PRACTICE DRAFTS. Cries of the Blood – Episode 4, Part 2

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

No vampires, no werewolves, but something that YOU too can become. Based on scientific truths.

Novel Summary:

Aurelia is no longer a normal human. She’s grown young again, beautiful, the perfect version of herself, but she’s far from 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

I hope you savour it

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 CRIES OF THE BLOOD – CHAPTER IV, PART 2

When my arms and legs were free, the hooded monk pulled me out of the cell. I sloshed through the filthy water on the floor, still feeling the weight of those chains on my feet. As we passed the iron gate, the two figures who’d come with the Blacksmith flanked him again on each side. I recognized them: Decebal, the one I used to call the ‘Russian Hitman’ because of his rough features and Lucas Mortimer, the one with the emerald eyes – head of the Cleric at the Grabianko mansion before the Blacksmith had appeared and taken his place. I felt his hostility toward the man I loved. Still, he kept the bridle on it, he was now subordinated to the Blacksmith. They kept behind me and the hooded monk as we walked down the dark corridor. The screams coming from the cells that lined it pierced in my head as sharply as every step stang my flesh, where the chains had sunken. Though all my senses drew alarm to keep my eyes ahead, I dared glimpse to the side in one of them. I cried out loud as I saw a demiangel, a member of Nathaniel’s Guard, stretched on a metal table, naked, his arms and legs shackled. He was alive, screaming in agony as those demons ripped his stomach open and pulled out his guts, their fingers slick with solidifying blood. I backed away in horror, bumping into the Blacksmith’s body.

“I beg of you, free him” I pleaded, desperate.

He looked at me with that metallic glow in his eyes. The monk tried to force me forward, but the Blacksmith’s deep command made him freeze.

“Wait”

Before he turned to the cell he gave me another glance. Something cutting glittered in it, something that made my skin crease. The four monks who used the demiangel’s very strength and natural immortality to disembowel him alive stood aside and bent their heads as they would before their leader, their bloody arms now hanging idle by their bodies. It took a split second for the Blacksmith to draw a dagger from his sleeve and even less to slide it across the man’s throat. I paralyzed in shock as the man gave one last, relieved sigh. But not even that moment was I able to keep my eyes on the victim, a creature I called one of my own. Beyond my control, I was drawn to the Blacksmith’s face, his devilish eyes.

“Now he’s free” he said. Plainly. Coldly. As if the life that had just left that body was no more than a string of dust. Tears flooded my eyes as I stared at him. That moment another truth hit me, an ugly one I’d tried to deny for too long: the Blacksmith was truly a monster, one that I had the duty of hating.

He nodded at the hooded monk, who pulled me forward harshly. I wished the tears would blot out reality and blur my sight, shut out all perception.  I wished I was the old me for at least an hour or two, or for as long as it’d take for shock or fear to damp down the pain that was biting into my heart. Again… again the Blacksmith had taken the chance to hurt me. I sensed him close behind me, big and powerful and set on taking me to my end. My end… am I next? Next to be disemboweled or cut into pieces alive…

The tunnel narrowed into corroded stairs that spiraled upwards, the walls closing tight on me like a carnivorous conch. Torches gave out hungry flames that burned close to my face, smelling thick of petrol, swallowing the screams. For a moment I hoped the heat and the black smoke would suffocate me and knock me out, but my eyes were widely open and my senses so sharp that I was even aware of the cockroaches and spiders creeping in the cracks, of every pore in the walls. I stopped in place, determined to hold my breath until I’d faint. But the Blacksmith’s big hand touching my waist electrified me to my bones. I bit hard into my lower lip until I felt the taste of blood and tightened my lids. Sick with myself. A dumb bimbo madly in love with a cold blooded killer.

“Don’t waste your time, Aurelia” I heard his deep voice, “it won’t work. Your body adjusted to lack of oxygen, you already experienced it when my men squeezed you in their chains”

I sensed him grin, the satisfaction in his next words.

