“We lie to everyone, Celia.”
Saturday night, 19 March 2016, AM
GM: It’s a ten minute or so drive to 1216 Camp Street in the Lower Garden District. One of Accou’s and his sire’s public havens. It’s a Greek Revival mansion with the iron galleries so typical to the city’s architecture and a slim front profile, with several trees growing in the front of the house and another larger one from the fenced-off courtyard.
Jade is greeted and shown inside by servants.
The home’s tall-ceilinged interior feels more spacious than its outside. It’s decorated with a variety of traditional African and and jazz-themed art pieces, as well as a few Cuban ones. An array of house plants make it feel like some of the greenery from outside has been transported within. The fireplace goes typically unused.
Jade is shown to a seat in the living room. The house’s master appears shortly thereafter. Accou Poincaré is a moderately dark-skinned man of Creole descent who looks no older than his early 20s in spite of his thick mustache. Still, there’s a subtle, marble-like cast to his features, a slowness to his motions, and an indelible weight behind his eyes that covey a sense of great age. He’s dressed in an old-fashioned black suit with cufflinks and a bowtie. Jade has only seen him without his dark kidskin gloves for piano recitals and tonight is no exception.
“Greetings, Miss Jade,” smiles her alleged grandsire as he assumes his seat upon a couch. “Tonight’s Elysium was a pleasant venue, was it not? I trust you enjoyed the evening.”
Celia: Jade had taken the opportunity her stop at home afforded to change from the gown and floral shoes she’d worn to Elysium to a different sort of dress. Still formal, still form-fitting, but more suited to an intimate affair between grandsire and grandchilde than the public preening of Elysium. Deep plum, it sets off the sparkle in her eyes and caramel skin, fitted through the bodice and hips with a delicate flare of chiffon and silk that begins mid-way down her thighs. A platinum and diamond necklace draws attention to her slender throat and bare shoulders, hair pulled off to one side in delicate waves that curl down her back. A small, silver-wrapped package rests beside her.
She rises as her grandsire enters the room to dip into a curtsy.
“Good evening, Alder Accou.”
Only once he sits does she resume her position on the couch she had been shown to, smoothing her dress down her body as she crosses one leg over the other.
“Grandsire.” She flashes a smile his way at the more familiar name. “I did enjoy the venue, yes, particularly the sculpture garden. I found it most illuminating. Did you have a chance to stroll through?”
GM: “I did. The venue is a novel and more intimate one than the museum proper, is it not?” A faint smile. “I suspect many attendees spent at least some of their evenings perambulating amidst the sculptures.”
Celia: “The illusion of privacy without ever truly being away from the eyes and ears of our society. I do so hope no one was silly enough to let something sensuous slip out while they thought they were alone.” The amusement on her face gives lie to the words that pass her lips. They both know that she, like her sire, thrives on ferreting out such little bits and pieces.
GM: “One can hope, but one will most likely be disappointed. Mr. Thibodeux perhaps most of all.” Accou frowns briefly in recollection of the newcomer.
Celia: “Mm,” Jade agrees with a nod of her head. “Shame, that. With the amount of licks disappearing and leaving the city, this uptick in those who wish to see us all on the other end of a stick… could have put him to use if he hadn’t put his foot so far down his throat.” She lifts her shoulders and lets them fall. “Though I wonder at how useful we’d find him if that was his grand entrance.”
GM: The elder Toreador offers a dim smile at the word ‘useful’. Everyone saw Laura and Julius talking to him, after all. Making the French Quarter lord’s pitch.
“For good or ill, there shall always be more. Kindred can no more stay away from this city than bees from a flower.”
Celia: And where they go, the others follow. Hoping to pick them off one at a time like a lamb that has wandered too far from its flock.
This lamb, at least, has teeth enough to protect its flank.
“Ours is a fragrant garden.” It’s as good as any opening to dive into her purpose for the visit.
GM: Celia’s ‘grandsire’ offers another subdued smile at those words.
“As our clan has so endeavored to make it.”
“What would you speak of with me tonight, Miss Jade?”
Celia: “A missing clan member, grandsire.”
Jade strums the pads of her fingers against the silver wrapped box beside her.
GM: “Ah. The boy’s disappearance is most regrettable, but after so long a period, I believe his return unlikely.”
Celia: Jade nods her head.
“It’s unfortunate. We weren’t close, as you no doubt surmised. I wouldn’t be here months later if we were. Only… his whole krewe has vanished recently.”
GM: “So much the better for your lord then, Miss Jade.”
Celia: “Yes, grandsire, no doubt he feels the same. They were known to be loyal to the prince. Exorbitantly so.”
There’s a brief pause. Jade fidgets, twisting the sun ring around and around her finger. She drops her gaze, then looks up.
“That’s why I can’t talk to him or his about this,” she says in a rush, eyes pleading—they ask that he’ll keep this between them. “I was… close to a member of the krewe. No one knew. They couldn’t. We didn’t pass secrets, it wasn’t anything like that, only… she’s missing now too, and I… I’d like to find her.”
GM: “Of course,” smiles the Toreador elder. “Whom among the krewe are you concerned for?”
Celia: “His lover. The Ventrue.” There’s a sheepish, rueful edge to her smile. “I know she’s… extreme,” Jade says tactfully. “But she was looking for him. And I thought if I followed his trail I could find her, too.”
GM: “Curious,” remarks Accou. “I recall both of your presentations before the seneschal upon Katrina’s quinquennial anniversary. Little love seemed lost between you.”
Celia: “I had not expected to see her after my Embrace,” Jade admits.
GM: Her ‘grandsire’ waits for her to expound.
Celia: “We didn’t have a happy last meeting,” Jade says quietly. She waits a beat. And then she does something she doesn’t normally do:
She tells the truth.
“You see… we took opposite sides in our parents divorce.”
GM: “You share the same mortal family as Miss Gerlette? My, my. The Jyhad can take the most surprising of turns.”
“That would do much to explain your apparent rancor.”
Celia: “Neither of us thought that once we left mortality behind we would still be caught up in this separate world together.”
GM: “Ties of blood are hardest of all to shed.”
Celia: “Then I hope you see why I must find her.”
GM: “I am afraid I know little of Miss Gerlette’s whereabouts. We spoke but rarely and her disappearance postdates Mr. Bourelle’s by some months. But you believe her to have been investigating her lover’s own disappearance?”
Celia: “Yes, grandsire. I know she was. She spoke to a mutual contact about it. And I’ve come into possession of something of theirs that told me he had contact with you shortly before his disappearance and that you helped him find some measure of comfort, and I thought maybe you’d have a better lead..?”
GM: “Oh, from where did you hear as much, pray tell?”
Celia: The truth has been working for her thus far. She sticks to it.
GM: “Ah. Half-bloods can see so much more than we suspect, can they not?”
Celia: “Sometimes we don’t pay attention to them.”
“And they pick up little tidbits.”
GM: “Do they indeed. Mr. Bourelle in fact spoke to me regarding another ghoul.”
“One of my sire’s, Cloe.”
“He wished to know how to commission a doll or origami figurine from her without causing offense to my sire, whom he feared held an unfavorable view towards him.”
Celia: Jade sits back on the chair. Her shoulders curl inwards for a brief moment.
GM: “I fear there may be little insight into your mortal sister’s whereabouts, alas.”
Celia: “That seems something so silly to be as worked up over as he was implied to be,” Jade finally sighs. She presses a hand against her temple.
GM: “Half-bloods may see much, but their vision is not unbiased.”
“Especially where their domitors are concerned.”
Celia: “I don’t suppose he mentioned if this was a gift for Miss Gerlette or one of his other lovers, did he?”
GM: “Why, yes, I do believe that was the reason he wished to enlist Cloe’s services.”
Celia: “For Miss Gerlette?”
