing punches.

“I—woke—up—in—a—DUMPSTER! I—got—r—”

“Stop this! You don’t want to make me angry!” Roderick growls, catching her fists and holding them in place.

“Let GO OF ME!” Dani shrieks.

“Stop trying to hit me! You have any idea what I might do if you actually succeeded!?” Roderick growls, and Celia can see the flash of fang in his mouth. “I’m Brujah! This hasn’t been easy, keeping my Beast in check, and you are NOT helping! We’re lucky you don’t have any training!”

THIS IS BULLSHIT!” Dani cries back, tugging at her caught hands. “It’s all BULLSHIT! That’s what I think! You just want, you just made this all up! You’re lying! You just want me to be, fucking second best, your little pet-!”

“What!? You think Celia and I are lying about generation, about thin-bloods, as part of some convoluted scheme to give you an inferiority complex forever?! That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard!”

PROVE IT! You haven’t proved it! You’ve just said I’m worthless, I’m useless, I’m second-class, but I’ve never seen it! You’re making it up! Let go of me!

“Do you have any idea how idiotic that sounds!?”

PROVE IT! LET—ME—GO!”

FINE! HERE!”

Roderick grabs his sister by the hips and hurls her across the room like she weighs nothing. She shrieks, and then Roderick suddenly blurs across space. Dani lands with a hard thump on a chair that wasn’t there a moment ago. Roderick lifts it, and her, above his head without visible strain.

“Put me down!” Dani exclaims, her eyes wide as she clutches the armrests.

Roderick shifts his grip and throws his sister off the chair. She lands on the couch face-first with an oomph. She twists and around sees her brother advancing towards her, chair still in his hand. He snaps it apart like it’s made of balsa wood.

“Celia!!!” Dani cries, shrinking against the couch.

“Do you believe me now, Dani!?” shouts Roderick. “Do you think we’re just making this up to put you in your place?! We’re not! This is why thin-bloods get treated like dirt, why they get no respect! Because we’re predators and they’re weak!” He throws the chair’s pieces aside with a clatter.

Celia: Celia’s attempts at interjection are drowned out by the two siblings yelling in each other’s faces. It’s when Dani says the word “pet” that she sees what’s about to happen.

Roderick loses control. He kills his sister. No one knows if the thin-bloods can be torped (or at least Celia doesn’t), so simply beating her into unconsciousness might not be an option.

And if Celia weren’t worried about her dying then maybe she’d just let him.

But she’s not a monster. No one deserves to be beaten by a Brujah. Celia launches herself into their midst as the chaos unfolds and Dani goes flying. She steps between them with her back to Dani like a tiger protecting her cub, staring down her brother with a look that could stop a train. Her eyes smolder. Fangs distend from her mouth.

“Get a grip,” she hisses at him, reaching out with the power of her clan, her Beast, and the electricity thrumming through her veins. A hand on his chest sends it sparking through him, too.

GM: Roderick’s fangs retract as his angry features slowly calm.

He looks between his lover and his sister, then his shoulders slump.

He sits down heavily on an intact chair.

“This wasn’t how it was supposed to go,” he says in a deflated voice.

Dani just looks at him fearfully.

Celia’s fortunate to have headed it off before the Brujah reached a full frenzy.

Celia: Celia hovers between them, ready to interject again if needed, though she tries not to be obvious about it.

GM: Neither sibling says anything.

Celia: “I’m sorry,” she says to Dani.

GM: Dani steals another apprehensive glance at her brother.

Celia: Her fangs disappear. She straightens her shoulders, and turns to face the girl.

“I’m sorry,” she says again, “I should have given you more of a warning. After what you said I thought… I thought it would be best if he explained himself. I didn’t think it would go like this.”

GM: “What… what happens to me?” Dani asks in a small voice.

Celia: “We proceed as discussed. You’ll finish school. We’ll get you a new identity afterward. You don’t have a Beast so there’s no lapse of control for you. If you want to change your face we can do that once you’re done to keep your dad safe.”

GM: “You’re not safe here,” Roderick says.

Celia: “She’s not safe in Mid-City,” Celia shoots back. “She’s safe here.”

