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The Thirteenth Century
The werewolf whimpered in pain as its captors dragged it through the shadowy corridors of the underground dungeon. Silver barbs, embedded deep in the beast's bleeding hide, were affixed to heavy iron chains that weighed down the werewolf's shaggy black form; unlike their albino progenitor, William's successors were covered with fur the color of midnight. Even with its massive head bowed in submission, the monster's pointed ears brushed the low ceiling of the dungeon. Its clawed feet scraped against the dank stone floor as it staggered down the tunnel on its hind legs. Death Dealers, clad in gleaming black plate armor, tugged on the other ends of the chains, being careful to stay out of reach of their captive's razor-sharp fangs and claws. The immense werewolf, more than eight feet tall, towered over the smaller vampires. Additional knights, armed with crossbows and silver truncheons, warily escorted the procession, in the event that the beast was not quite as cowed as it appeared. Too many Death Dealers had seen their immortality end beneath the slathering jaws of an enraged werewolf; no one wanted to take any unnecessary chances with this prisoner until it was safely locked away in its cell. Even a chained wolf could bite.
Loathsome animal, Viktor thought. The regal Elder watched with satisfaction as his soldiers led the beast away. Piercing azure eyes peered from his gaunt, clean-shaven face. Sandy blond hair receded from his lofty brow. An aquiline nose distinguished his patrician countenance. A black velvet robe with golden trim clothed his narrow frame. He looked to be roughly fifty by mortal standards, although, like most of the inhabitants of the castle, his true age was measured in centuries.
Not for the first time, he pondered whether it was worth the risk to take these monsters alive. His alchemists and advisers insisted that they needed living specimens to experiment upon, in hopes of finding new means to combat their bestial enemies, but Viktor sometimes had his doubts as to whether their efforts were truly necessary. Fire and silver had always served the Death Dealers in the past. What more did they need to rid the world of these wretched beasts?
"This way, sire."
A jailor gestured to the right, reminding the Elder of his errand here tonight. A bizarre story had reached his ears, one that frankly beggared belief, but which had seemed to demand his personal attention. With Marcus and Amelia presently hibernating beneath the earth, enjoying two centuries of interrupted slumber, Viktor was the sole Elder in command of the coven. As such, it was his solemn duty to investigate anything that might affect their eternal war with the werewolves -- even if, in this case, he suspected he was wasting his time.
Surely there must be some mistake, he thought. Such a thing is not possible.
"Lead on," he instructed the jailor.
The club-footed turnkey, whose pasty complexion was even paler than an ordinary vampire's, guided Viktor down a murky subterranean corridor. He held aloft a sputtering torch that did little to dispel the gloomy shadows shrouding the dungeon, while gripping a crossbow with his other hand. Heavy iron bars, reinforced with silver, guarded the dismal cells lining both sides of the passageway. Chains rattled as caged werewolves shuffled behind the sturdy bars. Low growls and angry snarls escaped the cells. Filthy straw littered the cold stone floors. Water dripped down clammy, slime-encrusted brick walls. Arcane runes were inscribed on the greenish-gray masonry. The fetid atmosphere reeked of sweat, piss, offal, and foul wolfen blood. Cobwebs hung from the ceiling. Rats and lizards scurried away from their approach.
Viktor's nose wrinkled in disgust. He seldom ventured into these noisome depths. "This had best not be an idle rumor," he warned the lumbering jailor. "I have better things to do with my time than go prowling through this cesspool in search of a drunken hallucination."
"No, milord!" the jailor assured him fearfully. His voice quavered at the prospect of incurring the vindictive Elder's wrath. He nervously licked his lips. "It's true, I swear it upon my life!"
We'll see about that, Viktor thought darkly.
They came to the mouth of an cavelike cell at the end of the corridor. A barred gate blocked their path. "Here, milord!" the jailor proclaimed. "You can hear for yourself!"
He struck the bars with the stock of the crossbow, producing a harsh metallic ring. Annoyed snarls greeted the noise, along with something else. To Viktor's amazement, the unmistakable cry of a newborn baby issued from within the cell before him. He exchanged a startled look with the jailor, who nodded in confirmation. After centuries of immortality, few things surprised the Elder anymore, but the inexplicable wailing left him speechless.
No, he thought in disbelief. It cannot be....
