Dark Curse (Deamhan Chronicles #2)

CHAPTER ONE

 

Silvanus watched happily as Selene’s victim whimpered on the wooden floor, trying to free herself from the frayed rope tied around her wrists and ankles. Mascara ran down her dirty skin in small trails and her eyes shuffled back and forth, hidden by strands of brown scraggly hair that stuck to her sweaty and round face.

He extended his hand out to her, seeing if she would take it. Instead the victim screamed but the gag in her mouth muted her terrifying plea. He liked looking at her. Like many victims from his murky past, she shifted her shaking body away from his gesture, whimpered, and closed her eyes.

“Is it too tight?” he asked gently.

Her lips quivered under the tightened rope.

Silvanus smiled and quietly chuckled. He had pulled her short, pink and white dress up to her chest, revealing her soiled under garments and her white bra straps dangling over her breasts. Her appearance alone turned him on.

Selene knew how to pick them.

She knew he preferred his human victims to have light colored hair. Their blood tasted sweet and they were easier to handle. Now they became hard to come by and he felt lucky if he had at least one a week. The human in front of him wasn’t a whore but a waitress on her way home from Barney’s restaurant located in downtown Minneapolis but she’d suffice.

The body of another waitress with her throat ripped opened and her lifeless eyes staring at the ceiling lay motionless next to his victim. Blood oozed from two puncture wounds on her neck and it peppered the ceiling and the wall in dark spots. Smeared blood trails traveled on the tile floor in different directions. His dead victim had a fighter’s spirit, which Silvanus hadn’t seen in ages. Only until Selene beat her into unconsciousness did he realize how much human women had changed over time. No longer did they assume the role of maidens in distress. There wasn’t a white knight in shining armor to come to their rescue. No, they seemed weaker yet more confrontational and her blood itched when it swam down his throat. It tasted stale and old, not like the fresh sweeter blood he craved.  Not the best meal but a free catch nonetheless.

Silvanus looked at Selene while she sat on a leather couch in the opposite corner of the room. Her long reddish hair draped over her shoulder and she crossed her legs as she drummed her fingers on the chair’s armrest.

“You seem preoccupied, my dear Selene. What’s on your mind?” Instead of replying, she remained silent.

Nothing about her had changed since the first time Silvanus met her. He remembered their encounter as if it’d happened yesterday. Mid 1400s—Northern Italy. He had laid waste to a small village near the border. The scent of honeysuckle mixed with the concentrated smell of iron and blood wasn’t hard to miss. She watched him from the shadows as he glorified in his kills. He heard her snickers as he played with the scared children of the family he slaughtered. He looked in her direction and heard her gasp in delight. When night came and the town stood silent, she finally appeared from the solace of her hiding spot among the forest and like a furtive Lugat, she drained any psychic imprints from the remaining buildings, objects, and eventually the dead. Later she helped him set fire to the small wooden shacks lining the only road into town. They then parted ways for what Silvanus thought would be forever until she called for him to come to Minneapolis just months ago.

Selene’s believed that getting rid of Kei in Minneapolis was the best thing for all Deamhan. From what he learned and witnessed with his own eyes, Deamhan were out of control with no one to guide them. The Ramanga with their sharp pointed fangs, butchered any human they set their eyes upon. The Lamia preferred draining the life force from the more antisocial humans, which included small defenseless human babies. The most cautious Deamhan, Metusba, no longer cared if their victims saw them feeding off their auras. The Lugat, who Silvanus called “Bottom Feeders” sucked away any leftover psychic imprints of humans they never attempted to eat from in the past.

The only Deamhan who kept them in line was Lucius and Kei placed him in Limbo. Without him, things ran amok. What Kei did to his sire couldn’t be forgiven, not by Silvanus and especially not by Selene. Order needed to be restored and only an Ancient like Lucius could do it.

Minneapolis wasn’t Silvanus’ home and Lugat disputes weren’t his problems, but Selene offered money if he came to help her and who could resist money? She freed Lucius and he helped her dethrone Kei. Now finding himself swimming in the comfortable throes of ecstasy, he came to her sanctuary to collect on her offer.

When Selene finally returned last night, dragging the two humans into her sanctuary and explaining to Silvanus that she’d joined Lucius in his search for Kei, he knew she lied to him. Every Deamhan lied. It was part of their nature. Something else also troubled him. Things didn’t feel as easy as they looked. Silvanus believed in premonitions and predictions and he trusted his gut feelings. They told him to get out of Minneapolis, to stay away from Selene, and to watch his back.

“When are you going to kill the human?” Selene’s green eyes gazed around the room.

“Oh so you speak.” Silvanus folded his arms across his chest. “I don’t want to be greedy. You can have the first taste.”

“It’s my gift to you, for coming here in my time of need.” She stood up, swiped her hair to her back, and walked across the room over to a large window.

Silvanus watched her pull back the thin white curtains and look calmly out at the small lake in the back yard. The water thawed due to the mild spring weather. Stars dotted the sky and the moon’s glow brightened the darkened lake, glistening on the small ripples.

“I had nothing else better to do, Selene. And I like money.”

“Yes. You want your payment now, I suppose?”

“I’d like that.”

“After you finish the human. My gift to you.”

Silvanus cocked his head to the side. Something definitely wasn’t right. “I’d like to share this meal with you. Or we can save her for later if you like?”

“I’ve already eaten. She won’t stop her whimpering. It’s annoying. Kill her now.”

He knelt near his victim. He placed his hand on her thigh and squeezed until she let out a painful scream. “But I like it when they whimper.”

“That’s not the point.” She closed the curtain.

“They plead, they scream, they beg. It’s like playing God, wouldn’t you say?” He stood up. “What more is there?” He stared at her. Again his feelings told him to get as far away from her as possible, however he wasn’t afraid. He had age, speed, and strength on his side.

Selene sighed and slowly walked over to him. “We’re not gods.” He watched her hips move sensually from side to side in her white satin gown stained with splotches of blood and human hair. The fabric gently grazed over her breasts.

