Preface—Paris, France- 1622
Lying on my straw mattress, I could not fall asleep. I wasn't uncomfortable – you learn to live with a bed made out of straw – and the evening was peaceful. Jean was breathing deeply in slumber, and I could hear my father's light snoring coming from the far end of the room. The breeze was blowing through the single window of our one room home, gently ruffling the tattered cloth of a curtain. The night was calm.
Yet I felt a sense of imminent danger.
I knew too much. And soon, he would come for me.
Suddenly, the wind stopped. No, it didn't just stop. The curtain was frozen in mid-air. I could no longer hear the snoring of my father, or the breathing of my brother. Sheer terror coursed up my spine, setting my hairs on end. I clung to the blanket in fear. The shadows seemed to close in on me.
I leapt out of the bed and ran out the door, all the while the shadows following me from behind. Running through the small village square, I noticed that those who were still awake were frozen in whatever action they were performing: a large man with a shaggy beard was carrying a full burlap sack home, stopped in mid-step; an old woman in the middle of washing dingy linens; a young boy, practically floating in the air because he had tripped on the cobblestone road. There were more of them, but I continued running as fast as I could, too worried to focus on them.
Still sprinting, I took a quick glimpse behind me. The slithering darkness was closing in on me, faster and faster. I turned my gaze ahead again, realizing that I had run into the forest that surrounded the edge of town.
Taken aback by the change of landscape, I stopped dead in my tracks. That was my biggest mistake. A moment later, the shadows reached caught up, and bound me in their icy grip.
"Zutalors!" I cursed, struggling to free myself. I ended up toppling over on the ground with a pine cone sticking in my back. But that still didn't stop me from trying to escape.
"You bloody well know that that won't do you any good."
I let out a scream of terror, but it was cut short when I was mentally silenced. I looked up and he was standing over me.
"What do you want from me?" I tried to say, but no sound would come out.
He seemed to understand me, though, because he answered, "You know exactly what I want, mon ange."
"Funny that you would use that term of endearment, considering what you are," I mutely retorted.
"Say what you will about me," he chided, "but you know you can't resist my devilish good looks."
"Devilish is the only word in that sentence that I'd use to describe you, Victor."
"Come now, Alix," he pouted, "why must you be so rude?"
"Because," I glared at him, "you're a monster!"
"Well, perhaps a trip to my domain would change your mind?" he grinned wickedly, and snapped his fingers. The ground rumbled.
"Victor, no!" I screamed my voice suddenly audible, but weak. "Please don't do this! My family needs me!"
"I'm truly sorry, Alix, but you've given me very few options. This seemed to be the best one." He snapped his fingers a second time. The earth cracked open and engulfed me, sucking me into an inky blackness that changed my life forever.
1 – Present Day
The hallway was dark. I tightly clutched my obsidian knife as I drifted slowly toward the bedroom. The hall seemed to go on forever and my anxiety grew. My thoughts kept drifting to my checklist: Get inside, cut his head off, and become free for the rest of eternity. Simple enough. So why was I sweating and biting my lip so nervously?
When I was finally to the door, I paused and placed my palm on the solid oak. Exhaling, I dissolved through the wood.
Get inside: Check.
He slept across the room from me, gently breathing from underneath the satin covers. I slowly flew towards the bed – yes, I can fly. It's not a big deal – until I was at the foot of the bedframe. I floated down so that my bare feet landed softly on the cold, black, marble floor; this way, I'd have more leverage for when I delivered the final blow.
I crept right next to where he lay. His blonde hair was tousled, and his breathing slow and steady. I gripped the knife even tighter. This was it. The moment of truth. Do or die. All those clichés.
"Happy Anniversary, you evil bastard," I murmured.
With that, I swung the knife down with lightning speed. The blade was about halfway down, when his hand shot straight up and grabbed my wrist. His eyes were still closed.
"Damn reflexes," I muttered.
