Tabetha Toussaint came to her senses just in time to watch her mentor turn to ash and crumble into a pile on his parlor floor in her arms. Even as he disintegrated before her eyes, she could feel his essence – his power – course its way through her veins; it was nothing she had ever felt in either of her lifetimes.
My god, what have I done?
I think you know...
I don't remember anything...
Except that was a lie; and both streams of consciousness that she seemed to be maintaining knew it. What he knew she knew and what she knew he knew. Internally, she admonished herself for thinking in terms that smacked of lunacy that was on par with a Malkavian, and privately wondered if what Marko referred to as the Network had anything to do with her sometimes erratic and disorderly thought patterns lately.
That does not matter; not anymore.
He was right, of course. The Founder seemed to always be right, and that was who had been commandeering her mind and body with greater and greater frequency ever since that night she encountered the Dark Driver. At first she was worried that he intended to devour her; but now she knew that wasn't the case. Nor was this a virus; if it was anything, it was a gift. For whatever reason the Founder had, he had chosen her for this, whatever it was. If only she could find a way to reverse who was in control, and make his power hers...
What had happened was this:
Two nights ago, Marko came by the Chantry, wanting to speak to Master Strauss; he was not back from his appointment with the Pontifex yet. Rather, he was in transit on his way back. Given this meant he was still quite some distance away, chances were good he would not be back for at least another night. She told the Malkavian this, and asked if there was something she could help him with. Marko 'and his voices' politely declined. Insisting he needed to see the Regent. Tabetha reasoned it had to be about her. She opted to let Marko wander off rather than pressure him into talking; lately it was like he was avoiding her whenever possible. She couldn't really blame him if he was. His madness aside, he had been a good friend and she nearly killed him that one time, and now may very well have made his condition even worse than it already was.
He had come back just last night. Strauss had returned, and he immediately sent her off on an obvious make-work errand of seeing to it his escorts made it safely back to the airport. What a joke of a task that was! She was Primogen, for god's sake! Why couldn't he send his new little butt boy assistant harpy? Why did his escorts need an escort anyway? For that matter, why did he need an escort? To be fair, he probably had to go over Harpy matters with butt boy, so that was fair. Still, who the hell did he think he was, sending me to something so mundane? How dare he attempt to brush ME off like that?
Tabetha remembered catching herself and checking her- or his – ego at the door. It was a mindless task, and probably unnecessary, but that is what he wanted. Or maybe it wasn't. Maybe he was following orders. Was that it? If so, then whose orders was he following? Who would dare conspire against me like this?
In any event, by the time she got back, Marko had obviously been and gone; she could detect his presence all over the parlor. She had asked Master Strauss what his visit was about.
Strauss began by complimenting her on her advanced awareness, and encouraged her to keep that up. The he vaguely explained the Malkavian was inquiring about any further discoveries the condition she and he evidently shared. He was obviously hiding something; but Tabetha didn't need to ask what. Somehow she knew that Marko was trying to learn some of the deeper secrets of House and Clan Tremere; just as she knew that Max had kept his mouth shut on such matters. She knew that Max kept changing the subject back to their condition, so he wasn't exactly lying to her.
"He's been avoiding me, you know," she told him. "He hides it well, but I think he might be afraid of me or something."
"Not at all, my apprentice," Strauss had replied. "If anything, it would be more accurate to say he is afraid for you."
What that was supposed to mean she had no idea.
And now she had the events of tonight which led up to this exact situation she was in right now.
She had awoken tonight from a nightmare. In it, she was in the chamber where she saw the cocoon; only this time she was alone. The Seven were gone; it was just her and it. The Founder – albeit a different form of him – was inside the cocoon; she could hear him calling her, although it was more like she could feel him calling her. She stepped cautiously closer as it began first to pulsate, and then crack. The process began very slowly, and then started to accelerate. As the shell of the cocoon began to splinter, she looked at her own hands and saw that they were beginning ball up into fists and she was sweating some kind of ink substance; much like what the cocoon was made of. She tried open her fists, but the ink was getting to be more like a glue, and it was hardening. The glue began to spread up her arms as the cocoon finally broke enough for a large white worm to begin to squirm its way out. The glue then rapidly overtook her entire body, leaving only her face exposed when the worm spoke or rather thought at her in a language she didn't understand. Whatever it said was said in one short phrase, and then the glue crowded over her face and all was black until she woke up.
Instinctively she looked at her hands frantically upon opening her eyes. It was incredibly brief, but she was sure she saw the black ink-glue sink back into her pores. That had to be just a remnant of the dream, she hoped.
After quickly selecting tonight's outfit she exited her quarters and located Master Strauss in his parlor. She entered the parlor, intent on telling him her dream. Then everything went blank.
And now she was standing alone in the parlor; the ashes of Master Strauss at her feet, and his essence in her veins. Though she had no idea how it happened – and that much was true – there was no way she could convince herself she didn't know what she had done. She had committed the worst crime of all among the Kindred.
She had committed Diablerie.