Maintain neutral.

A pang of desire pinched Luther's stomach as he stared at the pocket which housed what could have been all he sought in this life.

Or it could have been an utter fabrication.

The wily ancient one who stood before him had not survived for centuries by being a pushover, and it occurred to Luther that the envelope which Mare had shown him was but a dupe.  A fool's temptation to be sure.

Nonetheless Luther salivated with anticipation of opening it and reading its contents.

Mare chuckled softly, “If you stare any harder, my young friend, you might bore holes into my pocket and set the damn thing aflame.”

Luther guiltily looked away and submissively brought his eyes to the floor, “My apologies, Sa'ak Dote.”

For the first time, a flash of life passed over Mare's face and a smile touched his wan lips, “You know the Old Tongue?  You are certainly full of surprises, aren't you?  I have not heard those words in many years.  Tell me, how did you learn them?”

A wash of dark memories flooded Luther's eyes and when at least he spoke, his voice was a soft hush, “When I first changed, I was lost, fearful, undisciplined.  I was little more than a feral beast of hunger and rage.  I didn't understand – nor did I accept – my transformation.  I was lucky enough that a Sa'ak Vollorum happened to stumble upon me.  He showed me compassion and guidance, the likes of which I could never repay.”

Mare's eyebrows raised imperceptibly, “Sa'ak Vollorum, eh?  Not many of those left anymore, either.  Do you still travel together?”

Luther shook his head, “Our time together was brief.”

Mare moved around the dark cellar, running a finger along the dusty field stone as he contemplated Luther's words.  At last, he said, “There was a momentary unsteadiness in your voice as you spoke of your mentor.  I take it he is now deceased?”

Luther did not speak.  He could not speak as emotions choked his throat closed.

“Ah... Our numbers are already few.  It saddens me to hear of the passing of an Old One.”

Luther surreptitiously wiped at his eyes in hopes Mare did not catch it.  He said, “Of all the vampires I've met, he was by far --”

Mare moved with ungodly speed and closed on the unsuspecting Luther before the younger vamp's eyes could even register the movement.  The Consort's left arm swung at Luther with the power of a battering ram, too fast to react, and connected with enough force to topple the younger vampire to his back.  Mare leaned forward and screamed, as if from the very soles of his feet.  Foul spittle flew from his lips like rancid rain water, “DO NOT USE THE HUMAN WORD FOR US!  EVER! IT DENEGRADES US!  I WILL NOT ALLOW IT!”

Luther scrambled to his feet and pressed his right hand to the side of his head, where Mare's long fingernails had gouged out three long tracks near his eye.

Claws, really.  Razor-sharp talons.

Luther averted his eyes and mumbled an apology, “I meant no disrespect, sire.  My ignorant tongue defies me.”

Mare seemed to have regained control of his temper as quickly as he had lost it moments ago.  A hint of a smile touched his lips and he smoothed out his ruffled attire, “Your tongue is also a silky trickster when it wants to be, isn't it?  Quick to cast favor in your direction.  It forces me to accept your apology much more quickly than I am normally disposed.”

Luther wasn't sure if that was a compliment or if the Ancient One was baiting him.  He decided the best course of action was to remain silent.

The End

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