Categories
Writing

Little Red

Little Red Riding Hood running through the forest. Scooping up the crossbow and pinning werewolves to the trees. Flowing red cloak with hood a bright flash of color against a brown leather mini dress and striking knee high boots. Little Red was no little girl.

“Hey, wee miss. What a lady like you doing in a forest like this, dressed up like that?” growled an ominous voice as a large furry form stepped out from behind a tree. Bright flash of white teeth licked by a slobbery tongue.

Little Red leaned her crossbow over her shoulder looking in no way concerned. “You’ll call me Ms. Grey unless you want to be skewered. This forest is now under Oracle’s care.”

A snicker from the big bad werewolf as it crept out in to full view. “Big words for a little girl!” He leaped through the air with teeth and claws bared!

But Little Red was no amateur! Without moving a step or even her crossbow, out came a silver sword from the hilt on her back. SHIIIICK! Right through his heart. Snatching her sword back out of the dead wolf, there was a girlish giggle as the dangerous blond skipped her way through the forest!

Off to Grandmother’s house she went. A small little cottage in the middle of the woods. Kicking open the door she stepped inside, but instead of Grandmother, there was a wolf tied to a chair wearing Granny’s cap. A Leon wolf.

“Cissy! I’m so glad to see y- …What are you wearing?” he asked, looking pretty confused at the strange outfit she was sporting.

Ciara blinked at him, resting a hand on her hip. “Why Grandma, what a manly voice you have.” she replied sarcastically.

“…That’s not funny, Cissy. This cap is pretty itchy.”

Shrugging her shoulders, a particularly wicked grin crawled across her face. Ciara strode forward with her crossbow in hand. “My, my… a wolf all tied up in my cottage. What should I do with him?”

Leon swallowed! “You’re, uh… not gonna shoot me, are you Cissy?”

“I really should. Wolves are dangerous.” she replied, pointing the tip of the bolt at his nose. Then a dramatic sigh! “But… Then I’ll never know what happened to poor grandmother! I’ll have to torture you first.” Ciara stepped away to set the crossbow down on a table, along with her silver sword, and a variety of other weapons she seemed to have magically hidden away.

“I sure didn’t eat her. That old woman smells nothing like steak.”

A soft laugh escaped her as she stepped behind the wolf tied to the chair. Ciara ran her fingers through his hair, gently tugging at his ears. “Of course you didn’t. But you’re still a very bad wolf. Very bad. …Oh look! A tail!” She exclaimed! A grey fluffy tail had appeared through the back of the chair, wagging back and forth from pleasant petting.

“Be gentle!” Leon yelped when Ciara leaned to grab it. She paused only for a moment before capturing the fuzzy thing. It was so soft! Stroking it softly for a moment, she finally set it free before crossing around the chair.

Ciara hopped, giggling at the ‘oomph’ from Leon as she settled straddled over his lap. Leaning forward she nuzzled his cheek, followed by a kiss brushed at the corner of his mouth. Her hands teased the back of his neck. When he moved his head trying to catch her mouth, she tilted just out of reach.

“Cissy, you’re not playing fair…” he muttered against her ear.

Another laugh escaped Ciara as her hands moved from his neck to the buttons of his shirt. Fingers danced over skin with each undone button. At the last, her hands grazed his sides causing Leon to squirm in his seat as she snapped the button of his pants and slid down the zipper. Before he could utter a word Ciara pressed her mouth to his. Kissing lightly at first, it deepened quickly as Leon leaned forward against her. Ciara broke away only for a second to shift her head and nibble on his bottom lip.

Ciara found herself suddenly pinned to the floor, with one of Leon’s hands linked to hers and the other popping off the clasp to her cloak. “Hey… how did you get out of those ropes?” she asked in a quiet murmur against his mouth.

“I am a wolf.” he replied, flashy her his cheeky grin as he tugged the sleeves of Ciara’s dress off her shoulders and farther down to expose flawless skin. Warm breath caressed her as his lips moved from neck to shoulders. A hand grazing over her breast as teeth nipped gently at sensitive skin. Ciara’s breath quickened as her hand slid in to his hair and gripped tightly. She pulled him up, dragging him down to her mouth in a greedy kiss.

Sliding a knee between her legs, Leon’s hand moved down her thigh pushing up the folds of her skirt. The thin slip of lace panties were pulled away before he suddenly thrust. Ciara’s hands tightened in his hair and on his shoulder. Her nails digging in to his flesh as she writhed underneath him. Wrapping her legs tightly, she reveled in that delicious mounting pleasure of him moving against her. The taste of his mouth and the warmth of his hands…

“Hmm, Leon…” she said, nuzzling her face against… a pillow?

Ciara’s eyes blinked opened. She was in her own bed, in her own room, apparently snuggling a pillow. How… unfullfilling.

“Oooh Leon! Smoochie smoochie!” said a gruff voice from the floor. Angus was sitting there mimicking her with kissie faces.

There was a growl, a garden gnome flying out of her room, and a door-slam.

Categories
Writing

To Save Him

“Ms. Grey? I’d like to talk to you.”

Ciara Grey looked up from her her desk at the Oracle HQ. She frowned as the younger woman entered the room. Evangeline, the vampire’s psychic. And by the look on her face, this conversation was going to be unpleasant. “Evangeline, if this is about Gabriel, we’ve alre-“

“Lily has an idea, Ms. Grey. We could save him an-“

Lily has an idea?! Evangeline, I would think after the man nearly killed you that is no coming back from that. He is a Carnatelli. A vampire. A monster that has been doing god knows what, slaughtering innocent people, and at a rate where even Anthony would be impressed!” Ciara scowled as she rose from her chair. “It’s time to let him go.”

Evangeline paused, a hand moving up to her neck. Yes, she had nearly died. But that was not Gabriel’s fault. She shook her head slightly. “You have to understand. I love him, Ms. Grey. I couldn’t jus-“

“There isn’t-“

“LISTEN TO ME, PLEASE.” Evangeline shouted! Surprise registered across Ciara’s face. It was a tone she had never heard Evangeline use. A slight frown, Ciara lowered herself back down in her.

“I’m listening.”

Taking a deep breath, Evangeline fidgeted with her fingers. “There have been so many terrible things I’ve seen. Things that have happened. Gabriel has been… He gave me a home when mine was lost, left himself with me when I was scared, pretended to lose a fight so I wouldn’t be mad, let me drag him to feed ducks or play with puppies. He has made me feel like the most important person in the world. Being near him makes all of those awful things that’ve happened worth living through. Maybe I am selfish but… If there is even the slightest chance that I can save him, I have to try.”

“What he’s done can’t be ignored, Evangeline. How do you save someone that murders innocent people? Someone that would hurt you just as easily as looking at you?” Ciara asked.

“It isn’t him. There is something in him. At there gate there was a darkness that tried to push through. It might have wrapped around me, but he- …He is being consumed by it. Her. She is burning him away to lock herself in this world.”

Ciara regarded her with a cool, examining stare. “…What makes you so sure he is possessed? You have said yourself, you cannot seem to read him now. No visions, no psychic mumbo jumbo. How can you know?”

“Touch. Feeling. That darkness is wound around him so tightly that I could not reach out with my mind for him, but as soon as he touched me… I know there is still a piece of him left, and it may not be too late. But the longer it takes, the more of him is burned away…” Evangeline could feel that tightness in her throat. But now was not the time to weep. She had to convince Ms. Grey.

Ciara remained silent for several long moments as her fingers tapped on her desk. “…One chance, Evangeline. I will give you once chance, and if it doesn’t work. ..I will end him.”

“It will work, Ms. Grey! I promise!” Evangeline nearly faint from elation as she rushed towards the door. She had to make preparations. To get the spell ready and bring him to her.

She would save him.

Categories
Writing

Broken Memories

CRACK! Searing pain and a strange sensation of falling. But she lay flat on solid ground. Everything was silent. Empty. Pure Black. There were no words. No pictures. Scents or sounds. Only herself. She had been here once before. A long time ago. A coma… Evangeline pushed herself up to her knees. “Gabriel..? Gabriel!”

“Why do you insist on these fantasies? A dream can’t save you, Evangeline.”

The voice echoed through the darkness with an infuriating amusement. She could sense nothing, but as she turned, suddenly there he was was. His face eye level with hers, that black hair, the perfectly tailored suit. Seeing him. Crouching next to her flashing a fanged smile. Anthony Carnatelli. Evangeline gasped, scooting backwards away from him, only for her hands to feel empty air. There was a gap behind her – an unseen, invisible cliff.

He stepped towards her, his footsteps muted in the black. “There is nowhere left to run. You’ve always belonged to me.”

She is mine. Now and forever.

Evangeline rose to her feet, shakily stepping to the side away from the invisible cliff. “N-no I don’t. He… Gabriel is going to come and get me.” In a blink he was gone, appearing behind her with a solid hand clamped down on her shoulder, the other grabbing her wrist and turning it over. Jerking it up for her to see. A manticore holding a sword in one hand and the world in the other. Anthony’s brand.

“What a tragedy your life has been. If only you had a hero to erase it all away. A guardian angel to save you..?” he chuckled softly, leaning forward to whisper in her ear. “Gabriel isn’t real, Evangeline. A figment of a frightened psychic’s imagination. Pieces twisted to make your pathetic life more bearable…”

“That’s not true..!” she shouted, jerking forward out of his grasp to run. Evangeline made it a few steps before the black was a solid wall before her.

Anthony’s arms came down at both sides of her, preventing another escape. He sneered. “Ah, is it not? Where is your Gabriel, Evangeline? Can you find a single memory..?” A door opened to the side, light spilling out in to the black. Anthony disappeared, only his voice echoing behind. “Memories cannot lie…”

Evangeline stumbled towards the door crossing the threshold in to the light.

A traditional living room, neat and perfect. Guests sitting on the sofa sipping hot cup of tea. There were her parents sitting across the coffee table on the set of chairs. A little girl of six years old standing patiently with her hands behind her back, smiling brightly and rocking on her heels.

“Geoffrey, I have to say, I am impressed with how your advice has turned out. My business is doing splendid since the changes. What do you propose the new year will bring us?”

Her father was replying earnestly. The little girl tilted her head to the side, her mouth twisting to an oddly serious expression for a child. She interrupted loudly. “The stock is going to crash really bad during the fall… But that’s okay, because it gives your wife the reason she needed to move in with her boyfriend! She’ll be much happier!” Everyone in the room went dead silent. No one made a sound until the gentleman’s wife suddenly dropped her teacup. Geoffrey was on his feet, grabbing the child by the arm and dragging her out of the room with a growl.

I know how to behave, I know how to behave…

“I told you not to say a word. Not one word while company was over!” he opened up the closet door and shoved her inside. “You’ll stay in there until you know how to behave.” The closet door slammed and everything was dark again.

Another door opened, bathing the black with light.

“Here it is! My report card. You’ll be pleasantly surprised to know that I am the recipient of straight A’s in all my classes!” Fourteen years old, wearing a private school’s uniform, Evangeline presented her report card to her parents. Her mother gave a quick glance before returning to her needlepoint, her father didn’t even bother to look. There was a twitch at the corner of her mouth, but her smile never wavered. “I know, I was surprised too. All of that studying really made a difference. How about I make dinner for us to celebrate?”

“Yes go and start dinner, dear.” replied her mother evenly.

Evangeline left her report card on the table before skipping out. Ah, she should have asked what they wanted for dinner! Turning back, her hand paused at the doorknob when she overheard speaking.

“Damn it, why did she come home? I thought that school was supposed to keep them all year round!” said Geoffrey.

“Renovations during the holidays, dear. All of the students had to go back to their homes. It’s just for a few days.” The woman didn’t miss a single stitch.

“We should have sent her outside the country. Would have been well worth the extra pounds. Have you read the letters her teachers sent home…?”

Don’t listen to them. Don’t listen.

Evangeline opened the door. Everything flashed white.

Pain. Blackness. Voices. Evangeline blinked down at the girl barely even sixteen, in the hospital bed. Herself. Wrapped in bandages with burns, cuts. Barely even awake, but she could hear her parents arguing with the doctor outside. Two months of black empty space, yet when she opened her eyes, it was still the same. Someone else was in the room. An older woman, who gently leaned over the bed to pat her hand.

“I’m so sorry for what’s happened. If you hadn’t saved my life, you would be fine… but… I am so very grateful you did. I don’t know what would have happened to my children if I had- I… Just, thank you. Thank you, so much.” Evangeline shrugged her shoulders, mumbling an embarrassed you’re welcome. The woman thanked her again before leaving. She left the door open, and voices trickled inside.

“There doesn’t appear to be any memory loss, but there was severe burn damage to her retina. Ms. Clark seems to be completely blind. We could attempt surgery b-“

“Out of the question. I want her out of this hospital immediately.”

“Sir, your daughter has been in a coma for two months. We can’t just let her walk o-“

“Then call us when she is ready to be retrieved!”

You would have preferred it if I had died. Maybe I should have…

The door closed. Everything shifted to a blur.

Young people stood on board of a large yacht, wearing pretty dresses or dressed down tuxes. Girls were laughing on the front deck as a couple boys were threatening to throw someone overboard. Evangeline, dressed so grownup for eighteen, was listening with a frown. She could feel it, even just watching herself, that sense of foreboding. A vision.

Just mind your own business, Evangeline! Stay out of it..!

One of the girls pointed over to a mousy girl with glasses. Clara, that girl who always carried around a Pixie Pony purse, and talked about frogs. The boys moved over to her plucking at her hair and poking her in the sides. “You’re looking too hot for this party, Clara! Maybe you need a dip!” laughed one of the girls.

Evangeline with a cane in hand, slid easily in to the middle of the group blocking a boy’s attempt at grabbing Clara. “Really, Tiffany, everyone knows you’re the prettiest girl here. I mean, you sure don’t want to go swimming, no reason to send Clara off.” she said with a smile, poking another boy away with her cane.

“Figures a freak would come rescue a freak! You heard her, boys. There’s no reason to throw Clara overboard.” The look on her face spoke volumes of who she wanted to throw now, but Evangeline couldn’t see. Before she had a chance to scream or swing in defense, she found herself off her feet and plummeting down to the cold ocean water below. Coughing as she rose to the surface, she couldn’t seem to grasp which direction to swim towards. She could hear Clara screaming her name and shouting for the boat to turn around, but it was getting farther and farther away…!

This all has nothing to do with anything! He was not there for any of this..!

No…? Then where did it begin, Evangeline…?

When I met…

“…Hello? I’m looking for someone…?” Evangeline called out in the empty warehouse. The place felt wrong… like danger.

“Excuse me, Miss. Did I hear you ask for someone…?” replied a voice. A man stepped out, black hair and a scar across his face.

“I have something important about Anthony Carnatelli.”

“Why then, you’ve come to the right place…” Silvery strands of thread appearing in his hands, wrapped around his wrists.

This isn’t right. Something is missing here…

“Good! Because it’s really important. He has a sword but the vision wasn’t exactly clear, I think it’s about this big-” Evangeline was trying to measure out her hands about the correct length, but no, that didn’t seem right either. He was stepping closer and she stopped. “I guess the size isn’t really important, but rather what it does. I think I’d rather talk about it somewhere else, though. This place feels wrong.”

He tilted his head slightly at her. The string around his wrist was getting longer now. “I get that a lot. But I assure you, this warehouse is as right as can be.” He moved closer, smirking to himself. “Now, about the sword…”

“It’s really not okay, this warehouse, I mean. I suppose I should have mentioned I’m a psychic. Which is what I meant about the vision. I’d just feel more comfortable somewhere else.”

He flicked his wrist and the string dissolved. He stepped forward. “A psychic. Most intriguing. Here, I’ll guide you outside and we can talk in my car.” He reached out and took her hand and started leading her outside. There was that feeling, danger. Dark. Evil. Disturbing. Marionette. Michael. Evangeline jerked her hand out of his grasp to back away. His Marionettes appeared. She was swinging her cane to defend herself.

That isn’t how it happened. There was more…

It’s your own memory, Evangeline.

A bright flash of light. The scene shifted again.

“That’s not my puppy..!” she screamed, stumbling through a door. The room was small and padded, blocked from the outside world, but not the inside. Voices, screaming, mental prodding. An institution for the dangerously insane. Evangeline stepped quickly to the side as a were’s claw came swiping down at her, missing flesh to shred padding at the wall. Just as suddenly as it had came, it was gone again. The room’s door slowly crept open, a silhouette in the frame.

I don’t want to see this.

Evangeline backed away slowly, silver threads winding their away around her ankles. Her attempt at running was cut short by a sharp jerk, her body hitting the ground. Faster than she could scream, he was over her. Twisted and different. White hair, a single wing, a horn on his forehead. Michael was a monster.

Don’t make me remember. I don’t want to remember.

“..He took something… Now I take someone…” Fingers squeezing around her throat, clawed hand wrapping around her wrist pinned at the side of her head. She could feel hot breath against her skin and the heavy weight of his body hovering over her.

“One brick… two bricks… three bricks…” The room slowly started to fade as Evangeline counted. “seven bricks… eight bricks… nine…” All was dark, though her voice still echoed. “Fourteen… fifteen… sixteen bricks…”

That’s enough. No more…

Do you know where you belong, Evangeline?

Ocean waves crashed against the steel hull of the ship. Miles away from civilization. Far away from everything. Sealed in by water, surrounded by demons. Evangeline ran down the stairs, something snatching out a paw from behind the steps to grab her leg. She stumbled down the last few steps, landing painfully on the floor. But she didn’t stop. Picking herself up, she kept on moving. Standing still was worse than running. If she ran, he would come and find her. He would help her…

Where is he..? I can’t find him…

No one came to help you, Evangeline. No one cares to save you…

“This is all wrong. Why can’t I find him..?” The memories were gone, replaced by the black void. Evangeline tried to look, but… it was all gone. He wasn’t there.

Anthony leaned behind her, pressing close to her ear to whisper. “Your hero is nothing but a twisted dream. Come to me, where you belong.”

No..! Evangeline dashed forward in to the darkness. Anthony’s laughter following behind her. A glimmer of light from above slowly came in to view. The full moon tainted a grim red in the sky, casting a strange tint to the forest of trees that appeared. Void of leaves with branches twisted at odd angles, they seemed to have ghastly faces cut out of the bark. The howl of something large behind sent Evangeline running. Branches whipping out trying to lash at her, snagging at the white satin of the dress she was now wearing.

Tripping over a root lifting up from the ground, she crashed to the forest floor. A frog was there off to the side of her. It opened it’s mouth wide revealing rows and rows of fangs. On her feet again, screaming, Evangeline ran across a shallow creek. Watery hands with long arms, shot up from the surface grabbing at her and trying to pull her down. Prying herself away, she crawled to the other bank. There was an old woman…!

“Please, help..!” Evangeline called, taking the women by the arm. She gasped and stumbled back when the women turned around, a grotesque half rotting face with hollow eye sockets!

“What beautiful eyes… I must have them!” she grabbed Evangeline, long claws reaching up to pluck at her face. Evangeline shoved her roughly away, running farther still.

Vines appeared, covered in thorns. Growing up out of the ground in thick coils, in front of her and behind. Evangeline crawled through them, ignoring the stinging pain as she pushed them aside. Deep gashes down her arms and over her palms leaving crimson stains over the white satin. A wooden door appeared. Reaching it, she stumbled inside, slamming it. The walls inside were made of stones. Yellow glowing eyes peered from the shadows. Evangeline dashed towards the stairs, running up, never looking back to see what was pounding behind her.

At the end of the winding staircase another door. Passing through it, Evangeline crashed against a mirror. The door vanished. Here was a maze of mirrors. Everywhere she could see her reflection. A hand reached out towards her from one of the mirrors. Only one. She backed away pressing against another mirrored wall. But there it was, the hand instead clamping itself over her face. Screaming and tearing herself away, she ran. Her movement feeling slow, impossible. Like trying to trudge through water.

The maze opened up to a huge empty chamber. In the center a small bronze statue with a globe of the earth hovering above it. Evangeline moved forward, finally dropping to her knees before it. A manticore. The statue moved, the bronze hands locking tightly around her wrists. Lifting her hands up over it’s head to cup just below the globe. Blood dripped from her finger tips to trickle down the statue.

Anthony crouched beside her, running the back of his fingers down her bleeding arm. “To whom do you belong, Evangeline?”

She stared blankly at the globe, turning so slowly above her hands. “I am your Seer. I belong to you…”

He smirked, leaning close. “You belong to me. Let no one try and take you away. Erase them. Destroy them.”

“I will erase them. Erase them from existence…”

Categories
Writing

Returning to England

Evangeline stepped off the bus on to the corner street in front of an Odds n’ Ends store. Opening up the front door smiling, she called out, “Melissa! Your favorite renter is home!”

“Evangeline!” sounded a friendly voice. An older women with greying hair and a big apron wrapped around her waist, steered around the checkout counter to embrace her. “You haven’t called in forever, and then people started coming by and then your parents, I-“

“People?” Evangeline asked, leaning back and blinking. “Did I forget to give notice that I’d be out of town for awhile?”

Melissa shuffled on her feet. “No, no. These were complete strangers. What sort of trouble have you gotten in to, Evangeline? This man came by asking all sorts of personal questions, and not a week ago your parents came and took all of your things! Said you wouldn’t be living here anymore!”

“Bother!” Evangeline grumbled. “I think Mother is in a panic because Father is ill, she wanted me to come home straight away. I suppose to move back in. But that’d be miserable, so I’ll just get my things back.” There was a brief awkward silence. Evangeline tilted her head. “What’s the matter, now? I can’t move back in?”

