Just because I think it's long overdue, I've decided to put the Prologue up of The Dark World: A Delacroix Novel for your reading pleasure. Be sure to let me know what you think in the comments! :)
The full moon shone in a bright circle of silver spreading a dim light throughout the night. On the ground below, hushed footsteps hurried along the forest ground, crushing dried leaves and twigs beneath their weight. Both men, draped in dark cloaks, walked along without speaking a word, only the sound of broken twigs destroying the steady silence that passed between them. The older man spotted it first: Wispy, gray smoke drifted lazily into the dark air from a stone chimney attached to a rather shabby cabin.
The slightly shorter man removed his hood upon seeing the cabin revealing a most anxious expression as his silken, jet-black hair reached his back and lay unbound against his cloak. “This is it?” he asked the older man whose hood still rested upon his head; a shadow of black hid his face from view.
This man stood silently, not moving an inch, and the other knew instantly that he must have been lost in deep thought. Not wanting to disturb him but growing all the more impatient as black clouds passed in the violet night sky, he shifted his footing and stared eagerly toward the tattered door for several minutes before he got the nerve to speak.
“Are we going to speak to her or not, brother? I don’t see the reason of coming all this way from the City just to stare at a deceased cabin!”
He withdrew at once, thinking he had crossed the proverbial line drawn for all Vampires: One never spoke to Xavier Delacroix in such a manner; he quite expected a full retort, finished with a long speech about protecting the humans as it was a Vampire’s duty to do so what with the other Dark Creatures roaming about that did not spare a nice feeling for the human race. But instead the continued silence that now pierced his sharp ears was all that was heard.
And at last the cloaked figure stirred: a snarl escaped into the night air like a sharp breeze, blowing leaves and twigs up from the ground in an unseen gust of wind. “Christian.” He stepped toward his younger brother, removing his hood all in the same graceful step. His hair was the same as his brother’s except much longer; it trailed like a second cloak behind his head. His eyes were a dark green which flashed with the beauty of pronounced death, as he placed a gentle, cold hand on his brother’s face. “You must have patience and trust in me. Do you not trust your own brother?” And he mimicked a look of hurt at his brother’s lack of trust in him.
Christian raised an eyebrow. “I trust you, of course,” he said dryly. “But my lack of proper…nutrition has left me with something to be greatly…desired.”
Xavier removed his hand from the Vampire’s face and re-placed it at his side. “Then why have you come?” he asked.
“When you told me Dracula of all Vampires had assigned to you this task, would you not blame me for wishing to tag along?”
He merely watched him. “If you must feed, please do so, Christian. Your health is of extreme importance to me,” he said.
And yet, Christian remained where he stood, hesitancy shining in his dark eyes. “…Even so, I would not want to miss—”
“I shall inform you of whatever you believe you may have missed. It is my duty,” he added.
His black eyes seemed to lessen in their shine although they remained quite hidden from light where they stood, shrouded in the dark protection of trees whose trunks twisted darkly and whose branches hung low, brandishing black leaves.
“Thank you, Xavier,” he said at last, a hint of shame just visible between his eyes, but he turned away from his brother and began his walk back into the trees. Xavier watched him go until at last his silhouette was no more and he grimaced.
Christian was younger, the first one turned out of the remaining Delacroix family tree: he and his brother. Their history was not a pretty one and Xavier knew Christian would always remember it, never forget, silently blaming himself for what transpired all those years before….
He smelled her before he saw her: The rich scent of lilac and freshly drawn blood. He turned his head just in time to see the door swing open. And there she stood, clutching the handle of the old door in her hand still, dressed in a foreign dark blue cloak that swept the cabin floor. Her coffee-colored eyes roamed the clearing and as her pupils dilated she stopped upon the lone figure of Xavier Delacroix. “Alone?” she asked, her voice floating into the night like a smooth breeze not at all pressing.
Xavier turned to her fully now, walking slowly to the door, taking in her beauty, her scent, her hunger…. “I believe so.”
She turned away from the open doorway and walked with eerie grace toward two armchairs, tattered and positively an-cient, that faced the fireplace. She took a seat in one farthest from the door and closed her eyes. Xavier stepped inside, clos-ing the door behind him; he did not sit, he merely stood, watching her as she sat there, clearly distressed. His eyes took in her long black wavy hair as it fell over her shoulders and admired her beauty once again as the fire cast dancing shadows upon her countenance.
“Xavier…Christian wished to feed?” she whispered, never opening her eyes.
“Yes,” he said simply, not thrown off by her incredible ability to know.
