Private Tales The Proud Daughter

A private roleplay only for those invited by the first writer

Heike Eisen

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His name was Tzuriel Alanthis. And Heike was told that he was once a vampire, and that he had found a cure for his affliction.

So she set out to find him. Here, in Alliria.

* * * * *​

She entered the city as she entered all cities: at night, and not through the main gates. Even before the dawn and the sun came she had her hood up and her shawl down, hiding her claws within, walking as she usually did with her head bowed like a priestess in religious contemplation. During the night she kept out of sight, simply waited for the morning to come. Necessary, for while she knew that Tzuriel lived in Alliria, his precise whereabouts (or even so much as the location of his home) she did not.

The sun rose, heralded by the streak of hot orange to the east. It rose and the black of night became in time the blue of day.

And as the people of Alliria began to filter into the streets and the general busyness of the city resumed, Heike walked among them. In truth, she was at a loss of where to start: she had not visited Alliria before her affliction, and still she did not know the city very well after it. Kalia Oro Khastan had told her that Tzuriel was a merchant, yes, but there were a great many merchants here were there not? Even when narrowed down to wealthy merchant, there were still a fair number of them as well--Alliria was Alliria for a reason.

Eventually, after some wandering through the streets--she a solitary figure that some likely thought reverential or in mourning, what with how she walked with hidden hands and bowed head--Heike resolved to ask Captain Bronmarch of the city guard. A friend, one of the first she had managed to make as a vampire. It troubled her to bother him with a request that might well turn out to amount to nothing. Captain Bronmarch already risked himself and his livelihood enough for her sake.

But.

But if it didn't. If it didn't amount to nothing. If this time the hope of a cure was well-founded. This could be it. This could mean everything!

For more than the banishment of her vile affliction was at stake. If the cure worked, then she could truly keep her word to Ferelith--whom she had inadvertently infected--and help her as well. And not only these blessings, but something even more important to Heike as well: the fulfillment of her duty.

Yes. She had learned in recent months that not all the Knights of the Golden Blade had perished in Reikhurst. Some made it out. Made it out with what few thousand citizens of Reikhurst's original hundred thousand could be evacuated. Among these knights: Herr Dieter Roth and Herr Elias Schulze.

Her knight-superiors during her squiring. Her mentors. The men who shaped her into the knight she was today.

To be able to approach them as human? Such a thing was beyond value. Trust would automatically be extended to her, she'd not need to risk her life in pleading that she was no monster. And from there...with Herr Dieter and Herr Elias and the scant remainders of the Golden Blade reassembled, they could rally the citizens of Reikhurst, hire on whatever forces they needed.

And TAKE BACK Reikhurst from the vampires, from the fiend, from the traitor: Jürgen Kaiser, the Third King, he who masterminded the massacre of his own people four-hundred years removed from his reign.

It could all start here.

It could.

Tzuriel Alanthis
 
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Tzuriel Alanthis

Merchant King Of Arethil
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A big man in leather armor greeted guests in the lobby and announced their arrival and business by order of arrival.
The lobby was empty today so there was no wait as word traveled up to the top announcing her arrival.
___________________
Tzuriel didn't have much to do these days. All his caravans have set out, all the fleets set sail, all the storehouses stocked, and everything practically ran by itself.
He would have gone with one of his trade caravans but there was business that needed to be done that couldn't wait.

So now he was bored out of his mind. It was too early to go to a tavern and he really wanted to cut back on inebriated entertainment, he could hold his liquor but he felt like turning over a new leaf.
So he just sat in his office practicing some origami tricks that an artificer friend of his showed him that can make a flying construct out of paper.

After a few failed attempts and several bird like paper constructs were strewn all about his office he heard the gentle knock of his secretary on the door.
Tzuriel didn't even look up as he began folding another piece of paper.
"Come in Lizzy."
The short busty blonde woman in her early twenties poked her head and her assets through the door.
"There's a client that wants to speak with you. She doesn't have an appointment."
Tzuriel's eyes shot up from his paperwork (folding), immediately he was intrigued by the first interesting thing all day and he straightened in his chair.
"I'll see her, have her sent up!"
Lizzy bounced her bosom out of there and let the guard escort the guest to the office.
He got up and quickly kicked the papers into a corner before the "client" came in.
 
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Heike Eisen

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Captain Bronmarch came through. Heike needed only to speak Tzuriel's name, and Bronmarch knew exactly who she was talking about. He wasted no time. Led Heike to the Alanthis estate personally. Helped at least to ensure that she had the opportunity to speak with him before he departed.

Bronmarch, too, knew what was at stake. And though he could not confirm if that particular rumor about Tzuriel had any truth to it, he nevertheless hoped that it was so, that Tzuriel could in some manner help Heike procure a cure for her affliction.

And as Heike waited to be sent up to Tzuriel's office, a splinter of worry burrowed deeper into her mind. A cure for vampirism. An actual cure. But such a thing was far from widely known, widely accessible, else the affliction would have been wiped out ages ago. So rare was it that many believed such a thing did not exist--Heike herself had for years.

The worry: What if it was true, what if there was a cure of vampirism and Tzuriel had used it, what if he could through the same means offer it to her, and what if it didn't work? What if for some reason the cure he used was effective for his strain of vampirism but would not have any effect on Heike's Slaughtern strain?

Hope was dangerous. But she could not help it. She hoped that such a fate--to come so close only to be denied--did not come to pass.

His servant, Lizzy, came back down the stairs. Summoned her.

It was time.

* * * * *​

Heike entered Tzuriel's office. Spared only a moment to glance around at the lavish decorations, the ornate design--seldom had she seen such extravagance. A moment long enough for the door to be shut behind her.

She lifted her head. Her hood still up but her mask down; Bronmarch had advised pulling down her mask while in this part of Alliria--walking around with such a thing worn was unseemly. With no shortage of caution (and apprehension, for it was daylight out and she was in the proverbial lion's den in the heart of the city) she approached his desk. Stopped a few paces before it.

She took in a false breath. Said, "My name is Heike Eisen. And I will be brief."

Under her shawl her arms and hands moved. But, before she exposed her claws, she had the presence of mind to say, "I mean you no harm."

Then, slowly, her clawed hands emerged from underneath the cover of her shawl and she lifted them and pinched her hood and pulled it down, fully revealing her face. Despite the manifest fact that Tzuriel could plainly see the hideous claws, Heike still felt embarrassment and shame in the moment before she opened her mouth.

But grin she did. A grin not of mirth or emotion of any sort, but merely the method to show him. Show him her fangs. Those vile, disgusting fangs she had been cursed with (and the associated thirst they satiated). After a second of showing him, she let her mouth close and become neutral.

And she spoke quietly. A restrained plea, a breathless daring to hope. "Is it...true? Is it true that you were once a vampire, and that you found a cure? If that is so..."

An intense wave of emotion struck her. The mementos of her bygone life. Her lost humanity.

"Please..."

She pinched her eyes shut. Small tears glided down pale cheeks.

"Help me."

Tzuriel Alanthis
 
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Tzuriel Alanthis

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Tzuriel was leaned back in his chair, almost posing to look professional and hiding his relief for someone to talk business with besides his airheaded secretary who only talked about marriage.
"Welcome, come on in!"
The "client" that came in at first reminded him of a Cleric, with her hood and concealing robes. He smiled to offset his natural intensity, she seemed nervous as she approached his desk and introduced herself. But when she got close enough she almost didn't have to.
A scent, an invisible aura, a taste in the air, a thumping in his ears. He learned that having once been a vampire made him keenly aware whenever a vampire was before him.

This was the last thing he expected to happen on a day like this.
His smile faded but he maintained his air of professionalism, because now in the presence of a vampire he was on the alert.

"Please..."

She pinched her eyes shut. Small tears glided down pale cheeks.

"Help me."
What he didn't expect was to see the powerful scion of the night start crying. He was visibly dumbfounded for a full minute before he recovered and his intense professionalism returned.

