"It's been a year since I
left you all behind."
Laileb found herself face to
face with her husband, looking as he did before he was laid to an
eternal slumber. He was clad in all white and his skin glowed
with a gentle light. His light brown eyes shone with a
luminescent twinkle. "Yes, it's been a long time since that
night," she answered him hesitantly, almost afraid of his
"I remember it like it was just
yesterday." His voice lingered in the air
like a ghost that clung to the hairs on the back of your neck.
"That night left me scarred for
life." Laileb found herself shivering from head to toe. She
wrapped her arms around herself kept her head down, her eyes
hidden from her husband. "I shan't forget it. I wish I could but
it is impossible."
Nicholi stepped forward towards
his wife. She responded with a step back. Nicholi continued
towards her. "Ah, the past is but the past. Move on with your
Laileb shook her head, her
bottom lip quivering with fear and with cold. "How can you say
that?" She took a few more steps back as the apparition drew
closer and closer to her. "Your sons loved you so dearly. Your
servants loved you as their own father." She gulped heavily and
almost fell back. "And I-I still need you here.
Nicholi smiled his radiant
smile and wrapped her in his warm, ethereal arms. "You need me
not. The Lord will provide."
Suddenly, a shadowy figure with
glowing red eyes appeared and mercilessly smothered Nicholi in
its black embrace. Nicholi let out an agonized scream, a
desperate groan, and finally breathed his last breath. The divine
light that had enveloped his form disappeared along with his
body, leaving Laileb in complete darkness.
"No," Laileb whimpered, looking
left and right frantically. Images of that fateful night flashed
rapidly through her head. His wounds, his blood, his unbearable
suffering-it was as if she saw it happen again before her very
eyes. "No!" She broke down into furious tears and started
running, running down the endless trail of darkness and shadows,
a trail where she would only find herself going in
You can't run from
Laileb screamed at the sound of
the deep, raspy voice. She looked back and saw that the shadowy
figure was right behind her, its arms outstretched and preparing
to immerse her in darkness. Its red eyes were glowing with
thirst, with hunger, with utter lust to watch someone
You will be mine. I will take
you just as I did your husband.
Laileb could only
keep running as fast as her legs could carry her, even though she
knew she wasn't going anywhere. "Get away! Get away!" she
shrieked in terror. Tears were streaming from her fear-stricken
eyes. Her face had gone deathly pale and her heart was pounding
rapidly. The weight upon her shoulders seemed to get heavier and
heavier, and she felt as though her legs would give out from
At last, her
muscles surrendered to fatigue and she fell to the ground.
Shrieking helplessly as the black shadow engulfed her in its
cloak of unending darkness, she found herself falling, falling,
falling into the depths of the infernal abyss.
"Lady Laileb, wake
Young Alec set his
tray on the counter beside him and shook his mistress by the
shoulders as gently as he could. The woman sat up in her bed with
a sudden jerking motion and flailed her arms madly, screaming at
the top of her lungs and pounding at the sheets of the bed. "Get
away from me! Don't touch me, you demon!" she screeched.
The young servant
staggered backwards, taken aback by his mistress. "I-I'm sorry,"
he whimpered, bowing his head in shame. "I didn't mean to startle
you. I only wanted to make sure you were okay." He took a fragile
porcelain teacup from the tray and handed it to her. "Here's your
Laileb reached for
the teacup with feeble, shaking hands. The calm waters of the tea
rippled as she held the cup with tense fingers. She gazed into
the depths of the teacup and saw her distorted reflection in it.
