“Never tell anyone what she means to you. They’ll ruin her, and they’ll ruin you, and they’ll make you do it to each other.”
Saturday night, 9 April 2016, PM
GM: Victoria wakes in a sterile room. She’s standing, laid carefully on the floor in the small, closet-sized space. There’s nothing in the room. Nothing at all. Not even cameras or an intercom or anything. Just Victoria, the door, and something that looks like an elementary-level puzzle located above the door handle.
Victoria: If she had a heartbeat, it’d have set a world record.
Her palm slams against the door.
Okay. Calm. Calm, Victoria. You need to get out.
She examines the puzzle.
GM: Anna’s nowhere.
The puzzle looks simple enough for a child to solve.
Victoria: She solves it quickly, and pushes on the door.
GM: The lock clicks and the door opens. The room beyond is larger, but just as sterile. A metal operating table takes up the center of the room, with drains placed in strategic locations below and around it. The table has shackles. Next to it is a tray of surgical instruments, plus a few things that might… maybe…? They serve some sort of medical purpose, don’t they? Because otherwise, well…
The rest of the room is similarly set up. Various medical devices lie in spaces across countertops and in drawers. Bottles of liquid sit inside glass cases. A pile of leather is stacked neatly next to the sink.
Two doors lead out of the room, one on either side. Both are closed. One is chained.
Victoria: Victoria drinks in the room with a cool, logical head, and a gentle hand on the beast that already strains at its bindings.
It wants Anna.
Victoria takes a scalpel—just in case—and moves to examine the chained door.
GM: Strain it does.
Victoria is hungry.
There’s a great cat inside her chest, straining to get out.
Her wounds, though, are completely gone. Her skin is as pristine as the day she died.
“Oh, relax, darling,” sounds a familiar voice as she seizes the knife.
Victoria: Her hackles raise as if cold water was just thrown on the cat inside her.
She turns to look.
Jade: She’s appeared out of nowhere. Victoria is positive the room is empty. But Miss Kalani is there, and looks as at home in the surgical suite as she had in McGinn’s estate. Unlike Victoria, who’s still naked and covered in blood, Kalani is pristine. Her hair, makeup, and nails have all been expertly styled. Nude stilettos give the diminutive vampire another few inches, and the deep purple gown that clings and flows in all the right places brings out the jade of her eyes.
She lacks the stillness of the lord and lady councilors, and she does not look half so dead as them. There’s color in her cheeks, the faint sound of a heart beating inside of her chest. If it weren’t for the things she had done to Victoria, and the Beast pacing just behind her eyes, she may as well be human.
“I’m sure you have questions,” she says, idly examining the white polish on her nails. “Let me preempt them. Your slave is nearby, safe. You can see her when we finish in here.”
Victoria: If the color could drain from Victoria’s face, it would leap so far backward that it would leave the wall in pieces and be halfway around the world before Miss Kalani could blink.
She takes an involuntary step backward, trembling.
“Y-you…” she mumbles in chorus with Jade, falling silent after.
Jade: “Why what?”
Victoria: “W-why did you save us?”
She swallows. The pit settles in her throat.
GM: She swallows.
But there’s no lump in her throat, and no saliva to swallow down it.
There’s just nothing.
Jade: “That wasn’t personal,” Kalani says with a shrug of her slender shoulders. “You’ve managed to piss off a lot of people in very little time.” She sounds amused.
Victoria: “Then… why did you save us?”
Jade: “I have a thing for orphans,” Kalani says with an effected sigh, hand over her heart. “You’ve got Malveaux-Devillers’ panties in a twist and the rest of the city in a tizzy. Now they think you’re dead. There’s freedom in death.”
“And debt. You owe me a life boon, darling.”
Victoria: Victoria trembles.
GM: Swallowing does as little for her as the first time. There’s none of the physiological sense of relief.
Jade: “That’s a rather low bar for friendship,” Jade observes.
Victoria: Not her friend.
But not a friend?
“There was… never mind.”
There are more pressing explanations needed.
“My teeth. My bones.”
Jade: “Compose yourself, fledgling. There’s no crying in baseball.”
Yes, she’d just quoted Tom Hanks. Maybe it’ll make Wolf laugh, or maybe it just dates Jade, but the rebuke is gentle enough. Kalani softens her features.
“I won’t nickle and dime you for this, you’re welcome. The bones will regrow. The teeth will regrow. The Anna will not regrow.” A pointed, disappointed look. “Half-bloods aren’t like us. Don’t throw them around all willy-nilly for someone else to sink their teeth into.”
Victoria: Did she just quote Tom Hanks…?
Victoria looks as if Jade strapped on a clown nose and honked like a goose.
She doesn’t laugh, even if she looks like she’s almost there, but she does compose herself.
“Can your abilities heal Anna? You unwound me with a touch. You put me back together seamlessly.”
Jade: “Yes, I rather did, didn’t I?” Kalani rakes her gaze up and down Wolf’s form, as if searching for imperfections. She doesn’t find any.
“Physically, I can heal her. Mentally and emotionally, that’s on you. Remind me how long you’ve been dead.”
Victoria: “I’ll owe you. If you make her pristine. More than I already do.”
“No more than a couple of days. Do you know who did this to me?”
Jade: Jade slides a hand into her pocket and pulls out her phone. She fires off a text, then replaces the phone.
“Do you love her? Your Anna.”
Victoria: “More than anything in the world.”
“All of this. All of what happened. It’s because I tried to take revenge for her.”
Jade: Something crosses her face.
“Never let them know,” she says. Her voice is… different. “Never tell anyone what she means to you. They’ll ruin her, and they’ll ruin you,” her green eyes flash gold, “and they’ll make you do it to each other.”