He stood up wordlessly and handed her his handkerchief.
He'd cried as a vampire, thankfully her tears weren't as red as his was.
Though his face was stern his voice was gentle and soothing.
"Please, sit. Take a moment to collect yourself and then tell me what this is all about."
He motioned to the chair across from him and his desk, his blue eyes never leaving hers, soaking in every detail and reaction of her face.
 
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Heike Eisen

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Heike felt exposed and vulnerable, but her words were heartfelt. Pursuing cures only to find them ineffective or baseless served to amplify her desire, her raw hope, after each failure thinking that perhaps the next could be it, the one, that fabled chance at regaining her lost humanity. This brewed and built like a thunderstorm unseen, churning in her subconscious, until now when at last it came rushing out.

And this time. This time. This time there was a noted difference. That being the word of Kalia Oro Khastan. She trusted him. Deeply so after the ordeal they'd endured together and the similar pasts they shared. Perhaps it was merely another tale--this story of Tzuriel Alanthis, the renowned merchant who had been afflicted and cured it--but if Kalia recommended him to her, then there had to be at least some merit to it. Yes, she trusted in his word. If he believed it could be true, then so did she.

Heike opened her eyes. Well aware that she had been weeping. She offered a cordial yet wan smile to Tzuriel and accepted the handkerchief, pinching it between her thumb and forefinger as she often did--such to avoid grasping it with the points of her claws. She dabbed at her eyes, wiped her cheeks. She glanced back at the chair mentioned and motioned to and she backed up and swept her coat close to the backs of her thighs and sat down; her posture straight and dignified, disciplined and noble in accordance with her knightly bearing.

She looked at him, Tzuriel. He the beacon of stability. In it a comforting reassurance, a further rekindling of that hope, that (dangerous?) wishful thinking.

"I apologize for allowing a lapse in my composure," she said. Her hands found her lap and rested there. "I have been looking for a cure for five years. Perhaps this is a pittance of time compared to some, yet...yet it has nonetheless felt like an eternity of torment to me."

Heike's eyes moved down and she reached to her belt and pinched her insignia of the Golden Blade dangling there and held it aloft and she looked back up to Tzuriel.

"I am a Knight of the Golden Blade, of Reikhurst." Unsure if he knew of her home city, she added, "East of Alliria, at the mouth of the Sayve. I may be afflicted by this curse, but this shall always be true of me. I swore my Oaths, and I shall keep them until my dying day--whether I am human or...otherwise. And it is my solemn wish to be rid of this terrible disease, this...vile state of being."

The innocents from whom she had fed. She remembered them, their faces--some sleeping, some awake. They upon whom she was forced to prey when there were no guilty men to satiate her abhorrent thirst. She averted her eyes for a moment, becoming acutely aware of their yellowness as the monstrous thoughts intruded in her mind. That shame--perhaps Tzuriel had felt it too.

She looked back up again. Said quietly, "This is why I have come to you. I wanted to see if the tale was true. About you."

A beseeching in her eyes, as if the world were held in precarious balance and his answer would tip it toward everlasting good or ill.

Tzuriel Alanthis
 
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Tzuriel Alanthis

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She calmed herself and he waited patiently. It seems he couldn't escape encounters with vampires anymore, but this was the first he'd ever met that didn't see her affliction as a blessing... But given her particular strain he could see why. Most vampires he met weren't so blatantly afflicted, allowing them the ability to at least pretend that they were human when the fancy struck them.
"I apologize for allowing a lapse in my composure," she said. Her hands found her lap and rested there. "I have been looking for a cure for five years. Perhaps this is a pittance of time compared to some, yet...yet it has nonetheless felt like an eternity of torment to me."
"Please, don't feel you must apologize. In spite of your condition you are a woman first, and I would never begrudge you tears after such a long search."
The corner of his mouth twitched upwards, casting a brief cast of sympathetic understanding across his face.

"I am a Knight of the Golden Blade, of Reikhurst."
He rose an eyebrow at this and cut off her explanation with a wave of his hand. He was familiar with that place... Or rather, that place and it's current rulers. His caravans brought them supplies in return for gold, a good business even if it was sometimes frustrating that no other good but gold came out of Reikhurst. Still, they paid enough for the supplies that he didn't take a net loss by sending his caravans so their partnership continued.
"You're a knight from Reikhurst? I assume you're ruler doesn't know you're here then, especially for what you're asking of me."

I may be afflicted by this curse, but this shall always be true of me. I swore my Oaths, and I shall keep them until my dying day--whether I am human or...otherwise. And it is my solemn wish to be rid of this terrible disease, this...vile state of being."
_____

"This is why I have come to you. I wanted to see if the tale was true. About you."
Tzuriel nodded somberly, reading her expressions.
If she had led off by stating that she was a golden blade from Reikhurst this conversation might have gone very differently.
"I see... The rumor mill is often unforgiving and cruel, lies are told as often as the truth, but I digress. The rumors told you of a man cured of vampirism, but you came here asking about a cure.
In that case, I am not who you seek if you want a man with a cure, but if you seek a cured man, then you have found me."

He chose to be very careful with his words. Vampires were notoriously difficult to read or outmanoeuvre, many having centuries to perfect the art of deception and manipulation.
While Heike seemed genuine, her admitted affiliation with Reikhurst made him cautious.

He stood up and went to the window, the morning sun was mercifully on the other side of the building but it's rays reflected blindingly off the view of the river. He still wasn't quite used to the sun, but he was thankful to feel it's rays without fear even if he sometimes avoided it out of habit.
He closed the shades just to make sure no deadly ray struck at just the wrong angle.

"Heike Eisen, golden blade of Reikhurst..."
He suddenly turned around and walked to a cabinet, removing two glasses and a bottle of champagne.
He brought them back to the desk and set both the glasses down in front of his seat.
He allowed a sly smile at Heike, he could be wrong but his highly honed instincts told him he had the upper hand here.
"Please, tell me about yourself, tell me about your affliction."
He filled one glass with the champagne, but for the other glass he drew a sharp letter opener from his desk drawer.
"Would you like a drink?"
 
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Heike Eisen

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Heike took a single glance to the offered glass of champagne, then smiled politely and waved it off. Said, "I would. For the love of home and hearth, I would if I could, believe me."

Perhaps other strains were capable of ingesting some foods and drinks that they in their living state had once enjoyed. But it was not so with the Slaughtern strain--it was the blood of human or humanoid beings, or one's body would violently reject it. Heike was not a heavy drinker, but the simple pleasure of having one...a glass of champagne or wine or mead...oh how she would relish such a treat.

He'd mentioned some things, Tzuriel had. First that he was not the man with the cure. This, of course, the more likely possibility of the two: Kalia's relayed tale was not specific on if Tzuriel had discovered a cure himself or had (as it was now revealed) sought one out from another person. Even so, Tzuriel remained an indispensable link to a potential remedy for her affliction--he held the ember of Heike's hope in his hand.

The second thing he had mentioned was Reikhurst. In the distance between Alliria and Reikhurst (even in the five intervening years) some distortion of the tale was to be expected; Heike herself had not known the entirety of what happened herself, and she stood as terrible witness to the tragedy as it transpired.

Please, tell me about yourself, tell me about your affliction.

Heike was open. Eager. Quite glad that she was being received so well--the bar for "well" these days being only a few rungs removed from outright attacked on sight. Tzuriel was proving to be better than she could have hoped: kind and stalwart, understanding, regarding her as a person worthy of dignity instead of as creature deserving of contempt.

"I am the proud daughter of Albrecht and Sieglinde Eisen," she said, starting with the customary Reikhurstan saying venerating one's father and mother. "And I have lived all my life in Reikhurst...until, five years ago, when it was sacked and its citizens massacred by a large army of vampires. Yes, Tzuriel, you would be correct in saying that King Rommel does not know that I am here, for I saw with my own eyes his slaying at the hands of those abhorrent fiends. I was held captive during the sacking of Reikhurst, forced to watch the regicide of King Rommel and the slaughter of my fellow Reikhurstans...and then I was turned and left for dead."

