Nightshade Ch. 03bybella_de_los_muertos©
My many thanks to hex_nalun and Rosemund_deBurg for corroborating with me on this. You guys rock!!!
"So... the Sword has ordered me here... A town called Nightshade..." The young man's voice trailed off a bit. His short golden brown hair rustled a little in the breeze as he stepped out of the car. Not much could be told about him at a glance. The man appeared to be in his late 20s. He wore dark sunglasses and a fine suit. A soft Spanish accent wisped on his voice as he glanced around, looking for someone. A small moonstone amulet rested over his tie. It glinted slightly as he moved.
"Ciro Tarrago." A well built man, obviously a bodyguard of some kind, stood next to another black tinted car, waiting. Though he seemed to know the man's name he made no effort to move towards him.
"Yes?" The Spaniard asked as he walked over to the bodyguard. The bodyguard stood motionless as he waited for something. Moving slightly, Ciro gestures to the bodyguard, producing a small sigil. The Bodyguard nodded slightly and opened the car door.
"I'm glad you could make it Master Tarrago. You've heard of our situation here?" The bodyguard asked softly.
"Yes, I have heard, I am also aware of the recent failure. The De La Muertos and the Reece family will now be on guard because your men do not know how to kill. Because of these failures, I was asked to oversee a few things myself." Ciro replied softly. He carried a long parcel, holding it carefully under his arm.
"There is a hotel not too far from here. I would rather walk, if you don't mind. I would say to tell the others that I am here, but they undoubtedly know already." He continued as he turned away from the street lamp and began walking down the road. The moonstone amulet he wore seemed to flicker softly as he moved.
Ciro walked slowly, enjoying the change of pace. He smiled softly as he removed his sunglasses, tucking them neatly into the front pocket of his jacket. One of the few pleasure he still had the liberty to take on his own were these slow walks. His storm cloud silver eyes shimmered in the evening light. He took a moment to enjoy the night air. Yes... this would be the battleground. Not just this road, but also perhaps all of Nightshade. But not now, now it was just a road and he was just a traveler.
Turning slightly, Ciro decided that a slow walk through the nearby park would perhaps give him a moment to catch up on recent events. Though he had only arrived in Nightshade this evening, his shadow had moved before him, watching and listening. The park would be a good place for it to find him. In the dimming light, Ciro easily stood at around 5'10" but he always seemed just an inch taller than he really was. Carrying the parcel under his arm, he started making his way towards the park.
The cool evening air felt good. With practiced hands, Ciro quickly removed his jacket, draping it over the parcel he carried. Under his jacket, he wore a soft, silk shirt. Ciro took a minute to cuff his sleeves back to his elbows before continuing. The light fabric did little to hide his athletic build. He was slim, toned, and from what could be told by the soft light, had the body of a swimmer or a fencer perhaps.
Bella jerked backward out of reflex, her hand going to the surface of the bed for balance. The movement caused her waist length braid of dark red hair to slide over her shoulder and rest against the scooped neckline of her spaghetti-strap pajama shirt. The red silk looked like living blood on her form, the color picking up the peaches and cream complexion of her skin.
"My many thanks for the offer of assistance, but as you can see I can manage just fine on my own."
Inwardly her body crawled beneath her skin. Only with Dante, Dylan, and her father had she been able to stomach their touch. It was a hold over from her childhood when she had been kidnapped and ransomed in an attempt to kill her mother. She could still feel the hands tugging her backward against the hard body, her little feet kicking and her fingers clawing at the arm that held her. There was a reason Bella Reece never used a gun. She had already felt it's cool steel against her temple when the kidnapper had threatened to end her life. It was then, at the age of five, that she had not only witnessed her first murder and death, but vowed never to be scared again. Her current actions had nothing to do with Vane. It was just an automatic reflex that happened when she felt at a disadvantage. And, like it had happened since the first anniversary of her kidnapping, her spine straightened and training took over.
