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    "Where have you been?"
    "Where happened to you?"
    "Why are you covered in soot?"
    They pelted questions at me, but it barely penetrated my haze. "I must," choke, "the Prince."
    A choirs of 'of courses' now mixed with the questions. They took me by the arms and lead me down the once familiar halls. I have been here dozens of times, but after what has happened, what I have done, this might as well be then ends of the earth.
    If it wasn't for all those arms that pushed me though the door into the great hall, I would have collapsed once I saw what was on the other side. They were in session.
    The man to the left of The Prince rose from his position and pointed an accusing finger, "You have not been invited. Leave!" Why can't I remember his name? The command had the expected effect as the others were now tripping over themselves to get back through the doors.
    Whispers grew around me, echoing the questions of the servants who had just departed. The chair to the right of the prince is empty. His chair. I've done this. This is my fault.
    My attention snapped back to those who were still there.
I managed to pull myself up to my feet and shuffle to the center of the room.
    The man continued. "You disappeared a year ago. Two days ago your master's manor was burned to the ground taking the lives of seven of our Kindred inside with it, and now you stumble into our council. Account for yourself Mallory."
    Two days?
    "Mallory. Report!" His fist slammed into the table so hard I heard part of it splinter.
* * *
    I left the manor that morning the way I had so many mornings before. This side door was typically only used by the servants, but I had grown accustomed to the privacy it granted from the others "living" at the house, even if they are not about at these light hours. Mondays are spent at the tutor's estate, if you could call the tiny thing that. My plainer dress was an obvious choice for these days. The dreadful smells from there linger on my nicer things.
    I walked the street with heavy feet, testing the tap of my shoes on the cobble stones. Each type of stone had its own sound, but it had been raining more then normal lately and I just had to hear the change in the sound all that moister made. Sure the sound is unimportant, but the act of observing, the practice. That is key.
    I'm sure you can imagine my surprise when there was a sharp pain in the pack of my head and the cobble stones came rushing up to greet me.
    Pain and shouting greeted me as I came too. The place I found myself in was dim enough that nothing could be seen. The course rope tied at my writs and ankles chafed every time I tried to move. The shouting had the muffled quality of coming from an other room. The volume of their voices combined with the lingering pain made my head spin enough to retch up my breakfast.
    "You were told to round up servants, why on God’s hooks did you get her?"
    "Well she..." The second man was cut off with a thud.
    "Raimondo is going to suspect something! They are going to look for her!"
    "But I..." He was abruptly cut off with another thud.
    "Maybe He can make this work. She is probably allowed places the others aren't."
    "Yeah, see I..." This time the thud came with a sickening crack sound.
    "You didn't plan this! Don't you dare try to cover up your mistake!"
    The door flung open letting in a flood of light and the familiar smell of blood. The sudden light was enough to bring back the nausea in another wave that left me heaving on the floor. My eyes adjusted enough to make out the vague shapes of shelves along each of the walls. Half a dozen others sat around the outside of the room similarly restrained. I seemed to remember some of them as servants in Master's house.
    A large silhouette came though the door and took hold of the wrist rope. He dragged me out of the tiny room without giving me a change to get to my feet. Something about the noise I made as he drug me over his dead companion made him stop and throw me over his shoulder before continuing. We passed too many rooms to count. The smell of damp earth became stronger each threshold we crossed.
    He finally brought me to heavy metal door hidden in the shadow of the walls. With no hesitation from my escort, he hosted it open, threw me inside and then slamming the door shut behind us. Behind me I could here metal sliding on metal. He kicked my legs as he passed to the other side of the room. Three quick knocks, more metal sliding on metal, then the grating of metal across stone.
    The squeal of this door opening also brought the foul smell of rot with it. "You have done as I instructed." The voice was quite and raspy but still held the unmistakable quality of authority.
    "Yes Master."
    "Good, very good. Now tell me, why have you brought me this one?"
    "One of the men brought us Raimondo's Thrall."
    "Interesting." There was a long pause during which I failed to ball up and disappear. "Light the lamp."
    The lamp didn't give much light to the room as it was buried into the side of the wall behind a wrought-iron mesh. But it did give me enough light to see this other Master and I wish the blow to the head had killed me now. There was no doubt that this was one of the Nosferatu. Master spoke of them with nothing but disdain. Even the ones that where apart of our own order barley hold his feigned respect.
