|Night Falls - Chapter One|
| The night was cold, not the kind of cold that brought snow to the sweeping grounds in the countryside of England, but the kind that brought a frosty bite to the air and seeped into the stone halls of the manor, making them like ice to the touch. It seemed that dismal wind ran it’s way under the thick ornate wooden doors of his Lordship’s library door, chilling the room despite the raging fire in the fireplace. Only recently, the screams of his Lady had ceased to ring through the hallways, long incessant sounds of torture as the woman brought forth her second child into the world. The wane cry of the newborn baby echoed on after in the young man’s head, still burned into his memory now as he heard a soft knock on the door. His voice was soft, hoarse for his first attempt before he spoke again a bit clearer to beckon the person “Enter”. The door opened to an elderly woman, still stiffly straight in her posture and immaculately groomed in a gray uniform dress, her silver white hair combed and pinned into a perfect knot at the base of her neck. The stiffness of the woman, formality suiting the placement in the house of a nobleman, melts upon her gaze on the young man before her. “Lord Esiah, the Lady has given you a daughter.” The man pinched his nose as an odd sort of pain settles into his features. “Who sired this one?” He spoke out of turn, and knew it then. But the child was not of his creation; he was not able to sire children as they had learned some time ago.
His pretty young wife had been patient for the first two years of their marriage, accepting him to her bed in an increasing bid to provide an heir to the Lordship and lands of the Draken name. But as time wore on and she did not conceive, her quiet patience had faded, and her spirit grew cold, assumptions of society laying blame at her door as the beloved young Lord could not possibly have ills enough not to be up to his duty. It was then that she had started to her devotions with a fervor, spending much of her hours at church. This saw favor with the rasping tongues of the noble Matrons, her dedication to her faith seeming the only thing that saved her face in their eyes. No one knew the true reason for her dedication to this time, but it seemed that her prayers had found a sympathetic ear because soon after her steadfast bouts of simpering to the great hereafter found fruit. The doctor had to be called as she grew wane, given to spells of fainting, indelicate sickness that meant only one thing. The Lady of the Manor was pregnant with her husband’s first child. There was a general sense of relief to mix with the pleasure of the event, the pressure of an heir alleviated as it was determined with no great amount of overconfidence that the child would be the male needed to carry on the name and the line. The following months, she lived and acted as if she were a queen, or perhaps the Virgin Mary, someone to be watched with awe and adored for what she had done. She expected to be watched over, catered to, and revered, soaking in Esiah’s pleasure with a smile that was whispered to be wicked. She had some great secret, it was said, and the poor Lord was not privy to it. She looked at him with the indulgence one would give a small child or a favored lapdog, something that did not go unnoticed amongst the household staff.
His words had an effect on the older woman he didn’t see with his position, pain darting across her face. She obviously cared a good deal for him, like one would for a son. Her words came out soft and choked, and she cleared her throat before trying again. “Her eyes…the child is the line of the Queen Mother”. Esiah looked up at this, his movement sharp with his surprise, an ungentlemanly curse coming to his lips at the statement. “The Lady chose a man of royal blood to sire her child? Is she mad?” His frustration was clear in his voice, hard and angry. “No she is not mad, she slaps her wanton ways in the faces of her Lord and the people of England with all the ego of a succubus demon. Which I am not entirely sure she is not thus.” It was then that a man stepped out of the shadows, melted from them as easily as one would walk through sheer curtains, though they seemed to cling to the man just a moment too long to be natural. The man was tall and dark tanned with an underlying paleness, as if his heritage would demand his skin be rich brown but something else would take the golden tone to a cooler paleness beneath it. His long black hair settled around his shoulders haphazardly and brilliant blue eyes almost seemed to glow. He seemed more animal than man in the way he held himself, and in the subconscious impression he left on those who saw or dealt with him. He carried a rough beastial visage like a cloak though to most he would seem just as any other man honed and muscled with long hours of work.
The man moved across the floor to drop himself with feral grace into a leather wing back chair next to the young Lord, watching the youth’s face with a softer concern then what his appearance would naturally allow. “The sins of a woman cannot be brought upon the innocent head of a child, brother”. The sound of his voice was rough, darkly bass in timber and intimidating to most. To Esiah it soothed over his wounded soul like a salve, a constant in his life that brought him strength. This feral man was his brother, a choice made by both, and by mutual adoption they were family. “Gareth, much as I know this, so will others. Bringing this child to the church to be christened Draken will be a marked mistake as all will know of her blood.” Gareth, as he was called in this place and time turned eyes far too wise for his appearance to the man beside him and shook his head. “They will say nothing but for their own gossip and tired belittlement. They cannot afford to speak ill of the crown nor you. You are far too respected for them not to be silenced in their conjecture.”
