“I have eternity ahead of me; I’d like to actually do something with it.”
Tuesday night, 22 March 2016, PM
Celia: Hunger prevents her from simply stalking out into the night. She fishes through her bag for the two pints of blood leftover from the thin-blood she and Draco had murdered the night before, sticking it into the microwave to heat. She drinks it down. Irritation surges through her. She should have had an easier time of things at the club; distracted by her emotions she no doubt moved past a dozen other kine that would have made an easy meal.
But the blood is a reminder that she has things to fix. She doesn’t doubt that Pete is going to check in on Emily sooner rather than later, and she’d rather have a plan in place than not. It’ll help her mom, too. Keep her from that wretched, addicted state.
Jade changes. Heeled boots, leather leggings, a double layer of tank tops beneath a hooded jacket. She pulls it up even as she succumbs to the embrace of the shadows around her, more at home in them now than she has ever been before.
She takes off into the night, heading toward Jackson Park. While she walks she pulls her phone from her pocket, uses another burner app, and dials the number on the back of Joel’s credit card.
GM: “Hello, thank you for calling Bank of Columbia,” greets a recorded female voice. “This call may be recorded.”
Jade is asked to enter the last four digits of her ATM debit card number, social security number, or tax ID. Jade is given a menu of options to pick from after doing so. Live representatives, fortunately for her, are available 24/7.
Celia: Jade’s vocal chords change without her needing to do anything more than will it. Even if it isn’t a proper match, a bank rep will have no idea, and a recording even less.
“Transactions,” she says into the phone.
GM: “One moment,” replies the stilted voice.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, there are no transactions after the date he ran into Jade.
Celia: That’s good, it cuts down on the list. She needs the ones from before.
GM: There’s a variety of mundane transactions for things like grocery purchases, as well as a bus ticket to New Orleans. It was purchased a few days ago.
Celia: She’s looking specifically for a hotel, hostel, motel, or other rental property.
Though she makes a mental note of the date of the purchase for the ticket to NOLA.
GM: She gets the name of a hotel that some googling shows to be in Central City. Only $25 per night.
Celia: Who needs Reggie and Rusty, she thinks, tucking the address of the hotel away for later. She’ll catch a Ryde after she finishes at the Square.
GM: At this hour, Jackson Square is closed down. The ghost tours are over and even the crowds of visitors that gather around the back fence of St. Anthony’s Garden to take pictures of the giant shadow cast by the “Touchdown Jesus” statue are all gone. The square’s iron gate is closed and locked so that homeless people don’t sleep inside. Instead they sleep outside, with all of their dogs. Or they don’t sleep. They piss, shit, vomit, fuck, and shoot up.
Concealed by shadow, this time, no crowds of disheveled panhandlers harass Jade for money. A few dogs, though, growl at the Toreador’s passage… they are not fooled by her.
Jade can’t tell the thin-bloods by scent and sound, like she can her own kind. But there is a heady scent of blood wafting from one of the kicking sleeping bags.
Jade ignores the dogs unless they come close to her, lifting a hand and murmuring an “easy” to them. She crouches beside the sleeping bag to peer at its owner.
GM: She finds a shirtless, pale-skinned man with a red bandanna burying his face into the neck of a gasping man underneath him. An adjacent cardboard sign reads, TOO UGLY 2 PROSTITUTE!!!!!
Celia: Jade isn’t so rude as to interrupt the meal. She lets him finish.
GM: A little while passes before he sits up. He looks in maybe his 30s, with a scraggly brown beard and features that could be passably attractive under better circumstances.
“That’s the shit, isn’t it?” he says to the man in the sleeping bag, who gives a bovine grunt.
Celia: Glad he has enough sense not to slaughter the man, Jade gives him a moment to extricate himself from the bag before she speaks up, shattering the illusion for him, at least.
GM: The man does so in short enough order. Besides the bandanna, he’s dressed in dirty black pants and high-top gray sneakers.
He freezes at Jade’s address and looks her over with something between fear and anger.
“What the fuck do you want?”
Celia: Jade smiles at him, showing the tips of her fangs behind her perfectly curved lips.
“Possibly an offer, if you want more of that.” A nod toward the kine in the bag.
GM: “All right, what?” the thin-blood says warily.
Celia: “Do you have things here?” she asks, casting a glance along the assortment of people. “Gather them. Come with me.”
GM: “I’m not stupid,” says the thin-blood. He still looks alarmed, and in no rush to go off alone with her.
Celia: “If I wanted you dead, darling, I could do it here. I only desired to step away from prying ears.” She tilts her head to one side, considering the thin-blood. “I’m looking for someone and wondered if you could point me in the right direction.”
GM: “All right, who?” he asks.
Celia: “An alchemist.”
GM: “What’s in it for me?”
Celia: “A bath and change of clothes, for starters. Following that, a hot meal.”
GM: “Fuck the bath, just gonna get dirty again, aren’t I?” says the thin-blood.
“I want out. Canal Street. Get me that, I can hook you up with a GREAT alchemist.”
Celia: “Done,” Jade says easily.
GM: The thin-blood looks surprised by that answer. And still suspicious.
Celia: “Done as in the lord and I are closer than many think. Done as in until I have it officially cleared I can offer you better.”
GM: “Okay, what’s better?”
Celia: “Off Bourbon.”
“I have a block between Bourbon and Dauphine. You’ll have access to a portion of it until we get Canal for you.”
GM: The thin-blood regards Jade warily.
“What’s gonna stop you from just leavin’ me high and dry, after I hook you up?”
“Actually, fuck it, I’ll just take cash and juice.”
Celia: “Prudent.” Jade smiles again. “I have an interest in what you can do and would have offered an ongoing deal, but we’ll settle it up with cash and juice, then.”
GM: “Okay, I want… $2,000, and a donor.”
Celia: “I’ll give you $500 now, $500 after I meet your contact, and take you hunting.”
GM: The thin-blood considers that.
“Okay. The hunting before you meet him.”
Celia: “Bring your things, darling. We’re going clubbing.”
Wednesday night, 23 March 2016, AM
GM: The thin-blood brings his things. There aren’t a ton. Just a stuffed- and worn-looking backpack he slings over his bare shoulders.
Plus a sleeping bag.
Celia: Jade asks the thin-blood for his name during their trek. It doesn’t need to be a real name, she offers, just something to call him by. She gives him her own if he asks, and tells him they’re making a quick stop on the way.
“I run a spa,” she says, “on Royal. If you’re coming out with me we’re going to get you washed and changed. It’s all about appearances out here, sweetheart.” That last line is delivered with a tiny quirk of her lips that could mean a dozen different things.
She lets them in through the employee entrance and leads him to one of the Swiss showers, offering a towel and assorted bathing supplies.
GM: “You can call me Jake,” says the thin-blood.
He doesn’t disagree with her logic about the clubs, and seems to figure what the hell. He’ll wash up.
Celia: Jade gathers a few more things while he does so. Clippers and scissors, a clean outfit—shopaholic, she has clothes and accessories everywhere—and pulls a thousand dollars from the safe behind the counter. She keeps the bills small, tucks five hundred into one pocket and five hundred into a small plastic bag that goes inside her stomach. Just in case.
Once he’s out she asks if his hair still grows, and if he’ll let her trim it for him.
GM: “Yeah,” he nods in answer. “Not as fast as it used to. But no thanks.”
Celia: “Shame,” she murmurs, putting away the clippers, “I imagine you’re rather cute beneath all that. Come on then.”
She offers to let him leave his things here if he wants, but it’s no skin off her back if not. They walk toward her turf on Bourbon and Jade peppers him with questions: how long he’s been like this, does he know who Embraced him, where he stays during the day and whether or not the sun hurts him, if he’s figured out how to totem twist, what he did prior to his half-death.
GM: With visible reluctance, Jake decides to leave his things at the spa, figuring that toting around a sleeping bag and worn-looking backpack will make it harder to pick someone up at the club. Between the bath and shirt, he looks pretty cleaned up, though his beard and hair are scraggly enough he could probably blend back in among the homeless.
“Why do you give a shit ’bout all that?” he asks, suspiciously.
Celia: “Idle curiosity. I’ve made a study of anatomy and physiology among kine and Kindred, and you fall somewhere in between. I think it’s interesting.” She casts a glance at him, offering a small, amused smile. “And the walk would be awfully quiet without making conversation.”
GM: “I been a vampire maybe a year, I don’t wanna talk about that, I ain’t gonna tell you where I sleep, I dunno what that is, and I was a traveler.”
Celia: “I only wanted to know if you had a safe place during the day,” Jade says with a dismissive wave of her hand. She moves on to a less-intrusive topic. “Where all have you traveled?”
GM: “’Cross the country. Me and my friends were in Lubbock before we freighthopped to NOLA.”
“Fuckin’ awful city.”
Celia: “Have you done that since? Traveled outside of here, I mean.”
GM: “No, there’s all sortsa shit out there, isn’t there?”
Celia: “That’s what I’ve heard.”
GM: “You donno?”
Celia: Jade shrugs. “It’s as dangerous for us to travel as it is for you. Perhaps more so. Loops can sniff us out. I’ve run into plenty of monsters on city streets, but none while I was on the road.”
GM: “Fuckin’ awful city,” Jake repeats, spitting to the side.
Celia: She doesn’t disagree.
“Where would you rather be?”
GM: “I didn’t mind what I was doin’ earlier. I got by. Saw the country, didn’t work a stupid 9 to 5.”
Celia: “Freedom,” Jade says with a smile.
GM: “Yeah, fuck the man an’ all that.”
Celia: “You might enjoy Houston. Or LA.”
Celia: “Something to consider for a later date,” Jade says with another shrug. “Come on then. It’s open mic night.”
She leads the way into The Cat’s Meow.
GM: “The fuck?” he grouses. “Come on, I just wanna grab a girl, not sing an’ shit.”
Celia: Jade rolls her eyes. “That’s what we’re doing, darling. I only meant there’s significantly more people here than a normal Tuesday would warrant.”
“Make sure you do it somewhere discrete,” she adds as they walk inside. “You still show up on cameras.”
Jade buys drinks for the pair of them, casting her eyes through the crowd for a likely target while it’s mixed and poured.
GM: Open mic night at The Cat’s Meow goes well. Some people play the guitar. Some play the piano. Some sing. The crowd claps and seems very into it. Jake elects not to take the mic and strikes it up with a girl in the crowd. Jade does, though, and is showered with applause and admirers. People can’t get enough of her. Guys can’t get enough of her. Many invite her back to their places. She has her pick of the litter. It’s so unfortunate she’s full, or as close to full as she can be from lighter sips, anyway. Feeding from a handsome guy in the back of his car still feels good, though. She feels the rush of all-natural sweet flavor across her tongue, running down her throat. It tastes like lust, yes, but also like adoration. It tastes like cheers and applause and calls for more. It tastes like everyone loving her and being unable to get enough of her. It tastes like people bowing down before her… and it tastes like she could now make them, even those who weren’t here to see her tonight, through the Blood.
Jake, last she saw him, disappeared into the bathroom with his girl.
Celia: It’s a heady, intoxicating rush. This is what she exists for, why she was made: the adoration of a crowd. The invites back to their places. The smiles and catcalls and whistles and suggestive looks. The dancing, first with one boy and then the next, until she winds up in the arms of her ideal partner in the ideal situation: on his lap with his throat bared to her teeth, her pockets full of phone numbers from hopeful admirers and future meals.
She’s not hungry. Not really. But she feasts, taking this majesty with her, letting it roll and flow across her tongue to slake a thirst that’s never truly quenched. When she’s done she licks closed the evidence of her deed, pressing a kiss against his lips instead.
He’s kine, just a passing fancy for this one night in the back of his car, not real.
But that’s all she wants right now.
Wednesday night, 23 March 2016, AM
GM: Jake expectantly collects the $500 from Jade and goes back to Flawless with her to collect his things.
“‘Kay, he’s at Rampart.”
“I’ll lead you there. You got the other 500?”
Celia: “Yes,” she says, calling for a Ryde for the pair of them. “You two on good terms?”
GM: “Yeah, we’re tight, sometimes I sell him shit and buy his shit.”
“Lemme see it. The money. You can hang onto it, but I wanna see it.”
Celia: Jade gives him a look. “I took you to my business, took you to my domain, and got you a vessel. Do you really think I’m going to stiff you over $500?”
GM: “Hey, why not.”
“If you’re not gonna, doesn’t cost you anything to show it.”
“Not like I can take it from a full-blood, is it?”
Celia: “Not without retaliation,” Jade says with a smile. “But it does cost me something to show you.” She leans in close, whispering in his ear, “I’ve got it tucked into a secret hiding spot.”
GM: He gives her a look. “Uh, why?”
Celia: “Because these pants are too tight for me to put a wad that big into my pockets.”’
GM: “Okay, like… there are purses.”
Celia: “Mm, good target for thieves. Not worth the hassle.”
“I didn’t roll it into my twat, if that’s what you’re worried about.”
GM: “Rather have it up a girl’s pussy than her ass.”
“Might still be something to lick.” He makes a face.
Celia: “Does that still do it for you?”
There’s no judgment in her voice, just curiosity.
GM: “Yeah, I’m not a fag.”
Celia: “Mm. Majority of ‘em can’t get it up anymore.”
“What did you mean when you said earlier that he buys your stuff?”
GM: “Sometimes he pays me to get shit for him.”
Celia: “Like what?”
“Are you good at that, getting shit?”
GM: “Random shit. Bones, gas, vape juice, soda, pills, just random shit.”
GM: “Yeah, I knew a guy with a dead dog, he said he wanted the bones.”
Celia: “Huh. He say why?”
GM: “Nope, and don’t wanna know.”
“But yeah, I guess I’m good at it.”
Celia: “What else are you good at?”
GM: Jake shrugs. “What’s it to you?”
Celia: “Maybe I could use your services too.”
“If you tick the right boxes.”
“Though you’re rather reticent to offer anything that might tempt me.”
GM: By this point they’ve left Flawless and are walking towards Rampart. It’s along the same route Celia takes to her mom’s house.
“Okay, I’m good at surviving, I guess. Did okay for years after I left home.”
Celia: “Good in a fight?”
“Surviving in the wilderness, or in cities?”
“Come on, Jake,” she says, nudging him lightly in the side with her arm, “don’t be shy.”
“Pretend it’s a job interview. Sell yourself.”
GM: The thin-blood flinches at Jade’s nudge.
“What’s in it for me if I do sell myself?”
“’Cuz I hated jobs and interviews.”
“More blood and cash?”
Celia: Jade is quiet for a moment, watching the buildings they pass by.
Whatever he is, he’s not going to replace what she’s missing. He’s no Roderick. No Reggie. No Reynaldo.
He’s not even a Randy.
“Yeah,” she finally says. “Blood and cash.”
GM: She can imagine Draco sneering at the idea she could replace him with some homeless duskborn.
Reggie would probably laugh.
Maybe Reynaldo would make a quip.
Who knows about Randy, though? Maybe look flummoxed.