A pause. Heavy with the weight of what must be said.

"I failed in my duty to Reikhurst, to lay down my life in its defense during the darkest hour it has ever known. But I am Oathbound now to deliver the harsh justice due to the foul vampires who are responsible. I dare to dream further of a day when Reikhurst is restored, freed from the grasp of those vile and murderous creatures and the traitor who leads them."

Her expression steeled with a powerful determination. "I strove for and earned my knighthood, my Accolade, my enfranchisement, my title of Citizen and Warrior, the very privilege to swear the Trinity of Oaths whose ancient words precede even the reign of the First King. I shall not allow the vampires to claim victory. If it is merely vengeance that is available to me, then so be it. But I shall nevertheless endeavor for as long as I am able to see Reikhurst reborn."

Her heart was still, but a ghostly beat of pride inhabited the bastion of her chest regardless.

Her hard look softened. The swell of her voice quieting to normal. "Here the solemn wish that I may do this not as kin to my enemy, but kin to the people I have sworn to serve and defend. What few remain."

She had told of herself, and now it had come time to tell of her affliction. And one detail in particular stood out.

"My strain--called the Slaughtern strain, so named after a town close in proximity to Reikhurst--is..." She hesitated to say it, as if admitting it aloud would damn her hope of a cure. "...my strain is resistant to many forms of magic and magical effects. Will this...be a problem?"

Tzuriel Alanthis
 
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Tzuriel Alanthis

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"I would. For the love of home and hearth, I would if I could, believe me."
Tzuriel nearly did a double take before he realized that she had misunderstood his offer. For a second he thought she was claiming to be a vampire that didn't drink blood which would have thrown him for a real loop!
He smiled and chuckled, flicking himself on the forehead like he was calling himself a dunce.
"Oh, no, my apologies! I was offering you a drink of my blood!"
He pulled up his sleeve a bit and presented his bare wrist over the mouth of the empty glass and tapped the skin with the flat of his letter opener, but awaited her consent.
"When did you feed last? If you have no taste for blood, consider this prudent business precautions on my part."
There was a duel purpose to offering her his blood. One; if she were starving herself it was in his best interest to keep her from going insane.
Two; once she got a taste it would reveal part of what he will tell her next about the cure.

Yes, Tzuriel, you would be correct in saying that King Rommel does not know that I am here, for I saw with my own eyes his slaying at the hands of those abhorrent fiends. I was held captive during the sacking of Reikhurst, forced to watch the regicide of King Rommel and the slaughter of my fellow Reikhurstans...and then I was turned and left for dead."
"King Rommel"?
He was unfamiliar with that name. His partnership with Reikhurst began well under five years ago. So she served the previous ruler while he was alive, she was not affiliated with the golden blade knights of today, led by King Jürgan and his court.
So now he knew she was a bit more trustworthy than that pretentious rabble.
"King Jürgan is the one I referred to. Though it's now clear to me that vampire is the successor from the king you served. And you are in no way affiliated with him now."

"I strove for and earned my knighthood, my Accolade, my enfranchisement, my title of Citizen and Warrior, the very privilege to swear the Trinity of Oaths whose ancient words precede even the reign of the First King. I shall not allow the vampires to claim victory. If it is merely vengeance that is available to me, then so be it. But I shall nevertheless endeavor for as long as I am able to see Reikhurst reborn."
Her speech was very passionate. But, though her conviction was touching he had to admit it sounded rehearsed, he'd met her type, the noble knight was a worthwhile pursuit but their convictions ran along the same lines that Tzuriel is all too familiar with in his dealings with the Knight Adventurers.
It's normally not a fault, just a stereotype. But in her case it may be a huge fault in her, if she truly desired the cure.
"I'm sympathetic to your cause, I really am. I admire your conviction and your devotion to your oaths, but are you sure your oaths are what's most important to you?"
He let the question hang for a moment before he waved it off. Things will become clear once he started explaining things to this knight.

"My strain--called the Slaughtern strain, so named after a town close in proximity to Reikhurst--is..." She hesitated to say it, as if admitting it aloud would damn her hope of a cure. "...my strain is resistant to many forms of magic and magical effects. Will this...be a problem?"
He had to admit, he was unfamiliar with that strain, but if Heike is any indication then it truly lived up to its name. A strain that marked the afflicted permanently as a monster, a death sentence to all but the most cunning and resourceful.
"Magical resistance shouldn't be an issue... As far as I know... But from what you've told me about yourself, that will be the absolute LEAST of your concerns..."

The more he heard her talk, the more he lost hope for her and the grimmer his face became.
He put his wrist over the glass with the knife poised to cut.
"Will you take a drink now? I'm going to start explaining things to you, and at the very least you'll need the extra strength..."
His intense blue gaze met her golden eyes, and for the briefest moment, as if it were a trick of the light, his eyes flashed golden themselves.
"... Trust me."
 
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Heike Eisen

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Oh.

Oh he meant that.

Heike was briefly taken aback, thinking the champagne was what was on offer and said drink offered solely out of politeness but it wasn't that. No, he was freely offering...his blood. His own blood. It was a rare occurrence for someone to willingly spare their blood to alleviate her thirst--Ye'svonne being the prime example. Yet it was terribly embarrassing for her all the same. When he got to his question, Will you take a drink now, and met her eyes with that sharp gaze of his (did she see something? what was that?), Heike averted her own eyes. Cast them down and away. Brushed with the back of her hand some of hair from her shoulder.

"Yes," she said. Admitting that shameful thirst, her abhorrent need, her current lack of satiation. "It has been...days. A full week on the morrow since I last fed." She looked back up to him, bashing away with her resolve some of that shame as if it were a foe on the battlefield. "I thank you, Tzuriel, for your generosity."

Tzuriel. He had likewise mentioned some troubling things. The extra strength Heike would need, the magical resistance of her strain (in an inversion of what she had thought coming into this) being the least of her concerns, and an implication about what would be required. An implication about her Oaths, her dedication to upholding them. What was important. This worried her. A worry that she could for now hide somewhere in the dark confines of her rib cage, but one that stood ready to fester. What...what would be necessary for this cure?

Could she afford to pay this price, to give what it would take? For the sake of her duty to Reikhurst, could she afford not to?

King Jürgen. The Third King of Reikhurst, returning after his disappearance four hundred years ago to sack the city he was elected to reign over and to slaughter the descendants of the citizens he had pledged to honorably govern. It was sick. Calling him a "successor" to King Rommel, the Twenty-Third King, was something of an affront to Heike...but it was nonetheless true in a terrible sense, was it not? Jürgen had in effect usurped Rommel's rightful reign, leaving Reikhurst in ruins and ostensibly abandoned. Over these walled wastes he "ruled." Heike was not aware of the exact and current situation in Reikhurst, but she knew the stories. That sometimes intrepid explorers, adventurers, scouts from nearby towns and cities, sometimes they went into Reikhust and made it out unscathed, the city seemingly holding little more than ashes, debris, and the haunting stillness of those buildings miraculously untouched by the fires and the quiet they contained. And that sometimes these brave souls vanished without a trace.

Vengeance would find Jürgen, and there would be a proper accounting of his sins. And, should she be so fortunate, should she have the strength necessary for it, Heike would see this accounting through herself. As a human. Not as a monster.

As Tzuriel...(it was hard to witness the man doing himself harm for her sake, all because of some foul thirst)...did what he needed to do with the letter opener, Heike took in a breath that her body did not require. Her chest and her shoulders swelled with resolve.

She said, "I do not wish for this to be entirely charity on your part, Tzuriel. I shall endeavor to repay you in what way that I honorably can, meager as my means currently are."