“Never said we are.”

She approached his victim and without hesitation lifted the woman to her feet. “The very first Deamhan were gods.” She dug her nails into the woman’s arms. “The Pure Ones and we are not them.” The woman screamed and blood trickled from her pinpoint wounds. Selene examined the warm blood over her hand. “We can never be them. We’re nothing but half breeds. We’re poor examples of what true Deamhan are and should be.”

“What’s on your mind?”

She placed her index finger over his mouth. “Nothing.”

He opened his mouth slowly, allowing for the liquid to touch the tip of his tongue.

“Pure Ones” was a term Silvanus hadn’t heard in years. In fact, he couldn’t recall any time when Selene used that phrase to talk about the very first Deamhan. He considered it to be inexact. His own sire had told him stories about the very first Deamhan, the Pure Ones, who were stronger than he or anyone who came after could ever be. Being the very first Deamhan, they were immune to sunlight and they could live without feeding. At first he didn’t understand how anyone, human or Deamhan, could believe in those mythological tales. He thought of them as lies, told to his kind to keep them in line, just like ancient Biblical stories of God versus Satan, good versus evil. All that changed centuries ago when he finally realized that there was truth behind those stories.

“Be careful my dear,” he said. “You’re making it sound as if our existence means nothing.”

“It isn’t compared to our creators,” she answered.

“When did you start to care about this pure Deamhan stuff?” He opened his mouth wider.

Selene inserted her finger into his mouth and he began to suck, his tongue twirling the blood. She removed her finger and placed both of her hands on the woman’s outfit. Her eyes fluttered.

“Since I was awakened.” She quickly snapped her victim’s neck.

Silvanus chuckled at her evil display. “And here I thought you weren’t hungry.”

“I’m not.”

He watched her body gracefully accept the energy she took. Sometimes he loathed her urbane ways. Maybe because his kind, the the Ramanga—the bloodsuckers—felt tousled by the way they fed. Even he had a hard time not spilling blood. Nevertheless, Selene’s kind—the Lugat—didn’t take nor need blood, which made them weak among the Ramanga according to him. The human’s psychic energy slowly regenerated Selene’s body.

Silvanus felt the blood in his mouth absorb into the inside of his cheek and it rushed through his system. Immediately he felt a quick sharp pain in his mouth and his legs began to wobble underneath him.

“Blood is such a tricky substance.” She walked over to a tall bookcase next to the couch. He clutched his stomach, feeling the blood circling.

He felt the inside of his body tense and retract. He felt the stings of the blood like pinpoint needles. Then the heat came followed by tremendous pain. It was foul. He opened his mouth to speak but another sharp pain brought him to his knees. Through his emaciated vision he saw Selene reach for a stake on the top shelves of the bookcase.

“What is this?” His question went unanswered. He never felt this horrid before. He concentrated. Think.

Tainted blood had no effect on a Lugat but it had the ability to cause major harm to a Ramanga.

“You knew it was tainted?” No longer could his knees hold his weight. He fell to the floor in the small pool of his victim’s coagulated blood.

“Why would you trust another Deamhan to pick your meal?” She approached him, still gripping the wooden stake in her hand. Before he could question her she spoke again. “I didn’t think you would’ve been so naive to fall for that old trick.” She stood over him and watched his eyes flutter. “You’re an Ancient, Silvanus; older than me. You should’ve known better.”

Her statement meant little to Silvanus and he attempted to raise himself off the floor. “I guess I just trust my own kind more than you do.”

She placed her foot on his chest. “And that is where you fail.” She kicked him back to the floor.

He stared into her eyes and tried to notice her thoughts but a strong barrier blocked his attempt. “Are you going mad?” Again, something wasn’t right.

“I’m not going to kill you.” She raised the stake in the air and prepared to strike.

“That stake says otherwise.” His eyes widened. Throughout the centuries that he had walked the earth, he had never experienced what it was like to be staked. Sure, he knew a stake wouldn’t kill him unless it struck his heart, but no one in their right mind would have the balls to do to him what she attempted to do now.

With what little energy he had left he reached for her wrist and held on tight. Even though weak, he felt strong enough to counteract her strength. He watched as her eyes widened but a slight gust of wind caught him off guard. Hard hands gripped him by his shoulders and forced him back down onto the floor. He looked up to see a familiar Deamhan kneeling over him.

“Lucius?” For a short moment Silvanus thought he had gone mad.

His mind filled with scenarios as to why Lucius appeared. As Selene’s sire, he had a duty to protect his own, however, it was her who followed his every word. She worshipped the ground he walked on unlike Kei who hated him. This had to be Lucius’ plan.

Selene plunged the stake into his chest, just inches from his heart.

He moaned and wrapped his hand around the wooden stake, unable to pull it free. A sharp excruciating pain shot through his entire body. He needed to pull it out before she made her next move or before they killed him.

He chuckled under his breath. The stake hurt like a son of a bitch and it’d take strength that he didn’t have at the moment to remove it. “Like sire, like offspring.”

Lucius tilted his head to the left, staring at the spectacle. His thin lips parted slightly and his brown colored short hair fell forward. His face, covered with small scars, added to his mystical appearance. “Don’t bother hiding your thoughts. I’m able to read them as clear as day.”

“Why should I?” Silvanus whispered. “I don’t have anything to hide from you.” He stared at Lucius. “So, how can I be of assistance?”

Lucius spoke quietly. “Kyra.”

Kyra? He hadn’t heard from her in decades. She had the title of being one of the oldest Deamhan on the living planet at one point; older than he, Lucius, and Selene combined. The last time he saw her, she helped him when he declared a Decretum against another Deamhan in Chicago decades ago.

Lucius wanted to know about the Dark Curse.

Silvanus tried to penetrate through Lucius’ thoughts but Lucius forcefully kept him out. He then felt the force beginning to burrow into his own memories and Silvanus tried to push it back.

Mind reading came with being a Deamhan. But like humans, Deamhan could train themselves to keep others out of their thoughts. However, he felt useless as Lucius continued to dig.