“Everything you go through, every cut, every burn, every infection with any virus, everything that doesn’t kill you will only make you stronger. You can only die by weapons made of demiangel or demidemon flesh. So you see, Queen of Hearts? My blades are your only chance to redemption. And soon, when all your kind are dead, you’ll beg me to end your eternal and vain existence. I’ll be your only hope”

“Soon” I whispered and turned to look him in the face. It gleamed honey in the flames. “Why not now?”

“You presented the Regent a proposition” he breathed. His jaw clenched, his glare shimmered like that of a handsome Satan.“And he presented one to me”

He pushed open a big door to a chilly hallway. When it shut behind us and the cries of my kind were completely lost in the basement low beneath our feet, I realized that it too was made of their bodies. Anguish drove its claws even deeper into my heart. I dragged my legs on the floor and stumbled when my heels drilled into it, fighting with my whole body against being thrown into what could be the last room I’d see – a study that smelled of old wood and leather bound books that filled lofty shelves up to the ceiling. The Blacksmith pushed me into an armchair like he would a worn piece of cloth. I sank in the velvet cushions, curled, unable to hold back tears. Wretched. Lame. The curtains rustled as the Blacksmith pushed them aside, letting the yellowish dusk light fall on a wide fireplace, a large painting with gilded frame above, right across from me. The image of an elderly and clearly noble man from medieval times, wearing a wool cap and a fur-lined mantle, chest forward and strain on his battered face. Something told me his back hurt while standing so straight during that session. With my own heart aching and struggling with the sobs, I wondered why on Earth I’d even think of that…

“It was painful indeed, Queen of Hearts” a smoky man voice said. From somewhere over our heads. I looked up. Although it should’t have come as a surprise to me, my mouth opened when I saw him.

The man. That same man from the painting, but young and perfect. A demidemon. The mightiest of them all, no doubt. The Regent. Like the Executioner, he was hardly more than a boy. Maybe the very reason I was so bewildered, I would have expected someone like Boris Grabianko or the Blacksmith – willful, with the strong build of a warrior. Yet the Regent had the grace of a prince as he walked down the staircase – circular and probably as antique as the painting. He wore a fawn suit that seemed especially cut to do his harmonious build justice and even though he wasn’t as tall as the Blacksmith, his attitude didn’t fall short on pride and, most obviously, power. He took a comfortable seat on the sofa, lit a cigar that released a pleasant scent, and fixed his small, keen eyes on mine. There was a refined feel to his youthful face and that wise shimmer in his gaze, which I’d seen before and which proved once more that this demidemon’s years were much longer than the man’s on the canvas. Yes, like the others, the Regent was an exceptionally handsome specimen to look at but, for some reason, I couldn’t describe him as attractive. Maybe because my heart was completely taken with the Blacksmith, now standing behind me like a stony guardian, but maybe also because there was something too familiar about him – strangely so. He made no effort to hide his feelings from me, I sensed them every time he breathed out. I realized… that’s how I’d known about the aches of rheumatism he’d endured while he stood in that same position for hours so that the painter could immortalize his all too mortal self, centuries ago. As for the rest of his emotions – he truly, strongly and deeply disliked me. And felt… he knew all there was to know about me.

“You know who I am” I whispered. It was supposed to come out as a question, but I could barely find my voice, let alone the right inflections.

The Regent forced a smile.

“You’re the woman who converted the Executioner, dear, you’re a star” he said, mockery well masked but – intentionally – not well enough.

“So you think you have me all figured out just from word of mouth”

“You’re too bold, Mrs. Novac” his tone was now harsher, his gaze sharp, making it clear that I was nobody to judge his methods. My lips sewed together. “I know who and what you are. And quite frankly, I’m not impressed. I’ve seen better. Much better”

He crossed his legs and leant back, holding the cigar with the elegance of an aristocrat. He expected and wanted me to react, but the fear had taken my voice away completely. All my muscles were contracted, my pulse high, urging me to jump to my feet and dash out through the doors like a freaking rabbit. What kept me put were the Blacksmith’s eyes on me, pinning me in that armchair.

“You know who I’m referring to, don’t you?” the Regent said.

I nodded. Dolores Calderon. The only woman he’d ever loved. In his own way.

“A Venera Core, much superior to yours. How much did the man who took her from me tell you about her?”

My lips were still stiff, so he continued.

