Her eternal love, p.1
Her Eternal Love, p.1
Her Eternal Love
Book One of the Realm of Shadows Series
Copyright 2013 Maria Christine
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced without prior written permission from the author.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, and events are the product of the author’s imagination. Any similarity to actual persons or events is purely coincidental.
Cover design by Nocturna Press
Cover image by Andrejs Pidjass/Getty Images
For Phillip & Cynthia
And Sharon & LaCoya
Elena sat atop the highest rock staring out upon the splendid view. An amethyst cloak shielded her skin from the cool mountain breeze. She fixed her gaze upon the glorious range and vast rain forest below, and she pondered. It had been ten years. Ten years since her nineteenth birthday—the night she danced in the woods with her friends until the midnight hour. A decade since she’d changed—or rather, when someone changed her—into a vampire.
For years, she avoided contact with ordinary humans in effort to stay her thirst. She didn’t want to harm anyone, and the blood of non-magical beings was nearly irresistible. Over the years she’d learned to feast on the nectar of fruits and even flowers. Lately, however, she felt different. Something inside was beginning to erupt. It was a craving, a hunger she’d suppressed for many years, yet was beginning to beckon her against any restraint she might have.
This wasn’t a thirst for blood; it was different. Elena knew exactly what it was, and tried desperately to shake it to no avail. She had to have Decio. She felt his pulse near. Not the pulse of a beating heart, but the pulse of his beating soul. And he felt hers too.
Rarely in a vampire’s everlasting life does he feel such emotion, but Elena and Decio shared a bond, an unyielding connection that burned in their hearts like a roaring flame, yet could never be satisfied. They could not be together for it was forbidden—forbidden by the keeper of the tenet, daughter of Lucifer and wife to the dark ruler, Imperial Lord LaVius. She was known by many names, among them Countess Domnina, governor of the realm of shadows.
The rules set by the countess were never to be questioned, and no one ever dared to pass the thought. It had been the natural way of things for centuries. In fact, the countess regarded Elena’s family as her own and before falling in love with Decio, Elena never questioned the governor’s decisions. Elena indeed stayed away as instructed, but her heart ached for him. And as her hunger for Decio increased, the more determined she became to find out why they were ordered to stay apart.
Mystique, the great and wise mystic of the woods, was Elena’s mother and a fierce friend to the countess. She had powers beyond measure, and superior clairvoyance. She knew the truth behind the separation of Elena and Decio but felt that explanation was not necessary; the rules were set and that was enough. But she also knew that her daughter was near. Her senses told her that Elena was returning to the realm and would inevitably—against all council and reason—confront Countess Domnina.
The woods were murky and cool. Mystique sat at the round oak table in her cottage, staring into the pool of her scrying bowl. As the ripples in the water settled, she saw what Elena was planning, and she knew the dangerous aftermath that would follow those actions. She was shaken. Her nails gripped the table. She had to do something right away. She had to get to the countess before her daughter had a chance. “Maybe I can stop the fury before it starts!” she exclaimed aloud. She slipped under a black cloak, leapt to her horse, and yelled, “To the black citadel, make haste!”
As she neared the land that housed the black citadel, palace of the Lord and Countess, Mystique felt a distinct chill. She was definitely close. Dusk was fading into night and she could not see the fortress, but there were watchers that would know she approached. She would be welcomed of course, but was on her guard. As she rode through the woods at high speed, she knew that many eyes were upon her, though she could see none. She threw back her hood as she sped so the unseen guards would recognize her and hold their positions. They let her pass. Word however, did reach the palace long before Mystique reached the gates. They opened as she approached; she never slowed down.
Outside the palace was dark and gray and cold. Inside, it was warm. Red rugs adorned the stone floors and stair cases, enormous fireplaces were in every room including the front entry. Inside them, the roaring flames seemed to come from the depths somewhere beneath the floor, possibly underground.
LaVius and Domnina were waiting in the dining hall. He was just finishing a side of roast boar and she stood behind him dressed in red velvet, her hands firmly massaging his neck as he ate. Domnina’s skin was olive and smooth, yet warm, and was radiant in the muted light. Her dark hair was swept up regally, and her lips matched her gown, as did the sixty-six carat inferno ruby ring that adorned her marriage finger. It warmed her hand whenever magical beings neared. She smiled when she was alerted to Mystique’s arrival.
“She nears, my dear LaVius.”
“Yes, I could feel her heartbeat some time ago,” he answered as he wiped his mouth with a cloth then dropped it on the table.
The countess slid around to his side and both drank the red wine from their cups. Mystique was announced, and at the nod of the dark lord, she was allowed to enter. LaVius grunted as he swallowed the liquid. Although he too was fond of Mystique—and he wasn’t fond of many—he knew something of Mystique’s business with them this night. He simmered silently and waited for her to begin. The countess was not as aware at the moment. She ushered her friend into the room and embraced her. “Mystique, come in. Have something to eat.”
