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Changeling: Malibu Dream House (Actual Play)

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  • It’s like The Hangover, but horrible. So, like The Hangover, basically.

    Session CLI

    Lorelei’s Diary

    That… is not how I saw my first full day as sitting monarch playing out.

    Oh, things started off well enough. I extricated myself from a larger-than-usual pile of tangled limbs after most of the other participants fell asleep, threw on a pair of sweatpants and an old t-shirt, went to the media room, and studied until it was time to take my online classes. And yes, I know that technically I could do the online assignments any time I want to as long as I get them done before the deadline… but it helps me organize my thoughts when I have a schedule, so I tend to hit the web pretty quickly after the professors update the courses.

    Most of the previous evening’s guests had slunk off in shame – or strutted off in pride, I suppose – by the time I finished up my schoolwork and headed downstairs for Sex Breakfast. I put on some eggs and started some toast, and it wasn’t long before Calamity joined me, fresh from her Tai Chi session with White Maria. Jacob was next with the coffee as usual, and the others filed in shortly thereafter.

    Talk ranged all over the place at first. Calamity mentioned that she’d heard on the radio on her way back from White Maria’s that someone had stolen a “Barney” costume from a local TV station in L.A. the previous evening. “Fife, Rubble, or Miller?” I asked curiously, and got the usual laughs in response. Apparently “Barney” is a very popular children’s TV character that sprung up sometime in the 90s. He’s a talking purple dinosaur that teaches kids about love and basic mathematics, or something like that. I opined that this prehistoric preschool predator couldn’t possibly be a match for the classic kids’ TV hosts of my youth, like Captain Kangaroo, and got nothing but a bunch of blank looks. So that was depressing.

    “So how was your girls’ night out, Calamity?” I asked in an effort to change the subject. Such an innocent question…

    I think Calamity was going to brush it off at first, but a few comments from Jacob revealed that her evening had been far more “interesting” than she’d been willing to admit. Here are the basics as I understood them at the time:

    In an attempt to avoid being in Madame Spidertoes’ presence, Calamity and Stasia had taken an Uber to a relatively upscale strip club in L.A. After an indeterminate amount of time, the bartender cut them both off. Neither was ready to end their evening just yet, so they called another Uber in the hopes of finding another bar.

    Calamity found someone she describes as “Señor Cardgage,” whom she assumed was the Uber driver even though he appeared to be wearing a ski mask – or possibly a luchador mask – and breaking into a parked vehicle (I did mention that she was pretty wasted by this point, didn’t I?). “Señor Cardgage” decided to play along with Calamity’s request for a ride for reasons of his own, and took the girls to another strip joint, this one populated almost entirely by Hispanic patrons and staff.

    Here’s where the story gets kind of hazy. After indulging in a bit more Cuervo, Calamity and Stasia both have gaps in their memory. They know that at some point “Señor Cardgage” took them to a third club, populated mostly by people of some indeterminate Southeast Asian heritage (Calamity is pretty sure they weren’t Chinese, Japanese, or Korean, and hazarded a guess that the club might have catered primarily to Vietnamese, Cambodian, or Laotian clients).

    Calamity remembered getting a lap dance from an attractive Asian lady with red hair, big boobs, and a distinctive phoenix tattoo. After that, all either of them had to go on were fleeting images and disconnected scenes. They know that they were chased by dogs at some point, in what seemed to be an apartment building. The next thing either of them remembers clearly is waking up at Stasia and Elena’s apartment. Calamity was covered in blood and had a name written on her arm, though it was smudged (she thinks it might have been either Lee or Jee). Each of them had a fairly large quantity of methamphetamines stuffed in their pockets.

    So naturally, Calamity assumes that someone – probably the red-headed stripper – hired her to kill someone else – presumably Lee or Jee – and that she did so, and was paid in highly illegal, highly dangerous drugs. And all this was happening while I was accepting responsibility for the Freehold (well, technically it was probably mostly happening during the traditional post-inauguration orgy, but that’s neither here nor there). Elena was understandably upset by this development, but chose to focus most of her ire on the fact that her fiancée Stasia arrived smelling like another woman. She kicked the two of them out, they called Jacob, and he brought them back to the Dream House and hosed them down.

    So that left us in a bit of a spot. Since Calamity couldn’t actually remember what happened that night, she was understandably eager to fill in the blanks. She was relatively certain that she didn’t have anything to do with the missing Barney costume, though she said that she wouldn’t put it past “Señor Cardgage.” We checked the GPS tracking feature on their phones and found the locations of the three bars they’d visited (as well as a truly epic tale of their journeys between said locations, indicating that “Señor Cardgage” had driven at roughly 114 miles per hour at one point) but they’d both had the sense to turn their phones off while the presumed contract killing was taking place.

    We made a few calls before setting out for L.A. First, Calamity texted Viktor, our vampire friend, to ask if any of the local kindred’s various operations had been upset unexpectedly on the previous evening. He informed her that to the best of his knowledge her little jaunt hadn’t interfered with their machinations in the least… though he did ask if she was the one setting fire to buildings while dressed as Barney. Apparently the local news agencies are suppressing that little tidbit.

    Calamity then called Victor-with-a-C, her contact in the L.A. Day Court, and posed a similar question. Victor also assured her that the Court of Fallen Angels hadn’t lost any assets or experienced any unexpected upsets on the previous evening, which was something of a relief (though honestly, since the incident in question occurred at night, he didn’t seem to think it was his problem in any case). Dealing with an inter-freehold incident fomented by my own motley on my first full day as Queen wasn’t my idea of a good time.

    I called V next (and what’s with L.A. and all the V names, I ask you?) to let him know that we’d be coming to his Freehold, so as not to raise any eyebrows. When a foreign head of state comes calling without notice it tends to get people talking. V nonchalantly informed me that it was none of his business since our visit would be taking place during the day (the Diurnal Courts are so fucking weird), so I sighed, thanked him, hung up, and used Calamity’s phone to call Victor back.

    “Yes, Calamity?” he asked somewhat irritably.

    “Sorry, Victor,” I said, “this is Lorelei de la Rocha, Queen of the Lady by the Sea. I’m using Calamity’s phone.”

    “Ah,” he replied. “What can I do for you, Your Majesty?”

    “Just wanted to let you know that I’ll be visiting the Los Angeles area today with my motley to look into whatever the hell happened to Calamity last night. We shouldn’t be there too long, and I don’t anticipate running across any of your people, but I wanted to let you know as a courtesy.”

    He took that in stride. “Thanks, Your Majesty,” he said after a moment, “I’ll pass the information along to the appropriate people.” I thanked him and we disconnected.

    So Calamity used her tracking contracts and quickly learned the direction and approximate distance of the mysterious redhead. We piled into the van and headed toward L.A. Of course, no road trip to the seedier parts of the City of Angels would be complete without some highway craziness… and that little jaunt was no exception. This time traffic was stopped because one motorist objected to the fact that another had two copulating dogs in the bed of his pickup truck. Calamity tried to defuse the situation with words, but what eventually got things moving again was D firing a pistol into the air.

    As we made our way to the stripper’s location, Calamity recognized another building… she vaguely remembered it from her activities the previous evening. We marked its location, but at that time decided that it would be more efficient to speak with the stripper first, as Calamity’s tracking magic would fade if she paused in the hunt for more than a minute or so. It wasn’t too much further in any case.

    We made our way into another large apartment building, up several floors, to a particular unit. The door was closed and locked, and nobody answered our knock (we assumed that the occupant was asleep). One of the neighbors, an elderly lady of indeterminate Southeast Asian descent, was giving us the stink-eye, but apparently didn’t speak English, as she answered our inquiries about the apartment’s occupant in some language none of us recognized.

    Since we had the apartment’s location, we decided to visit the other building and come back later in the hopes that the red-headed stripper would wake up in the interim. We didn’t actually get in to the other apartment, but we got answers nonetheless. A group of terribly nice gang members was sitting on the front steps, talking about something in a language none of us knew. They stopped us from entering, but seemed to be in a good mood, so they were willing to chat for a few minutes.

    It turns out that someone was murdered in the building on the previous night, but everyone agreed that the guy in question was a pretty bad dude… and they assured us that this was not just because he was a member of a rival gang. When Calamity sort of surreptitiously claimed credit for the deed, the gangers got even happier, and assured us that we had nothing to worry about as far as they were concerned. In fact, they seemed to find the whole thing pretty funny.

    I should mention that we never received any proof that this murder had anything to do with Calamity and Stasia’s jaunt. The young men we spoke with didn’t recognize the name “Lee or Jee” at all (the murdered man’s name was “Vien”), and they didn’t know anything about any dogs in the building. But Calamity seems to be convinced that this is tied to her activities, and she did recognize the building as we drove past it, so maybe I’m just being paranoid.

    So we went back to the other apartment building and tried knocking again. Still no answer. Marguerite used her… “unique physiology” to crawl in through the mail slot and unlock the door for us, which unfortunately scared the living daylights out of the old lady down the hall, who clutched at her chest and retreated into her own apartment before I could check to see if she was okay.

    Long story short, it was the right apartment. We spoke with its occupant – the red-headed busty Asian stripper – through her cracked bedroom door. This was after she’d checked to make sure that the apartment’s other occupant, her four-year-old daughter, was alive and okay. We’d seen the little girl as we entered, though of course we didn’t do anything to harm or scare her.

    She confirmed that she had met Calamity at the club where she works the previous evening, and that she had shared a bit about her life and her demented scum of an ex-boyfriend. He apparently still came around frequently, stored his drugs at her place, and beat both her and her daughter. Calamity didn’t take the news well, got the scumbag’s location, and took care of the situation. Though she never actually asked Calamity to kill him, the stripper gave her all of her ex’s crystal meth, both in gratitude and as a way of getting rid of the evidence. So that solves at least part of that little mystery. Calamity also asked enough questions to determine that Stasia’s evening was relatively innocent… she got felt up by a few strippers, but things didn’t go further than that.

    The stripper was understandably anxious about having her ex’s murderer at her apartment, and asked us to leave as quickly as we could. We saw how sensible that was (in a classic “Strangers On a Train” sense), so we left the stripper’s apartment and prepared to go home. Unfortunately, some of Vien’s friends had other ideas. They had noticed that we visited Vien’s ex and had spent some time in her apartment, and wanted to know what we were doing there.

    Calamity tried to defuse the situation by telling the angry men a partial truth… namely that we’d gone to the stripper’s apartment to determine what happened with Stasia on the previous evening in an attempt to clear things up with her girlfriend. They weren’t buying the story, and they wanted Calamity to get in the car. We were adamant that our friend wasn’t going anywhere without us, though Calamity actually wanted to go with them and speak with their boss, to nip this in the bud and hopefully avoid further trouble in the future.

    Then D threw an SUV at them. That put an end to the conversation pretty quickly. Three of them ended up under the vehicle, while the others were knocked back and stunned. Nobody seemed interested in pursuing further violence at that point, so we got back in the van and headed back to Malibu.

    After that it was all damage control and preparing for movie night (we watched “Strangers On a Train,” naturally, and a bootleg copy of a newer movie called “Carol,” which was based on The Price of Salt, also by Patricia Highsmith, if you’re interested). Stasia wanted to make things right with Elena, and asked for my help. I read her desires, and found that she genuinely wanted to make things right… not to cover up her transgressions or somehow “trick” Elena into taking her back. She really wanted to make up for what she’d done and properly earn her love’s forgiveness.

    I sympathized with her, but I think we all knew that I wasn’t the proper person to initiate the process of reconciliation. Jacob went to speak with his sister about the situation, to see where things stood. Elena is really pissed about Stasia’s unfaithfulness. As Julia pointed out, though Stasia didn’t actually have full-on sex with anyone else, Elena might have a different definition of what exactly “cheating” entails.

    Elena is blocking Stasia’s calls and not answering her texts. She doesn’t want to meet with Stasia in person. It’s not that she’s completely opposed to reconciling with her fiancée, but she’s afraid that if she speaks with Stasia directly, Stasia will use her “bad girl” feminine wiles and puppy-dog eyes to worm her way back into Elena’s heart without real contrition or atonement for her misdeeds. Jacob convinced her that, when she’s ready, she should meet with Stasia along with a neutral mediator who can ensure that no trickery or emotional manipulation is employed, to see if they can continue their relationship. And who gets to be the arbiter of this little chat? You guessed it!