“Unlike you, she was glamorous and expansive, the heart of every party. Oh, she had a dashing smile…There was something special about her that made her the center of attention even among our kind, where beauty is a built-in gift. You have nothing of her charisma but still, there are similarities between you and Dolores. Which is natural, I think, considering your roots” he paused here and smiled, somewhat bitterly. Waiting for verbal reaction from my part again, I guess, but my mouth still wouldn’t open.

The Regent ran his fingers through his thick brown hair and turned his eyes to the painting on the wall. To the image of his old body that had endured so much hardship and worn its marks. His lips twitched slightly – in contempt – but his polished tone could have fooled anybody.

“Isn’t it fascinating, Aurelia? That the world we live in functions so much differently than humans are so stiffly convinced it does. When will they learn that the only certainty they have is that nothing is certain? It’s their own rigidity in the rudimentary patterns of what they call ‘scientific progress’ that dooms them to old age, disease and death. They raise their chins in arrogance at discoveries that would kill death itself and shut down labs and research. And you know why they do it, these personalities who think they run the world of man?” he paused for just a second. Then he went on, not because he realized I wasn’t able to reply, but because he thought me too stupid to know the answer. As it came, I realized he was right in his belief.

“Because projects and research that focus on drawing on the natural power of humans offer permanent solutions. Permanent solutions are bad for business, you see. If you bring an anti-aging product on the market that permanently rids your skin of the traces of age, you’d have no reason to buy it again, because you’d have no reason to reuse it. So you see, need is what keeps economy spinning. And as long as economy spins, mortality does as well. But immortality, Aurelia, what you and me and the Blacksmith here have earned, immortality has just one price – the abolishion of consumption. Immortals are self-sufficent, they don’t need anything, except when they… well, harbour feelings for other creatures. They need to have their feelings corresponded. Don’t look at me like that, child, it makes me feel you don’t believe me. Feelings, positive or negative, are natural for all immortals since we were all once just base humans. People. People who switched on their Cores and unlocked their full potential. Oh, Aurelia, and when that happens… when that happens even time loops around and operates completely differently. As a human, the body degenerates with the years and, as much as most want to believe differenty, so does the mind and spirit. People grow old, ill and senile. But once the Core is active they start growing into gods… with decades, centuries, millennia, their bodies only grow stronger, the mind sharper and the feelings…” a bitter, short laugh slipped from his mouth “once triggered, feelings only intensify. Passion becomes a drug that keeps you high constantly but becomes unbearable when not corresponded. Loyalty is part of the package, since the love of demiangels and even demidemons, on the rare occasions when we come to feel it, is mingled with insatiable lust that keeps us bound to that just one person. You triggered that kind of love in the Executioner, the way Dolores triggered it in me. It was my blade that robbed her of her life, it’s true, but it was her love for that other man that doomed her. The moment I did it I was mad with rage and didn’t expect that her passing in death wouldn’t still my desire for her nor my need to have her close, despite her loving another. The Executioner is lucky you return his feelings” he concluded, turning to look me in the face with some kind of… was he daring me? To confirm? To deny? I hated to give him satisfaction, but the idea that the Blacksmith would believe his hypothesis loosened my tongue in an impulse.

“I don’t return his feelings, my heart belongs to another” I hurried to say. I didn’t know if it was safe to name the Blacksmith, the Regent hadn’t mentioned our history. Maybe he didn’t know it, even though that was a highly unlikely theory.

Indeed, the Regent turned his attention to the Blacksmith, as if he knew… But how much had reached his ears? My heart beat faster. He addressed the Blacksmith in a polite tone but I sensed something else in it. He didn’t like the Blacksmith any more than he liked me.

“Would you mind giving Aurelia and me some privacy? I doubt she’ll disclose her secrets with you present”

“I have nothing to hide from him” I cried.

“With you here all we’ll get from her is lies, you know that” the Regent said, in a tone that might have made Napoleon himself think twice before contradicting him.

The Blacksmith didn’t react. I turned to see him standing close behind me, a statuesque figure dressed in the black uniform of the demidemon Cleric. His eyes were fixed on the Regent, burning and fearless. Though he locked his feelings from me, in his gaze I read that he wanted to hear what I had to say. He was giving me a chance. I took it without thinking.