“Thank you, no, Countess. I’ve already eaten,” Mystique answered.
“Then a drink? I insist,” the countess pressed. “Sit here. I’ll pour.”
A male servant came in, but the countess insisted on pouring the wine. However, she had him clear the dishes and food away and bring her husband something stronger to drink.
Mystique seemed a bit uncomfortable and LaVius noticed at once. He looked at her intently but didn’t give away what he knew. “You seem troubled Mystique,” he rumbled lowly. “Come now. Tell us what is on your mind.”
The countess’s back stiffened when she heard his tone. Her eyes darted to her friend. “Mystique?” she asked suspiciously. “Why have you come? What do you have to tell us?”
Mystique breathed deeply and began. “It is true. Something weighs on my mind. I come to you as a friend. I must ask something of you, and I beg you will see reason.”
The malevolent governor’s eyes began to darken. Mystique held the goblet in her hand and began to swirl the wine. She tried to compose herself. LaVius did the same with tongue in cheek. He never knew what to expect from his wife. She was a fierce friend, but could be hard to contend with in matters such as these. Mystique had been a kindred spirit to Domnina, and he didn’t want anything to come between the two women.
Countess Domnina stood firmly. She was not always a patient person. “Do you wish to tell me what is on your mind, Mystique?”
Mystique stilled the wine and gazed up at her sinister-looking friend. “It’s Elena,” she blurted.
LaVius knew as much. He grinned slyly and chuckled to himself as he took a drink, but never looked up from his goblet. He was quite amused.
The countess closed her eyes and turned away. “Mystique,” she began as she stared into the burning fireplace. “Does this have anything to do with her return?” She was sure of the truth, yet still bothered to hope she was wrong. She didn’t want Mystique to ask what she was about to.
Mystique stood from her chair. “Then you knew she was back?”
“Of course,” Domnina replied, her back ever turned. “Well?” she tittered. “What is bothering you?”
“It is about Decio.”
The countess’s eyes shot sharply to her friend. “Decio?! Mystique, you know that what is done is done. Furthermore, you know why they must remain apart.”
“Yes,” Mystique breathed. “I know better than anyone. But please hear me out. I did not come here to change your mind. I agree they must stay parted, but my daughter has been gone a long while. She has returned, and I have foreseen the reason. They are drawn to each other—more than ever before. Their souls beckon each other and she is no longer able to stay away. She has decided to confront you.”
LaVius and the countess looked at each other hard. The countess’s look became harsh. “Confront me? You cannot be serious.”
“We both know she is aware of the consequences, Mystique.”
“Yes, that is why I’ve come, to beg you to be reasonable.”
“I cannot treat her any differently than anyone else.”
“You must!” Mystique grabbed her friend’s sleeve. “Please!”
The countess was truly taken aback. Mystique had never been like this. She pondered a few thoughts. “Mystique, I am always reasonable.”
Mystique knew this not to be true, but agreed aloud. LaVius snickered in amusement, and the countess looked his way shrewdly.
“Mystique, my friend, we have known each other for nearly an age. I will carefully consider your request, and you will be made aware of my decision when the time comes.”
Mystique smiled charily. She knew there was nothing more she could ask.
The countess then handed Mystique her drink and took her own goblet to her lips. “Let us drink.”
They both sipped the delicious wine and LaVius stood from the table. He took Mystique’s hand. “The solstice ball is in two nights; please say you’ll be in attendance.” He bowed his head to her politely, and she did in return.
“Of course,” she replied. “I would never miss it.”
Countess Domnina quaffed her wine and pondered Elena once more. Her ring burned like fire against her skin. She knew who was nearby. She grinned but made no mention.
As Mystique mounted her steed and rode away home into the dark forest, she knew her daughter was close. Elena sat perched high on the branch of a giant kauri tree and watched her mother leave the castle. She would confront the countess at the annual solstice ball. But first, she would go to see Decio.
Everyone had a lot weighing on their minds that night. Now at home, Mystique sat in her wooden rocking chair smoking a long pipe. She stared out the open window into the darkness. As she rocked forward and back slowly, she was content with how things had gone with her friend. They were both powerful women, and both shared a secret. She hoped that Domnina would handle Elena without revealing that secret. She was concerned, but less than before. She had to believe that her old friend would come through.
Meanwhile, in the dark castle, the lord and countess rested in their chamber. The only light was that of the fireplace. It was hot against the dark lord’s back as the countess kneaded his shoulders. She stared at her ruby ring and thought about the situation. LaVius could feel her grip increase and knew she was brooding. “Domnina,” he spoke in a low, rumbling tone.
“Yes, my lord,” she whispered.
“Don’t be troubled by this. You will make the right decision.” He turned around and sat up to face her.
She stared into his malevolent but endearing eyes. “You have such faith in me,” she stated.
