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Southampton Docks, March 1893
I was cold and alone without her. There was no life for me without Juliet. Her betrayal cut deep into my soul and I feared I would never recover. The physical ache in my temples intensified as she put more distance between us and I watched the ship depart the docks. My mind called out to her in desperation but she was to shut me out and leave me to rot in this dark cold barren world alone. She would not hear me. She would not hear her mate, her counsel, her Knight of Swords. I was banished from her mind like a common criminal. Was I nothing to her now? Did she really prefer the comfort she took with her Lycan suitors?
The demon I allowed free reign of my temperament cursed my beautiful Queen. He threatened her with the promise of violent punishment when he retrieved her. But my human soul that lay trapped beneath his fierce control could only feel despair as I watched the ship edge further and further away.
Could she not understand that if I allowed my true human nature to control my person I would fail her again. The demon could more safely protect her than I ever could from the Taleian knights and the evil that stalked her. I could not lose her or bear to see her hurt again. Why did she refuse to listen to good sense?
The demon wanted to follow her to Venice on the next ship but it was not to leave for two days. He was frantic and destructive in his rage. I lifted the collar on my long black woollen coat to shield my face from the icy air and walked from the docks to make my way to the nearest drinking establishment.
I sat alone in the deserted public house as the night rolled in over the seedier part of Southampton. The demon had cleared the place with his fighting and irresolute temper that could find no rest or sympathy. The barman viewed me with fear and kept pouring the gin so that I should not want but it was insufficient to quell the tempest within my soul.
I closed my eyes remembering when the demon part of my soul approached her on the train. The way she looked at him with painful need, despite all that he had done. Every fibre of her being reached out to him calling for their joining. The demon’s own need was potent, stronger than I as a mere human had ever allowed myself to feel for anything or anyone. It’s strength and limitless boundaries made me fearful. Whenever I indulged in such careless liberty with my feelings I would lose the person to whom they were attached to death itself.
In truth my point had already been proved, my parents, my uncle were dead and my younger brother Xavier was all but headed in the same direction. But Juliet was more precious to me than any other being and as a result she had suffered the worst. I felt my stomach tighten with anger as I remembered her rape at Sebastian’s hands and her near death at my own when I was under the witch’s power. No, the demon employed a far better technique in ensuring the Queen of Talus’s protection even if sometimes his treatment of her was harsh. I desired Juliet more than life itself and if that was the sacrifice I was forced to pay to possess her love then I would endure it. Yet now she rejected the demon out of hand. Why such cruelty? What else could I give her?
With a concurring growl of raging dissatisfaction the demon picked up his empty glass and threw it hard at the bottles of liquor lined up on shelves behind the barman. The man ducked in adequate time to avoid the splinters of glass that burst forth from the explosion as three bottles broke with a loud crash.
‘Please, sir,’ the barman begged. ‘You will do me out of business . . .’
But I was insolent to his pleading. I cared for nothing or anyone at that moment only the rejection and loss that weighed down my soul. I reached over the bar and caught hold of his shirt and brought him to face me. His whiskers were damp with the sweat of anxiety as I held him there.
‘Stop your complaining and pour me another one and maybe I will let you live another day,’ I demanded.
I knew not why I drank the gin. It had little effect on my body but there was some comfort in old human habits. The man nodded furiously and I let go of him with abruptness so much so that he fell backwards to the floor. I sat back on the stool and watched him scrabble to his feet to pour me another glass with his shaking hands as my finger tapped impatiently on the bar. I glared at him and moved from the stool to sit at one of the wooden chairs. I leant back in it and put my feet up on the table and downed the liquor in one before calling for him to attend me again.
The door opened and a young gentleman of birth carrying a black and silver cane entered. He took off his top hat and shook the rain from it. He ran his fingers through his short light brown hair and turned towards me as he began to undo his winter coat. I was treated to a courteous nod and polite smile of acknowledgement. There was a flamboyant confident air to his frame as he strode towards me He seemed quite undeterred by the ferocious glare I gave him. I did not want visitors and I had no mood for polite small talk. I downed another drink watching him with suspicion as he began to approach me.