Victoria: “Sound advice,” she answers. After that experience, she doesn’t need to be told that Anna will be living in a box in a secret closet from here on.
“…I need to know why you did all this. It’s not just because you’re fond of orphans.”
Jade: Kalani giggles. “I’m more fond of strays than orphans, that’s very true.”
“I know your ghoul. We seem to share an annoyance with a particular set of people. It amuses me to know that I’ve outsmarted the elders by saving you.” Jade waves a hand. “All of the above.”
Victoria: “You know Anna?”
Jade: “You know how people say ‘need to know’ and you assume they just want to be dicks and not share intel? I finally find myself on the other side of that, and I guess they’re right. You don’t need to know. It’s not relevant. But I will tell you that it’s caused great profit.”
She’s pleased rather than smug.
Victoria: She looks nonplussed, but knows better than to punch a giftwhore in the mouth.
Jade: “You know, the whole LaLaurie thing. Bunch of rich kids got shot, rich kids families ask for the best doctor, the doctor works, they owe the doctor.”
Victoria: “I see.”
“Are you to make a profit off me?”
Jade: “We all profit off each other, darling. I profit by saving you. You profit by asking and learning. What is it that you really want to ask?”
Victoria: “Why was I saved from what I assume is the Malveaux family, and why what do they gain from my being a vampire?”
It’s not asking who!
GM: Despite the two being standing, Victoria feels no particular urge to sit. She’s no more sore or tired than nothing.
She doesn’t even feel cold, despite being naked and barefoot.
Jade: “That was not the Malveaux family. The incredibly quick blonde your friend warned you to stay away from was Caroline Malveaux-Devillers.”
Victoria: To her, that’s the Malveaux family.
Jade: Ah, but that hyphen is so significant.
Victoria: “How did I escape? So much of what happened—it was in my head. I woke up this way. I thought I was dead, but this is…”
Jade: “You are dead. And undead. Your physical body is now a sack of meat that protects the thing inside of you. Your soul. Your heart. That’s the only thing that matters. The rest of it is all details,” she waves her hand again, “and we grow back.” Jade considers the naked lick. “Usually, anyway. You will eventually.”
She clasps her hands together.
“So, Victoria—do you mind if I call you Victoria?—we have ourselves a bit of a conundrum. You are what we call a bastard. Rather like an illegal immigrant, you’ve snuck into the city with never a by-your-leave, and that’s an infraction punishable by final death. You’ve already broken the Masquerade, which is also punishable by final death. You were poaching, I assume—how did McGinn get his hands on you, anyway?—which in and of itself isn’t a crime punishable by final death, but regents do what they will.”
“You’re also thrice-damned for your blood,” she adds cheerfully, “and if anyone catches you outside the Quarter it’ll be right to the chopping block.”
“The good news is that everyone you’ve ticked off will soon think that you’re already finally dead.”
“But you’re not! We’ve tricked them. Isn’t that delightful?”
Victoria: “You may call me Victoria.”
There’s a long pause as she processes everything else.
“It doesn’t excuse the crime, not knowing that a crime is a crime; but, I didn’t know any of this was a crime. I didn’t have a hand in my birth. I didn’t know any vampire laws. I didn’t even know how to find another vampire. Someone left me a note—just a few words, really—and that was it. Nothing more. The first kill—feeding—I don’t even remember. It just… happened.”
She folds her arms, suddenly aware of her nakedness.
“Do… all vampires have powers like you and the lord councilor?”
Even out of the room, she feels a need to respect him.
“How can I live without ever leaving the Quarter?”
Jade: “No, no, you misheard. You can’t be seen outside the Quarter.”
Victoria: “Oh. Okay.”
“But I’m me. Should I wear a mask? Do vampires have some ability to be Superman as Clark Kent?”
Jade: Well isn’t that a loaded question.
“That’s entirely up to you, darling. Most of us change our names and avoid old hangouts, stick to the shadows, that sort of thing. Some change their faces. Some wear masks. And some wear masks that change their faces.”
“We can blend in with the night, see in the dark, pick up a virgin’s first cycle a mile off. We fly, we shift, we run so fast we cross water. We make people love us with a snap of our fingers and command complete obedience from others. We crush cars into soup cans, command wolves with a snarl, bend the rules of reality with blood and bone.”
“We are Superman.”
Victoria: Victoria looks down at her hands, flexing her fingers.
She feels powerful.
She doesn’t feel powers.
“How do you know what you can do?”
Jade: “Trial and error. Most of us have an affinity for disciplines that have been passed on from sire to childe for so long that they become ingrained in our blood. Our clan talents, as it were.”
“Others are taught. Take any Brujah off the street and you know he’ll be strong and fast. But you don’t expect to see him with claws.”
Victoria: Finally, Victoria smiles.
“I have an affinity for discipline, in a manner of speaking.”
Jade: That draws a laugh. “You were the ‘lawyer,’ then.”
Victoria: She snickers.
“You were there?”
Jade: “I heard secondhand.”
Victoria: “It was never about the money. It’s about sending a message.”
“…then, powers are hereditary? In the vampire way.”
Victoria: “Can you tell what I might have?”
Jade: “But you can learn from anyone. If you knew something I did not you could teach me, just as I could teach you. We learn through blood. It is only that our sire’s blood is our first taste.”
Victoria: She wrinkles her nose.
“Why don’t I remember drinking?”
Jade: “Because it killed you.”
Victoria: “Was their blood toxic?”
Jade: “The opposite. Their blood brings you back from death’s door. Your sire is your murderer and your savior.”
“You don’t want to remember dying.”
Victoria: “I don’t, no.”
She averts her eyes, if only for a moment.
“I… understand that you had to put on a show. I understand that you probably enjoyed it. You don’t become that creative without enjoying your work. Will you hurt me again?”