“Crickets, Evangeline, I’m so sorry. But I did tell you ages ago that Harold was going to retire soon, and well… he did! Now he has this fancy idea of traveling around the world like nomads and we’ve sold the shop. I just couldn’t get a hold of you, oh dear, I hope this doesn’t put you out!” apologized Melissa, she sounded ready to cry!

Evangeline just laughed and shrugged her shoulders. “It’s all right! I’m sure it’s fate’s gentle nudging that I need to be elsewhere. Once I make sure Father is okay, I have to fly back to America. I’ll just rent an apartment or something.”

It took a little convincing to reassure Melissa that she wasn’t put out of a home, but once that was done and she kissed her cheek goodbye, Evangeline was off straight to her parents house.

The home of Mr. and Mrs. Clark was a little run down, but it was a nice sized home with a grand door. Evangeline didn’t have to wait long before the door open, and she greeted her mother with a smile. “Hello Mother! How is Father? I hope I didn’t take too long, I stopped by my flat but apparently you cleared out my things?”

Her mother was silent as Evangeline talked, stepping aside to let her in and closing the door behind her. “Your Father and I wish to speak with you. Come with me to the den.” Mrs. Clark’s tone was cool as she led the way.

“I thought Father was in the hospital. Was he released early?” Evangeline replied. They entered the den where her father promptly stood. There was another individual in the room, a man, but a stranger she hadn’t met before. He was definitely a doctor, but now she was sure it wasn’t for her father.

Mr. Clark cleared his throat. “I am not ill, Evangeline. However, the fib was necessary to bring you home. Running around the world on these… these… crazy whims of yours, and now you’re chasing mythical creatures? A nice young man came to see us, Evangeline, and we’re worried about your… sanity.”

This was entirely too confusing. First Evangeline was trying to figure out who was talking to her parents about her, and then she was just angry that they assume she was crazy! “My sanity is perfectly sound. I’m certainly not chasing around imaginary people. Why couldn’t you just talk to me on the phone?”

Mr. and Mrs. Clark cast a look between each other when the stranger finally spoke. “Ms. Clark, your parents are just concerned about your welfare. They’ve been told that you think of yourself as some sort of psychic and that you believe you’re a vampire to save the world? That sounds extraordinary. Unbelievable. You must understand. They would like you to see a doctor, just a little evaluation…”

“Oho! This again!” Evangeline was doing very well to keep her voice even, but she was incredibly frustrated. “You know I’m not crazy and I’m most certainly not a liar. If it’ll make you happy, I’ll see your doctor, but it’s really just wasting out time. I need to get back to the States.”

With Evangeline in agreement, they ushered in to a vehicle to drive off to the doctor’s place. Evangeline remained silent, keeping her temper in check. It was so rare when something would make her so mad. Her parents were… unreasonable. Practically disowning her and then making up stories to get her to come home, only to have her evaluated. If they were so embarrassed by her, they could pretend she didn’t exist!

Her thoughts were cut short when they arrived to the hospital. Something about the place was off, but Evangeline couldn’t seem to figure it out. It felt like a hospital, but it came with such an ominous sinking feeling.

“Ms. Clark, if you’ll come with us…” said a voice inside, gently taking her by the arm.

Her parents remained by the door, impassive. “Thank you, Doctor. Please let Mr. Carnatelli know we appreciate him taking care of this for us.”

Evangeline stopped dead in her tracks, yanking her arm free. “Wait a second! What do you mean, Mr. Carnatelli? Anthony Carnatelli?” She didn’t get far before she was snatched again, both arms being held firm by two assistants as they drug her down the hall. Her parents were already leaving, while the Doctor followed close behind.

“Ms. Clark, it’s really in your best interests not to struggle. I’m sure Mr. Carnatelli would be upset if his special guest were to injure herself before he had a chance to greet you.”

As she fought being pulled down the hall, it was a cold realization. A trap… a very elaborate trap! Evangeline hadn’t thought on how strange it was for her mother to call, especially not even knowing how to reach her. Or how her parents would even know what she had been doing lately! She should have realized…!

A prick on her arm, followed by being thrown roughing in to a cramped padded room, Evangeline was left alone. Woozy with something rushing through her veins, she crawled to the corner, pulling her hands up to block the voices that were starting to pry in to her head. The place was starting to open, like cell doors. A hospital of evil beings, all looking for a soul to latch on to. All chipping away brick by brick…

Categories
Writing

Daydreaming

A beautiful autumn day. Crisp air with just a hint of the coming winter gave a sweet chill. The leaves on the trees were a myriad of colors from orange, to red to deep browns. Occasionally some would drop from the branches when the wind blew, giving a cascade of colors as they drifted to the ground. In the park it was quiet, peaceful and perfect.

Evangeline took Gabriel’s hand and positioned his arms for a proper waltz. She was wearing a long brown coat over a warm dress. A vibrant colored scarf wrapped snugly around her neck. The best part was looking at Gabriel. Just as she always saw him, with coal black hair and storm grey eyes. His serious expression as she guided him in to the steps of the waltz, following along with the music in her head.

Dancing like this was exhilarating! Romantic! For a vampire that didn’t dance, he always moved just right. But the best part was him sliding an arm around her waist to draw her close. Leaning down to whisper gently in her ear.

“Seer.”

“Seer. …Evangeline.”

“Yes! Oh um-!” Evangeline snapped out of her daydream so quickly, that she knocked over the jar of pencils on the desk and was quickly fumbling to snatch them all before they escape. She was flushing furiously as she tried to clear her throat.

Gabriel was leaning next to her over her chair, his eyebrow raised. “You look ill.”

Blast it! “No, no! I’m okay!” Sometimes Evangeline wondered if he really could read her thoughts, and this was one of those moments she really hoped he couldn’t! She really shouldn’t have been daydreaming like she was, especially about Gabriel. But… she was just catching herself far too often lately! “Really. I’m ready to go!” She hopped out of her chair quickly and was escaping for the door.

Gabriel straightened, casting a smirk as he followed.

Categories
Writing

Prophecy of the Lady Shade

“Something wicked this way comes…” said the creaky voice from the woman on the side of the road. Old and withered, her skin was hanging off her bones as loose as the cloak she had wrapped around her. Her eyes trained on the two walking down the street. In particular the taller figure, dressed in dark brown with dark ebony hair.

“So it does, woman.” hissed the ebony haired figure in a female’s voice. A flash of pearly white teeth in a devious smirk. Beside her, a slight shorter man, solid in build but older with a graying beard. He coughed softly and clucked his tongue to deviate her attention.

“Watch your temper, Caoilainn…” he warned with a form tone.

Caoilainn rolled her eyes, paying no heed. “There is naught wrong with my temper.”

The beggar woman suddenly began laughing. A high pitched, choked sort of sound in between her wheezing. “Beware thyne demon soul, o’ Lady of Shade! For when the golden voice speaks, you will destroy that which shines!”

There went her temper. Snarling as she pulled a knife from her belt, it was only the heavy hand of her companion grabbing on to the back of her neck that kept her still. “Stay your hand. Steel should not be wasted on the rambles of beggars.”

Casting the old beggar woman a final glare, the two continued on their way…

Categories
Writing

Buried Alive

Mist rolled over frost covered grass, lending the quiet graveyard a picturesque and creepy atmosphere that seemed all to befitting for the work she was up to. The ground crunched under her feet as she stepped over tombstones and unmarked graves. Winter left the sky clear, with a perfect view of twinkling stars over head. But the moon was hidden behind Earth’s shadow, giving no illumination for her to see by. There was only the faint outline of trees and towering monuments to the deceased.

“Well, this was a waste of time…” Caroline muttered to herself. Her breath coming out in a visible puff with the cool air. A sudden sound of footsteps behind her had her spinning around, holding out a hand ready to cast a spell.

“I wouldn’t call it a waste of time.” Several torches lit up all at once in a wide circle from where they were standing. Before her now was a man, hardly even recognizable. Half of his body was scarred deep with old burn wounds, yet he wore a satisfied smile.

Nerenc. Had it been a hundred years since she vanquished him..? “You may be right. It seems I need to finish something.” Throwing out a hand and casting a spell, half the torches went out as a sudden gust of wind tore through the graveyard. Her coal black ribbons were in her hands, and cracking like a long whip in Nerenc’s direction. He jumped to the side, dashing behind stones and monuments for cover. Circling around her and always staying just out of reach.

Growling to herself, another crack of wind had the rest of the torches going out. The graveyard cast in darkness once again, she used this to jump up in the air, over one of the stones and land neatly in his way. Before he dodged her again, her ribbons wrapped right around his neck and jerked him back. She slung him hard, throwing him several feet away and in to the side of a mausoleum wall.

Her footsteps were soft as she crossed the grass. A curious raise of her eyebrow when Nerenc raised himself up, only casting her a wide grin. “Perfect, Caiolainn.” Before she realized what had happened something was drawn from his pocket. BANG BANG BANG. It felt like fire ripping through her skin. Paralyzing her with the unexpected pain. Hissing through her teeth she took two stumbling steps forward. By now Nerenc was back to his feet and approaching. The gun that was steaming in his hands disappeared, only to be replaced with a knife. Caroline was trying to draw up a spell, a transport spell, but nothing seemed to be coming. Her knees were giving out from under her.

Nerenc caught her around the waist, smirking wide right before the knife of black onyx was shoved roughly in to her side. Blood oozing down from the stone to cover his hand. Not letting her crumble to the ground just yet, he dragged her to the side for several paces. He leaned and whispered in her ear. “What was it that you said to me…? ‘You’ll burn before you bury me.’ I’ve burned. Now it’s your turn…” With a violent shove, Caroline fell backwards, landing a good seven feet below. A fresh grave with a coffin waiting. The lid slammed down over her, followed by the hushed sounds of dirt and rock being tossed on it.

Caroline struggled to move. Cast magic. Anything. In a short jerked motion she pulled the knife out of the side. It falling next to her with a clunk when it slipped from her hand. Blood was draining away in a pool under her. Another attempt at a transport spell failed. The bullets lodged in her had some sort of enchantment..! With a choked cry Caroline pressed her hands against the metal lid, trying to push, hit, claw. The more she fought to move it, the weaker she become. Fear started grow… real genuine fear. She was going to die like this. Never had she any value of her life and here she lay bleeding to death and all she could think of was Dark tearing up Evangeline’s castle when she didn’t come home. Ironic that she would realize she didn’t want to die when it was too late.

Categories
Writing

The Burning

“And I thought you wouldn’t be coming, oh Raven Shade.” The demon chuckled as a body dropped from his hands. Blood dripped from his finger tips and from his mouth. There were three others standing in various places, each covered with the blood and gore of the man they had just slaughtered for an evening supper.

“Your timing is truly impeccable.” Caroline hissed through her teeth. Without wasting time on witty banter her ribbons were summoned in one hand and a bolt spell in the other. She let both fly, sending the group of demons scattered in every direction.

Though they were cackling with amusement, they knew to keep a fair distance between themselves and her. Lady Shade, Raven Shade, Midnight Warrior amongst many other names preceded the woman’s reputation. Coming across her wasn’t their intention, but now that they had, she would need to be removed if they wanted free feeding over the juicy humans!

Their trouble, was that even between the four of them they could not land a spell. Lightning deflected, casting diffused. Frustration took one of them and recklessly he had pulled out a sword to charge, only to be slashed down without even getting to take a swing.

The other three ran. She followed.

They were around the corner of a townhome and in to the village street when the leader made a sudden stop. He turned, a wild cheeky sort of grin on his face as he held a hand in to the air. The big town clock was just starting to chime 7’oclock.

“I’m late for dinner.” Caroline shouted at them, poising her hands as the demon summoned up his spell. Dark and shadowy, wrapped with twirling purple and burning red, it looked much like a meteor forming in the sky. But instead of hurling it at her, he was chucking it down the street behind him aimed for several of the home buildings at the end of the street. She cursed under her breath. Having to move fast, she summoned her ribbons. Sending the tendrils out with lightning speed to wrap about the churning rocked. She caught it before it smashed in to the buildings and jerked it back. It hurtling and rolling towards the Three and crashing in to the ground where they had formerly been standing.

By now she was annoyed and unamused. While they were still chuckling about their flashy toy, she was flinging it up in to the air. A new spell. From the inside out it started to burn and by the time they finally notice it burst. Shards flinging in several directions. The largest hitting their marks so perfectly on target, it should have been impossible! The Three all dropped dead, churning to ashes along with the remains of their spell.

“Oh my God…”

Caroline froze. Turning slowly to stare in surprise over her shoulder at the startled voice. Two of the women that live in the town were there, staring in disbelief. Now just the two. People peering from windows, standing on the sidewalks. Surprised and horrified. People she didn’t see before. …it seemed one of the demon’s spells had managed to take effect after all. Somehow she did not realize they led her to a public street. The people that had knew her for the past year as Caroline DuPaul, wife of their favorite town speaker…

“Gail, they were demons.” she said quickly, trying to explain.

“Y-you killed them. Just like that.. Oh god… God, y-you’re a witch..!”

“I am not a witch.”

A woman’s scream confessed that the demon’s kill had just been found. Several more townspeople had appeared, most looking frighted, but even more having serious stoic expressions. Someone had roused her husband and she was relieved for only a split second. Until she saw his face.

“What are you..? What have you done..?”

“She’s a witch! A WITCH!”

“A murderer!”

Things were going downhill fast. People were panicking. But Caroline only looked to Louis, taking a step closer to him just for him to back away. “Louis, please, let me explain. They were demons and going to hurt people. I’m not a witch, but I’m not normal. I’m- ”

“A monster.” he responded. Cutting her short with one simple cold word. “I married a monster. You bewitched me.”

“Louis, I love you, just listen to me please! I was trying to protect you!” A couple of the townsmen grabbed her by the arms, dragging her off to the center of town. Caroline could have fought them. Slung them away as if they had weighed nothing. But if she did wouldn’t it confirm their fears? Surely Louis would get over the initial shock and want to speak to her. To let her explain.

But a stake was erected in the town square, complete with wood for a pyre. Caroline was tied to the stake, surrounded by most of the people in the village. Screaming witch, demon, monster. She couldn’t find Louis and the moment she did, her heart sank. He had the torch and wordlessly approached. No final words, no questions asked. Just a hard scowl on his charming face before he tossed the torch on to the pyre.

Everything went up in flames quickly. Black smoke filling the sky. Still she was hoping. He’d stop it. He would save his wife. He loved her? No screaming for the burning to stop ever came. Caroline could feel the fire beginning to singe her clothes, and before much longer it would be too late. She wasn’t going to die here, even if it was deserved.

A casted spell of glamor and then a transport spell. Caroline dropped to her feet outside of the town. She could see the glow of the flames at the center. All the villagers would see was a spell of her burning alive. They would never know she had escaped. She could go back if she wanted. But she wouldn’t. Not to fetch her things, not to speak to Louis… He had made the choice and he had wanted to see her die.

So Caroline turned her back and walked away. Caroline DuPaul was dead tonight.

Categories
Writing

Malsuada’s Revenge

“Like hell I’m staying here with HIM!”

Caroline was finishing up a cup a tea while Dark was trying to make it loudly clear that he didn’t intend to spend the evening with Alistair. Not that she blamed him. With Lily Grey and Conrad gone to Montana instead of being around to get him riled up, staying behind with Alistair must have been boring indeed. With that same restrained patience she usually used with him, Caroline had the porcelain cup vanish as she frowned at Dark.

“We’ve discussed this many times before. You cannot always come with me. I’m sure a few hours with Alistair will not harm you.”

“That’s what you think.” Dark muttered under his breath.

Caroline pretended not to hear, casting a sideways grin as she pulled out the small needle from her pocket. “Behave.” Before he could shout more protests at her she vanished.

– – –

Caroline landed neatly on her feet, standing in knee high grass looking towards a large house. Old and abandoned, it didn’t seem like anyone had been living there for a very long time. She frowned. A contact had said there was a family recently living here having issues with a particularly nasty haunting. Alas, maybe her contact was thinking “recently” in terms of demon years instead of humans.

With a wary silence, Caroline approached the house. Stepping over the shifted path stones and watching her step as she climbed on to the porch. The aura of the place was eerie. Not in the sense that she felt an odd presence, but nearly the opposite. Everything here felt dead. Even the air was stale and still.

Inside the home pieces of abandoned furniture was scattered across the floor. Broken pieces of an old life. There were even pictures on the walls, faded and indescribable. As she wandered in to the kitchen a stew pot and a kettle sat on the stove. What used to be in them was long gone. There was definitely a family here at one time. One that vanished in the middle a cooking dinner without a person in the world seeming to notice they were gone.

A giggle made her pause. A very familiar giggle.

“Here she comes. Oh Raven Warrior on thine righteous quest. To save a soul for every one she so brutally slaughtered…”

“Malsuada.” The sound of that woman’s voice made her skin crawl. Not from fear of her but from what the devil would dare show her face for. Caroline had been so sure Gabriel had killed her. Even Malsuada could not be so foolish as to tempt fate a second time? “You walk a dangerous line, Malsuada. To be on the mortal world when the Infamous Himself wants to end you.”

Though Malsuada did not appear, her laughter carried through the empty kitchen. “Hahaa! Are you going to use him as a shield again Caoilainn? Half a century you spent slaying demon and beast in the name of penance and here I give you a chance to face your demon, and you wish to summon a knight to save you. You poor little coward…”

Caroline flashed her teeth in a dangerous smile. “Don’t mistake wisdom for cowardice, devil. You finally took the wrong soul and I intend to make sure you get the full benefit of it.”

“That is where you are wrong, Caoilainn.” A shimmer near the corner and Malsuada appeared. A fingernail file in one hand as she looked completely unconcerned with the conversation. “The Infamous One has his weakness and right this very moment it’s being exploited. Without a friend in the world to help him.”

It was enough for Caroline to understand the tone in the devil’s voice and to know that she wasn’t kidding. Pulling out her needle again to cast her transportation spell, she found herself surprised when nothing happened. Malsuda’s unconcerned expression slowly crawled in to a wide self satisfied smirk. “No one. To help him. Not those humans, not that little princess brat, nor his handsome clone child thing. And especially not you.”

Not yet. Caroline sprang forward as if she were going to tackle the woman, but shifted on her heels to dart out the back door. The house had some sort of ward over it, but she could run far enough to get outside of them. Malsuada’s cackling followed her out in the yard along with the odd feeling of a spell being shot outwards. The ground underneath her feet rumbled as bony hands shot up from the dirt in her path and started shuffling towards her. To the side there were more and behind her more still. A strange cross between demon and human, there were nearly a hundred of them!

Caroline summoned her axe. Glimmering silver, there was no hesitation of movement as she swung. Metal met bone as a head went flying. Another swing took an arm. Another lodging in to a chest. From her pockets she pulled out her ribbons, letting the streams fly and wrap around bodies to jerk them aside or fling them aside. There was never any blood as she slashed her way through them, trying to get farther from the house. Only grinding of bones and the hiss of dust and ash flying through the air. At first she was doing well, chopping them down before they drew near her. But the longer it took, the more she realized they were rising again. Claws grabbed at her clothes, ripping through to skin. Caroline banished the ribbons, pulling one of her marbles from her pocket with a crack… finding that it too had no effect. Her magic was getting neutralized!

A panicked growl escaped her as she shoved through several of the demons to make a mad dash back towards the house! She collapsed through the door using a foot to slam it shut behind her. Outside the demons were shuffling after her, now clawing at wood of the house. Caroline drew herself up to her feet trying to catch her breath. Inside, the color of the place had shifted. Everything looked darker. Draped in shadows. As she walked to cross the room they shifted, moving across the ceiling and walls and dripping downwards to follow. Just like outside she was surrounded by it as it drew closer. Griping at her feet and inching upwards as it ate away the light of the room.

‘Is hopelessss. Trapped heeeeerrreeee. There is no escaaaaape. Only deaaaaaath. Despaaaaair.’

Caroline could not move. The voice was eating away at her. Pulling at her mind, burning her thoughts. The floor shifted out from under her with the sound of wood planks shattering. The burning sensation was replaced with ice cold as she hit water. Whatever it was over her had pushed her down until her back hit solid ground. She couldn’t breath! This couldn’t be the end.

Willing herself to move, her hand snuck in to her pocket. Her fingers wrapped around the marbles in her pocket. All of them. Squeezing her hand she cracked them, each one to let loose the reserved power and with it she willed whatever strength she had in her to cast her transport spell.

SPLAAAAAAAAAAASSH!

The ceiling above one very annoyed Dark and a smug Alistair opened up. A ton of water, red water, poured down with large stone bricks dropping around them and globs of dirt and sand. Finally Caroline dropped as well. Clothes torn and coughing up water with blood with a body covered in cuts and burns, she was trying to push herself off the floor.

…and she hadn’t arrived there alone.

Categories
Writing

Soul For a Soul

“You tricked me!”

There were very few moments that Evangeline would actually look angry. Now was one of those, but Caroline was hard pressed to take it seriously. Anger or not, Evangeline always had that gentle softness to her face despite her current attempts at swinging a cane at Caroline’s head.

Caroline ducked, but didn’t waver. “I said I wanted to discuss something with you, I didn’t mention anything about Dark.”

Evangeline huffed, crossing her arms as she turned away to go marching down the path. When one invites you out to the park to talk about an important lesson, usually it’s about your student. …not Gabriel! “Please don’t bring this up again. It’s not anything to be concerned about.”

