Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Embrace of the Lycan - Chapter 17

Kristina had run from Lucian as fast as her new vampire skills allowed. She felt the chilly night air rush by her, but she was not cold. This body she now inhabited did not feel like her own. She was unable to put her finger on exactly what she felt was different, but it was a vague sense that the usual rules did not apply anymore. She hated it. The sense of confusion and anger she felt was blinding her to the possibilities this new reality could offer.

Even as a newly formed vampire she had been able to sense the imminent sunrise as a gentle prickle at the back of her neck. She quickly looked around for a potential shelter from the sun’s now harmful rays. She stopped running and sat on a nearby fence while she tried to order her thoughts. She considered just sitting there and awaiting the inevitable, but a small portion of her refused to give in. There was still enough of her old spirit remaining to deny the total futility of her situation. In the overgrown pasture behind her was a large wooden trough. She jumped off the fence and walked over.

The old Krisztina would not have been able to move this, but the new Krisztina lifted it with hardly any effort. She tipped out the stagnant rainwater and turned it upside down. She gave one last grieved look at her beautiful Italian dress that was already ripped slightly at the shoulder and stained with her own blood, then slid under the trough.

Alone in the dark she tried to imagine her future expanding eternally in front of her. The thought of never dying, while appealing to some, was not to Krisztina. Not now. Not like this. Death would not be an unwelcome visitor. Some people were greatly daunted by it, but she felt that it was the fleeting nature of a life that made the life lived worthwhile. Life and love gave existence a meaning. She now felt that she had neither. At some point, as her thoughts wove round in her head, her body shut down. Whether this was a natural reaction to a tired body, or some other supernatural need to ride out the daylight hours, she did not know. She only slept.

As her consciousness returned, she was aware the setting sun, but also of a distant hoof beat. She climbed from under her refuge and look back along the road. Through the half light of the dusk, she could see a carriage being pulled by two large dark horses. She moved nearer to the road and awaited its approach. As the carriage drew near, she stepped almost into its path. The coach driver pulled hard on the rains, causing the horses to stiffen their legs straight in an effort to stop quickly. The abrupt stop caused great consternation from carriage’s residents.

There were female cries and male exclamations. One man stuck his head out of the small window and shouted at her to get out of the way. Krisztina moved to the window. The man inside looked shaken and extremely fearful, but when he saw it was a lone girl he started to relax. What this wretch had been through, he could only imagine. She had fine clothes on but they were in a sorry state.

‘Oh my goodness!’ The exclamation had come from inside the darkness of the carriage. ‘It is the Baroness, the bride of Captain Tibor!’

The carriage door opened and a familiar face appeared.

‘Oh my poor dear,’ said the Duchess Eszter. ‘My poor child. What have you been through?’

She pulled Krisztina to her bosom and held her tightly. Krisztina was actually happier than she would have expected to see the older woman.

‘Eszter, quickly – the night draws in,’ urged the man that had shouted earlier.

‘Of course, let us talk inside.’ With that, Eszter ushered Krisztina into the carriage and climbed in behind her. The carriage was quite cramped as it was only small and already held four occupants. One was the man who spoke earlier, an auburn haired man with a fiery orange beard; a brunette woman with almond shaped eyes and olive skin; an elderly gentleman, and the Duchess, Eszter.

‘How did you escape my dear? Where is Captain Tibor?’ questioned the old man.

Krisztina didn’t know how to respond and so just shook her head.

‘The poor girl is struck dumb with shock! Look at the state of her – oh that beautiful Italian silk.’ Eszter fussed over her as the carriage began moving once again.

Eszter explained to the silent Krisztina that they had hidden in the wine cellar, only to be discovered after day or so by one of those ‘monsters’. They were dragged unceremoniously in front of the supposed leader of these brutes, convinced that their time had come.

Eszter crossed herself as she spoke. ‘In an unimaginable act of compassion, he let us go. He told us to ‘scurry away’ before he saw reason. I would never have expected mercy from any of those animals!’

‘They are not animals! They are Lycan!’ Krisztina yelled fiercely at her rescuers, in defence of her friends and lover.

There was a moment’s shocked silence, until the old man patted her hand sympathetically. Misunderstanding the outburst, he said, ‘Don’t worry child. You are safe now.’

‘Yes dear, do not worry yourself,’ Eszter reassured her. ‘These … Lycans… cannot harm us now for we head to my husband’s benefactor. He will know how to handle this situation.’

The old man moved his hand from patting Krisztina, to patting Eszter’s pale bejewelled fingers. For a split second Eszter was confused as to the cause of this offered sympathy, then she realised and started to dab at her eyes.

‘My poor husband… what fate could have befallen him..,’ she sobbed dramatically.

All the other nobles looked on Eszter with sympathy, while Krisztina just stared out of the window watching the scenery go past. She did not care what had befallen the Duke as he was partly to blame for her current condition.

She wanted to cry and scream at these misguided fools, warning them that they were heading towards a greater misfortune than what they had just left. Instead, she kept her feelings to herself. The end of the coach ride would bring her face to face with the Vampire that had sired the Duke, who in turn had sired her into this world of revenants.

The nobles continued to talk and speculate quietly amongst themselves. Eszter had fallen asleep and Krisztina, not wanting to talk to the nobles, pretended to do the same. She found herself feeling restless, her thoughts full of weird and dark imagery. Laying her head on the Duchess’s shoulder she could see through her lashes and was acutely sensitive to the pulse on Eszter’s throat.

Krisztina’s senses were swimming. She licked her lips, aware of her growing thirst. Despite the almost complete lack of light in the carriage, Krisztina was clearly able to see within its confines. She slyly looked up at her companions, and noticed they too had fallen into a gentle doze. She continued to rest her head upon the sleeping Duchess. She turned her head slightly, brushing the soft skin of Eszter’s shoulder with her lips. It was as if she could smell the blood that rushed just beneath the surface.

She felt her canines elongate, and pulled her lips back. She sank the sharp points tenderly into the soft flesh, not wanting to wake her prey. As a small amount of the blood hit her mouth, there was a rush to her head that was more exhilarating than any wine she had ever drunk. She sank her teeth in deeper and drew more of scarlet nectar.

The Duchess moaned slightly in her sleep, and furrowed her brow as if in some bad dream. Kristina pulled back immediately, conscious that the noise could have disturbed the others. She quickly wiped her mouth and glanced warily at the small punctures she had left on the Duchess. She worried unnecessarily as no one moved. Just as she was about to relax, the driver banged the side of the carriage which awoke everyone with a start.

The auburn haired man stuck his head out of the small window, then turned to his companions and said, ‘We are here.’

Monday, 23 February 2009

Embrace of the Lycan - Chapter 16

Chapter 16
Lucian’s men had cleared away the debris of the battle and disposed of the bodies. Most of his men had come away relatively unharmed and everyone now had had time to recuperate.

During the invasion, they had enjoyed the element of surprise. The castle guards that had been on duty were slightly inebriated as they had begun celebrating their Captain’s impending nuptials earlier in the day.

There had been one or two noble folk remaining that had hidden when the invasion started. Lucian had surprisingly shown mercy and allowed them to leave.

Raze was following Lucian out to the courtyard. He was worried about his leader, who hardly left his room – Krisztina’s room – over the last few days but he wanted to say farewell to Kristo.

Kristo and his men, who had rejoined Lucian to help breach the castle, was readying to leave.

Lucian appeared amongst them and walked up to Kristo. He placed his hand on the other man’s shoulder and thanked him.

‘Your help was invaluable Kristo. We would not have found this so easy without you. But it is not over.’

He turned then, to face the rest of the gathered Lycan.

‘Your old masters, the Vampires, have returned. The elders are seeking to repopulate this land and will be looking once more to enslave us to provide them with daytime guards.’

He paused for a moment to see if this had registered with his men.

‘Kristo, you are a free man right now. But Markus will be gathering an army as we speak. I know the Vampires far better than most of you and I know what their priorities are. Land, food, security… and wealth. They will be growing in numbers everyday.’

Kristo asked, ‘What are you suggesting we do?’

‘You and your men are free to leave this place – or you can stay,’ he answered. ‘Together, we could build an army of Lycans the like of which has never been seen. I do not know how long we have but I would imagine it is only a matter of weeks before Markus hears what happened here today and sends an army of his own to reclaim this prize.’

There were nods of agreement around the group.

‘Are you with me!’ he yelled. A sea of fists rose in the air, as they all cheered their agreement.

‘You! You and you!’ He pointed at three of his men stood nearby. ‘Go, travel to nearby estates as we have done once before. Convince the slaves there to join us. In return, we can offer them their freedom and immortality.’

‘The rest of you, we need to organise our defences, lookouts, and supplies.’

He marched off towards the great hall, taking with him his Lieutenants Sabas, János, Kristo and Raze. They talked all afternoon and late into the night. Finally, once plans had been agreed, Lucian dragged his weary body up to his room. His men left, confident with the plans. Lucian was a natural General and commanded the utmost respect from his men. None of them had any military training, but they had a great leader, enhanced strength and speed, and most importantly, a vast desire to win. This fight was not about earning coin, but earning respect and freedom for themselves and future generations.

Some food had been left in his room for him, but he did not feel particularly hungry. As he approached the bedroom, his eyes invariably travelled to the bloodstained floorboards where Krisztina’s human life had ended and her vampiric one started.

He peeled off his clothes and climbed under the sheet which was cool against his skin. His mind was still racing with the things that needed to be done, but his body and exhaustion took control and before he knew it he was fast asleep.

He awoke sometime later, as he felt cold. He reached for the sheet, presuming it had fallen and instead of touching linen, his hands found grass. His eyes flew open as all the rest of his senses caught up. He was not in his bed. It was still dark, and the moon was already in her waning phase. By his very nature, he was sensitive to the phases of the moon and knew instinctively that this was the same night that he had gone to his bedchamber, yet he could not see the castle anywhere in sight.