Jade: “At this time I have no intention to. Inevitably, we hurt everyone before the end.”
Victoria: She shrugs. It’s an acceptable answer.
“I want to learn a power.”
“Can you tell me what mine are supposed to be?”
She offers her wrist.
Jade: Jade fetches a beaker to serve as glass. Far be it from her to turn down a meal.
“Like this,” she says, showing Victoria how to use her fangs to cut into her wrist. But Victoria has no fangs, and Jade huffs at her. “They’ll grow back,” she says again, as if to herself. She passes the beaker off to Victoria and takes the offered arm.
Vic can feel the heat of Jade’s fingers on her arm. Then the soft touch of her lips, the points of her fangs. Jade withdraws without drinking, a smear of blood on the corner of her mouth.
“Our blood doesn’t flow so much as leak. It sits dead in our bodies until we need it, but once we beckon it heeds our call. Feel it now. Call it to do your bidding. Pour your blood into the beaker.”
Victoria: Rarely has Victoria felt more like a child than these moments. Oh well.
She wills her blood to leave through the pinpricks.
Jade: If it helps, all of them had to learn this at some point.
The blood flows. The more Victoria focuses on it the more it flows, as if it is not confined to the physical holes in her flesh. It doesn’t take long for Jade to say stop.
“Lick it,” she says, nodding to Victoria’s wrist. Jade lifts the beaker to eye-level. She swirls the blood like a sommelier with a wine glass, sniffs, then drinks.
Victoria: She licks her wrist, healing the wound.
“To think this entire world has been here my entire life…”
GM: It’s an interesting vintage. It’s sweet with lust, like Jade prefers, or at least did. Not so much these nights. It tastes like sex and steel and black leather, but faded… like a boat with chipped paint. It hasn’t been maintained lately. Sour notes of fear and bitter notes of anger are there, too, and quite out of place with the underlying sweet flavor. They’re crudely thrown on. Like ketchup over steak. Someone sees meat and goes ‘sauce’, but the flavors don’t complement one another. They don’t build into something greater. The steak is past its ‘use or freeze by’ date.
For all that, it’s blood, and Kindred blood. Headier than any human stuff will ever be. An inherently superior grade. But it’s coasting by on that fact alone.
It tastes, most of all, like someone once in control, who relishes being in control, who is no longer in control.
She thinks it would taste a lot better with that someone back in control.
Jade: Jade swallows it down. The blood slithers down her throat and makes itself right at home in Jade’s body. She savors the raw, smoky taste of the beast within the Beast. It lingers on her tongue like a woman’s perfume in the air, and she can see the shy, coquette smile that hides fangs.
None of it surprises her. She’d tasted it with that first nick of the knife.
But this taste is that much deeper, that much richer.
“Star mode,” Kalani says. “The ability to be charming, manipulate the emotions around you. Shadow dancing. You can appear or disappear at a whim, obscure your face, turn yourself into someone else. It’s all an illusion.”
“What isn’t an illusion,” Jade says, running her tongue across her fangs, “is that you can do it for real. You can shift.” There’s appropriate appreciation behind those words.
“I taste the blue blood. How many times did he make you drink?”
GM: Victoria hungers.
She was hungry at the start of the night.
She’s even hungrier now.
The Beast, momentarily quieted, rears to terrible life as her blood flows and Jade drinks. It screams at the sight of this other bloodsucker feeding where it does not. Where it grows thirstier?
The ravenous fledgling flies at Jade, hissing and spitting, death in her eyes and destruction in her hands.
Jade: Should have said no.
Still, another expectation. Jade waits. She waits. She waits. And then, when the lick launches herself forward, she rams the wooden stake through her chest.
GM: Victoria topples backwards onto the floor, face frozen in a hateful snarl.
The madness in the fledgling’s eyes eventually dims. It’s a peculiar expression, with her mouth still open, eyes narrowed, regrown fangs bared.
Victoria feels paralyzed. Her mind commands, but her body does not respond. Pain stabs through her chest.
She still thirsts, too.
How she thirsts.
Jade: Jade waits patiently for the Beast to finish its tantrum. She gets it.
All the same, when she says, “Let’s get that under control,” she leaves the stake where it is to feed the greenfang from her wrist.
Victoria: The Beast groans and grumbles, then roars in its envy.
Victoria only hears some of what Jade says, her words drowned out by the torrent of fury from her rampaging Beast.
Then, she leaps, assailing the woman with enough force to put her through the wall, and yet stopped short all the same. Helpless. Frozen. Staked.
If ever ‘internally screaming’ is a picture, it’s the frozen expression on her face.
Jade: Victoria tastes leather and lace. She tastes bubbles and roses and the color of the sky at dawn, then the cold bite of steel that gives way to a thrumming that slides all the way down. It’s vibrant but delicate, a teasing virgin.
Jade pulls the stake from Victoria.
Victoria: How is it that every individual person can taste so unique? Victoria has always enjoyed food, though her palette lacks the fine-tuned awareness that permeates every mouthful of blood since her new unlife began.
She sits up with a sharp inhale.
“I don’t like that.”
She looks at Jade with a mask of irritation, though, at herself.
More sheepishly, she adds, “…sorry. That’s not the first time that’s happened.”
Jade: “It won’t be the last time,” Jade says mildly. “But our society holds you responsible for what your Beast does. Tell your girl to keep one handy.” She gives the stake a little wiggle.
Victoria: The Beast bucks as she wiggles that stake, but settles once more. Her eyes are calm.
Jade: Jade offers a hand up.
“Did you hear any of that?”
Victoria: She takes the hand, pulling herself to her feet.
“Star mode?” she asks. “Like, from that video game about a plumber?”
Jade: “Precisely. There’s music and everything.”
Victoria: Victoria squints and stares.