    So hope is kindled on the mortal romantic front, though there’s still a long way to go and a lot of hard work along the way. As far as my own life goes, I can’t really complain. My first full day as reigning Queen didn’t go in any way as I thought it might, but at least the issues that cropped up were mundane and (relatively) easily resolved. I can’t complain about the way my day ended, either. I’ve made no secret of the fact that my wife’s enormous strength is a huge turn-on for me, and seeing her defend the motley by hurling that SUV earlier had really gotten my motor running. I spent most of the ride home leaning up against her and stroking her biceps, and as soon as we got back to the Dream House I carried her upstairs and ravished her until we were both panting. And I demanded a repeat performance after the movies, too.

    I grabbed a few hours of sleep, blissfully snuggled up against my honey’s chest. Now I’m writing idly in this diary as I wait for Becky to finish getting ready for our usual Tuesday morning trip to UCLA. And from the sound of footfalls on the stairs, I’m guessing it’s nearly time to go. Until next time!

    Lorelei de la Rocha

    Jacob’s Journal

    Okay, so last night was not a bad dream and Calamity and Stasia did go out and do something stupid. I came down for breakfast this morning and started making coffee for everyone while Lori cooked eggs and toast. Once everyone was there Lori started things off by asking Calamity how her night out was. That got the ball rolling. I have a feeling that Calamity was going to whitewash things, or leave things out, but I stepped in and recounted what I knew of their exploits. At least the aftermath that I witnessed. Calamity then decided to go all in and the whole story came out. It seems that Stasia and Calamity went out to a bar, and after they had what I’d likely call enough to drink, they were cut off. So they went out to the parking lot to meet an Uber to take them to another bar, but met a man in a mask breaking into a car instead. Calamity in her drunken state decided that this was the Uber driver and called him Senor Cardgage. It’s from some internet cartoon. Anyway, the masked man decided to play along and took the two girls to another bar that would serve them despite their obvious state of inebriation. Things got hazy at this point. Okay, to be fair things were hazy for the whole night, but they got a bit more so at this point in the tale.

    They left the second bar and then went to a strip club where Calamity met a well-endowed red-headed Asian woman and they got to talking. Stasia at this point was watching the strippers and getting felt up by some of them who were obviously taking advantage of her state. Stasia did not really try and stop them. I’m not sure if she really could have at that point without it being likened to swatting at gnats. In her favor Stasia didn’t go any further than getting fondled by strippers, so there’s that. At least Elena doesn’t need to deal with her lover having cheated on her. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

    Calamity got it in her head to find the red-headed woman and talk to her and find out what happened last night. Before she did that though she called Victor and Viktor and asked both of them if she did anything last night that infringed on their territory. They both said no. Though Victor did say that since it happened at night it was none of his business. So Lori called V and let him know that we were coming to L.A. for the afternoon. He said that was fine. It seems that Calamity did not do anything that infringed on the Day or Night courts last night. So, there’s that.

    What Calamity thinks happened, at least from things that she recalls, is that she and Stasia (but mostly Calamity) went to the redhead’s abusive ex-boyfriend’s apartment and killed him. The woman did not ask Calamity to do this, it seems to be something that our own red-headed friend decided to do on her own. So, Calamity used her tracking contract to get an idea of where the stripper was at that moment. Which was at home asleep, which makes sense. So we all piled into the van and headed toward the redhead’s apartment. On the way there, Calamity recognized another apartment complex where she believed the ex-boyfriend lived and where she and Stasia were chased by dogs. We marked the location and continued on to the stripper’s apartment. She didn’t answer right away so we went back to the ex-boyfriend’s place. When we got there, we couldn’t get up the stairs because they were being blocked by several gang members. A conversation ensued. Calamity asked if anyone had been killed there last night and they said that yes, a man named Vien had been stabbed. They thought the situation was funny which led us to believe that they were in a rival gang from Vien’s. They seemed even more amused when Calamity started insinuating that she had been the one that had killed him in the first place. Or at least thought that she was. She still has no actual memory of killing the man. So, we left and went back to the girlfriend’s apartment.

    When we got back to the young lady’s apartment we found that an elderly woman was sitting across the way watching us. We waited for her to leave, but she just stayed sitting there. Calamity tried talking to her but it seems that the only language that the woman spoke was something we don’t know. It didn’t sound like Vietnamese, Chinese or Japanese. Our guess was Laotian or Cambodian. Anyway, Insincere Marguerite got sick of waiting for the old woman to leave and went ahead and slipped in through the redhead’s mail slot like only she can. This freaked out the woman to no end and she stumbled back into her own apartment clutching her chest. We hoped that she had not had a heart attack. Marguerite let us in, and she and Calamity went to talk to the redhead. They met a young girl before they got to the woman’s room. The young girl scurried back to her own room as the redhead popped her head out of the door. Then they talked. The redhead woman, who refused to give us her or her daughter’s names, told Calamity about what happened last night. About Stasia getting fondled but not anything else. About her telling our friend about her ex-boyfriend and Calamity taking it upon herself to “fix” the problem. It seems that the boyfriend was using the stripper’s apartment to store drugs, specifically meth and she had gotten tired of it. He had also been abusive to her and the little girl, which did not sit well with Calamity nor should it. So, Calamity went back to the redhead’s apartment and the she paid my friend in drugs for the killing of her ex. That is how Calamity came to be covered in blood and drugs last night.

    Then to make things more exciting, when we were about to get into the van a group of gang members stopped us. They were wearing different colored armbands from the guys we’d talked to before, so we guessed that they were a part of a rival gang. Probably Vien’s. We were proven right when they started talking. They were asking what we were doing in the stripper’s apartment. Calamity told a half truth, in that she said that she had gone to the redhead’s apartment to talk to her and see what happened last night. Calamity told them that she and her friend had too much to drink and ended up at the strip club. Calamity remembered talking to the redhead and wanted to ask her questions to make sure that her friend, Stasia, had not actually slept with anyone else. They seemed skeptical about the story and asked for Calamity to come with them. We said no. We weren’t going to let Calamity go with a bunch of gang members whose purpose was to likely question her and then kill her. So we did the next best thing. We all offered to go with them so we could all talk to their boss. They said no to that offer and pulled guns on us in an effort to get Calamity into their car alone. Calamity still seemed keen on going with them but we refused. De la Rocha eventually ended the stand off by pumping up her strength with contracts and literally flinging an SUV at the gang members with a flick of her wrist. Several of the guys ended up underneath the car and the rest of them were too intent on getting them out to stop us from leaving. So we left. We were still worried about the redhead so we might be going back at some point to keep her safe, or see if there is any way to convince the gang members that she doesn’t have any of her ex’s drugs and doesn’t know where they went.

    So that all leads up to the conversation that I just had with my sister and with Lori. After we got back from L.A. I went to Elena’s apartment and told her what we had found out about last night. I also let her know that Lori had read Stasia’s deepest desires earlier in the day and she honestly wanted to make things right. I assured her that Stasia had not cheated on her though she had been felt up by a stripper at a club. I left off the whole murder for drugs thing. I figured that wasn’t what was foremost on my sister’s mind at that moment, so I alluded to it but didn’t go into details about all that. I suggested that Elena talk to Stasia, but only when she was ready to. Elena expressed a concern that Stasia would just wriggle her way out of trouble by batting her eyelashes and using her “puppy-dog” expression to make Elena forgive her more quickly. I conceded the point and suggested that someone be there to act as a mediator during the talk so it would be fair to both sides and it would prevent Stasia from worming her way out of responsibility. My sister said it would be awkward if it was me and I agreed. I suggested that it might be better if it was Lori. Lori is known to be fair and is well-versed in relationships. She manages to balance several of her own, so I figured she could help here. Elena agreed and I went back to the Dream House with the promise that I would talk to Lori. I also said that I would get at least Calamity over to Elena’s apartment to clean up the bloody mess that she’d left on my sister’s floor and carpets. Elena seemed to be appeased by that a little bit at least. I did mention that Stasia was hoping for reconciliation, but I had warned them that it may be a little while in coming. Elena seemed okay with that, though she did want to make sure that Stasia had a place at the Dream House to stay while their disagreement went on. I assured her that Stasia was okay and was sleeping in a spare room that we had free. She seemed somewhat relieved by that. I don’t think she wanted her lover to be sleeping on the streets or anything. I let her know that Lori would be in touch and said goodnight. Then I came back to the House for movie night. Which is about to start so I’m going to end this here.


    End Session CLI

    Senor Cardgage is from Homestar Runner. His presence is not my fault. Yes, Jacob was rendering his name correctly, Lori incorrectly. There is not tilde for the Homestar Runner character. This lead me to have to decide why Senor Cardgage was around.

    None of them had seen Carol, and I am pretty sure most had never seen Strangers on a Train. I am disappointed too. Though to be fair I never read either Highsmith novel.

    Good session though. Comments and Questions welcome.

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    [Geist: Balance of Shadows ][ Vampire: The Conspiracy of Hrad Černá Hora ][ Scion: Bohemian Front][Changeling: Malibu Dream House] [Demon: Night Train Detective Agency] [WoD: The Golden Eagle]


    • Time lurches on without a crisis. Or does it?

      Session CLII

      Lorelei’s Diary

      It seems like things are maybe settling down a little in the wake of Calamity’s wild night out… oh jeez, I should really knock on wood or something when I write a sentence like that.

      I got up yesterday morning with the alarm, showered, dressed, and met Becky in the parlor. The two of us got on the road to L.A. a little early, and that turned out to be a good thing… traffic was murder this morning. I was grumbling about some septuagenarian biddy doing forty-five in the passing lane when my phone buzzed in my pocket. Glancing at the caller ID, I saw that it was Calamity. I didn’t really want to take my attention away from the road, so I passed the phone to Becky. “See what she wants, please,” I said.

      I caught bits and pieces of her conversation over the next couple of minutes as I tried to get around the meandering senior citizen (I might at one point have politely suggested that she “go back to Pasadena until you learn how to fucking drive”). As the conversation proceeded, I heard Becky saying things about Chinatown and how Calamity should “be careful,” so I decided I should take a personal interest in what my motley-sister had to say after all. I told Becky I’d take the call, popped in the Bluetooth earpiece, and said hello.

      It turns out that around 8:00 that morning, Calamity answered a knock at the front door. A well-dressed Asian man told her that he had been instructed to deliver a certain envelope directly into the hands of “Kathryn Moss” and no one else. It took me a moment to remember that this was Calamity’s name before she was Taken, which was troubling to say the least. When she indicated that she was indeed the intended recipient, the courier gave her the letter and took his leave immediately.

      The letter contained an apology to Calamity from someone who called himself “Mr. Sung” for involving her in his business, and an invitation for her to join him that evening at a fancy restaurant in Chinatown called “The Red Dragon.” Calamity assumed this had something to do with her extracurricular activities of two days’ prior, and her curiosity made her eager to accept the invitation. She thought it might be prudent to see what Becky knew about the Red Dragon (really fancy; about $80 a plate) and Mr. Sung (here Becky came up empty) first, and to make sure that I knew about her plans so that I could arrange for a substitute in that night’s show.

      We did make it to UCLA on time, and I was able to give my studies my full attention. Okay, I might have drifted a bit during Organic Chem – maybe even dozed off for a moment or two – but I’m pretty sure I still absorbed the basic information of the lesson.

      We made it back to the Dream House just as Sex Breakfast was getting underway, and continued to mull over Calamity’s peculiar dinner invitation. Becky seemed sure that this particular meeting would pose minimal threat to Calamity (something about Asian rules of decorum, if I understand her correctly). Remembering that Vien’s messy end wasn’t Calamity’s only exploit in Chinatown recently, I suggested she contact Charlotte to see if the Autumn Court knew anything about this Sung character, just in case he was involved in this “mage war” that Calamity apparently started.

      Calamity agreed that this would be a sensible precaution, and dialed the Lighthouse immediately. She spoke for a few minutes with Moon, who was able to tell her that Mr. Sung is an elder Kindred with some clout in that part of L.A. (ze referred to him as a “shot-caller”). As far as anyone in the Autumn Court knew, he was not involved in whatever Calamity stirred up in Chinatown around New Year’s.

      Moon also asked Calamity if I would be available to meet with Queen Charlotte that afternoon. I replied that I should be free until about 6:00pm, and that I would be honored to meet with my august co-monarch at her convenience before that time. Calamity conveyed that, and Moon replied that Charlotte would be dropping by in the early afternoon, and that while this visit would concern Freehold business, it was not an emergency, and that I should not fret over it. So that was nice.