He came to sit down across from me depositing his hat and cane on the table. I straightened ready to throw the fool from the table but he put up his hand and spoke before I could make any movement.
‘Lord Valancourt, I presume,’ he smiled. ‘Or perhaps you would prefer to be addressed by your new royal title, Knight of Swords,’ he finished in a low voice diverting his somewhat strangely vivid topaz eyes cautiously at the terrified barman standing shaking behind the counter.
‘And who is it that asks for me?’ I demanded gruffly scrutinising his light countenance and fine chiselled features that gave him an almost angelic appearance.
There was an otherworldly air to this man. He was not human in the strictest sense of the word. Instinct made me reach to breach his mind and confirm my suspicions but I was to be met with darkness and a strong fortified barrier to his thoughts. My suspicions grew stronger. But he was to keep nothing from me.
‘My name is Cadell and yes, Knight of Swords I am what you believe me to be.’ He gave a wide grin and leaned over to whisper. ‘I am indeed an Angelic being and I am here to bring you a message.’
The demon narrowed his eyes. He was interested in what the Angel Cadell wanted to tell him yet he did not fully trust him. He believed he may be being tricked by a harpy or other creature but the human side of me was in awe. Cadell called to the barman.
‘Be gone and leave us alone,’ he told the man in a commanding voice. ‘You will not come to any harm.’
The man did not question him. With wide fearful eyes he fled to his rooms behind the bar in an instant.
‘Now, Nathan we can talk freely. It seems you are splintered in your personality. You allow the demon vampiric part of yourself to rule while you condemn the finer wiser human side to your nature in darkness. All, I may add in the name of love and protection,’ he said softly.
He leant his elbow on the table and placed his fingers to his lips as though trying to fathom the complexities of my sacrifice. ‘You are a worthy being Nathan. Your actions are honourable, but sadly, I have to say, very misguided.’
He gave a small laugh.
‘It is not your concern what I decide,’ the demon snapped at him.
Cadell gave another small sarcastic laugh of disbelief and sat back in his chair smoothing down his black cravat.
‘Oh but I am afraid it is most definitely my concern. Your Queen, Juliet is very important. Her birth was no accident, Nathan and neither was yours. She was born to unite your people and help to assist them to live in harmony with the humans. Your role is to assist and protect her as she does that. You are equally important to us Nathan as are all humans. We make no exceptions.’
‘Then you are all fools. Not everyone is worthy of love. Juliet has taught me that well,’ the demon sneered with contempt.
The Angel’s eyes seemed to glow brighter as he watched me.
‘Is that self pity, I detect, Demon?’ he asked lightly.
I remained silent with guilt.
‘It does not serve you well.’
‘That is what Juliet always says but she is naive and idealistic in her pursuits for a better nature. I prefer to face the truth. We are all selfish, self piteous creatures who want whatever we can take. It is the way of the world.’
The demon turned to throw his glass behind the counter and smashed another two bottles in his rage.
The Angel shook his head and tutted.
‘So jaded for such a young person,’ he remarked with amusement. He leaned across the table towards me. ‘But I know you feel hope that she will still have you. There is nothing you want more in this life. If you do not sacrifice your beliefs and make yourself whole again you will never possess your beautiful Queen. She will be ripped apart by those seeking to use her to meet their own ends in power and glory. Then you will be left living an endless life in limbo between one consciousness and the other. You must make the sacrifice and become whole in your being once more. Your queen is in grave danger . . .’
‘Then the demon will serve her better,’ I informed him suddenly afraid of the danger Juliet was in.
His raised his hand to halt my speech once more.
‘She needs all of your soul to help her. The enemy she faces alone is devious and cunning. A reckless demon will not be able to outwit him. But a human of strong mind and valour joined with a Taleian Knight of Sword’s ruthless power and strength will help her defeat him.’
‘Who is it that stalks Juliet?’ I demanded, a storm brewing in my voice yet again.
But I was to be ignored.
‘I cannot compel you to become whole again. It is your choice. Your will is always your own but know this, if you do not and fail to protect and assist your Queen, the world as you know it will be in more peril than you realise.’
