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Blood & Bourbon

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Celia VI, Chapter X; Julius I, Chapter IV

Period Party

“Illusion is perhaps the only reality in life.”
Benito Mussolini, as quoted by Pietro Silvestri


Saturday night, 19 March 2016, PM

GM: CLOSED
For private event


So reads the sign over the Evergreen Plantation’s front doors in stylish gold writing. The club’s regulars have long grown to accept that the Evergreen simply does not open its doors to the public on Saturday nights.

Some patrons take offense that the Quarter’s premier club is closed to them, for all their wealth and connections and means. Some patrons do not take no for an answer. They are not accustomed to being told ‘no.’ Some of these disgruntled patrons take their concerns directly to Leon Gressau. He always seems to have an answer for why the club is closed on Saturdays, and for why the ‘private event’ really isn’t their scene. He’d let them in if it was, of course.

Most such patrons walk away with their feathers smoothed and their pride assuaged. Mr. Gressau always knows just what to say.

But there have been a few would-be attendees of the Saturday ‘private events’ who were just so curious, so persistent, so entitled, that they could not accept ‘no’ for an answer. There have been even more would-be attendees who simply were not important enough to warrant Mr. Gressau’s time and personal assurances. These individuals often make themselves obnoxious to the Evergreen’s staff.

Mr. Gresseau only smiles and instructs his employees to allow these individuals entrance to the private event. Let them have what they wish.

Too late, they learn to be careful what one wishes for.

The Evergreen’s interior tonight is a place out of time. The Art Deco style of the early 20th century reigns supreme. Luxurious fabrics, sharp lines, mixed metallics, and rich color palettes give the décor an air simultaneously glamorous and eclectic. The floor is a black and white checker pattern. Several enormous white and gold vintage chandeliers composed of cut glass hang from the ceiling (each one still lit electrically). Drapes use shiny gold metallic fabric. Modernist art hangs along the walls. Brass combines everywhere with glass. Huge wall-to-wall television screens, currently set to mirror mode, make the space seem bigger than it is. Louis Armstrong jazz, always popular at the Evergreen, feels all the more period-appropriate as it plays from antique bronze phonographs (and perhaps more discretely located modern speakers).

It may be 2016 outside, but within the Evergreen’s walls, the 1920s are back.

Antoine Savoy’s court is more comfortable than Vidal’s. Spacious and comfortable seating is located throughout the room. Anachronistically garbed attendees lounge about on the sharp-angled Art Deco furniture. Pinstripes, coattails, bobbed hair, cloche hats, short dresses, and huge kohl-outlined eyes predominate.

Heroin chic pallid faces, though, remain timeless.

For all that Antoine Savoy might profess to do things differently than his archrival, attendees highest in favor (or greatest in presumption) sit closest to the center of power, like they do anywhere. The Lord of the French Quarter occupies a throne-like seat on an elevated dais at the center of the room, grinning as the attendees file in in their anachronistic garb.

The Toreador himself wears a midnight-blue worsted swallow-tailed coat trimmed with satin, and a pair of matching trousers, trimmed down the sides with satin ribbon. A white bow tie, unworn black silk top hat, white gloves, patent leather Oxford shoes, a white silk handkerchief, and white flower boutonnière complete the outfit. A signet ring bearing the Bourbon coat of arms remains in place on his right hand.

Preston quietly converses with her master. She’s one of the comparatively few female attendees not dressed like a flapper. She still wears a conservative dark skirtsuit, only by the era’s standards instead of the present. Its hem reaches all the way down to the knee.

Blood dolls make their rounds throughout the room, showing attendees to changing rooms or simply lounging alongside them and engaging in conversational foreplay before the inevitable occurs. Those who have previously made nuisances of themselves to the Evergreen’s staff speak the least and wear the most vacant smiles. Their fates are preordained. For now, though, no drinking is allowed.

Pleasure comes after business, even in the French Quarter.

Even when it is so intermingled.

Celia: She could have worn a flapper dress. Pearls, feathers, fringe, or peacocks, all of it dazzling and sparkling. No doubt even Veronica still has things from the era that she could have borrowed if she wanted to go authentic.

But every lick with tits is going to be in a flapper dress. The younger ones will put them on with wide eyes and giggles about the decadence of the “Gatsby” era and throw a feather boa around their necks and coif their hair to the side with one of those little cloche caps or knit caps with a flower on the brim.

Jade could have done that, too. Sequins and feathers and fur: she’d have made it look good.

She makes everything look good.

Like the ensemble she’d selected for the evening: a black high-waisted, hip hugging pencil skirt that goes no further than halfway down her thighs, a white form fitting collared shirt with half the buttons undone from the top, and a tiny half-jacket. Pinstripes. Suspenders over the shirt, under the jacket. A strand of off-white pearls adorn her throat, and a black fedora with a black satin band sits at an angle atop her tamed curls. Stockings rise up her long legs until they hit a garter, the thin line of it disappearing beneath the hem of her skirt. Black and white mary janes with blood red bottoms complete the look.

It’s a mix of feminine and masculine, a play on the typical “mobster” look from the 1920’s, but without the plastic Tommy Gun or tie. A moll, maybe. The kind who doesn’t need a man to hide behind and doesn’t get cheated on or smacked around in public. The kind who knows exactly what she wants and isn’t afraid to go for it.

Like a femme fatale. It’s there in the way she smiles with lips that have been stained crimson, and she doesn’t need to flash her fangs for people to get the message: mesmeric, deadly vixen.

She’d wondered, as she dressed, how much it would piss off her lover to see her draped in Mafia colors in an homage to Capone and every other family that he hates, everything that stands in his way of the picturesque, ideal world.

She hadn’t let it stop her.

Savvy Kindred might note that Jade had left with the warden wearing one thing and returned in another, a satisfied smirk in place. She nods to a few licks as she passes the rabble at court, striding through the sea of nobodies and “almost somebodies” to take a seat near Savoy’s opulent throne beside her favorite thief. She smiles prettily at one of the mortal troublemakers and waves him over to serve as cushion beneath her svelte form, cooing in absent delight at whatever mind numbing words he utters.

GM: Jade finds him sitting next to Veronica, wearing a pinstriped black and white suit with a fedora hat. A red silk tie and large, shiny gold watch encrusted with diamonds and several more jeweled rings add some further splashes of color and extravagance. So does a peacock feather tucked into the fedora’s band, gold buttons along the suit, and the red handkerchief tucked into the breast pocket. Jade’s not sure how period-authentic the entire ensemble is,

“Someone guessed the flapper look would be taken,” he remarks appreciatively, looking her up and down.

Celia: “Few enough licks who could pull it off as well as my sire,” Jade says with a nod toward the harpy in question, who indeed has outdone every other “flapper” in attendance with what is no doubt an original-era gown. She leans forward, plucking the peacock feather from his hat as she places a chaste kiss on his cheek with lip and fang.

“Takers keepers, cuz.” It finds a place on her head instead, tucked neatly into the satin band of the hat perched atop her curls.

GM: A 20something shirtless black man wearing similarly pinstriped pants presents himself for Jade to get comfortable on. He regards her with a vacantly pleased smile.

Celia: It’s not that Savoy’s choice of furniture isn’t comfortable. It’s that this man is warm and adoring and she’s going to have a drink with him later. From him. Whichever. She settles on his lap, idly plucking at one of the suspenders over his bare chest.

GM: Veronica, meanwhile, has pulled it off with an original-looking slim-figured mid-thigh dress, pearls, wavy bob cut, and the other accouterments of the age.

But she’s not been content to leave off with just those.

The first thing that’s different is the snake carcass. It’s around the length of a human arm and twisted in loops from her ankle up to her thigh. A blood-smeared (though not blood-smelling) apple is wedged into its open mouth. Twisting Bahari symbols are painfully carved along her exposed legs in reddened scar tissue. The pearl necklace is interspersed with Kindred-sized fangs. Finally, she’s foregone period-appropriate footwear for her usual stilt-high heels, these ones relatively ‘tame’ black mary janes that contrast with the violent bodily decorations above. They’d otherwise be period-appropriate if they were four or so inches shorter. They seem to say she could pull off this look better than any younger lick, but doesn’t care enough to. She’ll dress in the past and dress up the past with her favorite bits of the present.

Jade may wonder if it says anything that both ancillae aren’t even trying to get the period completely right. For that matter, neither is Savoy, with his Bourbon ring.

