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Blood and Bourbon

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Story Thirteen, Celia XXX

“This changes everything.”
Roderick Durant


Monday night, 21 March 2016, AM

GM: Alana comes back, to report Roderick’s car is taken care of. She’s eager as always for more sex with her domitor before the sun finally rises over the sky. She departs with an “I love you” murmured into Jade’s ear.

Kindred don’t dream, but doubtlessly Jade would savor sweet dreams indeed to imagine her ex-lover’s thoughts at her caustic words. To imagine his face, when Benji and the ghouls turned him out. Could he take them? Perhaps, one on one, but three on one is ugly odds, and the need to keep the Masquerade makes them even uglier. So too with the swift need to find shelter from the sun. Doubtless, it grated his pride to slink away. To let Jade get the last word and the last laugh.

Everyone hates to let someone else get the last laugh.

Perhaps that explains the stake that plunges into Jade’s heart during the middle of the day.

The face that stares down isn’t happy. Not at Jade. Not at the world. Might not ever have been.

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Celia: And here she’d been hoping for round two with Pierre.

She’d gone to bed as Ren, flexing her new ability to become what Benji and his boys expected to see rather than confirm that she’s Kalani. The licks in the krewe know, but the ghouls don’t need to.

It had taken moments to make the change. With Sol beating down on her, trying to snake his tendrils through the cracks and crevices in their light-proofed house, Celia had practiced in front of the mirror. Same height, but the rest of her… oh, the rest of her shifts. Slimmer hips, smaller chest, more developed arms and legs and back; the rugged build of a Gangrel rather than the svelte form of the Toreador. Still pretty, but not enough to draw more attention than necessary. Brawler rather than dancer.

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GM: There are three other people in Ren’s peripheral vision, but the only one she can readily make out is Tantal standing next to Princess. He’s rammed a stake into Benji’s heart. Maybe he’d look apologetic if it were Jade.

“So where the fuck’s Kalani,” he says in his high voice.

Celia: She’d giggle if she could. She’d assumed they knew. But no. Here she is, hiding in plain sight.

GM: Princess grunts.

“Got all we need.”

The ghouls throw tarps over the two vampires’ bodies.

Celia: Benji didn’t do anything, she wants to say. But she can’t. She stares up at the tarp, unblinking. She should have told him to go.

GM: The ghouls wrap the tarps around the vampires’ bodies.

“Body bags are better,” says someone’s voice.

“Just zip up. Done.”

There’s a grunt in answer.

Ren feels thick arms bearing her up. Footsteps sound. She’s carried downstairs. She hears a door opening. Horrible heat bears down on her, like she’s been shoved inside a car with the windows closed for hours on a 100-degree day.

She hears a trunk opening. She’s deposited onto a flat surface. The trunk closes. The heat gets better.

The car drives for a bit. Comes to a stop. The trunk opens. The heat gets worse again. Then it gets better. There’s a steady tromp of footsteps heading upstairs.

Ren’s deposited onto a hard surface. The tarp comes off. She’s in the interrogation room where Celia killed Isabel. The body is long gone, but the restraints remain. Princess and Tantal fasten Ren onto the same St. Andrew’s Cross.

Princess yanks out the stake. She’s tall, taller than most grown men, with long arms begging someone to give them an excuse to throw a chin-shattering punch or elbow. Probably both. Then there’s her legs. Longer still, but not the kind a man might leer at. No, they’re the kind a kickboxer would use to sweep someone’s legs or smash in their teeth. Probably both.

“Where is he, Kalani,” she says flatly.

Sometimes the black ex-felon bare-knuckle fighter doesn’t sound that different from her prissy WASP domitor.

Celia: Ren’s mouth forms a smile.

“He asked me to let him go. So I did. I imagine he went back to his haven for the day.”

“I offered to let him stay. He declined.”

GM: Princess rams the stake back into Ren’s chest. The woman’s flat, not-happy expression doesn’t once change.

Tantal gives her a vaguely apologetic look.

Celia: She’d almost called him last night, she reflects. When she needed help with Lucy. Assumed he’d be able to take the memories, but then he might tell Lebeaux, and she’s not really sure where she stands with the warden now that his sire turned her in for infernalism.

Can you still be friends with the person whose dad tried to beat you up?

GM: Technically, ratted you out.

Bornemann doesn’t much feel like the kind of man to beat someone up himself.

The ghouls leave. Ren feels the sun bear down on her even through the Evergreen’s walls. Her body yearns to sleep. To become the lifeless corpse it truly is.

Celia: My dad can beat up your dad.

Isn’t that what the kids in school say?

GM: Her dad can beat up most dads.

Celia: She has the best dad.

GM: Perhaps he’ll come for her.

Like he did at the Dollhouse.

Celia: Why, is she in danger? Are they going to kill her for “abducting” Durant and saying some strongly worded things to him?

Gosh, what a pathetic little bitch.

His feelings must be all sorts of bruised.

He’d accused her of the “weeping woman” act but she’d seen him cry plenty of times, the fragile little snowflake.

Oh no, my sire lied to me.

Oh no, my sister is a vampire.

Oh no, my girlfriend lied to me.

Oh no, I expected monogamy in a society where casual sex is the norm.

Oh no, I miss my daddy.

Oh no, Celia didn’t let me treat her like a doormat and said I’m stupid. She didn’t sign her entire unlife over to me. She beat me up with one arm. She told me it took me three people to replace her and I realized she was right, and now I’m never going to have a white wedding or do any cool science experiments or find out how to turn the abortion into a real childe.

Oh no, I can’t fight my own battles and had to run and hide behind Savoy’s skirts like I did with Coco for years.

Boo fucking hoo.

GM: Boo fucking hoo indeed.

Doubtless his own thoughts for his ex-lover are little kinder, wherever he now is.

Time stretches on and on. Ren resists it as best she can, but no one returns to the interrogation room. Darkness claims her.


Monday night, 21 March 2016, PM

GM: Daysleep recedes as quickly as it came. One eyeblink later and it’s however many hours later.

Ren isn’t sore or tired.

The undead body is a marvelous thing.

Celia: Hers is particularly marvelous.

She made it herself.

GM: So many Kindred agree.

Some time passes. The door opens. Dracon strides in. He’s wearing a black suit, not like Roderick’s preferred grays, and a maroon button-up underneath with no tie.

He smiles as he looks over Ren’s staked body.

“This rather is the way I prefer it.”

Celia: Well, fuck.

GM: “That was rather stupid of you to take my phone away, Celia,” he tsks. “I couldn’t get in contact with Savoy’s people to quite literally call them off.”

Celia: Not that he would have.

GM: “I’m glad it’s worked out this way, though.”

Celia: Yes, he needs her staked to be able to stand a chance.

GM: He pulls out the stake.

Celia: She’s still bound to a cross. Restrained. Is he into that now? It’s kind of hot. She could be into it.

Just not with him.

GM: “Where oh where should we begin,” he muses.

“I know I want to save the best for last.”

“I was always the good boy who ate my veggies before dessert.”

Celia: “Such a good boy. I suppose that hit last night was Drakey instead of Roderick, since Stephen is… well, he’s very, very dead.”

GM: “He is,” agrees Dracon. “I’d say he and Celia have that in common, but really, she was always a lie.”

“Enough of the past, though.”

“Business is a good place to start.”

“Savoy doesn’t like loose ends, Celia. Gui is supposed to be ten kinds of dead by now. Or was, after we’d interrogated him.”

“Where is he?”

Celia: Celia stares, uncomprehending.

“I have no idea. He was gone by the time I came back last night. I assumed one of your friends took him.”

GM: Dracon makes a tsk-tsk-tsk sound.

“No, none of them did.”

“And he isn’t at Flawless. That’s already been checked.”

Celia: “That’s awkward. Maybe he got up and walked away.”

GM: “No, that’s not very likely. He had a stake in his chest.”

Celia: “Could have been wearing a wire. Maybe he still had a loyal friend or ghoul.”

“Granted, I told you the spa has been broken into. Maybe someone else found him.”

GM: “Mmm. No, there wasn’t any wire. I got a pretty good look at everything he had on his body while I was taking it apart.”

“The security footage at Flawless shows no break-ins, though.”

“But we’re beating around the bush.”

Celia: “Ah, yes, we don’t show up on cameras.”

GM: “Savoy thinks you’ve helped him escape, Celia.”

Celia: “I didn’t.”

GM: “Perhaps you’d like to tell that to him.”

Celia: “Sure.”

GM: “Let him inside your head to have a look around.”

Celia: “I didn’t help him, Roderick. I knew he was marked for death. I wouldn’t have helped him.”

GM: “Savoy doesn’t think so.”

Celia: “So you’ve said.”

“He can look if he likes. I don’t know where Gui went. I thought about getting him out of the city, but I didn’t act on it. Savoy would never welcome him back, and he’d spend all his time trying to get back at you rather than doing anything else, and he’d probably jump ship to someone else’s side if he ever did come back. There was no benefit to me in helping him escape. Last night I still wanted to make things work with you.”

“So I was setting him up, like you asked.”

GM: “Mm-hm,” Dracon says thoughtfully.

“I’m afraid that any answer which doesn’t produce Gui’s body isn’t good enough, Celia. You and the clanless scum were the last licks in a proximate position to do anything with his body.”

“I suppose there’s a couple ways we can play things from here.”

He glances across the rows of instruments.

Then he smiles and brushes Ren’s face with his hand.

“But I don’t want to hurt you, Celia. I really don’t. You were my first love. You’ll always have a special place in my heart. Help me to help you. Just tell me where he is, and you’ll be out of here in no time.”

His presence washes over her. She was his first love. She can trust him. She could always trust him. She can still trust him, even here. What’s happened between them won’t come between them.

Celia: His supernatural mien washes over her, but it’s like pouring water over a rock for all the good it does. There are no cracks in her armor for him to find, nothing for him to burrow into.

She doesn’t believe a word he says.

But he expects her to. He’s trying to turn the tables on her like she did to him last night. No doubt he’ll torture her once he’s done anyway. Why not have a bit of fun with it?

Celia blinks at the touch, again at the words. Her body is mobile but her head is not, and she tilts it to one side to press her cheek against his hand.

“I thought you hated me,” she breathes, eyes wide. “You… you were… you were so angry and I was just trying to help, I just wanted to do what you asked.” Red threatens to drip down her cheeks. “I don’t want to fight. I’ll help you. I will. We’ll find him. We’ll find him and, and then… you said once he’s dead we’d…” she trails off.

“You won’t hurt me?” she asks in a small voice.

GM: “Of course not, Celia,” he smiles. “Hurting you is the last thing I’d want to do. So much hate has come between us. So much hate and distrust where there was once so much joy and love. I don’t want that to be us. I want to go back to the old us. Where we were a team. Where it was us against the world. I want to do you a good turn and help our relationship begin to heal.”

“I’m sorry I refused your help. It was my pride talking. My pride and my anger.”

“And all that did was hurt us both.”

Celia: “I know. I approached it the wrong way. I shouldn’t have threatened you. I was… I was angry too, when you wanted me to sign over everything, I wanted to hurt you back but… that’s why we’re here, isn’t it. Because I did. Because I hurt you first.”

“They came for me. Like you said. They came for me and they asked where you were and I…” she blinks and finally the tears fall. “I thought you didn’t make it home, I thought you didn’t have enough time, and I was so scared that, that we’d never… that I’d never be able to apologize for, for everything.”

“I kept, I kept thinking about that movie we saw. The Dark Knight Rises. I kept remembering what you said, that you could forgive someone like Selina because she did the right thing eventually, and I just kept imagining that… that we could…”

“I never meant to hurt you,” she whispers. “I don’t want to be your enemy. Even if we’re not lovers, there’s… there’s so much that… I’m in so much trouble. So much.”

She lets the tears fall for a moment, but only that. She doesn’t want to lay it on too thick. She doesn’t sniff, but she turns her head to the other side to wipe her cheek on her arm.

“I’ll help you. We’ll find him. He can’t have gone far, not if you took him apart.”

GM: Roderick tenderly brushes the tears from Celia’s face.

“Shhh. It’s all right, Celia,” he says softly.

“It’s all right. You’re with me. Nothing can hurt you while I’m here.”

“We were both just hurting. We were both just hurting and trying to make each other hurt. But like with Selina, I think so much of what we did to each other was rooted in fear. Fears we could have confronted and conquered together, if we’d just let our hearts remain open.”

“I don’t know what the future looks like for us, but I know this. I want to help you and I don’t want to see you hurt. I want to get you out of trouble.”

“So where is he, Celia? Where did he go?”

Celia: Celia nods along to his words. The relief is plain on her face: he doesn’t want to hurt her. He wants to help. He’s going to help.

“I am scared,” she admits in a broken voice, “I’ve been afraid that they’d… that he’d… he knows everything about me, Roderick, all this time, and then the Guard…”

She swallows.

“It’s all I can think about, all I can f-focus on, that I’m going to die here or, or in a week and I… I told you…”

Her cheeks redden. She can’t meet his eyes. Her shameful gaze rests on the floor, shoulders hunched inward as if waiting for him to laugh at or strike her.

“I just want to help, I just want to fix this, all of it, all of it… I can’t, I can’t focus, I keep… keep seeing it, but I didn’t, Roderick, I didn’t help him—”

A fresh wave of red cascades down her cheeks.

Celia spends a few moments pretending to hate herself, pretending to cry while Roderick pretends to comfort her. When she finally looks back up at him her eyes shine, lips half parted and oh-so-kissable.

The desire flows from her like water off the edge of a cliff, splashing Roderick with its mist. It’s a gentle tug, a subtle invitation to remove the clothing from her body, an easy way to spend a handful of moments so her brain sharpens and he can pump her for all that she knows. She’s so pliant. So trusting and eager to help. And she’s pretty, even with this face. Maybe that makes it better, that he’s not looking at Celia or Jade but some random lick who he can pretend is anyone he wants.

And he can use it as an excuse to hurt her, can’t he? He’d done it before, the sweetest of hurts, but maybe this time he can go a little further, bite a little harder, make her cry out in pain before she ever receives pleasure.

He can bond her. He can make her love him. Fear him, yes, he can do that too when he pulls off his mask and reveals he’d been playing her all along, but she’ll be so obsessed with him that she won’t care. He’s seen it in her before, hasn’t he? With her father. With Diana. She grew up loving an abusive man and only stood up to him when he crossed a line. Hasn’t she been accepting of his punishments before? The microwave. Sleeping on the floor. Giving him blood.

She’d make a good housewife, wouldn’t she. No dead bedroom here, not when she’s an eager little slut and so happy to let him smack her around. She’d wanted to play house last night, too. Feed him. Protect him. Help him, even after he’d hurt her.

Here she is spilling her soul, offering to make amends. Maybe Savoy will let him keep her. He can add “Celia” to the list of things he oversees.

First, though, all he has to do is fuck.

It’s not like fucking her is a chore. She’s always made him see stars.

And he can see it already, can’t he. The appeal. The thin cotton shirt she’d slept in, lace panties, bare legs… alluring. Even here, chained and afraid: she trusts him, submits to him.

What’s the harm, right? Everything is about sex. Except sex—that’s about power. And here’s both.

Maybe that’s all she ever really wanted: to trust him. To not be afraid. To keep her heart open and know that he wouldn’t get swept into the danger or the drama, that no one would come after him because of her. To submit to someone powerful. To be claimed. He’s strong enough for that. To take her. Show her he’s in charge. He’s beaten her, hasn’t he? No tricks she can pull, not here. Maybe she’s an eager little slut for bad boys. Maybe Dracon titillates her in ways that Roderick didn’t.

Inside of her chest her Bitch and Beast both pace, watching the scene unfold. She’s going to fuck him. She’s going to fuck him by letting him fuck her, and then she’s going to force her blood down his throat and he’ll never know, he’ll have no idea. She’ll ensnare him, let him think she’s weak and eager and trusting, and he’ll let his guard down. He’ll think it’s easier, won’t he, because prisoners don’t try to escape when they don’t know that they’re in jail, and how sweet a cage he’ll give her.

It goes both ways.

He won’t leave her alone? She’ll show him exactly how she turned the tables on the hunters when she was blindfolded, gagged, and tied. How she had them eating out of the palm of her hand by the time she got herself free, how they were so eager to believe the honeyed lies dripping from her tongue, so eager to feed the vampire who doesn’t look like a monster, so willing to keep her as their little pet.

A kitten in a cage.

Only the cat isn’t a kitten at all, and when the tiger inside roars and bares its teeth the whole house shakes.

Celia and Jade had agreed that Celia will play the innocent. The wolf who guts the sheep to climb inside its skin.

Beauty has been perfectly cast.

GM: Beauty has been perfectly cast.

The words drip from her mouth like honey.

But it’s so much more than the words, too. It’s in her looks. Her expressions. Her ravishingly beautiful, eminently fuckable body. She is irresistible. Impossibly seductive. There is no stranger who wouldn’t blink before dropping his pants and fucking her and witlessly placing himself even further under her spell.

Celia, Ren, Jade, all the others—all of them are still the Beauty.

No one can resist the Beauty.

Roderick smiles back at her. She sees it in his eyes.

She is no Beauty to Roderick. No longer.

“You’re the ugliest person I’ve ever known,” he’d said.

His feelings for her are dead.

His desire for her is dead.

What they had together is dead.

She can see the words forming on his lips. The contempt in his eyes when she says she “needs” this. That she needs to have sex.

You’re such a pathetic slut, Celia.

“When Gui is retrieved, Celia,” he patiently tells her instead.

“I know where I left Gui at Flawless. Lebeaux can scan the area for psychic impressions. He will see with his own eyes who picked up our staked and limbless Ventrue. If he sees you helped move Gui to another location, and we can’t find Gui… things will go very badly for you. Savoy is assuming you’ve aided his escape until it’s disproven. He’s ordered you kept here and he’s ordered that you be interrogated, with torture and mindfucking if necessary.”

“This is no game, Celia. If Gui has defected to Vidal’s camp after his escape, or even just gone back to Chicago and turned his sire against Savoy, you will have attacked his power, and you will have made him your enemy. He will deal with you like all elders deal with enemies. By killing them.”

“The faster this is cleared up—the less trouble Savoy and his people have to go through, the less time and blood they need to spend on this—the better things will go for you. For us.”