The Demon rose to his feet and grabbed Cadell by the lapels of his coat to pull him up.
‘Who dares to take my Queen for himself?’ he shouted.
Cadell nodded. He appeared relieved.
‘Good, Nathan. Your anger spurs you to action instead of self-pity,’ he said with approval, unafraid or distressed by the Demon’s behaviour. ‘I can help you change if you follow my guidance. I will show you how you cannot function without both sides of your nature operating as one whole being. Let me help you, Nathan.’
‘Who, is it? I won’t let him live. Tell me or so help me I will . . .’
The Demon shook him. More relief flooded Cadell’s features and at last he would answer.
‘Juliet’s power is so potent the Devil himself intends to take your Queen for a wife and the mother of his child. With her at his side under his power he will scorch the world in fire and clear everything in his path to own it. He must be stopped. Juliet is the only one who can stop him and you must stand by her side and protect her from him.’
I stared at him in disbelief and horror, unable to speak as I considered the implications of his words.
‘You must assemble your army, Knight of Swords and sail tonight,’ he instructed with urgency, his eyes gleaming with triumph. ‘But first we must make you whole again.’
I let him go, feeling resignation weigh heavily upon my human soul and anger burn in the demon’s heart. The demon would not give up the reins on my human soul so easily. The battle would be fierce, to the death but it was one I had to win or Juliet would be lost to me forever.
A sudden sharp pain pierced my temples. My hands flew to my head as its intensity grew. The Angel watched me without emotion as I moved about the room scattering chairs trying to contain the sharp overwhelming pain threatening to consume me.
A sharp pulling sensation overtook my body as though something was trying to tear me apart. The Angel clasped his hands in front of him calmly as he stood and watched me writhe in agony. The pulling became unbearable and I roared with my torment. I felt something move from inside my body and begin to leave it from the side. My world became an excruciating pain ridden hell that I believed had no end. A part of me was being removed and I felt empty as it departed.
The pain came to an abrupt stop. I looked up from my crumpled position on the floor to find an identical image of myself, a twin no less standing above me. It was the demon. He stood marvelling at his own body, holding out his hands, staring at them with amusement. He let out a loud laugh as I forced myself to rise unable to take my eyes from the curious mirror image that stood next to the Angel.
As I came to stand the demon’s eyes narrowed darkly with nothing less than murder in his eyes. he was his own free spirit without my weak human soul to temper his impulse to kill. We both knew that one of us had to win and consume the other to make us whole again. The battle was for control of my soul and the prize was Juliet. Neither of us intended to lose. The demon’s hands were around my throat before I could think anymore and our fight to the death had begun.
The Adeline, Bay of Biscay, Midnight
The devil himself pursued my tormented soul across the ship. It seemed there was to be no refuge from him. The Devil was determined to take me from the arms of my rightful mate and have me for his own. Not even death itself would free me from the chain he sought to place around my neck to tether me to his side. But he would not take me without a fight. I would not become his as easily as he wished. I had too much to lose. I belonged to my Knight of Swords. No one would be allowed to break the bond between Nathan and I. Not even if I were damned in hell for an eternity.
‘Oh, Juliet, my love, why do you run from me? I want to offer you the world,’ I heard him call for me in a light hearted amused tone , his laughter echoing all around me even though we could not see him.
I continued to ignore him as I ran with my Lycan companions, holding the hands of Marcus’s two young children as we fled towards the stern of the ship.
But he would continue, ‘How much longer are we going to play this game? Remember if you give yourself to me freely I won’t kill any more of those pathetic humans you care so much about.’
I faltered, slowing my pace, taking time to consider the unfortunate humans who had met their death at the ball not an hour ago. They had all died because of my stubborn belief that I could somehow outwit the devil’s power. I shuddered as fragmented images of the night’s horrific events spiralled inside my mind.
Many of the passengers had been dancing and there was much merriment. I had been nothing short of a miserable wretch, pining for Nathan and refusing to dance with any of my kind and thoughtful Lycan companions who were more than eager to rouse me from my low spirits. Liza had kindly allowed me to borrow one of her ball gowns for the evening until I could procure some more clothes for myself in Venice.
