Chapter 1: The Cursed

'Miz Katherine!... Miz Katherine!"

Kittie was startled out of a very groggy and sickly sleep, and was confused to find that she could barley focus or process exactly what some distant voice was saying. It sounded very muffled and much like someone speaking from the opposite side of a wall. As she became more lucid, it seemed to Kittie like time was moving very slowly and that each breath she took was long and drawn out. With effort she attempted to open her eyes, and then forced herself to widen them in order to stay awake. Everything was dark, and she could not see any of her surroundings. She may have been scared if she did not feel so ill, however somehow Kittie still managed to realize it was not her bedroom, and this was not her bed, but something much harder. Stone? It was cold.

'Wha... where am I?' she stuttered, slowly moving into a sitting position and clutching at her uneasy stomach. The air felt stuffy and warm, and had the smell of an attic or another similar musty, confined space. 'Who is there?'

'You must come with me! We do not have much time!' the voice hissed. Clammy hands with sharp, clawlike fingernails were grabbing at her forearms, dragging her down and then she slid off something taller than she had anticipated. Katherine stumbled around, dizzy and blind as she tried to find her footing. The sound of metal clanged like an opening door, and a dim light filtered into the room and she managed to glance around and take in a bit of her surroundings.

She was groggily confused and fear started to creep up her spine. The room was small, and unlit candelabras littered every corner and wall. Wax collected in clumps at the ends instead of what had probably once been tall candles. There were no windows and no other source of lighting that was visible. Spiderwebs and dust covered every corner and surface of the room, while the candles and emptiness around her showed indication that some sort of cult-like or religious ceremony had been held and recently vacated. The room looked like a small dungeon, and gave off an evil heir that left her feeling uneasy.

There was a stone slab behind her, with what appeared to be metal clasps where her wrists and ankles could have been held down, as they were laid out in such a way to keep a person constrained spreadeagle upon it. Strange runes marked the entire surface, all of which were unevenly placed and looked to be mixture of various, foreign languages unfamiliar to Kittie, who could not seem to make anything of them. Averting her eyes to the floor was a golden goblet placed front and center alongside the slab. It was simple and plain, but appeared to be filled with something dark and red dripping off the rim. Could it possibly be blood? Kittie shuddered. Her blood? It looked to be a sacrificial alter of sorts, and her uneasiness grew as she realized that she herself would've likely been the victim.

Katherine looked down and examined the many cuts, gashes, and bruises that covered her arms, not to mention an ugly, jagged scar that moved from one end of her collarbone to the other. They were throbbing and their appearance made Kittie feel even more sickly. She appeared to still be bleeding from some of the wounds, although from exactly which ones she was not sure. Instead of her usual corset, undergarments, and dress, she was wearing what looked to be a plain shirt with no buttons that went down only to her knees. It was extremely dirty, and she wrapped her arms around herself, feeling very exposed. Her hair was loose and fell down past her shoulders, seeming dry and matted against her neck and to her touch. Her feet were bare.

Finally Kittie took in the figure before her. She must have been middle aged, with tight leathery skin quite noticeably making her face look twisted. She was clothed in a mass of dark robes that wrapped around her body in many layers. A long hood spread across from shoulder to shoulder and her auburn hair was pulled back tightly. This made her large, dark eyes more pronounced underneath thin plucked brows. The lady was still standing with the door ajar, beckoning for Kittie to follow.

'Miz Katherine,' she almost whispered, 'Come girl, he will not wait all day. Now that you are awake he will want to question you!'

'Who? Who wants to question me?' Kittie stammered. Now that she was standing and moving again, the blood seemed to be moving through her veins and she began to feel like herself again. She now felt somewhat able to think and comprehend what she was being told. In the back of her mind she wondered how long she may have been sleeping. 'What have I done? Who are you?' she tried to insist.

'That is not of any importance to you,' the lady snapped, although still in a low tone, 'please we do not have time. Do you want to stay in here alone?' Looking at Kittie's reluctant expression she rolled her eyes. 'Well come on then and follow me.' Katherine obeyed, desperate to get out of the room that seemed to be filled with a disease that she sucked in with every breathe she took.

