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[AP] Dying Young: A New Calais Chronicle

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  • [AP] Dying Young: A New Calais Chronicle

    "The good die young. That is why immortality is reserved for the greatest of evils." - Daniel Baldwin


    New Calais, 1991
    It’s said that the South is haunted by its own landscape and nowhere is that truer than in the bayous of Louisiana, where cities only just keep the natural world at bay and the dead refuse to lay beneath the soggy earth.


    New Calais is the second largest city in Louisiana, as well as one of its oldest; founded on the western bank of the Mississippi River by French architect Philippe du Lac in the early part of the 18th century and its oldest families date back just as far.

    The city is known for its ties to industry, with Northridge Industries, an aerospace manufacturer and the two pharmaceutical giants, White Heart and TS Pharmaceuticals having their American headquarters here, but like many industrial cities, New Calais has fallen on hard times. The collapse of the auto industry hit the aero-space industry just as hard, and Northridge nearly closed in the mid-eighties.

    Then there’s the crime; gangs are a serious problem in New Calais, as is the drug trade, though the majority of violence can only be found in the Green Lawn, Midland and West Clay neighborhood of the city. Drugs aren’t held to any such boundaries and the city’s Coke, Crack and Heroin consumption is thrice the national average, even as newer, stranger drugs such as Solace and Pigment hit the market.

    And there are stranger things still.

    Blood Cults, ritualistic murders, unsolvable mass killings, a rash of disappearances back in 1984, the haunted riverfront, the packs of wild dogs that watch people conspiratorially as they go about their business.

    The city is a dark place, its shadows are full of secrets.

    And then there is Bishopsgate. The recently annexed city turned suburb has fallen on hard times with the near collapse of Northridge, who employed nearly the entire town. Full of old glory, ancient, rotting plantations and lost hope, the near-dead satellite of a dying city is no place to call home. Bishopsgate's population has dropped precipitously from nearly 300,000 in 1960 to just over 150,000 today and things aren't looking good for it.


    I'll let the characters introduce themselves...


    Episode 1 – The White Ball

    Chrissy looked around the twin bedroom with stars in her eyes, the muted peach and pink wallpaper, the matching white vanities and wardrobes, even the matching white bedspreads, all of it was both saccharin sweet and wholly perfect.

    She had a good feeling about this year. Rush week had been a wild ride, and now she was being inducted into the Mu Sigma Chi Sorority, one of the most prestigious sororities at Talbot University, and one of the most mysterious.

    Tonight, to end rush week, she was going to the infamously mysterious White Ball, a welcoming party held jointly by the Mu Sigmas and their sibling Fraternity Tau Delta Alpha. She’d heard about it when she came to the school, no one knew where or when the party took place. All anyone knew for sure was that it existed at all, though there were rumors of a secret ceremony that took place, that there was an elite even among the elite.

    If it was true, Chrissy’s new friends, no, her new sisters, AJ, Erica and Gemma would know. They were so cool and beautiful and everything that Chrissy felt she wasn’t. And they said that she was those things too.

    AJ was beautiful, her skin dark and shining, and her hair was a kinky mass of curls that rose and fell around her face like a mane or a queen’s headdress. Her eyes were the color of honey and she had the body of a dancer, which was currently sheathed in a tight white dress trimmed with tulle.

    Gemma, AJ’s roommate, was her opposite in nearly every way. Tall and built like a cat, the statuesque blonde moved with the grace of a predator even in her mermaid gown with its plunging neckline. Her burnished gold hair was pulled up into a French twist and, as always, she wore her strand of pearls.

    “They’re heirlooms, they’ve been in the family for generations.” She said as she plucked a stray hair from her eyelashes.

    “But you could wear anything else,” said Erica, who herself was rocking a white sequined A-line cocktail dress, her naturally curly pale blonde hair was pulled up to give it even more volume. She could have been Gemma’s sister, they were so similar, though she was smaller than Gemma. They were both cheerleaders and it showed in their physiques. “Hold still.”

    Erica was currently trying to tease Chrissy’s pixy haircut into something fuller.

    Chrissy was, herself, wearing an A-line dress, not a short one like Erica, and without the sequins. She liked the way it accentuated her athletic legs and back, while making her feel feminine.

    “Now, this is a party, but only recently have they dropped the White-Tie rule, so we’re all dressed appropriately,” Gemma said, eyeing Erica’s characteristic rhinestone white tennis shoes. Erica smirked at her friend’s faux ire.

    “It’s important to remember that this party is for you, so you’re not there to sit and look pretty, but you’re also there to represent us, so don’t go too wild,” AJ added, remembering that Tau Delta that almost got kicked out the year before. Ah, to be a legacy.

    “And no one talks about where it is held,” Erica added, “we never talk about it.” She didn’t sound particularly convincing.

    There was loud banging at the door and it burst open, revealing the sorority president Annie Hoover. She was tall and severe and beautiful and was currently violently red.

    “What the hell is this!” she demands, chucking a balled up piece of blue paper at Gemma.

    “I don’t know, Annie,” Gemma said, unfolding the blue piece of trash.

    Her eyes grew wide as she read it.

    Tau Delta Alpha and Mu Sigma Chi

    Presents

    THE WHITE BALL

    The Fairway Plantation
    Friday, Oct. 5
    9pm

    Featuring
    The Ark of Creation
    and
    Abby Sweeney & the Sweetmeats

    All are welcome | 9pm | $10

    Gemma didn’t make a sound as she passed the flyer to AJ.

    “Oh…oh no.” AJ said, passing it off to Erica and Chrissy.

    “I… I don’t understand,” Chrissy said.

    Erica just read it quietly, staring.

    “They’re all over campus!” Annie screamed.

    “So much for a secret,” Gemma said

    “Someone’s in trouble,” AJ added before looking at their pledge, “I hope this wasn’t you.”

    “I didn’t know where it was,” Chrissy said, still not entirely sure where it was.

    “Is it some kind of joke?” Gemma asked the room, but when her eyes fell on Erica her heart leapt into her throat.

    Erica, the girl with the best chance, after AJ, of drawing the White Ball this year, one of the two girls she’d voted on as a member of the Ashwood Society, was sobbing quietly.

    “What were you thinking?” Annie asked accusingly.

    “Why?” AJ demanded.

    “You. Idiot!” Gemma said.

    The girl broke into sobs.

    “I don’t know, I just thought… what did I do? Oh God, I thought it would be a good idea, Annie and you are always talking about fundraisers and I thought it would be a way of making some money,” she wailed, never taking her eyes off of the flyer. “Oh god, oh god what did I do? What did I do Gemma?”

    “I don’t know, Erica, what did you do?”

    “Whose idea was this?” AJ asked her.

    “Mine!”

    “Are you sure,” she asked incredulously, “because this doesn’t seem like one of your ideas.”

    “It was your idea to make a flyer to make our party public?” Gemma asked.

    “I just thought,” she trailed off, her voice becoming very small, “the parties are always so tame, I thought it would give us a breath of fresh air.”

    “I’m never going to get the White Ball now,” AJ said to no one in particular, “never, you ruined it.”

    The White Ball wasn’t just a party, it was a ceremony in which two girls (and two guys from Tau-Delta) were chosen each year to join the elite few. No one talked about it, but at exclusive functions those chosen wore a special pin instead of their sorority pin, a pin like the one Gemma was wearing right now, a stylized A that reminded AJ of those funny decals that the Freemasons put on their cars.

    Gemma had been chosen the year before as a freshman, the youngest to draw the ball in 17 years. And she evidently felt that there was something about AJ and Erica that made her believe that they should draw it too.

    But maybe not.

    “In the entire 54 year history of our chapter this Ball has been utter secret!” Gemma said.