"Oh, but they weren't just reflexes, love." I stared at him as his eyes lazily opened, and I could see his emerald irises. "I've been aware of your presence since you entered my humble abode."
"I wouldn't exactly call it 'humble'" I glared down at him. He still hadn't let go. "You have dodo bird feather pillows, a stuffed T-rex in the foyer, and a saber-tooth tiger skin run by the platinum fireplace."
"And mortals believe that natural circumstances caused their extinction. What fools."
"Save the history lesson for later, Victor. Let me go," I growled.
"Give me the dagger first." I sighed in frustration, and released the blade into his other hand. As soon as it hit his skin, it dissolved into smoke. "See? That wasn't so hard, now was it?" He tried to lean in for a kiss, but I used my newly freed hand to slap him across the face. Hard. "Ow! What was that for?"
"For ruining my plans to kill you."
"You have to admit that this wasn't your greatest attempt," he grinned. "I still think that pushing me into the lava pit was your best work."
"You really think so?" I asked mockingly.
"Well, those third degree burns did last for over a week." He sat up, the covers falling to reveal his defined chest. Figures. If he knew I was coming, he wouldn't miss an opportunity to show off his six pack.
"Maybe next year I will finally put an end to you."
"I doubt it. No one has ever killed a Demon Lord. Though I must say, you have definitely tried the hardest. Most minions would be executed for trying to assassinate their master."
"But you know you love me too much," I smirked. "Your obsession for me is terrifying."
"Don't think I haven't seen the shrines you've built in my honor throughout history."
I paused, pretending to think. "The Statue of Liberty; which by the way, looks nothing like me at all."
"At least I made sure it was a gift coming from your home country."
I sighed. "If you truly loved me you would set me free."
"You know I can't do that"
"Why the hell not?"
"Because a demon without a master has too much power to himself—."
"—or herself, and the balance of the universe would be drastically altered."
"How drastically altered?"
He gave me a look. "Let's just say the Black Plague was caused by a minor demon that was given his freedom."
I winced. If a minor demon could take out a huge chunk of Europe, my powers would probably take out all of North America. If I was completely insane.
"The demon that was freed was completely sane," Victor chastised me.
"Stop probing my mind!"
"Stop leaving your mind so open."
"You infuriate me," I huffed.
"You infuriate me as well, but I still love you just the same," he grinned, knowing full well that he was pissing me off.
Well, I hate you, I thought, making sure my mind was wide open so he'd be sure to hear me.
"Why, Alix?" He grimaced. "Why must you hurt me?" He clutched his chest in mock agony.
"Oh, give me a break! As if you even have a heart!" I started to storm off towards the door, but Victor appeared in front of me in a fraction of a second. The door slammed with such force that the bedframe rattled. The solid onyx bedframe. "Now what? I thought we were done here."
"I think we still have some unfinished business." His smile was sly and it made an uneasy knot form in the pit of my stomach. "We still have the matter of your sloppy assassination attempt. An act against the life of one's master is a very serious crime. One that deserves punishment."
"Yeah? Well, you'll have to catch me first." I tried to maneuver around him to the door, but he grabbed me and pinned me against the wall on the other side of the room.
"Caught you. Now what?"
I smirked. "Now this!" I quickly dissolved through the wall, relishing the look on Victor's face when he saw I had gotten away. I was already on the outside of the building before I realized I was on the seventh floor.
"Zut!" I cursed before I started to tumble towards the ground. I flailed for a second before my instincts kicked in. When I was still about three stories up, I morphed into a raven. My arms were traded in for delicate wings and my lips became pointed and hardened into a beak. Before hitting the ground, I swooped into a wide arc and started to fly in the direction of the gates to the Underworld.
Don't think that just because you've gotten away now that this means that we won't have that talk, I heard Victor comment in my mind just before I was out of his range.
I didn't really have any fear in the threat. What I feared was the "talk" itself.