GM: Accou chuckles. “That would be poorly-advised indeed if he wished to make a gift to Lord Guilbeau. Miss Gerlette struck me as the jealous type.”
Celia: “My understanding was that Mr. Bourelle and Lord Guilbeau had ceased seeing each other some time ago?” Jade puts an upward inflection at the end of her sentence, suggesting an innocent question.
GM: “Such was my understanding as well, and doubtless why Miss Gerlette was willing to pursue a relationship with Mr. Bourelle.” The elder Toreador smiles. “But then, no one can be entirely certain what occurs within a lover’s bed if one is not also there oneself.”
Celia: “Oh, you never really know what others overhear,” Jade says with a mischievous smile of her own.
GM: “True enough,” he chuckles. “Or witness. More than one hidden Nosferatu has watched more than one of our clanmates’ liaisons, I am certain.”
Celia: “What a treat for them.”
How else would the rats get their rocks off, when no one of any sense would want to lower themselves to a tryst with the sewers?
GM: “They do so hunger for treats. I hope this meeting has been fruitful for you, Miss Jade, and that you are able to locate your mortal sister.”
Celia: “Thank you, grandsire. I only wish it had not taken a brush with final death to set me on this course.”
GM: “The realization of one’s own mortality, even as an immortal, can do much to open one’s eyes.”
Celia: How eagerly he swims past the bait. She drops another hook.
“I fear it’s a realization too many of us will soon face. There has been so much more activity from that sector of late.”
GM: “Indeed there has been. I hope you stay safe amidst such heightened activity, Miss Jade.”
Celia: “You as well, grandsire. Thank you for seeing me this evening. I brought you something to show my appreciation for your time.” She offers the wrapped parcel, but doesn’t need to stick around to watch him open it if he motions for her to go. No doubt he has other things to get to this evening.
GM: “How thoughtful of you, Miss Jade.” Accou smiles and starts to open the parcel. He does not move to dismiss her.
Celia: She can’t help but compare his reaction to that of another gift she had given recently.
Inside the box Accou finds a pair of charcoal gray gloves. Dark enough to be almost black, but in the proper lighting they seem to shine and draw the eye, with hues of cobalt, silver, and pearl. The material is soft and supple. Leather, Jade explains, but it’s been treated. Liquid proof. Not resistant, but proof. Not just water, either; they both know that she means blood. There will be no staining. Indeed, any liquid will coalesce into little globules and slide right off. Good finger flexibility, which will allow him to use his hands (such as they are, not that Jade says this) without complaint. Solid grip, even with anything particularly oily. They should protect him while he handles anything jagged or sharp, leaving the hands underneath immaculate. Thin, durable, and dexterous, they should go with almost anything he chooses to wear.
The only odd thing about them is the stitches: there are none.
GM: Does he know what she can do?
He’s never said so outright.
There’s just how one of his childer set her on the path.
The ‘referral’ he made to Jonathan North.
The fact such arts are not unheard of among their clan.
The dirty little secret their clan is on better terms with its antitribu cousins than the others.
Whether he does or not, Accou smiles as he inspects the supple and unusually stitch-less gloves. Then he removes his own kidskin gloves, exposing his hands. They’re ugly things, scarred and bent and twisted out of alignment. Jade wonders how much effort it will take him to don the new gloves, and whether it will look undignified, when the elder’s Afro-Cuban herald silently approaches and pulls them over her master’s hands.
Accou gives both of them an experimental flex.
“Superbly crafted, Miss Jade.”
Celia: Jade’s eyes do not pull away from his hands, even when he exposes them. Ugly. Scarred. Painful, no doubt.
But not beyond her capabilities. Not beyond her capabilities at all.
“Thank you, grandsire.” She watches the flex, pleased by his praise. It’s a far cry different from the last gift. She tries not to dwell on it. There’s a momentary pause, and then she finally makes the offer.
“Alder Accou, I don’t wish to overstep. I know you have managed for a long while with things the way that they are. But I wouldn’t be where I am now or know what I know without the assistance of our family. If you ever desire a change, I hope that you will call on me.”
GM: “I am content with new gloves, Miss Jade,” Celia’s ‘grandsire’ replies.
He gives his gloved hands a third flex.
“But I am confident my recommendation of your services to Archon North was wisely made. I do so look forward to seeing the results of your work upon Cloe, whenever that may occur.”
Celia: Jade dips her head in deference to her elder.
“Yes, grandsire. I, too, look forward to what he and I can do together. Thank you for thinking of me, and thank you again for your time this evening.”
Saturday night, 19 March 2016, AM
GM: Another fifteen or so minutes later, Celia is back at the Evergreen. As luck would have it, Fabian also tells her that Lebeaux is due back soon. Give him twenty or so minutes.
Celia: She’s not looking for the mobster, but if she happens to see him all the better.
GM: Luck doesn’t seem to be on her side twice tonight, but Fabian is willing to pass along any messages.
Celia: Luck might be on her side. Roderick would have her head if he knew she sought out his hated foe. Better this way, isn’t it? She asks after the shadow dancer instead.
GM: Better this way to obey him.
Fabian says he is unaware of the shadow dancer’s present location. Jade would be best-served to ask his domitor.
Celia: Stalking someone cute, no doubt.
Maybe it’s her.
She declines and waits for the detective.
GM: He arrives at the Evergreen soon enough and steps into his office with her.
Celia: “Pete.” She closes the door behind the pair of them and has a seat.
GM: He sits down behind his desk.
“What’s on your mind?”
Celia: Depends on who he talks to. A few people these nights might say nothing.
She wonders what he’d say, if she asked.
Celia: Maybe she will, once this is over. Now, though, she just gives him a tight smile and mentions the meeting with his sire this evening and a general curiosity as to their clan. This evening, Roderick’s comments, and her date with Jon made her realize that she doesn’t know as much as she’d like about their history.
So she asks. In vague, general terms. About their history and about their blood sorcery.
GM: Pete tells her the basics. The Tremere are a clan of blood magicians and have been around for ages. They were integral founders of the Camarilla. The Banu Haqim and Tzimisce historically number among their greatest enemies. Tremere blood magic is based off of Hermeticism and is superior to the other clans’ and covenants’—not inherently, but by dint of the fact the Tremere are better-organized than their ‘competitors’ and unencumbered by religious dogma. Magic is a tool and nothing more to them.
Celia: Celia wants to know more about the Banu Haqim and the Tzimisce. The latter because of her own abilities; she knows that what she can do is one of their primary tools, and she’d been warned, on learning, to keep it to herself. Both to prevent people from looking at her the wrong way and to prevent the fiends from coming after her for stealing their secrets.
Or something like that. Her teacher was a little vague.
She asks, too, after the other enemy, the one they destroyed, in a long and round about way.
GM: The Tremere historically had a strong presence in the Tzimisce’s ancestral homelands, Pete answers. “Our conflicts with them were essentially over limited resources.” The Carpathians were not (and still are not) a large population center, and there was only so much blood to go around.
As to the Assamites, the Tremere cursed the whole clan to suffer grievous harm when they drink the blood of other vampires. They used to cause far more problems for the Camarilla than they do now. “Main reason you haven’t heard much about it is because my clan put a muzzle on them.”
As far as the ‘other enemy’, Pete repeats what he said earlier about them being one of the most vile and degenerate lines of Kindred out there. Clan Tremere did the world a favor wiping them out. They were guilty of unspeakable crimes.
Celia: She presses further for details about the Assamites. “I’d heard they were assassins? Why were they drinking blood?”
Was it like what the other ones did..?
GM: “Because it tastes good,” Pete answers.
“I’m sure you’ve sampled your share.”
“They are assassins. They have this whole religious dogma about it being their duty to punish corrupt Kindred, though they’re as corrupt as any other licks if you ask me. The headhunting comes into play because ‘waste not, want not.’”
“And no. They weren’t soul thieves like the others.”
