Hostage Bride – Part 2

This is the second part of the story I started a couple months ago.  It’s an answer to the genre stretch for last month: low fantasy.

**

It hadn’t taken Richard long to find Erin. The problem was that she was, to him at least, entirely unreachable. He was forced to retreat for the moment. He returned as night was falling with two others: Franz Edelstein and Dietrich Schneider. Erin didn’t particularly care for either of them. However, they were on her side… most of the time.

“Why are we here, Moore?” Edelstein asked. “What’s this to do with Erin’s disappearance?”

Richard scowled at the decrepit old building that served as a prison for Erin. “She’s in there,” he said, glancing over at Edelstein. His brows furrowed. “Adler kidnapped her. You recall Adler, do you not? Wanted for murder? Summoner of demons? The man who assaulted Erin just over a year ago?”

“If you know he has her and that she’s here,” Edelstein asked, his tone one of annoyance, “why haven’t you stormed the place and rescued her? Surely, it’s not an impregnable fortress. Once night has fallen…” he trailed off to wave around at the gathering gloom.

“It’s not so simple as that, sir,” Schneider said, his voice soft. He gave Richard a wry smile. “You can’t enter a house where you haven’t been invited. Is that it?”

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Hostage Bride

The Genre Stretch for the month is Gothic fiction.  I think I did a pretty good job of getting this story into that genre, but Erin’s world lends itself well to that genre.  I’m going to do the same thing with this story as I did with my previous one: the Genre stretch for next month and the month after will be used to work on this story.  My goal is to finish it in the next couple thousand words.  I think that’s doable.

**

To say that Erin was angry would have been an understatement.  She was so much more than angry.  She wanted nothing less than to kill Heinrich Adler.  The problem was, with her wrists shackled in heavy chains, she was having trouble lifting them.  That made strangling the life from her captor rather impossible.

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Drowned in Rain

This scene is a continuation of my snippet with the flowers sighing.  Here, we find out what they were really sighing about.  It was inspired by a word prompt from the WriYe DreamWidth (drowned in rain).

**

Richard woke to the sound of rain beating on the roof and windows.  He groaned and rolled over to frown at the clock.  It wasn’t even night yet.  However, it was so dark, due to the rainclouds, that he had no problem being awake.  Heaving a sigh, he threw back the covered and got out of bed.

When he came downstairs, he found that Erin was sitting by the large front window, glaring outside.  “I hate this weather,” he said, ruffling a hand through his hair.  “It’s too dark.  I can’t sleep.”

“It’s like feast or famine out there,” Erin said, standing.  She smoothed her hand over her skirts and turned to face him.  “For a moment, it’s been dry as bones.  Now, it won’t stop raining.”

“Maybe this is what the flowers were sighing about,” Richard said, as he crossed to the window and looked outside.  On the street that ran in front of Erin’s home, people were running to get to their destinations as quickly as possible.  His brows furrowed as a tall figure made his way up the walk.

A moment later, the bell rang.  Richard turned to Erin.  “Edelstein,” he said, his voice soft, as he heard the butler answer the door.  “It seems he left his office in a hurry.  He didn’t even have a hat or an umbrella.”

Erin scowled and then looked up as the butler appeared in the doorway.  Edelstein was just behind him, looking like a drowned rat.  At Erin’s nod, the butler stepped back to wave the man into the room.  “Didn’t know it was raining or left in a hurry?” she asked, as she stepped over to a nearby chair.

Edelstein pushed his hair back from his face.  “It wasn’t raining over my office,” he said, shaking his head.  He stalked over to the couch and sat down.  “It is, in fact, only raining within ten miles of your house in a near-perfect radius.”

“Weird,” Richard said, blinking.