He smiles again and strokes Celia’s cheek.

“Just tell me where Gui is, Celia. You’ll be let out of here, Savoy will welcome you back into the fold, and I’ll show you a good time upstairs. All our troubles will be behind us. We can face the future as a team again. Doesn’t that sound lovely?”

Celia: The Bitch inside watches her Beauty wither. She’d given it everything. All of her charm, all of the love she still feels in her heart for someone who doesn’t want anything to do with her, all of the hope she’d had that maybe, just maybe, they could make this work. That they don’t need to hate each other. She still has so much to offer him. Still has so much she wants to offer him, even after all of this. After everything. She’d still help. All he has to do is be nice to her and she’d still help, but he won’t. Just like Paul.

Inside the body, Beauty sobs. Bitch rests a hand on her shoulder.

“He’s not worth your tears, love.” Soft words for the broken girl. Bitch isn’t mad at the Beauty. Kicking her while she’s down won’t do anything but make her curl into a ball of self-loathing. She’d taken the memories, and she can sort this out.

The body blinks and Celia disappears. Jade stares out at Durant or Dracon or whatever he’s going by these nights, lips curling into a smile. Her spine straightens, bloody tears drying on her cheeks.

“I haven’t moved against Lord Savoy, darling,” she says with all the arrogance of someone who is still in control, even bound and captive like this. “You left him in my spa. Finders keepers, love. Yes, I moved him. And I butchered him. I cleaned up the loose end for you.”

GM: Jade’s flesh painfully ripples and shudders as the Bitch comes out. Her hands are bound, but she doesn’t need them anymore.

No more mix-ups.

No more spillage.

When Jade’s face is on, Jade occupies the body. Not Celia.

When Celia’s face is on, Celia occupies the body. Not Jade.

Roderick quirks an eyebrow.

“So much the better for you then, Celia. Or Jade. Or whatever you’re calling yourself. I hope you won’t get offended if I don’t bother to ‘learn your pronouns.’”

Celia: Jade cocks her head to one side, like a cat observing a very tasty looking bird stupid enough to land on its perch.

“It’s hard to believe she ever saw anything in you,” Jade muses. “Wanted you to stay that white knight forever for her, I suppose. Cute, in a pathetic, fairytale kind of way; we both know you were too weak to ever be what she really needed.”

She smiles, flashing teeth.

“Does it rub you the wrong way to know that I’ve killed more mobsters than you?”

“Your whole life’s vision, the reason for your Embrace… and I’ve beaten you at it.” She laughs.

GM: “Not especially,” Dracon smiles back.

“Carolla and Gui would’ve beaten you into pulp if I wasn’t there. Some licks get angry over ‘kill stealing,’ but if you want to enjoy my leavings, I say more power to you. We both know how those fights would’ve gone if you had to face them on your own. We both know just how little you’re capable of without me.”

“But speaking of that, let’s have some proof. No one is taking your word that Gui is dead without a body. So where is Gui’s body, Celia-Jade-Whoever?”

Celia: “Mm,” Jade says with a nod, as if considering his view valid. “They may have, had they ever seen the knife coming. They didn’t.” She smiles. “But you know all about that, don’t you?”

“He’s at the haven. Surprised Princess missed it, really. I left his hat on my nightstand. Then again, he’s in more pieces than you left him.”

GM: “I’d say it’s the first time you’ve done something useful or worthwhile in your unlife, but, well, see that ‘enjoying my leavings’ remark.”

“So he’s at the haven. Where is he in the haven?” Dracon asks indulgently.

Celia: “Christ, Durant, you went from boy scout to bully and your lines still suck. I heard they’re casting for Taken 4; you’re a shoo-in.”

“But enough flirting, hm? He’s in the bathroom.”

When Jade had taken over last night she’d cleaned up Celia’s mess. It wouldn’t do to have the girl see the body when she woke up, to wonder why it had turned whiter than flour and why the expression on his face was one of terror and agony. She said she’d take care of Celia and she means it; poor childe will get in over her head looking into things that she simply doesn’t need to know about and then they’ll have another bout of torture at someone else’s hands because she’d said the wrong thing to the wrong person. The girl is simply too trusting by half.

So Jade took care of it.

She’d hauled his parts into the bathroom for easy cleanup and used a large hooked knife to cut him open from groin to sternum. A foul, putrid stench hit her in the nose and she saw, to her disgust, that the contents of Gui’s chest had liquified into a mass of goo in some indistinguishable color between black and brown.

“What did you expect,” Dicentra had laughed, “bodies decompose.”

Jade rolled her eyes at the night doctor—as if she didn’t know—and simply tilted Gui’s body to the side to let the liquified organs spill into the shower.

“Older than we thought,” she’d observed. The doctor had only nodded in agreement.

Then she’d begun to harvest him. Not all of him, no, but patches of skin from his back where the damage to his body had been minimized, first by using her palms to turn him from white-as-a-ghost to his normal, though decayed, coloring, then using the edge of the blade to sever the skin from the body.

She’d made the same color-changing pass across his face and the rest of his pieces, then combed her fingers through his hair to change that hue as well. Her movements grew more sluggish the longer she worked—that damn sun—but a burst of speed saw her through to the end. She’d tucked the skin away with her tools, washed up, and found a shirt and clean panties in Ren’s wardrobe to pull on before collapsing into bed.

“Most of him, anyway.”

GM: “Christ, Flores, you went from stupid to stupid with multiple personalities, and your strategy to not get staked for pissing off the boss still sucks. I heard they’re still casting whores in pornos; the second Flores sister is a shoe-in.”

“But a room where filth is cleaned. I suppose that’s a fitting enough place for Mr. Gui to have met his end. I hope for your sake that he’s actually there.”

Celia: Jade doesn’t bother telling him about all the porn she’s already been in. The poor boy’s head will explode.

Imagine enjoying sex. Gosh, what thing to stone someone over.

GM: The stake slides back into her chest with a wet slurk. Dracon turns and leaves the room.

Celia: It’s too much to ask for music or a TV in this kind of place, isn’t it.

GM: Jade is left to stare at the wall. She’s not sure how long passes. It feels like a moderate while.

Eventually, the door re-opens. Dracon walks back in.

He’s followed by Hannah.

Celia: What a fun little family reunion.

GM: Hannah pulls out the stake.

“Why did you do it?” she asks, bluntly.

“Why did you blood bond me a second time without my consent?”

Celia: “He’s told you how stupid Celia is, darling. It was an oversight. Poor dear was so excited about figuring out what you could do that when she shared blood she just wasn’t thinking.”

“The bond will fade. Neither of us intended to reinforce it. Made sure to give you plenty in return though, hm? All of the rules explained. Liberated from the bar where you were looking for someone you couldn’t remember. Feeding on Bourbon Street. A tattoo to let you pass as mortal. A mask to hide your identity. A visit with the oldest thin-blood in the city that I paid for, which gave us answers as to what you could do. A lick outside your family actually willing to spend time with you and test your various abilities. Kept your memories from being deleted because I knew you needed someone normal and unbiased to talk to about all this. A place to stay. Two, even.”

“Not to mention I saved your life on Thursday when Carolla planned to execute you. And again on Sunday when the dear hound wanted a sip and might have seen through the tattoo. And, oh, I suppose when we went to see Gui to find your sire and the Guard showed up there, too. Kept you outside and kept my nose clean so they didn’t have a reason to look twice at you.”

“All this time and I haven’t even asked you to pay me back for any of it. Haven’t asked you to do anything you didn’t want to do. Haven’t hurt you or taken advantage of you. In fact I went out of my way to make you comfortable when I knew you were skittish about feeding last night. Even took you to Elysium when you asked and cut a deal to find your sire for you. Granted, I suppose that boon is moot now. Imagine Durant has your sire stashed somewhere.”

“You’ve had it better than most true-blooded fledglings.”

GM: “‘Oops, I forgot,’” Dracon says in a mocking tone.

“I told you this was going to be a waste of time, Dani.”

“Then thank you for honoring my choice anyway,” says Dani. “I wanted to hear this from her.”

“Stephen, could someone actually overlook that?”

“No,” sneers Dracon. “No, sis, I’d say it’s literally like forgetting to use a condom, but it’s even dumber than that. Because all of us are ‘carrying’ condoms on hand, and we know there’s no emergency contraception. You’d have to be so fantastically stupid to ‘forget’ your blood can enslave someone that it’d be a wonder you could even put on your own clothes without step-by-step instructions.”

“All Celia would’ve had to do was wait a few seconds for her blood to cool and lose its bonding properties, and everything else you did together, you could’ve still done together.”

“You’d said,” Dani frowns.

“Speaking of that tattoo, did she tell you she’s Dr. Dicentra?” Dracon asks.

“Wait, what?” asks Dani.

“Yes, she lied to you and her mother about that too,” says Dracon. He isn’t quite smiling, but Jade can hear the pleasure in his voice at exposing another lie. “The ‘night doctor’s’ entire persona is a lie, a convenient fiction Celia uses to hide the fact that she can alter flesh the way she does.”

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

“I didn’t know either until the night we killed Carolla,” Dracon says. “I’d assumed they were separate people too. The doctor actually collected favors from me—a nice way around the fact that lovers typically don’t bother tracking owed boons.”

Celia: Amusement flickers across her face.

“Forget to use a condom, you mean like that time you and Celia fucked in the car? So sad, wasn’t it, when her sire ripped the life from her womb.”

“Do get on with it, Durant. The only thing less titillating than this is all those times we fucked.”

“And I guess last night when you showed how cool you are, murdering kine and all. Very badass.”

GM: “Oh, Celia, this isn’t about you, I’m afraid,” says Dracon. “This is about doing right by Dani. Telling her the truth she deserves.”

Celia: “Here’s your truth, Dani: I lied to you brother countless times. I cheated on him. He’s angry. He wasn’t good enough for his sire so she Embraced some mobster and now his feelings are hurt.”

GM: “Yes, he told me that,” says Dani. “And a lot more.”

“I’m not interested in what happened between you two right now. I want to clear up the lies between us.”

Celia: She laughs.

“Why? Run home with your brother, Dani. I’m the monster he wants me to be.”

GM: Dani regards Jade for a few moments.

“Are you sorry?” she finally asks. “For the lies you’ve told me?”

“Because even if you blood bound me by accident, which I can believe, people do forget to use condoms in the heat of the moment, you never said anything afterwards. To my mind, that’s the actual lie.”

Celia: “No. I’m not.” Jade shrugs. “Celia might be. But she’s always been weak.”

GM: “Well then,” says Dani. “Okay.”

“I wasn’t a virgin before I was raped,” she then says. “I was embarrassed about how I lost my virginity, so when it came up between us and you assumed, I didn’t correct you. I wondered for a while why I did that. Why I cared so much about what you thought that I’d lie.”

“The bond twisted your feelings,” says Dracon.

“I guess so,” says Dani, looking back towards Jade. “I doubt this means anything to you right now, but I don’t like telling lies to anyone. It feels good to come clean.”

Celia: Jade is quiet for a moment.

“Celia wants me to tell you that you probably weren’t, if it helps. Most licks can’t get it up anymore. She’d offer to show you, but, well.”

GM: “And why didn’t ‘Celia’ tell me that earlier, either?” asks Dani.

Celia: “Various reasons. You were still violated. Feeding is a sort of sex. Telling someone they weren’t technically raped doesn’t make it feel less awful, just like calling it date rape doesn’t make it less heinous. You still died for it. She thought perhaps your sire might have been a thin-blood and was able to get it up, or brought in a third party to have a bit of fun, so she wanted to find out first before she brought it up. Avoiding false hope and the likes. You know, real savior complex.”

“I doubt her reasoning matters to either one of you. Spilling secrets is fun and all, but I’d like to see the warden now.”

GM: Dani gets a look on her face at that, but offers no further response.

“Yes, I was thinking about seeing him too,” says Dracon.

“We found the body. It looks like Gui. But, obviously, you can change what people look like, so I’m not sure if it’s really Gui’s body. It’d be a good escape plan. If the real Gui stowed away in a body bag, he’d have had a decent window of time for a loyal ghoul to make it out of the Quarter or even the city with him.”

“I wonder what would happen if Lebeaux combed the body over with his divinations and ESP. Would he get a vision of Celia Flores sculpting someone else’s corpse into Reynaldo Gui’s?”

“Because if he would, now would be a good time for you to give up your marked-for-death lover, Celia. I’m afraid you’re just not smart enough to fool everyone.”

Celia: Is it even worth it to point out the lack of time and prep she had? Not that it would stop her if she were truly determined to smuggle Gui out of the city, but the risk isn’t worth whatever feel-good reward she’d get from it. And if she were planning on smuggling Gui out, she’d have gone with him rather than face her grandsire’s displeasure.

Pride brings half a dozen smartass remarks to mind. The desire to survive and prevent Lebeaux from looking over the corpse makes her bite her tongue.

“Ah… no. But he will see me sculpting Gui. Ugly-dead-Gui to less-ugly-and-decomposed-dead-Gui. Grandsire said I could harvest some parts and I didn’t want the decayed bits sitting in my bag. Easier to do it all at once and cut what I need.”

There’s a slight pause. Jade looks away, uncomfortable, then throws him a bone to gnaw on.

“There’s, ah… I’d prefer he not see what I did to the corpse, okay?”

GM: “Ah, and here comes the dirty laundry,” smiles Dracon.

“And why is that, Celia?”

Celia: Bend. Bend so she doesn’t break. Bend so her unlife doesn’t end. What’s a bit of laughter, a bit of humiliation, compared to ceasing to exist?

Jade squirms. She makes a good show of it, keeping her eyes diverted, pausing long enough to make it sound like she doesn’t want to say. Finally, she blurts it out.

“I fucked him. When I killed him. I made his dick hard and I rode him and when I reached climax I ripped his heart out. And he got ugly immediately and it wasn’t satisfying and ruined the O, so I fixed him up and did it again.”

GM: Dani looks disgusted.

Dracon, though, gives her a very mean smile.

“Well then. I think I’d doubly enjoy Lebeaux checking the corpse.”

“Turns it into a real win-win proposition.”

“If you helped him escape, we find out.”

“And if you didn’t, someone else sees what a disgusting slut you are.”

Celia: “You win, Dracon.”

It’s the first time she’s used his new name. Not a nickname, no hint of venom or derision, no snide comments about it being pretentious.

“I said it last night, I’ll say it again. You win. You broke Celia’s heart when you made her watch you with the two snakes. Even after that she was still willing to submit to you if it meant she got a chance to fix it. You broke it again when you wouldn’t stay the day. She was a sobbing mess. She’s still a sobbing mess. She’ll probably always be a sobbing mess over you. So you win. You have me helpless here. I got lucky last night when I took you out, and I got lucky on Thursday with Carolla and hoping you’d turn on him and not me, and I got lucky that you’d already done the work with Gui and all I had to do was finish him off. You’re stronger than me, you’re smarter than me, you have my grandsire’s favor.”

“You win.”

“So what is it going to cost me to end this between us? I don’t expect you to ever not hate Celia or I for what we’ve done, but we’re going to be seeing a lot of each other around the Quarter, and I’d rather not fight with you every time we bump into each other when there are plenty of enemies outside to focus on. You want to fuck me over after Savoy is on the throne? Fine. But right now I’m waving the white flag and I’m asking for a ceasefire. Name a price. Boons? Marks for Dani? She’s night-blind, you know, and I can fix that. I can teach her to fly. I have pages of notes I created for your new identity that I can pass off to you, or give you a new one, or give her a new one so ‘Hannah’ isn’t seen running around with Durant after being with Jade. I’ve even got an opportunity for you to hurt me by physically ripping me apart while doing something good for someone you don’t hate.”

GM: Jade or Celia, she’s always been good at mirroring.

Telling people what they want to hear.

Telling them they are the person they want to be.

Telling Roderick that he’s Dracon. Smarter and stronger and more important.

That he won.

“I’m glad you’ve finally seen reason… Jade,” he smiles.

“It’s also Draco, I’ve decided. Dani’s idea.”

Celia: It brings to mind spoiled children who hide behind their parent’s skirts and never actually get their hands dirty and cry to daddy about everything.

Perfect, really.

But Jade doesn’t say.

GM: “It warms my heart to hear Celia is suffering.”

“I hope she will suffer for a very long time.”

“Not mine,” says Dani. She looks at Jade, but she doesn’t look hateful.

Mostly just sad.

Celia: Grudgingly, Jade nods. “She will. Every time she sees you she’s hurt all over again.”

GM: “That’s beautiful,” smiles Draco.

Celia: “Very focused on what might-have-been. Bought a dress and everything.”

GM: “Oh, that’s so sweet. I’d rip it to pieces and throw the ring at her feet, if I could.”

Celia: The words don’t bother Jade. She’d never loved a boy named Stephen.

GM: “I think I’ve heard enough,” says Dani. “I got everything I came here for.”

She still looks more sad than angry.

Draco rubs her shoulder. “That’s fine. You want to head home?”

“Yeah. School tomorrow.”

Celia: Jade turns her eyes toward the thin-blood.

“She is sorry, Dani. She was afraid. She shouldn’t have been.”

GM: Dani just looks sadder.

“Not sorry enough to tell me like she told her mom.”

Celia: “Mothers are supposed to love their children. Friends can walk away at any time.”

“She’s learned her lesson, Dani. Good luck out there.”

GM: “I’m going to let Mrs. Flores know the truth about Dicentra. There’s no reason she should think she’s made a friend who isn’t real.”

“But were we just friends? I thought we were going to be so much more than that. I’m sad, Celia, Jade, whoever. I thought I was going to have a new sister. I thought we were going to set up our parents together. That our families were going to become one. That’s really, really sad we can’t have that, because it would’ve been something beautiful.”

Dani starts to wipe her eyes.

Celia: For a moment, Jade simply stares.

Then she’s gone, skin dissolving and melting like ripples across a pond to turn into the very-familiar face of Celia Flores.

“I wanted that too, Dani.” Red rims her eyes. “I wanted that, so much. I wanted to marry your brother and set up our parents and get a place together in the Quarter. I already started calling you ‘sister’ in my head.” Her lower lip quivers.

