Authors: K.C. Finn
Shadeborn: Volume Two
K. C. Finn
Copyright © 2014 Kimberley Finn
All rights reserved.
Shadeborn: Volume Two provides a unique insight into the past of some of your favourite Book Of Shade characters, through two spine-tingling novellas:
The Bloodshade Encounters
shows readers where present and past collide, as they learn the dark history of how the charming and enigmatic Baptiste Du Nord came to know Lemarick Novel. Prepare for vampires on the streets of revolutionary Paris, and the day when Novel first laid eyes on the Theatre Imaginique. Amidst all this, a dark secret about Novel is unearthed, one which may threaten his relationship with Lily in the future.
begins with the present-day Salem Cross, now weak and powerless, as the old shade looks back on his life, and the dirty deals he made to try to make a success of himself. Witch-trials loom in Salem’s murky past, and werewolves roam the streets of Victorian London, not to mention a certain dark lady who would one day become the mother of the heroic Novel. Can Salem face the demons of his past, or bear the thought of a future with no magic? Or will he decide that the end of his time has come?
A cacophony of noise erupted in the narrow downstairs corridor of the Theatre Imaginique as Baptiste Du Nord and the Sewards argued about the best way to transport the cargo they were wrestling with. The three usually tall figures were lost in a sea of cardboard boxes, suitcases and black bags. This cavalcade of objects were filled with the personal effects of one Miss Jazmine Dama, and not one of the men present could agree on how to co-ordinate the move from the corridor to the newly refurbished prop store, that was to become her living quarters for the foreseeable future.
“You damnable man!” Thierre Seward chided, his usually cheerful face now a picture of contempt. “You’ve got the wheel of this case jammed on my foot!”
“It would move a little easier if your enormous stomach wasn’t in the way!” Baptiste replied, gritting his too-sharp teeth as he was flattened against the wall by the offending suitcase when Thierre gave it a push.
Lawrence Seward had decided on silence up until now, perhaps the sensible option given the heated tempers of the other two men, but at the mention of the insult he snapped his gaze to Baptiste and gave a little tut.
“There’s no need for that,” he reasoned with a little force. “Just let me get Poppa out of the way and you can-”
“I’m in the way, am I?” the elder Seward remarked, giving his son a nasty glare. “Whose side are you on, boy?”
“I’m only saying that…”
Lemarick Novel sat at the very top of the first flight of stairs, watching the argument play out and, as yet, entirely unnoticed by the impromptu moving crew below. He sucked in a silent breath, observing his own pale hands for a moment as the words of the conflict drifted in and out of his focus. Something was brewing around the men: a cloud of pheromone that only he seemed to be aware of. It smelled like hot metal, a strange concoction of burnt copper and warm, melting glass. The strange apparition rippled in a wave in the ceiling space above their heads, almost within the illusionist’s vision, but not quite clear enough to know what it
The only thing Novel knew for certain was that a shade shouldn’t be able to see it, and yet here he sat, watching the cloud grow with every burst of anger that the men unleashed.
The whisper caught Novel’s ear, breaking his concentration from the cloud and the men. Slowly, he crept back up the staircase and onto the landing, where he found Lily waiting for him. Her auburn locks drifted in an invisible breeze about her face, and she beckoned Novel closer with the hand that bore her diamond and garnet ring.
“Lot of fuss going on down below, isn’t there?” she whispered, not keen to attract the attention of the squabblers. “It’s only a few measly boxes.”
“It’s a fair few more than we were expecting,” Novel countered, but he waved off the comment swiftly. “It’s their problem now. I did my bit in converting the room.”
“You did well,” Lily said with a smile. “Jazzy’s going to love it.”
Novel slipped a silver pocketwatch from the velvet dip in his black waistcoat.
“When do we collect her from the hospital?” he asked.
“About eight tonight,” Lily answered.
He gave her a little nod, looking back to find that her eyes had changed ever so slightly. She was giving him that look he had come to know well over the month of August. A sliver of a smile crept onto the edge of Novel’s lip as he leant in and gave her a gentle kiss. When he stepped forward, his foot connected with something solid and, when the kiss was over, the illusionist glanced down to find a mangy, battered suitcase sitting on the floor between them.
“Is that all you have?” he asked, trying not to sound as though he pitied her.
“I’ve never had room to accumulate,” Lily answered with a bashful shrug.
Novel took her hand, their fingers sparking to make little orange flames at the touch.
“I fancy that will change now,” he said, his small smile growing just a half inch wider.
