PRACTICE DRAFTS. Cries of the Blood – Episode III

FREE READS FOR YOUR ENJOYMENT. Online Novel “Cries of the Blood”. Romance, Thriller and Fantasy that is actually possible.

Novel Summary:

Aurelia is no longer a normal human. Her life as a withering, stiff teacher  in a God forsaken land is now lost past, but so is the man she loves – the Blacksmith. Learning to use her new abilities and hiding in the wild depths of the Carpathians, she feeds on her memories and dreams of him.  Yet when a failed attack reveals itself as a coded message meant for her and for her alone, hope spins out of control. Following the hints, she travels to France, ardent to see him again. But the Regent’s wicked scheming and the Blacksmith’s own demonic nature will send his and Aurelia’s tormenting love on a path that will once again reveal deep mysteries but that might also claim her life. 

NOTE: Cries of the Blood is a sequel to The Blacksmith, available for you e-book lovers at:

The Blacksmith

NOTE: Please also keep in mind that some of the episodes from Cries of the Blood will contain erotica. Intended for mature audiences.

Enjoy the third episode from Cries of the Blood and stay tuned for episode IV, coming up on Sunday. Please keep in mind that this is a sequel to The Blacksmith and the chapters posted on this blog are censured to avoid spoilers. The book will stand final editing in a few months but until then it will be available for story lovers on this blog. Episodes posted every week. Please don’t shy away from leaving your comments and ideas, I’d be happy to read them and reply to any questions you might have. But first of all, I hope you savour it. 

YOUR ENJOYMENT IS MY THRILL! Love, Ana

wald 191

I stood anchored there, my eyes fixed on the Black Virgin as if she were a living being, breathing and with a beating heart, whose feelings I tried to tap into over and over again. It was like bumping repeatedly with my head against the empty porcelain, only those words aligning in my head: blood, tomb, devil, womb. Emotion seeped in through my pores from the Executioner’s soft, warm palms caressing my face. Exploiting the moment. Heart throbbing, nervousness and a streak of guilt. His lips were close, very close, I could feel his shy, sweet breath on mine. I started and pulled away brusquely, only to realize we must have been standing there for some time, since the others had already left the room. I couldn’t think of any reason why they’d leave the Executioner and me alone in what used to be the cradle of his perverted nights with Aimee. The silence was almost as absurd as the sight of him, a boy with handsome, ivory features standing in front of me, his obsidian eyes filled with frustration. His fists balled and his body hardened under his dark shirt.

“When will you finally forget the past, Aura?” he said, as if he had a right to be forgiven.

“Forget the past, Executioner?” I said, angrily. “Do you think any amount of time could bring Raluca back or close the wounds on her mutilated body? Or of all those you tortured before her?”

That was the first instant in all the time The Executioner and I had spent together that he was completely open to me. Impatience made him drop his defenses. Then I saw… The burden of guilt hung heavy on his heart but for some reason it didn’t feel like swelling from the memory of Raluca’s face. But from a headstrong desire to hold a hand, smile freely and happily in front of all of his kind, kiss childish, fresh lips… the memory of their warm touch was alive in his mind. I followed the thread, dove deeper into that sensation until a face became clear as day – my face. A second later he withdrew that feeling that radiated from him like perfume does from a flower, reducing his presence to the sight of him. He sank his head and approached me slowly, his feelings locked away as in a treasury deep inside of him that I couldn’t access anymore. He was blocking me again.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to pressure you” he whispered.

I gritted my teeth. There were many things I wasn’t able or didn’t want to move passed. The memory of his first attempt to kiss me, back when I was a needy woman with stained teeth and stinking of cheap tobacco lit up in my mind. I couldn’t fight the impulse to hurt him, though I knew that was not the moment he had just relived in his mind.

“That’s not how I thought my lips tasted” I said, well aware I was turning the knife in his wound.

He looked aside, knitted his eyebrows. A gush of nightly air blew through the open window, brushing over his hair.

“I thought you’ve forgiven part of my sins and saw me at least as a friend”

“Oh, and I do” I laughed mockingly, a surprise even to myself. “But I don’t go around making out with my friends”

He nodded calmly, eyes out the window, as if making some important decision.

“So you’ll never give us a chance” he concluded.