Shoving the jailor aside, he stepped forward and peered through the sturdy bars of the cell. The stygian darkness beyond strained even his vampiric vision, yet as he squinted into the gloom, he thought he perceived a small pink shape clutched to the bosom of a squatting female werewolf. The infant's high-pitched squeal continued to echo through the subterranean recesses of the dungeon. The cries agitated the other werewolves, who barked and howled incessantly, raising an infernal racket that chafed at the Elder's patience.
"Open it," Viktor demanded.
The jailor hesitated. He seemed more afraid of his bestial charges than Viktor thought suitable. "Milord?"
"Open it, I say!" He snatched the crossbow from the jailor's trembling grip, barely resisting the urge to cuff the fool. The weapon fit comfortably within his hands, reminding Viktor of many a glorious battle. "And be quick about it!"
Depositing his torch into a nearby sconce, the jailor hurried to carry out the Elder's command. He grunted with exertion as he drew back a tarnished silver-plated bolt. Rusty hinges that sounded as though they had not been employed in months screeched loudly as the barred gate swung open. Chains clanked inside the cell as the she-wolf lurched up from the floor. A warning growl escaped her throat. Her hackles rose. Glistening black lips drew back, baring her fangs. She crouched above the bawling infant...like a mother defending her young?
Viktor could think of no other way to account for the baby's presence in the cell. Yet that defied all reason; werewolves bred, certainly, but they gave birth only to primitive animals such as themselves. No she-wolf had ever whelped a human child.
Raising the crossbow, he stepped warily into the cell. "Take care, milord!" the jailor cautioned, remaining safely outside in the corridor. The bitch barked furiously and tugged at her chain. If not for the riveted metal collar clamped around her neck, she would have gladly ripped him to shreds. Her cobalt eyes blazed with murderous fury.
Viktor took the she-wolf's show of aggression very seriously. He knew full well how dangerous a wild animal could be when guarding its young. Should his lady wife ever bear him a child, he intended to defend his own heir no less zealously.
He took aim with the crossbow and squeezed the trigger. A silver-tipped bolt flew from the weapon, striking the werewolf directly between the eyes. She yelped in pain as the force of the shot knocked her backward against the far wall of the cell. Her mangy bulk collapsed against the straw-covered floor. She spasmed once before falling still and silent. Blood streamed from her sloping brow. Smoke rose from the silver arrowhead buried in her skull. The smell of burning hair and flesh added to the noxious atmosphere of the cell.
The baby cried out in fear and longing.
Was the beast truly dead? Viktor waited a moment or two, just in case the fallen creature was feigning death, until he saw her thick black pelt begin to recede into her mottled hide. The prone body of the werewolf contracted as much of her size and weight evaporated into the ether. The creature's grotesque exterior melted away until only the naked body of a dead peasant woman remained, sprawled lifelessly amidst a spreading pool of blood.
Viktor wasted not a moment mourning the she-wolf's death. Slaughtering her kind had been his life's work for centuries now. It was the infant that interested him. Lowering the crossbow, he crept farther into the cell, drawing near to the orphaned baby upon the floor. His probing azure eyes confirmed the staggering truth:
A baby boy, completely human in appearance, wailed piteously at his feet.
How can this be? Viktor marveled. He assumed that the bitch had been pregnant when captured, but that hardly explained why she had given birth to such a normal-looking infant. The child's plump pink skin had been licked clean by its mother's tongue. His toothless mouth shrieked to the heavens. He shook his tiny fists at the pensive vampire standing above him.
Viktor wondered what manner of beast had sired the child upon the she-wolf. Alas, the identity of the father had died with the mother, not that the mindless creature could have ever communicated that knowledge, even if Viktor had spared her life. The circumstances of the baby's conception were destined to remain a mystery forever.
What mattered now was deciding what was to be done with the unnatural child. Viktor raised the crossbow once more. Every fiber of his being urged him to slay the infant immediately, before its very existence overturned the immutable laws by which their twilight world was governed. Who knew what dire consequence might result from the birth of this seeming abomination? Best to dispatch the child now, the same way he had disposed of his mother.
He loaded another bolt into the crossbow and took aim at the baby's head. His finger tightened on the trigger.
And yet...the baby's birth was a miracle of sorts, albeit of a dark and disturbing variety. And perhaps a miracle should not be taken lightly? Curiosity as to the child's true nature and potential arose in Viktor's mind. Perhaps there was an opportunity here, as well as risks? Why rush to judgment?
I can always put the whelp to death later on if need be....