Jade: Jade smiles benignly.
Victoria: “…perhaps you should explain again. Once more. Without my interruption.”
Jade: So she does!
Jade starts over. She tells Victoria about the supernatural charm, how she can wind people around her finger with a word or smile. Then the dancing; the hiding inside shadows and using illusion and mind tricks to go unobserved. It can even hide objects, deliver misinformation to the brain, and vanish buildings.
And shifting. Jade doesn’t forget to mention the shifting.
Victoria: She looks at her fingers, flexing them.
“I… can do all of that? Right now? I could even look like you, if I wanted to?”
GM: Her fingers on one hand remain broken and ugly.
Victoria: Maybe not so flawless.
“What can I do about this? Without him commanding me to allow it to heal?”
Jade: Jade explains.
Victoria: “Then… it’ll heal on its own? He told me that if I try, it’ll be permanently damaged.”
Jade: Jade arches one magnificently sculpted eyebrow.
“Why would it be permanently damaged? Did you die with broken fingers?”
Victoria: “N-no, but he commanded me to break them, and leave them broken.”
“…did he lie?”
Victoria: She wills her fingers to heal.
GM: The bones and flesh re-align.
Victoria’s Beast growls hungrily.
Victoria: “I’m gonna FUCKING MURDER HIM!”
She punches a nearby table.
Jade: “No,” Jade says sharply. “You are not. You are a nights-old greenfang that already pissed off the big players in the city, who now all think that you are dead. So you are going to swallow your pride, you are going to keep your mouth shut about McGinn, and you are going to let them continue to think that you are dead. You start spouting off, it’ll get back to them.”
Jade narrows her eyes at Vic.
“If they come knocking, you will taste my fury.”
“Wait a few years.”
Victoria: She stuffs that roaring beast back into its cage, draws a centering breath, and remains quiet for a moment.
“I’m gonna fucking murder him eventually.”
Ah, the difference one word can make.
Jade: Jade flashes a thumbs up.
“Your ghoul won’t heal as quickly. Use your blood as a stabilizer, not a magical cure-all. If something heals wrong you’ll need to re-break it all.”
Victoria: “My blood will help her, then?”
Victoria: “Can I see her?”
Jade: “Soon.” Jade taps the phone in her pocket. “She’s being brought over.”
“What do you plan to do so far as your identity? And hers. No one can know she, or you, survived.”
Victoria: “I don’t know,” she answers. “I’ve never had to craft an identity. I can change my appearance. I can change my name. I can never see my family again.”
She looks, for a moment, like Jade just punched her in the gut.
“Where do you even begin?”
Jade: “I started with a name.”
Victoria: “Easy enough. And how do you give up everyone you’ve ever known?”
“…you don’t think McGinn has cameras outside to make sure I died?”
Jade: She smirks. “We don’t show up on cameras.”
Victoria: Victoria stares.
Jade: “Vampire magic.”
Victoria: “What an elegant explanation.”
Jade: “You’re welcome.”
Jade waves a hand. “Audio recording picks us up, video doesn’t. It’s just kind of blurry.”
Victoria: “And he won’t see a blurry figure and a not blurry figure escaping over the wall into a not blurry van?”
Jade: “To be perfectly frank, you don’t matter enough for him to bother.”
Victoria: “That would annoy me if it didn’t mean I have a second chance.”
Jade: “There is power in flying beneath the radar.”
Victoria: “I see that. It’s the only reason I’m alive.”
She looks somewhat embarrassed.
“I need to eat.”
Jade: “Bastards, Caitiff, and abortions feed on Rampart. It’s slim picking. You could try Canal, but the skiff that way portions out their little hovels and might pick you up for poaching.” Jade gives Victoria a poignant look.
“We’re very territorial.”
“Best thing to do is find yourself an established lick you can tolerate and ask for rights in their domain.”
Victoria: Victoria offers Jade a look that shows she understands about as much as if she’d suddenly started speaking ancient Greek.
Jade: “We’re in different gangs and we fight you if you wear the wrong color on our turf.”
That makes much more sense.
“Am I in a gang now? A… vampire gang?”
Jade: “After I tattoo your face, yes.”
Victoria: “…you are joking.”
Victoria: “You’d rather tattoo my ass.”
Jade: Jade makes a twirling motion with her finger, then whistles. “Yes.”
Victoria: Victoria actually laughs.
“I prefer this side of you so much more than the artist.”
Jade: She flashes a smile.
“There’s a bar on St. Peters called The Howling Wolf. It’s at the edge of my domain. You may hunt there tonight. Do not be seen.”
“That will incur a debt on top of the life boon.”
Victoria: “Thank you. A debt is acceptable. What is entailed in the life boon?”
Jade: “Everything. Boons are what hold our society together. They are what we pay and accept as payment, and they cover… everything. Information, introductions, illicit deals.”
“They keep us honest.” Of a sort.
“I’ve traded blood for magic. I’ve traded intel for luck. I’ve paid boons for tutoring, learning skills, legal advice. They are as varied as the rest of us.”
“Those who try to wiggle out of them suffer the same fate regardless of rank or station.”
GM: “Most boons between Kindred are quid pro quo. This for that. A service for a service. Over and done.”
“But a life boon is different, darling. I earned a life boon by risking my unlife to save yours. That means any and all services I ask, you must render, until you save my unlife in kind. That means your unlife is mine, until you keep me from losing mine.”
“Because if the prince learns what I’ve done, I’m going to watch my last sunrise, you understand? By shielding you from the consequences of your crimes, I am guilty of your crimes, and will suffer the same fate as you.”
Victoria: Victoria listens in intent silence. A favor for a favor. This for that.
A life for a life.
“I would give you eternity for saving both Anna and I. But I’ll settle for one life of service.”