GM: “Dani…” Roderick starts gently. He gets up, but when she flinches he sits back down.

“They kill thin-bloods here. Massacre them, just for being what they are. I’ve seen it. They can survive in the Quarter, but they’re penned in, and treated like garbage.”

“Houston is safer for you. They’re still looked down on, but attitudes are more tolerant. Much more tolerant. There’s no policy of genocide like there is here.”

Dani just looks at him for a few moments, as though afraid of how he might respond.

“I want to stay with Celia.”

Celia: Celia, too, looks at him at that.

She tenses, ready for another fight.

GM: Roderick looks about to say something, then just looks down at his hands.

“Yeah. I guess you do.”

“I’m sorry,” he continues. “I wasn’t… I just wanted you to see the truth. Because it was safer if you saw it here, from us.”

Celia: “I’ve called in some favors,” Celia says quietly. “I have things in motion to keep her safe. I know you’re worried. I know you love her. I’m doing everything I can to protect her.”

Like she’d just done.

From him.

GM: “You’re going to be a political hostage, Dani,” says Roderick. “The elder who rules the Quarter isn’t friendly with my sire. He’ll use you to get to me. If he treats you well, it’s only so he can keep you as leverage over me.”

Celia: “That’s literally what every elder does. We’re all pawns to them.”

GM: “Some are…”

He starts to say ‘better,’ looks at his sister, then just trails off.

“I’m sorry,” he repeats. “Wherever you go, whoever you stay with… you won’t have a future. As Kindred.”

“I don’t know what to do about it. I didn’t want this for you. You didn’t deserve this.”

Celia: Celia makes a choked sound. She presses a fist against her lips.

GM: He looks up at her, some apprehension in his eyes.

But not regret.

Celia: “I said the same thing to him,” Celia tells Dani. “When I broke up with him I thought that I was doing the right thing. That it would keep him safe. We fought and I… I was new. I lost control and started to feed from him. And I was scared I’d do it again. I wanted him to do something better. To do something good. And it just… leaving like that just left him open for…”

She blinks back tears.

GM: Roderick gets up and wraps his arms around her.

“It’s okay.”

“My sire had her eye on me before you did.”

Celia: “She wouldn’t have taken you if we’d been together. She told me that.”

GM: “Maybe. But that’d have only happened if you never got Embraced.”

“Blame your sire, if we have to blame anyone.”

Celia: She doesn’t blame him for anything.

“Or Pietro. Or my dad. Or any number of people.”

GM: “These things are usually bigger than just one person. Complex chains of events usually are.”

“It wasn’t your fault. Okay?” He rubs her shoulder.

Celia: Celia shakes her head at him. Now isn’t the time.

“Sorry,” she murmurs, wiping at her eyes.

“I really liked your family,” she says to Dani, including her in the conversation. “I wanted to be part of it. But not… not like this.”

GM: “You are part of it,” says Roderick, squeezing her shoulder again. “We’re going to get married, still. Only difference is we won’t have kids. But there’s plenty of couples who don’t do that.”

“Oh. Congratulations,” says Dani.

She still sounds a little muted.

“I’d like some space. With Celia.”

“Oh. Sure,” says Roderick. He doesn’t sound mad as he gets up.

“I’m sorry how this went. I just want… the best for you, sis. I just want you to be safe and happy.”

“Right. Thanks,” says Dani.

It isn’t coolly. Just a little quiet.

“I’ll get a cab,” he says. “And pay for the chair too.”

Celia: Celia rises with him. She hesitates for only a moment.

“Are you going to be able to make it back on your own?”

GM: “Yeah. I’ll wait out of sight until it arrives.”

“One drive isn’t… too big a risk. Especially if they already know I’m here.”

Celia: “Just… stay at my place? That way you’re not seen leaving?”

GM: “All right.” He gives her a kiss. “I love you.”

He looks back at his sister. “I love you too, sis.”

“Yeah,” says Dani.

Celia: Celia’s hand lingers in his.

“Tomorrow,” she tells him, “eleven. If I’m not there today I’ll be there in time to bring you. I love you.”