For now, however, he chose to stay his hand. Putting the crossbow aside, he knelt and lifted the naked infant from the straw. The squirming newborn felt small and fragile within his arms. Innocent brown eyes peered up into Viktor's own. A small pink fist gripped the Elder's chin with surprising strength.
He prayed that he was not making a dreadful mistake.
Fifteen years later
Castle Corvinus was carved into the very face of a craggy black peak rising high above the surround-ing forests and countryside. Its forbidding turrets and battlements stabbed upward at the starry night sky. The light of myriad torches and lamps shone through the fortress's lancet windows, making the isolated mountain stronghold appear to glow from within. Crimson pennants, the color of freshly spilled blood, streamed atop the watchtowers. Sculpted grotesques, in the shape of writhing plague victims, perched upon the eaves and ramparts. Flanking towers abutted the sturdy guardhouse defending the front gate. Armored Death Dealers patrolled the tops of the high gray walls, which were more than ten feet thick in places. Rectangular stone merlons jutted up from the parapet like a bottom row of teeth. Flying buttresses reinforced the walls. Massive siege crossbows the size of catapults were mounted upon the outer palisade. Steel harpoons more than ten feet long were loaded into the formidable weapons, which were also known as ballistas. Steel winches were required to draw back the bow arms.
A slender youth, no more than fifteen years old, stood poised upon a parapet overlooking the drawbridge below. Dark brown hair fell past his shoulders. Coarse woolen clothing testified to his lowly status in the castle's hierarchy. His dirty brown tunic and breeches were torn and frayed. Piercing brown eyes peered out from a handsome face that had yet to require the touch of a razor. A brisk autumn wind rustled his unkempt locks. He gazed past the rampart at the precipitous thirty-foot drop before him.
Don't look down, Lucian thought.
Despite his sage advice to himself, the young servant could not resist peering down from his elevated perch atop the castle's outer walls. The drawbridge below looked impossibly far away. Any mortal man who attempted to leap from this height would be smashed to pieces for certain.
Thankfully, Lucian was no mere mortal.
I can do this, he thought. Lord Viktor expects me to.
He took a deep breath to steady his nerves, closed his eyes, and stepped off the parapet. Gravity seized him and he plummeted downward at breathtaking speed. The night air rushed past him, roaring in his ears. His eyes snapped open in time to see the hard wooden floor of the drawbridge appear to surge up at him like a battering ram. His brief, inconsequential life raced before his eyes as he feared that he had fallen victim to some cruel joke on the part of his undead masters. Would it amuse Viktor and the others to see his brains splattered across the mountainside?
It's not fair! he despaired, only heartbeats before hitting the ground. I haven't even begun to live yet!
He braced himself for death, only to land nimbly upon the drawbridge in one piece. The impact didn't even knock the breath from his body, let alone kill him. He glanced down at his intact flesh and blood in astonishment. He gasped in relief.
I did it! he rejoiced. Just like Viktor promised!
His jubilation was cut short, however, when three beefy ruffians emerged from the shadow of the castle's high front gate. Lucian recognized the men as mortal laborers employed in the ongoing expansion of the fortress's dungeons. Their unwashed hides had been baked brown by the sun, compared to the paler complexions of the castle's more nocturnal inhabitants. Dried mortar splattered their filthy garments. Iron bludgeons in hand, they charged at the unarmed youth. Angry shouts and florid red faces made clear their hostile intentions. Their breaths reeked of strong spirits.
Lucian had no idea what he had done to incur the men's wrath, but he did not intend to be beaten senseless by the likes of these. They were just mortals, after all, and mere commoners to boot, not vampires whose harsh discipline he might be expected to submit to without resistance. Although he was nothing more than a serf himself, Lucian owed no deference to these drunken louts. A growl escaped his lips as he dropped into a defensive crouch. His brown eyes turned cobalt blue.
The men spread out around him, clearly intending to assault him from all sides. The first man -- a bald-headed lummox with a neck like an ox -- came at Lucian from the front. He swung his club at the youth, who ducked beneath the blow and butted his head into the human's chest hard enough to crack the man's ribs. Gasping in pain, the man staggered backward. His club flew from his fingers and Lucian effortlessly snatched it from the air. He smacked it against the man's skull, dropping him to the ground, even as he heard the second man -- a sallow-faced brute with bad teeth -- lumbering up behind him.
A backward kick sent Bad Teeth flying off the drawbridge. A startled yelp ended abruptly as he crashed down into the rocky slopes below, which were studded with jagged boulders. A high-pitched shriek gave way to agonized groans as the man was impaled upon a granite outcropping. He would have been better off breaking his neck instead.
