RoYds Part 14 - The Bargain

Winter 1690

Lady Mabel Theawicke flirted with her reflection in the looking glass and decided on the cream-coloured pearl drop earrings. How they accentuated her long white neck! Her pulse quickened slightly.


Beads of snow continued to fall beyond the stone lintel window and the grey-green-washed landscape of the day had been transformed into a sparkling sea of powdered white. She walked over and knelt with one knee upon the window’s cushioned seat and gazed dreamily through the diamond leaded panes. The greenish glass was so thick in places that it slightly distorted her vision in the early evening light.


A sudden movement in the bushes below caught her attention and she struggled to distinguish the cause. She thought she could make out the form of a small animal and she could not restrain a deep gasp of breath as she realised that the creature staring up towards her was a white hare.

The animal’s scream sounded across the waves of snow in the gardens below and suddenly the white-furred hare darted away down the length of the garden and disappeared into the silver birch trees on the near side of Heyleigh dell. Mabel quickly scanned the course it had taken; not a single print of paw had been written in its wake. On other nights, such an omen would have been a good one.

A baby’s screams somewhere in the Hall echoed those of the hare and transported her thoughts back inside the room. Was this her conscience trying to prick her or a warning not to proceed with the night’s dark events? She dismissed the thought; the bargain had been sealed the first time her eyes had met his.

She threw herself down onto the heavily curtained bed and hugged one of the lavender scented woollen blankets. Quickly she cast it aside as a memory of the babe reached out to her from within its heavily woven folds. Nothing was going to change her mind. She knew what she was doing, and the promise of eternal youth was too close to let it escape.

Where was he? Would he wait for her to extinguish the candle or for the fire to die down? She sat up and looked towards the fireplace and her eyes caught on a half-finished goblet of claret on a dark, heavily carved chest close by. It was just what she needed to quench at least one of her thirsts. She fetched the glass and the earthy red liquid fortified her blood and brought some much needed warmth to her chilled veins.

Her gift told her that the latest child had taken its toll on her life-force and death was already crawling the pathways inside her body. Sending him the invitation was the chosen way out for her and nothing would stop her following that course.

The looking glass winked at her from the corner of the room and she couldn’t help a small shudder when she caught sight of herself in its depths. A tired, ageing woman gazed back at her, the capricious one of earlier had been washed away.

She shivered again as a cold breeze crept across her alabaster-pale shoulders and bare arms. A strong, masculine embrace suddenly enclosed her from behind as his body leaned into hers. Another scream erupted from the dell as his lips and waves of ebony hair brushed her neck. The looking glass reflected only a single figure in the room.

***

Sam Omerod ran from the house as if the devil himself was on his heels, the sickly child wrapped in a blanket and clutched close against his thudding chest. Beneath him, his footsteps left a heavy trail in the crunching snow and his frosty breath sailed out before him, forming a ghostly cloud around his body in the dark night air. The faint light in the distance encouraged him onwards as if it had been expecting him to seek it out. Annwn would know what to do.

There was no need to wake her. The latch clicked as he approached and she ushered him in, gently taking the child from him before he bent double and gasped in the warm air. The babe had not cried once on the journey and yet it had wailed pitifully throughout the earlier part of the night. He wasn’t sure if it was dead. Perhaps he had not acted quickly enough.

“Mabel’s dead.” It was more a statement than a question.

He nodded.

“Come sit down by the fire and warm your bones before you set off back again. Tell me what happened.”

He looked at her. How old was she? He could see the faint trace of younger beauty haunting her face. His mind raced; where to begin?

“Grace heard them talking, the Mistress and the stranger... The one that the Master hired to paint her? They were in her room.” He lowered his eyes and looked at the flagstone floor, a black cat arched against his leg.

“Go on.”

“Grace couldn’t get the little one to settle. She’s not been feeding right and the Mistress wouldn’t have owt to do with her. We were frightened because Cook said Nellie Carr’s baby was at death's door and we weren’t sure if the little mite had the same sickness.”

Annwn nodded.

“We thought we would be in trouble if owt happened to it, so Grace went to see if the Mistress wanted me to fetch you or the physician.” He hesitated; this wasn’t easy.

“Get me told, Sam! What did Grace hear?”

A tear ran down his face and he began to shiver slightly as the chill of the night left his body.