Micheal is also present. He’s dressed in an old-fashioned prisoner’s uniform: black and white horizontal stripes, replete with a matching cap and ball and chain around his leg. A leather mask with a bulging gag completely obscures his sight and prevents speech. His hands are cuffed together in some sharp and very nasty-looking period-appropriate cuffs. A thick iron collar and chain leashes him to Veronica’s side.

Celia: Of course it says something. Everything they do, every stray look, every piece of clothing and ornamentation—it all says something. It says something that she’s seated here, with them, rather than with the rest of the neonates who compete with her for recognition. It says something that her sire so loudly parades her bitch in front of all the licks inside the Quarter. It says something that Jade has perched herself on this breathing troublemaker.

Everything says something. Everything means something.

Amused eyes take in the bitch in question, overly long nails reaching out to tap against the leather gag that obscures his mouth.

“You look ravishing as ever, my sire. Have you thought further of my offer to borrow him an evening? I do so enjoy the way he screams at my gentle caress.”

GM: Pietro smirks as Jade steals the peacock feather.

“Few licks who can pull off anything as well as her. And I suppose I’ll have to steal something to replace that. Whoever loses an accessory can blame Jade. I was just a victim.”

Celia: “Poor, poor victim,” Jade agrees. She turns her attention from the bitch to the thief, fingertips sliding down the front of his pinstripe jacket. “Make a game of it with me? Whoever steals the most impressive thing wins.”

GM: Veronica doesn’t smile so much as sneer less at the two’s flattery.

Then she kicks Micheal, hard, in his flank.

The Brujah keels over and makes a muffled sound of pain past the leather.

The sneer returns.

“Feel free. The bitch doesn’t appreciate how good he has it sometimes.”

Celia: “I’ll come by to pick him up in a night or two,” Jade tells her sire. “He’ll be begging to get back home to you.”

GM: Micheal makes another muffled protest-like sound past the gag.

Veronica kicks him again.

Micheal groans again.

“Pain teaches, bitch. If you aren’t too stupid to be taught. Praise Lilith.”

Pietro, meanwhile, lays back and smirks as Jade’s lithe fingers start their mischief.

“You’re on. What does the winner win, besides the most impressive thing?”

Celia: Tempting to slide right onto his lap instead of this kine’s. She’s done it plenty of times, perched herself on the lap of older, stronger, more powerful licks. And she’s known Pietro since her first nights. Since before her first night. So it’s an easy decision to make, an easy glide from one man to the next, turning herself so she’s astride his thigh with her legs between his after she tells the breather to stay put. She nuzzles at Pietro’s neck with her teeth, then moves her lips to his ear.

“A secret,” she whispers, nipping at his flesh. “Or a favor.” She pulls back, mischief in her eyes as her fingers slide down his cheek. “Something fun, not the boring sort everyone else wants. I’ll keep you on your toes, darling.” She’s good for it, he knows. She’s done it before: they’ll both enjoy whatever she has in mind.

GM: The kine lets her go with a vacant stare.

Pietro’s lap seems much more welcoming. His hands disappear behind her head as she slides onto him. His fingers are so light. It feels like a breeze where he’s touching her.

It’s really too bad he won’t help her get off with those fingers.

“Let’s keep this interesting, then. The winner gets to pick either. Secret or favor.”

An equally familiar mischief dances in his eyes as he glances towards his cousin.

“Ronny, you can judge whose thing is more impressive if there’s a dispute.”

Veronica makes a noise like agreement as she kicks Micheal in the throat.

Celia: There’s a reason why she likes him so much, and this is it. On nights like these she wonders what it would be like to have been his childe rather than the other’s. Whether the affection he holds for her as surrogate “uncle” would spill over into a more familiar, more intimate relation.

Not that they need it to play.

Jade all but purrs as the thief’s fingers disappear around her head, wondering if he’s decided to begin by lifting the pearls from her very throat.

All the better to get a nip in, isn’t it? Not that he’d be so gauche as to drink from the same place as everyone else.

Jade keeps her arousal to herself, killing the human part of her that he’s so disgusted by. She seals their deal with another brush of fangs against his cheek, then glances down at the Brujah on a leash.

“Stupid can be taught. It just takes longer.”

GM: Veronica just sneers as Roderick’s broodmate gags and awkwardly raises his shackled hands to rub his throat. That earns a kick too.

“There’s nothing left to teach.”

Pietro just smiles, his own fangs showing, and hands Jade back her earrings. She never felt them come off.

“What is there to teach? You don’t do much with him these nights besides filling his holes with new things.”

“Maybe to be less stupid,” Veronica declares contemptuously. “Can you teach that?”

Celia: Jade mock scowls at the thief, sliding the studs back into the lobes of her ears.

“I suppose it’s all in what you want to do with him, isn’t it. Otherwise he’s just a waste of blood.”

GM: “I don’t think so,” answers Pietro.

“You could teach him to enjoy this.”

“What he now is.”

“I don’t want him to enjoy this,” answers Veronica.

She stomps the heel of her shoe over Micheal’s fingers.

The Brujah makes a low sound of pain.

“Clearly,” smirks Pietro.

Celia: “Strip him for parts,” Jade says, touching a finger to her chin. “I bet he’d turn into a nice pair of boots. Thigh high. Stiletto. Could put his eyes in the platform…” She trails off thoughtfully.

“I know just the lick.”

As if it isn’t her.

GM: “He used to at least be a source of muscle,” says Pietro. “He’s not really good for that when he’s always chained up.”

“What do you think about that, bitch? Would you like to be a pair of boots?” sneers Veronica, this time kicking him in his masked face. “We could cut off your legs. You’ll just regrow them anyway.”

“Maybe cut off your arms for gloves.”

“Maybe burn the stumps, too, so they don’t grow back.”

“Leave you staked in a basement somewhere, fed just enough juice to stay awake, and slowly go insane.”

Micheal just lies at her feet.

Celia: “I’ve been working on a new project you might find interesting,” Jade says to the harpy. “He’d be great for the research.”

GM: “Micheal Kelly contribute to research. Will wonders never fucking cease.”

Celia: Jade just smiles, nuzzling Pietro’s neck once more. Her fingers glide down his arm to unfasten the watch on his wrist while she distracts him with her teeth.

GM: Pietro seems happy for the distraction, but Jade finds his wrist bare.

“That’s attached lower down,” he remarks amusedly. “We didn’t keep them on wrists back then.”

Celia: “Further down,” she muses, moving her fingertips to his chest so she can slide them lower. “That an invitation, darling?”

GM: “Just the truth,” he smiles at the sight of Jade stroking down his chest. She finds the gem-crusted pocketwatch attached to a chain on his jacket. “And a lie, too. The ’20s were when wristwatches started to get really popular.”

“Returning soldiers from World War I, wasn’t it?” remarks Peter Lebeaux as he makes his way up to Savoy’s throne. He has on a vintage police uniform with shiny buttons and an ovular hat with a strap around his chin. A bobby club and revolver hang from his belt.

“Yes,” says Pietro. “It was obviously more convenient on a battlefield to have the watch secured to your wrist. So people back home copied it to look more soldier-like, more martial, more masculine.”

Celia: “Warden.” Jade purrs the word, wiggling her fingers at the Tremere as he passes. “Come play with us. I’ll be the robber to your cop.”

GM: “I’m afraid robbery isn’t even worth citing for here, Miss Kalani,” Lebeaux answers dryly as he approaches Savoy, murmuring something into the French Quarter lord’s ear.

Celia: “He doesn’t care that I stole your pocket watch, dear,” Jade whispers to the thief, wrapping the golden chain of the watch in question around her finger with a coy smile. “I s’pose we’ll need to move on to bigger things to get him to frisk us.”

She passes her ill-gotten gains back to him.

Celia: She can’t help but notice how dreadfully empty her grandsire’s lap looks this evening. Her eyes stay on the pair even as she tells Pietro that she “ran into his friend” and “showed him a good time” and “is looking forward to seeing him again soon.”

Julius: Before Jade’s ‘cousin’ can reply, all four of the Levee Hepcats cruise into the scene.