GM: “Right,” he says at ‘bring you.’ He gives the pair a wan smile, then closes the door behind him.

He knows better than to try to hug her.


Monday night, 14 March 2016, AM

GM: “I don’t even know what say,” Dani says numbly.

Celia: Celia takes a seat beside her on the couch. She’s there if the girl wants a hug, but she doesn’t force herself on her.

“It’s a lot to take in,” she says quietly.

GM: Dani doesn’t seem to right now.

“He’s honest. He’s always been that.”

“When he isn’t lying about being dead.”

Celia: “I didn’t know he’d gone after your family like that. I’ve never… I’ve never done that with mine. It wasn’t until last night that my mom finally found out. It’s… part of it is control, you know, but a part of it… what he didn’t tell you about the Brujah is their anger is very, very intense.”

“It’s not safe to be around. You… well, you saw.”

GM: Dani looks after the door.

“You’re still with him.”

Celia: “There are a lot of really terrible licks. He’s not one of them.”

GM: “He was in the Boy Scouts, you know. He made Eagle Scout. Dad was really proud. I was in the Girl Scouts, and he liked that, but he wasn’t as proud.”

Diana signed up Lucy for the Girl Scouts, Celia’s pretty sure.

“I mean, Eagle Scout is a big deal. Looks really good to colleges. If you join the military I think they give you a higher rank or extra pay.”

Celia: “I didn’t know that.”

GM: “One president, I think Gerald Ford, said being made Eagle Scout was the proudest moment of his life.”

Celia: “On Friday he was made fun of for it at Elysium.”

GM: “What, being a Boy Scout?”

Celia: “Yeah. An idealist.”

GM: “This is… Eagle Scout vs. Girl Scout. Just all over again,” Dani says numbly.

“He does a major community project. I sell cookies.”

“I never earned the Gold Award. The Eagle Scout equivalent.”

Celia: “It’s not your fault. Society treats girls differently. When we were dating, Stephen told me that a female lawyer would never be as respected as a male. It’s just how people look at girls. Like we’re less than. I mean, look at any insult people throw at men, right? Bitch. Pussy. Cunt. Man up. Sack up. Nut up. It’s sexist and supports the idea that men are somehow inherently better because they were born with a dick. And the people in charge like it that way because they’re all men.”

GM: “I mean, he’s right. Female lawyers aren’t as respected. In the courtroom, at least. They just aren’t.”

Celia: “God forbid you have a set of tits,” Celia mutters.

GM: “I’d still be Stephen’s #2 even if I didn’t.”

“I clung to that for a while, that it was because I was a girl, but I was really just objectively inferior.”

“Eagle Scout vs. no Gold Award. It’s even more common for girls to earn the latter. Five-point-something percent vs. 4%.”

Celia: “I was never a Girl Scout,” she admits. “My dad thought it was a waste of time.”

“They had this thing when I was younger. Indian Princesses, I think. Where you got to go away for a weekend with your dad and do fun things together, like canoeing and horse rides and archery and building campfires. I begged him to go. All my friends were going. He told me that I didn’t need to know how to do any of that, that my place was in the house.”

“I caught him in the garage once showing David how to change the oil on the car. And the tires. You know, basic maintenance. When I asked if I could learn, too, he told me I didn’t need to know that either, that I’d always have a man to do it for me.”

Celia gives a little shrug.

“I don’t think you’re lesser because you didn’t get the Gold Award.”

“I don’t think you’re lesser because you’re duskborn.”

“I think we all have different skillsets.”

“And I think that makes us valuable.”

“And I think sometimes society doesn’t know what to do with people who fall outside their little lines.”

GM: “Your dad sounds like an ass.”

“Stephen already told me how he was, but. Y’know.”

Dani looks at the floor.

“I’d really like to believe all of that. But it’s hard.”

Celia: “We’re working it out.” Celia puts a hand on Dani’s shoulder. “You’ll work it out, too.”

GM: “He’s back and I don’t have the Gold Award all over again.”

“And I should be happier he isn’t dead. What’s wrong with me.”

Celia: “He is dead, if it helps.”

“But, Dani… it’s a lot to take in. You’re allowed to feel your feelings. Whatever they may be. Don’t beat yourself up about it.”