“Yes, my wicked and lovely woman. You’ve never failed to do what is best for the realm.”
“But this decision is particularly difficult,” she replied.
His voice quietly boomed. “No! There is but one possible decision. You know what must be done.”
The countess turned away, but LaVius gripped her chin tightly and forced her to face him. “Don’t forget who you are,” he warned.
She leaned upward and met him incitingly nose to nose. “Don’t you forget either,” she growled viciously.
His eyes burned red as fire. Rage thundered within his chest when she spoke to him so boldly, and then they fervently, heatedly kissed.
Miles from the castle, in the village of Redway, Elena strolled down the dirt road straight through town. It was late and most people were sleeping, but she knew there were those that preferred the night. She was after one in particular. She wore her cloak tight, the hood drawn so no one could see her face. She neared the end of the dirt lane and saw a familiar house in the distance. At the barn, a light was lit. As she neared it she felt a vibration from within her. It wouldn’t be long. They would be together at last.
When she reached the edge of the huge property she threw her hood back and began to sprint. Her speed was paralleled by very few other vampires. She arrived at the barn in an instant. It was lined with stables. She slipped off her cloak and tossed it to the ground. She could smell him. She could almost taste him. As she slowly entered the barn, she observed lighted torches on the walls. The horses began to whinny and kick. They were nervous as she neared. But she was not there for them. She stood still in the middle of the barn and they hushed abruptly. She cocked her head to the side and he pounced onto the ground behind her. It was Decio.
She turned to him and they stared at one another for several moments, gauging each other, pervading each other’s essence, making sure this was real. They had been apart too long. Each often wondered if the other had moved on, but knew in their hearts the truth. No words were needed. They suddenly kissed and embraced. Neither of them could withstand another moment apart. They had endured it for many years, but no longer. They would be together evermore, and no one could stop them.
Decio took Elena by the hand and they flitted at lightning speed to a ridge at the top of the hill. They sat in silence for a time, holding each other and memorizing each other’s faces in the moonlight. All they’d ever wanted was this: to simply be together. It had been forbidden for what seemed an eternity, and they tried to abide by the order, but it was futile. Their hearts would not allow it.
“Elena, my beautiful woman, you are all I’ve ever wanted.” Decio was overcome with emotion. He cupped her face with his hands. “I have dreamed of this moment all of these long years. I have tried, but I cannot survive without you. We must be together now at any cost.”
“I feel the same. You are my one and only love, Decio. That is why I will confront the countess at the solstice ball, and tell her we will be together no matter the consequences.”
“Elena, you can’t—”
“Yes, I can. And I will. I don’t want us to be a secret. I won’t run scared.”
He smiled and stroked her cheek. “You’re right. We shall go together and demand an explanation for the cruelty of her ruling in the first place.”
Elena smirked. “I don’t care for her explanations.”
“Don’t you want to know why this all came to pass?” Decio asked.
“No. All I need to know is that you are with me, and that no one can keep us apart any longer.”
He looked into her eyes proudly and lovingly. “I am with you, my love. I am with you forever.”
The night of the solstice ball had arrived, and the gates to the black citadel were open. Hundreds of magical creatures from the realm were in attendance and gathered on the grounds outside the castle. Many varieties of persons were there from dark to light, evil, nefarious, virtuous and upright. They set aside their differences to draw together and celebrate the holiday.
The gathering was a blend of vampires, elves, werewolves, centaurs, and mystical humans—some mortal, some immortal. And all of them sensed a perplexity in the air. Even though they laughed and sang and danced, ate their feast and enjoyed the festivities, they all felt that something unexpected would happen this night and the crowd began to stir with speculation.
Mystique nervously awaited her daughter’s arrival. She knew it would happen tonight. It was just a matter of when. Two familiar wolves slinked through the raucous crowd and past the fire eaters. They approached Mystique and shape-shifted into their human forms. They were her married friends, Devlin and Luna.
“What troubles you, our good friend?” Devlin asked. “Is it the sky this night? The look of it certainly troubles me.”
“Yes, and me as well,” Luna added. “Something about it is unorthodox. And the forest is too quiet.”
Mystique smiled at her friends, but did not reveal what was on her mind. She laughed to throw them off and to lighten the mood. “Well, the forest is quiet because all of the beasts are here,” she joked.
They laughed heartily. “Indeed, you are right, Mystique,” Devlin chuckled.
Mystique wanted to cut the conversation short so they wouldn’t pick up on her continuing anxiety and question her again. So she bid them a fine evening and slipped away to find Domnina.
In fact, to Mystique’s perplexity, neither the countess nor Lord LaVius had made an appearance yet. She decided to look for them. She made way across the courtyard, through the crowd, and up the stone staircase where their thrones stood.
Her Eternal Love by Maria Christine / Fantasy / Horror / Romance & Love have rating 4.8 out of 5 / Based on19 votes