It was a pretty, elegant gown of sky blue damask brocaded with delicate pink chrysanthemum petals. It was trimmed in French lace and decorated with garlands of pearls and crystal with a heavy train. It was cut away to reveal my ample cleavage. There was only a modicum of sleeve resting gently on my shoulders and my arms were bare apart from my long white gloves. I had never worn anything quite like it.
I was usually plain in my dress, shunning any pretty garments for practicality and prudence but I confess I was rather excited to wear it. Liza’s maid threaded pearls through my red gold curls, piling my hair high on my head in a coil and drawing it back with a middle parting. Pearl earrings and a simple pearl necklace completed the picture. When I looked at myself in the mirror I was shocked. Instead of the young practical girl who hid in the corner at family gatherings and dinners I was a grown up young woman of eighteen going to her first ball. I wish Nathan had been there to see my pretty dress. I felt sure he would have greatly admired it, I reflected with sadness. I should love to have danced with him that night and only him.
I decided I should like to wear more pretty dresses in future. I spent most of the evening sitting alone at our table, shunning the attention of several admirers, waiting for the prudent moment when it would be acceptable to retire to my room. My first ball was a most wretched affair without Nathan.
A little after eleven o’clock I decided to venture outside to the promenade deck for some air. It was a cool still evening but I did not feel it. The sea was calm and flat, only gentle ripples moved across it’s grey surface. I stood leaning against the rail consumed in silent tears remembering how I had left Nathan standing alone on the dock as the ship departed. His heartbreak weighed heavily on my mind and my conscience even though I knew in my heart the course of action I had taken had been the right one. I could not be bound to a man who would share only part of his soul with me.
The wind suddenly swept up onto the deck in a gust carrying a spray of water almost threatening to knock me from my feet. The brightly lit gas lamps on the deck blew out. The moon disappeared behind sudden gathering dark clouds and the sky was lit with a large fork of white light. The wind became stronger as the ladies on deck pulled their evening shawls closed across their bare arms and were drawn back inside the ship under the protective arm of their male companions, determined to shelter them from the ill weather. I had no such companion. Neither did I wear a shawl. The cold air did not seem to bother me as much as it used to when I was human.
I dipped my head and cast my eyes out over the water thinking of Nathan. I had closed my mind to him as much as I were able to but his feelings would filter through my consciousness adding a heavy weight to my own. I had sensed a restlessness and a torment in him that made me fear. When I detected severe pain from him I was prepared to open my mind and allow our connection to flourish again desperate to know what ailed him so. Then I considered the possibility that it might be a ruse. The demon still possessed the reins to his soul and I would not have put the action above him. It was with great difficulty that I held myself back from giving in.
A loud clap of thunder vibrated around the promenade deck breaking my thoughts. I was not normally frightened of thunder but on this occasion the noise shook me violently. I gasped as the wind blew harshly in my face and the shipped dipped. I looked out across the water, a strange orange glow lighting the horizon. A icy finger stroked my insides leaving a heavy coating of frost, making me shiver. I had experienced that feeling often enough now to note that it was a warning that a malevolent presence was close at hand. The orange glow grew larger and began to move towards the ship at speed. Had I breathed I would have held my breath.
The fiery ball appeared to pulse with energy as it manoeuvred towards us. The storm intensified and whipped up the waves to an alarming height. I held on to the rail tightly to maintain my balance feeling a mixture of rain and snow fall thickly on my bare arms. Whatever approached the ship was evil. I could feel it strongly. Every movement it made towards us seemed to increase the density of its presence. I could not take my eyes from it’s strange form. It meant to cause the ship harm of that I had no doubt. We were all in grave danger.