Tzuriel Alanthis
 
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Tzuriel Alanthis

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Upon her permission he expertly cut his wrist with the letter opener, he held his upper arm as he let a trickle of blood fill the glass.
He took his handkerchief back and wrapped his wrist before cleaning the blade and sliding the glass across the desk.
He didn't flinch through this whole ordeal.
"This isn't charity, it's business. I know how to get what you want, and if you still want it when you know what it is then we can talk about payment."
He pulled his sleeve up over the red stained handkerchief.

"You've told me about yourself, now I will tell you about my affliction."
He leaned back in his chair and ran a hand through his hair.
"Three years ago I was attending a ceremonial celebration. A noble house celebrating their daughters coming of age... At least, so I thought at the time. I became infatuated with the daughter and she with me. We danced with each other and hit it off really well at first. But I suppose I'm a red blooded man and said some things she didn't find attractive. She fled into a garden maze and I made after her to apologize, but others began to get in my way and soon I could tell something was amiss."
He took a sip of the champagne and cleared his throat.
"This was my first introduction to the world of vampires. I alerted the guards and found the center of the maze in time to foil a kidnapping, the kidnapper and his accomplices being vampires from a rival house.
This is when I also learned that the celebrating house was a one of vampires."

He waved his hand as if to pass time.
"I took part in the ritual in which that girl was turned into a vampire, it nearly killed me but I was still human by the end of it. I wasn't turned until a while later. I made myself useful to them mostly to make sure they never saw me as a liability, but over time I grew closer to that girl even though she had changed from her affliction."

He sighed at the memory but looked pointedly at Heike.
"It was she who turned me to save my life after I had saved hers once again from a hunter. But it was also my choice, I thought an eternity with her was worthwhile... I won't tell you why I changed my mind, I did and this is the part that pertains to you."
He stood up and walked around, moving his legs as if he were impatient. He paced about the room as he spoke.
"I searched high and low, I spend hundreds of pounds of gold to pump every informant, following every rumor lead, hiring every investigator I could find... Until I finally found one that might be real. I went to this magic user, paid his price, and he cured me of my vampirism."

When you drink the blood it's obvious from the taste that something is off, something's not quite right about it, not poisoned or foul, but simply... Tainted.

He stopped pacing and came back to her side of the desk and leaned against it.
"He cured me, but here's the thing... You're never truly cured. Even now my blood is tainted, the sun shines brighter than it used to, I can still see better in the dark, sometimes I can still feel phantom fangs and claws, phantom hunger, I can hear blood pumping, smell it when spilled... But here's the thing, even tainted I am human for all intents and purposes, the sun holds no danger for me, I can eat food again, I don't need blood to survive, I can be around people and clients without thinking about them like a snack."

He paused and his voice grew soft, a point on the floor was suddenly very interesting.
"I'm cured... But the cost was high... Too high had I been a religious man like my father... Almost too high had I been a slightly more moral man... But I paid that terrible price and it worked... That's all I can say."
 
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Heike leaned forward in her seat and took the glass of blood once full and once slid toward her. Her long clawed fingers wrapped about it like the spindly legs of a spider enveloping some hapless prey. She lifted the glass--banishing the last vestiges of reluctance--and brought it to her lips and tilted her head back and drank. The feel of blood upon her tongue and flowing down her throat the same as it always was: sinful, euphoric, brimming with vileness, bursting with ecstasy. Her toes curled inside of her shoes and her shoulders lifted up toward her ears as if they hurried to relay some thrilling secret. Now, and for a few moments following, her heart would beat. Beat and remind her of what it was like to be alive...and tip the scales more so toward this cure, toward doing whatever it took, anything, anything to have this feeling come back in full and in permanence.

This isn't charity.

No. No it was not, and--as she had said--nor did she want it to be. But the cost: both in what Tzuriel himself would want and what it would take to bring about this cure. If it...if it meant that she could take that crucial first step toward Reikhurst's restoration, if it was in fact nothing short of necessary, what would she give? What would she do? The letter of her Oaths did not cover a situation as extreme as this, and the spirit of them was malleable within certain confines. Heike did not know what the right judgment would be.

Her Oaths were sacred. But if she adhered to the strictest spirit of them, and this in turn led to her remaining a monster, led to Reikhurst never being reclaimed by the surviving Reikhurstans, led to Jürgen's final victory...of what use would her Oaths be?

Heike shuddered as she set the glass back down on the desk before her. She never had thoughts of this manner before. Never.

She listened to Tzuriel now tell of himself, relate his story to her. A story that started out innocently enough--endearing in the way that stories of young love usually were. When he mentioned "taking part in a ritual" that turned the girl into a vampire, Heike's face and the receptive smile she had worn slowly constricted into a deep scowl. To Heike, such a thing was unforgivable, a wretched act no matter the--

The scowl disappeared. Replaced by a measure of bewilderment around the time Tzuriel was saying, "I searched high and low." The blood...his blood. Now that she was coming down off of the initial high of drinking it, she...it...something was different. The aftertaste of it in her mouth, lingering on tongue. She opened her mouth some and ran her tongue along the roof of her mouth and the back of teeth, made a mildly twisted face of displeased confusion. What was this?

Her answer came soon after: Tzuriel said, "Even now my blood is tainted," it he would appear to be quite right, at least if the strange quality of his blood's taste was anything to go by (this thought, that Heike had become something of a blood connoisseur, disgusted her).

Then came the crux of it all.

I'm cured. But the cost was high.

That terrible price.

But it worked.

Heike was quiet for a moment. Then spoke two of the heaviest words she had ever spoken in her entire life. Two words--a question--whose answer had the power to define her being forevermore.

She asked him. A near whisper.

"What cost?"

Tzuriel Alanthis
 
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Tzuriel Alanthis

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"What cost?"
Tzuriel took another drink from his glass. He wasn't nearly drunk enough for this, he wasn't drunk at all, recalling it already sucked as it was.
"For me... The cost was the fresh blood of twenty innocent virgins... Though the magic user said the price varies by the individual...
I was fortunate, one of my connections was able to craft a magical device that was able to extract and store the blood so it remained fresh, so I didn't have to bring twenty sacrifices..."

Saying that last part nearly made him hurl, but he looked green all the same.
"The worst part... It's impossible to find any innocent virgins above the age of five... No one is truly innocent but those yet to sin... The magic user said something about the origins of the affliction having to do with guilty blood, and that innocent blood is the antithesis that powers the cure... I don't know if it's true, but that was the worst of the price he asked of me."
He took another sip of champagne.
"The other ingredients were easy enough to find or purchase with little guilt or need to get your hands dirty. He makes a potion, a poison that kills the affliction."

He set his glass down and looked Heike in the eyes once more with that intense gaze.
"I was able to do it because in the end I'm not a good man... The magic user likely won't ask the same price of you, but you must be prepared for a similar or worse sacrifice of innocence... If you do choose to go to him. But also remember, even cured you will never be the same."
 
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Quiet.

Quiet followed Tzuriel's answer.

Heike's eyes slowly glassing over. Looking at Tzuriel. Looking through him. Looking into the heart of some dark and unspeakable thing beyond.

She sat there in silent stillness of shock.

And then, slowly, her head bowed and her hands rose to hide her eyes behind the palms. A cradling that would do no good to assuage the horror of what she had just heard.

Five words. Whispered.

"Please give me a moment..."

Tzuriel Alanthis
 
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Tzuriel Alanthis

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He nodded and picked up his glass again as he walked over to the closed window.
He slid the curtain open a little and a sliver of sunlight came through, it was blinding for a moment and he winced reflexively, but his eyes adjusted and he looked out at the water.
He hadn't even thought of what sort of payment he would ask of her, if she were a vampire from an established house or organization then he might have considered taking her there in return for good relations, but she was a loner.
He sipped his champagne while he waited for her to process everything.
When he first heard what his price would be to return to humanity his first thought was, "Haven't I done enough harm?"... But for him, those lives he took to slake his thirst... They didn't truly effect him, only the lives he took to finally atone for what he had become... Only they mattered to him...