    I don't understand how time passed next. I mostly remember the ends of things. Getting chased out of a church. Standing outside of a store with silver spoons up my sleeve. Pulling my dresses back on as a man or woman leaves the room. Wrapping cloth strips around fresh slices in my arms or legs. Walking away from something newly dead in an ally. The only clear memory I have is of my crime.

    The sun had not risen enough to lift the night's chill but
the street was already bustling even in the early morning. The six who had shared in my torment rushed ahead through the servant's door. Each carried knifes and swords as suited their puppeteer. Unless you knew to listen for it, you could not hear the crashes from inside the manor or even the short screams. He knew to listen for them though and he reveled in them through me.
    As the sounds died down, we moved forward. It was much as I had expected. A few bodies lay just past the door; their throat's cleanly slit. Bodies with more varied wounds lay farther in as they had started to flee.
    We stopped at a young woman who didn't have the sense to lay still. We reached out to the blood staining her house dress and brought it back to taste. It was not wonderful like Master's. I remember that she was so beautiful. Are you my replacement? She reached out to me for help and in return we chocked the life out of her.
    The sight was the same throughout the rest of the manor. What few living we passed we dealt with ourselves. We made our way through the house down to the crypts below. The six had finished with the servants and were now spreading lamp oil room by room.
    I was one of the few with a key to Master's chamber and we used it now to betray that trust. Try as I might I was unable to keep us from turning the key. We opened the door and took a step back. The six flooded in quickly covering every surface in more oil. Once they were done, they each covered themselves in oil and simply sat on the floor. We calmly closed the doors on them and barracked the door so that it would not be able open from the other side for anyone. We had to be careful not to slip on the slick floor as we make our way down the hall and up the stairs. 
    One lamp was left intact on the table in the center of the main room. We lit it and simply stood there for some time. I could tell from the light outside that it was now pasting noon. I had not noticed that I was crying until we licked the tears off of my cheek. It triggered something in him and he let out a bellowing laugh from within me. With that threw the lamp at the stairs.
    I have never seen anything like it before or since. As soon as the lamp impacted, the fire ran from it in all directions. Much of it diapered down the stairs while other of it ran up the walls and ceiling and even more across the floor. He insisted on holding me until the smoke was too thick to see through. By the time he let go, it was too late. The fire and the heat was too much and forced me out of my old home.
    A crowd had formed around the inferno. I ran as fast as I could pulling myself out of any hands grasping at me. There was only one place for me to go.
    I must give my confession to the prince.
* * *
    All present in the assembly was in an uproar by then end. The Prince had sat quietly through my confession with his eyes closed. He stood now and came around to stand in front of me. I was still now. My breathing finally calm. It was almost over. "While it was not your will to murder our Kindred, it was your lack of will that let it be done. For this, you have earned the harshest of our punishments."
    Thank you.
    "You will live."
    You will live with the guilt of what you have done.
    "It will be the duty of our great Order here and after to keep you living."
    "Please, no."
    "Never again will you have a real master or feel the true joy of the embrace of the Vinculum."
    "No, please, Prince."
    "Raimondo loved you as much as any of us can love our thralls, and every time you're embraced, it will be a pale shadow of what you have destroyed."
    "Please, just let me die."
    "Go now, and wait. We will assign a warden to you soon enough."
    They had to drag me away kicking and screaming. My pleads for death fell on deaf ears. As much as they would like to kill me, The Prince had spoken and it was as he commanded.
    At first I was only given to the most loyal. The ones trusted enough to put effort into my living and not decide they knew better then He. Over time, as the severity of my crime was forgotten, I was assigned to lesser kindred. Having me as a ghoul was even eventually seen as an insult.
    The embrace is always torment. Every moment of ecstasy would bring back the clear memories of my true Master. Reminding me of what I had done. Showing me how what I was getting now was a pale shadow of his world. The few kind wardens I've had over the years realized what the feeding was doing to me and bled me instead of embracing me directly. More often though, they would realize what the embrace meant to me and feed as often as my body could stand.
    I struggle through now from pained night into pained day. Obedient. Hateful. Too much of a coward to change my sentence myself.