Captured by the Dark Lord (3 page)

BOOK: Captured by the Dark Lord
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Henry
stopped to force his pounding heart to slow, then continued, “Inside was ... a
... a death knight.  He has taken your father, Lady Bianca.”

 

Gasps and shouts tore through
the room as the castle worked alive in disbelief and despair.  Some men made
signs of protection against evil spirits across their chests, their faces
filled with fear.  Lady Bianca appeared stricken, her skin paling to the
whiteness of death.

 

“The legends are true then.” 
Zycar breathed heavily, collapsing in his chair.  “That such could exist ...
able to kill a man with one word, one touch....”

 

“What does he want?” Lady
Bianca asked softly, her voice barely audible above the uproar of the crowd. 
When Henry remained silent, she gave him a hard look, one that he could not
resist.

 

“The death knight asks for
you, Lady Bianca.”  She paled more, cold and fragile as crystal.  Henry faced
Sir Zycar, unable to bear looking on her.  “I don’t know what he shall do if
she is not received.”

 

“He cannot be allowed to have
her.”

 

“Lord Bordeaux’s words
exactly.  But please, we must send help. Our lord commanded me to bring help to
free him, else his life is forfeit.  The dark one will not barter for his
release.  He said only, your daughter for your own life.”

 

A man shouted from the crowd,
“How are we to battle an immortal?” 

 

“What hope have we in meeting
such a one?” another shouted.

 

Chaos erupted as more and
more men shouted their fears and doubts, their certainty that they could not
hope to best such a foe, for how could any mortal best a man who is neither
living nor dead.  An army could not overtake him.

 

Zycar slammed his fist into
his palm.  “He is lost to us.  There is naught we can do to save him, for we
cannot forfeit his daughter, not when he forbade it.  We are but mortal men, we
cannot hope to face such a foe alone ... not and keep our lives, not with hope
of saving our lord.  A hundred men could not face him and win.  A sorcerer is
required to battle his evil.  We must send for one at once.”

 

“I fear there is no time, Sir
Zycar.  A creature such as this will not allow us the luxury of time to fight
him.  He will know our plans if we delay answering his demands.”

 

“We have no choice.”

 

They continued arguing amongst
themselves, growing more heated as the minutes passed.  No one noticed as Lady
Bianca slipped away.

 

* * * *

 

Bianca hastily gathered
supplies and clothing, both for herself and her father, and stuffed bundles of
clothes and food into pouches on either side of the saddle.  With a light load
and a look of confidence, she mounted Beast and guided the horse from the
stables.  The gatekeeper guards, she knew, would balk at allowing her to pass
unescorted, so she turned her horse toward the postern gate, knowing it would
be unguarded at this hour with most of the castle’s residents gathered in the
great hall making plans and eating.

 

Hours later, the horse’s
massive hooves thundered through the quiet forest, the sound of their passing scattering
birds and other wild life.  The flutter of wings and snapping branches and
brush filled the air.  She guided Beast on a downward path, the air cooling as
they headed north and down the mountain pass.

 

Doubts shook has as she rode,
but Bianca dismissed them.  She would find this castle of which Henry had
spoken--she had to.  Only one valley remained unexplored and undeveloped to the
Raedan people.  It was the only possible area where such a castle might lie. 
The valley lay as a shallow divide between their borders and those of Hellsing,
and the proximity to that accursed place guaranteed none of their people would
ever want to dwell there.

 

Bianca worried over her
father as she rode steadily down, the day passing in a blur as her mind turned
inward, caught in a whirlwind of terrible possibilities her father could have
suffered or was being put through even now.  Her father was old.  He could not
last long with terror taking him in its terrible hold.  She could only trust
that the death knight would not physically harm him, or else he would have
nothing to bargain with.  In her heart, she trusted, though she knew it was
foolish to believe such a terror could have any shred of honor.

 

As Beast tired from his
steady pace, she laid her hands upon his neck, easing the gelding’s worn
muscles.  Her fingertips and palms glowed red, lit from within as the healing
power spread from her body to his, healing his aches and hurts.  She regretted
pushing him so hard, but she could not allow her father to suffer any longer
than he must.

 

Dusk snuffed the sun’s light,
night prowling upon them through the canopy of the forest.  Bianca clung
wearily to Beast, drained from using her powers, and by her thoughts and fears
for her father.  She drifted into a trance as Beast took the lead and picked
his own way through the dark woods.

 

It wasn’t until the horse
startled abruptly that she noticed they’d reached the forest’s end.  The small
trail Beast stood on opened into a wide path, and in the distance, she could
see the spires of a castle grasping toward the moonlit sky like the blackened,
withered fingers of a corpse.

 

A sliver of fear slithered
over her skin as they trotted up the road.  The pulse thrumming through her
body quickened as her adrenaline surged, and a sick feeling grew in her gut.  She
ignored Beast’s nickering and huffing, keeping her eyes on the dark mass as it
grew more distinct the closer they came.  There could be no mistaking the
castle as any other but the one Henry had described in his ramblings.  Drawing
down a hill, the castle slipped out of sight behind a tall stone wall obscured
to near invisibility by tree growth and vines clinging to the stonework.

 

The stonework stretched
beyond her sight into the darkness, seeming to go on forever.

 

As she rounded the border
wall, the entrance came into view, and she urged Beast onward with near giddy
relief that she was so close to her goal.  She would soon see her father free.