“It’s for the best…he would not take kindly to the news I have prepared this night.”
“And that would be…?”
She opened her eyes which were glazed with weakness. “What we need to fight these beasts that threaten our quiet existence with the human world.”
Xavier stepped forward, his dark cloak swishing around his boots. “What is it that we need, Eleanor?”
“Forgive me, for I haven’t fed all night, I am feeling…a bit out of sorts,” her voice barely reaching above a whisper as her low words drifted throughout the cabin.
Xavier walked past the empty armchair and kneeled at her side. “You haven’t fed?” he asked her and she blinked wearily in his direction. “At this rate, you shall die. Quickly, you must drink.” He pulled back his sleeve revealing a pale arm: the veins clearly visible against his white skin.
Eleanor sat up at once, her numerous necklaces clinking together along her breasts, her beautiful face masked by weak-ness, her voice still barely a whisper showing the surprise and alarm at his request, “Drink? Xavier…you must be mad. I cannot possibly drink from another. That is – why that is unheard of!” She sank back into the armchair clearly drained further by the emotion just showed.
He placed a cold finger against her lips to still her from continuing. “Do not speak. Please, Eleanor, you must drink. I will not stand to see another die because they lack nutrition,” he said immediately. Seeing her more than apprehensive expression, he barreled on, “Do not argue further. You must drink. NOW.”
Realizing that protesting was an attempt not worthy, she reluctantly took his arm with shaking fingers and bit. Her eyes turned a deadly crimson red as she drank the blood from his arm, making sure to catch it all. She drank until she shook no more. Letting go of his arm and wiping the sides of her mouth she dared not look in Xavier’s eyes: The shame of what she had just done weighed down upon her and filled her with incredible guilt. One never drank from another. It was forbidden.
She stared into the fire, her voice still a whisper, “Why?”
Xavier’s eyes were kind, yet still cold and wise as he spoke softly, “You are still here are you not?”
“Of course you are. Do not dwell on it further then it needs to be dwelled upon. It has passed, you are alive, and your feeding technique,” he rubbed his hand over his arm as he said this, “is superb.” His lips curved upward as he stared at her for he could not help himself: She had not changed at all: Her desire to uphold the rules still claimed her senses.
She stared at him, unsure of why it was he smiled yet her own lips curved upwards as his smile was contagious. She stood from her seat slowly, her eyes still locked onto his and Xavier followed her movement until they were standing before the fire, their gaze into each other’s eyes unbreakable.
“Eleanor?” his deep voice said quietly, begging her out of his eyes.
“Yes?” she whispered, her eyes shining as the sound of his voice uttering her name sent her cold heart fluttering.
“What news have you for me?”
She blinked incoherently and then dawning realization beckoned. She turned herself away from his eyes, as piercing as they were, and moved to the darker reaches of the cabin where the firelight could not reach and she said, “Dracula has told me he long ago fathered a child…the daughter of whom has long since had a child of her own. He has watched this family closely, in the hopes that one of their offspring will possess his blood undiluted by the blood of humans.”
Xavier heard her footsteps as she stepped along the old floorboards, the cease of her tongue a moment for him to assess what she had just said. She continued after several minutes:
“He has finally come across one such offspring: A girl…well now she is a woman. Her name…is Alexandria Stone. She has shown considerable…talent, is what he’s said, although he wouldn’t expand on what that talent was. He himself has kept his eye on her for the past twenty or so years. He’s watched as she’s grown from afar and he has finally decided to tell us about her. He needs her as her blood is his, and as we know, any human with the blood of a Vampire in their veins must be turned before they suffer a most unsightly death. She is nearing this state. He wants you to find her and bite her, Xavier. Give her your blood and she will help stop the Lycans, once and for all.”
“A human woman commands such power?” he asked, disbelieving.
Her black eyes stared at him from the darkness of the cabin and he could see the faint glint of the silver necklaces she kept around her neck. “Apparently,” she answered him, the note of contempt just hidden beneath the word.
Xavier caught this sliver of contempt and narrowed his eyes; it was highly uncommon for Eleanor Black to ever disa-gree with Dracula’s word.
“And you? What do you think of this woman?”
“I don’t know what to think, Xavier,” she admitted. “He has not told me what she must do to save us from the Lycans, only that she must be tracked down and turned into a Vampire.”
He folded his arms, his brow furrowed as he thought deeply. “If he has watched her, why can he not turn her himself?” he asked after a time.
“Marvelous question,” she said dryly. “I asked this myself when he informed me of what he wished for me to tell you.”
“And what did he say?”