The Flowers Told Me…

This little snippet was inspired by a word prompt from the WriYe DreamWidth (Flowers told).  It was fun to write…

**

Erin frowned deeply when the wind ruffled the curtains at the window.  From the vase of flowers on the table nearby, she heard a soft sigh or whistle.  It was almost the sound one might hear if the wind whistled around the eaves of the house.  However, the sound was most certainly coming from the vase or the flowers themselves.

She frowned.  They looked like normal, average phlox and asters.  Shaking her head, she turned to Gretchen.  “Where did we get those flowers?” she asked, pointing at the blooms.

“From the garden, miss,” Gretchen said, frowning.  The wind rustled the curtains and again the low sigh seemed to come from the vase of flowers.  Gretchen looked up at Erin in alarm.  “Are the flowers sighing, miss?”

“They certainly seem to be,” Erin said, nodding.  She scowled and then strode to the window.  She closed the window firmly and then latched it.  A moment later, the sky opened up.  Her eyes widened and then she arched her brows at Gretchen.  “Rain,” she said.

“Apparently, they wanted you to know it was going to rain, miss,” Gretchen said.  Her brows furrowed and Erin could tell that she was trying not to laugh.  Another other maid would have been in a panic over such a thing.  Gretchen, clearly, had lived among wizards and magicians too long to find it amusing.

Erin shook her head.  Richard was never going to believe that she knew to close the window because the flowers told her.  “I just wonder if they’ll let us know when it’s safe to open the window again,” she said.  Then she swept out of the room.  She had more important things to do than deal with sighing flowers.

Haunted – Part Two

This is the second half of “Haunted”, which features Erin von Brenner and Richard Moore.  I have too much fun with these two characters.  Erin’s so… strong and unflappable, even when she’s a little freaked out by what’s happening.  Richard, on the other hand, is sort of a wimp.  This scene was inspired by a word prompt from the WriYe DreamWidth (a darkness dwelt).

**

Erin was, truthfully, more than a little unnerved about the house.  Something about it felt off – somehow wrong.  It wasn’t as if there was something very wrong.  Indeed, on the surface, it all looked like you’d expect a house that had sat empty to look.  There was dust and cobwebs everywhere.  Still, there was something – something she couldn’t quite put her finger on – that was not as it should be.

As she reached the second story, she stopped in front of a mirror.  It was the only thing that wasn’t covered in dust.  It was as though someone had come in ahead of them to clean and had only done the mirrors.  Erin stopped on the landing and frowned at the mirror.

She could see Richard stop behind her on the steps to frown at her.  She could see her own reflection, frowning back at her.  “What is it?” he asked, his voice soft.

Erin shook her head.  “Something’s off,” she said.  “Why aren’t the mirrors covered in dust?”  She turned to him and Richard gasped.  Grabbing her by the shoulders, he pulled her to one side.  “What?” she breathed.

Tears welled in his eyes.  “You turned to face me and – and your reflection grinned,” he said, his voice strained.  “That’s not right, Erin!  That shouldn’t happen!”

Erin scowled and turned back to the mirror.  Neither of them were reflected in the glass now.  All she could see was the lower level of the house – the shadows and darkness.  Her brows furrowed as she saw a darkness that was denser than the shadows flit across the glass.  “There’s a darkness here,” she murmured, finally.

“Erin,” Richard said, his voice soft and calmer now.  “Can we leave?  Please?”  He was holding her hand and she could feel him trembling.  If she teased him for being afraid now, he wouldn’t deny it.  At the same time, she wouldn’t be teasing him for his fear at this point.

A flash of movement down the corridor caught Erin’s attention and she looked up.  There was another mirror at the far end of the corridor.  She knew without looking that Richard was staring at it.  That was why he was shaking.  Both of their reflections wore manic grins.

“Go,” Erin breathed.

Richard didn’t have to be told twice.  Using the strength and speed that only his kind had, he scooped Erin up in a princess-style carry and bolted down the steps and out the front door.  Erin watched in fascinated dread as the shadows followed them down the steps as far as the door.  They stopped at the threshold, as if they were trapped in the house.