They stepped out into a hallway, which was quite like stepping out from one misery and into another. The air felt congested and the room had opened into a dark, dim lit passageway where candle flames danced along the dark wooded walls and floor. She quickly followed after the strange lady, trying to keep after her down the windowless and seemingly endless passage, going back through her memory to try and remember how she could have possibly ended up here.

She was on her way to her uncle's estate after had grandmother had passed away. Grandma had taken care of her since birth following the unfortunate death of her parents when she was only two years old. She was about begin a whole new life in some unfamiliar world, until now however, because the situation had completely changed. She couldn't help but wonder if she was missed by anyone, or if somebody had even noticed her sudden disappearance. However, Kittie quickly shrugged these thoughts back as she realized she was losing sight of the woman ahead.

Katherine chased after her guide, turning around spinning and confusing hallways and up steep and creaking staircases. Faces from portraits glared at her and statues seemed to turn after her; caused by shadows and her wild imagination. Back through memories she was in a carriage, following the road to her uncle's estate. Tears were forced back as she realized she now faced some unknown future. She would be alone. She remembered falling asleep but that whole ride remained mysterious and foggy like a dream. Pieces missing to bring her to the present.

Eventually she was led into one of the rooms. It was old and dusty like the hall only more elaborate and well lit. There were tall windows curtained with red, and a desk at the end with a high back chair behind it.

In the chair sat a man. He looked to be middle aged, about the same as the woman who had led Kittie here, only he was handsome. She could tell he was tall, though he was sitting, and very dark hair slicked back with only a few visible lines of grey. He wore a pinstriped suit and had facial hair covering his chin. Handsome though he was, Katherine shivered because she very much imagined this is how the devil would look. She wrapped her arms tightly around herself.

'Good evening, Miss Mitchell,' his voice was smooth and clear, 'It is due time you woke. I trust you are well enough to talk for a while? Please,' he gestured to the chair across from him, 'Sit so that we may speak. You must have questions.' Kittie paused for a moment, thinking of someway to refuse, but her feet ached and she knew she would not be able to find a way out. Reluctantly she made her way into the chair.

'So,' he said, his elbows were propped up on the desk with his hands folded, 'To begin with, I am known as Apollo. At least that is what my people call me. You are Katherine? Funny isn't it? The name means pure does it not?'

'Why would that matter?' Katherine retorted softly, surprisingly she felt anger rising at his cool mannerism, 'Why am I here? Where am I?' What do you want?' She fought to keep her voice even and to the point.

'Quite a long story,' Apollo answered, 'and don't you like getting down to business? No small talk I take it?' He leaned closer to her, and she could feel his breathe. 'It matters because I find it amusing.' Here he shrugged and relaxed back to his own position again, smiling which was not at all pleasant.

'Please I want to leave.'

'Oh you will, but not in the way you may think.'

'Stop giving me riddles,' Kittie said quickly, 'I want answers. Do you only wish me here to gloat or to confuse me?'

'Both are enjoyable, quite honestly,' Apollo agreed, appearing to almost to consider the idea. 'However, I need something of you. And unfortunately this is one thing I cannot just take from you.'

'I don't understand.'

'Of course you don't!' He laughed.

'Please explain.'

'You, Katherine are one of the cursed.' Apollo said, suddenly serious, 'You see I am not human. I am a demon... the demon actually.' Now he was gloating.

'You're insane,' Kittie said, arms crossed. She tried remaining calm but now she felt panic. Was he crazy? What did he want from her? He was cool and calm, arrogant and very sure of himself. Kittie wasn't sure what this man wanted from her but felt certain he wouldn't change his mind about it, regardless of what it might mean for her.

'I am quite sane, Miss Mitchell,' Apollo replied, seemingly not offended, 'But really, you must take me more seriously. I need you in order for to complete the tasks ahead, and you are very essential to what I have planned. So, I need you to listen to me very closely and not ask questions, otherwise I will be forced to take things further with you than I had originally intended, and that would not be a good thing for you, Miss Katherine.'

'How can I trust anything you say?' Kittie exasperated, 'What you're saying is complete madness! I don't know what you want with me, but I am nothing. I'm worthless and I fail to see how I could be of any use to you and your so called 'plan'. Please let me go, I beg you. I will refuse to help you in any way whatsoever. Whatever you could do as punishment I'm sure would be no worse then what you have planned for me.'