Two down, one to go, Lucian thought. He spun around to confront the third man, who had attempted to waylay Lucian from the right. A one-eyed stonemason who wore a leather patch over the empty socket, this one appeared both larger and cagier than his more impetuous cohorts. Swollen veins bulged atop his meaty thews. A mermaid tattoo suggested that he had once gone to sea. Daunted by the preternatural speed with which Lucian had dispatched his fellows, the cyclops took his time attacking. "Demon!" he hissed at the boy as they circled each other warily. "I'll send you back to hell where you belong!"
Lucian growled in response. He bared his teeth.
The stonemason's face blanched, and, for a second, Lucian thought he might turn tail. The man crossed himself fearfully but did not back down. Mustering his courage, he let out a ferocious whoop and raced at Lucian with his club held high. His boots pounded against the wooden planks of the drawbridge, but, compared to the boy's inhuman reflexes, he might as well have been slogging through heavy mud. Grinning wolfishly, Lucian sprang from the ground and leapt over the mortal's head, landing nimbly behind his foe. He spun around quickly, before the startled cyclops even realized what had happened, and kicked the man's legs out from under him. The man fell forward onto his knees. His club slipped from his fingers and rolled away from him. He frantically scrambled for his weapon, but it was already too late. Clasping his hands together, Lucian clubbed the man across the back of his head with both fists. Bone cracked and the stonemason collapsed face-first onto the hard wooden planks. Blood and brains spilled across the drawbridge.
So much for those ruffians!
In a matter of moments, the melee was over. Lucian stood triumphantly over the fallen bodies of his assailants. He wasn't even breathing hard.
Before he could fully savor his victory, however, the boy's keen ears alerted him to another threat. Something came whistling through the sky behind him and he whirled around just in time to pluck a speeding crossbow bolt from the air, only inches from his face. The silver glare of the arrowhead hurt his eyes, so he tossed the offending missile away. It rattled harmlessly onto the floor of the drawbridge.
A smattering of light applause came from the castle. Lucian looked up proudly to see Viktor and a small group of vampire courtiers and ladies gazing down at him from the grand balcony upon the central keep. The aristocratic vampires were clad in all their finery, wearing elegant gowns and robes of the darkest silk and velvet. Legend had it that the bite of a bat had transformed Marcus into a vampire; the flowing black raiment of his kind draped over their slender forms like folded wings. Viktor lowered the crossbow. He nodded in approval, plainly pleased by Lucian's prowess.
Of course, Lucian thought, as the reason for the mortals' unwarranted attack upon him became clear. It was another of Viktor's tests.
The regal Elder had taken much interest in the young man over the years, despite (or perhaps because of) his bestial origins. Lucian sometime wondered why so powerful a monarch concerned himself with the bastard child of a dead werewolf, but he was grate-ful for the Elder's patronage -- and for the fact that he had not been put to death at birth. He knew that many in the castle wished otherwise; they made little effort to disguise their contempt and suspicion when they passed him in the drafty corridors of the ancient fortress. Nor could he blame them for their disdain. Despite his best efforts to prove that he was not an unreasoning animal like his savage forebears, the taint of the wolf still flowed through his veins....
"What do you think, Sonja?" Viktor's voice carried from the balcony as he addressed his small daughter, who stood beside him behind the railing. The girl's birth, eight winters ago, had been a time of both celebration and mourning. Her mother, the Lady Ilona, had perished giving birth to Viktor's only child. "Shall we make more?"
"Of him?" The little girl was spellbound by the handsome youth below. Curly brown locks framed the child's angelic features. A black satin kirtle clothed her diminutive form. A crest-shaped pendant, centered around a polished turquoise gemstone, dangled on a chain around her neck. Wide chestnut eyes peered down at Lucian.
"Like him," Viktor clarified. "Lucian will be the first of a new breed. The first of the lycans."
Sonja nodded absently, seemingly more interested in the boy himself than her father's machinations. "Lucian," she repeated, trying the name out in her mouth. "Lucian..."
Pure-born vampire children were rare in the castle. Lucian wondered what she would be like when she grew up.
Lucian crouched nervously in his humble den in the castle's sprawling dungeons. A straw pallet rested in the corner of the cell, but there would no rest for him tonight. Viktor had other plans for him, plans that filled the boy's heart with trepidation. His stomach rumbled unhappily; upon the Elder's orders, he had not been fed for hours. His eyes were fixed on a narrow window cut high in the moldy stone wall before him. Naked, he waited apprehensively for what was to come. A capital V for Viktor was branded on his bare right arm.