Panting, Richard set her on her feet and raised his umbrella over his head.  As he turned to the house, he shuddered.  “So,” he said, his voice a bit high and breathy, “what shall we tell Lucas?”

“That he doesn’t want this house,” Erin said.  Then she turned on her heel and headed for the waiting carriage.  Next time Richard told her that he didn’t like the way a place felt, perhaps she’d listen.  Then again, she could be very stubborn, so she probably wouldn’t listen after all.

Haunted – Part 1

This is the first section of a short story that I’m writing featuring Erin von Brenner and Richard Moore.  It was inspired by a picture prompt from the WriYe DreamWidth.

**

434916e03ad5e1c0e73282e9bf753ee4Richard wasn’t normally the sort to look at a boarded up old house and declare that it was haunted.  When a house sat empty, it was normal for whoever was responsible for the property to board up the windows.  It kept them from being broken by mischievous children.  It kept trespassers out.

However, there was something about this house that unnerved him.  He looked over at Erin and gave her a weak smile.  “Perhaps you could come back tomorrow morning,” he suggested.

Erin arched her eyebrows and then whirled away from him.  She headed for the steps that led up to the porch.  “What kind of vampire is afraid of an old abandoned house?” she called back to him.

Flinching, Richard heaved a sigh and hurried across the lawn to her side.  He reached her as she mounted the steps and caught her hand to steady her.  “I’m not afraid,” he lied.  “I just thought… it might not be safe to be here so late in the evening.”

“Liar,” Erin accused.  Then she used the key that the caretaker had given them to unlock the door.  “This house was really lovely at one time and you’re quivering in your shoes because it’s a bit derelict now.”

“Why has no one lived here in so long?” Richard said, frowning.  He stayed close to her side, ostensibly, in case she tripped on a loose board.

Erin shrugged.  “The usual complaints about knocking and moaning and mysterious footsteps that come with haunted houses,” she said, shaking her head.  When Richard froze again, she turned and glared at him.  “You’re not scared of a ghost, are you?  Really?”

“How can you be so blasé about this, Erin?” he asked, his voice soft.  “I mean, do we even know who or what is haunting this house?  It might be a demonic entity!”

Rolling her eyes, Erin shook her head.  “It could also be people’s over-active imaginations,” she said.  Moving to the stairs, she said, “In any case, we here as a favor to Lucas.  He’s thinking of buying the place and wants us to check it out first.”

Richard heaved a sigh and nodded.  After everything that her brother had been through and after so long of searching for him, Erin would anything to make him happy.  If that meant going to a reputedly haunted house to see if the reports were real, she was more than willing to do it.  It probably helped that Erin didn’t believe in hauntings in the classical sense.  Ghosts were real, as far as she was concerned.  However, they couldn’t actually harm the living.  In fact, to her way of thinking, the most they could do was make noise and float through you.

When they were halfway up the steps, Richard froze again.  He could hear footsteps in the next room.  Catching Erin by the sleeve, he said, “Did you hear that?  Footsteps?”

Erin heaved a sigh.  “I heard the floorboards creak,” she said, shrugging.  “That could be the wind or the house settling.  No one’s walked on these boards in years, Richard.  They’re going to creak and groan a bit.”

She pulled away and continued up the steps.  As Richard followed her, he couldn’t help but wonder if they weren’t making a mistake.  However, he’d learned from experience that you couldn’t argue with Erin.  Once she took it into her head to do something, she would do it.

An Unusual Display

This little vignette was inspired by a phrase prompt from the WriYe DreamWidth.  The phrase was: lights pulse and weave and… after thinking about it for a while, it reminded me of an aurora borealis.  I’ve only ever seen them in photographs and videos aurora, so my description is based on a picture that was taken in a place that parallels the location of the story.