History repeats itself... The sins of the wicked are always paid for by the sinless in their innocent blood... Always... Perhaps that was the true common ingredient, only the sinless were pure enough to atone for the sins of the wicked, no other could do it.
He drained the last of his glass... Damn, he was starting to sound like his father with the teachings of his new "God"...
He put away the glasses and the bottle in the cabinet and sat down across from Heike, he said nothing from respect for her silence.
He pulled back his sleeve for a moment and looked at the red bandage, it's probably been long enough, He unwrapped it revealing a perfectly healed wrist. His healing was much slower than when he was a vampire, but still faster than a regular human.

He tossed the handkerchief aside and then steepled his fingers together under his chin with his elbows on the desk, his eyes searching her face with curiosity, to see if she would actually take him up on his offer.
 
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If Heike had the capacity to be sick to her stomach (in a manner that was not wholly dictated by her affliction rejecting everything save blood), she thought that she would have been. But she sat there with her face buried in her palms, in quiet and with the stillness of hard contemplation at first, then in quiet and with some mild trembling of her arms and her legs.

She had not fed from a child. Such a thought had not even formed in her mind until now, as if there had been a barricade against the very conception and harboring of that idea. And of course. The idea was abhorrent, even more so than the general idea of feeding from innocent men and women to stay alive, to satiate some vile thirst which should have been eradicated from the face of Arethil ages ago.

To secure the blood of twenty innocent virgins for this cure, of whom it was all but guaranteed that they must be children...what would she become by engaging such a heinous act?

And yet...

And yet had she not engaged in such heinous acts already? Preyed upon the innocent already? Tortured the spirit of her Oath of Justice and her Oath of Honor to justify it in some gnarled way in her mind?

Heike jerked her head down and to the left--still covering her face--as if it were an attempt to banish all of the horrid thoughts presenting themselves to her now.

Yes. Yes she had been torturing her Oaths. This a truth that had been until now quietly acknowledged, seldom glanced at, and never spoken aloud. If she had the strength of a true Reikhurstan then she would have done the right thing when first she woke on that dreadful morning after Reikhurst's sacking. And she tried. She did try, as Ferelith had tried. Heike tried and was too weak to preserve her honor, to keep herself pure of heart. And so she allowed for these deadly concessions to necessity, these rationalizations for the continuation of her "life"--such as it was.

It would have been easy if Tzuriel had said explicitly that this price was the lives of twenty innocent children--Heike would have rejected it outright. And it might well be this, what with his mention of "bringing sacrifices." Yet she was afraid to ask him: if he said yes, that he in effect murdered twenty children, Heike would be Oathbound to either see him turned over to the Allirian authority or execute him (those same Oaths whose spirit she tortured, as it so happened). But she did not need to. Did not need to ask him. For Tzuriel's price was his, and--as he said--if Heike pursued this path and the cure it offered, then her price could be marginally better...or somehow even worse.

Heike had not killed any innocent man or woman to satiate her thirst--only the guilty whose deaths were just. She fed only enough to leave the innocent with minor, unavoidable injury, the marks of her fangs healed within a matter of days and the loss of blood replaced naturally by their bodies perhaps even sooner. This scant manner of feeding meant of course that she had to do so more regularly, especially when she had been engaged in combat and powered her inhuman physicality and/or been wounded.

Sacrifice.

Sacrifice. Tzuriel had mentioned it twice over. And the question once again rose up in her mind from the black dirt of the unimaginable, like a putrid flower whose emergence and whose horrid blooming was inevitable and inescapable: what was Heike willing to sacrifice for Reikhurst's restoration? If she could not as a vampire reasonably fulfill her duty, if her duty had in fact led her to this horrible choice to once again become human such that said fulfillment was even possible...what was the proper judgment to make?

* * * * *​

Heike eventually lowered her hands from her face. Placed them back into her lap. Her head remained bowed, eyes cast the floor before Tzuriel's desk, and she could feel his own eyes upon her.

And she spoke. Reciting quietly her Oath of Justice: "I, Heike Eisen, shall uphold the laws of Reikhurst and Arethil, and rightfully punish the guilty. This I swear."

After a short pause, reciting as well her Oath of Honor: "I, Heike Eisen, shall fulfill my duties and conduct myself with noble intent. This I swear."

She stared at the ground for a moment longer.

Then sat straight in her chair and brought her eyes up to meet Tzuriel's. A grim acceptance of things done, of perhaps things yet to do.

"I have followed the letter of my Oaths and abused the spirit of them. I have done this now for over five years in the wake of my affliction." She took in a breath, becoming aware that her heart had stilled again. She let it out. Her voice with a certain hollowness yet stolidly determined. "And there will be accounting. I will make it right. When Reikhurst is restored, I will make it right. This I now swear."

Trial by the citizenry. Penance of some form. Renunciation of her station as a Knight and taking on the shameful title of Oathbreaker. Even submitting herself for execution, either by hanging or by the ancient custom of Hinrichtung, ritual slaying by one's peers to restore one's honor. Any of these were possible. But she would make it right. She was not exempt from proper justice for the things she had done...and would do.

For Tzuriel, a question: "Where is this magic-user? I would know the exact price that will be asked of me."

Tzuriel Alanthis
 
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Tzuriel Alanthis

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So that was that... She was a knight, but for all these years had been violating her oaths, she was now owning up to that.
Tzuriel sighed but otherwise kept his own feelings hidden.
"The magic user makes his Hermitage deep in the wilds of the Allir Reach. It's a two day journey, I can guide you there."
He gave her a slight encouraging smile.
"So long as you're sure about this, but even so I promise that you owe me nothing unless you decide to be cured."
He said this to lighten the mood, but he was giving her every option, every out that he could come up with as if to say, 'you can back out now if you want.'

He stood up. Perhaps once she met the magic user she'll reconsider, it somehow felt like being an accomplice to murder for helping her, which is probably why the hermit was so difficult to find, any who knew or experienced the ritual would deny it to have nothing to do with it.
He called out to the door.
"Lizzy."
The blonde once again poked her face and assets through the door, "Yes Mister Alanthis?"
"Send a runner to the Band of the Juggernaut if their still in town. Tell Isaias Kildare that I need an escort into the Reach."
Lizzy nodded and bounced away again closing the door behind her.
"I'll be bringing some backup if that's alright with you, the journey is treacherous. Only people I trust explicitly with this sort of job. They knew me while I was afflicted, so they're safe."

He went over to a wardrobe and opened it revealing a set of black leather armor, it must have been of Elvish craft with how fine the silver engraving and tracery were sewn into it. He began strapping on the armor pieces and threw a black travel coat over it.
Finally he opened a chest and withdrew a light Elvish rapier, and strapped it to his belt.
 
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Heike Eisen

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It's a two day journey, I can guide you there.

Heike gave a nod. Glad still that Tzuriel--despite his talk of this being business, which, inevitably, it was in truth--was so gracious and helpful. Perhaps after participating in that woman's turning into a vampire and after becoming one himself he saw just how wretched an existence it was. And though his virtue did not quite outshine his business acumen, Heike thought that--like the columnar rays of the sun peeking out from the edge of a gray cloud--hints of its radiant being showed through nonetheless.

So long as you're sure about this, but even so I promise that you owe me nothing unless you decide to be cured.

She stood as well once Tzuriel stood. Said, "I am sure only that I wish to know what this magic-user will require of me. Once I know, then..."

Her virtue. Her honor. Battered and ravaged by her affliction, but if this was the sacrifice required for Reikhurst's restoration, that which would make her human once more and give her the power to rally the survivors of the sacking together to endeavor toward so lofty an end...then she thought mightily that she would do it. She did not rule out the possibility that there were other options for a cure, but there was an applicable saying about the value of what was in one's hand and what was not.

"...then I will decide."

Tzuriel, a man with many connections, tapped one such asset for the journey. Bodyguards. It was reassuring to know that they would have no problems with her affliction, and this set her mind at ease. As at ease as it could be, with the weight of so heavy a decision looming over her.