"It-it's coming after me," she uttered weakly, panting. "It's
after me, Alec! It's after me, I tell you!"
understand. What is after you, ma'am?" Alec inquired
Laileb was still
entranced by her reflection as it was in the teacup. Dull,
platinum blonde ringlets were stuck by sweat to her jutting
cheekbones. The deep pink flush in her cheeks was a sharp
contrast to her pale ivory skin. Her red lips were set in a
tight, thin line. Her icy blue eyes, dark and red with exhaustion
around the rims, seemed as if they could freeze anyone who looked
into them for too long. Her reflection disintegrated in the
swirling cream and the tea suddenly became pitch black with two
glowing red dots in the center of the pool of
"It's here! It
wants to take me!" Laileb threw the little teacup at the wall as
if it would have taken her life had she not done so. The tea
splashed a transparent brown against the wall like blood
splattering from a helpless victim. The beautiful, intricately
designed craft shattered into hundreds of tiny little pieces that
could not but hope to be whole ever again.
Alec yelped as the
shards of the teacup fell to the ground. He quickly knelt beside
the mess and took the towel that hung from his arm, proceeding to
clean up the spilled tea. "Lady Laileb, would you like me to
call for the doctor? You seem quite ill."
Laileb shook her
head slowly, gritting her teeth and breathing heavily through
them. Her fingers were tightly clutched around the sheets of her
bed and her knuckles had gone white. Her face and neck were
dripping with sweat. "No," she finally said with a loud sigh,
realizing the tea was still just tea and there were no shadows
about her. "There is no need."
Alec looked at his
mistress with doubtful eyes. He turned back towards the mess of
tea and sighed as he went on cleaning up the fragments of the
There was a knock
on the door. Laileb's eyes remained set low and half-closed, as
if to shut out the light penetrating through the deep red
curtains of her window. "Open it," she muttered the order to
Alec nodded and
stood up slowly, turning towards the door and placing his hand
around the knob. He opened the door and stepped to the side,
bowing his head respectfully to the new Van Alstyne earl,
Gadreel. His once bright blue eyes had become menacingly cold and
sharp, making him look more like his mother and less like his
father. That gentle smile that once resembled his father's now
ceased to exist. His lips were stiff and settled into an unmoving
frown. "Mother," he began, stepping into the room and standing at
his mother's bedside. "Today is Father's birthday and death
"I am aware of
that," Laileb responded weakly, reluctant to get out of bed and
find herself face-to-face with death, immersed in the darkness of
her subconscious mind.
"I was hoping to
attend mass today and visit his burial site so as to honor him,
Mother," Gadreel went on. "He deserves at least
Alec looked up at
Gadreel as he finished up his cleaning. "May I go with you, my
lord?" he asked shyly. "I want to pay my respects to Lord Nicholi
Gadreel nodded at
Alec. "You need not even ask. Ooklada may come as well if he
wishes," he went on, anticipating Alec's question. The young earl
turned and looked once more at his mother. "And you,
Laileb threw the
sheets from her and stood up at last. The blood rushed to her
head all at once and she nearly fell back into the bed. She held
onto her son for support, practically digging her nails into his
arms. "Give me a few minutes to get ready," she said through
Gadreel pushed his
mother's hands away from him and sighed. He turned on his heels
and left the room. Alec stood up and bowed to Lady Laileb,
turning around hastily to follow after his master. The mistress
was now alone in her quiet sanctuary. She leaned against the edge
of her bed and looked around anxiously. There were no black,
shadowy apparitions, no glowing crimson eyes. With a sigh of
relief, she began to dress herself in garments of
Cold. Cold was the
cemetery where Gadreel, Laileb, and their two servants were
standing. Cold was the ground beneath them where the faithfully
departed were buried, peacefully asleep. Cold was the harsh wind
that was like a storm of harsh blades of steel mercilessly
cutting into whatever stood in its path. Cold. So cold. Even the
heart itself had gone frigid like ice.
"Father, I don't
know if you can hear me," Gadreel whispered sorrowfully, kneeling
at his father's grave and setting a bouquet of flowers down
before Nicholi's tombstone. "But I-I just want you to know that-"
He stopped short when his voice cracked. He gulped and tried to
fight the urge to break down. "Father, I love you," he wept as
the tears streamed down his face.