    “Didn’t you just remind Chrissy that it was important to keep the ball a secret?” AJ demanded, “and you made a flyer? With a cover charge!”

    “I forgot!” Erica exclaimed.

    “How do you forget something like this?” AJ demanded.

    “I don’t know!”

    “Whatever drugs you’re on,” AJ added, “you need to not be on them anymore.”

    “Just for clarity: how did you forget you made a flyer?” Chrissy asked,

    She was convinced that the older girl truly didn’t remember but for the life of her couldn’t fathom how.

    “It just slipped my mind,” Erica said, getting control of herself, “I’ve been so busy and…”

    “How many flyers did you put up?” Gemma asked

    “Uh…”

    “Oh, god.” AJ said putting her face in her hands.

    “fifty-four, one for every year the sorority has been on campus,” Erica said, “I thought it was poetic. You said we needed a fundraiser I thought this was a good way to do it.”

    “So we throw a bikini car wash, we don’t make the Ball public!” Gemma was getting angrier.

    “No one is supposed to know, Erica,” AJ yelled, “No one is supposed to be there but us!”

    “I don’t know what the council’s going to do, Erica,” Gemma said

    “What if we just shaved her bald now and called it a night?” AJ quipped.

    Gemma didn’t see the humor, “there are going to be serious consequences for this, Erica.”

    As if on cue, the door swung open with a perfunctory knock, it was Annie again.

    “The ball is still on, but she better not be anywhere near it.” She said to Gemma.

    AJ was still fuming, “Everything’s ruined.”
    ***


    The ER had been packed and Aaron’s name had meant nothing to the petty bureaucrat in the puce scrubs. He’d been at the old Sheridan retreat, on the edge of the Bayou Plaquemine north-west of New Calais at the very edge of the so-called “College Town” neighborhood, and of the city itself. The ancient plantation house had belonged to the family since before the civil war, and hadn’t been given away by Julian Sheridan, unlike the far more famous Green Lawn plantation. Instead it had been allowed to die ignominiously, slowly being devoured by the bayou.

    Aaron wasn’t sure he’d ever forgive his family for letting the house fall apart, but that didn’t mean that he knew much about fixing it either.

    Oh, sure, he was an architecture student, but he was just getting started.

    Luckily Cap, one of the men who was working on his place, and a fellow student at Talbot University, had been there to pick him up when he fell off the ladder.

    Kapueo “Cap” Ka’ana’ana was a Hawaiian military brat whose dad had been grooming him to join the Marines like his father before him, but who had decided to go into engineering instead. He stood nearly six inches taller than Aaron and looked like Captain America if Captain America had spent his life on a beach. He’d been removing a hapless tree from the floor of the second floor of the mansion when he saw Aaron slip off the ladder, slamming his head into the top rung and falling eighteen feet to the ground before the ladder fell down on him as well.

    “Finger check.” Cap said, holding up a hand in front of his boss-cum-friend.

    “Fuck, man, I don’t know,” Aaron said, “Gimme a second to think about it.”

    Aaron was, in many ways, the opposite of Cap. Small, wiry, and pale enough to freckle in the Louisiana sun, the two looked like an odd pair. Cap was dressed in work clothes, while Aaron was dressed for the classroom, though he too was wearing a great deal of denim, cotton and leather.

    The curtain pulled aside to reveal the patriarchal doctor in glasses, his name tag was covered by his coat.

    “Alright, Mr. Sheridan, I’m going to prescribe you some medicine for the pain. I don’t want you drinking anything stronger than a glass of wine for the next few days while you’re taking this, okay?”

    “So… would you say that LSD is stronger or weaker than a glass of wine, doc?” Cap asked.

    The doctor narrowed his eyes.

    “I didn’t do drugs!”

    “I mean, are mushrooms technically drugs, Doctor?” Cap asked.

    “Dude, you are not helping.” Aaron said, “My name probably already made him think I was bad news.”

    It was true: the Sheridans were professional rich kids, coming from money that went all the way back to before the revolution, who had a reputation for being particularly hedonistic in their hobbies and habits. And Aaron was no different in this regard. But he also loved that old house and dammit, he was going to fix it up right.

    “Sorry, I’ll cut it out,” Cap said.

    “Son, I understand you were trying to have some fun with your friend here,” the doctor glowered at the larger man, “but if your shenanigans get in the way of my patient’s diagnosis, I will have you removed from this hospital, do you understand me?”

    “Yes, sir,” Cap said, “I understand.”

    The doctor turned to Aaron and, in the same frank brutal tone said “you got a good friend here, trying to keep you distracted from what must be a great deal of pain.”

    Aaron agreed, and decided that maybe having someone like Cap around might do him some good.

    “You’ve been here a bit longer than you should have been in my opinion,” the doctor said, noting that they’d spent the better part of four hours in the hospital, “check out at the front desk, and enjoy your weekend.”

    They were walking towards Cap’s truck when Aaron noticed a flyer.

    “Hot damn!” he said to Cap.

    “What?”

    “The White Ball” he said, “my brother was a Tau-Delta, and they had that party every year. I always wanted to go, then junior year he was “chosen” for something and wouldn’t talk about the party anymore. I’ve still never gone to a party.

    “Cool?”

    “It’s always been private.” Aaron said, thinking about how nervous his brother got whenever it got brought up after getting chosen, “we need to go!”

    “To what?”

    “The Ball, man it’s a party! Booze, women and music.”

    “I’m up for scoring some chicks.”

    “Then let’s get going, we gotta change.”
    ***


    Ashley enjoyed doing her own thing. She enjoyed the freedom of her job as a graphic designer at Dulac Designs, being able to freely create what she wanted (within reason, of course). She’d been working diligently on this project all week and she’s doing okay with it. Nothing that Robbie would be mad over, but she wouldn’t be particularly proud of either. Robbie was reasonable as far as reasonable taskmasters went.

    When lunch came, Robbie and a few of the other girls asked her if she wanted to go to Barrister’s for a slice of pizza but Ashley declined, like usual. She did her own thing and headed over toward Zvi’s deli. She could smell the deli a block over when she nearly slipped on something. It was a blue piece of paper that had been walked on to the point of being almost illegible. But she could make it out well enough.

    The White Ball. Assuming it wasn’t something racist, which she doubted, it probably meant she should wear white. She wouldn’t mind seeing Abby Sweeney and the Sweetmeats or the Arks of Creation and a $10 cover charge wasn’t bad for a couple of great bands.

    The rest of the day went by in a blur as Ashley imagined rushing home to shower and slip into something a little more “High Class”.

    She got out of work just as the sun slipped below the horizon and she glanced up as she waited at a stoplight at Pershing Boulevard and Spaniard Street. She didn’t usually notice sunsets, but the sun had slipped behind the trees of Dulac Park and the high rises that surrounded it and as she watched the sunlight bathed the world in a swirl of gold and red and violet before snuffing those lights out and leaving her in autumnal twilight.

    A chill seemed to creep down her spine and Ashley, in that moment, felt more alone than she ever had in her whole life. For the first time she wished she hadn’t gone her own way. That she was with friends or family… and then it was gone. She was just waiting for a long overdue green light during rush hour.

    She settled for an oversized white sweater and white leggings she’d bought for a Halloween costume. Some white sneakers and pale makeup pulled the costume together and she was ready to go. She even grabbed a white scrunchie that she wore as a bracelet.

    By the time she’d left for the Ball it was full dark and she was nervous about getting lost. She’d never been so far north of the city, and still hadn’t even mapped all of it out since coming here at the beginning of the year.

    She was startled by how just 10 minutes on the road and passing under an underpass could be like night and day but as she approached the town of Bishopsgate the state of decay was startling.