"Nothing personal or anything. Training habit." She shot Vane a look that he would understand. Keep your back to the corner and the whole room, and its occupants, in sight. It was an old ingrained habit any warrior knew. Silently stalking to her closet, Bella opened the door and stepped inside, reaching to make sure her dagger was within throwing distance. After pausing a second to make sure no one would follow, she donned black leather pants and a low cut dark blue halter top, she raised her arms carefully and tied the thin straps around her neck, beads of sweat breaking out on her forehead by the time she was finished. As she walked back into the room, she prepared herself for the typical scolding she was sure to get from the healer. Silently she sat down on the bed and reached for her boots, slowly lacing the boot before fastening the buckle over the strings.
"Before you start, " Bella said politely, picking up a small black backpack/purse. "I am just going for a slow walk around the park. I've been in this house for four days and i would actually like to eat something edible. Dante is the best swordsman on the south coast, but he cant cook worth a damn."
The soft moonlight was calming, peaceful, it made Ciro's hair glow like aged gold as he made his way through the old gates that lead to the park. It let Ciro forget about the troubles and work that lay before him. He hummed a soft song to himself as he walked. His steps were leisurely and slow.
Everything seemed so quiet to him. Sighing softly, he slowly lowered his guard. No here would know who he was, and keeping up wards and enchantments always drained him greatly. Sore muscles ached softly as he made his way over to a bench to sit and rest. He leaned back to gaze into the endless sky.
"So beautiful..." He whispered softly to himself as he closed his eyes. Darkness gave him visions of a woman in black with hair that held flame captive. "You don't expect me to believe that you brought me out here to show me a girl you found, do you, mi poca sombra?" (my shadow) He asked softly as he felt the darkness of the night moving around him.
Rosemund looked at her calmly, unmoved by the woman's stubborn nature. Humans were like that; odd really. Their determination to prove that they were not frail and fleeting creatures always fascinated the Sidhe. Like the scampering and struggles of mice drew the attention of other predators. To bad the Sidhe had stopped eating humans centuries ago. The stupid pact had been put in place and they now had to abide by playing by the rules. The De Los Muertos had married into the Sidhe royal family generations prior, lending them the ties to the royal court that they needed to bind the Sidhe to their laws. An annoyance really, since only the beauty and charm of faerie remained in their blood; leaving them without the abilities of the Sidhe and the durability.
"Scold you? Hardly, if you wish to exhaust yourself and send your body back to the sick bed and Mr. Savage's foul cooking for a fortnight then please do so at your leisure..." Rosemund had no intentions of healing her again. Exhaustion for humans could be solved by sleep and food. They were such simple creatures, but then Rosemund expected nothing less of those with such fleeting lives. A soft sigh escaped the Sidhe royal as she rose to her feet. No longer swaying her glamor had been put back into place. Still unearthly beautiful she no longer glowed the beautiful golden and bronze color. Her hair was simply gold with brown highlights instead of being the slumbering autumnal earth. Even her eyes seemed less, only their changing and swirling colors made her different from human eyes. Part of the compact, no fae wandering with their beings unshielded by glamor; it wasn't fair to the weak willed humans who were easily seduced.
"However, I did vow to Mr. Savage that no harm would come to you of my hand... So if you don't mind I will accompany you... I have yet to eat and I am sure you know well of places to dine that will not disturb my sense of cleanliness..." Her careful placement of words had slipped back as she moved into her cold disdain. A mask to hide what she was feeling and one long used to protect her from cousins who would kill her with a smile and a kiss. Duels for Rosemund were not unheard of and beneath her dress were many scars dotting down her slender form, shaping into what would seem an intricate pattern. Her healing magic could indeed be used for harm and it made her a feared member of the faerie court. After her fifth duel all involved mortality being invoked. It kept the abuse to her body down. Now, all Rosemund worried for were the stealth and shadows assassination attempts.
Rosemund could see the woman's nervousness in being touched. She was curious, wondering indeed what caused such wariness. Still she was too well mannered to ask or pry. That was something humans did not the Sidhe. Instead she walked towards Bella. Her lips curving into her best semblance of a wry and bemused grin as she offered her arm. "My balance has not fully recovered from healing you... Keeping glamor and walking would prove a challenge, if you would do me the honor of assisting me? Vane will keep us safe..." She ignored Vane's look of approval, as if he just realized that his mistress was neither vapid nor cold as she pretended. His dark eyes warmed slightly in approval as he looked over the two women. Perhaps Cerridwen had reasons why this niece out of her many was her favored. Still the dark man shifted, moving smoothly and silently as a shadow. His sleek form glinting slightly as he stalked forward to open the door for both ladies...