I didn’t answer, I knew he wouldn’t let go no matter what I’d say.

He paused for a few moments, his eyes lost over the bright stars that seemed to be swimming on the marine blue canvas of the sky. The silence was again deep, only my pulse thumping in my ears, the thin veins in my brain pulsing those words deep inside it. Blood, tomb, devil, womb. The image of the Black Virgin standing high above an altar took shape in my mind again, reigning in a house of worship. A church. The Cathedral.

“I need to see the Black Madonna” I heard myself whisper to the Executioner.

“I guess that’s the only place we can start” he said and walked by me slowly, unwillingly, towards the door. I followed. He stopped in place.

“What are you doing? Let’s go” I urged.

He kept his back at me.

“We can’t just roam around these places, Aura. The others are scouting the area tonight, the brigade taking their positions in the woods. We need to make sure this isn’t a trap before we expose ourselves”

“Then what better time than the night?” I insisted. “No one will see us”

“So are you suggesting we break into the cathedral? ‘Cause it’s closed at night, as you might imagine for yourself” he mocked, still not looking at me.

“You’re impulsive, Aurelia, way too absorbed with one idea or one person at a time, and forget to take all factors of a situation into account. You have to learn and keep reason awake even when you’re plunging into someone’s emotions or obsessing about your goals” he sneered and went out, slamming the door behind him.

He left me there, in the very room he used to share with his former lover – if I could even call her that. He locked his feelings from me now, but my intuition told me he hoped this would mortify me.

I walked to the window, leaving the broad, wooden bed and Aimee’s refined decorations behind me. I twitched with impatience and, I have to admit, expectation. I took the statuette of the Virgin in my hands, closed my eyes and prayed… prayed that it had been him who’d sent that dagger, prayed to see him. Today.

No more visions came, yet my imagination began drawing the strong features of that face, the texture of those lips… the Blacksmith’s huge, rough palm around my thigh. Daybreak found me in the same position, clutching the statuette like a little girl would her favorite doll and dreaming the same dream I had for over a year while I lay alone in the grass, my eyes on the big moon that showed through tree branches in the Carpathians. The dream that had been keeping me alive, the only thing that spurred my desire to live.

Lost in that world I didn’t hear the door open, started as I felt Sidonia’s hand on my shoulder.

“All clear” she mused, “it seems whoever expects us has nothing to do with the Order”

Sidonia, Salma, Jarred and Hector had searched the area the entire night, so they used the morning and midday hours to fall into that aware sleep, in that continuous, happy now. Nervous and twitchy, I couldn’t do the same so I felt weaker than usual as we drove to Puy-en-Velay, the brigade of six Guard members Nathaniel had sent watching like discrete bodyguards from the surrounding forests.

Although I’d never been to France before, the town seemed familiar. It took but a moment to identify the reason –my mother and the bedtime stories she used to read to me when I was a child.

We left the car in a parking lot in the town center and walked up narrow, cobbled streets to the high town, following the signs indicating the way to the cathedral. Picturesque stone houses with old shutters blended in with the chic shops lining the road. I’d walked there before, in my imagination, as my mother’s loving voice teleported me to the world of fairy tales.  For a second I wondered why Germany hadn’t had the same effect in the light of the brothers Grimm, although I’d happily listened to their stories as well.

After an abrupt turn from a small alleyway to the right, Cathedrale de Notre Dame rose before us, a monument of dark volcanic stone with many broad stairs unfolding like a royal carpet at its feet. The afternoon was hot and tourists swarmed around it, some seeking shelter in the wide shade on its porch.

Another set of stairs led up to the heart of the church, the air cool and the sight majestic.   The pillars and arches sustaining the six high cupolas looked as if they’d been built of volcanic rock too, some alternating dark and light, looking like arching snakes. The place seemed to have strong Arab influence and many reliefs were surrounded by Roman inscriptions, making the cathedral seem even less loyal to Christianity. Golden angels and chandeliers floated over the altar and then… then I saw her. The Black Virgin queen in her white, royal garment, high on what looked like a marble pedestal, two gilded angels worshipping at her base, many candles flickering to her side. A real shrine, separated from the visitors with protective stanchions.