Tonight, the krewe’s leader is dressed in a double-breasted suit, with a houndstooth burgundy and white windowpane weave. The suit’s sack-jacket is straight and boxy, though its shorter cut and felt-backed, flanging peak lapels make clear its sartorial era. Its brass buttons feature an etched profile of a cat against a sunburst pattern, while its striped lining is fashioned of yellow, white, and brown silk. The suit’s matching trousers are straight-legged with turned-up cuffs, high-waisted, and hoisted by suspenders beaded with pale pink tourmalines. His sleeve-gartered dress shirt is coral in color, though its detachable round-club collar is moonflower white, pinned, and fastening a slim cherry, scarlet, turquoise, and white paisley necktie. These garments are further accented with a vintage 14-karat gold Hamilton Gilbert wristwatch; white wingtips, a similarly white homburg with ostrich feather accents; and a boutonnière with fragrant pink datura, night gladiolus, and evening primrose. Such attire, though, is currently swallowed by a giant raccoon fur-coat with a shawl collar, turned-up cuffs, and plentitude of pockets. That coat, though, does nothing to conceal Julius’ eyes. Rather, his gaze is shaded tonight by period-appropriate Crookes lenses with green calobar glass, brass, and black bakelite frames. A new gleam, however, graces his smile, as his top-left canine has a borderline gaudy glued-on diamond.

That gemstone-flashing smile presently falls upon the krewemate currently hanging on his long trombonist arm.

Despite lacking a legitimate sire, Justine Chaudrier clearly displays her Toreador clanship if not artistic panache tonight as she wears a gold lamé coat printed with abstract roses in varied shades of ivory, crimson, and caramel, with black velvet shirred and padded collar, cuffs, and lining. Beneath that wrap-style coat half-hides a knee-length mauve silk Georgette dress with a matching silk slip. That dress is trimmed with bands of self-fabric-pleated ruffles at the waist, skirt, and along the outside of each sleeve from elbow to wrist. A self-fabric bow on the left shoulder and dropped waist sash are finished with pale diamond, celestine, and morganite jewel ornaments. Said jewels match her Art Nouveau long-drop earrings, brown bakelite bangles, and sparkling filigree rings. For foot apparel, she wears burgundy Mary Janes whose heels are sultry enough for the silver screen but sturdy enough for street dancing. Meanwhile, her head is decorated with a shimmering skullcap of gold metallic lace and rhinestones that beautifully contrast with her inky hair and obsidian skin.

Beside her, Justine’s fellow Toreador and krewemate also arrives in chic era-appropriate garb. In Arthur Duchamps’ case, it’s a throwback tweed suit in a lime-cream plaid pattern with a matching scoop vest, side-vented jacket, sharp peak lapel, and patch pockets. No pocket-watch graces the latter; instead, Arthur’s timepiece is an authentic (or authentic-looking counterfeit) of a 1923 Hamilton watch, complete with stainless steel band, gold filigreed case, and radium-painted hands and numbers. His other hand bears a bas-relief hematite Intaglio ring on his pinky, whose dark stone mirrors the iridescent hue of his Parisian Charvet silk-print necktie. That tie is framed by his ivory-white shirt, which features a stiff round-edge club collar, with mother-of-pearl collar buttons that match his shirt-studs and cufflinks. Arthur’s look is finished with brown-and-blonde wingtip Spectactors; a gray Merino wool fedora with a black grosgrain ribbon and tan leather brim-band; and a double-breasted herringbone topcoat with a shearling collar, belted back, welt pockets, horn buttons, and olive bemberg sleeve-lining.

The Hepcats’ last member is dressed—or perhaps half-undressed—in a dark pink silk robe over a pale gold crepe de-chine slip. The former has a full straight cut, side panel under-arm, and high hip snap-closure, with black silk trim on the robe’s slim batwing sleeves, neck, and front edges. The latter garment has net-lace silk appliqué and re-embroidered flowers, asps, and scrolls, with lingerie straps, a straight top, dropped waistband, and an attached skirt wrapped to create a double layer with an open back. A Sautoir of Chanel pearls casually coils around her neck, looping over her shoulder such that its azure-blue tassel teases the curve of her silk-clad ass. In contrast to her typically rustled hairstyle, Laura’s dark locks are presently pressed into sinuous, serpentine finger curls, with a single obelisk drop-earring whose Art Deco Egyptian Revival motif matches her 14-karat gold ring with its turquoise-carved scarab and hieroglyphics-enameled lotuses. That hand also bears a long, white and black vaping stick crafted to resemble a cigarette with an opera-length holder. Oddly—or perhaps not so oddly for a Gangrel—her feet, however, are bare.

The krewe gives a collective nod to the three seated Toreador, particularly the two ancillae—though in Laura’s case, it’s more a bob of her smoke-issuing ‘cigarette’ than her head.

After greeting each of those Kindred by name (with the Brujah ‘bitch’ being passed-over), Julius gives another individual, sweeping bow to Veronica, his white homburg doffed with a Vaudeville flourish, as he says:

“Da hunerd years lookin rite fine on yo’…. everywhere, ma’am.”

Celia: It’s hard for the licks to overlook Jade, perched as she is on Pietro’s lap. She pretends the nods are for her and catches Melton’s eye, tossing the Gangrel a lascivious wink.

GM: Everyone at the Evergreen tonight has put a lot of effort into their outfits.

They have the money.

They have the memory.

They have the motivation.

There’s nowhere better than a gathering of vain, peacocking, wealthy, and nostalgic immortals to transport oneself a century back into the past. The costumes are all but perfect, at least on the older Kindred.

Then Julius and the Hepcats come in.

And show everyone else how it’s done.

Faint oohs and ahs from the outermost seats greet the results of Julius’ handiwork. The attention to detail. The careful selection of every article and accessory. The brass buttons. The Hamilton wristwatch. The diamond tooth. The rose coat. The Art Nouveau jewels. The tweed suit. The morher-of-pearl cufflinks. The period-authentic (still extant, but declining) Egyptomania. The opera-length cigarette holder.

What is there to say?

It’s perfect. It’s all perfect. Even those who know the knockoff king for what he is cannot tell what is vintage and what is a modern recreation. It’s the mark of a true master, Savoy once told Julius—to fool someone even when they think you’re trying to fool them.

The Hepcats’ outfits look more authentic than the Kindred actually from that era.

And why should they not? Memory is fallible. Memory is subjective. The past is a fluid and fallible thing even to those who were there for it. It’s given shape and form only by the hands of craftsmen. Storytellers. Illusionists.

And Julius is a maestro among those illusionists. Where the younger licks ooh and ah over the authenticity of the Hepcats’ outfits, the older Kindred are silent and contemplative. They see someone who has claimed the past they so proudly wore like a royal mantle. They see something new who has draped it even more resplendently about his own shoulders. They see someone who has seized power thought barred to clanless whelps bereft of any past or history—and who now wields it even more adroitly than they do. They see someone who has laid claim to their past and made it his.

Because his clothes are better.

It seems silly, to the young and the ignorant. Mere peacockry.

But to those with the eyes to see and the enduring Requiems to know, the conclusion is as apparent as the diamond glint in Julius’ mouth:

This Caitiff is not to be taken lightly.

Veronica’s smoldering eyes take in Julius. The harpies have never have been kind to any Caitiff, nor has this harpy been kind to this Caitiff. Julius has heard more than one cruel barb from her perfect lips on how the best this clanless trash can do is ape the creative labors of others. Pathetic. Fitting, but still pathetic.

Those have mostly stopped since the Anarch split. Bad practice, to dunk too hard on the court musician of one’s new patron.

But a Caitiff’s choices are rarely good and bad options—merely bad and worse.

And for all this fellow jazz musician’s snide remarks, they paled against the venom spat and the subtle cruelties devised by her jazz-hating cousin Katherine.

Bad and worse indeed.

Then Veronica’s lip pulls back in something like a smile, like she and Julius are friends.

“You don’t look too bad yourself, gleamfang.”

Celia: She’s not ignorant of the entrance he made with his krewe, so much louder than the way she’d slipped through the crowd on her own. She’s not immune to the way the younger licks get quiet as they pass, or how even Veronica and Pietro fall silent for a moment as he approaches. And that almost-smile on her sire’s lips.

Twice in two nights that he’s stolen the spotlight from her, isn’t it?

And yet who did he come to when he had fun things to share, and who did he ask for a sliver of her domain? Who had he endured to be on his lap while she played her games and riled him up while she whispered and murmured in his ear scant half an hour ago, just as she does now to the Toreador beneath her.

Jade’s eyes dance across the four-large krewe, idly cataloguing items for her game, and after she winks at Melton she focuses her eyes on their leader.