He heard someone approaching. Not in the least self conscious about being naked, he was more concerned that he had no weapon. He was about to start the transformation into his Lycan form, when he saw that the interloper was Krisztina. As she moved towards him, his breath was taken away. She had been quite lovely in life, but now her beauty was luminescent. Her hair hung long, curly and glossy around her shoulders. A look he much preferred than the tightly curled and dressed hair that she had worn on her wedding night.

Even her movement had changed. Gone was the trudge of the weary barmaid, to be replaced by the lithe grace of a predator. Her skin glowed with a radiance to rival the moon, soft and pale. Her eyes were bright and a smile came to her lips as she neared him. She was wearing a pale gown, which looked to be made of an almost sheer material. It hugged and defined her curves and gave a subtle hint of the curves it hid.

‘Krisztina! I am happy to see that you still live. Where is this place? Have you come back to me?’ He grabbed her as soon as she was within reach and pulled her toward him, crushing his lips desperately against hers.

‘Shush my love. I am with you now, is that not enough?’

She continued to kiss him passionately. As they devoured each other, he soon lost the will to talk and instead wanted to act. As they tumbled to the ground, Krisztina ran her hands all over his muscled body and his eager manhood. He in turn peeled off the light gown she wore to reveal the voluptuous breasts, small waist and rounded hips that he remembered.

As she sat on his lap, his hands smoothed and stroked her breasts. Krisztina gently rocked herself in his lap and stroked the wetness of her body on his hard length until he could stand it no longer and thrust himself deep into her core. They were a perfect fit for each other. As she rose and sank onto him in long deep strokes, he watched her face which was a mask of pleasure and need.

Her skin gleamed against his golden brown complexion. He kissed and lightly bit her neck and was rewarded with a gasp of pleasure. He twisted then so that she was now underneath, driving him deeper and deeper. She wrapped her legs round him and let out a moan of pleasure. He rode the waves of her orgasm and then allowed his own release.

As their passion subsided, he held onto her tightly. Her head was rested on his chest and he gently stroked her back.

‘Krisztina, do not leave me. Stay with me.’

She lifted her head, and looked into his emerald eyes.

‘I love you Lucian.’ Her eyes lightened to the ice blue and she barred her fangs which she suddenly plunged into his neck.

The pain made him sit up quickly. His hands flew against his throat in protection. He was alone, in his bedchamber, under the sheet.

He laid back then, his heartbeat and breath returning quickly to normal, yet his heart ached anew. He thought she had returned to him yet it had been just a dream, or some evil succubus taunting him with images of his fair Krisztina.

To be continued...

Embrace of the Lycan - Chapter 15

Chapter 15
So terrible was Lucian’s anguish that he felt unable to breath. He held her to him, and felt her flesh was cold and hard. The woman he loved had been taken from him again. He struggled to take in one long breath and then let out such a howl that every living thing within ear shot would have sensed his loss.

The anger swelled and so did his Lycan. Within a heartbeat his beast was released and it was looking for revenge. It first turned on the cause of the distress. The Lycan growled, and prepared to attack. The Vampire had the decency to look terrified and leapt through a window. Lucian was a second behind and caught him easily. With one swipe of a massive clawed hand, the Vampire froze mid step. Boris teetered backwards a step before his head lolled at a peculiar angle. He dropped down onto his knees gurgling up a mouth full of blood. He then fell, face first, into the dirt of the courtyard. His head was almost separated from his body.

Lucian leapt onto his back and with his huge fangs, gripped the Vampire’s cranium and pulled it clean away with a sickening squelch. He continued to rend with his claws and teeth until all that remained of Boris was a bloody pulp.

Lucian hadn’t finished. He looked about him and found a few remaining guards that were not quite dead, although were suffering terminal injuries. He repeated the process of destruction, desperately trying to ease the pain of his loss. Once again, the beast stood on his two legs, filled the massive chest with air and let out another mournful howl.

The rest of the courtyard lay still now. The guards all dispatched, his men stood and saw their leader slowly revert back to his human form. He continued to stand there naked, tears still running down his face. Even the moon hid from his grief, hiding her face behind the clouds. Someone handed him a pair of trousers, no doubt liberated from one of the guards.

Lucian looked for his Lieutenant. He saw Raze walking towards him. ‘Put someone on watch. When the Vampires hear of what we have done – they will be looking for retribution.’

He climbed into the trousers, and added, ‘Get this place tidied up. We are taking over. This is my castle now.’

Lucian thought about Krisztina’s body and refused to leave it in the same room as Tibor, so he headed back up to her apartment. When he got in the room, he saw Tibor’s body where it had been left, with the throat and shoulder chewed nearly all the way through. Krisztina’s body however, had disappeared.

For a second, he was confused. Then it dawned on him the possibility of what could have happened. There was a noise of someone moving behind him. He turned – it was Krisztina. His heart swelled with joy for one glorious moment, and then he noticed the beautiful mellow brown eyes were now icy blue. She had successfully been turned into a Vampire.

‘Krisztina... I ...,’ he was unsure what to say, so he wrapped his arms around her, and pulled her to him. She stood there for a second unresponsive, then lifted her arms to hold him in return. He pulled back slightly and then moved in to kiss her lips, but she pulled away from the embrace.

‘No Lucian. The time for kisses has passed.’

‘What? Krisztina! Please don’t be like this. I came here for you... for us.’

‘There is no us! You came too late. Oh Lucian,’ she sobbed. ‘Why didn’t you come sooner?’ She relaxed once again into his arms, and he held her as she wept. When her tears stopped he let her go.

‘I am a Vampire. I don’t know what to do now.’

‘You stay with me. We will be together now – is that not what you wanted?

Krisztina shook her head. ‘I wanted a life with you, or death without you. What you are offering me now is an undeath with you? I cannot live life like that. I cannot live my life in darkness.’

Lucian had no idea how to console her. He too felt that the light had now left his life. Her warmth, empathy and vitality had all left her. She was a shell of the woman he knew, yet it still tore at his insides to see her in pain.

‘Lucian – will you grant me one favour.’

He placed his hands on her arms and looked her straight in her eyes. It disconcerted him slightly to see the that the blue ice had disappeared and the brown had returned, but it was not the warm brown he remembered but a cold dark void.

‘What would you have me do Krisztina?’

‘I want to die – but I only know one way to kill this body. Let us leave here, find a nice romantic spot, and we can make love until the sun comes up.’

‘No, no, no.’ He shook his head as soon as she started talking. ‘I can’t do that Krisztina. Please do not ask me to watch another lover burn in the sun.’

‘If you ever loved me, you would do this,’ she pleaded.

‘I did love you, I love you still Krisztina, but I cannot concede to this demand.’

‘So you reject me once again,’ she said bitterly, her tears now gone.

‘No, I do not.’ Lucian was at a loss. ‘I love you. I want to live a long life with you. You have the immortality you desired. Let us end this cycle of misery between us.’

‘I cannot live like this Lucian, if you could only accept that. I do not feel about my Vampire nature as you do about your Lycan. I do not see this as a gift, but as a curse. If you will not be with me, I will do this alone.’

Before he was able to argue, she was gone. There was a blur of red silk as she flew out of the shattered window and was gone into the night.

Lucian could do nothing but stand looking in the direction she had travelled but all he could see was blackness. Even with the full moon and his excellent vision, she was already too far for him to see.

Raze and Sabas came into the room, and waited for him to acknowledge them. He looked at them then, and Raze asked where Krisztina was.

‘She is dead,’ he replied.

Embrace of the Lycan - Chapter 14

Chapter 14
‘I hope I am not interrupting?’ the Duke chuckled. It was a disturbing and insidious sound. Krisztina blushed. She could not believe the man had just walked into their apartment without knocking. Had the Duke hoped to catch them consummating the marriage?

‘Not at all your Grace,’ said Tibor. He gestured him into the room. ‘May I offer your Grace a drink? Some wine perhaps?’ He placed his hand on the bottle, ready to pour.

Krisztina was unsure what to do? The wine contained a lethal combination of herbs. Should she speak up, then her chance of a peaceful demise would be lost. She had pledged to herself she would take Tibor with her, but she bore the Duke no ill will. There was something about him that made the hairs on the back of her neck stand up, but it was not reason enough to kill him.

‘Maybe his Grace would prefer wine of better quality, husband. This wine will most likely be stale now,’ Krisztina smiled as graciously as possible and went to reach for the bottle but Tibor snatched it away.

‘Do not be silly, woman,’ Tibor snapped, then smiled nervously at the Duke, worried that he may think badly of him.

Krisztina decided not to pursue the matter. So be it if the Duke joined them in their demise. She smiled demurely at them both and bowed her head.

‘You’re young wife is just trying to please Tibor, do not be harsh with her.’ He accepted Tibor’s offered goblet while Tibor got himself another. The three of them stood there, and the Duke raised his drink to make a toast.

‘To the happy couple,’ he said and took a swig of the wine. Tibor was glowing with pride and happily drank. Krisztina watched them both drink, then took a large mouthful herself. The herbs were slightly bitter, but not very noticeable in the wine.

Tibor continued to smile even after he lowered his glass, obliviously to the extra ingredients. The Duke’s reaction was entirely different. He threw the goblet on the floor with such a roar.

‘What is this?’ His voice echoed round the room.

Tibor’s face blanched. He was completely unaware of the cause of his master’s outburst. The Duke looked at Krisztina, and she felt the atmosphere in the room become charged. He knew. He sensed the herbs and knew that it was her doing. Before she could react in any way, he was in front of her. For a second she wondered how a man could move that quickly.

The Duke struck her hard across the face causing Krisztina to stumble backward. She wiped the back of her hand across her mouth and it came away with a dark smear on it. The sight of her blood wrought such a change in the Duke, that even Tibor looked upon him with disgust.

The Duke’s face became shrunken and gaunt. His eyes had become a bright blue, and then he hissed revealing enlarged canines.

‘Vampire!’ Krisztina uttered in quiet shock.

Tibor could not believe it. ‘Y… y… your Grace?’