It was there, at her feet, that I’d found myself in my visions, lying in a coffin, hooded monks around me humming eerily with those candles in their hands. But the sight that revealed itself now didn’t bear anything of that crushing pressure, as if the shrine had been drained of all its power by all the people who’d laid eyes on it.

I slipped in an empty row and sat on one of the wooden benches.  Took in the details, ready to plunge into a vision, which I imagined would come easily since I was in the very place I’d seen in that déjà vu. Details… The hanging golden lamps around the Virgin, ironically burning with weak, red lights. I cast away the connection that built in my mind between them and the houses of sin which were marked with a red light hanging at their doors until not so long ago. The old frescoes on the walls, the high, Baroque organ. The book of prayers to my left, St. Anthony’s shrine on the passageway to the sacristy. Two old women praying in the row in front of me, a young man looking up to the cupolas and a group closely stacked around a guide strolling toward the Holy Mother.

The guide spoke in a sweet English with French accent, his choice of words and grammar quite elaborate. I perked up my ears, hoping some information on the church’s history would help trigger the vision.

The cathedral had been built on the ground of a Roman place of worship, he said. People of old had reported visions of Virgin Mary miraculously healing the ill, reports that soon became myths related to an old dolmen, which was now built in the floor of a chapel by the altar. The Roman masonry had been kept when the place was evangelized and the Moorish elements were added following the crusades and relations with Muslim Spain.

“Za tomb across from St. Anthony’s shrine represents bishop…” he said, then stopped abruptly. I hadn’t looked at him, only listened with my eyes fixed on the statue that refused to draw me again into the mysteries of that déjà vu. He yet paused for a couple of seconds and, judging by the confident tone he’d used, he’d been doing this for quite some time so I didn’t believe he was at a loss for words. I looked at him – a man in his early forties and surely homosexual, his face resembling a meager goat’s and his anorexic body emphasized by tight blouse and jeans. His eyes were fixed on me, his chest radiating an emotion that hit me as hard as too strong perfume. I’d taken measures to slip unnoticed again, wearing thick make-up and keeping to myself in a row in the back, but this man couldn’t be fooled. His eyes had seen a creature like me before, one that had awoken a deep sexual pull in him.  A man, he’d seen a man…

Without a thought and with my heart thumping, I hurried toward him with directed steps. He was disconcerted, his eyes widened, but only imagining what he might have known spun me out of control. In my head the link was clear – the Blacksmith must be waiting for me somewhere and this man must have seen him. Luckily before I could reach him Hector placed himself before me, his back at the guide.

“Don’t” he whispered and pushed me slightly back, keeping a grip on my shoulders.

Still focused on the guide, I tried to force my way toward him. Hector’s grip tightened.

“Control yourself” he breathed.

“I sensed the man’s feelings, Hector, he’s seen him, he’s seen the Blacksmith”

“We don’t know whom he’s laid his eyes on” Hector said. “Let’s do this the way it should be done”

I looked at his composed vulture face with sharp, russet eyes. Cunning and calm. Certain of what he was doing. The reason for that composure gave me another impulse, I gripped his arm.

“Hector, you sense feelings way better than I do, it’s what you do best. Feel into his heart, was it him? Was it the Blacksmith?”

“Hushhhhhh, Aura, come to grips” he stressed. I realized I’d raised my voice, threatening to reach other ears as well.

I closed my eyes tightly and took two deep breaths, trying to slow down the frantic flow of my blood. I’d been dreaming of him for so long, but now that I was so certain he was close it felt impossible to bear for another minute.

“Where’s Sidonia?” I asked faintly, also a strategy to take my mind of the Blacksmith at least for a short while.

“She’s checking out St. Michel D’Aguilhe with Jarred and the other little brat” he said, clearly meaning Salma. His tone conveyed contempt. I opened my eyes, gave him a scolding look. He smiled a little wickedly but dismissed the matter with a friendly pat on my back.

“And the Executioner?” I said. For some reason I felt uneasy not knowing of his whereabouts.

“Trying to get acquainted with a pack of monks that are travelling in from the south”

“Why on earth would he want to do that?” I snorted.

“Because of their numbers and sudden decision to visit” he said. “We need to keep our eyes open, if the Order discovered our presence here they wouldn’t attack like an organized army” he said and ushered me out of there.

