The Damned

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic

Chapter 1 (v.1) - Forged in Blood

Submitted: May 11, 2013

Reads: 343

Comments: 6

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Submitted: May 11, 2013

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One 

 

Darkmoor Hall, Yorkshire, 4th November 1533 

 

“Lord Charles Devereux,” the man said, extending his pale fingers.  

Isabel stood frozen before him, still clothed in her elaborate scarlet court gown. She clutched her cloak to her chest with white-knuckled hands, the smell of winter cold wafting from the heavy brocade.  

“Lord Henry Devereux, Your Grace,” offered a second voice, echoing from the shadows that curled around the roomA golden-haired lord sat quietly in the darkness, a jewelled goblet clasped in his porcelain hand, the stain of Thomas’ favourite vintage soiling the sides. “You look cold, Isabel, my dear. Stand before the fire and warm yourself.”  

“Devereux? You’re related?” Thomas murmured, moving closer to Isabel and placing his lips against her ear. Her skin was so cold against his that he might have shivered at the touch. 

“In a sense,” the first intruder answered for her. His voice was liquid, soft and deep and sensuous, as rich and dark as the finest ink. 

“I don’t believe that we’re acquainted, Thomas said stiffly, his eyes fixing on the handsome stranger. His heart seemed to beat at an oddly fast pace as their gazes met and locked, though he couldn’t say why exactly 

The man took a step towards them. He moved with a stately grace, like a lord or a king or the devil himself. He moved like darkness, imposing and fluid and inevitable. He loomed over Isabel, watching her from his black eyes, his huge body a study in masculine power. Thomas watched her swallow hard and understood how intimidating the sight of the stranger towering over her must be. She was not a small woman, but the man was much taller, his body more than twice the size of hers, hard and broad, straining with brute strength. The man’s fingers moved upwards, tracing the shape of her lips. “We’re not. I’m a friend of Lady Isabel’s.” 

“How do you know each other?” Thomas stepped up beside her, his shoulder nudging his beloved’s. The night seemed colder suddenly. He wrapped his arm around her, pulling his lover against him. Even through her clothing, he could feel the chill of her skin. He wanted to take her slender hands and chafe them between his, fold her in his embrace and imbue her delicate frame with his warmth.   

The man’s eyes darted to Thomas. He smiled wolfishly. For as long as he lived, Thomas knew that he would remember that moment, that first true look into the eyes of the monster that called himself Charles Devereux. Gentleman and lord and lover, all those were gone in an instant, and there was only Devereux, the beast himself, the power of him, the hunger, the intensity. His eyes were black, startlingly dark in his ivory face. There was an animal in those eyes, savage and frightening, chained and angry, yearning to swallow him whole. He laughed devilishly, his merriment forming the mask of a man, veiling the monster beneath. “Oh, we share a long history, Your Grace. The details would only bore you. You could say that it was Death that introduced us to one another.” 

Thomas exhaled sharply, pulling Isabel behind him. His hand caught at his cross unthinkingly. “What are you?” The stranger wasn’t human – a primitive, animal instinct told him so. How could he ever have believed, even for an instant, that he was?  

“Why, I’m a gentleman, of course, just like you.” 

Thomas watched Isabel’s long, slender fingers tighten pleadingly on the man’s arm. “Why are you here, Con?” 

Charles smiled again, dangerous and teasing. “For him, of course. 

“No,” Isabel breathed, the sound anguished. She shook her head, her nails burying themselves in the man’s velvet sleeve. “No, I won’t let you.”   

A cold sweat coated Thomas’ skin. “Death?” he questioned, angling his body between them, his hand on the man’s shoulder. “What do you mean – death introduced you?” 

The man delicately pried Thomas’ fingers from his velvet-clad collarbone, his lip curling, as though the olive skin he touched would soil the ivory of his own. He pushed his hand back to him, his grip crushing Thomas’ knuckles hard enough to make him wince. Charles smiled at the sight and twisted away from him in a quick, serpentine motion. “You must keep your hands to yourself, Your Grace. Manhandling a guest is simply discourteous. I had hoped Isabel had chosen a paramour with better manners.” 