With his other hand, Novel gave a flick, and Lily’s little case levitated gently into the air. He began to lead her up the next flight of stairs, but then paused about halfway, a frown forming where his tiny smile had been. Lily noticed it immediately, as she always did.
“What’s wrong?” she pressed, making him turn to face her.
“I didn’t ask…” Novel bit his lip. He wasn’t usually nervous, but Lily always managed to make him feel anything but usual. “Did you want to share with me or… I don’t know. You might rather have your own space?”
He felt a pull as Lily’s suitcase fell out of his gravity grip. It was as though she had taken hold of it instead, and it continued to float up the flight ahead of them under her control. Lily rolled her eyes at Novel and brushed past him up the stairs, giving his hand a squeeze as it became her turn to lead the way.
“What? And be your girlfriend who sleeps in another room? How weird would that be?”
Novel let her take him all the way up the steps, where he watched as the suitcase flew lazily through his doorway and crashed at the foot of the four-poster bed. The rusted zip gave way on one side, and a small avalanche of socks began to seep out of the seam, rolling in their pairs across his polished oak floor. Novel let a little sigh escape.
“We really must work on your precision,” he groaned, “that was disgraceful.”
Lily broke their grip, and turned to stand in his doorway with a little grin.
“Personally I blame the teacher,” she mused. “He spends more time snogging me than teaching me anything these days.”
Novel approached her and let himself fall into her arms for a close embrace. “Can you really blame me?” he breathed into her ear. “I almost lost you.”
Lily gave his torso a hard squeeze. “I know,” she answered. “It’s the same reason I wouldn’t want to sleep anywhere but here, right beside you.”
He pulled back and appraised her face, running one hand down through her soft hair where it fell against her cheek. Tiny sparks of electricity grew at his fingertips, bouncing off the blush beneath her skin.
“I’ll be glad to have you under this roof, where I can look after you,” he said.
Her hands still lingered at his waist, rubbing against the velvet of his waistcoat idly. The touch was feather-light, but it was more than enough to make him shiver inside. Lily gave a bright smile and ghosted a tiny kiss on his lips.
“It’s going to be an adjustment,” she admitted, something more serious hiding behind her almond coloured eyes, “to live with someone I can totally trust.”
Novel turned, breaking their embrace to address the call of the man behind him. Baptiste Du Nord stood at the top of the staircase, his usually elegant clothes dishevelled by the effort of the move. His caramel skin was much paler than was normal, for where he should have been flushed from exertion, he looked as though he was fading away. That odd cloud of pheromones was permeating the air where he stood, rippling in the nothingness and distracting Novel to no end.
“Lemarick?” Baptiste said again.
“Forgive me,” Novel replied with a stammer. “What do you need?”
“A moment of your time?” Baptiste answered, his shining eyes dictating that something far more than that was required.
Novel got the message, turning to Lily to find an excuse to leave her. She waved a hand, totally unaware that Baptiste’s words were anything more than face value.
“No worries,” she said casually. “I want to unpack anyway. You go do your Master of the House thing.”
Novel gave her a nod, and began to follow Baptiste back downstairs. They walked silently in single file, and all the while Novel found himself drawn to the cloud that he shouldn’t be able to sense. Lily’s words rang in his mind with every step on the staircase.
Someone I can totally trust.
He watched Baptiste’s tall form descending the stairs in front of him, and a deep sadness rose from far within the illusionist’s soul. There was still so much that Lily didn’t know about him.
Before The Storm
The air above the city was thick with heat and gunpowder. The rioting had ceased some time ago, and a hazy orange sunset now filled the July sky. The fighters would go home to refuel in all senses before the next bout, and perhaps a few hours would pass before the streets of Paris rose up in flames and fury once more. By chance alone, eight o’clock had been a good time to meet, though the spot where the two friends were intending to stand was now occupied by a burnt-out grocer’s cart, the horse of which had bolted when the first shots rang out in the nearby square. Lemarick sat on the corner of a rooftop, looking down at the little junction where he was supposed to be waiting, with the scent of burning wood rising to attack his nose.
“Why is it, pray tell,” a voice sounded behind him, “that I always find you on rooftops?”
There was no sense in answering Edvard with the truth, for he would not understand it. Though they were the same species, Ed was a very different creature to Lemarick most of the time. Lemarick rose from his outpost and turned his back on the smouldering city, observing his friend after such a long time apart. Edvard had not aged, of course, and his mousy brown hair was as ragged as ever, though his long, brown cloak gave him away as more than a simple peasant. Beneath the rich fabric, he wore the height of Germanic fashion: a tunic adorned with shimmering gold buttons and decor.