“I’m sorry. I’m sorry I messed it up. I always mess it up. I was trying to be better, Dani. For you. For…” she can’t look at him, doesn’t look his way, “for Stephen. I just kept doing what you said. Treating both of you like kids.”

Sanguine tears trail down her cheeks. She shakes her head.

“It was stupid. I was stupid. And I’m sorry.”

GM: “This is how she gets you every time, Dani,” Draco says to his sister.

“So contrite.”

“So sad.”

“So sympathetic.”

“Really makes you want to just give her another chance, doesn’t it?”

He turns back to Celia.

“Take that face off or I’ll carve it off,” he says calmly.

Celia: Celia flinches at the threat. Then she’s gone. The Bitch is back, lips quirked in amusement.

“And you thought I was taking away her choices.”

GM: Dani wipes some more at her eyes. Watery pinkish tears bead from them.

“No,” she sniffs. “I’d rather not see Celia either. Goodbye.”

She turns and leaves.

Celia: It’s an effort to resist rolling her eyes.

GM: Draco gets the door for her, then turns back to Jade.

“So, terms.”

“Let’s see, I definitely don’t want any of your personalities’ assistance with my identity.”

Celia: “It was more general ideas than assistance.”

“Things that would keep you from being found out.”

Jade shrugs. She doesn’t care.

GM: “Mm,” Draco says noncommittally.

“You spoke earlier, among other things, about curing thin-bloodedness via ‘dark magic’. That’s of interest to me.”

“I’d be a cruel brother to let my sister stay so weak and dependent.”

Celia: Jade gives a sharp shake of her head.

“Not here. Anywhere but here.”

GM: “Fine. You’re coming with me to another location.”

Celia: Jade only nods.

GM: Draco pulls out a phone and taps into it. It looks like the same one Jade removed from his person.

Celia: Phones all look the same.

Plus, it’s not like she’d hidden it. It reminds her of why she’d taken it, though.

“The couple from last night. Ring stores their data online. You took their phones, but you need to get the online stuff scrubbed.”

“You won’t show up, but your cars will.”

GM: Draco smiles at her.

“Give my big brain some credit.”

Celia: Jade inclines her head.

“My apologies, Draco.”

GM: “No, this is for something else,” he says, tapping into the phone. “I might be able to beat you in a fair fight, but after how last night went down I’m taking out some insurance.”

“We all do so hate fair fights.”

Celia: “Insurance?”

Which of her family members is he abducting?

GM: “Oh, nothing harmful to you or your interests or your loved ones, if you don’t double-cross me.”

Celia: “I’m not going to double-cross you, Draco. I’ve seen how well that went for me.”

GM: “You’ll forgive me if I don’t take your word.”

Celia: “Of course. I just also hope you’re practicing discretion with the mortals in her unlife that have done no wrong.”

GM: “Don’t worry about it, Jade. If you don’t attempt to cross me, you’ll have no idea what precautions I even took.”

He tucks the phone back away, then undoes the cuffs around her limbs.

Celia: She hadn’t expected this. She thought she’d get another stake to the heart. She glances down at herself, at her lack of clothing. Panties. Shirt.

“Are we going somewhere private where this is acceptable attire, or shall I shift?”

GM: “Shift.”

Celia: Without a word, she’s a cat. Her tail curls around her legs, large green eyes steady on the lick in front of her. She doesn’t presume to wind herself around his legs or purr, doesn’t ask for scratches or roll onto her back to expose her belly. Silently, she waits.

GM: He picks up the cat and leaves the room. Some ghouls see him along the way, but no one stops him. He takes the back entrance outside to his car. The license plates isn’t the same ones Jade saw last night. He opens the door, gets in, and deposits the cat on the seat adjacent to the driver’s. His touch is neither rough nor affectionate.

Celia: The cat flicks its ear at her former boy, as if asking if he wants her to stay feline or return to a form that can speak.

GM: “You can turn human,” he says. He turns on the car’s ignition and drives.

Celia: So she does, reaching for the seatbelt to buckle herself in. Jade’s eyes look out the window.

GM: Royal Street rolls past them. No one attempts to waylay the car. Draco drives for a while up Royal, towards the more residential part of the Quarter, then stops. He taps his phone again and sweeps it over the car’s interior. He also rummages through the glove compartment, ventilators, and other hard to reach spots.

“Let’s hear it, then. Your alleged cure for thin-bloodedness.”

Celia: Jade is silent while Draco does his thing. She waits until he’s done to speak.

“You have no reason to trust what I say. So if you require proof, I can attempt to provide it. By telling you this, I assume you understand the risks. It’s the sort of knowledge that will get you killed, the reason that elders stomp on neonates, the reason that Celia chickened out last night in giving you the truth you asked for.”

“Here’s what I’m promising you, Draco. Full disclosure. If there’s something I can’t tell you for any reason, I’ll say that. This is also a two-way street. If I’m going to share something with you that will get me killed I expect something in return.”

“You’re in charge. I recognize that. I also recognize that I’m not interested in throwing away my Requiem because you mention this to the wrong person. This stays between us. And Dani, if you choose to bring her in on it.”

“Can you agree to that?”

GM: “Yes,” says Draco.

“The thing you get in return is my statement to Lebeaux that I’ve seen the body, tasted its blood, and everything was legit. Likewise to Lord Savoy.”

Celia: “You can’t let him into your head. Once you know this.”

GM: “He’s already more likely than be in your head than mine.”

Celia: “Yes,” Jade agrees, “that’s why I’ve sealed off her memories.”

GM: “Assuming he can actually read minds without other licks noticing. That’s an advanced trick. He hasn’t confirmed or denied whether he can. Neither would I, if I were him.”

Celia: “He or Preston does it. They’ve answered multiple questions I never got a chance to ask.”

GM: “And what would that gain them? Would it have been worth revealing that thoughts aren’t safe around them?”

Celia: “I don’t know their thoughts, Draco, I only remember a very specific meeting where I was thinking something in particular and they responded to it. Multiple times.”

GM: “You aren’t thinking logically. If it’s not important enough for you to even remember, it wasn’t important enough to tip their hands over. They could have just inferred what you were going to ask.”

Celia: She never said that she didn’t remember.

But she doesn’t start an argument over it.

“There’s something else I’d like to ask you.”

GM: “Elders don’t like to disclose the full extent of what powers they do or don’t have. Case in point, right now. I’ll assume Savoy can read Kindred minds without them noticing, because that’s safest. If he actually can, he still benefits from my uncertainty. If he can’t, then I might take precautions that don’t actually advance my interests and might even set them back. That’s the fog of war.”

Celia: “That’s valid,” Jade concedes.

GM: “Yes, it is. I’ve always been the smarter one.”

Celia: Not a single flicker of emotion crosses her face.

“You are. Very smart.”

GM: “Mm, another lie, at least from your lips,” he answers with a cold smile. “But the statement itself is still true. Why, you could even say that’s a philosophical construct. A true statement uttered from a position of nonbelief with intent to deceive. But still factually true.”

“From what perspectives does this make the statement false? From what perspectives is it true?”

Celia: “I never doubted that you were smarter than me, Draco.”

GM: “Hm, that statement sounds closer to true. But no matter. Ask your question, and I’ll answer with my own truths or lies or non-answers as I see fit.”

Celia: “Do you have my ghouls? The boys. Reggie and Rusty.”

“You or one of your friends.”

GM: “No.”

“If Reggie’s come to a bad end, though, I might smile.”

“He’s fortunate he lipped off to me as Roderick.”

Celia: Jade shoves a hand through her hair.

“I thought you were going to kill him. It might have been better if you had.”

GM: Draco smiles coldly again, showing his fangs.

“Feel free to bring him by, then, and I’ll rectify the error.”

Celia: “At the risk of you mocking me, I can’t find him. Neither of them are responding to their phones and they turned off their tracking. I thought if you’d taken him it would have at least been a neatly wrapped problem.”

GM: “Oh, but it is.”

“For me.”

“It’s not my problem.”

“Very neatly wrapped.”

Celia: “No. It’s not. I didn’t intend to make it your problem.”

GM: “We’re outside of the Evergreen. There are no bugs in the car. Now, our business?”

Celia: It’s the sort of truth that will get her killed, she’s certain of it. She’s also certain that if she doesn’t tell him, and prove it, he’ll have Lebeaux test the body and they’ll find out anyway. It’s a leap of faith, isn’t it? Trusting that he wants to help his sister more than he wants her dead. Trusting that he wants to torment Celia for years rather than have Jade quickly executed.

Jade unbuckles her seat belt, turning to face him fully with her legs crossed beneath her.

“In the interest of full disclosure, I didn’t fuck Gui last night.”

She gives him a look.

“I ate him.”

GM: “You ate him,” repeats Draco.

Celia: “His soul.”

GM: “Is this how you explain developing another one of your multiple personalities?”

“I could care less how many of them you have or what insane explanations you contrive for their existences.”

Celia: Jade actually laughs at that.

“No. Though that certainly is a convenient excuse. I told you it’s dark magic. Which do you want first, the history lesson or the magical theory?”

GM: “Theory, then application.”

Celia: A thrill runs through her at the words.

“I’ve been doing some experiments on Kindred and thin-blood physiology,” she says. “Dani twists. All thin-bloods do. She drinks from me and she learns star mode. She drinks from you and she takes your speed. She absorbs what we have. The more she drinks, the more she gets. But our powers are set. I know what I know, you know what you know. Takes a while to learn new tricks. You need a teacher. Occasionally you find one of those sweet mortals who give you a boost, right? Aside from that, we’re limited by our age and our removal from the first lick. You explained it very well to Dani. The cup pouring into another cup.”

“So this… lets you bypass all of that. I took things that he can do. I learned things he can do. He didn’t show me. No one showed me. I ate him, and I absorbed him.”

“Instantly.”

GM: Draco raises his eyebrows.

“By what means? Drinking another lick’s blood like Dani does doesn’t typically absorb their powers.”

“It can, but when it does it’s a function of specific powers the blood serves as a conductor for, rather than as a result of any quality inherent to the blood.”

Celia: “Right, but it’s not the blood. Or rather, it’s not just the blood. You don’t just drink their blood and call it a day. You keep going. They’re empty, you keep going. It’s their soul. Their essence. Their life force. Their energy. Whatever makes them who they are. You take it for yourself.”

“You see it in other cultures all the time. Eating the remains of the dead to absorb parts of them. Heart of the lion for courage. In Papa New Guinea they used to eat the brains of their dead family members.”

“That may or may not be a real thing. But this? This is.”

GM: “Yes, those are just the barbaric superstitions of inferior cultures,” Draco concurs.

“So it lets you learn disciplines faster. How do you know it cures thin-bloodedness?”

Celia: “Because of a comment that was made when I heard about it. About the blood getting more potent. So if it works for us, it’ll work for her.”

GM: “Where did you learn of this?”

Celia: “That’s one of those things I can’t tell you.”

GM: “Did you trade something for this information?”

Celia: “Yes.”

GM: “So that’s the theory. What’s the history?”

Celia: “How familiar are you with the unicorns?”

GM: “Probably more so than you.”

Celia: “Perfect. They’re soul thieves. Ta-da.”

GM: “So the practice originated among them? Or they were the first to discover it?”

Celia: Jade shrugs.

“My contact didn’t say. Not many licks willing to talk about them, or what they do with souls. Attracts the wrong sort of attention when you go asking questions.”

GM: “So this practice doesn’t simply absorb disciplines. It also thickens the blood. That’s how a thin-blood becomes a true-blood.”

Celia: “That’s the working theory.”

GM: “You said this came from a ‘comment’ by your contact. What did your contact specifically say?”

Celia: “That my blood is thicker than it should be given my age.”

GM: “But you hadn’t eaten any souls when your contact told you this information, because you learned it from them.”

Celia: “Correct.”

GM: “Then why did they bring up your blood’s thickness at all? I’ve tasted your blood. It’s stronger than other neonates’, but not abnormally so.”

Celia: “That’s also something I can’t tell you.”

GM: “Your hypothesis—not theory—that this practice can prematurely thicken blood sounds extremely specious.”

“But no matter. It doesn’t need to.”

“Developing disciplines faster has value of its own.”

Celia: Jade gives a nod.

“Time for practical application?”

GM: “I don’t trust you as far as I can throw you.”

“Actually, I trust you a good less than the distance I could throw you.”

“So you’re going to show me this is true, on someone who won’t be missed.”

Draco twists the keys and starts driving again.

Celia: Jade doesn’t object. She just turns forward again, fastening her seatbelt.

“I need clothes,” she says eventually.

GM: “You’re about to get them.”

Celia: How does such an innocuous statement sound so sinister?


Monday night, 21 March 2016, PM

GM: Draco drives for a while. They leave the French Quarter. They pass into a suburb. Draco doesn’t speak. His fangs are faintly visible in his mouth. There’s a predatory stillness to his moonlit face unlike anything Celia ever saw on Roderick’s. It reminds her of Jade’s expression when Celia’s mother, beaten and abused back into Grace, went about her assigned tasks while a hungry predator coolly watched on.

Sometimes, throughout the drive, Draco smiles. The expression does not reach his eyes.

At a few moments, he starts softly chuckling.

At one point, he starts laughing, though there’s no mirth in the sound.

He doesn’t look at or speak to Jade.

Celia: That makes two of them. Jade steadily ignores the insanity beside her.

And people think she has problems.

GM: “Turn into a cat and get on the floor,” he abruptly says, breaking the silence.

Celia: The girl’s body disappears. The cat steps silently off the seat and onto the floor, curling in on itself and killing the aura that makes it look like a threat. Green eyes stare out at Draco from the shadow beneath the dash.

GM: Draco doesn’t look at the cat. The thrum of traffic sounds in the background. It feels as if they’re driving for a decent while, though the cat can’t tell where they’re going from her new vantage point.

Draco finally stops the car.

“Turn into Jade again.”

Celia: The cat crawls from its spot and turns back into the girl.

GM: “Get out of the car,” he says as he opens the door and gets out.

Celia: Jade follows suit, eyes sweeping their surroundings.

GM: They’re in an unfamiliar suburb. Many of the houses’ lights are out. Draco walks up to the nearest lit one. Through a window, Jade sees the drooped heads of half-asleep couple watching a movie in their living room.

He knocks firmly on the door.

The two start awake. Wary suspicion colors their faces, then suddenly drains away. First from the man’s, then the woman’s.

The man opens the front door.

“It’s so good to see you again,” Draco beams at the stranger, though the expression looks almost mocking. “I know it’s late. Do you mind if we come in?”

“Sure,” smiles the man, opening the door further. He’s black and in his early middle years.

“Where are her pants…?” he starts to ask.

“Don’t worry about it,” smiles Draco.

Celia: It’s the face. Whoever he is, he’s dead. The man said it last night.

And this is… another hit, isn’t it. Two birds sort of thing.

Jade follows Draco inside.

GM: Draco closes the door behind her before the man can.

“Close the shades, will you? I’ve never liked the idea of neighbors snooping in.”

“Hmph. The Petersons next door are such snoops,” says the woman. She’s also dark-skinned and in her early middle years. She closes the shades.

“Got kids?” asks Draco.

“Er, no,” frowns the man.

“Perfect,” smiles Draco, then presses a finger to the base of the man’s neck. He hits the floor with a crash and doesn’t move.

The woman opens her mouth as if to scream, but she’s too slow. Draco’s form blurs, then she hits the floor too.

Jade’s ex-lover rolls the man over onto his back.

“Make yourself look like her. Make me look like him.”

Celia: “Need a hit,” Jade says bluntly, nodding at the bodies. “Unless you want to be here all night.”

GM: Draco gestures sardonically at the woman.

He’s already kneeling to sink his fangs into the man’s neck. A low slurp sounds as the vampire drinks his fill.

Celia: Jade crouches beside the woman, then sinks in. She takes her lead from Draco. If he’s draining his, she’ll do the same. She has no idea if he’s planning on using them for anything else.

GM: Draco drinks for several minutes, enough for a decent meal, then pulls away.

He stands and strips off his clothes.

“The likeness below my face doesn’t need to be perfect. Just make me black.”

Celia: Jade drinks her fill, slurping down the red liquid with no regard to the woman beneath her. It’s not the sort of fare she’s used to, not the sweet, lust-ridden blood that so often graces her tongue. It lacks the potency of Kindred blood. And it’s nothing like what she’d taken from Carolla or Gui.

Easy to see how too much of a good thing can be a bad thing. She’s already itching for another hit of the good stuff.

GM: Human blood next to lick blood is like water and wine.

Human blood next to diablerie is like piss and wine.

Celia: She doesn’t bother to rise once she’s done, kneeling at his feet to begin the process of changing his skin tone. It’s easier than the muscle work, a quick pass of her hands over his flesh like she’s rubbing in paint, and it reminds her of the instant way the bronzer of her spray tan solution turns the skin dark. She rises from there, moving her hands steadily up his shins, calves, thighs—

She halts at his groin, asking him how thorough he wants her to be.

GM: Draco’s lips draw back and his fangs show at the sensation, though it’s less painful than deeper work. He shrugs at her question.

“I doubt anyone will see me there. But no harm in being thorough and no point in being sloppy.”

Celia: It’s a familiar feel in her hand.

She doesn’t linger overlong, doing what needs to be done before moving on to his abdomen, across the flat (chiseled) plane of his stomach, across the broad muscles of his chest and shoulders, down his arms, his hands, his fingers. She’s sure to cover every bit of him that was once white, and once she’s done with the front she moves behind him to begin on the back, sweeping down from the back of his head to his lumbar and finally across the glutes.

“Painful part,” she warns when she steps in front of him again, fingertips gliding across his face to turn Draco into random-black-guy. The muscles shift like warm butter across toast, flexing and lengthening before she carves them into the shape of the man on the floor. She works quickly, but she pays attention to the details: the fullness of the lips, the broader nose, the wrinkle across his forehead, the crow’s feet at his eyes.

GM: His fangs lengthen at her painful handiwork. He’s still until she’s done and a stranger’s face stares back at Jade’s. He then walks into the couple’s bedroom, picks out some clothes, and pulls them on.

Jade has her pick, too.

Draco’s fangs show again in annoyance as he dresses himself. The clothes aren’t a perfect fit. The shoes take him some time and probably pinch, but that will be of little discomfort to the undead.