"Yes, that's quite alright with me."

She watched him for a moment. Watched him go to the wardrobe and begin donning his armor. And when he went to the chest to secure his weapon, Heike asked, "Tzuriel, if you had to make that same terrible choice again, to pay that price once more...would you?"

Tzuriel Alanthis
 
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Tzuriel Alanthis

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"Tzuriel, if you had to make that same terrible choice again, to pay that price once more...would you?"
At the question his fist white knuckled the hilt of his sword and he set his jaw firmly as he turned to face her.
He could have answered from there, but it wouldn't have conveyed the gravity of his words the way he intended.
He approached until he was standing in front of her, towering above her but with his face bent down to hers.
"No. I would rather suffer a thousand years having lost all my humanity than do again what I had done... Most of them were orphans already deemed to have a lesser life, at the time I could fool myself into thinking I did them a favor... But fooling myself was all I could do to save my sanity!"
He didn't raise his voice, but he spoke with ferocity. His eyes flashed golden again and he felt a tickling in his canines.
He covered his mouth and turned away, pulling on a pair of black leather gloves.

"You will see when you meet the magic user and he names his price. Vampires are creatures of obsession, I've seen vampires obsessed with a person so much that they justified killing that person and freezing them in stone just to keep them close for all eternity... I was obsessed with survival, obsessed with my own well-being, so I justified twenty murders to feed my obsession."
He looked pointedly over his shoulder at her, his eyes back to normal.
"Obsession over a cure, obsession over noble oaths... That's equally as dangerous when it's the obsession of a vampire."
 

Heike Eisen

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No.

No!

Gods damn it, NO!

Perhaps if her skin did not already have the paleness of her affliction, Heike would have gone visibly white with horror. She had given him the benefit of the doubt, interpreted what he said about acquiring the blood of twenty innocent virgins as charitably as possible; such a statement did not necessarily mean that the said acquiring of blood resulted in the death of the victims. But now Tzuriel had openly admitted to it, admitted to murder, the murder of children no less, and there could be no more doubt nor charity. Heike had feared it...and now it was the undeniable truth.

And she was furthermore Oathbound to take action.

Yes, she had abused the spirit of her Oaths, but she had not broken them. She spoke no falsehoods, strove ceaselessly to fulfill her duties and conduct herself with noble intent, and now she was compelled to uphold the laws of Arethil and rightfully punish the guilty. She had a duty to Reikhurst, of course, but she now more immediately had a duty to those children, so close as she was to Tzuriel, to deliver to them their due justice. To those Allirian children she could not turn her back. Doing so would be to violate her spoken word, to forgo the pursuit of justice, and to mar her honor beyond repair.

And it was true that she had only just now considered bending her Oaths to a strained contortion unrecognizable to the better woman she once was eleven years ago, swearing her Oaths before King Rommel at the age of eighteen during her Accolade. But she would not break them. Her virtue and her honor she would torture and sacrifice to a point for the hope of Reikhurst...and to simply allow Tzuriel to go was beyond that point. Beyond it as far as Elbion was to the horizon of Alliria.

She could not allow for her desire to become human again to consume the very letter of her Oaths. Tzuriel had been absolutely right about this: the sacrifice was far too great. And while she admired his courage in admitting to his preference to suffer a thousand years worth of torment than do what he had done again, his obsession had gotten the better of him. Taken all that he had to give. Heike would not--could not--allow her desire to do the same.

They of Reikhurst would rather see the hope of the city fade forever than have it be saved by a villain. Better that the proud sons and daughters of Reikhurst all die with honor than live such wretched lives. Heike knew this very well. And if Heike paid a price the like of which was akin to Tzuriel's, she would be Oathbound (for all it would mean at such a point) to speak the truth of it to any who asked...and her villainy would be revealed, rendering her regained "humanity" worthless.

It seemed that this cure was yet more dangerous wishful thinking, and that it would now turn to the worst possible outcome. Heike, committed to seeing Tzuriel punished, with daylight shining just beyond those windows and here in the middle of the city. Yet even if this course inevitably meant her death--despite all her recent hopes and thoughts--it was so that she must pursue it. And she would.

Briefly, she thought of Szesh. How she had been compelled against him too in a similar vain to Tzuriel now. How the ruination of her life crumbled steadily toward grim and total collapse.

* * * * *​

Obsession over a cure, obsession over noble oaths... That's equally as dangerous when it's the obsession of a vampire.

He had his back turned. Looking over his shoulder at her.

"Tzuriel."

Yet she stayed her hand. Her muscles were supremely tensed, but her arms remained at her sides. She knew what she had to do, and she knew that this could only end badly for her. Tzuriel absolutely had the upper hand here.

"The situation has changed. You have just boldly admitted to the murder of those twenty children to a Knight of the Golden Blade. This I cannot ignore nor deny, and I will not violate the letter of my Oaths by doing so."

She closed her eyes for a brief moment, struggling terribly with the complex storm of emotion howling just beneath her skin. Then she opened them. The iron determination that had earned her her knighthood winning over base desire and regret and dismay.

"You are to be subject to Allirian law for your actions. It is my duty now to see this through, to take you to Captain Bronmarch whereupon appropriate justice shall be served to you. You are furthermore advised to come in peace. What say you in your defense?"

This was not the wilderness where Szesh had murdered that innocent traveler for Heike's sake. Had it been, she would in lieu of a proper law of the land defaulted to harsh Reikhurstan law, and execution would have been prescribed. Heike knew that such was still not out of the question here in Alliria, especially if he resisted forcibly. Which she feared that he would.

There was only one other option Heike could see: an accordance. A deal between the guilty and the honorable made in the interest of a greater good, this a facet of honor and law dating back to the earliest days of warfare and strife. Heike had made accordances before with the guilty, offering them their freedom or levying their compelled service. This to secure the punishment of more heinous criminals and villains and monsters, or similar pursuit of righteousness valued above the prosecution of the guilty party. But what could possibly balance the scales when so weighted against the lives of twenty innocent children?

And so it seemed to be this.

Her noble oaths. Dangerous for them both.

The hard road of honor.

Tzuriel Alanthis
 
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Tzuriel Alanthis

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This... Was unexpected... He blinked but then she explained his slip up, without her armor it was easy to forget that she was a knight.
"The situation has changed. You have just boldly admitted to the murder of those twenty children to a Knight of the Golden Blade. This I cannot ignore nor deny, and I will not violate the letter of my Oaths by doing so."
He sighed sadly, the rush of his previous passion fading away along with the familiarity and good will he had shown her up to now. His eyes turned cold to her and his face only showed her that predatory intensity.
He didn't raise his hands, he didn't go for his sword, he didn't even turn around, he simply tightened the straps on his gauntlets and pulled his coat sleeves over them while she went on.

"You are to be subject to Allirian law for your actions. It is my duty now to see this through, to take you to Captain Bronmarch whereupon appropriate justice shall be served to you. You are furthermore advised to come in peace. What say you in your defense?"
He might have laughed at that part, but even the irony that was obvious to him didn't change that coldness that seemed to radiate from his mood. He wasn't in any mind to laugh.
"I am to be subjected to Allirian law, so governed by the merchant counsel who come to me whenever their companies are struggling, the merchant counsel who come to me begging for favors."
He looked over his shoulder again at her, still keeping his back to her as if she still didn't register as a threat.
But that intense stare and emotionless expression bore into her.
"I am to be tried for twenty counts of murder, if convicted I will be stripped of all rights and property in their jurisdiction and sentenced to prison. Over half of the trade and industry in Alliria will be divided amongst incompetent individuals and ultimately collapse under its own weight."
He turned his head back and faced the wall.
"If I should find it necessary to not come peacefully I have mercenaries on their way that will come to my aid. I myself have gone toe to toe with powerful vampires before, during, and after my affliction and won unscathed."
Some of his words were bluffs, others truths, it was nearly impossible to tell which was which. He shrugged indifferently.
"In my defense, I plead insanity. The court is adjourned due to the widespread ignorance of the vampire condition and I am merely tested and acquitted upon proof that I am now of sound mind and regret my actions while twisted by the vampiric curse... Which is the truth."