“Okay, I’m good surviving in cities. I can beat someone up.”
Celia: Jade doesn’t imagine any of that. It’s her head. She’ll control her own thoughts.
She nods at the answer but doesn’t press further. They’ve reached Rampart, and Jade succumbs to the embrace of shadows once more.
Then, after they start that way, she asks what else. Breaking and entering? Stealth? Finding people? How good at fighting is he really?
GM: “Yeah, I can follow people and find shit, and I can fuck someone up,” the thin-blood answers. “Dunno about B&E.”
Celia: “Any good at fucking?” she asks, lips quirked in amusement.
GM: Jake snorts.
“What, you want to hire me as a gigolo?”
Celia: “I don’t need to pay for sex, sweetheart.”
GM: “Yeah, sure, I’m good at fucking too.”
Celia: She laughs, slinging her arm through his.
“How far down is your friend?”
GM: Jake regards Jade’s arm warily for a moment, but doesn’t pull away as he answers,
“Not far. He’s got his drug lab in a house.”
Celia: “You’re afraid of me.”
GM: He glowers at her.
“Yeah, I’m a duskborn, if you missed it.”
Celia: Jade regards him for a moment, wondering what it would be like to be on the other end of it. To be a half blood like he is. Weak. No rights. Not belonging to one world or another.
“I have a friend,” she finally says, “from before I was turned. I recently found out this friend is now Duskborn.”
GM: She’s had some taste of that with Dani.
But it’ll always be one thing to witness and another to experience.
“Sucks to be them,” says Jake.
Celia: Her lips twitch.
GM: Rampart Street is everything Jade remembers, full of homeless, junkies, prostitutes, and other desperates, low-lives, and down-on-their-lucks. Their gazes slide off the Toreador, though Jake catches some looks and glances. Few look friendly. No one stops him, though, when he arrives at a sagging and dilapidated-looking house with grimy, paint-peeling walls and blacked-out windows. Garbage is piled out front. It’s one of the least homely homes Jade’s ever seen. Edith at least tried to make hers look hospitable.
Jake bangs loudly on the door.
“Yo, it’s me!”
GM: No one answers.
Jake bangs again.
“OPEN UP, JACKASS!”
That finally elicits some muffled footsteps from the other side of the door.
Jade sees a shadow darken a peephole.
“Who the fuck is that?” comes a nasally male voice.
Celia: “He sees me,” she muses. Curious.
“A client,” she says to the eye staring at her through the door.
GM: “Do people call you a name other than ‘A Client,’ A Client?”
Celia: Amusement flashes across her face.
GM: There’s a longer, thoughtful pause before Jade hears deadbolts unlocking.
That takes a while until the door swings open.
Celia: Jade waits patiently. She gets it.
GM: The door swings open. The man on the other side is white and pasty-faced, with a scraggly beard, thick glasses, and semi-messy shirt brown-blond hair. He’s got wide shoulders and a thick neck for his size, though he’s only a few inches taller than Jade, and has a portly belly. He’s dressed in a stained black wifebeater and stained, worn-looking jeans it looks like he doesn’t care if he ruins. He smells vaguely like rotten eggs. His face is flat and unsmiling as he closes the door behind them.
The inside of the house looks little homelier than its exterior. It looks filthy and neglected. Like no one has lived here for years.
“You staying?” he asks Jake. “I’m only redoing all the bolts twice.”
Jake thinks. “Nah.”
He looks at Jade. “Half up front, half when you’re here, we agreed.”
Celia: “Thought you wanted a job.”
GM: “What’s the job?”
Celia: “Come by my place tomorrow,” she says, “we’ll discuss.”
Claws sprout from the tips of her fingers. She pulls aside her jacket and shirts, for a moment baring her chest to the two duskborn. Though to a layman it might look like she’s cutting herself open, the claws are just for show: her flesh parts at her mental command, letting her reach in to pull free the bag of folded bills.
She hands it over.
GM: Jake stares for a moment before tucking away the bills.
“…’kay,” he says.
GM: “’Kay,” he repeats. “Later.”
He moves to get door. The other thin-blood preempts him and opens it instead, with a flat look on his face. Jake looks at him too for a moment, then leaves.
The second thin-blood does up all of the deadbolts and then turns back to Jade.
“If you want to fuck me while you’re in here, bad idea. Really bad idea. I wouldn’t be meeting a nightborn I don’t know know, one on one, in my lab, without an ace up my sleeve.”
“So with that out of the way, what are you here for?”
Celia: “I suppose I appreciate the heads up. But I’m not here to fuck you.”
Not in either sense of the word.
“You’re an alchemist?”
Celia: “Have a name, Alchemist? Or something I can call you by?”
Celia: “Sean.” She nods. “Jade,” she says again, looking around the place.
“A warlock told me that you might be able to assist with a project I’m working on. I came to verify. And perhaps come to terms.”
GM: The room they’re in looks like it’s been abandoned for years. Graffiti is sprayed all over the peeling walls. It smells like stale piss and mildew.
“Okay. Depends on the project.”
Celia: “I’d like to ask you some questions about your work. What it can do.”
GM: “Anything a full-blood can do.”
GM: “Call it the innate potential of duskborn vitae. Same principle that lets us learn new tricks from whatever blood we drink. Just expanded and refined.”
Celia: “The twisting.” She nods. “What about other things? Things the blood can’t ordinarily do?”
GM: “Depends on the things, but alchemy can do plenty things the blood can’t do.”
Celia: “I want to thin the blood to tamper with its properties. Slowed aging rather than stopped. Make it not or less addictive to its drinkers.”
GM: “Diluting its beneficial properties should be possible. Making it less addictive is probably more trouble than it’s worth. Who’d want to do that?”
Celia: “Not less binding. Just less like a high. Less of a drug. The desire for it can cause emotional and cognitive impairment.”
GM: Sean shrugs. “You’d be the first nightborn I know who’s wanted to do that. I suppose it’s theoretically possible. There’d probably be side effects.”
Celia: “Do you deal with many nightborn?”
GM: The thin-blood’s lip faintly curls.
“More than would like to admit it.”
Celia: The desire for gossip runs deep.
“For what?” She glances around again, then finally perches on the edge of a couch.
GM: It’s a rotted, blackened, moth-eaten, and badly stained leftover of a couch that looks like it’ll dirty her clothes just sitting on it.
“Things they can’t get anywhere else.”
“Things they didn’t think were possible.”
“Things they knew they couldn’t ever do themselves.”
The nasally-voiced man smirks faintly.
Celia: She opts against perching, in that case.
GM: “You nightborn think we’re runts, but we’re the future. Homo sapiens are runts next to dinosaurs, and look who rules the planet now.”
Celia: Jade shakes her head.
“I have no quarrel with duskborn. I think the ability to twist is fascinating. Likewise, the alchemy.”
“And the… other things.”
GM: “Nightborn get weaker with every generation. Every iteration is worse than the one before it. We just get more flexible.”
Celia: “More flexible?”
“But don’t you eventually hit a stopping point?”
GM: “Why should we?”
Celia: “No, I mean… with generation. Isn’t the blood eventually so diluted that you just get humans again?”
GM: “If water’s poured from a high vantage point it doesn’t evaporate when it hits the ground. It just spreads horizontally.”
Celia: Jade stares.
“Tell me more.”
GM: Sean gives her an appraising look.
“What’s it worth to you?”
Celia: “Jake took cash and blood. Are you looking for that… or something more?”
GM: There’s a faintly contemptuous sneer at the other thin-blood’s name.
Celia: “I can get you out of here,” Jade says. “Better digs. Better feeding.”
GM: The sneer deepens.
“I am out of here. I have territory on Canal.”
Celia: Amusement meets the sneer.
“Yes, I didn’t imagine you called this home.”
“A decoy. Convincing, with the locks, for someone who isn’t familiar.”
GM: Sean considers that.
“What sort of decoy?”
Celia: She’d meant his fake haven. But if he’s interested…
“You were worried enough about me trying to fuck you to mention it off rip. You have a fake place here with a dozen locks, which means you don’t feel safe. Turf on Canal is a nice step up. But more than that…” She looks him over, up and down.
“I want a partner. Someone to work with on various projects. I’ll give you a new face and identity. A mask, if you’d like, or something more permanent.”
GM: “I don’t need a new identity. This is a better place to cook than Canal, and I wouldn’t be stupid enough to sleep here even if it wasn’t.”
Celia: “Then what do you want.”
GM: “You said a decoy. I thought you meant a physical one.”
“I meant this decoy you have here. But if you’re looking for some sort of physical decoy, I imagine I can do that as well.”
GM: “Tell me more. What can you do?”
Celia: She could lie.
Or she could put Emily and her mother and maybe even Dani ahead of herself for once.
“I’m a night doctor.”
GM: Sean considers that.
“Okay. So you could make a dead body look like me?”
“Are you trying to escape someone?”
GM: “No. Could just be useful down the line.”
Celia: She nods.
GM: “The decoy can pay for questions, or can be part of the payment for developing what’s essentially diluted vitae.”
Celia: Jade shakes her head.
“I’m looking for something long term. I want to know more. About you. About duskborn. About the alchemy.” Jade considers him, then finally goes for it. “Perhaps about your nightborn clients.”
“I am willing to provide more than just the decoy.”
GM: “Me, duskborn, alchemy, sure. My clients, forget it. Some would stop coming if they knew I was blabbing about it.”
Celia: “Even if you just tell me what they’re after and not who they are?” She flashes a winning smile.
GM: “Okay. For the right price, sure.”
He looks her over.
“No wonder you look this good if you can change faces.”
“I’ll give you a discount if we fuck.”
Celia: Jade laughs. “I was pretty before I was turned. But yes. I upped it.”
She prowls forward, stalking around him and surveying him up and down. He’s not her usual type. And she has her pick of every lick in the city, every breather with eyes.
But she’s curious.
So very, very curious.
She stops behind him, sliding a hand around his back and down his thigh. Her lips find his ear.
“Does the breather way still do it for you, or were you hoping to get a little messy?”
GM: Sean just stands there. She can hear his breath faintly hitch at her touch.
Perhaps he’s reconsidering the advisability of this idea.
But she is absolutely gorgeous.
“Yeah. I can still cum and get hard.”
Celia: “And have you, or do I get to pop your cherry?” She nips at his neck with the flats of her teeth.
GM: She hears the thin-blood’s elevated heart rate.
“I have. Yeah.”
Celia: “Tell me about it. Your first time. How you met. Where it happened.” One hand slides up his inner thigh. “What it felt like.”
GM: Sean reaches out with one hand and starts squeezing Jade’s right breast.
“As a breather?”
“She was an escort. We fucked in a hotel room.”
“It felt good. Using a condom made it worse, but a real pussy was still way better than a fleshlight.”
Celia: Her nipple pebbles beneath his touch.
“And as a duskborn?” Deft fingers snap open the button of his jeans. “Have you ever fucked a lick before?”
GM: His cock is hard and throbbing against his briefs. His other hand reaches out to squeeze her other breast too.
“A couple times,” he says. “For payment.”
“None even close to you.”
Celia: “Really,” Jade muses, “you’ve fucked other licks.” Her fingers close around the desperately throbbing cock. With fangs long in her mouth she leans in, grazing the tips against the side of his neck.
“Is that the truth, Sean? Other licks touched you like I’m doing now, slid down your pants, let you put it in them? Hm?” Her hand slowly slides up and then down his shaft.
GM: The physical response from Sean’s pulsing cock is nigh-immediate. The thin-blood is breathing harder.
“Yeah…” he gets out. He squeezes her breasts some more. At least he knows what to do with his hands, unlike Celia on her first time, but his movements still feel stiff and slow next to Jade’s expert seductions.
“Quarter rats… Caitiff… Flannagan, one time.”
Celia: “Pity,” Jade sighs, breath warm against his neck. “I wanted to be your first. You always remember your first.”
She trails a line of heat from neck to jaw to lips, free hand fisting in his hair when she brings her mouth to his.
“Fucking makes me hungry,” she murmurs against his lips, “and feeding makes me horny. Do you think anyone will miss one of those breathers outside, or can I show you a really, really—” her hand squeezes gently, thumb brushing against the head of his cock “—good time?”
GM: “I’ll remember you…” breathes Sean. He starts to kiss her back. The motions may be stiff, but they’re no less hungry for it. Jade very much doubts the alchemist gets to fuck any licks as gorgeous as her.
“Yeah… they’re nobodies, no one cares…”
Celia: They’re not the only thing that’s stiff. Her nipples strain against the double layer of shirts, aching to be touched again. She rubs against him, removing the hand from his cock to slide around his lower back, pulling him flush against her.
“Let’s go get one,” she whispers between kisses, “and share a drink, so that when I sink my teeth in I don’t rip your pretty little throat out.”
GM: His hands are moving up and down her sides, and doubtless they’d return to her breasts swiftly enough if they weren’t right against his chest. “Yeah,” he answers thickly as hands descend lower down to squeeze her ass, “let’s.”
Celia: Jade all but purrs at the touch. She pulls back just enough to let her hands between them, tucking him away and fastening the button again. She strokes him through his jeans, giggling, and turns to start unlocking the door. Maybe she doesn’t need to bend over quite so far to reach the lower locks, but she does.
It’s a nice view.
GM: It’s a very nice view, and elicits a sharp smack from the palm that connects with it.
Celia: She wiggles her hips invitingly, then finally gets the door open. Jade peers outside through the crack in the door to survey their options, reaching behind her to pull Sean flush against her back. She rubs against him.
GM: There are some homeless camped out nearby. None look, or smell, like anything close to an appetizing meal.
She feels Sean’s firm cock rubbing against her ass and his hands returning to her breasts.
Celia: There’s something sweet that pours out of her. Something innocent and friendly and all-too-wholesome as she catches the eye of one of the homeless men and waves him over.
GM: The old man looks up towards her from his sleeping bag.
“Not the ones right outside,” preempts Sean. “If they all see someone walk in and never walk out, they’ll talk.”
Celia: Jade huffs. “Come on then, let’s go stalk the streets.”
She moves her hands across her face as if she needs them to shift her features, and when she pulls them away she looks like a rather fit black woman in her early thirties. Pretty, but not drop dead gorgeous.
She tugs Sean out the door with her.
“Is your name really Sean?” she asks as they go.
She slings an arm through his.
GM: Sean closes and locks the door after them.
“It’s the name I use now.”
Celia: “What did you do before all this?”
GM: “I was a convicted felon working a dead end service industry job. Before that I was a medical researcher.”
Celia: She seems more interested in the medical research than the felony.
“What kind of medical research?”
Celia: “And that transitioned well into what you do now?”
GM: “Yes. Past the initial learning curve, it’s just more chemistry work.”
Celia: “How long have you been at it?”
GM: “Chemistry, since the early-mid 2000s. Alchemy, a few years.”
Celia: “And it’s different than the blood magic the warlocks do.” Not quite a question, but she looks to him to confirm. “Not magic?”