“You have a voice, Evangeline. Had you any sense you would chain the man down and make him listen. He has no right to treat you this way. Demand him to stay.” It was clear to Caroline that Gabriel loved Evangeline. But what she could not understand was how insistent he was to stay away from her, when he knew how much it hurt her. There was protecting loved ones and then there was being just plain stupid.

Evangeline just shook her head. “I asked him to stay. Insisted. But he chooses not to. I can’t make him if he doesn’t want to.”

“My lady, he lo-” Caroline paused mid-sentence, just as a flashy PLOOF of smoke erupted nearby. It wafted away with a quick wave of the intruder’s arm. A incredibly tall woman with dark ebony skin, hair white as snow, and the most Cheshire grin ever seen. Caroline scowled, nudging Evangeline to stand behind her. “Malsuada.”

“Caoilainn. I’ve come to collect my payment. One soul, please.” Malsuada purred. A long tail was flicking back and forth behind her.

Caroline’s frown shifted to a brief look of surprise before falling back to a deep scowl. “I owe you nothing. I killed your demon for you, yet you betrayed the contract, and my village still died!” Even as she shouted, Caroline was shoving her hands in to her pockets to retrieve her ribbons.

Malsuada was so unconcerned, that the only movement from her was the swish of her tail and a flick of her hand. With that simple motion, a jolt of pain ran through Caroline’s body as she stiffened, unable to move even a single limb! “Caoilainn, you poor simple fool. You got exactly what you asked for. I believe the contract said power to save the village from monsters. And you did, didn’t you? Defeated the entire hoard. I certainly can’t be responsible for you losing control over the power and slaying all of those poor innocent people along with them.”

Caroline was struggling to get her limbs to obey, but with every attempt it felt as if the spell was ripping apart her muscles from the inside out. Through her teeth she gritted out. “You still took your payment.”

“Oh, no, oh no. Killing that helpless little demon child was not payment. Power doesn’t just come from thin air, you know.” Malsuada smirked, glancing at her perfectly talon like nails. “Humans never do read the fine print. A soul, Caoilainn. Power in exchange for a soul. It’s time to pay up.” The stationary spell on Caroline suddenly lifted, causing the woman to drop to the floor trying to gasp for breath to still the pain.

Evangeline had remained silent, but but now she didn’t think she could allow this to go on any longer. “Wait, wait!” she said quickly, easing herself around Caroline to block Malsuada’s way. She held up her hands to make sure she kept a distance. “Do you really need to take her soul? Maybe you might like something else instead!”

Malsuada raised an eyebrow at the small woman – one’s whose own soul was so brilliantly shining that it didn’t take a second for Malsuada to know what she wanted! “I might be persuaded to take something else. Oh, but… souls are what we devils treasure the most. To give up Caoilainn I would only take one of greater value. Do you have a valuable soul, precious wee human?”

“My lady, you have nothing to offer her.” Caroline hissed. She was struggled to get herself off the floor. Stories about Evangeline’s reckless rescues had circulated across Oracle. Deals with Devils was not something she needed to be involved in!

Evangeline tilted her head, trying to give it some consideration. Trading her own soul wouldn’t be very wise. And she certainly didn’t have any other souls to give in exchange. But, there was no way she could the devil take Caroline away, especially after she had taken such good care of Dark and herself. Good people could not be left to fend for themselves! “Well… I’d like to keep my soul, but would you like to take me instead? I don’t want to die, mind you, so you could have my life as long as I am alive?”

Perfect! It wasn’t a soul, but Malsuada knew how to get what she wanted and she’d have a lifetime to pull the soul out of the human. Instantly a contract appeared in her hands along with a feathered quill, holding it out for Evangeline to sign. “Trade accepting. Your precious human life for Caoilainn’s soul. Sign on the dotted line, please.”

“Evangeline, don’t you dare!” as feared, Gabriel’s Seer was doing something stupid! Caroline reached out to grasp Evangeline’s leg to pull her back, but she was just out of reach.

“Don’t worry, Caroline. We’ll figure this out later.” Evangeline took the quill and signed on the dotted line, with little fear. Caroline’s life was important, and now that she wouldn’t die, she would be able to help Evangeline out of a much less dire contract. And if Gabriel had not decided to leave for good, maybe he would help too.

Malsuada couldn’t help but smirk. Caroline had nothing that could match her own skills. And now she had a precious shining soul. Possibly the most precious in the world! “The deal is done. Thank you so much Caoilainn! You’ve been so accommodating.” Giggling with unrestrained glee, the signed contract disappeared. Malsuada snatched the wrist of her new prize and pulled her along. The portal to the Devil World opened up and they were gone in an instant.

Shit!” Caroline had never wanted to curse so much in her entire life. With shaking hands she retrieved one of her marbles, cracking it between her fingers to let loose a prepared spell. The magic washed over her slowly, healing the flesh under the skin that had been wretched apart by Malsuada’s spell, but the expended energy came at a cost! Forced to remain where she was until she had the will to move, she could only think on how she would explain to Gabriel.

It was not going to be pretty.

Categories
Writing

Autumn and Lorant

            Spring had crept back over the mountains, slowly melting away snow and gradually rising
the strength of water courses. Lorant clasped the pommel of his walking cane, elegant in his dark
suit. His heavy coat shielded him from the cold and the breeze from the Danube, the air loaded with
scents of water and green… but a shiver ran down the baron’s spine, nonetheless. Night was about
to fall. Spying the grayish sky in squares of emptiness framed by baroque buildings, he noticed the
moon was already visible. Lorant receded back into the darkness of the cab. The Watertown lazily
passed by his window on the way to Obuda, northern area of what is Budapest today. It was a gray
evening in the Spring of 1854, one day after the Night of Walpurgis, when witches await the Devil
in the cold peaks of Bracken in the Harz Mountains. That Devil he also awaited, in a less bombastic
fashion. Lorant absently toyed with his walking cane.

            Many years ago, he had struck his own deal with this devil, no other than the Necromancer
Himself, Bliol the Archdemon. His soul, something he barely thought of, had been sealed by the dark
powers along with embedded forces for him to use till the day of his death. It had seemed necessary,
to take such measures. Lorant, a bright mind by all means, had a personal battle to fight; one battle
in which, in order to win, he would use all resources available. Lorant arched his elegant shoulders,
sinking into the cushioned backrest of his seat. His enemy was his own mother.
            The carriage bounced on its well-oiled mechanisms, the wheels making a regular yet
smashing sound on paved streets. The dark was creeping across the skies, engulfing the last shreds
of light over the city. Gas lamps were being lit. Lorant found himself biting his lip, rather anxiously.
He barely remembered his father, no more than a passing shadow in his earliest years. He died a
mysterious death and passed onto him a large fortune his mother was to hold in stewardship till
Lorant were of age. He had seen the obliged picture of the former Baron; an image that seized his
own and crept over him till taking new life in Lorant’s features.
            ‘You are your father all over again…’ The sickly loving female voice echoed across his mind
with all its scent of lust and the baron growled between tightly closed teeth to eclipse the words. He
pressed his fist on his lips and a cold touch washed over him. It was a ring; a ring in his hand. It was
a simple band of gold, but the slight object made his tense shoulders pull back to a straight position.
Air came back into his lungs. Lorant turned the ring absently around his finger. He pulled himself
off the seat and opened the slit window to speak to the driver.
            “How much longer?”
            “Ten minutes, roughly, sir”.
            Lorant sank back in his seat. His head leaned on the cushion as his fingers tapped on his
polished hat, laying next to him. It was pitch black darkness in his corner. His mother was a black
widow. Her lovers had been many, but all after the image of the deceased Baron. Lorant still
wondered if they were to be hated or to be pitied. All of them met the same fate. His mother was
powerful in her magic and so had he to become a warlock to earn some freedom with hard labor. She
was both pleased and displeased, but he ceased trying to understand her very long ago.
            The carriage clicked on the pavement onto a different cobblestone; his finely tuned ears
perceived the difference no ordinary human would have. They were deeper into Obuda. Soon they
would hit their destination.

            Too much light to his liking. Strange, for the house of a Shadowlord. Lorant blinked slowly
and closed his fingers on his thumb till the joints made a cracking sound. His hands were neatly
clean and groomed, like the hands of a doctor; their movements were precise and agile, almost
graceful. Those hands seemingly spotless had strength enough to choke a horse and break the bones
of a grown man, despite Lorant’s body was rather slender, lean and flexible. He practiced boxing and
fencing, among other strange disciplines. He seemed to have a strange paranoia of self defense, yet
it was perfectly concealed beneath a typical 19th Century sportsman. He paced across the cabinet,
decorated in baroque airs that were close to gothic. The butler returned to add a bottle of excellent
Oporto and an announcement that was more of a gentle warning.
            “The Master will see you.”
            The baron nodded curtly. He picked up the small box he brought along and his fingers
clasped it so tightly the knuckles went white. He did not drink, but tensely waited till a servant came
to guide him deeper into the house.
            The current residence of the Master was built on roman ruins, dating back to the 1st Century
when the Roman Empire seized the region, calling it Aquincum. Obuda, as known now, held many
unseen things beyond its visible Roman past and ancient stones. The house was built on a Node of
Power, chiseled to fit the caprice of the Master, using both the stones of Hungary and her children
to raise proud facades onto the skies. Lorant was slightly taken aback as he was led to a space
beneath the stars, in a impluvium encircled by a primitive cloister. The night sky reflected on the
central pool and a shadow stood next to it; a shadow far more black than all the others, making the
darkness seem grayish around it. Silver eyes shimmered in the silhouette that was the dark shadow.
The pool did not reflect him; only the deep velvet black and blue filled with a myriad of stars.
            Lorant knelt down. The servants seemingly vanished. The shadow moved and took a human
shape. A dark man stood before Lorant and ordered him to rise.
            “Master”, Lorant muttered.
            “It’s been two years or little less”. The dark man spoke Hungarian with a slight German
accent, a hue of amusement filtering through his cultured voice. “What is this you wear? It might be
a small disturbance, but a disturbance nonetheless. I don’t advice to wear sanctified objects
improperly treated.”
            Lorant bit his lip and looked up at his Master. The Archdemon in human shape seemed not
much older than him, not unearthly either despite his terrible beauty and the scent of hidden horrors
that lingered about him. Silvanus Niemeyer as far as human eyes were concerned, was a beautiful
example of a man, a refined noble blood with a dangerous air. Lorant knew better now. Perhaps not
yet enough.
            “I got married”, he muttered.
            “So I heard”, Silvanus replied with an unpleasant smile. “Your household is growing, if it has
not rooted yet.”
            “Not yet,” Lorant muttered. His eyes flashed briefly and his fingers once again clasped the
box he carried. Silvanus watched him with mild curiosity, as if he wondered what this caged beast
would do if cornered in its cage. Lorant was carefully holding back his violent nature; for business,
it was necessary.
            “Master,” Lorant said. “You own my soul. But I have acquired my wife with grants from my
family inheritance.”
            Silvanus arched an eyebrow. He could sense the turmoil within the man from a mile away
and this case was strangely interesting.
            “Does she agree?,” he asked. “She has a soul of her own. Perhaps she owns a mind willing
to be… developed.”
            “She agrees,” Lorant said, a slight growl in the depths of his voice, yet he was overwhelmed
by his bond to the Archdemon. “Her family has my support now.”
            “All this is… interesting, but you still don’t say why you are here,” Silvanus slowly said, his
unpleasant smile getting slightly more pronounced. “Speak your mind, Lorant Riktophen. My time
is not yours.”
            Lorant impulsively looked up once again to see the eyes of the Archdemon, but he could not
hold his gaze. Lorant averted his eyes and was momentaneously captured by the beauty of the night
sky in the dark pool. As if pulling himself out of a dream, he took a step back and gazed briefly at
Silvanus.
            “I brought you an offering,” Lorant said with a flat voice, almost cautiously. “I have brought
this from Egypt. The man who had it was a descendant from one who took this from a tomb in the
Valley of the Kings. It might interest you…”
            Silvanus’ smile disappeared.
            “So you offer a bargain? You might be fooling yourself, Lorant. You cannot pay ransom for
something that is not yours, nor hasn’t been taken from you.”
            “All I ask,” Lorant said, his face starting to betray his anguish, “is to keep her out of your
shadow. When I die, you will claim my soul and your power allows you to take the next precious
thing that captures your fancy. If this would please you, I would hope you’d find it more precious
than her soul. She’s a simple woman with a simple existence. She craves not higher knowledge.”
            “I highly doubt her existence is simple, now that she shares your dwelling,” Silvanus said,
silver and black fire dancing in his eyes as a dark smirk slid on his lips. “What is this you’ve brought
to me?”
            Lorant fell on one knee and held up the box he so tightly held. “When the Angel of Death
turned the land of Egypt into Darkness, opening mighty wings against the sun,” Lorant said, “the
Soultaker descended on the land and took the lives of the first born of the Egyptians. Stories have
said, the Pharaoh asked the priests of Horus to protect the life of his child by fooling the eye of the
Soultaker, the eye than can see the chain holding the soul to the body. The priests brought in an
alchemist, who forged a precious stone that allowed the son of Pharaoh to take the shape of the
alchemist, so that the Soultaker would not see the son of Pharaoh; by these means they hoped to have
his life spared. But when the Soultaker, the Angel of Death entered the palace, the Soultaker looked
into the stone on the boy’s chest and saw beyond their sorcery. So the boy’s life was taken.”
            Silvanus’s eyes narrowed, still silver moons in his beautiful face. Lorant did not see this. He
lifted the lock, still holding up the box.
            “Legend says, when the Angel looked into the Stone, the gaze of the Angel remained within.
Priests and alchemists have sought it, for some believe it allows its owner to cast plague and disease,
retain souls and free them, exorcize demons and read the names of the angels.”
            Light was only the light of the stars and their reflection in the pool, but if Lorant would have
looked up, he would have seen the archdemon seemed mystified.
            “Have you looked into it?”, he asked with barely veiled sarcasm. Lorant held the box more
tightly, mainly to keep his hands from shaking.
            “I could not keep my eyes on it.”
            Silvanus was interested. Curious, almost annoyed. Lorant could feel it. Silvanus touched the
box and finally lifted the lid. A gemstone, about the size of a pheasant’s egg, in an ancient Egyptian
design, rested on black velvet. No wards, no shields secured it. Pale, graceful fingers picked up the
gemstone. Silvanus slowly rose the gemstone to eye level, a simple cord dangling from his hand. He
peered inside.
            His hand promptly closed round the gemstone, encasing it in his fist. When he spoke, his
voice was glacial.
            “Your wife is as yours as can be,” the Archdemon said. “May she share your life and may her
fate be that your life will give her. If you so need her, may your path and hers meet forever.”
            Lorant felt his hackles rise, yet he did not clearly understand why – but he could see what the
Archdemon perceived in the stone had awoken something within him Lorant did not feel prepared
to meet.
            “I am grateful,” he managed to say.
            “The night is deep. The roads are dangerous. You should be careful,” Silvanus’ eyes
shimmered strangely, silver and black fire dancing within them. “Till some other time.”
            Lorant rose, almost glad to be dismissed. With a ritual salute, he left.

            Silvanus slowly opened his hand and stared at the object glistening in his palm; a myriad stars
danced within.
            “Curse you,” he muttered. It was hard to tell to whom the words were aimed. The gemstone
described a long curve and landed in the pool, sinking immediately. Waves quickly rippled,
distorting the image of the starry skies, breaking barely against the edge; a clear drop of water
touched his polished shoes.
            Even after throwing it into the water, he could feel the weight in his hand.

            Lorant left his Master’s grounds as fast as he could. Once back on the dark streets, he
summoned a Hellbeast in the shape of a horse to ride back home. He had sent his wife and his
mother off to Eger, 80 miles from today’s Budapest. In Eger the Riktophens owned a large property;
a sumptuous mansion and some acres of land – so much for the locals attempts to take the lands from
landowners and the Church. Lorant had sent them there in order to have them away from Obuda and
Pest at the time of his interview with Silvanus Niemeyer – someone he intended them to never meet.
The house at Eger was a sort of retreat, more proper maybe, for Summer, but despite the weather was
still cold, the house was comfortable enough and the town was promising. However, Lorant would
rather move them back to the family castle as soon as possible. The journey from Obuda to Eger
would have taken almost two days by normal transportation; in the morning he had sent his luggage
to Eger; but given present situations, he was likely to arrive earlier than his luggage. Perhaps at
nightfall, the next day. It was almost two days earlier than scheduled, but he did not bother to send
a telegram – his mother and Autumn would not need any notice upon his arrival.

            “I hate leaving the house this late… Are you sure this cannot be done come morning?”
Autumn asked with a dubious expression as she stood in the grand foyer. She was pulling on a thick
coat over a modest cinnamon gown, something that was a vast contrast to the vibrant mess of auburn
hair she had pulled free of her face. It was evident she was displeased by the stiff way she stood,
buttoning the coat with slow shaky movements, but her tone remained placating and gentle as she
spoke to the older woman.

            A snort came from the steps, the wilted form of her mother-in-law leaning over the railing.
Strings of pearls and other beads dangled from her neck and clanked against the mahogany wood,
sending a strange echo through the empty halls.

            “It is dreadfully important! A matter of life and death! You will go at once, or I shall tell that
boy of mine that you are a disobedient harlot!” she shrilly replied, as she pointed an accusing ring
laden finger.

            Autumn narrowed her eyes as she finished with the last button, her voice remaining patience
still. “That will be unnecessary, Stasia. I will return soon, so there is no need to wait up for me.”
Tucking a small letter in to her coat, she couldn’t seem to exit the front door quick enough.

            From the steps the older woman’s mouth stretched in to a wide callous smile. “I do hope
not,” Anastasia purred, as she turned on a heel to return up the stairs. “There is only room for I.”

            Had it been day, Autumn might have walked in to town, savoring a bit of freedom from
Anastasia and the sense of cheerfulness walking in the crisp air and blue sky that it would bring. The
manor home was beautiful, decorated richly with the finest of things, but it was often dark and
uncomfortable. A sense of something foreboding seemed to seep out from the very walls, but could
not be explained. Rumors followed the Riktophen name with suggestions of demons, the occult, or
the very devil. All of which Autumn refused to believe were true… until she was first brought home
by the Baron.

            Autumn sighed as she distractedly leaned over and patted the soft neck of the brown mare
she pulled from the stables. Her marriage had been arranged by her father to the Baron Riktophen
and out of duty to her family, she agreed. For many years he had been scheming to have her engaged,
using what he deemed as good bargaining to secure her a fine catch. They had little money in the way
of a dowry, but she was attractive enough to provide a lovely bride. Most suitors would realize his
designs after their fortunes, much to her relief, and she had remained blissfully unmarried up until
then. More unusual it seemed the Baron had sought out her father, offering readily whatever it was
that he wanted for her betrothal. Lorant Riktophen, though attractive, was intimidating. A sort of
violence always seemed to lurk beneath the surface of his strongly controlled persona, and she
greatly feared what would happen if he directed his focus on her. Anastasia liked to play on that fear
for her own agendas.

            Thoughts of her mother-in-law drew her in to a scowl. Anastasia did not approve of her, to
the point of being vicious when her son’s back was turned. Autumn didn’t doubt the crone was the
cause of her husband’s violence and would even go as far to accuse her of the unnatural nature to
their home. While Lorant was away, Anastasia turned murderous, designing a dozen different scenes
to erase the woman she viewed as a threat to her position in the Baron’s life.

            The first endeavor was only discovered by sheer accident as Autumn stumbled over the
woman creating some potion to drop in to the afternoon tea, though she suspected it might not have
been the first try. Odd unexplainable things would often occur in the household, leaving the young
woman constantly weary of what could be lurking. This late night task could very well be another
of Anastasia’s schemes, giving Autumn that uneasy feeling as she rode her way in to town. To expect
the unexpected was an excellent quote, but it was never so easy.

            In the town of Eger it was painfully quiet, the only sounds being melting snow dripping from
rooftops and the dull clops of the horse’s hoofs as it met with the muddy road. Most of the townsfolk
had already returned to their homes and were preparing for bed, as a few lone stragglers were exiting
pubs or other late opened establishments. Autumn led the mare down the street, avoiding lumbering
figures until she reached the address Anastasia had given her. She thought the home looked normal
enough as she climbed down from the horse, making her way to the door as she brought up her hand
and soundly knocked. Almost instantly a stout male form opened the door and leaned in the frame,
regarding her with a bored disinterest.

            “What did you want?” Tilting forward, he cast a look down the empty street as he brushed
his hand through sandy colored hair.

            “I have a letter from Anastasia Riktophen. She mentioned it was important and should be
read right away,” she replied. Suddenly looking more interested, he grasped her arm firmly and
pulled her through the threshold.

            “Come inside, come inside.” The door was closed quickly behind Autumn as he released her
hand and then bode her to follow him to an awaiting chamber. Holding out a hand, he beckoned for
the letter and she readily produced it, placing it in his hands. He broke the seal and read over it, a
peculiar smile crossed his features. Finally he looked back up to her, folding the letter neatly before
he tossed it in to the flames of an waiting mantel.

            Autumn blinked, finding the action made her uneasy. “Is there a message you wish to send
back to her?” she asked, watching as the man simply gave her a feral grin.

            “It won’t be needed.”

            Her hackles began to rise and giving way to instinct she nodded and immediately made her
way to the door, “I shall take my leave, then.”

            “I am afraid that also is not needed.” Before she could turn the knob a hand shot out, grasping
her arm and turning her to face him once again. “The lady has requested that you remain here.
Permanently.”