GM: “He’s better than me. Again.”

“I guess that’s just my destiny.”

Celia: “He’s not better than you. He’s blinded by his sire’s faults and believes every word that comes out of her mouth. He has plenty of shortcomings.”

GM: “Still has a city council member sire he loves and respects instead of waking up raped in a dumpster. I’d trade.”

Celia: “I know a girl,” she says after a moment, “whose sire abandoned her too. She was really torn up about it for a long time. Thought she wasn’t good enough. But she is good enough. She’s always been good enough. Her sire is an asshole. And how other people treat you is a reflection of them, not you.”

GM: “I know. I’m just… tired of being treated badly when he’s not. Him having everything when I have nothing.”

“I never got that whole generation concept, until he explained it. It makes complete sense now. It’s another metric by which Stephen is better than me.”

Celia: “Sorry,” Celia says again, “I guess I didn’t explain it very well the first time. There was a lot to tell you about.”

“But… it doesn’t mean he’s better than you. There’s more to life and unlife than who Embraces you.”

GM: “It was a lot to take in. I couldn’t get it all.”

Celia: “Stephen got lucky.”

GM: “He gets lucky a lot.”

“I’m not even a real vampire.”

Celia: “He was born white and male in a privileged family. He pretty much hit the lottery.”

“You drink blood. You have fangs. That’s real enough for me.”

GM: “He threw me around like I was nothing.”

Celia: “If it helps, he can do that to me too. His clan is strong and fast, but that’s kind of all they can do.”

“Don’t tell him I said that, but he has a very rose-tinted view on them. Most of them are angry, moronic thugs.”

GM: “Oh. I guess that’s something.”

Celia: “Mine are elitist art snobs. If you’re not an artist you’re a poseur, and they hate you for it.”

“And they only like certain forms of art. Anything new doesn’t count. Photography is laughed at. Digital art is laughed at. There are bad spots to all of us.”

GM: “Yeah. I guess no one has it all.”

Dani looks down at her feet. She’s pulled them up onto the couch.

“I’m just… so tired of getting the short end.”

Celia: “Well, what do you want to do about it? How do you want to move forward?”

GM: “I wish I knew.”

Celia: “You’ve got time. All the time in the world. And anything you need from me, I’ll help.”

“You’ve read that book about the wizard kid, right? The series?”

GM: Dani doesn’t say anything to Celia’s first words, but finally leans against her.

“Yeah. Who hasn’t?”

Celia: Celia puts an arm around her shoulders.

“Well, my mom for one. And Lucy. She thinks it’s satanic. Regardless.”

GM: “Wait… really?”

Celia: “Yeah.”

“But listen. You’re like his friend, right? You’re muggleborn. People think that they’re better than you because you aren’t a pureblood like the blond asshole. But she was the top of the class every year. She got the best marks. She was always the first one to master the spells. Brightest witch of the generation, they called her.”

“She wasn’t naturally gifted. But she was smart. And she worked her ass off.”

GM: “Do you think I can do that too, as a thin-blood?”

Celia: “Work your ass off and be just as good? Yeah. I do. I think you’re going to face a lot of stigma about it. I think it’s going to be hard. I think you’ll work three times as hard for half the credit. And I think that there are ways that you can make it work for you.”

“You just have to learn to bend so you don’t break.”

“One of Stephen’s shortcomings is his inability to bend. He’s very rigid. Very moral. And there’s nothing wrong with being moral. But if he weren’t lucky, like he is, then he’d make all sorts of enemies. There was another girl who tried to be like that. Very rigid in her beliefs. Wouldn’t bend on anything. And she’s been eating shit since her Embrace.”

“And having his sire doesn’t mean that she’ll do jack shit for him if he really fucks up. His elder brother-in-blood is basically a bitch now.”

GM: “I wonder how long Stephen would last if that was him eating shit.”

Celia: “He wouldn’t. He’d let his pride get in the way.”

“I had to deal with some sewer rats the other night. Surrounded by them.”

GM: “The ugly ones?”

Celia: “Yeah. They like hazing people like me. Pretty people. Toreador.”