“Saved you a seat, Jules,” she says at last, nodding her chin to where the breather she’d corralled earlier sits. A motion of her hand has the man on the floor, settled between her legs “like a good boy,” she coos at him, petting his head. Astride Pietro as she is, there’s enough room for one more to join their little party.

Quid pro quo and all that.

GM: Laura’s kohl-lined turn up in a sly smile as she blows a kiss at Jade.

Celia: “Have a seat for you too, sweetling,” Jade says to the Gangrel, lifting a hand to rub across her face.

GM: “I’m sure you have a lot more than that,” purrs the Gangrel as she deftly saddles atop the lap of the already lap-seated Jade.

Yet, as the second Hepcat assumes an invited seat, an invisible line is crossed, casting the others’ status suddenly into question. Veronica’s smoldering eyes burn hotter as they settle first upon Justine, drawing stares from Harlequin, Pietro, Reynaldo Gui, and Shep Jennings.

The younger Toreador approaches no closer. It is well that she does not as Veronica sneers,

“Rats sit in the back.”

Laughter sounds from the nearby Kindred.

Celia: There’d been no invitation for the others. Surely no one is ignorant enough to have missed that.

Jade doesn’t speak up as they go, watching in idle amusement. As if they’d get to sit among this gathering. It’s only Melton’s prior interactions with Jade that gets the lick an invitation to the party near the throne.

Her hand wanders up the Gangrel’s thigh, lips busy at her neckline.

GM: Arthur does not try to reach beyond his station. For now. At least so visibly. Already hanging behind the others, he moves to find a seat around the middle. Perhaps closer than he might normally. Still, there’s a familiar (to Julius) bitterness in his eyes.

Celia: “I have a surprise for you later,” Jade whispers to the lick on her lap.

Julius: If Julius’ shaded eyes could speak, they’re whispering ‘in time’ to the young Toreador from the Little Easy. To Justine, those same Crookes-shaded eyes offer a different, but not too different, refrain:

In Savoy’s time. Prince Savoy’s time.

But in the meantime, the Caitiff turns back to the seated Toreador, and joins them. Perhaps for him, it’s finally ‘his time’. Longinus knows he’s put in his own time at the back of the bus.

Homberg still in hand, he bows again at the harpy, smiling:

“Not lookin too bad is dollahs to dinnah too generous comin from uh jass legend, like you’s.”

He then bounces the hat off his bicep, setting it atop his head to give another dip of its brim. Next, Julius smoothly slides off his raccoon coat and drapes it over his ‘seat’ in a swirl of fur. Turning to Jade, his literal diamond smile shines:

“An ma thanks too, shug, fo’ yo most kind invitation.”

And it is kind—especially given how their last social exchange started. The large man then squats down on his now-‘upholstered’ seat, silently hoping it holds. Settling in, his smile continues as he adds:

“Though I reckon me, dat Lollie rightchere don got da bettuh sittin.”

He chuckles, then, “But I den suppose dat maybe it’s Mr. Silvestri who’s bin gots da best seat.”

He offers a complimentary smile at the Italian.

Celia: “His wandering hands would assuredly agree with you, Papa Juj,” Jade says to the Caitiff, her own busy with Miss Melton. Now he’s got a pair of them for double the good time.

GM: “I love surprises,” Melton answers with a giggle.

The kneeling man almost buckles under Julius’ considerable weight, but doesn’t protest. The Caitiff’s ‘seat’ feels shaky.

The metaphor is obvious.

Veronica’s ego looks stroked at ‘jazz legend’, though she looks even more amused by the kine struggling under Julius. She kicks her feet over Micheal’s back.

Pietro smirks from underneath the two ladies. He turns over Melton’s Sautoir of Chanel necklace in his hands, though no one saw him remove it.

“This one looks genuine. Interspersing forgeries among the reals is what I’d do.”

“You mean what you do do?” Melton smiles winsomely.

“That too,” agrees Pietro.

Celia: Pleased with the turn of events—lack of attention from Gui withstanding—Jade doubles down with the attention she demands from the pair she’s sandwiched between, passing time with idle strokes and fondling that promises a better time once the party is started in earnest.

Julius: Julius’ smiles takes on a different tone at Pietro’s implied praise and related question.

“You’s got dat rite bout interspersin,” he says, “Da pearlz are da real thang, wus part of strings wid settin’s done by Duke Fulco di Vedura in ‘28, but da settin’s done got broke an da loose pearlz wus sold on iBid fo’ biscuits. Dat dere settin is a replica, but da tassel’s all ma doin. Trick’s in usin old silk dat I got from uh antique throw pillow from da Mint dat got ruined by Kat.”

He pauses a moment, as if considering the other precious things ruined by the hurricane.

But such dark musings pass as his smile returns. “But dey say uh magician shouldn’t evah give away his secrets, so maybe I’m jus lyin through my lips.”

Celia: “Mm, Pietro knows all about that. Magicians not giving away their secrets.” Jade shoots the Toreador in question a look. He’d said the same the first time they met.

GM: Jade receives attention, caresses, and fang-drags in spades from the other two licks. Where Laura lets her Beast rise to the surface, losing herself in kisses and touches, Pietro answers,

“Old antiques to make new antiques. It’s a good idea whether you did it or not.”

He smiles.

“It doesn’t matter whether you did it or not. Jade’s always been curious how magicians do their tricks, but one of my countrymen had a quote. ‘Illusion is perhaps the only reality in life.’”

Celia: Lucky Jade that Pietro had finally shown her some of those secrets.

Julius: Julius nods at Pietro’s remark, rubbing a hand along the raccoon upholstery. “Or as uh certain jass-man done said, ’Don’t play what’s there, play what’s not there’.”

“But den, music is magick, if it’s da gud kind.”

Turning to Veronica, he then adds, "An speakin of magical music… I’s wus wonderin, should Lawd Savoy, da Hawt Licks, an da rest of us po’ caps an dawls, git da noive to look fo’ward to lissenin to yo’s buttah-lip-liscious pipes tonite?”

GM: “I haven’t decided if I feel like it,” the harpy answers airily, turning away from a conversation with Harlequin and Gui. As far as Julius knows, Veronica hasn’t been specifically scheduled to sing. That isn’t uncommon at the Evergreen or other Kindred parties, though, for musically inclined licks to drop in and out as they feel like it.

Kindred musicians are even more temperamental than living ones.

“I’d need someone to look after my bitch, too.”

Julius: Julius’ smile becomes demure, “Well, uh lady’s got to do what she rite feels like doin. As fo me, I jus wud feel real rite by later lissenin to uh stuffy op’ra has-bin hear how you’s blew off da roofs an all da pants ritchere at dis party.”

“As fo someone mindin yo bitch, I reckon me dat I jus dun overheard how uh certain young delicious dawl wus achin to hold his lease fo’ uh while.”

His face—if not shade-covered gaze—glances meaningfully in Jade’s directions.

Celia: Jade seems to have a sixth sense for when licks are talking about her. She pulls her attention away from Melton and Pietro, nodding in accord with Julius’ words.

“I’ll keep him nice and pretty for you, Ronnie.”

GM: The dig against Katherine earns a curl of Veronica’s lip.

She drops Micheal’s leash on Jade’s lap, tugs down his black and white pants with one hand, then drives the heel of her shoe up his asshole. The Brujah gives a muffled cry and buries his face against the ground as Veronica twists it around and then pushes it deeper with a bored expression.

Celia: Jade picks up the offered leash, amusement dancing across her face at Veronica’s treatment of Micheal.

“I can take him tonight,” she offers, “if you really want me to find a use for him.”

GM: “A useful purpose for Micheal Kelly. That should be hard,” the harpy sneers, twisting around the heel in another rotation.

Celia: She can think of several, most of them involving removing the skin from his limbs. She favors her “sire” with a smirk and caresses the leash between her fingers.

Julius: Julius chuckles, “Well, by ma count, dat’s one impediment dun wid… now’s we jus gotta see if uh gawddess of jass will take to da stage as she bin did during da first Roarin Twenties.”

“If she did, though, I wonder, what lick wud it be? May-haps something from da old vinyls of Sweet Barrett or Lizzie Miles, or something cut wholecloth?”

He gives a clearly feigned shrug of nonchalance, before rising. Giving another doffed homberg-bow to the harpy, he adds, “But no mattah, Papa Bleu an da Hawt Licks will be ready to aid da goddess if she be havin da rite _feelin.”