            Autumn was momentaneously stunned as she cast a quick look towards the fire. The note had
burned to little more than ashes in the fireplace… no doubt a fate Anastasia similarly wished for her!
She unwittingly walked straight in to one of the witches plots!

            “My husband will-“

            “Your husband will know nothing, as it was planned.” He produced a dagger from
somewhere unseen, drawing her closer by the iron locked grip around her arm. Autumn could feel
herself slipping in to a sort of hysteria, but willed herself to steel her nerves and try to think more
clearly!

            “If you mean to kill me..!” she announced suddenly, “could you spare me the pain of being
cut and use a less painful method!”

            At her request he simply laughed! “My blade is not good enough for you? Do you prefer
poison or a nice spell to steal your breath?” Drawing her away from the door, he pulled her closer
to the giant fireplace, resting his dagger on the mantel. He released her arm and turned his back,
seeming to be unconcerned whether or not she’d try escape as he rifled through a writer’s desk.

            With his back turned, Autumn found her hand wrapping around a piece of iron – a poker for
the fire – as he continued a list of different demises for her. Holding her breath at the sudden idea,
she grasped it and taking a wide swing with as much force as she could muster! The man tumbled
forward in to the desk shouting a curse as the mark hit true, but failing to knock him unconscious
as she had hoped. Stealing the dagger from the mantel she gripped it tightly in one hand, with the
poker in the other as he spun around with a mixed look of both irritation and anger.

            “I hadn’t considered you as a fighter!” he growled, darting forward to clasp a hand around
her throat and capture the wrist with the dagger. Giving a startled cry she stabbed his foot with the
poker, succeeding in making him howl with pain. As soon as he faltered she forced her weight
forward, dagger and all, until she thrust it in to his stomach! The man froze staring at her with wide
eyes, as she blinked back with an equally shocked look! Autumn released the blade as she stumbled
back and he fell to his knees, but she could see no blood!

            Gasping, his face seemed to melt away to reveal a grotesque mask of scales and dark coal
skin as the human facade disappeared leaving only the twisted form of a demon in it’s stead. Autumn
stepped back in horror, her shoulders meeting the wall behind her while the demon’s body seemed
to be drawn in to the blade until all that was left was the dagger lying upon the carpet.

            Sliding to the floor she stared at the dagger for several moments. A creature. A demon.
Autumn had seen many strange things, inexplicable things, but never before had she been face to
face with a real beast from hell. Anastasia had send her to such a thing to be murdered. Never again
could she underestimate the lengths the old woman would go to be rid of her.

            For a brief spiteful moment, Autumn considered taking the dagger back with her and tossing
at the feet of Anastasia in defiance. It would serve her ego well for the treachery, but giving her
another weapon didn’t seem like the best course of action. Quickly rising to her feet and leaving the
dagger behind, Autumn left the house and mounted the horse to return back to the manor, not
wanting to linger another moment in case the demon could revive himself from whence he came.

The mare gave protest as Autumn galloped her way home instead of the easy trot the horse was used
to. She simply didn’t want to lurk around in the dark while Anastasia was feeling particularly
murderous. Safe on the grounds Autumn set the horse back in the stables where she belonged and
way her way back to the house. A faint outline from one of the upper story windows caught her
attention, causing her to squint her eyes to see, just as a low growl was heard behind her. Spinning
around, Autumn found herself facing one of Anastasia’s dogs, though they looked more to her like
over grown wolves!

            “Nice dog… You’re not hungry…” she mumbled, only being replied to with another more
ferocious growl. Unable to turn and run, the dog suddenly pounced knocking the breath from her as
she fell to the ground. She could feel its claws sinking in to her skin as it opened up it’s jaw to bite!

            Eger. Night had fallen before he left the woods; Lorant had stayed off the road, traveling
trails the government officials sure did not know of. The demonic beast exhaled a misty vapor as its
powerful breathing made its ribs move under the Baron’s legs. Lorant’s own breath formed tiny
crystals on his pale face. The demonic beast’s eyes were blazing red, but the Baron’s were clear hazel
with a strange inner light that gave them a metallic shimmer. Almost bronze. The woods were silent,
yet every now and then the sounds of falling, wet snow gave way to strange cries and calls that
would make any human’s hair stand on end, but for him these were signposts, calls from the strange
beings than roamed the woods. Once out of the black forest, whose trees grew close, thin and tall like
an army of spears, Lorant led the horse shaped hellbeast once more into a gallop, yet less unnaturally
fast. He rode hard a whole night and day, then once more into the night. The town lights were
flickering in the darkness as he approached Eger. Eluding lit up streets, he took a detour and
blackened alleys to his own dwellings, to the service gate of the household. The beast seemed wary
as they took the final turn, heading to the manor. Its nostrils dilated as its eyes shone in the darkness;
the Baron peered ahead… He was about to dismount and dismiss the hellbeast when he saw a silvery
flash dash from the bush and a guttural growl. Lorant arched an eyebrow and nudged the beast to go
forward, following the slight sound to the side of the big stone building, to the court were the stables
are. Hinges creaked, causing the Baron’s ear to pulsate slightly…

            The growl again, stronger. The dogs. At least, one of them, had cornered something – or
someone. Lorant prepared to dismount, coolly shrugging the matter off.

            “Nice dog… You’re not hungry…” a female voice mumbled, sending a chill down his spine.
Another more ferocious growl followed; Lorant’s eyes dilated. He made the hellbeast rush into the
court just as Autumn’s body hit the dirt with a hushed sound of heavy clothes; the Baron abruptly
stopped the hellbeast before it could stomp over the dire wolf, for he suddenly realize Autumn would
not be spared; the hellbeast in shape of a horse neighed loudly with a hellish sound, recoiling on two
legs as the Baron dropped himself from it and leapt onto the startled wolf, whose jaws closed with
a metallic sound barely millimeters away from the woman’s flesh. The wolf violently turned around
against the Baron, whose walking cane broke to splinters as he smashed it onto the wolf’s muzzle.
The wolf was but momentarily forced to open and close its jaw and blood trickled from its nose, but
its momentum knocked the man off his feet. Growling, the wolf violently flailed as the Baron seized
it with tremendous force as to smash it against the ground, leaping back on his feet; the wolf
described an arc in the air and teeth flashed as it aimed for the Baron’s throat. Lorant’s fist connected
the beast’s ribs, forcing the air out in a screech and the teeth only ripped his clothes. The man
however got an iron grip on the wolf’s neck and his arms held his prey tightly, his hands locked on
its throat. Lorant’s eyes shimmered savagely as the yellow shimmer in the wolf’s eyes dimmed by the
second till its neck was broken with a blood-curdling crack.

            Lorant dropped the body, panting yet not a sound came out of him. His shoulders moved as
he tried to catch his breath, his raven black hair partially covering his face, pale in the moonlight.
The horse-shaped hellbeast kicked the dirt and shook its powerful head with an unnatural neigh.
Lorant swallowed and crossed the distance to his shocked, fallen wife in long strides. He fell on his
knees next to her.

            “Autumn…”, he muttered, breathlessly.

            Her breath had not yet returned to her, or perhaps she was still so stunned she simply could
not breathe. He had come charging out of the darkness like a sort of black knight; fighting the beast
until he snapped the life from it with his bare hands. It was amazing and frightening all at the same
time, leaving her confused but grateful that the dog hadn’t succeeded in sinking it’s teeth in to her
throat. Managing to sit up, she unconsciously brought her hand to her shoulder where the wolf’s
claws punctured minor scratches in her skin. She spared the fallen beast a brief glance before
averting her gaze quickly to the Baron and the shreds in his clothes.

            ‘Should I tell him what Stasia has done…?’ she wondered. Would he be angry for not telling
him sooner? Or did he believe the tales Anastasia would spin for him?

            “Thank you.” Autumn finally choked out, unable to speak of the older woman’s plots just
yet. Lorant shivered as if the cold would have filtered through his clothes just now, despite he had
rode all day and almost a full night in a deeper cold. The Baron hesitated, then seized her as he rose,
carrying her in his arms. Lorant gazed around, but did not see or perceive more of the creatures. The
horse-shaped hellbeast neighed with disdain as a strange vapor floated about the dead wolf, its corpse
losing heat quickly. Lorant noticed the mare nervously staring from the shadows of the stable, a
single lamp hanging there; the other horses were as well uneasy, sensing the evil he rode too close
for comfort; they were stirring and making scared noises. He did not miss the fact his wife was
returning home after dark, unaccompanied. His fingers clasped the thick fabric of her coat as he
carefully carried her. His eyes shimmered strangely in the dark.

            “…” He seemed about to speak, but refrained and simply headed to the main building with
his cargo, seemingly unconcerned about the hellbeast, the dead wolf and the terrified horses in the
stable.

            Autumn rested limply against him as he carried her in to the house, her legs feeling too weak
to make a protest that she could walk on her own. Inside, Anastasia was there waiting dressed in her
sleeping robes as if she had just then risen from bed. Painted across her face was a look of scorn and
chiding at the woman carried in her son’s arms.

            “I awoke to find the chit had escaped from the house! Off to meet some beau for an affair,
I bet!”

            Gritting her teeth as she squeezed her eyes shut, it was all Autumn could do to keep from
shouting at the woman and mentioning all the excursions that Anastasia had put her through.

            Anastasia took her silence as a confession of guilt, giving a long almost feral grin. “See!
Caught in the act by her own husband! Toss her out for the dogs, where she belongs!”

            “Toss her out for the dogs, indeed”, muttered Lorant. He smiled at his mother – a feral smile
as well but his was mirthless, giving a sickening touch to it. “You would have to let out another, dear
mother. The one outside is… indisposed.”

            Lorant’s fingers were almost sinking through his wife’s coat, his own stained in mud and dirt
from the fight. Bruised skin showed through the shreds at his shoulder, showing the viciousness the
direwolves could display in a single bite. Holding Autumn, he leaned his head forward ever so
slightly; by now he had smelled the scent of a demon about her. Yet Lorant did not discard the hour
and the extremely suspicious arrival of Autumn after dark, he refused to give his mother any
satisfaction. She was his enemy, he could never forgive the things she had done to him. But on the
surface prevailed a tense mockery of a loving mother and son relationship. Autumn was different.
She was his own and he wouldn’t allow his mother to have a share.

            Nor would he play a variety show for her.

            “You’d do well asking me how am I doing,” he continued, putting up a fake saddened
expression. “But you care very little about me lately, mother. I will see about my wife – she will
answer to me.”

            His gripped tightened on her and his reply gave her chills, but Autumn remained silent. It
would be easier to make explanations without Anastasia chiming in with wild accusations and false
pieces of proof to make her look guilty. Yet, Autumn was still unsure what she would or even how
she would say it to free herself from looking guilty but spare a turbulent argument – one she had no
chance of winning once his mind was set. Her shoulder was beginning to throb with a dull ache as
she stared at the faint the bruises on Lorant’s perplexed at how he could fight the beast yet remained
little harmed.

            Anastasia looked slightly disappointed with her son’s reply, but she waved it away with a
flippant movement of her hand. “I am trying to protect my dearest from the vapid girl, but if you
wish to be foolish it is your own doing!” she complained, casting Autumn another disapproving look.
“Best carry a knife to bed or she’ll murder you in your sleep.”

            “The snakes in your hair are showing, Stasia…” Autumn growled barely over a whisper,
finding it increasingly impossible to ignore her ranting.

            The older woman bristled, seeming about to let loose another reply, but calmed herself with
a haughty tilt of her nose. “I will be in bed, dearest. Do call for mommy when you are through with
her!” Not bothering with her usual kisses or sanguine goodnights, she left her son standing in the
hall.

            Do call for your mommy when you are through.

            Lorant had a small shiver, yet he growled under his breath sort of chiding himself for it. How
many times he had heard those words, ever since he was a child? But what for other children was
a happy reminder, for him it only sparked a desire to run. Autumn’s mutter nor pleased or displeased
him. However, any intention he might have had to remind her not to insult his mother disappeared
when Anastasia bid her farewells. Lorant scowled after her and headed for the stairs with Autumn,
giving her as little mind as if she were part of his luggage. The stairs were long and winded, but he
sauntered up the carpeted wooden staircase with ease. After stopping for a second, peering down the
hall in case more beasts roamed free, the Baron headed for the Master bedroom with his wife in his
arms. After maneuvering a little he managed to fling the door open and enter the room. The door
bounced and closed behind him with a dry clang.

            Lorant was biting his lip when he sat his wife down on the luxurious bed cover, fringes
brushing against his muddy boots. The carpet might have suffered some mudding as well, but that
was none of his concern. The elegant bedroom in purple and dark oak somehow framed his dark
persona; Lorant brusquely let go of her and held grip of a bedpost with his hand, leaning his weight
on it. He was watching her, his eyes narrowed; the servants had lit the fire for the lady and now the
embers tossed strange shadows across the big room, making his clear hazel eyes look almost like
flickering flame.

            Fire danced in her auburn hair; Lorant’s lip showed a single droplet of blood. She was
beautiful, a precious possession to him. However she moved and talked, yet her attention was most
of the time elsewhere, away from him. He was convinced if she could follow her mind, she would
not remain with him – this was more than obvious in the Baron’s mind. To take it to practice however
was inadmissible… but the scent of demons he sensed on her lingered in his mind.

            “Where were you?” he asked, his eyes dilating.

            It was impossible to tell whether or not he had believed Anastasia and was angry, or if her
was simply concerned for her well being. He was gentle with her but he seemed to still leash what
he was really thinking. Autumn hesitated before her reply… It would be so simple to speak the truth,
but there was a terrible fear that she would cross some line she never wanted to come near! Still,
somehow she knew if she lied he would know and that would be taken as betrayal. She was his wife,
and though she didn’t love him, she couldn’t betray him.

            “Stasia had me take a letter to town. It wasn’t a pleasant letter, and neither was the recipient.”
she said finally. The demon’s grotesque face still lingered in her mind, giving her a shudder and
causing her to wince at the sudden jolt of pain. If she were to spend the rest of her life tied to this
family, she could not protect Anastasia and herself. The old crone was going to be furious that her
favorite target was no longer keeping her deeds secret, but Autumn was so very tired of dancing
around the truth for a woman who would happily see her dead.

            “Letter?”

            Lorant arched an eyebrow. It didn’t seem beyond his mother to try a little scheme to get rid
of Autumn, but somehow not all clicked. Autumn was not a magic-user. If she had delivered a letter
to a demonic household, how come she came back unscathed? Her sudden wince of pain snapped
him out of his musings. Lorant slid off his heavy coat, letting it fall to the floor; he was a tall, strong
man; despite his rather slender frame, he had a muscled, lean body. He was tense; his shoulders
showed it. The Baron touched the ragged cloth of her dress where she had been wounded, then
suddenly tore the whole piece off the dress, bursting the seams. Given the cut of the dress, the fabric
came off from the collar, the top of her shoulder and ended at the puff of her sleeve. There was little
blood, but the nails of the wolves could be poisonous for all he could tell.

            His sudden movement caused her jump, almost throwing her hands up in defense with a tiny
yelp. Immediately she wished she hadn’t; it made her seem so afraid! Autumn bite her lip and
swallowed. There was a terrible knot at the pit of her stomach and it was impossible to tell what
made her more uneasy; a near death at the hands of a demon or simply being in the presence of her
own husband! Focusing her thought on the buttons of his shirt, she tried to think less of where she
was and more of what she wanted to say.

            “Y-yes… A letter. I asked why it couldn’t be done in the morning, but she wished it sent
tonight. The man was… was unnatural. A demon, I think, though I’ve never seen one before…” Now
that she thought of it again, perhaps she should have taken the knife! It would have proven useful
now, if at least proof that she wasn’t an adulterer. She escaped the demon out of sheer luck; the story
sounded fabricated even to herself as she replayed it in her mind.

            Lorant blinked a fraction of second at her reaction. He clutched the piece he tore from her
dress in his hand as her fear somehow infuriated him. He hadn’t done anything to her and she was
already squealing like a critter! The man watched her with hawk eyes as she blabbed out a sort of
explanation. The letter and even the demon he could believe, but her uneventful escape was an
entirely different matter. Lorant frowned.

            “Demons are not a common sight,” he said with something close to a snarl, “but I believe
you. However what you have not yet come to explain is… how did you escape? Did this man let you
go freely? Why – and why did you go alone?!” Lorant’s eyes flashed as the ever present anger stirred
beneath the surface. What had she been thinking?

            On the other hand, perhaps it had been better she went alone or else an adept to his mother
could have contributed to Anastasia’s success. Because he had no doubt his mother had planned more
than teaching her a lesson.

            “There was no one to go with me.” Could she really say she could not have a chaperone
because she did not trust the staff? It was by sheer miracle they had staff left after the sort of stunts
the woman pulled. Autumn suspect several accidents servants stumbled in to were truly meant for
herself. Those that still remained spent an awful lot of time serving Anastasia; she simply did not
feel comfortable trusting them. He was visibly upset with her now, and she assumed it was because
he did not believe her, despite what she said.

            “I…I killed him.” she took in a shaky breath as her face blanched. It wasn’t the first of the
old crone’s tricks or the first outside person she enlisted, but before they were perfectly human, nor
had she ever harmed someone! She looked as if she might have wanted to faint, but she willed
herself to face it. “I didn’t mean to, it’s just… He was going to kill me and I asked if he could try
another way besides the knife! He turned around and I struck him with something, though I can’t
remember what it was now… We struggled and was pierced with the knife and… he just seemed to
melt away!”

            Lorant’s frown deepened. It still sounded suspicious but the melting away detail was… not
something she could have imagined on her own. He blinked slowly. She was there, relatively
unharmed… The affair notice did not seem probable. His mother was toying with them. The thought
made him scowl. Without another word, he took off his long jacket, tossed it on a chair and pulled
his sleeves back as he moved to the basin near the boudoir to wash his hands. Taking a small towel
with him and some gauze, cotton and a dark bottle, he returned to her side to clean the ugly scratch
she had. It seemingly had stopped bleeding… but the corset had lacy straps.

            “Will you take it off?”, he asked with a frown.

            “Take it off…?” she replied blankly. It was strange; they had been married well over a year
but intimate situations still felt alien. She knew little about what to expect during a marriage as her
mother was of no help in those areas, but she was sure it wasn’t meant to be filled with constant
weariness and a lack of… emotion. Fear just didn’t count. Autumn finally nodded, drawing herself
from her thoughts. Moving off the bed she stood on shaky legs to remove the damaged dress, he
shoulder giving protest to her movements.

            “I will need help,” she admitted, briefly hoping help didn’t involve more shredding of fabric.
But if she was feeling awkward, Lorant was not too far from feeling similarly. His mother’s love had
scarred him seemingly beyond repair and he did not quite know what to do with a woman, asides
physical details. Autumn herself was in his view more wrapped up than an onion…

            Not only in clothes, at that!

            Lorant quickly studied the corset before spotting where the brooches were and how to loosen
the tightly woven and tied laces. He guessed these were strong enough to hang a convict at the
gallows to his death, but he kept the thought to himself. Finally, the intricate piece of feminine armor
loosened up. He felt like just tearing the whole thing apart – how long should undressing take!

            “Done,” he muttered. Her back emerged from the wretched thing she had been wearing. Her
shoulder blades and the deep curve of her back only added grace to the form sinking into her
petticoats. His fingers lingered on the little, neatly tied bows that held the linen petticoats in place,
but he pulled his hand back. “Sit down,” he said, busying himself opening the brown crystal bottle
of tincture of iodine.

            Obediently she sat, folding her arms primly in front of her. The fire warmed the room but she
still felt a chill along her arms and down her spine. Curiously she wondered why he was being so
kind. It suddenly dawned on her that it was the first time he had acknowledged her in a way beyond
polite inquiries and husbandly duties; he often remained as distant as she, something that added to
the dangerous air he always had about him. Guilt was not something she felt often in the house, but
he had saved her life and was now caring for her; she felt the need to try and be more than just civil.
She just couldn’t think of what to say!

            Lorant put all things in order on the bed cover and poured a little tincture of iodine in a ball
of cotton. This was not simple iodine, it had some added things and he had prepared it himself.
Gently, he dabbed around the scratch before applying a new cotton ball with the tincture to the
scratch itself. It was bound to burn, but he did not stop to think if she was going to cringe or not. His
eye wandered for an instant… She was holding the corset to her chest. Despite that, the soft round
shapes were partially visible. Lorant nibbled on his lip as he eyed the corset and wondered how did
she manage to breathe with that on. He quickly resumed his task. Once the bruise was disinfected,
he tried to figure out how to place a bandage. She was… round. He got the impression the bandage
was going to slip off, her forms were so curved. His brow furrowed for an instant, then he decided
to wrap the gauze across her chest. Hopefully, there would be enough gauze.

            Autumn winced yet did not complain as he applied the astringent. Her body felt stiff after the
earlier struggle along with the fall, not to mention how rigid she carried herself in the presence of
her husband. Letting out a deep breath she rolled her shoulders to try and not feel so self conscious.

            “Your business went well..?” she asked, her voice taking on a higher pitch in order to sound
cheerful but out sounding more nervous. “You are home earlier than you had planned.”

