Goodbye

The Queen came and I believe she is every bit the monster that I thought she was. After a few moments of interaction I quickly decided to change my strategy toward her and threw-off any idea of charming her. I even allowed her to probe my mind without resistance as long as Cassie wasn't involved.

The Queen's probing eventually focused on the moment when I freed The Guardian. She then told me that my humanity caused the Masquerade breach, but I countered by saying "bored elders pursuing exotic blood were the real problem."

Her response was machine-like almost as if she was devoid of emotion. She told me she would take certain matters into her own hands no matter how the trial ended. At that point my instincts were to mentally withdraw into a "defensive position." If she was implying that she was going to come at me somehow, that only convinced me further that I needed to establish my own allies and continue refining my fighting skills in conjunction with my new powers. She left soon after our short exchange appearing very disinterested in the trial to come.

When I returned to my coterie most of the others were arguing. I told them that The Queen was truly a monster and dead inside and I would do everything in my power not to end up like her some night. I also told them that if things took a turn for the worse I would step forward and take the fall for us all.

After a bit more arguing I was finally able to get everyone working together in a motivated fashion. It wasn't all me of course, we all had survival on our minds, but we all agreed that manners and charm was the course that we would take. Ivy advised this course and it was a good one as far as I was concerned.

The next evening we awoke and James was in a hunger frenzy. Apparently, he sheds all his vitae when he sleeps, but I was not warned until the conflict started.  In haste I took a defensive posture and started healing my eyes. I was fortunate to heal in time to grapple James while the others played their role of either distracting or feeding him. We were fortunate that Ivy's music and Cam's powers provided us with a few rats. Again that was clear evidence that we COULD work together when we needed to.

Soon after Max tossed two innocent people into our cells and Tessa and Ivy fed on the man. Ivy used her powers to comfort the man as she took the last of his blood. James fed on the woman and she was left alive because Cam and I chose not to feed. I think we both realized that if she were to lose anymore blood she would not survive.

Max then took us to the trial and it was there that archons and barons rubbed elbows with other Kindred, some we had met before and others we had not. After an excessive amount of bowing and other showy displays, we were introduced to The Judex. Personally, I had no issues with the displays of respect and tradition but I suspect most of it was an act. I can only imagine what some of them may think about each other.

The Judex then explained that are presumed guilty but we have the opportunity to prove otherwise. Death, punishment or pardon were possible fates that awaited us.

As the trial began Ivy mentioned that our Makers did not teach us properly and thus the fault of this breach lay with them.

Cam mentioned that we were commanded to obey and our very existence depended on our obedience. While The Judex did acknowledge the Elders reckless behavior, James confirmed that the Elders had hunted other creatures in the past and that some of their ghouls already paid a price for their mistakes.

Tessa was watching the proceedings very closely but she was especially focused on the Judex. After a moment she reinforced Ivy's earlier statement that our Makers did not teach us properly so that we could take the fall if anything went wrong.

While the others were making their points I recalled my beat-down at the hands of Bobby Bannister and his "buddies" many years back when I was new to the neighborhood. I recall recognizing that Bobby's buddies were as afraid of him as I was. They did his bidding because they were afraid they would become his next victim otherwise.

The following school-year when I went straight at Bobby and busted him in the nose the others stopped dead in their tracks. They were in shock and the illusion of invincibility that Bobby had over them was gone for good.

Thus when my time came to summarize our defense, I told The Judex that we were mere tools. Tools to be used by our Makers then discarded when necessary. If everyone there was really concerned about the Masquerade breach, then they would focus on the real problem...the true source. If the true source was not dealt with Masquerade breaches would continue in the future and more tools would be sacrificed. Thus, the real problem would never be addressed. New Kindred like ourselves, new to this existence, would be threatened, enticed, and used, to commit acts that would continue to provoke other supernatural creatures.

The Judex paused to consider my points as an Archon brought in Baron Bassco and Sophie to be utilized if we wished. After a moment The Judex made some points of his own about the need for punishment to maintain effective law. He also stated that "perhaps they should sacrifice the elders and their children. What lesson would any of us learn if we got off with no punishment?"

Tessa then chimed in that all listening know that we have suffered and that we have been punishing each other as a result of fear and confusion. The Judex then responded that "we all suffer. It is our lot in life."

In response Ivy added that she agreed that all of us must be punished, but punishing us all the same would be unfair. Furthermore, we still have use to the greater order.

The Judex noted her assessment of how punishments should be rendered and felt her response was prudent. But then out of nowhere James spoke up and stated that punishing just one made more sense and he was a suitable target.

Having drawn the scrutiny of The Judex now,  he agreed with James who he mentioned was a curious case. He recognized that although James was suppose to be a ghoul, a beast resided within him. He felt that James would probably make a suitable target.

I was surprised by James attempt at sacrificing himself and although I didn't understand his reasons, none of us were in actually in the clear yet.

I then called Sophie to give her testimony and she did not let me down. She proceeded to give detailed accounts about our situation and that of our sires that had not been heard previously. She mentioned the reason our coterie had been founded and even Dr. Hart's experiments on exotic blood in the hopes of pioneering strange results.

After Sophie's enlightening accounts, I told those assembled to use if they must to help resolve the issues that have been caused, but do not punish us for damage caused by the actions of our sires.

The Judex then stated that he had heard enough and our sentence would be brief and to the point. Although we were guilty we conducted ourselves with poise and made strong arguments. Although were a rag-tag group of unrefined neonates, we had established some worthwhile relations within the Kindred community and we had potential.

He then decreed that all five of us would not be punished but our sires will. James would be publically humiliated as a lesson that law-breakers will always be punished, but we have all earned their respect as a result of our manners and presentation on this night.

As The Judex pronounced his ruling, I must admit I felt a sense of relief wash over me. It felt good working with the others towards the same goal even if some of our motives may have been more self-serving than others. It also felt good knowing that our sires would be held accountable. Perhaps this was the start of our own story...our own path?

Suddenly I was eager to get to work on something that didn't involve courts and judgments. But the hunger inside me kept tapping at the inside of my skull and I knew that some things had priority over others. As I looked over my companions and began to see them in a different light. We all were very different, but in some ways I felt closer to them now after sharing this ordeal and our strategy on how to get through it. James was more than just an angry ghoul now. He was more than a bonded slave to his mistress. I think he was starting to understand the value of sacrifice and the resilience that came from hardship. I would watch over him and help him if I could, but he needed his space as well. The Change to Kindred was not an easy thing...less one chose to be a monster rather than something more.