1 Prologue

The court of Magehall was silent. A thousand specks of color danced and shone in the very center of the room, high above the floor so that everyone could see. Tezera, Grand Magelinne of Illusions and Embellishments, forced the specks to join together like pixels in screen. Tiny dots of light twinkled at the edge of the illusion as a blurry image formed. Sighs of anticipation punctuated the silence permeating the court.

For seven nights a clan of Nosferatu, the most villainous of vampire clans, had terrorized the city of Theyeark; Buildings were left crumbling, streets were littered with twisted wrecks, and hundreds were dead or missing. Only their leader, Aikkul, had been apprehended alive. The others had been slain or had fled when the odds turned against them.

Tezera cast her gaze at the nosferat Aikkul writhing in a cage to her right. ArchMagus Davinech, who presided as highest judge among himself, Tezera, and Evenpruis, was sitting on her left. His eyes were closed. His fingertips drummed lightly on the desk as he siphoned memories from Aikkul's mind, put them in sequence, then fed them into Tezera. The free pixels at the edge of the illusion dimmed as a face took form.

It was difficult to tell that the creature on the illusory screen was the same as the nosferati vampire snarling at the courtroom. The creature in the cage was of an ashen complexion with hair the color of sodden straw. Its large hollow eyes were pulsing with bright red veins.

The illusory image was of a young man with sharp intelligent eyes. His skin was fresh as a new-born’s, his hair a mess of loose brown curls. His smile, when paired with his soft features, seemed to glow against the dark background on the screen.

A female's face joined the illusion. She held her bottom lip clenched tightly between her teeth. Her long brown hair lay like a disheveled curtain beneath her. The picture shivered, then the images there began to move. Aikkul’s mouth opened wide, showing sharp fangs. He plunged into the woman’s flesh with all the grace of a serpent. His eyes dulled then closed.

The trial had begun.

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