“The Camarilla wouldn’t have spared them if they were.”
Celia: She has sampled her share. She flashes him a smile at the mention of it, wiggling her brows as if to ask if he’d like to swap vitae sometime.
“So the headhunting and the assassinations were different?”
GM: Pete effects a snort. “Finally got tired of trying to set me up with your mom?”
Celia: “You saying you’re not interested in her daughter?”
GM: The Tremere just gives that a dry look before answering, “They were interrelated. The Assamites were already killing other licks. So ‘why not’ drink their blood too. That felt very good. It wouldn’t surprise me if more than one assassination got carried out for flimsy reasons when the real one was to score some juice. Or scoring juice was simply a co-equal reason.”
“Kindred blood can be addictive. Too much of a ‘good’ thing.”
Celia: “Breaking my heart, Pete.” Celia touches a hand to her chest over the non-functioning muscle. The levity in her voice doesn’t quite hide whatever that look is in her eyes, but she moves them to another location to give herself a moment to turn it off.
“But the soul eaters. How did people… how did licks protect against that sort of thing?”
GM: “Don’t know. I haven’t made a study of those techniques.”
“Or of the assholes who used them.”
Celia: “And your clan fought them.”
“Did they study it?”
GM: “No, we thought studying was for losers. Who needs it.”
Celia: Celia huffs at him.
“If you’re sore about my mom I can still set you up.”
GM: “Uh huh.”
Celia: “I had someone else in mind for her but I guess you’re okay.”
GM: “Good. Find a real man who can make her happy.”
Celia: “You’d make someone happy, Pete. Even if it’s not her.”
GM: “Not any breather.”
Celia: “A lick, though.”
“Maybe that cute Toreador who is always in your office.”
GM: “I think she won’t have a bit of trouble finding other licks.”
Celia: “None that she doesn’t have to lie to.”
GM: “We lie to everyone, Celia.”
Celia: “Not in the same ways,” she says. “You know me. I don’t have to pretend to be a vapid airhead slut around you.”
GM: “You don’t have to around others, either. Sharing our real selves is the basis of all meaningful relationships.”
Celia: “Roderick told me I’m stupid.”
“But we were talking about soul thieves.”
GM: “Roderick’s an asshole. And okay. We were.”
Celia: “Your clan hunted them,” Celia prompts.
GM: “Yes, we did.”
Celia: “All of them?”
GM: “They had a lot of enemies. My clan didn’t destroy all of them, just most of them.”
“They’re not around anymore.”
“The Camarilla never did say ‘thanks’ for it.”
Celia: “How do you know they’re all gone?”
GM: “What’s it to you?”
Celia: “There’s a soul eater in the Garden District. I told you.”
“So if she exists… why not others?”
GM: “Soul eating isn’t limited to vampires, and the thing you described didn’t sound like one of us. I doubt it.”
“Stay out of the Garden District either way.”
Celia: “What else eats souls?”
GM: “It’s a concept present in a lot of mythologies. Wouldn’t surprise me if there were plenty other nasties.”
He gives Celia a sidelong look.
“What’s your interest in these things, anyway?”
Celia: “I know the best thing to do is to stay out of its way. But I don’t want to be caught unaware. And you said it kills any chance of an afterlife. And… I guess after the hunters grabbed me and I thought about how I might actually die…” She trails off.
“The whole idea of nonexistence is terrifying. That’s why we have religion. That’s why we have ideas of the afterlife. Because death, and for us final death, is a very real thing, and we’ve looked for ways to explain it. Humans can’t even imagine the idea of non-being, it’s just so different from what they’re used to, a perspective they can’t grasp, so even ancient cultures had a land of the dead.”
GM: Pete grunts.
“I’m not an expert on this stuff. Best thing you can do is stay out of the way.”
“Like fixing a broken bone, best treatment is to never break it in the first place.”
Celia: “But just in case. Accidents and whatnot. Who’re the experts?”
GM: “Soul-based magic isn’t much of anyone’s specialty.” He shrugs. “The Baron’s people or Rosa Bale probably know the most about it, as a central component of Vodoun is possession. That debatably entails displacement or at least sharing of the soul. Zombies are also said to be soulless.”
Celia: “Your clanmate was in my head, you know. The archon.”
“He was looking for something.”
GM: “Doesn’t surprise me on either count.”
Celia: “The soul thieves came up. I didn’t really know what it meant until later. I’m not looking to pry into clan business. But if they’re here…”
“I just want to know who to avoid, aside from the thing I already met.”
GM: “Did they?” remarks Pete.
He seems to scrutinize her more closely.
Celia: She lets him, though if he tries to catch her gaze she conveniently finds other things to look at. She’s aware of his penchant for memory manipulation.
GM: “I don’t see a good reason he’d bring that up around you, Celia.”
Celia: She effects a snort.
“The mind reading goes both ways if they think you’re a vapid slut,” she says frankly.
GM: “I don’t see a good reason North would meet with someone he considered a vapid slut either.”
Celia: “No, he wanted my help with a medical project. He made sure to tell me how I need to live up to my family tree.”
GM: “And that’s where soul thieves came up, mmm?”
Celia: “No. Afterward. I asked him to dance and he thought I wouldn’t notice when he slipped inside.”
GM: Pete waits.
Celia: Celia waits too.
GM: “So he slipped inside. And he just happened to look through your head for soul thieves?”
Celia: “I’m not going to pretend I know why he’s here, Pete. Maybe he thought since there are plenty of snakes here there are other things too, and who better than Savoy’s lapcat, who obviously has things whispered to her between the sheets during our oh-so-frequent trysts, because that’s definitely a thing that happens, licks sharing things I don’t need to know.”
GM: Pete shakes his head. “No, I don’t think so. That isn’t Savoy’s style. He keeps it in his pants. He doesn’t share anything no one needs to know.”
“North doesn’t know him as well as we do, I’ll grant that much.”
“But I don’t see any reason he’d be looking through your head for soul eaters in the first place.”
“I don’t see any good reason at all.”
Celia: “He mentioned something about not fucking without making sure my mind is just as appealing. It was a pretty poor cover.”
GM: Pete shakes his head again.
“I’m going to give you some advice, Celia.”
“About this soul eater thing you’re so fixated on.”
“No one cares about satisfying your curiosity, and you are going to attract the wrong kind of attention if you bring it up with other licks.”
Celia: “That’s why I’m talking to you.”
“Of course I’m not going to bring it up with other licks.”
GM: “Okay. I don’t care about satisfying your curiosity.”
“Not about this.”
“Drop it. That’s all I have left to say.”
Celia: “Sorry,” she says to his desk.
GM: Pete grunts.
Celia: “No. I followed up on the hunter thing. But it can wait until tomorrow, if you have a minute before or after the party.”
Celia: Celia nods.
“I’ll see you then.” She rises, moving toward the door… and stops once she gets there, turning to look at him.
“Pete. What he said… am I?”
GM: “Fucking christ, kid,” the detective mutters.
“No, you’re not, though you will be if you keep digging into things better left alone.”
Celia: Why would he say it if it isn’t true? He’s supposed to know her better than that. He’s supposed to see past the mask she puts on for everyone else.
“Okay,” is all she says to that.
Saturday night, 19 March 2016, AM
GM: Clan Tremere’s center of power in New Orleans is located just outside the borders of the Garden District. It’s an aged, two-story Victorian mansion with pillars on both floors that make it seem even taller. Its appearance is almost suggestive of a temple erected by the ancients—though what the warlocks might worship within their fortress is a question equally few care to contemplate.
The grounds are encircled by a low hedge and wrought-iron fence whose tips end in hungry spikes. Branches of live oaks and weeping willows droop about the property, caressing the windows and shrouding the statues in the garden from full view.
Tips of wings, too-long fingers, and unblinking eyes, their gazes as heavy as the stone from which they are made, stare at would-be visitors through gaps in the foliage.