“Please, you have to believe me. Despite everything that happened, Da…”

“Come on, High Seraph” the Regent interrupted. My head snapped to him. He spread his arms and smiled widely, his face conveying a you’re-not-actually-falling-for this-crap-message. “Don’t tell me you feel you owe her anything. Giving her the chance to speak, to look you in the eyes while you’re open to her, would only expose you to her whorish Core that can turn you from your path, like it did the Executioner. She’s been living with him for over a year, she made every effort to come into contact with me because she wanted him to be happy among his kind, to see all his dreams fulfilled”

“What?” I breathed, stricken.

“You do look into her eyes” the Blacksmith said, his steel glare still fixed on the Regent.

“Because I’m resilient to her, High Seraph. My heart has already been touched by something even stronger than her, a Venera Core. I will love Dolores till the end of time, I’m doomed to face millennia with this wound in my heart, the way you will be if Aurelia Novac pours her poison into you”

Against all odds, the Regent’s words came like an opiate for me, although he didn’t seem to know everything… he didn’t know the Blacksmith had already been exposed to my Core the moment he’d raised his blade to end me back at the Grabianko mansion. But then again, I didn’t seem to have the effect on him that I had on the Executioner or that Dolores Calderon had on the Regent. Yes, I’d lived with the Executioner for a long year, but the Blacksmith had made no attempt to find me. He seemed perfectly able to continue his existence without me in it and now, that we met again, he showed himself more than eager to torture me to death.

He looked down at me. His face was hard and his eyes implacable.

“Please, don’t go” I said weakly.

He lingered for only a second then turned his back at me and left the room. The high, wooden door closed behind him with a soft clank. I felt my eardrums shift, expanding the range of hearing to trace his footsteps on the hallway. But the doors and walls were perfectly insulated, especially designed to block the senses of our kind. I gasped as I realized the place was a bunker, fortified with the hardest and most impenetrable material there is: our own flesh. I dropped back into the cushioned armchair, my heart aching. The Regent looked at me with a smile of satisfaction on his face. Didn’t speak for long moments, pressing me to open my mouth first. I guess there are a lot of things demis do need. Like I now needed what only the Regent could give me – answers.

“Why are you doing this?” I breathed, my chest heavy.

“I am but fulfilling your wish”

“Are you lying to my face? News buddy, but I’m a demiangel and you’re the head of all demidemons. Ending my own kind isn’t exactly my life purpose”

“No, but ensuring their safety should be. Though I fear your love for the Blacksmith is blinding you to this duty

The room seemed to spin with me, only the Regent’s face anchored in the center of it.

“I don’t understand. If you know what he means to me, then why did you…”

“Because, Queen of Hearts” he cut in “it’s part of our deal”

“What the hell are you talking about?” I burst. This whole thing didn’t make any sense, despair was accumulating in my chest like a pile of rocks. It must have been obvious in my face, since the Regent raised his eyebrows, amused. Slowly, he turned his head to the side, looking up to the wooden balustrade where I’d first seen him stand. I followed his eyes and froze as I saw him. The Executioner, looking down at us. He was dressed in jeans and a black shirt. Fresh, clean. So he’d surely not been brought from the dungeons.

He gazed at me for moments, his coal eyes full of longing. It was only when he eventually glided down and approached me that I found the strength to speak again.

“You… How did you? Why? For God’s sake…”

“Don’t judge him, Aurelia” the Regent said “unlike the Blacksmith, the Executioner truly loves you. He is willing to sacrifice anything to be with you. He’d left his Nucleus for you, joined the demiangels, dedicated his existence to protecting you and all he dreams of is for you to love him back. To share your life with him… your bed. But apparently, you didn’t give him a chance”

“Give him a chance? He led my best friend to a torturous death, her and many more before” I cried.

“And the Blacksmith would do you much more harm than that” the Executioner burst angrily. “He’s a beast, but you’re willing to forgive him anything, aren’t you?”

