A door was opened in front of him and only the most senior of the guardsmen and his right-hand man escorted him in.
“My lord,” said the senior man. “We have brought him, as you requested.”
“I can see that, Williamson, I thank you,” the Baron said with a dry chuckle.
Laughter echoed around the room, from several different mouths. Robert, however, didn’t look.
The guard, Williamson, cleared his throat quietly, embarrassed.
“Apologies, my lord,” he said.
The Baron waved a dismissive hand—Robert could see it in the shadows cast on the floor by the bright candles.
“Needless. You may leave us now,” the Baron simply said.
“But, my lord, this vampire is potentially dangerous—!”
“I said, leave us!”
After a flustered bow, Williamson and his second-in-command left hurriedly.
“This vampire,” enquired one of the guests quietly, “is he not the Elder’s blooded son?”
“Indeed he is, well observed, my old friend,” the Baron replied triumphantly.
“And whatever for have you beckoned him hither?” asked a different voice.
Robert kept his eyes to the floor as they spoke.
“To experiment with some information I recently received,” the Baron answered without immediate explanation.
“And what, pray tell, is this information?” asked another.
The Baron didn’t answer, instead addressing Robert himself.
“Vampire,” he said.
Robert looked up silently.
“Turn around,” the Baron commanded.
He did as he was bid. There was a surprised gasp and quiet mumblings at the sight of his scars, and the name carved between his shoulder blades.
“Vampire, you are mated?” asked one of the guests.
“Yes, my lord,” Robert responded monotonously.
“Her race?” asked the same man.
“Mortal, my lord.”
“Mortal? Why not ‘human’?”
“Because she isn’t, my lord. She is the result of union between a witch and a Shadow hunter,” Robert explained in the same tone as before: blank and monotonous.
“Vampire, your mate is the daughter of a slayer?” asked another, his voice rich with incredulity.
“Does it matter who his mate is?” the Baron demanded, irritated. “I say we get on with the proceedings. Turn back, slave.”
Robert, again, did as he was told; he didn’t have the strength to do otherwise. He dropped his eyes to the floor once more.