It is only when the would-be visitor approaches the iron gate that they may become conscious of how the neighborhood’s ever-present cicadas have seemingly fallen silent, and that no wind blows through the trees. No other sound disturbs them.
There is only them and the waiting house.
There could be cameras. There could be remote controls. But Jade sees neither when the house’s iron gate soundlessly swings open to admit her.
Celia: Doors opening on their own is hardly new to Jade. It could be any number of things. Well-hidden cameras. Shadow dancing ghouls. Remote controls so tiny that she can’t see them.
It could be magic.
The thought sends a thrill through her. Pete said he’d teach her. When she’s ready, he said, and she’s going to be ready soon. Soon enough. She knows he has some skill with tech magic and wouldn’t mind learning about that, but there’s more. There has to be more than just tech and blood. How many things that are currently out of her reach will make themselves available to her if she takes a deep dive into what he’s promised? How many more secrets can she unlock about kine and Kindred alike?
Magic. Literal magic. At her fingertips.
The notebook with all of her experimental ideas calls to her. They all think that she contents herself at playing with makeup, even those who know the truth about her abilities, and ignore what she gets up to in her spare time. What she creates. What she has learned. The armor, the gloves, the gowns—those are only a small portion of it. Soon, she thinks. Soon she’ll learn more. Go further. Unveil her genius to Lord Savoy or her sire for their approval.
Soon. But not tonight. Not now. Not yet.
Jade’s eyes sweep across the half-hidden statues in the garden. Some long ago whisper from a Mardi Gras lover reminds her of the sentries the Tremere created, stone things that become animated in the face of danger. She wonders if there’s a combination of things she could learn there. Her hybrids and their stone magic.
She’s in the right place to find out.
Slow footsteps take her to the door of the chantry proper, drinking in the garden, the statues, the architecture. She lifts a hand to knock.
GM: The door opens before she can.
She’s ‘greeted’ by a stocky, wide-shouldered man of slightly below average height. He looks at least in his 40s. The dark eyes beneath his balding head are small, beady, and suspicious. His arms are thick and his hands are large and callused. He’s dressed in a plain black shirt, denim pants, and heavy work boots.
Jade’s seen him in Elysium, though infrequently. Joe Doyle. Two armed ghouls accompany him. He doesn’t say anything. He promptly starts to give Jade a full body pat-down while one of the ghouls waves a handheld metal scanner over her. She is told to remove any metal objects and place them inside a plain box held by the second ghoul. Doyle looks through Jade’s purse and removes her phone. He places it inside the box too.
“You’ll get it back when you leave.”
Kyrstin Grey appears after a moment. She has no greetings for Jade this time, but murmurs several incantations that cover her eyes with a blood-like red film. She stares at the Toreador before murmuring,
“She’s clean, sir.”
Celia: Jade keeps still while he pats her down, though some part of her—the whore, maybe—enjoys it a little too much. She’s never been one to shy away from being fondled by strong men. She flashes him a smile as if she isn’t thinking about what she’d like him to do with those arms of his—
“Yes, Mr. Doyle,” she says when her phone is taken. Are they going to search it? Do they all do the finger-wave thing that Pete does? There’s nothing incriminating on her phone; it’s not as if she’s silly enough to leave secrets lying around on a device that is so easily broken into or misplaced.
Silently, she waits while Krystin does her thing. Only when she’s pronounced clean does Jade smile and greet her with a murmured “good evening, Miss Grey.”
GM: The experience may leave Jade dissatisfied, as Doyle’s touch is clinical rather than lingering, and he offers no smile in response to hers.
“Good evening, Miss Kalani,” Kyrstin answers.
The two Tremere spend little longer on pleasantries, however. Kyrstin soon departs and Doyle and his ghouls escort Jade into a well-finished sitting room with high bookshelves and an empty fireplace. Erwin Bornemann appears shortly later.
The older Tremere is a short, balding man of seemingly middle age who could still pass for the university professor that he was in life. His once-brown mustache and goatee are streaked through with salt and pepper. His narrow brown eyes are crinkled at their edges and framed by a large pair of glasses. He’s dressed in a subdued tweed suit, checkered necktie, white dress shirt, and brown oxfords.
“Good evening, Miss Kalani,” he greets in a German-accented voice.
“Let us proceed to business.”
Celia: Jade keeps in mind what Pete had told her about visiting his sire—don’t pry into clan business, be polite and respectful—but curiosity gets the best of her as she is led through the halls. She doesn’t stare. But she looks. And she looks when she’s shown to the sitting room, taking in the titles on the shelves, the empty fireplace, the well-appointed furniture and decor while she waits for her host. She thanks Doyle for the company and dips into her standard greeting, the curtsy, when her host appears.
“Good evening, Mr. Bornemann. Thank you for meeting with me.”
She wastes little time after that. He does not seem like one who wishes his time wasted with pleasantries.
She dives in.
“I’ve been told by members of your clan that you are this region’s most knowledgeable expert on demons and demonology. Your childe implied you would be willing to speak with me about the subject.”
GM: Bornemann merely offers a thin smile.
“Not for free, Miss Kalani, but I vould be villing.”
Celia: “Of course, Mr. Bornemann. I’m happy to make the usual trade.”
GM: “Vhat vould you know, zen, Miss Kalani?”
Celia: “Everything,” Jade says with a small laugh.
She fires off a rapid series of questions: What are they? Where do they come from? Are they born or created? How do they get into our world, and how are they sent back from where they come from? Can you trap them in a person, place, or object? How do you know it’s a demon versus a nonspecific entity? What general powers do they have? What general weaknesses? Do they trade information for boons, like Kindred? Are they immortal? Do they deal in souls? Can someone become a demon? Can they spread or multiple while they’re here? Do they need a host or are they their own entity? How do you contact one? Do they make deals in general?
GM: Bornemann offers another thin smile at her second to last question.
“And vhy vould a neonate such as yourself vish to know how to contact a demon, Miss Kalani?”
Celia: She wants to fuck it, obviously. She’s been working her way through the list of other things and demons are next.
She doesn’t think he’d appreciate her sarcasm, so she bites her tongue and keeps it to herself.
“I don’t particularly. I was curious about the prospect, as you see a wide variety of things in media and old books. But your childe told me that misinformation is almost worse than no information, and I’ve had contact with other supernatural beings and know how to reach them if needed. Here I am simply being thorough.”
GM: “Of course,” Bornemann replies agreeably.
“Zat is a great many qvuestions, Miss Kalani,” he then remarks. The briefly two haggle ‘prices’ back and forth. Bornemann says he will provide a substantive answer on two topics of her choosing in return for a boon owed.
“Should you desire furzer knowledge, zat may be yours for additional prestation owed.”
Celia: One question isn’t a lot when she has so many that come to mind. She briefly wonders if Roderick will be annoyed should she get further into debt.
“To you, Mr. Bornemann, or to the Tremere?”
GM: “To myself, Miss Kalani.”
Celia: Jade nods at that. She chews over her options for a moment, and finally starts at the beginning. Something broad and general. Without this, she won’t even know where else to go with her questions.
“What are they?”
GM: “Malignant spirits from a realm beyond zis earth, in so many vords, zat foster acts of corruption and evil.”
Celia: He’d said substantive. “Beyond” isn’t substantive.
“Are they… created? Born? From Hell?”
GM: “Zey do come from Hell, yes. Vhezer it is ze biblical Hell of popular imagination is a matter of zome debate, but ze realm demons hail from is indisputably a place of pain, horror, and suffering on a scale incomprehensible to minds as limited as our own. If zis place is not ze Christian Hell, zen it is certainly terrible enough to fit ze bill.”
“Ve are all products of our environments and demons are products of an environment as terrible as zey zemselves are.”
Celia: “But how do they come into existence? Kine are born. Kindred are created. Where do they fall on that spectrum?”