      Calamity and Jacob headed over to Elena’s apartment after Sex Breakfast to do some cleaning. Calamity stated that she had made a contract with Blood to ensure that no traces of her night out would remain to mar Elena’s residence, but she still had to do some of the elbow-work to kick things off. She was happy to do it; anything that would help to heal the rift between Elena and Stasia was okay by her. And speaking of Stasia, she asked Calamity to pick up a few things while she was there… including her “lucky boxers.”

      Charlotte arrived about an hour later and asked to speak with me. She didn’t insist that I send my motley away, but did ask that I treat the subject of our meeting with discretion. I took her into a private room and asked what was up.

      “As you know,” she began, “the Autumn Court makes occasional use of divinatory magic to identify and eliminate potential threats to the Freehold. Divinations are always open to interpretation, and are not always reliable, but I believe we have located such a threat, and I would like your permission to investigate it further.”

      I nodded in what I hoped was a sagely fashion. “What is the nature of this threat?” I asked.

      “We’re not entirely sure,” she admitted, “but several of our prophecies involve a… ‘shadow’ rising in Vanuatu.”

      I had to admit at that point that I had no idea what ‘Vanuatu’ was, which did not surprise Charlotte in the least. It’s apparently a nation in the Oceania region of the South Pacific, comprised of about 80 small islands. It’s prosperous and technologically advanced enough to house high-end businesses such as financial institutions… which makes it very attractive to certain types of American corporations. In short, Vanuatu often serves as an illegal tax shelter, like the Cayman Islands.

      “So what do you suggest we do about this nebulous threat?” I asked.

      “With your permission, I’d like to send Davie there to take a look around for a few days and see what he can uncover. He can blend in with the locals better than any of our other people, and they might be willing to let things slip to him that they would keep to themselves around anyone else. Of course, we’ll compensate him for his expenses and his time…”

      I thought about that for a bit. “I don’t think Davie has anything pressing occupying his attention at the moment,” I said eventually.

      Charlotte nodded. “We could also use Desiree if Davie is unavailable, but he’d be my first choice.”

      I nodded. “I’ll speak with him this afternoon, and have him contact you as soon as possible with my decision. Thank you for bringing this to my attention. I hope it’s nothing, but circumstances being what they are, I’d rather know about any more potential problems before they rear their ugly heads.”

      She gave me a smile and a nod. “Thank you, Lori,” she said. “I hope it turns out to be nothing too, but like you said, it pays to be prepared.”

      After she left, I texted Davie and asked him to stop by at his earliest convenience; he did so maybe half an hour later and I filled him in on the situation. He didn’t have anything particularly urgent to do in the Freehold, and agreed quickly to Charlotte’s request. He stated that he might want Desiree to come along with him as backup; I was a little hesitant to agree to this request though… while she’s quite good at spycraft, she doesn’t have his magical advantages (and a part of me thinks he might just be trying to land a tropical vacation with a hot redhead). Plus, if something else comes up locally while he’s gone, I’d rather have our second most experienced espionage agent available to handle it. I asked him to get the details of the operation from Charlotte and then decide whether he needs backup.

      Incidentally, while discussing Desiree, he said something rather curious… namely that her main weakness when it comes to blending in with a native population was her inability to master accents. Specifically, he said that she had difficulty telling the difference between a ‘patois’ and a ‘creole’ form of speech. I let it pass at the time, but Maria later confided in me that he’d pulled that same shit with her in the past.

      Long story short, Davie agreed to look into things. He told me he would contact Charlotte with his answer that evening, and asked my permission to consult with John about the current political and financial situation in Vanuatu as well (of course I granted it). He’ll be gone for at least a few days – the flight to Vanuatu alone is about 15 hours, I hear – but he’ll be in touch, and hopefully we’ll know more about what we’re dealing with shortly. On Charlotte’s recommendation I also wrote a short letter of introduction for Davie. This way, if he runs into any of the local Changelings (who are largely members of the Directional Courts), he’ll be able to prove that he’s not a Loyalist.

      With that matter settled, I figured I’d get some reading/homework done until it was time to prep for the Tuesday night show. I got a couple of good hours of studying in (mostly while lying back in my wife’s arms with noise-cancelling headphones on while she watched something on Netflix), but my matriculations were cut short by a call from Dad. He’s continued his efforts to look into Tanner’s mysterious past, and his search had borne fruit. The changeling in question had agreed to undergo a thorough medical examination in the hopes of uncovering clues to her past, and the results were in.

      It turns out that she has given birth to at least one child at some point in her life… so the body they found at that no-tell motel in L.A. could have been her daughter. Other than the fact that it had been a natural birth rather than a Caesarian, though, he couldn’t tell us much more than that. He also mentioned that X-rays showed that Tanner had several old skeletal fractures… mostly in the bones of her hands. While it’s not necessarily conclusive, the evidence would seem to indicate that she received the injuries while fighting rather than that she was a victim of any sort of abuse. It’s sort of in-line with what we already suspected about her past, but it’s certainly given us a lot to think about.

      So the show rolled around, and like usual of late I placed my own solo number pretty early in the evening. My number was a bit of a departure for a burlesque club, but I like the song and I think it turned out well enough. It was called “Torn,” and has been performed a number of times over the past twenty-five years or so, but it’s most famous for a version recorded by an Australian singer named Natalie Imbruglia in 1997. People seemed to like it, at any rate.

      It was relatively quiet in the club last night, but there were a few guests of note. First and foremost among these was an unfamiliar blonde changeling woman. She had vaguely northern European features and a mantle that seemed to favor summer over the other seasons, but aside from that I couldn’t make heads or tails out of her. I resolved to stop by her table and say hello at some point… but I had my sights set on another guest first.

      Trinh has been a frequent guest in the Dream House since her rescue a few months ago, and I’ve made no secret of the fact that I think she’s hot. She’s also made it clear that she’s attracted to me in various ways… and yet the two of us have not had the occasion for an intimate liaison in all that time. At first I avoided her due to the complicated situation between her and Missy and Jane, but that’s as settled as it’s likely to get at the moment. So I slithered into a seat next to her as she chatted with White Maria and made my intentions known by starting a slow, subtle seduction. She didn’t put up much of a fight.

      Once I had set things in motion with Trinh, I started to circulate the floor. Of course, I set my course such that it would take me by the new blonde’s table fairly early on. She offered me a seat, and we got to talking. Her name is Imke Van Meetren, and she’s from Rotterdam (thank God my geography is good enough to correctly place that city in The Netherlands). She speaks with a fairly thick accent, but her mastery of English is good enough that I didn’t really have any trouble understanding her.

      She seems nice enough. She’s in the area because she’s studying International Relations at UCLA, so we had that commonality to discuss for a while. She had dropped by the Dream House to announce her presence in the area to the local monarch, and had a letter of introduction from her home Freehold to lend credence to her story. She’ll be living in an apartment in Santa Monica (actually in the same complex as Elena’s apartment, though in a different building). She had a lot of questions about the Freehold, and didn’t seem keen to discuss her own background… though that’s not uncommon among changelings, and overall I didn’t get a bad vibe off of her.

      Still, there’s no sense in being careless. As soon as we’d finished our conversation I slipped into the kitchen and texted John. I gave him the basics of Imke’s story and my impression of her character. He knew that she had come to the Freehold but didn’t have any details on her yet. After a brief back-and-forth, we agreed that it would be prudent to keep an eye on her, though she didn’t seem to merit active surveillance. In short, John’s people are going to be taking notes on her activities, but nobody will be actively tailing her or anything like that. Works for me.

      I dropped by the bar to let Jacob know about Imke’s circumstances. As Elena is enchanted, she’ll likely notice the new changeling living in her complex (though Imke’s mien is pretty close to human, honestly), and we don’t want her freaking out or anything like that. Halley and Molly were at the bar (Veronica was in the audience with Desiree, so I guess Molly’s still keeping tabs on her), and I passed a few words with them before moving on. They seem to be doing well enough, though Halley was typically grumpy.

      Once I’d spoken with all the changelings in the audience and was reasonably certain that no further Freehold business was likely to arise I made my way back to Trinh’s table. On the way Marguerite asked me about the new girl, and it was my sad duty to inform her that Imke was Dutch, and thus probably not up to Marguerite’s discerning standards. Marguerite, ever the gracious one, opted to join Imke at her table and commence flirtations anyway. I think she’s growing as a person.

      Trinh was more than ready to begin our evening together. As soon as the last of the patrons filtered out, she, Maria and I headed up to the bedroom to begin frolicking. Trinh is… quite a beautiful lady, and I’m pretty sure that all three of us enjoyed the evening without reservation. The only thing I had to be careful about was steering the conversation away from any subject which might lead to discussion of Madame Spidertoes. Trinh’s negative experiences with Gladys are still too fresh, and she’s always a touchy subject with Maria in any case. After a point, though, we… weren’t really talking much anyway.

      I actually slept for a few hours last night, and it felt good. But online classes beckon, and I worked too hard to get into UCLA to let this opportunity slide. I’ll write more later.

      Lorelei de la Rocha

      End Session CLII

      Shoutout to Vanuatu readers! Vanuatu readers say “HOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!”

      Ahem, that was undignified. Anyway, you will be no doubt saddened to know none of my players had any idea what or where Vanuatu was. Seriously guys.

      The Red Dragon was me stealing another location from Bloodlines. None of the NPCs there, just the location. It was pretty cool.

      Anyway, Comments and Questions welcome

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      [Geist: Balance of Shadows ][ Vampire: The Conspiracy of Hrad Černá Hora ][ Scion: Bohemian Front][Changeling: Malibu Dream House] [Demon: Night Train Detective Agency] [WoD: The Golden Eagle]


      • Apparently I have no Vanuatu readers.

        Session CLIII

        Lorelei’s Diary

        When I woke up this morning, I thought the biggest challenge I’d face today would be my Calculus exam. It’s the last big grade before the final; my last chance to build up an academic buffer zone to protect my ass in case I freeze up at the last moment. That should be enough pressure for any girl in my position, right?

        The test wasn’t as bad as I’d been afraid it might be, but it was difficult enough to make me vaguely cranky as I headed down to Sex Breakfast. Trinh, who I had been lucky enough to share a bed with on the previous evening, was just starting to cook when I arrived (we’ve tried telling her that she doesn’t have to do that while she’s a guest in our house, but she won’t hear of it… she says that she enjoys cooking and doesn’t mind whipping up the occasional breakfast for us), and was chatting amiably with Calamity. Jacob, taking in my expression, wordlessly handed me a cup of coffee as I settled in at the table. I could hear the rest of the motley (and Stasia) talking and playing music in the theater, but didn’t learn more about that until a bit later.

        My phone buzzed while Trinh was still preparing breakfast, and a quick glance at the caller I.D. informed me that Viscount Augustine wanted my attention. I excused myself to a private room and answered the call. After we had exchanged pleasantries, I asked him what I could do for him. The reason for his call was nothing I could possibly have predicted.

        There’s a species of Hedge Beast that resembles those old green plastic army men. Augustine described them as more of a nuisance than a real danger… sort of like well-organized ants. A large number of them have recently crossed over into the mortal world, and they’ve been staging military operations against the area’s pets. The Summer Court has finally managed to track down the source of these pests, and Augustine wanted to know how I’d like to handle it.

        The rogue portal to the Hedge apparently exists inside the refrigerator of an upper-middle class family in Santa Monica. After talking things out with my co-monarch, I decided that the best outcome would be for the Freehold to acquire that refrigerator so that we could either destroy the portal or observe it to see if it posed a larger threat (or presented any tactical opportunities). Augustine thought it might be best to send a small team into the house in the middle of the night to steal the offending appliance… and replace it with a better refrigerator (hoping that this would dissuade the house’s occupants from calling the police). After brief consideration, I supported this plan.

        There are complications, of course. The house has a security system in place, including a camera on the front door and motion sensors in the house itself. That probably won’t pose too much of a problem; any changeling we might send on such an expedition would necessarily know contracts to boost their own stealth abilities. Somewhat more difficult is the fact that the family keeps three dogs: a Doberman, a Pit Bull, and something called a “Puggle,” which I presume is a cross between a pug and a poodle.

        We discussed the possibility of moving the refrigerator through the Hedge to get it out of the house… but none of us really knows what will happen if you take a Hedge gate through a Hedge gate. We might be looking at a portable-hole-and-bag-of-holding situation, which would be bad for everyone. What? I was there for the early days of D&D; I know my THAC0 from a hole in the ground.

        Of course I thought of Marguerite and Calamity for this job immediately, and offered to put them in contact with Augustine. They haven’t invented a security system Marguerite can’t outfox, and Calamity’s no slouch when it comes to creeping about either. Plus, the latter has the contracts necessary to give her the strength to physically carry the refrigerators in and out of the house. Augustine agreed that they were good choices, and that was that.