Jade: “There are worse licks to owe.” Jade glances at her watch. “Do you have other questions?”
“There’s a party tonight at the Evergreen. Feed before you go.” A quiet, considering look. “I advise against taking Anna. She is too obvious a chink in your armor.”
Victoria: She has a hundred thousand other questions, but they can wait.
“Do I just take someone off the street? I don’t want to break any more laws.”
Jade: “You can. Or go inside the bar and take a mark to the bathroom. Car. Alley. Wherever. Don’t be seen, that’s the rule. Don’t get caught feeding. Don’t let anyone know you’re a vampire, or that we exist. That’s what got you the second death sentence.”
A cheerful smile. “That’s the first rule of the Society of the Damned. Don’t talk about. Don’t break or even stretch the Masquerade.”
Victoria: “And when they start struggling…?”
Jade: “They won’t. Or at least shouldn’t. To them it feels good. To us as well.”
A knowing smile.
“That’s how we fuck.”
Victoria: Victoria wrinkles her brow in missing understanding, but doesn’t ask for an explanation.
“All right. What’s the dress code for the party? Given I have… nothing.”
Jade: “Find a handsome boy. Use your charm on him. He’ll come readily.”
Victoria: “I meant for clothing.”
She gestures to herself.
GM: There’s a knock on the door.
Victoria: She looks to the door, then Jade.
GM: “Come in, darling,” calls Jade.
The woman who enters is a vision of beauty, from her straight black hair to her toned, lithe body. Every inch of her is sculpted perfection. Her cheekbones are high and reflect the light with dark highlighter. Delicate freckles dot her nose. Her eyes are large, black pools that someone could fall into, and her lips are full with a prominent cupid’s bow. Her face is made up with full glam. Her hair is blonde and neck-length.
“Hello, mistress,” the woman beams towards Jade. Victoria can instantly tell she isn’t a vampire. Not with a beating heart like that.
The woman approaches the vampire and gives her a very friendly kiss on the lips that Jade returns. She giggles delightedly as the vampire slips an arm around her waist.
“Alana, this is… well, darling, I suppose there’s no time like the present for you to decide on something new,” Jade says, looking towards Victoria.
“Oh, never mind,” she then declares impatiently, looking down at her slender wristwatch. “Sort that out yourself, but you’re not going to be Victoria Wolf at Lord Savoy’s party.”
“This,” Jade then says, squeezing the comely woman’s waist, “is Alana. She’s one of mine. And she’s such a good girl, isn’t she?” Jade runs a hand through the ghoul’s hair.
“Thank you, mistress,” Alana beams.
“She’ll help you settle you in,” says Jade, looking back towards Victoria. “That includes clothes, any further questions, and your Anna.”
“Alana, this is no-longer-Victoria. You already know her, of course.”
“I do,” says Alana, who offers a pretty smile. “Charmed.”
Victoria: Victoria watches with quiet caution. She’s human. That much is clear.
Yet, still a threat. Everything is a threat.
“…I’m going to be living here?”
Jade: “Settled in to Kindred society,” Jade clarifies.
Victoria: She hopes a law book will be provided.
“She is… like Anna?”
Victoria: “Ghoul. Which means… has drank blood but not become a vampire? And serves us?”
Jade: “Essentially, yes. They don’t age. They get less sick. Their bodies are more hardy. They can learn our abilities, as well. I’ve taught Alana plenty of tricks.” Jade squeezes her waist.
GM: Alana fairly beams at Jade.
Victoria: She notes the squeeze, but doesn’t comment. Never will she be a hypocrite.
“Thank you, Miss Kalani.”
Jade: “You may call me Jade.”
She makes it sound like a privilege.
Victoria: It feels like a privilege.
“Thank you, Jade.”
And may you never take me apart again.
The lord councilor, however…
Her eyes settle on Alana.
“How is it that you know me?”
GM: Alana laughs.
“I was there when Haymaker brought you in, of course. I got the doors for him.”
“He had you in a very romantic bridal carry.”
Victoria: Haymaker must be another vampire.
“Charming, I’m sure. Perhaps we can do with a shower and clothing, to start?”
GM: Jade waves a hand. “Take care of it, darling.”
Saturday night, 9 April 2016, PM
GM: After replying, “Of course, mistress,” the ghoul leads Victoria past a heavy door into a waiting room that looks inspired by Turkish and Russian bath houses, with marble flooring, furniture, and walls.
It smells very nice in the room: like lavender; citrus; rosemary; bergamot; lemon, orange and eucalyptus. Spa smells.
Another door leads Victoria and the ghoul into a peaceful, equally sweet-smelling room with gauzy curtains, potted plants, and soft lights. Instead of candles, though, all of the lights look artificial. There are hooks for clothing and cubbies for shoes, with fresh robes in black.
“In case you’re tired of wandering around naked,” says Alana, retrieving one of the robes.
“They’re black because that color hides bloodstains best,” she smiles.
“White’s just a nightmare, you know. Bad color.”
Victoria: Victoria follows the ghoul with notes of caution. They’re friendly—for the moment—but given the rampant betrayal and changing climate of every moment of her new unlife, she’s all but entirely expecting a knife in the back and a chorus of laughter.
Still, she won’t turn down clothing.
“Thank you,” she says, wrapping the robe about herself.
“All right, then. What do you think I need to know about this world?”
GM: It’s soft and comfortable.
Not that she’s fared worse under hard and uncomfortable.
“Darling, I’ll answer your questions, but I’m not going to come up with them for you,” laughs the ghoul.
“Let’s get you cleaned up now,” she says as they proceed through some more rooms into a vichy shower.
“You couldn’t have picked a better place to show up in need of a shower, you know,” Alana says with another laugh, before calling for Victoria to disrobe.
