The glowing taper touched the wick of the black candle, and a new flame burst into life.
Millicent angrily rubbed at her eyes, cursing the tears that had formed there. She could not afford weakness, not now. It had taken the better part of the night to make her preparations, and she had only an hour or two until the pale fingers of dawn sought out this dark chapel. Should the guards find her there, she would be dragged before her father and made to explain her actions – and as severe as her punishment would be for setting foot in this foul place, the thought of losing her only hope was far more bitter.
By the light of the single black candle, Millicent considered her reflection in the looking glass. Not yet eighteen years of age, she still possessed the grace and poise of a much older woman. She had inherited her mother's large green eyes and flowing blonde locks, along with the generous, expressive mouth and diminutive frame that spoke of her father's Southern blood. Little more than sixteen years of age, her body had only recently ripened into the fullness of womanhood. She had thought little of the changes that were happening to her until the fateful day she had met a gallant young knight named Edward. Edward
. The thought of his name threatened to break her composure, and she hastily pushed it aside and undid the small bundle she carried with her. Inside, swaddled in black silk, was a dagger with a bright silver blade. Laying the silk on the ancient stone altar that served as a table, she grasped the hilt of the dagger, and placed the blade against the delicate flesh of her wrist. The ancient tome she had discovered in her father's library gave very clear instructions, and she was determined to follow them precisely, to do whatever was necessary to save her beloved. She marshalled her courage, breathed deeply, and took the first step.
The bright blade pricked her wrist, and a single drop of blood, dark in the candelight, fell onto the altar. It seemed to sparkle for a moment in the half-light, then vanished into the stone. All at once, a great wave of black fog erupted from the altar, swirling around Millicent in a dizzying maelstrom. Somewhere within the boundless darkness, a single belled tolled, rich and resonant.
“Who calls me?” said a voice in tones that spoke of heat and darkness. “Who dares summon the morning star?”
“I do,” replied Millicent, summoning every shred of her courage and dignity, forcing herself to stand fast. “I seek to make a bargain with you.”
“I am the beast, the darkness, the fire,” came the reply. “If you dare, make your request.”
“My true love has fallen to a murderer's blade,” Millicent said. “Edward, Knight of the Thorn. He lies abed, and chirurgeons have done all that they can. I wish him...” She faltered, but steeled herself. “I wish him to be safe from death's touch. I want him back.”
“I can give him back his life, this Knight of the Thorn. You must bear the price.”
Millicent raised her eyes to the looking glass, and her eyes widened. Behind her, half-seen in the gloom, was a shape, a figure, shrouded in midnight black. Candlelight gleamed on bone that had never known the embrace of flesh or sinew.
“What price?” Millicent whispered.
“You,” He replied, and his voice carried with it the sound of distant fires. “You must surrender yourself to Me, girl.” Something cold and unyielding tightened around her wrist, and she realised that she was in His grip.
“I...” she hesitated, then summoned to her mind the image of Edward's face, his eyes sunken, his cheeks pale, so much like the deathly vision which floated in the looking glass, but so different... “I agree,” she said, forcing the words through numb lips. “Whatever you ask of me, you shall have it.”
“Very well,” said the voice with satisfaction, rich and sultry. “You will come this chamber for five nights, girl. You will come willingly, and you will give yourself up to me.”
“I will.” Millicent said.
"The pact is made." Somewhere deep in the whirling shadows, the bell tolled again.
Something stroked the inside of her wrist, at the exact point where the silver blade had pierced her flesh. She looked down in alarm, but could see nothing. Nevertheless, the feeling of hot, damp flesh moving across her wrist made a cry of fear rise in her throat. Forcing herself to think of Edward, she swallowed and stood her ground. As if to taunt her, she could feel another touch on her right arm, coiling around her wrist and inching slowly toward her elbow.
The shifting shadows seemed to increase their speed. Millicent could feel no movement of the air, but the candleflame danced and guttered as the darkness raced around her. She could feel another hot touch running along her spine - under her dress - while yet another was coiling around her stomach. She could feel them pulse and tremble against her delicate flesh, and the moist heat of them made her head swim. She did not know what He was doing, nor even what He was capable of, but something in this abhorrent humiliation was touching her more deeply than she had ever thought possible.
More touches, some fleeting, some firm. The darkness swirled around her, and Millicent sobbed, half in fear for her life, half in desperation to release this terrible, burning desire. “Please,” she whispered, not knowing what is was she was begging for. His grip on her wrist burned like ice, but the strange, hot flesh continued it's exploration of her body, of her arms and her shoulder, of her stomach and breasts, of her thighs...
Then, all at once, with an exultant cry like the fall of heaven, He was with her, around her – sweet Gods, he was inside her
, tearing her body apart with a violent, delicious intrusion, a sweet violation of her innocent body. The darkness surged and throbbed within her body like a thunderstorm, filling her with dark light and a sickening desire for more. “No!” The cry tore free of Millicent's lips and vanished in the chaos around her, followed a moment later by a fierce cry of joy. The dull roar of unending fires could be heard in the distance; she could feel their infernal heat washing over her helpless body. The darkness seemed to thicken, swirling ever faster, parting to reveal glimpses of smooth white bone, or smooth white flesh. Ever stronger, ever faster, the darkness engulfed her trembling body, pain and humiliation intermingled with joy and a sweet, heady rush of power. The candle flame flickered in the midst of the black storm, a baleful red spark that spat and flared in His presence. Her eyes fixed on the flame, hot tears of shame and desire coursing down her cheeks, she parted her lips and screamed into the night.
And finally, willingly, Millicent surrendered herself to Him.
How long she hung in the smouldering darkness, her body thrumming with ecstasy, she could not afterwards recollect. Her very soul sang from His sweet torment, bathed in pain and ecstasy, and, somewhere far away, the terrible beauty of His unholy pleasure. The darkness swirled. The fires burned. It lasted a moment. It lasted forever...
All at once, the darkness was gone, and Millicent stumbled, falling against the altar. Her face pressed against the cool stone, she struggled for breath, her treacherous body trembling in remembrance of His desecrating touch. Forcing herself to look upward, into the looking glass, she saw the first gentle rays of sunlight falling through the chapel's high, barred window.
“That was the first of the five,” whispered His voice, deep inside her mind. “If you wish your love to survive, return to me when the moon is high.” The presence in her mind surged and flickered, then was gone, and Millicent was alone, accompanied by nothing but the echo of His words. Return to me
“I will,” she whispered, breathing deeply. The memory of the dark fire ignited a new spark deep within her. She had tasted a pleasure known only to a few, and it had been to her liking. What happened to Edward, her poor weak Knight, was no longer important. There was power here, power and pleasure in equal amounts, and Millicent was determined to have her full share. Her hand trembling, she ran her fingers down the front of her dress, over her heaving bosom, over her flat stomach, then sliding them between her thighs, feeling the moisture that had gathered there, delighting in the sinful pleasure of her transgression. Edward be damned, and all love with him. Millicent served a new master now, and she served Him eagerly.
“I will,” she repeated, and a wicked smile touched her full lips as the distant light of a new dawn filled the unholy chapel.
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