“He didn’t…well not exactly, anyway.” The glint of the many rings upon her fingers caught his eye through the dark-ness and he knew she was interlacing her fingers, thinking deeply just as he was. “He only told me he would not be here for long to continuously watch over the human as he has done before…something about journeying elsewhere for something he would not say,” she finished.
“How odd,” Xavier remarked.
She stepped forward into the light of the fire but remained quite a distance from Xavier and the armchairs he stood by. “He has been acting strange as of late…surely, you’ve noticed it?” she said.
He thought of anything strange he’d noticed from the great Vampire but he could not pinpoint a precise thing…but, indeed, Dracula never before sent Xavier to gather information from another Order Member instead of telling Xavier himself. It was strange, but it was hardly enough of a strange request to warrant any feelings of distrust toward the Vampire, he thought.
“No,” he said simply.
Eleanor stepped an inch closer to him, the back of her still caught in darkness, her front only grazed by the light of the fire, giving her an ethereal, orange glow. “I have,” she said.
“What have you noticed?” Xavier asked.
She turned from him then, her black hair swaying along her back. She did not answer him.
“Eleanor,” he tried again, “what have you noticed?”
His eyes narrowed as he stared at the back of her head. Something was truly amiss. “Eleanor, what’s wrong?” he asked. She stood there as still as a statue; she seemed glued to the weak flooring. She did not respond and the air inside the cabin seemed to crawl suddenly; all was thick and suffocating as though the walls were closing in and there was nothing left to inhale. Hesitantly, he moved his hand to the sheath settled on his waist and exhaled what little air remained in his lungs that did not need to be there. He squeezed the hilt of the sword. “Eleanor.”
The figure in front of him did not move or make a sound and realizing this, Xavier withdrew the Ascalon: a beautifully crafted sword whose silver hilt gleamed underneath his white hand. He tapped the blade of the sword to the cabin floor, pressing a thumb against the sharpened edge, allowing the blood to spill into the pre-made groove lining the blade. His eyes (much against his will), turned a deep red as he stood there staring at Eleanor in front of him. Only, he knew, it wasn’t Eleanor in front of him.
He stepped forward slowly, the sword held erect in his hand and then it hit him and he snarled instinctively: The putrid smell of Lycan was everywhere in the dark cabin and yet, there were no Lycans about.
Eleanor finally turned around; her face covered in blood. Her eyes were a deep, cruel black as she stared upon Xavier. She opened her mouth to speak and a fountain of blood spilled forth, falling all over her front and splattering sickeningly onto the old floorboards. She held out an arm toward the Vampire before her as more blood continued to spill from her open mouth. A low, rough voice came from inside her, gurgled by the overflowing blood, mangled as if forced to sound against a throat that did not want it to speak: “Xavier.”
He stared in disbelief and horror, rooted to the spot by the Creature’s deep dark eyes; its voice was rough and horrid to the ears. He lifted the sword, knowing what he would have to do as the smell of Lycan filth grew stronger, it filled all of his senses and he found it a most disgusting, stifling scent.
What happened next shocked him to the core and caused him to lower his sword in supreme bewilderment: Her black, curly hair fell from her head, her face ripped apart, and her skin fell to the floor gathering in a bloody pile around her feet. Her necklaces fell from her bloody neck as brown, shaggy fur drenched with her blood pushed through Eleanor’s deteriorating body. She soon was no more; instead, there stood an overgrown dog, its head bumping against the cabin ceiling. It looked down at Xavier and instantly barred its three rows of long, sharp teeth, which dripped hungrily with saliva. Its massive paws were finished with extremely long black nails, perfect for scraping the skin off any Vampire that crossed its path. Any Vampire that is, except for Xavier Delacroix.
The shock dissipated as the full extent of what it truly was stood before him and he asked himself wildly how it was possible that he couldn’t smell it before, how it was possible that she drank his blood, how it was bloody possible that a Lycan burst through her body—
The Lycan lunged forward, ripping up the wood floor of the cabin, his teeth baring, dripping hungrily for its next meal…
He moved the sword in one swift movement, slashing the beast in half clear across the middle. Its body shriveled and turned into ash the moment it met the sword lined with Xavier’s blood. He allowed the sword to drop in his hand as the burst of gray ash fell, engulfing him momentarily in their wave, to hit the floorboards that continued to groan in the echoing weight of the Lycan that was no longer there. He then reached a hand inside his cloak to pull forth a small white cloth, wiping his sword clean of any blood, both his and the Lycan’s, and was sure to inhale deeply again for the thing that stifled his senses was gone and so was she…. He, dazedly, stepped over the pile of ash and made his way toward the door, sliding the sword into its sheath. He placed a cold hand on the knob of the door and turned.