**

It wasn’t unusual for Richard to be up until all hours of the night.  In fact, given his vampiric nature, it was rather odd how active he was during the daylight hours.  He usually spent most of his late nights sequestered in the library.  He was well aware that most of the household was asleep, so he kept to himself, so as not to disturb them.

So, Erin was surprised when he shook her awake in the middle of the night.  “What’s wrong?” she asked, as she sat up and rubbed sleep from her eyes.

Richard handed her a dressing gown and whispered, “Come and see!”  Then he left her side to hurry to the curtained windows.

Erin was just slipping off her bed and shrugging into the dressing gown when he threw back the heavy curtains.  Immediately, soft light filled the room.  Frowning, Erin padded to the window and looked outside.  The sky was ablaze with colors.  Near the horizon, there was a line of yellow that faded upward into pale green.  Another band, this one red, cut diagonally through the first.  Where they touched the sky was orange.

“What is that?” Erin breathed.  She’d never seen anything so beautiful in her life.

Richard set a hand on her shoulder.  “They’re called the northern lights – the aurora borealis,” he said.  “They aren’t usually visible so far south, so I’m not surprised that you’ve never seen them.  It’s why I decided to wake you, actually.”

“I’m so glad that you did,” Erin murmured.  She sat down on the cushioned window seat and smiled when Richard joined her.  Together, they watched the lights pulse and weave until they finally faded back into darkness.

The Ashes of Youth

Heather's Fancies

A little story featuring some new characters.  It was inspired by a phrase prompt at the WriYe DreamWidth (which became the title).

**

Franz Edelstein hadn’t expected the case to turn out like this.  They were supposed to find that the girl had simply run off with her boyfriend.  Instead, they’d found that the boy had been sent off to join the military, so the girl couldn’t be with him.  Now – less than a day later – he was standing in a field of tall grass, looking down at the body of their missing girl.

“How long do you suppose it’ll take before she arrives?” the peace officer beside him murmured.

He heard a coarse voice floating across the field.  A woman was scolding someone about being too slow and needing to pay better attention to what he was doing.

“She’s already here,” Edelstein said, grimacing.  He didn’t care…

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Golden Promises

This little vignette was inspired by a picture prompt from the WriYe DreamWidth and features my new character and her father much younger than in the previous story.  (I just realized that the other story with these characters ended up on my other blog.)

**

Johann Von Brenner was more than a little worried about his daughter. Seventeen was a difficult age under the best of circumstances. However, she’d lost both her elder brother and her mother in a matter of months. The double loss had his him hard enough. It must have been so much worse on the young girl.

He started across the grounds, scanning the trees that were scattered across the fields for any sign of the girl. He finally spotted her at the base of a tall tree, staring up into the branches. “Erin?” he called.

126c709e160ac3121c73b6063486fa7fShe looked over her shoulder at him and then looked back upwards once again. When he reached her side, she said, “Lucas used to climb this tree.”

“I remember,” Johann said, nodding. He’d had the gardener cut back the lowest branches when Erin had nearly fallen badly trying to mimic her elder brother. That had ended both children’s tree-climbing adventures.

“He’d go as high as he could and… he’d say that he could see the whole world from up there,” Erin said, her gaze going to the golden leaves high overhead. “He’s say that he felt like he could touch the sky.”

“Erin?” Johann said.

Erin looked at him suddenly. Her eyes were moist with unshed tears, but there was an intensity in her gaze and a determined expression about her lips. “If I climbed high enough, do you think I’d see where they took Lucas, Father?” she asked, arching her brow. “Would I be able to hear Mama’s voice again?”

“No,” he said, his vision blurring as tears filled his own eyes. “Would that it were that easy.”

Nodding, Erin looked up at the tree once again. Setting a hand against the rough bark, she said, “I’ll find Lucas, Father. I’ll find him and bring him home.”

For the first time in a while, Johann felt his lips turn up in a smile. “If anyone can do it,” he said, setting a hand on her shoulder, “it’s you, Erin.”