Jade runs into similar issues. The woman’s size is bigger than hers.

Celia: Jade’s transformation to the black woman is just as quick. Her skin darkens, hair curls and shortens, face becomes older with the suggestion of wrinkles at the corners of her eyes. She’s amused by the size of the waist and booty, padding it as much as this woman’s is.

“She’s taller than me, but heels will help. Fatter, too.” Jade peruses the closet, skipping over the selection at the front to find the spot in the back where women store their “once I lose 20 lbs” clothes. She glances at the outfit Draco has chosen for an idea of how formal or casual to go.

GM: He’s gone with mostly casual. Jeans and a button-up.

Celia: Then she goes casual too, pulling on a dress that would be right at home in a bar. Cotton-y sort of material. Matronly, with sleeves that Jade would never be caught dead in but hides the saggy underarms of this middle-aged woman. The dress hits below her knees, but it’s easier to hide that it’s not the right length than a pair of pants dragging the floor behind her, and a well-placed safety pin gathers some excess material.

“Draco,” she says as she pulls on her selection, “can I say something?”

GM: He shrugs.

Celia: “I know you don’t trust me. But if this works, if you’d like, I can add mass to you. For your Draco face. Better if he’s a different size than Roderick. Your normal doc can tuck it away when she makes the changes to you from there.”

She finds tissues to stuff into the toes of her chosen heels to accommodate for the size difference, trying not to bemoan the state of her… cankles.

She hates being ugly.

GM: “Wear practical shoes,” says Draco.

“We’ll see first if this works.”

Celia: Oh. Jade finds a less flashy heel. The ugly sort, with a square toe box and half an inch lift, barely more than what a sneaker would give. She rummages through the dresser for two pairs of ankle socks to pad for size, then finally says fuck it and pulls off the dress, reaching for a blouse and jeans to go with the seldom used (by the looks of them) running shoes that are, surprise, also at the back of the closet.

She swears every woman is the same.

“You might lose your shit. When it happens. Just be prepared for that.”

GM: “You’ll probably need to be more prepared for it than me,” says Draco.

Celia: “Yes,” she agrees.

“I was just warning you.”

“So you’re not surprised.”

GM: Draco takes out his phone again, taps into it, then puts it back away. He hefts the man and woman back into the bedroom like they weigh nothing, then finds some cable cords from another room that he uses as improvised rope to bind their hands and feet in hogtied position. He gags them too.

Celia: Jade assists where she can, but mostly she just lets him do his thing. He’s stronger than her.

“Who’s the target?”

GM: “You’ll see,” is all he answers.

Draco retrieves the couple’s keys, exits the house, and locks the door. He gets into their car with Jade and starts driving.

After a little while, he says, “Turn into a cat and get on the floor.”

Celia: Jade doesn’t push further. She can only hope it isn’t someone that she is going to miss.

They’re already in the car when she asks if he needs a mark to hide his Beast.

GM: He considers for a moment.

“It won’t hurt.”

Celia: Well. It will.

GM: “It will need to be deactivated when we’re close enough to the target.”

Celia: “Oh. You can control that. You just turn it off. This just gives you the ability to mask it. Or I can put it on your hand and just wipe it away when you say.”

GM: “The former is acceptable.”

Celia: “Permanent or temporary?”

Jade moves to the floor rather than try to do it while bending across the steering console. “Or I could make this temporary and give you a permanent one in a better spot later.”

GM: “You’re very eager to be helpful,” Draco remarks.

Celia: Jade shrugs. “Truth? I told you that I don’t want you as an enemy. I don’t want to constantly look over my shoulder for you. I don’t want Celia’s family to be hurt. You won, remember? I recognize power when I see it.”

She smiles when she reaches to roll up his pant leg so she can mark his calf.

“Plus there aren’t many licks that know I rip people apart. It’s nice to be able to share.”

GM: “All of us rip people apart, sooner or later.”

Celia: She wonders if it’s still a sore spot to him, killing those hunters. If there’s something she could say to make him feel better. If she should even bother. If she cares, really.

Celia had wanted him to remain good and pure, hadn’t wanted to taint his soul with the mention of diablerie. But Jade doesn’t give much of a fuck about his soul.

“Going to start the mark,” she says instead of anything else, warning him about the incoming pain. It’s a quick piece of art made with claws rather than a tattoo gun, mimicking the image Dicentra had given him the first time he’d gone to see her: the suggestion of a linen-covered table with a pair of eyes peering out through a hole in the sheet. It doesn’t take long.

She smooths the skin around it with a touch when she’s done, getting rid of the red, freshly-savaged skin.

GM: It’s late in the game to worry about the purity of his soul anyway.

Draco growls at the sensation of her claws etching the design into his flesh, but doesn’t move.

“Turn into a cat,” he says when she’s done.

Celia: She’s gone without a word. Luna curls on the floor, chin on her paws. She watches the boy that used to be hers, wondering at his thoughts.

GM: They look like dark ones.

They have for a while.

He doesn’t laugh or chuckle as he drives, this time. But on a few occasions he shows a fanged smile, his still face pale in the moonlight. Rain starts to patter against the windshield. The wipers go back and forth.

They drive for a while.

They stop. Draco taps into his phone.

They drive some more.

Then they stop again.

“Turn into Jade.”

Celia: She assumes he means the woman and shifts accordingly.

GM: “We’re here.”

He gets out.

Celia: She follows suit, killing her aura again, and looks around at their surroundings.

GM: Right up ahead is Edith Flannagan’s house.

Celia: She almost laughs.

In fact, she does.

Just a short burst of it that steals from her lips.

GM: “I’m so pleased this agrees with you.”

Edith lives closer to the north part of the Quarter, where buildings turn from bars and clubs and tourist attractions to homes and apartments. It’s still on Rampart Street, though. This close to Tremé and the Seventh Ward, the spit starts to wear off the Quarter’s polish—or perhaps it becomes plain how much was black from tobacco spittle all along. Trash isn’t as picked up. Buildings are cheaper, dirtier, graffiti-tagged, and falling apart. Jade hears a few gunshots and car alarms. There are homeless, too, camped out with their sleeping bags and shopping carts and bags of trash and belongings, plus the odd worn-looking camping tent. There’s fewer of them than south in the Quarter, but their expressions look just as glum, intoxicated, or blanked out. Sounds of fornication echo from one of the tents. Numerous sets of eyes follow the pair.

Fewer than when it was two girls.

But still plenty on the lonely-looking middle-aged couple.

Celia: “I’d had the same thought about her,” Jade muses. She sticks close to Draco as they walk through the less-than-savory part of town. She’s not particularly worried about handling herself, but it’s better not to tempt fate, isn’t it.

GM: It’s not long before the pair are accosted by perhaps the very same unwashed half-dozen men literally screaming in their faces for money. Jade sees malformed and pathetic-looking fangs in the mouths of three, this time. Who keeps making these thin-bloods?

Celia: Probably the same someone who made Dani.

Jade tucks herself against Draco’s side like a middle-aged-wife would.

No reason to start throwing punches when all he needs to do is flash a bit of that Brujah charm, right?

GM: Draco ignores the mob at first, until they get too close. He gives a low and very dangerous-sounding snarl. Fear shudders through the mob in a palpable current.

The men falter, then slink away in search of easier prey.

“You,” he says, pointing at one of the thin-bloods, a scraggly-bearded man in maybe his 20s. “Come with us.”

Celia: And here she thought he was going to use the kid.

Is that a line he still won’t cross? Just abandon the four of them instead of outright killing?

GM: Jade supposes she’ll know for sure soon enough.

The duskborn warily edges away at Draco’s demand, then suddenly smiles in relief.

“Okay, man. Uh, y’all true-bloods?”

“Yes. We are.”

He walks up to Edith’s house and raps on the door.

The property is better-maintained than its neighbors, but it looks like someone trying to maintain a ’50s family home in the inner city without so much as a white picket fence. The same bars are there over the windows.

Just like last time, a shadow passes behind the windowshades.

After a moment, the door swings open.

Celia: While they wait, Jade murmurs to him beneath her breath.

“Four. Three kids. Plus the thin-blood.”

GM: “Yes, I’ve heard how despicable she is.”

Celia: Jade only nods.

GM: The door is answered by ‘Cinderella’. She’s got the same cheap-looking Saturday night special tucked into her sweatpants. She looks worse than when Jade saw her last. There are bandages around her neck, bruises on her pale face, and her eyes are droopy.

“C’mon in,” she says thickly, closing the door after them.

“Edith and the kids are eating.”

She gives the homeless thin-blood a very wary-looking look.

Celia: No doubt it’ll be a relief for Cinderella to finally be free of this place. Jade idly wonders what sorts of marketable skills she has, or if she’s better served as a snack.

GM: “Your domitor should be able to just lick puncture marks away,” Draco says to the ghoul.

“Oh. This is… something else, too,” Cinderella replies, rubbing her neck.

“Hasn’t had much juice to go around…”

“Yes, she never does, does she?” says Draco.

Celia: She’d given the bitch five hits a week ago.

GM: “She creates her own problems and then bemoans them.”

“You can give her charity, but it’s like pouring water through a sieve.”

“Gone the moment it’s received.”

Celia: She doesn’t bother looking at the expression on his face. She knows who he’s talking about. Once again, Jade curses Celia for her weakness.

GM: “Yeah, man, we all fuckin’ hate her,” glares the homeless thin-blood. He smells bad indoors. He doesn’t look like he’s had a bath in a while. “She hunts, all the fuckin’ time, and y’know, there ain’t much juice on Rampart, like, no shit, there ain’t much juice, and we’re all gettin’-”

“Shut up,” says Draco.

Celia: It’s a pathetic, wretched sort of way to live. Even the Caitiff in her krewe has better feeding than this, and he’s another sort of unsavory.

She’s glad for her domain on Bourbon. Glad for the easy access to meals with her clients, the way she can just pass it off as particularly deep muscle work when they start to get woozy.

It might be what waits for her if things go poorly with her grandsire.

And Draco, by proxy.

“This,” she mutters, “is why.”

GM: Cinderella doesn’t look sure how to answer the Kindred.

“Ah, I’ll go get Edith, do you want to wait here?”

“That’s acceptable,” answers Draco.

“I’d rather not meet a brood of screaming blood-addicted brats.”

Cinderella looks even less sure how to answer that, then heads away.

Jade can hear sounds of conversation and clinking utensils. Walls are thin in the sorry-looking house.

“So, what’re we doin’ here?” asks the thin-blood.

Celia: “Party,” Jade says. The charm leaks out of her, sneaking across the floor to wrap securely around the thin-blood’s mind. “Consider this the ice breaker. How long have you been like that?”

GM: His head follows her mouth like a magnet.

“’Bout a month,” he smiles.

Celia: “You stay around here?”

GM: “Yeah, maybe a block away. It’s rough, lady. It’s real rough.”

The scraggly-bearded thin-blood’s black hair is thick and matted. He’s dressed in a stained and threadbare-looking hoodie with some holes in it.

Celia: Jade nods, managing to look sympathetic.

“You’re not one of those alchemists, are you?”

GM: He gives a bitter laugh.

“Be here if I was?”

Celia: “Where do they stay?”

GM: “Where dealers stay, lady.”

“They dealers.”

Celia: Jade smiles.

“That’s not very specific, dear. We’ve invited you to our party. Can you give me more than that?”

GM: “That answer doesn’t even make sense,” says Draco. “‘Where dealers stay.’ Drug dealers can stay in a variety of locations.”

The thin-blood shrugs.

“Can I have a hit?” he asks Jade, imploringly.

“If I give you more?”

“I’m real thirsty, we always thirsty on Rampart…”

Celia: Jade reaches for him, tucking a strand of hair behind his ear. Her lips curve upward into a smile.

“We’re about to fill your belly, sweetheart.”

GM: The thin-blood smiles down at her. Three fangs show in his mouth, but they’re pitifully thin and tiny things, like growths off his yellowed and plaque-ridden teeth.

“A’ight, well, I tell you then, okay?”

Celia: “Mm, I suppose that’ll work.”

“I’ll be very upset with you if you hold out.”

GM: The thin-blood shakes his head emphatically.

“It’s yours, I’ll tell you all I know.”

Draco smashes his fist into the back of the thin-blood’s head. He hits the floor with a crash.

“Question him later if you want. I’m sick of listening to his voice.”

Celia: Amused, Jade just shrugs. There are plenty of thin-bloods.

GM: “Our hostess is taking her time.”

Celia: “I can see what’s keeping her.”

GM: “I’d rather not let you out of my sight, actually,” says Draco as he strides into the home’s dining room.

Celia: Smirking, Jade tags along.

Maybe she can get one of those bracelets with little bells if she makes him so skittish.

Shut up, Celia.

GM: Celia doesn’t control the body.

Jade controls the body.

Jade finds no one seated around the dining room table. Lunch is out. Sandwiches and apple slices and pretzels for the girls. Piles of Lunchables, Fruit Gushers, ice cream, and chocolate chip cookies for who can only be Geraldine.

The “family” is gathered all around the floor over Lily’s motionless body. Geraldine is sucking from the ghoul’s neck. The other girls look as if they’re crying. Edith just watches with her hand on the thin-blood’s shoulder.

Celia: Jade stops short.

She’d thought they might have run. She’d thought they’d gone out a window or another door, that they’d assumed the two who walked through the front heralds their death.

Not this.

A dead child on the floor. A ghouled child, certainly, but still a child, stuck forever in her this image of youth.

She clenches her jaw.

GM: Dracon grabs Geraldine by the neck and yanks her off. The thin-blood immediately starts kicking and shrieking at the top of her lungs.

“Do I even want to know the story?” he asks contemptuously.

“Put her down!” yells Edith, lunging at Draco.

The Brujah seizes her by the throat and throws her across the room like she’s nothing. She hits the floor with a crash.

The other ghouls all start in alarm, but none draw any closer. Harper cries.

Celia: Jade plucks baby Harper from the floor, bouncing her twice like she used to do with Lucy. Then she passes her to Cinderella.

“Go sit in the bedroom. Take the other one.”

GM: Cinderella takes the wailing child, then gives an uncertain look towards Edith.

The Caitiff’s fangs are distended, and her face is a mask of growing rage.

But she gives a stiff nod.

“Is the one on the floor still alive?” Draco asks Jade.

Celia: Jade crouches to check, feeling for a pulse or signs of life.

GM: There is a weak pulse. The motionless ghoul will be dead in minutes (or less) without a hit.

Celia: “Barely.”

Jade sinks her teeth into her wrist, then tilts the ghoul’s head back to let the blood fall into her mouth.

GM: Lily gives a soft, barely audible moan.

Celia: When she’s stabilized, Jade pulls the child into her arms and rises from the floor.

“I’m going to lay her down,” she says to Draco. She carries the girl into the living room and sets her on the couch, propping a pillow beneath her feet and setting a blanket across her. She returns a moment later to the kitchen.

GM: He doesn’t stop her. Geraldine continues to shriek and kick and flail in the Brujah’s grip.

Celia: Jade folds her arms, leaning a hip against the countertop. She keeps her eyes on the Caitiff.

GM: “What do you want!?” demands Edith, rising to her feet.

Celia: “You’ve been given eternal unlife and this is how you spend it? Pulling children from their families, letting this little monster murder to her heart’s content, keeping a baby as a ghoul so you can play into this delusion of motherhood?”

GM: “They had no one else!” Edith shouts back. “I give them a home, I give them a family, I give them LOVE!”

Celia: “You give them a crippling addiction to your vitae,” Jade snarls at her. “You keep them stuck forever in those bodies.”

“Was it love when you let this one attempt to murder your eldest?”

GM: “Geraldine wasn’t murdering her!”

The thin-blood screams some more from Draco’s arms. Edith’s face rivets towards the sound.

“Put her DOWN!”

“Then what was she doing, pray tell?” Draco asks with something in between indulgence and disgust.

“Geraldine wanted to make another lick,” answers Edith.

Draco looks at the shrieking thin-blood in his grip, then laughs out loud.

“Dear god.”

“I couldn’t think of a worse sire if I tried to.”

“I seriously couldn’t. I’m drawing up completely blank.”

“The homeless trash outside would be better sires than Geraldine.”

Celia: She can’t help it. She laughs. She hadn’t thought she and Draco would ever be on the same side about anything, but this? Oh, this. This makes her laugh harder than she has in a long time.

“Geraldine making a lick,” she repeats, shaking her head. “Fuck, Flannagan, what part of that sounded like a good idea?”

GM: “I’d be her grandmother. I’d take care of her. I’d always take care of her.”

Celia: Jade just looks at Draco.

“This is dumber than the shit your ex did.” She returns her gaze to Edith. “Geraldine would have saddled you with another thin-blood. Why on earth would you willingly do that to someone?”

GM: “If she didn’t just kill her,” says Draco.

Celia: “I mean great excuse, right? Takes the murder off your hands. ‘I thought I was doing the right thing.’”

GM: “What do you WANT!” Edith repeats. “Who are you to tell me what I do with MY ghouls, how I raise MY family!”

Celia: “Sit down, Flannagan. Let me tell you how this is going to go. I’m going to approach. See this?” She’s got a stake in her hands, courtesy of Draco’s pocket. “Yeah, he wasn’t just happy to see me. I’m going to shove it into you, and you’re not going to put up a fight. Because my friend here, well, he doesn’t like you very much, and he’d enjoy ripping Geraldine’s limbs from her body. What’s her kill count? Seven? Innocents, weren’t they? Tsk, tsk.”

Jade smiles. It’s a mean smile. She stole it from Draco.

“Don’t want to cooperate? That’s fine. He’ll crush her skull and take you by force. How’s that sound?”

GM: Geraldine screams even louder and intensifies her struggles, but gets nowhere.

Edith’s face looks agonized as she tears her gaze between Jade and her ‘daughter’.

“How do I know you’re not going to just hurt her anyway!”

Celia: “I saved your other kid, didn’t I?”

GM: “You called her a monster! A murderer! How do I know!?”

Celia: “She is a monster. So are you. So’s he. But, see, he’s nicer than me. I’d hurt her for the hell of it. I’m that sort of monster. And I came for you, sweetheart.”

She strides forward, stake in hand.

GM: Edith’s eyes dart between Jade, Draco, and Geraldine again.

