There is and always has been a system of punishment for those who disobey the rules set down by their elders. The system is simple: a vampire who breaks the rules is slain. Those who violate the laws of a fief and thereby anger the elders are hunted down and extinguished by all who hear the call. This credo of "just retribution" is known formally as Lextalionis, or more commonly as the Blood Hunt.

Tradition demands that the Lextalionis can only be called by the eldest Cainite in a domain, who is almost always the prince. Other elders or even ancillae may call for a Hunt, but most vampires will not respond, for they risk the wrath of the prince in do soing. In this day and age, a prince will often call Hunts for his own purposes. So long as the majority of the others in the area support him, there is little anyone else can do.

Most princes prefer to rule with the consent and support of the fief's vampires. They do not call Hunts so much as bolster their power as to protect their subjects, and so can expect support for Hunt within their fiefs. However, too many Blood Hunts makes for draconian justice, and a few princes have been overthrown for it.

Blood Hunts

The Blood Hunt is the most extreme punishment which a vampire can suffer. Theoretically, any prince may call a Hunt against any Cainite who displeases her. In practice it is not so simple. If a prince calls a Hunt she must be certain that other Cainites will participate - for whatever reason - or declaring the Hunt has no impact and the prince loses face.

Some princes maintain a "hearth troop" of trained ghouls or vampires to act as enforcers and to pursue those against whom Hunts are called. Such retainers are given special privileges, often including money, safe havens, and the best weapons. But this is a dangerous policy: what stops the hearth troop from overthrowing the prince? And if the prince's power is dependent uon the support of a small group of thugs, then who is the real ruler of the fief?

In areas where princes are weak or particular coteries are powerful - usually in towns - coteries or other groups of Cainites have been known to stage private Blood Hunts. For whatever reasons, members of a group mark one or more vampires for death and carry out the Hunt themselves. Word always reaches the prince's ears, but may be too late in coming or the prince may be too ineffectual to put a stop to the killing.

A Blood Hunt that occurs without a prince's authority is always answered with a second - this one with the prince's backing, staged against the offenders of the law. If the prince cannot punish those who stag their own Hunt, he is usually usurped or destroyed, either by those who defy his word or other elders who realize that a new, hopefully more effective figurehead must ascend.

The Ordeal

The ordeal is a method used by many princes for determining the guilt or innocence of a vampire accused of a crime. Such crimes might be as simple as violating a vassal's feeding grounds or as serious as breaking one of the ancient Six Traditions. Visiting princes and others elders who have been accused are almost always permitted to undergo an ordeal rather than face summary judgement. This is considered a matter of coursey among princes.

The ordeal may be as easy or difficult as the prince warrants. The very difficult ones can be deadly, offering the accused little chance of survival. The possibilities for such trials are as varied as the princes who devise them, though many princes seem to have favored means of determining the truth. Many such tests exist; the following examples depict some of the most common.

Trial by Combat

This ordeal is most common when the validity of the accusations is in doubt. This ordeal allows the accused to face his accuser in single combat. Princes or ranking elders are often afforded this option, even if there is little question of guilt. In such cases the accused faces a champion chosen by the prince.

Many variations of this trial exist. A duel may be fought until oen combatant has been crippled or driven into torpor. A stake may be placed in the center of a circle, with both opponenets at the edge of the ring, facing each other; the first one to drive the other into torpor is considered the victor. Or, two vampires may engage in a contest in which each drinks the other's blood until one falls into torpor. Some accidental diableriations have occured this way. Thre are also rumors of duels fought with mental powers, or even with magic if such is available to the contestants.

This method is often favored by princes for its entertainment value. Many vampires from surrounding counties will attend a trial by combat, especially if the accused is a cainite of some notoriety.

Ordeal by Fire

More often than not, this ordeal results in the death of the accused. Several variations of this trial exist, some more deadly than others. The most common requires that a nmber of Cainites (as many as the prince can assemble) form two lines facing each other. Each of the vampires carries a lit torch. The accused is then required to run between the vampires as they beat him with the torches. Variations on this require the accused to be covered in oil or to be completely nude. Some princes even require that the accused walk, rather than run down the lines. To run is considered an admission of guilt, which is followed by an immediate execution.

Another method of ordeal by fire involves the accused being bound to a wooden stake and surrounded by tinder. A fie is then lit beneatht he feet of the accused, at which time he is allowed to attempt escape. This method almost always results in the death of the vampire, unless the prince severely underestimates the strength of the accused.

Test of the Beast

The accused is cast into a pit or a sealed room with a ferocious wild animal, often a bear or wolf. The carnivore has usually been starved for several nights (and has often been turned into a ghoul to acquire a taste for vampiric blood) before the trial takes place.

The unarmed vampire must defeat the beast in order to prove his innocence. Obviously, cainites who are known to have power of influence over animals are not subjected to this test. Like trial by combat, this test often becomes a form of entertainment for the prince and any visitors he should have in attendance.

Ordeal of Purifying Light

The Cainite suffering tihs ordeal is locked in a closet courtyard, minutes before dawn. He is then forced to endure the light of the sun for a period determined by the prince before being released by one of the prince's ghouls. Variations on this ordeal include chaining the accused to the eastern wall of a keep just moments before dawn. If he is able to escape, he is declared innocent.

This test is usually reserved for those deemed guilty of the most horrible crimes. Most believe that this ordeal scourges the guilt even from the most wicked soul. Some have willingly undergone this ordeal as a means of attempting to purge their own souls. It is even rumored that some few have regained their humanity through this method of purification.

Alternative Punishments

Though they are rare, there are crimes that have gone unpunished through Blood Hunts. Some princes worry about appearing too draconian, and may call Hunts only with great reluctance. However, a prince is under obligation to his subjects to punish offenders, and showing any favortism shakes his power structure. This is of particular importance when a prince's childe has been caught in or accused of a crime, or the crime was committed with the tacit approval of the prince, such as the killing of a rival. In such cases, the prince may call for the accused to prove his or her innocence through some task, such as a quest. Frequently these tasks are of such Herculean proportions as to stagger all but the most resourceful or cunning vampires.

The accused is often watched from afar through powerful Auxpes or via news from allies. Those who attempt to abandon their tasks are promptly targeted for a Blood Hunt.