Here it is. That wasn't long now was it? This takes place almost exactly after The Vermont Primogen, and it's going to be a little harder to write since it's based in the week or so before Christmas. I was writing from experience as Christmas was approaching, and all the feelings I had before break were the source of my inspiration. So I'm sort of flying blind now, trying to guide the story from new thoughts and feelings.

On another note, I've been sort of combining my faded knowledge of V:TM with the canon of Kindred the Embrace. I've never played the RPG in my life, even though I have the Gangrel Handbook. But I have watched the series, and I loved it immensely. Which is why this story is primarily based on Kindred canon.

On the final note: Thank you to all who reviewed my last story, and I can't wait to hear your comments on this one. Check out my C2 community for updates and if anyone knows where I can post the link feel free to e-mail me.

Now…without further adieu…

Prologue

Shadows of Conspiracy

Ultraviolet beams rained on the floor, creating a barrier between the prisoner and her visitors. As the sea raged on the beach outside, cold spray blew through the barred windows of her cell, shocking her exposed skin. Her once blond hair was matted and filthy with soil and saltwater. Her clothes were ragged and torn by the rodents who dared to get close enough. Though an attendant stood outside feeding her real food every so often, her only source of blood was from the rodents and seagulls that she could get a hold of. Lazarus wanted her this way. Humble and desperate. Without her full complement of blood she could not use her powers against the attendants, nor could she simply dig her way out.

Her cell was an abandoned war bunker on an island owned by Lazarus. It was built during the War of 1812 and decommissioned a century and a half later when rumors of it being haunted frightened soldiers away. Few people in the mortal world knew it existed. As Amanda looked out her cell's window she could see a glimpse of the turbulent ocean out of one corner, but it was obscured by carefully planted bushes and large rocks.

Police boats ran patrols between the mainland and the Islands looking for trouble. The ferry's eight o'clock run to Peak Island was just barely cleared due to the conditions and fishermen were pulling in their nets and cages for the evening. In her idle and blood famished thoughts Amanda wondered what happened when children stuck on the mainland couldn't get to their parents for the entire evening. How sick with worry those parents must become, living on an island cut off from the rest of the country.

A seagull cawed as it landed on a stone outcropping just outside her single window. The bars were made of steel but some kind of enchantments prevented Amanda from breaking them. It stared out at the sea, oblivious to the hand reaching through the bars to get it. Amanda gripped the animal as gently as possible without letting it go and pulled it through the bars. It was a particularly large specimen and it flapped and whipped its head left and right trying to bite itself free. Amanda yanked it through the bars, spitting open its stomach and damaging the body as it squeezed through. The creature was horribly disfigured when it came through, and the gull ceased to struggle. Blood and feathers stained her hands and littered the floor as Amanda brought it to her lips. The blood went cold fast but she ignored luxury for the hunger. When the heart no longer beat she tore its flesh to get at the last drops. When she was satisfied she went to the "bars" of her cell and tossed the remains out as far as possible without touching the beams.

With nothing left to do Amanda sat in the driest corner of her cell and spent the hours doodling in the muddy ground. She drew two human figures, and a knife or a stake going through one of the figures. When she was finished she moved on to another drawing of two animals-wolves-fighting each other. She etched the Norse rune for "direction" in another spot and found herself uttering an incantation of vengeance. But she wanted to be the one who brought vengeance, not some spirit or other random occurrence.

As she drifted off to sleep dreams came to her. Lazarus was in most of them and in everyone he had a stake through his heart and his head was missing, but Amanda couldn't see who had killed him. She was in a dark room surrounded by a long circular table where obscure figures hid behind the shadows. She recognized the table as the one used by the Electorate of the New England Council.

At her feet was the boy. The slayer turned Gangrel, beheaded. And surrounding her were the bodies of Gangrel piled on top of one another covering every inch of the floor accept for the space she was standing in. It was only then that she realized that the council was made up entirely of Tremere, and that they were her followers. The bodies of Kindred from many different clans lay slumped on the floor surrounding the room, and as she walked outside into the cloudy daytime air she could see more bodies covering the streets and the city as far as the eye could see. Standing in various places, no more than six feet apart from one another were more Tremere, all at various stages of development all watching her. Even some of the well known Antidiluvians were watching her every move, never moving nor making a sound.

And just as soon as they were there, they were gone! In the blink of an eye the corpses and the Tremere vanished. Her dreamscape avatar never questioned this, having no logical function to work with, so she just stood there waiting for the next cue. Night fell in another blink and the city which housed the New England Council remained. Only wolves stood where the bodies of Kindred lay, and the bodies of Tremere scattered the grounds and the streets. They sniffed the air and watched Amanda, whose fear increased slightly.

A-single Kindred in human form stood out among the wolves. Dressed in black jeans and a long sleeved shirt, brown hair and brownish eyes, with sneakers. His eyes glowed as he stared Amanda down as he approached her.

"But I…I thought I killed you!" Amanda cried. Her voice was empty as she dropped to her knees.

"Reality bites." The boy replied. Then he pulled out a knife and swiped.

Amanda screamed as she awakened. Lazarus stood in front of the bars, waiting patiently while she composed herself.

"Bad dream?"

She glared silently. It would have been respectful of her to get to her feet, but she had enough of subtleties for one lifetime. Lazarus apparently chose to ignore it the small breach of protocol for more important matters.

"You can't imagine how hard I've fought to keep you alive." He said, running his hands along the bars as he paced. "You've disappointed many of your superiors."

"The pleasure is mine."

