Chapter Ten: The Curse & A Willing Sacrifice
Immortal Rose's Journal
What I saw then couldn't have been reality. Only a dream could make such pieces of glass rise up in a whirlwind about us. As if the very sharp edges were leaves stirred by the winds of late autumn, they ensnared us in their wicked trap, the scenery around changing shape until no longer was I in that room. The red-tinted darkness of the cursed night had grown brighter, and the view before me was as though a new land entirely. The moon above shone down with the purest white upon a whole and pure garden. The flowers were full of white blossoms to echo the celestial orb, and the whole of the ground was lush, soft grass. Still the glass whipped about, as I saw what could only have been a young Nicolae, a scene from the past as he thrashed about and stamped his feet in fury.
"Watch", the voice at my throat intoned. "See what has been our past! Thine curse upon me, upon this land! Thou art in mine realm now, in mine power. I can show ye the past as surely as ye stand within the hold of the present."
I had no choice but to look on in mute horror as the vision before me snarled in his regal tirade. A flicker of white that went unseen until this point caught my attention. On the grass near the tyrant's hooves was a slender white-hared woman. Her dress was spattered with scarlet, the source of which seemed to stem from a free flowing wound at her throat. She simply stared up at the tyrant, her crimson eyes patient with his bellowing venom against her.
"Witch! Wicked and foul temptress! What hast thou done to me?! Miserable wretch! Ye shall pay for your treason!"
Even as he stamped about in growing fury, the skies darkened with heavy clouds, obscuring the white moon as a tempestuous wind picked up in strength. The petals of the delicate flowers broke loose in the might of the oncoming storm. Swirling about them as surely as the glass shards continued their dangerous dance around us. The black of his boots seemed to dull, shifting to a stony marble as he cursed the maiden at his feet. Even though his lips were clearly stained with her blood, this itself began the same drastic change. The young Nicolae arched his back and gestured angrily, still spouting threats as she watched him, an odd expression adorning her face. It was not fear. No, that emotion was far removed. She did not fear him or her imminent death. It seemed...pity. Pity for the man, for the cruel Lord that he had become. He must have observed this as well, for his angry scowl turned into a mocking sneer. The fangs glinted red with the fresh blood as he spoke. His voice had changed as quickly as his anger, the loud roar becoming a smooth, utterly silken poison.
"Nay, thou need not pity me, little flower. Fear me, hate me, tremble before me if thou wouldst. I am not finished, Rose. Thine curse is only begun yet it will also end in time. I will return, and my vengeance shall be wrought upon you yet! Mark mine words, ye will belong to me. Thine blood shall be mine!"
These last words echoed into the now fully wrought storm as the last of movement and vitality left the man, a statue frozen in time left in his stead. I tried to look away, but found myself unable. The fallen woman seemed to share my sentiment, for she closed her eyes upon the statue; her form becoming the very petals that swirled in the wind. Thus, she vanished and the scene went black.
An endless voice, and still his whispering in my ear.
"Ah, do ye see now? Can ye finally comprehend? Shall I twist the knife even further to chill your heart's core? Ye foolish girl, with thine warm living flesh and even warmer blood, I could very easily have loved you in that time. Yet thine spirit drives me to this, this and more! I shall rend you from the very fabric of this time if I must, straight into this hellish void if it so pleases me."
I shuddered at his threat, not daring imagine what sort of fate could possibly be so much worse than this, that he would use the very thought to shoot fear into my soul. Still, the sight of the spirit's calm eyes, her quiet demeanor in the face of young Nicolae's wrath gave me courage. I attempted to cease my trembling, masking my visible terror and looking silently ahead. Even if he still held me frozen with strange power, I could at least do this much.
A low chuckle.
"Such trickery does not become you. Try as you might I can sense your fear, smell it even. The perfume wreaths you so clearly, just as the scent of a rose marks the garden nearby. Thine curse is finally at an end, yet mine upon you is only beginning."
I flinched. As to how, or why, I can only assume that his power over me in that moment was not absolute. That, or the sudden searing pain on my throat was snapping me out of his trance. I felt the fangs dig deep, and became weak. My legs began to tremble as I felt the floor become unstable. I know I would have fallen then, if not for the vice-like arms that moved to wrap over my waist and force me up into his grasp.
His voice once again, yet echoing within my mind and heart.
"It would seem another has come to your aid. Yet they strive in vain. Only the blood will lift the veil and end this cursed night. And thine life with it."
The pain was too much in that moment, and my voice broke free from it's silence with painful whimpering. This only pleased him, the room coming back to focus around me once more as he faded from sight, a last warning ringing in my ears as I sank down to my knees.
"Our next meeting shall be thy last, dear flower. As one becomes spirit, I shall gain flesh, power, my place once again! Until that time..."
What occurred next can only be described as though a watch that had been paused, speeding up briefly to return to the present time. The bat screeched in my ears, fluttering in terror as the sound of voices came from outside. The key is in the door now, and I hear voices calling me from the opposite side.
- Immortal Rose
Date: The present
Location: Miss Rose's Chambers
This night is proving to be quite fond of interruptions and unusual occurrences. Well, more so than the normality of endless night.
I had been closely examining the blood from the Lord's chamber when he burst into my rooms without warning. His eyes held a ghastly expression as they darted about the chambers, finally settling on me. He rushed over as I made a quick bow of greeting. He interrupted this mid-bow, urging me out into the hall.