He lowered his hands loosely by his sides, but careful to not make any motion towards his sword. His posture remained passive, but he disguised his growing tension well, the way a lion coils his muscles before striking.
Without turning around he called out humorlessly, "Did I leave anything out so far? I can go on, but I'm curious how you thought this would go... Or did you think this out at all?"
 
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Stillness. The air in the office thick and brittle.

Heike listened to all he had to say. Listened and stayed upon her ground as Tzuriel stayed upon his. His back to her, no less. She knew that it was difficult (impossible, perhaps) to project some semblance of authority here, by herself in Alliria, as a vampire, as a knight of an order foreign to these lands, and all to a man whose wealth and power elevated him to a status that was nigh untouchable. Tzuriel's near outright dismissal was inevitable with all of these things stacked against her.

And yet Heike could not simply walk away. Could not back down or give in to fear for her own life. While it was not incumbent upon her to fight to her death should Tzuriel resist (such might well, in fact, be a dereliction of her duty if she could escape and summon the aid of Captain Bronmarch), she knew very well that it could happen. Herr Elias Schulze--one of her knight-superiors during her initiation--reiterated without end that combat was quick, brutal, and messy. Plans did not survive encounters with one's foes, and control was a luxury which slipped easily through one's fingers.

Or did you think this out at all?

This gave her brief pause. Heike had accepted the risk to herself, knew all the terrible circumstances conspiring against her upholding her Oaths. But what she had not considered was Captain Bronmarch. How would it look if Tzuriel Alanthis was found slain in his office, after Bronmarch had personally escorted a mysterious woman to his estate? Heike did not want to die, but she had always been tacitly prepared to do so ever since her Accolade and the assumption of her station as a knight. But she was not prepared to bring ruin to Captain Bronmarch's life--especially not without his express consent on this matter with Tzuriel.

She could not kill him. In Reikhurst, had Tzuriel violently resisted against Knights of the Golden Blade this would be no concern: summary execution. But this was Alliria. Heike was compelled to bring him to justice, yes, but killing him--even if doing so might somehow save her own life--was not an option. Not in light of her latest consideration for Captain Bronmarch.

After the quiet following Tzuriel's question, Heike spoke, low and firm:

"I am aware of the course I am now set upon. I know all of the circumstances that are arrayed against me. And yet I must persevere. And I will. I am no perfect exemplar of knighthood and Reikhurstan virtue, but, if this day so comes to it, then I will die in a manner in which my fellow knights would aspire to. I shall not suffer cowardice when the Oaths I swore demand action of me."

She addressed his points.

"Allirian justice for twenty murdered children is my concern, not the fate of the city's trade and industry. And it is not up to you to be your own judge in this matter. Allirian law shall determine what is to be done with you."

Heike kept an ear out for the sound of footsteps beyond the door of the office. Presumably it would take some time for the runner sent to this "Band of the Juggernaut" to return, but Tzuriel was all too likely to have his own fighting men loyal to him here on the estate grounds.

And now Heike's tone softened. Here after her dutiful proclamations, she connected with Tzuriel on a personal level. For she, too, had her regrets. She, too, had things to make right within her own life--her failure in the defense of Reikhurst, the pints of innocent blood stolen to satiate her thirst, the infection of Ferelith.

She spoke to him as Tzuriel the man, not as Tzuriel the criminal. She tried with considerable effort to remove all accusatory firmness from her tone, to keep it neutral, for this she did wish to know. "I believe you when you say that you regret what you have done. I truly do. And so I ask: why have you not yet submit yourself for judgment before the law?"

Tzuriel Alanthis
 
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Tzuriel Alanthis

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"I am aware of the course I am now set upon. I know all of the circumstances that are arrayed against me. And yet I must persevere. And I will. I am no perfect exemplar of knighthood and Reikhurstan virtue, but, if this day so comes to it, then I will die in a manner in which my fellow knights would aspire to. I shall not suffer cowardice when the Oaths I swore demand action of me."
The first thing she said after he lined things out for her... A driveling of self-righteousness... But that didn't get to him as much as the last part...
'then I will die in a manner in which my fellow knights would aspire to.'
He turned his eyes to the ceiling in frustration, but all that reflected in his voice was irritation and demanding of an answer.
"Would you make up your mind! Do you want to save your city and reduce a vampire Lord to dust? Or do you want to throw it all away to self-righteously waste your life for that exact same code? This has nothing to do with cowardice and everything to do with prioritization."
He got a nasty sarcastic tone at this next part.
"But you are "aware of the course you are now set on", right? Or did you forget that I'm the key to your humanity? If you're smart, you will use me before trying to throw me away out of habit."
He went on as if he were having a conversation with the wall, which to him is what it felt like.

"Allirian justice for twenty murdered children is my concern, not the fate of the city's trade and industry. And it is not up to you to be your own judge in this matter. Allirian law shall determine what is to be done with you."
He pinched the bridge of his nose and groaned quietly to himself.
"Have you heard anything I've said? To put this in laymen's terms, I all but own the counsel in everything but writing. You have no proof but your word against mine, the word of a vampire against the testimony of the most powerful man in Alliria. And if this is about twenty children, think of the two thousand that will suddenly be on the streets because their fathers lost their jobs, some will adjust and find new work, but others rely on the industry I bring."

"I believe you when you say that you regret what you have done. I truly do. And so I ask: why have you not yet submit yourself for judgment before the law?"
His tone softened with hers, but he still spoke to the wall, this time not even wanting to meet her eyes.
"As I said... On the small chance that I am incarcerated, thousands more will suffer. I don't justify my actions, there is no moral high ground, but all I try to do is the next best thing. If I believed that I would actually be found guilty, I could prepare and move all of my assets out of Alliria and as many employees as are willing, but it won't be enough and I would be leaving a huge power vacuum. I predict the chaos will go on for a full year."

He turned around fully to face her, somehow through his slight of hand he had his sword out and pointed at her heart, the enchanted blade reflecting the light at odd angles. His voice remained soft, and to all appearances his body was relaxed, he held the sword with an easy familiarity and a deadly confidence.
"You issued a threat, but are woefully unprepared to back it up. I will not allow Alanthis Trade and Co. And by extension hundreds of families, to be divided up and destroyed by incapable hands. I won't allow you to destroy the many for the few, I will not come peacefully, so your only option is to kill me here and now to fulfill your self-righteous need for justice."

He paused for a moment.
"... Or..."
The tip of his sword never wavered from its target, but he finally allowed a small smile.
"... We can put our grievances on hold... After I've helped you achieve your humanity and you've fulfilled your oaths to Reikhurst, then you can come with full confidence and charge me with whatever crime you see fit."
 
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Heike Eisen

Knight of the Golden Blade
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Heike had said that she knew all of the circumstances arrayed against her, and she was correct so far as she understood. Yet it was the sheer immensity of these circumstances, their now crushing weight upon her, that she was not properly prepared for.

One woman--a spurned vampire--facing off against the man who might very well be the most powerful in all of Alliria (the actual most powerful man, by Tzuriel's own estimation). She a foreigner, a monster, her word worthless to any in Alliria who would hear it, save for Bronmarch who would as a man of the Allirian Guard be bidden to serve the city, its people, and they who governed both over aiding Heike in her almost assuredly futile pursuit of justice for twenty powerless children.

Yet the part that twisted Heike's stomach the most...was that Tzuriel was absolutely correct.

When the sun had risen in the morning, Heike--foreigner as she was--knew next to nothing of Tzuriel. As the sun rose higher and Captain Bronmarch escorted her to the Alanthis estate, she learned more. Quite a lot more. And now in light of what Tzuriel himself was saying, much of what Bronmarch had relayed previously began to resonate with a stark and horrifying truth.