Silvanus grasped the stake and attempted to pull. His strength faded and his arms began to quiver. “I don’t know where she is.” He felt his face growing numb and his speech slurred. “That’s the truth.”

“You were once close to her, were you not?” Lucius replied. “You followed her orders then and you do so now.”

Silvanus chuckled and felt his blood gurgling in his throat. “If you call a onetime meet in which she scared and frightened all Deamhan in the city, claimed what she wanted, then disappeared ‘close’ then yes, we were close.”

Selene twisted the stake and Silvanus let out a howl.

The pain became unbearable and he begged for her to stop. “Read my thoughts. I don’t know where she is!” A trickle of blood ran from the left corner of his mouth. “She contacts me when she wants to be found.” He felt Lucius continue the onslaught on his thoughts. He’d never felt a force as strong as this in his entire existence, not even from his own sire. He had several centuries over Lucius so stopping him from reading his thoughts should’ve been easy. Silvanus came to one conclusion. Whatever happened to Lucius while in Limbo had somehow made him stronger.

“He’s telling the truth.” Lucius stood up.

“So how are we going to find Kyra?” Selene asked.

“He isn’t the only other Deamhan who knows.” He continued to stare at Silvanus. “There is another one out there; a young Deamhan who also follows her orders.”

“Who is this Deamhan?” Selene questioned.

“Ayden.”

Selene narrowed her eyes. “Should I remove the stake now?”

“No. We will kill him.”

Selene stepped back. “But you said—”

“Don’t question me.”

Selene folded her arms across her chest. “He is our friend and a strong ally.” She glared down at Silvanus for a second. “Are you sure that we have to? He could be useful.”

“This is what she demanded of us, Selene,” Lucius replied. “Do you want to disobey her?”

Selene slowly lowered her arms. “Of course not.”

“Then kill him and be done with it.”

Silvanus watched Selene kneel down next to him. She gripped the wooden stake with both hands and immediately pulled it out. Silvanus felt the pain subside for a moment but his body still reeled from the attack. His watered eyes watched Lucius turn away and clasp his hands behind his lower back.

She raised the stake and aimed the pointed edge just above his heart. He felt his body tense and at the same time he began to heal—just a few more seconds before he would be strong enough to get to his feet and defend himself.

But he didn’t have any more seconds. Selene thrust the stake into his chest and he felt the pointed edge embed into his heart.

Silvanus closed his eyes and waited for the pain to subside. He always thought of death as something that’d never catch up with him in a million years. He’d lived longer than the majority of the Deamhan who ever existed and he never thought in those years that he’d go out like this.

Two thousand years. He sniggered at that thought.

In reality, there wasn’t any other way he wanted to die unless it was by the hands of another Deamhan.

He felt relieved that his species hadn’t lost their touch.

 

CHAPTER TWO

 

The blood intoxicated Anastasia. It filtered through the air, mixing in with human sweat and fear. She closed her brown eyes and let the smell tickle her nerves while it traveled through every inch of her body. It circled through her heart and it would’ve made it beat faster, if it pumped at all.

The sanctuary saturated itself in it.

The human minion continued to tussle with her. He scratched her wrist in an attempt to free himself. She felt the warm liquid from her previous victims sticking to her face, covering her eyelids, and slowly dripping into her mouth. She opened her eyes letting it drip into them and she blinked, absorbing it into her body.

She stared into the eyes of the terrified human male. Tears rolled down his dirt-stained face creating small clear trails. His eyes shifted nervously left to right at the mutilated bodies surrounding him. She had killed every one of them, with her bare hands, and fed from them. He would be her last.

“One more time.” She increased her grip around his neck and pulled him in closer. “And do not lie to me, human.”

His eyes bulged and moved from her to the three bodies positioned on the couch, all leaning on one another in the living room. He saw one body of a female surrounded in a pool of blood in the middle of the floor. Near the kitchen three more bodies lay on the floor with their throats torn open. Another body remained seated at the kitchen table with its head lolled back, revealing a bite mark on its neck. He turned back to Anastasia who continued to stare at him with dark, menacing eyes and sharp teeth.

“I don’t know anything, I swear.” He stuttered as he spoke to her.

Anastasia increased her grip around his neck. “You know what I can do, what I will do. So tell me what I want to know and I won’t hurt you.”

He nodded frantically. “All the Deamhan left.”

She sighed and she slowly released her grip. She examined the area while in thought. In a three-hour period she had decimated four sanctuaries in her search for any Deamhan who supported Kei and in every sanctuary the minions fought her to the last person. It made no sense to her. Why try to fight for a Deamhan that cared nothing about them? In each sanctuary the Deamhan abandoned their human minions, their servants, in fear of Lucius’ reprisal. Selene declaring a Decretum, an order condemning Kei and his followers, ended up being the best thing that happened for the Deamhan in the city in a while.

The minion rubbed his throat and smiled, showing off his mottled teeth. “The sun is out Ramanga. It’s morning.”

Anastasia looked over her shoulder at the window. Between the cracks in the white bloody blinds the sun peaked through, slightly blinding her. Her first instinct was to retreat into the darkest corners of the room, but she didn’t want the minion to see an ounce of fear in her. Ramanga Deamhan feared nothing. She feared nothing.

The minion slowly raised himself to his feet with the support of the wall behind him. “I swear, I’m not lying to you.”

She picked at the clumps of hair and matter underneath her fingernails. “You minions are known to lie to protect the one you serve.”

“No!” The minion dropped to his knees. “I swear. Please.”

“Who do you serve?” Anastasia picked at the unwanted pieces of human flesh in her dark hair and she flicked it at him.

“I… I…”

“Who is your master?”

“He…I.” The minion forced a weak smile on his face. “I only serve you.”

“I don’t need a human to do my work for me.” She grabbed him by the arm and lifted him to his feet. “Answer my question.”

He remained silent.