The Duke turned to Tibor and hissed again. ‘I have a new family. A family of immortals, and you shall join us.’ He then turned his evil gaze upon Krisztina. ‘Both of you.’

Within a blink of an eye, Boris had his hands around Krisztina’s neck and pulled her towards him. He clamped his teeth onto her throat and her warm blood ran into his mouth. Krisztina tried to cry out but was unable. She struggled but could not pull away from his stone like grip.

He let go after a few moments, and she dropped to the floor like a rag doll. The blood he had taken from Krisztina had only whetted his appetite. He then turned once again towards Tibor, who could not accept the horrifying scene in front of him. Krisztina was lying on the floor in an ever growing pool of her own blood, and the Duke was advancing on him, blood dripping down his chin, with such a bestial look on his face.

He did not have time to make any sense of what he saw, as the Duke pounced on him with such ferocity that it almost ripped his throat out. Just before unconsciousness took him, he vaguely heard a commotion from the front gate. The castle was under attack.

Lucian led his army as they quickly overran the guards at the front gate.

‘Raze!’ Lucian shouted to the big man and pointed up to the battlements indicating he wanted him to deal with the archers firing through the crenel gaps. Raze led a handful of men, who were able to defy gravity and climb the walls. Within seconds they were amidst the archers, and Raze roared as he beheaded a man. Lucian watched as the guard seemed to stand headless for a few seconds, his body not realising that it was dead, before it crumbled to the floor.

The moon hung overhead, bright and round. All around Lucian there were screams and shouts from the castle’s defenders. More of them flooded into the courtyard, but were met with the ferocity of the bloodthirsty Lycans. Some of his men had shifted into their Lycan forms, eviscerating the soldiers with claws and fangs. Others remained human, but did no less damage with their razor-sharp blades, made by Lucian himself.

The guards however, were not his concern. He was stalking much greater prey. He headed towards the section that seemed mostly to hold the accommodation areas. He quickly mounted the stairs, several at a time, and loped down a corridor listening for a clue to the whereabouts of Duke Boris or Krisztina.

He caught the familiar scent of his quarry in the air, but it was heavily masked by the aroma of blood. Large quantities of blood. The tangy copper odour was emanating from somewhere to the left, around the next bend.

He rounded the corner and saw a door at the end. Lucian knew his prize was the other side of that door. With a howl that brought upon a half change, he crashed through the thick oak door. He quickly evaluated the scene in front of him and saw the room had three occupants, one of which lay prone on the floor.

The Duke lifted his mouth from the ruins of Tibor’s throat, dropped the carcass and whirled on his intruder. The vampire hissed in fear.

‘Who are you?’ he challenged.

‘You are a pestilence on the land, Vampire, and I have come to destroy you.’ He leaped at the Duke, grabbing him by the neck and crushed him into the wall. He was squeezing so tightly that his claws had punctured the Vampire’s flesh.

He growled, ‘Where is Tanis? Did Viktor send him?’

The Vampire did not respond, but hissed at him. Lucian’s grip tightened as he let a little more of his beast rise to the surface.

‘Answer me!’

‘Andreas has returned to his master. My master. Markus.’

Lucian had feared that Markus may have been awoken. Markus hated Lucian and had told Viktor to destroy him while he was still a child. Viktor and Markus had never seen eye to eye on the subject of Lycans. Viktor resented the fact that Markus refused to let him destroy William, despite the chaos and destruction the plague he carried caused.

Markus viewed Viktor’s wish to breed a race of slave Lycans as a waste of time.

‘Where is Krisztina?

‘You are too late Lycan,’ he rasped. ‘The wench is mine. A gift from my new lord.’ His eyes looked past Lucian to the body lying face down in a pool of blood.

Lucian looked again at the female. This time he looked past the fine clothes and dressed hair to see the gentle face of his beloved Krisztina. In his shock he released the Vampire. He dropped to his knees next to her body, brushing the blood congealed hair from her face.

‘Krisztina, no! No! It cannot be!’

Embrace of the Lycan - Chapter 13

Chapter 13
As soon as Lucian and Sabas returned, they sent the word around for everyone to gather in the centre of the village – Lucian only wanted to have to go through this story once. He told them that the Vampires had returned and that they were trying to consolidate their position. He explained that he believed the Duke to be newly turned. This drew gasps of surprise from some of the men. In a matter of days he could potentially turn the whole of the castle.

‘We have to kill the Vampires, and the gods willing, rescue Krisztina,’ he instructed.

János and Sabas were instructed to go back to Viktor’s stronghold. They were to track down Kristo and the men that stayed there with him, and have them come back here within two days.

Raze was despatched to the cave to bring back the hoard of weapons that he had been stockpiling these last few months. They would have plenty of blades and in two days time, the moon would be full. The newly turned would be able to change into their Lycan forms, and those elder Lycan would experience so much more power.

Two days later, and it was the morning of Krisztina’s wedding to Tibor. Kristina was vaguely aware that there was a lot of activity in preparation of the nuptials, but she had not been witness to any of it. She had remained alone in her quarters, wallowing in her self pity and hoping that Lucian would change his mind and come to her rescue. She had come to realise now, that it was not going to happen. There was some regret that she had been too hard on him when she saw him last, but she felt he had let her down. Her feelings towards him had moved from disappointment, to anger. If only he had given in to her demands, made her immortal and then the two of them could have been happy together, she was convinced of it.

Every time that Tibor touched her, she blamed Lucian. Every time she walked past some sniggering guards, she blamed Lucian. Every time she was ignored and looked down upon by the other ladies at the castle, she blamed Lucian.

She had only a few more hours before the wedding at sundown and the servants would be arriving shortly to prepare her bath and assist her in readying for the big event. The ceremony would be performed by the Duke’s own priest and the Duke himself would be giving her away in the absence of a father. Tibor had told her this with great pride. She had not seen much of the Duke since the dinner the other night. When she had been introduced to him she had felt that there was something distinctly odd about him. He had taken her hand as Tibor was explaining her family history to him. He pressed her fingers to her lips for what seemed longer than was seemly. For several hours after, she could feel the coldness of his flesh against her skin. When his lips had touched her hand she could have sworn that he grazed her with his teeth.

The Duke’s guest was equally sinister. He had left the day before and had spent the whole of his short visit in consultation with the Duke.

She put the thoughts of the wedding from her mind for the moment, and went to her chest. She pulled out the herbs that she had brought with her and proceeded to crush them on the stone windowsill with a spoon she had smuggled from the dinner table. Once the herbs were finely crushed, she added them to the decanter of wine that had been brought in earlier. She figured that after the ceremony Tibor would be desperate to consummate the marriage and she would offer a toast to their future. Neither of them would see the dawn.

As she was swilling the herbs into the wine bottle, she heard a crisp knock on the door. She took a deep breath and steeled herself for the next few hours. The servants came with a wooden tub for her to bath in. They did not speak to her, as she subjected herself to their ministrations. She was grateful of this as she was not in a mood for idle chit chat.

After an hour or two, the Duke’s wife came to her room. Krisztina was sat ready on the bed waiting for someone to fetch her. The Duchess looked at her with some sympathy. She sat next to Krisztina on the bed and stroked her back.

‘I have been married to the Duke for over 20 years, but the first time I met him was on my wedding day. I had no idea what the future held for me. I cannot say it is the life I would have chosen for myself, but I have learned to make the best of it. You will do too,’ she said soothingly.

‘No... I will not.’ Krisztina responded in such a cold and dead tone, the Duchess was slightly taken aback.

‘You are young and fit. Bare your husband the heir he wishes and then you will be free from any conjugal obligations. From my experience, our husbands would much rather get the gratification from whores or from the stable boys. I have not had my husband in my bedchamber for these five years past, but there has always been a willing guard, or visiting dignitary to satisfy my needs.’

Krisztina looked at the woman with horror, not quite believing what she was hearing. If this was the future on offer to her now, she would be content to take the poisoned wine.

The Duchess laughed bitterly. ‘I see the way you are looking at me with no small amount of disgust, but believe me, you will learn to accept your lot and make the most of it.’ With this she stood up and told Krisztina to follow her, it was time.

They headed out into the courtyard and crossed towards the chapel. The sun had just gone down and there was very little light left in the sky. Krisztina had thought to question the lateness of the hour but decided to hold her tongue as she thought it would give Lucian more time to come to her rescue. This was a futile dream she knew now. All she had to get through was the next few hours, and then sweet oblivion would be hers.

The Duke was waiting for her in the foyer. Eszter curtsied. ‘Your Grace,’ and then she headed into the chapel.

‘Come my dear,’ he said. ‘Take my arm.’ He offered Krisztina his arm, and so she dutifully took it. Touching him was like touching cold marble, and a small amount of bile rose in her throat. He proceeded to walk her into the chapel and at the front, her husband to be waited. He turned as she approached and she was quite surprised to notice that he looked relieved and also a bit nervous. Had he thought she would not show?

The ceremony was blissfully short, and soon the happy couple were being congratulated and everyone left to go to the great hall where there was a celebration dinner being held. Tibor accepted all the congratulations proudly, while Krisztina just stood by him in silent misery.

Soon Tibor escorted his new bride out of the hall to whoops and cheers from some of the other soldiers. They went up to their apartment and Tibor did seem almost nervous. Once alone, he confessed to her that he thought she looked very nice.

‘I also want to compliment you on your behaviour over the last few days. You have been a credit to me, and long may it continue.’

Was this Tibor trying to be nice? She was completely repulsed by the idea, even more so than if he had been his usual arrogant and conceited self.

‘Let us toast to our future wedded bliss,’ she said with a forced smile. She passed him two goblets and then turned to fetch the wine. She sent a silent curse to Lucian before turning back with a large fake smile. He happily held out the goblets. Just before they drank their wine however, the door to their apartment opened.

‘Your Grace!’ Tibor spluttered with great surprise. ‘This is an honour.’

Embrace of the Lycan - Chapter 12

Chapter 12
As the cart carrying Krisztina approached the castle, Tibor took some great delight in telling her that the Duke was due back that day, and that he would introduce her to him. He was obviously very pleased of his favoured position in the Duke’s household.