Alliria's corruption was such that Tzuriel was the law. Him and the Merchant Council he was in bed with. They were in fact above it here, here in a land where wealth was valued over virtue. They were as it was with kings in certain kingdoms whose rule was believed to come from divine authority, able to enforce it upon those they governed and for themselves hold special exception--the difference merely that this exception here in Alliria was purchased, not bestowed through supposed blessing. And even if Tzuriel had decided to come peacefully, to submit himself before the law that he and the Merchant Council created and passed? His insufferable plea of innocence would be accepted, and nothing would come of it. The murders of twenty nameless children forever to go without justice. Without recognition of any kind.

It made Heike sick. Visibly so. She was sworn to uphold the laws of Arethil...even if the system of law here in Alliria was horrifying, with their murders that could be bought with the appropriate amount of coin and influence and enough protests to one's allegedly indispensable leadership and assets. If only Reikhurst still existed...if only a war could be declared to rid this city of its infestation of corruption and establish true order.

Tzuriel had turned around, his rapier drawn in a flash and pointed at her. His nauseating smile, plastered on his handsome face. She eyed the rapier. Eyed him.

...then you can come with full confidence and charge me with whatever crime you see fit.

She said in the tone of a lone warrior--the very last of an army--stalwartly and hopelessly defending a position soon to fall, "Clever wording. But I very much doubt anything of true substance would come of that. Even if I were human in body and could authoritatively make such a charge...you own the Council. In all but writing, do you not? You have secured for yourself special privilege above the laws of this land. I believe wholeheartedly your regret, and I believe further your absolute inability to rectify it, to do the right thing and suffer the punishment for the crimes of your past. I believe your rationalizations shall in your mind forever give you permission to do as you please without meaningful consequence."

Heike took a firm step forward. Purposefully into the point of the rapier, allowing for the tip of the weapon to pierce through her coat and her shirt and lightly penetrate the pale flesh beneath. She did not take her eyes off of Tzuriel, and she hid the spark of pain she felt from her face.

"Know this. I am the proud daughter of Albrecht and Sieglinde Eisen, and I shall not tarnish their names by allowing myself to become a monster of your ilk. I am a monster in body, but you are one in soul. And any proud son or daughter of Reikhurst would die with honor before enduring such a fate, would rather Reikhurst remain in ruin than be restored by a villain masquerading as a hero. A duty dishonorably done makes for no fulfillment thereof. Thus I assert that this cure you have found and the magic-user who provides it will help me achieve nothing. You are right, Tzuriel: the cost was too high. I wished dearly that it would be one that I could pay, but it is not. This I now know and understand, and I admit to you my grave mistake in coming here."

Heike paused. Listened. Kept a defiant gaze on Tzuriel.

"Though it is hopeless, all that remains to me now with regard to your murders is to relay this confession on to Captain Bronmarch, since you refuse to come and make this confession yourself. He is a good man within a corrupt system, and in deference to him I will not attempt any form of force against you, lest you see fit to visit reprisals upon him."

It was a terrible thing.

"You may try and stop me, if you wish. You may well succeed."

To have all hope fade as smoke from a dying fire.

"And though they cannot possibly know, those twenty innocent children will at least have one person who fought for their due justice."

But in that fire's keeping, there existed for a certain time something of true value.

Tzuriel Alanthis
 
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Tzuriel Alanthis

Merchant King Of Arethil
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He was silent as she pushed against his blade, the enchantment of sharpness caused the tip to pierce deeper than one would have thought.

... Monster...

The title clings to him even now?!
His face registered shock in spite of himself and he physically recoiled, pulling the sword away from her chest and dropped it with a clatter to the floor.
He was visibly shaken... His hands shook...

... you are one in soul...

His intensity broke, his mask fell away and a myriad of emotion flooded across his face.

... Hurt...

... Guilt...

... Anguish...

"And though they cannot possibly know, those twenty innocent children will at least have one person who fought for their due justice."
That was worse than the hunters stake that just barely missed his heart... But there was nothing he could say... He couldn't do anything about those children, not now after the deed is done... And that broke him.

"Though it is hopeless, all that remains to me now with regard to your murders is to relay this confession on to Captain Bronmarch, since you refuse to come and make this confession yourself. He is a good man within a corrupt system, and in deference to him I will not attempt any form of force against you, lest you see fit to visit reprisals upon him."
He he somewhat pulled himself together, but he also made no move against her. He felt so helpless with having absolutely nothing to say, no defense that could acquit himself... He forced a smirk, but it was short lived, he was beyond humor or lightheartedness right now.
"You are learning... Alright, how about this? If you'll reconsider I will aid you every step of the way to achieving your humanity... Because you've said yourself that Reikhurst will not stand to be restored by a vampire... Considering all your options; right now you're looking at waiting another hundred years which may or may not change the formula for becoming human so ultimately you have to decide right now if you're giving up on saving Reikhurst.

In continuation... After your goals are accomplished, King Jürgan is nothing but a pile of dust, Reikhurst is restored, and the Knights of the Golden Blade ride once more for justice... After that I give you my word that I will come to Reikhurst and face judgement for my crimes... On the condition that you be the one to carry out the sentence."

He looked at her, his gaze once more steady and confident. This was it, his final offer.
 
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Heike Eisen

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Something got through to him. Heike did not know what, but something had. That nauseating smile had fallen away, and all the things one would expect to see from a man confronted with the full force of his regret overrode his expression. His sword was withdrawn from her chest (a near silent wince sounding solely in Heike's throat at this) and dropped to the floor.

When it came time for him to speak, whatever smug certainty he may have harbored before was all but a charade now, for the brief smirk was a hollow gesture that did not reach his eyes.

And Heike listened to what he now had to say.

Yes, he was right. The survivors of Reikhurst would balk at the city being saved by one of the very monsters who had devastated it. Her own knight-superiors during her squiring, now fellow Knight-Valiants, Herr Dieter and Herr Elias would look upon her with dismay at best and hatred at worst. She flirted briefly--once again--with more dangerous wishful thinking in this regard, thinking that perhaps they might show leniency. That perhaps she could all but prostrate herself before their mercy and their judgment and earn their trust as she had with Captain Bronmarch. But after hearing the contrary come out of her own mouth, hearing it repeated by Tzuriel, this wishful thinking stood revealed for what it was: an exercise in futility.

Before she could even properly begin her quest to restore Reikhurst, she must--MUST--rid herself of her affliction. There could be no other way.

And here Tzuriel was now, making...quite the offer. One that clearly took Heike aback, the curt leap of her eyebrows evidence of this. The resources of the most powerful man in all Alliria, leveraged to help her find an acceptable cure. Mayhap even to aid in what came after, the said reduction of Jürgen to dust and the liberation of Reikhurst, and furthermore the expensive rebuilding and re-establishment necessary to restore Reikhurst to even half of what it once was. This aid for Heike, along with his word on coming to Reikhurst and facing judgment.

An accordance, then. For the twenty children, their deaths may yet spur on Tzuriel to endeavor toward a righteous cause, one he may not otherwise have. Such was the spirit of an accordance, to turn a wicked act, a malevolent act, a dishonorable act, these into the noble, the benevolent, the honorable. A measure of atonement, turning the dark of the world into the light.

The children. This was their best chance at justice. As well, Heike's best chance at attaining her humanity. Mayhap Tzuriel's chance to make what he had done right.

Heike stepped forward. Stood so close that the toes of their shoes almost touched. She was a tall woman, but he was a taller man, and she looked up at him. Her regarding firm and dire.

"Your word."

A pause to study his face.

"I hope that my belief is in error. That you do in fact have the strength to face what you've done, and rectify it."

She studied his face further. Tiny motions of her eyes.

"Give your word and we shall have the accordance you outlined. Tzuriel Alanthis...if our futures are bright than we shall face our disgraces together, in a Reikhurst restored from ruin. And all will be made right."

Tzuriel Alanthis
 
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