City of Roses
Death's Daughter, Patricidal Maniac, Foodie
“You’re the Bane of the Undead all right. Bane of the Vampires that want you to shut the hell up.” – Lance, Vampire of New Orleans
Like many teenage girls, Rhona doesn’t know when to stop. When to stop talking, when to stop pushing, when to stop flirting, when to stop stabbing. But it hasn’t gotten her killed yet and she’s killed a lot of things who deserved it, so she’s calling that a good harvest.
Her journey along the Midnight Roads from Oklahoma to the Carolinas to the Gulf and the Pacific Northwest has put her in contact with many a strange creature, as well as developing a proclivity in her for sleeping with witches and murdering rape-y truck drivers. Particularly close to the Vampires of New Orleans, she can still call upon the Sheriff and a local hacker, as long as the sun is down. And if she gets herself in enough trouble, a Gangrel Vampire with a taste for brawl might show up, her partner in crime and surrogate big brother figure.
A farmer’s daughter to the last and still a child of the 30s, she’s more comfortable in skirts than pants, but she’ll still kick your ass while wearing one. Rhona’s a natural blonde who keeps trying different shades of red for her hair but none of them make her look the way she wants to look (i.e. like her older sister Ruth. Beautiful, perfect, infuriating Ruth!)
Obscenely physically graceful yet somehow uncomfortable with her own newly adult body, Rhona’s “father” and Keeper, Mr. Mortimer, repeatedly de-aged her as she grew up, so her perception of her own appearance is more funhouse mirror than reality.
Frightened of her own mien (luminescent blue skin, deathly pale eyes and and a darkness glowing from within), she is nevertheless willing to use it (and her connection to the spirit world thanks to her “father”) for camouflage, seduction, and intimidation. Rhona’s the kind of girl who genuinely believes everyone is beautiful, and she may benefit from her romantic connections but she will slice up anyone who says she uses the people around her.
She can often be found in the kitchen of the restaurant she owns with Molly Spector (well, not legally owns. She can’t legally drink yet.) wearing overalls and an apron, traipsing from the freezer to their farm Hollow and back, bringing treats that make the entrees sparkle and burn (in a good way.)
Long Term: Be Queen
Short Term: Figure Out Who’s Tailing Simon and Why. Preferably make them stop, the bastards
Player: Faster Pussycat Kill Kill! (Impress Aurora in battle.)
Wait ’til you’re announced
We’ve not yet lost all our graces
The hounds will stay in chains
Look upon your greatness and she’ll send the call out
Send the call out
- “Team,” Lorde
There was only two books in the Gilles house: a worn family Bible brought from Ulster and an illustrated copy of The Wizard of Oz. Little Rhona very much preferred the latter, much to her mother’s chagrin. She would attempt to gather the children around for a reading from the testaments and the little blonde nightmare would cry and cry, “No no no no! Dotty! Dotty!” And William Gilles would sigh dramatically and pick her up and carry her into the family’s bedroom.
“Am I a very bad girl, Pa?” Rhona asked.
“Oh no, Rho my dear,” he sighed in his Okie drawl. “You’re a very good girl. But you’re a very bad Christian.” He brushed her hair. “That’s alright though. God won’t bother with a little one like you.” And he’d take the book out and read it to her in a quiet, willowy voice:
“Before they had gone far they heard a low rumble, as of the growling of many wild animals. Toto whimpered a little, but none of the others was frightened, and they kept along the well-trodden path until they came to an opening in the wood, in which were gathered hundreds of beasts of every variety. There were tigers and elephants and bears and wolves and foxes and all the others in the natural history, and for a moment Dorothy was afraid. But the Lion explained that the animals were holding a meeting, and he judged by their snarling and growling that they were in great trouble….”