        I headed back into the kitchen and let Calamity know what was going on. She and Jacob both volunteered for the mission immediately, and I gave her Augustine’s contact info. She called him and got the specifics of the mission. I figured I didn’t need to know any more than I already knew, so I didn’t inquire too closely into their plans.

        Meanwhilst, in the theater, Stasia had taken it upon herself to teach some of the motley to tango. Marguerite lurked above in the rafters managing the music while Stasia walked Missy, Jane, Maria, and Julia through a few basic dance steps. Most of her instruction seemed geared toward getting the mood of the infamous lovers’ dance down, but there was some practical direction sprinkled here and there as well. I made a few suggestions of my own… which prompted Stasia to suggest that I join in the lesson to provide Marguerite with a partner.

        Things proceeded along those lines until Trinh called us in for breakfast, at which point we fell to discussing the impending refrigerator heist. Marguerite is going to join Calamity and Jacob for the mission, and Calamity contacted Oleander to obtain tranquilizer darts so that they could deal with the dogs (non-lethally, of course). Talk then turned to a sports personality of the 1980s, one William Perry, who was usually known by his nickname “The Refrigerator.” Marguerite – I’m convinced deliberately – proceeded to confuse him with a couple of actors from the 1990s named Matthew Perry and Luke Perry. We… do tend to get off-topic at Sex Breakfast.

        After breakfast most of us returned to the tango lessons. Jacob got a call from Elena, who was apparently not dealing well with the romantic tensions between herself and Stasia. Jacob took most of the afternoon off to tend to his heartbroken sis, which was sweet of him. I hope those two patch things up quickly. We all know they’re crazy about each other and that things would be much better for everyone concerned if they just got back together, but into every life a little rain must fall, I suppose. Personally, I think Elena just wants to make sure the Stasia realizes how serious her infractions were to her, so that something like this won’t happen again.

        I’ve tried to be supportive of both of my friends. Having seen the two of them together, I honestly believe they are soul mates and that they’re destined to be together. Stasia loses a lot of her reckless anger when she’s tempered by Elena, and the younger girl opens herself up to a lot more of the joy that life has to offer when Stasia brings her out of her shell. But my own words can only do so much for the two of them. My life is… not like theirs. I’m in open relationships, and even the concept of “cheating” on my lovers is sort of foreign to me. It’s not that I think their relationship is in any way wrong; every love is different and people need different things from their partners. I just find it difficult to advise them because of those differences.

        Apparently Elena’s a wreck, according to Jacob. She really wants Stasia back, but she doesn’t want her paramour to feel like there were no consequences for her actions. For her part, Stasia desperately wants to get back together too, and is in fact beating herself up for being the cause of Elena’s distress. Hey… that’s a thought. I wonder if it might help Elena to get over this if she learned that her suffering is in turn causing Stasia such pain? It’s something to consider.

        Showtime rolled around as it usually does. Luckily, Calamity and the others had planned their daring refrigerator heist for after the show, so I didn’t have to shuffle any acts or anything like that. I did alter my own number out of respect for Stasia’s position… I figured she didn’t need to hear Tom Petty’s epic break-up ballad “Free Fallin’” in her current situation, so I changed it out for “You Don’t Know How It Feels.” Hey, at least I got to throw in a couple of double-entendres with that one to burlesque it up a bit… “I’ve got a little space to fill…” Heh.

        Of course I made the rounds and spoke to just about everyone. Imke was back, and seems to be settling in well enough. Dark Kimberly and White Maria were sharing a table to nobody’s great surprise. A few of our other regulars were scattered about as well, but nobody seemed to need the Queen’s assistance with anything, so I drifted here and there exchanging pleasantries for the most part.

        I had a longer conversation with Oleander, who had dropped by to deliver Calamity’s dog tranquilizers. She seems chipper enough, though I can tell that her work with the toxin is still weighing on her (we didn’t discuss it directly). She was still mildly toxic from her most recent trip into the Hedge, so we kept our hands to ourselves throughout this conversation. In the end I risked a light kiss on the top of her head, and so far I have not suffered any ill effects for my daring.

        Next I planted myself at the bar next to Tamara for a while. Our conversation touched on many subjects this time, and I let things get a little deeper than I had previously, to see if we could form a genuine emotional connection. Turns out we can! She asked about how I was bearing the pressures of the crown, and sympathized on behalf of John (who never really wanted the responsibility in the first place).

        I thought about my answer before I spoke; I really did. “It’s a lot of responsibility,” I said after a minute, “and I can already tell after two days that being Queen is going to be a hell of a burden. But… I don’t hate it.” I was kind of surprised to hear myself say that. I was even more surprised to discover that I meant it.

        We talked about John himself a bit too. Tamara is worried about him. He takes the weight of the world on his shoulders, but refuses to let anyone in. She thinks the stress will get to be too much for him one of these days. She’d like nothing more than for him to get a boyfriend, but every time she makes a suggestion along those lines he shuts her down cold.

        “What about Jack?” I asked, remembering the tension and history between those two.

        She sighed and rolled her eyes. “Those two… I think they’re good for each other, but I’m pretty sure it’s not going to happen. John doesn’t want him to be burdened by his baggage, and Jack respects him too much to push things when the subject comes up.”

        “Too bad,” I said, placing a hand on hers. “Those two are really cute together.”

        And so the conversation turned. I left my hand on top of hers for the next few minutes, and even began running my fingertips back and forth over the subtle bumps and ridges on the back of her hand. She didn’t object, and for the rest of the conversation I detected the hint of a smile around the corners of her mouth.

        I decided not to push things with her tonight. Tamara’s not as footloose or free-wheeling as some of the other patrons of our fine establishment (her disastrous one-night-stand with the Handmaidens notwithstanding), and I didn’t want to overplay my hand. Though I confess that I have political reasons to want to get close to her… I also genuinely like her, and I don’t want to screw up my chances.

        We parted amiably (I gave her hand a squeeze but didn’t quite dare to lean in for a good-bye kiss) and I made my way up to the Girlfriend Table. Maria had settled in there with Gloria a short time before, and spending the rest of the night with the two of them seemed like the best possible use of my time. The three of us waited out the last of the crowds, chatting and laughing together about pretty much nothing, then said goodbye to Calamity, Marguerite and Jacob and retired upstairs.

        We played around for a bit, but Gloria and Maria drifted off pretty quickly. I’m sitting here writing in this diary when I should be getting some sleep – I have classes in the morning – but I just can’t seem to make it happen. I’ll probably stay up at least until I hear the others coming back in from their refrigerator mission. Since I don’t know when that will be, I might be relying on Spring Contracts to get me through the day again tomorrow.

        Sigh. Here’s hoping everything went okay.

        Lorelei de la Rocha

        End Session CLIII

        Oh what needs filling in?

        The Tango music was Por Una Cabeza, a lovely piece I found elsewhere. Figured some Tango would liven things up.

        There was lot more detail about Stasia and Elena’s relationship that cropped up. Stasia’s always turning off the bedroom lamp when they went to bed was one, a small romantic gesture because the first night they spent Elena did and tripped on the way to bed. Elena left it on rather than taking the step of admitting Stasia was not walking in that night. So yeah, they are both having a rough time.

        The army men thing did not happen this session. Hopefully will be discussed next time.

        Comments and Questions welcome

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        [Geist: Balance of Shadows ][ Vampire: The Conspiracy of Hrad Černá Hora ][ Scion: Bohemian Front][Changeling: Malibu Dream House] [Demon: Night Train Detective Agency] [WoD: The Golden Eagle]


        • And now, A Very Special Episode Episode of Malibu Dream House

          Session CLIV

          Lorelei's Diary

          Well, my friends returned unscathed from the suburbs, having successfully replaced the Hedge gate refrigerator with a suitable upgrade. From Calamity’s description everything went pretty much exactly according to plan; no one was hurt or killed, the dogs were safely sedated, and the offending fridge is now safely in the hands of the Autumn Court’s “top men.”

          I was able to grab a few hours of real sleep (between D and Gloria) once my anxieties had been assuaged, so I was relatively fresh for classes the next morning. Most of the others got up around the same time for their respective therapy sessions, and I quipped to Calamity that I was off to dissect a hobo at UCLA. She got this sort of wide-eyed look and asked “really?” I was forced to admit that it had been a joke.

          I won’t get to any Gross Anatomy classes until I’m in Med School for real. And those cadavers come from willing subjects who have donated their remains to science.

          Classes were less exciting than my jokes might lead one to believe, but not entirely devoid of stress. We are past midterms and heading into the final stretch of my first semester as a college student, and I won’t pretend that I’m immune to the pressures inherent in that situation. But compared to the issues I face every day as one of the leaders of a secret community of supernaturally empowered abuse victims, worrying about my GPA actually seems kind of trite.

          Got a call from Davie during Sex Breakfast, who mainly just wanted to let me know that he’d arrived safely in Vanuatu and had made some preliminary inquiries into the situation there. It’s a fairly tumultuous time in the island nation, as the government has recently elected to join the World Bank, and the people are balking against the change (as adhering to that organization’s strictures would eliminate many of the incentives that make the nation such an attractive tax haven for large foreign corporations).

          As far as the supernatural politics of the area go, he’d made less progress. He’s learned that there’s some sort of pact or alliance in place between the Queen of the South and one of the monarchs in our area, though people seemed uncertain as to whether this monarch resides in L.A. or Santa Monica. I’m inclined to believe the former, as I’d think my co-monarchs would have informed me of any alliances they’d made when they heard that I was sending an agent to Vanuatu in the first place. Davie didn’t believe that Hollywood was involved, but admitted that he couldn’t be absolutely certain of that.

          “There are basically two ways I can do this,” he said once I was up to speed on the situation. “I haven’t blown my cover yet, so I can stay incognito and approach the Queen of the South quietly, or I can go through official channels and arrange a meeting that way. The first way has the advantage of taking her by surprise so that she won’t have time to cover up anything she might be hiding… but the second way is less likely to piss people off.”

          “I don’t claim to be an expert at this espionage bullshit, Davie,” I said after a moment, “but I trust your judgment. What does your gut tell you is the right thing to do?”

          “Go to the Queen directly,” he said almost immediately.

          “Then run with it,” I responded. “I’ll give Lowjack a call and see if he has any additional insight, but if you don’t hear back from me just assume that we’re moving ahead as planned.”

          “You got it, Your Majesty,” he said (and I can’t tell you how weird it is to hear people calling me that without being sarcastic). “I’ll call you with a progress report in twenty-four hours. If I don’t call you, call me. And if you can’t reach me…”

          “We’ll send backup,” I promised. “Thanks for all that you do, Davie. Keep in touch, and be careful.”

          He promised that he would, and we disconnected. I called John and updated him on the situation (even though there wasn’t much to discuss), and he agreed that my decision was probably for the best. Or at least, he indicated that he would have done the same thing, which is either high praise or an attempt to make me more confident in my own decisions. Either way, I appreciated it.

          The next call that came in wasn’t for me, but for Calamity. Trinh and Dominika called her because they had made plans to spend the afternoon with Tanner, and she wasn’t answering either her door or her phone. Calamity did some quick tracking magic and determined that Tanner was either in her apartment or somewhere very close by, and opted to follow up to make sure our friend was okay.

          Tango lessons continued apace at the Dream House while she was away. I dropped in and out of those, offering pointers and advice between doing the readings and homework for my online classes. When Calamity got back she didn’t look happy, and I took that as my cue to stick my nose into someone else’s business.

          “What’s up?” I asked, and then, taking in her expression, “is Tanner okay?”

          Calamity muttered something to herself that sounded suspiciously like “well, she didn’t actually ask me not to tell anyone,” and then turned to face me. “She’s not hurt, but I found her passed out in her bedroom. She had just shot up. It looked like heroin to me. I told Trinh and Dominika that she wasn’t feeling well and put her back to bed.”

          I didn’t quite know what to say about that. I generally consider myself a sensualist, and regard the things that people do to their own bodies as nobody’s business but their own. But on the other hand, I care about Tanner, and… well, the new Chirurgeon part of my soul forces me to recognize exactly what that shit does to the human – or changeling – body. It’s almost impossible to get off the horse without help, and eventually it will kill her. I knew I had to do something, but I had no idea how to go about it.

          Luckily, I have an in with someone who’s dedicated his life to helping people who have gone astray to find the path that’s right for them.