            “…” Lorant’s piercing gaze got fixed on her face for an instant. If my business went well, I
have saved your soul
, he could have said. Ridiculous. He could not tell that to her. “It took less time
than planned. Does that displease you?”, he asked with an unpleasant smile. “I shipped my luggage
ahead. I suspect it has not arrived…” Lorant touched her elbow so she’d raise her arm a little. With
almost physician expertise, he winded the gauze around her shoulder and below twice, then rose to
stretch it around her back and across the top of her chest. She managed to keep the corset in place
over her breasts, causing him to smirk. Lorant secured the gauze bandage in place with a couple tiny
silver hooks.

            “My business went well. I will invest some of the gain,” he said, emotionlessly.

            Lorant seemed to have an unholy luck for investments. In society clubs, lords craved his
advice – yet Lorant was not prodigal with such. He was a withdrawn man with a dark air and a
volatile temper, but his fortune was an excellent palliative in the eyes of his peers. The Baron
gathered his tools and replaced them in the cabinet on which the basin was placed. He poured some
water and cleaned his hands. He did not turn as he dried his hands with a towel.

            “I need a bath,” he informed. His back to her, he blinked slowly, rubbing his hands with the
towel almost mechanically. Did he have to go seeing his mother tonight? He could always argue he
was too tired. Say he needed his sleep. Lorant rested his hand next to the basin, leaning his weight
on it as his shoulders sank slightly. I don’t have to, he decided. I am not a child anymore. I can
defend myself
. His heart was beating in his ears.

            I don’t have to go!

            Autumn found herself more curious at her husband’s peculiar mood. He was less focus;
neither intense nor drawing all of the air in the room back in to himself. It was a strange analogy, but
he consumed all the space in any room he walked in to. Tonight, however, he was introverted and
lost in thought. Perhaps her brush with death had left her wanting to tempt the devil; still she was
curious.

            “I’m glad you returned early.” It was an honest confession. Had he not returned early she
would have been meat for the dogs. He was no less intimidating, but he was more approachable. She
wanted to return the gesture by making sure he was comfortable. Grasping a robe from nearby, she
pulled it over her shoulders and happily freed herself from the corset. Typing the sash snugly around
her waist, she turned to him. “I can draw you a bath if you wish. You’ve come a long way and it will
do you well.”

            Lorant swallowed.

            “I’d like that… yes,” he curtly said. The room did not seem stable and he leaned further onto
his hand. Lorant had a small shiver and his lips moved, yet air came but barely out of them as he
muttered an incantation, yet no word was audible. Almost immediately, he was able to breathe more
easily, but he was visibly overwhelmed.

            Never did she think she would actually feel concern for him, but Lorant did not look well.
Briefly she wondered if he were more injured by the dog than he let on… as extraordinarily strong
as he was, he was still human! Autumn crossed the room and laid a tentative hand on his arm.
“Lorant, if you’re not well…” she paused, but continuing, “Were you… hurt? I saw bruises but…”
silencing herself, she bit her lip. There were no traces of blood on him, but that didn’t mean there
was no internal damage.

            Lorant clenched his jaw. “I am alright,” he hissed. “I am simply tired… If you’d draw me a
bath… that would be refreshing.” His words were carefully addressed, but his voice was deepening
to a growl. Lorant muttered another incantation, closing his eyes tightly. He pulled his shoulders
back and straightened his tense body.

            “I am not hurt. Don’t concern yourself over such trivialities.” He looked at her over his
shoulder, his gaze piercing, a spot of dry blood on his lip. “I am fine.”

            A dubious expression crossed her face and she looked as if she might’ve been about to accuse
him of otherwise, but she quickly clamped her mouth shut and nodded. He had no care for her
fussing and likely had little care for her as well. His momentary lapse of kindness must have just
been weariness from traveling; at least that is what she tried to tell herself as she left him to draw his
bath.

            She left him alone, leaving to draw his bath. When she left the bedroom, Lorant once more
rested his weight on his hands on the small cabinet. His forehead was wet, long bluish black strands
of silky hair sticking to his skin. Lorant concentrated and recited a variation of exorcism he had
learned from his Master to banish conjurers. Slowly he recited it all in inaudible voice, growing pale
from the effort as his mother’s spell pulled at his strings as she had all of his life. His body was
shaking. Lorant collapsed against the wall and clasped his fists, not allowing his concentration to
break.

            Suddenly, it was over.

            Lorant found himself breathing heavily, trying to catch his breath. Anastasia seemingly had
desisted… Warily, Lorant brushed his hand past his forehead, blinking dazedly. I must get up, he
commanded himself. I must not… be found like this… First on hands and knees, then pulling himself
up, he rose back to his feet, yet somewhat unsteadily.

            “Love!,” a mentally addressed voice purred into his mind. “I will be in bed, dearest. Do call
for mommy when you are through with her!”

            Lorant swallowed, for a brief instant his face showing he had been sick with fear but was now
coming back to his senses. Back to himself.

            “I will not go…,” he muttered.

            Autumn drew a hot bath in a huge claw footed tub, adding a few relaxing oils to the water
so that she may at least be of some subtle help if he wouldn’t allow her to assist. She couldn’t
understand why she was angry… after all, she didn’t feel safe trusting him, why should she expect
him to trust her? Fetching him a towel and a few other things, she used her spare moments to change
in to a sleeping gown before going to tell Lorant.

            Returning to the room she found him looking somewhat disturbed but mentioned nothing of
it. “Your bath is ready.”

            Lorant closed his eyes tightly. He had finished his bath long ago, but he didn’t seem able to
pull himself out of the water; it was starting to cool down. Immerse in the perfumed liquid, he felt
almost relaxed, out of the harsh reality awaiting out of the bathtub. Out of the door, out of the room,
everywhere. Lorant shook his head. It seemed that maybe he could enjoy some sleep tonight… After
some more minutes of musings, he rose. Water trickled down his slender, muscled body marked by
more than one scar, yet they are so pale and of diverse age they are almost unnoticeable in broad
light. His bluish hair dripped water on his cheeks; Lorant flicked it out of his eyes and picked up a
towel, only to discover she had also placed there night clothes and a number of personal care
commodities. The man hesitated, then refused to think about it as he briskly dried his hair with the
towel. A long howl resounded outside the building. Lorant snorted. He reckoned the hellbeast was
roaming, maybe eating the direwolf – but that at the most. He killed the beast, so for the hellbeast
a master’s leftovers are legitimate right. The horses however, were not going to sleep. Lorant turned
and his image watched him somberly from the mirror. His eyes look tired, darkened to reddish rust.
Suddenly he remembered the portrait of his father in the family gallery. Where did he get the guts
to look so dignified, almost satisfied? Perhaps that had been artist’s license. Lorant shook his head.
He did not quite remember him anyway. Just scattered images and sounds. Pulling himself out of
his distractions, he got dressed and left the bathroom.

            “Why aren’t you dead yet!”

            “Don’t speak to me, Stasia. Don’t even look at me.” Autumn growled as she stepped around
the old woman to the liquors in the kitchen. She was fetching a bottle of her husband’s favorite drink
along with a glass to bring back to the master chambers.

            “You should be dead three fold by now,” Anastasia commented. “That bottle is not yours…
where are you taking it!”

            Autumn stopped giving the women an incredulous look before her expression turned
suspicious. “Why, did you poison the drinks too? Keep in mind I seem to be resilient against your
tricks and this,” she shook the bottle in the air, “is for my husband. Your son. Whom you seem to
lack any real care for seeing as you’re prancing around like a murderous she-devil!” She was angry,
tired, and lacked the patience to do battle with her mother-in-law, especially as her husband was
upstairs unable to decide whether or not she was to be trusted!

            “Watch you tongue or you won’t have it for long! My dearest will snap that pretty neck of
yours if I asked… You will not come between a mother and son!” Anastasia threatened.

            It was no news to her about Anastasia, but her threat lit a small twinge of wonder if Lorant
would really do as his mother asked. “Go to bed, Stasia.” Autumn dismissed her and left kitchen
quickly.

            Back in the room, Autumn closed the door softly and leaned against it with a sigh, unaware
she was not alone.

            Lorant was sitting at the foot of the bed, immerse in dark thoughts. His wet hair hanged
loosely round his face, sticking to his cheek but absorbed into his musings as he was, he did not seem
to mind. He was wearing a dark red brocade robe with a gold pattern, tied round his hip with a
tussled cord. When the door opened and closed, he did not move. When she sighed, he tilted his head
slightly to spy her from the shade of his bluish black hair. The flickering lights from the fireplace
made his eyes appear molten bronze or gold… Unconsciously, Lorant turned his wedding ring round
his finger then turned his face to watch the fire dancing in the fireplace. He tried to essay words, but
did not find anything to say. He had never spoken about his mother to anyone and yet for some
reason the thought crossed his mind, he shunned it aside. She would be further repulsed about him,
find the matter disgusting. Blame him even – who’d accuse his mother of such things? Besides, why
would a man be weaker than a woman? Even as a teenager, he had been taller than his mother.
Lorant nibbled on his lip. Too many explanations, too many shadows and bonds. His wife did not
need to know. She was even afraid of him as it was. Lorant had sometimes trouble to deal with that
and yet he tried to curb his temper, sometimes…

            She almost jumped as she spied him on the foot of the bed, and mentally chided herself for
not paying better attention. Were it not her husband it could have been some hired hand of
Anastasia’s and Autumn had no more energy to fight today. For a second she regretted not bringing
a second glass; if Anastasia did indeed poison the drinks it would be best if she tried it first. He was
a frightening man, but she didn’t want to harm her husband. Walking in silence and grace she
stopped near the bed and held out the glass for him to take.

            “For you. I would have brought something to eat, but you seemed too tired.”

            Lorant seemed somehow startled but he reached out and took the glass. He held it out, a little
too tightly and his hand was trembling a little. He could not retrieve it, however… if asked he could
argue he was simply tired.

            Outside, another howl rang through the night. Lorant furrowed his brow, almost tempted to
go outside and banish the hellbeast for good… He watched her pour the liquor… An acute pain stung
his chest yet he did not know why. She looked just as when he saw her the first time at that one
photographs exhibit, looking at other people’s works, studying them with an air of understanding.
An air of understanding… Lorant swallowed. Why he had married her, he did not know. Like for the
other men of his Time, marriage was both social obligation and another form of business – but what
kind of investment was this? Were his lawyers less skilled, her family would have moved in to the
barony. Why had he married her? She was beautiful, but so were others with plentiful dowry. She
was afraid of him and she did not seem to enjoy his riches either. Had she spent money like his
mother does, he’d have an excuse to protest – to tell her something. He was not in her picture, no
matter how much he had paid.

            Silvanus’ smile disappeared.
            “So you offer a bargain? You might be fooling yourself, Lorant. You cannot pay ransom for
something that is not yours, nor hasn’t been taken from you.”
            The words of the Archdemon lingered curiously on his mind. Was it coincidence or did those
supernatural beings truly had a wider sight? Niemeyer had all the symptoms of a women’s advocate.
Could he be right?

            She might fear me and even hate me. But Autumn is mine. His eyes narrowed, but his gaze
slipped down to the rug.

            “You’re lost in another world…” Autumn said but quickly covered her mouth with her
fingers, cursing herself for thinking out load again. Whether her was contemplating something
serious or simply staring at the carpet blankly, it was none of her concern! At least she didn’t want
it to be. As soon as she began to care things would be dreadfully more complicated; things were
difficult and strange as they were! She stepped away and took the bottle to set it aside.

            Her voice once again snapped him out of his musings. Lorant seemed about to say something,
then just sipped his wine as she moved away to set the bottle somewhere.

            “Just business,” he finally muttered. “Market and trade.”

            Lorant sipped more wine, looked at it and finally gulped it down. His fingers fiddled with
the fragile glass and his loosely wrapped robe uncovered his shoulder when he put the glass down.
The bruises had darkened but looked normal enough. He flicked the glass off to the nearest couch,
where it neatly stuck between the cushions. With the wine flowing inside of him, he felt warmer
faster – partially because his stomach was empty. His fingers absently loosened the knot of the cord
that held his robe in place.

            Autumn frowned at the flicked glass, though thankful it landed somewhere safe as she pulled
off her own robe and gently laid it across a chair. She was wearing a simple but elegant gown of
ivory silk and lace while she pulled the few remaining pins from her hair, allowing it to fall in her
face and across her shoulders. Pulling back the covers, she slipped in to bed, sighing in the
momentary enjoyment of the cool sheets and chance to lay down. The bandages felt a bit awkward
but the pain had ceased to nothing more than a dull twinge here and there.

            The mattress bounced a little as Autumn got into bed behind him but enough to remind
Lorant he also had to lay down and hopefully get some sleep. As the man rose, the red and golden
brocade robe slid easily off his shoulders, then off his body. He grabbed a handful of brocade as it
slid down and gazed around for somewhere to fling it off to. The lights from the fireplace tossed
changing shadows on his lean and muscled body, the muscles marking the skin of his triangular back
yet he had barely moved. Tall and of rather slender frame, it was strange how his body had so much
strength – but it had. His arms and legs showed how devoted he was to fencing and boxing. His broad
shoulders pulled back and Lorant simply dropped the robe on top of the bed covers, where it could
be handy in the morning when the weather was chilling. He went to his side of the bed and slid under
the covers, causing the bed to move again. His hair was still wet yet not damp anymore, not enough
to bother him or make him cold. Lorant was somberly thoughtful and the wine was sinking in…

            She didn’t mean to watch, though she had every right to; it was easier to watch him when he
was unaware. There were no questions or pressure, she could simply watch and wonder. He was
frighteningly attractive; some men were beautiful, some handsome, but none could boast looking so
dark and dangerous. Even when she first saw him his expressions commanded fear and respect. Now,
as he was paying her no mind seemingly lost in thought, he was accessible if she were to only try.
But… she couldn’t forget his volatile temper or the way he could so easily kill. What if Anastasia
were to really ask him to get rid of her? Would he harm her to please his mother? The woman was
horrible, and yet he still seemed to try and please her, nor did he ever seem fed up with her behavior.
Autumn never wanted to find herself on the wrong end of her husband’s anger.

            Lorant blinked slowly as tiredness began to wash over him as the hot bath and the wine took
effect on his conscience. It could be easy to sleep away… Lorant usually was up before dawn, but
tonight he simply did not feel any need to keep up… He’d have to face his mother in the morning and
his wife, and their quarrels as well. His luggage would arrive in the morning but he did not concern
himself over household matters – after all, he has a wife…! His eyelids felt heavy, but at the thought
of her he looked in her general direction and met her gaze. The pain in his chest returned, slight but
painful still. What was she looking at, what was he for her after all? His fingers closed slowly on the
blankets…

            Autumn flushed at being caught staring; she didn’t mean for him to see her, still she didn’t
look away as she had often done before. The fire cast faint shadows, making his eyes glitter a dark
copper. Lorant’s gaze was fixed into hers for a couple seconds more before be noticed she had not
yet looked away. His brow furrowed ever so slightly. Why did I marry her?, he caught himself
wondering. Autumn was beautiful; her auburn hair caught shimmers of fire from the faint lights
tossed from the fireplace. Lorant always had a fascination with fire… it was strange to think about
such just now. Still watching her, the man laid on his side and reached out to touch her hair, loose
on the pillows. The threads of fire curled between his fingers at his touch. Curiously he wondered
if he could replace her hairdo by seeing if her curls would match one another. The hair was soft;
softer than anything he had touched recently. But perhaps… Lorant’s hand slowly moved further and
touched her cheek, sliding his fingers slowly across her lips till meeting her chin.

            She was tired. That had to be why she didn’t cringe or move away. It was late not to exclude
the dreadful day and she just lacked the energy to be fearful. Resting her eyes closed, she mumbled,
“You need rest. To come home from travel only to battle the dogs, you deserve a good sleep…”
Outside there was the occasional howl; once only nominally disturbing, now she didn’t think she
would sleep well for some weeks! By closing her eyes, she once more shielded herself from her
husband. Lorant held the household’s reins, but he did not own her heart as he too well knew.
Niemeyer’s words were distant echoes in his head but yet he did not recall them, he did recall the
impression they etched within himself. Whatever fragile link that had casually fallen into place
slipped and fell without a noise as she closed her eyes. Lorant retrieved his hand in silence. There
had been times he would simply use his husband rights, but the feeling of rejection was strangely
haunting today. For the first time he wondered, had he kept the Egyptian pendant he gave Niemeyer
to himself, could he have put it to a better use? Become more powerful, bring disaster and
destruction upon eventual enemies? Egypt was too far away from Hungary to make a futile trip… but
for some stupid reason he had convinced himself to keep her soul safe from the Archdemon
Niemeyer truly was. What for? Why? Lorant swallowed and turned over, his back to her. Settling
quietly for the night’s sleep, the man gazed over the dancing lights in the fireplace. Tomorrow was
not going to be better. Perhaps he could escape the dreadful house and go hunting or perhaps do
some business…

            Anastasia waited as she paced the chambers of her room. He was coming. Wasn’t he coming?
Why was he not coming! A Ming vase crashed against a far wall as she continued to walk back and
forth across the carpeted floor. How dare he ignore her summons. This would not have happened if
the little harlot had died like she was supposed to! She was stealing her place… she was stealing her
boy! Stopping in front of the window and spying out at the stables, a smile crept across her face as
she spotted the soft glow of a forgotten lamp. If he would not come, he would not sleep well either.

            An unheard whisper called her yet remaining dogs, the beasts lurking ever closer to the
disturbed horses in their stalls. The demon horse stopped his grazing and rose up on hind legs to give
a chilling cry! At these terrible unnatural sounds the stabled horses began to panic; kicking against
doors and walls finally until the forgotten lamp dropped from its hook and a plume of fire ignited!

            Lorant stirred in his sleep. The pillow felt soft under his cheek and the warmth of the bed
drove him into a deeper sleep, yet still a part of his awareness was awake, tied to the wards laid
round the house. Those were neither excessive, nor too subtle, but enough to issue warnings to their
master. A log cracked faintly in the fireplace, sending tiny sparks flying across the room. Lorant did
not yet open his eyes, but in his dense and darkened dreams he saw the sparks of fire dancing in the
black space before him, floating up from a deep chasm. A haunting music came from the deep pit,
but only sharp edges of rock were visible from the dancing sparks that grew to flying flames, barely
larger than one of his fingers. A distant rumor of drums and battle chants touched his ear as he
kneeled down by the edge, but nothing was visible. Lorant still gazed down for a long while, trying
to decipher the voices and the music he could hear; a strangely mesmerizing, melancholic mix of
what seemed to be flutes and chords. Suddenly something crept from the darkness, like a huge spider
stirred out of her hideout. It hopped and climbed quickly over the rocks and leapt, landing neatly a
few yards away from him. Lorant scoot back but a strange spell numbed his mind, making him
unable to quickly think of a protection spell. The creature rose and in the faint, sporadic light from
the flying sparks and flames, he saw it was not an unnaturally large spider, but a woman – she was
barefoot and apparently naked, from the way her body moved freely as she reached him in a second
leap. Her body was lithe and voluptuous, yet her hair was gray… or silverish, a blue phosphorescence
that reminded him of decay trickled down one side of her body. Lorant’s eyes widened in terror as
the woman stretched anxious arms out to him in the flickering darkness. Her eyes were locked on
his face and she was beautiful but hideous at the same time in a way he could not understand. But
right then her face changed and it was Anastasia who locked her arms around him, squeezing so
tightly she cut his breath and his ribs could not move to let air back into his lungs. He struggled, but
there was no avail. Lorant could finally regain enough control to open his mouth to scream, but she
kissed him as if she were trying to inhale his very soul out of his body. The flying flames were
increasing…

            Lorant sat up as if propelled off his pillow by a spring, sweating. He was in his bed,
seemingly nowhere near a fiery chasm, but he still was short from hysteria. If his wife’s sleep was
disrupted or not, he did not notice. He pressed his fists on his mouth as to make sure that horrible
leech was not clung to him, shaking yet not a sound came out of him, only shuddered gasps as he
tried to breathe. As the images cleared up, another alarm rang across his shaken conscience – the
wards round the house were tingling. Lorant shivered and his hackles rose further, if that was
possible.

            “Fire!”, he muttered. As if on cue, a bright red resplendence flashed from behind the thick
window curtains, projecting beams of light on the ceiling and the carpeted floor. Lorant gasped but
reached for his robe, pulling it on as he left the bed, not bothering to see about shoes or anything else.
He went to the windows and pulled the curtains open. Yet the windows overlooked the front yard,
the red lights came from the court on one side of the building, laid diagonally and he quickly realized
the stables were on fire!

            As Lorant bolted up, Autumn was startled out of her sleep by the sudden movement. He
looked very disturbed and she almost reached out to him before he muttered fire and left the bed.
Curious, she slipped from bed herself, sliding in to her slippers and drawing a robe around her
shoulders. She followed him to the window and blinked at the glow of light across the shadows of
the yard as yet another shriek from the horses sounded.

            “The horses…!” Without thinking of much else autumn quickly scurried from the window
on her way to the door. The horses had to be set free or they would be burned alive!

            “Where do you think you are going?!”, demanded Lorant with a sort of growl. He was still
pale and sweating from his nightmare, but his hands were not shaking anymore; the open curtains
allowed the flickering lights from the fire cast a strange dancing aura around him – and he looked
furious. “Stay here!” The man slipped into his pants and boots, leaving the room in pants, boots and
robe without allowing her a single protest; in his boots he carried two long-knives in special straps
and he cared very little if she had noticed the strange devices. Lorant was hissing on his way down
the hall and downstairs, out of the house. A bell rang as the servants were starting to react and
someone was tolling the bell in the court. Yet the loss of horses was of course a financial detail to
be avoided if possible, Lorant was more concerned about the nature of the fire. Was it natural, was
it provoked? An explosion caused him to stop and cover his head with his arm as he turned the
corner, down the small alley into the court – fire and tiles trickled down as a cloud of smoke rose into
the night-sky, tinted in red from the fire. The direwolves were roaming – not a very good sign. As
the trapped horses neighed and made terrified noises, part of the roof collapsed after the explosion –
perhaps a vat of something flammable in the storage of the stable, or any remaining lamps. Lorant
snarled as he tried to figure out a way across the fire to free the horses – if he got the slightest chance,
he would kill any of the stupid dogs that dared to come across his way! There was no way his mother
didn’t have a hand in this!