“Good Lord,” Lemarick spluttered at the sight of his finery. “If the revolters see you in those clothes, they’ll have your head. Use your sense, man! Do you want to be tried as an aristo?”
Edvard gave a grin and a little shrug. “Let them come,” he said loudly. “What are fifty angry humans to a threesome of shades?”
“Three?” Lemarick answered, looking around.
“Come, my friend,” Edvard replied, pulling at the air between them to hurry his companion along. “There is someone I want you to meet.”
Lemarick let himself be led, the smug smile on Edvard’s face forcing him to roll his eyes. He felt a familiar hand clamp his shoulder and heard the exhalation of pride he’d been expecting.
“It’s a girl, isn’t it?” Lemarick asked. It was always a girl where Edvard Schoonjans was concerned.
“This one’s different,” he answered, but his friend had heard that so often in the last thirty years that he was hardly listening. “No really,” Edvard insisted. “This is
girl. I think this is it. She is… the one.”
Like so many other ‘ones’ before her, Lemarick had no doubt that this would be the first and last time he would meet his companion’s latest triumph. The building they had been standing on was a small museum that had been raided some time ago, its artefacts desecrated by the protestors as they fought against the regime of the aristocracy and their precious heritage. Edvard led the way down the stairs into the building proper, where the silhouette of a slim girl stood observing the remains of a smashed vase that had once belonged to King Louis XII. Above the podium where the pieces were splayed, a series of words had been etched into the wall with a blade.
“Eddie,” the girl began to speak without looking around, “what do these words say?”
“Death to Capet,” Lemarick answered for him, his eyes travelling over the French inscription and translating it immediately.
She turned, and even Lemarick had to acknowledge her beauty. The youth was small and delicate looking – not the usual girl Edvard roped in – and she looked thoughtful and intelligent, her sea green eyes bright with ideas. She had a look of a Spaniard about her, for though her skin was fair, it glowed a little like pale gold, but her lashes were as dark as the roots of her sun-bleached ringlets of hair.
“Capet?” she asked. “Who is he?”
“It is the great royal house of France, and the symbol of the aristocracy,” Lemarick answered.
The girl smiled as understanding dawned. She looked about nineteen to a human eye, which meant she couldn’t be far from Lemarick and Edvard’s own ages, perhaps only a quarter century or so would separate them. She extended her hand, breaking into a smile.
“You must be Lemarick,” she suggested. “I must say I didn’t expect you to be blonde. Edvard painted you rather darkly with his description.”
The edge of Lemarick’s mouth curved ever so slightly.
“Then he represents me well,” he answered, taking her hand and bowing his head to it. “Lemarick Novel, of the French Novels.”
He had long since stopped using his father’s name, finding that his mother’s house afforded him a very different standing with those who were well-informed on shade families. Typically, people either beamed when he told them he was a Novel, or took their hands back very sharply and made their excuses to run away. The girl in question did neither. She just gave him another somewhat bashful grin.
“My name is Ugarte,” she answered, “from the house of Hechizo.”
Spanish. He had been right in his appraisal. Ugarte was clothed simply, dressed only an ordinary frock of a pastel yellow tone, with none of the expensive additions that Edvard sported. She was much less likely to cause a stir than he was, and Lemarick found he respected her modesty and decorum instantly.
“Isn’t she a wonder?” Edvard beamed, swapping his hand from his friend’s shoulder to wrap it around Ugarte’s back. She walked out of his touch instantly.
“I’m not happy with you,” she announced plainly. “You told me Paris was a romantic place. Do you know how many bodies I counted on the way up here?”
Lemarick could hazard a fair guess, but said nothing.
“How was I to know there was a revolution on?” Edvard answered with genuine apology in his tone.
“This is France,” Lemarick said dryly. “There’s
a revolution on.”
“There must be something we can do?” Edvard said, turning to Lemarick with a familiar pleading look. His wide eyes begged his old friend to save him from humiliation, and Lemarick could do little but oblige.
“I’m sure there’s plenty of fun to be had on the streets tonight,” he replied. “As I hear it, the revolters have taken a lot of ground today. I expect there will be some celebrations at Montmartre.”
“Is that a nice place?” Ugarte asked with a hitch in her voice.
Lemarick didn’t have the heart to lie to her.
“Not really, but it will do.”