The cold, crisp breeze of the night slapped him in the face as he stepped out into the clearing. His black cloak flew wildly around him and he did not step forward to venture into the mass of wood before him, no, he remained there before the open door, staring ahead silently. Waiting. When the figure did not show itself, did he decide it was best to speak: “Who is there?”
He stepped out of the woods fashioned in a silver cloak. His pale, equally silver hair blew across his calm countenance. He made no effort to still the wild hair that hid one violet eye from view. He simply stood there, smiling a marvelous smile at the Vampire before him. “So tell me Xavier,” he said coolly, his voice that of sublime interest in what Xavier could have possibly been told this night, “what have you discovered?”
Xavier smiled back, yet it was slow to stretch across his face. His eyes flashed back to their calm color of dark green as he eyed his great friend, the innumerable source of comfort for any troubling matter for him, besides Dracula of course. “Victor,” his voice soft and controlled yet he could not deny he wished to scream in rage, in agony. He stepped closer to his old friend, destroying the gap of a few feet that was once in between them. “Eleanor is dead.” Not wishing to see the expression that was sure to plaster itself to the Vampire’s face, Xavier looked toward the moon still shining in the sky. “Before she died she spoke to me…a name. The name of a woman: Alexandria Stone,” he finished, bringing his gaze back down to Victor.
“Alexandria Stone,” Victor repeated. His violet eyes darkened slightly as he said it and there was a subtle hint of deep thought lined on his old face, yet he merely said, “How did she die?”
“I do not,” he corrected him.
Victor’s eyes were wide as he searched the cabin behind Xavier for any sign of forced entry, or perhaps, any remnants of brown fur that may have flown from the Lycan before it was sliced by Xavier’s sword….
“It was inside,” Xavier told him.
He turned his gaze back to him. “Inside? How on Earth is that possible? It does not look as though there were any Lycan Creature in there – was it in human form?” he asked skeptically.
Painfully, remorsefully, he recalled the all-too-fresh sight of Eleanor’s skin falling from her body…. Stalling the shudder that arose, he fixed his determined gaze on Victor. “No… it was Eleanor,” he sighed.
The shock on his face was paramount: As the wind blew fiercely still, the spark of bewilderment in Victor’s eyes would not be swept away. “What?” he breathed.
“Not here,” he decided aloud, not wishing to be near the place that still held miniscule traces of her scent. “Another time.”
“Xavier—” he started, but Xavier had already begun to pass Victor, heading into the woods before them.
He eyed him wildly. “Xavier!” he called. The Vampire stopped near a tree, the stretching trunk of it twisting as to cover the back of the Vampire in its black leaves, casting him in the shadow of the wood. “What – what of this name?”
He turned slowly, his gaze distant as the realization of it swept across him. She was dead, but how on Earth was it possible? “Consult Dracula, Victor,” he said quietly. “He was the one who sent me here, after all.”
Victor pulled the hood over his head, still staring incredulously toward Xavier Delacroix. “But Xavier – who is this person?” he asked. “What of Eleanor Black?”
His eyes flashed a deep red as the scene unfurled still within his mind. He had felt a sort of unease as they ventured closer to the cabin, that was true, but he had not sensed any one else but Eleanor inside so how was it possible that a Lycan resided inside her?
“I don’t know who the woman is, Victor,” he said, staring at the Vampire from behind black leaves. “But I am quite sure Eleanor is dead.”
The complete realization of this struck Victor at last and he did not speak, merely observed the face that loved the fallen Vampire so….
“We must go to Dracula,” Xavier said after a time.
He nodded. “I shall get the others—”
Victor watched him, nonplussed.
“Don’t call them,” he said quickly and as Victor scrutinized his expression, he quickly covered with, “I wish to speak to Dracula on the matter privately before the entire Order is involved.”
“But that is not done!” he told him, brow furrowed in question.
Xavier stepped into the light of the moon once more, his red eyes placed carefully upon Victor. He stopped just before the Vampire and said, “I need time to figure out what just happened, Victor. I am not sure, myself.”
Silence dressed the night as Victor thought quietly to himself, taking in Xavier’s face through the darkness of his hood. At last, the hood nodded. “Of course, my friend. I will still my tongue.”
The red eyes flashed back to the calm green yet slightly darker, Victor noticed. Not commenting on this, he nodded to Xavier and turned his thoughts to the Vampire City. Xavier did the same. Without another word to each other, they disappeared into the night leaving the pale moonlight to shine upon untouched ground.