Turning back to Jade, the jazzman says, “Meanwhile, Jade, I’ll be swappin dis ‘seat’ rite here for dat one.”

He motions to the nearby unoccupied inanimate chair. Lifting the raccoon coat off the spine-strained man, Julius drapes his fur outerwear over the chair’s back before re-seating himself with a diamond-studded smile.

“No offense, boo, but dis one sweats less ovah da furs.”

So resettled, Julius and the other Kindred notice the arrival of another predator.

Cletus: True to the themed decade’s sobriquet, Don Cletus Lee Boggs literally roars into the party, chauffeured in a ’28 Duesenberg J. As the antique luxury car slows down before Savoy’s establishment, the automobile’s sleek lines and chrome accents gleam and purr like a supine Art Deco goddess draped in naught but diamonds and moonlight. A liveried footman opens a rear door to that opulent vessel, allowing the Inviato of Clan Giovannini to slide out and wade into the soiree with all the predatory grace of Bayou Bonfouca’s infamous albino alligator.

Tonight, the Sindaco of Slidell is, much like his transportation, an anachronistic if well-heeled sight. Rather than thrift-store overalls stained with blood, barbecue sauce, and cannibalistic lard, the Dunsirn-descended ancilla presently wears a seersucker suit worthy of its Persian name of ‘milk and sugar’. The bespoke suit’s two-toned stripes keenly mirror the vampire’s ivory skin and blowtorch-blue eyes. Accenting the emblematically southern suit is a pair of scallop-buttoned gloves and boot-shod sprats the shade of fresh-frenzied blood, monogrammed cufflinks and a collar-pin made of opal and gold, and a green-and red pocket-square whose tartan cloth matches his bowtie and the ribbon around the straw boater jauntily crowning Cletus’ head.

Notwithstanding such high class, if century-old, accoutrements, only fools miss the monster lurking under tonight’s sartorial masquerade. Inhuman and inhumane, here is a monster of hard, rangy lines of taut muscles, coiled puissance, and barely simmering savagery. Unblinking eyes burning bright and hungry as acetylene. Sepulchral flesh slick with the night’s humidity and the palpable scent of libido and heat lightning. A mesmerically feral, fanged smile that teases supple lips and promises pleasure, pain, perdition. The strange melange of peckerwood perversion, Southern aristocracy, and undying sociopathy.

Surveying the scene, the monster flashes a moonshine smile.

“Well kiss my go-to-hell if this party rightchere hain’t busier than a one-legged cat in a sandbox!”

The Capo of St. Tammany Parish stalks through the crowd, flashing fanged smiles and giving hearty backslaps that would better pass for a full-throttle jackhammer rather than a greeting, at least if he were amidst mere mortals.

Regardless, the monster carves his way to the inner circle, where he takes off his boater mid-gentlemanly bow to the party’s host.

“Lord Savoy, forgive a feller fer ahootin’ and ahollerin’, but I must say: yer party and yerself are lookin’ finer than froghair done split four ways!”

Celia: It’s quite possible that Jade had some witty repartee to sling back at the musician after he abandons her offered chair, but whatever it is will need to be uttered another night as the opening door and arrival of another guest steals the breath from her dead lungs. Even warned that he’d been coming there’s still no “getting ready” for the arrival of the cannibal from Slidell, and she’s not the only lick whose eyes dart towards the newcomer. Nor, she’s sure, is she the only lick whose eyes then proceed to rake him from head to toe, taking in every piece of finery he wears, every accoutrement, every era-appropriate garnishment upon his frame.

Been a while, hasn’t it, since the Giovannini stalked into the halls of Vidal’s court with a carcass slung over his shoulder and accusation in his eyes.

Dibs, she thinks, as if any of the rest of them have a chance against Jade Kalani, Veronica’s childe. Shame that she’s already sandwiched between the two licks as she is; she’d show him a warmer welcome if not. She settles for the unflinching gaze of a lick who knows what she wants when she sees it, a smile tugging at the corners of her lips that answers his promise of pleasure and pain with one of her own.

All the same, she displaces the Gangrel on her lap with a murmured word of apology, rising in her Mafia-esque getup as the blue-eyed monster passes them by. The lift of her hand is aborted before it begins, waiting for him to finish with her grandsire before she thinks to summon him to their circle of “haves” amidst the wider range of “have nots.”

Julius: It’s hard to say whether Jules follows Jade’s gaze, or just follows the object of that gaze. It’s even harder to know what the Caitiff might be thinking about the non-Camarilla ancilla who could be a poster-child of the Knights of the White Camelia.

Regardless, such thoughts are swiftly derailed, as Julius’ krewemate is de-seated. To her, the jazzman motions with a long-fingered hand at the still-prostrate ‘man-seat’ as well as his own lap:

“Cain’t say why da music stopped, shug, or if either of dese udder chairs might be as musical…”

Celia: “I just wanted a better look,” Jade huffs at Julius. Indeed, even in heels she’s on the shorter end of the spectrum, but she resumes her seat on Pietro’s lap all the same. Her eyes cut to the other Mafiosa in the crowd.

Julius: “Well den, dats an awrite reason to pause da music,” Julius replies nonplussed.

GM: The shirtless man collapses with (physical) relief as the bulky quarterback turned undead jazz musician finally gets off.

The seat was wobbly anyway.

Cletus’ entrance elicits stares and looks of a different variety than the Hepcats’. He’s dressed well, but not so well for his garb to be the talk of the hour. Instead, the lick himself is. Cletus Lee Boggs, prince of Slidell. A lick with you do not fuck.

The Giovannini receives his warmest welcome, as the necromancers always do, from clan and kin. Don Vico, his childe Lucy, and Catfish Freddy are sequestered in their own corner of the room, simultaneously among yet distinctly apart from the mass of Camarilla licks.

Vico and Freddy return the backslaps with sapling-felling clouts of their own, and Lucy offers a more ladylike extended hand, but none of the three’s greetings take overly long or distract Cletus from his approach of the evening’s host.

“Inviato Boggs!” exclaims the white-garbed French Quarter lord, breaking off from his silent conversation with Preston and Lebeaux to greet the evening’s guest with a broad smile.

“Forgiveness requires that a sin be committed, and what sin is there in so warm a greeting and such kindly offered words? Far from requiring forgiveness, your presence betters this humble gathering, and may now permit it to begin in earnest!”

“I dare say our chosen color becomes us both, too,” he chuckles, his gaze passing between the two Kindred’s distinctly cut but identically colored suits. “In fact, I think I recall you also wearing that suit for… ah, yes… the great party of last ’44?”

The half-milllennial anniversary of Clan Giovannini’s overthrow of the Cappadocians.

Boston’s worth might have eclipsed New Orleans’ in Genoa’s eyes. Then as now.

But no one doubted which branch of the clan threw the better party.

“That was a party to remember,” grins the French Quarter lord. “Here is to many more such memories formed tonight!”

Melton huffs with displeasure as Jade dislodges her for a look at Cletus and settles herself onto Julius’ lap with a whisper in his ear.

But she’s still sitting closer to the throne than normal.


Saturday night, 19 March 2016, PM

GM: “I can’t believe she dumped me, to stare at another lick. I don’t like her anymore, Jules,” the ‘Gangrel’ pouts.

Julius: Julius chuckles quietly at Melton.

“Somehow, shug, I think you’s gonna survive—well except fo’ da fact dat you’s, me’s, an all da udders is already dead.”

Smiling, he adds, “Sides, I bet her lap will come round gain.”

He shifts slightly, as if aligning them both to better glance at their krewemates in the corner of their eyes. “But how bout dose two? How dey ain’t gonna pout? How dey gonna feels like we didn’t dump dem?”

GM: Melton gives another initial hmph.

“No room for rats,” the ‘Gangrel’ shrugs. “She’s never gonna sit up here. We already lucked out that we got to, didn’t we?”

Julius: “Justine’s ain’t no thin-blood, but uh true an through Rose. She just ain’t got no blood-mama or -daddy.” He gestures lightly at the Italian Giovannini. “Dem? Dey step outta da Quartah, an da prince’ll curb-stomp ‘em cus he don’t like ‘em. Ain’t no different den how it is wid Justine. Or say, da Setites. I cain’t imagine you’d be walkin up to Don Vico or da Ministry’s grand poo-bah an callin dem Rats.”

GM: “Yeah, but they got puissance,” says Melton.

