COPYRIGHT Julieanne Lynch/2011
The smell was the first thing that triggered the memories of my time held in the cell. A damp, musty, hot scent that burned the back of my nose brought me back to reality and face to face with him. He watched me as I was led towards him. His eyes glared at me and inspected every inch of my body and swollen abdomen.
Smiling, he stood up and mocked me by bowing at my feet.
“The illustrious queen returns,” he shouted. “The shadow queen herself stands before us. We must rejoice.”
Inside, my heart thumped hard against my chest and my baby moved, brushing limbs against the inside of my womb. Silently, I prayed to Lilith, and to anyone who would save me. How I regretted leaving Ysoriel and walking into this trap.
“Giselle, I knew you would come to me. I could sense the darkness in you the very first time I saw you. You may be a picture of innocence on the outside, but inside you are dead and cold just like the rest of us. Welcome home.” He brushed his hand against the side of my face, smiling, as his eyes, yellow and feral, stared hard into mine. The same sinister eyes I had seen in my dream.
He took me by the hand and led me away from Mara and Bernael, taking me into a large oak lined room and closed the door behind us. I stood frozen, trying to control my breathing.
The urge to scream was almost uncontrollable, but something inside stopped me. Instead, I looked ahead, focusing my gaze on a bizarre portrait that hung over the wrought iron fireplace. It was unusually misplaced in a world that was anything but calm. A brown haired woman stood by a large chestnut tree, her limbs were pale and lithe, and her face was beautiful. Her dark blue eyes focused on the small child next to her, and the child looked up at her with total love.
I was so fixed on the image of the mother and child that I had not noticed the roar of the fire, until the screams caught my attention. I tried to shield my ears from the screams so piercing that I almost fell to my knees, but slowly they died, as did the flames.
Laughing, Xavier rubbed his hands together and sat down in a large, ornate chair. Running his nails along the arm, he let out a deep breath, and sighed.
“Another soul damned. I do enjoy these moments. It fills my,” he thumped his chest, “with so much joy.” Then his eyes turned cold and mean.
“Why have you brought me here?” I asked, controlling the tremble in my voice.
“Dearest Giselle, need I really point out the obvious factors to your return?”
“But I don’t belong here. I just want to return to my old life.”
“Your old life, my dear child, is a thing of the past. Look at it as being a decayed memory, something distorted, and, given time, you will soon forget the ways of the old and embrace the ways of the new.” He smiled at me.
From deep inside me, I could feel a surge of something creeping to the surface. A rush of adrenaline ran through me, and before I could think about what I was saying, it came out.
“I think you mistake me for the simpering little girl from before.” I walked over to him. “But you see, people change, and I have seen so much in the past few months that you no longer scare me.”
“Now this, this is the fighting talk of a queen,” he said exuberantly.
“I knew it from the first moment I set my eyes on you, that you were worthy of the crown.”
I stepped back from him and shook my head. “No, I will not be a goddamned queen. I refuse to take a part of this bloody freak show any longer. I demand you return me back to Antoine, now.”
He approached me and placed his hands on either side of my abdomen.
Breathing heavily into my face, he looked down at my swollen baby bump and smiled. “You will not be going anywhere for a long time my dear.”
From behind me I could hear movement, and as I turned round, two dark silhouettes took a firm hold of my arms and held me still. Xavier stepped in closer to me, and grabbed me by my chin.
“You would be a foolish girl to try anything stupid. There will be no rescues, no saviours, nothing. You are here for good, and once you give birth to the child, you will be reborn. The sooner you accept this, the easier it will be for both you and the child when the time comes to hand him over to the Nightwalkers,”
“What? No... No one is taking my child from me,” I spat at him.
“A deal is a deal, little dark one.”
“Oh my God, there is no way in hell you are taking my baby from me,” I screamed as I struggled to break free from the grip of the shadows.
“Ah, but you see, you are in hell, and it’s the way of hell,” he laughed. “Take her below,” he instructed the two shadows holding me.
I pulled against them and managed to free my arm. I went to hit him, but before my eyes he evaporated and then appeared again in front of me, smiling. “Silly little half-breed,” he snarled at me, and took hold of my neck and pushed me forward.
Remembering the time I had been kept here, I knew there was no point in resisting. I walked on through the dimly lit corridor, hearing the familiar sounds of faint screams and pleading. Gritting my teeth, I fought against the urge to shout an array of obscenities at my guards. Instead, I focused on the tunnel and the light at the end. Stepping down to avoid my head hitting the beam above me, I was led down a narrow spiral staircase.
I was surprised to be met by Mara. She smiled gleefully at me, unaware of how much I hated her at that precise moment, and if it had not been for my ‘delicate constitution’ I would have lunged at her and ripped her head off. So, dreaming of a time that I would carry out that thought had to be enough for me and enough to take me through the awful situation.
“Giselle, you seem flushed,” she commented. “Maybe you ought to rest. A woman in your condition must take all the rest she can get. Come, we have prepared refreshments in your chamber.”
Mara was tall, with the longest blonde curls I had ever seen, but she looked like a shadow of what she might have been in another life. Her pale skin and dark circles reminded me of how dreadful you become when you cross over to the darkness. She seemed to move as though she was floating on air. Her long flowing silk dress covered her feet, but it hung low on her back, revealing thick red scars around her shoulder blades, and continued down to the centre of her spine, only stopping where the dress covered her lower back.
We followed her until we came to a set of doors. She clapped her hands and one of the guards released his grip on me and moved to the door, opening it for us to enter.
“Come,” Mara instructed me.
Inside me, the familiar feelings of nerves and queasiness overcame me, and I felt my heart pound in my chest. I was astonished at what met me when I walked into the room.
The room was like something out of a period drama. The walls were covered in red flocked wallpaper, the hardwood floor covered by an oriental styled rug, and, to my surprise, two large windows were dressed with heavy swags and thick layers of suedette and lace. A large ornate fire surround had candelabra on both ends, and a clock sat on the mantle, chiming.
I stood in the centre of the room, trying to take it all in. This was nothing like the conditions I had been kept in before. This was opulent, and that confused me, but before I could say anything someone from behind me cleared his throat, and, turning around, I was met by an unfamiliar man.