The milky white, silvery glow of the full moon was what gave it its aura of serenity. It cast its pure, almost ethereal rays across the woods and fields around the large, ornate, impressive manor owned by the Galla family, making everything look as though it came from a dream.
It all masked and concealed what was happening inside that pretty manor.
In a large, luxurious room in the Galla Manor, a man stood in front of his wife defensively, as though trying to shield her from danger. The wife, however, was trying to rock the baby in her arms to sleep, sitting almost carefully on the bed. Her posture was protective; she was trying to shield her baby as much as her husband was trying to shield them both.
"I do think it is time you paid your debt."
It was not the man who had spoken, but someone else. This was someone young. Seventeen, maybe. It was an odd sight; a man well over thirty, standing defensively, all colour drained out of his face just because of the presence of a boy who stood at the more shadowed part of the room.
A slight sheen of sweat could be seen on the man's forehead. "Wh-what do you want?" he said, half-nervous, half-protective. Completely afraid.
The boy raised his head, lifting his formerly drooped eyelids. A long-fingered hand trailed over the contents on top of the mahogany desk beside him. The rest of his body was held elegantly languid. "A life for a life," he said softly. Nevertheless the words rang clear throughout the entire room. "You asked for a child; I have fulfilled your request. Now you must deliver your end of the bargain." He paused briefly, inclining his head slightly. "Surely you remember the - agreement we had? If you were to sire a daughter, she would belong to me."
"She's just a baby!" the woman holding the infant said vehemently. It was the first time she had spoken since the boy had entered the room. "And I'm her mother. I regain a right to keep her under my care!"
The boy seemed unruffled. "Blame your husband," he said calmly, "for wanting a child so badly he was desperate enough to give up its life if it turned out to be a daughter." When there was no response, the boy continued, "He swore he would give up his first child if it was a daughter, even sealed his promise with blood. A blood promise cannot be broken; even humans know that." There was an undercurrent of contempt as the word humans was spoken. Other than that, his voice was pleasantly calm.
"You can have anything . . . but my family." The man's voice had dropped to a trembling whisper. He looked at his wife, then at the boy. "You can have my life, but spare my wife and my daughter." His gaze wavered, and his voice was almost inaudible as he said the next three words. "I beg you."
Silence greeted his words. It seemed as though the world had gone still; everyone was waiting for the seventeen-year-old boy to answer.
His voice seemed to be shrouded in shadows much darker than the ones around him as he replied.
"Very well then. A blood promise cannot be broken. Even I cannot change that. I will let the child stay with you."
"Oh, thank -"
"But," he cut across him, raising his voice ever so slightly, "I will collect her once she turns seventeen." The boy's lips turned into a sarcastic, mocking smile. "Seventeen years. You have seventeen years with her. Then she belongs to me. When the time comes, I will take her, heedless of what you do or say. Is that agreed?"
The man stood, dumbfounded and paralysed. His eyes flickered around the room, as though waiting for someone to rescue him from his own living nightmare. "I-I . . ." he stuttered for a moment, unsure of how to react. Finally, he pulled himself together and said, surprisingly steadily, "I agree."
"Very well," the boy said once more. Standing there, with his dark hair and dark eyes, it seemed as though he held domain over darkness. The Prince of Shadows. "Remember the debt you owe to me." With that, he was simply gone. Vanished, melted into the shadows.
And so, the Galla family simply waited, watching as the baby grew, hoping to prevent what would happen. And the boy was never spoken of, never again.
Until the seventeen years.