She placed her hands on the side of his face and glared into his eyes.  Staring into them she felt herself slowly entering his thoughts and losing all control. Quick images of his rocky childhood and his mischievous teenage years slammed into her with full force in sharp images. She caught a glimpse of his business career cut short by his wife cheating with a coworker. In a sanctuary on the coast of Virginia, he brought prostitutes from the street to his Deamhan master. For his reward they promised immortality. To Anastasia, these thoughts weren’t relevant. What she wanted to know remained hidden from her. Surprised, she lowered her hands.

“You’re blocking me.” She squinted.

The minion fell to the ground, wiping the blood that trickled from his nose. He then looked up at her. “I’m not hiding anything,” he said in his drowsy state. “I’m telling the truth. I don’t know anything.”

“So it seems.” Anastasia lifted him back to his feet. She stared at him, contemplating her next move. She could easily kill him and move on to the next sanctuary.

His constant fidgeting brought her back to reality.  She snapped his neck and his body fell to the floor.

She walked slowly over to the blinds, wiping the blood from her victims on the back of her black pants. The bright morning sunlight singed her eyes and she moved back into the darkness. She didn’t fear sunlight nor did she hate it. If only her kind could go out during the day, she’d take advantage of it. The sun wouldn’t kill her instantly because of her age. However, too much exposure for a long period of time would still slowly boil her from the inside out. Stories of her kind being able to survive in the sunlight passed down from generation to generation but in her four hundred plus years of existence, she’d never come across any Deamhan who could survive in the sun without some kind of protection. Then again, much of what her sire told her, she didn’t believe anyway.

Since Kei and some of his supporters fled the city of Minneapolis, everything seemed different. They’d left a gaping hole which began to fill with vampires and other sorts of creatures she hadn’t seen in centuries. Even though she loathed the vampires more than Deamhan, they became much easier to deal with than the other creatures.

The smell of blood returned to her nostrils and she closed her eyes again, basking in the odor. She flicked her dark black hair from her right shoulder to her back and she retracted her sharp, Ramanga teeth. She walked into the kitchen and slowly approached the basement door. Gripping the knob, she opened it slowly and glared down into the basement’s obscure darkness. The first wooden step was rotted through and she tested it by placing her foot gently on it. Satisfied of its strength, she retreated down into the dark abyss and reached the cold floor within seconds. The smell of dank, wet concrete tingled her superb Deamhan sense of smell. She swiped her hand on the wall, looking for the switch to turn on the light but her eyes slowly adjusted and slowly the outline of three rows of coffins appeared to her.

She never liked coffins, even in her day when many Deamhan she knew vouched for them. When she did own one, just for the sake of owning one, it felt too confining and too close to the superstitions that humans had of vampires. She didn’t bother stealing another.

She walked slowly through the aisle, placing her fingers on each empty coffin that she walked by. At the end a white polished coffin exuded the stench of an unfamiliar odor. It made her roll her eyes. Leave it to a Deamhan to fulfill the stereotype of a vampire.

A small whimper from upstairs interrupted her thoughts.

She abruptly turned her attention to the basement stairs. She remained quiet and with all her concentration focused on the noise. The whimpering continued, followed by slow pacing footsteps. She walked over to the edge of the stairs and her nose caught a whiff of the unfamiliar scent again.

She didn’t smell it when she first walked through the doors, but she knew this sanctuary smelled different when she first entered. A mixed sanctuary wasn’t anything new to her. She had visited many like this one in her past. Centuries ago she took refuge in one. She walked up the stairs, taking her time, careful not to make a noise. She reached the top and the smell became stronger, seeping from the direction of the stairs to the second floor.

Anastasia slowly ascended the stairs, reaching the top landing of the second floor when the footsteps and whimpering stopped. She stood glaring at the dark hallway ahead of her. Anastasia walked by a poorly unkempt bathroom, glancing in to see its only window covered with makeshift cardboard and the bathtub filled with plastic bottles and other garbage. Cockroaches ran freely along the base of the hallway floor and across its stained worn-out carpet.

She placed her hands on the wall and continued down the hallway. She could never compare all of the smutty, overcrowded sanctuaries she had destroyed in Minneapolis with what real sanctuaries should be. The minions maintained the cleanliness to please their Deamhan masters but in this sanctuary, they lacked that specific talent.

The fetid smell became stronger and this time it tickled her nose. The stench overpowered her. Whomever the smell belonged to, she had to be careful. Any Deamhan was a potential threat. She had to stay out of reach of the Metusba who fed on the aura of their victims. She had to stay feet from the Lamia, who fed off the life force, which emulated from a victim’s mouth. She had to stay inches from the Lugat, who fed off the leftover psychic imprints. However, she didn’t mind staying close to her own type, the Ramanga, who fed off blood. The confrontation itself would soothe her already disgruntled nerves.

“I know you’re here.” Anastasia reached out to touch the walls, feeling the grime and dirt sticking to her fingertips. She reached the door and heard a set of two footsteps pacing. She paused in front of the door before twisting the doorknob to open it but it was locked from the inside. Beneath the door she saw a shadow scurrying from left to right.

Anastasia placed her hands on the door and pushed it open. It flew across the room, splintering in half and it hit the opposite side of the bedroom wall. Stained yellow dots peppered the wall and the air smelled like old rainwater that exuded from the roof. A stained mattress with ruffled covers sat in the middle of the floor. Anastasia saw them in the dark, huddled together in the corner. She stepped in, viewing the scattered toys around the room. In the corner the two young females stood silently with their eyes concentrated on her.

Anastasia stopped in her walk. The Dictum, a set of laws for the Deamhan, forbids their kind to sire someone so young, but no one paid attention to those laws anymore. Even she found herself guilty of disobeying a few of them. But the discovery of these two young girls silenced her voice. They smelled like Deamhan but she had yet to figure out what type of Deamhan they were.

She grinded her teeth and her mouth dropped slightly. “What are you?”

The two young girls didn’t speak. The youngest one cradled her torn teddy bear further into her chest.

“Why are your scents masked?”