GM: “What is magic?”
“Just natural laws and processes there’s no other explanation for.”
Celia: “People used to think technology was magic,” Jade concedes. “Can you tell me more about it? How it works? Is it something you taught yourself with your chemistry background or did it kind of just… come to you?”
“The shifting,” she adds, as if to explain what she means, “that just came to me. After my Embrace. When I was kine I had to wear a lot of different faces. Pretend to be a lot of different things to different people. So I think that’s why it comes more naturally to me than others with whom I share blood.”
GM: “Closer to the former,” he answers. “It took time to learn and develop. It didn’t come just from drinking the right kind of blood.”
Celia: She nods, but waits for him to continue.
GM: “But it doesn’t go away, no matter what I drink or don’t drink.”
Celia: “What does it… do? You said you can mimic what nightborn can do. How does that work?”
GM: “It works through elixirs. I make them, drink them, snort them, inject them.”
Celia: “What do you need for them?”
GM: “Different things. Depends on the formula. But always blood.”
Celia: “Lick or kine?”
GM: “Why do you want to know all of this? Nightborn can’t learn what we can do.”
Celia: “That doesn’t mean I don’t want to know how it works. I’m not looking to steal your secrets. I’m looking to broaden my own knowledge to make an informed decision on whether or not the two of us can work together on various projects… or if this is just going to be one of those hit it and quit it situations.”
GM: “I have blood. I have money. I’d never say no to more, but I’m not desperate for them like other rats. What’s in it for me with these projects?”
Celia: “Partnership. Protection from the Guard. Expanded clientele if we can mesh our abilities. Sex. Information. Domain. Connections.” Jade glances sidelong at him. “There are many things I can do for you, but I’m not interested in tracking every single service we exchange to nickel and dime each other over whether that was one question or two.”
“If we can form a working relationship we will be able to go further than either of us would alone.”
“I don’t want an assistant or a lackey or an errand boy. I could take another ghoul if I did. I want someone who knows what they’re doing and brings something to the table. Who isn’t desperate for blood or cash or selling out to the highest bidder.”
GM: Sean considers all of that thoughtfully. He looks wary, still, but intrigued.
It doesn’t hurt that the ‘sex’ is right in front of him.
“We’ll see how this deal goes, then, as proof of concept for any future ones.”
Celia: “Let’s find our vessel, then.”
Wednesday night, 23 March 2016, AM
GM: Rampart Street’s homeless seem warier of the predators crowded into their midst than one might give them credit for. They stick together. They sleep in groups. Some of them even have guys keeping watch. They make themselves as inconvenient to target as possible—and they are wary and suspicious of passersby in the middle of the night.
Jade isn’t sure how the rats penned up in here get by. The feeding is bad, despite the initial seeming abundance of vessels. The area has been so overhunted that the prey are spooked. The better part of an hour has passed by the time Jade and Sean finally locate one of the thinnest, grayest, saddest, most disheveled-looking old bums she’s ever laid eyes on. He’s moaning softly into his sleeping bag.
“Finally,” mutters Sean. “N-”
=He’s cut off when no less than three attackers descend on him, knives and fists flashing. They look like street kids. One smells like a true-blood. They howl their wrath and scream bloody murder about poachers.
The old bum bolts awake and starts to flee like a spooked deer.
Celia: This is it. What she’s been looking for all night: the opportunity to beat the shit out of someone.
The old man flees—
Which means that these three get to face her wrath. She could shift. Right here. Let the Beast out. Let the claws out. Descend upon them in a maddened rage—
No. Someone had told her once that she needs to control herself in a fight. That she can’t risk breaking the Masquerade because she went apeshit.
Still, her Beast rises to the surface, lips pulling back over her teeth to bare her fangs and a snarl ripping from her throat. Her eyes flash in the darkness.
GM: The eyes of one attacker bulge as his face drains of color. He promptly turns and flees, cowed by the vampire’s wrath.
Seeing the obviously greater threat, the true-blood leaps at Jade, fangs flashing to sink into her neck. Her companion stabs at the Toreador’s flank.
Celia: One threat disposed of, Jade turns her attention to the lick and lackey stupid enough to come at her.
She doesn’t need a knife. Not when she has ten razor sharp blades that sprout from her fingers with nothing but a thought, body weaving to avoid the knife and claws shooting out to catch the leaping lick in the gut.
GM: Jade’s claws slash across her slower attacker’s belly, leaving angry red gashes. Cat-quick, five more rents open along her other attacker’s face and throat before the knife can land in her back.
The rats don’t stay and fight, in the face of serious opposition. They scramble off, bleeding and hurting into the night.
Celia: Oh no they don’t.
They’re not going to chase off her meal and get off scott free.
Jade sprints after them.
GM: The duskborn aren’t any match for their nightborn cousins, in either fight or flight. The true-blooded rat swiftly disappears into Rampart’s squalor, but Jade slams into the one whose heart still beats in her chest and tackles her to the ground. She looks like a teenager, dirty-faced and dressed in threadbare clothes.
“Let me go! Please!” she begs.
Celia: Jade twists her fingers through the girl’s hair, yanking her head back even as she presses a knee into her back.
“Where’s he headed,” she growls. “Tell me or I’ll rip your fucking throat out.”
GM: “Back, back towards Can, Canal,” the girl stammers.
Sean’s watching from a distance, having started to take off when the rats jumped them. There’s some blood staining a gash across his shirt, though the flesh underneath now looks hale.
Celia: Took off.
He took off.
She’s not even a fucking brawler, took on two of them after scaring off the third, and this motherfucker took off.
She shouldn’t be as angry as she is. But she’s used to real licks, not these half-blooded abortions that bail at the first sign of trouble.
Jade yanks the girl to her feet, still gripping her by the hair.
“Show me,” she snarls.
GM: Dani didn’t bail when Rocco was menacing them. Even when Jade told her to.
“Forget it,” Sean says flatly. “Decent odds that rat’s raised the alarm with others.”
Celia: Dani was mind fucked. That doesn’t even count. And they’re not friends anymore. She’d probably hand Jade over to Rocco for the asking now.
Jade looks back at him. Then to the girl.
“We’re going for a walk, sweetheart.”
GM: “Do what you want with them,” says Sean. “I’m going back to the lab.”
The girl just nods unsteadily.
Celia: A low growl rips from her throat. Jade lets go of the girl and tells her to get lost. She stalks back toward Sean, shoving her hands into the pockets of her jacket as she falls into step beside him.
Silently, she stews.
“Fuck this street,” she finally says.
GM: The girl bolts off as soon as Jade releases her.
“Yes, fuck it,” the thin-blood agrees.
“Hunting here is terrible. Too many predators and not enough prey.”
Celia: “Should have taken you to Bourbon. Wouldn’t have been a waste of time.”
She kicks aside a pile of rocks.
“Just wanted to get fucking laid without losing it,” she mutters.
GM: “You can just blow me.”
“Does that make you lose it?”
Celia: “If I were to sink my teeth in.” Jade gives him a look. “What do you think I needed it for?”
GM: “Keep the fangs in, then.”
Celia: “Better O when you do it both ways.”
GM: “Fed and fucked? Yeah.”
Celia: Of course he has.
Jade doesn’t say anything further, slinking into the shadows of the night as they head back to the lab. Slumming it on Rampart with thin-bloods.
How the mighty have fallen.
GM: As shitty as the house is, there is a bedroom. Who knows how much use it sees. The peeling, blackened and graffiti-scrawled walls look as neglected as the rest of the house. There’s a mattress on the floor with sheets over it, clean enough to actually use, though it looks like it’s been a while since the sheets were washed. The room still smells vaguely unpleasant—the same rotten eggs smell that clings to Sean’s clothes, which he takes off.
Celia: Jade might have seen worse, but nothing immediately comes to mind.
Before he takes his clothes off she’s at his throat again picking up where they’d been before she’d decided she wanted a pre-fuck snack. She keeps her fangs away but nips at his neck with flat teeth, fingers once more working at the buttons and zippers on his jeans. Her hand slides inside.
Maybe it’s not the prettiest location, but she isn’t going to half-ass it.
She lets him strip her out of her jacket and pull the shirts over her head. When he turns her around and kisses her neck she arches her back into the fingers pulling at her nipples. His movements might be stiff, but she makes up for it. She peels the leather down her legs and is left with nothing underneath but the smell of her arousal, and he finds her slick when she moves his hand between her legs.
“There,” she says, and when he finds the right spot she makes a noise that has him throbbing against her backside.
She doesn’t blow him. But she does take control, pushing him onto his back so she can straddle his hips, sinking down onto him with her head thrown back. She moves the right way. She makes the right noises. She’s warm and wet and tight and none of the other girls he’s been with can compare to what she does with him. It’s enough to drive their failed hunt from her mind.
GM: Jade has, at least, seen uglier than Sean. He might not smell the best, and be a little overweight and out of shape, but he’s no Nosferatu. He’s eager to remove her clothes once they get going, though, and Jade soon finds his cock firm against her hand. His own hands squeeze her breasts like he’s kneading dough. He gets right to business once all of their clothes are off, and moves to fill her legs until Jade pushes him back-first onto the bed. He seems happy to let the Toreador take him from cowgirl position, though, especially when it means he can keep his hands on her tits.
None of the girls he’s been with can surely compare. Jade can only imagine what sorts of girls he normally gets. Desperate rats, like the thin-blood she grabbed? Desperation isn’t sexy, even if they were anywhere close to as experienced or ravishingly gorgeous as she is, which they surely were not. Sean’s eyes are wide. She’s incredible. How the hell did she just fall into his lap like this? This goddess of love, knocking on his door from out of nowhere?
He moans throatily as Jade rides him, and it’s not overlong before his quivering cock shoots its load, filling her with his seed. Not very much leaks out from her, though, when she climbs off him. It doesn’t really leak out at all, actually. There’s more of it on his cock than she sees come back out of her pussy. The consistency is more watery than any cum she’s seen.
“Holy…” Sean breathes.
Celia: Do the other licks he fuck get wet like she does? Do they look like they enjoy it like she does? Or do the lie on their backs with vacant smiles while his cock pumps in and out of a cunt that’s just as dead as their eyes?
Jade smiles down at him when he’s done, then moves to one side and rests her head half on his chest and half on his shoulder and upper arm. She leaves evidence of her own release splashed across his cock and lower belly.
Jade idly trails a hand down his chest.
“I get to pick the location next time.”
GM: “This place is a shithole,” he agrees, eyes still appreciatively roaming her naked form.
“The other nightborn don’t cum like you.”
Celia: “I imagine they don’t fuck like me either.”
“They’re missing out. Sex was the best part of being human.”
GM: “They don’t come even close to fucking like you.”
“And yeah. They are.”
“Feeding is great, but sex and food are terrible things to miss out on.”
Celia: Jade can think of something that compares, but she doesn’t share her thoughts with Sean. She only smiles, as if she misses the taste of food.
GM: Maybe Celia does. But Jade never ate anything after she was born.
Celia: The pads of her fingers continue up and down his chest, occasionally slipping lower across his rounded belly.
“You’re happy,” she says eventually, “with what you are?”
GM: “It’s a better deal than I had alive.”
Celia: “How old were you? When you were turned.”
Celia: “Married? Kids?”
GM: “No. Never wanted any.”
“Had a girlfriend, but she split fast after the felony conviction.”
Celia: “Can I ask what you did?”
GM: “I cooked meth.”
Celia: She had assumed as much.
GM: “Wasn’t even selling it. Purely for personal medicinal use.”
Celia: “So how’d they find you?”
GM: “Bad luck. Terrible luck. I was smart. I never bought meth, never sold meth, just made small amounts for my own use. Police searched my car on a routine traffic stop.”
“They didn’t even find any meth at first. Just some spilled powder they thought was ephedrine, even though it was not actually ephedrine or even a related chemical.”
Celia: Jade arches a brow at that.
“Why were they testing it?”
GM: “Because their stupid PharmaChek sweat patch drug test turned up a false positive. The powder was probably just from a spilled sugar packet. But because of the false positive, they searched all of my possessions.”
“And they found the actual meth.”
“My life was over after that.”
Celia: “That’s awful. I’m sorry that happened to you.”
GM: “It’s a farce. Drug laws. Methamphetamine is legally fucking available by prescription under the name Desoxyn, for treating narcolepsy and ADHD, but only one company is allowed to make it.”
“A prescription will cost a person with no insurance about $500 a month, not counting doctor’s visits.”
“The same amount of dextromethamphetamine can be purchased on the street for about $100.”
“Or manufactured by a medical researcher with a chemistry degree for about $10.”
Celia: “Is that why you started?”
GM: “Yes. I had, have, several mental disorders. I was in and out of the mental health system for years trying different combinations of medication. None worked. I kept fucking up my life.”
“So I finally turned to illegal drugs. I experimented, and discovered that indica-strain marijuana and low-dose methamphetamine let me eliminate virtually all of my symptoms.”
“I decided to keep making my own meth, because why the fuck would I want to get involved with drug dealers and pay ten times what it’d cost me anyway.”
“I went back to school. I got my master’s. I had a prestigious career.”
“I wasn’t ever going to sell the stuff. Too risky and didn’t need to. My job already paid well.”
Celia: “But just having it was enough to get you sent away, and once you’re in the system it’s almost impossible to climb your way back out.”
GM: “I was also transporting it across state lines. So my ‘crime’ fell under federal jurisdiction. I thought I could get away with it because I was making such a small amount, but nope. Five grams was enough.”
“I got fired from my job. Felony meant I’d never be hired again. Lawyer was able to get me only a month behind bars, because small amount and no distribution, but couldn’t plea deal away the felony.”
“The feds are pitiless.”
“I lost all my savings between court fees, legal bills, and the judge ordering I move far away from the site of my ‘meth lab’.”
“Girlfriend was already gone by then. I got a new job as a minimum-wage O’Tolley’s cashier.”
“And that was my life.”
Celia: “Until you became duskborn.”
GM: “No. I came here because I heard it was a friendly city to duskborn.”
“That was half-right. The Quarter is.”
“If you’re not just another set of fangs taking up space.”
Celia: “So you’ve done work for Savoy or Preston. That’s how you ended up on Canal.”
GM: “I did work for some other licks. They talked to Preston. She upgraded me to Canal.”
Celia: “What kind of work?”
GM: “Alchemy, obviously. And I still cook meth.”
Celia: Jade rolls her eyes at him. “Obviously. I meant specifically.”
She pauses a moment, lifting her head to look at him, then lays her cheek against his chest once more.
“Can you still take it? Does it do anything for you?”
GM: “Meth? Yeah, it still does.”
“Makes me good money now, too, seeing as I’m no longer gainfully employed.”
Celia: “I have, like, a million questions,” Jade admits, “and I don’t know where to begin or what you’ll answer.”
GM: “Why? Nightborn can’t learn alchemy.”
“But whatever. For the sex, I’ll answer anything that isn’t a trade secret.”
Celia: “I’m not trying to learn alchemy,” she says again.