For some reason she couldn’t quite explain, Rhona was sure the Crimson Court would look like the Emerald City but red. There was a lion man by the door and several clockwork women but it was a good deal stranger than Denslow’s drawings could ever suggest. Talking flowers and statues, frogmen and wisps. And the food! The weapons! It was far from the Vampire Courts of Louisiana or the moonlit meetings of the covens of Tennessee and a thousand times stranger. She thought this would feel like home but it just felt like Lion’s menagerie in Oz.
She tugged a bit at her dress uniform. Usually she was more than fine with tight things but there was something about the collar that chafed.
Trumpets sounded. Or rather, something resembling trumpets sounded. Loud and tinny and ancient. There may have been bagpipes in there too. But less melodic. The Summer Queen took her massive throne, imposing, grave, and soaked in blood. Yet there was something small about her, Rhona was sure. Like so many ogres she knew, she didn’t entirely fill her size. She was apologizing for it.
“Recruits.” The Marshal grumbled. He was a Broadback Beast, his dark hair accented by two white stripes that belied his badger-like nature. “You have survived the Trials demanded by Her Highness, the Iron Spear, the Crimson Queen and you have pleased her and her comrades. Bow before her to receive your colors, glory, and the Oath of Knighhood.”
A few Wizened Soldiers stepped forward in turn, kneeling before the throne. The Iron Spear smiled maternally. Rhona had to admit she had a lovely smile. Big. And lovely. “Oh, you see the good in everyone,” Lance grumbled in the back of her head. “It’s exhausting.”
She stepped forward with her line, squeaking a bit in the armored leather. She wondered if it upset the elementals that they were using cattlehide.
“On bended knee, I swear to protect my liege and freehold, to serve the good of both, though it may cost me my life.” she recited along with five other changelings, her hand on the bronze spear shaped decal on her uniform.
“Intimate.” Lance grumbled in her head again.
“Shut up.” she snapped to herself. “You’re ruining my big day.”
“I swear to be faithful, brave and strong…”
“It’s everyone else’s big day, Rho. You’re a uniform now. A face in the crowd. Poppy will eat her badge. What’re you doing here, anyway?”
“Doing what you told me, lunkhead. Getting back to my roots.”
“Your roots are punching things that piss you off. Righting wrongs and embarrassing authority. Those are your roots.”
“…by sword, or by bullet, in wilderness of street, in fire and in ice.”
“Forgive me if I misconstrued the message, fang boy.”
“Listen Princess, you’re the one who asked me and now decided to talk to me in your own head so leave imaginary me alone and stop complaining. Go to Poppy if you’re having issues balancing your career and personal life.”
“I don’t want a career. I just want to help Rumi and Pyr and I want to punch things that piss me off.”
“…and may I be banished forever from the warmth of this hearth should I be forsworn, my life forfeit, and my honor gone.”
“Well then I don’t mean to be a buzzkill.”
“Yes you do.” Rho smiled to herself.
“Yes I do. But if you want them to do something, tell them to do it.”
“Lance, that’s the smartest thing you ever said.”
“Of course it is. I’m in your head. Duh.” Rho’s cheeks went beet red.
“Congratulations, vassals of the Iron Spear. We now feast in your honor!” The strange bag pipe trumpets blew again and Rhona did exactly what Poppy would have told her not to do. She stepped out of line.
“Majesty.” she said, and bowed low before the heavy throne.
“Recruit.” The marshal barked. “It is not the time for an audience.”
Rhona knew that familiar feeling, the eyes all turning her way, the instinct to destroy rising.
“I only beg the privilege a courtier deserves.”
“And what is your title?” the Marshal said, sneering down at her.
“I have no title in this court but vassal, and I beg no more of you. I come merely as a Ranger of the Midnight Road and recruit and disciple of the Crimson Crown.” She looked around the hall, took a deep breath. “I am Rhona Gilles, Child of Sulphur, Killer of Ghosts, Seducer of Witches, Bane of the Undead, Hunter of Hunters, Long Hauler, Death’s Daughter. And I have something to say.”
