There are obvious things we're addicted to: food, air, water. More insidious than that are addictions to feelings, people, or states of mind.
Perhaps most common is the addiction to being oneself, which results in resistance to change and clinging to the ego. On the other end of the spectrum we find those who don't Love themselves enough, and seek other addictions to fill the void.
- Dreamer's Handbook
"Next on today's agenda is..." Cellie shuffled the pages around until she found the right one: "'The social implications of demon blood consumption.'" She put the page back down. "What shall we do with the junkies, gentlemen?"
The three vampire clan leaders at the table - two lords and one lady - pondered the problem in silence. Their aides stood behind them, not speaking unless spoken to.
Snow was gently falling outside.
The youthful-looking lord cleared his throat. "Err... nothing?"
"What do you mean, 'nothing'?" Cellie asked, slightly annoyed.
The bearded lord raised a hand. "Aram is right. Doing nothing is least costly, and we should consider this option, even if only for using it as a baseline to judge other potential solutions by."
Cellie nodded. "I see..."
"Yeah, that's what I meant. Thanks, Theo."
"It's 'Theodore' for you."
The silence enveloping them lasted several minutes.
Carved into a mountainside high above everything else, castle Aluin endured frequent blizzards and several apocalypses. Over the centuries it became known as the place where disputes of the highest order got settled - or turned into bloodbaths.
"All right," Cellie said. "Here's how I see it. If we do nothing, the cycle of extended supply leading to increased demand will continue. We can expect market saturation at best, or supply wars at worst... Except that's not really the worst! What about unforeseen side-effects? Will frequent demon blood consumption lead to decreased resistance to possession? Or what if some of the demonic entities catch on, and start inducing specific mutations in their possessed for the express purpose of harming vampires consuming their blood?"
"Chilling thoughts," Aram remarked. "It seems to me there's a biowarfare angle to everything we discuss nowadays."
"Well, it's just common sense," Cellie said.
Theodore snorted. "Hah! Not so common, I'm afraid. If such concerns were common, we wouldn't have a junkie problem in the first place."
"Why don't I find that comforting..."
"You take on too much responsibility. You're the clan leader - not their mother," Theodore said.
Aram waved dismissively. "Enough with the flirting or whatever it is the two of you are doing, and let's consider solutions, shall we? What about a coordinated ban across our clans?"
"I like bans," Theodore said. "They're simple, direct, and project a sense of purpose and moral unambiguity. They make me look like the good leader which I am. But, I also like low-cost efficiency, and a ban may or may not belong to this category of counter-measures."
"No doubt an efficient ban would solve our problems," Aram said.
Cellie eyed Aram, uncertain how to interpret his words. "I'm not sure if you're being sarcastic or just naive. An effective ban is rarely efficient in terms of cost. If we suppress the supply, demand might go up, and that can even be counter-effective in the longer term."
Aram smiled. "It's been a while since anyone called me naive. I'll attribute it to my youthful charm and take it as a compliment."
Cellie rolled her eyes.
"Look at the other cons," Theodore said. "A ban sends a strong message, but the idiots guzzling demon blood are not likely to listen to reason, now are they? We would polarize our clansmen on the issue and weaken our own leadership positions - we have enough enemies as it is."
"You advocate something other than an 'iron fist' approach?" Aram said. "I never thought I'd live to see the day!"
"Don't insult my intelligence. While we're at it cut the flippancy too, will you? At this rate we'll never finish. Why don't you suggest a viable solution for a change?"
It took a second for Aram's face to change to serious. "Very well. How about this? At the core of the problem is lack of information; we don't know what effects the bloods of various demons have, either in the short or long term. If we had more information, we would know if a ban is necessary and within what limits. If it is, with popular opinion on our side, we'd have better success enforcing the ban. Even the polarizing effect wouldn't be entirely unwelcome, since it would serve to cull the weakest from our ranks." He looked to Cellie, paused, then looked to Theodore. "My suggestion is that we focus on research and resource gathering, and schedule another meeting, say, six months from now. We can discuss a more extensive solution then."
Cellie waited for Theodore to reply first.
He stroked his beard and took his time. "What you said makes sense... for a change. We do need more information before committing to a long-term solution."
"I guess it's a question of 'how', then," Cellie said. "Who knows, we might even find ways to improve blood quality or preservation methods. Do any of you have the means for such extensive research?"
Aram shook his head.
"No," Theodore said.
"Perhaps we should get creative. One of my specialists, Merryn Vaugr, is helping the zombies at the Oakheart facility with their exorcism troubles. They have the resources we need, and my specialist has a tentatively amicable relationship with them. I propose we approach with an offer of formal alliance."
"Not a bad idea; they're probably researching the effects of demon blood already. At what cost, though? What are we prepared to offer in return?" Theodore asked.
"The brains of our fallen enemies? They always want brains for that Serum of theirs. Grunts for protection, perhaps?" Cellie asked.
Aram's lips soured. "I'm not comfortable with that. We can always trade the brains at market value, and I don't have muscle to spare."
"Test subjects?" Theodore suggested. "We ship the heavy junkies for testing?"
Cellie's initially horrified expression faded as her mind rationalized the necessities. "Hmm... if we want proper research, we will need vampire test subjects, both healthy and beyond saving. We'll have to offer compensation to volunteers."
Aram put his palms on the table and raised himself slightly. "I propose a tax!"
Cellie heaved a sigh. "Don't we have enough taxes?"
"No, you misunderstand. Instead of banning demon blood, we should tax the import by a percentage of the goods! Say, forty percent? Part of it could go to research, part of it as payment to Oakheart, and part of it as compensation for volunteers."
"Quite a fountain of insight, aren't you?" Theodore remarked dryly. "I disagree with the last part: we can't offer demon blood as compensation for volunteering. It would taint the testing pool and send a mixed message. We'll have to use regular blood for that."
Cellie looked to Aram, then to Theodore. "Are we in agreement on the subject of demon blood? We tax demon blood import and propose an alliance to Oakheart?"
The snow falling outside increased in intensity to that of a minor snowstorm.
"Excellent. Issue resolved, for now." Cellie scribbled something on a paper, stacked the pages in front of her, and handed them off to her aide behind her. "Next on the agenda is..."