“I called that bad boy a rat,” she says with an appreciate glance at Cletus, “I bet he’d make me really regret it.”

“What it all comes down to, doesn’t it?”

“Power.”

Julius: “F’sure,” he says, giving her a slow, yet almost violently coiling, embrace. Tickling her neck with his diamond-studded fang, he ever-so slightly adjusts her glancing gaze to fall upon Savoy. “Which is why we done back his play fo’ power, cus he’s gots it, an when he gits mo’, so do we. As prince, he’d have the power to turn a rat into a rose, which wud be a purdy trick if you’d bin askin me’s.”

GM: Melton giggles as the Caitiff’s so-strong arms encircle her. She leans in close, brushing her own fangs across his cheek as her fingers encircle his cherry- scarlet-turquoise-white paisley necktie and give it a playful tug.

“No purdier than the ones he’s pulled off so far,” smiles Melton. “It’s just been win after win after win lately, hasn’t it? The hardasses and their poor bishop…”

“Justine just has to wait a lil’ longer. I don’t think it’s gonna be very long.”

“And then the rat will be a rose.”

Julius: “An what den will you’s be, hmm?” he asks in a liquid, bullfrog-bass whisper even as his long, vice-like fingers caress the appliqué of her silk slip, tracing its flowers, scrolls, and snakes.

GM: Does she know he knows?

“Happy for Justine, not least of all,” smiles Melton, twisting her fingers along the tie’s folds.

“And happy for me, too. I expect Prince Savoy’s going to make this city a lot more fun for licks like me.”

Julius: “Well, happy is uh gud bit bettah den da alternative,” the Caitiff answers no longer in a whisper, even as one of his hands slithers beneath her mauve robe to the exposed back of her slip. There, that hand kneads her flesh like a content if increasingly hungry cat.

Does she know?

Does he care?

After all, the knockoff mogul has little scruples about counterfeits—so long as they are profitable.


Saturday night, 19 March 2016, PM

GM: Gui, meanwhile, remains engrossed in conversation with Harlequin and Shep Jennings. He’s regarding the latter with a bemused look while Harlequin giggles and holds a gloved hand to his painted lips.

Celia: Why, she wonders, does everyone need to get their panties in a wad because she’d stood up for thirty whole seconds to get a better look at the new guy. It’s not like she’d shoved the bitch off her, just literally gotten to her feet after she’d excused herself. Hadn’t moved. Hadn’t taken steps. Hadn’t told the Gangrel to get lost. They’d both been standing in the same space, right up against each other.

Julius gets an annoyed look from where she’s resettled on Pietro’s lap for his interference. This is the last time she’ll invite him to sit with them.

Julius: At the moment, Julius’ attention seems diverted away, perhaps back to his twice distanced krewemates—or perhaps he’s staring at the Giovannini. It’s hard to say. There’s a lot to stare at.

Cletus: Cletus, meanwhile, beams back at Savoy. If lips could ruefully wag, the Boggs’ patriarch might, as if playfully conceding Savoy’s better turn of phrase—and praise.

“To such memories, and mo’, ma ever-gracious friend! May we be happier tonite and tomorrow den ol’ Yeller layin’ on the porch chewin’ on a big ol’ bucket of catfish heads. And with yerself as our host, hain’t been any other way!”

With that de facto toast, he bows again to Savoy, before playfully leaning in as if to kiss Preston in greeting. Only the vigilant notice the Giovannini uses the act to whisper something to the Bourbon’s innermost circle, and only the most vigilant can make out that whisper:

“Day I say the only right proper way to repay yerself fer dis party is to be done hostin’ one meself. Been lookin into a venue in Concordia. Perhaps later y’all might wanna shuck some corn and whittle out an invite list?”

Pulling back, Cletus smooths his straw boater back on his head. He doesn’t wait for a reply—not now or here—but rather carves his way back to his clan’s corner.

Julius: Ironically, such occurs just as Julius’ attention returns to the room’s inward circles. Jade and the others nearby likely notice as Julius’ arms coil around Melton’s much smaller frame, his diamond-studded fang tickling her neck. As he does so, he whispers again in her ear—perhaps another sweet nothing—or maybe an unsweet something.

Either way, Julius’ eyes peer over his downturned shades at Jade, with a look that could be apologetic or inviting—or both—depending on one’s perspective.

GM: Cletus’ seeming-almost-kiss, for all those caveats, still draws its shared of amused looks. The inviato even hears, “…thing for him,” from someone, though the Malkavian’s face remains all-business.

Savoy grins widely at Cletus’ idea and makes a flourishing motion in the direction of the latter’s clan in seeming agreement—they’ll discuss this later.

“Hear that, Nat? We’d better let Mr. Gui know to get started on some names!” exclaims the Toreador as Cletus withdraws.

“Very well, sir.”

Melton, meanwhile, giggles as the Caitiff’s so-strong arms encircle her. She leans in close, brushing her own fangs across his cheek as her fingers encircle his cherry- scarlet-turquoise-white paisley necktie and give it a playful tug.

Pietro pulls Jade fully back onto his lap, smirking as his arms descend around her and he preemptively ‘steals’ her from a possibly returning Melton. His murmur sounds in the younger Toreador’s ears.

“I’d say I knew he couldn’t keep his dick out of you, but that’s like saying I know it’s going to rain again.”

The thief smirks.

“What was he like in bed?”

Celia: Jade only has long enough to wonder if the Caitiff and his new lap ornament are talking about her—good things? bad things? what does that look mean—before Pietro’s deft fingers make the decision on relocating or not for her. Even the cannibal’s loud entrance and actions become nothing but background noise when she finds herself curled on the thief’s lap, held securely within the circle of his arms. His lips against her ear threaten to send shivers down her spine. She giggles at the soft touch, turning her face toward him to respond in kind.

“Eager,” she says with a smirk of her own, recalling how the cop had fumbled to keep up with them both. “Inexperienced. I could tell when he kissed me that it had been a while for him, but he was more than happy to let me lead and show him what goes where. Very generous, too. He made sure ’Lana and I both had our share of attention.”

“Made noise about not looking for something long term, but I suspect after that show he’s hungry for more.”

“He mentioned you,” she adds coyly.

GM: Pietro is more than happy that keep Jade entertained with his fearher-light fingers, especially at that news. They’re like whispers along her skin.

“I told you he has a giant hard-on for me. He’s like a dog with a bone.”

“He actually mentioned me around you and Alana?”

The thief smirks.

“Not the sort of topic you pick up girls with.”

Celia: “Mm,” Jade says absently, flicking her tongue across her lips. “Out of practice. Told me about how he almost drowned in prison during Katrina, too. Not exactly a panty-dropper of a story.”

GM: “So he was out of practice. But he wasn’t looking for sex?”

“That’s funny. Wonder why.”

Celia: “Said he’s not really looking.” Now that Pietro mentions it, though, she did have to work rather more than usual to get him to agree to fuck. “Avoided mentioning he’s a cop. Wouldn’t let me see his car.”

Hadn’t even wanted road head.

GM: “Mm That’s not surprising he wouldn’t say he’s a cop. Lot of them don’t.”

“Try to keep their work lives and ‘civilian lives’ separate.”

“Sometimes criminals send girls to sleep with cops. Snoop on them or get them in trouble.” He smiles.

Celia: “You mean like you did,” Jade says wryly.

GM: “Yes,” the thief agrees without missing a beat. “Lots of ways people can try to fuck with known cops off the job.”

“They have their own bars in some cities. Cop bars.”

Celia: “I suppose I’ll just have to show him that I only want to fuck him rather than fuck with him.”

GM: “Wonder what’s up with his car.”

“Detectives on the take make all right money.”

Celia: Jade shrugs. “First contact. My goal was to get him into bed and make sure he didn’t forget me. I can dig into other things now if you’re curious.”

“Maybe he’s not, though. On the take. Reynaldo said he’s not really part of the family or something.”

Hard to remember what he’d said when the three of them had been busy fucking.

GM: Pietro laughs.

“Every fucking cop is on the take.”

Celia: “Apparently. One of my girls had a run-in last week with some.”

GM: “They fuck her, shake her down, or both?”

Celia: “Shakedown.”

GM: “Yeah. Tons of ways for cops to make money. So he probably isn’t embarrassed because the car is cheap or damaged or whatever.”

Celia: “I’d hoped it was something exciting like a body in the back.”

GM: Pietro laughs. “You never know with cops.”