GM: “No vone knows for certain. Some sources say zey are angels who fell from grace, created by God at ze dawn of time. Some sources say zey are spawned by mortal sins and atrocities. Some sources say zey are ghosts and spirits warped into zeir present forms by unfazomably many years of hatred and torment. Some sources say zey are ze souls of iniquitous mortals.”
“In ze end, however, no sources but demons zemselves can say for certain how zey came to be. It is possible even zey do not know—can ve Kindred say ve know for certain vhere ve came from? Ze qvuestion may ultimately be an academic one, for demons are notorious liars.” A thin smile. “Even more zan ve Kindred are. Nozing a demon says can ever be trusted.”
Celia: Jade listens raptly to the information he gives her. It’s less concrete than she’d like, but she supposes that something as esoteric as “where do they come from” is hardly going to have a certain answer. No one really knows where they come from. All they have are legends, myths, stories.
She mentions that she’d like to learn more, if he’ll accept another favor.
GM: They haggle back and forth a little longer. Erwin will agree to two more subjects for another boon.
“Ze larger ze qvuestion, ze more uncertain ze answer—in so many fields,” the Tremere agrees to her earlier point.
Celia: She narrows it down for her next question: powers. What they can do. What they’re known to be able to do, rather. And weaknesses, while they’re on the subject, but she concedes that it’s two separate topics when he points it out.
GM: “Zey are incorporeal entities zat dvell in a state known as twilight. Zey can be neizer seen nor heard by ordinary men. Zey may only take physical form under exceptional circumstances. Dvelling in ze material vorld is draining to zem and zey must eventually return to Hell, unless zey are able to anchor zemselves to people, objects, or locations zat may sustain zeir foul presences."
“Zis is, in so many vords, demonic possession.”
Celia: Jade nods as he talks.
“Can they be felt? If not seen and heard?”
GM: “Typically not. Zey are imperceptible to ordinary men.”
Celia: “Do they have powers like we do?”
GM: “Demons are capable of a great variety of supernatural feats zat rival anyzing ve Kindred may perform. From enspelling men’s minds to commanding ze fires of Hell to invigorating zeir hosts vith impossible strength and endurance… zeir powers are not as ours, but an endless variety remain zeirs to command.”
“Perhaps zeir greatest powers are zose of ability to sense, command, and manipulate sinful impulses.”
“Zey are liars vizout peer, and it is impossible to pierce zeir falsehoods zhrough supernatural means such as telepathy. Only mundane intuition may see zhrough a demon’s deceits, and even zat may be fooled.”
“Zey understand all ze living and dead tongues of man. Any language zat has ever existed is familiar to zem.”
Celia: “Because they’re immortal beings and had time to learn, or because they just know it intuitively?”
GM: A thin smile. “I believe I have provided you a substantive enough answer on ze powers of demons, Miss Kalani, unless zat information is vorth additional prestation to you.”
Celia: “The flip side, then. Weaknesses.”
GM: “Zey are most vulnerable to intense religious faith. Few individuals in today’s secular era possess ze requisite zealotry to repel a demon, but zose who do may inflict grievous harm upon zem.”
Celia: “In general, while they’re non-corporeal? Or by driving them from their host?”
GM: “Both, alzough if vone cannot perceive a demon it is obviously far more difficult to harm zem.”
Celia: “So… exorcism, essentially. Find someone possessed, exorcise it.”
GM: “Demons may be exorcised from victims zey possess and sent back to Hell. Anyvone can zeoretically perform an exorcism, alzhough an individual vizout ze requisite faith or occult knowledge is likely to only imperil zeir own body and soul. Even a successful exorcism can still prove fatal for ze host or ze exorcist.”
“But against freeing a soul from a demon’s grasp, death may be a small price to pay.”
“Abjurations, or varding ‘prayers’, can also repel a demon from vone’s immediate presence. Anyvone can likevise perform zese, alzough individuals vith occult training or religious faith are ze most likely to successfully repel a demon.”
“Salt and certain ozer physical substances can also harm demons, even in zeir incorporeal state, as can blessed objects, holy ground, and certain zorceries.”
Celia: “In the same vein of possession, how do they choose their hosts? Can they spread from one to another, or once they have their claws in do they stay put? Or can they multiply? Split parts of themselves off into multiple hosts?”
GM: Another thin smile.
“You have received two answers of substance already, Miss Kalani. Furzer vones shall cost furzer boons.”
Celia: “Yes, Mr. Bornemann. I’m willing to pay.”
GM: Roderick might be mad.
Celia: When isn’t he?
She tries not to think about it. How she’s going to explain three boons to Bornemann. She’ll push for what she can get from this last one.
It might mean a lesson in negotiation. Another correction.
GM: She needs so many of them.
Celia: He loves her. He said so. He does it for her.
So she’s better.
He’s not the only one who does it to her.
GM: The pair haggle back and forth for some further length. Bornemann eventually agrees to a ‘bulk discount’ and to provide further answers for this third boon.
“Vhat host is attractive to a demon greatly depends upon ze demon’s own nature. In much ze same vay as ve have preferred vessels to slake our zirst upon, so too do demons often have favored hosts to possess, alzough zey are typically not compelled to only possess certain hosts on ze basis of specific criteria.”
Celia: “But in general?” she presses.
GM: “Hosts who are physically comely and vell-connected are more useful to demons zan nobodies, for reasons zat are no doubt apparent. Ze intelligence or social aptitude of ze host is immaterial vhen ze demons controls zeir vords and actions. Strong-villed individuals, however, are harder for demons to possess and so make less attractive hosts.”
Celia: “Would a demon try to possess me?”
GM: “Zat is unlikely. Demons are uninclined to attempt to possess ozer night-folk. Kine make for easier hosts.”
Celia: “But it could possess a lick? It’s possible, if unlikely?”
GM: “It is possible, yes, and doubtless it has happened in ze past. But few demons vould be inclined to make ze attempt, in much ze same vay zat few Kindred vould be inclined to hunt Loup-Garoux for zeir vitae.”
“Zat has also happened in ze past. Eizer of us could do such a zing, and no doubt drink heartily of such beasts. Do you have any inclination to?”
Celia: Jade shakes her head.
GM: “Too much trouble for too few rewards. Just as ve do not desire significant struggle to obtain our ‘food’, so too do demons not desire significant struggle to settle in zeir ‘homes’. Ozer night-folk have ze knowledge and capabilities to fight back in vays mere kine cannot.”
Celia: “If faith and holy ground hurts them, is it also unlikely they’d possess a faithful individual?”
GM: “Yes. It is not impossible, but such souls are repellent to zem.”
More than any other factor, what individuals make ideal hosts is really a question of what sin a particular demon most identifies with—and in turn, what sins the host is most steeped in. A demon who tempts souls to greed will favor greedy hosts. The pure of heart, however, are harder for demons to inhabit. Hosts possessed of intense religious faith are especially difficult to possess. Hosts whose souls are already steeped black with sin, though, make very good homes for demons.
Celia: Jade asks if the people so possessed remember their time under the demon’s power. And if there are different kinds of demons, like there are different kinds of Kindred.
GM: “I have not made so great a study of demons as to answer zat qvuestion vith full confidence, Miss Kalani,” Bornemann answers.
“If you mean vhezher say possess analogue ‘clans’, ze answer is no.”
“Scholars divide demons into a number of orders and classifications, but for a layman’s purposes, demons are simply demons.”
Celia: “Do they make deals with humans and others, or is that just a myth? If so, what currency do they use?”
GM: “I have not made a great study of ze ins and outs of infernal bargains, Miss Kalani,” Bornemann answers. “But I have made enough to know zat all bargains vith demons carry a far higher price zan ze bargainer believes zey are receiving.”
Celia: She hopes that doesn’t count as one of her questions.
“You mentioned Hell before. Is that a physical place?”