    The underpass for one was decades old, and exposed rebar could be seen like exposed bone in the broken and graffitied stone of its structure. The town, or city as it called itself, was a near-wasteland. She only passed down Main Street and what appeared to be a major thoroughfare called l’Evêque Avenue and all she saw were fast food places and shuttered storefronts. Even the Burger King was shut down.

    She’d gotten directions to the old plantation house from a neighbor, and an city atlas in case those turned out bad, but still she was getting nervous when the old state road sign that read “Fairway Drive” and then almost drove past the dirt road it had been warning her about, on the left.

    Fairway Drive went on for nearly 2 miles and a part of her was pretty sure she’d nearly driven a full circle toward Bishopsgate again. Five long, winding miles of wilderness, with almost no stars to light the road. She’d been forced to slam on her brakes twice, once for a possum, and once for what turned out to be a shadow, but eventually she came to what she must have been looking for on the right side of the road.

    It was a pair of brick posts, each lit with an old-fashioned lantern, though the closest was set apart with an old iron sign that read, simply, “Fairway, 1848”.

    This drive was more of a trail and she worried about bottoming out, but it seemed that someone had recently come through and tamped down and oiled the old dirt road, making it a little easier on the chassis.

    By the time she’d gotten half a mile, yes, half a mile, down the driveway she could hear the beat of the music and could see lights ahead.

    By the time she drove onto the lawn she could recognize the sound of the Arks of Creation doing a cover of some heavy metal song she didn’t recognize.

    She pulled her shabby blue Volvo up next to a sporty white Porsche, in fact, most of the cars were white.

    “THEY’RE TIRED OF BEING PUSHED AROUND/ AND TOLD JUST WHAT TO DO/” Sang the sultry lead singer of the Arks of Creation.

    Even an hour before the party was supposed to officially start, the yard was already almost full of cars. With a few exceptions, like her own 240, the cars were all just cleaned and high end. The nicest of which were the kinds you only saw in movies, and never parked on someone’s yard. A few of the cars had professional drivers, but most were left alone, save one black Cadillac that was rocking at quite a pace.

    The plantation itself was old and broken down, and though it was, no doubt once very beautiful, its current state was one of extreme disrepair. Its overgrown garden had begun to die, giving the house the look of a captive beast. Its dingy gray paint showed hints of having once been a pale, robin’s egg blue, its vast wraparound porch still showed places where the white paint clung stubbornly but was otherwise exposed to the elements. The porch was as ancient and, frankly, dangerous as it was populated by numerous beautiful people, all of them holding flutes of wine or tumblers of dark liquid. Just as she expected, they were all dressed in white.

    Ashley smiled at herself as she approached the doors, which were similarly ancient, but were manned by two members of the Tau-Deltas, if their lapel pins meant anything.

    “Welcome to the White Ball,” said one of them, a handsome man with penetrating green eyes and long black hair.

    She smiled at him as she slipped past him, flattered that he didn’t take her cover.

    “AND LOVE COMES FLOWING THROUGH” the song was coming to an end and Ashley was gob smacked.

    The inside of the plantation was nothing like she expected.

    Most of the interior walls had been removed, with a few replaced with exposed wood columns to transform it into a single massive dance club. Large staircases lined the walls on both sides of the floor, curling around to reach the upper floor, which had been converted into a balcony stage where the band was starting another song. Beneath the staircases sumptuous couches and benches had been aligned to create dimly lit booths for more private parties.

    The entire back wall, which had probably once been the dining room, had been converted into a massive open kitchen and staging area where a chef, crew and waitstaff were working double time walking trays of hors d'oeuvres and flutes of wine and other drinks.

    Ashley kept on the move. She was normally quiet and adept at going unnoticed, but here, despite blending in, something seemed off enough to draw eyes and more than a few people gave her strange looks.

    Around the time that the party started in earnest, a tall, athletic man with spiked hair and a white tux approached her.

    “Hey, how you doin’, girl?” he asked jocularly but the smile didn’t touch his eyes which were cast grimly in the low light of the house.

    “I’m doing well” she said, cheerfully, flashing a big smile, “how are you?”

    “Oh, I’m doing really good!” he said too quickly, “Can you believe all these hangers-on they got coming in here?”

    She looked around and immediately noticed what he was talking about, many of the newer guests were dressed in garish colors or street clothes, apparently they didn’t get the hint of the party’s name. Strange that he would take such offense to it.

    Then a thought started to form in the back of her head. Maybe she wasn’t supposed to be here, maybe none of them were. Maybe she was crashing the party.

    “Oh,” she said under her breath, pulling the flyer to her pocket. “Someone gave this to me, I thought I was invited. I mean it thought it was weird that no one wanted my money, but I’m not crashing or anything am I?”

    He smiled at her patronizingly, “Yeah, we don’t know who put those up but this is a private party. We’re going to have to ask you to leave.”

    “Oh,” she looked down at his chest as she thought of her next move and noticed that in place of a Tau-Delta lapel pin he wore a strange “A” pin.

    She furrowed her brow at the sight of it, and then it dawned on her.

    She began to cry. Not big heavy tears, just a few, but enough. The big guy scoffed at first and then thought better of it.

    “Look, hey,” he said, his hand going to her shoulder protectively, “I wasn’t trying to make you cry, it’s not personal and we know you weren’t trying to crash, but it really is a private party.”

    She shook her head as if she were trying to clear the tears.

    “How about this, how about this, you promise to pledge to the Mu-Sigmas and I’ll let you be my date,” he said, pulling a white silk handkerchief from his breast pocket and wiping away her tears “I mean, I’m technically working the venue tonight, but I can’t stand the thought of making you cry so… uh… hi, I’m Dane.”

    Dane was charming in a simple sort of way. She didn’t follow football, but everyone else seemed to and Ashley quickly learned that he was a bit of a celebrity.

    She wanted to simply watch people, but he was a little more outgoing than that and she was quickly introduced to most of the people at the party.

    “Yeah, this is Ashley,” Dane would say to one friend, “we met at the Baron’s game, I threw her my jersey and she threw it back.”

    “This is my friend Ashley,” he would say to another, “we met at the roller derby. Yeah, no, she totally took this bertha out and sent her flying into me. Totally worth the pain.”

    Everyone they met got a different, often bizarre story, and before long Ashley was doing his thing. Telling stories about how Dane had helped her find an obscure text in the library or came into model at Dulac Designs, which was odd because there was no need for models there, or the time they met when she saved him from a shark at Fort Lauderdale and just like that Ashley was having the time of her life.
    ***


    Gemma parked her white 325i convertible next to a similar vehicle. She and AJ walked into the party arm and arm, the taller blond propping up her shyer and more reserved friend, reminding her to exude the confidence she felt.

    AJ for her part was rocking the tulle dress she’d worn, and needed little help in that department, even their pledge Chrissy, who insisted on walking two steps behind them, walked in like she’d owned the place making the two roommates smile.

    “It’s a shame so many outsiders crashed,” Gemma said, “the council will probably insist we change venues going forward.”

    “That sucks,” AJ said, “I liked it here.”

    “Welcome to the 90’s, where nothing’s sacred,” then Gemma brightened, “but then again, it might give us an excuse to use the Fairbanks.”

    “Ooh,” AJ said, giggling at her friend’s innate sense of extravagance before adding, “But it won’t be the same as having a ‘SECRET. PLANTATION. HIDEOUT’.”

    The three girls laughed together at AJ’s surprisingly deep baritone before breaking into the crowd.

    They were on their way to the bar when they were intercepted by a young man in a brown raincoat and wraparound sunglasses. His face was deeply tanned, and his features were sort of pinched, like a bulldog’s. His hair was straight but clipped short and he had it so lacquered that Gemma thought that she might be able to see her reflection. Underneath his brown coat he wore a black suit, tie and shirt but she could only tell because of his collar since his coat was tied tightly around his waist, and finally he wore a pair of black leather gloves that seemed to just make the ensemble pop.