Celia tells her about it.

About what she’d had to do to get out of there alive.

GM: “Oh my god, that’s… disgusting,” Dani says, appalled.

Celia: “Wasn’t worth a fight. I know my strengths. Combat isn’t one of them. And they were… well, they were all around me. Their turf.”

“So I bent. And I got out. And now I can take my time getting even.”

“Stephen would have gone down swinging. And he’d have lost.”

GM: “Okay. I guess you’re right, and that going forward that way is the only thing to do,” Dani nods. “I’d just ask… be fully honest with me, okay? You’ve told me so much and been so helpful, and you didn’t lie about anything. But I feel like you were trying to spare my feelings, next to Stephen, and maybe painting things as less grim than they are.”

“Some of the stuff he said hurt, but I’d rather have the whole truth. Even if it hurts.”

Celia: “Okay,” Celia says. “You’re right. I did want to spare your feelings. It’s… hard waking up as a vampire and not having someone be there for you. My sire isn’t known for being gentle.” She squeezes Dani. “I’ll be more up front.”

GM: “Thanks.” Dani rubs against her.

“Whatever else, both of us want truth.”

Celia: That’s what she’s worried about.


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Comments

Emily Feedback Repost

Initial Stuff

I always enjoy chatting with Gui. His “I’ll have you blow me for reciprocity” made me laugh. Still waiting for him to get back to her about the fleshcraft stuff she showed him. Don’t know that it’s the best choice of thing to show him, but I guess it made sense when Celia was trying to be monogamous. Oh well.

I think the plan with Princess / any doll delivering a message to Elyse was the best way to do it.

Think there’s a photo missing here with her outfit. Not super important but figured I’d mention it.

Enjoyed the brief hunting scene and the thing she got for her extra successes in the roll. Kind of worried that the photo they took is going to end up somehow relevant, but I thought that with ex success you might just be adding it for flavor / memories rather than a “aha, gotcha!” type thing. I hope I’m right. That would be kind of annoying otherwise, since there are plenty of actually private places Jade would take someone to feed that wouldn’t allow her to be photographed.

The constant face switching probably gets old to Celia, so I guess the boys knowing that she’s Jade is all right. If Pete fixes their memories I might take it anyway, but at this point… fuck, dude, feels like half the city knows. Oh well.

I do think that Celia has probably used Randy as an emotional springboard in the past. Even though he tells her what she wants to hear and probably lies to her about things (”nah babe you’re great”), maybe that’s all she really wants / needs at some point, you know? “Nah babe you’re great.” He did it before following the Mabel thing and he kind of does it here, just not quite to the extent he did prior since he was looking for a fix. I think if he was more emotionally supportive / acted like a typical boyfriend she’d probably like him more and feed him more. But don’t tell him that. I do enjoy interacting with him one on one, though. Think he soured it a little bit at the end by asking for a hit instead of trusting that she’d give it to him like she said she would. That annoyed me.

Diana

I guess on the reread it feels less easing into the Ron conversation than it felt at the time. I thought she brought it up more gently than that but she just dives in. Probably my own impatience coming through with her.

To be honest I kind of don’t really want to talk about Diana right now. Everything is still too fresh and I’m still too annoyed. I handled the conversation poorly because of it.

Happy I was able to run into Mel and talk about it, anyway. She gave me some good ideas. And some terrible ones, as we later see. But the bodyguard/dancer angle should be good for Diana to pursue. It was also just helpful to be able to talk to someone about it who wasn’t as close to the situation. Obviously Roderick was like “you are an awful person” even though he didn’t say it, but Mel was able to listen somewhat objectively and offer Celia comfort. “You were strong not to have frenzied at her.” “You obviously care about her a great deal.” “Your grandsire would turn her into an asset.” Celia had some introspection here about how she’s been able to turn past mistakes into assets, too, but I think Diana is just too close to home for her. Really enjoyed the inclusion of Miriam. I hope I get to meet her.

Reggie

I do like Reggie, but like… holy shit boundaries, dude. Celia obviously doesn’t care what he does when they’re alone, but I can’t imagine her have letting him get away with this in front of other people before. She was probably very, very clear about what she expects from him in front of his brothers, other licks, etc. I guess this might be his first time being around them? But damn, dude.