Again they didn’t answer.

“What clan are you from?” The question seemed ridiculous to her but only after she had said it.

She finally got her answer.

The oldest girl gripped the younger one and they shifted further back into the shadowed corner. Then, without warning, Anastasia witnessed sharp fangs in the oldest girl’s mouth.

Her eyes bulged. Ramanga? She knew of all the Ramanga Deamhan in the city but these two children didn’t appear on her radar. Now she questioned who sired them and why.  She sniffed again, to ensure her discovery. Still staring at them, she continued to wonder how many other Ramanga lived in the city right under her nose.

Anastasia acted fast.

She took another step forward and the girls sulked themselves further back into the corner. She stopped in mid-stride. “I won’t hurt you.” She wanted to stop them before they disappeared into the shadows. “You must be the oldest.” She pointed to the older girl with short brown hair. “Is she your sister?”

The youngest girl nodded but still didn’t speak.

Anastasia understood why they feared her. Still covered in dried blood, the girls smelled her Deamhan scent. Every Deamhan feared the Ramanga, even other Ramanga. They had the sharpest teeth.

“Who sired you? Where are you from? How long have you been here?” Becoming impatient, she inundated the girls with questions. While she wanted to know every single detail about them, her thoughts drifted to ripping their throats with her teeth.

The oldest girl stood up slowly and straightened the ruffles of her dirtied pink dress. Besides their obvious ignorance of cleanliness, they represented the other spectrum of their environment and this added to Anastasia’s curiosity. They belonged to someone; perhaps a minion Anastasia killed downstairs or someone who sired them and left. The youngest girl remained seated, cradling a small naked doll near her chest.

“I won’t hurt you, I promise,” Anastasia lied.

The oldest girl slowly stepped in front of her sister. “I’m not afraid of you,” she said in a shaky voice as her eyes turned black.

Anastasia slightly smiled, knowing that wasn’t the case.

“Don’t come any closer,” her childish voice warned.

Anastasia had no intention of doing anything to them yet. She watched the oldest girl ball her tiny fist, preparing herself for Anastasia’s attack. Anastasia sensed the little girl’s bravery and if it were any other circumstance, she would commend it. The little girl also reminded her of another girl, a human, whose family she’d slaughtered years ago in northern Minnesota during their hiking vacation. The memory began to singe within her. It wasn’t normal to think of her victims that way. Just the hint of sorrow made her feel weak and she immediately silenced the thought.

“I won’t come closer if you answer my questions, girl.”

“We know who you are.” The oldest girl lifted her sister to her feet.

“So then you understand why it’s in your best interest to answer my questions.”

The oldest girl wrapped her arm around her younger sister, pulling her in close by her side. Anastasia leaned against the wall. They looked beautiful, so young, and so innocent. Beautiful? Nothing should be beautiful. Were all Ramanga children like this? She had to admit, she fancied the thought.

“Where is your sire?”

The oldest girl shrugged.

“What are your names?” Anastasia asked. Still sensing that they didn’t trust her, she continued, “I won’t hurt you if you tell me what I need to know.”

The older girl spoke up. “Aisha and my sister, Annabelle.”

“Okay, Aisha.” Anastasia lowered herself to the floor in front of them, crossing her legs. “Who sired you?”

Annabelle looked up at her sister who stared at the floor in hesitation. Anastasia placed her elbow on her leg and she leaned her face into her hand. She couldn’t remember the last time she was ever this resigned.

“We can’t tell you,” Aisha answered.

“Can’t or won’t?”

“Can’t.”

“Fine.” She rolled her eyes. “But if not me, then who would you trust? A minion downstairs?”

Aisha shook her head no.

“You know that I am also a Ramanga. I can protect you. If others find out that you’re here, they won’t take their time killing you.”

Finally the little girl opened her mouth. “You won’t kill us?”

She quickly glanced at the girl. “No, I won’t.” For the first time in her existence, she didn’t know how to respond. She was usually quick on the draw, but this time she felt something that she couldn’t explain. Her maternal instincts kicked in.

She had never felt anything like it, even before she became a Ramanga.

She still remembered her human life and the need she had to be a wife and have children of her own. She spoke to her fiancé at the time, Robert, and they began to make preparations. Being the only child in her family, Anastasia remembered they had a magic number of “five” children; two girls and three boys. But all of that went away when her own sire ripped out Robert’s throat.

The caring, the understanding, the nurturing of these two children made her feel weak but nowadays she was starting to feel more and more vulnerable. These thoughts afflicted the Deamhan in her. She couldn’t love, she couldn’t feel but yet she found herself more and more concerned with the well-being of others, humans and Deamhan, around her. If she liked it or not, she had to admit that she could only decimate and kill minions for so long before it ate at her. She wanted to react and snuff it out of her system, the Deamhan way.

“Are you going to kill us?” Aisha’s soft voice snapped Anastasia from her thoughts.

“No.” Annabelle comforted her older sister. “She’s not going to kill us.”

The little girl’s growing faith in Anastasia would be her undoing.

“Like I said, I didn’t come here for you.” Anastasia watched Annabelle slowly move behind Aisha. In her tiny hands she continued to caress the disheveled hair of her weathered doll. “Did a minion bring you both here?”

Both of the sisters nodded slowly. She stood up and stared at them in silence. She contemplated her next move. She couldn’t leave them here but could she? Walking away was better than tearing their little bodies apart.

Her eyes reverted to the window blinds. The sun is extremely bright this morning.

“I will take you to someplace safe.” She turned around and walked out of the room. She didn’t hear them following her and she looked over her shoulder. “I have a human friend who will help you. He will keep you safe and get you out of the city.”

The friend she referred to was Nathan, the owner of Blind Bluff Manor. She knew that he would indeed shelter them and take care of them.

She continued to walk, listening carefully to their slow, cautious footsteps following her.

The girls followed her down the hallway and to the stairs. Anastasia descended down the steps and back into the carnage she had left earlier. She turned around, seeing that they had stopped abruptly at the bottom step, glaring at the bodies below.

