Monday, 17 October 2016

Chapter Sixteen

As the sounds of chaos and some sort of pitched battle against god knows what raged around them, Faulkner and Alice found themselves squeezed into what really was a very snug priest hole, the lady the doctor had loved and lost perched somewhat intimately on his knee. Faulkner was far too aware of her proximity, her warmth, the fragility of her in his arms. He was also too aware of that earlier kiss, of the fact that  he wanted to kiss her again and really shouldn't, that somewhere out there the world seemed to be ending even as he was safe here, pretending it wasn't.

"It is warm in here," Alice's murmur somewhat mirrored his own thoughts, her head moving just enough to be resting against his shoulder.

"It's summer," was his reply, "Even with snow."

"Even with snow..." her agreement was accompanied by the brush of her lips against his neck, though it could not, he was sure, have been intentional. It would be so easy to capture those lips for a kiss yet he mustn't, Faulkner knew, even as his eyelids closed for a moment. When his eyes opened again it was to find her watching him closely, gaze soft, those lips ever so slightly parted.

"You should be in bed," even as he said it, he heard it; to anyone else it was a concerned doctor... Said to Alice Brandenburg it sounded like clumsy seduction. 

"I'd rather," her gaze never faltered, "Be with you."

"On that score, I can oblige." At his words Alice gave a smile and let her head rest on Faulkner's shoulder, the brush of her hair  soft and careful as she cuddled closer. This was not his life, he knew, yet when her lips found his for another kiss, he realised that it could be.  The nightgown that Alice wore, sensible and respectable, seemed suddenly very thin, Faulkner's free hand resting a little awkwardly on Alice's hip, feeling the warmth of her skin beneath. His own suit, black and starched and formal, was too warm in this confined space, though he knew that the source of that heat was rather more to do with the woman on his lap than the outfit he wore. 

"I've never sat on anyone's lap in a priest hole before," the whispered words against his lips sent a thrill through him. 

"I'm sure the priest wouldn't object..." He was surprised at his own words, recognising not the doctor, but perhaps a little of the other persona, the one he had sought to set aside. "And if he does, I'll deal with it."

"The priest," she pointed out, voice low, "Isn't here."

Faulkner nodded, just time to steal another kiss before the silence in the room beyond was broken by the flapping of leathery wings. It ceased in a moment, followed by a scraping, scratching that made his skin crawl. The creature, the doctor realised, was seeking them out, whatever fingernails it possessed tracing the panels, the walls, looking for a way in. Alice's fear was palpable, even her breath stilled as they listened and waited, helpless to do anything else as the creature continued in its quest to reach them. 

If Faulkner could speak, could even whisper without fear of discovery he would tell her that nothing would harm her, that he would lay down his own life for her, that no harm would come to her tonight. Instead though he held Alice closer than ever, hearing the snuffle, the scraping drawing closer, pausing on the other side of the concealed doorway through which they had bundled themselves. The movement paused, mere inches of panelling between Alice and Faulkner and the thing outside, the doctor staring into the murk at the wall, listening to the nails seek and investigate, test and taste, the air filling with the scent of sulphur. It seemed to go on forever and then, with the sound of wings beating once more, the darkness somehow lightened a little and the stench cleared, leaving them alone in their place of sanctuary.

He felt the breath she let out, eyes wide as she whispered, "God, Robert...."

"That was close even for me..."

"What if they come back?"

"They won't," the Scot was sure of that, knowing that the creature would not have left if it believed its quarry to be within its grasp. 

"I am afraid," the admission, he could tell, was not made lightly, the trust she put in him with those simple words touching him deeply despite the peril of their situation.

"No harm will come to you," Faulkner took Alice's face gently in his hands, meeting her gaze with his own, "On my life, I swear you are safe."

"I should not have let you go," she whispered, "And I will not let you go again."

"We're together now," was his gentle reply, "And now is all that matters."

"We need to get out of here," he saw the realisation cross her face, "Don't we?"

"I think it might be the safest place in the house..." The doctor admitted, adding, "They don't know we're here."

"What are they?"

Faulkner couldn't let himself think about that, couldn't let his head become anymore clouded than it was tonight. All of this could be faced when the world was sane, when creatures from a nightmare weren't scraping at the walls. 

"We'll think about that tomorrow," he let his forehead rest against hers, needing the steadiness, the sanity of another's touch. "And who they are looking for."

"Who?" he felt her tense then.

"The heir to the throne... the missing Prussian prince..." Faulkner mused aloud​, silently adding the list of various European somebodies to that list​. 

“Then we should be safe!”

"As long as we're hidden," he decided, "We are."