Celia: “I’ve been handling the other side of things,” Jade tacks on, referring to their reason for messing with Vinny in the first place, “so when the timing is right it’ll be an easy in and out.”

Like it is for Vinny.

GM: The thief smirks. “Because it hasn’t been already for one of you?”

Celia: Jade giggles as the thief echoes her thoughts.

GM: “Good, though. I want to start really fucking with him soon.”

Celia: “Your friend or the other one?”

GM: “My friend.”

Celia: “Mm. Seeing him soon.”

GM: “Good. Plant some seeds. Wonder if there’s anything to the car, too.”

Celia: “I’ll find out.”

Celia: “Do you think Ronnie would really mind if her bitch is turned into boots? He’s just so…” She waves a hand at the Brujah, indicating the lack of usefulness as anything more than an assortment of holes.

GM: “Of course she’ll mind. He’s hers. If anyone’s going to kill him, she’ll want it to be her.”

“She’ll eventually get bored with him.”

Celia: “Mm,” Jade muses, “I was just thinking about how embarrassing it would be for his sire if Ronnie shows up to next week’s or tomorrow’s Elysium in Kelly-skin.”

GM: “I think Coco’s washed her hands of him. Washed them a while ago.”

“Always liked Roderick more.”

Celia: “Golden childe.”

GM: “Kellyskin is funny.”

Celia: Jade smiles. “Thanks.”

GM: “I wonder what those boots would be like. If they’d be much different from leather.”

Celia: “Leather is animal skin,” she points out. “Tanned and treated to prevent decay. There’s just no waiting period this way. No need to dry and stretch and mix chemicals together. Could be firm, or soft and supple, any color, pattern, ornamentation…” She keeps her voice low, so as not to be overheard by anyone near them. She doesn’t need people thinking she’s the lick who can turn others into leather. Quiet as she is, her lips almost brush his ear. She nips at the lobe with her teeth. “Some people use ash to treat hides, did you know? And there’s enough brain matter in every animal to tan its own hide. Imagine skinning an elder and using the traditional method to turn them into a hat with their own brain and ash.”

GM: Pietro snickers.

“I think you’ll be out of luck when it comes to getting brain matter from Micheal Kelly.”

Celia: “No, darling, he still has one, it’s just failed to retain anything. Though I wonder if someone adding a few folds will mean he can actually learn…” Jade trails off thoughtfully.

GM: “Odds are against that. Veronica glamours him at least every night.”

Celia: “For what, adoration?”

GM: “Adoration. Keeping him compliant. Keeping him oblivious. Maybe just to permanently fuck his head.”

“Take your pick of reason.”

Celia: She bets she could get in there still. Strap him down to a table and let her fingers work their magic on him, dig into the soft folds of his mind and suss out whatever secrets he’s holding onto. Veronica has only had him a few months, hasn’t she?

Jade itches to get her hands on him. She fingers his leash in quiet contemplation.

“Don’t think she’d come off him, then? So many little projects and curiosities he can assist with if I can dig in… think she’d trade? I’d love to show her what I’ve been working on.”

GM: Pietro shrugs. “Maybe. Depends on the trade. Like anything.”

“I doubt he’s going to keep her entertained like this forever.”

Celia: “Mm.” Something to consider, then. As they say, timing is everything.


Saturday night, 19 March 2016, PM

Julius: The Caitiff breaks his own whispered exchange with a mirthful comment clearly directed to Melton but which makes no pretense at privacy:

“Well, happy is uh gud bit bettah den da alternative.”

No less modest, one of his hands slithers beneath his krewemate’s mauve robe to the exposed back of her slip. There, that hand kneads her undead flesh like a content if increasingly hungry cat.

Celia: Jade only has long enough to wonder if the Caitiff and his new lap ornament are talking about her—good things? bad things? what does that look mean?—before Pietro’s deft fingers make the decision on relocating or not for her. Even the cannibal’s loud entrance and actions become nothing but background noise when she finds herself curled on the thief’s lap, held securely within the circle of his arms. His lips against her ear threaten to send shivers down her spine. She giggles at the soft touch, turning her face toward him to respond in kind.

GM: Antoine Savoy motions and the jazz music dies. Eyes turn to the French Quarter lord’s throne.

GM: “I see we’ve got some new faces here tonight,” smiles the Toreador. “To them I say: be welcome in the Vieux Carré! We consider it our solemn duty—and it will surely be our great pleasure!—to make this party a night for y’all to remember,” he grins.

“Just so everyone knows who doesn’t already, this part is the boring part. The business before the pleasure. That’ll start once court is over! If anyone wishes to excuse themselves until then, we’ll be no pleased to receive you through the Evergreen’s doors.” Savoy motions in their direction.

Some glances follow the Toreador’s hand, but no one moves to leave.

“Full house, then!” Savoy beams. “Let’s cut to the chase. Nat, if you’ll be so kind as to start us with…”

GM: The Toreador doesn’t spend long on ritual. Preston reads items from a document, reading decrees or calling Kindred to come forward. Kindred not on the list who desire public audience with the French Quarter lord simply raise their hands.


Saturday night, 19 March 2016, PM

GM: Karena Cingolai is first to approach the throne.

Celia: Jade shamelessly listens in while she outwardly occupies her attention with the thief upon whom she perches.

GM: She offers the seated French Quarter lord a short bow.

GM: “Greetings, Lord Savoy. It my desire to attend the French Quarter Festival while I am in New Orleans, and to have temporary hunting rights along the parade route. In return for this privilege, I offer a vessel’s worth of vitae, and one additional vessel for every week I am in the area.”

Murmurs sound among the gathered Kindred. About Cingolai. About her offer. About her earlier tiff with Donovan.

Other Kindred, though, seem to tune the Ventrue out or only half pay attention as they converse among their neighbors.

Celia: Jade had tried that once. Offering an extra vessel for access to an area to avoid doing any favors that would sell out her own people. The elder in question had smiled, amused, and said something about people like her not needing additional vessels when they have so many others to do their hunting for them.

Elders rarely go hungry.

Jade lifts her gaze from Pietro for just a moment, long enough to take in the dolls and kine already waiting to be fed from. He does this every week. It’s a cheap offer when he’s rolling in blood.

Or maybe, years later, she’s still just salty about the way the negotiations had gone down. Even if the lick had been nice about it in the end.

“What’s the parade route?” she murmurs to the thief. Whose toes will she be stepping on?

Julius: “As fo’ me—,” the Caitiff says, not quite cutting in but speaking in a low voice that carries to their small circle but no further, “—I’s wonderin wot kinda music at da Festival wud be catchin her fancy. She binlookin like uh jass, blues, gospel, funk, folk, or zydeco fan to any of you’s?”

Celia: The “debate” with Donovan last night hadn’t done much to make her think that it was anything less than a setup. Like he does with her. Like Savoy does with Preston. Everything is deliberate.

She’s looking for something.

“Oh, definitely gospel,” Jade murmurs back. “Only, well, the best place to hear them perform is St. Patrick’s.”

Julius: “Longinus’ gospel, no doubt,” Julius responds with a ghost of a smile, “But she don’t strike me as singin along wid da likes of Mahalia Jackson covers. Color me wrong, but she don’t rite look black or Baptist nough…”

He shrugs, letting the bolstered implication hang.

Meanwhile, he watches for Savoy’s response—or more specifically for Preston to ‘honestly’ respond for the Toreador elder.

Celia: Jade gives a tiny nod of her head at the Caitiff’s words, attention likewise returning to the throne and the Malkavian that will give the answer for the lord perched upon it.

“Dare you to steal something from her,” she breathes into the thief’s ear.

GM: “Bourbon Street. Jackson Square. Some other parts I don’t remember,” the thief answers with a shrug.

Laura giggles again.

“I can’t see her singing either.”

Bourbon Street, though. I wish I got to hunt along there.”

Veronica’s lip curls at the Gangrel’s expressed wish.

She probably gets to feed along there.

Pietro gives Jade an amused look.

“If she has the most impressive things to steal, would you be giving me the idea?”

Savoy, meanwhile, seems to consider Cingolai’s request for a moment and strokes his half-beard.

Preston leans in to whisper something in his ear.

“Granted, Madam Cingolai!” he finally beams. “On two conditions. Please have the vessels delivered alive to the Evergreen by Saturday night. We do need to wrangle them up somewhere, after all!”

Cingolai inclines her head. “An equitable arrangement, Lord Savoy.”