Annabelle grabbed her sister’s hand and immediately turned around, rushing back upstairs. Anastasia stopped briefly before she picked up her speed, knowing that she was much faster than they were, and she caught up with them.

Knowing that she couldn’t let them get away, she grabbed Annabelle’s arm and Aisha by her waist and descended back down the stairs. She drowned out Aisha’s screams and Annabelle’s cries by repeating just one sentence in her thoughts.

The sun is extremely bright this morning.

“Please,” Annabelle cried out. “Please, don’t do this. Please.”

Their cries continued and Anastasia, now knowing what she had to do, ignored them.

A sharp pain in her forearm made Anastasia quickly drop Annabelle to the floor. She saw that Annabelle’s fangs were covered in blood. The little girls fought back, doing what they could to get away from her, but Anastasia knew that they didn’t have the strength to stand up to her.

Anastasia grabbed onto Annabelle again and the little girl’s cries turned into piercing screams. She slapped at Anastasia’s arms. Anastasia held on tight as she approached the blood-stained blinds. She twisted them open allowing the sunlight to blast through, blinding them all at first. Her motherly thoughts bombarded her mind again.

Do not kill them.

Let them live.

Save them.

But she couldn’t—she wouldn’t.

Anastasia tossed Aisha into the sunlight letting the bright light do its work. Aisha let out one last terrified scream before her skin began to bubble. She ran for the dark corner of the room but Anastasia pushed her back into the light. The child then burst into flames.

Annabelle covered her eyes and dropped her doll as Anastasia picked her up. The little girl didn’t cry nor did she fight when she entered the sunlight.

Nothing more but smoldering ash and pieces of clothing remained of the little girls. Anastasia closed the blinds and she leaned up against the wall. Her body tingled and her skin felt loose. Either way, it was better that they didn’t continue to exist.

She noticed the tattered doll and picked it up from the floor. Its right eye was missing, the socket stuffed with cotton. She smoothed back the doll’s tangled hair and examined it before tossing it into the kitchen.

She let her body slide to the ground and she clasped her hands together. She had to wait for sunset to leave and she hated waiting.

 

CHAPTER THREE

 

Anastasia slowly opened her eyes.

A couple of seconds passed before her sight adjusted to the dark environment around her. Cracked lines on the white stucco ceiling of her bedroom came into focus. They spread along the surface like varicose veins. She lifted her head slightly from her pillow, glancing at her feet near the edge of the bed with her mind still recovering from her reoccurring dream.

What does it mean?

The same dream she had yesterday and the night before about her human family haunted her again, but this time the dream left her empty and angry.

As a little girl, she watched from the windows of her family’s home while her father sat on horseback in the fields, watching their servants till the ground for harvest. The sun’s rays warmed her skin and she loved basking in its light. She became anxious, like any little girl would while waiting for her father’s return. When he opened the door and walked in, smelling like wet grass and outside air, Anastasia grabbed his hand and led him over to his favorite chair where he plopped her on his right knee and began to sing to her. Only ten years old at the time, Anastasia remembered the song. It was her father’s favorite and hers as well. He grabbed the hair brush from the table and began to run it through Anastasia’s long, black hair.

She closed her eyes and she let his hoarse voice fill her ears. At that age, she knew her father wanted a son and he prayed for a miracle. However, it didn’t stop him from loving her, and giving her all the attention a little girl her age needed.

“Auerelia, is your mother filling your head with thoughts of acting?”

Auerelia. No one had called her that in a long time. She shook her head no, remembering that her dream of becoming an actor was a secret only she and her mother knew. If she promised to hide her fascination and give more thought to the idea of becoming some lucky man’s wife, her mother promised to take her to see a Shakespeare play in London someday.

Her father handed her a small brown box. “Here, daughter. I have a present for you.”

Excited, she opened it, only to find a bloody and fresh human heart.

She felt her stomach beginning to twitch and she grew tired. Her eyes fluttered and she slightly turned her head to look over her shoulder. Her father’s icy hands slid further down Anastasia’s small framed body and to her back.

She immediately stood up and turned to face her father.

“Honey, what’s wrong?” Her father’s lips moved slowly.

Anastasia noticed a gaping hole in his chest and she looked back down at the box.

A female voice echoed inside her head. At first she had trouble hearing it. Then it became louder and louder and she realized that she’d never heard the voice before but she felt that somehow she was connected to it.

Come to me, Anastasia. The voice also echoed around her.

She looked back to her father who held out his arms and he opened his mouth. “Come to me, Anastasia.”

“Who are you?” She continued to step back, away from whoever had taken over her father’s body. “Why are you invading my dreams?”

Come to me. Come to me. The voice repeated over and over, deafening her.

She then woke up.

She turned off her night lamp, which rested on a stand next to her bed. Enough sunlight crept from underneath her bedroom door to see in her semi darkened room. A pile of bloodied clothes rested on the floor near the edge of her bed.

No matter how many times she dreamed of the day, running into her father’s warm arms, her father kissing her on the forehead and telling her that everything was going to be okay…she knew her parents were dead and they would never come back to her. The realization proved more than what Anastasia could handle and she picked up her night lamp, throwing it to the floor.

Before the lamp landed, she quickly got out of bed in Deamhan speed and she dressed herself in a loose white T-shirt and blue jeans. The noise of the lamp crashing into the floor didn’t break her stride. She slipped on an old pair of house shoes and left her room.

The silent hallways of Blind Bluff Manor soothed her calm nerves. Sometimes dark during the day, depending if Remy or Hallie roamed them, she never felt threatened by its atmosphere. Thick multi-level Greek curtains blocked out the slivers of sunlight that reached the floor. The cold air fondled her skin and her footsteps vibrated through the silence as she walked down the hallway and toward the balcony.

From the edge she saw the light from Nathan’s study. She slowly proceeded down the stairs, remembering the first time she had stepped foot inside his mansion years ago.