 

The spider’s gates, looking
just as Henry had described them, hung open, welcoming, and she passed
unhampered through them.  The road stretched smooth and wide, the lawn trimmed
and well kept.  She’d thought to encounter rot and destruction, wildness, not a
dwelling of this caliber and keeping.  It appeared almost ... lived in.

 

She frowned, wondering now if
she had mistaken Henry’s description, if she had wandered onto the grounds of
some other castle.  But she knew their other lands well.  She could not believe
another castle such as this lay nearby and had never once been seen by any of
their people.  This must be the place.  Perhaps Henry, in his terror, had
imagined much of what he believed he had seen?  Hysteria and the storm had made
the castle and grounds more horrific than they really appeared.

 

She halted Beast near the
entrance and looped his reins around a short, ornate post that stood at the
base of the steps.  Cautious, she gathered her courage and ascended.  Knocking
on the door garnered her no answer, so she opened it, allowing the heavy oaken
door to fall open on oiled hinges and slap against the inner wall.

 

It rang hollowly through the
antechamber, the clap echoing into nothingness.  There was no one inside to
greet her, but the chamber was well lit against the darkness closing in from outside. 
Bianca walked inside, looking around, expecting an ambush, and finally entered
the vast hall.  It was empty, as well. 

 

She frowned, disconcerted
that she’d ridden so far and found she faced no enemy.  She had no idea where
to begin searching for her father.

 

“Welcome, my lady,” a man’s
voice spoke behind her.

 

Bianca whirled around to see
nothing but air and the empty antechamber she’d passed through.  The voice had
to belong to the knight.  He was taunting her.  An immediate surge of
determination stayed her from fleeing the premises in fear.  Heat flushed her
face and arms, giving her strength to face the horror down.

 

“Show yourself, fiend, and
end this game.  I have come as you demanded, for my father’s life.  Let us not
toy with each other.”

 

He chuckled darkly, amused by
her show of boldness.  “As you wish, my lady.”

 

A wind rippled through the
hall, flames dancing in its wake, light flickering and casting distorted
shadows across the smooth walls.  A chill seized her, her neck hairs rising with
the feel of someone, or something, staring at her from behind.  The look was
palpable, prickling up her backside to the back of her head.

 

Dark magic.

 

Slowly, she turned back to
look at the dark throne.  Facing the death knight, she dragged her eyes up from
the floor to gaze at one of mankind’s most feared legends in the flesh....

 

He absorbed her attention,
capturing it, like a moth drawn to the sweet dew gathered on a spider’s web. 
Speechless, she could only stare at him, take in every detail like a dying
woman thirsting for water.  To look upon him, he appeared as a man, but a cold
emanated from his being that the distance could not lessen.  The cold of the
grave….

 

Words failed her.  All
thought beyond the incredible urge to turn around and run assailed her with a
strength and intensity she never imagined possible.  Her heart pounded inside
her chest, making her lungs ache with the pressure from the vital organ.  She
could feel her insides tremble, felt it move down her shoulders, arms, into her
fingers and legs.  Her knees felt as substantial as jelly.

 

Like a pack of wild dogs, she
knew he could sense her fear, and she also knew beyond anything else, that he
must not see how terrified she felt.

 

She clasped her hands
together to cease their shaking and strode toward him, forcing a bravery into
her body that she neither knew or felt.  Only the love of her father could give
her strength now.  Her back held straight, her heart beating until she thought
it would burst through her ribs.  Halting at the dais, she gazed up at him,
willing her eyes to reflect a calm she did not feel.

 

An icy chill flowed from him,
curling over her body like a lover’s caress.  She fought against the numbness,
watching as he took one step down and another, until he stood close enough she
could reach out and touch him.

 

Armor, blackened as though
scorched by flame, covered him completely.  Carved into the breastplate was a
coat of arms: a spider twined about a rose.  Something about it teased her
memory but remained elusive.  She shoved the irritant away, lifting her gaze. 
Hair the shining white of platinum spilled across his shoulders, drawing her
gaze upward to his face.  A helm obscured his eyes from her sight, leaving only
his jaw exposed.  Hard, angular, he was formed of bold lines, with cruel lips
that threatened soft, sensual delights and wicked pleasures of the flesh....

 

She shook herself mentally,
wondering at the absurdly strange turn of her thoughts and if he’d planted them
there with black magic.  Could he be only illusion, a figment of her mind?  He
appeared not to be the monster of old superstition—a rotting, animated corpse
possessing the power to kill with a single touch.

 

Mayhap Henry had been foolish
and wrong, driven into delusions of terror by the events of that night and his
master’s capture.  Perhaps this was just another warlord bent on gaining riches
and infamy and nothing so sinister as a death knight.

 

She couldn’t know when it had
happened, but she’d begun to doubt herself, doubt that this man could be
something as horrid as a death knight.  Hardly daring, she reached up to touch
him, to see if he was real.  A shock of fiery ice jolted through her fingertips
at the contact, numbing her hand.  Red light flared from her fingers, and she gasped
and pulled back.  The pain ceased immediately.

 

His eyes narrowed at her
through the slits of the visor, but no longer did cold radiate from his armor. 
“You are a healer,” he said, sounding almost ... amazed.

 

Bianca could only watch as
his lips formed the words, fascinated.  Some spell had taken hold of her.  She
dug her nails into her palms, squeezing her fists tightly.  The sting cleared
her mind, made her focus.   “I am as such.”

BOOK: Captured by the Dark Lord
12.71Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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