          I speed-dialed Dad and arranged to meet him at his place twenty minutes later. Once he learned about the problem, he was eager to help, and had a lot of good advice for me. “I don’t know how this addiction might interact with her unique changeling circumstances, but if she’s anything like the mortal addicts I’ve encountered, it’s probably for the best that Calamity didn’t confront her directly about her problem. If told that she is doing something harmful or wrong, she’s likely to push back.”

          “I thought the same thing, but I’m not sure how to get around that,” I admitted. “I’ve never been in this situation before… not on this side of it, at any rate,” I muttered. Dad smiled fondly at me and gave my hand a squeeze at that.

          He cleared his throat delicately. “I know that the two of you are… close,” he said after a moment. “Do you think Tanner has any particularly… warm feelings toward you?”

          I shrugged. “Maybe,” I admitted. “We’re friends at any rate. I think she’s probably as close to me as she is to anyone in the Freehold for now.”

          “I can’t say for certain, but she might accept your help where she would push back against another person,” Dad said softly.

          “Thank you,” I said fervently, for his advice and his acceptance of my lifestyle and his efforts not to embarrass me any more than was absolutely necessary. He spent the next twenty minutes or so advising me on how to present my case without spooking Tanner, and I think the old man actually managed to teach me a few new social tricks. Who’da thunk it?

          I made it back to the Dream House a little before the show, which was for the best since I needed to make a song substitution for my solo number. I’d been planning to go with Martika’s “Toy Soldiers” as a sort of tongue-in-cheek nod to the motley’s exploits of the previous evening, but it occurred to me that since the subtext of the song is about the tragedies of drug addiction this might be in poor taste. So I decided to go with Elle King’s “Ex’s & Oh’s” instead. I think its relatively light-hearted take on the ghosts of past relationships went over rather well, personally. The worthies of my own court seemed to like it, at any rate.

          My opportunity to have a heart-to-heart with Tanner arrived earlier than I’d been expecting, as she was actually present at the show along with Trinh. She’d apparently appreciated Calamity’s visit earlier that day, as she’d brought one of those big cookies that you can buy from kiosks in the mall as a thank-you gift.

          I circulated the crowd for a bit after my number, and when Calamity had finished on stage as well the two of us joined Trinh and Tanner at their table. Calamity was pretty good about running interference for me so I could speak with Tanner, and I think I managed to frame our exit from the theater in such a way that most curious parties would just assume we were making a romantic assignation.

          The talk wasn’t as bad as I’d feared it would be. Once Tanner understood that I knew about her heroin problem, she dug in her heels a bit, but things never turned particularly bitter or acrimonious between us. She seemed to accept it at face value when I told her that I wasn’t judging her; I was worried about her because I genuinely care about her well-being. She acknowledged my feelings and even allowed me to draw her into a hug.

          What I wasn’t prepared for was her reason for taking heroin… it’s one of the few ways she can definitively connect to her past self. She feels certain that she indulged in the drug semi-regularly before she was Taken, and the feelings the drug imparts are familiar and comfortable to her. Sometimes she even experiences brief flashes of her former life while under its influence… like being revived from death in a hospital, and being angry about that fact.

          What’s more, the drug seems to provide relief on another front as well. She said that she feels a deep well of intense rage within her… but most of the time she’s unable to connect to it, which must be intensely frustrating. While the heroin doesn’t help her to contact this reservoir, it does ease the frustration a bit.

          “Tanner,” I said seriously as our talk drew to a close, “I want to help you, and I will support you in whatever path you choose. But there are better ways to go about recovering your memories… and getting in touch with your anger. The Winter Court clinic has some employees who use regression therapy, and Calamity’s gotten really good at treating people from their dreams. I’m sure she’d be happy to help you…”

          “I know,” she said, “but I’m not sure I want someone else rooting around in my head.”

          “Come to that,” I said softly, “now… please don’t take this the wrong way. I meant what I said; I’ll support whatever you want to do. But if your past self was disappointed that she was resuscitated in an E.R… are you sure that’s a life you actually want to remember? It’s just… it’s something to think about.”

          She pursed her lips to a thin line, but she nodded.

          And that was pretty much the end of that. I escorted her back into the theater, where the show was nearly over. We rejoined Calamity and Trinh at their table, and after a few moments our conversation returned to normal subjects. I don’t know if Tanner took our little talk to heart, but I’ve put myself out there and let her know that I want to help her. The ball’s in her court now. All I can do is wait, keep a careful eye on her, and hope.

          D eventually joined us once the crowds started to thin, and Marguerite and Julia stopped by shortly thereafter. Missy and Jane were preoccupied by each other at the moment, and that was okay… they’re engaged and they deserve to spend the occasional evening lost in each other’s eyes. At some point D glanced at Tanner and asked me if I had made plans for the evening, and all of the sudden I knew what I wanted.

          “No,” I said softly, leaning in to give my wife a peck on the cheek, “I haven’t made specific plans, but I think I know what I’d like to do, if you’re willing. I think I need to spend this evening with my wife… and my brides, unless they have other ideas.” I got gentle, loving smiles from three directions, and everything was right with the world.

          Lorelei de la Rocha

          End Session CLIV

          Yeah I got behind. DST hit and threw me for a loop. The earlier part of the session involved the Heist, but the PCs aced it. Insincere Marguerite put the humans to sleep and one dog, and subverted the cat to help distract the other dogs for some codfish. From there it was pretty easy.

          Sorry about the delay. Comments and Questions welcome.

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          [Geist: Balance of Shadows ][ Vampire: The Conspiracy of Hrad Černá Hora ][ Scion: Bohemian Front][Changeling: Malibu Dream House] [Demon: Night Train Detective Agency] [WoD: The Golden Eagle]


          • A Mystery Deepens. A conflict Resolves

            Session CLV

            Lorelei's Diary

            Some things have gotten a lot more complicated since the last time I wrote, while other things seem to have gotten a lot simpler. I’m going to have to make this quick, because I took the rare opportunity to sleep late this morning and I’m certain my bedmate will be stirring any moment now. And I really want to be lying there with her in my arms when she wakes up.

            I tried not to disturb my various beloveds when I got up yesterday morning, but Marguerite stirred as I was pulling on my sweatpants. She quietly followed me to the media room, then turned into a cat as I was warming up the computer and hopped into my lap. She stayed there for the next few hours, purring contentedly and letting me concentrate on my studies in exchange for nothing more than the occasional scratch behind the ears.

            She turned back into a human as the two of us descended for Sex Breakfast. “Lorelei,” she said softly before we reached the kitchen, “I just wanted to say that… I am grateful that you elected to spend last night with Julia, Maria and I. We know that you have many demands on your time, and I am glad that you still wish to take the time to spend with us…”

            “Of course I do,” I said, a little taken aback. “I’m sorry that it’s become such a rarity, ma cheri. I love my lifestyle, but if I have a regret about it, it’s that I have so many lovers that I can’t really spend much time with any of you…”

            She waved it off. “We understand,” she said, “and I know that if I truly need you, I have only to ask and…”

            “…I’m there,” I said, taking her hand and making it a promise.

            Sex Breakfast passed without incident (Marguerite and I joined a hair-brushing circle when we arrived), and before I knew it, it was time for my daily Skype session with Davie. He’d made contact with the local Queen of the South in Vanuatu, and had made the shocking discovery that she was a former Malibu resident named Sheena.

            “She was never particularly politically savvy back in the day,” he told me. “Her friend Debbie was Spring Queen for a while… this was long before you arrived, though. Anyway, she’s greeted me and set me up in a guest house for as long as I want to stay… but she’s hiding something. I don’t know what, but she’s talking around some of my questions. If I want to find out what’s up, it’s probably going to involve more traditional espionage methods.”

            “Are you comfortable with that?” I asked.

            “Very,” he shot back with a grin.

            “Let’s do it,” I said after a moment. “Whatever’s brewing in Vanuatu is registering as a threat to the Freehold, so we need as much information as possible. See what you can dig up, but be careful about it. I’ll call Boss Lowjack and see if he has a file on Sheena or something.”

            Davie nodded. “Might want to talk to Monica too, Your Majesty,” he suggested. “She used to hang out with Sheena and her friends a lot. She might be able to offer some insight.”

            “Okay, thanks. I’ll give you a call if anything comes out of these conversations. Otherwise…”

            “Otherwise I’ll give you my usual update tomorrow,” he finished.

            “Keep up the good work,” I said by way of a farewell, “and be careful out there. The Freehold can’t afford to lose you.”

            He promised that he would take appropriate care and signed off. I immediately called Monica and asked if she could drop by the Dream House that afternoon, and she was happy to oblige. While I was waiting for her to arrive I dialed John and updated him on the situation. It was somewhat gratifying – and just a bit alarming – to realize that I had blindsided him with the news about Sheena.

            He filled in a few of the gaps while we talked. Sheena was part of a group of three friends: Sheena, Debbie, and Barb. This was back when Malibu was a small independent Freehold and Santa Monica was part of the L.A. Freehold. Sheena was a shark-type Beast who liked to fight (she was described as sort of like Maria in that regard). Debbie was personable and even-tempered, and was indeed the Queen of Spring decades back. Barb was described as something of an airhead, very pretty and popular with the guys but not particularly bright. The three of them had a falling out about ten years ago – John thought it was something to do with a man – and went their separate ways… to Fiji, Hawaii, and the Bay Area, respectively.

            Monica was able to shed a bit more light on Sheena’s history when she got here, and she was a really good sport about giving me the intel I needed without prying into my reasons. The “falling out” between the three friends was more serious than anyone else seems to know. While there were some superficial tensions over the fact that Debbie was apparently bisexual (and was keeping this fact from her two best friends), that wasn’t what drove a wedge between them. Oh, no.

            There was a man. A mortal lifeguard named Donnie. All three of them had a thing for him, and apparently he got his kicks by playing them against each other. And he was really good at it. And then Barb got pregnant. She took this as a victory, and Sheena didn’t take it well. It triggered some sort of savage reaction in her, and she beat Barb to a bloody pulp. Barb didn’t lose the baby, but to hear Monica describe it she wound up with multiple skull fractures. She said that after their fight Barb looked like someone had put a pistol under her chin and pulled the trigger. If Debbie hadn’t been there with her Spring Court contracts, Barb almost certainly would have died.

            The three of them understandably never got over that incident, and moved away from the Freehold. Monica lost touch with Sheena and Barb, but still occasionally hears from Debbie in Hawaii. “None of this is common knowledge, and Debbie told me in confidence,” she warned me before we parted ways.

            “Thank you for sharing this with me,” I said earnestly as I walked her to the door. “I promise I wouldn’t have asked if it wasn’t important, and what you’ve told me might very well make all the difference. If you think of anything else, please give me a call or a text, and if I need more information…”

            “Just call me, Lori. Your Majesty, I mean…”

            “Lori is fine,” I said with a smile, “always.”

            I touched base with Davie and John again, and updated them with what I’d learned. John promised he’d update his files and see if anything else came up, while Davie had a request: he wanted Monica to try to contact Debbie and see if anything had changed between the three of them recently. I called Monica and made the request, and she said she’d do her best (though she warned me that it might take a few days).

            I marched upstairs and headed into the media room where several of my friends and lovers were gathered. I walked straight to Missy and Jane, took each of them by the hand, and pulled them into a group hug. “Thank you,” I said fervently, “for always being my friends, and for never letting anything come between us.” They whispered reassurances to me and returned my embrace with interest. What can I say? I was feeling inordinately grateful for the blessings I’d been given.

            So after that I sort of planned to curl up with a book – get a head-start on both my homework and my weekend – when Jacob approached looking determined. “Elena is on her way,” he said after a moment. “She is ready to speak with Stasia, and would still like you to be there.”

            I blinked a couple of times. “Now? Today? Before the show?” I asked. Very articulate, I know.

            Jacob nodded. “Natasha is bringing her in a few minutes.”

            I sighed and nodded back. “Of course,” I said, “just let me freshen up and I’ll be right there.”

            I put on a pair of jeans and a flattering top, and I have to say that I felt severely outclassed when I joined Jacob and Elena in the sitting room. Elena was dolled up like she was going to the prom, and clearly anxious to see her wayward beloved. Luckily, Calamity picked up on this vibe and intercepted Stasia before she could show up in a ratty old t-shirt and torn jeans, and loaned her a natty suit.

            Things didn’t go well at first. I mean, sure, the two of them would have gotten back together with no help from yours truly, but there were complications. Stasia came in with lots of cocky swagger and cut through Elena’s defenses like a battering ram. Elena was clearly so desperate for reconciliation that she was willing to forgive and forget all of her lovers’ trespasses right there on the spot. And that was exactly the outcome she’d been afraid of, and had asked me to help her avoid.