Alec and Ooklada
sat on either side of Gadreel, bowing their heads to the late
earl and comforting their new master. They too laid down their
flowery offerings upon Nicholi's grave. Alec, so young and so
fragile, instantly broke out into an uncontrollable sob. Ooklada
held them both in his massive arms, holding back his tears and
telling them it would be okay.
forward and held onto the edges of Nicholi's gravestone, pressing
his forehead against it. "I only wish you could still be here
with us." He shook his head and took in a deep breath, letting it
out shakily. "But you're in a better place now. You don't have to
suffer anymore." He stood up slowly and gazed at the gravestone,
praying silently in his mind.
Alec and Ooklada
stood up as well, wiping their faces on the sleeves of their dark
coats. They bowed their heads as well and offered up their
prayers to their beloved master who had departed the earth they
now walked without him.
"Are you finished
yet?" Laileb demanded anxiously. She was shivering hysterically
from head to toe. Her limbs were so tense that you could snap
them off of her body like twigs. Her face had gone sickly pale
and her eyes were bloodshot behind her dark veil. "It's getting
darker and colder. I want to return to the mansion immediately!"
Gadreel did not
respond to or even glance back at his fretful mother. He kept his
head bowed down and his eyes closed, offering his prayers to his
father. He would have reprimanded her for such behavior, for such
disrespect and selfishness. But he held himself back from doing
so in the presence of his father's grave.
Ooklada looked back
over his broad shoulder at his mistress. "My lady, we've only
been here about five minutes. Perhaps you should take some time
to offer a prayer or two to your late husband. I'm sure he'd
appreciate it," he suggested.
impatiently. "You are but a mere servant, Ooklada!" she growled
furiously. "I have done my part and fulfilled my duty as a wife.
Do not tell me what I should or should not do. I don't need your
guidance. My husband is dead. Prayer will not avenge him. Prayer
will not bring me the head of his murderer!" She threw the
bouquet of flowers that she had practically suffocated in her
hand at the ground. "You're all fools for wasting your time
here!" She grabbed the frills of her skirt and lifted them up
slightly so that she could walk.
"Lady Laileb, shall
I accompany you back to the mansion?" Alec asked worriedly,
looking at Laileb as she staggered away. He saw the corruption in
her eyes, how her sanity was slowly disintegrating. He feared she
would fall and hurt herself, or perhaps get lost and find herself
alone and in great danger.
Gadreel held his
arm out and stopped Alec from going after her. "Just let her go,"
he said in a stern, almost unsympathetic voice. His eyes darkened
with what seemed to be utter contempt. "She could use a walk
Where do you
think you're going?
Laileb dragged her
feet along the forest floor. The dry leaves rustled and cracked
beneath her heels. The cruel wind blew dust all about the widowed
wife of Earl Nicholi. The sun was beginning to set and the sky
was beginning to grow dim. It turned a glorious golden orange
before it gradually darkened into a deep blood red. At last, the
sun fell into a deep slumber and gave way to dusk.
You cannot run
away from me.
surrounded by shadows-the shadows of the trees and their
branches; of the rocks and pebbles on the ground; of the bushes
and thorns; of the birds that scattered about and fluttered away
as she approached them; of her own shadow that walked alongside
her, mirroring her every little move and anticipating her next,
from each breath to each twitch of the finger. The darkness was
inescapable, undeniably present. It lurked wherever she
I'm always here
with you. I'm just waiting.
The shadows seemed
to rise from the ground and take on a form, a form like the
reaper from her dream. The black figures with glowing red eyes
closed in on her from every side. Closer, closer, and closer yet
they advanced towards her pitiful form. She shrieked as one
grabbed her by her ankle and dragged her down to the dirt floor.
Frantically, she kicked her legs and flailed her arms, jumping up
to her feet and running for her life. After letting out their
bloodcurdling howls, the shadows followed after her, at her tail
biting at her heels.