Had it been so long? Time seemed irrelevant to a Deamhan, especially one such as herself. Being over four hundred years old, she made sure nothing, not even life, would have a chance of becoming sacred to her. The first time they’d met, she threatened Nathan, thinking that he had something to do with Lucius’ disappearance. After finding out that he did, he welcomed her with open arms and invited her to stay with him at his home. In return she kept him off her menu, protected him, and headed off his calls. Never did she think that she could ever be this close to a human.

Through all of this she made a mental decision to mention nothing about the children she encountered and killed at the sanctuary the night before to Nathan and the others. No one in the sanctuary knew about her nighttime activities as well.

She reached the bottom steps and slowly walked by the Roman statues that decorated the front foyer. Beautiful, constantly kept free from dust by Nathan himself (and why he didn’t hire a maid for the morning hours confused her,) the statues showing Nathan’s curiosity about the history of Rome and The Brotherhood, an organization he was once part of that watched, studied, and documented her kind. Human researchers gave their lives to write down every piece of information on every Deamhan they could find. Only in recent years did the organization move toward a neutral stance when it came to Deamhan affairs, or so the Deamhan thought. That all changed when Veronica’s mother, a researcher, disappeared while following Lucius years ago. Veronica came back to Minneapolis to retrace her mother’s footsteps, only to find that her own father, with help from Kei, had killed her mother and placed Lucius in Limbo, a magical hold void of time for Deamhan.

Anastasia smoothed her hair back with her hands to straighten the wild strands and she peered into Nathan’s library, watching him resting in his chair with his head immersed in a brown withered book. She picked up on his thoughts that circled in hypersonic speeds, revealing to her the book he read. It once belonged to a fifteenth-century researcher from Madrid by the name of Gustavo. It chronicled Lucius’ brief appearance in the city in 1530 and the confrontation with his sister, Lucia, on the shores of River Manzanares on a Friday, shortly after midnight.

Nathan’s interest didn’t surprise her. For years, he took special interest in Lucius and helped Veronica in her search. When Lucius and Selene left Minneapolis, hot on Kei’s trail, he promised Lucius he’d look after Veronica. After all, Lucius had fallen in love with Veronica’s mother and he believed that saving her from harm was the least he could do. Now Anastasia didn’t know what was going on with Lucius. He commanded her to raid every sanctuary in Minneapolis with ties to Kei and she followed his orders blindly. Nathan’s eyes drifted from the book to her. He removed his reading glasses from his face and smiled, revealing wrinkles extending from the corners of his mouth and crow’s feet from the corner of his deep blue eyes. He hadn’t slept yet. She could see it in his tired eyes. There was also something else she sensed about him. He was different and his body was starting to show years of neglect.

“Morning.” He closed the book and placed it on his lap.

Anastasia remained quiet. She paid close attention to the aging process for a human. When she’d first met Nathan, he had brown hair and his face showed no signs of stress. Now gray streaks extended from roughly around his ears to the back of his head and his hair thinned on the top.

“You look tired. Did you sleep well?” he asked her. He knew only because she allowed him to know. She thought maybe, just maybe, he knew why she suddenly dreamt of nothing but her dead human parents.

“Same dream. Same outcome,” she replied. “I can no longer sleep. It wakes me when the sun is out.”

“Have you tried going back to sleep?”

“Yes, but it starts all over again. From the beginning. I will deal with it.” She heard a light tapping behind her and she quickly looked over her shoulder, staring at the front door.

She could already smell Veronica’s scent traveling through the small crevasses of the door’s frame. She heard the jingling of keys and the door knob twisting. Veronica’s thoughts also seemed to circle wildly through her head. They felt commingled and thought of nothing but her mother, Lucius, and her father.

The door opened, exposing Anastasia’s body to the sunlight. It singed her skin but she didn’t move. When Veronica saw her, she immediately closed the door. Soon her thoughts went silent and she blocked them from Anastasia. It was one thing Anastasia detested about anyone associated with The Brotherhood. They knew how to block their thoughts from Deamhan.

Veronica slipped off her brown hoodie and she draped it over one of the Roman statues. She walked quickly past Anastasia and into the study, cradling a bag of donuts and holding two cups of coffee. “They were out of decaf.” She handed a cup to Nathan and she placed the bag on his lap.

Anastasia felt her skin beginning to heal itself. Her attention turned to the fireplace. “Ever since I left the cave after Lucius was released, my dreams have become more disturbing.” She turned her attention back to Nathan.

He sipped his coffee and paused before speaking again. “Have you heard anything from Lucius or Selene?”

“No, I haven’t.”

“You’d think Lucius would confide in you since you practically worshipped his very being,” Veronica spoke up.

Anastasia’s eyes darted in her direction. The human still didn’t like her and didn’t trust her but Anastasia couldn’t blame her. In reality, she didn’t care, but Veronica’s snotty remarks dug into her cold skin and this time she felt the need to reply.

“Humans can’t understand the bond a Deamhan has with another,” she said with clenched teeth. Since Lucius freed her from the casket her sire put her in centuries ago, she felt a sense of loyalty when it came to Lucius. She considered him to be her true sire.

“No, I guess we can’t.” Veronica leaned back in her chair. For a moment her thoughts became unblocked and Anastasia picked up on them. She sensed Veronica’s lack of reassurance in regards to her father and The Brotherhood. She still didn’t know what they did to Sean, her best friend who came to Minneapolis to help her in her search. She felt betrayed by those around her and the only confidence she had left remaining was to Nathan.

“Once Lucius returns, Silvanus will let me know,” Anastasia said. “Until then I’ll assume that he hasn’t found Kei yet.”

The smell of cold death filtered into Anastasia’s nostrils. She knew that annoying scent like the back of her hand. She watched Nathan glance behind her at Remy.

Anastasia looked over her shoulder. Veronica’s thoughts leaked from her conscious again and became available for her to hear. Veronica trusted Remy just as much as she trusted her. She also sensed that Remy picked up on Veronica’s thoughts as well, like any Deamhan coming across a free thought would.