He led me to the cloister, a square yard surrounded by pillars and arches, built centuries ago to host large numbers of monks. The guide didn’t delay in making his appearance as well, entertaining his group of tourists with tales about the mosaic along the walls, the mysterious, often secret gatherings that took place centuries ago, stories about old tombstones. Tombstones…

Before I got to approach the man, Hector was already by his side, asking him for more on the old tombs in a friendly, even inviting tone. Like the Executioner, he wasn’t shying away from using his entrancing powers on the weaker…

The guide inspected Hector’s face carefully, surely wondering about the make-up which was meant to hide his inhuman beauty but, however professional and discrete, was apparent on a close look. The poor man was overwhelmed, it seemed to him that life was throwing irresistibly handsome men at him all of a sudden, making him unable to fight his own drives. He struggled to keep composed, the nervous smile yet betraying his arousal.

“Zis place is a treasury of tombs, I would say” he babbled.

Hector gave him a charming smile.

“Which, to my sister and me, are even more fascinating than the actual treasury” he said, motioning to the passageway that led up to the hall which housed impressive medieval clothing for clergymen, sewn in gold and silver.

The guide threw me a relieved look at the word ‘sister’, almost sure he’d hit the jackpot. Hector’s keeping close to him must have helped getting the poor man’s hopes high. It wasn’t difficult to arrange a private lecture on the cathedral when the man was done with the group. Until then, we agreed to keep at the rear of the flock for the rest of the tour.

It was already evening when we left the cloister and headed back to the cathedral. The visitors seemed to have spread to the four winds, probably chased away by the heavy clouds that were gathering in the sky, casting the ancient walls in grim shadow. The wind brought with it the scent of rain and the wavy horizon darkened.

The guide – who’d introduced himself to us as Pierre – showed us back in through a lateral door that led like another secret passage to the sacristy. It looked like some sort of antechamber, a wooden platform high above our heads yet making me think of a decaying bell tower, the stone walls carved with Latin words and symbols. Three figures of men straining to lift what looked like a heavy pillar, others chased by horses, a head among bars, as if either decapitated or imprisoned. Two tombstones on the opposite side, cut into the walls, one protected by a pointy arch with zigzag edges, looking like a canopy of icicles stinging down towards a stone figure holding a scepter. That moment I stopped breathing, icy chills went all through my body, making me shudder. The desolate feel of that room, so unlike anything I’d seen in that mazy cathedral, forced its way through my skin.  Those stone walls, the dust on the bare floor swept by a powerful gush that wheezed through the tower, the flapping of a pigeon’s wings high above my head, all seemed to close in on me.

“Zese tombs are from ancient Roman times” Pierre said, noticing I’d stopped in place as if I’d turned into a stone statue myself.

“Zey once served as true graves for old Roman remains zat had been discovered in zese parts”

“And now?” I asked with stiff lips. It felt cold inside my body, waves of inexplicable fear contracting my muscles.

“Not anymore, alzough…”

“Although what?”

He paused and knitted his plucked eyebrows, as if searching for archived data in his head.

“Rumor has it a lovely gentleman wiz royal air offered ze cathedral ze remains of a holy martyr, but ze maitresse never confirmed” he said in his slightly effeminate, pinched tone, bending to my ear as if he were letting me in on some little girl gossip. “It is said zey keep zem in one of zese tombs, which are officially empty”

Those words spun through my head again, as if triggered by some unknown force – once upon a nameless tomb

“The name?” I pressed.

I sensed he was offended by my stiffness, replied with more reserve.

“If anyone knew zat, ze story would have become public by now. But he must have been some aristocrat, since he’d gotten his hands on ze relics”

“The name of the martyr” I gave the little voice I still had to my first thought.

Pierre let out a conceited laugh.

“Well, zat is a mystery. I’m pretty sure zis information had been refused to ze maitresse herself and zat she accepted ze gift only to please ze noble gentleman”

Before Pierre got to speak out the last word Hector, who’d been listening to the conversation with a relaxed grin on his face, suddenly leaped toward me as if bitten by a snake. He grabbed my hand, tried to haul me out. But the coldness that had reached into my bones made me as hard as the walls. I just stared at him, watched his russet eyes grow wide and even brighter, his pupils large. I didn’t have time to think or blink until laced chains dropped from the ceiling like bronze lianas and banged against the floor. One of them spiraled around Hector, braiding tightly around him, sinking into his body. The awareness blasted in my mind: they were made of demis flesh.