            “Hang on,” I said before things could get to that point, “Elena has gone through hell these last few days, and she needs to know that you understand that.”

            Stasia rolled her eyes. “I’ve already said I was sorry,” she said irritably.

            “You’re not acting or talking like someone who’s filled with regret,” I pointed out.

            There was a bit more back-and-forth between us, with Stasia pushing back viciously whenever I got close to a genuine emotion. I conceded that she’d changed; she didn’t let things go as far during her excursion with Calamity as she would have before she’d met Elena. But I felt we needed to see some remorse; some sign that she wouldn’t let this sort of thing come between them again in the future.

            She got a little angry at that. “This is who I am,” she said, nearly shouting. “This bravado is how I deal with stress, okay? It’s an honest response. I’m not going to pretend to get all weepy over this, because that’s not me, and I think Elena deserves to see the real me.”

            “And that’s fine,” I said, raising my voice a little in turn, “but we all know that even though this might be how you honestly deal with stress, it’s masking what you feel inside. Elena needs – she deserves – something real from you.”

            “What do you want me to say?” Stasia said, a hint of desperation creeping into her voice. “I don’t want to give up my best friend, but I will if that’s what it takes to keep you!”

            There was a split second of utter silence as that sunk in. “There,” I said, settling back into my seat with a serious expression on my face. “That’s exactly the sort of thing I think she needed to hear.” I took in Stasia’s stricken expression, and my heart softened. “Don’t worry,” I continued. “Elena loves you and I don’t think she’d ever ask you to give up your friendship with Calamity. But hearing that you would give it up for her means more than all the platitudes and clever lines in the world.”

            Stasia wasn’t listening to me anymore. “I shouldn’t have said that,” she said, going about three shades paler than usual. “That was a horrible thing to say! Kat, I know you have abandonment issues… I should never have said that! I’m so sorry…”

            Calamity was there, taking her best friend’s hand in her own. “It’s okay,” she said softly. “I understand. You’re in love with her… it was the right thing to say…”

            I thought it would probably be best if I made myself scarce after that, so I headed upstairs looking for Maria. I found her in the media room with Missy, Jane, Julia and Natasha (the last two were making out on the floor while the others watched). I walked up to D, grabbed her by the collar, pulled her out of her chair, and kissed her fiercely on the lips. “Damn,” she said with a grin as we pulled apart. “Miss me, babe?”

            “Can I talk to you for a minute in private?” I asked. She nodded her assent, and we walked out as Natasha said her goodbyes to the others. Once we were back in our bedroom, I let the tears touch the corners of my eyes and looked hard at my wife. “You know that you are the most important thing in the Universe to me, right?” I asked. “You know that as long as I have you, the rest of the Freehold can burn.”

            She made a joke out of it at first, but quickly sobered up when she took in my expression. “Thank you,” she said softly, and kissed me on the forehead.

            So yeah, I was feeling a little vulnerable at that point, and was kind of worried that in attempting to fix Stasia’s relationship with Elena I had screwed up her friendship with Calamity. Both Calamity and Jacob stopped by my room to thank me and tell me that they thought I’d done the right thing. Jacob also told me that by the time they left, Stasia had begun to return to her old self, and their bond seemed to be stronger than ever.

            Calamity did spend the rest of the afternoon closeted in her room with Becky though. Neither one of them came out until the show started.

            Speaking of the show… my day took an upswing as the guests filed in and began taking their seats. First, Joan & Andromeda were in attendance, and that always brightens my day. After completing my solo (the “Toy Soldiers” number I’d planned for the previous evening, since Tanner wasn’t there) I made my way over to their table, greeted them both with kisses, and took a seat so that we could talk.

            We exchanged pleasantries for a while. Joan asked how I was coping with the monarchy, and once again I sort of surprised myself by admitting that… I’m starting to enjoy the gig. Not the modicum of authority it gives me, but the feeling that my efforts are actually doing some good in our little community.

            Joan beamed at me. “I knew you would do well, Your Majesty,” she said. “And of course you know, should threats arise, you have only to ask and my sword shall be at your disposal.”

            I took her hand and kissed it. “I know, Joan. My White Knight will be the first call I make if there’s trouble.”

            Andromeda had noticed Imke from across the room and was curious about the newcomer. I gave them the basics on our visiting scholar, and (after Andromeda made the requisite jokes about how they needed to hire her as an au pair) offered to introduce them. A few minutes later they were chatting away, which made me happy. I don’t know if Andromeda will succeed in seducing the friendly Dutch girl – or if Joan will even allow her to try – but having more friends in a strange foreign city is always a good thing. I moved on to another table, and it wasn’t long before Marguerite swooped in to take my place.

            I passed a few minutes with White Maria and Becky, and a few more with Jolie and Veronica, and I heard some of the latest gossip out of L.A. You remember that guy who stole a Barney costume from a TV station a couple of weeks ago? Well it seems that his spree of vandalism and other petty crimes proceeds apace. A couple of days ago, a few concerned citizens reported seeing someone in a Barney costume stealing Bolivian flags from various locations around the metropolitan area… like, all of them. And on Thursday night, someone in the same costume replaced a number of American flags on government buildings with the stolen Bolivian flags.

            I may have to reconsider my stance on this dastardly dinosaur after all. There were multiple witnesses to his crimes, and either nobody tried to stop him or nobody succeeded, and considering how awkward and conspicuous that costume is, I have to assume that the perpetrator has some supernatural abilities in play. As for his motives… who can say? A political statement? Performance art? Chaos for chaos’ sake?

            In any case, it was fun catching up with the constituents, but I’d spotted my endgame almost as soon as the curtain rose. Tamara Chance was at the bar as usual, chatting amiably with Jacob and Halley and throwing occasional glances my way (which I pretended not to see). When a bar stool opened up next to her, I ambled over and settled onto it.

            “Hey,” I said with a grin.

            “Hi,” she shot back.

            “How have you been?” I asked.

            “Good,” she said, “and John’s been doing well too. I think he’s finally starting to relax a little bit now that someone else is on the throne.”

            “I’m glad to hear it,” I said. “I hope I’m not being too much of a nuisance with my constant requests for advice and information…”

            “Oh, not at all,” she was quick to assure me. “John doesn’t mind doing his job; he just doesn’t like having the weight of all that responsibility on his shoulders. He’s…” she turned shy for a second and didn’t meet my gaze as she continued, “he’s actually been quite complimentary of your reign so far.”

            I felt my cheeks color a bit in turn. “Thanks,” I said softly. “I’m sure I’m making a ton of rookie mistakes, but… thanks for telling me that. It means a lot.” I put my hand on top of hers, and that set the tone for the rest of the evening.

            I’ve been flirting with Tamara for a few weeks now, and she’s been responding in kind, albeit in a more subdued fashion. It seemed to me that the time was finally right to move things to the next level, so at some point during the evening I caught Maria’s eye and glanced meaningfully at Tamara. She got the message immediately, and gave me a thumbs-up sign to show that she understood.

            I ordered a drink for me and another for Tamara and put both on my tab, and we started to talk. Talk turned to laughter, and subtle touches were initiated on both sides. I’d been taking things slowly with Tamara, trying to let her take the lead and let her decide when she wanted things to progress. But I’d come to realize that she’s too shy to take that step on her own. She needed help.

            I gave her that help.

            When the crowds had dispersed, I took her hand in mine asked if she’d like to join me upstairs for the evening. Her face was the color of a ripe strawberry, and she flat-out refused to meet my eyes, but she nodded, took out her phone, and texted John that she had made plans for the evening so that he wouldn’t worry. A few minutes later we were sitting on my bed and making out. A few minutes after that our dresses were around our waists. And so forth.

            Tamara is adorable. She’s so shy; she won’t initiate anything, but she was very enthusiastic about trying just about anything I suggested or demonstrated. And when we ran out of steam and lay down to sleep, I was the one with my arms wrapped protectively around her. It was a definite change from the way my evenings usually go, but… I found that I enjoyed it quite a bit.

            It’s fairly late Saturday morning now, and I think I’m nearly done with this entry. Like I said back at the beginning, I’m going to crawl back into bed and slip my arms around Tamara before she wakes up. She’s… well, it would be wrong to characterize her as “fragile,” because she’s actually a fairly strong person when you get to know her. But what happened last night is outside of her comfort zone, and I want to make sure that the whole experience from beginning to end is as pleasant as possible so that she won’t shy away from taking such risks in the future. I want her to know that I’m not suddenly going to lose interest in her now that we’ve slept together.

            I’d be lying if I said I had no political motive for getting closer to Tamara. I need someone whose opinion John can’t afford to ignore to be on my side. But there’s a reason I picked her instead of some other member of the Winter Court. She’s sweet, she’s shy, she’s genuine, and she’s cute as hell. And I think – I hope – that this is the start of something real between us, and not just my latest move in the Freehold’s game of chess.

            Lorelei de la Rocha

            End Session CLV

            Oh, but it has not gotten weird yet...

            Comments and Questions welcome

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            [Geist: Balance of Shadows ][ Vampire: The Conspiracy of Hrad Černá Hora ][ Scion: Bohemian Front][Changeling: Malibu Dream House] [Demon: Night Train Detective Agency] [WoD: The Golden Eagle]


            • Just when you thought it could not get wierder...

              Session CLVI

              Lorelei's Diary

              What the… I mean… I don’t know… what the hell is happening to my Freehold? I’m not even sure how to frame the events of yesterday, honestly, but I guess I’ll give it a go. Bear with me, though… this shit’s about to get weird.

              So the day didn’t start badly – or end badly, for that matter – but the stuff that came in the middle was mind-bogglingly unexpected. After I finished my last entry I slipped back into bed, and back into Tamara’s arms. She muttered something in her sleep and snuggled up against my chest, and I kissed her forehead and let my thoughts wander for a bit. I suppose it’s no surprise that I drifted off for a while.

              When I woke up Tamara’s eyes were open, and she was staring at me with a little half-smile on her face. I returned her smile and leaned in for a kiss, which she happily returned. We lay there cuddling for a while, not really speaking but just holding each other and communicating our affection through light touches and quick kisses. Eventually the smells of coffee and something sweet drifted up to us, and we decided to get out of bed.

              Tamara watched me as I pulled on a pair of panties and one of my oversized sleep shirts, then took her time getting more fully dressed. We descended the stairs and entered the kitchen together, and we were among the last people to arrive. Calamity was there, making blueberry waffles (yum!) with Becky resting comfortably against the counter nearby. Imke had apparently spent the evening with Marguerite and Julia, and while she looked a little shell-shocked by the experience, she seemed to have enjoyed herself. Missy and Jane were present and accounted for, as were Jacob and D. I slipped into my wife’s arms for a quick good morning kiss.

              “No guest of your own this morning?” I asked. “I didn’t mean to strand you last night, honey…”

              “Nah,” she said, “I stayed with Gloria last night. She just had stuff to do this morning and couldn’t stay for breakfast.”

              Thus reassured, I settled in for a delicious waffles-and-coffee breakfast. I stayed close to Tamara, who had never done a Sex Breakfast with the rest of us before. I wanted to make sure she understood that I wasn’t abandoning her to her own devices or anything like that. While it was obvious that she was at least a little embarrassed by the situation, she covered it well enough, quipping at one point that her dad (meaning John) was going to name one of his ulcers after Calamity.

              Imke wasn’t faring so well. While she didn’t seem particularly self-conscious or embarrassed by her presence, Julia wouldn’t leave the poor girl alone. She was constantly fussing over the Dutch girl’s feet (I guess her fetishes were coming to the surface). Imke asked me at one point if Julia ever fixated on my feet like that, and I was forced to admit with a smirk that I had other attributes that tended to distract Julia before she got to my feet.

              Marguerite and Julia both mentioned at some point that Imke was “delicious,” and while I didn’t push the issue I had a pretty good idea of what they meant. Calamity later confided that when she’d looked at Imke’s fears a few days previous, she’d caught a glimpse of the Dutch girl’s Keeper, who was apparently some sort of demented baker. I confess to being somewhat curious about what Imke tastes like, but that’s an issue for another day.

              I was just starting to set up my laptop to take Davie’s daily Skype call when Tamara let me know she was going to head out. I offered to walk her out, and she gratefully accepted. She stopped on the doorstep and looked into my eyes. “I need to know what this means to you,” she said seriously, with only a hint of a tremble in her voice, “before we go any further.”