    “Hello ladies,” He said, his voice as greasy as his hair.

    “Good evening,” Gemma said, “I’m sorry but I don’t recognize you. May I have your name?”

    The man took her hand in his own and shook it gently, his thumb rubbing over the back of her fingers.

    “Name’s Zachariah!” he purred, as she pulled her hand back. “Got your flyer, couldn’t help but come and catch a peek, and I gotta say, it’s a cool party, girls, real cool.”

    The way he leered at her made a shiver run down AJ’s spine and she shuddered.

    “Why thank you, Zachariah,” Gemma said, “But there seems to have been a mistake. There’s a strict dress code for this party.”

    “Oh,” he demurred, theatrically pulling the flyer from his raincoat, “but I didn’t see that on the flyer.”

    “You could have inferred it from the flyer,” AJ snapped.

    “Oh, I just assumed it was a bunch of racists.” Zachariah said quickly.

    “Wow.” AJ said.

    “You would think that,” Gemma said, “Wouldn’t you.”

    AJ pulled Gemma close and whispered rather loudly “Don’t we have a bouncer for this sort of thing?”

    “We’ve never been in this position before.” Gemma said back through clenched teeth.

    “Well,” AJ said to the creepy little man, “I have to be going, I have more important things to do.”

    “But there’s so much I want to talk to you about.” He purred back.

    “Creep.” She said, storming off.

    “If you’ll excuse, we have things to attend to,” Gemma said, making sure that Chrissy followed her.

    “See you later, girls.” He drew that last word out into a hiss.

    “Oh God.” Chissy said as she fled.

    “We might have to kill Erica for this, AJ,” Gemma said.

    “Slowly.” She agreed.

    As they walked away Gemma saw Dane Baker, the linebacker for the Talbot U. Barons and a fellow member of the Ashwood Society, moving to intercept the creep. She flicked her Ashwood pin and he brushed his own in response. A curt nod between fellows.

    She was surprised to find him with a date, like her he always chose to go stag to Society functions. Especially the White Ball.

    “Good for him.” she thought, noting that the girl was rather pretty.

    “Its people like you that fed my uncle to the ovens!” Zacharia called out as he was pushed toward the door.

    A few members of the Tau-Deltas began chanting “Attica! Attica! Attica!” as he left.

    “I’m going to find Annie, meet back up later?” Gemma asked

    “Yeah, see ya,” AJ said, kissing her roommate on the cheek, “I got the kid.”

    It didn’t take long for them to reach the bar, even through the din of people that were growing as the night went on. There were nearly 200 people at the party tonight, far more than would normally be in attendance.

    The bartender was another member of the Ashwood Society, an alumnus who volunteered to make drinks along with his two barbacks who were caterers. “What can I get you two young ladies?”

    “Anything without alcohol would be nice,” Chrissy said, softly,

    “I want all of the alcohol, garcon,” AJ said, “get her a shot.”

    “No, thank you,” Chrissy said, “I have practice in the morning.”

    “Oh, yeah,” AJ nodded, “I’ll take hers too.”

    “You’re going to have to specify the kind of alcohol you would like me to get you,” the bartender said wryly, “this isn’t a movie.”

    “Champagne will do.”

    The bartender glanced up at a tray of flutes sitting on the bar not a foot away from the sophomore.

    “Oh,” she laughed, “right.”

    “You said you have to swim tomorrow?” the bartender asked Chrissy, pouring her a tumbler of water.

    “I do,” she said, realizing that he recognized her.

    “Good luck,” he said, the sincerity written on his face.

    “Thanks.”

    While AJ got drinks, Gemma tracked down the sorority president. She found her talking to her date, Louis, a tall thin man with long black hair and piercing green eyes.

    “So, a certain element has been introduced to our little party,” Gemma said.

    Louis looked at her with those piercing eyes, eyes that were oddly red this evening before stretching “What” into two syllables.

    “I’m not talking to you tonight, Louis,” She responded before turning to look solely at Annie.

    “You sister’s rude, Annie.” Louis said trying to turn the chapter president’s attention back to himself.

    “Shut up Louis,” She said, causing Gemma to laugh. “Oh, it’s not so bad, Gemma, we have a few Tau Deltas acting as bouncers for all the worst elements, over all I think it’s gone splendidly. I mean, Louis here has thus far been the worst part of my night.”

    “Hey,” he said, rousing the energy necessary to be insulted. “I didn’t need to be here with you. You asked me out.”

    “You tell her, Louis.” Said a random Tau as he walked past.

    The girls rolled their eyes.

    “So, just steer the worst of them towards the Tau Deltas?”

    “Pretty much,” Annie said, “as long as they’re all out by 1am for the ceremony I’ll be happy. Though some members of the Ashwood Society are very displeased.”

    “So we will be going forward with the ceremony?” Gemma asked.

    Annie nodded, “the ritual will move forward and by the witching hour the Ashwood Society will have four new members.”

    “As it was foretold.” Louie said.

    Gemma grabbed a glass of champagne from a passing tray and swallowed the contents in one pull before setting it back down on another passing tray.

    “How many is that, Gemma?”

    “I don’t know, two, maybe three.”

    “It’s showing,” Annie said. “This isn’t your fault, Erica just isn’t ready. She proved that with this stunt. There’s no reason to ruin your reputation in mourning her future.”

    That was about as warm and cuddly as Annie got and Gemma appreciated it.

    “Well I might as well make the best out of it.” She said, noticing her own slurred speech.

    “Make sure you’re ready for tonight.”

    Just then the doors burst open.


    Call Me Ray.

    Southern Gothic - Welcome to New Calais

    Who Wants to Live Forever – Highlander in the World of Darkness

  • #2
    The doors thrust open and a figure slid into the room. He wore a tuxedo sans jacket and matching top hat and carried with him a stone headed white cane.

    Seeing and hearing his entrance the band cut their rendition of whatever they were playing and started on their own take of “Putting on the Ritz”.

    Aaron Sheridan had arrived.

    Cap stood beside him in borrowed clothes that were just slightly too small, just too tight to look like he did it himself.

    “I told you it would work.” Aaron whispered to him.

    “The Cap’n is here!” Kapueo bellowed into the crowd, “let the party begin!”

    Aaron’s soul died a little, knowing that a second outburst would be a bridge too far. He glanced around the room and saw no fewer than three largish men moving through the crowd toward them.

    “Excuse me friend,” said the largest of the three, an intense looking blond man wearing a white tuxedo not unlike Aaron’s, “but you just don’t seem to be Tau Delta material.”

    “But I could be,” Cap said.

    “But you’re not.”

    Aaron stepped between the two mountains of muscle, “excuse me, but what’s your name friend?”

    “See, that’s the problem,” the lug said, “you would know my name if you were Taus.”

    “And you would know my name if you gave it a second.”

    The guy narrowed his eyes. “Oh, geez guys, this is Evan’s brother.”

    The other two guys laughed and smacked him on the back, “Oh dude, why didn’t you say something sooner! Saul, go get Evan, tell him his brother’s here.”

    Oh hell, Aaron thought as he cringed away from the big guy.

    “No, no, don’t be scared,” the big guy said, “Evan’s been talking about you for years.”

    Evan walked up and smiled at his brother. He was the largest of the three brothers, with dark shoulder length hair and a cocky grin that never left his face. It was hard to imagine that the man was hard as stone and Aaron was terrified of him.

    “Big Brother,” Aaron smiled, “how ya doin’ tonight?”