The shower’s multiple heads cascade water onto Victoria’s entire body to simulate rainfall. Alana has her lie down and massages the vampire with soap and sweet-swelling scents and oils. Her muscles might be dead, but the experience still feels luxurious. The blood and grime of previous nights swirls away into the floor drain.
Alana doesn’t talk during the shower, seemingly respecting Victoria’s own silence. She rubs, scrubs, and massages the vampire until she’s clean and nice-smelling again, dries her off with a fluffy towel, invites her to slip the robe back on, and then leads her outside.
“Your ghoul’s this way, I’m sure she’ll want to see you.”
Victoria: She offers the ghoul a tart expression at the non-answering answer.
As they enter the shower room—it’s much too much to call it a ‘bathroom’—Victoria pauses. When she awoke into this strange, new world—a world that’s existed beneath her feet and in shadowed corners since long before she could form words—it was with chaos, and violence; it was with uncontrollable rage, and all the ill-placed restraint of a starved animal. The world is cruel, and cold, and bloody, and terrifying; but, the more she lives, the more she understands: It’s no different than the world she’s lived in all along.
It wasn’t restraint and control that she lacked. It was culture. Culture in the same way that the common tribes of the dark continent lacked when they were liberated and ascended into the world of man by her own forefathers.
Does that mean she was ‘black’ for a few nights?
It feels that way.
And so she ascends, through hot water, scented oils, divine soaps, and a massage fit for a queen, and in the end: culture.
“How is she feeling?” she asks, slipping back on the robe.
She feels just a little better when she’s cleaner.
GM: McGinn and Adelais certainly treated her like she was black.
Alana continues to smile on the way to the shower like Victoria is offering one of her own.
“Pretty bad,” Alana answers once the shower-cum-massage is over and she’s dried off Victoria.
“Mistress spared enough juice to stabilize her condition, but anything past that comes from you. She’s still pretty hurt. So she’s stayed in bed and been sleeping a lot.”
“Mistress also had me answer her questions about things once she was awake.”
The two walk past more treatment rooms into what feels like an employee area of the building. They stop outside a door.
“Your rennie’s inside,” says Alana. “I’ll give you two some time together. But first, what sorts of clothes would you like for the party?”
Victoria: She stops beside Alana, offering a nervous look in reply. Would the sight of a broken Anna break her again?
She’s not sure how much more broken she can be.
“What would fit best for the party? I’ve never been to a…”
Party with this kind of people.
Are they people?
Or would the party be mostly the living?
“Whatever you think is best,” she shrugs. She doesn’t care.
She reaches for the door.
GM: The ghoul hmphs.
“Oh come. Pick something. Weren’t you a dominatrix?”
“You can wear anything you want, as outrageous as you want.”
Victoria: Outrageous. Tame. Outrageous. Tame. Middling? Middling is boring. Boring is safe. Boring was safe, but then the world was turned upside down.
Is this a test?
“A dress? Something refined, but expressive; something with personality, but that isn’t too loud.”
Something that isn’t her.
Victoria isn’t sure, and it shows, but she waits for how Alana receives it.
GM: “You got it,” Alana says simply.
If the ghoul has any further feelings on the matter, they aren’t apparent on her face.
It’s as much a question as it is a request.
GM: “You can wear whatever you want,” repeats Alana.
Victoria: “Heels. Also red.”
“…no more than two inches.”
GM: “Two-inch heels,” says Alana.
Victoria: “Two-inch heels.”
Why the specificity?
“Am I going to regret that?”
GM: The ghoul’s heels look closer to four.
“Well, you can’t get blisters anymore.”
She’d trade permanent blisters to be back in her bed a month ago.
“Can I see her now?”
GM: “Knock yourself out,” Alana answers.
She asks Victoria’s clothing and shoe sizes, then leaves.
Victoria: She opens the door.
If her heart could hammer, it would build a house.
Saturday night, 9 April 2016, PM
GM: Victoria walks into what looks like the salon manager’s office. It’s tastefully decorated with pinks and flowers. Like the rest of the salon, it smells very nice. There’s a desk with a computer, phone, and assorted papers on it.
There’s also a couch with a pull-out bed. Anna lies there, swaddled in a blanket. Last night she looked almost dead. Whipped and beaten three-fourths to her death. Now she looks closer to half-dead. Her face has a black eye, partly healed split lip, and bruises everywhere. There are some bandages over her head.
Victoria can’t see what the rest of her injuries look like, underneath the blankets. She remembers well how Adelais and McGinn whipped her until she couldn’t walk unassisted, and how Alana said she’s “still pretty hurt”.
But Victoria can’t smell any fresh blood.
“Sylvie…?” Anna croaks, tilting her head towards the door.
Victoria: Victoria crosses the room in half a heartbeat, nearly knocking into the bed. She leans down, stopping halfway to a hug that would have sent Anna back to three-fourths dead. It’s painful to resist.
“A-anna? Are you okay?”
She fumbles with the blankets, gently patting, and feeling—are all her limbs still there?
GM: Anna visibly winces at the contact, but that doesn’t stop her from sinking into the hug. Melting into it. She feels so fragile. Made of such vulnerable flesh and blood, next to the dead woman who’s walking about like nothing even happened. Like her own death never happened.
Anna rests her head against Victoria. She answers the question with a slow nod.
Then, after a few moments:
“You… said I was your… wife,” she gets out. “I said… you were mine…”
She slowly pulls away to look Victoria in the eyes. Hers are wet.
“Isn’t that… we both said… we were married…”
Victoria: Victoria softens at the wince of pain. Even gentler, she’s still stronger than she’s ever been.
So fragile. Was she that fragile before?
She offers Anna a puzzled expression.
“What… do you mean?”
GM: Anna swallows.
“We… told them… both… we were married… remember…?”