            He looked like the very devil himself, shrouded in an aura of shadow and flames! She made
no further protest as he threw on a pair of pants and gave little thought to the long-knives; he seemed
to always carry something dangerous with him, despite the fact he was dangerous enough all on his
own! Autumn bit her lip as he left the room, hesitating only a few moments near the archway of the
door. He had said to stay put and would be furious if she moved, but she couldn’t just stand by while
their property was burning! Would he care for the lives of the horses or would he simply want to
prevent the rest of the home from getting engulfed in flames? Deciding she couldn’t just wait and
find out, Autumn moved towards the door again, but paused. The day had ended on a sour note for
the old woman, she couldn’t put it past her mother-in-law to end it with one last explosive gesture
to prove who was really dominant in the household. With that in mind, Autumn dug through one of
bureau drawers and pulled out a small loaded pistol. It was something she bought on a whim in
hopes she would feel safer in the house, but it never seemed to make much difference and she could
not bring herself to constantly carry a weapon. For the moment is was best to err on the side of
precaution! She didn’t see Anastasia lurking as she ran down the hall.

            Though the stables burned, that didn’t seem to please Anastasia enough. The whore would
hopefully run herself right in to the fire and burn herself into tiny cinders, if her unholy prayers were
answered, but irritation was directed at her son for those few moments. He ruined her plans for the
girl and killed one of her favorite pets in one swift moved, then dared to neglect her after she hadn’t
seem him for some days! He was going to have to be punished for being so disobedient. Moving to
a hall window, Anastasia peered in to the illuminated night. A silent call to her lurking pups drew
them out and they began to stalk…

            Autumn stepped outside, clasping the collar of her robe together from the strange mixture
of coolness and the heat emanating from the stables. Servants were skittering around in frantic
motions between trying to fetch water and save precious items from getting too near the flames. She
scanned the grounds for her husband until she finally caught sight of him… as well as a flash of
glittering white fangs. Gasping she ran forward, gun clutched tightly in her hand. Could he not feel
the beast nearby?! Just the thought of it gave her chills! The creature jumped suddenly and she
shouted; pointing and pulling the trigger of her pistol. A loud shot rang out along with a yelp from
the dog, but only a trickle of blood seeped from it’s neck as it gave a guttural growl. Staring blankly
as all the sense rushed from her head, the pistol slipped from her hand as she fell to the ground in
a dead faint! The sound of the shot traveled fast through the flickering darkness and when Lorant
turned, Autumn’s body had not yet met the floor. The beast however hit his body with great force
despite the shot had somewhat modified the trajectory of its body. Lorant’s eyes widened with fury –
she had disobeyed him and not only that: the beasts were attacking! Without even thinking, as the
beast knocked him down he rolled with its body and easily drew out one of the long-knives, cutting
the beast’s soft tummy open from the center and down. The dire wolf took a few seconds to feel the
pain and loss of entrails, so swift the cut has been made; the teeth bit the air next to the Baron’s neck
but a second bite effectively bit into his shoulder! However the life left the beast and it dropped
lifeless next to him. Lorant grabbed the beast by the hind legs and hit a pouncing wolf with it with
such force he could hear both the carcass’s and the attacker’s spines break; the flailing wolf with a
broken back landed into the bonfire, letting out blood-curdling shrieks, unable to rise and run. One
of the beasts dashed on the trail of beating red guts flung out of the carcass when Lorant flung it and
another wolf attacked the Baron with a howl. Lorant pulled out the second long knife and wielded
both as the beast jumped, beheading it in mid air – Lorant’s eyes were flaming like a possessed man’s
and a silverish light shone about his chest, yet somewhat concealed by some majick making it
impossible to identify the source. The wolf eating its fallen comrade recoiled, blood dripping from
its snout, turned and ran into the darkness, but the hellbeast had not left, and it had dropped its horse-like appearance. A terrible cry of agony and cracking bones was heard, then nothing more.

            Lorant clasped more tightly the knives in his hands, ready to kill anything else that drew near,
but a gunshot both startled him and snapped him back to reality. The butler had brought a rifle and
shot to the air to scare off the beasts. Lorant however did not drop the thought that he might shoot
him as well. The Baron’s silhouette was an ominous shadow amidst the fire and the horses were still
neighing like crazy.

            “The horses!,” the Baron commanded. The man hesitated.

            “The fire is too strong, sir!”

            With a snarl, Lorant strode forward, picking up the headless carcass and flung it across the
fire and into the stable’s door, which fell off its hinges with a loud thud and a creaking sound. The
terrified horses that had kicked down their cubicle’s fences ran outside, yet some were unable to
escape on their own. One of the servants dashed in covered in a wet blanket and freed the beasts as
the Baron stood there with a madman’s look in his eyes. “Go!,” he yelled at the cowering butler.
“Earn your damn salary! Or else find a shelter for the night out of my grounds!”

            The butler recoiled, horrified. The Baron yelled some orders and the men promptly used
whatever tools available to demolish what was left of the wall closer to the main building to cut the
advance of the fire as the stables were a mostly a single bonfire.

            Lorant scowled into the dark for more possible assailants as he strode back to his wife.
Autumn was coming to, having sat up rubbing her head with discomfort as her eyes remained closed.
She had heard the barked orders; he was beyond angry and she wouldn’t be surprised if he demanded
she sleep elsewhere as well for being so disobedient! Knowing she would see nothing that would
ease the churning dread in her stomach, she did not open her eyes. The pistol still lay nearby having
fired it’s one and only shot. Lorant picked up the small gun as he stopped next to Autumn – it was
a model made for women, with ivory handle and silver etchings. At least if she had decided to shoot
him, she had chosen to do it with some style.

            “You can’t kill me with one of these,” he observed with barely held back rage. “You will need
at least two shots and this has only one. I’d advise a Colt revolver, yet it is not as ladylike as this
one.”

            Lorant snapped open the compartment and dropped the now harmless weapon on her lap.

            “Go back inside,” he growled. “Now!”

            Autumn had opened her mouth to argue that she had not bought it to use against him, but at
his forced order she jumped quickly to her feet, and ran back towards the house. At the door she
passed Anastasia, not bothering to grace the woman any sort of greeting as she fled to her room.

            Once safe in the master chambers with the door closed firmly behind her, her hand hovered
at the lock ready to turn the key. She could lock him out now, but would that be wise? One couldn’t
bar the their own husband from their rooms. Moving away from the door she replaced the weapon
back in the dresser where it belonged. He thought she meant to kill him! What kind of woman would
do such a thing?

            Immediately thinking of Anastasia her brow furrowed. It must have been natural to suspect
she had meant to kill him. Still… He could have considered the situation! The dogs were out; she
feared for his life! The man didn’t have to be so wretchedly suspicious! Autumn moved to the fire
and pulled a soft quilt from the back of the chair to wrap herself in before she sat down. Eventually
he would return and she would explain to him that he was simply wrong.

            Downstairs Anastasia had waited until her son finally came in from outside. Painted across
her face was an eerily pleasant smile. “Did the little witch try to shoot you? Tut-tut, I warned you
she was a terrible thing… should have wrung her neck while you had the chance! Shall mummy take
care of you now, dearest?”

            Lorant was scowling as he finally made his way back to the house, pulling his robe into place
with dignity. How long had controlling the disaster taken, maybe an hour or less, he did not know
and did not particularly care about; the activity had kept his mind from gnawing constantly on the
fact that his wife had bought a gun and shot it at him.

            Lorant did not keep a tight rein on his wife’s finances; only assigned a top on how much they
both could spend in a month in separate parties. His mother spent far more than Autumn, but he did
not particularly look at each bill sent to his accountants. His mother got the dogs. Autumn got a gun.
It was ironic how they just chose their means and he had to pay for them… Come to think about it,
he was constantly paying the bills for them, not only in money but in a psychological and emotional
level. The Baron shook his head to dismiss the thought, for it came too close to admit to himself how
troubled he really was… but just then he stepped into the house and met his mother in the hallway.
Her eerily pleasant smile gave him a small chill – he had not expected her daring to appear so soon
and yet he was still furious, he was weary after the events and the burden of thoughts. His pants were
spotted in a mix of coal, ashes, blood and mud; his robe was still in place but torn at the shoulder
and he was still bleeding. The man paled slightly but his eyes remained defiant and scowling darkly
with a shimmer of molten bronze, yet his face was calm… except that he was biting into his lip again.

            “My wife has terrible aim,” the Baron coolly observed. “I will have to train her myself, since
I would not burden you trying to find a instructor for her, dear mother. Diversity attains success in
many fields, so excuse her if she doesn’t seem to bond to canines as well as you do.”

            Lorant blinked slowly. “I can take care of myself, dear mother,” he muttered with a chilling
smile. “Don’t be troubled about me.”

            “You are my only son, I can’t help but worry.” Anastasia’s smile was a little less bright as
he subtly defended that wisp of a creature upstairs. She was not blind. He tried hard to believe the
best in his little wife; a pathetic attempt to strike out at his poor loving mother as so many children
do. It was a shame he did not understand how much it pained her to hurt him so! He was her darling
pet, her world! She was his mother – and wasn’t it the task of every mother to protect their sons from
the dangerous place that was the world?

            “Still considering to keep her?” her voice raised a fraction. “Such dangerous hobbies you
have, my love. I suppose she makes a good lay…” Wrapping an arm around her waist she drew up
her other hand to examine long immaculately manicured nails. “A cat and mouse game – are you the
mouse, precious? You could not believe yourself in love, no!” Anastasia laughed harshly as she
dropped her arms. “No one would dare love you, my dear. Only your devoted mommy has open
arms! Must you always try and forget that?”

            Giving another silent click with her tongue she moved away from him down the hall. “That
whore holds nothing but disgust for you, and when she betrays you, please don’t blame your
mummy. I did try and warn you.”

            Lorant was petrified as his mother turned around and left, despite his desperate and conscious
efforts not to pay heed to her poisonous words. A sharp pain pierced his chest as if an unseen hand
were clutching his heart in its fist, trying to stop his heartbeats by sheer force… The question was not
if she were telling the truth – the question was, how not to believe her? No love in the world for him.
You might be fooling yourself, Lorant, Niemeyer had said. Lorant felt like an imbecile for trying to
buy his Master’s benevolence so he’d spare his wife – a wife that just tried to kill him. His mother was
right about something… Autumn held nothing but disgust for him. She feared him, like everyone else
– but yet some held an insane admiration for him, mainly veiled envy, she was disgusted by him. He
could see it everyday, yet he fought back with the power he had over her. She was his wife – she was
subject to him, no matter what. But finally… what was the use of it all? His mother’s harsh laughter
rang again through his ears… “No one would dare love you, my dear. Only your devoted mommy has
open arms! Must you always try and forget that?”
, Anastasia had said.

            But the love his mother had for him was monstrous. Even trapped so close to her in her web
of lies, he could not but perceive how twisted her love was – just the thought of it made him feel sick.
Alone in the hallway, Lorant desperately tried to breathe, his eyes filled. The weight in his chest was
suffocating him. Intact from the mists of his childhood, the urge to flee tensed all the muscles of his
body and the impossibility of escape struck him like a wall of bricks. The man clasped his fists, filled
with the need to squeeze the life out of something, to maim and kill as intensely as he had been hurt.
All the dogs were dead – he had noticed the staff had diminished; what to do? Lorant snorted to
himself at the idea of going upstairs – he did not want to see his wife, nor risk meeting his mother;
his eyes narrowed and he was unaware of the tears that escaped from his eyes. The man took an
abrupt turn into the depths of the house, passing under the balcony at the top of the stairs, heading
to the far side of the ground floor, were he had a sports room equipped for his personal use.

            Autumn paced back and forth in front of the mantel as she rang her wrists with jerky, nervous
movements. The work outside was done, the fire out – yet her husband had not returned. He was
furious with her. She did not have to be near him to know; the house seemed to vibrate with the
emotion! Curse the house and it’s ability to convey such things! No, curse her for such a strange
sense to feel it. It was witchcraft, devil’s work… Autumn could not be sure. She wanted to believe
it was all Anastasia’s doings – the woman was clearly mad in every sense of the word. But was her
husband not the master of the house? Had he not expressed such strange and certainly inhuman traits
that were far beyond natural? His temper was fueled from the bowels of hell and the damage he
could do matched it!

            Yet, he then spared her life. There were times she thought he would kill her and she still
lived. Through Anastasia’s lies, countless moments where even Autumn almost believed the tales,
yet she still lived. Then, a day like today… he saved her life. He saved her, he cared for her, he
protected her… in his own terse way. Compassion was not something she wanted to feel for such
a brutal overbearing man. A few moments of brief kindness couldn’t change a person!

            “There is no peace to be had in this house!” Autumn shouted at the fire, brushing tears from
her face quickly incase Lorant would return at any moment. It was such a sad truth! Perhaps in
another time or another life, even another place she might have been able to have a peaceful moment
with Lorant Riktophen and not worry about the dangers! Even if only away from Anastasia for a few
blessed days. No one to spin webs deceit create unfathomable dangers, or breed discord. She briefly
wondered if her husband ever felt as if the walls of the house were slowly closing in, like a cave
crumbling from above.

            Tears welled again. If she were to escape, to disappear; she could make a new life. But what
of her husband? Compassion she could not give, but empathy… Not a creature on earth deserved
Anastasia.

            Lorant had still not returned as she stopped her pacing and glanced tiredly towards the bed.
She was exhausted, she knew he would be too. Autumn couldn’t retire to bed until she spoke with
him, though. He had to understand she wouldn’t harm him. No matter how much he frightened her,
she would never harm him. It was a matter of loyalty, perhaps even personal honor. Autumn had
allowed Anastasia to tell her stories without repute for far too long.

            Downstairs in the sports room, Lorant was panting in exhaustion, but he still did not stop
punching the punch-bag as if trying to squeeze his remaining strength out of his body. A cloud of
dust surrounded him as he punched furiously, the thick bottom chain that anchored the punch-bag
to the floor clicking with every mighty blow that threatened to burst the links and rip the thick canvas
of the bag. The torn robe remained tossed on the floor behind him, his shoes off the wooden area.
Sweat trickled down his muscled, triangular back; his ebony hair was stuck to his forehead and his
eyes seemed slightly off, as if he were fighting other thing than the punch-bag. Tears still welled
from his eyes, but he did not paid heed to them – he might have not even noticed them. How much
time had passed, he did not know or even care. A faint stream of blood mixed with sweat trickled
from his shoulder leaving yet another dark stain in his pants, and most likely the wound hurt
considerably, but the Baron hadn’t stopped to see about it. He kept on punching furiously, but now
his strength was receding, the speed and force of the blows were diminishing, his feet slowed down.
He was panting deeper, but refused to stop… He connected some more punches and found himself
on his knees. The Baron blinked dazedly. How did he get to the floor…? His hands, that he had
bandaged as ever before practicing, had reddened fingers and the bandages had a couple red stains
here and there. Lorant rested his weight on his hands, tried to stand up…

            Gentle hands clasped at his elbow willing him to not to move. Autumn had not entered
silently; she had even called his name, but he did not seem to notice her presence when she crossed
the room. Her eyes examined him as she looked a strange combination of both angry and frightened.
She had not ever seen him this way – oblivious, broken, completely unlike himself in every
imaginable way since the moment he returned home! On his trip he must have caught some sort of
illness or injured himself in some way she couldn’t see. There was just no explanation for this
stranger she was then kneeling next to. Lorant cringed at her contact and held his breath instinctively.
For a second he had feared it was his mother next to him – but it was not his mother; it was perhaps
worse.

            It was Autumn.

            Lorant somehow gathered enough control to pull his arm free, yet the force made him fall on
his hip on the wooden floor, now stained with both sweat and blood. The Baron bit his trembling lip
and a thick drop of blood trickled down his chin, refusing to focus his eyes on her. Why was she
here? Why just now?! It was bad enough to know she despised him, she wanted him dead and now
she just… she gets to see him just as he guessed she wanted to see him. Torn down. He could not
bear it… The pain of such realization wrung his guts so sharply his chest pulled towards his knees.

            “Why… are you here…?”, he managed to mutter. He coughed, trying to get his voice back.
“Go back to your room!”

            She should have ran back to the room. She wanted to run! But, this man no matter how
disinclined to accept her aid, still needed it. Autumn would no longer leave an injured animal in the
woods than leave her husband fallen in their own home. Gathering the strength to openly defy him
was still harder than it seemed as she moved forward to grip his arm again, paying no mind to the
hem of her robe dragging across the blood on the floor.

            “Please don’t,” she pleaded with a shaky but soft voice. “You did not return to the room, I
was worried.” There was an unhealthy amount of blood covering his clothes and the floor; without
thinking she reached out to brush the blood from his lip. At her contact, Lorant’s pupils widened and
he nearly winced. Should she stay and watch him as if he were a freak in a gruesome freak show…?

            You did not return to the room, I was worried, she said.

            Lorant was stunned. Could she be lying to get something? To make him forget she shot him?
His heart ached with acute pain, for he did want to believe her – he really needed those words from
her. However…

            No one would dare love you, my dear. Only your devoted mommy has open arms! Must you
always try and forget that?

            Lorant did not move, yet he was still shivering.

            “Do as I said…” The man’s voice was back to a mutter. “You need not… to worry.” The arm
he was using for support wobbled slightly as exhaustion attempted to make him crumble down. A
forced smirk crooked the corner of his lip, yet it was merely a poorly executed twitch. “… not… to
worry at all. I have no heirs but you… and of course…” His head hung to the side; he had not yet
made eye contact with her, “my mother…”

            “Heirs..?” she questioned, then suddenly gasped. “You’re dying? I must fetch a doctor…!”
Autumn was nearly to her feet before she gave it a second thought. He couldn’t be left in a pool of
blood on the floor. That was no place for a man! His injuries must have been internal; how dare he
not say something sooner! They were not close; it was true, but he was her husband and it matter!
If he died she would be left alone – alone with Anastasia. There were not enough riches in the world
to make that seem pleasant.

            Autumn grasped his arm firmly meaning to help him to his feet. He was much too large of
a man to even considered taking on his full weight. “You must stand and I will help you to our room.
I’ll send someone to fetch a doctor immediately!”

            Lorant was startled, to say the least; when she tried to help him to his feet his reflex was to
comply but his muscles did not respond quite right. He could not fully stand and when his muscles
failed he fell on his knees. The man gave an unwilling wince. Was he dying? It felt as much, but he
doubted it. He was not that lucky.

            “Doctor…?”, he muttered. “I don’t need one…” His lips were dry and he was pale beneath his
ebony hair stuck over his eyes. He tried to get his hair out of his eyes, only to see his palm red from
leaning on the blood-stained wooden floor. Lorant stared at it as if he were wondering where did the
blood come from. His body was numb, which was probably good; his wounded shoulder was purple
and red after the ordeal and the furious blows he had delivered to the punching bag.

            She would have started sobbing, but it would have been most inappropriate at the time! A
woman was supposed to have strength during extreme moments, and this was certainly one of those.
Instead she focused her mind; she had a mission! Lorant needed to be in bed and a doctored called.
It would simply have to be tackled one step at a time and all obstacles ignored. Including taking the
risk of clashing wills. It was for his own good.

            “I will send for a doctor, but you must get to bed.” she repeated with more conviction. “At
the very least somewhere I can clean you up… I’m not… I’m not sure exactly where you are hurt.”
The entirety of his body and pants were soaked. She could at least see that his shoulder was badly
injured; ironic that Anastasia’s dogs would harm them both in similar ways. Biting her tongue, she
picked up the hem of her robe to press gently against his shoulder to at least clean off a bit of the
blood. “I really must fetch someone… it does you no good to stay like this…”

            Lorant blinked dazedly as she spoke, wondering if he was having some kind of hallucination.
She seemed worried – she really did. Lorant found himself wishing…

            The man willed himself to set one foot on the floor, then the other, wobbling heavily. His
mind was slipping, but again the desire to please her and somehow get her attentions infused his self
with will enough to move. However, his muscles were twitching painfully from the exertion – it
would be just a relief to simply give up and pass out on the floor… What was the use, really? He still
did not believe himself in risk of death. His body was stronger than those of ordinary men – it was
part of his deal with Niemeyer. It was so strange, though… What was she thinking…

            “You don’t need me alive,” he informed her as if he were telling her she did not need to wear
a coat indoors.

            “One could say I do not need my hair, but it wouldn’t quite be the same without it.” she
replied out of reflex. What was he thinking, really? He was delusional from lack of blood and severe
illness to be so fatalistic! Then again, such comments should have been expected. He thought she
was out to kill him, and she had yet to tell him otherwise. If he wanted an argument, she could give
him that if it would give him the energy to move! Keeping a firm grip to his arm to keep him steady
as needed, she regarded him carefully incase he needed more support.