“I just want to know about it. How strong it can get. What it needs. What it can do that Kindred can’t. What it can’t do.”
“And you,” she adds after a moment.
GM: “Like I said. It can do anything nightborn can do, and a lot they can’t do. It’s all a question of having or taking the time to develop the right formulae.”
“It needs blood, always mine, often someone else’s, and other ingredients that vary by formula.”
Celia: Jade sighs at him. He isn’t telling her anything new.
“You’ve mentioned. I’m looking for specifics, Sean. I’m not trying to steal your secrets or learn your alchemy process; I just want to understand it, then discuss whether or not the things I’d like to do are viable.”
She sits up, drawing her knees to her chest. He hadn’t seemed much interested in the post-sex intimacy of cuddling, and she’s got too many other options to try to force herself where she isn’t wanted.
“I have a medical degree. I’m not going to say I’m the best night doc in the state, but there are things I can do, have done, would like to do, that other’s can’t. They lack the vision or the drive or the ambition, maybe even just the creativity. Any knob off the street can rearrange a face. It takes a deeper understanding to do what I do.”
“You’re smart enough to have been a medical researcher, smart enough to turn cooking meth into alchemy, smart enough to keep your mouth shut about your clients when I asked. That’s what I’m looking for.”
“You want to trade sex for information, sex for favors? Fine. I’m happy to do that. But from the way you spoke it sounded like you want more from your Requiem than you currently have.”
“Am I wrong?”
“Because I’ll tell you what, Sean. You’re not the only one. Yeah, looking from the outside, I’ve got it good for a greenfang. Domain on Bourbon. Savoy’s favor. Lots of friends. But you ask someone about me and you know what they’re going to say? Vapid slut. Stupid whore. Plays with makeup.”
“Makeup,” she says, “because I run a spa. That’s all they think I do. Make people pretty. The ‘intellectuals’ look at me and roll their eyes because they think I’m just a makeup artist; they don’t understand the the body itself is my medium. They don’t get that I can dissect a corpse in a fraction of an hour, pull apart bone and muscle and ligaments and turn it into armor, weapons, clothes. That even without the ability to sculpt bone I can harden collagen and cartilage and replace what’s damaged. They think because I’m small I can’t render them paralyzed with a single touch in a certain area that leaves them awake and present and able to feel everything with no control of their limbs, or that I can’t split apart their skull and dig through their brain matter and twist their limbic system until they’re puppets: a claw in their hippocampus and they’ll be unable to store new memories, a touch of the amygdala and their emotional attachment to old memories are twisted to what I want them to be, damage the neocortex and they’ll become naught but vegetables drooling all over themselves in a nursing home. Sever the connection between specific neurons and an entire memory can be wiped from their mind.”
“Yes. I can destroy. And I can also heal. I can tell you about the case I took where a man’s spine was so crooked he hadn’t been able to walk in years, and how I was able to identity the source of the issue and fix it. I can tell you about the woman who had her shoulder repaired twice by a kine doctor, and how he said that she couldn’t continue her career because he couldn’t put her back together a third time.”
“But I could. And I did. I repaired a meniscus and let a young man go back to playing sports when all his therapists said he’d never be on the field again. I repaired the damage done to a woman whose husband threw acid in her face because another man smiled at her. I grafted new skin onto a burn victim who’d been so badly injured I could see bone.”
“I touch a body and I listen with my hands, let my gut lead me to the proper areas, find the sources of pain and trauma and fear and help them let it go. Chronic pain? Gone. Inflammation? Gone. Femur rubbing against tibia because the cartilage has been worn to nothing? A kine doctor will tell that patient he needs a total knee replacement. They’ll break the knee apart and cement a new one in and it’ll take him months to recover, and every time it rains he’ll feel the ache of the screws in his knee, and he’ll always favor that leg because he’s terrified of damaging it and going through that pain again because the way they put in the replacement means they have to break it all over again to swap it out for a new one. I can fix it. Good as new, brief recovery, very little associated cost.”
“Those pills that cost the patients $500 a month? That emergency surgery that set the young couple back $30,000 that they didn’t have? The doctors that don’t listen to their patients and prescribe pills that don’t work and add extra dosages until the patient is so numb from all the chemicals and side effects that they dig their nails into their own skin just to fucking feel something again?”
“Fuck that. Fuck them. The drug laws are a farce. Medical insurance is bullshit. It ruined you: your career, your relationships, your name, all because you took your health into your own hands. I have eternity ahead of me; I’d like to actually do something with it.”
GM: Sean’s eyebrows shoot all the way up to his forehead.
Jade’s seen that same look on more than a few other faces. When the pretty Toreador, the pretty girl, they all thought was so vapid and shallow in her thoughts and interests suddenly starts spouting smart-sounding medical facts and shows she knows what she’s talking about.
“I guess you are more than just a pretty face,” says the duskborn.
He’s quiet for a few moments as he chews over Jade’s words, his impressed face growing increasingly thoughtful.
“No. You’re not wrong.”
“I’m comfortable. I sell the meth and make good money. I trade the alchemy for favors. I live along Canal. I have it better than most duskborn here. But it feels like a glass ceiling. I’m still boxed in to the Quarter, boxed in to this part of the Quarter, and using this shithole for my lab. Dealing with scumbags and losers. For the meth and the alchemy.”
“Even leaving the city would be just a change of scenery. Maybe smart for the duskborn who don’t have anything, and are starving along Rampart. But just more elbow room in the gilded cage for me.”
“My sire was nightborn. He approached me, when I was working at O’Tolley’s, and thinking about killing myself. He said the Tremere could use someone like me. He said I could master the secrets of the universe. Have a fresh start, belong to a society of like-minded, intelligent and educated people whose knowledge I could enrich, and who could enrich mine. Who didn’t give a shit about the felony. He said I could be respected again, appreciated, and be part of something greater. And live forever. I guess I was the perfect candidate in hindsight. My life was over, I had no other options. I’d have been completely loyal to the Tremere.”
Sean pauses again.
“Then I turned out duskborn, and suddenly that was all gone. All those promises. ‘Duskborn’ was just another felony conviction.”
“So yeah.” His voice isn’t without bitterness. “I do want more.”
Celia: It’s a look that part of her hates and part of her relishes, but she doesn’t let that cross her face now. No, she listens to his story, to the promise of a better life that he was offered by his sire, and though her face remains impassive her heart hardens.
“How,” she asks, “how could he not have known that you would turn duskborn? There’s a limit to how far a nightborn can be removed from the first lick before they are labeled thin-blood; he should have known. The chantry should have known.”
Anger shoots through her on his behalf. Someone was careless. Someone was stupid. Someone promised him the world and snatched it back when he came out wrong.
Or someone had set him up.
“I don’t care,” she says, “that you’re duskborn. I don’t care how far you’re removed from Caine, or that everyone else in this city would mock and deride me for being seen with you. If you want to study the secrets of the universe, we’ll study. If you want a fresh start, I’ll give it to you. And if you want to get off of Canal, I’ll take you somewhere else. Preston can shove it. The Tremere can shove it.”
Bitterness colors her own voice; perhaps she’s thinking of the way she’d asked to study and been denied, the derision in Bornemann’s face when he’d spoken to her, the echo of Lebeaux’s words when he said he was taking magic off the table.
She casts a glance around the room, then finally looks back to Sean.
“No more of this. No more slumming, no more scumbags, no more losers. We’ve got the world at our fingertips. So let’s take it.”
Wednesday night, 23 March 2016, AM
GM: The first thing Sean wants is simple. He wants a better lab space. Just any old apartment won’t do, or he would’ve gotten one by now: this is a literal meth lab he’s working from. The chemical odors are very noticeable, not to mention the activities therein very illegal. He wants a nice space where he won’t be noticed or disturbed.
In return for that, he’ll work on developing a less addictive strain of vitae. He’ll need periodic samples of Jade’s vitae. He expects the process to take anywhere from months to over a year. There will probably be negative side effects: “Nothing comes free in alchemy. Or in life, I guess.” The initial, earliest results will probably be disappointing.
Sean is not sure what other ingredients he will need, as he’s developing this formula from scratch. He’ll try different things and see what works. He thinks they should start with methadone and buprenorphine, which are used in the treatment of addictive disorders. Blood from the ghouls in question could also be of use, particularly if it has a phlegmatic resonance. Taken while they’re in lazy, apathetic, calm, or sentimental frames of mind. It could also help if Jade’s vitae carries a similar resonance (obtained, in her case, from feeding on phlegmatic-flavored vessels).
Celia: Lab space for what he’d have traded her anyway.
The thought bothers her, but perhaps not as much as it should. She has a lab where he won’t be disturbed, and so long as he keeps his nose out of her projects they should get along fine. The locks were recently changed; all she needs to do is sweep for bugs, and she’ll hire someone shortly to do so.
There’s another lab being built, she mentions, but it isn’t ready yet. Once it is they can both move their projects over into the space that will be better fortified and better equipped. She asks what he needs and fires off a text to Mel about the additions to the lab. She’s sure to make it discrete and not let on it’s for an alchemist or meth production.
Unless her grandsire is too angry with her to build it for her now.
A frown mars her pretty features.
If he’s coming into the deeper parts of the Quarter and is seen entering and leaving Flawless he’ll need a good disguise and a cover story. She has no interest in flaunting her association with alchemists; she’s not ashamed of him, but she doesn’t want people to know what she’s up to. He can be passed off as a new ghoul, medical assistant, or some sort of handyman if he likes. Regardless of what the story is, he’ll need a new face. A mask if he doesn’t want to get rid of the Sean identity in the meantime.
She’s not looking to dominate his time, but she does want to know what sort of work he does for other Kindred, whether or not he gives her the names of the Kindred in question. If he asks why she only shrugs and says that she doesn’t have a monopoly on ideas.
Eventually, she says, she’d like to file for another business license (under a different name) and manufacture various products. Medically based.
GM: “Where are the labs and how much space is there?” Sean asks. “This house is a shithole, but it has room. I need to move supplies and product in and out periodically. Cooking will more or less ruin all surfaces it takes place on. Every pound of meth creates several times as many pounds of toxic waste that need to be disposed of, and alchemy creates runoff product too.”
It’s immaterial to him what what story Jade comes up, but he’s keeping his face. He’ll take a mask.
“Disciplines in a bottle is a common request. Powers duskborn can use regardless of what blood they’ve just drank,” he answers. “What work do you do for other Kindred?”
Celia: Her current lab won’t work, then. She says she’ll find something else; it’ll be a little bit, but she’ll get on it.
“Depends on the Kindred. Body modifications for the most part. Alterations, fixing flaws, synthetic aging, removing unwanted body parts.” She cocks a brow, then smile. “Disciplines in a tattoo.”
“Does that work for nightborn? Disciplines in a bottle?”
GM: “No,” he says. “Just duskborn. Only their vitae has the potential.”
Celia: She ends up on his lap, still naked on the mattress in the grimy room, straddling him with her thighs parted and knees on either side.
It’s just comfortable. And she likes the way her tits keep distracting him.
“You said you can do things Kindred can’t. Is there a formula that can… change perspective on a memory? Or permanently alter someone’s emotional state?”
GM: It’s very comfortable.
For both of them.
He looks as if he likes being distracted by her tits, too.
“None that I know,” he admits, reaching out to squeeze them.
Celia: “Was probably a dumb idea anyway,” she sighs, leaning in to the touch. Her nipples stiffen into tiny little buds when he runs his thumb across them.
“What about lifting curses.”
His thumbs run back and forth as he stares, then leans close to lick them.
Celia: “Some snake thing. Lick is stuck in torpor. Blood isn’t waking her.”
She runs her fingers through his hair when he leans in, letting out a soft sigh when his tongue touches her flesh.
GM: “There are formulae that can awaken torpid licks,” he says, pulling his mouth briefly away to answer. “I don’t know if it’d work on her or not, but it’s doable on other licks.”
Celia: Jade lifts his chin, trailing her fingers gently down his cheek. Her hips shift just slightly, rubbing against him. “Do you happen to have any handy?”
GM: “Maybe.” His hands return to her breasts, squeezing and kneading the firm yet bouncy flesh. “What would I get in return?”
Celia: “You mean a gorgeous lick on your lap isn’t enough?” She leans in to press her lips against his.
GM: “It’s a great star-”
He cuts off as their lips meet, his tongue hungrily exploring her mouth.
Celia: Great starts lead to great finishes.
Jade makes sure he enjoys the ride.
She kisses him slowly, intimately, taking her time to tease and coax him with her tongue rather than rush through things. They’ve already had each other, already engaged in the frantic, panting union. Now it’s time to explore. To take his hands in hers and move them down her body, caressing the smooth, soft skin of her chest, belly, thighs. They part for him and he finds her dripping, eager for a finger, then a second, and her hips shift against his hand as he moves them inside of her, returning her own hands to his shoulders. Her nails dig into him when he finds the right spot, lips parting in an eager gasp that begs for something bigger. She trails kisses across his mouth, down the line of his jaw, his neck, all the while rocking gently against the hand inside of her.
She doesn’t even need to touch him to make him hard again; his cock throbs against her.
GM: Jade always makes sure someone enjoys the ride.
There is so much of her for his hands to explore, and all of her body is so soft and supple. And wet. Between kisses, he retracts his hand to taste her juices, then sticks his fingers in her mouth so that she might taste herself in turn. He gives her that something bigger she craves, too, letting her sit atop his lap and wrap her thighs around his torso as his manhood fills her. He sucks and kisses her breasts until she brings him to another climax, his wet and non-ropy seed filling her.
“God damn,” he pants, face pressed against his breasts.
Celia: There isn’t better sex to be had in the city. She’s made sure of it.
Jade rests her cheek against the top of his head, listening to the flutter of his heart beating in his chest. His shoulders rise and fall with every breath that he takes; her body moves gently to accommodate the motion.
She’s quiet. And then she’s kissing him again, lost in a memory of soft lips and gentle touches, until finally she pulls her lips away, shifts on his lap, and curls between his legs with her cheek on his chest.
GM: His heart beats slower than breather lovers she’s had. But still it beats.
Faster, too, for her diligent attentions.
Someone would have to be dead, fully dead, for their heart not to pound after a tumble with Jade Kalani.
“…gonna need a less shitty place for this, too,” says Sean.
Celia: “Mm,” she agrees, “somewhere with a real bed. And a couch. And a countertop… or desk… or table.” It’s clear she’d like to utilize all of those surfaces to fuck. “Maybe even a bath.”
GM: “Bath in a meth house wouldn’t be much of a bath. It contaminates pretty much the whole property.”
Celia: “Suppose we’ll need our own fuckpad, then.”
GM: “Definitely not saying no to that. This was mind-blowing.”
Celia: Jade stretches her arms above her head, smirking contentedly.
“And you thought I came to fuck you the other way.”
GM: “I mean, I’ve traded alchemy for sex before. It’s been… okay.”
“The nightborn are the worst at it. I had to tell one lick to make herself warm and wet, because this was literally fucking a corpse if she didn’t, and we got into an argument about how much blood it took.”