The doors out onto the Promenade Deck burst open and my Lycan companions Richard and Marcus hurried on to the deck filled with worry that I had disappeared from their line of view in the ballroom. They both rushed to my side, Richard remonstrating with me in his harsh badly mannered and condescending tone that I should not have left the ballroom and their care. Sometimes he made me feel like a unwelcome visitor in the Lycan clan as though I contaminated his people with my vampire presence. His cruel unnecessary words had stung me on more than one occasion in the very short time I had taken refuge with the Lycans. Thankfully, Marcus, the leader of the clan was more well bred in his manner and treated me with generosity and kindness.
Richard demanded that I let go of the rail and come back inside but I would not heed his words. I had to take care of my ship and the human passengers on board. If I could not muster my mighty power as Queen of Talus to protect the vulnerable what use was I in this world?
Richard started to roughly pull at my arm as Marcus stared out to see what so commanded my attention. He sniffed at the air and his expression changed to one of fear. I was about to argue when the orange glow receded and a large object emerged. I gasped out loud as Richard and Marcus stared in horror at the evolving shape from the orange glow. It was a ship, an ocean liner, an exact mirror copy of The Adeline on which we travelled and it was heading straight for us.
Marcus joined Richard in trying to prise my hands away from the rail.
‘Come, Juliet. Danger approaches. We must see you safe or Nathan will never forgive me,’ he fiercely urged.
‘There is danger for us all,’ I told them, gripping the rail tighter. ‘A great evil approaches us. I must stop it. I can stop the ship colliding with us. I know I can,’ I insisted with firmness.
‘No, Juliet. You must come away. I will not be dissuaded,’ Marcus declared with fervour, succeeding in pulling one of my hands from the rail. ‘No one can stop this collision. The ship comes too fast . . . The Adeline won’t be able to manoeuvre in time to escape it. We must find somewhere safe and pray we survive the collision unscathed.’
‘What is the use of being Queen of Talus with immense power if I cannot use it to save the people around me,’ I declared in an angry tone.
‘Juliet, we do not have time for your stubbornness . . .’ Richard snapped.
Still they pulled at my hands and body to remove me from the rail. My words were falling upon deaf ears but I had to make them listen. This was my chance to prove my worthiness as Queen of Talus and I would not be stopped by anyone when the lives of so many were at risk and I could save them.
I felt the change in my eyes from green to black as the hardness of my anger pierced my soul. I gave vent to it. My mind sent a strong blast of energy at both Lycans, propelling them backwards. They fell down onto the deck and slid along it towards the wall. Shocked they both rushed to recover and stand. But as they did I took aim with another burst of energy and pinned them against the wall. I ignored their shouts for me to stop. They would not cause me any further trouble as I turned back to the rail to tackle the problem at hand. I turned the remainder of concentration and energy upon the approaching ship and fancied I saw it begin to slow it’s pace.
The Adeline’s bells were ringing in alarm and two of the officers were racing down the promenade deck to lean over the rail and view the other ship on its collision course. At the same time I felt the boat begin to take evasive manoeuvres to move away from the ship’s path. The movement was slow and cumbersome as the ship ploughed the rough sea and wind in a vain attempt to turn away in time.
Laughter entered my mind. An intruder from the ship heading for The Adeline. It’s Captain, no less.
‘Bravo, my beautiful Queen. You are everything they said,’ a soft deep male voice informed me. ‘Your beauty is Angelic, your power is so potent and your bravery stronger than any of my men who serve me. I must possess you. Your knight will not have you. Now let me come to you. You will not be allowed to stop the collision. It is your destiny to be with me.’
‘I belong to no one but my Knight. Do not make the mistake of daring to question my loyalty to him,’ I hissed.
I increased the strength of my power and summoned it to obey my will as the on the ship began to fight my hold. His power was equally strong and for a moment the ship’s speed increased. But I had strong hopes that I could outwit his arrogance - a common failing, particular to the male sex. Once more the approaching ship slowed its speed and I felt hope dwell inside me once again. I was determined to stop the ship dead in the water but the Devil that commanded it’s metallic soul would not give up.
I attacked his mind directly with pain and I became encouraged when I heard him growl with anger.
‘I admire you, Queen of Talus but you must be tamed.’