He felt the full moon rising outside even before the first silvery beams invaded his lair. His brown eyes dilated, shrinking down to tiny black pinpricks. Blood pounded in his ears, like a tide crashing against the shore. His heart stampeded wildly beneath his hairless chest. Teeth and nails tugged at their roots. His skin felt hot and feverish. A sudden sweat drenched his body.
No, he thought, just as he did every month when the moon waxed full. Not again!
He wanted to shrink away from the moonlight, yet that would have been contrary to Viktor's expressed wishes. Iron bars trapped him inside the cell, making retreat impossible. There was no escape from the rising moon -- or the beast it awoke inside him.
His face contorted into a hellish mask of pain as his innards twisted within his gut. Bulging veins throbbed beneath his skin. His eyes glazed over into inhuman cobalt orbs. Jagged fangs clenched tightly to keep from screaming. Convulsing, he collapsed onto the straw-covered floor and rolled into the pitch blackness at the rear of the cell, as far from the open window as he could get. He huddled upon the floor in torment, praying for deliverance.
Why must I be so cursed? I never asked for this!
But despite his prayers, the moonlight found him out. A beam of cold white light slashed his arm and the slender limb turned dark and sinewy. His splayed fingers degenerated into claws. His bare skin thickened, becoming coarse and leathery. Muscles rippled across his back as his youthful frame seemed to absorb weight and substance from the moonlight, growing larger and more imposing. Bristling black fur erupted from beneath his febrile hide. Dark hair spread over his body, hiding his nakedness beneath a thick sable pelt. Bony talons scraped at the damp stones beneath the straw. His vision blurred, the color fading from his sight as the dungeon around him dissolved into fuzzy shades of gray. Tufted ears twitched atop his skull. His nostrils quivered, suddenly alive to myriad new smells. He choked on the overwhelming stench of dungeons, even as he bit back the howl forming at the back of his throat.
No! He fought against the almost irresistible urge to give voice to the beast. A canine snout stretched out his face. His clamped his protruding jaws together. I'm not an animal! Not inside!
But on the outside, it was a different story. The wrenching pain passed away as the hellish transformation reached its end. Little trace of the gawky youth remained; instead a great black werewolf arose from the filthy straw, standing erect on his hind legs. Moonlight bathed the enormous monster Lucian had become. He stared in revulsion at his own misshapen paws.
This isn't me, he tried to convince himself. Not truly.
Ordinarily, the worst of Lucian's ordeal would be over now. In the past, Viktor had simply kept him securely locked up on the nights of the full moon. But tonight would be different. Lucian found himself torn between apprehension and a strange, shameful excitement that he was scarcely willing to acknowledge, even to himself. His ears perked up at the sound of multiple footsteps plodding toward his cell. He licked his chops in nervous anticipation as his glowing cobalt eyes peered through the bars of the cage. Drool dripped from his jaws.
Within minutes, a dismal procession came into view. Flickering torchlight revealed a row of human serfs being prodded toward the cell by armored Death Dealers. Iron shackles bound their hands and feet. Filthy rags barely covered their undernourished bodies, many of which bore the marks of the vampires' whips. Lice infested their unkempt hair and beards. Heads bowed meekly, more than a dozen men and boys were herded like cattle through the fetid bowels of the dungeon. Their bare feet trudged wearily over the uneven stones. Captured in war, or sold into bondage by their feudal lords, they had no idea of what lay in store for them...until they glimpsed the fearsome werewolf waiting hungrily in his cage.
Screams erupted from the prisoners, threatening to unleash pandemonium. Lashes cracked against mortal skin, flaying flesh from bone, as the vampires brutally restored order and continued to press the unfortunate mortals toward Lucian. The helpless serfs whimpered and begged for mercy, but their frantic pleas fell upon deaf ears. Tears streamed from their eyes, and sobbing fathers clutched their children, as the lead Death Dealer unlocked Lucian's cage. The barred door swung open.
Lucian was tempted to make a break for it, to take advantage of his wolfen strength and speed to flee what was to come, but he knew that the Death Dealers would strike him down if he made the slightest move to exit his cell. Or was that just an excuse to remain where he was? As much as he hated to admit it, part of him didn't want to go anywhere, not now. The smell of fresh human meat tantalized his nostrils. His mouth watered at the sight of the savory mortals.