The guard moved her chest up into their apartment. She had hoped that she would have a room to herself, but it seemed that this would not be the case.

‘You must be on your best behaviour when you meet him,’ Tibor continued. ‘Remember Krisztina, your life now could be very pleasant. If you tow the line and play the dutiful wife, you will find that it is not as bad as you probably think.’

She did not respond other than to pour herself some of the wine that she saw on a table. This seemed to incense Tibor, and he flew at her, knocking the goblet from her hand.

‘I ask nothing of you but your fidelity, a son and some respect. Once you have produced me my heir, you can have your own apartment. Then you may drink yourself into oblivion, and rot in it for all I care.

He went to leave the room, but turned at the door.

‘Make sure you are presentable later – the Duke is due back any moment with a guest, and I will present you to him at dinner. I will send some women to assist you.’

Once he had gone, Krisztina went to her chest, and lifted out the dress that was in the chest. She unwrapped it carefully from the packaging and lifted it up. It was of a deep red Italian silk, and she had only ever worn it once before, at her grandmother’s funeral.

There was a slight knock at the door, and she laid her dress on the bed. She went to open it, but before she could a tall, very slender, blonde noble woman glided into the room. She was followed by a couple of maids who were carrying dresses.

‘You must be the Baroness Krisztina?’ She said this while looking her up and down in a haughty manner. Krisztina nodded, and was undecided if she should curtsey or not. ‘I am the Duke’s wife Eszter. Well… we had better get you ready to meet his Grace.’

The woman walked over to the bed and looked at the dress. She looked quite impressed. Her voice much gentler this time, she asked, ‘Is this Italian?’

‘Yes your Grace,’ Krisztina replied. ‘It was a 16th birthday gift from my grandmother.’

‘Hmmph. I wish I could still fit into clothes made when I was 16.’ Eszter placed the dress back on the bed and grabbed two from one of the waiting servants.

‘Your Italian dress is far too lovely for just dinner. You should save that for your wedding which I believe is to be held in two days time. You may have these two, but I think this cream one would suit you best.’

Eszter thrust a dress at her, and instructed her servants to deal with Krisztina’s ‘unruly curls’ before gliding out of the room. Krisztina was subjected to pain of unbearable levels as the two servants combed and teased her hair, and then dressed it into an elaborate design on the top of her head. Once in the dress, she admired herself in the polished metal mirror. She hardly recognised herself, but agreed that she finally felt like a Baroness. She could not help sighing at the thought that she would be happier as a barmaid, married to a blacksmith.

Back in the village, the word had gotten around about Krisztina’s fate. Understandably, the men’s feelings were running high. They all had high regard for Krisztina and also a deep rooted hatred of the noble classes. Some of the men were recent additions to the pack, being slaves plucked from the fields of neighbouring estates and converted into immortals. The fact that a noble could come in to their village and take one of their own infuriated them. They all petitioned Lucian to do something. In the end, he agreed to go ahead with Sabas once it was dark, and scout out the castle. Only then would he entertain the idea of a rescue mission.

Raze insisted on joining them but Lucian stopped him. ‘No my friend. Not this time. It is two more days until the moon is full and you have not been Lycan long enough to change at will should we need to.’ Leaving Raze behind feeling frustrated, Lucian and Sabas left the village at a jogging pace.

When they got close to the castle they ducked off the main track and crept into the undergrowth. Ever wary of scouts they made their way slowly to the back of the castle. Their Lycan abilities allowed them to scale the wall without too much difficulty. They wanted to avoid any confrontation, as leaving a trail of bodies was a sure way to alert the castle to intruders. Navigating between the roofs of the buildings within the castle walls, they finally came across what appeared to be a great hall. Light from many candles shone through the thick glass of the windows and lying in the eaves of the building, Lucian could just see in to the room. There was a large table with place settings for about 8 people. The nobles filed into the room led by the Duke. Lucian watched as he sat at the head of the table and the servants bustled around filling goblets while the remaining guests were seated. It was the last two guests that got his attention. One was the insidious Tibor, his greasy hair slicked down and a condescending look on his face. Accompanying him was Krisztina. Dressed in fine clothes she looked breathtaking and regret tugged at Lucian’s heart. She looked miserable but safe enough for now, which relieved him slightly. He was about to whisper to Sabas that it was time to move when something about the mannerisms of the guest immediately to the left of the Duke caught his eye. The guest had his back to Lucian, so he was unable to get a clear view. He was convinced that he knew this person but could not place where.

He continued to watch as the servants brought out the first course. This guest did not even touch his food, and kept council only with the Duke. In fact, the two of them ignored the food, more interested in their schemes. Half way through the first course, Tibor decided to stand and raise a toast to the Duke’s return. Everyone turned when he stood, and Lucian was able to get a profile view of the mystery guest.

‘Tanis!’ He hissed. His heart pounded in his chest and he rolled onto his back and looked at the stars. He looked back again to be sure, but now that he knew, there was no doubt. Tanis lifted his untouched goblet at the toast, along with everyone else, but neither him nor the Duke drank. Lucian guessed that the Duke had been turned. In the 6 months since he had decimated the Vampire population, they had obviously started to recover. Tanis would not have turned the Duke personally; he nought but was a lap dog of the elders. This meant that either Viktor survived or Markus has awoken. What were their objectives? He could only guess that they were trying to secure another stronghold in the area. Whatever their plans were, he had to get Krisztina out and then stop them.

He signalled Sabas and the two of them left the area as quickly and quietly as they had arrived. As they ran back to the village, Lucian explained to Sabas what he saw. Sabas wanted to turn around immediately and go back, but Lucian persuaded him that they would come back. In force.

Embrace of the Lycan - Chapter 11

Chapter 11
‘How do I do this? How do I condemn you to death?’ He asked.

‘Lucian – come the dawn, Tibor and his men will come to the village, and they will expect me to be leaving with them. I cannot live as a prisoner; you of all people should understand that.’

She saw him tense, and immediately regretted her harsh tone, but could not stop her petition now.

‘If we left here together - what kind of future would you and I have? You are an immortal.’ She held his hand and continued softly, ‘You will not risk the chance of a quick death, but are happier to spend the years watching me slowly fade, grow old and die in front of you, while you remain as beautiful to me as you are today?

He realised that she had a point, but refused to acknowledge it. He had not fully thought through the implications of a future between the two of them as human and immortal. ‘You ask too much of me Krisztina,’ he said finally. ‘I will deal with Tibor, my way, when he arrives.’

‘No!’ she argued. ‘If I am still human in the morning, I will go with him. You will not raise a finger… or claw for that matter, against him.’

Lucian was desperately unhappy. ‘Why would you prevent me from defending you?’

‘It is because you have a responsibility now to your men. Any actions against Tibor will bring the wrath of the Duke upon yours and their heads – any future you had planned would be impossible.’

She took a deep breath for a second, and calmly said, ‘Not every problem can be solved with violence. Don’t think that I don’t know about your horde of weapons up in that cave.’

He slipped his arm around her waist, ‘But what about my responsibility to you?’

‘Reconsider my request,’ she said flatly.

‘I cannot.’

‘Then you have no responsibility.’ She pushed him away from her. ‘I am no burden of yours. Please leave me – I need to gather my things.’ Her face was cold, and implacable.

Lucian clenched his jaws in anger. Stupid stubborn girl! He grabbed his vest and stormed from her room, slamming every door on the way out.

Once again, Krisztina was wracked with grief. She knew that Lucian was angry with her, but why could he not see that she was doing this for him. She knew that he had spent a long life in captivity, and how desperately he wanted to live a ‘normal’ life. The conflict between him and Tibor needed to be defused as soon as possible, and this was the only way she could see to do it. Unfortunately, that meant he had to remain angry at her instead.

As the room darkened, she lit a candle, and opened the chest that contained her possessions. There was very little in it, only a couple of pieces of her grandmother’s jewellery left, and one fine dress. She had always hoped that she would marry in this dress, and of late, had hoped that that may be Lucian. She went downstairs to the pantry and grabbed sprigs of some of the herbs drying there. She took enough for two portions – when she went to hell – she was taking Tibor with her.

All packed, there was nothing more to do than await the dawn. With some effort, she dragged the chest down the stairs, and left it in the bar area. There were no customers tonight. None of the usual crowd had shown up – they must have realised that it was not a good time. She was relieved, as she was not in the mood for small talk.

She did want to say goodbye to György, and when she saw that the square was quiet, she made her way over to his home, giving the forge a wide berth.

She entered György’s home, and found him asleep. He was getting old, and needed his rest, so she did not disturb him. She pulled the meagre blanket up around his shoulders, and stroked his white hair.

She left as silently as she came, unnoticed by anyone. Or so she thought. Lucian had excellent night vision, and had seen her walk across to György’s house. He was ashamed to admit, that he followed her, and watched her cover the old man, and was even slightly jealous. It reminded Lucian that she was the kind of woman that even in her lowest moments, always thought of others before herself. He realised now that was why she was so strict with him this afternoon. She was willing to sacrifice her freedom, her life, for his dream of a normal future.

He struggled with the thoughts of turning her into a Lycan. What he had said was wholly true – the majority of people died from the bite of a Lycan, it was even rarer that a woman would survive. It was why he was so unique. If more women had survived the bite of William’s first generation werewolves, there would probably have been more births like his.

An hour or so after sunrise, Tibor and his men arrived. One of the men was riding a small horse and cart, while Tibor and two others sat upon their horses.

Lucian walked out into the square, and balefully stared at Tibor. For a second, Tibor looked visibly shaken by Lucian’s demeanour, but recovered quickly. When Krisztina opened her door, the guard on the cart jumped down and lifted her chest onto the cart. She climbed on after it. Tibor never took his eyes off Lucian or his hand of his sword. He half wanted this upstart to make a move, then he would have every right to cut him down.