Another knock sounded, a younger servant girl carefully negotiated the door, a small bundle wrapped in white blankets in her arms. She drops an awkward curtsy as she steps in, a second thought or automatic reaction to the formality of the house. The girl seemed to be too distracted in gazing down at the baby in her arms. Esiah cleared his throat pointedly, bringing the girl out of her reverie to blush and stumble over herself as she brings the child and places the bundle into his awaiting arms. With a wave of his hand, he dismissed the girl, not looking down at his new child until the woman had taken herself from the room. Gareth, however, wasn’t so patient. Lifting himself to his feet, he leaned onto the back of his brother’s chair to look down into the cool silver blue gaze of the tiny child. A crooked smile took the man’s face, as the little girl’s gaze took the man’s heart.
With a bow of her aged head, the Nanny stepped out leaving the two men alone. With the closing of the door, the hall lights lost, the room was dimmed to the flickering light of the fire. In the heavy shadows, the young Lord turned to look up, the presence at his shoulder felt leaning closer. The voice so close to his ear soft with a hushed awe that runs counterpoint to the aggressive growl natural to his voice. “She is a beautiful creature indeed, brother. My congratulations on your little Ailynn.” It was with these words that the man, so shaken by recent years and his marriage, looked down at the tiny angel in his arms. Such soft skin, dark hair already in tiny curls against her fair face and then her eyes staring up at him with unusual curiosity for one so young. As he looked down into those eyes, his heart was lost, his breathe stolen and a love he hadn’t felt since his son was born swelled within him. They were like sapphire velvet fired from within with a starburst of icy pale blue and shards of liquid silver, eyes that even now warmed, the pale blue and silver receding as she regarded the men before her. A small hand lifted, tiny fingers curling against the blankets around her as if trying to reach out and touch the two men staring down at her with such admiration.
As they looked on, a soft tentative knock came to the door. The two men, as if broken from their trance, jerked their heads up to look at it before an invitation to enter would be given. A shaken young maid, looking as if harried and attacked, entered to drop an awkward curtsy and speak to the young Lord in a shaken voice. “M’Lord, your Lady wishes your presence and the return of her child. She demands it most forcibly.” The woman’s tantrums and habits of throwing things at the staff was near legend by then and young Esiah sighed with a tiredness from years of dealing with such irritations. He started to stand, placing on lean hand on the smooth brown leather arm of the chair to push himself upright before a larger stronger hand came down on his shoulder with gentle insistence. Looking back to his brother, he watched as the man’s formerly tender expression hardened with purpose. The feral expression suppressed but still powerful on the man’s face, eyes hardened with anger boiling just under the surface. “I will speak with the Lady and let it be known that you wish some time alone with your daughter.” Waving the distraught maid from the room, he watched as she scampered away like a beaten animal and sighed. “She cannot keep to this behavior. She will not act against me, she knows too well what will happen if she does. I will speak to her to calm her fits and keep her away from you until she can return to her composure after her experience. You need time to bond with your child, and she must respect that.” Leaning over the arm of the chair, he pressed a gentle kiss to the baby’s forehead and offered a soft smile to his brother before he turned and moved with determination to the door to slip out, closing the door firmly after him. Soft words were heard afterwards, directions to the staff outside that by penalty of their livelihood would anyone pass the doorway to disturb the Lord and his new young Lady.
Esiah listened to the door, the gentle murmurings easing the tension in his shoulders. His body fell back to settle against the back of the chair, eyes closed as he tried to flush the poison of his wife’s anger from his body, calming his limbs to relax before he could speak to this new angel in his life without effect of it. The soft stirrings of the baby, mewings like a kitten, these brought his eyes open to look down at those beautiful blue eyes. A smile, gentle and warm touched his soft full lips as he looked down at her. “Alright my little one, my attentions you shall have. It cannot be that a beautiful being such as yourself would go without admirers.” The child lay her head to one side against his arm, seeming to settle contented as she finds herself the object of his gaze. “A name for you perhaps. We cannot call you little one forever. It will put you to quite a state when you are grown.” His words seem to call forth answer in form of Walton, the elderly butler, who enters after knocking tentatively. The man clears his throat pointedly and makes his apologies for intrusion before going on to his task. “The Lady addresses me to give you notice that the child is to be called Victoria. ‘Before you get any other dunced idea in your head’ as she said it. I beg forgiveness for the rudeness of the statement but I was told to speak her words quite accurately.” Esiah, far from wincing at the cutting tone of her words, nods tiredly as he was quite used to it by now. Dismissing the butler, he turned his eyes back to his daughter and straightened his expression as not to upset her. “It seems my dear one that your dear Mother has decided to flaunt in the face of the throne and name you with Princess bearing. Give the Lady her pleasure. It does little good to war against her when she has such definite decisions. Let her have Victoria, but we must give you a name to ground you. You shall carry my mother’s name as well. Victoria Anne Draken as you shall be. My little Anne, and your uncle Gareth’s Ailynn. You shall have a few names to choose from.” He smiled at this, well aware that no one but his wife would be calling this little angel by that stuffy name. His long tanned fingers reached down to smooth gently over the baby’s sleeping face, watching her perfect tiny features moving in her dreams in reaction to his touch. She had seemed to have settled into a comfort between his strong stomach and his arm, and was radiating a lot of heat for one so small. Laying his head back against the chair, his eyes close as well, the full night of his wife’s screams to bring this blessing forth into his life having kept him awake. He had reached the point of exhaustion and with his child’s sleeping so trusting in her loving father’s arms, he could himself give himself over to his weariness and rest.