Bella could do no other than concede to Rose's request, at least not without seeming ruder than she had already been. Pushing her long braid over her shoulder, she grabbed her pack and moved to the woman's side. Silently holding up her left forearm for support, Sage followed Vane out of the room and down the hall before stopping.
"Hey Dante!" She called through the door. "Don't make my sister late for guard duty. She has to be there in three hours."
Bella took Rose's hand upon her arm again, and continued following Vane out the front door, unable to help noticing the difference between the three of them. Vane seemed like a wild thing in a man's body, barely leashed and controlable. He seemed to glide as she did, on the balls of her feet as if ready for an assault out of any and all directions. The woman . . .
Bella studied Rose and envied everything she presented to the outside world. Class, grace, proper manners, eloquence and a grace she would have loved to bottle and sell on the internet. Inwardly she sighed to herself, knowing that such things were only bestowed on those with the cash to pay for it, or the blue blood of the higher born clans and families of the town.
Her mother had had that. There was not a person alive in this town who didnt know of the dancer Dominique Vasquez-Reece. Born of the leader of the Laroux family had helped her ease her way through the private school all higher born children of Nightshade attended. She graduated at the top of her class and had gone off to college at Yale, graduating there in the top five percent, even with a dance scollarship. Sage had that grace, that poise, that calmness about her at times that made her heart ache with loniless for their mother.
Abruptly, Bella dropped her arm from under Rose's hand. She stood straight and tall, her form outlined on one side by the nearby streetlights, and by the dark of the City park on the other. Her hand began to tremble, and she flattened her hand against her leg, her free hand clutching the strap of the pack like it was a life line.
"I must give you my apologies, milady." She spouted suddenly, her mother's lessons in courtly manners beginning to roll through her head. She stood straight and formal, her hand crossing over to her left shoulder and laying flat across her chest as if giving the Pledge of Allegiance.
"But here is where our paths must depart. I owe you a debt for healing me, and will be grateful to return it should there need be. I . . . I had promised to visit some comrades once i had recovered. I fear it is not a place one of the Sidhe would prefer to frequent due to its location deep within the waters of the bayou. I shall remain at Dante's for a fortnight till things have settled with the De Los Muertos. Should you have need of me you will find me there. Or through Dante and Sage."
Even as she spoke, her legs carried her step by step, backward into the waiting shadows, sliding her pack over her head, the single strap's buckles fastening with a snap over her chest.
~ Go...Go....Go...GO! GO! GO! ~ Her mind fairly shouted inside her head. Her breathing hitched and she spun, taking her leave before the panic attack could hit her hard. Once out of sight she ran, her training kicking in as she ran through the woods, leaping over boulders and fallen tree trunks, her mind forcing her body to it's limits as it screamed silently within her.
It was that realization that she ran from. Death. She had nearly died. Died in the same way as her mother had, as her father and step-mother had died two years ago. As her uncles and aunts had died a year ago. Someone was out for Laroux blood. But not any Laroux . . . those of the the Reece family. She had always been the strong one, the older sibling, the protector, the teacher, the center of the family when all else tried to break them apart.
Now . . . now she ran. She ran from her own mortality and the thought that there was actually someone with the ability to escape her, the ability to kill her. If they could kill her, take her out, then the remaining members of her family, of the Laroux clan were sitting targets.
She didn't know how long she ran, but eventually she stopped, in the middle of the path with her breath wheezing and her shoulder aching, as she braced her hands on her knees and attempted to breathe naturally. She had just gotten her breath under control when a voice whispered maliciously from the darkness.
"Bella . . . Bella Reece. . . come out and play Bella. You know you want to."