“I tried just asking for blowjobs, after that, but sticking your cock in another moisture-free room temperature cavity is about as much fun as it sounds.”
Celia: Jade laughs at the description.
“We’re corpses, dear. Dead as all the rest of them. Could always lube them up and shove it in if you really want to, but it doesn’t feel good to any of them.”
“So mostly they don’t bother.”
“Waste of vitae and all that.”
GM: “Lube doesn’t fix the fact they’re still room temperature.”
Celia: “Shove some of those hand-warmers up there.”
“Or fuck their ghouls instead of them.”
GM: “Even sex toys can warm up with use, but something as large as a human body that’s at room temperature is staying at room temperature.”
“I tried that a few times. Ghouls.”
“They were even less into it. Pulses or no.”
Celia: “How fortunate you found me, then.”
GM: “Yeah.” He pauses. “Bring me some of the torped lick’s blood. And another hit, to make up for costs accrued.”
Celia: “I’ll get that over to you. Possibly tomorrow, tonight if I get lucky. There a number I can reach you at, or should I just show up and knock?”
GM: “Yeah,” he repeats. He gives her a number.
Celia: Jade gets up long enough to search through the pile of clothing for her phone, then settles back on the sex-infused mattress. She taps off a text to Josua.
You free if I stop by a sec? Need to grab something from sleeping beauty.
She saves the number Sean gives her.
GM: What you don’t want to grab something from me? ;)
Celia: That’s the plan, darling.
“I have a haven,” she says after a moment, “off of Canal.”
GM: I like this plan. Marie’s under lock and key tho. Need to ask Daddy M to see her
Celia: Can you let him know I’m swinging by?
Jade looks up at him.
“That’s not quite the response I expected.”
GM: Yeah he’s not in right now tho
“I mean a haven’s a haven.”
Celia: “Mhm, most licks are just like, ‘wait what that’s secret are you going to kill me what do you mean you’re inviting me over’?”
Can his kid let me in? Wanted to get this taken care of for him.
GM: “I mean, guessing you have more than one, so whatever if one’s not secret.”
Uh idk lemme check
Celia: I’ll owe you/him/whoever one if I can get it tonight. ♡
She laughs at the words.
“None of them are secret. Regents always know who is where.”
A pause, and the laughter fades from her eyes.
“But it was. Until my ex and I split. Now it’s… whatever.”
It’s not like Draco will ever come by for anything now that Celia and Roderick are split. And she’s moving soon anyway; all she has to do is let her sire know there’s a new location for him to meet her.
Somewhere that doesn’t have so many memories attached to it.
“Gonna head out. Catch you later, Sean.”
She has more to do this evening than dwelling over what was or might have been.
Wednesday night, 23 March 2016, AM
Celia: The nice thing about Sean’s place on Rampart is that it’s filthy. Which is terrible in most situations, but in this situation it means there’s a handful of old, ugly rags that Jade can and does use to toss over herself on her way out the door, features shifting and back stooping to look like another dirty homeless person.
She changes her gait, shuffling along the street toward Canal, and dampens the Beast inside of her. Then, setting the trap, Jade starts to leak blood the same way a menstruating woman does. Not a lot, and not obviously, but to any predator in the area she’ll be blazing a neon sign: free food.
She hasn’t forgotten the rats that chased away her meal.
GM: The homeless woman shuffles down Rampart for some time, but eventually, she runs into someone. Blood in the water attracts sharks.
Or at least, would-be sharks.
Like reading a 48-foot billboard, one glance is enough: this woman belongs on Rampart Street. She’s pushing fifty—or maybe it’s pushing her. Her wrinkles are there if you look for them, but more distracting is her gaudy makeup (obviously a Pangloss knockoff to an esthetician’s discerning sight) that runs the gamut of electric blue eyeshadow, hotdog-hued foundation, and prepubescent pink lipstick. Her jewelry is similarly garish: plastic-looking rings likely bought from a capsule vending machine, mismatched earrings (one’s shaped like the Eiffel Tower), beaded bracelets probably salvaged from broken Carnival throws, and a necklace that might be a two grand Bvlgari choker or just a large washer strung with a dog-tag chain (it’s probably the latter). Competing with these eye-magnets (if not eye-sores) is ‘hair’ that looks like a discount rack wig trimmed down into an inverted bob. She wears a v-neck spaghetti strap top with cut-off shorts that parade her body. Her sun-bronzed skin and overall figure might belong to a Loyola senior returning from spring break, save for her legs’ varicose veins and worn-looking hands—with surprisingly unpainted nails that look freshly clipped. Her tattoos are far less surprising. One is a snake on her right bicep, and others are tattooed cocktail drinks running down her left leg. More letters are inked between her sandaled toes like maker’s marks: JT, JB, MD, and JC. The first pair of letters are crossed out, while the last are encircled by a tattooed heart.
Notwithstanding such low class accents, it would be inaccurate to call the woman unattractive, especially in poor lighting and when inebriated. Given that such conditions are ample in the French Quarter, Jade supposes she’s passable enough.
She stares at the leaking blood and licks her lips.
Then, without pretense of shame or dignity, she stoops to her knees, runs a finger along the dirty street and the blood freshly staining it, and sticks the finger in her mouth.
Her eyes close. Revulsion wars with want on her face. Then she looks up and rises to her feet.
“Hey, for s’more, you can feed on me…”
Celia: Beneath the dirty rags, Jade watches the woman kneel to taste the blood. Too late she realizes she should have masked that as well.
Then again, she hadn’t truly expected someone to lick it from the street.
She keeps up the bent-back appearance and speaks in the raspy voice of a long-time smoker.
“Din’t look like yeh liked the vintage.”
GM: Rampart Street apparently lives to defy her expectations of the extent to which its residents will prostitute their dignity.
“Oh, no, no, it’s great, real great… best I tasted in a while, and torrie, too. Best kind.” The woman licks her lips again in obvious want. “Just… I don’t normally lick it off the ground…”
“You wanna feed on me?” she repeats. “You can do that, if I can have some…”
Celia: Jade’s hunger gnaws at her.
“M’ridin’ the edge is all.” It’s not a no. The borrowed face displays its own want for the blood coursing through this woman; not her normal fare, and not the rats she’d been after, but food is food.
GM: Desperation wars with caution in the woman’s bag-lined eyes.
“Well… how bad you ridin’?”
Celia: “Ain’t bad ’nuff to spring at yeh here. But close. Trade ya, three fer one.” She holds up three fingers on her right hand, just as gnarled and bent as her back.
GM: The woman’s face falls.
“That’s a horrible deal.”
Then she says:
She bares her neck.
Celia: It is a horrible deal. But Jade had expected a counter offer of two to one; it’s the woman’s own fault that she hadn’t tried to haggle.
She’s glad she found Sean. She hates the idea of her mother ending up like this wretch.
Jade shuffles forward, casting a glance down the street to make sure the pair are alone.
GM: Surely this won’t ever happen to her mother.
There are some homeless sleeping nearby. In a group, making predation that much more inconvenient. There’s a man in a hoodie walking along by himself, hands stuffed in his pockets and not making eye contract. Otherwise, the street looks largely dead at this late hour.
Celia: There are other things for the man and homeless people to look at. Jade makes sure of it.
Fangs long in her mouth, she closes the distance between herself and the woman and sinks in.
GM: The blood reminds Jade of her mother.
Oh, none of the ambrosia-like love for her is there, that radiant and warming quality that made the woman’s blood incomparable to anyone else’s—save Emily’s. (And how sweet would little Lucy’s taste?) The firmness and heartiness of Jade’s most recent draught, that taste of steel spine, is also gone. No, this woman tastes desperate. She tastes dirty. She tastes as cheap as she looks. She tastes like knockoff makeup, faded tattoos, varicose veins, cheap wigs, cheaper sex, shot-up and snorted illicit substance, all so many dull diversions turned addictions to numb the pain beneath. To forget what’s beneath.
Because Jade does taste what’s beneath. She tastes like flowers and gardens around picturesque Garden District homes. She tastes like floral prints and pastels, perfume and sunlight, and wind chimes on gentle spring days. It tastes dainty and pretty and feminine.
Buried beneath so much cheap swill.
Surely this won’t ever happen to her mother.
Celia: Maybe it’s the reminder of her mother that keeps her Beast in check. Maybe it’s the rather public locale, or the man minding his own business across the street, or the undoubtedly curious homeless people that would raise the alarm should Jade slip up.
Maybe it’s the desperation of the woman herself, the overwhelming need for a hit that has her bartering at a three to one ratio; maybe that’s enough to know it’s a superior being.
Regardless of why, regardless of her worry, the Beast stays dormant as Jade eagerly laps at the blood flowing from the woman’s neck. The cheap taste almost makes her recoil… but it’s warm, hot even, and as it fills her belly and the dirt and grime wipes away she’s ensnared by what once was, what might have been.
This woman had been loved once. This woman had a family, a job, friends, a social life; she’d been pretty and delicate and happy, and Jade drinks deeply enough to taste the memories lost to time.
Like all vessels, the woman’s strength wanes the more Jade drinks, but the Toreador’s firm grip doesn’t let her fall. She leans the pair of them against the side of a building to keep her upright, taking her time with the vessel to prolong the ecstasy of the kiss and avoid unnecessary damage.
GM: Jade’s choice proves prudent. The woman grows weak in the knees. The side of the building looks like one Jade would want to wash her hands after touching, but the woman doesn’t care. She moans like a whore in heat as Jade’s fangs withdraw.
Celia: Licking the wounds closed tastes almost as bad as licking blood from the pavement, but Jade finishes the job. Then she lifts her hand to her mouth to sink her teeth into her wrist and silently offers it.
GM: The woman drinks deeply. Rapturously. Desperately.
That reminds Jade of her mother, too. During their first proper meeting, after she’d been beaten and humiliated and was at her absolute lowest, with nothing left but feeding her addiction.
This woman looks like she’s been at ‘absolute lowest’ for a while.
Celia: Jade keeps her face blank, thoughts spinning through her head.
This is Rampart. This is what it’s like out here: desperate Quarter rats and duskborn and independent ghouls chasing their next high. The dregs of society. People so desperate for the blood or vitae that they whore themselves out, take unfavorable deals, and otherwise debase themselves to score.
This is what unlife could have been like for her. This is what it still could be if she ruins what she has with sire or grandsire. Maybe she won’t be penniless, maybe she’ll never live in the streets, but her domain on Bourbon, her family, her business—it’s royalty compared to this.
She understands Sean’s bitterness now. How everything was ripped away from him, how he was forced to make it on his own for an accident of Embrace.
How easily this could have been Dani’s fate.
Silently, the Toreador lets the breather drink the promised hit, withdrawing her wrist once she’s taken what was offered.
“Independ’nt?” she asks in that same raspy voice. “Or you one-a them duskies?”
GM: “Yeah, indep,” says the woman. Her glassy eyes don’t once meet Jade’s, instead lingering on the Toreador’s wrist.
“Listen. Can I have s’more, please. You drank deep, that’s still plenty fair, if I get less…”
Celia: “How long,” she says, not immediately answering the question. “How long y’like this?”
GM: “Indep?” asks the woman. “Katrina.”
“Lost my domitor.”
Celia: “Whose were yeh?”
GM: “A Malk’s. Nobody important’s, but I been on the Blood since ’56.”
Celia: Jade considers. “Y’want a new one? Domitor. Regular blood.”
GM: The woman looks as if she was about to resume begging when she raptly.
“More blood? Yeah. Yeah. Please.”
“I’m useful, you’re torrie, I’m a potter.”
Celia: “Artist,” she repeats. “Got a name, potter?”
GM: “Cheryl,” says the ghoul.
Celia: “Potter like clay. Sculptin’?”
GM: “Clay,” she nods. “Pottery more than sculpting, though I could probably do that too. Also embroidery, glassware, block printing, watercolors, pastels, sketching. But I’m best at pottery.”
Celia: “C’mon,” Jade says, holding out a hand to help the woman back to her feet, “walk with me. Tell me. ‘Bout you. The city. Stuff you’ve seen ’round here.”
GM: The pale-faced woman takes some time to right herself. She shuffles slowly after Jade.
“Like what? Not much to see on Rampart.”
“Well, not much people enjoy seein’, anyway.”
Celia: “City, then. Your old dom.” She keeps her pace slow.
GM: “Oh. I didn’t see much of the city. My dom kept me locked up.”
Celia: “Huh. Why.”
GM: “To make art. She… didn’t like a lot of it. Smashed it. Hurt me. I was good, she’d give me hits, but that wasn’t often.”
Celia: “Some people create art from pain. Some of ’em need sunshine and happiness.”
GM: “That second, that’s me,” Cheryl nods. “She wouldn’t let me eat, bathe, or use a toilet, when she wasn’t happy. I couldn’t work like that.”
Celia: Jade shakes her head. She makes a disgusted noise.
GM: “But had to work, only got food and blood if I did.”
Celia: “Keeps ‘em desperate, you do it like that. Only thing you’re thinkin’ is the next hit.”
“You on drugs? Other shit?”
GM: “Yeah,” she admits. “Not late enough you’ll feel it. I can stop, if it’s a problem.”
Celia: “You c’n taste the blood. What else you do?”
GM: “I can work fast. More or less had to.”
Celia: “Any other mind readin’ shit?”
GM: “Ah, no, but I can see in the dark.”
“More or less had to learn that one, too.”
Celia: “Huh. Like shiftin’? Red eyes n’ shit?”
GM: She shakes her head. “No, my eyes’re normal.”
Celia: “Hmph. Aight. Tell you wha’, Cheryl. We gon’ do a trial thing. Gon’ get you cleaned up, place to sleep, some hot food. Gon’ see wha’ ye can do, art n’ otherwise. Goes good, got a new life for ya. None’a the shit she put you through, tell y’that.”
GM: Cheryl nods. “I, I’ll need to go back to my old place, for some things. But that sounds great. Better than great. Thank you. Thank you. I’ll be useful, you’ll see.”
“What’s your name?”
Celia: “Le’s get ‘em now. Gon’ put you up t’night.”
GM: “Put up where? You along Rampart too, I’m guessin’?”
Celia: There’s a moment of hesitation over the name. She could lie. Should lie. Take another fake name, just in case things don’t work out.
“Nah,” she says to the question about Rampart, “Bourbon.” She lifts her hands to the rags covering her face, fingers blurring against her skin—as if she needs to. When she removes them it’s not Jade’s face that looks out at the woman, but a familiar face all the same. Younger, beautiful, none of the age she’d pretended to wear. She smiles with straight, even teeth, and unbends her back.
“You can call me Dicentra.” The voice no longer belongs to a years-long smoker.
GM: “Bourbon,” Cheryl whispers, eyes wide. “You’re shittin’ me.”
That seems to hit her before the face-changing does.
Celia: “New life,” Dicentra says again. Perhaps there’s more weight to the words this time. More understanding now that Cheryl knows who she’s speaking to.