Queen Long Tall smiled. “You must mete these titles with tales, my dear. The Court could use a good thrill before the feast.”
“My stories are my own, Your Majesty. We haven’t the time for the diversion.”
“What time are we losing, little one?” It wasn’t a threat, more of a matter of the fact manifestation of how easy Rhona was to squash.
“All time, Highness, and none.”
“You have confused me with the Lord of Autumn who would enjoy your riddles.”
“Nice job, Princess.”
“Shut up, Lance.”
“Majesty, I speak of the time of our kin in bondage.”
“And we pray they find the strength to return to us upon the Thorn Road.” the Queen said solemnly.
“Some cannot, Majesty.”
“That is the tragedy of our time. It weighs on our minds like iron.”
“What of cold iron, Majesty?”
“We trade in it, little one, what of it?”
“Why don’t we rescue them?”
Long Tall Celine leaned forward. “Do you have a suggested target?”
“All of them.” A rumble ran through the crowd. Whispers of derision.
“You are talking about open war on the Gentry.”
“I am talking about ending slavery,” Rhona said, a bit too loud.
“Now you’ve done it, Princess.”
Somehow Celine seemed bored. “No one disputes the suffering of our brothers and sisters in the Gentry’s chains, but we can no more free them on en masse than we can make a river flow backwards and into the sky.”
The Queen growled from a darkness deep within her. “Do you know Faerie, little one? Do you know the madness, heat, and death you wish to enter? Have you seen the ice fields of Mab and the shining Metropolis where up is down and left is circular? How can you hope to comprehend the storm of trouble, pain, and ruin you would invite if you drew the Gentry’s attention on even a minor scale? How you will earn you stolen title and then some, Mother of the Death of all Changelings?”
Rhona was sure at that moment that time stood still. She had faced down vampires, werewolves, mages, mummies, killers, and doctors, but she had never been so frightened in her life. Yet, somewhere deep within her, something spoke. A small thing with a bravery she could not share.
“Kindly direct me to the Queen of Summer, my lady.” Rhona said into the silence. “I seem to have stumbled into the Winter Court by mistake.” The air in the Court of Summer was cold and heavy. “I am already Death’s Daughter. My Keeper called himself Death. And I believed him. I believed myself a child, loved and cherished, molded to his will and desire.” She looked around the hall. Owl eyes, fly eyes, glittering jewels of very kind. They all looked back at her, frightened.
“*And I killed him.* So forgive me if I do not give them what they want. I will not share your fear. For I have killed Death.” She felt her feet beneath her again, standing up. “They are not gods. They are children with magic wands. Take away their toys and they will fall.”
She stepped back at her own boldness. It had come out of her like steam, hissing and scalding. A long pause as the Court waited for the Iron Spear’s challenge, the little one’s unavoidable demise in the duel to come.
Then, she, Long Tall Celine of the Crimson Crown, the Iron Spear, laughed. “Are you familiar with the story of Lucifer, Rhona Gilles?”
“Yes Majesty.” Rhona said. “Lucifer gained a kingdom for his trouble.”
“A kingdom of the damned and tortured.”“A kingdom of the free. Damned yes but free. Free from the bonds of servitude.” She lowered her head again. “Majesty.”
Long Tall leaned back in her chair, stone incarnate. “Because God deigned to allow the rebels to live, Lucifer ruled in Hell. It is a story of mercy, Rhona Gilles, not revolution. And the Keepers do not share the mercy of the Abrahamic God.”
Simon I am sorry, she thought. I am sorry Lance and Sophie and Rumi. I have nothing and I am nothing and now I return to nothing. As He always said, it is all nothing.
Long Tall Celine looked down at the girl, so young, so angry, so frightened. “I show mercy to you after this affront. You are young. You do not know the ways of this world. I admire your bravery and look forward to what you will become. I hope you never see the horrors I have seen.”
“Thank you, Majesty.” Rhona shrank back into the fold.
“Well it was worth a try.”
“Shut up Lance.”