Silence fell. Charles Devereux stared at Thomas, cruel glee in his eyes, watching the way he cradled his hand to his chest, waiting for his inevitable questions. The room seemed suffocating, thick with menace and gleeful invitation. “You spoke of death,” Thomas said doggedly, still holding his fist, his heart pounding against his ribs.  

The man tugged at Isabel’s wrist to turn her and curled around her, wrapping her slender body in his arms. Yes, so I did. Lady Isabel and I are far too familiar with Gentleman Death, are we not, my dear?” 

“Yes, Con, we are; far too familiar. Her long, graceful frame struggled against his crushing embrace, her silver eyes wide and pleading. Charles smiled triumphantly as he heard her confession and Thomas felt goosebumps rise on his damp skin. “We have seen enough of it already, have we not? There is no need for more. The time for killing is over.  

“Now who said anything of killing, my lady?” Charles said. Thomas’ hand crept to the handle of his sword. Not I. No, I am more interested in the deaths that came before. Have you never told His Grace our story: how once upon a time, death tore us apart, nor how he reunited us?” he breathed, lips pressed to her cheek. 

“The past is dead and gone. Let me go,” Isabel seethed. She tried to pry his fingers from her skin, her top lip curling back to reveal pale, pointed teeth. Why had Thomas never realised how savage and unnatural those terrible fangs seemed before?  

“Let her go,” he commanded. Charles laughed. The man in the corner only looked at the pale-skinned pair, still and silent as Isabel struggled. Thomas reached for the sword at his hip, his hand closing around the metal so tightly that he feared it would shatter. The trembling of his fingers shivered down the blade, sending a gentle vibration slithering down his leg, like a woman’s trailing touch. “Let her go, and be gone from here.”  

Before he could draw the rapier, the golden-haired man darted from the shadows and curled his hand around Thomas’, crushing his fingers. The blade clattered to the floor. Thomas cried out, twisting away from the man’s ferocious grasp, but he held on effortlessly, his grip only tightening. The veins in Thomas’ hand bulged, the blood searching for release“Ari, no,” Isabel screamed, dashing all of her slender weight against the arms of her black-eyed captor. “Stop it; you’re going to crush his bones.” 

Golden-haired Henry laughed devilishly and released Thomas. “Your young duke is brave, my darling. He pleases me already.” He moved closer, his nose brushing Thomas’ neck, sending a shiver down his spine. “A young one, nice and tender. Yes, you chose well. I like him.” 

“He’s mine, Ari,” Isabel said fiercely, still struggling to break the other man’s grip, her nails clawing at his gloved hands. “You will not touch him.” 

“How selfish of you,” Henry pouted. “We’ve always shared our toys before.” He placed his hands on either side of Thomas’ face, his blue eyes seeming to drink from his. “Lovely,” he murmured, his tongue caressing his ivory teeth. “You are beautiful, child. We appreciate beauty here, all of us. What a shame she will not share you.” 

“Enough of your games, Ari,” the black-haired monster growled as Isabel tried to twist away from him again. He held her still with his powerful hands, obsidian eyes burning in his porcelain face. His beautiful mouth was hard, his jaw taut. “Have you told the duke our story, Isabel? Answer me, damn you.” 

“Let me go and I might,” she hissed. The man roughly released her and she stalked away from him, throwing him a disgusted glance over her shoulder. Terribly angry she seemed, yet wholly unafraid. How could that be, when Thomas’ heart beat a rapid staccato rhythm in his chest, and cold sweat coated his skin? He was not a coward, but all men, and surely all women too, must walk in fear of demons. Yet someone had forgotten to tell her so. 

Isabel stopped with her back towards Thomas, staring out of the leaded panes, her slender body trembling slightly. Condensation dripped in lazy rivulets, painting a meandering path down the glass. The water pooled on the sill before her, her anxious fingertips spreading it in erratic patterns across the gnarled wood. “I don’t believe I have. I feared it would frighten him unnecessarily. Would you like him to hear it, Charles? 