    “Well, little brother” Evan began, “it’s been a rough night. We’ve had a lot of gate crashers. Can you believe that?”

    “You know,” Aaron parried, “considering that I was under the impression that you guys were finally opening the doors for everyone, I thought the party needed a Sheridan.”

    “And me,” Cap added, “the Cap’n.”

    “Let’s face it, bro,” Aaron laughed, “this guy’s a walking party.”

    “All right, lets get these guys out of here, it’s getting late.” Evan said to the others.

    “Woah, woah.”

    “What?”

    “I can’t spend time with the brother I didn’t even know was in town? Does mom know?” Aaron asked, “C’mon, Evan, lets get a drink, what’s the worst that could happen?”

    Evan’s smirk was audible as he turned and pushed his brother toward the door. But before Aaron could even right himself there was a crash at the door, and everything went black.
    ***


    Gemma couldn’t breathe. She couldn’t move. She couldn’t see. What was happening? Something heavy was pressing down on her chest, her arms, her legs. She dug her fingers into it and realized it was dirt.

    She was underground. Oh god. Don’t panic, she told herself, but as she struggled against the weight of the raw earth, as she failed to find purchase in the wet muddy Louisiana dirt, she felt herself fall to panic. She tried to scream and her mouth filled with dirt. She began to kick and thrash trying to get out and felt more weight.

    Oh god! They’re still burying me, she thought. She felt cool hands clutch her left arm, gripping her tightly. She was moving through the earth and into the light.

    Except that there was no light. It was still night and there was no moon in the sky, and even the stars were hidden in the haze of the city lights. The man holding her hand was large and she could barely see him in the dark.

    He was tall, standing over six feet, with black hair and dark, dusky skin covered in mud. His eyes looked black in the dark.

    “Let’s get you out of there, babe.” He said as she stood up.

    “What happened?” she asked as she looked around.

    The big guy shrugged.

    Gemma looked around and saw faces she barely recognized from the party. The big guy had come in just moments before she’d blacked out. The man standing next to him stood an inch shorter than her, his white tux black with dirt and mud. His freckled mud streaked face was pale, no doubt from the horror of having been buried alive. His eyes were a near perfect mix of green and blue and then it occurred to her that she could see the color of his eyes, even in the dark.

    She was so distracted by the fact that she almost didn’t hear the sound of something, someone under her feet.

    It sounded so familiar that…

    “AJ!” She cried, falling to her knees to dig her friend out.

    Chrissy and the girl in the muddy sweater were already on their knees, cupping their hands into claws to better dig Gemma’s roommate out of the mud. AJ came up vomiting dirt and mud, and something else that smelled so very good.

    “What’s happening?” AJ asked her as they stood up.

    “I don’t know. But my dress is ruined.” Gemma said, scraping at her clothes, “this was cashmere!”

    The other girl, the one in the sweater, came over and began to paw at her, shaking her head solemnly as if at the loss of the fabric.

    “You’re making it worse!” Gemma squealed.

    “I’m sorry,” the girl said back, “I’m trying to help!”

    AJ stared at the ground, her eyes shifting over the mounds of earth around them, “Where are we?”


    “Did you hear that?” the shorter boy asked before Gemma could respond.

    And she did, her head whipped around to the sound of twigs breaking and rustling branches.

    “Over here,” someone whispered. It was a girl.

    “We shouldn’t be out here, man.” A deeper, masculine, voice slurred.

    “I’m telling you,” someone else said, “we buried them over here somewhere.”

    “What the hell?” Gemma heard herself ask.

    “Shut up,” the girl said, “there’s no point in leaving all that money behind.”

    Gemma and the shorter kid had already crept toward the sound of the voices.

    “Aaron, where’re you going?” the big guy asked in a whisper, “we need to run.”

    The sound of footfalls behind her were followed by the sounds of a struggle, and she couldn’t take her eyes off the bushes.

    “Get off me,” the bigger guy said, “what the heck, babe.”

    “Stop!” came the voice of the girl in the sweater.

    Suddenly the shorter boy, Aaron, was rushing forward, toward the bushes. Gemma followed.

    They pounded through the bushes to find a small group of people, two girls and four men, dressed in dark clothes. One of them was holding a whisky bottle, Johnny Walker Red, and was clearly drunk, holding onto a tree branch for dear life. The other was holding a pair of shovels.

    And she recognized a few of them. Asia and Tyra from the sorority, both Society members who had graduated the year before.

    And Asia was wearing Gemma’s grandmother’s pearls. She couldn’t see anything else. Just her grandmother’s pearls, getting bigger and bigger in her vision.

    There was a sharp pain in her lip.

    Asia screamed as realization dawned on her.

    “Those are my grandma’s pearls, you bitch!” Gemma hissed but nothing came out of her mouth.

    Faster than she could react Gemma was on her; the girl’s body was fever-hot and full of life. She felt the life flowing into her, even as her vision faded, even as the world around her collapsed into the sound of a single beating heart.

    And then the heart began to slow, the all-consuming heat began to ebb even as it spread through her limbs. She knew she could draw all of it out of her, drain the heat, the life from her and…her?

    Quickly she pulled away as thought returned to her.

    Asia’s body crumpled to the ground, but Gemma knew she was still alive, she could still hear the heart in her chest pumping. Gemma reached down and unclasped the pearls from around the girl’s neck.

    As she fastened the string around her own neck, Gemma came fully into her senses and realized that she was standing over Asia, the girl who had trained her in using a spear. Asia who had been there after the disaster that was her sophomore relationship with Carl Hanson.

    Gemma turned to see the girl in the sweater pulling on Aaron, who had his face buried in the drunk’s neck. The girl’s own face was bone white and her clenched teeth were sharp.

    “Let go, you asshole!” She was growling.

    “Oh, god.” Gemma said, running her tongue over her own wickedly sharp teeth as Aaron’s hand lashed out almost of its own volition, grabbing the girl’s face and pushing her back with incredible, unnatural force.

    Aaron pulled away from the drunk, his own pale face now streaked with as much blood as it was mud.

    Everything was brighter, louder.

    The girl was picking herself up off the ground when they heard footsteps approaching.

    The three of them turned and saw a tall man wearing a simple gray sports jacket over a blue button down and jeans. He was handsome in a common sort of way, with graying black hair at his temples and crow’s feet in the corners of his kind blue eyes. His skin was too pale. His heart wasn’t beating.

    “It’s going to be okay, I’m not here to hurt you. My name is John Collier, and like you, I’m Kindred.”

    ***


    Last edited by Gnomish American; 08-13-2019, 12:37 PM.


    Call Me Ray.

    Southern Gothic - Welcome to New Calais

    Who Wants to Live Forever – Highlander in the World of Darkness

    Comment


    • #3
      They walked for what felt like miles. The man, Mr. Collier, had done something to the two people that Gemma and the other guy had bitten. AJ was scared. Really, really scared, but at some point someone, probably the little guy, asked everyone their names and introductions were made. When they finally stopped walking it was in front of a big building shaped like an airplane hangar, a common site in Bishopsgate. A large sign out front read “International Longshoremen’s Association Local 1823, Union Hall”. He led them around back toward a fenced in yard where three large dogs were bellowing.

      “Hush now.” Mr. Collier said, and the dogs immediately quieted.

      He unlocked the gate and led them past the cowed pets and into a small office.

      The windowless office was small, almost claustrophobically so, and full of well-loved furniture that looked about 15 years old. On the walls were posters, inspirational union mottos and pictures of John dating back to the 50s. The shag carpet was faded to the point of being an offish sort of beige despite it appearing green in the shadows under the furniture. There was an obvious effort to keep the office free of debris, but the corners were filthy, as if forgotten by the cleaning crew since the place had opened.

      “Please,” he said. “take a seat.”

