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The Perils of Instruction

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"You always stay away from the children," Godric's voice comes from behind Eric's back.

Eric turns around immediately. He still has trouble hearing his maker approach sometimes; he wonders if that'll ever go away. Godric is so powerful and knowledgeable about this world Eric is only now, after nearly one hundred years, beginning to find his way around.

"I'm sorry," he says, dropping the body he's just finished draining on the floor. "Killing the Head of the Guard took longer than I expected."

"It's all right," Godric says. He's holding a child, a boy of eight or so, pressed against his chest. Eric can hear the boy's heartbeat. His arms and legs are wrapped around Godric, head resting on Godric's shoulder, face hidden. Godric's got one arm against the boy's back and another resting on his neck, in a gesture that seems almost tender. There's something ridiculous about the sight, however, and it takes Eric a few moments to realize the boy is over half of Godric's size. If Godric weren't a vampire he could never hold him up so effortlessly.

Of course, if Godric weren't a vampire Eric wouldn't be here right now, full of human blood. He steps over the body on the floor but Godric comes closer instead of preceding Eric to the exit; odd, Eric had assumed they were done here.

"You always stay away from the children," Godric repeats, this time more contemplative, as if the words are not really intended for Eric. He walks over to the ornate chair at the head of the large table that occupies most of the room and deposits the boy in it. Eric doesn't understand this; everyone in the house – from the stables to the master's chambers – are dead, one way or another. It's been a wonderful evening but there's nothing more for them here, whether they're going to leave the child or take him with them for later.

"You do realize this is a throne room," Godric says, staring at Eric with serene, impenetrable eyes. Eric's learned to dislike that look.

"Is it?" Eric can't hide his disdain. He looks around and takes stock of the room. He's seen throne rooms and palaces – Godric's shown him, lit by hundreds of torches and candles, beautiful and luxurious, in parts of the world Eric's never heard of. This room barely registers in comparison, but yes, the chair is definitely decorated enough to stand out.

"Hard to believe, I know. Hardly a difference between this room and the stables." Godric walks slowly, running his hand along the wooden tabletop. "But this does belong to the master of these lands. His family has ruled here for generations. We've ended a dynasty tonight, you might say."

Godric falls silent, staring at Eric again, calm and collected. Eric doesn't know what to do with himself. He desperately wishes he could revive the corpse in the corner so he could kill the man again just to break this awful silence. "I don't understand," he confesses, finally, barely holding back the anger and frustration. He hates this, hates feeling examined. Hates feeling like he's somehow not good enough, incapable of doing what Godric expects of him.

"You always stay away from the children," Godric says, stern.

Eric glances back at the boy sitting at the head of the table, staring quietly at nothing – no doubt thanks to Godric's mind command. A young prince, sitting in an empty palace; an orphan, the last of his line.

It lands on him like a hammer to the skull. "You think..." Eric begins, but can't find the words to properly express the tangled things in his chest. "I would never! As if I--"

Godric's slamming him into the nearest wall, hand clasped around Eric's throat. He's not squeezing very hard, just enough to keep Eric from drawing breath and forming words. Eric's fangs extend, without his conscious permission; the string of the humiliation makes him growl but no sounds escape his throat.

Godric holds his gaze. The pressure of his hand remains steady. He doesn't ridicule or chastise Eric for losing control of his fangs. Sometimes, caught off guard, Eric still marvels – still rebels – against Godric's effortless superior strength. But Godric holds him in place and remains utterly still.

When Eric's fangs retract Godric allows for a few moments of silence, allowing Eric to collect himself, before loosening his grip on Eric's throat. "Don't tell me it has nothing to do with your human life," he says.

Eric swallows, just to make sure his throat still works. He considers his words. He has a feeling in this case Godric will forgive insolence quicker than dishonesty. "This man... the vampire who murdered my family. You hunt him too." Godric says nothing. "I know it was him you were after when you first noticed me on the battlefield."

"I do not hunt him," Godric says, after a pause. "He's far older than me; far more powerful. It would be foolish. I am merely... interested in following his action. But you're right." His lips curve into an unexpected smile. "My interest in him has to do with my human life."

After a pause he adds, "But that has nothing to do with this." His hand reaches up to stroke Eric's cheek; he cups Eric's jaw in his small palm. "You can't allow yourself this kind of weakness. It can be exploited so easily by your enemies. You must get past this lingering sentimentality. Humans - all humans - are our prey, nothing more than that." He pauses, fingers tangling casually in Eric's hair. Eric's not sure whether it's a conscious reminder, but nonetheless he takes it as his cue to go to his knees. It's bad form to speak to his maker from such a height. Godric's never told him this or explained it, but Eric feels more comfortable this way. He's towered over people his whole life – even among his countrymen few were as tall as him once he reached adulthood – but he was also their sovereign.

"I will bring the boy," Godric says, fingers still curled loosely in Eric's hair. "And you will eviscerate him before drinking every last drop of his blood. And then I will take you to the nursery. I'm not entirely sure if the infant belongs to this lord or one of his wife's maids, but I've kept her alive for you, regardless."

Eric meets Godric's eyes; agreement, acquiescence. He hopes his maker can see he's being sincere in his efforts.

"This is a small problem," Godric reassures him. "Easy to fix."

An instant later Eric's staring into thin air and Godric's back by the table – by the throne – gathering the child into his arms. He sits on the table, legs too short to touch the floor, holding the boy in his lap, both of them facing Eric. Godric takes the boy's face and turns it towards himself, making their eyes meet.

"You are going to die," Godric whispers to the boy. "This man has killed your whole family, and now you will die too. It will be painful." The boy starts screaming, flailing, thrashing; Godric restrains him immediately.

As the screams turn to sobs, Eric rises.