Victoria: The past few days feel about as clear as a muddy lake in a hurricane.
She finally completes the hug, pulling Anna against her—gently.
“We’ve been married for a long, long time,” she answers. “And we’ll be married a long time yet. If you can be strong through all of this.”
She pauses, drawing back just enough to look into the teacher’s eyes.
“Can you be strong?”
GM: Anna still winces faintly at the contact, but doesn’t pull away.
Her nod is slow. Her eyes are weary. But they are firm.
“I want… to get married… officially,” she gets out.
“As soon as… possible. We can… see a judge… have a ceremony later…”
Victoria: Victoria simply squeezes her arm.
“Rest. You need to be able to stand for that.”
GM: “When… when I can… I want… to invite our families, and… just stop, hiding it…”
“I want to wear…. white. And I think you should wear… black. Wouldn’t that… be fitting…?”
Victoria: “And fuck all of them who have something to say,” she purrs, nuzzling their foreheads together.
“…you look good in black.”
GM: Anna returns the motion and gives a light, cough-like laugh.
“Is that… literal…?”
Victoria: Victoria remains silent for a long moment, before a faint smirk crosses her face.
GM: “Alana said… drinking your blood will… get me better…”
Victoria: “Do you want to try, Anna?” she asks, gentle.
GM: “Y… yes! I don’t want to stay like this!” Anna entreats.
Victoria: Victoria raises her wrist to her lips, fighting the lingering insanity in opening her own vein so casually, and…
She remembers her missing teeth. Right.
She looks around for something sharp, expecting to find nothing at all.
Jade: There are plenty of sharp things at Flawless, especially in the office where Victoria and Anna converse. The newly-minted vampire finds a pair of scissors, a letter opener, and even a switch blade (if she digs deep enough under the couch cushion, and who knows how it got there). The handle has an “R” engraved on it.
Victoria: Scissors? No. Gross. Never sharp enough.
A letter opener? Nope.
She flips open the switch blade, gingerly nicking her wrist. She holds it out to Anna.
GM: Anna takes the wrist with both hands and immediately falls on it.
The effect is just as immediate.
Her split lip mends. Her black eye turns purple, then red, and shrinks. Her once-faltering grip strengthens.
Victoria feels hungrier with every second that Anna drinks.
She feels like the great cat inside her chest is getting larger and angrier with every second that Anna drinks.
And clawing all the harder to get out.
Anna, oblivious, doesn’t stop. Bruises still mar her face.
Victoria: Victoria pulls the welling life away, conscious of that cat’s growing discontentment. She won’t let Anna lay there in pain, nor will she risk killing her.
It’s a promise she knows knows she can’t keep.
“Shhh… I know you want more. I can’t give you more. Not yet.”
GM: Anna stares at her girlfriend.
Victoria has never seen a look of such total, abject want and dependence on someone’s face before.
Not with any submissive in the deepest recesses of subspace.
Anna looks like an atomic bomb could detonate behind her and she wouldn’t even blink.
She seems to take a moment to find her voice.
“When,” she gets out.
Victoria: Hunger. Pure hunger. It’s the look Anna gets every time she passes a construction site, given to extremes.
Victoria places a gentle hand on Anna’s throat.
“When I allow it.”
GM: The touch seems to hit her like a maximum setting vibrator.
“When,” she repeats hoarsely.
Victoria: Gently but firmly, Victoria presses her into the bed. “After I eat and return from the party.”
GM: Anna doesn’t try to remain sat up, though there is some resistance from her body.
“Can I come with you?”
Victoria: “Not feeling like you are, you can’t. If you heal well and rest—and not finagle your way out through Alana—I’ll take you to another party.”
GM: “I’m feeling a lot better,” says Anna, brushing her hair. “Really.”
“Don’t you think it’s better if we stick together, after… everything?”
Victoria: The gaze with which she looks upon Anna is both understanding and somber.
“Not this time. Not after last time.”
GM: “But what about next time?”
“Alana says there’s lots of vampires.”
Victoria: “We’ll see, Anna,” she answers with continued cool. “We need to better understand our new world before we risk something so precious and breakable.”
GM: Anna doesn’t look like she has any argument against that.
“I knew the answer,” she says. “To his question about the Confederate flag’s origins.”
“Yours was… don’t take this the wrong way, but it was exactly the answer that a student who didn’t know the answer would give.”
Anna’s smile may takes some of the words’ sting away.
GM: “‘Reflective of changing values.’ I mean, yes, that describes literally every country’s new flag!”
Victoria: You can take the teacher out of the classroom, but never the classroom out of the teacher. It must have taken everything in Anna not to correct her on the spot.
“And what would you have answered with, dear teacher?”
GM: It took a vampire promising death if she spoke out of turn.
“It was the battle flag of the Army of Northern Virginia. The Confederate civilian government never actually used it, except as part of the design on the last of their three flags, and that flag was only used during the final months of the war.”
“Lee’s flag was introduced on the battlefield because it was easy to distinguish from the Union’s, unlike the stars and bars flag, and had as little of the ‘Yankee blue’ as possible. It was used by the United Confederate Veterans, and the later Sons of Confederate Veterans and United Daughters of the Confederacy, because that was the flag they or their ancestors fought under. They were very civically active groups, so Lee’s battle flag became the flag most people now associate with the Confederacy.”
Victoria: “Spoken like a true racist,” she says, patting her partner’s cheek. “Would that I’d let you speak in my place—perhaps we’d have been sipping from crystal with him right now. Instead, we’re learning how to live in death.”
“Twice over, it seems.”
GM: Anna looks confused at those words, but leaves in to Victoria’s hand.
“He was… he was sick,” she shivers. “I don’t think we would. Or for long. He’d have done something else to us, eventually.”