GM: “I… forget my things, they’re crap,” says Cheryl, clearing her throat. “I’ll be useful, you’ll see. Promise.”
Celia: “You sure?” Dicentra asks her, perfectly arched brow lifting slightly. “They’re yours. If you want them, we’ll get them.”
GM: “Nah. Nah. They’re crap,” Cheryl repeats. “Where are we going?”
“In Bourbon, I mean.”
Celia: “Hotel. I’ll pay for the week, give you some cash for clothes, meals, toiletries. You spend some time recovering from years of this, and I’ll visit.” There’s no trace of the gruff accent she’d adopted for the ruse. “We’ll see how things go. If the arrangement works…”
She trails off, finally looking to the woman with a fanged smile.
“You familiar with the name? Dicentra?”
GM: Cheryl thinks.
“Ah… night doc?”
Celia: “That’s the one.”
GM: “I… I look a mess, no Bourbon hotel’d let me in…”
Celia: Dicentra shrugs out of the rags she was wearing.
“They won’t even look your way.”
GM: “If you say so, ma’am. Should I call you that, or somethin’ else?”
Celia: “That’ll do for now.”
GM: “All right, ma’am,” nods Cheryl. “Thank you, thank you again. I’ll be useful, you’ll see.”
Celia: They certainly will.
Wednesday night, 23 March 2016, AM
Celia: The Bourbon Orleans Hotel isn’t on Bourbon itself, but it’s a stones throw away on Orleans Street between Bourbon and Royal. Opened in 1819, it has centuries of history behind it, first as a ballroom and later as a convent and orphanage; the hotel itself opened in 1964. Apparently it’s haunted by memories of its rich past.
Dicentra has been here a number of times over the years; she’s entertained more than a handful of guests in the Governor’s Suite when her own haven was out of the question as both Jade and Celia (along with some other faces), and every time she’s come in she’s had a pleasant experience.
She books a balcony suite for Cheryl and pays for the week. The night clerk, a familiar face, is more than happy to put the reservation as “unlisted” when she asks; anyone who calls or visits looking for her will be turned away. Hotels across the country have used this for years when people, especially women, are on the run from abusers or stalkers. Celia does it herself when she needs to travel since her face is well-known; she loves her fans, but she doesn’t need any fanatics trying to break into her room in the middle of the night or day.
Dicentra asks the clerk to send someone up with the usual toiletries: shampoo, conditioner, body wash, toothbrush, toothpaste, and a bathrobe. Like she’d told Cheryl, the clerk doesn’t even look her way. Dicentra oozes allure that these breathers can’t get enough of. They don’t notice the disheveled, out-of-sorts woman slightly behind her.
Once they’re alone in the room, Dicentra takes a seat at the desk and reaches for the provided hotel stationary and pen. She starts writing as she speaks to the ghoul.
“Tonight, tomorrow, and tomorrow night I want you to focus on recovering. It sounds like you’ve been on the streets for a long time; we’re not going to get you up to anything strenuous. There are two restaurants downstairs. Breakfast is complimentary. You can charge your meals to the room for lunch and dinner. I’ll have a few clothing items delivered to you tomorrow morning.”
She pulls a sleekly folded handful of bills from her jacket pocket and sets it on the desk.
“This is for anything else you need in the meantime. The list I’m writing here is what I want to know about you and about what you know. Skills and talents, connections—Kindred and kine—what you did prior to your ghouling, what you’d like to do, what you know about Kindred society in general and specifically as it relates to our city. Your health, mental health, any medications you are currently on, including anything illegal. Don’t lie about this; I don’t care what you take, I only need to know if you’ll need chemical or medical support to go through the withdrawal process.”
Dicentra finishes scribbling, finally looking back up at Cheryl.
“I’ll be back in two evenings to discuss further. My phone number is below if you need to get ahold of me in the meantime. The hotel is outside of my domain; don’t cause trouble.”
“If you’re serious about getting off the streets and serving a new domitor, we’ll assess then. If not, feel free to leave. I have no interest in a ghoul who spits in the face of kindness.”
“Do you have any questions?”
GM: Cheryl stays quiet and out of the way when Dicentra checks her in. The hotel lobby is largely empty at this late hour, but for the few graveyard shift staff.
“Wow, this really is living the Top Shelf life…” Cheryl murmurs. She’s quiet and subdued even after the staff are gone, and quick to sit down on the bed. The pale-faced, newly anemic woman’s eyes are already drooping, but they blink back to wakefulness when Dicentra addresses her.
“Okay. Skills, things I know, things I’m on… oh, right, you said you were making a list.”
She blinks again and nods slowly.
“I won’t cause trouble. I’ll just stay in here. You’re serious about just… leaving?”
She glances around the room.
“Not that I’d want to… been a… lifetime, since I slept anywhere this nice.”
Celia: “Yes,” Dicentra says simply. “I’d rather find out now that it won’t work out than after you learn things about me you can trade for other hits.”
GM: “All right,” nods Cheryl. “Ah… if you want to order some art supplies too, ma’am, I can show you I’m still good.”
Celia: “Write down what you need. I’ll have it delivered tomorrow.”
GM: Cheryl does so. There’s a pottery wheel, raw materials—“kilns are pretty bulky, don’t really work in this room”—and sketch pads, pencils, and some other basic-sounding supplies.
GM: “I think that’s it, ma’am,” she says when she’s done. “Thank you again. Thank you, so much. I’ll be useful, you’ll see.”
Celia: Dicentra smiles briefly.
“I hope so. Rest up. I’ll see you in a few nights.”
Wednesday night, 23 March 2016, AM
GM: It’s a short enough Ryde from the Bourbon Orleans Hotel to the Alystra in the CBD. Celia, Dicentra, Jade, or whoever is currently in the driver’s seat (of the body) still has time to fire off some texts along the way.
Celia: Jade lets Josua know she’s on her way.
Then she fires off a text to Diana: Made a new friend tonight. Think he can help w/ Em’s stuff.
GM: Wait I’m not there right now, Josua texts back.
Celia: Oh fuck. How long?
GM: I was gonna come back an hour-ish before sunup
Casino pretty boring at this hour on a weeknight
Celia: Wouldn’t have been if I were there. ;)
You hear from Daddy M?
GM: Haha true
No I think he must be in the middle of something. Or ignoring me. :( Look I don’t think this is happening tonight, try tomorrow?
Celia: Yeah np. Catch you later.
“Change of plans,” Jade tells the Ryde driver. She rattles off the address for Joel’s hotel.
GM: I’ll let Daddy M when I see him before sunup
Celia: ❤️ thx boo
GM: Josua sends back:
🍆 🍑 💦 😍
GM: The driver nods and adjusts his route.
“Kind of a shitty neighborhood,” he remarks.
Celia: “Mm,” Jade agrees, “if I pay you extra can you stick around in case my friend isn’t in?”
GM: “Yeah, sure,” he says.
Jade’s mother seems to be up very late, or perhaps her phone’s woken her up. But she’s already texted back:
Oh that’s wonderful! :) Remind me which stuff? Been a lot lately!
Celia: “You’re a gem,” she says to the driver.
The same stuff w/ you that Pete told us to try that he said was impossible.
GM: Oh my, that was fast. That’s double wonderful! I KNEW you’d do it! :)
Celia: Gonna take some time to make is all. Also need some samples. Can start w/ you and then her since, uh, everything tonight and all.
GM: That seems wise. Maybe if she takes one on her own, too. How much?
Celia: Prob just a little, will double check when I see him again though. Might be a few over a long period. Making it from scratch.
GM: Also, am I texting Celia or Jade right now?
Celia: Also have kind of a crazy idea.
GM: Hi Jade! :) I love you!
Celia: :) I like hearing (reading?) that. Love you too, Mom.
GM: I like saying (typing) that too! What’s the crazy idea?
Celia: Like Dani
GM: The idea’s with Dani?
Celia: No, she’d be like Dani. Can explain tomorrow, will stop by. Thought maybe it might be a good middle point but there are some drawbacks so idk, something to talk about for sure.
GM: Oh! You mean… oh my goodness, sweetie, Dani’s talked so much about how hard she has it and how lonely she is, I don’t think I’d wish that on Emily
Celia: Ah. Yeah maybe was a bad idea. Want her to see what it’s like before she decides if it’s what she wants is all. I’ll figure something out.
GM: No such thing as a bad idea, sweetie, just bad ones to act on. More options is always good, even if I think Emily would be happiest staying the way she is. I want her to marry Robby and have his kids!
Celia: Yeah you’re prob right.
Hey don’t tell Dani about Emi, I don’t want that getting out.
GM: Okay. I think Dani would really like having another person she could confine in, but if you don’t think it’s safe, Emi’s safety comes first
Celia: Just b/c of her brother.
GM: Also don’t forget you and Celia are going to be her kids’ best-ever aunt :)
Celia: Speaking of. C wanted me to tell you she saw him tonight with his new gf. :/
GM: Oh no, that must have been rough. :( How are you both holding up?
Celia: I’m okay. She’s… not.
Wanted to marry him.
GM: I know she did. I wanted that too. :( I’m so sorry, sweetie. I can only imagine how she must be feeling right now. Stephen was her everything. Would both of you like to come over for a girl’s night in? Can’t share any ice cream, but we could watch movies in our PJs and cuddle
Celia: I think we’d like that. When?
GM: Anytime! I’ll make it work, I don’t want Celia to not be okay
Celia: I’ll let her know. Thank you.
GM: You’re welcome! And I’d love to do that with you, too!
Celia: Jade closes the messages to Diana momentarily, tapping off a text to Alana with instructions to deliver the needed supplies to the hotel where Cheryl is staying (she doesn’t mention Cheryl herself). She tells her to include some basic clothing and gives a size estimate for those and a bra. Rather than guess on shoe size she says some slippers or flip-flops are fine.
Also took 1k out of the safe jsyk.
She doesn’t expect a response this late.
GM: True to her expectations, the likely asleep ghoul doesn’t immediately get back to her.
Perhaps Abi is also what’s keeping her mom up.
Celia: Maybe Cheryl has experience raising kids and can take some of the pressure off Diana.
Jade navigates back to Diana’s text.
Looking forward to it.
GM: Me too! Are you and Celia into the same movies?
Celia: I’m more into thriller and action than she is.
GM: You know, that seems very fitting! I’ll look up some titles :)
Celia: Strong female leads are badass
GM: Strong female lead, got it! That seems very fitting too.
Celia: :) I’m a stereotype
You tell Goose she’s getting a dog yet?
Jade glances out the window to check her surroundings.
“How long’ve you been driving for Ryde?” she asks the man in front.
GM: Haha, I am too. :)
Diana, like Celia, loves romances (but wholesome ones). And musicals. She also likes a lot of older black and white movies.
Not yet! I think in a few weeks would be good, after Abi’s had time to settle in. And things have had time to calm down in general.
“Too long,” mutters the driver.
Celia: Ah yeah makes sense.
Jade offers a sympathetic smile. “Side hustle or main gig?”
GM: “Main gig,” says the guy. “Shitty but it’s a living.”
Celia: “What do you want to do?”
“Or what would you rather do?”
GM: “Get paid to fuck bitches and snort coke.”
Celia: She laughs. “I can’t help with the second, but if you stick around for me while I run this errand I wouldn’t mind a tumble.”
GM: The man raises his eyebrows.
He’s not an ugly man. He’s thoroughly average, and she’s way out of his league.
Celia: “Like you said, dangerous neighborhood. I don’t want to be stranded this late at night.”
“Plus my ex and I just split, so…” She flicks her tongue across her lips.
“Could use a night of fun.”
GM: “Well his loss, my win.”
Celia: “That’s the spirit.”
Wednesday night, 23 March 2016, AM
GM: The hotel they arrive at is a shithole. Not so much as Sean’s meth lab, but only by a very small measure. The place smells funny and looks like it needs a new coat of paint, new furniture, new everything. Jade hears a gunshot in the distance. Jade waits for minutes after ringing the chipped service bell until a tired and resentful-looking female employee, who might have been sleeping, ambles up.
The difference between this dump and the Bourbon Orleans is like night and day.
Celia: Hunting probably doesn’t pay very well. Hopefully they at least get medical.
“Good evening. I was wondering if you could give Joel Price a ring. He told me to swing by but I forgot which room.”
She smiles winningly.
GM: The tired woman looks past two stages of even giving a shit.
“Not all the rooms got phones.”
Celia: “Ah. Can I get his room number then, if it doesn’t?”
GM: The woman pages through an old-fashioned log book instead of looking it up on a computer.
Celia: That was easy.
GM: The woman grunts and shuffles off.
Celia: Jade watches her go. Once she’s out of sight Jade pulls the log book toward her to check for a phone number for Joel. She jots it down and puts the book back into place.
A second later she’s behind the desk, pulling the extra key for room eight off the hook on the wall.
Then she’s off to find the room in question.
This, she thinks, is why she pays extra for better hotels.
GM: The woman doesn’t even bother to secure the book. Or the room key. Joel’s name is recorded in atrocious, barely legible handwriting. There is no phone number.
She finds room eight in brief enough order. The carpet in the hallway has a funny stain and looks like it hasn’t been vacuumed in a long time.
It smells terrible, especially outside Joel’s room.
Celia: Jade slips the key into her pocket. Her face changes as she moves through the hall to resemble the woman from the front desk; she shoves a hand through her hair to make it look just as rumpled as the rest of her.
GM: No one answers.
Celia: Good thing she has a key. Quietly, she pushes it into the lock and turns it to let herself in.
GM: She’s hit by an ungodly stench as she steps inside. A man’s corpse hangs suspended from the ceiling by a belt around its neck.
Celia: Well. Fuck.
Jade closes the door behind her, moving around the body to see if this is her missing hunter.
GM: The stiff-looking, pale-sheened face isn’t the one she saw him wearing, but it looks like the face on his ID. The corpse’s abdomen is slightly swollen. Piss and fecal matter stain the body’s pants and the floor beneath.
Celia: Her fingers clench into a fist at her side. Dead end. Literally.
She takes stock of the scene, looking over the body and the surroundings. She checks the cervical bones, looks to see where the blood is pooling in his body, checks to see what he stood on to suspend himself from the ceiling like this.
GM: Joel stood on a chair that looks like he kicked away. The man’s blood is where she’d expect to find it in a hanged man, and his cervicals are in a similar state. However, there are abrasions around his neck that are inconsistent with belt marks. Jade’s trained eye notes these ones are closer to hand-sized. Almost certainly from someone else, unless Joel chose to choke himself with his bare hands before hanging himself.
Jade can only come to the conclusion that the man’s “suicide” has been staged to conceal his murder.
Celia: Who doesn’t choke themselves before hanging?
Jade reaches out to touch the body to gauge its temperature to determine if she can find a time of death. She takes a photo of the handprints around his neck, then searches the room for his phone, the mask he’d worn, or anything else that she might find even remotely useful.
GM: Between the temperature and its physical state, Jade estimates Joel’s body at two or so days dead.