For a brief moment I appeared to gain ground. It seemed I could not stop the ship but I began to force it to turn and sabotage the Devil’s plan to collide with the Adeline head on and take as many lives as possible. Another growl of anger startled my mind. Then a sharp piercing pain gripped my mind, my body forcing me to cry out with anguish. I struggled to maintain my concentration on forcing the ship to turn. It was so close. The great hulk of dark grey steel loomed ominously like a giant. it was an effort to look at it without terrible crippling fear.
Marcus and Richard called out to me, desperate for me to let them go. So many people had spilled out onto the deck to ascertain the commotion. There were many cries of fear as people began to scatter in a panic. An officer began shouting at me to move away as he made every attempt to prise my hands from the rail. The rail was my anchor, my grounding. I could not let go. One of the officers made to pick me up and carry me to safety as I fought to turn the ship away from us.
‘Let me come to you,’ the voice persisted. ‘Then the pain will stop, little one.’
‘I can endure pain better than anyone. You will not break my ship in two and sink it.’
The officers would not stop their annoying pulling and attempts to lift me in the air. I could not afford to redirect anymore of my energy away from the ship. I let go of my hold on Marcus and Richard and pleaded with them to help me.
By now Marcus was more amenable to my wishes. I had briefly felt him in my mind attempting to ascertain my plan and he was now eager to assist despite his previous concerns that I was a danger to myself in this situation. Why was it that the men around me refused to acknowledge or accept that I held power as a female? Why did I continually have to seek to prove myself to them before they would lower themselves to accept it? It was a most wretched state of affairs for a woman to find herself in. Both men succeeded in making short work of removing the officers’ hold on my person and I was left to tackle the problem with my full attention.
‘You bear pain well but can you bear the pain of mourning the death of those you seek to protect,’ the male voice was amused again.
‘No, please . . .’
I turned my head quickly towards the passengers running around me. One, two, three fell to the ground dead. The body count continued amidst terrified screaming and my angry sobbing protest within my mind.
‘Stop it, please don’t hurt them.’
‘Then let me come to you. They mean nothing to me but I will spare them if you will but take your place by my side.’
‘You lie. You mean to sink my ship. Leave them alone.’
Several more of the passengers died on their feet. There was no precision, no pattern, no gender nor any other apparent influence as to who was chosen to meet death. The Adeline was filled with blind panic as the passengers ran trampling over the fallen bodies and the weak and frail caught underfoot. The bodies kept falling.
I stared suddenly at Marcus and Richard who had placed themselves either side of me. My fear that either one of them or Marcus’s two children would be chosen was acute. I turned to face the oncoming ship once more and screamed out loud at the Devil in a rage.
‘Very well. Come to me.’
There was humour in his voice.
‘As you command, my Queen.’
With a hiss I threw my energy into turning the ship as much as I could so that the impact might not prove as devastating as the demon intended. I would not allow the demon to sink my ship. Another angry snarl echoed in my mind but it was too late for him to take further action. The ship made heavy contact with The Adeline.
Richard and Marcus moved me backwards as the ship rolled heavily to one side with the impact. We fell back against the promenade deck floor and landed hard against the wall of the ship. Richard and Marcus fought to keep hold of me as our ears were assaulted by a terrible grating sound of metal on metal. A high array of sparks flew across the deck towards us as the ship made to capsize. I diverted the fullness of my power to The Adeline and mentally fought the physical forces that were determined to see the stricken ship fall onto its side in the water.
Eventually the terrible grating noise stopped and the ship ceased to loll violently to one side. I cast my mind out across the ship and viewed the large rip in the hull.
‘The ship is taking on water,’ I told Marcus and Richard. ‘I will keep the water at bay and keep it afloat. We must get everyone off the ship. This Devil and his men mean to board it. No one will be spared. We must hurry. Marcus, you need to find your children. I will stay here and face this man who calls himself Galen and gives himself the title of Devil.’