Like the Shadowlands.
GM: “Perhaps, Miss Kalani. Perhaps not. Demons can enter our vorld from Hell, and depart our vorld for Hell, but zey are ze only beings vith zat capacity. Hell may only be physical in a meaningful sense to zem.”
Celia: “But how? How do they get here? Or go back? Do they just… plane shift?”
GM: Another thin smile. “I should hope you do not vish to visit Hell yourself, Miss Kalani. It is by all accounts a vone-vay trip. Zat is vhy zey call it damnation.”
Celia: Jade shakes her head. “No. Of course not. I’ve no desire to visit. I’m just wondering how they get here.”
GM: “I do not believe I have made sufficient study of demons to give an informed answer.”
Celia: “And contacting one? I assume they don’t have cell service.” A half smile to soften the sarcasm. “Is that a seance sort of thing?”
GM: “Zis is ze second time you have raised ze qvuestion of how to contact demons, Miss Kalani. Is it a great interest of yours?”
Celia: “No, Mr. Bornemann. I was simply trying to puzzle out how they get from one place to another. You mentioned they weaken and need to return, and there are stories from ancient cultures about gates around the entrances of Hell to keep the dead and other malignant spirits in. I presumed they needed to be called here to get around such restrictions.”
“But how would you be able to tell that someone is possessed?”
GM: “Sensible enough,” agrees Bornemann.
He answers that it depends. When a demon uses its powers, it is usually all-too obvious to onlookers that infernal powers are at work. Demons can use their hosts to perform feats that are physically impossible for any mere human. Possessed hosts also react poorly to displays of (earnest) religious faith. Holy ground is painful to them. So is the touch of blessed items. Ttremere thaumaturgy, certain gifts of Caine, and other powers can also detect the presence of possessing demons. But there is no universal giveaway like the host’s eyes turning yellow.
Celia: Does that mean her father wasn’t possessed by a demon? He went to church every week. Then what had Donovan done to him?
She puts a pin in that to come back to later, mulling over what’s left that she wants to know. How he studied them, for one. And if he’s maybe possibly looking for someone to assist with his research, someone to learn with him. Under him. An apprentice of sorts.
She tries not to sound too desperate for information when she asks, slipping it neatly into the conversation as if it doesn’t matter to her either way.
GM: Bornemann turns her down.
He doesn’t say stupid.
But there’s a humorous look in his eyes at the suggestion she might assist his research. That she might be his apprentice.
“I am afraid ze chantry has apprentices already, Miss Kalani, and vones fully svorn to ze Pyramid at zat.”
Celia: Pete said she’s not. Surely that means something. He wouldn’t lie to her like that.
“Of course, Mr. Bornemann.”
Churlish of her to suggest that the archon found her worthy of being an apprentice, isn’t it? Maybe she’ll find a way to slip it into the conversation. That someone important wanted her. Sought her out.
“What about us, then? What happens to us when we meet final death?”
GM: “Zat is uncertain, Miss Kalani,” Bornemann answers. “I doubt, however, zat it is a happy fate.”
“Vhat does seem certain is zat final death for our kind is just that—final. Ve have already died vonce to become vhat ve are.”
Celia: Jade points out that kine think death is final too, but there are ghosts and licks and other things that give lie to such thoughts.
GM: Bornemann shrugs and says there’s substantial evidence humans are wrong about that belief, but not that vampires are wrong about their belief. There are stories about Kindred returning from final death, but they’re regarded as tall tales and urban legends even among the Damned.
Celia: “Like what? Who? Most myths have some basis in reality, warped and twisted though they are.”
GM: “None vorzy of zerious discussion or study, Miss Kalani.”
“Zhere are claims all Toreador are coitus-obsessed artists, after all. Do you believe zere is basis to zese?”
Celia: “Those are two separate topics, Mr. Bornemann. The world is very rarely absolute. Rules like ‘all’ and ‘never’ are often proven to have exceptions.”
GM: “Perhaps, Miss Kalani. I have yet to see compelling evidence of an exception to zis rule.”
Celia: “Then let me look for it for you.”
GM: That gets an even more humoring smile.
“You may spare yourself ze effort, Miss Kalani.”
Celia: “And if I’m wrong you can berate me for my wasted time and tell me I’m a silly sex-obsessed artist. And should stick to what I know.”
GM: “I find it unlikely zat your scholarship shall bear fruits vhere mine has not, Miss Kalani, but your time is yours to spend how you please.”
Celia: It’s a rather political way of saying stupid.
GM: A mild enough way to put it.
Celia: “I’ll take my chances.”
GM: “Very vell. Vhat is a phone number I may contact you at, Miss Kalani?”
Celia: Jade gives him her number.
GM: Bornemann provides a number as well, in case Jade ever desires to purchase further information from him.
Celia: She has two more questions while she’s here. Firstly, does he know more about soul magic than his childe? Pete mentioned it isn’t a widely studied discipline, but it never hurts to ask.
“And about the exorcisms you mentioned. Can things that aren’t demons be exorcised? Would that drive something out of a person if it isn’t a demon? Like a ghost? Or poltergeist? Or even the state of being a ghoul?”
GM: “Soul-related magics are not my area of expertise,” answers Bornemann, though there are Tremere who make a greater study of such things. For another boon, he could arrange a meeting between Jade and a clanmate of his who could better answer her questions. They will ask boons of their own.
Celia: “How soon would I be able to arrange such a thing?”
GM: “Zat could be some time, unless you are villing to travel up to several hundred miles to meet zem at zeir chantry.”
Celia: “I might be. That would depend on the location.” She lifts her brows.
GM: There is a very thin smile at that statement.
“And allow you to cut out ze middleman, Miss Kalani? I zink not.”
Celia: “I misspoke, Mr. Bornemann. I would rather you set it up and owe you another debt than not. I have no desire to cut you out or make an enemy when there need not be one. I have plans to travel soon and am only hoping that it is on the way to either one of my locations, or near enough that I will be able to pop in for a visit rather than arrange a separate trip.”
GM: “For anozer boon, regardless, I vould be villing to part vith zat information. And to arrange a meeting.”
Celia: Four boons.
Roderick will kill her.
“For that and the answer about the exorcisms I will give you another boon.”
GM: “Very vell. Her name is Hannah Vinicumb. She is located in Atlanta.”
Celia: Not quite on the way to Chicago, then. She’ll need another excuse to go.
GM: “Ghosts and any incorporeal being capable of possessing a host can be exorcised.”
“Ghouls may not be.”
Celia: “The blood, I mean. Can that be driven from a ghoul?”
“Exorcism expels a possessing and intelligent foreign entity from a host. Vitae, in of itself, possesses none of zese attributes.”
“Vitae is a substance. It is not a sentient and incorporeal being. It is no more capable of being exorcised zan a drug or poison is capable of being exorcised.”
Celia: Then what had Donovan done to her father? Is he just lying? Pretending he’s good again?
“Mr. Bornemann… I came into contact with a man recently who had an exorcism. The priest who performed the act perished, but he said there was a demon inside of him. The man goes to church every week. Prior to his possession, he was a good man. It’s hard to believe that his soul was black with sin. If demons are hurt by holy ground… what could it have been?”
GM: “Demons are fully capable of possessing good men. Zey simply prefer to make zeir homes in more ‘accommodating’ abodes. Or perhaps zis man vas less good zan you had believed him to be.”
“Ze church’s ambient faith, too, may have been weak. Holy ground is not created equal.”
Celia: “That’s certainly possible. Now that it’s gone, I don’t suppose there’s a way to find out if it was a demon?”
GM: A thin smile.
“Zat information no longer pertains to exorcisms, Miss Kalani.”
Celia: Jade doesn’t quite sigh.
“No, Mr. Bornemann. You’ve been more than accommodating with my questions. I only wanted to find out what it was, but it seems as if that’s not possible any longer.”
