The Conspirators

Chapter 2: Hypothesis Testing

by goodbot

Tags: #blood #dom:female #dom:vampire #f/f #sub:female #transhumanism #biting #fantasy #negotiation #transgender_characters #vampire

// Catherine //

Catherine starts visiting the library weekly, and over the next few months she and Hannah strike up a friendship. Hannah can talk enthusiastically for hours about history, science, and philosophy, and Catherine is happy to listen. Half of her mission out here in the human world is to learn and gather information, after all.

The other half of her mission is to eventually collect enough thralls to sustain her, so she would not need to hunt and could return to the White Coven. She considers taking Hannah as her first, but she doesn’t, not yet. It would be sad to destroy something so beautiful. What’s more, she has begun to feel that she - or rather, the human person she pretends to be - has made her first true friend.

As “Kasewin”, she confides in Hannah, constructing an elaborate backstory for her false identity. Kasewin grew up isolated, her noble parents keeping her away from the common people. Unlike her siblings and cousins, Kasewin had no taste for the violence of war or the cruelty of politics, and this made her even more alone. When she reached adulthood there were no clear prospects for her, so she escaped to the other side of the world with as much of her family’s riches as she could take.

The details are all lies, of course. Being raised as a “candidate” since before she can remember, Catherine had plenty of contact with the “common people” of the coven, the empty-minded thralls who act as both servants and food source. She wasn’t the least-liked of her adoptive siblings; if she had been, she wouldn’t have made it to her pilgrimage in the first place. She was strong, she was dedicated, and her poor cousin Peter was chosen as the feast when Catherine and her siblings were turned. She didn’t run away; traveling out into the world is the expected first step in any newly-turned vampire’s adult unlife.

The details are all lies, but the feelings behind them are real enough. It feels nice to be able to talk about those things, even if she has to do it in a code only she understands.

On this evening, though, they aren’t talking about Catherine’s imaginary childhood, but rather Hannah’s work as an archivist for The Conspiracy. They’re sitting in front of the fireplace in Hannah’s apartment, and from her banged-up old armchair Hannah is gesturing enthusiastically as she explains the focus of her research.

“The Conspiracy is a lot of things, but it started out based on Cassandra’s ideas, and her priorities are still a big part of what we focus on.”

“Like the strange sense of humor that makes you openly call your movement the conspiracy?

“Well, yeah, but also the important stuff. Cassandra thought — or thinks, we can’t know for sure that she’s dead just because she stopped publishing under that pseudonym —- that people should be more concerned about magic. Sure, most magic stopped working a thousand years ago when the gods were killed, but if it somehow returned it would be much worse, because now there are no gods to stop magic from destroying the world. Archaeologists don’t think it’s possible for enchanted artifacts to keep working that long, and of course no one can make new ones anymore, but does that really mean we’re safe? There could be other kinds of magic or magic-like phenomena that don’t rely directly on the gods.”

“Yes, I got to the part in Maps and Worlds consisting of a fantasy-fiction story where people invent a new kind of magic that can destroy cities.” Much of Cassandra’s writing is structured through fiction, including the framing story of the whole book, in which the author claims to be a person from another world who found herself in this reality after being struck by a horseless carriage.

“The one that’s also an illustration of the game theory of tit-for-tat deterrence strategy?”

“Did Cassandra write more than one short story about city-destroying bombs?”

“Oh yeah there’s like, at least three,” Hannah says with a laugh. “So that’s one possible risk, that physical law could allow previously-unknown forms of destruction. The other risk is that if self-repairing or self-replicating magic ever existed in the past, it could stick around without anyone needing to cast a new spell to keep it going. We know that’s possible in theory, since dragons survived after magic stopped working, so there could be other things like that that we don’t know about.”

“I suppose it is possible, but another magical species would surely have been discovered by now, unless it was restricted to a very narrow habitat.” Or unless it was intentionally hiding, she doesn’t add.

“Right, even if there are still magical animals, they’re probably not a threat if they’ve stayed undetectable for this long. My research is on something a bit different, contagious magic. Legends from the age of magic feature lots of supernatural plagues and curses that could spread from person to person, and I was working on a catalogue of those legends so we could figure out how to detect if any of that magic kept going and if so how to contain or defend against it.”

“That certainly sounds terrifying, but is there any evidence that magic like that survived the death of the gods?”