“Promise me you’re not going to hurt her! Promise, and I’ll… cooperate!”

Celia: “Oh, that’s not up to me. That’s up to my friend Misha here. You met Misha? Nice bloke. Really great judge of character. I’m sure he’ll get to the bottom of this situation with Geraldine and decide what to do accordingly.”

Jade plunges the stake forward.

GM: Edith screams and throws herself at Jade, her eyes mad with the Beast.

The vampires collide into one another, clawing and hissing and biting as they wrestle across the floor. Draco watches with amusement as Geraldine shrieks at the top of her lungs,

MAMA! MMAAAAAAMMMAAAAAA!!!!!!”

The child vampire drives her foot and fists into Draco’s face with a sudden burst of unholy strength, the same strength that pushed Tinkerbell to her death. She shrieks as she lunges for his throat with bared fangs.

However, it avails her not against the primogen’s childe. Draco perfunctorily snaps her neck and drops the broken corpse to the ground.

“Good riddance.”

Yet Geraldine’s cries raise the alarm. The rest of the Caitiff’s household storms down the stairs and falls upon the invaders, slavishly compelled to rescue their ‘mother’ and domitor. Cinderella clubs Jade’s head with a baseball bat, the Saturday night special unused against the vampire. Melody stabs at Jade’s legs with a knife, trying to hinder the bigger vampire however she can. Two vicious-looking pit bulls tear into Jade too, baying and snarling in defense of their mistress as they rip the Toreador’s flesh.

Five against one is ugly odds, or would be, but Draco takes care of them all. A rain of lightning-fast and brutally hard blows to the skull drop the dogs, Melody, and Cinderella to the floor in motionless heaps.

But he does not raise hand against Edith. Instead, he watches from the sidelines.

Perhaps to see whether Jade is good enough to overcome the clanless trash on her own.

Perhaps to mock her if she is not.

Perhaps to call her dead weight and useless.

If so, he watches in vain.

Edith is little more than her Beast incarnate at this point, all wild offense and feral savagery. Fangs snap as she pins Jade to the floor and lunges for the Toreador’s throat, ripping and tearing with manic desperation. Jade turns into a cat and easily escapes Edith’s human-sized handhold. The Caitiff awkwardly lands on the floor as her foe vanishes from underneath her. The Toreador is already turning human again as she rolls aside, claws bursting from her fingertips, and it’s all-too easy to pin the prone Edith beneath her body’s full weight. Several vicious slashes across the Caitiff’s head and torso serve more to repay Jade’s hurts and punish her foe’s insolence than any practical purpose, for the long-time masseur knows human anatomy more than well enough to stake a vampire from behind. Edith goes rigid as a board as the wood pierces through her aortic arch.

Celia: It’s almost strange, ending a fight without any heavy panting to show her exertion. That’s what happens in all the movies: dripping sweat, heaving chests, blood dripping from nose or lip.

There’s none of that with Jade. None of the drawbacks of the limited, human body. No perspiration. No heavy breathing.

But she aches.

Everywhere.

Her black skin looks darker still beneath the red spray from Edith’s body and herself. A large gash in her calf tore through her borrowed jeans to take out a chunk of flesh, and her head should still ring from being struck by the bat.

Contempt smolders in her eyes as they take in the staked lick. Pathetic. A pathetic Caitiff almost took her out. She’d have ended up torped if Draco hadn’t taken care of the others, hadn’t downed the assorted ghouls and the two snarling dogs.

Jaded bitterness surges through her. She lifts her eyes to his.

“Thanks.”

But that’s all she has time for, a single syllable passing her lips before the blood in the air hits the olfactory senses on the roof of her mouth and her Beast, content to hang back and watch the girl fight, finally slips its leash. Her lips part in a snarl, fangs distending from the roof of her mouth—

Fight. Fuck. Feed. That’s all it knows. All it wants.

Seven bodies in the room. Two stink of mutt, their blood weaker even than the child with the broken neck or the bitch with the bat and the little singer. For half of a crazed second the Beast sizes up this rival, this boy across the way, this fellow predator with the five bodies beside him, familiar blood, hot blood, strong blood—

Danger some part of it shrieks. A savage growl rips from its throat.

The Beast claims its own kill, ripping into the side of the Caitiff’s neck.

The housewife is empty by the time the Beast takes its fill and slips back inside its cage, leaving the lick with the stolen body on the floor. Everything still hurts. She mends it a little at a time, soothing the injuries with the freshly-claimed blood, making sure that her Beast is well and truly locked away before she drinks from these other bodies.

She pays the Brujah no mind. No doubt nothing even touched him.

The choice on who to drink from is an easy one. The dogs still stink of weak, muddied blood. She decides against bleeding the ghoul child or the princess—already wounded, she’s no desire to add complication to her life.

Some part of her wants to laugh.

Complication.

As if the hadn’t just turned it upside down.

But the thin-blood is dead, neck cleanly snapped by Draco. She doesn’t even look at him when she reaches for the corpse and sucks down the foul, weak, watery blood; if regular sex is masturbating compared to the liquid gold of souls, this is like dry humping a pillow with two sets of pants covering all the good bits.

Still, she’s freshly mended by the time she finishes slurping down the red and rises to face her “partner.”

GM: Draco doesn’t touch any of the fallen.

He flips over Edith. The Beast burns in the staked Caitiff’s eyes. He waits until it recedes just enough to understand his words.

“For what it’s worth, that was probably the right call,” he says.

“Fighting back, that is.”

“We have no especially pressing reason to kill your ghouls. They don’t remember these events, I have nothing against them, and I already ate this evening. It’s clear, though, that you valued Geraldine more than any of your ghouls, and I was going to kill her whether you surrendered or not. She was a child-sized death machine and a Masquerade disaster waiting to happen.”

“Even then, I might have been able to tolerate your pet’s existence if you’d kept her on a tighter leash, but that obviously wasn’t happening.”

“It’s a good thing we arrived when we did. You were even letting it breed.”

He shakes his head.

Celia: Don’t remember. How do they not remember? And what doesn’t she remember if they don’t remember?

Her gaze sharpens.

GM: Draco smiles at her, then shakes his head at Edith.

“And we like to wonder at Elysium where the abortions keep coming from.”

“Well, this is where.”

“Ignorant trash who don’t know any better.”

“But I digress from my original point. As irrational and repugnant as I find your behavior, I hold at least some modicum of respect for someone who chooses to fight rather than capitulate when fighting is their most logical option. Even against their betters.”

He smiles down at her.

“Granted, I suppose you don’t know why we’re here, or why you’ve been marked for death.”

“But I’m inclined to allow you some closure before we kill you. I’m not a monster,” he says, his tone mocking.

He looks back up to Jade.

“We need to decide what to do with the baby. How long has she—I’m presuming it’s a she—been ghouled?”

“If it’s not been for long, I’d be inclined to leave her at a fire station, hospital, or other designated safe haven site. Safe haven laws are beautiful things, really. They didn’t exist until 1999, when Texas had 13 cases of abandoned children, 3 involving infants who were discovered dead. Safe haven laws have helped reduce the prevalence of that. They vary by state, but typically, parents can surrender custody of infants up to 30 days old without being held criminally liable. ’Edith’s’ baby looks older than 30 days, but in practice, if employees at a safe haven site find an older abandoned child, they’re not going to turn it away. The law exists for parents as much as children.”

The smile he gives looks less sardonic than his prior ones.

“But all of that is probably moot.”

“I very much doubt that Edith’s stolen baby is new to the Blood.”

Celia: Jade wonders how Celia had ever stood it, the boy’s desire to explain every single thing he knows, every law and loophole and “I’m smart” comment he felt the need to make.

Who is he trying to impress?

Jade shakes her head at the question, mouth set in a thin line.

“No,” she says flatly, “she’s not. Edith found Harper around the time of Katrina.”

The baby is older than Lucy. Over a decade spent trapped as a toddler. What sort of havoc would that do to a child?

GM: “Ten years,” says Draco.

“All of those years catching up with Harper, when she finally burns through the vitae in her system, is going to be very ugly. An adult’s body is fully developed. When it misses the blood, it just ages to the point where it’d have been at. Even that can be a shock to some ghouls’ systems. But for a body that’s going to immediately undergo all of the physical changes that accompany normal childhood development? Those aren’t supposed to happen in days. They’re supposed to happen over years. She won’t have had any of the nutritional intake that’s supposed to accompany her physical development. No milk to build up strong bones. I’d guess that her body is going to be a wreck. It could even kill her.”

“And those are only the physical consequences to her state. Neurologically, I can’t imagine what ten years on the Blood has done to an infant’s brain. The brain is an impossibly complex and delicate organ. Keeping it like this for ten years, then immediately aging it ten years, in so many words, is probably going to fuck it up. And aging it without any of the life experiences that develop its neural pathways? I can’t even begin to guess what kind of brain damage she might end up with.”

“Forget about living a normal life. Forget even about living in an institution. She’ll probably suffer immensely and be mentally incapable of comprehending any kind of existence outside of her pain, for whatever brief span remains of her life. Who even knows if she’d survive outside of a hospital setting. It seems like it’d take a miracle for doctors to give her any kind of life worth living. All before the danger to the Masquerade.”

He shakes his head.

“I don’t have any background in human biology, so tell me if my assessment seems wrong. But my thinking is that it would be kindest to euthanize her right here.”

Edith’s eyes bulge. But even paralyzed, Jade can see the Beast’s madness overtake them yet again.

Celia: Tell me if my assessment seems wrong.

Jade almost misses the words, caught up in making her own calculations with the child-ghoul. Nothing crosses her face at the ask, unexpected though it is.

“Yes and no,” she says at length. “A night doctor would be able to fix some of the body’s concerns. If it were to happen as you say, letting her age ten years instantly, then there would be little hope for her and it would be kinder to put her down now. But there are alternatives, if anyone is willing to put in the time and effort.”

“The issue, as you’ve outlined, is with her mental state. Humans learn most of their ways of functioning as children. The brain rapidly develops during early childhood. Most of its architecture and wiring takes place during those first three years. Not,” she adds, “that it simply stops at their third birthday, but it’s more of a ‘work around’ when they get into adulthood.”

“There are dozens of milestones children hit during their first few years that Harper has been unable to, beyond even the basic ‘walking’ and ‘talking.’”

Jade knows a woman who had eagerly shown her daughter each and every one of them while her decades-younger sister was still growing.

“I’d put her at a year, maybe a year and a half on the older end. She should be somewhat past the babbling phase and be able to say a handful of words, though not yet stringing sentences together. Walking on her own.” Jade pauses a moment. “I’ve never seen her do so. She’s still crawling. Either she’s younger than I think, or her development has already been stunted by the Blood. Even if so, ten years at the same age should have made her learn some of these things from the simple longevity of her existence.”

Jade shakes her head.

“There’s a reason we don’t ghoul babies. Aside from the impracticality of it, not enough study has been done to how it actually effects their physical and mental state.”

It’s research that should be done. Research that she can do. Though even that has its limited uses and would mostly serve to satisfy her curiosity.

“The child ghouls never seem to develop much beyond where they were when ghouled. They can learn new things, certainly, but without some sort of trauma or major life event their personalities are rather set. Much the same as we don’t change much without a good, hard shove. Our bodies are frozen.”

Jade finally sighs.

“She could be saved. A night doctor willing to work with her who has a ghoul or Masquerade-aware family to take her in during the days. Rather than let her age all at once it would be done a little at a time. Wait for her to hit the appropriate milestones. Let her age again. Shower her in love and affection and create an attachment to an adult caregiver. Though Flannagan’s logic is deeply, inherently flawed and her idea of love as twisted as the majority of the rest of our kind’s, she no doubt loved the child. Though perhaps not as much as she loved the thin-blood, and who knows what Geraldine has done to Harper.”

“We could also find an alchemist or magician, see if they can dilute the Blood. An associate believes they are able to make the Blood less addictive; it’s possible they can work something out to dilute other properties as well, though I imagine it would take a combination of medical work, sorcery, and the alchemy.”

“Even if that is all successful, if she were aged to her normal years, she still suffers from a chemical addiction to the Blood and any trauma or stress she has experienced will be written into her very code. Wipe her memories and the pathways will still exist. She may not know why certain things cause her to react certain ways, but her body will still respond. You’re talking about something as complicated as brain surgery. A night doc skilled in such things might be able to erase some of those pathways by physically removing them from her brain… but it’s complicated, risky, and it might not even work.”

“She’d be starting over. Relearning the big five: cognitive, social and emotional, speech and language, fine motor, and gross motor skills.”

“If someone had the time and inclination and resources to do all of that? It’s possible she could turn out normal, though the odds are certainly against her. All of this before we even begin to touch the addiction or various disciplines that have been used on her over the years."

“And,” she adds, “the practicality of what would be done with her following all of that.”

“The body work itself would also be long and complicated. It’s not a simple matter of shoving vitae down her throat. Her entire system would need to be overhauled even if she were to be allowed to age a little at a time.”

GM: Draco considers all of that.

“Flannagan’s notion of love is more twisted than even most of ours,” he says first. “I’ve never heard of any other licks with ghouled babies.”

“Granted,” he continues with a sneer, “that might just be because it’s so impractical.”

Celia: Jade had thought ghouling a functional adult without a clear purpose was impractical, let alone a child or baby.

GM: A functional adult can at least take care of themselves.

“Letting her age in the way you describe seems like it could still be hazardous,” continues Draco. “Either she has the Blood in her system or she doesn’t. So either she’s frozen where she is, or she’s rapidly aging after you put the Blood back in her system. You’d be getting ‘start and stop’ bursts of rapid physical development, rather than slower continuous development, and you’d be hoping to minimize the negative effects of that through periodic medical work, probably sorcery, and an ideal home environment.”

“As you say, it’s a lot of time and resources to invest in this project, against slim odds the child is going to turn out normal. Even assuming a best case scenario, where Flannagan and her pet thin-blood haven’t fucked up Harper in even more ways than we’ve enumerated.”

He glances down at Edith’s staked body.

“It really is amazing how few brains it takes to completely ruin a child. And so many brains to have even a chance at repairing her.”

He glances back up at Jade.

“Are you interested in taking Harper?”

“I don’t have the knowledge or resources to give her anything beyond a painless death.”

Celia: If anyone has a chance at rehabilitating her, it’s Jade. She has the skill. She has the resources.

Admittedly, her desire to do so comes from a purely scientific curiosity about whether or not it can be done, and prep for the work North asked her about with Cloe. Waste not.

“I have some selfish, research-oriented interest, both with the body and the brain.”

“It would not be a kind or painless existence.”

GM: “Yes, that was the only other alternative that occurred to me. Turning her over to the Ordo Dracul as a curiosity and potential research avenue. The odds of a normal life are slim that way too, but slim is better than she’d get under my fangs.”

Celia: Jade nods at the mention of the covenant.

“Such is part of what I’d intended. I’ll keep her for now, then, and see what I can make of her.”

“What of the others?”

GM: “They’ve done nothing and won’t remember us. I’d normally be inclined to sell them to other domitors, but I’d rather not have my name linked to them under… these circumstances, if what you said in the car is true.”

“I’d be inclined to simply leave them here, if there aren’t any you want for yourself.”

Celia: “No,” Jade says, “I can’t think of what I’d do with them. Will the eldest recall us, or did you take care of that as well?”

GM: “She won’t after I have a moment with her.”

Celia: “My blood is in her body.”

GM: He shrugs. “Feed Flannagan. Bleed her wrist into the girl.”

Celia: Perhaps she’s overly concerned over the thought of someone looking into this nobody’s disappearance. No reason to be, is there?

She only nods, hefting Flannagan by her ankles and dragging her body to the other room to do as he suggested. She bites her wrist and shoves it into the Caitiff’s mouth, then feeds the ghoul child the hit.

“All of them are going to age rapidly if they don’t find new domitors,” she says at length.

GM: The Beast howls in rage and lust behind Flannagan’s eyes as the taste of Jade’s vitae hits her mouth.

The ghoul moans fitfully from the couch as the taste hits her lips.

“More… please… Mommy…”

Celia: Jade is no one’s mommy. She pays little mind to the begging.

GM: Draco takes out his phone again, taps into it, and starts sweeping the room. His form turns into a blur. Objects and sundry are displaced through the house before he comes to a sudden stop again.

“No bugs that I can find. I’d been concerned Duffy Gestard had this place wired.”

Celia: “What is that,” she asks, nodding to his phone, “that you sweep with?”

GM: “Don’t worry about it.”

Celia: Nothing crosses her face at the rebuff.

GM: He glances down at the ghoul child, then brings his fist down on her head. She goes motionless.

“There.”

“I’d been inclined to leave our homeless friend with Flannagan’s body and cover him in some blood. Let the kids draw what conclusions they will from that.”

“It’s not a flawless cover-up, but I doubt anyone is going to look into what happened to this nobody.”

Celia: “Perhaps better if there is no body. They turn weird after the event.”

GM: “Hm,” he frowns. “Yes, better if there isn’t, if it’s distinct from ordinary deaths.”

Celia: “Very much so.”

GM: “No body, then. So all the kids know is that one night she disappeared.”

“Along with Harper and Geraldine.”

Celia: Imagine the abandonment issues that will develop as a result.

GM: “I suppose that sort of thing happens, and no one is going to care about their stories anyway.”

Celia: Paranoia gnaws at her. What if they do? What if they’re caught?

“I’d planned on framing her for something anyway,” Jade says with a shrug. “This just adds to the story.”

Not that she can do it now. The boys will want to personally see to the destruction of their brother’s murderer, and she has no desire to be linked to Edith’s disappearance.

GM: “That leaves our homeless friend. I have no further use for him.”

Celia: “I can think of several, though I’ve no desire to haul a body around at this time. More where he came from.”

“The only thing I can do with him right this very minute is get to the bottom of the alchemist’s location.”

GM: “How does that benefit me?”

Celia: “It doesn’t, which is why I haven’t asked you to bring him along. The alchemy may be of some future, limited use to either one of us depending on how it pans out, and there are things I can show you if I have time with his body, but I imagine if you were interested you’d have said.”

GM: “Well, it’s your lucky night. I don’t want to kill him or Flannagan here. Get Harper. We’re leaving.”