      AJ had recognized the name John Collier when she’d heard it, and she could tell from the look on her face that Gemma did too. John Collier was a fixer for the local unions, his name had been brought up during a fundraiser at the sorority. She’d always assumed from the way that others talked about him that he was mobbed up.

      “What kind of party did you take me to, dude?” Kapueo asked Aaron.

      “Look, man,” Aaron whispered back, “I’m still trying to figure this shit out myself.”

      “Like I said before, My name is John and I don’t know how much time we have, but I’ll answer any questions you might have,” He said as he sat down behind the desk and pulled a pack of cigarettes out of his pocket.

      “What happened to my brother?”

      “I don’t know who that is, kid.” John answered honestly.

      “Why were we buried alive?” Cap asked, “What the hell happened to us?”

      “I don’t know how else to say this, but I’m sorry to say that you’ve all died and have been risen as Vampires, the undead, damned to never see the light of day and to feed on mortal blood,” John said somberly, “at least that’s what the chapel would say. We go by many names, but Kindred is the one that most of us prefer. I don’t know who did this to you, or how you ended up in that park, but I’m willing to help you find out.”

      “But I was at a party,” Cap said.

      “You’re a vampire… kindred?” Gemma asked, “but you don’t look like ‘kindred.’”

      “This is some extravagant joke, right?” Aaron demanded, “vampires are storybook and movie creatures.”

      “Yeah,” Cap agreed, “this is a little too comic book to be true.”

      “It’s just a bad dream, guys” AJ agreed, “I’m just having a bad dream. I’m going to wake up and find out I got too drunk at the White Ball…”

      “I promise you, this is real,” John said as his teeth slowly grew into fangs, “and I am just like you.”

      Ashley, who had been quiet until now, mimicked his expression, smiled too wide and felt the numb stretching sensation of her own teeth extending. She closed her lips around her newly sharp teeth and furrowed her brow.

      “Okay, so let’s say this is all true, we’re ‘vampires’ or ‘kindred’ or whatever,” Aaron said, his eyes never left John’s fangs, “we bite people and do all this shit, what does all of it mean?”

      “I don’t have all the answers,” John said, “All I can say is that we are not a myth, that the stories you know are the result of breaks in the masquerade so powerful that they stuck in the human consciousness and trickled down the centuries. We have hidden ourselves away from the mortal herd, behind elaborate masquerades. I promise you this is all too real.”

      “What about sunlight, stakes through the heart, holy water and garlic?” Chrissy asked, bursting into the conversation, “what about all of that?”

      “A stake through the heart will destroy us, as will sunlight and fire, and dismemberment, but garlic and holy water have no effect on us. We sleep by day, in a death sleep from which nothing can rouse us. But while we do require blood, that of animals will suffice as well as mortals.”

      Aaron looked suspiciously at the lighter in John’s fidgeting hands. When John noticed he laughed, “I promise you, this flame is too small to do any lasting harm.”

      “So wait, wait, wait,” Gemma said, “Vampires are feral, vicious beasts and you don’t look anything like them. How can you be a vampire?”

      “How do you know what vampires look like?” Aaron asked.

      “Yeah,” Ashley echoed.

      “That’s a very good question,” John agreed.

      “Because she reads too many books,” AJ said half-heartedly.

      “How do you know what we are like?”

      “I’ve heard things.” Gemma said.

      “What about the corpses we left behind?” Aaron asked.

      “You left no corpses behind, you left them alive,” John said, “you showed great restraint tonight. Those people are alive because you kept your humanity close to you. It’s proof that you are not monsters, that you have souls and are only possessed of monstrous hunger. You have nothing to fear though, for I made sure they would have no memory of the attack.”

      “I have a question.” Ashley asked, trying to scrape the now dry dirt off of her arms and hands, “Why were we buried in the ground?”

      John looked at her sadly.

      “I don’t know.” He said, “Traditionally we bring our childer into the requiem purposefully and with not a little pomp. I’ve never seen an embrace like this before and can’t imagine who would do something like this.

      “Those people,” Chrissy said, “the ones that Gemma and Aaron attacked, they said they buried us.”

      “Were you buried in the ground?” Ashley asked.

      “No.” John said, “I’ve never been buried or interred anywhere.”

      She fixed him with her gaze, “would you like to be?”

      Kapueo and AJ laughed despite themselves. John didn’t seem to know how to respond.

      “It was a joke,” she whispered, looking down.

      “If nothing else, you have your sense of humor.”

      “But again, the people that we saw said that they were the ones to bury us.”

      “I’m sorry, I don’t know what to tell you.”

      “But what about my family?” Aaron asked, “I’m a Sheridan, you can’t just walk away from that.”

      “No one’s saying you have to –” John began to say.

      “If you go near your family, you’ll kill them.” Gemma interjected.

      The room got quiet.

      “Why are you being mean?” Chrissy asked.

      John looked at her suspiciously, “Who are you?”

      “I am…I used to be someone,” Gemma reached for the pin she wore but found it missing, “it’s gone.”

      “How can we trust you?” Aaron asked. “for all we know you were the one who killed us, or at least, the one who put us in the ground.”

      “Grave.” AJ added, “that was a mass grave. We weren’t the only ones buried there. We’re just the ones that got up.”

      They all looked at her with horror.

      John cleared his throat, “Well, as this young lady pointed out, it was they who buried you. I couldn’t have had anything to do with it.”

      Aaron nodded, seemingly mollified.

      “Hey, old man,” Cap asked, “you keep saying we’re vampires, does that mean we’re like Dracula and have those cool powers? I wouldn’t mind turning into a bat or something.”

      “Seriously,” Chrissy demanded, “we’re dead and you’re asking about powers?”

      “I wouldn’t mind hearing about some perks,” Aaron agreed.

      John laughed: “All of us can bolster our strength and speed with the blood, though doing so brings us closer to the Beast, the thing that makes us as we are, and makes us crave the blood that sustains us even more. Some possess incredible resilience, even against Fire, others possess foresight or keener senses, while others can vanish from sight. I’ve heard tell of those who can hear the thoughts of those around them, or command worship or impart their rage upon others, but I’ve never seen it. These are aspects of the beasts, the animating force that drives you to hunt men and banishes you from the light of the sun and no two Kindred manifest them in exactly the same way, though your lineage hints at your power. They will tempt you into giving into the Beast, of giving it more control of you life, what we call your Requiem.

      “The Beast will tempt you into giving up your humanity, of falling to your baser natures which are now so much worse than they were last night. I have seen the most peaceful of us tear the throat from an innocent at the behest of the beast, you must fight it. I don’t want to see any of you hunted down and destroyed for falling to its power.”

      There was a long pause and then Chrissy said, “I need to take a lap, clear my head.”

      “I just want a shower,” AJ whimpered, “I just wanted to be a lawyer.”

      “What does everyone remember?” Aaron asked the crowd.

      “I remember it going dark,” Cap said.

      Everyone remembered that too, the crash into black.

      They were discussing the minutia of their memories, mostly of the others seeing Aaron and Cap storm in before the crash when John cocked his head like he heard something.

      “Hold on,” He told them, cocking his ear and then standing. “You might be able to fight him off, maybe even run, but it won’t matter. He will simply call you to him. the Blood calls to Blood.”

      Just as he reached the interior door of the office there was a loud, confident knock.

      The man in the door when John opened it was incredibly attractive. He was tall and thin and built like a dancer. His features were long and delicate and his hair, which fell past the shoulders of his dark gray suit, was a chestnut brown. His all too human eyes peered at them suspiciously.

      He was breathing as he eyed them up and down.

      “Follow me.” He said simply with a mild Spanish accent before turning and walking back into the dark of the union hall.