Lucian strode over to Krisztina, watching Tibor the whole time. One or two of the other Lycans had gathered and were waiting to take their cue from Lucian. He approached Krisztina and said, ‘Don’t.’

She replied, ‘I have to. You left me no choice.’

This comment hurt him more than all the torture that Tibor had subjected him to. ‘Then you will want this back,’ and placed the pendant back into her hands.

Krisztina failed to be unmoved by this gesture, and the threat of more tears caused her to look away. She knew how much the pendant meant to Lucian. Was he giving it to her as a reminder of him, or because he felt it belonged to her? She looked back at him and saw the raw emotions on his face - love, anger, frustration. Before she could say anything, Tibor pushed his horse in front of her view of Lucian and instructed the guard to move on.

Lucian did not move, and stood frozen to the spot, as he watched her being driven away.

Embrace of the Lycan - Chapter 10

Chapter 10
He took a step back from the bed, and stood in the centre of the small room. He started to breath heavily once again, then threw back his head and roared. The roar started as a human voice, but altered quickly, and gained a darker, bestial quality to it. Krisztina watched in amazement as his face grew longer. His tanned skin darkened but did not grow hair like she expected. He drew another lung full of air, and emitted another feral roar, as if the release of this energy brought about the change. He continued to grow and swell in height and musculature. The shape of his legs altered, as he grew in stature, which seemed to cause a strange popping and creaking of his bones and ligature. His hands grew larger, and the fingers became hooked with razor sharp claws. Hair had now appeared all around his neck and shoulders like a mantle. His face was not human any longer, but it was not exactly a wolf’s either, but something in between. One thing she knew for sure, he was unrecognisable as Lucian.

He stood there in all his Lycan glory. There was an unmistakable presence about him of strength and power. No wonder the Vampires were scared of the Lycans. He looked like he had the power to rip a man in two.

Feeling that the change was over, she gingerly stood, and was only about a foot away from the fantastic beast as he snorted. She looked at him again from the ground up. The skin was now almost black, and it was glossy and smooth as it rippled over the muscles. There was more hair at the back of the legs, a mass around the crotch, and some on the chest.

She then looked in the eyes. They were now completely black, and as she made eye contact, the beast elicited a slow steady growl and pulled back his lips in a snarl to reveal yellowing fangs.

Krisztina’s heart was pounding in her chest, and the beast could sense it. The creaturel could sense the fear starting to build in the puny body before it, and wanted to rend and dismember. The beast looked in the eyes of this human, and they were wide and honest. The animal then sensed the fear dissipating, her heartbeat slowing down, the dilated pupils returning to normal size. All he could sense now was love and compassion, there in those dark pools.

Lucian started the change back to human form. He willed his bone structure to revert to normal stature, the muscles and ligaments shrank back, and his skin paled to his normal tan.

Lucian, completely human again, looked at Krisztina and waited for a response.

Once back in human form, Krisztina noticed that most of the cuts and bruises had completely vanished. The transformation had healed far better than any of her ministration. Tremblingly slightly, she reached out a hand to touch his shoulder and asked, ‘Does it hurt when you change?’

He couldn’t help but smile. She had just stood her ground in front of an 8 foot monster, and was concerned for him. Most people would have been running as fast as their legs could carry them. He was quite astounded at her reaction really. Sonja never showed fear of his Lycan nature, but then she was Vampire-born, and had grown up surrounded by Lycan. Convinced of her own superiority, she never considered them a threat.

He took her hands, and said, ‘No, it does not hurt as such.’

‘Oh.’ Krisztina felt a bit stupid then, at her lack of anything else sensible to say.

‘Were you not afraid?’ he asked.

‘Yes,’ she replied. ‘…And no. I knew that it was you in there, somewhere. I know that you would never hurt me, not on purpose anyway.’

Lucian winced at the comment, and knew it had hit the mark it was intended. He was sorry that he had caused her pain. Raze was right in that if he had been less self centred and let Krisztina know how he felt towards her, she never would have let herself be violated by that scum Tibor. He wanted to wipe the horror from her mind, and remind her of what it could be like.

He embraced her tenderly, and kissed her softly, and then more passionately. It amazed him that even after her seeing him in his Lycan form, she accepted him, and loved him for what he was. She was still willing to share herself with him, in truth she seemed keener. She seemed desperate to open herself fully. Her passion was arousing him, and he felt a surge of power in his groin. He lay her back on the bed, and this time would not allow any interruptions. She met his every move with an intensity that was wholly thrilling.

He gripped her hair in one hand and tipped her head back slowly, and trailed kisses all down her neck and onto her breasts. Her eyes fluttered, and a small moan escaped her mouth as his lips skimmed over her nipples and back up to her collar bone. His hips moved slowly and she could feel him throbbing against her. He resumed kissing her lips, and she moved restlessly against him, silently beckoning him on. His tongue thrust at her mouth at the same moment as his hips surged forward, and she couldn’t stop herself from crying out. He wrapped his arms tight around her, pulling her onto him. She revelled in the strength those hands held, infinitely powerful, yet gentle against her skin.

She could contain herself no longer, and allowed the wave of pleasure to wash over her, and it cleansed her of all the despondency she had felt at the start of the day. They lay entwined together, occasionally kissing, but enjoying the languid afterglow of their lovemaking.

Embarrassingly, her stomach took this time to remind her that she had not eaten yet and it was already middle of the afternoon. They both laughed, and Lucian confessed he was hungry too, and playfully pretended to bite at her shoulder. She squealed with delight and mock fright, and then he gracefully dismounted the bed and put on his trousers.

She moaned in disappointment that he was dressing, and he pointed at her and said, ‘I shall go find us some food – you …stay put!’

She smiled at him as he went through the door. She was happier than she had ever been in her young life. She replayed their lovemaking in her mind, and had to stifle a squeal of delight that she had had the pleasure of joining with this handsome alpha male. If only every afternoon could be this delightful.

That reflection however, sent her thoughts on a dark path of reality, and she sat there, despondent once more, that her life was not her own.

She looked towards the window. The sun was still clearly visible, but would be setting in a few hours. By the dawn, she would be a prisoner. She knew that she could never live like that. She would not live like that. She knew enough herbology to give herself a pain free exit from her incarceration.

Lucian bounded into the room enthusiastically, and for a moment, she smiled at his infectiously cheerful disposition. He kissed her on the cheek and shoved some smoked sausage into her mouth, and then proceeded to chew noisily on a big bite of his own.

She swallowed her mouthful, and then said, ‘I love you.’

He stopped chewing for a second and looked at her, his face unreadable. She held her breath, not really sure just how he would respond. She knew that he was still in love with Sonja, and that he always would be, but hoped that there would be a small corner of his heart that she could claim.

He commenced chewing and stroked her hair and cheek. Once he had swallowed, he said softly, ‘I love you too.’

Krisztina’s heart rose and sank at the same time.

‘Then turn me. Turn me into a Lycan!’ She pleaded.

‘Krisztina! I … I… you cannot ask this of me.’

‘Why not? I beg you, please.’

‘Because I told you before… our bite is lethal. Should you not turn successfully, I could not bare to sit and watch you die.’

‘Then you condemn me to death!’

Embrace of the Lycan - Chapter 9

Chapter 9
Once in the bedchamber, she poured herself a very generous glass of wine, which she drank in almost one mouthful. Meanwhile, Tibor was already slipping out of his clothes. He pushed her onto the bed, and she lay there staring at the ceiling while he fumbled clumsily with her garments. In the end, to prevent them getting completely ruined, she took over. She put her mind in another place – somewhere safe inside her head. She was vaguely aware of what occurred in the next, fortuitously short, few minutes. It was still the most unbearable thing she had ever been subjected to.

Afterwards, he turned over and was soon snoring vociferously. Krisztina, however, lay there expressionless with tears gently streaming down either side of her face and on to her hair. She lay like this for the few hours until dawn.

As the castle started to liven up, Tibor awoke and looked, for a second, like he was going to go for a second helping. She had a look of such utter contempt on her face, that it shrivelled his resolve, and left her alone. He put on his trousers, and told her to go.

‘You may retrieve anything of any value, sentimental or otherwise, from your home in Hidas. I will send a cart for you and your things tomorrow morning. I expect you to be ready, and waiting – and there had better not be any trouble.’

He then threw the pendant on the bed, and walked out.

She quietly, and quickly, got herself dressed then made her way back to the courtyard to find the stable boy waiting with her horse. She climbed on, and started to walk out of the castle. As she rode through the portcullis, she heard some sniggering from above, and turned her head to see Tibor talking to two other soldiers, and then they all turned towards her and laughed.

She felt sick, but did not give them the satisfaction of seeing her ill. After about half a mile, she slid off her mount, onto her knees and vomited bile.

Back at the village, Lucian woke with the dawn. He had worked until the early hours, and then slept out at his forge. He immediately felt bad, knowing that he had been unfair to Krisztina, and had not thanked her for her selfless care of him. He went over to the inn, rehearsing his apology in his head.

He hunted high and low, but there was no sign of her. Her bed had not been slept in and he was beginning to get concerned.

He tried a few of the houses, to see if anyone had seen her, to no avail. One of the homeowners said their horse was missing, and that Krisztina borrowed it sometimes.

Where would she have gone on a horse? He wondered. It suddenly hit him – he had been a fool! She had obviously gone to Tibor. He was so busy sulking last night, he never about how what he said would affect her. He had been feeling a bit raw and the loss of the pendant had affected him more than he wanted to admit. She would have taken his loss personally.

He stood outside, desperately concerned, but unsure what action to take. He resolved that if she was not returned by sundown, he would go to the Duke’s castle and demand to see her. As he stood there, deep in his reverie, Raze asked him what he was doing.

He told Raze about his behaviour the previous night, how he suspected that Krisztina had gone to Tibor, to protect him and the village. Raze was fuming that Tibor may get his hands on her, yet he seemed more pissed at Lucian.

‘What makes you think that she needs rescuing? She is the strongest woman I have ever met,’ he growled. The big man had held great respect for the woman, ever since she stood up to him at the inn. Most men could not hold his gaze, but she never blinked.