"He is here!" he said. "Here within these very walls! I can sense it! He has returned! We must be quick and ever vigilant. Search every corridor, seek him out! Not only the guards, but we must search also!"
No other explanation was offered. Only a grim nod and a hurried exit into the shadows of the numerous halls of the castle. What the Lord lacked in coherent sentence and reasoning, he readily made up for simply by the wild look within his eyes as well as the frantic tone of his otherwise commanding voice. I started off in the opposite direction of his, searching for anything out of the ordinary.
It did not take long to stumble upon what I sought.
A boisterous clatter sounded from Miss Rose's chambers nearby. The guards stationed outside of her door echoed my alarm, hurriedly attempting to open the locked door. I was upon them in an instant, removing the key from their still fumbling hands and swiftly unlocking the barring door. The dexterity of my trade has left me with many gifts. One of which is the calm and collected demeanor of a surgeon operating even as Death himself is the opponent.
The sight which greeted me was one of complete disarray. Papers and glass everywhere, books strewn about as though by a great gust from outside the broken window. A single bat pierced the night with his cry of alarm. And Rose, poor Rose.
She did not look up at my approach, nor seemed to mind the guards that passed so close to her in their search for the intruder now long gone. I came as close to her side as I could without frightening her further, and knelt down to be level with her kneeling posture. Her appearance was near as disheveled as the very room, eyes far off and focused on nothing. A single spot of crimson on a strand of hair caught my eye, and I brought my hand up to brush the hair away from the spot.
In this moment, she stirred, bolting suddenly from my touch and cowering against the far wall of the chambers. My removal of that strand brought to light a mark near the base of her throat. A fresh bite. I felt myself pale, and she saw this. That poor trembling creature. Quickly replacing the hair as a cover over the spot, she lowered her head, ashamed by the blemish. I opened my mouth to speak, to reassure and console her, when the Lord entered the room.
His fearful eyes tentatively surveyed the disaster, the guards telling them of their findings and the disappearance of the threat. This last bit of news however, was completely un-needed. The usual calm demeanor of Lord Katsuto had returned. He knew full well that Nicolae was gone.
With a single look from their Lord, the guards left the room, and we three stood in silence for a time. I knew he could smell it, much more than I could. The blood. Still, I attempted a semblance of reasoning.
"My Lord, the threat has passed and your guest is weary. Her health will only continue to decline in such circumstances. Might I suggest that we relocate to-"
A rose petal fell to the floor to land near miss Rose's foot. It was stained red. My words died in my throat as the Lord moved to tower over her. She did not recoil from his touch as he moved away the locks to bring the bite markings once again to light. Yet we were both startled to see that a full rose was blossoming from within the wound. Upon reaching it's complete formation, the flower withered in place and fell from the spot to accompany the petal already upon the chamber floor. The bloom was as red as the bloodied mark. Even now, I cannot fathom proper explanation for such.
The Lord did not speak, simply looked at the two marks in a silent fury. His crimson eyes narrowed, smoldering with what I can only assume to be hatred for the one who dared to puncture the otherwise whole and pure form.
I tried once again.
"Lord, I would ask your permission to better examine this. There is room in my study. I ask your permission to relocate Miss Rose to my care."
It seems my words fell on deaf ears. I could well have been back in the solitude of my tower for all the good it was doing. As though I were a specter neither seen nor heard Miss Rose began in a tentative whisper.
"I-Is it true then?"
We both waited.
"Is my blood the only way...can it lift the curse from this land? Will it help?"
If memory is correct, I attempted to catch her eye. To shake my head or make some silent motion against this. The Lord however gave a deep sigh, searching hers for any hesitation in this questioning. After a few more minutes of uninterrupted silence, he closed his eyes and turned away. She would not allow this to pass as a suitable answer and stepped forward.
"Lord, when I first arrived here, you commanded me to find answers, to discover a way to remove this curse. Is there a chance of it through my blood? Please, answer me truthfully in this."
I sought her eyes as my Lord had previously. Surely there was some fear. Any slight doubt or concern for her own safety. If so, I could not find it. Her eyes were so imploring, full of pleading. The Lord gazed at them as well, drawn into their depths as it were. Finally, he bowed his head and started out of the door.
"Tuomas, escort her. I shall follow."
In this, I knew where it was that the Lord wished me to lead her. And I, I having no choice in this. Oh, I would have wept if it were possible. God Almighty! What is it that I do? Am I to lead her, this lamb to the slaughter?!
I looked to Rose, and she bowed her head in acceptance of the Lord's wishes. Thus, we march on.
As instructed, I led her through the halls of the castle. We passed the monumental pillars of the grand rooms, ornamented in golden filigree that spoke of days long before the dark of the cursed moon. We moved through the older chambers, some of the first built in this land. Still, we were silent, not but our steps upon the stone and carpet to betray our presence here in these hallowed halls.
I chanced a look at the maiden. She kept her head bowed low still, seeming to know some semblance of the fate that awaited at the end of our path. I turned back to discern the Lord's expression, but found that his gaze was fixed on Miss Rose as well. Whether we expected her to flee at the last moment or fade upon the spot, I cannot say. Yet it is not very often you find one willing to sacrifice themselves for complete and utter strangers.
At the end of the halls, a staircase descended into darkness and a bloody glow beyond. We all know where this path leads. The room of the Blood Crystals, and the altar of stone.