You will have to
surrender to me eventually.
screamed, looking desperately for a place where she could hide
herself from the shadowy demons. Out of the corner of her right
eye, she saw a hollow that was adorned with thick ropes of
thorns, veiled by old trees that bore thin, naked branches.
Impetuously, she bolted for the little cave in her reckless
endeavor to escape the clutches of the beastly shadows. She
didn't stop to think of what might be lurking within the cave.
The shadows seemed
to slow down in their tracks and eventually fall back into a
retreat as they neared the foreboding cave. Laileb seemed not to
notice the ominous air about it, the haunting aura that warded
off any who dared to come near it. She carelessly broke off the
branches that blocked her way, tearing at the thorny ropes that
closed off the entrance to the cave. Her hands were streaked with
blood, her dress torn and dirty. She threw herself into the cave
when she created a wide enough opening. She turned her head once
more and looked behind her. Sighing with relief when she saw that
the shadows had subsided, she leaned against the wall of the cave
and took some time to catch her breath.
Laileb slid down
onto her knees and sat against the cave wall, closing her eyes.
"They're gone," she said with what little breath she had.
"They're finally gone." A dark smile slowly crept onto her face.
Her shoulders relaxed and the muscles in her legs started to ease
up and loosen. She let out an uncanny, breathy chuckle and laid
her bloody hands onto her lap. "At last."
The inside of the
cave was of the darkest obsidian. The ceiling was decorated with
spiked cones of rock that looked as if they would crumble and
fall atop your head at any given moment. The air was musty and
cold. The stench of death and decay wafted up into Laileb's
nostrils. "I'm safe now," she whispered. Despite the disgusting,
stomach-churning atmosphere, she felt very much at ease in the
darkness. She got up slowly and decided to venture into the dark
cave, her new peaceful sanctuary.
happily down the halls of the vast cave. She could barely see a
thing but she felt secure hidden away in the shadows. She felt
around with her hands to find her way around. She couldn't tell
if she was merely going in circles but that was of no importance
to her. So long as the demons were not at her tail, she was more
than content to be where she was.
Down the path,
Laileb saw a faint flicker of iridescent violet flame from the
other side. Laileb was tempted to go near it, but at the same
time anxious to get away. It was as beautiful as it was menacing,
as inviting as it was threatening.
Laileb felt a wave
of chills run down her spine. The violet flame seemed to come
closer and closer to her. She realized she was walking towards
it. After a few steps, she found that it wasn't a mere flame. It
was more like a door of flames guarding the entrance to another
room. Closer, closer, and closer still the flames approached her.
It was so close that she could reach out and touch it. The violet
lights were like ice against her skin, draining the warmth from
right. Just a few steps more.
Laileb quickly drew
her hand back when the flames flashed white for a split second.
The flames seemed to dance with each other more aggressively now.
She felt as if something was taunting her, almost beckoning her
to venture deeper into the cave. She started to step into the
room, but she stopped herself suddenly and realized how foolish
and careless she was being. She turned on her heels to leave, but
she found herself looking at a maze of paths and she did not know
which one to take.
Come to me and I
will show you the way.
She gazed for a
while at the seemingly endless maze of twists and turns. Then she
turned around and looked once more at the door of violet flames.
She took in a slow, unsteady breath and set foot into the flames.
herself in a large, dark room that was lit only by three candles.
She placed her hand against the black walls of the cave, but
pulled her hand back when she felt something crawling beneath her
fingers. She looked and shrieked at the swarm of spiders that
spilled out from the empty eye sockets of a skull wedged into the
crevices of the wall. She jumped back and crashed into something
heavy and wooden. She turned and saw it was an inverted cross
with a decaying corpse still hanging from it. Its face was so
full of agony, its eyes wide open and glazed, its withering body
covered with hungry, filthy little maggots. A horde of ghastly
rats suddenly appeared and scampered beneath her feet. Laileb
let out another terrified shriek and fell to her knees, burying
her face in her arms. She broke out into a convulsive sob,
screaming curses and pounding her fists against the ground. For a
few minutes, all was quiet except for the sound of Laileb's
cries. Finally, another voice spoke.