“My research didn’t turn up anything conclusive, but there are possible examples. As recently as a hundred years ago, during the Abyan Revolution, there were rumors of a rebel group that claimed to have supernatural powers. They called themselves the Radiant Coven. People say they were a cult but people also say The Conspiracy is a cult so who knows for sure. They recruited people by promising that they could share some kind of immortality magic that spreads from person to person. Most people are pretty sure it was a hoax, but it seemed worth looking into just in case.”

“Immortality sounds like exactly the kind of thing desperate insurgents would make up. I wouldn’t take it very seriously unless you have some other evidence to think it could be real.”

“As it happens, I do. Some of the details in the rumors reminded me of something I came across in my research, a legend about a necromancer who supposedly created a race of immortal warriors he called vampires. I started searching for more references to them in old legends and histories. The stories say they were impossible to kill in battle, but their immortality was fueled by blood magic. To get a renewable supply of human blood, they had some way to ritualistically connect themselves with people, and supposedly they could bestow their long life on their servants as well. Allegedly the Abyan rebels recruited three “thralls” for each warrior; they talked about it like it’s some kinky relationship-dynamic thing.”

“Hmmm. Promising three submissive servants for every warrior seems a lot like the kind of myth someone would make up to bring in recruits.”

“Right, just because some rumors about a cult kinda sorta match up with ancient legends isn’t much evidence at all, since maybe the people making up the hoax based it on the same legends. But it drew my attention to the legends about vampires, and now I know vampires are real, because I know I’ve met one.” Hannah smiles triumphantly, proud of making the biggest mistake of her life.

“I... I wish you had not said that. I am truly sorry. You’re so clever, and you already figured out so much. It won’t be enough to simply erase your memory of this conversation.” She feels she would be crying if she were still physiologically able to produce tears. “I swore to protect the masquerade, so I’ll have to fracture your memories and leave you in an asylum.”

“What? No, there’s a much better solution to making sure I won’t spill your secrets,” she says with an incongruous grin, which turns into a frown as she says, “... unless you don’t want me?”

Catherine extends her fangs to make her unmistakably inhuman nature clear. “Humans do not offer themselves as thralls, Hannah. Most would consider eternal enslavement to be a fate worse than death. I’ve seen how thralls act. They are broken, always at war with their own minds.”

Hannah’s expression is hard to read, but it’s clear that seeing Catherine’s fangs inspired something other than fear. “You know, I’m not surprised to hear that the thralls you’ve seen are traumatized. That fits perfectly with my understanding that your vampire family are evil and probably just abduct random victims. I won’t be like that, because I’m offering myself willingly.”

“And why would you do that?”

“Number one, immortality. That part’s real, right?”

“Thralls regularly survive for centuries and can in theory live much longer, yes. But you would not live your own life, as your will would be bound to mine.”

“That’s, um, not a dealbreaker,” Hannah says, blushing. “To be honest, I find the chance to serve a beautiful woman to be very appealing.”

Hannah is surely making a mistake, but Catherine’s feelings of obligation towards her are telling her to respect the girl’s choice. The vampire stands and beckons for Hannah to do the same. She had gotten used to ignoring the scent of the girl’s blood, but now she allows herself to fully enjoy it. She caresses the girl’s face, gently tilts her head, and bites down on her neck.

Hannah gasps but makes no attempt to resist. Her blood is sweet, and there’s an extra enjoyment in feeding on someone who isn’t just a nameless stranger.

Catherine injects her dose of venom and lets go of the girl’s neck. She made very careful incisions; the venom quickly works its magic to heal the punctures, leaving only a small smear of blood slowly dripping down Hannah’s skin.

There’s no fear or even confusion on the girl’s face. The venom leaves her relaxed, calm, and ready for what comes next.

“Kneel for me,” Catherine commands, and she obeys.

With her left hand, Catherine touches the girl’s lips and forces her mouth open. She cuts open her own right wrist with a fang, and holds it out.

As her pitch-black blood drips into the girl’s mouth, Catherine speaks.

“With my own blood I claim you. Your blood, your life, your body, and your mind belong to me. As long as you live, you will serve, obey, and live for me.”

When her wrist has healed closed and her blood has stopped dripping into Hannah’s mouth, Catherine gets down on her knees, wraps her arms around the girl, and whispers, “I’m sorry.”

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