Dani

Glad I was able to bring up Celia’s krewe, again. Looking forward to meeting them. Andi is a badass and maybe she might like Dani, who knows. I liked the performance house, anyway. Little hole in the wall place where they could chill.

I don’t know that Dani really understood my point here about not trusting licks. I guess it’s show vs tell.

Roderick

Rod got real handsy with that bond, man. I like it. Appreciated the information he gave me about Elysium, though. Was kind of cool to hear about stuff that I knew happened but Celia doesn’t (like Father Malveaux, etc). Still kind of think it’s garbage that Beaumont is shit talking her for not being there when she’s not part of Vidal’s faction so who gives a fuck if she doesn’t sit through their bullshit mass. And that no one said anything. She’s friendly with Veronica, she’s friendly with Defallier, like…? Whatever, I guess. Everyone is such a fucking cunt.

Rod was kind of a douche here about the archon. I guess Celia would have known more about the state of the city if her player knew, which is less of a “Celia being ignorant about politics” than it is “Emily downplaying the hatred between factions.” But whatever. She gets to look clueless and not be taken seriously, I guess. But she got him to tell her who the shadow dancers were for Savoy, so that’s nice.

Roderick/Dani Meeting

Man this Rod/Dani thing was real fun to watch. Everything went off exactly how I plotted it. Fucking phenomenal. Celia weakly “defending” him. Comforting her when she cries. Great argument. Dani was kind of irrational, exactly as an angry / wounded person is. Then Celia just fans the flames. “Maybe he thought that duskborn couldn’t walk in the sun?” She knew what she was doing. God, that manipulation was top notch. The prep, the setup, not catching any flak for it, bonding them both. Real fucking good, man.

I like his description of Brujah here, even if it is a little poetic.

I had hoped that Rod would ask what she meant by “for all of it” when she tells Dani they’ll get revenge so she could spill about the rape, but I don’t know that Celia could have calmed him down from that. Glad Passion worked when he was on the verge of frenzy but also would have been okay seeing what happened if not. Glad I had Advantage from the earlier feeding, though. I think it was for the best.

You changed a line here. “Some are…” he starts to say better, then looks at his sister and trails off. It had been Celia before. Confused by the change.

I liked the way the blood bond took affect in this log. The sex, the fondling, the way he’d been ready to ignore Dani for Celia, the way that they kind of just had their own little moment together while Dani stood awkwardly next to him and Celia felt bad about being responsible for Rod being turned. Just well done.

I think that the scene with Rod and Dani, and the following one with Dani, went off pretty much as well as it could have. Celia definitely played to her strengths there and came off looking “good” to both of them, imo.

Story Thirteen, Celia III
 

Calder Feedback Repost

Calder: I also enjoyed Emily’s interaction with Celia. Their banter is pretty fun
Mabel’s loyalty probably not hard to win. The Storyvilles are ash on the wind
You’re also right you already have a mom ghoul
OTOH, Louise will be another spa ghoul to Alana
All a question of what areas you most want to invest in

Emily: Too many ghouls. Idk that Louise needs to be one. We’ll see.
Don’t need to keep Mabel either.

Calder: That’s sweet of you to let Dani/Diana keep their relationship
I was also amused by the rent line
And yeah, you did great with Dani
Are doing great with Dani
Celia’s got her wrapped around her finger
As you pointed out, she doesn’t need to bother with boons

Emily: She’s pretty spoiled
For a lick
Let alone a thin blood

Calder: She sure is, with a master like Celia
And yeah, Randy did sell out his brother/Alana pretty fast
He’s an addict
And unlike Dani and Diana, he’s three steps bound
Celia comes first
What else do you think might have been in Celia’s stomach than Lucy?

Emily: Nothing.
She doesn’t have a stomach.

Calder: It’s where the food all went, until she installs her vacuum bag

Emily: But I doubt that’s why Diana was touching her.
With the look in her eye.