The man prowled after her. He pressed himself against Isabel’s back, his strong arms creating a cage around her, his hands over hers, porcelain cheeks resting together. When he spoke, his words frosted the glass beneath her forehead. “Oh, I insist that he does,” he said softly, his finger tracing the line of her jaw. Shall you tell him of Death, my lady, or shall I?” 

“I will. I will speak to Thomas of Death. The story is as much mine to tell as yours, after all, whether I wish it to be told or not. 

The cool monotone Isabel used belied the gravity of her words - words that sent shivers of terror coursing through Thomas’ body. A fire roared in the hearth, yet it did little to assuage the cold finger of fear that caressed his spine. “Whose death?” 

The firelight cast an eerie glow on the stranger’s pale skin, dancing and writhing like hellfire. The crimson shadow of the flames twisted and turned in his black eyes as he fixed them on Thomas, lending a demonic light to his gaze. “Ours,” he whispered, pressing his forehead to Isabel’s cheek and laying his hand on her slender shoulder. “And perhaps yours.” He spoke the words almost guiltily, as if he were confessing some torrid love affair.  

“You’re getting ahead of yourself,” Isabel saidher knuckles tightening around the counterpane as Thomas took a step back, trying desperately to swallow his fear. “Our demise is not the beginning of our story.” 

“It is the only beginning that matters.” 

She turned in Charles’ arms and clasped his pale face in her ivory hands. “That was always your downfall, Con. Don’t you remember the man you were before this monster took hold? Don’t you remember who you loved and who loved you?”  

“I remember you, my love.”  

Isabel twisted away from him, the movement as fluid as water, her scarlet skirts swirling around her feet. “Then you remember what I did and why you left me too.” 

Thomas averted his gaze from the dark Adonis, letting it rest on the woman he loved, the wonderfully cruel siren who had stolen his soul and weighed it like a jewel in her pale palmMortal fear coiled itself around his heart. He longed for her to turn around, so that he could see her beloved face once more - for the last time, perhaps. He pictured it in his mind: cold and pale and lovely, with those strange, ethereal eyes. Those eyes were like nothing he had ever seen before. Looking into them was like drowning; it made it hard to breathe. They were the colour of the sky when the sun was shining, the most exquisite sapphires, the sea, wild bluebells, and yet none of those things, and all of them, when each was silvered by the moonlight, as if God had created such a hue for his pleasure alone. Dark lashes encircled his love’s eyes, coal black, long, lustrous, providing an elaborate casing for the jewels they framed. The brows above them were thin and perfectly shaped, as if a celestial hand had picked up a paintbrush and stencilled them on to her ivory skin. She was divinity itself. He could write odes to that face every day for the rest of his life and never grow tired of his subject.  

Isabel’s chestnut mane quivered as she looked down at her delicate, bejewelled hands. The fire lent red highlights to her long curls. Thomas stared at them, transfixed. The glow from the flames made it appear as if the rippling tendrils were on fire, cascading down her back like a burning waterfall. All Thomas wanted was to bury his face in it and burn in her embrace, lose himself in the intoxicating spice of it. He knew that Isabel Devereux was destruction, but there were worse ways for a man to destroy himself. She could ruin him entirely and he would simply smile as he watched her turn his world into ashesIsabel, Isabel, let down your hair, that I might climb the scarlet stair. His eyes bored into her – he needed to tell her, suddenly, that if he died tonight, she had been worth dying for - but she remained as still as a statue, stubbornly refusing to turn around. 

“It is time then?” Henry murmured.  

Isabel nodded slowly and Charles softened. “It is only right,” he murmured, caressing the elegant curve of her spine. He moved to the chair that the other man had vacated, draping his tall, graceful frame across the patina stained wood. He sat easily, his big body reclined, eyes heavy-lidded, his scarlet mouth glistening; exotically beautiful yet dangerously controlled.  

“Then it’s time for me to leave. I cannot abide the same tale again. Ive lived it once already,” Henry said. He stroked Isabel’s hair languidly, then raised her fa


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