The captain of the Death Dealers, a dark-haired vampire named Sandor, laughed harshly. "Feeding time, cur!"
A loutish peasant was yanked from the procession and shoved into Lucian's cage. Shrieking hysterically, the man fought his captors every inch of the way, but his mortal thews were no match for the superior strength of the Death Dealers, who chuckled as they cast him to his fate. The trembling serf found himself trapped between the merciless vampires behind him and the horrifying werewolf looming before him. Convinced that his end was upon him, he prayed fervently to the saints while wringing his hands in despair. He squeezed his eyes shut, not wanting to look upon his doom. His scarred body shook like a leaf. He lost control of his bladder. His bowels emptied.
"Mother of God, have mercy upon my poor soul...."
The man's manifest terror stirred Lucian to pity, but it was not in his power to spare the stranger this ordeal. Viktor held the reins of all their destinies and what the Elder had ordained must now come to pass. Lucian wished he could offer the anguished serf some words of comfort, yet his hideous new shape denied him the luxury of human speech. The growl that issued from his muzzle did nothing but make the condemned prisoner shudder even harder. The only merciful thing, Lucian realized, was to be quick about it....
He lunged forward and sank his fangs into the peasant's shoulder. Blood gushed from the werewolf's jaws. The prisoner screamed in agony. The intoxicating flavor of the bloody meat filled Lucian's mouth as he tasted human flesh for the first time. His heart pounded in exultation. His mind reeled.
It took all his self-control not to tear the man to pieces....
Viktor observed the grisly spectacle as, one by one, the shackled prisoners were led forward to receive the werewolf's bite. He gazed down at the proceedings through a metal grate covering the top of Lucian's cage. Death Dealers dragged the wounded slaves away from the werewolf once they were bitten. Metal collars, of singular design, were clamped around the victims' necks. Silver spikes, each more than an inch long, jutted from the inner lining of the collars, so that the tips of the spikes almost pricked the prisoners' skin. Writhing in pain, the bleeding men and women barely noticed the "moon shackles" being affixed to their throats. An intricate locking mechanism ensured that they would wear the collars for the rest of their lives. Branding irons marked their arms with an ornate capital V. The smell of seared flesh wafted upward.
Excellent, Viktor thought. All is going just as I decreed.
He was pleased to see that, thus far, Lucian had resisted the temptation to devour the hapless mortals whole. The orphan's discipline and willingness to follow orders boded well for the future of this entire enterprise. Viktor could only hope that his spawn would prove equally docile.
"Behold," the Elder said smugly. "The birth of a new race of immortals. Werewolf, but also human." No doubt many of the bitten serfs would die from the infection, but Viktor trusted that enough of them would survive the transformation to suit his purposes; if not, he would simply have to throw more humans between Lucian's gaping maw. "Unlike William's kind, this new breed can be harnessed to guard us during the daylight hours."
It had long been a source of concern to Viktor and the other Elders that the fortress was vulnerable by day, as not even the fiercest Death Dealer could withstand the burning rays of the sun. What if their mortal vassals rose up in insurrection, or a hostile pack of werewolves ventured forth after dawn? The castle's remote location and high stone walls provided a degree of security against such incursions, but he had always feared that these defenses were not sufficient. Viktor had been a veteran military commander even before Marcus made him immortal, and he knew full well that no fortress was truly impregnable. Indeed, he had razed more than few castles himself.
"Or so we hope, milord," his companion added cautiously. Andreas Tanis, the coven's chief scribe and historian, stood beside Viktor upon the grille. He was a slight man, with the deceptive look of a mortal in his mid-thirties. His mousy brown hair was slicked back to expose a high forehead. A slightly florid tinge to his face hinted at an overindulgence in mortal blood. His black brocaded doublet and satin hose were of lesser quality than Viktor's own regal attire, but the rich fabrics and fine tailoring befitted his elevated status in the coven. No warrior, he was a vampire of scholarly inclinations and distinctly hedonistic vices. Still, Viktor valued his keen mind and loyalty -- to a point.
"You doubt me?" he said crossly, annoyed at the scribe's apparent lack of enthusiasm. A scowl crossed his face. "You question my judgment in this matter?"
"Not at all, Lord Viktor." The chastened scribe hastened to mollify his liege. "I trust your profound wisdom implicitly." Backing away from the Elder, he nodded at the gruesome transactions taking place below them. He raised his voice to be heard over the screams of the future lycans. "I'm just not certain that I entirely trust them."
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