Authors: Kathryn Smith
|Be Mine Tonight|
|Brotherhood of the Blood |
I am called Chapel . . .
For nearly six centuries I have roamed the night, a mortal man no longer. Would that I could undo the past -- when I entered the sanctuary of the Knights Templar to wrest from them the Holy Grail, only to discover the chalice I raised to my lips was not the sacred relic but a hellish cup of damnation. Now I shun the day and all things human, driven by an ungodly thirst. And yet...
Never have I known a maiden the like of Prudence Ryland, whose beauty and spirit awaken a heart I feared long cold and dead. But her young life is slipping away, and she also seeks the deliverance of the Grail -- unaware that the cost of her search could be her soul. I must help Prudence, for in six hundred years, no other woman has stirred my passions so. But dare I tender to my beloved that which she most desires -- the sensuous "gift" of forever that is both rapture and a curse: my immortal kiss?
who loves vampires
and all those things
that go bump in the night.
They love you too.
It was obvious that the door was not meant to…
“You talked Papa into buying a parcel of land because…
On the evening that “those Catholic fellows,” as her father…
He knew it was a mistake to come to Cornwall.
Pru had never done anything so impulsive or reckless as…
“Will Mr. Chapel not be joining us?” Prudence asked, slathering a…
Dinner was a painful affair. Chapel enjoyed every morsel of…
“I hope I’m not interrupting.”
The moon was a bright silver ball high in the…
She should turn away. She should leave, go to her…
Chapel sat on the floor outside Pru’s door. No one…
Pru did not see much of Chapel over the course…
Either she was like poison to the man, or there…
“Our Father must have a plan, mon ami, for you…
“Did you find anything?” Molyneux asked after thirty minutes of…
She was not alone.
Marcus didn’t look up as Pru entered the sitting room…
“So, what can you do?”
Chapel’s skin was warm and salty against Pru’s tongue, his…
She was dying.
By the next afternoon, Pru was feeling more like herself,…
Her funeral was two days later.
Friday, the 13th of October, 1307
t was obvious that the door was not meant to be opened.
Severian de Foncé ran a dirty, sword-nicked hand over the heavy wood in a loving fashion, pausing at the thick iron lock. “There must be treasure inside, to garner such protection.”
The idea filled him with a multitude of emotions—great and terrible. What did the Templars hide behind this door? A treasure of the church, as King Philip claimed, or some instrument of evil? There were so many rumors about the Templars, describing them as either holy men or the worst of blasphemers. Which was it?
Adrian du Lac, one of his five companions,
clapped an equally dirty and scarred hand on his shoulder. In his other he held the torch that lit their way. “Stand aside, my friend.”
Severian took the torch from his friend and stepped back toward the others—each as battle-worn and dirty as he and Adrian—so that his friend could crouch before the door and examine the lock for himself.
They had been sent by King Philip to uncover the secrets of the Knights Templar and “relieve” them of their treasures. If there was treasure behind the door, the king would want it. And the six of them wanted their share. But if evil lurked behind this thick wood, then they would have their share of it as well. They all knew it, and so did the man who hired them.
That was why they were there, risking life and limb at the whim of the king. Philip handpicked the six of them because each had a certain reputation among mercenaries and soldiers as being a man who would never back down from a fight and would honor any obligation—for a price. Their price was a share of whatever Templar riches they procured for the king.
It was not an easy way to make a living, but fighting was all any of them knew, and honor came not from their tasks, but from the completion of them. They were warriors above all else, but they could not deny their king. To do so would be to deny their own country, the very home for which they consistently risked their lives.
Once they retrieved this treasure for Philip, Severian would be wealthy enough to settle down
and take over his father’s estate. He would marry Marie and he would put away his sword. He would have the life he’d always wanted, the woman he’d always wanted.
Low in the stone walls of this Templar keep, beneath the ground, down a narrow set of ancient stairs, they found this door alone in the darkness. The discovery had happened by accident—a secret passage revealed by Dreux’s curiosity over a cache of manuscripts.
“Well?” Severian demanded, his mind once again focusing on the task at hand. “Can you breach it?”
Severian and the others watched as Adrian pulled a small roll of leather from his boot. From it, he withdrew a tool—indistinguishable in the flickering torchlight—that he then inserted into the hole of the heavy lock with a roguish grin. “No lock has been forged that I cannot bend to my will.”
His words were proven true by a clunk as the lock sprang open. His expression now one of extreme self-satisfaction, Adrian rose to his feet as he removed the lock. A low groaning creak led the way into darkness as the door swung open. It seemed almost anticlimatic after the guards they’d fought and the labrinyth of stairs, secret chambers and corridors they’d navigated to get here. They never would have found this room without the plans Philip’s interrogators had tortured out of a Templar informant.
It was obvious that someone wanted whatever waited beyond this door to remain hidden.
“Such pains as these,” Severian remarked to his friends, “are normally taken to protect items that are either very valuable or very dangerous. In the case of the Templars, either could be a likely assumption. Be on your guard.” In unison, the six of them drew their swords.
Severian entered first, the torch in his hand illuminating the small chamber in a flickering glow. Turning slowly, he surveyed their surroundings: a rough cell, empty save for a wooden table in the center.
The table was not empty.
Frowning, he moved closer, his friends behind him. He resheathed his weapon as he neared the table. The flame of the torch reflected dully off a tarnished, crudely fashioned silver chalice.
came a whisper from behind Severian. “Is that what I think it is?”
Severian didn’t answer. His fingers trembled as he rubbed a rough palm over the stubble on his jaw. They all knew the stories, tales of the vast wealth possessed by the Templars. It was said that the knights had in their possession various holy relics, including items believed to have belonged to Christ Himself.