‘You are right, my friend. She knows what she is doing.’

Raze nodded at Lucian’s answer, and then said, ‘But you are still a fool. She would never have gone to Tibor if she thought for a moment she had a future with you. I… would not have given her any doubt.’

Lucian was astounded. Could this big man have a crush on Krisztina?

‘Raze – I agree – I have been foolish. I have been blinded by my grief. But the pain at losing Sonja is still too much to bear some days.’

Raze growled and stormed off, leaving Lucian feeling like he had been reprimanded. He walked back to his forge, to continue with the work he had started last night.

His work was interrupted shortly by Sabas, who was loitering around like he wanted to talk to Lucian. Lucian’s patience was wearing thin due.

‘What is it Sabas?’ He snapped.

The young man stood there for a second, then turned away shouting, ‘Forget it!’

Lucian was even more puzzled by this response, but felt a deepening suspicion that he had just been criticised again. As he watched Sabas walk away, he saw in the distance, a horse and rider. His acute vision was able to tell him that it was Krisztina. He dropped his tools and ran out onto the road to meet her.

The horse was slightly spooked at his sudden appearance, and was prancing nervously. He grabbed the rains and calmed it down before it threw its rider. He looked at Krisztina, who looked exhausted. She had obviously not slept, but she would not look him in the eyes, so he led her horse quietly. He didn’t feel he had a right to question her.

As they dropped off the horse at the neighbours, Sabas came running over, and wrapped his arms around Krisztina – obviously pleased that she had returned safely. Krisztina half smiled, and returned the hug with affection. As they all were about to enter the inn, she turned around and asked them both to leave her. She shut the door, and bolted it.

Completely at a loss what to do now, Lucian and Sabas just looked at each other. Then they heard the bolt slide back, and smiled as she opened the door. An arm shot out, and dropped something into Lucian’s palm, and then the door was closed and bolted again.

Lucian opened his hand to see the pendant. He placed a hand on the wood of the door, and quietly said, ‘Thank you.’ He put it back in his pocket, and walked back to the forge.

Sabas was beside himself. ‘Are you not going to do something?’

‘What would you have me do Sabas?’

Sabas stood there for a second seething, then just stormed away again.

Lucian looked up at the small window on the side of the building that he knew led to her room. Sabas was right, he should do something. He should talk to her at least. He walked towards the inn, and made his way around the back. He tried the door, and joyfully found it unlocked. He made his way through the kitchen, into the bar, and up the stairs. When he got to her room, he was about to knock, but could hear her sobbing. Without a second thought, he threw open the door to be greeted by the sight of her lying on her bed, weeping uncontrollably. With two strides he was by her side, and lifted her into his arms. This temporarily increased the sobs, but eventually they subsided enough that she could talk.

‘I am very grateful for the return of the pendant,’ he said still holding her. ‘What did you do to secure its return?’

This enquiry brought a new bought of tears, and Lucian was immediately angry at himself for being so insensitive. It didn’t take much to imagine what exactly it was she had had to go through. He knew what Tibor’s goals were. He swore then that he would not rest until he had ripped out Tibor’s throat. He could feel his Lycan wanting to be break free, to taste this defiler’s blood.

Krisztina sensed the change in him. She could feel the charged atmosphere. It was like the whole room suddenly filled up with static energy, and she was equally terrified and curious. She sat up and looked him directly in the eyes. For a second, they were black with a vivid blue iris. He was breathing heavily, and looked away from her. When he turned his head back a second later, his eyes were the same melancholy green that she had fell in love with the first day they met.

He placed his hands gently either side of her face.

‘I am sorry for what you have had to endure, but I promise you, I will fix this.’

She pulled out of his hands. ‘There is nothing to fix Lucian. The deal has been made. He will come for me tomorrow morning, and I will go with him and be married. In return, he will leave you and this village alone.’

‘It is too high a price,’ he argued.

‘One that I am willing to pay,’ she responded.

He held her to him fiercely, as if he gripped her hard enough, she would not leave. He realised there and then, that what he said to Raze earlier was true – he had been very stupid. She was a ray of sun in the darkness of his life. He thought back over all the times when he had been too busy to acknowledge all the occasions she had taken care of him, with food, and kindness, and a bright smile that lifted the deepest of melancholies. The light had gone out of her, and it was breaking his heart.

He lifted her head again, to look into her large brown eyes whose lashes were clumped together with tears. He leaned and kissed the lid of each eye, then her nose, and then her soft and pliant mouth. His tongue brushed against her lips, and she willingly granted him access. She tasted sweet, like wine, and salty from her tears.

She pulled away then, and asked him, ‘Will you show me?’

He was a little disappointed at the interruption, but had no idea to what she referred. ‘Show you what?’

She pushed a lock of hair that wasn’t even there behind her ear, and bit her lip slightly nervously before answering.

‘Your Lycan.’


‘Your Lycan,’ she continued. ‘I want to see it. I want to see you change.’

He would never have expected this request, although she had shown a great curiosity and no fear of his Lycan nature the other day. His instinct was to refuse, as he was not an animal that performed on command, but took a second longer to consider why it was that she wanted this, so he asked her.

‘I want to see you, and know you – all of you! I want to know everything about you, and your Lycan form is part of you.’

He was not fully convinced this was a good idea, but he reluctantly agreed to the ladies request. He slid off the bed, and removed his vest, then his leather trousers, never taking his eyes off her as he did so. He could feel the animal rising in him.

Embrace of the Lycan - Chapter 8

Chapter 8
‘I never showed it you, but I had a pendant that I took from Sonja’s … body. I took it as a reminder of her, and of what the Vampires had taken from me.’ He looked down, and shook his head in bitterness. ‘Tibor found it while he was…’

‘…. Torturing you?’ Kirstina finished for him.

‘Yes,’ he nodded. ‘He seemed to recognise it. He demanded that I told him where I got it. He seemed to be under the impression that you gave it to me.’

‘Me!’ Krisztina had no idea what he was talking about. ‘What does this pendant look like?’

‘It is small … about this big.’ He held his thumb and forefinger up to form a circle. ‘It is made of bronze, and has a knotwork cross design carved on it with a green stone in the centre. Do you recognise the description at all?’

‘No, of course I don’t! I have never given you any pendant. Why are you asking me this?’

He placed his hands on hers to reassure her, as she seemed to be getting upset. ‘Tibor, as you told me yourself, has done some research into your family history. He said that this pendant was a seal of sorts, that belonged to your ancestors and was a symbol of your title. When your family’s lands where taken, this pendant was taken also.’ He looked at her pointedly.

‘If you got it from Sonja … where did she get it from?’


‘Viktor! So … he must have got this from my ancestor?’ Her hands had flown up to her mouth in surprise as Lucian nodded. She could not believe what she was hearing. This ‘family estate’ that she had heard about for years, was the estate that had half the country in fear of the dark things that lived there?

‘What did you tell Tibor?’ she asked timidly.

‘I told him that you had given it me. I felt this was probably safer than the truth.’ He then mumbled to himself, ‘That pendant was all I had left of Sonja.’

She agreed, ‘Of course. You did the right thing.’

Lucian had had enough of lying about, and being nursed on. He wanted to keep himself busy. He stood up out of the bed, and then realised he was naked. ‘Where are my clothes?’

He saw his things folded on a chest, picked them up and loped out of the room, not even bothering to get dressed. He seemed angry, and Krisztina was not sure if it was at her or not. Either way, she felt it was probably not a good idea to follow him.

‘Thank you for looking after me. Oh you are welcome, it was no trouble,’ she muttered to herself. She did feel guilty though. Lucian should not have been involved in this battle of wills between her and Tibor. She had been fending him off for months now, and had realised that he was getting more desperate. He was a loathsome and petty man, but she never envisioned he would sink to these depths to remove any ‘competition’.

There was no competition really. Lucian was a far superior man in her eyes, but he barely noticed her. It did hurt her, but it hurt her more to think that she was the cause of the physical and mental anguish he was currently suffering. She resolved to rectify the situation. She got a warm cloak from her room, and went to see if she could ‘borrow’ a neighbour’s horse. She decided to go see Tibor, and offer her hand in exchange for the pendant.

She walked the horse out of the village, unnoticed. Once safely outside the perimeter, she jumped on its back, and kicked it into a gallop.

The castle of Duke Boris Kalamanos was foreboding in daylight, yet particularly sinister at night. The man had a history of harsh and swift justice. He never had any personal dealings with his subjects, and preferred to leave this to the care of his Captains, such as Tibor. Boris was very rarely in residence, as he spent much of his time at the court of Béla II. Boris was a son with dubious legitimacy of Béla’s uncle, King Kálmán, and was solely preoccupied with advancing and securing his station at court.

When she arrived, she asked at the gate for Tibor. The guard sneered and asked her to wait while a message was sent. Several minutes later, Krisztina saw the silhouette of Tibor appear in front of a torch lit portcullis and he beckoned at the guard to let her pass.

Once into the courtyard, he assisted her off the horse, which was taken by a stable boy, and he led her towards a door. She followed him into a comfortable hall that had a large fire lit, which she walked over to stand near.

‘Wine?’ This was the first word that he had said to her since she arrived. She nodded. She watched him pour two glasses of wine, and took off her cloak. She looked at his face, as he handed her the glass. She sipped her wine, and was pleased to find it was strong, and of a far superior quality than what she was used to. He looked quite smug, he obviously knew that he had succeeded in getting what he wanted.

This angered her more than she thought it would. ‘I believe that you have something of mine?’

‘Do you mean this?’ He held out a hand that had a pendant, just as Lucian described. As she reached for it, he snatched his hand back and placed it back in his pocket. ‘Ah ahhh. Not just yet.’

He swirled his wine around in the glass, savouring this moment. In the fire light, Krisztina could see the grease in his hair, and it looked even more repulsive and lank than usual. She was repulsed that she would have to spend the rest of her life with this man.