Apparently hotel staff have not noticed or done anything about the corpse in the room.
The man’s phone and mask are not present. His remaining belongings are few and consist of clothes, toiletries, a backpack, some snacks, a half-empty pack of cigarettes, a hunting knife, and a sub-compact pistol. Jade already has his wallet.
Celia: She rifles through the backpack.
GM: She finds many of the aforesaid items.
Celia: Two days puts it at Sunday. Someone had followed him from Elysium, then. Shame; she and Dani should have tailed him that night.
Who was it, Rocco? Wright? Doriocourt?
Someone else? Someone who wanted to take care of this quickly and quietly and not give Jade the credit she’d deserved for finding the hunter in the first place. Or someone who simply hasn’t spoken up about it yet. The thought annoys her perhaps more than it should, but what does she expect from the Hardliners?
Jade leaves the belongings where she found them, eying the body. She could fix the abrasions around his neck. Better for the Masquerade, isn’t it? Someone was sloppy. Even more annoyed, Jade reaches up to fix the marks on his neck, smoothing them out and lightening the skin to erase any trace of foul play.
She empties one of his snack bags and plucks a few hairs from his head, wraps them in tissue, and slides them into the bag. There’s a glass on the nightstand that she wipes off with the edge of the bedspread, then presses his fingers against the glass and slides that into the bag as well.
Jade eyes the body. If she takes a sample of his blood is anyone going to notice? It’s not like a coroner will pour it out and measure, not when the cause of death is so obvious.
She dumps out a plastic water bottle and opens the vein in his wrist, then pinches it closed and smooths it all over when she’s done.
Maybe she can do something with this. Pete can, anyway; she doesn’t like the idea of asking him to do another favor, but… well, she can ask someone else, maybe.
Maybe. It’s all a bunch of maybes.
Jade huffs, stepping out of the room once she’s done with it. She locks it behind her and steps back toward the front desk, glancing around to find the woman. If she’s not present—and why would she be, Jade has no doubt she went back to sleep—then Jade puts the key back and looks for a TV or computer that might hold security footage.
GM: The woman is not present at the front. Jade sees a very obvious security camera with a view of the front door, although there is no nearby computer or TV.
Though it’s not as if she’d show in the footage.
Celia: Has to go somewhere, doesn’t it? Jade follows the line.
GM: Jade discovers the line is not actually plugged in to anything.
For all intents and purposes it’s a fake camera.
Celia: Jade scowls at the line where it ends. She knows her kind don’t show up, but she’d been hoping to at least confirm that it had been a Kindred visitor.
She searches the front office for a schedule. Places like these probably just keep them posted on the wall; she looks for the name of the night attendant on Sunday.
GM: It reads Dustin Clayton.
Celia: She moves a few more papers around to find an employee file for him, looking for a phone number or address.
GM: She finds both. His address is also in Central City.
This hotel is laughably insecure.
Celia: She jots them down.
“Thanks for your help,” Jade calls, “couldn’t get an answer, guess I’ll try again later.”
She expects the woman is sleeping, but… well, whatever, it’s not like she can be on the hook for a guy who died two days ago.
She snags a bag to put her things in. Wouldn’t do for the driver to ask about the bottle of red liquid.
GM: The woman does not answer. No one stops the bag’s theft.
Celia: Jade steps outside, glancing around the parking lot and nearby telephone poles to check for any sort of cameras.
GM: Jade espies one camera, though perhaps little to her surprise, she discovers this one is also fake. It’s not actually hooked up to anything.
Celia: What the fuck is with this place.
No wonder it’s such a shitty neighborhood.
Wednesday night, 23 March 2016, AM
Celia: Jade moves back to the car, making sure that her face is all in order as she goes.
“Thanks for waiting,” she says to the driver. What was his name again?
GM: “Shitty neighborhood,” says the guy.
Jade hears a car alarm blare in the distance.
“You wanna do it in the back, or someplace else?”
Celia: “One more stop,” she says, “then we can do it wherever you want, however you want.” She winks at him.
GM: The man grins.
“Okay. Where next?”
Celia: She gives him Dustin’s address, then asks if she can sit in the front with him. She slides into the seat at the affirmative.
“Hope your meter’s off,” she says as he starts to drive. “Since it won’t cover the waiting I’ve asked you to do.”
“Figured we’d settle up in cash. No taxes and all that.”
GM: “I ain’t complaining,” the man says agreeably as he drives.
Seemingly to all of that.
Celia: Too bad he drives a Prius; Jade could use a new driver she can pay in sex.
She runs a hand up his thigh as they drive, making idle conversation.
GM: The man struggles to keep his attention on the road, but he persists. Mightily.
He stops outside an apartment building that looks like even more of a shithole than Brian’s. There are actual needles littered around the front step.
Jade gives him a peck on the cheek and tells him she’ll be back in a flash. She heads into the building, decides against the elevator, and takes the stairs to Dustin’s apartment.
GM: The driver looks like that moment can’t come soon enough for him.
The building’s door, though, is locked. The building is also small enough that she’s not sure whether there is an elevator.
Celia: Awkward. She presses the buzzer for the right apartment.
GM: There is no buzzer. Just a wooden door in bad need of some new paint.
Celia: Well how the fuck do they get their Chinese deliveries.
Jade uses another burner app to dial his number.
GM: The blighted-looking graffiti-tagged building looks too cheap for its residents to order out often.
The phone rings for a while.
“Yo, leave a message,” sounds the probably sleeping man’s voice.
Celia: Jade hangs up.
Lotta effort for probably only a little bit of payoff if she tries to break in. She can always try again tomorrow.
She heads back to the car.
GM: “That was fast,” says the driver, surprised.
Celia: “Didn’t answer his phone,” Jade says with a shrug.
GM: Jade sees it coming out of the corner of her eye. A dead-eyed man in a hoodie stalking briskly towards her, hands in his front pockets.
He pulls out a gun.
“HANDS UP, BITCH!” he yells.
Celia: Jade puts her hands up.
GM: The driver freezes.
The man with the gun grins at her.
“You gonna suck my cock, or I’ll blow your brains out.”
Celia: She lets her face take on the expression of fear, eyes wide and lips paling.
Silently, she nods her head up and down.
GM: The man laughs and gestures at his crotch with the gun.
“C’mon, bitch! Start suckin’!”
He points the gun at the driver.
“Get outta the car!”
The driver freezes.
The man advances forward a step, gun leveled.
“GET OUT OR YOU’RE DEAD!”
The driver slowly gets out.
Celia: She’d at least thought he’d take her somewhere private. With exaggerated, “fearful” slowness Jade gets on her knees, shuffling forward until she can undo the man’s jeans.
GM: “Ahhh, yeah!” the man grins as her fingers work, even as he gestures for the driver to step around to his side of the vehicle.
“Keep y’ hands on y’ head!”
He turns back towards Jade. He’s already hard past his boxers.
“How many cocks you sucked in your life, huh, you cocksuckin’ whore?”
“I bet you jus’ looove havin’ the dick in y’ mouth, don’t you?”
Celia: Jade pulls his cock free of its confines, sliding his pants and boxers down until she can see the thing he wants her to suck. She opens her mouth and brings him into it, looking up at him with a mouthful of cock when he asks. She doesn’t talk with her mouth full.
She gives it a minute.
Then she bites.
His cock isn’t the only hard thing in her mouth.
GM: It’s dark, hairy, and average-sized, despite the man’s whoops that “I bet you can barely fit that in!” He calls her a whore, a slut, and spits on her face. He threatens to kill her anyway if the BJ isn’t any good.
Then his eyes go huge and moans like a bull in climax as the vampire’s fangs pierce his shaft.
Celia: Her Beast snarls at the degradation.
Jade beats it back. It’s not the only thing that wants to rip and kill, and once she gets going and the blood hits her tongue she doesn’t stop. She doesn’t take just a little. Oh, no, she keeps going until she’s had her fill.
GM: The man’s blood is hot, arrogant, and angry. He thinks he’s on top of the world, because he’s the guy with the gun. She tastes his contempt. His ego trip. The big man he thinks he is right now. It’s so hollow, but such a change from her usual affair. The sweetness of his lust is an undertaste, although it’s definitely there, and growing, at the sight of Jade on her knees.
He reminds her of another man, with a plastic smile, who couldn’t get enough of seeing Celia Flores on her knees. Who mocked her, belittled her, and humiliated her, like this man now does. He’s not even half the terror Paul was—and Jade is ten times the terror Celia was. And he dares to spit on her!
The Beast will not abide.
She takes more than her fill.
It passes in an eyeblink, like the red haze always does. She’s no longer on her knees with a cock in her mouth. She’s straddling the prone man’s chest like a tigress over a kill, savoring the mouthfuls of hot and terrified lifeblood she’s gulping down, one after another. The face is white as a sheet and his eyes blank and nonresponsive. His fingers are limp around the gun that availed him not. A fast-slowing pulse beats weakly from his chest.
Celia: Sounds like a personal problem.
Jade licks him closed when she’s done and rises to her feet, looking for the driver.
GM: The man stares at her with wide and terrified eyes.
“What the fuck…!”
Celia: “What, you don’t keep a blade in your mouth?”
She doesn’t think that’s going to fly here. Perhaps if she’d just stuck to his cock…
Jade takes a step forward, holding her hands out to her sides as the clouds part in the sky and the moon shines its light directly upon her. She’s so beautiful. Ravishing, even. So what if she killed a guy with a gun? What had he done besides stand aside while his rider was assaulted?
God, she’s a badass.
“It’s okay,” she croons.
GM: The man stammers and actually sinks to his feet under the force of her supernal presence.
“What… what the fuck… what’d you do to him!”
Celia: “He was going to kill us,” Jade says patiently, crossing the distance between the pair of them and wiping the spit from her face. She reaches out, pressing his face against her thigh and rubbing a hand gently across his shoulders.
“I know you wanted to do something heroic, baby, you wouldn’t have let him hurt me, but he kept waving the gun around.” Jade sinks to her knees beside him, pulling him into an embrace. “I was so scared that he was going to pull the trigger and hurt us, I had to do something.”
GM: There’s blood on her face, too.
Jade can feel the tension in the man’s body as she pulls him in to embrace. Can hear his heart hammering in his chest. He’s terrified.
“What’d… what’d you do!” he repeats.
“You sounded…. Jesus!”
“How the hell’d you…?”
Celia: Jade rubs her hand up and down his back, pulling the terror from his body with her light touch.
“It’s okay,” she whispers, “it’s okay, I bit a little too hard and he started bleeding on me, so I hit the greater auric nerve and knocked him out. I didn’t mean to scare you, baby.”
“Help me move him, okay? He looks heavy. We’ll put him in your car and drop him off at the hospital.”
“Please, baby, I need you.”
GM: The driver’s features slowly calm.
“I guess we should.”
The medical term seems to go over his head, but he calmly gets up, opens the car door, and reaches under the unconscious man’s armpits to start lifting him.
Celia: Jade helps him load the man into the back of the car. She asks if he has a blanket she can put over him to keep him warm.
GM: The driver doesn’t have a blanket, but does have a jacket.
Celia: Oh well. Same difference.
After he’s loaded Jade picks up his gun and anything else he nubby have dropped, then starts to wipe the blood of her face as she climbs into the driver’s seat.
GM: There’s just the gun. The driver calmly asks where they should take him.
Celia: Jade directs him to a hospital on the other side of the city. While they drive Jade plies him with her charm, alternating between making herself more trustworthy and comments about how scared she was and how grateful she is that he was there. She twists the narrative with every telling: first that she bit the gunman and knocked him out while he was reeling in pain, then that she bit him and the driver attacked him, then that she punched him and the driver attacked him, and finally that the driver attacked him while he had a gun to Jade’s head.
She gets more and more emphatic with the telling, breaking off a few times to sniffle and wipe at her eyes, and keeps repeating what a hero he was and how he’d saved them, how he was right it’s a bad neighborhood, how she was sure the gunman was going to kill them both. Hero, she repeats, and she curls herself against his side while he drives, snuggling into him as if she’s still scared.
She says that too. That she’s scared. That she thought she was going to die. That she’s never… the gun… it all happened so quickly, and he was so brave to stand up to the gunman, and she’s so small how could she have possibly fought him off herself? He’d have killed her. He’d have killed her, she repeats, burying her face against his side, raped her and killed her and done who knows what with her body; she can never repay him, she’s sure of it, she’ll thank God every night that he was there with her, that he was her driver, that he didn’t abandon her.
GM: The driver demurs, at first, that he did anything to the guy. He was mostly scared shitless over the gun. Jade was the badass one. She took out the bad guy—
He doesn’t keep it up, though, when Jade is curling herself against him and calling him a hero. He repeats that yeah, he wasn’t just gonna let something like that happen, not in his watch, in his car. Jade’s not sure whether he actually believes what he’s saying, but he’s clearly happy to repeat the line when she’s there in his arms.
Celia: She eases up on the hold she has on his emotions with every word. By the time they hit the Quarter she’s withdrawn her suppression completely.
That’s when she looks into the back seat and lets out a gasp. She touches the body.
“Oh, no, no, no,” she murmurs, “he’s… I think he’s…”
He’s dead. He’s dead and they killed him and it was self defense, but look at those bruises on his face and the swelling at the back of his head, they’re going to know someone punched him out, they’re going to come after them. She can’t go to jail, she can’t, and she’ll go down with him for being a witness and not doing anything, and he’ll be locked away for years for manslaughter, and, and, and…
As she speaks she turns the emotions the other way, dialing up them up rather than turning them down, letting him feed off of her hysteria and fear as she says she won’t let him go to jail for this, she won’t, he’s a hero, he shouldn’t be punished, he saved her life.
GM: Like a coin flipped, the driver freaks out when she tells him the guy is dead. He starts cursing. “Shit! Shit! Shit!” They shouldn’t have ever gone to this neighborhood! What the fuck are they supposed to do now!? They can’t just turn themselves in!
He does not try to feel the body himself, or notice the beating but fast fading heart.
Celia: “We can hide it,” Jade says, “we have to hide it.”
Shakily, she tells him that they can take the gunman to her place. She’s reluctant, but she finally whispers that her ex is connected to the mob, and he can make it go away, she’ll call him tomorrow. He’ll want something from her, and maybe he’ll knock her around a little bit for the trouble, but he’ll help. She knows he will.
She directs the driver toward her haven on Canal.
GM: The driver does so.
The dying man expires not longer after they divert to Canal. Jade can tell, from the cessation of his sluggish heartbeat. It’s not a bang or even a whimper, just simple cessation of a bodily function.
Celia: Jade makes sure no one is looking their way when they pull in, directing stray attention elsewhere. She helps her driver carry the body inside, quietly laughing over how he’d had too much to drink and thanks so much for the help getting him home, just in case anyone is listening or looking. She unlocks the door for the pair of them and takes the gunman into the bathroom, setting him in the tub.
GM: The driver grunts and pants as he helps Jade carry inside the corpse. Completely limp human bodies are heavy.