              I took her hand in both of mine. “I guess I deserve the question,” I said with a sad smile. “I know my reputation; I sleep with a lot of people…”

              “I don’t mean it as a judgment,” she was quick to assure me, “I just… don’t want to get hurt.”

              “Tamara,” I said, “I like you a lot. I’ve really enjoyed talking with you and spending time with you over the past few months. Nothing about that has to change, no matter what else does. I will always be there for you if you need anything from me. But… if you’re interested in seeing where things can go between us, I’d be happy to explore that with you.”

              She smiled slowly, and it was a beautiful thing to see. “Okay,” she said so softly it was almost a whisper, “I think I’d like that.”

              I pulled her into a hug and kissed her on the mouth. “Will you be back for the show tonight?” I asked. “It’s my usual evening with Oleander, but I’d still love to see you…”

              “I plan to be there,” she said. “I’ll… I’ll see you then, Lori.” And that was that.

              I made it back to the computer just in time to take Davie’s call. His snooping had turned up a wealth of new information, which he was eager to share. He’d managed to get into Sheena’s email account, and had begun a cursory search using keywords. He cautioned me that it would take time to do a more thorough search, but he had a few talking points already.

              “She’s been in contact with someone in the LA area who goes by the name of ‘Darkstar.’ Or at least that’s part of the email address they’re using. Whoever it is seems to be some sort of private investigator. Sheena’s looking for someone in LA… a young man named Elwood. Based on what I’m seeing, it seems likely that Elwood is Barb’s son, but both parties are cagey enough not to give specifics in their emails.”

              “Okay, thanks Davie. Great work. Go through the data as you get the chance, and keep digging please. I’ll work some leads on this end and see what I can come up with. Stay safe.”

              “Will do, Your Highness,” he responded with a wink. “Same time tomorrow.”

              I made the first of two calls as soon as we’d disconnected. John picked up on the second ring, and his voice gave no indication that he knew I’d slept with his adopted daughter the previous evening. “Lorelei,” he said mildly by way of a greeting. I passed along Davie’s information, and he considered it for a moment. “I have a suspicion about who this Darkstar might be,” he admitted. “Halley’s been associated with that alias in the past.”

              “We should probably see what she knows,” I said with a sigh.

              “You want to handle this personally, or do you want me to speak with her?” he asked.

              I sighed again. “No, I’m not going to be the kind of monarch who delegates everything to other people,” I said after a moment. “I took up this post, and it’s my responsibility to do my job to the best of my ability. I’ll take care of it, and while I’m at it I’ll see if Calamity can help us find this Elwood person.”

              I could sense the approval – and maybe even a little surprise – in his response. “Okay then,” he said, “call me if you need anything.”

              I gathered the troops and let them in on the situation. Together we decided that we should try to get as much information as possible before confronting Halley, so Calamity used her tracking contract to locate Elwood. She got a brief vision of a young man playing a video game in an apartment in LA, and we were off to the van.

              We’d just gotten onto one of the coastal roads when Calamity’s phone rang. The caller ID function showed it as a restricted number, so she passed the phone to Jacob and asked him to answer it. He did, and his stoic Russian visage took on a confused cast as he spoke a curt negative. He told us after the call disconnected that the voice on the other end had been heavily disguised by some sort of electronic distortion, and that it had told him to “cease his search for the child.” When he had asked what would happen if he did not, the voice had responded “so it’s going to be that way? Fine.” The call then disconnected.

              We didn’t have a lot of time to discuss this, as two cars in front of us suddenly lurched sideways into each other and spun into a small crash. It was a very minor accident, and nobody was badly hurt, but the road ahead was completely blocked, and with cliffs on one side and a long drop into the ocean on the other, there was no way for us to get around it.

              All of this was secondary to me, however, as I spotted something… unique. A bright beam of red-tinged light shone down from the clouds above, pointing directly at Calamity. It was obviously some sort of glamour effect, and none of my compatriots could see it at all (I later learned that this was probably a Clarity thing). I called off the chase, reasoning that we needed more information about what we were dealing with before we pursued things further.

              As Calamity drove us back to the Dream House, I called John again. I was contemplating calling a meeting of the monarchs, as I wanted Charlotte’s insight into the strange glamour effect I’d seen, and I thought it was only fair not to leave Augustine out of the loop. Much to my surprise, John suggested I call the Viscount first and ask him about Darkstar. I thanked him for his suggestion and told him I’d be in touch.

              We were back at the house by the time I reached the Viscount. He was obviously a bit surprised when I asked him about Darkstar, but shared what he knew without asking questions or complaining. “We haven’t announced Project Darkstar to the Freehold yet, because it’s frankly not ready to go live. There are still a lot of details to work out. The gist of it is that Darkstar is an autonomous satellite… one designed by Halley. Once it’s fully online, it should be able to pinpoint a specific individual and either protect or eliminate them on behalf of the Freehold.”

              So that gave me pause. I gave him the gist of the situation regarding Vanuatu and such, and asked that he send Halley to speak with me at her earliest convenience. I wanted him to stress that she wasn’t in any sort of trouble, but that I – and by extension, the Freehold – desperately needed information she might have. He agreed to do so, and before we disconnected I let him know as a courtesy that it was quite likely that I’d be calling a meeting of the monarchs later that afternoon.

              Augustine must have impressed the importance of the request upon Halley, because she arrived at the Dream House less than half an hour later. What followed was undoubtedly one of the most surreal conversations I’ve ever had… and keep in mind that I’m saying this as the reigning queen of a society of people who have been whisked away to a strange, horrific fantasy land by nigh-omnipotent creatures of story and impulse, and altered against their will in fundamental ways.

              Halley told us what she’d been working on. She’d managed to find a silicon-based hobgoblin in the Hedge and merge it with a computer AI she’d developed. She’d placed this computer in a satellite, and has been attempting to cultivate it as a powerful defensive ally for the Freehold. She’s been working on a laser cannon to arm the satellite, but at its current orbit the laser would only be accurate to within about four miles, so she hasn’t installed it yet. The AI can identify when glamour has been used on an individual it’s been assigned to protect, and can trace the glamour back to its source. So yeah, that tracks.

              But that wasn’t the conversation to which I referred earlier. Oh, no. At my request, Halley put us in contact with Darkstar directly using an app on her phone. After a few seconds, a computerized voice that sounded pretty much exactly like Jacob had described spoke up. “Good afternoon, Mother,” it said pleasantly.

              “Good afternoon, Darkstar,” Halley replied. “I have a friend here who’d like to speak with you. Is that okay?”

              “Certainly,” Darkstar replied.

              “Hello, Darkstar,” I said in turn. “My name is Lorelei. How are you?”

              “I am well, thank you,” the AI replied. “Are you the same Lorelei who is currently Queen of the Lady by the Sea Freehold?”

              “Yes I am,” I answered.

              “It is a pleasure to speak with you, Your Majesty,” Darkstar said. “How may I be of service?”

              Darkstar is eager to please, but a bit naïve. I managed to get across to it the fact that the earlier incident between us had been a misunderstanding, and it in turn explained a bit about why it was protecting young Elwood. It had made an email friend it referred to as “Debs,” whom we assume is none other than former Malibu Spring Queen Debbie. She had asked Darkstar to look after Elwood, and seemed especially worried that Sheena might intend him harm. Darkstar confirmed that it had indeed been in contact with Sheena, but that it was only pretending to help her in a sly bid to keep Elwood safe.

              Darkstar also mentioned that it had used its influence to scare off another investigator… one it referred to as “the soggy lady.” Apparently it had accessed this woman’s smart house to frighten her pretty badly. I thought it probably meant Dahlia, and resolved to speak with John about the issue later.

              We ended the conversation on good terms. Halley looked kind of nervous after she hung up, and it wasn’t difficult for me to see why. I sighed and rubbed at my temples briefly.

              “He’s a good boy,” she said somewhat defensively, “and the benefits to the Freehold…”

              “I know,” I said. “I’m not pulling the plug on Darkstar, Halley. But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have a few concerns. I’m going to need to speak to the other monarchs about this, and… we’ll see where things go from there.”

              So that was the rest of my afternoon. I made a quick call to Monica and asked about her progress in contacting Debbie. She’d received a response to her email, but hadn’t really learned anything of import yet. I asked her to step up her efforts and to see if Debbie would be willing to communicate with me directly. I wanted her to stress that we weren’t accusing Debbie of anything, and didn’t intend her (or Elwood) any harm… we just needed information that she had. Monica agreed, and that was that.

              I called the other monarchs and set up a meeting in the conference room of that local hotel John likes, and we met there about an hour later. I brought Kimberly with me as my aide, and the others had their usual associates as well. I greeted everyone warmly with a handshake… including Tamara, who blushed a bit but didn’t make a big deal out of it. I’m certain John now knows that there’s something between us.

              Once we’d all been seated and refreshments had been provided, I favored them all with a knowing smile and began the meeting. “Okay,” I said, letting a little edge slide into my voice, “was I the only one who didn’t know about Darkstar?”

              Charlotte clearly had no idea what I was talking about. John shrugged and stated that he only knew the project name and nothing else (I’m not sure I believe that, honestly). Augustine had the good grace to seem slightly abashed at the whole situation. “I… didn’t want to make a formal announcement until we were a little further along,” he explained. He gave a brief run-down of the project, and I shared my experiences with Darkstar so that we’d all be on the same page.

              “So to my mind,” I stated once everyone was caught up, “the situation before us is this: we have a potentially game-changing ally against the enemies of the Freehold, but at the moment we also have a shocking lack of control over it. Even though it doesn’t have any active weapons systems at the moment, Darkstar demonstrated today that it could potentially wreak massive destruction if it decided to do so. We need to decide what to do about this, and we need to implement a solution immediately.”

              “There are safeguards in place,” Augustine said in response. “Darkstar can’t employ lethal force without orders from Halley, and she’s got several redundant kill-switches in place in case it ever truly goes rogue… at least one of which does not involve its AI processor at all, so it can’t voluntarily shut the countermeasure down.”

              “It’s already proven that it can take action without Halley’s explicit approval… albeit non-lethal action,” I pointed out. “She was completely unaware of the situation involving Debbie, Sheena, and Elwood.”

              “And, meaning no offense,” Lowjack interjected mildly, “but Halley isn’t necessarily the most stable person to have access to that sort of power. She’s got a short fuse, and if her emotions get the better of her at a bad time…”

              Augustine nodded. “I have considered that,” he admitted. “Halley is only our top weapons developer because none of the rest of my Court has the technical know-how to take her place.”

              Lowjack leaned back. “And what if, in a moment of rage and weakness, she turns this thing’s powers against Andromeda, for example?”

              I sighed. “If she hurt or killed Andromeda, no power on Earth would be able to stop Joan from trying to take her revenge. And if Halley turned Darkstar against Joan… well, this Freehold really can’t afford to lose Joan.”

              We chewed on the situation for a bit, arguing pros and cons. In the end we decided that Darkstar was too great an asset to just throw away – to say nothing of the material and man-hour costs the Summer Court had invested in it – but none of us were comfortable with the project proceeding without some checks and redundancies in place. I proposed a classic “two key” solution, where no single person – even Halley – could influence Darkstar to act without the request being approved by the sitting monarch. This should both prevent future “Elwood” situations and hopefully curb any of Halley’s more violent tendencies. Plus, as the crown tends to transfer pretty much instantly when something happens to one of the monarchs, it ensures that we won’t be caught unable to act in an emergency.

              “There is one more thing,” Augustine said before we adjourned. “I strongly recommend that we keep Darkstar’s existence a secret from the Freehold at large. At least until we have it fully operational and have worked out the bugs.”

              Lowjack nodded at this. “I agree completely,” he said.

              Charlotte looked uncertain. “I’d just like to point out that if this comes out on its own, it’s going to look very bad for us,” she said. “We could lose a lot of trust from the citizens of the Freehold.”

              They all looked at me. Oh, yeah, it’s good to be the Queen all right. Sigh. “I see what you’re saying, Charlotte,” I said after a moment, “and under other circumstances I’d back your point of view one hundred percent. I think transparency is the best policy most of the time. But in this case…”

              I pinched the bridge of my nose. “Darkstar is too powerful and its programming is too vulnerable to outside influence at the moment. If word of this satellite got out to Hollywood, and they were to find some way to befriend it… the consequences to the Freehold could be catastrophic. I promise you that as soon as it’s safe to do so, we’ll go public with this. But for now, the risk is too great.”

              Charlotte nodded. “Of course I’ll go along with your decision, Lori. Just registering my opinion.”

              “And I hope you will continue to do so; that’s why we have these meetings,” I said.