GM: “Perhaps my clan could assist, vere ve to inspect ze former host for ourselves.”
For more boons goes unsaid.
Celia: “I will need to think on that, Mr. Bornemann. I appreciate the offer, and your time this evening. I have your number should I think of any follow ups.”
GM: Bornemann rises from his seat.
“Good evening to you zen, Miss Kalani. Clan Tremere is ever villing to be of service to zose who seek knowledge.”
Celia: Just not let them assist, even if they’ve had more contact with other supernaturals than any neonate their age and have been to other planes of existence and have a very real desire to answer the questions that others don’t even think to ask.
Her smile hides her emotions. Another mask.
Like all of them.
“Good evening, Mr. Bornemann.” She rises and sees herself out.
Saturday night, 19 March 2016, AM
Celia: This late at night even the most raucous parties on the Tulane campus are dying down. The evening has turned into early morning, and despite tomorrow being Saturday only the dregs of party life remain to be seen along Greek Row. Girls stumble home in short skirts and tall heels, tottering together or on the arm of whoever picked them up for the evening. Easy enough feeding for any lick who doesn’t mind the buzz of whatever sip they’d had that evening.
A gray cat strolls across the front yard of the various frat houses on the street, avoiding beer cans and plastic cups and puddles of urine as she can, and once she reaches the home of a certain jock she eyes the trellis, trash can, and uneven bricks built into the wall that will carry her from the ground to the second floor window. She coils, preparing to leap—
“Kitty!” A pair of hands pick up the cat before she can spring away, and the cat finds herself pressed against the face and bosom of a twenty-something, highly inebriated blonde woman with mascara streaks running down her face and lipstick smudged across her chin.
One of Duke’s, the cat thinks, and wonders at the semen to alcohol ratio in her stomach. The cat meows loudly and the door, which had been on its way to closing, opens once more as one of Duke’s many “brothers” peers out at the girl and the cat.
“Cat ain’t yours,” the boy says to the girl. He reaches out a hand. The girl recoils and a small scuffle ensues, but the boy is bigger, stronger, and the cat isn’t here for the girl. She ends up in the boy’s arms, purring contentedly as he carries her inside and shuts the door on the red-faced girl.
“He’s upstairs,” the boy says to the cat. He tosses her toward the stairs. Like most cats, this one lands on her feet, and she’s up the stairs without even a huff of indignation, tail flicking behind her as she goes.
She finds Duke in his room. Not his real haven, the cat knows, but Tulane is a convenient meeting location and had been Duke’s “demand” the first time Jade had wanted to see him. They both agreed that Jade is better at sneaking than he is, and there are enough unfamiliar faces on the campus that she’d be able to blend if ever she needed to. Not to mention that if anyone were to ever see them together them he could simply say he’d caught her and was “teaching her a lesson” before turning her in.
So far, they hadn’t been caught. Their “animosity” at Elysium is a well-crafted ruse that hides the very real friendship the pair share. It helps that Jade never mocks any of the licks that Duke looks up to (to his face) and is smaller than him besides.
It helps, too, that she’s as cute as she is. Her face has opened many doors for her.
Duke is on a bed when the cat slips inside his room, a laptop open in front of him. Jade hears “harder, Daddy,” coming from the speakers in a breathy moan, and when she launches herself onto the bed to peer over his shoulder she sees Roxanne’s face on the screen, mouth open in a low moan while a buff black man rails her from behind.
The cat steps onto his lap once he moves the laptop for her, rolling onto her back to expose her belly and rubbing her face against his stomach. She purrs, blinks at him, and then the cat is gone and Jade is on his lap instead.
GM: ‘Friendship’ is one way to put it.
Duke looks at Jade, then without a word, clamps a crushing hand over her throat and pins her to the bed. His other hand grabs her wrists and pins them behind her as he flips her over, burying her against the sheets. Fangs flash in the corner of Jade’s vision as the eternal frat president leans in to slake himself upon her.
“Harder, Daddy,” repeats the tiny voice from the laptop speakers.
Celia: Friends. Friends with benefits.
What’s the difference?
Jade sleeps with all of them.
She gets out a giggle before he cuts off her air, flipped and pinned, wriggling against him in a way that suggests she’s not actually looking to get free and enjoys being pinned beneath the stronger, larger Brujah.
GM: Duke is fairly to the point. He drinks from her. He smacks her. He holds her down. He tugs her hair. He establishes dominance.
Then he shoves her off the bed, yanks her up by her hair, and pushes his flaccid cock towards her mouth.
Even he isn’t crass enough to take a drink without giving it back.
Tonight, at least.
Celia: She doesn’t complain. The fire in the Brujah blood always gets her hot. She’s happy to slide her lips over his flaccid cock and drink her fill once he’s done with her.
There’s little struggle left in her once he gets her on her knees. Some part of her, the dead girl maybe, wonders if she’s going to have to tell Roderick about this. What he’d say. How he’ll correct her behavior. But most of her focuses on the here and now, and once she’s done she licks her lips, looking up at him with wide, wicked eyes. She lets him help her up once they’re done, settling herself once more on his lap.
GM: He grunts and hits ‘play’ on the laptop.
Roxanne sucks some more cock.
It makes him smile.
Celia: Jade doesn’t let his lack of eloquence put her off. She rests a head on his shoulder, watching the bitch swallow.
“Have news for you,” she says eventually.
GM: He keeps watching the bitch swallow, too.
Celia: “Troublemaker with eyes on your domain.”
GM: He finally looks up at her. It’s an ugly look.
Celia: “That new bitch. Malveaux-Devillers. Causing trouble all over the place and now she wants to bring it here.”
GM: Duke effects a snort.
“That shit about her and Meadows.”
“I don’t believe it.”
Celia: “Mm. I didn’t either. Until I found out whose childe she is.”
“Until I tasted her myself.”
GM: “Some random executed asshole’s.”
Celia: Jade laughs.
“Yeah, they certainly covered it well.”
“Just like they covered how he’s feeding off little younglings like us.”
“Think it’s coincidence how she joined a krewe and they all went missing? Gave them to dear old daddy.”
GM: Duke squints at what she’s saying, like it’s a lecture from a college professor he hasn’t listened to in decades.
Celia: Jade flicks her tongue across her lips.
GM: “The fuck?” the Brujah repeats.
Celia: “Mm,” Jade nods. “Recall how fervently she and Becks defended him at the trial?”
“But she can’t say that. City is already pissed at him, aren’t they. Invented the line about the nobody. Now people think she’s a nobody. But is it really believable that a Malveaux and a Devillers would end up that sireless nobody?”
“Think the bishop would have stood aside while anyone else invaded his domain like that?”
“Heard she’s at the top of the suspect list for his death, too. Mom isn’t quite human. No doubt she passed along some black magic to her kiddo. Used to being on top, wanted to control her family, had a little tiff with the bishop… and oops, guess who’s missing.”
GM: “Magic?” Duke frowns. “Whatever.”
“Whatever if she killed the stupid bishop.”
“The fuck does the bitch want in Riverbend?”
Celia: “Easy feeding. Hates your landlord. Picky eater and maybe something here does it for her.”
GM: “She’d be a fucking idiot to poach here.”
Celia: “Mhm. But she’s done a lot of idiotic things.”
GM: “Donovan already said. ‘Deal with her as an intruder’ if she’s ever here.”
“Used to be his serf ’til he kicked her out.”
Celia: “No wonder she hates him.”
“Bet she thinks that after taking on Meadows she can take on him, too.”
GM: “I don’t believe that shit.”
“She’d be bragging about it, if it actually happened.”
Celia: Jade arches a brow.
“You didn’t hear her at Elysium?”
Duke isn’t the biggest fan of Elysium.
Too few people to lord it over.