Celia: Jade finally looks back to the driver.
“Will… will you stay tonight? I just… I feel safer with you.”
GM: Perhaps, if it were anyone else asking him to stay and get laid with a corpse in the bathroom, the driver would say no.
But Jade isn’t just anyone. She’s Jade Kalani.
“Sure,” he nods, raptly.
Celia: Of course he wants to stay. Hasn’t he seen any action movie ever? He’s the hero and she’s the damsel and he single-handedly defeated the bad guy. He probably even had a cool line at the moment of takedown. Now it’s time to kiss the girl and claim her as his prize.
So he does. Gently at first, and when Jade makes the right noises—she always makes the right noises—he deepens the kiss with a tilt of his head and a hand on her cheek, and she’s putty in his arms after that. Or is he putty in hers?
She tops from the bottom, letting him “take control” while she drives the action, moaning and panting and gasping as needed, sliding out of her clothes and letting him get an eyeful of her gorgeous, fit body while she repeats the words “hero” and “brave” and “saved me.” That’s the only way an average guy like him gets a girl as hot as her: by being a badass.
She’s warm and wet and tight when he finally pushes inside of her, legs around his waist and fingers buried in his hair, holding him close against her while her heart pitter-patters against her ribcage and her lips brush against his ear, his cheek, his jaw, his mouth. She’s eager to please. A slippery little minx beneath the sheets, taking everything he gives her and then some, and all the while making him feel like the giant, strong, badass he is.
For a moment maybe he even forgets that he drives a Prius.
And when it’s done, when his seed trickles from between her legs and he lies on his back with her little body curled against his, arm around her, she asks him to tell her what happened. It was all so fast.
GM: The man is soon lost in her embrace, putty in her hands even as she plays at being putty in his. All of his fear, all of desperation, all of his stress, comes out as he frantically takes her. He’s less than a pale shadow of other lovers she’s had, but serviceable enough in his intended role. Like a human dildo. One that’s at least warm flesh rather than cold plastic or silicone.
She’s incredible. He’s almost certainly never been with a goddess of desire like her in all his life. He climaxes quickly, and before she does, hot seed filling her dead cunt. After it dribbles out, he plants his face between her legs to service her with his mouth, and then his fingers when she says to keep doing something that’s at closer to what he was doing. Once again, she’s had better, but it beats a vibrator.
He feels big, all right, getting to nail this vision of perfection and beauty who tells him how big and strong he is.
He lies there, and holds her against his chest, and tells her they both took out the guy together.
It’s definitely the story he’d like to be true.
Celia: Jade stays curled against him for a few moments, listening to the beat of his heart inside his chest.
Why are none of these people she picks up ever actually good at sex? Why are they always… bums? Desperate degenerates that she’d be wasting her vitae on if she ever decided to share. Even Randy had only been a decent find because of his brothers.
She needs to start recruiting or something. None of this adopting strays nonsense.
GM: Perhaps he’d be better around someone else as thoroughly average as he is.
And in fairness to Randy, she never did have sex with him to find out.
Even if Reggie thought he’d have no idea what to do with his own cock around her.
The driver’s blood is better than his performance was, though.
Celia: “Together,” she says, nodding her head in agreement, and repeats the line about being scared without him. She turns to her side to kiss him, working her way from lips to jaw to neck.
Gently, she sinks her fangs into the side of his neck. Just a hit. Just enough to make him a little woozy, a little off his game. His blood is hot and sour-spicy-sweet across her tongue, peppered with adrenaline, fear, and lust.
When she’s done she nuzzles against him for a few minutes, then finally sighs and murmurs that she should call her ex to let him know. She slips out of bed and pads naked across the floor to where she’d left her phone on the counter. She taps a few buttons and pretends to dial a number, holding the phone to her ear once it starts to “ring.”
Jade has a whispered conversation with the phantom on the other end of the line. She says she’s in trouble. She says she made a mistake. She says she needs him, that someone had jumped her; she never mentions the body in the tub, only alludes to cleaning something up.
“Please,” she finally whispers, and nods at whatever imaginary response there is. “I will. I will, I promise… t-tonight? I, I—okay, yeah, okay.” The driver can see her close her eyes and nod again. “I know. I’m sorry.” She swallows. “Thank you, yes, I’ll be here.” A pause. “You too.”
Jade hangs up. She sets her phone down and moves across the floor to her closet, quickly rifling through it for a handful of items.
“He’s on his way,” she says to the driver. “He’ll take care of it. You have to go, okay? You have to go.”
GM: “He?” the driver asks sleepily. He sounds pretty sluggish between the sex, the blood loss, and adrenaline crash.
Celia: She pulls on a silk robe around her naked form, belting it at the waist to hide her nudity. She tells the driver again he needs to go. But he’s woozy. Tired. Spent after the sex, the blood loss, the crash of adrenaline fading from his body. He’s slow to get up, slower to get dressed, and by the time he finally pulls his shirt on Jade holds out a hand, cocking her head to the side.
She runs to the window, pulling open the drapes.
“Shit,” she says, “shit, he’s here, you have to hide, you have to hide. The… the closet,” she says, pulling him toward it, “just stay in here, stay, okay? Just go behind that rack of dresses and sit on the floor and don’t move, okay? Don’t come out, no matter what. He can’t see you here.”
She pushes him inside and closes the door, then drags an armchair in front of it to prevent him from opening it.
GM: The driver tries to act masculine, at first, about not needing to hide. He finally “relents” under Jade’s entreaties, but is probably all-too glad to just get out of the way between his mental and physical exhaustion.
And Jade has already seen his character. Is this a man who would rather confront danger than flee it?
Celia: Ruse halfway over, Jade gets to work. She strips from her robe and leaves it draped across the chair, then moves to the front door. She knocks on it. Opens it. Murmurs a greeting, then says “you fucked up” in an accented, masculine voice.
“Show me,” says the voice, and the door locks and closes behind him. Footsteps through the apartment, then the bathroom door opening. A long, loud sigh. Some shuffling in the kitchen, a few drawers opening and closing, then the bathroom door closes. Jade locks it behind her.
Alone in the bathroom, she looks down at the corpse and gets to work.
Celia: It’s routine work at this point, stripping a body down to its base parts and destroying the evidence. She uses her claws to pull apart skin and muscles, setting it to the side, and drains the blood into a handful of jars for later consumption. When the flow slows she reaches inside the chest cavity to wrap her fingers around the heart, pumping the blood through the arteries and into the waiting containers.
Jade works quickly once the blood is taken care of. She sets the containers beneath the sink and pulls out a large plastic bucket, cuts open the man’s abdomen to remove his stomach, and dumps it into the bucket. She pours in hydrogen peroxide and watches it start to bubble.
Then it’s just a matter of getting rid of the evidence. She strips muscle and flesh from his bones and, on a whim, opens up her own body to stuff it inside. She wants to see how far this new ability of hers goes. So while she works on getting rid of the rest of the corpse—routine by this point—her focus turns inward. The movement of her hands fades into the background; she’s inside herself, unwinding the muscles inside of her own body to absorb what she has stolen from the man.
The body has three different types of muscle inside of it: striated, smooth, and cardiac. The smooth and cardiac muscles control involuntary functions; the cardiac muscle makes up the mass of the heart and causes the contractions to keep blood pumping through the body, while the smooth muscle is found in the stomach, intestines, and walls of blood vessels.
Jade doesn’t need any of that, dead as she is. No, she’s focused on the striated muscle, or skeletal muscle. These are the muscles that most people think of when they picture an anatomically correct body, what weightlifters want to build when they pump iron in the gym.
These muscles consist of long fine fibers, each of which is a bundle of smaller myofibrils. Inside of those are filaments of protein, myosin and actin, that slide past one another as the muscle contracts and expands. Each myofibril has a dark band, the Z line, and the area between the bands is the structural and functional unit of muscle tissue: the sarcomeres. When the proteins within the sarcomeres slide against each other the myosin head acts as a cocked spring, binds with the actin filament, and produces a power stroke, which then slides the actin past the myosin, shortening the sarcomere and generating force. Since the sarcomeres are joined end to end they all contract, shortening the entire muscle in what’s called a power stroke. The more Z lines and sarcomeres a muscle has, the more power is generated.
That’s how people move. Tiny little fibers of proteins inside their muscles and expand and contract based on the impulses of the brain that send the signals to motor neurons. The better you get at telling your motor neurons to make your muscles contract, the stronger you get. That’s why smaller people can be deceptively strong: they’re just better at activating those motor neurons and contracting their muscles.
That soreness from the gym? That’s from damaging the muscles when you lift things heavier than you should, and when you rest the next day your body repairs or replaces damaged muscle fibers, fusing them together to form new muscle proteins. More muscle protein is more strength.
If Jade weren’t as versed in anatomy as she is, and if she wasn’t as familiar as she is with going inside of herself along the chakras and energy lines in the body, maybe it wouldn’t work. Maybe she’d have to cut herself open and let someone else do it, like she’d done for Tantal.
But she is well-versed in anatomy. She is well-versed in the breakdown of muscles and how they function. And she is very, very familiar with sending her consciousness spinning through her body to adapt to her individual needs.
So while her hands move on autopilot, slicing ligaments and tendons apart to loosen the skeletal frame to dissolve in the same liquid concoction she’d done for Edith, she starts breaking down the bands of muscle fibers stolen from the gunman and unwinding her own fibers. She merges them. She creates more cross bridges in the myfobril, more Z lines, more sarcomeres. More force. More power. She buffs her biceps, her triceps, her traps. She adds to her quads and hamstrings, to the lats and deltoids, to major and minor pecs. She adjusts all three of the gluteus muscles, then the abductors and extensors in her forearms and calves, the rhomboids, the levators, the supraspinatus and splenius and serratus.
It’s like years of gym-use in moments. Power surges through her. Strength and durability and flexibility; she waxes as the gunman wanes.
Jade brings her attention back to the bathroom and the desecrated body in front of her when she’s done with her experiment. She finishes the work, changing her shape and body size as she puts the last of the bone and flesh into the concoction. She doesn’t make herself any taller, but she doesn’t need to. What she lacks in height she makes up for in width. She darkens her skin, shortens her hair, and when she looks in the mirror… well, it’s a spitting image.
He’s a handsome man: machismo made flesh. Shorter than most men but with lean, prison-yard muscles that make him look taller. Youngish, but with enough gang-touting tats and a body-bag stare that makes it clear crossing him would be a fatal mistake.
GM: Corpse disposal is indeed routine work for Jade at this point. The dead gunman is downright pleasant to dispose of next to the disgusting work that Joel would have been. The corpse hasn’t even had time for rigor mortis to set in. There’s some dried piss on the penis… he must have pissed himself when he tried to rape Jade.
Jade weaves muscle fibers, taking from his and adding to hers. Just like that, he’s made less of a man so that Jade can be more of one. So Jade can be Roberto.
She already knows just how to have him act.
Celia: Jade—Roberto—finishes the work. He takes the gunman’s clothes and slides the shoes onto his feet. He borrows the pants, then finds a masculine muscle tee from the assortment of things Jade had removed from her closet earlier. He sticks the gun into the band of his jeans and stomps out of the bathroom, a heavier gait than Jade’s light step.
“Yeah,” he says, “I fuckin’ got it. And what about you, huh? What were you doin’ that way?”
Jade mumbles a response, but Roberto cuts her off.
“Who’s here?” he demands.
“No one? Those shoes don’t look like fuckin’ no one. Hijo de puta, you think I’m fuckin’ stupid? How’d you get him up here if there ain’t no one, huh? You reek like sex, you fuckin’ whore.”
There’s the sound of flesh striking flesh. A muffled cry. More footsteps. Roberto shoves aside the chair in front of the closet and yanks open the door.
It’s like staring down a speeding train. Like standing on the tracks knowing there’s nowhere to run. Like a deer in headlights, or an unfortunate soul lost in the woods while a wolf stalks closer, teeth bared and snarl ripping from its throat. He practically radiates power and importance.
“You,” he says, “you the fuckin’ driver, huh? You kill this motherfucker? You some whipped pussy ass bitch whose mistakes I gotta clean up?”
GM: The driver feebly holds up his hands against Roberto as he back against the closet, cowed by the man’s supernal presence.
“N-no, it was her, I didn’t do anything, I was just there…”
Celia: Roberto points a finger at him. “Left your fuckin’ wallet out, dipshit, now I know where to find you if you open your fuckin’ mouth about any of this. You go through Ryde? Yeah, asshole, delete that shit. Forget you ever went to that neighborhood. Was a quiet fuckin’ ride around Mid-City, hear?”
GM: The driver nods, rapidly, at Roberto’s growled commands.
“Ryde. Yes. I’ll delete it, all of it. I didn’t see anything, I didn’t, never saw anything, I never met her. This didn’t, didn’t happen.”
He adds, awkwardly,
Celia: Roberto glowers at him.
“You tryna tell me that this little bitch took out a man twice her size and you stood around with your limp dick in hand? Huh, is that it? You think I’m fuckin’ stupid, driverboy? You tryin’a pin this on her so I don’t kick your ass, that it?”
GM: “N-no, a lot of, lot of it was a… was a blur,” the driver demurs, hands still raised. “She just… she made the first move… then I helped.”
He pointedly says nothing about what a short guy Roberto himself is.
Celia: “‘Course she made the first move, she a bitch but she ain’t a fuckin’ pussy, bit that fucker jus’ like I tol’ her n’ got ‘im nice an’ loose for ya.”
Roberto stares a moment longer, then finally grins.
“Hope for you yet, dipshit. Don’t make me come find you, hear?”
GM: The driver nods again, managing a weak grin back.
“I won’t, man. This never happened. I won’t talk to nobody.”
“I’d be in big trouble if I did, yeah?”
Celia: “Big trouble.” Roberto draws his thumb across his throat. “Clean the piss off your johnson, driverboy. Firs’ kill? Yeah, fuck ‘er nice an’ good, best thing after.”
Roberto slams the door on him and shoves the chair back in front of it. He says something in rapid fire Spanish to Jade, then stomps to the door and yanks it open. He closes it behind him.
Jade gives herself a moment to return her face and body to its usual state; she keeps the extra muscle she’d given herself, making it lean rather than bulky, and strips from the clothing. They’re shuffled in among a pile of other clothes she has lying around, gun tucked under the sink in her kitchenette. She slips back into the robe, puts a red mark on her face in the shape of a handprint, and finally opens the closet door to let the driver out.
GM: The driver can’t get out of Jade’s haven fast enough. He doesn’t say anything about the mark. He doesn’t try to get more sex.
He just gets out.
Celia: Jade waits until he’s gone to start laughing.
“Gonna have to thank Roberto for this one,” she says to herself.
Previous, by Narrative: Story Thirteen, Caroline VIII, Louis VII
Next, by Narrative: Story Thirteen, Caroline IX, Louis VIII
Previous, by Character: Story Thirteen, Celia XXXIV
Next, by Character: Story Thirteen, Celia XXXVI