      At John’s insistence they followed.

      He walked out of the front door of the building and into the parking lot where a 40-year-old mint limousine sat. Its gray and black paint looked as though it were brand new. The tall man opened the rear passenger-side door and waited for them to enter.

      “But we’re filthy.” AJ said.

      “Shotgun.” Cap said, before noting the lack of mirth in the man’s eyes and getting into the back seat.

      AJ followed, then the others too.

      The ride was made in silence, the tall man refused any attempt at conversation or comment and the mournful silence was infectious.

      Finally, Cap grew tired of the quiet and began to rummage through the various cabinets and coolers.


      “There’s got to be something in here to drink.” He said raggedly, so parched was he. He quickly found a decanter of a caramel colored liquid, “Jackpot.”

      The moment he pulled the stopper he regretted it. It smelled of boiling rubber and the sickening sweet of rotting fruit. Everyone retched as it seemed to exude from the decanter in a thick oily cloud.

      Calls of “Oh God!” and “Put it away!” came from Chrissy and AJ who sat closest to him. Gemma and Aaron both curled their noses at it.

      When he did so he saw that they were pulling into a short roundabout driveway in what was probably once a nice neighborhood. The wrought-iron fence was rusted and poorly taken care of and the roof seemed to sag ever so slightly. The paint, a deep forest green, was peeling. And there were no lights visible through the windows, of which at least one was broken.

      The tall man parked and opened the door for them and as they ascended the short step onto the large covered porch they were all reminded of the Fairway, with its creaky soft wood, but there were no repairs here and it was clear from the missing third step that the house was in dire need of love.

      Any comparisons to the Fairway died in their minds when the man opened the door and they were hit with the powerful smell of old mold and mildew. The tall man lit a small candle allowing them to see that the house was filled with ancient threadbare furniture that looked like it belonged in a catalogue from the turn of the century. Garish, overlarge couches of wood and faded green fabric sat in the parlor, unused around a glass coffee table that had no glass. In the hall stood an ancient grandfather clock that was infested with spiderwebs and smelled of rust and rot.

      But the man led them on deeper into the massive, dying home. Soon they were in the east wing, and it was just dawning on Kapueo how big the house must have been. This wing was in better condition, though still dusty, the furniture was in better shape and even a little newer. The smell of rot and mildew was less here, though still present.

      Finally they came to a large heavy wooden door, no different than any other, and he knocked softly.

      “You may enter.” Came a high, imperious voice from within.

      When the door opened they saw that they were entering a lowly lit library, each wall stacked with dozens of books on nearly bare built-in bookshelves. The fireplace was unlit and full of ash and a massive, beautifully gilt globe sat under the open window, which faced an immense and overgrown garden with hedge walls that stood as tall as the house itself.

      Seated on a tall-backed leather chair that was showing signs of its immense age was a thin man who could be no more than five-six or five-seven in a deep gray pinstriped suit whose cut was nearly 50 years old. His hair was a mass of long curls that were being held back by what must have been some sort of pomade. His bone-white face was cleanshaven save for the pencil thin mustache and patch of beard that would have been called a van-dyke beard a century ago. His eyes were impossibly dark even as they reflected the light of the few meager candles that lit the room.

      “Enter freely, kindred.” He said magnanimously in a French accent.

      For the first time since he told them to follow, the tall man spoke obsequiously, reverentially, “His lordship, the Modius of Bishopsgate.”

      “That will be all, Algernon,” the Modius said, “We have no further need for you tonight.”

      And with that the door closed and Algernon was gone.

      “You may kneel,” he said to them and, even as most of them scoffed, even as Aaron and Gemma laughed outright, they kneeled. Aaron actually tried to stand but found his body unwilling to do his bidding.

      Kapueo bit his lip and bloody tears welled up in Gemma’s eyes.

      “Good,” the Modius said, “now with the pleasantries out of the way, let us converse about the how of why you are in Bishopsgate.”

      AJ and Kapueo began speaking at the same time. “We were here for the White Ball, just like every year.” She said, “My boss and I crashed a party.”

      “I just kinda showed up.”

      “I was supposed to become a Mu Sigma tonight.” Chrissy said after they were done, “and then the lights went out.”

      “and then there was dirt,” AJ added.

      “The White Ball was last night.” The Modius said.

      “What?” Chrissy asked.

      The Modius repeated himself.

      “So we missed a whole day?” AJ asked.

      “It would seem so, young lady.”

      “The Making is unpredictable.” The Modius said. It was clear that he was trying to be comforting even if he had no skill for it. “Especially in the way you were all made and then left for dead.”

      He looked each of them in the eye.

      “Do you believe in God?” he asked apropos of nothing.

      “Do you know who did this to us?” Gemma asked in turn.

      “I asked my question first, dear girl.”

      “I used to,” Chrissy answered, “I’m not sure now.”

      “I regularly attend church,” Gemma said.

      “I believe in the law,” AJ added, “that justice is blind.”

      “I don’t believe at all.” Ashley said.

      “I believe in a few.” Cap said.

      “I’ve never been a man of faith,” Aaron responded, finally.

      “Among we Kindred,” he said, “Faith is a weapon, a tool in the kit, if you will. By claiming to act on the word of God you can excuse all kinds of sins. The transition you are going through is going to require that you look deeply into your own beliefs. Your own souls, if you will, and see what truly lies there. And if you haven’t yet asked yourself ‘why has this happened to me’, We promise you that you will.”

      The Modius suddenly seemed struck by an idea and lost his train of thought. His eyes glazed over as he studied the gilt globe under the window.

      “Yes we do believe that we shall do exactly that.” He said as though to himself, “we shall send you all on a pilgrimage of sorts, to your own graves. There you may meditate on they why of why you are here, in Bishopsgate, in this Requiem, in this undead state. Yes, yes, study what you left behind in those graves, for you are no longer the boys and girls you were when you were interred within. Focus on that and you may find wisdom, or, perhaps, a memory of what came before.

      “If the latter occurs, we would most definitely like to hear what, and who, you might remember.” He snapped back to them suddenly, his eyes focused on each in turn, “understand that we do not mean to demean your ordeal, for we find your murder, yes murder, most unsettling, only that we are bound by our loyalty and obligations to this city and its kine to allow rogue Kindred to simply embrace at will. We must know what happened.”

      And just like that he was done with the conversation and stood. His slight frame seemed at odds with the dignity and power he radiated. He snapped a finger as he stood, and a tall black man of considerable age appeared from around the desk-chair cum throne and left the room.

      A moment later a small elderly black man in a worn black tuxedo entered the room. His dark eyes were glassy and though they did not seem blind, they did not seem to focus on anyone or thing.

      “The master wishes that you stay here this evening.” He said absently, his voice wistful. “If you will follow me.”

      He took them wordlessly back the way they came until they reached the main staircase and then turned, taking them once again deeper into the house, this time into an old, dusty and disused kitchen. There he opened what looked like a towel cabinet to reveal a pair of ancient, weathered and heavy storm doors. With a heave and both hands he forced one of them open and stood aside as if holding a car door.

      “There is a small root cellar below in which you may take your rest safe from the morning sun.” he said in the same listless tone.

      The black hole that he had revealed had an earthy smell that was disconcertingly welcome.

      “Alright, thanks, man.” Cap said, “May I use the phone?”

      “There is no phone on the property, sir.”

      “Oh,” Cap said, “do you have the time?”

      “The master does not provide timepieces sir,” the butler said flatly, “though I do believe it is only a few hours before dawn.”

      “Ah, well thank you, my friend.” Cap said back, stepping into the cellar.

      “I would like a shower now, please.” AJ asked the old man.

      “The Master wishes that you stay here,” the butler said, his voice unchanged, “in the cellar, ma’am.”