There are a few murmurs from the crowd.

“Oh fuck that bitch!” Laura whiser-hisses to Julius. “What does she even do, huh, to get to feed along Bourbon?”

“If your steward can find time in your lordship’s interary, there is another matter I would speak of in private.”

“Of course, Madam Cingolai,” answers the French Quarter lord. “Nat, I’m sure we can pencil our guest in somewhere?”

“We can, sir.” She turns to the Ventrue. “I will available during tonight’s festivities, Madam Cingolai, should you then wish to review your and Lord Savoy’s respective schedules.”

“Of course she never goes to them,” Laura mutters.

“Very good, Madam Preston. I will see you then,” answers Cingolai.

“Enjoy your stay in New Orleans, Madam Gingolai,” smiles Savoy, which soon grows into a grin. “And may you enjoy your stay in the Vieux Carré most of all!”

“Thank you, Lord Savoy,” offers Cingolai.

She offers another inclination of her head and then assumes a seat next to Harlequin, close to Savoy’s own.

Celia: She hadn’t expected the petition to feed along Bourbon to be granted, especially for so miserly an offer.

Is that what she can expect when she’s old and important, too? Small favors to get her what she wants? The thought of sharing her turf with the Ventrue makes her lip curl; surely she’s not going to be going into the clubs and stealing from the licks who hold those domains.

Jade shrugs at the thief, returning her attention to him once the matter is settled with Cingolai.

“I only thought it would be amusing to make a stiff wonder where all her things had gone.”

GM: “Mmm,” says Pietro. “Maybe after I steal the more impressive thing, first. Always keep your eye on the prize.”

Celia: “I suppose I’ll have to distract you some other way,” Jade murmurs, nibbling at his neck.


Saturday night, 19 March 2016, PM

Julius: Julius does the same, ruefully if quietly wagering with Laura as to whether Cingolai’s conversation tonight will include any critiques of Edgar Degas’ paintings.

“Den gain, I’s always bin takin uh shine to da man’s sculpture. Da lil’ dawlin dancer. You’s bin reminded me of her in uh ways or two’s.”

GM: Laura giggles.

“Is she a sexy dancer?”

The real Laura never was big on art.

Is the counterfeit ignorant, or just playing?

Julius: And does Julius care?

Does he miss the real Laura? And if so, what does he miss? And if he doesn’t, what does that say about him?

Perhaps at the end of the night, it’s not just ‘Laura’ who’s the counterfeit, but the krewe.

And tonight, as with so many nights, Julius must consider the knockoff to be shoddy.

Nowhere good as the real thing.

The old thing.

His old thing.

His krewe.

His old one.

The real one.

The lost one.

After all, isn’t Arthur just a thinner-blooded, less artistically talented version of his sire and ex-Numidian?

And what does that make Julius, then? A knockoff Remy?

GM: Caitiff versus Toreador.

Artistic Caitiff.

Many might say yes.

Julius: He’s been dead too long to sigh.

But he’s also survived too long to let his sadness show.

He maintains the charade.

There are many masquerades to uphold.

GM: Having a Gangrel at least is new, even if it’s a fake one.

But the old krewe had plenty of fakes and knock-offs too, didn’t it?

What else was Julia?

Julius: She was beautiful. To him, at least. And that his opinion was so rarely shared made her all the more beautiful to him.

After all, anyone can buy a Chanel necklace and see its quality. But to notice the diamond in the rough, to spot the brand-less, nameless, unappreciated masterpieces?

GM: Perhaps it’s a projection.

Hoping others will see the same in him.

The diamond amidst his clanless blood.

Julius: Perhaps.

He glances at Jade. Flawless. She’s gorgeous, plain as the sun is hot.

But scars can have their own beauty. And Julia had scars.

Had.

It’s a hard word.

But it’s a hard world.

Even for the damned.

Maybe especially for the damned.

GM: What else is the Requiem, if not its own knockoff?

A poor one, some might say.

But fewer in the Evergreen’s walls might say.

Laura tilts her head at Julius, still smiling.

“Penny for your thoughts, Papa J?”

Julius: Julius could answer her question. Honestly. He could tell her how La Petite Danseuse de Quatorze Ans was noted for extraordinary realism yet denounced for being ugly. Truth was too ugly, and the critics could not stomach it. Rather, the nearly life-size, brown-skinned wax figure with real hair and cloth tutu, was described by Huysmans as a “terrible reality” that “produces uneasiness in the spectators.”

He could tell her how in 2004, his ring counterfeited 73 plaster casts made to more or less closely resembling Degas’s original wax sculptures. He sold them to the Airaindor-Valsuani for song. Did they know they were fakes? Maybe. But if so, it didn’t stop them from using the casts to pump out a plethora of bronzes statues for the next 12 years. Production only increased when critiques were raised concerns over the authenticity of these plasters—and their bronzes—as well as the circumstances and date of their proposed creation. Julius himself—indirectly— even bought a few, selling off most at significant markup. Especially after Julius applied some strategic manipulation, both mundane and otherwise, for a few museum and academic professionals to accept them as presented—and a few more of those “truth-bearers” followed like lemmings. Sure, most of the recognized Degas scholars have maligned or declined to comment on the pieces, but that hasn’t hurt auction prices. If anything, they’ve risen. After all, controversy sells.

Truth rarely does.

So the counterfeit mogul lies.

Again.

Lighting up a butter-warm smile, Julius laughs lightly, “Only two pennies, dawl? Didn’t know I wus dat cheap, but fo’ you’s, I’ll give you’s da frenz an family discount.”

“Yeah, dat dancer is rite sexy, jus’ like you is.”

“But you’s bettuh, of course,” he adds with a wider smile.

“I got some b-boys dat would f’sure like to see you’s grindin an twerkin in ways ol’ stiff Degas ain’t nevah dun dreamed.”

He then bounces her on his lap a bit, not enough to make a scene, but enough to accentuate his point. Vapid, carnal, and half-hearted though it is.

GM: No one cared about the truth.

Not now.

Not then.

Father Albright said there was no sin (religious or artistic) in selling counterfeits to kine rubs.

Louis had just shrugged and said, “Do what you gotta do to make a buck. Lick’s gotta eat.”

Half of Julia thought that maybe he should just maybe consider saying they were, um, recreations. Just a thought. To the buyers. If he thought he should. This maybe wasn’t her business, after all—

The other half told that half it wasn’t their problem.

And Lisette? She’d just shrugged and said there were worse sins in the world, that art fakes were sold all the time. Anyone willing to buy a Degas sculpture in the first place obviously had money to spare. It’s hardly as if Julius was robbing orphanages.

She’d also enjoyed setting masks on a few of them.

So maybe truth isn’t worthless.

Some of them cared.

But only so much.

Truth wasn’t worth enough to sell.

“How ‘bout two hits of juice, then. Who’s cheap around friends and family, right?” smiles Melton.

“But a dancer, huh.”

“So is she a pole dancer, or something fun, or just a ballerina?”

The Gangrel makes a hmph.

“The sculptures are always ballerinas.”

Julius: Julius strokes a long, strong finger across Laura’s arm, tracing the edge of the black silk batwing-sleeve. His eyes are clearly admiring—though whether the clothes or the ‘woman’ in them is uncertain.

“See’s, dat you’s mindin me’s of her gain. She’s uh ballerina, tutu an all, but one gud look at her face, an f’sure you’s can tell she’s bin made to do somethin she don’t rite wanna do.”

He squints, as if trying to force a memory or old factoid into focus.

“An come to think of it… da dawl dat posed fo’ da sculpture, uh Marie… somethin or udder, she wus uh ballerina at da Paris Royal Ballet, but she done quit an became uh prostitute, or so dey say. Den gain, Marie an da udder young ballerina boos wus expected to be givin sexual favors to da male patrons dat went backstage to watch da boos be practicin. So not too diff’rent den uh pole dancer when you’s think bout it.”

GM: “Oooh. I like this ballet,” says Laura, batting her koh-lined eyes.

“Ballerina blowjobs.”

She giggles.

“You think they still do that, at many ballet shows?”

Julius: Julius shrugs. “I ain’t never bin to no ballet.”

GM: “I bet they still do. The girls are super flexible, right? All the guys in the audience must want to fuck them.”

“Savoy should do a ballet night.”

“And just skip the dancing to feed on the dancers.”

Feeding.

Isn’t that what it always comes down to?

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