"Why do you dig yourself in deeper? I give you your own cell out of harm's way and you treat me with utter disrespect. Far younger initiates would love so lenient a punishment."

"Dealt by you I'm sure this is lenient." Amanda said, sarcastically. "If you had obeyed our laws I'd be ashes right now. That means you want something from me, and you don't want to risk the Motherhouse finding out."

Lazarus stopped his pacing and regarded her silently. His face was expressionless but his eyes revealed complex plans forming in the recesses of his thoughts.

"For your information, I am acting well within the Motherhouse laws. Unlike you I didn't waste my centuries on manipulation and power. My goals were always for the betterment of the Tremere Clan. And unlike you, I only kill renegades as I am charged to."

Amanda tried to find a retort, but failed.

"Incidentally, they find fault with my plan," Lazarus continued. "Because you see, it involves letting you go. You've breached protocol in ordering my journeyman to disobey me, you murdered a promising young initiate who was entrusted to your care…and your little power play caused the Vermont Tremere to be suspended from entry into Zarius' territory. But the likely hood of you surviving my plan gave my superiors incentive to consider it."

"I won't bother asking why I should cooperate, since I no doubt have no choice," Amanda said. "But curiosity begs me to ask, what do you plan to gain?"

"The territory you cost us." Lazarus stated bluntly. "Tremere and Gangrel were the two largest clans occupying Vermont. Now with Tremere out of the way Zarius will doubtless hand control of the state to a Gangrel Prince."

"The Gangrel could never be princes."

"Oh you think not? You'd be surprised what the Gangrel are capable of. That's the difference between you and I, I do not underestimate the enemy.

"Zarius has the most respected of the Toreador and the Ventrue clans on his council. Why would he blunder away the state on his guard dogs and pets?"

Lazarus held up his hand. "This is idle discussion. The point is the motherhouse wants Vermont, and its hope of reaching that goal is obliterated by you now, unless we kill Zarius."

"And how do I figure into this plan of yours?"

"You will do what you manipulated Benjamin into doing. You will take the attention from us as I make my move on Zarius."

Amanda was interested now. But she didn't show it. She wondered how much she could get out of him. "Doing the dirty work yourself for a change?"

"The Motherhouse doesn't want to risk its place in the Camarilla. If this plan fails they'll write us off and we'll most likely be killed. I've been permitted to bring a small troupe of journeymen, no older than a few centuries."

"Sounds like quite a lot to risk your position on. And how do you trust that I'll cooperate with you?"

"Now, now Amanda, lets not forget our positions," Lazarus said, dropping his formal tone and reverting to the exchange of wits that Amanda was using. "The motherhouse might have overlooked your actions had you rid us off that damned Kindred slayer. But in case you've forgotten you not only failed to kill the boy but it was him who banished us in the first place. Zarius places his faith in the boy; he moves to trust a former slayer over his trusted followers."

"Then why not discredit him in front of the Council?" Amanda demanded. "If you kill him he dies a martyr."

"I am not concerned with the council. The council has proven far too useless in Tremere matters. Even high members of the Motherhouse have discussed abandoning the Camarilla for the sake of preservation. There are some who believe that Tremere should be the dominating clan, and that we should mount a war against both the Camarilla and the Sabbat."

Amanda tried to conceal the hungry greed in her eyes. Lazarus was saying far more than he had intended and she knew it. Mentally she urged him to go on.

"The Nosferatu will be a small matter," Lazarus continued. "But in the same move I will have an opportunity to rid San Francisco of its Ventrue Prince as well."

Amanda nodded in understanding. "The Motherhouse would be eternally grateful for that. We've not been able to establish a presence in California since the earthquake of 1906."

"With the Final Death of Julian Luna we will force our way into California before the rest of the world knows what happened."

"Ambition Lazarus? That doesn't seem like the Tremere at all."

"Whether you agree with it or not, we expect your cooperation," Lazarus said, letting a tone of finality carry his words. "The council agrees not to punish you any further if you redeem yourself. Cause whatever disturbances your vindictive little mind can conjure up, give me the chance to slip in and kill off Zarius. Do this minor thing and gain us the Vermont territory. But if you truly want to earn yourself back into the good graces of the Motherhouse, and still have the power to carry out your ambitious plans, I suggest you make the extra effort and finish off the Kindred slayer."

Only two days and two nights had gone by since Amanda felt the knife plunge into her heart. But the time spent in a deathlike state, unable to move and unable to speak felt like an eternity. The images of the dark haired boy haunted her dreams. He was the boy who was no longer a boy, but would remain in the body of a teenager for eternity. The Gangrel childe embraced by James Reed in the last century.

Not if I end him, a dark and seductive voice spoke to her inner being. His skills as a Kindred slayer gave him an advantage that I did not anticipate. But this time I will not underestimate him.

There was an additional advantage to all of this. If only Amanda could get Lazarus in the same space as Zarius and Julian Luna, both her vengeance and her redemption could be complete. The Motherhouse would have to reward her with the position of Prince and she could choose Vermont, Maine, or San Francisco as her territory. The prospects were overwhelming and intoxicating, and Amanda had to fight back a grin that would make Lazarus suspicious.

"Very well," Amanda said in her most humble tone. "I will extend my full cooperation to the Maine chantry and to you, Prince Lazarus. In the name of the Tremere Motherhouse, I will do as I have been asked."

Lazarus nodded in approval. "I knew you would come around. But be warned, you will remain in Vermont the entire time I am there. You will keep in contact with me every twenty-four hours on the precise time I give you, or we will track you down and kill you without giving it a second thought."

Amanda bowed as Lazarus ordered the beams turned off.