‘Before I return your property, I need some kind of guarantee that we will be wed.’

‘What guarantee can I offer?’ she asked.

‘You can stay here tonight – and give me your maidenhood.’

Krisztina was not sure how to respond. She wanted to laugh in his face, and tell him that he was too late, and that she had already given that gift to another. She then thought about how Tibor would react to this news, and feared any retribution against Lucian. Of course, Lucian was more than capable of looking after himself, which is exactly what she was afraid of.

She was not able to think of anything more repulsive, but knew that there was little she could do. She nodded her acquiescence, and he immediately gathered her cloak. He was about to take her arm, and no doubt lead her straight to a bedchamber but she stopped him and said in a low voice, ‘Bring the wine. I will need it.’

He seemed to bite back a vicious retort but picked up the jug and led her out of the hall.

Embrace of the Lycan - Chapter 7

Chapter 7
Krisztina sat on the cold floor of the inn, inconsolable. She had no idea what to do. She understood Lucian’s reasons for not wanting her to tell the others. Raze was so protective of Lucian, there would be nothing that could dissuade from heading straight to the castle and pull the place down, stone by stone looking for his leader.

The others all felt the same about Lucian, and would have no hesitation following Raze. What Lucian feared was that they would reveal their secret, their Lycan nature, to the authorities. Krisztina had suspected that there was something different about them all from the first day she met them. She had been hearing the rumours about the fortress for years, but always felt it was far enough away that it would not affect her. She knew that the reason this village was half dead was that over the years, men had been taken from the villages all around the area, and were enslaved at the fortress . She would not be surprised if some of the Lycans staying here were originally from this village.

Krisztina had started to pace the floor of the kitchen, and then decided that she should keep herself busy, and proceeded to prepare the vegetables for a gulyás. Several hours, one stew and dozens of pastries later, she decided to head out to take György his breakfast.

Once outside she ran into Raze. He looked like he wanted to say something but didn’t know where to start. He looked at her face, and saw that she looked extremely tired, and her eyes were red and puffy from hours of crying. This confused Raze, as he had been convinced that when Lucian did not return to their home last night, that he had spent the night with Krisztina. Raze had noticed the way she looked at Lucian – even if he had not.

‘Where is Lucian?’

‘Er... I don’t know exactly. Look... he is a grown man. He will no doubt be able to look after himself.’ She bit a trembling lip, and ran away toward György’s, leaving Raze stood alone.

Once inside György’s house she threw herself at his feet, as he sat in the chair, and wept. He stroked her hair until she calmed down, and waited for her to speak.

She explained about Tibor and his men, and about how they had taken Lucian. She told him about the previous incident in the garden of the inn, and how Lucian had embarrassed Tibor. She also told him that Lucian had instructed her not to tell anyone and she was sick with worry. She did not, however, tell him about their lovemaking.

György listened to her tale, then asked her, ‘How do you feel about Lucian?’

She wiped the tears from her eyes, ‘I love him’.

It was as György suspected. ‘Look,’ he said. ‘There is something about Lucian that you need to be aware of. He is not like other men.’

‘Do you mean the way that his smile sometimes looks kind, sometimes serious, sometimes menacing, but always charismatic? Or did you mean that he appears to be the Alpha of a pack of Lycans?’

György was slightly taken aback that she knew.

‘Oh stop pulling that face old man. You know, you are not the only one who notices things around here.’ She smiled at him, not meaning her harsh words.

‘How do you feel about this … aspect of him?’ György enquired.

She shrugged, not quite sure how to verbalise her feelings. ‘It should bother me I know, but it is a part of him. I don’t think there is a part of him that I could not love.’

They sat in silence, with her head rested once again against his knee. There was the commotion of horses outside a little while later, and Krisztina ran out to take a look. Once again there was an injured man lying outside the door to her inn.

‘Lucian!’ She closed the gap between her and the prone body emerging from the cloud of dust left by the galloping. Within seconds, others were nearby and she led them upstairs. Once again, her healing abilities were required. Lucian was barely conscious, and seemed to have taken a severe beating. There was not a part of his face that did not have a cut or bruise on it. His eyes were so swollen that he could barely open them.

She fought back the anguish she felt at his state, and once again instructed the men around her to help. She ordered some clean cloth and water, and when it arrived, proceeded to gently wipe away as much of the dried blood from his wounds as she could. Once that was taken care of, she went to her pantry and made some more of the same draught and poultice she had given Sabas. It crossed her mind that it might be worthwhile increasing her garden with this lot around.

When she entered the room, he was talking quietly with Raze, who just nodded and left the room. He was reluctant to take the dose at first, but she insistently pressed it to his lips and he soon swallowed the warm liquid. Hopefully it would relax him enough to sleep.

He dozed gently soon after, and she sat and watched over him. She had had to chase a couple of the men out of the room, as they were pacing. She did go down briefly, to speak to Raze, and explain. He was furious with her as expected, but respected that it was Lucian’s decision. She explained Lucian’s previous encounter with Tibor, and what he had said when he took Lucian. Raze told her that when asked, Lucian had not revealed why Tibor had given such a severe beating. Raze left her then, with tears flowing down her cheeks.

The sun had started to set on what had been a very long day, when she saw Lucian’s eyes flicker open. She sat up and stretched, feeling stiff from being sat so uncommonly still for so many hours. She passed him some water and then crept away to fetch him some food. She brought back a broth with, sadly, very little meat in it. On closer inspection of the already vanishing bruises, it would not be long at all before he was back on his feet.

‘This Lycanthropy is quite remarkable,’ she had to exclaim.

He paused from eating a second, and looked at her, slightly puzzled. ‘Most people would see it as a curse, it is a virus after all, and a deadly one at that.’


He continued, ‘Yes. A bite from a Lycan or Vampire more often than not brings death. Few survive, those that do – are changed for ever.’

She asked, ‘Is that what happened to you?’

He shook his head, ‘No, I am quite unique – I was born this way. Viktor kept Lycans, not like me or my men but first generation Lycans, to guard the fortress while the Vampires slept during the daylight hours. These poor souls once transformed by the bite of the first Lycan, William, were never able to resume human form, until death. I was born in human form, with the ability to change into a Lycan. Viktor decided to use me to start a new race of Lycans. Ones that were easier to control.’

Krisztina sat there for a moment, digesting the information. Lucian watched emotions dance across her face, but was not able to determine how this information was being accepted.

‘Can you only change at the full moon? That’s what I have been told.’

He laughed a little, and then immediately regretted it as his cracked ribs protested. ‘Newly turned can only change at a full moon, but those that have been Lycan for some time, can do it at will.’

She thought about all this for a while longer, and then her face altered, and she smiled a sunny smile at Lucian and asked if he wanted more soup.

He was shocked and asked, ‘Is that it? No more questions? Does it not bother you?’

She pulled a face that suggested her apathy. ‘No, I don’t have any more questions, and no… it doesn’t bother me.’

‘Remarkable,’ he replied. He smiled and shook his head. ‘You too Krisztina, are quite unique.’

‘I shall take that as a compliment,’ she blushed.

‘As it was intended,’ he nodded a small bow.

His face became serious. ‘I do have something to tell you – something that was revealed to me by your ‘suitor’ Tibor.’

Krisztina was a little uncomfortable at the word ‘suitor, but curious as she had no idea what she was about to be told.

Embrace of the Lycan - Chapter 6

Chapter 6
He sighed heavily, and for a moment she was worried that she had perhaps intruded too far into his privacy.

‘I told you that I was recently emancipated from my ... employer. His name was Viktor, and he had raised me in his household since I was a boy, but I was raised as a slave. His family and mine came from the same ancestor, yet my family were slaves. I was treated slightly better than my men down there, raised above them, but not in a position of privilege, more like a pet.

He continued, ‘Viktor had a daughter, Sonja.’

‘Ahh... ,’ Krisztina nodded. ‘I guessed that there was a woman in there somewhere’.

‘Sonja and I were very much in love,’ he continued. ‘We conducted our affair in secret, as her father would have killed me if he knew. I decided to no longer remain under his rule, and instigated a revolt. My men and I were free of his shackles, but my love was being held captive. I went back to the castle, to free her, but it was a well laid trap. Viktor used Sonja as bait to capture me and threatened her life in order to coerce compliance from me. Sonja bravely stood up to her father, declaring her love for me publically, and also...,’ he swallowed the emotion beginning to rise in his throat. ‘Also, she announced that she was carrying my child.’

Krisztina gasped, and put a hand up to her mouth in surprise, then returned it to her lap where she entwined her fingers with Lucian’s.

‘What did Viktor do?’ she asked in a hushed voice.

‘He killed her,’ he said as he looked up into Krisztina’s eyes. ‘Her betrayal in his eyes was deplorable. He killed her, for loving me.’ Tears were now flowing freely from his eyes, and Krisztina was moved by his story. She moved to her knees and knelt in front of him, and pulled him to her breast throwing her arms around him. He lay with his head against her sun-warmed skin, extremely grateful for this gentle creature and the comfort she offered.

She kissed the top of his head, and squeezed him harder. He squeezed her back, and lifted his head to look at her. She was crying too. The look in her eyes changed slightly then. She bent her head down, and kissed him gently, on the lips. When he didn’t pull away, she kissed him again, firmer this time. He responded to the kiss, Sonja’s face appearing in his mind’s eye, and he responded to the kiss even more. He crushed her lips against his, and felt her tongue tentatively brush against him, and he opened up to welcome the intrusion.

Sonja. Sonja. Her name rang in his head. The warm kisses he was receiving reminding him of those stolen moments of bliss, when he was able to be with his love. He thought of her, while he was kissing Krisztina and imagined it was Sonja that was now lying back underneath him.

His hands roamed over the front of the bodice. With some concentration and dexterity was able to loosen it enough to get his hands underneath. His mind was still picturing Sonja, but the flesh felt very different. It did not feel hard, and muscular. It was not the battle hardened flesh of a warrior, but the toned muscle that comes of hard labour. Firm, yet soft, and yielding. The breasts were much fuller, and the nipples were large and hardened under his ministrations.