Celia: Jade takes the narrow staircase to the upper floor and finds the bedroom where the child waits. She takes half a moment to pull her out of her soiled onesie and finds another for her, pulls on an infant-sized coat, and throws a handful of other baby necessities into a diaper bag.

Her nose wrinkles at the thought of diapers.

Luckily, the child doesn’t smell as if she has soiled herself. Jade lifts her, soothing her troubles with a coo and a gentle touch of star mode to her mind, and carries the placid infant back down the stairs with the bag slung over her shoulder.

GM: The crying baby shuts up as Jade sucks away her feelings. Draco is gone, as are Flannagan’s and the thin-blood’s bodies. The car waits outside.

Celia: She steps out, locking the door behind her. No reason to let the rest of the riffraff into the home uninvited. The girls are in for a rude enough awakening as is. She takes no chances with the crowd, dancing through shadows to avoid their notice on her way to the car. The diaper bag goes in the back. Jade sits in front with the infant on her lap.

It’s not the safest way to travel with a baby, but Jade assumes that Draco’s limited patience does not involve time to find and assemble the car seat in his vehicle.

“I’ll sit on the floor with her,” she offers, recalling the way he’d asked her to hide as a feline while they drove through certain parts of town.

It’s a quick move to twist into the backseat to find the well-loved baby blanket from Harper’s crib that she’d brought with her, a pink fleece thing with white animal shapes in white. Jade rolls it into a sort of barrier to set the child in and lays Harper inside of it to sort of pen her in. Then the girl is gone and Luna looks down at her new charge, large green eyes blinking at the child. The cat rubs her cheek against the child’s.

GM: The two bodies are stowed in the car’s backseat. Draco raises no objection and lets Jade do her thing. Harper makes a cooing sound and touches the cat’s head.

The car takes off. It drives and drives and drives. Harper stares ahead with a tranquil expression, pets and touches the cat, then eventually nods off under the car’s steady motions.

Draco eventually clicks a fob. Luna hears a garage door opening. Draco drives inside and parks the car.

He cracks his fist against the thin-blood’s head again, then hauls Edith’s staked body over his shoulder. He carries her upstairs to a bathroom and dumps her in the tub. “In case this gets messy.” They’re in the house owned by the couple they’re impersonating.

Draco disappears for another few moments, then comes back.

He lets Jade made make whatever arrangements she wants for Harper, or just leave the infant in the car, then says perfunctorily, “I don’t trust you. So here’s what we’re going to do.”

“This process you’ve described. Eating her soul. You’re going to do it alongside me.”

“If anything goes wrong, you’ll suffer the consequences too.”

“And if this all goes right, you’ll be equally complicit in the crime.”

Celia: Though normally deadly, the car seems the safest place to leave the sleeping infant. She doesn’t trust either one of their Beasts not to find the easy meal once they’ve partaken in this.

Silently, Jade listens to Draco’s words. She nods when he’s done.

“She’ll need a hit or two before we begin. Sucking from a dry body will produce no results. We’ll get back whatever we give when it happens.”

“Once you hit the point where you think she’s empty, keep going. It takes a minute. You’ll think nothing is happening. But then it’ll hit you. It’s… it feels good. Very good. Better than anything I’ve ever experienced. Better than sex, better than blood, better than anything you think you like or love or need. But you’ll know her pain, too. Not physically. Up here.” Jade taps her head. “Just keep going until it’s over. The Beast will rattle around and attempt to get out. I’ll do my best to keep it inside. It’s intense, Draco, very intense.”

“I’ve no doubt you possess the control. I only wanted to forewarn you so there are no surprises.”

GM: “I see,” he says.

“We need a diversion, then, if someone loses control.”

He leads her back downstairs, grabs the thin-blood’s body, and carries it back up to the bathroom.

He dumps it on the tile floor beside the tub.

Celia: Someone else might say it’s a smart idea. Jade holds her tongue.

GM: Draco doesn’t.

“Well, correction, more like you’ll need a diversion.”

Celia: “You could pin me to the floor with one hand,” she says flatly, “I doubt I could get to you if I tried.”

GM: “That’s exactly what I meant.”

“If you lose control, I can subdue you.”

“If I lose control, you’ll have to hope I decide to go for our friend’s body instead of yours.”

Celia: Ah. He’d meant the insult in a different way than she’d taken it.

She only nods.

“You were right, by the way. What you said at the Evergreen about Gui and Carolla.”

GM: “That they were scum?”

Celia: She debates the merits of telling him what she’d been thinking: that she’d have lost to Gui and Carolla both without the benefit of tricks up her sleeve. If they’re about to embark on this diablerie journey together she’d rather not recount her failings and make her presence sound useless. Or worse, a hindrance.

Not if she wants him to do it again with her.

Does she, though? Continued exposure to his presence, continued insults and veiled threats and waiting for him to turn on her? Then again, what’s a little social discomfort compared to ripping someone’s soul out of their body. What are barbed words versus the ability to cheat the Blood and obtain power as easily as she feeds.

And if he’s a good enough fighter for the both of them then she can focus on what she does excel at. Getting close. Getting in and out without being seen. Disguises. Taking care of the bodies afterward.

His other night doctor can fulfill the same purpose.

Bitterness swells within her chest. It’s a tight, uncomfortable pressure that makes her want to clench her jaw or purse her lips or curl her fingers into a fist. Knowing that she’s been replaced. That he so easily found someone else who shares her unique skillset.

She doesn’t let the emotion show on face or body.

Corpses aren’t all she does. She’s resourceful. Quick on her feet. Adaptable to any given situation, able to blend as easily as a chameleon to what’s at hand. She has numerous friends across the covenants, extensive medical knowledge, has slept with enough licks to find good targets for their fangs. She has never seen a mask created like those she makes of flesh, has never heard of other night docs in the city able to provide the sort of imbued tattoos that she does. All this before her ability to steal secrets from the mind. To unlock hidden memories, or make someone inclined to ignore something they’d just learned, to spin fiction so wound in half-truths that none but the most savvy can pull apart the threads.

What might it have been like to tell him about this prior to the Carolla incident, to have him at her side as trusted partner and lover? How many would they have taken on together, and how high would they have risen?

Jade had no interest in Roderick. But Draco? Oh, she’s very, very interested in this new iteration of Celia’s ex. How callously he murders even children. How quickly he has attained her grandsire’s favor to be the one questioning her, to be watched over by ghouls. How commanding his presence with the other licks, leading them through the torture of his enemy, the execution of foes, the practical, calculating mind that made him desire to strip his cheating lover from all that she held so he could control it and her.

Like her sire.

The thought threatens to send a chill down her spine. How could she compare one to the other? How could she see in him what she sees in her sire?

Because it’s true. Because Coco’s childe has fallen from his ‘white knight’ status to take up a different mantle, a darker sort of presence in the city.

Perhaps Savoy had known how far he’d fall after thinking his sire betrayed him. Perhaps he’d anticipated it, had thought that Celia would benefit from this new version of him, that she could finally stop hiding and lying.

And perhaps it’s foolish to think her grandsire gave her love unlife any consideration at all when he hatched his plans. Advantageous byproduct, that’s all it is. Not that she’d managed to keep it. No, Celia had gone and fucked it all up by being a coward with a savior complex.

Jade doesn’t dwell on what-might-have-been. Only what is. What’s possible for her should he see the value she brings to their operation and assent to further murders.

Pride might have kept her from admitting to shortcomings when she was chained to the cross and at his mercy, might have stilled her tongue when she thought arrogance would see her through the ordeal with fewer humiliations at his hand. She’d have taken vicious satisfaction in knowing that he couldn’t get beneath her skin.

But here, privately, why bother lying? It’s not like he doesn’t know her limitations in a fight. He’s already said as much. He’s seen her at it. Trained her, for all that it turned from fighting to fucking most nights. He knows what she’s capable of in combat.

And he values truth. Wants to hear how big and special and strong he is.

“Yes,” she says simply. “But also that if I’d tried to go toe-to-toe they’d have beaten me without you.”

She considers the staked and starving lick in the tub.

“Perhaps you’ll be pleased when you see for yourself how painfully he died, in the end.”

GM: No doubt that bitterness and sense of replacement is exactly what he wanted her to feel.

After all, Celia had ‘replaced’ him, in a manner of speaking, with her other lovers.

Who knows, indeed, how many souls Celia and Roderick would have devoured together? Perhaps many, thanks to their boundless (at least on Roderick’s end) trust and love for one another.

Or perhaps none at all. Or only the one.

Would Roderick want to participate in so black and foul an act, for his own personal gain and pleasure, when he could simply give his foes quick and clean deaths? He’d contemplated staking and burying Carolla deep in the earth, so as not to have to kill even him.

“Ah, yes. They would have,” he answers. “Just as Edith here would have.”

The Brujah’s tone isn’t gloating, but neither is there concern for sparing Jade’s feelings. Roderick never regarded Celia with the same coolly distant look that Draco now wears.

He then bites his wrist and lets a stream of red dribble into Edith’s mouth.

“There’s no such thing for them as too painful.”

He climbs into the tub and sinks his fangs into the staked Caitiff’s neck.

Celia: Edith by herself wouldn’t have. Jade hadn’t shifted. Hadn’t let her own Beast out against the apeshit lick and still handled her. It was all the others that gummed things up. But Jade doesn’t press the issue. She could have taken the bitch out without a fight if she’d lied about sparing Geraldine too.

So much for honesty.

Jade doesn’t say a word when she clambers in beside him and bites the Caitiff’s other side.

GM: The blood, entirely Draco’s blood, is gone quickly enough. He’s already started before she sinks her fangs in. Its taste is familiar.

So, by now, is the act.

Third time in one night?

Soon enough, there’s no blood running down her throat. It’s something deeper. More vital. It’s something deeper, more vital. Jade still can’t describe the taste, the sensation, even after three times. It’s lighter than air and denser than rock. It fills her and empties her. She feels divine and depraved. Her mouth burns, her throat burns, her stomach burns, all of her burns, but it’s pain so sweet as to be pleasure, agony so piercing as to become bliss. The same sound echoes, like the tolling of a great and distant boll, like the steady weakening of Edith’s life-force as Jade draws it into herself. Dong, dong, dong,

Jade can’t see Edith’s face as readily, with Draco on her other side. But she makes out his. His eyes are huge, the features twisted into a mask of grotesquerie and ecstasy. He looks like he’s cumming after weeks without pleasure. He looks like a serial killer watching the light go out in his victim’s eyes. He looks an addict scoring his biggest ever fix. He looks like a rapist reveling in his victim’s cries, in the power he has over her. He looks like a beast. He looks like a demon.

Jade probably looks the same.

It rocks through her, just like last time, but no matter how many times there are, it’s never going to get old. She’s been set ablaze on her own funeral pyre. Every tissue, every cell, every molecule in her body is its own Jade Kalani, exploding in millions upon millions upon millions of simultaneous sexual climaxes. It’s unbearable. She can’t endure this. It’s torture. Never again. Always again. She’ll kill, to feel this again, this unholy impossible bliss that makes sex with the partner of her wildest fantasies into trying to masturbate with an oven mitt on. She has become empty, a vessel for pleasure, a vessel that knows naught for torturous bliss as a volcano erupts in her heart, spewing forth currents of liquid gold, making her more than she is, she’s unstoppable, she’s invincible, she’ll do this forever, she’ll become more and more and MORE with every soul she consumes—

She suddenly comes to. Draco’s pinned her face-down against the bathtub, arms twisted into a lock behind her back.

Against all odds, the Brujah looks like he’s held his Beast in, if the thin-blood’s hale body and her own non-torpid state are anything to go by.

What’s left of Edith looks like it was dipped in a vat of acid. The flesh has turned a putrescent white-yellow-green. Sections have the consistency of sludge as they ooze off the body, exposing similarly rotted and discolored muscles. Most of the hair has sloughed off. The smell is foul. It reminds Jade of spoiled baby formula.

Celia: It rocks through her. Like last time. Explosion after explosion, orgasm after orgasm until she can barely stand it, can’t stand it, no more, please—

oh god, yes, yes, more, MORE

The rest of them feel it, the girls inside, and they come rising to the surface to see, to experience—

NO, the Bitch snarls, and the Beast rises to her summons, snapping at their faces and heels and making them run, run, flee while Jade endures, while she takes it all, while she drinks it in, it’s hers, just hers, it belongs to Jade—

Laughter rings inside her head when the Beast comes back around for her and Beast and Bitch growl and snarl and snap and fuck, it’s inside of her, it’s consuming her, it’s controlling her—

Coming around to being pinned beneath the larger, stronger predator above her with the foul stench of Edith’s remains right next to her face is like every drug crash that has ever ruined someone’s high. Like finally realizing she’s reached climax only to see that the porn on her computer is a dirty, shameful sort of thing that makes her want to crawl into a hole and never see the sky again.

How the fuck had he resisted the call of the Beast? Had he not felt it? Had she taken everything and he nothing and this whole thing had been a wash?

Jade wiggles in his grasp until he loosens it, flipping onto her back to look up at him still poised above her. She searches his face with her eyes, looking for… something. Some clue as to how it was for him.

GM: Jade finds his steel grasp does not waver until she stops struggling.

He barely seems to see her.

There’s a glazed and distant look to his eyes. They stare past hers, as if drawn towards some dark and all-consumptive abyss from which there is no turning back. His face is utterly still and lifeless. Was he always so pale? Did the fangs protruding from his lips always look so at home there? They didn’t look at home on Roderick’s face. They always seemed incidental. An afterthought. They didn’t gel with the baseball-playing, Batman-watching, dog-loving college student who liked to share sausage pizza and cheesy breadsticks with his girlfriend during sleepovers and would roll up the socks in his dresser into little balls. Somehow, that’s always who he still was, even with the fangs. They didn’t define him. He was a boy, Celia’s boyfriend, before he was a vampire.

Draco doesn’t look like he could exist without his fangs.

They’re the foremost part of him. They’re the only part of him. He is a predator. He hungers. That is all this cold-eyed and pallid-faced creature of the night looks like it’s ever been, and will ever be. This vampire never had a girlfriend.

His head slowly rotates. It’s an animalistic motion, seemingly driven by predatory instinct rather than human will, as if tracking the scent of prey.

Pale lips pull back from the fangs.

It takes a moment to realize the expression is a smile, and it does not reach his eyes.

Then, suddenly, it bursts from him. Laughter. Riotous, howling, shrieking peals of laughter, bereft of mirth, bereft of life, nothing more than a cacophony of violent, booming noise. His body doesn’t move. It’s as if he’s forgotten how, or sees no need to, and it’s that little gesture that perhaps feels most inhuman of all—how he just stays still as a statue, arms motionless at his sides, head unmoving, as he laughs and laughs and laughs and laughs.

Celia: How far he has fallen.

She sees it in his face. The fangs. The dead glaze to his eyes. She’d seen parts of it before, hadn’t she: in the spa the night they’d found out about Carolla. Choking Reggie against the wall. Slamming his girlfriend against the same wall the next night. Cutting the knot. Cruelly belittling the girl he’d once loved. Cutting apart the mafioso.

Everything that happened at Edith’s. Snapping the child’s neck. Not caring one bit what reason Jade took the baby for; even admitting that he would have passed her off to the Ordo to dissect.

And now this.

Diablerie.

Stealing the very soul from the destroyed lick next to them, sentencing her “children” to fend for themselves. With their domitor dead they’re collarless ghouls, stuck in the bodies of children for who knows how many years. Isn’t Lily somewhere near Jade’s age?

None of it matters to him. Not their fate. Not the lick beneath him. Not the lick whose ugly remains lie next to them in the tub.

Her face could be carved of stone for all that it gives away, a mask of mildly amused detachment with a sharp smile that doesn’t quite reach her eyes.

Jade had never given much of a fuck about Roderick. Celia would weep to see him like this. But Jade? Oh, Jade likes it. Jade revels in it. Jade adores this new Roderick, this Draco with his fangs and his laughter and his predatory taint, the cold fury in his eyes, the absolute stillness of it all. Just the sound passing his lips, the heartless laughter spilling out of the hole in his face.

She remains still and silent while he lets it out. Still and silent while he realizes the secret she has given him, the direct avenue to power that he can take with no regard to training or waiting or finding a teacher to whom he’d pledge a boon for the knowledge.

This is the shortcut.

This is what the elders don’t want them to know.

This is the freedom from their games. The ability to compete on the same playing field.

Sin incarnate, and how exquisite the experience.

Hunters call them leeches, parasites living off of others. Say that they are monsters for taking the lives of others. As if it compares. As if feeding on blood comes close to what they’ve just done. This is what it means to consume.

But Jade waits. Silent and still. She builds a list in her mind of targets they can take and she waits.

GM: Jade does not wait overlong. The endlessly ringing, empty laughter eventually dies, though the stillness to his face does not. His fangs do not retract. His head mechanically tilts in her direction.

“No wonder,” he finally says.

“No wonder no one talks about this.”

“This changes everything.”

Celia: The smile still doesn’t reach her eyes, but she nods at the words.

“Everything,” she echoes. “No waiting. No training. Just what you can take.”

GM: “Years. Decades. Centuries. In an instant.”

Celia: “That’s why they hunt down those who know.”

GM: “It’s not even just mastering disciplines.”

“If this cures thin-bloodedness. That isn’t ‘effectively’ lowering a thin-blood’s generation. That is lowering their generation.”

“If thin-bloods can do it, why not true-bloods?”

Celia: “Shatter the glass ceiling.”

GM: “Why stay nine steps removed from Caine? Why wait decades, centuries, for the Blood to thicken? Why not claim power in an instant?”

His voice is a whisper.

Celia: “We’re only limited by who we can get our hands on. By how well we can cover the crime.” Jade jerks her chin a fraction of an inch toward the destroyed body.

GM: “No one saw us. We went in disguise. Took a car that isn’t ours. Took the body to a second location.”

Celia: She finally smiles.

GM: “Even ESP won’t show this happened at Edith’s house. If someone even bothers to investigate. Two unidentified licks no one’s ever seen before carried away Edith Flannagan to murder somewhere else.”

Celia: “And I can fix the body, like I did for Gui, or otherwise dispose of it.”

GM: “No. We can’t risk anyone looking at the body. Finding anything out of place. We need to destroy them both.”

“This completely recontextualizes so much of Kindred history.”