Her head snapped up as her hand darted into the pack at her back, bringing out what looked like a long black flashlight the length of her hand. With a casual flick of her wrist, it extended into a staff made of black metal. Carved into the surface were light gray runes in the ancient language. Runes of strength, runes of concentration, runes of balance, and runes of protection and power. She knew she was at a disadvantage because of her wounded shoulder, but it wouldn't be the first time she had been caught unawares and she recovered quickly.
"What have you of me?" She asked formally, challenging whatever called to her from the shadows. Her hands tightened on the staff as a demon took shape, seeming to bleed from the shadows like a parasite from a corpse.
"Aramenel." She sneered.
"Reece." It answered back, the deep voice sounding like gravel to her ears. "I've come to finish what i started."
"You couldn't take me even if i were a corpse." She said, stepping light on the balls of her feet. "You know it's illegal for you to be in the park at night. What would your master Maddox say if he found you slinking around among the humans, breaking the treaty he signed just a week ago?"
"You talk too much." HE spat, his eyes flashing a glowing red before raising his clawed hands and leaping at her. Like most demons, his body was mainly muscle and shrouded in a long black cloak. His hands were bony and curved slightly, the claws stained with the blood of countless victims and kills. This one had fought for position and rank, and thought to gain a place in the Maddox army should he take out a Black Guardian. Bella was the best, the best of the best, and there were few that she knew who could take her in battle. Dante was one. Sage, obviously, the other.
"Ever dance with the devil in the pale moon light?" Aramenel hissed, his long snake like tongue flicking against his leathery skin.
"Now why would i want to dance with myself?" She taunted, bracing herself for his attack.
She didn't have long to wait.
"But... who is she?" Ciro continued softly. The shadows told him many things. She was neither Laroux nor De La Muertos, so why was she at the plantation house? The shadows also had a name for her, Bella...
"Here? Now?" Ciro managed to hear as he turned to see two figures some distance off. He could feel it, danger, and death. His shadow whispered of death. In the dim park's light, his moonstone amulet began to glow. A flickering of a flame at first, but as he focused on the two, the crystal pulsed malevolently with hate and anger. One word echoed and laughed through his mind, Sidhe... The Fey folk that he hated with a passion that scoured his heart.
Quickly snatching up his parcel and jacket he made his way towards the two. In the dim light he could make them out barely. His silver eyes were slitted against the silhouetting darkness as he moved. One was a woman, the other, a demon. Muscles, tight and toned as woven steel moved under white cotton and black silk as Ciro wove quickly towards them. His body moved like softened clay, mixing and melding with the darkness. He had no fear of repercussions from using a bit of power here. The moon gave him strength and the darkness gave him speed, there was no one to see him. Blending with shadows, he moved without a sound.
He stopped, standing in darkness. Shadows arched up and bent to shroud him from sight as he neared the two. His silver eyes widened as he saw her... the girl from the vision. Letting the adrenaline ease the tension he felt in his muscles, he straightening up a bit as he pushed back the veil of shadows that kept him hidden.
"Find your prey elsewhere, foul beast. I will not let you harm her." Ciro spoke as he approached. His hand rested on the parcel under his jacket where a hint of steel shone forth. Ciro's Spanish accent curled around his words, but hidden behind his voice was another, hidden behind his voice was the voice of his shadow. The shadow's voice was soft and strong. It echoed Ciro's words but had a deep Bayou accent that seemed to soak every word through. It was though it was the voice of Nightshade itself, an echo of the land that lay hidden behind the mysterious young man.
~Bella... my ma Bella... I have found you...~
Words that whisper softly through the wind, spoken by shadows and nothing more.
From deep within the bowels of the city park's clock tower, a long clear loud tone struck and echoed through the evening sky. Again and again it sounded, nine . . . ten . . . eleven . . . twelve . . .
It happened fast. The man spoke, Bella turned to look, and the Seere Demon slammed hard into her chest - the force knocking her back thirty feet to land at the stranger's feet.
"Thanks for giving them the heads up." Bella spat, standing and twisting the pole in her hands at the middle, blades erupting out of the end of her staff with a swish of metal.
Aramenel turns to the leader of the cronies and orders the attack. "I want you to rip that bitches heart out. I want to delivered to me in a doggy back. I want payback. Bitch!"