"Get up, you old
Laileb was taken
aback by the sound of young man's voice. She looked up from her
arms and with her teary eyes, searched around for the source of
the voice. At the center of the room, a canopy was suspended from
the ceiling of the cave by thin, rusty chains. Beneath the black
veil of the canopy was a luxurious loveseat adorned with a
marvelously crafted frame of gold and seat of crimson red velvet.
Seated in the loveseat were two figures that she could not
clearly see from where she was standing. She could only make out
that it was a young man in what looked like a butler's uniform
with a young lady dressed in a maid's uniform seated upon his
"Didn't you hear
me?" the young man said. "I said get up. Get up now!" he ordered
Laileb scrambled to
her feet and stood up hastily. She licked her dry, cracked lips
and gulped heavily. She found herself at a loss for words. She
could only gaze in silent awe at the young man and his companion
there," the young man commanded with an arrogant cock of his
head, pointing to a random spot on the floor in front of him. He
smirked as Laileb shuffled timidly to stand before him. He turned
to the young lady beside him and kissed her cheek. "Isn't that
lovely? Look at the fear in her eyes." His smile only widened
when he saw Laileb's eyes drift towards the floor and dart left
and right nervously. "What's wrong?" the young man asked, raising
his dark brows tauntingly. "Are you afraid to look at us? Go on.
I give you permission to look at us."
lifted her gaze-more out of fear than out of curiosity-and looked
up at the couple with terrified, gaping eyes. She could finally
make out the features of their faces. They both seemed to be
about eighteen or nineteen years of age. The young man looked
quite dangerous but at the same time very gentlemanly and tame.
His eyes, the left one red and the right one gold, looked almost
slightly sleepy but were tantalizing at the same time. His jet
black hair fell just above his well-groomed brows and framed his
sinister yet undeniably handsome face. In his arms he held a
smaller figure, a young lady with long violet-black hair that
fell over her thin shoulders and slightly covered her doll-like
face. Her cheeks lacked any color in them and her lips were just
about as pale. Her eyes were also red and gold like the young
man's, but much more frigid and sad. She seemed so fragile, but
there was an air about her that said otherwise. Both of them were
terrifyingly beautiful creatures that made Laileb shake from head
"What brings you
here?" the young man asked, propping his chin on his hand and
staring blankly at Laileb, waiting for her to talk.
Laileb tried to
speak, but she was too afraid to utter out a word. After a few
good gulps of air, she finally managed to choke out an answer. "I
was running away from th-those shadowy demons."
"Ah, I see," the
young man said, slowly nodding his head. "So you decided to hide
answered him tensely.
permission?" the young man went on, lowering his
stop herself from shaking. She felt as if her legs would collapse
underneath all her weight. "H-how was I to know that anyone was
living in here?" she whined. "Forgive me! I meant no harm!" she
begged, falling once more to her knees and breaking out into
The young man let
his head fall back as he laughed out of amusement at her fear of
him. "You're hilarious," he said with a dark smile. "Amy, allow
me to get up for a moment. I shall properly introduce myself to
this old hag." The young lady he called Amy moved herself from
his lap as he stood up. His form was quite tall, slightly over
six feet. His build was lean and slender. With his long, graceful
legs, he approached Laileb. She seemed to shrink as he neared her
and towered over her pathetic figure. He looked down at her with
his sinister eyes. A crooked smile was etched onto his stone-like
face. "You may call me Abaddon." He held out his hand to her
herself gazing with horror into the crimson and golden eyes of
the young man who stood before her. She hesitated to take his
pale hand into his. She was too afraid to even breathe in his
ominous presence. She slowly lifted her hand and very limply
placed it into Abaddon's.
