"Zelthar!" I gasped, shaking. "I-I... he moved.. wasn't as drunk.. I d-don't know what happened.."

I stumbled over the words, making them sound unconvincing even to me. Zelthar looked at me with an expression of father-like disappointment.

"Asha dear, I warned you of what would happen. I had such high hopes for you dear. Seems I had made a grave error in my calculations." He sighed. "Now I'm afraid you have put me in a very awkward situation-I have no choice but to take you to a full Council hearing.

The bottom seemed to fall out of my stomach. Zelthar had explained all about the Council to me via the pack-including the meaning of this hearing. This was the vampire equivalent of a criminal trail, reserved only for the most severe breaches of law.

A strange defiance overcame me as I moved over to the bed, nudging the half-swords out of my way as I went. They went under the bed, covered by the sheets. My hand traced along one of the daggers lightly, coming to rest on the hilt.

"Asha dear, do not make this any harder on yourself. There are officials waiting. If you struggle, it will be the worst for you."

I said nothing, my mind racing, staring at my hand on the dagger. I was stronger and faster than these older vampires still, but they were more experienced and had the advantage of numbers. I knew these streets better than they did, but they could flood them with more people faster than I would be able to escape. If I faced the Council, I could tell my side of the story, get a pardon maybe. My choice of punishments were exile and execution-with the latter being more likely considering what I had done.

"Lets go." A flat voice behind me caused me to whirl around. Silently, two huge vampires had come up behind me. Both had the black eyes and impassive features of those who were used to subduing anyone who came up against them. Their huge bulk barely gave testament to their strength. Each took one of my wrists as they led me out.

Finally arriving at the Council mansion, I was stunned into total silence. The wealth seeped through every aspect of the house, and the Council Halls inside were designed to intimidate. And they did. Highly successfully.

I was stood alone, in an empty expanse of floor while the members of the Council were ranged high above me. I picked out Zelthar instantly, sat next to a member who appeared oriental, dressed in a kimono. The file Zelthar had provided me on the Council had named him Kyoshiro. Others I vaguely recognised, but the names escaped me. I was looking at the most powerful vampires in the entire world.

There was no chance to defend myself. Zelthar stood, giving an account of my actions. Every time I attempted to speak in my defense, I was silenced.

"Are you, or are you not guilty of these crimes?" Kyoshiro demanded harshly.

At this point I was shaking, only just standing and on the verge of tears. The injustice of it all burned in the back of my throat and I felt sick.

"They attacked me! I was under orders!" I cried uselessly.

"Yes or no yearling. Did you commit these crimes?"

I looked helplessly around, appealing for any kind of sympathy, but all I could see were hard faces, ranged against me. They had already decided my guilt. My head fell and a tear splashed by my foot.

"Yes." I whispered.

There was a rush of muttering and the eyes condemned me. I was a killer. A criminal. A monster.

"In light of your lack of experience and familiarity with our laws, you will be given the lesser sentence of permanent exile." Kyoshiro glared down at me, his words falling like blows. "You will not, under any circumstance, come into contact with any member of vampire society. You are hereby forbidden from siring, living with, contacting or in any way interacting with another vampire. Any breach of this injunction will find you in contempt of this Council and subject to a warrant for execution. Do you understand the terms of your punishment?"

I nodded mutely, refusing to let another tear fall.

"Then leave these chambers and our society. And never return."


I returned to the hotel room. I didn't know where else to go. The vampires had cleaned up my mess so there was no suspicion from the humans that I was in any way other than slightly eccentric. But the vampires, the society to which I now belonged, had cast me out before I had even entered.

I kicked out at the bed, leaving a dent, shifting it halfway across the room. The half-swords were exposed. I sat on the bed, holding them, my mind suddenly racing again.

The End

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