            “Lorant…” she paused, “I didn’t buy the gun to harm you. I bought it because of… because
of Anastasia.” He would probably now assume she was trying to kill his mother instead of him, but
it was still important that she told him the truth! Lorant seemed to take a long time to react. Hair?
His mother? That part made some sense, even for his obnubilating mind. However… his mother’s
words weighed heavily on him. Autumn despised him…

            “You shot me,” he said with flat conviction as they began to move towards the door, yet his
voice was yet again a mutter.

            Shot you?” she repeated with some alarm, almost missing her step, but correcting it before
she sent them both tumbling to the floor. He could not have lost his senses before that moment. He
was wide awake and had seen the entire scene! “Lorant, I shot the dog!” Tears well in her eyes and
she willed herself not to do anything silly like cry simply because he was ill. It must be something
serious for him to loose touch with reality! “I would never, ever, try and harm you. You must believe
me for that.” She wanted to gaze at his face and make sure he understood, but the longer he remained
out of bed without a doctors care, the more ill he would become. Lorant seemed slightly more off
than before but when she said she had shot the dog, a shiver ran down his spine.

            “The dog?,” he muttered, strangely agitated. “The dog…”

            Lorant closed his eyes tightly for a second. The lights, yet faint, were hurting his sensitive
eyes, filled with tears now from both eye strain and confusion. His breath through his nose and
mouth seemed to burn on its way out – it could only mean something: he had fever. Was fever
making him imagine things? He did not say anything for a long while as they fought to make their
way.

            “The dog?,” he asked in a whisper, sounding strangely, almost disturbingly, hopeful.

            “Yes.” Autumn replied. They reached the stairs and she briefly wondered if they make it
without him needing to lean on her. “I shot the dog, but it didn’t phase him. I fainted…” Pausing for
a moment to maneuver his arm around her shoulder and to keep a gentle but firm grasp around his
waist, she allowed him to lean both on her and the stair railing as they took one very slow step at a
time. Lorant blinked several times as he found himself unable to think and will his muscles to move
at the same time but he still tried, mulling her words over in his head. If she shot the dog, he slowly
realized as they painfully climbed the stairs, maybe – maybe she had tried to save him… But again,
killing the dog while it was distracted would prevent it from attacking her as well. Why would she
try to save him? His mother was right; Autumn held nothing but disgust for him. Why to change in
less than a day? Lorant bit his lip again. He was not thinking about the stairs, just lift one foot, then
the other. That task alone was hard enough while he mulled over her words in his mind… his body
was numb so he couldn’t tell properly where the edge of the steps were and the direction of the hard
rail, bumping his feet on the steps and slipping his hand often… but he still couldn’t but notice her
supporting his body…

            She hates me, the Baron thought, bitterly.

            Getting up the stairs was difficult. Autumn could feel the heat from his body – obvious signs
of fever that was quickly approaching. The exertion of being a physical support was more difficult
than she had thought it would be. She was well aware that she was an average woman, not too petite
nor tall and strong, simply average. Finding herself in such a strange situation of near carrying her
husband to bed made her a bit angry. Lorant should have returned inside and took care of himself
immediately! If the wounds were too much or his fever too great, he would die! Certainly the man
had more sense!

            Finally reaching the top of the stairs, she allowed him to lean against the wall to catch his
breath and to as well catch her own. Brushing her hand against his forehead, she frowned at his
temperature. “You should have come inside straightaway. You could be very ill, have infection…”
The thought gave her stomach a lurch, though she wasn’t sure why.

            Lorant shivered, his excessive body warmth making him feel the wall excessively cold. The
floor seemed to wave as if it were flowing rapidly from beneath his feet. What was she saying…?
Lorant closed his eyes tightly as she brushed her hand against his forehead… Was she scolding
him…? He blinked blankly at her. Come inside straight away? He had not been exactly wandering
the night – thanks to his work she did have a house to sleep in tonight! He simply did not count on…
what awaits inside the house everyday of his life. Autumn was frowning. It could be his fever, but
a strange shimmer surrounded her head . . .

            “… Your hair is on fire,” was the man’s only reply.

            Autumn blinked, confused by the comment. She obviously wasn’t on fire he must have been
hallucinating with his fever! “We must get you in to bed…” Pulling his arm back around her shoulder
again, she led him down the hall to the master bedroom, where the door was left waiting open and
the fire was still warm inside. Leading him to bed, she bit her lip as she had him sit down. He needed
to be cleaned up, but fetching a doctor was also important!

            Lorant shook his head slightly. He had been downstairs venting his anger… Now he was
sitting on his bed. He dozed slightly and when he rose his head with a start as his body attempted to
fall onto the mattress, he remembered Autumn and the stairs… and the dog… Lorant blinked
confusedly. Had she not tried to kill him? That did not make any sense… given she hates him… and
his mother had said… He dozed slightly again but again woke up on time to prevent his body from
falling on the bed. What was happening…? The beasts bite could have been poisoned. But Autumn
was just fine! What could be happening…? The Baron shook his head.

            “I am not dying…!,” he muttered. “What a ridiculous idea…!” An attempt of a snarl faintly
curled his lip but despite all, his eyes were unable to focus. Lorant wobbled as his muscles began to
give way, but he still willed himself to prevent his body from falling. “Ridiculous…” But his voice
was little more than a murmur.

            “How can you think of such doomed things…” Autumn was frustrated, she wasn’t watching
her tongue. “A ridiculous idea indeed! You’ll not die tonight or any night soon!” Leaving him at the
bed, she rushed to a basin and filled it with cool water and soaking a cool cloth. “You shouldn’t be
mumbling things about death to your wife.” She returned to him quickly enough to dab the cloth at
his forehead. He was burning with a terrible fever…! So he thought he was so immovable to battle
hellish beasts at will, but he was still just a man!

            Lorant’s lip curled to a smirk as she scolded him, despite the fever and despite he could only
perceive her voice in scattered patches. However the world around him dimmed faster than before
and submerged him in a cold red shadow. He was shivering as he fell on the mattress. His hazel eyes
narrowed and he seemed to struggle, trying to see beyond the red shadow, but it was futile. Lorant
gasped for air. “Don’t call my mother…!,” he muttered. His fingers curled on the bed cover as if
trying to find something to hold on to.

            “Don’t call my mother….!” Slowly, Lorant’s eyes closed.

            His mother was the last person she wanted to speak with… or even trust to leave him with!
It was silly to think she couldn’t trust a man with his own mother, but Autumn had a very strong
dislike for Anastasia. For now, it was one wish of his she’d concede to without objection.

            “You still need a doctor.” she protested. He was burning with fever, and needed fresh
bandages. She brushed the cool cloth against his skin to soothe him and clean the blood but she was
quickly back to the basin to rinse again. A doctor was needed, but it was ample time for the old
woman to swoop in when she was least wanted. Returning to him with a freshened cloth she draped
it over his forehead. “I’m going to fetch someone to send for a doctor! I’ll only be gone for a
moment…”

            Lorant could barely hear her, but he somehow realized she was leaving him. She was
leaving… The man was floating off to unconsciousness and his heart sank… He tried to close his
fingers again, trying to hold a grip on the bed covers or at least on something… “Don’t… call my
mother….!”
He still managed to mutter. With that, he fainted.

            It was frustrating to see him that way, she had never seem him ill or otherwise! She might
never have been overly fond of him, being the brute that he was most of the time… but it was
unnatural for him. Autumn quickly left the room as fast as her feet could take her, and grasps the first
person she saw in the halls. It was one of the older gentleman, a servant that had been in the house
for some time. She explained to him that his Lord was very ill and they needed a doctor straight away
– but, under no circumstances was anything to be mentioned to Anastasia! After making him
promise, she allowed him to go.

            How much was to happen in such a short timespan? How many hours had it been? Or had
it been days? She had hardly any time to catch her breath since her husband had been home, and
now… And now he was desperately ill. His wounds could be infected or worse than she imagined.
The doctor had better arrive soon.

            Autumn turned to walk back to the master bedroom, but Anastasia seemed to appear before
her, like an eery ill omen. She tried to step around the old woman, but she was persistently in the
way.

            “What do you need, Anastasia? I am busy…” Autumn tried not to sound annoyed, but she
really needed to return to Lorant!

            Anastasia eyed her with suspicion. The old hag seemed to know something was going on,
and intended to know. “Where is my son? I want to see my precious boy…”

            Autumn frowned. “He’s resting and doesn’t wish to be disturbed. You should go on to bed,
Stasia.”

            “I am his mother..! I am allowed to see my son when ever I please!” The old woman turned
on her heel and started marching towards the master chambers. Autumn, alarmed, caught her by the
arm before a few steps.

            “Stasia, please. If you love your son, you’ll let him have his privacy. He’s had a dreadful night
and wants his rest!”

            Anastasia howled, ripping her arm from Autumn’s grasp and shaking a bawled fist. “You
whore! Jezebel slut! You have stolen my son from me and want him for your sinful pleasures! You
will not keep him from me!”

            Another temper tantrum was not what Autumn needed, but she waited patiently through the
beratment, the angry insults, the nasty threats until Anastasia has satiated her need to state her
motherly opinion. Finally, the woman quieted to a low growl, muttering obscenities under her breath
as she stomped away down the hall back towards her own personal wing. Autumn waited a few
moments more to make sure the woman was gone before she returned quickly to her husband’s room.

            It was dealthy quiet, so quiet that after she closed the door, Autumn had stiffly strained to
hear her husband’s breath before she continued on to the bed. His breath was ragged and slow, and
he was very pale with few blotches of red across his cheeks from the fever. He looked terrible, and
all she could do was watch him before she shook her head to regain her senses and retrieved the cool
cloth to brush his forehead.

            “Lorant… I sent for a doctor.” She spoke softly, not wanting to wake him if he was asleep,
but still wanting to assure him that someone was coming to help as soon as possible. There was no
answer; his lips trembled but if he actually said something, it was inaudible.

            Suddenly, Lorant blinked and his eyes cleared. He seemed dazed, but aware. He saw he was
in his bed, and his gaze met Autumn’s, his bronze eyes wide open. “Wine,” he muttered. But just then
his eyes clouded again and his head fell to the side as his body shivered.

            It was way late for anyone to be out of bed in the town of Eger. The Riktophen Manor was
deep into its own grounds, but not as isolated from the road for the fire to go unnoticed, yet not a
single soul approached the gates. Now that the fire had been controlled, the servants were still
keeping watch just in case an unnoticed spark could give way to a new disaster. It was dark. Nobody
asked when one of the stable boys rushed outside on a horse to get a doctor, and nobody asked
questions when a carriage approached the big house in the darkness – it was slow, for an emergency.
Two men descended; a sturdy old man in a dark coat and a young, tall man in a black, hooded coat.
The old man carried a leather bag typical of those used by physicians. The younger man carried a
satchel across his shoulder. The pair were rushed to the second floor, almost secretively – not to
disturb the mother of the ill Master. The servants knew the doctor, but not his companion: an
Austrian, he seemed from his features. His hair was fair to the point of being a bright white…
Something unusual.

            The servant discreetly rushed to Autumn’s side and bowed.

            “Milady, Doctor Addler and his assistant,” the servant announced in a whisper.

            It was like she was sitting there waiting for the reaper of death to swoop in through the door
with ebony black wings and a golden scythe. To her mild surprise, at the whispering of her servant
two men crossed over the bedroom threshold. The elder, Doctor Addler, was one she knew well.
Often Autumn had seen him for mild injuries acquired during her time at the house. The other gave
her a brief start. All she could see was his hood, then his illuminous near white hair. For a moment
she believed it was indeed the angel of death there to claim her husband.

            Autumn stood quickly, smoothing her hands over her robes.

            “I’m so glad you came. He’s running a very bad fever. Nothing seems to do him any good,
he’s hardly even conscious or aware at all…”

            The servant laid the visitors’ coats on a chair, since in their rush they had made their way into
the house with their coats on. Dr. Addler sat his medical bag on a small table and opened it, pulling
out a binaural stethoscope; it was fairly similar to the one invented by Arthur Leared in 1851, yet it
did seem more advanced than that. His assistant closed the door and seemingly melted in the
shadows.

            “Such a dark room,” he said and his voice was grave and melodious, like that of a
professional singer… or a professor. The doctor was already at Lorant’s side and gently removed the
lady to the side.

            “When did this start, and how?” He asked. “Keep calm and tell me everything you know.”

            Lorant’s coat was not yet removed or cleaned from dirt and mud, still on the chair where he
dropped it when he arrived to the house, long hours ago. The white-haired man was bent on it, and
if there were more light it would have been apparent he had picked a scent on it. A pale hand slid
on the heavy creases and turned the coat’s sleeve, revealing the torn shoulder of the coat. The man
looked at the rug. Mud stains were already dry on thick rug, barely visible in the dancing light from
the fireplace. He picked up a rag from the floor; a shoulder piece from a woman’s dress, torn and
ragged, stained in dry blood. He cast a sideways look at the lady and noticed a certain stiffness to one
of her arms and shoulder, but said nothing as the doctor talked to her. He saw the Baron’s robe,
covered in blood, dirt and soot. They had already seen the fire aftermath outside, but he did notice
tearing and different blood stains. It was fallen next to the bed, probably having slipped off it when
the Baron was put to bed. He was examining it on the floor without picking it up when the lady took
a step back and nearly tripped on him. The man kept his balance like a rock and looked up at her
startled face. Long, white bangs framed a handsome face, but his eyes momentaneously eclipsed his
features. One of his eyes was blue and the other, orange… and those eyes were smiling strangely.

            “I beg your pardon,” he muttered. “But please, don’t mind me.”

            “This fever, I suspect, is more than just from tonight.” Autumn started, “Than again I am not
a doct-..” she took a step back to avoid being in the doctor’s way as he moved and nearly tripped over
his assistant. Raising an eyebrow at him, she merely nodded. Was he snooping? No, no… he was a
medical assistant after all. If he were a good one, he would be looking for clues to Lorant’s illness.
His eyes were so strange though! “Er…” she turned back to the doctor. What would she tell them
about what happened? It was all completely unnatural! “There was a problem with wolves and a fire,
both of which happened right after the other. He was injured and didn’t let me dress the wounds right
away. He also left bed and I found him nearly passed out downstairs…”

            The doctor didn’t bat an eye at his assistant’s movements and kept his attention trailed on
Autumn. “Wolves?” He asked. “I’ll need to make some tests…”

            Meanwhile, the assistant had rose to his feet and moved away, with Lorant’s robe. He
extended it on a chair next to the coat and examined the rips torn in the brocade.

            “There’s been two occasions, at least,” the assistant said in a low voice that still managed to
be perfectly audible. “When he arrived to the house and later, perhaps past bedtime. The same
shoulder, too – and this,” he waved the piece of Autumn’s dress in the air, “goes with the first one,
if I am not wrong. I didn’t see any dogs when we arrived… Did the wolves kill them? But I seem to
hear the elder lady keeps unusual dogs.” His voice seemed to dance as he spoke; as if he already
knew there were no wolves in the grounds or at least, involved in the attack.

            The doctor was examining the Baron.

            “It’s too soon for rabies symptoms to develop to this scale.”

            “Plus, the lady was also scratched by one of the affectionate beasts,” the assistant softly
added, sifting some powders from a tiny container he pulled out of his pocket on the garments. He
seemed to observe a reaction. “There’s no saliva in this piece of her dress… and she stands tall and
fair, if I may say so.”

            The doctor was checking the Baron’s pupils and breathing, then removing the bandage with
expertise to check the wound. He frowned. Pulling some instruments out of his bag, he took a sample
and made a quick test.

            His assistant wrinkled his nose.

            “Thirty, please.”

            “That may work for you, but not for me,” the doctor said, curtly. “The animal was healthy,
for all it seems, but there is something else.” The doctor shook his head. “The medication on the
wound has dissolved it.”

            His assistant rose the coat to his nose and gave a delicate sniff. He approached the doctor and
muttered a word or two into his ear.

            They looked at the lady.

            “Did his dinner include vinegar or wine?” The doctor asked.

            His assistant swept a look around from the side of the bed and spotted the slight glass Aidan
had flicked to a chair earlier. His orange eye caught the dancing lights from the fireplace as he gazed
over the chair. He went over and picked up the glass. There was only one in sight. Dr. Addler looked
at him briefly and back to Autumn.

            “Milady?”

            “Wine, yes…” she replied slowly, neglecting to answer about the dogs. The beasts were more
like wolves to her than dogs, explaining their nature would be troublesome for everyone. The
situation was increasingly overwhelming. If she could just tell them everything… “It was just a little
wine, he’s not one for heavy drinking.” Autumn pinched the bridge of her nose while she tried to
think. Everything was all kind of jumbled now, she could hardly remember what happened first. “He
wasn’t quite himself even when he first arrived home. I was worried but I didn’t really press to ask
him. Then the whole ordeal outside with the wolves and the fire, it’s just been all the worse.”

Categories
Writing

Never Fall In Love (Unfinished)

Never Fall In Love
Samael’s Fall From Grace

It was a cold night as shadowed clouds blocked the illuminant shine of the moon overhead. Small frosted white flakes of snow had just begun to drift down from the sky, lightly dusting the streets and buildings with a soft blanket of the winter’s first storm. Muttering a few curt words, Samael jumped over a frozen puddle that blocked his way on the narrow sidewalk, roughly pulling his worn brown cloak tighter around his shoulders. A man couldn’t have wished for worse weather on this night. Samael had made a promise to a very special lady that nothing would mar the arrangements he had planned. Of course, Camilla would never speak an ill word about snow. Camilla loved the seasons, from every bird that sang in the spring to every flake of crystallized water that fell in the winter. There was not a single woman in all of London that could make Samael Norse turn his head from his work, or a flower as sweet as his Camilla.

“Ho! Doc! Slow up, a bit!”

Samael resisted the guttural growl that threatened to escape and deemed it inappropriate to take off in a sprint at the sound of the young man. Johnathon Morris, a good fourteen years his junior was much like a fly constantly buzzing in his ear. If it weren’t brawls at the local slums it was ridiculous stories of vampires or giant hell beasts with long sharp teeth and rancid breath. The Morris whelp dressed himself in the most dandy of fashions, in Samael’s old-fashioned mindset, and yet could drink any man under a table. More than once Samael had patched the boy up after one of his scrapes and listened to his farfetched stories of demons walking the night. Perhaps if her were not such a lush, Morris could have made a career of writing novels instead of constantly plaguing the doctor with his nonsense.

Reluctantly Samael slowed his steps and stopped, turning around to face the young man whom looked as if he had just had a nasty fight with a stray dog in the streets. An eyebrow of curiosity rose, but he quickly brushed away all wonderment at the Morris and assumed his typical scowl. “What perilous plight have you gotten yourself in to now, Morris? I am quite bus-”

“Have a little Faith, Doc!” Johnathon Morris beamed a wide self-satisfied grin as she shoved his hands in to his designer stitched coat and rocked back and forth on his heels. He had the look of a cat that had just caught the neighbor’s canary.

The corner of Samael’s eye gave a slight twitch at the sound of ‘Doc’. He detested that nickname with a passion. “Well, spit it out. I am to meet… someone.” Though it was likely Morris knew of Camilla either by acquaintance or by rumor, Samael did not wish to spend any longer than necessary making explanations.

Morris only sufficed in grinning wider. “I have an amazing opportunity for you, Doc. The partner to the greatest occultist in London- heck! The world!”

“Have you gone daft!?” Samael howled. He shook an angry finger at the young man as tendrils of pitch black hair fell in to his eyes. “First off, the occult is a myth chattered about by bored schoolboys and highly imaginative children. Second, I refuse to baby sit and coddle a man who has refused to grow up and realize demons and such are mere fairy tales and spends his time boozing in the local pub instead of working an honest profession!”

Johnathon wrinkled up his nose in mild disappointed as he removed his hands from his coat and crossed them over his chest. “Is that a ‘no’?”

Samael motioned forward as if to strangle the younger man and Johnathon took several steps back as he threw up his hands in defense. “Have a heart, Doc- okay alright!” When Samael didn’t stop his advancements Johnathon scampered off down the sidewalk giving a flippant wave of his hand. “Have it your way, Doc! When I’m an amazing occultist and you’re just some stuffy old man, don’t come crying to me when no one remembers your name!”

Scoffing at the threat, Samael brushed errant snowflakes from his shoulder as he turned and continued down the sidewalk. The whelp was an arrogant fool. Perhaps even if his demons and creatures of darkness were real and true, Samael highly doubted he’d he would waste his time partnering with a complete buffoon. A slight curve of a smile graced his lips as he imagined the boy drunkenly fighting off a hoard of vampires. He’d likely escape with sheer luck and blindingly light the beasts to flame and take credit as if that were his plan all along. Refusing to waste another thought on Morris, Samael trudged on to the small manor home of his beloved Camilla.

* * * * * * * * * *

Samael stepped in to the parlor of the miniature London manor, admiring the warm old-fashioned style of the furniture and the sweet scent of cinnamon mixed with the smell of burning embers. The Rosewood home was a particular delight to him. Soft and feminine like it’s Lady, with small details of her handwork spread around the house. It was so much more comfortable than the cramped rooms of his own home, where there was little room left to walk amongst the books and trinkets that littered the place. The elusive scent of Camilla’s perfume drifted to his nose along with the sound of coming footsteps. He turned with a brilliant smile to greet his beloved but it quickly vanished as he saw the look of pain in her rich brown eyes. Immediately he crossed the expanse of the room, clasping her hands in his with a look of concern.