Monday, 3 October 2016

Chapter Fifteen

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She would not think of any of it, Mary told herself as she stalked through the gardens at the back of the house, tracks clear in the now-thick snow, not the state of her mistress, nor the ridiculous weather, and certainly not him, the man or whatever he was that owned this house and had left her feeling a fool. Let him roam hallways in his linens and climb trees and fall out of trees and kiss her and - no, his mischief had gone too far and she would not permit it again. He would be laughing at her with the likes of Sophia Brandenburg she was sure, the thought sending a jolt of embarrassment and annoyance through her.

I don't care, she told herself firmly, I don't care and I will not think on him again. How dare he!

At the suggestion of movement in the trees on the horizon she froze, recognising the lope of a wolf before she heard its unmistakeable bay. The full moon shone down, bathing the snow in a bright white light and ahead, like shadow puppets in the copse, the creatures prowled. Slowly, carefully, she took a step back, and then another, heart hammering and senses on full alert as she judged the distance to the house and safety. She was barely breathing, watching the four enormous creatures emerge from the trees, long snouts moving as they caught her scent, tasted the air. Red eyes flashed, jaws gaping momentarily to expose yellowing teeth as with a low growl, the beasts made their slow, deliberate way towards her.

They had seen her, her chances if she turned and ran not good she knew just from the look of them. She was outsized and out numbered, but her only choice now to stand and face them. The wolf at the head of the pack was a matt of tangled, dirty brown fur, its shoulders sloping low as it stared at her, nose just moving to savour the fragrance of its prey. The jaw moved just a little, teeth grinding and then it dropped low, muscles tensed to spring. Mary had mere seconds before the creature pounced towards her, its brethren howling their excitement, bays rending the air.

The danger was too close, too raw, and she turned before she could think, terror pushing her to flight even as she knew it to be hopeless. For a second, no more, Mary felt a blaze of pain when the wolf landed atop her, its claws slashing into her skin and then the crushing weight was gone, the howls of triumph becoming yelps of fear as the other beasts turned tail and ran. She couldn't move, the pain blotting out almost everything else as she lay in the snow, breath coming in sharp gasps.

Mary's eyes struggled to focus but when they did, they found the immaculate figure of Mishael de Chastelaine stood between her and the wolf. He was clad in crimson silk, the silver-handled walking cane held in one hand whilst the other was extended, palm upwards towards the creature that had attacked her. The wold was suspended in mid air, held for a few seconds as her rescuer murmured in some unknown tongue and then, with a flash of light, send the canine flying backwards towards the trees. It landed in a heap before, with a yelp, it followed its brothers into the darkness.

She couldn't move, a soft whimper escaping her lips as she tried to move her injured limb. It was worse that he had seen her like this, even as she felt a treacherous gladness at his presence, eyes closing briefly as her head flopped down onto the snow.

"You are wounded," his words were soft, gentle, no trace of his usual teasing. "It should be healed... Let me?"

She tried to shake her head but the pain was too great, another whimper escaping as she tried to move.

"You will forgive me, madam," Mishael murmured with utmost chivalry and Mary opened her eye to see him drop to one knee and release the cane that, somehow, remained upright in mid-air. Very gently he took the paw of the silver grey wolf that was sometimes Mary Lambert in one hand, his brow furrowing as he let his dark gaze travel over the wound, blood pooling where her skin had been torn open in a long, ragged gash by the razor sharp claw of her adversary.

She wanted to look away but found she could not, her own gaze fixed on the wound, pain and humiliation rushing through her.

"There is no shame," Mishael closed his free hand over the wound, a heat coursing through her as he did, "In accepting the help of a friend."

Mary forced herself to meet his gaze, the pain slowly but surely giving way to the heat that now blotted out all else. He began to murmur in that same unknown tongue, hand stroking gently over Mary's wounded paw, smoothing down the fur until he lifted his hand from the wound and then raised her paw to his lips, bestowing it with a very soft kiss, lips pressed there for long seconds. Only then did he draw the tip of his tongue along the ragged line of the wound, the blood ceasing to flow beneath his touch. Her eyes closed for the briefest of moments then, opening again to find the pain gone, though the heat remained from the press of his lips.

"My lady," he raised his head, "Might you allow me to escort you back to the house?"

She had a choice, she knew, even as she inclined her own head in assent, following an instinct stronger and deeper than anything that could be put into words.

“Wait,” he snatched up the cane and cast a glance to the storm clouds above; Mishael’s whole demeanour changed then and he whispered, “Follow me and trust me; I will find you when the danger has passed."

The story continues on 17th October!