The Damned

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

Chapter 54 (v.1)

Submitted: December 12, 2013

Reads: 159

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Submitted: December 12, 2013

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54

 

Foxwood Hall, Yorkshire, 15th December 1537


“The worst part of it was the knowledge that I would kill again – and being excited by the thought. It was a never-ending cycle: the hunger, the hunt, death, and remorse. Every time I vowed that I would never do it again, and every time I broke my vow. The hunger ached and throbbed inside of me, until my morality was subdued, beaten into submission. Their blood assuaged the gnawing hunger, but when the physical pain was abated the guilt came, haunting me.”


“Did you remember their faces?”


All of the blood seemed to have crept from the demon's delightful features, leaving behind an ivory mask with empty, unseeing eyeholes. “I closed my eyes and all I could see was their faces. I remembered their memories. How can one describe the haunting horror of reliving their deaths over and over again? Tempus fugit, non autem memoria – time flies, but not memory.”


“Do you ever forget?”


The vampire's hands clenched into fists. His voice seemed to catch in his throat. “I remember them all, Thomas – every single one. There is enough blood on my hands to turn the oceans red, and still I remember.”


“You still feel regret, after all this time?”


“I told you, the guilt never goes away. Does that make me good? That I feel remorse? Is it enough to redeem my soul? For what use is remorse if it doesn’t deter?” Conor questioned.


“You couldn’t help it.” Thomas’ voice was soft. He should have been repulsed by the macabre tale these demons had told, but he hungered to be with Isabel forever. If he had to kill a thousand times over just to be in her arms it was a price he was willing to pay.


“We can always help it. Why didn’t I destroy myself? For we are not truly immortal, Thomas. We call ourselves immortals, but that pertains to some semblance of invincibility. We can die, if something which is already dead can die. Age cannot wither us, nor disease or injury, but the sunlight can burn our ivory skin, and fire can wreak its devastation on our pale forms. If I was so desperate to escape from it, if I was good, I could have destroyed myself. What would one life have been if it saved thousands? I will never live again, so why should they have died to sustain me? What divine hierarchy placed me above them? Don't excuse what I did, my beautiful aristocrat; I murdered that little girl as surely as if I had cut her slender throat with a knife. I never doubted that. 


"But men are weak, Thomas. Even as death encroaches, still we cling to life. We find excuses to go on. I didn’t want to live, but I couldn’t put an end to it all. I convinced myself that I must save Isabel before I could rest. But how could I approach her? I had to see her, but I couldn’t, for I was tainted; I wouldn’t doom her by association. And I knew that I would not be able to leave her a second time. I was too selfish. Doing so once had broken my heart, to do so again would be, quite simply, impossible. Yet how could I damn her to live beside me in hell? That was a genius move on the part of my instinct for self-preservation; I could not do what I must, and so I must go on.”


“How is it that you can try and deter me? I love her as you do. Is it so wrong that I would be with her forever?”


“Forever is a long time, my love.” Isabel’s voice was gentle, her tone sad. “Love so quickly turns to hatred. I would not be without you, yet I cannot help but try to deter you from this course.” Her cool hands gently caressed Thomas' fevered cheeks, brushing his damp hair away from his forehead. 


Conor looked at him from leaden eyes. His face was haunted, lending a weariness to his exquisite features, yet still he retained the vital bloom and loveliness of youth. How could they sit one beside the other without appearing monstrous? Youth should seem forever innocent, not tarred by grief and suffering. Yet the pain seemed to sharpen his features, to lend a tormented loveliness and depth of emotion to those dark eyes. He exceeded mere beauty; his face was transformed into the very personification of the terrible splendour of a Greek tragedy, with all of its irresistible, damaged allure. "Surely you see now, Thomas, that I did love her. That I have always loved her. I did not choose to abandon Isabel to her fate. A monster made that decision for me."


His darling swept across the room to her demon lover, her body swaying as a plant swayed in water. Those hands of cool ivory wrapped around the monster's throat from behind as she rested her head against his broad back. They were beautiful together, these creatures from a finer world. "He was more angel than monster, Con. An angel who fell," she murmured. "You must never damn our saviour in my presence. It will only make me hate you a little more."