He wanted to think of Sonja, but found that the obvious physical differences were making this increasingly difficult, and actually found himself looking directly at Krisztina. Those wide brown eyes met his with such openness and trust, how could he not be moved by it. It was Krisztina that he was making love to, and he realised it was Krisztina he wanted to make love to. Lying there beneath him was a truly beautiful woman.

Krisztina pushed the leather waistcoat off his shoulders, and sat up with him to assist him in its removal. Before lying back down, she deftly removed her corset. Lucian had already broken the cord fastening up her skirts, and she was left in just her shift.

She ran her fingers through the hair on his chest, and marvelled at how good he felt. His body was bronzed and toned, from his days in the smith, as well as his combat training. Krisztina had watched in secret a few times while he and his men practiced sparring in the fields.

He pushed himself out of his trousers. Finally, he gently pulled her shift over her head, and the two of them sat there looking in wonder at each other’s naked bodies.

They made love gently, and Lucian was eminently tender. He made sure that Krisztina enjoyed the whole experience, and he found that giving her pleasure pleased him too. She sighed and moaned gently while he kissed and caressed her all over, and when he entered her she was gasping for him to give her satisfaction. Hearing her reach her climax was his cue to let himself go.

They continued to lay joined together, until he was completely soft again. They lay on the ledge overlooking the village. Lucian held her tenderly and the two of them drifted in and out of sleep. Eventually, the afternoon drew on and the day’s temperature dropped. It would soon be getting dark so reluctantly, Krisztina self consciously started to dress. She did her utmost to keep her eyes on the ground while Lucian dressed, and then the two of them silently walked back to the inn.

There was an awkward silence from Krisztina, and Lucian realised that she probably didn’t know what to say after this. He wasn’t really sure how he felt about it either, other than it had been a thoroughly pleasurable experience. He realised that he probably had some duty of care towards her, and so asked if she wanted him to come in with her. She smiled, and laughed a little embarrassed, and said, ‘Only if you want to, do not think that you owe me anything.’

‘I want to,’ he added, not a hundred percent sure if what he was saying was true.

‘I want to thank you for trusting in me enough to tell me of Sonja, but I am still waiting to be told your other secret.’

‘What do you think you know, that I have not already told you?’ He seemed a little defensive.

She placed her hand on his arm, to try and reassure him. ‘I meet travellers fairly regularly, and they tell me of local events. I heard that the Lord that lived in the dark fortress to the east had disappeared, along with all his court and soldiers. Obviously, people are quite pleased by this and so they talk. There are rumours about that place, about how men are taken there ... and enslaved.’

She hesitated before continuing, ’They are changed in some way, ... changed into animals...’

‘..Not animals!’ He interrupted. He was not sure how she had figured out his Lycan nature, but was more surprised at her reaction.

As they headed nside both of them slightly distracted, they didn’t notice that there were people in the inn. Before either of them had a chance to react, they were jumped. A man grabbed Krisztina and held her arms behind her back with one arm, while the other arm held a knife to her throat. Three men struggled to hold Lucian, and he fought back with unbelievable strength.

‘Stop struggling, or we will cut her.’ Tibor came into view from the shadows at the back of the inn. ‘I need her in wedlock; she doesn’t have to be pretty. We could quite easily cut that pretty face and she would still serve my purpose.’

Lucian stopped struggling, and allowed his hands to be tied behind him, his teeth barred and face seething with anger. The men started to drag him out of the back of the inn, and onto their waiting horses.

Lucian yelled ‘Krisztina – do NOT tell the others – I want no bloodshed. Do you understand?’ Tibor slapped Lucian and told him to shut up.

She nodded through her tears. She knew that if Raze and the others heard what happened, they would pursue Lucian and his captors, and probably in their Lycan form, which would mean that any future in this village would be over.

After the other soldiers had left on their horses, Tibor sneered at her and said, ‘Do not worry, we will return him to you in roughly one piece - once we have taught him that he cannot speak to his betters like that without paying the consequences.’ Then he rode off after his men.

Embrace of the Lycan - Chapter 5

Chapter 5
The days went by, and the summer solstice brought with it much warmer winds. Bartos and Kolos, two farming brothers who had been brought to Viktor’s only a few years ago, made no hesitation in getting to work on the fields. They spoke to Lucian and advised that for the village to become self sufficient in anyway, they would need seed for planting as soon as possible, and some livestock. Lucian said he would speak to Krisztina, and ask where he could find a merchant.

When Lucian entered the inn, there was no sign of her. He knocked gently on the door that lead to the kitchen area calling her name, but there was no reply, so he tentatively pushed it open.

Once in the kitchen area, he heard voices coming from the back yard. His hearing was superb, and he could distinctly make out a male voice, and it was being threatening. He rushed out the back and saw a tall slender man wearing a military outfit, with his gloved hand around Krisztina’s throat.

‘I suggest that you unhand the young lady sir, or explain to me why a trained military man is threatening a barmaid,’ Lucian growled. He smiled at the man, but it was clear there was no deference intended.

The man looked at Lucian, taking him in and assessing any potential threat with the keen eyes of a trained soldier. Lucian did not have his twin swords with him, but a rather mean dirk was hanging from his belt. The soldier assessed the situation correctly and reluctantly, it appeared, let go of Krisztina.

‘What business do you have here?’ He sneered at Lucian.

‘My business is with the mistress of this establishment, and of no concern of yours,’ Lucian responded with a smile. There was menace held in that smile. ‘Now, if you have finished your dealings, I bid you good day sir’.

The soldier marched up to him and stood inches away form him.

‘I suggest.... sir,’ spat the officer contemptuously, ‘That you watch your tongue around me less you say something you will later regret’. He turned on his heel and entered the door leading back to the kitchen. Lucian watched him until he went through into the main room. He heard the front door open, and then slam shut. He then relaxed a little, and looked over to Krisztina.

‘Are you alright?’ he asked, genuinely concerned as she was rubbing the red mark starting to appear around her neck.

‘I was just fine – until you arrived’, she snapped.

Lucian was a little taken aback by the remark, but followed her into the kitchen. She stopped suddenly, and turned around.

‘I’m sorry!’ she apologised, dropping her head. He put his hand under her chin, and lifted her face so he could look in her eyes.

‘There is nothing to apologise for,’ he said softly, and she gave a grateful smile in response while trying to ignore how warm and pleasant his fingers felt against her face. Lucian continued, ‘But can I ask what it was he wanted?’

‘It is a long story,’ she sighed. ‘Do you want to come for a walk? In the woods? I feel that it helps me calm down.’

‘Of course,’ he smiled, and offered her his arm, which she took with a bright smile.

It was a warm day, and even in the shade of the trees, it was still pleasant. They followed a small path, with Krisztina leading, and Lucian got the impression that this was a path she often walked.

After about 20 minutes of steadily climbing upwards through the trees, they reached a plateau of sorts, and nearby was a small cave. Krisztina made her way to the front of the cave, kicked off her shoes, and sat with her small bare feet hanging over the edge. Lucian sat next to her, and looked at her expectantly. She looked up at him briefly, smiled and pushed that errant lock of hair back behind her ear and then looked straight ahead.

She was slightly embarrassed sat there under his forceful gaze.

‘You can see most of the valley from up here,’ she said overly cheerful. She seemed to be delaying her story, and tying to compensate for her earlier upset. ‘I found this place soon after I came here, and it has always been a bit of a refuge.’

She was right, Lucian thought. You could see most of the valley from here, and it was an excellent strategic look out spot. He made a mental note to talk to Raze about this later. That cave would be an ideal place to hoard the weapons he was beginning to forge.

‘The man you ‘rescued’ me from, was Tibor. He is the Captain of the Duke’s household guards. He comes from a family that have in the last few generations, through scheming and swindling no doubt, made some money.’

She looked at him directly to emphasise, ‘A lot of money.’

‘He has a fair amount of power as Captain of the Guard, but what he lacks, and it is the thorn in his side, is nobility and breeding.’

Lucian wrinkled his brow quizzically, and so she continued.

‘I told you that my mother died in childbirth, and that I was raised by my grandmother, but what I did not tell you, is that my mother’s family were actually nobility.’ Lucian remembered hearing this from Old György, but he let her continue.

‘My mother was ostracised from her family the moment she involved herself with my father. For many generations, her family had lived on a great estate somewhere to the west of here. My great-great-grandfather was apparently a bit of gambler when he was a young man. According to the gossip I heard from the servants, one day long ago he was visited by 2 rather sinister characters. They offered to settle his debts, if he would hand over the fortress that was the family home, along with all the lands. The legend is that my ancestor was tricked by some glamour, as he swore for the rest of his life until the day he died, that he never would have parted with his family’s land willingly.’

She shrugged her shoulders. ‘Who knows what happened. All those involved are long dead now. Although the fortress is still occupied as far as I know by the mysterious ancestors of my great-great-grandfathers visitors. I do not even know where this place was.’

‘But what has that got to do with your visitor?’ he asked.

‘Tibor has asked... well actually, he is insisting... that I marry him. He has apparently done some research into my family’s history, and feels that marrying me will give him and his future generations, the nobility to go along with his wealth. As the last descendant of my family, I am entitled to use the title Baroness. Is that not the most ridiculous thing you have ever heard? Me... a Baroness! In these rags?’ She laughed when she said this, but there was a bitterness to it. ‘I have nobility, but no money – he has money, but no nobility.’

Lucian really felt for this young girl, and her family. Her mother and father’s story had echoes of his relationship with Sonja. Two people from different worlds, falling in love, yet kept apart by ridiculous concepts of class.

He placed a hand over hers where they were folded together in her lap. She looked at him, and saw the empathy there, and sadness.

‘Tell me Lucian,’ she said.

‘Tell you what?’ he replied slightly confused.

‘Tell me what it was that happened to you, that brings about that haunted look into your eyes when you think no one is watching.’
Natural Relationships