“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 circles.
You can’t run from me.
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 suffer.
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 underneath her.
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 up!”
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 tea,
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!”
“I don’t understand. What is after you, ma’am?” Alec inquired concernedly.
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 unrest.
“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
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 teacup.
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.
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 anniversary.”
“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 that.”
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 as well.”
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, Mother?”
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 gritted
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 black.
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.
Gadreel leaned 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.
Laileb scowled 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
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 alone.”
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.
Laileb was 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 turned.
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.
“No!” Laileb 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
Laileb trotted 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 her fingertips.
Yes, that’s 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
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.
Laileb found 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
“Get up, you old hag!”
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 lap.
“Didn’t you hear me?” the young man said. “I said get up. Get up now!” he ordered her.
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 from afar.
“Stand right 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.”
Laileb slowly 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 to
“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 in here?”
“Yes,” Laileb answered him tensely.
“Without my permission?” the young man went on, lowering his brows.
Laileb couldn’t 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 helpless
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 invitingly.
Laileb found 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
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 bloodshot
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, monotone
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
Abaddon and Amy both got down on one knee, bowing their heads to their new master.
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