Celia: “Right after it happened. She was bragging about it, how Meadows showed up, killed that Anarch cunt, her ghouls held her off, yada yada. It was a desperate, pathetic sort of play. Honestly I’m surprised Meadows didn’t go back to finish her off. And I might not have believed it either.”
“Until I went to her place.”
“Saw her setup. How you’re funneled out of the elevator into a narrow opening where half a dozen or more armed security people stare you down with assault rifles.”
“Doubt Meadows took the elevator, but even when we were ‘alone on the roof’ we weren’t alone.”
GM: “The fuck?” Duke repeats.
Celia: She wonders which part he’s having a hard time with. Poor boy.
GM: “Well, whatever. Maybe my bros and I will run into her on patrol.”
There’s a very mean smile.
Celia: She certainly hopes they do.
“I’d love to watch you pound her face in,” Jade says with a sigh.
“But you’ll remember what I said, right? How she took on Meadows. I know she’s a dumb bitch but she’s got thick blood and she’s very, very fast.”
“And frankly you’re the best thing about this campus, Duke.”
She runs a hand down his chest, appreciating the play of muscles beneath his shirt.
GM: “I’m picturing handcuffs,” the fraternity president says. “One on each hand. Each leg. Not so fast then.”
“So every boy in the frat can take his turn.”
Celia: “I’d cover her eyes so she doesn’t try that mind fuck trick.”
GM: “Or fucking stab them out.”
The Brujah grins.
“Yeah. I like that.”
“Test the pledges. Test all the boys. See who backs out of fucking an eyeless girl.”
Celia: “Could rip out her fangs, too, if you really wanted to make her feel like the filthy cunt she is.”
“No better than a breather then.”
GM: “Hmm, yeah. She’d have a big boner. Better for the Masquerade.”
Celia: “You should take a video. Spread it around Elysium.” She sounds positively giddy.
“Or get it to me and I’ll spread it so it doesn’t look like you’re starting shit.”
“Or, fuck, find a look-a-like or grab a night doc and do it with whoever. Ruins her reputation either way.”
“Her daddy is running for president, isn’t he? Imagine the scandal.”
“Then she comes sniffing around in a rage, pick her up for real…”
Jade sighs, nuzzling Duke’s neck. “I love it when you tell me all the twisted ideas you have. You’re brilliant, Duke.”
GM: “Fuckin’ straight.” Duke gives her breasts a very hard and rather painful squeeze.
He laughs at her earlier remark.
“I’m not wasting boons on the bitch. Or using a double. I’ll just grab her and turn her over to the boys.”
“Sheriff might even enjoy the video.”
“He doesn’t like her. Staked her for Mardi Gras, actually. Brought her over to his house, then rammed a stake in her heart, just like that, not a word.”
“Stored her with the other troublemakers until it was over. Ones who’d just be pains in the ass.”
Celia: She hadn’t known that. It’s actually hilarious; she only wishes he’d finished her off then instead of waiting until she’d started to eat her way through the city.
“Wouldn’t need a boon from you, cutie, I’d do it just because I like you. But if you insist.” Her lips touch the side of his neck, then his jaw. “We could make some real trouble for her once you get her. God, your mean streak is hot.”
GM: “Fuckin’ straight,” Duke repeats.
“God, I hope I run into the bitch on patrol.”
Celia: Her too, Duke. Her too.
Saturday night, 19 March 2016, AM
GM: Celia goes home to find Alana handcuffed to the bed in spread eagle position. In the absence of direction from her mistress, she has taken off all of her clothes. At this late hour, the ghoul is asleep. Her chest rises and falls steadily with her breaths. The red puffiness around her eyes looks as if she has been crying.
Celia: Celia packs a bag while she sleeps. Only once everything is stuffed inside does she wake the ghoul, calmly but firmly telling her that things are going to change. Her punishment had been lifted early because of how well she’d been doing, and then she went and ruined it by making a scene at her mother’s house. That’s completely unacceptable behavior.
“My fault, really,” Celia says as she strokes a hand down the girl’s cheek. “I’ve been too soft with you.”
That’s going to change, she says. She’s going to have a neutral party examine their relationship and correct their shortcomings. If Alana plays by the rules, she’ll be rewarded. Sex. Sleeping together. Cuddling. Movie nights. All the good things she has come to expect. If she’s bad, she’ll be corrected.
She waits for that to sink in before she asks after the meetings she’d told the ghoul to set up, and asks about the TV show role as well.
“If I can’t trust you to behave here, how can I trust you to behave when we go to LA?”
GM: Alana begs at first, if Celia can “examine” their relationship herself. “I trust you, mistress, you know better than anyone else could-”
She is very disappointed to have her punishment reinstated. To be told no more sex. No more sleeping. No more cuddling and no more movies. She tries to keep a lid on it, and to accept the punishment gracefully. But she still cries. Still leans her face into Celia’s hand as she whispers,
“I miss you, mistress… I just w-want to spend time with you…”
She says set up later meetings with Lucia and Harlequin. They’re in a few nights from now.
She says the audition went well and that Ron is giving her a part in Vieux Carré. It’ll be a minor one for now, with the potential for a bigger role for her character if she does well.
Celia: “Do you?” Celia asks sharply. “Do you trust me? Do you think I know what’s best for you? Because your display this evening, Alana, makes me think you don’t. You know my schedule. You know I wouldn’t put you off without very, very good reason. You know that I had dinner planned, then Elysium, then meetings. You know that I’d have been here with you tonight fucking and making love and feeding you once it was all over.”
“But you didn’t trust me. You didn’t trust that I’d be here. You didn’t trust that I would take care of you. And now I don’t trust you. What do I do with a ghoul I don’t trust, Alana? What do my kind do to yours when you step out of line?”
GM: “They pun, punish them, mistress, I understand…” answers the still-crying ghoul.
Celia: Celia stares at her a moment longer. Then, with a heavy sigh, she unlocks the cuffs and pulls her onto her lap.
“How did we get here, Alana? Why are you acting out this way? I expect it from the others. I don’t expect it from you.”
GM: There’s joy on Alana’s face, like the sun emerging after a long rainy downpour, as she slides onto her domitor’s lap. She hugs her naked body against Celia and nuzzles the Toreador’s neck.
“I just missed you, mistress, I thought you were spending time with someone else… I got so jealous… I don’t mind, you have needs, I want you to have lots of sex… I just want to share it with you…”
Celia: “I know, darling, I know you want my attention. I want to give you my attention. But things are changing. There’s a war on the horizon. I’m trying to keep us all safe. Travel is dangerous, and I’m planning two trips. I’m even getting a yacht for us, Alana. We’re going to sail wherever we want to. I just need you to hold it together for me. Can you do that, pet? Can you be a good girl again so I don’t have to correct you anymore? I want you at my side. Not cowering behind me.”
GM: Alana’s eyes shine at her domitor’s words. She rubs her head against Celia’s breasts and closes her eyes.
“Yes, mistress! I want to be good for you. I can be a good girl. I promise. A yacht sounds… wonderful, mistress! It can be a pleasure cruise!”
Celia: “Exactly,” Celia murmurs against her hair. “Be good so I can take you with me. I want your mouth on me. I want my mouth on you. I want us to have a whole harem of beautiful people at our beck and call, and I want them to know that you’re in charge of them. Head harem girl. Top pet.”
Celia lifts her chin, nuzzling at her neck.
“Tell me you’ll be good again, Alana. That this was a one time thing.”
GM: Alana shivers with equal parts lust and anticipation at Celia’s description.
“I’ll be a good girl, mistress,” she repeats, smiling ear to ear. “I’ll be a good pet. That’s all I want. This was a one-time thing. I promise it won’t happen again.”
Celia can see how wet the naked ghoul is already getting.
Celia: No sex, Roderick said.
But biting isn’t sex, so her fangs cut into Alana’s neck. And feeding isn’t sex, so she cuts into her own wrist to feed the ghoul.
It’s not sex.