The mere thought of what they might have discovered made him want to make the sign of the cross over his breastplate and fall to his knees on the dirt floor. And yet, he did not.
” Dreux whispered as he stared at it with awe and wonder.
The Holy Grail.
Severian studied the roughly hewn cup, the silver heavily tarnished with age and neglect. If it truly was the Grail of Christ, why leave it here in this dark, damp chamber? If this cup was the one Jesus drank from at the Last Supper, why was it so dark and uncherished? It made no sense, and yet his heart told him that they had indeed found something special.
The cup beckoned, its discolored surface calling to Severian. He reached for it, his hand still trembling and hesitant.
“Have a care,” Dreux urged. “It might be the Blood Grail.”
One of their companions made a scoffing noise low in his throat, but Dreux’s tone was enough to give Severian pause. Just as they all knew the legend of the Holy Grail, so had they heard of the
holy Grail. It was rumored to be forged from the silver paid to Judas Iscariot, silver that long before that had been infused with the essence of Lilith, first wife of Adam and demon queen.
But it was just a story. Was it not? There hadn’t been a written account of the cup for at least three centuries. In fact, it had all but faded into myth.
Perhaps that was exactly what the Templars hoped would happen.
Like a siren, the blackened chalice called. Severian’s fingers brushed the silver, expecting it to be cold. But it was warm to the touch—like flesh. The trembling in his hand eased as his fingers closed around the bowl. Now that he had it in his
hand, it seemed impossible that it could be evil in any sense.
A terrible swishing sound was his only warning before blades shot up through the tabletop. One pierced his flesh, the blooded blade protruding through the back of his wrist.
His howl of anguish filled the chamber, followed by a growl of anger. His friends took a step backward. Snarling, Severian pulled his injured arm straight up, hissing and cursing as the pain in his palm intensified for a split second while he freed himself. Sweat beaded his brow, but he fought the weakness. He had been pierced by swords before, subjected to worse injuries. This was a trifling wound compared to those.
He tore a strip from his dirty shirt and wrapped the fabric around his wrist, tying it tight to stanch the flow of blood.
Sweet Mary, he should have known better! His wits were usually keener than this. Had he not thought just moments before that this seemed too easy after all they’d gone through to get there? He should have known that the Templars would not leave such treasure unprotected.
Blood ran from his hand as he reached between the series of blades. He would not suffer injury for no reward. His fingers were slick as he grabbed at the goblet, but his fingers were useless. The blade that had pierced his wrist had cut something inside. He had to drop his sword and reach in with his other hand, seizing the goblet by the bowl. He pulled it back quickly, prepared now for the presence of traps.
His friends surrounded him once more, backs partially to him, their gazes keenly roving about the cell, waiting for another attack.
But nothing happened. At least, nothing his companions could fight.
A sudden wave of dizziness struck him like the broad side of a sword, weakening his knees and rolling in his stomach. What the devil? It couldn’t be from loss of blood. He hadn’t lost that much.
Nausea gripped him as fresh sweat formed on his brow and upper lip. His head swam as a chill settled over his flesh.
Yes, he should have known better. He could recover from a knife wound, but there would be no coming back from this.
“Dreux, tell Marie I love her.”
His friends turned at the rough rasp of his voice, just in time to see him sink to his knees, the cup in his weakening fingers.
Dreux dropped to his knees. “
what is it?”
“Poison.” He clenched his teeth against the shivering. His muscles were tightening, causing him to curl into himself.
He was dying. Dying for a king who would be all too happy to have one less man to pay. Dying for a treasure he would never partake of. Dying without one last look at the woman he loved.
Severian looked down at the strangely warm cup that had yet to fall out of his lax fingers. It seemed that the cup held to him as tightly as he to it. His vision blurred as he stared into the dark bowl. Surely the silver wasn’t brightening? It was
the poison playing with his mind that made him imagine it. The poison that made it look as though rich red wine filled the cup from the bottom up. It was astounding. A miracle—were it real.
Above the humming in his ears he could hear the excited voices of his companions. Was it possible that he wasn’t imagining the cup’s amazing transformation? Was it possible that he held in his hand the Cup of Christ? A cup that would heal the wound in his hand and grant immortality?
The cup was halfway to his mouth before he realized what was happening—before Dreux Beauvrai’s voice rose above the others. “Sev, drink.”
Grasping what resolve, what courage he had left, Severian clung to the hand that raised the cup to his lips and drank. Rich sweetness rushed over his tongue. It was not wine, but what? Warm, earthy. Salt in the back of his throat. He gulped greedily.
He gagged on the realization. He was drinking blood.
He fell backward, spilling the remaining contents on himself and the floor. Warm wetness dripped from his chin onto his injured arm.
God in heaven, what had he done?
And yet, even as he sent up a silent prayer for his soul, he felt the noose of the poison loosen. His mind cleared somewhat, the pain in his body eased.
Dumbly, he removed the dirty wrapping from his arm and wiped the blood away from the wound. Raising his injured arm to the light of the torch, Severian—and his companions—watched
in mystified silence as the wound began to close. It wasn’t his mind playing tricks. He could feel the tissue inside knitting back together. The incision was closing where blood from the cup had touched it.
No. It couldn’t be. It had to be a trick.
“My friend.” Dreux clasped him on the shoulder, his boyish face a mask of worry. “Are you all right?”
“Blood,” he managed to reply, his voice hoarse and distant to his own ears.
“The Grail.” Dreux crossed himself, his eyes wide. “The blood of Christ.”
It was Dreux who retrieved the cup from the floor. Severian watched through glassy eyes as his friend lifted the goblet to his mouth. He wanted to tell him no, but the words would not form. Blackness filled his mind, robbing him of speech and sight.
He fell to his side on the dirt floor, dimly aware that his arm no longer pained. And then he passed to darkness.