He tightened his fingers around
her fragile hand and grinned. "It's a pleasure to meet you." His
grin widened slowly as he felt waves of energy coursing through
his veins. He chuckled as Laileb's grip on his hand became weaker
and weaker. Her face was starting to lose its rosy blush and her
eyes had a glazed look to them. Laileb whimpered powerlessly as
Abaddon drew the spirit that kept her alive from her body. She
tried to pull her hand from his grasp, but she was already too
weak. She was too weak to even hold herself up any longer. She
collapsed onto her stomach, her face pressed into the cold, dirty
ground. Abaddon could only let out a pleased sigh. "The smell of
fear is a delightful one," he said softly, lightly running his
tongue along his upper lip.
Laileb was coughing madly,
gasping desperately for air. "You are not human," she choked out.
"Tell me. Wh-what are you?" she spat, looking up at Abaddon with
Abaddon shrugged his shoulders
casually. "You could call us servants of the Devil. If you want
to get fancy, you can call us Vernulas. If you want to get really
specific, my pretty little darling here and I are actually twin
Vernulas. Not that it would matter to you anyway."
Laileb felt her heart flutter
at the sound of the word. "Vernula," she repeated almost
dreamily, a faint smile growing along her lips. She had heard of
such beings only in legends, in stories her parents and
grandparents had told her during her childhood. She remembered
the stories well. Vernulas were the servants of the Devil. They
wandered on the world of mortals in search of a temporary master.
In return for their services, whatever they might be, the
Vernulas receive human souls as payment. In turn, those souls go
to feed the Devil himself, the true master of the Vernulas.
Laileb felt overpowered by
glee. She thought maybe the twin Vernulas would be able to help
her. "I want you to be my Vernulas," she said with wide eyes now
full of hope and tears of joy. "I will be your master! I will
take you as my servants, my Vernulas!"
Abaddon loosened his grip
around Laileb's hand and stared at her with a doubtful look on
his face. He let go of her hand and eyed Laileb curiously,
questioningly. He turned and looked at Amy who was now standing
and looked rather short in comparison to her twin. "Did you hear
that?" he said. Amy nodded her head without saying a word. Her
eyes were blank and her lips set in a straight line. "Well,
what's in it for us? We're not just going to serve you without
payment, you old hag."
Laileb thought of Druitt and
Lamont. "My sons," she said. "Take my two sons. They live in
Dover. Take their souls!" Laileb's face was dripping with sweat,
her flushed cheeks streaked with dirt and tears. The corners of
her mouth were twitching with fatigue from smiling too much.
"Please, I can't go on another day like this. I can't bear to
live knowing my husband's death has yet to be avenged and his
killer is still out there. I can't bear to live feeling like that
same killer is watching me, waiting to take my life as well. You,
my Vernulas, my guardians! Protect me from the shadowy demons and
bring me the head of the cursed wretch who killed my husband! And
when you find that bastard who took my beloved from me, you can
have his soul too."
Abaddon and Amy looked at each
other for a second. They seemed to be talking with their eyes,
silently communicating their thoughts without showing the
slightest hint of emotion in their rigid faces. They nodded to
each other and returned their eyes to Laileb. Abaddon reached
into his back pocket and pulled out a small, golden dagger. He
plunged it into Laileb's hand. Then he pulled it out from her
flesh ever so slowly, savoring every bit of Laileb's screech of
pain. Once he had taken the dagger out of her hand, he turned and
faced Amy. "Corpus meum tibi offero," he whispered, running his
tongue along the edge of the knife and letting the blood drip
into his mouth.
Amy touched the knife and
licked the blood off of her finger, her face still blank and
unreadable. "Corpus meum tibi offero," she said in a soft,
Laileb was shivering with
elation. "Yes," she wheezed. "You are mine!" She threw her head
back and cackled maniacally. "This forbidden covenant between us
shan't be broken."
Abaddon and Amy both got down
on one knee, bowing their heads to their new master.