Suddenly the room went dark as the candles dimmed, and fire sprang up from the fireplace on the far end of the room, flickering so that shadows were cast all around her, moving fast and engulfing her so that Apollo and her felt to be the only beings in existence. Apollo himself was suddenly standing and then seemed to grow taller, looming over her and feeling so close and yet so far above her. He shone with a strange and fiery light, making him the prominent figure in the room and forcing Kittie's eyes to feel as if they could not be diverted away from the scene before her.

The room was hot now and she began to feel panic as Apollo changed monstrously in front of her. His eyes enlarged becoming entirely black and slanted like some kind of dangerous animal, and his ears now pointed backwards giving him another sense of savagery and the heir of a more inhuman character. Small pointed horns sprang out of his frazzled hair. Dark hair that had once been like the slick and polished, glossy strands of a nobleman, and now more like wild dog's. Completely tousled, spiked and uneven. Tall and slender yet full of strength Apollo stood before her, untouchable and daunting. Kittie forced her eyes to stay open and, even if she could, would not allow herself to turn away from the monster.

As if by blinking, there was then light again. Apollo was sitting and the horror was gone almost as if it had never happened. But Kittie was still shaking from before, and knew she had not imagined it. She looked Apollo in the eye and he sneered.

'Well, little girl,' he said, 'are you ready to listen now?' Katherine nodded, not breaking eye contact despite the urge to.

'As I was saying, you are one of the Cursed. I have worked hard and experimented over many years on the humans in order to create a bigger and more powerful breed of demons. My people call these the Cursed, for although they have a new power, they will be a part of the sacrifice to complete our worldwide transformation.'

'I don't see what this has to do with me,' Kittie pouted. Apollo gave her a look of annoyance, but ignored her and continued none the less.

'You see, angels and demons coexist in other worlds, separate from that of the humans. They are called Spiritual Worlds. The angels stay in Heaven in order to use their graces, while the demons in Hell to keep their power and strength. We appear normal in the human world unless we desire otherwise and it has been this way for a good many centuries. Those who wished to stay on earth would gradually loose their gifts and become as equals with the humans. No longer able to upset the balance between our races. We all naturally and eventually adapt to coincide with lesser beings. The unfortunate humans will, however, never be able to improve themselves to be like us.' Apollo wheeled his chair around, facing the back to her. 'We greater demons decided to change this.'

'The Cursed have all been created in different ways, in order to find the most powerful result of our experiment,' he continued. 'That is you Miss Katherine Mitchell. You are our leading and most powerful Cursed. And you will help us along with the others so that we may complete the Great Sacrifice.'

'What sacrifice?' Kittie squeaked, unable to contain her discomfort, 'and how am I powerful? I don't understand. I can't do anything a normal human cannot.'

'We will perform the sacrifice of the Cursed,' Apollo answered, 'It is a demonic ritual that will be completed in the Circle of Runes, the source of all dark magic. When the Cursed have been sacrificed our mission will be complete.' Apollo stood out of his chair and walked over to place a hand on Kittie's shoulder. It was stiff and almost burning. 'As for your power it has now been released. We performed our rituals and unlocked what we had grown inside of you. We have been waiting until it could no longer be contained, and it would've killed you otherwise. All that power is too great for such a small and weak vessel as yourself. You will have to learn your abilities as they will not come naturally.'

'However,' an eyebrow raised, 'The others will not survive the sacrifice but you shall. Which is why I'm explaining all of this to you. I desire your full cooperation and determination to practice your powers so that I may complete my mission. This is of crucial as you must cast most of enchantments and capture the powers from the other Cursed during the ritual. In return I promise you complete safety and any luxury you desire. I want to be allies, Katherine, not enemies.' He patted her shoulder.

'Please now,' he snapped, moving quick as lightening back to his chair, 'Follow Adonna out and to your new chamber. You will have to learn your skills so as to prepare for the ritual. I will give you time to think all of this through and we can discuss how to proceed, but please we are in a rush to get this done as the angels are getting suspicious. So do not dwell on your thoughts too long, and remember there will be consequences if you refuse my offer.'