He gently tapped his fingers on the wall and his lips pulled back, forming a mischievous smirk while his eyes danced. “You’re both up early.” He slowly crossed his arms over his chest then he turned slightly over his shoulder, looking out the window and hummed lightly. “It’s about ten thirty in the morning, isn’t it?”

“Are you also having problems sleeping?” Nathan asked.

“Me?” He placed his hand on his chest and chuckled. “Not even in the slightest.” He straightened his crisp white shirt and he glared down at his black pants before saying, “Although, you all speak so loudly that I can hear you in my sleep.” He then focused in on Veronica. “Good morning.”

Veronica remained quiet.

There wasn’t anything about Remy that Anastasia liked. His selfishness was apparent. He liked to sulk in the darkened corners of the Manor, eavesdropping on others’ conversations and like all Deamhan, he couldn’t be trusted. He offered nothing and that made him a Deamhan she wouldn’t mind killing one day. However, like her, Remy had grown attached to Nathan and he had his own personal reason to stick around. She began to wonder if Nathan wasn’t the only human person Remy became attracted to and that maybe, he had started to grow fond of Veronica.

“Remy, is there something I can help you with?” Nathan asked.

He walked into the study and leaned against the mantle on the fireplace. He stared at the smoldering fire for a second before answering. “Just curious on how that research is going.” His eyes meandered over to Veronica.

“It’s going,” she finally replied back to him.

Anastasia’s eyes centered on each of them individually. Clueless on what Veronica searched for now, she tried to read her thoughts but found herself blocked again.

“If you’re wondering, Anastasia,” Remy said, “I’ve offered my services to Veronica.”

“Services?” Anastasia’s eyes narrowed.

“Yes.” Remy stood tall and he cleared his throat. “She’s a researcher. That’s what she’s trained to do. With The Brotherhood Chapter reopening their services, I’m sure she’ll cross paths with them in the near future. And well, since Lucius is so bent on her protection and with you being busy with your nighttime activities, I thought I’d step up to the plate.”

Anastasia wondered what he had planned. Every smart Deamhan, who still remained in the city, knew of Veronica’s protection so there wasn’t any need to coddle her anymore. Now an outsider, Veronica found her itch by researching and helping Nathan. The only thing Remy could possibly offer her was trouble.

“You’re wasting your time,” Anastasia replied. “Those human researchers are small compared to the real dangers.”

“Like who? The Deamhan you kill at those god awful sanctuaries?” Remy rubbed his hand along the surface of the mantle.

Nathan and Veronica turned their attention to her.

Anastasia saw confusion in their eyes. “There are Deamhan in the city who still support Kei,” she said. “Lucius wants them destroyed.”

“All of them?” Nathan questioned.

“Yes, all of them.” She turned to Remy. “Unlike some Deamhan, I follow the set rules of Ancients.”

Knowing Remy’s distaste for authority, Anastasia expected him to make a sly remark. Instead he slicked back his short brown hair. His muscles underneath his shirt twitched slightly and Anastasia saw how Veronica reacted to it by staring at his lean upper mass. He wasn’t an eyesore to gaze at. In fact Remy, the only Lamia in Blind Bluff Manor, was highly attractive. Even with his sexual attributes, Anastasia didn’t understand why Veronica was so tolerant of his childish behavior.

“Sounds like it.” Remy rubbed the dust from the mantle between his index finger and his thumb. His tongue glazed over his bottom lip and his brown eyes continued their stare at Veronica as he continued questioning Anastasia. “From what I’ve heard, you’ve been making somewhat of a mess in the city. Can we say ‘genocide much’?”

“Only those who supported Kei,” Anastasia replied.

“Ahh yes, those bad, bad, bad Kei supporters.” He pulled back the curtain slightly, allowing just a sliver of sunlight to travel into the room. He smiled. “You’re a big girl, aren’t you Ana? Lucius’ Sergeant at Arms.” He shielded his eyes from the sunlight and he chuckled.

“What I do in my spare time is none of your business.” She eyed Veronica and Nathan. “And it’s not human related.”

“Yes, I agree,” Nathan said. “We don’t have a say in the matter.” He readjusted himself on the couch. “But thinking about the number of sanctuaries in the city…there are a lot of them, Anastasia.”

Veronica grabbed her cup of coffee and without warning, she left the study and headed up the stairs.

“I don’t think Veronica liked your response.” Remy continued to watch Veronica until she disappeared.

“She wants to do more,” Nathan said. “She blames her mother’s death on the very organization her father is part of. And of course, she blames all the Deamhan. I’ve been trying to help her cope with her loss and to redirect her energy on positive things.”

“She wants revenge. You should let her have it.” Remy smiled.

Nathan exhaled. “Revenge would be the worst thing for her, Remy.”

“Perhaps, but it’s a fun road.” He clasped his hands together as he walked out of the room and headed upstairs after Veronica.

Nathan turned his attention toward Anastasia. “I will admit, I’m a little apprehensive that Lucius has remained so distant from you and me.”

“Kei did a lot of damage to the Deamhan in Minneapolis. Lucius needs to fix it; make it right.”

Nathan began to cough and he covered his mouth, turning away.

Anastasia tilted her head to the side. The air emanating from Nathan’s cough smelled thick and tart. It was the smell of sickness. “Are you okay?”

“I’m fine. Just a cold.” Nathan cleared his throat.

“Are you sure? It smells like more than just a cold.”

“I’m fine.” He turned back to her.

The telephone rang and Anastasia watched Nathan pick up the phone receiver. His hand began to shake and again the putrid air from his cough circled in her nose.

She stepped out of his study and into the hallway. Like her, Nathan was keeping a secret. She couldn’t place the smell and there wasn’t any other clue related to his health that she could pinpoint. Whatever it was felt like more than a common cold or flu and she hoped that wasn’t the case.

 

Dark Curse. Deamhan Chronicles #2 is available on Amazon

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Thank you for taking the time to read the first three chapters of my novel.

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Happy reading!

~Isaiyan