|Gareth slipped out of the room, tugging the door shut after him gently as not to startle the baby. His face was grave with the task at hand, sharp blue eyes almost glowing in the dim unsteady candlelight of the hallway. At his right side, a man cleared his throat quietly as to make himself known before the intense looking man ran him over in his charge to his task. “M’Lord?” This from the butler, watching Gareth with a fearful respect. The response given was a soft growling tone, roughened more by his intention to get his point across without chance of argument or defiance. “No one is to disturb his Lordship. He is spending time with his child, and is deserving of that time. No matter what request her Ladyship makes, the staff will take to it or I will do so, as I do now. Do I make myself clear?” The man before him paled some at the tone, his skin already aged and spotting with that age becoming sallow and sickly colored. His voice was somewhat less confident, shaking just noticeably after nodding automatically at the demands. “Yes Lordship. The Lady asks one message sent…” The rest of the words were lost then, a growl coming from the man before him silencing the elderly butler before he could finish his sentence. “No one is to disturb him. If the Lady has words for him she can give them to me. I dare say her tone will be more respectful then the one she uses with my brother.”
With this he passed the man, little patience for his groveling. Mounting the wide sweeping staircase, he took them with powerful steps, almost silent from habit as he took his large form up towards the eastern wing of the Manor where the Lady kept her suites and guest quarters. Of course she kept herself separate from the formal parts of the house and as far as she could arrange from her husband and children’s quarters. It disgusted him, and anger boiled the long cold blood in his veins. But this was his brother’s wife, a woman that believed herself above him and all others she associated with. The few hours of pain she suffered were only withstood for her gain, and no other reason. It was these dark thoughts that brought him down the hall to her quarters, startling staff that passed him at the animalistic anger that near poured from the man. They stepped far to the side of him, watching him with wide eyes.
He gave them barely a glance, usually not one to wish fear of him amongst the staff but now angry far beyond such concerns. As he approached the large heavy wooden doors that guarded the Lady’s quarters, he passed her servant, a harried woman even at her young age. This woman he gave effort to, as she looked already as if the Lady inside had torn her apart this eve. Pausing he gave her a curt nod and waited while she passed him, giving him a fearful eye as his very presence rolled with his irritation. “Fear not, young one.” His voice was forced to gentleness so as not to further her anxiety. “My blood boils not for you, and that one that it does…she will soon feel it.” The woman nodded with an uncertain shake to the movement. Her loyalty, which was so hard pressed to her mind, demanding she defend her Lady but the woman’s torture stated that she should feel some of the same in return. Gareth watched the emotions play over the tired pale face of the woman before him for only a moment before he relieved her of the internal war, dismissing her to go and rest.
Pushing open the doors, he was greeted immediately by the cold elegant voice of the Lady of the Manor, demands starting already. “Marie, has that lazy man brought my child to me yet?” He had to growl at this, shutting the door after him with more force then necessary. This caused a shriek of anger from the woman, clutching the sheets of her bed up to her breast in an attempt at modesty, though most that knew her knew that modesty was the least of her qualities. Gareth ignored the motion, much as he ignored the woman and her state of undress. He didn’t look away from her, as to give her the impression that he was embarrassed by her nudity, but looked her straight in the eye. “The child will be returned to you for her feeding when she hungers. If then, since I’m sure you have a wet nurse for such things. For now, the young Princess stays below with Esiah and you shall shriek for him no more. Yes, I know how you have whored yourself for the crown and born it’s blood in the girl downstairs. But as she is spirit of my brother’s spirit she shall be protected and you shall feel no pride for that.”
He watched the babbling woman, shocked that the man would dare speak to her in such a way and said as much to him. “Be fair warned Lady, should harm come to that man or his children the price shall be yours to pay.” Iliana found her voice now, her spine straightening and her face, still flushed from her efforts to rid her body of the pain and the child, twisted with cruel confidence. “I know your secrets, man of death, and you are weak. I can dispatch you myself, a woman of no strength. So do not believe yourself God enough to threaten me.” The insolent words only managed to make him angrier, a growl rumbling through him loud enough to pull the blood from her face as she looked at him. “If I am gone, many more will search to find me and will know my fate. And you, for all the alliances of church and crown you have sold your body for like a woman of the brothel, will fall in ways terrifying beyond your night horrors.” With that he left her before he enslaved the smug woman, dominated her mind or outright harmed her. His large sleekly muscular form seemed to drive itself from the room with the force of a natural storm. The woman was left to stew and plot as the man’s insults and threats could not be left stand without retribution. It was then that the future was forged, and one man would fall for another’s words of protection.