“Shit” he managed hoarsely. He struggled like a stabbed snake, but in less than a second his lids fell heavy, the squeeze knocked him out. He fell to the ground as hooded monks slid down the chains like commando spiders. One of them landed right behind a stricken Pierre and slammed his head against the rudimentary fresco of a kneeling man. His body slobbered down the wall, leaving behind a thin stream of blood.

“No!” I screamed and fell over Pierre’s body, put my hand on his jugular. It still pulsed. A tunnel built swiftly towards his wound, I felt my eyes adjust swiftly like some quantum scanners that x-rayed his temple. The wound wasn’t deep, though the side of his forehead was cracked and blood swelled out. I ripped a piece of my T-shirt and pressed it on the wound. The attacker hadn’t intended to kill him, otherwise a mere slap would have been enough. I turned to face him but all I saw were the chains dangling from the ceiling and heard the call of a pigeon, its wings flapping eerily once again in the hollowness of the tower. Hector was gone too.

The coldness in my flesh turned to stinging needles, I arched instinctively like a spanning bow and let out a hiss, baring my teeth. The reaction was new, I had no more control over it than over blinking. My eardrums seemed to shift, draw deeper in my head and stretch out their range until they picked up the faintest sounds far to the broad stairs in front of the cathedral.

Strong but slow steps were approaching, warily. My eyes brought the entrance from the sacristy into sharp focus, fixed on it like on a target. But as the steps drew closer my body began to lose tension and my heart slowed into some kind of peace, switching on the radar that picked up rays of emotion emanating from surrounding hearts. Once again, my Core was getting ready to protect me. Yet when the steps reached the stony doorstep and the huge shadow of a man approached, darkening the chamber, I realized he must have known what he was up against. His soul was shielded like in a titanium vault, my senses bumped like a yoyo against it. Yet the instant the masculine scent of wood and musk reached my nostrils my heart began beating frantically and my eyes widened as that powerful, warrior frame with the beautifully chiseled face revealed itself.

Blood pumped crazily through my veins. With a convulsive impulse I leapt towards him, tried to throw my arms around his neck and failed stupidly over and over again, like a midget straining to jump on a titan. As those bright, steel eyes fell on mine his jaw clenched and his lips tightened. I started laughing like a nutcase and stretched my arms, tracing those so clearly defined, strong features with shaking fingers. That face that my mind had been drawing in my dreams for so long felt smooth like polished granite. I sank my hands in the raven waves of his hair, my pores open as if to absorb the feel of him.

As if taken aback by my frenzy, the Blacksmith stood motionless before me, only his molten eyes betraying that he was aware of my presence and of how I was making a fool of myself. His glare was intense and focused, like that of a predator’s on its kill but right there, right then, I would have paid any price just to feel his lips on mine again. Ever since our last encounter my most intimate part moistened at the mere thought of them…

“Kiss me, please” I said desperately, my fingers clinging to what I now noticed was the dark uniform of the Cleric.

For a second there I thought he bent his head, however slightly, his gaze burning. But an instant later it turned into the glare of a hungry beast, he bared those white teeth that could bite into concrete. Strong chains coiled around my body from ankles to throat, squeezing me and sinking into my flesh until my lungs cramped and my sight became fuzzy. The last thing I heard was his deep, bass voice.

“Not this time, witch”

Then all fell into blackness.

***

Hope you enjoyed this chapter from Cries of the Blood and stay tuned for chapter IV, coming up next Sunday. Please keep in mind that this is a sequel to The Blacksmith and the chapters posted on this blog are censured to avoid spoilers. As soon as the book is edited it’ll be up for publishing and no longer available on this blog, so  take advantage of these following months.

For those of you who are in for a dangerous love story and an electrifying thriller, The Blacksmith is available in  digital format at:

The Blacksmith

Check out The Blacksmith Novel – Extended Trailer, posted previously on this blog at The Blacksmith Extended Trailer

I’d be really glad to read from you, so leave a comment and share your opinions and wishes from these books.

As always, your enjoyment is my thrill!

Ana

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