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The drunken lordling stumbled down the street, flanked by his two bodyguards, watchmen he had paid to help him about his business. He paused, feeling the familiar call of nature that came after a night like this one, and looked around for a convenient place to relieve himself. Spotting an alley nearby, he left his bodyguards at the entrance and entered deep into the alley, leaning against the wall and groaning as he pissed against it.

She had watched him as he entered her territory to collect the “tribute” he felt owed. Sober, then, at the beginning of the evening, the lordling and his guards had kicked down the front door on one of his properties that was late on rent. The family that lived there, a poor shopkeeper and his wife, their two children, a son and a daughter, had been at a meager dinner.

He demanded his money, and when the shopkeeper could not pay, he had had his guards hold them back while he announced he would take his payment from their child. He dragged the poor girl up to her own parent’s marital bed and, fifteen minutes later, returned smiling, leaving the poor girl sobbing upstairs.

After having his guards beat the traumatized shopkeeper about for a few minutes, he left with a warning to not be late again, or he would take double what he was owed, leering at the wife while they left. The lordling, with no need to spend his coin on whores tonight, promptly went and spent it upon drink instead at a local tavern.

She watched him as he went about his way that night, from house to bar and back to house again, biding her time until an opportune moment presented itself. The lordling collected his exorbitant rents and promptly spent the bulk of it on drink, getting steadily drunker as the night wore on, bringing him to this point here.

While the guards chatted noisily to themselves, sure in the thought that there was nothing to threaten them, she dropped down silently behind the lordling, cupping her hand over his mouth and slamming the side of his face up against the rough stone of the building. She could feel her teeth lengthening as she smelled and felt the warm blood coursing through his body.

“Please stop soiling yourself,” she said, as he whimpered in terror, “if any of it gets on me, I’ll only make this worse for you. You’re done here. Never again will you violate any of these tortured souls, or snatch what little coin they have from their hands.”

She twisted his head around to the side, as far as it would go without his scrawny neck snapping, so that he could just barely catch her eyes out of the corners of his.

“My name is Aria. You might have heard of me. They call me Black-Hand.”

She smiled, then, as his eyes opened as wide as they could with terror, his screams for help muffled against her hand as he tried to fight, pointlessly, against her unnatural strength.

“I would say your money or your life, but that would just be a lie. I’ll take them both, little lordling, what little you have left after your busy night. Hopefully the ones that come after you will learn from your mistakes…but, then again, maybe they won’t. I do so love fresh game.”

With that she opened her mouth wide, sinking her fangs into his jugular, drinking deeply as the bright arterial blood poured down her throat, nourishing her as food and drink would not, and had not, for the majority of her life, thanks to her curse. The lordling’s body convulsed and twitched as his life’s blood left him, the flow slowing and then trickling to next to nothing as he stopped moving.

The guards, eventually realizing that their boss had not returned, called out to no response. Hurrying into the alley, their lanterns held high, they found their lordling sitting slumped against the wall in a puddle of his own piss, looking pale and lifeless, the front of his clothes a dark red. Written above his body in the same red was just one word, large as life itself:

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The Realm of Joroin adept23