“So much of how elders treat neonates.”

“All of them. All of them have to know. All of them have to be terrified of this.”

“Terrified of younger licks coming for them.”

“I’m making several assumptions in saying that. But if I’m right.”

“If I’m right.”

Celia: “I think you are. Lebeaux mentioned it in passing. The reason for the Salubri’s destruction. The reason for the curse on the Banu Haqim.”

GM: “Lebeaux would be stupid if he breathed a word of this.”

Celia: “He didn’t. Not like you’re thinking.”

GM: “Maybe he doesn’t know.”

“What elder would ever let a neonate know about this.”

Celia: “None of them. Not a single one. They’d keep us ignorant.”

GM: “Who the hell did you learn this from?”

“This knowledge is incalculably valuable. Incalculably dangerous.”

Celia: “Yes. It is. You’ll need a way to hide it. You spend time around elders. Who knows which of them dip inside your head at what time.”

GM: “Someone else already knows that you know this. Who?”

Celia: “No. Someone else knows Celia knows and doesn’t know the connection between Celia and Jade. They believe Celia is a new Embrace, ignorant of greater Kindred society. And I took it from Celia.”

GM: “What possible motive would someone have to share this with a sheltered fledgling?”

Celia: “Digging for information on the fledgling’s sire, I believe. A trap meant to make her reveal more than she wanted.”

GM: “That’s some honey to bait a trap with.”

“He can’t ever know. Savoy. He cannot ever know that we know, or he would destroy us. Any elder would.”

“No matter how useful we are or become, it will never outweigh the potential threat we pose. It will always be more economical to destroy us.”

Celia: Jade nods her agreement.

“That’s why,” she says, “that’s why I asked you not to let Lebeaux look at it. He’d see how it was when I was done with him. Not like this. Different. But still very, very clearly an issue.”

“And no one else can know. It can’t spread beyond us or they will trace it back.”

GM: “It’s dangerous to do this in New Orleans,” Draco says slowly. “Edith was a nobody, but someone with stronger blood is exponentially more likely to be missed and investigated. Not to mention able to personally muck things up themselves.”

“It would be safer to drink licks in other cities.”

Celia: “I have an opportunity in L.A. Celia does. For a few months.”

GM: “The fewer ties, the better. Ties to Celia are bad.”

“L.A. is a good city, though,” he muses. “Anarch-held. Less centralized and nosy authorities.”

“Decently far away.”

“Lots of transients. Lots of licks to pick from, too.”

Celia: “Celia could always turn down the opportunity.” Jade shrugs. She’ll take power over money and fame.

GM: “Turn it down. Better safe than sorry.”

“This would go smoothly. Blow into town in disguise. Kill some people. Disappear. Never come back. At least with those faces.”

Celia: “And we can be anyone.”

GM: He finally smiles again. It’s a cold smile, and his fangs are long in his mouth.

“It’s as close to foolproof as there is.”

Celia: “We’ll need a cover for our disappearance here.”

GM: “I’ll think of something. We shouldn’t leave at the same time or to the same known destination.”

“This degree of caution might not be necessary. But I’d rather overdo it than underdo it.”

Celia: “Or we should. Together. Make a big show of it. Hide in plain sight.”

GM: “Roderick and Jade have no reason to go anywhere together.”

Celia: No, perhaps not now with the city as it is.

GM: He shakes his head.

“No matter. That’s for the future. Right now we need to cover up what we’ve done here. I’m going to kill the thin-blood. How thoroughly can you destroy his and Edith’s bodies?”

Celia: Jade’s answering smile is wicked.

“There’ll be nothing left when I’m done.”

GM: Draco’s fangs are long and hungry in his smiling mouth.

“Then let’s get started.”


Tuesday night, 22 March 2016, AM

GM: Draco disposes of the thin-blood quickly enough by snapping his neck too. Jade knows that’s much harder than the movies make it look, though it’s easier with an unresisting subject. Draco dumps the corpse in the bathroom outside of the tub.

He curls his lip at the still-fresh-looking corpse’s smell (“that seems more due to how he lived than how he died”) and strips off the threadbare clothes.

Celia: Jade has Draco to assist in the procedure, putting his speed and strength to good use. She asks him to bleed the thin-blood into whatever container the black couple has in their house, showing him where to cut through the chest so he can rip out the clavicles to get to the subclavian arteries.

“Their blood tastes worse than most humans,” Jade admits, “but waste not.” She shows him how to hang the thin-blood by his feet and remove the rib cage so he can get to the heart to literally pump the blood out of him and into the waiting container once it stops flowing on its own.

GM: “Their blood tastes fine by itself,” Draco says as he pries apart the thin-blood’s ribs. The gore-stained shower stall already resembles a slaughterhouse. “But it’s reminiscent of actual lick blood and that makes it worse. Like going to the O’Tolley’s playground after being promised Disneyland.”

Celia: “Not that either compares to what we just did.”

GM: “No. They don’t.”

Celia: She starts on Edith while he works on the thin-blood, using her claws like knives to peel off what’s left of her rotting skin. The putrid and decaying organs are further pulverized into liquid mush; Edith was old enough that most of her internal structure, even the muscles, liquefied once her body was stripped of its animation. Jade rips and wrenches and severs through what remains, cutting and hacking and having Draco break the bones into manageably sized pieces. She leaves the flesh in a pile to come back to later.

Then it’s the thin-blood’s turn. She’s more careful with the cuts she makes to his torso after she and Draco yank off the limbs, pulling out his stomach in one complete piece. That, too, is set aside. The rest of him is stripped down to the bones, organs and tissue set into one pile and bones in another for Draco to further break down. (“I really need to find someone to eat who can give me a boost with this part of it.”)

GM: Draco snaps apart the bones as required while he watches Jade work. Edith’s bones are fairly brittle after the state her body is in. The thin-blood’s take more time, but they’re broken apart soon enough too.

Celia: Jade rummages through the kitchen, bathroom, and hall closet for what she needs: a rubber container, hydrogen peroxide (a staple in almost every bathroom), and a spice grinder. Well, what she finds is a coffee grinder instead, but it will serve the same purpose.

She puts the assorted tissues into the rubber container, pokes a hole into the thin-blood’s stomach with her claws, and upends it over the bowl.

Almost instantly the flesh and tissue begins to sizzle and dissolve. Once she adds the hydrogen peroxide the process moves even more quickly.

“Gastric acid,” Jade says if he asks. “pH around 1. Kine have mucus lining their stomach that prevents it from eating through. Add this, though, and it’s… pretty instant.”

She smiles down at the sludge, adding more pieces of flesh as room is created in the bowl. While that works its magic she grinds the larger pieces of bone into a fine dust and tosses the smaller, thinner ones directly into the solution.

Ordinarily she’d strip them all down without the use of chemicals, but then there are still inconvenient pieces lying around that she can’t do much with without running the risk of someone finding them.

Anything that doesn’t dissolve, which isn’t much, she rubs between her hands to break into smaller and smaller particles that eventually just disappear.

There’s nothing left when she’s done.

GM: “I learned in science classes how acidic stomach acid is,” Draco remarks. “It’s something else to see firsthand.”

“Disgusting this abortion still had so much.”

“But I suppose it’s to our benefit.”

Celia: “Kidneys produce something else you can use for it, too. Ammonia.”

GM: Draco rips apart what remains of Edith’s and the thin-blood’s clothing to dump into the container of acid-dissolving body parts.

“Efficient,” he says once they’re done. “I’d be inclined to keep this to get rid of Gui’s body, if you don’t have another means of disposal in mind.”

Celia: “I might,” she hedges, “but it’s a risk we don’t need to take. This will be fine.”

GM: Draco finds a lid for the bucket, then strips off his clothes.

“You can turn us back to normal now. Give me Roderick’s face.”

Celia: Jade rinses her hands in the sink and begins the work. Once more she starts at his feet, sliding her hands up over his skin to turn the color from black to Roderick’s paler complexion. She smooths over the mark she’d carved into his skin as she goes. Up his shins and calves, across the knees, up the thigh and sides of his legs, across the groin—how little his cock interests her now, how empty it would feel compared to the heady ecstasy of a soul—and then across his abdomen and chest, neck, shoulders, arms. She spins around behind him and does the same down the back, sweeping her fingers in quick movements over his body, paying careful attention to the details.

“What are you going to tell him,” she asks as she works.

Then his face. Roderick’s face. Not Draco. She wonders at the request—surely he isn’t going to see Savoy as Roderick to collect the body—but does as asked.

She strips when she’s done, rinses again, and her skin ripples and dissolves as she retakes her normal form without ever needing to touch her own body. Jade.

GM: “It won’t be a problem,” is all he says.

He collects half the vitae harvested from the thin-blood.

Celia: There’s less than there was prior; Jade took a hit to keep the edge off when she started in on his body. She takes another when she’s done. She murmurs a quiet “thanks” when he gives her the extra that can’t be evenly divided between the pair, leaving her with more than he took. It’s an unexpectedly decent gesture.

She doesn’t press the issue on Savoy, only nods and moves into the bedroom to find a pair of pants to steal from the woman. She’d rather not walk around in panties the rest of the night. She makes sure they’re old, something that won’t be missed, and slides them on.

They’re not stylish. Not Jade’s version of stylish, anyway, and she makes a face at herself in the mirror. Still, it could be worse. They look like pajama bottoms or lounge wear, something someone could be wearing late at night with the thin cotton shirt and no bra she’d been kidnapped in, so at least it matches.

Jade finds Draco when she’s done. Questions burn inside of her, but for the moment she holds her tongue. Wary, she realizes; she’s looking for signs of their new dynamic. Balancing on the edge of the knife with him while she waits to see where they stand, walking across egg shells to avoid ticking him off. Like Celia did for her dad. Like she still does for her sire.

That’s an unacceptable state. She’s not going to accept another master who expects blind obedience and denies any sort of intel.

GM: Draco pulls back on his discarded clothes. He goes back into the bedroom, cracks the couple over their heads again, removes their bonds, then carries them back to the living room couch and turns on the TV. He returns the cords back to their proper place, picks up the container of stomach acid, then departs the house and climbs back into his car. He waits for Jade to get in, then drives.

“Turn into a cat and get on the floor.”

Celia: So much for “I’ll have time to ask on the way back.”

Jade takes her feline form and settles onto the ground near Harper.

GM: The ghouled baby has since fallen asleep. They drive for a long time.

Finally, Draco says, “Turn human again.”

Celia: So she does.

She glances at the surroundings, ready to change her face if needed.

GM: They’re in southern Gentilly and close to the city proper.

Draco climbs into the back of the car and lies down on the floor.

“Give me Draco’s face now.”

“I’ll drop you off where you want in the Quarter when you’re done.”

Celia: Jade clambers after him, flexing her fingers while she takes a spot on the seat. It’s an awkward angle to work. So she moves, straddling his hips with a knee to either side, thighs spread.

“I have a question,” she says as she starts the work.

GM: “Then ask it.”

Celia: She has several, actually. But she starts with one.

“What’s the cover? Cool indifference?”

GM: “That will serve.”

He growls as she goes about her painful ministrations.

Celia: “Are you ever leaving the Quarter with this face?” She sweeps her fingertips across his jaw.

GM: “Don’t worry about it.”

Celia: Her lips flatten into a thin line.

“I had an offer. I’m not looking to get intel on your plans.”

GM: “Make it.”

Celia: He is not her sire no matter how clipped his words. She moves from jaw to cheek.

“There’s more we can do for each other if we’re known to associate.”

GM: “Such as?”

Celia: “Status. Clout. United front. A known somebody to vouch for a new face. Less need for cloak and dagger if we’re meeting. Savoy has eyes and ears everywhere; he catches wind and he’ll want to know why we’d see each other at all. He already values you, but there’s more favor yet to be won. I’m working on two projects for him. He’ll be pleased with the result. Shared recognition.”

A pause while she alters the shape of his nose.

“There’s more I’d be willing to go out on a limb for if I know that the favor will be returned without scorn. Not free,” she clarifies before he can give her a dark look, “you want to go quid pro quo and swap boons, fine. There are things I excel at and things you excel at, and together we have most of the bases covered. But there’s a whole song and dance we’d have to do to avoid scrutiny.”

“I don’t,” she repeats, wrenching his nose into place, “want you as an enemy.”

“And I don’t want to settle for some second rate knock off bullshit just to avoid approaching you.”

GM: He growls at the sensation.

“I’ll tell Lord Savoy we don’t have an active feud with one another. There’s no point in going to extra trouble over bullshit that just makes him unhappier.”

“Anything you do to Roderick’s family, by the way, I’ll do to Celia’s. Harm Danielle and I’ll harm Emily. Harm Roderick’s father and I’ll harm Celia’s mother. Stay quiet about Dani’s trespassing and I’ll stay quiet about Diana’s. Stay quiet about Dani’s identity and I’ll stay quiet about Celia’s Masquerade breach. This will be as reciprocal as you choose to make it.”

Celia: “I have zero interest in harming anything Roderick values,” Jade says flatly. “I don’t want his secrets. I don’t want to know what he’s doing for Savoy or what he overhears at the Cabildo. I never want it stolen from my head.”

She stops her movements, looking from his cheek to his eyes.

“I don’t expect you to like me. I don’t expect you to trust me. But the shit we just pulled? That gets us both killed. And I want to know that if I call you up and say ‘Hey Draco, I need a favor,’ I can rely on you there as much as I rely on you to keep your mouth shut. Because the sheer fact of the fucking matter is that there’s not a single other lick in this city that I’d have shown that to, and we’ve already made plans to do it again.”

GM: “Depends on the favor,” he says. “If it has bearing on my self-interest, you can certainly rely on me there. If it doesn’t, I’ll consider such favors on a case-by-case basis.”

Celia: “If I haven’t royally fucked it up with Savoy,” Jade says, resuming her work, “he’s building me a lab for further experimentation and study. There’s plenty that I already think will benefit you. And your sister. She needs a new identity if ‘Hannah’ is going to be seen with someone else. And another if she becomes a true-blood. I’ll do it for her. I already know her.”

She sculpts his cheeks, giving them the sharp look of Draco’s.

“I want Gui’s old job.”

“And if you’re interested in assisting with a project, it’ll do us both good.”

GM: “That being?”

Celia: “Luring the exiled prince to his side.”

GM: Draco effects a snort. “Good luck with that.”

Celia: “Grandsire thought the idea had merit. If not bringing Guilbeau over then at least using him as cover to expand Savoy’s influence. If you’ve taken over Gui’s hold on the Mafia then it might be of personal interest to you as well.”

“And if not,” she adds, moving to the flesh around his eyes, “then I’m dead in a week and they comb through my head before they execute me, so if you need a boon for your help I’ll pay it.”

GM: “Your bringing Guilbeau over doesn’t benefit me. If you want my help, you are paying for it.”

“I’m certainly not about to take your word that I’m dead if I don’t help you with this.”

Celia: “Christ, Draco, how many times do I have to say that I know you don’t take me at my word? I said I’d pay.”

GM: “You said ‘if.’ So what help do you want to buy?”

Celia: “Guilbeau claims that Setites torped one of his playmates. He can’t wake her. You seem to be in with them and I’d rather not screw one over and piss off my grandsire.”

GM: “You’d piss them off too. They aren’t Quarter rats.”

Celia: “That too.”

“I don’t have any desire to be on their bad side.”

GM: “Who’s the playmate?”

Celia: “Marie something. Tremere. Apparently the warlocks won’t help.”

GM: “I’ll ask. No promises.”

Celia: “Thanks.”

GM: “It’s not lost on me that Guilbeau doesn’t actually need you to get what he wants, either.”

Celia: Jade’s movements slow. “No?”

“What’re you thinking?”

GM: “Nothing. Just observing.”

Celia: Jade purses her lips.

“I hate how stupid this fucking body is,” she mutters. “Your ex is a fucking idiot. He promised something valuable.”

GM: “Sometimes I wish I’d asked Celia to fill out IQ tests together for a date night.”

“That would have been funny.”

Celia: “Would it amuse you to torture her?”

GM: “I’d rather kill her.”

Celia: “The personality? Or the body?”

GM: “Either.”

Celia: “I wouldn’t mind getting rid of her,” Jade muses. “Last night I made her admit how weak she is.”

“She’s made a real mess of things.”

GM: “You’re also the same person, like it or not.”

Celia: Jade laughs.

“That’s where you’re wrong, darling. Celia and I share a body. We’ve never shared goals or ideals. Would you like to see the proof?”

GM: “You are the same person. You’re simply insane and have developed multiple personalities in response to trauma.”

Celia: “You’re no fun,” Jade pouts. “You won’t even let me show you my trick?”

GM: “If it’s of practical value.”

Celia: “Only to convince you that Celia and I are separate entities.”

“There’s not much effort on your part.”

GM: “Feel free, though I doubt I’ll believe that. Especially when you’d benefit from making me believe that.”

Celia: Jade cocks her head to one side.

“I’ll freely admit I had zero interest in Roderick Durant. Draco is another matter. But watch. Do that thing you strong types do, the one where you size me up and know just how tough I am, yeah?”

GM: “I’m watching.”

Celia: Jade lets him get a good look at her. Poised above him, thighs spread to either side, smirking with lips that belong on his. Or anyone’s.

Then she’s gone. Her flesh ripples outward like a pebble thrown into a pond, starting in the center of her face and moving toward jaw and hairline. She softens the hard lines, becomes the girl that he used to know.

Large brown eyes blink down at him, confusion and apprehension writ across her face as she takes in the deadly form of Draco beneath her.

But that’s not the interesting part.

No, the interesting part is how she reads.

How she changes on a mystical level.

GM: The Brujah’s fist smashes into Celia’s softer and fearful face. Blood spurts as the nose crunches in.

“That’s funny. You are are weaker,” he smiles.

Celia: She doesn’t seem to understand. Not if her bewildered look or yelp is any indication. Fear stares out at him for a moment before it’s gone, replaced by Jade’s self satisfied smirk. Blood runs freely from her shared nose.

“Told you.”

“Shame she fucked it up, anyhow. This new you is highly amusing.”

A few quick strokes finish his face. She tells him as much.

GM: “That was satisfying,” he says, experimentally touching his face as he gets up and re-assumes his seat. “You can expect a similar response if I see Celia’s face again.”