Calder: I’ll enjoy seeing that planned doll stuff, anyway
Dani was also probably thankful you didn’t have an orgy
Perfect way for a Toreador to meet with their ghouls, tho
I also agree with your take that it was better to do the war meeting than not
Better to have and not need than need and not have
I think you’re also right that playing the victim usually doesn’t work with Roderick
He’s usually pretty convinced of his own righteousness

Emily: Sometimes it does.
Like when she called herself stupid later.
And he was all, “omg bb no D:”

Calder: Blood bond tugging him that way too
I continue to enjoy their interactions, too. They get along well
“She shouldn’t have needed to do this. They’d had a special night planned, for when they took the second drink from each other without protection, and now that second drink will be his third. He’ll be completely hers.”
I did add the italicized portion

Emily: Yes
I thought so

Calder: And wanted to make clear where things stood after the third/second stage GM conflation
What would you edit? They did have a night planned to feed without protection
(Celia could bond him before then, ofc)

Emily: You can keep some of it:

She shouldn’t have needed to do this. They’d had a special night planned, for when they took the second drink from each other without protection, and now that second drink will be tonight while he is unawares; she’ll never tell him what she’s done, how she’s slipped the noose around his neck without him knowing, but she’ll know that she allowed politics to ruin what should have been a special, intimate moment between them.

[…]

Calder: As far as Donovan, anyways, I’d say sharing “my mom is a ghoul, whut do” is as much a question of his temperament as his closeness to you
And that he would probably give less humane advice than Roderick
Melissaire gave you less humane advice than Roderick and she’s nicer than Donnie is

Emily: I just don’t think he’s much of an advice giver.
Tbh.
“Tie up loose ends.” Done.

Calder: Having a doll deliver a message to Elyse, as we see in the later logs, was a great idea
There’s no other messenger she could have been better-disposed to
nother instance of Celia mirroring/playing to her audience

Emily: She’s very clever.

Calder: That’s also right, I left out a pic
Will add back

[…]

Calder: Poor Randy, anyways
All he wants is for his babe to fuck him like she does his brother

Emily: And she will!
I’m excited about it

Calder: I’d give it 50/50 odds she’ll torment him by saying no
Changing her mind
Figuring he needs to really earn it

Emily: Maybe!

Calder: I was glad you got to run into Mel too, anyways. NPCs can give much more direct advice and ideas than the GM will
Although as you note, their advice can also be a mixed bag
What’d you like about Miriam? She came up pretty briefly

Emily: The concept of her was cool.

Calder: She is a canon NPC whose concept I also liked
And which happened to be relevant here

Emily: Plus maybe she’s out west still if she’s from San Fran

Calder: Atlanta isn’t too far away either

Emily: Exactly

Calder: Mardi Gras is a neat way for the city to draw out of town licks as needed. It’s how her name came up
I also liked you dropping/foreshadowing Celia’s krewe
And the choice to just do something mortal/normal with Dani
She probably needed that

Emily: So did Celia, tbh.

Calder: Indeed

Emily: There isn’t enough of it lately for her.
And I’m glad they got to go out and have fun.

Calder: As far as Mass, Savoy unfailingly attends every week, along with (usually) the primogen, the harpies, regents, and other important licks
It’s usually okay to miss one here and there
But everyone who’s anyone attends on a regular basis

[…]

Calder: Glad you enjoyed the argument. It was fun to write
This whole meeting obviously dug up a lot emotional baggage for Dani on top of the numerous shocks

Emily: It was fun.
Very realistic.
She was very emotional.
And irrational, which is normal during something like that.

[…]

Calder: Roderick frenzying probably would’ve alienated Dani even more, which you may or may not have desired

Emily: would have been okay with it if no one died

Calder: That was the chief question, re: how thin-bloods and torpor work

Emily: Bet Celia could have woken her up.

Calder: BP 0 → BP 2
Glad you enjoyed how the bond manifested. Like I said, he already held a lot of positive feelings towards Celia, and I wanted to make the heightened bond feel distinct

Emily: Dunno how you’ll top it at stage 3 tbh.
Excited to find out

Calder: Oh boy

Emily: And they never left the apartment again.

Story Thirteen, Celia III
False_Epiphany False_Epiphany

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