However, I was quickly informed that I would not be allowed to take any such action. A stern promise had been made to my Knight of Swords that I would be kept safe at all costs and it was a promise Marcus’s intended to keep both as a gentleman and as a Lycan. He would also not seek to cause a war between the Lycans and Taleian’s, Hybrid or pure. We were to retrieve Marcus’s children and gather the other Lycans in the hopes of finding a way off the ship. But we were to be halted in our movement when a troop of black cloaked phantom men rose into the air from the replica ship beating their large black feathered wings. There appeared to be hundreds of them. The Angels of Death descended upon The Adeline and their prey as the passengers and demented crew fled in panic along the promenade deck.
One of the vile creatures landed upon the promenade deck and stood watching the chaos around him as the demons swooped capture helpless screaming females up under their arms under their arms, carrying them off to another part of the ship. The men were to fare worse. The black winged phantoms saw them as killing sport, swooping low upon them. One of the demons reached his talon fingernails into the chest of one human and extracted his beating heart. He held a loft and squashed it flat, squeezing the life blood from it to drain into his mouth.
I could not see the faces of these wretches as they pulled and tore the limbs and heads of the human men from their bodies because of their black hoods but their hands were devoid of skin. Their muscles and tendons covering their bones were apparent and a smoke rose from their bodies through their cloaks. Even their wings were smouldering. We inhaled a strong smell of burning decaying flesh. We all began to wretch.
Marcus tugged on my arm and propelled me forward with Richard but we were to be stopped from making any further movement. I felt fear well and overflow inside me. On the deck a tall cloaked phantom was following the terrifying carnage of human life as it was carried out in front of him as though it were all to please him. He walked slowly, regally, stepping over bloody frayed limbs and heads scattered indiscriminately across his path. He removed his hood to reveal a singing mass of blood, skull and tendon on one half of his face head and lips that showed his inner workings of muscle as he moved and made his heavily blood shot eye protrude. The other side was made of fragmented and fraying skin that was burning and turning black. My hand flew to my mouth. I whispered his name as though it were an evil never to be spoken. Galen.
Galen was a gruesome sight to behold. I was paralysed with fear and repulsion, unable to move my feet and run for safety. My Lycan companions appeared to be of the same mind. None of us had ever seen such a gruesome figure of a man. He turned his head towards me. Perhaps he had heard me whisper his name. I stared into his eyes and into the black beating heart of what remained of his soul and sensed a violent turbulent anger and deep painful loss. I couldn’t help but give a small shriek when I felt the figure violate my own mind. I fought hard to keep him out I could feel his black hearted consciousness seeping into the pores of my own exploring my soul.
Skin began to cover his face, his hands and body. The burning smell and singing to his cloak and body receded. He opened his cloak wide shaking as the skin began to sweep over his open festering body covering his beating blood heart and organs. He pulled back the cloak and roared with pain as his feathered wings shortened and grew smaller until they disappeared inside his back.
Galen’s hair began to cover his baldness, clothes began to cover his body. When the transformation was complete a tall regal handsome man stood before us. He fiddled with his grey cravat and moved his neck around as though it was stiff and he made to relieve the pain. Then he grinned widely, pleased with himself. His chestnut brown eyes stared mischievously an possessively into my own.
‘Ah, Juliet, there you are,’ he exclaimed with humour.
I stared open mouthed.
‘Now, Juliet, my love, let us to business,’ he smiled widely tugging at the ends of the sleeves of his morning coat to neaten his appearance. ‘Perhaps you will be good enough to call that young buck, your Knight of Swords to come to your rescues as quickly as possible. I hate to be kept waiting. He and I have business to conduct.’
Galen gave a small bored yawn.
‘Apparently I have to fight him to the death before I can take your for my wife. The Taleians have such pathetic tiresome rituals but it must be done, I suppose. And you are such a tasty, clever morsel my dear, Juliet. I do so look forward to making you with child and having you sit by my side as my Queen in hell,’ he smiled raising his eyebrows with amusement.
‘As long as I live, you will not have her,’ Marcus bellowed before I could reply.
I suddenly felt Marcus pull at my arm and then we were running.
‘Ah they always run. It is useless,’ he called after us. ‘I will have you Juliet. But I do relish a woman who makes me work hard for her hand. I love the chase,’ he laughed. ‘I haven’t this much fun in centuries.’