Celia: Jade is displaced when he moves. She follows him into the front.

“Mm,” she says, “does that mean you don’t want to rip her leg off?”

GM: “That sounds like a delightful way to spend several moments. Or however long someone could stretch them out.”

He starts driving again.

“Where do you and your weaker personality want to get off?”

Celia: “I need Celia’s femur,” Jade says idly, looking down at the child on the floor. “Let me stay the day and I’ll bring the blood to put her back together when you’ve finished tormenting her. I’ll keep the memories from her so she’ll be truly terrified.”

She smiles. It’s a mean smile.

“Her mother’s house.”

GM: That makes both of theirs.

“That does sound delightful. You’ll spend the day staked if you want to spend it with me, though. I’m not chancing a repeat of last time.”

Celia: “Naturally.”


Previous, by Narrative: Story Thirteen, Celia XXIX
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Next, by Character: Story Thirteen, Caroline VI, Celia XXXI

Comments

Staking Scene

I recall rolling for Perception here against Princess / the others. Am curious how things would have panned out if Celia did wake up before she got staked. Possibly would have tried to Obfuscate her way out of it, I think. Or shift. Something. I guess I kind of felt like she was mostly “safe” because she’d let Roderick go and had killed Gui, so being picked up by Princess wasn’t the end of the world.

I don’t think I’ve ever actually played Celia as “Ren.” Would like to at some point if I’m going to use that identity more, I think. I appreciate the differences in their physical bodies. Still pretty, but less obvious Toreador. Have I mentioned how much I love this new Devotion? Because I do. So much. I am SO excited to do things with it.

Would have been amused to see how things panned out if Savoy’s people didn’t know that Jade is Ren. Three other people, though. Curious who the two that she didn’t see are. The infamous Pierre? :O Hot.

Roderick Interrogation

Kind of thought they’d question her longer than they did. But that comes later. More personal touch with homeboy Draco. Still curious how it was him who ended up questioning her instead of like Lebeaux, but then I thought maybe there was a bit of a bone thrown my way by having it be Draco rather than Pete since Pete might be able to see the diablerie and this gave me an avenue to turn Draco into a partner, so. Appreciate it, if that’s what it was.

Celia’s internal diatribe against Roderick here was fun to write. I was very mad at him at the time because he is a butthead. I guess I kind of also feel like a lot of it’s true. Yeah, Celia lied to and cheated on him, but Coco is the one who actually betrayed him, and Savoy is the one who set him up. I’ve accepted the hand Celia had in this and that he didn’t want her to be like every other lick, I guess just like…

Like he didn’t give her an opportunity to fix it. She was going to set up Gui, she was going to find Dani’s sire, she was going to accept that he’s “in charge” and that he’d “correct bad behavior” and try to be more honest, and he just threw a wrench into all of that by not giving her the opportunity. I dunno man. I don’t know if it would have turned out differently, I still think it was dumb of me to handle things the way I did when they showed up at the spa, but not much to be done about it now.

Also still think it’s ridiculous that he’s mad at her for staking him after he staked her, tortured her, and then told her he was going to take control of her Requiem. She said some mean things to him. She didn’t do anything else and she could have. If she’d wanted to kill him Savoy’s agents wouldn’t have been there in time. Like let’s have a bit of perspective, Roderick, christ.

The phone thing rubbed me the wrong way, same thing with the papers Alana found on her desk. Those are like super minor details that to me are taken care of when I say things like “Celia takes what she needs / wraps up blah blah blah” etc. Like I just kind of assumed you knew Celia gave his phone back.

Not gonna lie, I pretty much assumed that Draco had taken one of her ghouls (or all of them) or Diana / Emily / Lucy and planned to torture or kill them in front of Celia. Or ghoul / Embrace Emily or bond Diana. So that’s pretty much what I was waiting for this entire scene.

Had fun with the reversal of Presence here. Watching Draco pretend to be nice while Celia knew it was bullshit and pretended to fall for it and he fell for that act. Very funny. Probably should have hit him with Presence, but I’m not sure if it would have gotten Celia anywhere further than she got without it. The back and forth where he pretends to care just really amuses me.

Celia was probably into it even though it was a lie.

Kind of too bad it was, really, what he said was rather believable. If he’d meant any of it Celia might have gone for it even after all that has happened between them. Truly she could use his help for some stuff and she did used to feel safe with him and they are a good team. She’s in over her head and she keeps trying to do it alone and it hasn’t been going well. Time to adjust.

So. Boosted the 5S to seduce him to an 8S. I don’t love that it didn’t work and that I essentially wasted a bunch of resources on attempting it. I’d have probably been more annoyed if I’d had to spend SP as well as Stains / XP, but still kind of like… I dunno. 8S is described as “superhuman feats,” so I guess what sort of DC is needed to make your ex want to have sex with you while you’re tied up and helpless and he’s in control and you’re objectively a hot piece of ass? Was talking to Pete about the idea of “refunding” things that are spent and still fail the DC (especially in situations like this), not sure how you feel about it. Bummed it didn’t work, anyway. Might still make the other Dec we talked about.

Maybe that’s all she ever really wanted: to trust him. To not be afraid. To keep her heart open and know that he wouldn’t get swept into the danger or the drama, that no one would come after him because of her. To submit to someone powerful. To be claimed. He’s strong enough for that. To take her. Not much to comment on here just liked this part of it because it’s true.

Enjoyed the switch to Jade here. Playing her with a clear divide is fun. The language, the movements, the venom. Not as caustic as she could be but she definitely got a few barbs in. Roderick, uh, can’t keep up with her on a social level to be honest. His retorts were awkward and clumsy for that big brain of his (though I thought the pronouns line was funny).

Dani Conversation

Not a fan of how I responded to Dani here. I mean Jade is right that Celia took care of her, and the bone was an oversight on my end because I assumed Celia had covered it the night before and then it came up in game and I figured why not, but meh. She really did treat Dani well for all of that.

Don’t really like the addition of the line about her tricking him as Dicentra into collecting a boon since that was added after the scene was over and I had no chance to respond to it and I would have.

Sometimes I dislike scenes like this when multiple NPCs keep talking to each other because if I’m not paying full attention I miss a chance to say something / respond to something and then it only comes out later. Like the timing with her forgotten condom / dead baby line comes really late.

I dunno. I guess I just don’t love how I played this in general. Not sure if I could have kept Dani as a friend (I imagine this was my chance to do so) and Jade is just unwilling to be like “yeah I fucked up” as Celia might have. Thought the admission about the “not being raped” thing might win some brownie points back, but then Celia put her Celia face on and cried and… whatever.

Whatever.

Who needs a thin-blood pet anyway.

“I fucked him. When I killed him. I made his dick hard and I rode him and when I reached climax I ripped his heart out. And he got ugly immediately and it wasn’t satisfying and ruined the O, so I fixed him up and did it again.” This amuses the fuck out of me.

Because it’s definitely something Jade would do. It’s gross as fuck, obviously. But in line with Jade’s behavior of fucking people. I was originally actually going to have her fuck him before she killed him, send him out with a real “bang.” Ha. Get it? But then diablerized him instead, so. Was also going to chat with him but y’know, timing.

Anyway I still think it was shitty of Roderick to tell Dani about Dicentra and shitty of Dani to tell Diana. That’s the entire reason you don’t tell people your secret identities, but fuck me I guess.

Post-Dani Conversation

“I might be able to beat you in a fair fight…" No shit dude, why do you think she resorted to tricks? And who EVER fights fair if they can set things up to their advantage? Like bruh.

How did he get his car back if Alana “took care of it?” Motherfucker. Alana you useless slut.

Also not sure why you keep having NPCs go “not that we know if Savoy can get into heads or not” when he or Preston CLEARLY did it to Celia. Like unless you retconned that log it was a very obvious use of Auspex and Dominate. Oh well.

Crazy how Draco still manages to be a douchebag while trying to be an academic. It makes me roll my eyes. Also like. Okay but listen.

You believe in vampires. You believe in blood sucking monsters. You’re an animated corpse. You’ve seen others turn into animals and fly. But soul magic is too far-fetched? Two personalities inside one body is too crazy? Like what the fuck bro. Draco/Roderick strikes me as the kind of guy who wants to read every book just to say that he has. He’s the kind of guy who memorizes dates and facts and regurgitates it back to his teachers so they pat him on the back and tell him how smart he is and never actually does any of his own experimental stuff.

Like, I remember him saying he had a hard time with Biology in Story 10 and I bet it’s because of all the hands on, practical work you have to do. Meanwhile Celia is ripping people open to find out stuff for herself rather than relying on what other people tell her. She does that too, sure, but she’d rather actually figure it out and see it and do her own research. Which I have a lot of fun with tbh.

Also it makes me think that even though some people (Tremere, Setites) think certain things are impossible it doesn’t mean they are, because maybe they didn’t approach it the right way, maybe they ignored some facts, maybe they’re using the wrong sort of magic, etc etc etc. So I’m excited to see what sorts of stuff Celia gets into.

Anyway I took some leaps with some of the “science” of diablerie here but I think since Celia does a lot of experimental stuff and has been looking into soul magic / etc it makes sense that she knows a little bit. Obviously I still kept some of it very vague (and didn’t tell Draco everything she knows), but it was fun to explore that aspect of it.

Celia: “How familiar are you with the unicorns?”

GM: “Probably more so than you.”

Celia: “Perfect. They’re soul thieves. Ta-da.”

That exchange made me laugh. Especially how he then proceeds to ask her about that topic because he doesn’t know something.

Wasn’t sure he’d go for the “I can’t tell you that,” but glad he did. Not super eager to be like “yeah I’m chill with Caroline.”

Diablerie Planning

Anyway real talk, when he was like “we’re gonna do this on someone who won’t be missed” I was like oh it’s definitely gonna be a Caitiff. And then I was like “oh my god what if it’s Benji.” And then I was like “OH MY GOD WHAT IF IT’S CELIA.” So I was actually very, very paranoid this whole time that Draco was going to attack her at any moment. I think it comes through in a lot of my posts to be honest; it’s not really until Celia gets into it with Edith in her kitchen that I started participating instead of observing, and even then I was still nervous Draco was going to kill her.

Thought the black couple was another mob hit. Was wrong. Smart of Draco to take them out there, though. Covered the crime very well.

Hm. You changed how Draco knocked out the guy. Thought he punched him. Must be that new thing you added. Cool to see it in practice.

Tried to play up Celia itching for more souls without coming off as addicted. Think it worked out okay. Man it’s too bad Draco doesn’t want to fuck because I bet diablerie while fucking would be like the best thing. Also maybe lethal, ya feel? But if it worked out without the wrong soul being eaten I bet it’d be nice. Oh hey I wonder if this is why Veronica enjoys such fucked up sex things. Because normal sex doesn’t do it for her anymore after she’s tasted souls.

Tehe Celia touched Draco’s wiener.

Love that new Devotion. LOVE IT.

Had fun with the descriptions of clothing and Jade’s thoughts on being “ugly.” She’s so vain. It amuses me.

Draco never did say if he wants Jade to add more mass to him.

So anyway at the time of them going back to find their target I thought it might be some random lick that I don’t know who is connected to the mob or something and we were going to jump them in a bar, which is why Celia offered the Mark. So they could blend in and lure him out. Which they didn’t need to do. But idk man she was being HELLA PREPARED since Draco didn’t want to tell her the plan. Like a jerk.

When he said “All of us rip people apart sooner or later” I thought about like asking if he wanted to talk about it but then I figured he probably wouldn’t, not with Celia.

Taking Out Edith

Was amused to see them at Flannagan’s house. Thought he was going to turn the thin-blood into a true blood and then take his soul and I was like “nooo that’s going to be weaker,” but I see now that he was just using him as a patsy. Was happy to be wrong.

Also like how come Cinderella just let them in? If Alana just let in some random vampire I’d be like “BITCH WHAT THE FUCK HOW YOU GONNA LET SOMEONE ROLL UP ON US?”

Like damn Edith you were just asking to have your soul eaten you dumb fuck.

I was amused by the thin-blood’s interjection and Draco just telling him to stfu and then knocking him out lol. Anyway still need to find the alchemists. Shame this guy didn’t want to spill.

Alright so they walk into the kitchen and it’s empty. And I’m like “fuck they bolted,” and I had a whole post written about searching for a back door but there might not be one and then Celia was like “ah she Obfuscates” and then she takes a handful of flour and throws it across the space to find their forms and then… it was needed because what happened was EVEN WORSE. Like fuck, dude. Fuck. Poor Lily. Poor kids. I didn’t even think about the Infertile Vitae thing with Edith (or did I? Idk I wrote her a long time ago) and how she probably would have created a whole brood of childer. Damn. That lady was fucked up.

Glad I could keep Lily alive, even if her fate is going to be pretty fucked after this.

Enjoyed the banter in the kitchen as Jade. Was nice to be on the “same side” as Draco for a minute against Flannagan. I was pleased with a few of her lines, like the one in regards to the stake. I thought it was funny. Was torn on whether or not to lie to Edith about not hurting Geraldine. I’m not sure if she’d have actually surrendered or not, but for whatever reason I was like “Draco is gonna be mad if Celia lies” which is like really fucking dumb because they’re about to murder someone together but whatever. Also I never got to explain the “Misha” name to him. :(

Thought about shifting to tiger form for the fight. Thought about also frenzying. I think it was more satisfying that Jade won without either of those. Shows she can control her Beast in a fight (like Rod taught her!) and that she’s not useless in a brawl.

Was surprised that Draco asked Jade if she wanted the baby. Almost assumed he would kill them all. Not sure if taking Harper was the right call but that’s what I did so I’ll see how it goes. Honestly had a lot of fun being able to show off Celia’s knowledge on anatomy / early childhood development / etc. I don’t think she often gets to really show off in front of people with medical stuff / being smart and it’s a nice change of pace to know something that Draco doesn’t. He’s a little right… or would be if Celia didn’t have ways to avert the negative side effects of the aging. His “stop start” rapid growth thing isn’t quite what she had in mind.

Anyway it was nice for him to turn to her for an answer for once. That felt good.

Leaving the ghouls to their fate without Edith might be worse than simply killing them tbh. Celia would have only ever taken them apart, though.

Cute image of the cat and baby on the ground.

Edith’s Diablerie

Also real talk for a minute I thought Draco was going to cut her out of the diablerie and I was gonna LAY THE SMACKDOWN if that were the case. Glad I was wrong. Glad that Edith was BP 2 and was able to give something to both of them as well.

“It’s better than sex,” Jade says, so you know it’s serious business.

As ever, good description of the diablerie. Was cool to be able to see Draco’s face as he did it too. Meant to ask him how it made him feel but didn’t get a chance. Not sure that he’d have shared anyway. Just curious if it feels the same to all of them or not.

Can’t decide if it was better or worse that Draco kept his Beast in. Obviously better he didn’t torp her, but I feel like it’s one of those very stupid things he’s going to hold over her head. Granted, I played it like Jade summoned the Beast to keep Celia from knowing about diablerie so she could remain innocent because that makes most sense to me.

They’re going to end up murdering two people every time they do this. One as bait and the victim themselves. It’s not a bad idea to be honest. Thought about cutting open the thin-blood so their Beasts would smell his blood and attack him if they lost it but then I thought it might be more difficult to resist the frenzy and that might go worse. Maybe she’ll try it next time.

Draco’s realization about what it means is a good moment of play between the two of them. Realizing they’re partners, talking about keeping this secret together, talking about who is next, planning their new steps.

Celia: “Or we should. Together. Make a big show of it. Hide in plain sight.”

GM: “Roderick and Jade have no reason to go anywhere together.”

Jade and Draco might have a reason to go somewhere together, though. Also had really dumb fantasies here about a reason Jade and Roderick would have to leave together that I’m just not gonna mention.

Body Disposal

Also I have been waiting forever to use this gastric acid thing. It would take too long on its own so that’s why Celia added the peroxide. I admit I took a bit of a liberty there with that since the peroxide and ammonia is the actual “Piranha Solution” that does this, but considering the pH of gastric acid ammonia are similar (similar but reversed: one is acidic and one is alkaline) I figured it’d still work. Also this is HELLA DANGEROUS to make and can cause all sorts of problems and shouldn’t be breathed in, etc. But since they don’t breathe I figured it was fine. There was some science I skimped on explaining because the post was getting long and I wanted to include some medical stuff, so that’s why I did the gastric acid instead of ammonia (which is also found in plenty of household products, though not the concentration it needs to be. Also it’s secreted from the kidneys! Fun fact).

It’s also something that needs to be freshly mixed every time it’s used. So like him using it on Gui is fine because it’s like an hour old, but he can’t keep it to use it because of self-decomposition. You can also use sulfuric acid which is SUPER UNSAFE for vampires because when you add the peroxide it GETS REALLY HOT and even BOILS and can EXPLODE! If you try to store it it’ll explode.

Anyway it works be decaying organic matter. So. That’s my point. Had fun writing it. Had fun with Celia looking useful and smart again.

True story the “bomb” Celia was going to put in Roderick’s chest also involved a “tripwire” of gastric acid that would eat through his heart if anyone tried to remove it.

Later Stuff

Celia was gonna tell Draco about the oven monster to get rid of Gui but then I figured it’s an unnecessary risk and if he has that to get rid of it he doesn’t need her. So she didn’t.

Celia: “If I haven’t royally fucked it up with Savoy,” Jade says, resuming her work, “he’s building me a lab for further experimentation and study. There’s plenty that I already think will benefit you. And your sister. She needs a new identity if ‘Hannah’ is going to be seen with someone else. And another if she becomes a true-blood. I’ll do it for her. I already know her.”

She sculpts his cheeks, giving them the sharp look of Draco’s.

“I want Gui’s old job.”

Not sure if he understood her point there was to make sure she gets it when he talks to Savoy about this whole thing. Literally going to kill whoever else gets it if she doesn’t.

I figured he’d be interested in the Marcel thing since it involves getting rid of Rocco and taking over Harrah’s and the Mafia hold there, but I guess Celia didn’t explain that part. Thought she did. Whoops.

Not sure if her “trick” showed him they’re different enough. Oh well I guess.

Looking forward to LA.

Story Thirteen, Celia XXX
False_Epiphany False_Epiphany

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