Authors: Susan G. Charles
Tags: #Vampires, #paranormal vampire romance, #Paranormal, #immortal, #Norway, #vampire books, #Brides, #vampire, #battles, #Romance, #Supernatural, #War, #conflict, #warrior, #Medieval, #New Adult Romance, #vampire romance, #Coming of Age, #Royalty, #bride, #Historical, #castle
Tale of the Century Bride Complete
By SusanG. Charles
©2014 SusanG. Charles
The one thing humans, animals and even supernatural beings such as vampires have in common is a never ending search for love, companionship and family – as well as a place to feel a part of something. So this book is dedicated to each and every one of us, the world over, and to the many animals, 2 legged, or 4 legged, that constantly yearn for this most universal of emotions – love!
©2013 by Susan G. Charles
All Rights Reserved.
No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form or by any means, including scanning, photocopying or otherwise without prior written permission of the copyright holder.
Tale of the Century Bride Book One: Chapter 1
Many years ago, in a land located somewhere in the arctic archipelago of what is now current day Norway, and long after the days of the black death had passed, there were a group of survivors who banded together to eventually form the tiny village of Dalmar. Now in those days the people were very poor and the inhabitants of this land were spread far and wide since the black plague had killed off more than half of the population. But the peoples of Dalmar were tough, and they were survivors – ready to meet any confrontations head on if necessary.
Yet, because of all the turmoil that had happened in the lands since the black plague had passed, many farms now lay vacant, or were claimed by others – some claimed by royals from other countries, or possibly even nearby survivors. Either way, these invaders now claimed some sort of provision to these vacant farms – and they constantly fought over the spoils of the plague.
What had already brought so much death and destruction to most in these lands, now gave others a feeling of entitlement fueled by greed, and it continued to separate the countrymen. Those that had little, now had even less, and those with means now took what they wanted by any method possible. Battles popped up all over the region, almost daily it seemed, as new landlords squabbled over these orphaned lands.
And as it so happened, there were also a group of immortals living in these lands during that time. Hidden for centuries, a small group of vampires also called these lands home, preferring the small population, the size of the region, access to open waters, the cold climate and the mountainous terrain. Some of these vampires were good, though most were not, but almost all wanted to share in the plundering of these empty properties and to claim as many as possible for themselves.
So over the course of a few centuries, many of these immortals came into ownership of hundreds of tracts of these lands – some peacefully, though most through some act of war or deception. After all, vampires were well known for their ability to glamor humans to get whatever they wanted in a peaceful fashion. So farms were claimed, lands were taken, battles were fought and thousands upon thousands of settlers in the area died – all survivors of a fate so terrible that they never dreamed, in the depths of their most horrible nightmare, that they might ever be visited by such a terrible fate again.
But one shrewd, yet peaceable vampire also lived in this region and had done so for centuries. He had observed many of the battles and brawls which developed over the years and wanted no part of it if any other way was possible. A man of action, but wanting none of the spotlight, he came up with a plan that would suit both him and the villagers in the town nearest to him, assuming that they would agree to it. And it worked – they did agree to his plan.
Count August Cornelius, the highest ranking and oldest living vampire in the region, successfully developed a harmonious resolution with the peoples of the small village of Dalmar that was beneficial to them all. The arrangement in effect was quite simple, yet brilliant, in it’s possibility – he would offer and provide the peoples of his lands protection and security from all looters, robbers or any form of conflict, so long as they shared one precious life with him every century.
His price was small and unalterable – he required a bride from his people every 100 years in return for his defense and security of the village and all the villagers therein. And so began the tale of the tribute bride, also known as the century bride, passed along to hundreds upon hundreds of generations in this area.
Tale of the Century Bride Book One: Chapter 2
The Tale of the Century Bride
The villagers in Dalmar were both excited and terrified about the upcoming century festival. None of the people in the village had ever seen the century festivities first hand, there were simply no living participants from that time, however several of the elders were very forthcoming in sharing exactly how the events of the century tribute should be handled. Based on information passed on from the elders by their parents and other family members, and by falling back on what little bit of written history the town council still had within their possession, the city of Dalmar did their best to create this years festival. Everyone was encouraged to participate and many events were planned.
The festival directions were simple over all, but some were left open to interpretation. Things such as how the festival would look and feel, and other activities and events that might accompany the festival week were left up to the village council and the citizens of Dalmar. With the availability of up to 20 hours of daylight per day right now the festival couldn’t have happened at a more opportune time. But any directions connected to the choice of the century bride event were absolute and unchangeable – and these facts were understood by every person in the tiny village.
In fact, the story was known by every inhabitant of the town and was taught to even the youngest of children as soon as they could learn the short rhyme:
“For our own safety,
So we do not need to hide,
Every century we give tribute,
To Count August we give a bride.”
Each citizen of Dalmar understood perfectly that the quiet solitude and peace they all enjoyed was tenuous at best and that their freedom must be paid for with a price. So, once every 100 years, from a group of seven unmarried women, all between the ages of sixteen and twenty-five, one woman was chosen to be the bride of Count August and to immediately go to live with him in Castle Dalmar for the rest of her life. And to be honest, most women, or families that had daughters in the town, hoped to never qualify for the final seven in the first place. This was indeed an honor that no one really wanted to accept – an unwanted gift that no one wanted to ever receive.