“I’m just glad we got away.”
Victoria: Her fingers curl, leaving only her thumb to stroke Anna’s cheek.
“He was. Is. We’re lucky—or, we’re being played. Either way, for the moment we’re safe, and we should be grateful for that.”
Victoria pushes herself off the bed, leaving her partner to rest.
“You can have more later, if you stay in bed and try to sleep. You’re not well. You will be. Okay?”
Unless Anna stops her, she turns to leave the room.
As the door closes behind her, leaving Anna behind, she wonders if she will ever see her again. If today, then tomorrow? If tomorrow, then for how long? She’s leaving her most precious possession to rest in a nest of vampires. A nest that—for now—has given her reason to trust them.
How long will that last?
The deeper she’s dug into the shadows behind New Orleans, the less reason she’s had to trust anyone at all.
Though, that’s not true, is it? It’s only become more deadly when trust is misplaced.
She leaves Anna there to rest. At least these people seem like they care enough to keep them alive for the moment. That, she can trust.
Saturday night, 9 April 2016, PM
GM: Alana gets back with clothes before Victoria heads out. She’s brought a selection of red dresses and shoes.
One pair of heels, as requested, is red and two inches high. It’s in a chunkier sandal style.
The other two pairs are significantly higher stilettos in black and white.
“Tah-dah,” says Alana. She lays all of the clothes and shouts out along a massage table. “You’re lucky that Mistress has so many spare clothes. And that I’m a fast shopper, since you’re nowhere near the same size.”
All of the ghoul’s words sound like so much droning, though, next to the thumping heartbeats pumping blood through her veins.
Victoria has to concentrate to clearly make them out.
How would she taste?
Victoria: Her examination of the clothing slows to a crawl, then stops, as Alana’s appetizing thumps grow louder.
How would she taste? Not as good as Anna. Nothing will ever be as exquisite a delicate as Anna.
Her very own, private delight.
She shakes her head.
“I need to eat. If I dress now, I’m going to make a damn mess.”
One she may not be able to hide, even knowing she has to.
GM: Alana stares at the bathrobe-dressed vampire who says she needs to eat.
And who isn’t going to dress to go out.
“I’m not feeding you,” the ghoul says flatly, all smile gone from her face. “I’m not yours.”
“Feed from me, and Mistress will turn your spine into a pretzel.”
Victoria: Victoria-no-more shrugs.
“I don’t want to feed from you. I find a problem in dressing for the party, then making a mess of myself eating.”
Making the assumption that it will be a mess.
But it doesn’t have to be, does it?
Her face tenses.
“Your mistress has more faith in me than I do. At least in that regard.”
GM: “Fine,” says Alana. “Dress however you like.”
Victoria: Victoria gives her a look between regret and apology.
“I didn’t mean…”
She shakes her head.
“I just don’t want them filthy before the party.”
She holds up the butterfly gown.
“Won’t this look out of place at a bar?”
But not the party, clearly, or it wouldn’t be here.
GM: Alana rolls her eyes.
“Mistress doesn’t care what happens to the clothes.”
“Dress however you like.”
Victoria: Would vampires care if she showed up to a party garbed in bloody clothing?
Her expression asks the question for her.
Victoria snags the shorter, red dress, and the shorter sandals to match. It isn’t entirely the regal elegance she original pictured, but will be more functional. Given she has to eat first.
GM: “What?” says Alana.
Victoria: She shakes her head.
She dresses quickly, while she speaks.
“Mirror? Would Miss Kalani be available to talk sometime in the next few days? I have a few more questions for her.”
GM: “You’ll be going to the party together,” says Alana.
Victoria: She’s more relieved than a ‘yes’ would have given her.
“Will I be finding my own way to the bar, or will she be coming there, too?”
GM: Alana gives a look as if Victoria asked whether they’d be holding hands, too.
“She has other things to do. She’s not your mother.”
Victoria: She clicks her tongue.
“Right. So she’ll be meeting me there. Got it. Do you have any idea what the recently deceased might do to access funds without drawing any suspicion?”
GM: “You’ll come back here and leave together,” says Alana.
“And I guess that depends what funds.”
Victoria: “Enough to live on for a while, kept in index funds. Some cash in the bank. Do you think McG—Lord Councilor would keep a watch on my accounts to ensure I’m dead? Is it safe to withdraw? I don’t want to give him suspicion, especially if it’d lead him to you and Miss Kalani.”
GM: Alana looks at Victoria like she’s stupid.
Victoria: “…I can’t be the first person to ask that question.”
Maybe she is. How many people escape that grounds and live to think of the question?
GM: “Forget all of that money,” says Alana.
Victoria: Victoria breathes a sigh. How the fuck are they going to survive? One of them still needs to eat normal food.
“Forgotten. I suppose it was a dumb question. All right, I’ll ask the obvious question—how the fuck do the ‘dead’ get started? I can’t imagine Miss Kalani expects me to walk to the bar.”
But she’s not going to be given the answer, is she? In some way, this is probably to their amusement: to watch the once-predator-turned-kitten struggle to find her footing in a world she doesn’t know how to take the first step in. Beyond their guidance.
So, what then?
Take a cab and bolt on the fare? Maybe—but flagging herself if the cabbie calls the police would only cause problems.
Public transit? She wrinkles her nose at the thought.
She can’t depend on them forever.
“Does Miss Kalani have a spare car? Just to travel to the bar and back.”
Jade: “The Quarter is one of the most walkable parts of any city anywhere,” Alana says archly.
“It’s a mile and a half away. Mistress left your legs intact.”
Victoria: “Bless that she did,” she answers, weathering the insult.
Victoria finishes readying herself, and turns to leave. Hand on the door, she looks back to Alana.
“Anything else I should know?”
Jade: “Don’t get caught.”