“Children, please” the Regent cut in with false kindness “let us keep our heads cool. Aurelia, it’s imperative for you to understand the terms of the deal the Executioner and I have struck, if you wish to keep your friends and your Nucleus safe”

My lips sealed, I turned to him.

“You see,” he continued, “when your Core poured the opium of love into this young man’s heart, you became the center of his existence. He left everything behind for you, he even denied his nature. But when he realized that you would spend eternity only dreaming of another, that he would never kiss your lips again or hold you in his arms, he fell into despair. Luckily, however unbalanced by your powers, he’s still a demidemon. A brilliant one, I might add. He knew that if your dead friend’s kids moved close to you, in the mountains, you wouldn’t be able to stay away. He offered the grandparents the possibility of selling their apartment for a price way above the market and of buying a house in Sinaia for a ridiculously low one. They were maneuvered into the trade, the broker played a warm, friendly part by pointing out the advantages of moving away from the town where Gino fell apart after Raluca had died so horribly. Moving away from the past. The broker, my dear, is a human who works for the Order, like many others who play out our decisions among people, where we cannot show ourselves. The Executioner turned to him because he knew I’d find out. And send a brigade. My men watched the newly acquired house until you made your first appearance. At the foot of the hill. They followed you back to your hideout but the Executioner intercepted them at the edge of the forest, killed the leader – to draw attention and ensure respect, of course – and explained his intentions. He didn’t approach the Order directly because it would have been too obvious for your Nucleus and because, most probably, I wouldn’t have accepted to see him. I would have had the traitor killed. But while arranging the estate deal, the broker investigated the background of his own accord, like the Executioner expected him to. That’s how I found out about the Executioner’s reasons. I learned that a new Blacksmith, Darach Grabianko’s descendant, had been found and I learned about you. The man who attacked you and gave you my message was one of those who’d stayed behind, to make sure that you and your friends didn’t change location while the brigade came back to inform me of the Executioner’s proposition. I sent the dagger and the man came forward with it, the signal that I’d accepted. The Executioner’s shielding you and his aggressive attitude caused the man to attack, aiming to immobilise  this young man here so he could talk. The Executioner killed him to make sure he wouldn’t talk too much, he was new and might have made mistakes. A terrible loss but I guess it was necessary… collateral damage. I’m sorry you had to witness that. Now, the terms of the deal are as follows: you’ll kindly accept my invitation of staying with the Order, as the Executioner’s concubine. The Blacksmith is to think that this was your choice, that you asked for it because you return the Executioner’s feelings and Nathaniel’s Nucleus didn’t allow you to be together. In exchange for that I’ll let your friends live” he concluded with a wicked grin.

I stared at him, stunned, my mind automatically weighing options in my head. If the Executioner had betrayed our location in the woods, he might as well disclose Nathaniel’s in Berlin. Demiangels had trusted him, he knew too much. I’d trusted him… And he’d served us all to the most powerful demon of all on a golden plate. To the Regent… The Regent. Why would he even accept a deal with the Executioner?

“And what’s in it for you?” I whispered, looking the Regent in the eyes.

He grinned again, his small eyes darkening.

“Let’s say I have a debt to someone and this is the best way I can pay it”

“To whom?”

“Follow the cries of the blood and you’ll understand”

I must have gawked at him, stricken, since he burst into laughter.

“How did you know… the deja-vu? what I’d see? The Black Madonna, the…” I breathed

“I know you well, Queen of Hearts” he said “Better than you can yet imagine, even better than I knew Dolores”

His eyes wandered on my face, inspecting. I realized… not even for a second had the Regent looked at me as if he saw me for the first time. That familiarity, that sensation I’d had…

“How come?” I whispered, narrowing my eyes.

His grin widened, crooked and treacherous.

“The roots of your bloodline, my dear. I’ve been waiting for them to resurface for a very long time”

Now there was that question again, springing to the front of my mind. It shot out of my mouth in a surge of exasperation.

“What the hell do you mean?”

***

Hope you enjoyed this chapter from Cries of the Blood and stay tuned for chapter V, coming up next week. 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.

The previous episodes are available at Free Reads Cries of the Blood.

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!

4 thoughts on “PRACTICE DRAFTS. Cries of the Blood – Episode 4, Part 2

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