      “I don’t care what the master wants,” She said back, angrily, “I want to go home and take a shower.”

      For just a moment the glassy cast of the man’s eyes flickered, revealing the intelligent and terrified eyes of someone else, someone they hadn’t yet met, and then it was gone, drowned beneath whatever had been done to him.

      “the master wishes it ma’am.” His voice, though still seemingly emotionless, did crack on the second word.

      “Its fine down here, guys” Cap called, “there are cots.”

      Chrissy followed him into the dark.

      “Can you take a message to the master about a possible change of clothes?” Aaron asked.

      “The Master has left the premises, sir.”

      Slumping his shoulders in defeat Aaron walked down the stairs.

      Ashley, on her way down slipped and fell, tumbling down the small flight of stairs only to land unharmed at the bottom, her arms and legs tingling numbly where they’d hit the hard wood. What was she?

      Cap helped her up and over to a cot.

      “I think we might have been taken in by a cult.”

      Gemma looked the butler up and down and asked him “Is he keeping you against your will?”

      Again, there was a flash of…something, and then the old man said “No, ma’am, the master is magnanimous.”

      “Why would you serve something like him?”

      “Because he is the master.”

      She hugged herself as she entered the cellar door and heard it slam shut behind her, the sounds of heavy chains following directly after. She turned and saw that someone had installed another lock on this side of the door, and she locked them in against intrusion.

      “We can’t let these guys control us,” Cap was saying, “none of this can be real. We need a plan.”

      And so they talked until the dawn came and overtook them.


      Call Me Ray.

      Southern Gothic - Welcome to New Calais

      Who Wants to Live Forever – Highlander in the World of Darkness

      Comment


      • #4
        So here are their character sheets, again, I'm not going to write down their backgrounds, I'll let them tell you who they are through play, though I will give you 'broke down' versions of their concepts as tags.

        Character Sheets

        AJ Werther, The Overachiever
        Age
        : Late Teens
        Mental Attributes: Intelligence •••, Wits ••, Resolve •••
        Physical Attributes: Strength ••, Dexterity •••, Stamina ••
        Social Attributes: Presence •, Manipulation •••, Composure ••
        Mental Skills: Academics (The Law) •••, Computers •, Crafts •, Investigation (Small Details) •••, Politics ••, Science •
        Physical Skills: Athletics ••, Drive •, Stealth ••, Weaponry (Kendo) ••
        Social Skills: Expression ••, Persuasion •, Socialize •
        Merits: Armed Defense Style •, Closed Book ••, Defensive Combat (Weaponry), Double Jointed, Multilingual (Creole French, Spanish)
        Willpower: 5
        Integrity: 7
        Virtue: Ambitious
        Vice: Ambitious
        Health: 7
        Initiative: +5
        Defense: 4
        Speed: 10

        Aaron Sheridan, The Black Sheep
        Age: Early 20s
        Mental Attributes: Intelligence ••, Wits ••, Resolve ••
        Physical Attributes: Strength ••, Dexterity ••, Stamina •••
        Social Attributes: Presence ••, Manipulation •••, Composure •••
        Mental Skills: Academics ••, Investigation (Observant) •, Politics •
        Physical Skills: Athletics ••, Brawl (Fighting Dirty) •••, Drive •, Firearms •
        Social Skills: Empathy ••, Expression ••, Intimidation •, Persuasion (Straight Shooter) •••, Socialize ••, Streetwise ••,
        Merits: Contacts (Cops), Defensive Combat (Brawl), Fame* •, Resources •, Sheridan Family Legacy ••, Striking Looks ••, Taste*,
        Willpower: 5
        Integrity: 7
        Virtue: Patient
        Vice: Arrogant
        Health: 8
        Initiative: +5
        Defense: 5
        Speed: 9

        Ashley Onnea, The Wallflower
        Age: Late teens
        Mental Attributes: Intelligence ••, Wits •••, Resolve •••
        Physical Attributes: Strength ••, Dexterity ••, Stamina ••
        Social Attributes: Presence ••, Manipulation ••, Composure •••
        Mental Skills: Academics (Art History) •, Computer •••, Crafts (Graphic Design) ••, Investigation (Body Language) •
        Physical Skills: Drive ••, Stealth ••
        Social Skills: Empathy ••••, Expression •, Socialize ••, Streetwise •••
        Merits: Area of Expertise (Body Language), Barfly, Resources •, Sympathetic, Taste
        Willpower: 6
        Integrity: 7
        Virtue: Loving
        Vice: Cruel
        Health
        : 7
        Initiative: +5
        Defense: 2
        Speed: 9

        Chrissy Kentworth, The Olympic Athlete
        Age: Late Teens
        Mental Attributes
        : Intelligence ••, Wits ••, Resolve ••
        Physical Attributes: Strength •••, Dexterity ••, Stamina •••
        Social Attributes: Presence ••, Manipulation ••, Composure •••
        Mental Skills: Academics •, Investigation (Puzzles) ••, Medicine ••, Politics (Organizations) ••
        Physical Skills: Athletics (Conditioning) •••, Brawl •
        Social Skills: Empathy •, Expression •, Intimidation ••, Persuasion ••, Socialize •••, Subterfuge ••
        Merits: Contacts (Government, University), Fame •, Fleet of Foot •, Iron Stamina •, Patient, Professional Training (Athlete) ••, Relentless
        Willpower: 5
        Integrity: 7
        Virtue: Honest
        Vice: Hasty
        Health: 8
        Initiative: +5
        Defense: 5
        Speed: 11

        Gemma Munroe, The Hunter
        Age: late teens
        Mental Attributes: Intelligence ••, Wits •••, Resolve ••
        Physical Attributes: Strength ••, Dexterity •••, Stamina ••
        Social Attributes: Presence •••, Manipulation •••, Composure ••
        Mental Skills: Academics •, Investigation •, Occult (Vampires) •, Politics •
        Physical Skills: Athletics (Gymnastics) ••, Brawl ••, Stealth •, Weaponry ••
        Social Skills: Expression (Acting as Bait) •••, Intimidation •, Persuasion •••, Socialize ••, Streetwise •, Subterfuge •
        Merits: Resources •••, Retainer (Erika Sumner) ••, Striking Looks ••, Status - Mu Sigma Chi
        Willpower: 4
        Integrity: 7
        Virtue: Courageous
        Vice: Arrogant
        Health
        : 7
        Initiative: +5
        Defense: 6
        Speed: 10

        Kapueo "Cap" Ka'anā'anā, The Party
        Age: Early 20s
        Mental Attributes: Intelligence ••, Wits ••, Resolve ••
        Physical Attributes: Strength ••, Dexterity ••, Stamina •••
        Social Attributes: Presence ••••, Manipulation •••, Composure ••
        Mental Skills: Academics •••, Computer •, Crafts (Mechanical Engineering) •••, Investigation ••, Science ••
        Physical Skills: Athletics ••, Brawl ••, Drive •, Stealth ••
        Social Skills: Expression ••, Socialize (Carousing) ••
        Merits: Area of Expertise (Mechanical Engineering), Contacts (Military, Street), Good Time Management, Patient, Professional Training (Blue Collar Engineer) ••, Resources •, Striking Looks •
        Willpower: 4
        Integrity: 7
        Virtue: Trustworthy
        Vice: Ambitious
        Health: 8
        Initiative: +4
        Defense: 4
        Speed: 9
        Last edited by Gnomish American; 08-13-2019, 09:11 PM.


        Call Me Ray.

        Southern Gothic - Welcome to New Calais

        Who Wants to Live Forever – Highlander in the World of Darkness

        Comment


        • #5
          Interesting that we don't know the clans. Looking forward to the next chapter.

          Comment

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