“Grace was frightened when she heard the stranger with the Mistress in her room...” His cheeks were wet and he wiped his hand across them and pinched his nose with his finger and thumb stifling a sob. With a newfound courage, he let his eyes meet hers for the first time that night.

“The Mistress begged him to make her like him. A creature of the night, she said. He just laughed at her and told her she was a feeble human and could never be anything else. She was afraid of death, see? So she told him she was much more than that and offered him her soul if he would save her from death. She said she knew he could do it.”

He waited as Annwn gazed at the sleeping child in her arms and then back at him. Her look made him think that she already knew what the Mistress had done.

“What has she done, Sam?”

He shook his head as if trying to deny the night's events before continuing his tale. He pointed at the baby before him. “She bartered the baby’s soul,” he whispered, almost as if he was afraid of eavesdroppers. “As well as one from every generation which follows her.”

Prev

Annwn

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12 Comments:
  • At 19 October 2009 at 05:20, Blogger Charles Gramlich said…

    "Beads of snow" struck an interesting note.

    Well written and suspenseful.

     
  • At 19 October 2009 at 07:55, Blogger Miladysa said…

    Now you have me thinking Charles!

    The original was "pearls of snow" but during the edit it was pointed out that I had duplicated "pearl" with the "pearl drop earrings" in the line above so I changed it to beads.

    Have I picked that up from your writing? I can remember your once described snow as "feathers"...

     
  • At 19 October 2009 at 12:59, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Bimbimbie posted at 12:37 PM

    "death was already crawling the pathways inside her body".

    toe curling tension here, delicious. More, I want more ...please*!*

    (sorry, was unable to leave my feedback in RoYds. I've just read from 1 to 14 and I see Sean Bean as Stanley.

    Melissa he could have the part of the white hare's double and I'd follow ... sigh ;)

     
  • At 19 October 2009 at 13:49, Blogger Miladysa said…

    "toe curling tension here, delicious. More, I want more ...please*!*"

    Bimbimbie - it's on its way - be here Wednesday ;)

     
  • At 19 October 2009 at 13:51, Blogger Melissa said…

    Milady these scenes are just *outstanding*! All of it is gorgeously written and I'd highlight the whole thing, if I could here in the comments. :) I literally had to put on a fleece shirt after reading about Mabel, because you describe the chill in everything so perfectly. I *love* these lines:
    "t was just what she needed to quench at least one of her thirsts. She fetched the glass and the earthy red liquid fortified her blood and brought some much needed warmth to her chilled veins."

    And the scene with Annwyn is superb! I can see it on the big screen. :) Could we have Gerard Butler in this production somewhere? ;)

     
  • At 19 October 2009 at 20:27, Blogger laughingwolf said…

    yeah, can't wait to read the next installment... your tale continues to intrigue, on may levels :)

     
  • At 20 October 2009 at 19:47, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    waiting for the next bit now. xx

     
  • At 21 October 2009 at 00:01, Blogger BernardL said…

    Wow, I've caught up and it's chilling.

     
  • At 21 October 2009 at 00:03, Anonymous Miladysa said…

    Melissa - Your comments make me want to write & write & write! Thank you sooo much (hugs)

    Woflie! :) Thank you! On its way :)


    Sir H - It's here! :)

     
  • At 21 October 2009 at 00:17, Blogger Miladysa said…

    Bernard L - Sorry I missed you - we must have both been commenting at the same time!

    I am so pleased that you think so - thank you :)

     
  • At 22 October 2009 at 12:58, Blogger Vesper said…

    What a foreboding chapter, so dark and unsettling... I loved it! :-)
    You create so well the atmosphere of those times with just the right details, with just a few words well chosen.

    (Only one small technical thing that stood out to me: the almost greenish glass - you don't need "almost", I'd say...)

     
  • At 23 October 2009 at 11:35, Anonymous Miladysa said…

    Vesper - One day I think I shall have this part illustrated :)

    I like it better without the 'almost' too - it's gone - thanks!

     

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Whituth's living can't see the dead but psychic Elizabeth Whyte can see everyone: living humans, delayed souls, fallen angels, vampires and fae. She helps maintain the fragile peace between light and darkness in her work with RoYds, an unworldly refuge. But that peace has suddenly become fragile. Whituth's carefully maintained balance is tipping toward darkness. Now Elizabeth and her angelic allies must discover who or what is threatening both town and refuge before balance is lost forever

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