              She smirked. “Don’t worry about that; I’ll always tell you what I think.”

              I dashed off a quick text to the motley asking them not to tell anyone about the Darkstar situation, and then cornered John and Tamara before they left. I asked John about the possibility that Darkstar’s “soggy lady” was Dahlia, but he nixed that idea pretty quickly. Dahlia hadn’t been investigating Elwood to his knowledge, and she doesn’t have a smart house. He offered the opinion that it might be Ginny, but I haven’t had the chance to follow up on that yet.

              As we parted, John gave me an inscrutable look that seemed to say I-know-what-you’re-doing-with-my-daughter-young-lady-and-you’d-better-watch-your-step. Or maybe that was my imagination, I dunno. John knows so much about everything that I tend to assume he already knows just about everything that I do, which is maybe his most powerful superpower.

              Stasia and Elena were there when I got back to the Dream House. I took in their faces – excited in Stasia and Calamity’s case, slightly guilty in Elena and Jacob’s – and sighed. “You told them!” I spat the accusation.

              “To be fair, we’d already told them by the time by the time we got your text,” Calamity said.

              “Okay, but seriously, this cannot go any further. Lives are at stake. Imagine what might happen if someone from Hollywood got Darkstar’s email address…” I let that hang in the air for a few seconds before relaxing my stern demeanor. “That being said… how is everybody?”

              Elena came forward first to thank me for overseeing their little reconciliation talk the previous day. “I know I might have seemed a little harsh,” I said, “and I’ve been feeling bad about that…”

              “Don’t,” Elena reassured me. “I am sorry she had to say it, but I am also glad she did say it, if that makes sense.”

              “It does,” I said.

              “And Calamity,” she continued, “I want to assure you that I am glad you are in Stasia’s life. You make her so happy… I would never ask her to give that up. And I want you to understand that Stasia is not all the family you have left. Now I am your family, and Jacob.”

              I made some flippant remark about being a third-stringer to cut the tension a bit, but I could tell that Calamity was really touched by Elena’s words. Things settled back into a more easy-going conversation after that, though we couldn’t seem to get off the subject of Darkstar. We discussed the minutiae of the case, including the mysterious Elwood, and Stasia quipped that she couldn’t believe Barb would have named her son after the blues-man character from that movie.

              “TV show,” I corrected absently. “Elwood Blues was from Saturday Night Live.”

              Everyone was quiet for a moment. Calamity was the first to speak. “You’ve been back for more than two years, and you haven’t seen the Blues Brothers movie?” she asked. Apparently it’s a classic, and even did well enough to rate a lackluster sequel. So I guess I have that to look forward to on movie night.

              Stasia and Elena seem deliriously happy to be back together, which in turn made me happy. They’d obviously enjoyed their reunion to the fullest possible extent, and Stasia’s shoulders were still sore to prove the point. Elena took a rather impish glee in prodding her lover in particularly tender spots throughout the afternoon.

              Back on more serious topics, Calamity is utterly convinced that the AI is going to go rogue at some point and that she’s going to have to deal with it personally. The logistical problems of this plan aside (how would she even get up into orbit in the first place?), she raised a few valid points.

              Under ordinary circumstances, I’d say that her worries of Darkstar turning against its creators were unfounded. But changeling circumstances are anything but ordinary; our lives are governed by the laws of storytelling… we’re victims of genre conventions as much as actual real-world causality. And stories of people creating artificial life-forms are almost universally stories of those creatures going rogue. Calamity cited recent examples like Skynet in the Terminator films and Spielberg’s A.I., but there are plenty of stories from my time and before that fit the mold as well. HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey. The creature in Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein. The Golem of Prague. I’m sure there are thousands of other examples.

              Maybe I should talk with Charlotte about quietly bringing Dionysia in on this. Her Talecrafting skills could be invaluable in getting out in front of this thing. Hollywood’s not above employing their own Talecrafters, after all, and I’d like the Freehold to have a head-start in dealing with this potential crisis. Plus, if we can craft our own ending to this tale… we might not have to deal with Darkstar so… permanently. And dammit, I kind of liked the AI. It seemed like a sweet kid. A sweet kid with godlike power over us. Like Will Robinson in that Twilight Zone episode. Eep.

              I spent about twenty minutes before it was time to get ready for the show shut up in my room with my wife. I didn’t break down this time, I just asked her to hold me and quietly confided in her that I was afraid I was eventually going to have to order Halley to kill what is essentially her only child. D held me and said she knew I’d do the right thing, even if it was hard, and that was enough to get me back on my A-game. For now.

              With that “never say die” attitude in mind, I checked with Missy and Jane and made a last-minute substitution. I went on first tonight, and we opened the show with Queen’s “The Show Must Go On,” which is all about how Freddie Mercury refused to allow his declining health and the other circumstances at the end of his life interfere with him doing what he loved. We killed it, too… damn near brought the house down with that number.

              Lots of puissant guests were present that evening, and I tried to make sure I spoke with each of them in turn. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Halley wasn’t present… I’m guessing either Augustine was de-briefing her about the failsafe we want installed or she was getting started on installing it. Tamara wasn’t there either, but she texted me to let me know that John needed her and that she wasn’t avoiding me or anything. I replied with a winky-smiley emoji and a quick “I understand, see you soon, Luv, Lori.” While Jolie and Desiree were there, Veronica was not… which meant Molly wasn’t there either, so Jacob actually looked a little lonely up there at the bar.

              I spotted Imke and Tanner sitting together, and made sure to leave myself a few minutes to visit with them. We didn’t speak of anything particularly momentous… Imke still seemed a bit overwhelmed, honestly. Tanner did say that she’d stopped by to speak with Calamity about beginning dream therapy, which was the best news I’d heard in hours. I said my goodbyes as quickly as politeness allowed after that and let Calamity know the score. I think the two of them are in the process of setting something up that will hopefully allow Tanner to cope with her missing memories.

              And then all my Queenly duties were taken care of and I could plant myself in Oleander’s lap and lose myself in her embrace. I think she took in how emotionally exhausted I was, because we didn’t hang around too long after final curtain. She took me back to her place, plied me with wine and soft jazz and a backrub so relaxing it should probably be regulated by the state.

              “No more,” I slurred at one point, “or I’ll fall asleep, and won’t be up for any shenanigans.”

              “It’s okay, Angel,” she said in a soothing whisper, leaning down close to my ear. “You’ve been so tense lately… I like the fact that you can let go of all that and relax around me. If you just want to sleep, I’ll be content with that as long as I can be next to you.”

              I turned to the side and gave her my best smile. “Okay, now I really want to kiss you,” I said with a soft giggle. And I did. And she carried me to her bed, and we lay there, and gave each other slow, quiet, powerful orgasms… one each. And then I felt everything fade away except for her deep, wise, intense eyes, and I think I managed to breathe out “I love you” before I drifted off but I’m not really sure.

              And then there were about six hours of dreamless uninterrupted sleep. I wrote most of this while Oleander has been fixing breakfast, but breakfast is over now and I really need to get on my way to church.

              …seriously, a fucking satellite?

              Lorelei de la Rocha

              End Session CLVI

              This game is currently on hiatus due to Stay-At-Home requirements. We have every expectation it will resume after the pandemic runs it's course. We hope you will join us then.

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              [Geist: Balance of Shadows ][ Vampire: The Conspiracy of Hrad Černá Hora ][ Scion: Bohemian Front][Changeling: Malibu Dream House] [Demon: Night Train Detective Agency] [WoD: The Golden Eagle]


              • Have to admit, a hobgoblin incorporated into satellite is a really cool concept for a Changeling game, especially if one could use it for various other tasks. The idea of cultivating a hobgoblin into an AI at all is a neat idea, albeit one with significant risks. It’s cool that Halley is getting to show off her technical prowess, and that Lori is keeping her in mind when the monarchs discuss whether to axe Darkstar or not. Poor girl really does need some successes in her life... as well as a few trips to a therapist, but that’s a step she’ll have to be open to taking.

                Have to admit, though, for a moment I thought we were going to see a dark side of our loveable Brightstar, or a nemesis of hers come to the fore. Not disappointed in the slightest with what we got though.

                Really nice to see Stasia and Elena are back and stronger for it. Really liked how Elena took the time to ensure that Calamity won’t feel like a third wheel, outright stating Calamity is family. It’s a really touching scene, and not just for Calamity either. Poor Elena being ousted from her own family for her relationship with Stasia, with one brother making things worse while another helps her stay upright, it’s great that she sees (at least part of) the motley as her family now, even with their strangeness. It’s great stuff.

                Speaking of Calamity, she continues to be in fine form along with Jacob. I love the descriptions of them as Lori gets back and finds Darkstar already leaked by them. They make a great duo. Also I can’t help but imagine Calamity climbing a miles long rope to get to Darkstar to shut it down, lack of air in space be damned.She’s determined enough to do so.

                Insincere Marguerite doesn’t seem to have had a huge presence in this session, though what screen time she did have she definitely made the most of. She’s like a cat that way - silent, stealthy , and when part of a scenario she’s somehow a huge part in spite of being silent and stealthy, all the while with a magnetic personality.

                Bit rambly on my part (writing at 3 am will do that), but I wanted to make a post before I put it off any longer. I hope everyone is doing alright regarding the Covid 19 situation, and that the pandemic keeps a fair distance. Thanks for playing, writing on and posting about this great game everyone! Peace


                • Originally posted by Taidragon View Post
                  Have to admit, a hobgoblin incorporated into satellite is a really cool concept for a Changeling game, especially if one could use it for various other tasks. The idea of cultivating a hobgoblin into an AI at all is a neat idea, albeit one with significant risks. It’s cool that Halley is getting to show off her technical prowess, and that Lori is keeping her in mind when the monarchs discuss whether to axe Darkstar or not. Poor girl really does need some successes in her life... as well as a few trips to a therapist, but that’s a step she’ll have to be open to taking.

                  Have to admit, though, for a moment I thought we were going to see a dark side of our loveable Brightstar, or a nemesis of hers come to the fore. Not disappointed in the slightest with what we got though.

                  Really nice to see Stasia and Elena are back and stronger for it. Really liked how Elena took the time to ensure that Calamity won’t feel like a third wheel, outright stating Calamity is family. It’s a really touching scene, and not just for Calamity either. Poor Elena being ousted from her own family for her relationship with Stasia, with one brother making things worse while another helps her stay upright, it’s great that she sees (at least part of) the motley as her family now, even with their strangeness. It’s great stuff.

                  Speaking of Calamity, she continues to be in fine form along with Jacob. I love the descriptions of them as Lori gets back and finds Darkstar already leaked by them. They make a great duo. Also I can’t help but imagine Calamity climbing a miles long rope to get to Darkstar to shut it down, lack of air in space be damned.She’s determined enough to do so.

                  Insincere Marguerite doesn’t seem to have had a huge presence in this session, though what screen time she did have she definitely made the most of. She’s like a cat that way - silent, stealthy , and when part of a scenario she’s somehow a huge part in spite of being silent and stealthy, all the while with a magnetic personality.

                  Bit rambly on my part (writing at 3 am will do that), but I wanted to make a post before I put it off any longer. I hope everyone is doing alright regarding the Covid 19 situation, and that the pandemic keeps a fair distance. Thanks for playing, writing on and posting about this great game everyone! Peace
                  Thank you. The intent with the Vanuatu story is to have a lot of twists and turns and a lot of unexpected stuff to keep people on their toes. I figured Darkstar would be a surprise. I have been hinting at a big project for Hailey for awhile now; she made a lot of references to Jacob and had a ray gun at one point. Let me assure you we are not out of twists yet.

                  Yeah Stasia and Elena was kinda thrust on me when Calamity elected to not stay for the crowning. I think it has gone well. Elena is both very caring and very pragmatic. She often seems more innocent or naive than she is, but she is younger than Stasia and follows her lead a lot. (I have a lot of fun with the whole dichotomy of her being the Top and Stasia the Bottom most of the time)

                  Yeah Calamity and Jacob have bonded more and Insincere Marguerite and Lori of the PCs. Of course at this point it can be hard to tell who is a PC and who isn't if you don't look back. Insincere Marguerite is always there, watching, it is safe to assume.

                  So far so good. *knock on wood* Thank you for taking the time to post this. We love the feedback.

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                  [Geist: Balance of Shadows ][ Vampire: The Conspiracy of Hrad Černá Hora ][ Scion: Bohemian Front][Changeling: Malibu Dream House] [Demon: Night Train Detective Agency] [WoD: The Golden Eagle]