Catherine Berg, a woman of modest beginnings, was just one of the seven finalists in this years century festivities. She was a daughter of the towns blacksmith, however he died in a forging accident at their family’s shop when she was fairly young and her sisters still almost infants. Her mother never really talked about it, or him, since she now had to do the job of two parents. Her mother was a fair and kind mother and a fine business woman too though most men in the village would still rather deal with her male assistant than her when it came to doing any kind of metal work. But the blacksmith shop kept right on, bringing them enough money to keep a roof on their heads, food on their plates and the taxes paid.
But of the seven, she was the last chosen. She fumbled about now as she hurried to get ready for the affair. Only a few hours separated her from the upcoming century tribute festival, the height of the week long festival. She took a long moment to look at the beautiful amulet with the fiery red stone that her mother had given her for this ceremony before slipping it on over her head. It perfectly matched the color of her ruby dress.
She turned from her small, cramped bedroom that she shared with two younger sisters, and slowly walked out of her room for what, she feared, might be the last time. Her family wanted to accompany her as she walked to the town square but she asked them to please let her go on alone. They did not understand her decision but they did what she asked and waited to go to the festival later on in the day, closer to time for the actual event.
As it was Catherine wanted to remember everything as if it were just another day – just in case. Catherine hugged each member of her family, kissed her two sisters and mother on the forehead and left before she began to cry. She was afraid – well, actually she was really more apprehensive, but she didn’t want to let her family know all the emotions that bubbled inside her, just below the surface.
She was dressed in her mother’s second best gown, a ruby red dress only worn a few times by her mother as far as Catherine could remember. Her long brown hair was adorned with fragrant flowers and twisted into a beautiful floral and chestnut crown about her head with wispy feathers hanging down around her face. The cascading red fabric of her mothers dress whispered to her as she walked to join the six other ornately dressed young women that were already assembled in the tiny town square.
They all stood in a semi-circle formation in the middle of the town square, obviously anxious, frightened and excited about the fateful moment which was soon to come. They were all silent but the looks that passed between each of them as they stood there in the middle of the village spoke volumes. None of them had any idea exactly what to expect. They only had rumor, gossip and hearsay to go on – and that was probably the most awful thing of all, conjuring up in each of them visions of events that were not even possible. But honestly, as the ladies waited for the event to begin every girl there hoped to herself, over and over, that one of the other girls would be the one that was chosen.
All except Catherine. Being the last of the tribute party members to arrive, Catherine took her place at the far end of the line. She still managed to find her place next to her best friend, Rose, who had also been chosen as a participant in these most bizarre of wedding party festivities. She reached out to her friend and carefully took one of Rose’s hands in her own, and then she took the time to smile at each of the other girls already gathered here in the square.
“Cath…” her friend began as soon as Catherine touched her hands, tears growing in the corners of her eyes. Tears threatened to spill over the edges, and the effort to restrain them simply allowed her nothing left for speech. She simply gazed emotionally at her life-long friend, and squeezed her hands back. She was scared of separation, not wanting to succumb to her growing despair about the inevitable selection process that was only minutes away. Rose did not want to trash the calm now shared by the group – she could feel it’s presence already pulling at each of the groups members. One more tiny rip in the fabric of their composure just might be the one that sent them all over the abyss.
“My dearest Rose, everything is fine, you have nothing to worry about,” Catherine quietly said to her best friend, still holding her hands in her own. “Please, do not fret – I am sure that none of us have anything to worry about. But if you are the one that is chosen during the festival today, then I am sure that Count August will treat you well.”
Tale of the Century Bride Book One: Chapter 3
Just one year prior to today’s event, Catherine wouldn’t have said such a thing to anyone – even in jest. A year ago, in fact, she was rallying against the upcoming century bride tribute. Doing everything in her power, she tiptoed from house to house in the shadows of the night, hoping to rally her many supporters and eventually overturn this ancient ritual – this had been a passion she shared with but just a few.
But back then she was ready to lead a revolt of young people and anyone else who wanted to riot to prevent this tribute event from ever happening. That was the same tribute, in fact, that she was now such a willing participant of. In less than a year’s time, an unexpected event in her own life had brought about a complete shift in her perception of what Dalmar’s law actually meant to the village. Today she believed in the law completely and with every fiber of her being. What a change a years time had made in her.
It was common, and a well known fact to every village inhabitant, that every principality in their region faced dominion by its own family of royal rulers. Dalmar’s protection was offered up by the Vampire Lord of Dalmar castle – his name, August Cornelius. Count August shielded the families of Dalmar from all external dangers in the area and insured that the people under his protection could, and would, live peaceable lives. This was indeed a greatly appreciated fact – indeed, this was a luxury in a world so fond of constant chaos, conflict and war, led mostly by a group of hot headed individuals, ready to fight at the drop of a hat.
In light of such actions from all his quarrelsome neighbors, Count August’s decency and record of performance could not be impugned; so, as far as vampire lords went, he excelled in his rule. Count August had a long history of action and was well known as being a man of his word. Every freedom his people wished for, so long as it in no way harmed another, Count August allowed them. And compared to all the other vampires in the land, he never went on a blood spree – at least to her knowledge. In fact, no one she had ever discussed this with could even remember with any conviction that Count August even fed at all. To them, that was a mystery they hoped never to solve.