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Chapter 3: Awaiting His Bride
If ever a traveler had dared the journey across the Ishgartan mountains and lived long enough to return, he would have had mysterious and horrible tales to tell. But none of the peasants in the nearby villages recalled that having happened during the last hundred years or more. Of course there were the ancient stories the old women told when sitting around a fire during the long winter evenings. Stories that made you shiver and shake.
And later in the night, when the moon would disappear behind the clouds, the nightmares would be filled with the shapes of giant bats and screams that made the blood freeze in the tormented sleeper’s veins.
Growing up in the shadows of the looming mountains, which were part of the next kingdom already, the people dwelling in this last corner of the realm of King Arden had learned to live with the dark secrets radiating from Ishgartan. This feeling of horror and fear that befell everyone not used to the vibrations that made this mountains seem a living creature themselves had lead to this part of the country becoming a remote and barely visited one, a part that was to be avoided for your own good, a place the nannies would tell the children legends about to scare them to be good.
High in the Ishgartan mountains, the pale moon light caressed the magnificent construction from ages long lost, Raven Castle. No sign of decay marked the construction that seemed to be cut from the stone of the mountain itself, the surface shining like polished marble in the dark shades of death and doom. The few humans who were rewarded with the sight of Raven Castle though, hardly ever had had a chance to tell anyone about it, too strong was the spell of this ancient magic place and unknown the fate of those who followed the voices whispering words of eternal life and treasures beyond imagination.
Apparently deserted during the hours of the day, the Castle awoke to magnificent life at night, and court was held in the chambers by those who were the Children of Eternal Darkness. And children they seemed to be - there was no trace of age on the almost disturbingly beautiful faces, no sign of the burden of many years could be noticed in the liquid movements of the fragile shapes. And when during the small hours of the night they stretched their wings and claimed the sky, the night birds fell silent in awe.
Prince Shaidur of Ishgartan was silent tonight. The eternal ruler of the Kingdom of Darkness felt restless and ..... Adrianna was dying and he knew it was about time for the ancient ritual to be performed to refresh the blood that kept the clan alive over the centuries. It was time to take another wife who would nurture him, the High Lord, and thus his clan for the next hundred years. Only his life gave life to the clan, if he died they all would share his fate.
So he had sent word to King Arden to remind him of the contract between the countries that had been signed by their ancestors in times lost in the dust of history, but which had never been broken. To keep the peace between the countries, every hundred years the Prince of Ishgartan would marry the daughter of the neighbor kingdom. Of course, he thought with a little smile, nobody knew that the Prince of Ishgartan was eternal, getting married over and over again, whereas the princesses changed ... nobody knew that the Prince married to live, but the Princess to die. As long as her parents would live or any other relatives who might care he made sure the girls did not realize what was really going on. So their letters to home and family would be filled with happy babbles about how he spoilt them with jewels and the finest of fabrics from the far away exotic countries, and how they loved him , adored him, were happy to have found such a husband ... he usually managed to make them his devoted slaves ... he chuckled ... what else were they anyway? He took their blood, he took their souls... and usually was given their hearts and bodies more than willingly.
They were fun - at least for the first twenty years ... and after that, he shrugged his shoulders and dismissed the thought. After all, the girls were not suffering, they were fulfilled by the knowledge of doing it to please him, they were rewarded with hundred years of youth and a life free from all worries, and it was just an unfortunate twist of nature that after about one hundred years the human body biologically refused to re-produce the necessary amount of blood so that he had to replace his source of life in certain turns of time.
It was time for renewal again, he could tell by the feeling in his own body that Adrianna was becoming weaker and weaker by the day, and although she wasn’t visibly aging he was just fed up with her anyway. If it wouldn’t have been too obvious and causing too much rumor, he thought, he would have taken a daughter of each of the Kings, not only one in a century. But those were the rules and they were established to maintain the peace in the world more than for his own pleasure, so he would have to put up with them.
He rose from his chair and wandered the silent halls of his private quarters - he needed to feed again, too little had it been what he had been able to get earlier. He remembered the days when he had gone out hunting with the others, before he had been granted the privilege of his own clan... sometimes it seemed like yesterday.... when he had felt the fear in his victims before sinking his fangs into their warm pulsing veins, when the plump farm girls had succumbed to his promises and followed him into the stables where he would first taste their sweet kiss and pleasures of the flesh, before taking their lives in an ecstatic moment of sucking the warm blood from their veins and filling them with his seed at the same time.
But more than all this physical satisfaction he had been seeking power, the infinite knowledge of ages lost - only accessible for the Initiated, the High Lords of the Clans. Of course there had been a price to pay - the life of his clan being tied to his, it was his responsibility to protect himself, and this meant no more hunting, no more roaming the foreign lands beyond the mountains ... because he had to assure his safety for all of his clan - if he died, they all would. So he was condemned to be a prisoner of his own choice, but during the years he had been repaid in abundance by the incredible knowledge the Old Ones had had to offer and he had gained power beyond his wildest dreams. The only thing he had never found was a worthy companion to escort him through these realms of mystery and pain.
Only a few more days till his bride-to-be would be arriving at Raven Castle, only a few more days...
To Be Continued...