“Camilla, darling, what ever could be wrong?” He asked softly bringing her cold pale hands to his lips. For a moment he thought she might’ve taken ill, and was ready to order her to bed for rest, but she looked up in to his eyes smiling apologetically.

“Oh, my love… I am so, so sorry.” She shook her head as her voice broke, finding it difficult to say the words. Samael was patient as he held her hands, giving a reassuring smile. Taking in a deep breath she spoke again. “Your sister, Lucille. She has… passed on.”

A long excruciating silence followed as the seconds ticked by. So stunned by the news Samael stared down at Camilla with a blank unreadable expression, until finally he slowly returned to the present. “How… when?” He managed to croak out only a barely of a fraction above a whisper.

Camilla brushed a cool hand gently across his cheek. “The messenger had stopped by your home first, and the valet instructed him you would be here.” Carefully, Camilla guided Samael towards the soft plush sofa near the fire and bade him to sit. Soothingly she stroked his cheek and patted his hand, watching as the dozens of emotions flittered across his face like a battered ship in a storm. “If was some few days ago, the letter said. Cold complications…”

“Complications?!” Samael bawled loudly as he suddenly jumped from his seat with a start. “Cold complications?! What preposterous and ill-founded assessment is that! What healthy full grown woman dies from a cold!” With a leashed curbed anger, Samael paced back and forth in front of the orange flames in the hearth. His eyes were glittering a bright green as he wrung his hands, a fierce confused scowl across his face.

“Please, Samael. I could not possibly know, it is just what the letter said.” Camilla quietly replied, worried over her beloved’s reaction to the news. Samael was not a violent man, or even a temperamental one. He had always been like a solid reliable mountain, shielding her danger and protecting her from pain. She wanted desperately to do the same for him in such a difficult time.

Samael’s face suddenly softened as he quit his pacing and sank back down in to the cushions of the sofa. He brushed the golden blonde curls from Camilla’s beautiful porcelain face. Never did he want to hurt her or have her worry. “I am sorry, dear Camilla. I did not mean to…” He sighed deeply as he gathered her in to his arms and held her close, allowing her nearness to calm his nerves and bring him back to reality. His sister was dead. His sweet darling Lucille, the only one left of their family since their parents had passed away some years ago. Being a doctor, cold complications sounded like a ridiculous unbelievable reason for one’s death. He somehow felt there was more to it than just that. The only way he would know for sure was to go to the country and see for himself.

Placing a gentle kiss on Camilla’s forehead, he slowly loosened his embraced and looked down in her eyes. Tonight he had planned to ask for her hand in marriage, but now… Now there were things he needed to be sure of before he could allow himself to bring Camilla in to his troubles. He wanted to share his life with her, but he did not want to give her his pain.

“Camilla, I must go to see my sister and attend to her funeral.” Samael lamented.

“Let me go with you, Samael. I could be ready in only a few moments.” Camilla replied with earnest, not wanting him to be alone in his grief.

Samael slowly shook his head. “I must go alone. There is something I need to do.”

Camilla opened her rose tinted mouth to reply, but thought better of it and sighed. It was never a simple task to change the man’s mind when he had made it up, and perhaps he did need time alone to deal with the death of his dear sister. “Alright. But, please come back to me soon?”

He smiled sadly brushing a soft kiss across her lips. “I will. I promise.” With a last goodbye, Samael left the peaceful Rosewood home and quickly made for the country.

* * * * * * * * * *

Rain. Cold hard gloomy smatterings of rain fell from the heavens like a torrent of tears, as if the angels themselves were mourning the passing of one of their own. Lucille was surely like an angel amongst mortals with such a classic beauty of the heart and soul. Samael rode in silence on his pale chestnut mount, the rain making the roads too slick and dangerous with mud and icy slush to take a quicker gait. All the former serenity of the snowfall had left, leaving the dismal grimy slush as the rain came pouring down. He was soaked to the bone, but Samael could not let himself stop and rest until he reached the home of Alfred Grottingsby. There was a detestable taste left in his mouth every time he thought about the weasel-like man, enough to make Samael want to spit at the mere thought of him. Slight feelings of regret tugged at the back of his mind. He had warned Lucille not to marry the bastard, he had even had gone so far to say he’d disown her. Had he known what would have become of his dear sister…

His horse stumbled in the muddy slush and quickly righted itself; jarring Samael from the road his thoughts had taken him. He had warned her at least. If the silly girl chose not to listen to him, he could not be faulted for that. Still, he loved his Lucille dearly and her death weighed heavily on him. Lucille was a lovely young girl with hair the color of deep ebony and the same sparkling teal eyes they inherited from their mother. There were many high society men that had asked for her hand, but she had chosen the very one Samael forbade her against. A slight ironic smile graced his lips. Lucille had a stubborn rebellious streak. Playing against that might’ve just been his biggest mistake.

Ahead a stone and limber cottage came in to view, Samael guided his steed on to the cobblestone path that led up to the house. Someone inside must have noticed his arrival as he could see light and fluttering at the windows. Reaching the front steps, Samael quickly dismounted as the front door of the cottage swung open and slammed before his feet could hit the ground. Standing at the top of the steps, his brother-in-law stared down at him with a deep-set scowl of disapproval. He was wearing a ridiculously fancy lounging coat and his hair was tussled as if he had just roused himself from bed.

“What in hell are you doing here at this hour, Norse.” Alfred looked down his nose at the older man with obvious contempt. He made no move to leave the steps or even welcome his brother by marriage sanctuary from the weather.

Samael glared back at the man with an equally loathsome look. Had he not feared Alfred would lower himself to coward’s standards and cry for the law, Samael would have happily leapt up the steps and wrung his neck. “I have come to see Lucille and arrange for her funeral.”

Alfred snorted in reply. “I have taken care of everything, not that I imagined you would dare come here after disbarring your dear sister from your life! Be gone, Norse!”

“No!” Samael called as Alfred turned his back to him and started for the door. “Don’t you dare walk away from me, Grottingsby! I demand to see my sister! I refuse to believe such ludicrous reasons as cold complications for her death!”

The stout man on the steps visibly paled, though it seemed he quickly regained his wits and composure before discounting Samael’s accusations. “How dare you come here and accuse me of such! The woman is dead let her body lay to rest!”

Samael narrowed his eyes in suspicion as he angrily ran his hands through his sodden hair. He had not missed the pale pallor of Grottingsby skin, or the way his body suddenly tensed. “I want to see her. Now.”

With hands placed on his hips, Alfred sneered down at the older man. “You have not my permission, Norse. And we both know that is my right as husband. Shall we bring in the constable and make a big to-do over the dead body of dear Lucille?”

Gritting his teeth it was all Samael could do to keep from killing the man on the spot. He did not doubt Alfred would make good on his threats, not only harming Samael, but making a mockery of Lucille’s name. Samael could not let any harm come to his sister, even in death. With a loud venomous growl that didn’t even come close to expressing his true anger, Samael remounted his horse and charged his way back to London.

* * * * * * * * * *

It had been a week since Samael left London to see his deceased sister and he now returned with a dim expression. He knew deep down, there was more to Lucille’s death than a simple cold. Alfred had acted much too strange when questioned. Samael had hoped even Grottingsby wasn’t so cold-hearted as to not let a man see his own flesh and blood. Shouts on the street up ahead drew Samael from his dreary thoughts. He drew his horse closer and near immediately he recognized the frantic voice of the Morris whelp.

“What in God’s name is going on here, Morris!” Samael announced his presence rather loudly. There were two or three unrecognizable persons milling around besides Johnathon Morris whom was standing over a fallen form. As he dismounted and to get a better look at the injured party he sucked in a sudden shocked breath. “Good God…”

Johnathon looked up startled at Samael, and quickly tried to explain. “A demon attacked the carriage. I had no idea it was Camilla. God, Samael if only I had known!”

“Silence!” the older man hissed as he knelt down next to the fallen body of his Camilla. He didn’t want to hear the excuses or reasoning of the stupid Morris boy! There was blood, so much blood… but she was breathing! Perhaps there was hope! Samael pulled her in to his arms, gently cradling her head. Slowly Camilla opened her eyes and gave such a soft weak smile, Samael could feel his insides churn with pain.

“My love…” she breathed no louder than a whisper, giving a wince as a sharp stab ached in her chest. “It was such… a horrible beast. The footman is gone, and I…”

Samael shook his head. “Shush, beloved. I will make you well.” Lifting Camilla up in to his arms, he was careful not to jostle her too badly, still unsure of the extent of her injuries. Nearby, Johnathon Morris still lurked, silent as Samael spoke to Camilla. The Doctor paid him no mind, even leaving his own horse behind and his walked steadfastly back towards the Rosewood manor.

Whether it was a few mere moments or near eternity to reach Camilla’s home, Samael did not know, nor did he care as long as his love continued to breathe. He rushed up the stairs, barking orders to the servants to bring everything he needed from hot water to bandages, to his medical equipment. In Camilla’s chambers he laid her to rest gently on the bed. Out of the corner of his eye he spotted Johnathon Morris still trailing close behind. “Be gone!” he ordered with controlled anger.

“But, Samael I can-”

“Be gone!”

Johnathon hesitated for a few moments before finally bowing out of the room, leaving Samael to tend to Camilla in a stone cold silence.

Hours passed by as Johnathon paced downstairs in the drawing room. The sky outside was turning shades of pale rose and orange as the sun began to rise on the horizon. Chirping birds near the window grating on his frayed nerves. How could they be so chipper while a woman lay dying just up the stairs? A sudden slam at the drawing room door startled him from his musing, and he turned to see the cause. Samael Norse stood in the doorway, his jacket gone and his shirt rolled up to his elbows stained in an obscene amount of blood. His hands were not washed, and his eyes glittered a deep shade of green as they stared devoid of any known emotion at the young occultist.

“How is she…?” he asked solemnly.

“Dead.”

Johnathon blinked in surprise, unsure if it were the shock of Camilla’s death or Samael’s immovable form that stunned him so. “Samael, I-”

“Save it.” The Doctor cut him off quickly, though he made to move to leave the doorway. Samael continued to stare at the younger man, a muscle in his jaw now starting to twitch. “Tell me how this happened. Now.”

The young Morris blinked, still stunned and unsure how to reply to the older man. Samael stood still as a rock with a look that could surely even shake the devil if he stood before them. “Eh, I’m not quite sure really I don’t know if I can-”

“Tell it all.”

Johnathon blinked again, taking in a deep breath of courage to steel himself. Surely the doctor wouldn’t harm him; after all, he did his best to save Camilla. “I had been hunting the beast for a good week now. I was following its trail when I came across it attacking a carriage. I had not known it was Camilla’s. I had arrived late… The footman and carriage driver were already swallowed whole. I killed the beast, but Camilla…” the boy paused. “Samael, I’m sorry. If I could have done anything…”

“’Could’ is your favorite excuse, isn’t it, Morris?” Samael’s eyes narrowed as he stepped a few paces closer to Morris. Johnathon in turned took a few steps back and to the side, having that sudden look as if he were about to flee. The doctor continued to advance until the young Morris had escaped from the drawing room and was cornered near the front door. “All of your ranting and raving, Morris, and it didn’t do a damned thing, did it! Were you drunk? Chasing women? Did you boast of your skills and waste precious moments while my Camilla lay bleeding on the streets?!”

Johnathon fumbled for the doorknob and flung it open as he near catapulted himself out the front door. Samael was following, obviously seething as his eyes flashed with anger and a small vein bulged at his temple. “Look here, Norse, I did what I could!”

“You did not do enough!” Samael roared after Johnathon as he stood in the doorframe, his hands clenched tightly as his sides. “You did not do enough. And for that, Morris, you will pay dearly.” With those fatal words, he slammed the door in the young man’s face.

* * * * * * * * * *

A haunted gaze peered down in to the amber liquid that swirled in slow circles in a glass. Candidly he wondered how much pressure he could put to the crystal before it shattered in his very hands. Samael took another long drink, emptying the contents and slamming the bottom down on the counter with more force than necessary as her summoned the barkeep for another. One month had passed since he lost Camilla. One agonizing month, rolling the images in his mind, second guessing, reenacting. He cold have stayed. He could have taken her. If he had arrived sooner… Anything but the hollow emptiness that had taken residence in the very pit of his soul.

Two men took a seat near him, though Samael paid them no mind. As the barkeep set a refilled glass before him, he picked it up taking deep swallow half listening to their hushed conversation. He could smell the metallic scent of blood, something he recognized being a doctor but more memorably resurfacing the pain of the very night he wanted to forget.

“He returned to town, got one special just for him. Pays mighty good for ‘em too. Ain‘t nothing‘ killin‘ a whore or two. They ain‘t but gutter trash anyway and no one misses ‘um.” One of the men boasted to his companion, in hushed tones. The corner of Samael’s eyebrow twitched as if some sort of internal battle was crying out for justice, but he remained still drinking from his glass.

The second man clicked his teeth. “I still think yer mad. What you wan’ go dealing with demons I’ll never keen. He might up and eat your guts or something’. No amount o’ of power or money is gonna make me deal with demons, I tell you what.”

Snorting, the first replied. “One of those higher ups, arch demons. He ain’t gonna lay his teeth in no vampire. Thinks we’re trash.” he took a long drought of beer, then wiped his face with his sleeve before continuing. “Dun matter much, I woulda killed ‘em anyway, least this way I get me a bonus out of it. Those prissy purebloods are gonna get a nasty surprise when I get blessed by an arch demon!”

Samael caught himself listening more intently than he realized. Vampires? Arch demons? Had all the ramblings of the Morris been true? Camilla had said herself with her dying breath it was a beast that attacked her. Creatures of the underworld roaming the streets of London feeding on the innocent. Samael had the urge kill them both, talking so idly of murder. But if they were truly vampires, he was only a mere human. They would snap his neck with little effort. The one they mentioned caused him some curiosity, an arch demon that granted power? What would he want in return? A soul? It seemed like the standard request a beast of hell would ask for. Samael glared down at his glass as his mind took an odd turn of thought. He could not save Camilla, nor could he protect his sister Lucille. Morris spoke of being an occultist, though he had not protected Camilla either. Would that demon grant him the power to save others and seek revenge?

Before he thought twice, being pulled by some invisible force, Samael left his chair and approached the two men. “Who is this.. Arch demon?” he asked.

The pair had not realized someone was listening in, and neither looked willing to give away secrets to some stranger. However, a cold glittering look in the man’s eyes had the first thinking twice. The way he clenched his fists look too suspiciously like he would pull out a stake and stab them in the heart if they refused. “Eh… Amadeus Nieyemer. You can uh… find him at the White Club.” He didn’t expect the arch demon wouldn’t be too pleased at being interrupted, but the vampire guessed with sadistic glee that the human would end up gutted for daring to approach him.

Without giving thanks or another word, Samael turned away and left the bar. He would seek out Amadeus Nieyemer. Perhaps if he could not fill that void in his soul, he would be better off without one at all.

* * * * * * * * * *

The White Club was one of the most prestigious men’s clubs in London. There was dining , a few games of cards in the back, and the social elite any ladder-climber would be dying to converse with. Samael Norse had spent very few hours in the White Club himself; The shallow topics of ones monetary gain or the affairs of politics interested him little. Now even more so than ever. His only objective was to seek out that demon and be rid of the shadows that were slowly eating at his heart. At the front desk he met with some opposition. Amadeus Nieyemer was indeed at the White Club, however he was uninterested in meeting any strangers without appointment. Even bribery did little to sway the stout man’s mind which left Samael casually browsing the club and trying to look inconspicuous.

Categories
Writing

A Princess Captured

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Title: Defiance: (pt1) Palace Liyao
Number: 21
Date: May 15, 2008 at 7:07 PM
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Divinatas – May 15, 2008 at 7:07 PM

[dotted=http://space-kitten.org/forum/picture.php?albumid=1&pictureid=20]Princess Katarin Ioso

Psssst!” Came a whisper from behind the long velvet curtains that hung along the entire expanse of the wall. There was a subtle movement behind them, then the sound again. “Pssssst!

Katarin walked slowly, turning the page of a book in her hand. She stopped next to the curtain, turning slightly to the side so her face was well blocked from the windows and doors. “It’s broad daylight. You’re going to get yourself killed.” She hissed quietly.

The curtain moved guiltily. “Forgive me, but it’s urgent news. What you overheard is true. A rebellion has been on the move for months now. The outskirt villages that managed to escape the recruiting have joined up as refugees and he found out about them. By the end of the month he plans to have most of the towns burned and tell Parliament that the Rebels are trying to destroy Liyao because of the succession.”

Her fingers tightened on the edges of the book, but her face remained passive. “They don’t realize how far his hands reach… do they know yet? If Parliament believes they are attacking Liyao, they’ll send their own forces after them. Lorgunan won’t even have to move a finger.”

“…No. Wen has the Skipper ready and we’re leaving right away. He says if we get there fast enough, the rebellion can send ships to evacuate the villages before they’re burned. If there’s no bodies, maybe Parliament would find the situation suspicious and finally get their heads out of their as-”

“Jinak…” she gently interrupted him. “Hurry and go. We’ve wasted precious minutes all ready.”

“Aye, Princess Katarin. Be safe.” There was a soft shuffle from behind the curtain, a few footsteps and he was gone.

Katarin moved away from the wall, a frown slowly spreading across her face. She set the book down on the table as she wrapped her arms around herself. She couldn’t dare to hope. Not after what she’s discovered about the other worlds Lorgunan had gained control of. As part of Parliament, she and the members were told by Lorgunan that a civil war had broken out on Yiv9, that in the mess of it all they wiped out the entire planet for their war. But she knew better now. Yiv9 refused to join Lorgunan and tried to fight. Now there was hardly anything left. She couldn’t stop Lorgunan from taking Liyao, but she could keep him away from as many innocent people as she could. As long as she did what he asked, he wouldn’t lay waste to her planet like the people of Yiv9.

“HAULT! GRAB HIM!” Came a guard’s cry from directly outside. A sudden realizing panic struck her, as she ran for the door. Outside in the main garden there was Jinak surrounded by Lorgunan’s appointed guards! They would torture him for information within an inch of his life. Katarin retrieved a crossbow from a display on the wall. One of those proud Liyao historical weapons. It was the only thing within reach! She took aim and– Her arm was grabbed, the crossbow wretched out of her hands. Lorgunan gripped her arm tight, standing over her with a displeased look as he examined the crossbow.

“This is unfortunate, Princess Katarin. I have been gracious enough to allow you to roam free in your own palace, yet you repay my generosity by passing information to terrorists and murdering one of your people?” Katarin opened her mouth to object, but not a word came through before there was a PFFFT! The crossbow in Lorgunan’s hands fired. Jinak shot through the heart. Her words stuck in her throat. How many more people were going to die…?

“Take Princess Katarin to the lower dungeon cell. Make sure it has no windows and no means of escape. We’ll discuss the punishment for your crimes later, Your Highness.” He released her in to the custody of his guards. Katarin could hear him giving orders to find Wen’s ship and destroy it as she was led away to the prison cells. As the cell door closed behind her, she was sure Wen wouldn’t make it.

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Categories
Writing

Silver Tear… Beginnings of a Prolouge?

It was pouring down rain that morning at the St. Mary Adoption Center. The children were inside enjoying the warm of the playroom, some playing board games, while others were enthralled with videos or simply playing pretend. Sister Maria was busy helping some of the younger ones clean up the paints and clay from the their art project when one of the older children tugged on the skirt of her habit. “Yes, Kathy?” She looked down at the young girl with concerned. The little freckle-faced red-head was wide-eyed with wonderment, dancing back and forth on her two feet with excitement.

“There’s a baby at the front door!” Kathy exclaimed, barely being able to keep her excitement under control.

Sister Maria sighed. Kathy was known for telling incredible tall tells, so she was a bit reluctant to believe the young girl. The last time she saw a wizard outside in the tree house and all that was found was a tiny grass lizard. “Now Kathy, dear. You know what we said abou-”

“But Sister Maria it’s a real baby! At the front door! Cooing an’ everything!” Kathy was very insistent, tugging on Sister Maria’s clothing in an attempt to get her to go see.

“Oh, alright. We’ll go see.” Sister Maria sighed as she rose from her seat, following little Kathy out of the playroom and in to the halls. As they walked Maria could hear the faint sounds of gurgling and babbles. Her eyebrows furrowed in curiosity. It certainly sounded like a baby. Reaching the front doors of the center, Sister Maria swung open the doors. Kathy squealed in delight as there was indeed a baby sitting at the front steps, wrapped up in a old tattered looking blanket with a small note attached.

Maria was stunned as she quickly stooped and swept up the baby in to her arms, closing the doors to block out the rain and cold. Who could leave such a young helpless child out in the rain like that? “Kathy, please go summon the other Sisters to my office at once! This is very important!”

Once the employees and volunteers of the agency were gathered in her office, Sister Maria motioned to the young baby that was situated in a small seat, trying to fight off sleep to watch all of the excitement. She held up the note for all to see and passed it around for the others to read.

“Her name is Jetta… At least that is what it explains in the note. It gives little information other than her name, and to please protect the child from any dangers. I am completely lost at what to do!”

Quiet murmers echoed through the room as the Sisters read the note and watched the small sleepy child. Sister Chantal, one of the older ladies of the establishment spoke up. “We will simply have to keep her until we can find her family or place her in a safe home. We couldn’t turn her over to anyone else. She is such a sweet little thing!” Others chimed in with their agreements!

“Well… I suppose we could keep her.” Sister Maria looked down at the small child, who has since lost it’s battle against sleep. “Welcome to St. Mary’s, Jetta…”