Oh, the dark-haired man was divine, but Thomas hated him, too. He could not let him have her. “I see only that you failed her," he said cruelly. "I would never do that. I would never leave you, Isabel. I want to be with you always.”


“Then you need to hear the rest of the story," she said, with her sweet, melancholic smile. 


“Tell me.”


She turned her head to him. How could a neck be so slender and sensuous? He had kissed that ivory skin so many times. Felt her tremble, her pulse leaping beneath his lips. The graceful curves of that throat, as lovely and delicately scented as the curves of a white lily, made him hungry. Would his tongue ever taste that pale skin again?


But Isabel had no time for the present or the future now. Only the past. “I do not exaggerate when I stress my unhappiness, Thomas. I was not the tragic damsel that you read about in stories, weak and self-pitying. My life was truly awful, full of pain and cruelty. My husband was a tyrant. He had never cared for me, but he had never hated me before. Yet once he possessed me, he soon came to realise that my family could give him the prize he had always desired, but he would never own me, and the realisation seemed to drive him to insanity. I seemed to drive him to insanity.”


“Katerina promised to save you.”


A faint flush, like the shadow of a rose in a gold-backed mirror, coloured her cheeks. Such delicate rage. “Hugh was the one person who had the power to intervene. He saw it happening and he did nothing to stop it. Now tell me who was worse: the man who beat and raped his wife, or the brother who stood back and let him? No sacrifice was too great in exchange for power. Katerina could do nothing, except promise that one day she would end it. Bur my brother had grown and changed. He would no longer heed the whispers in his ear.”


“She couldn't save you, could she?" he said, horrified.


Isabel turned to Conor, lips quivering. “I was so unhappy without you.”


“I know,” the demon murmured, his voice quiet and full of anguish. 


She looked at Thomas once more. “But life went on, as it always does. Tempus neminem manet, as Ari would say. Time waits for no one. It was not a happy life, but it was mine, and that should have meant something,” she said forcefully.


"It did," Conor said brokenly, a piteous expression of pain on his face. He tried to take her face between his hands, but she thrust him away, such a lovely, angry little creature. 


"Not enough, it would seem. Not enough to absent yourself entirely," she said bitterly. "I wanted to marry you. I would have given all of my life to you. If you had only taken it then, when it would have been painless for us both..." She stepped back a few paces, her hands clenching. "Why must you always get it so very wrong?" 


"I'm sorry," Conor said brokenly.


Isabel shook her head. "It is too late to apologise." 


"Don't leave me, my darling. We cannot be apart again."


"I'm sorry, too." She flung herself down beside Thomas, her fists clenching great handfuls of his shirt. She lay draped across him like a trampled flower, broken and damaged beyond repair, yet still unbearably beautiful. Painfully lovely. She buried her face in his neck, her lips to his ear, as though she could not bear to look at him. "You know how this ends, don't you, Thomas? You know that, even if Hugh had a mind to listen, Katerina would not have acted until her ambitions were realised. You know that she could not save me. And you must know that Conor came back, for you can see that not one blossom of my youth has fallen. What more is there to say, truly, except that I died, and awoke again in hell? Would you still have me condemn you?"


There was silence. She said no more, only mutely slipped away into what little darkness remained. The sky outside had lightened to grey, he saw. On noiseless silver feet, the shadows slid away, to hide in the corners, curling up in slumber until the pale fingers of moonlight would gently rouse them. 


The colours seemed to waken, growing deeper and darker and more splendid as his savage goddess faded before his eyes. She looked a little tired now. There were shadows beneath her brilliant eyes, a whisper of fatigue in the sigh that graced her pale lips. "Of course you would not. You see now that I hate him, and you do not want to hate me. You do not want to kill, and you do not want to die."


“Is that the end?” he said softly.


“Tomorrow,” Isabel promised, the dying flames lighting pale fires in her silver eyes. 


“What happens tomorrow?”


She laughed and tossed her head. There was a touch of cruelty about her mouth as she looked at him, her doomed lover. “Our stories end, yours and mine.”


 


 


 


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