She Was Once Called Charlotte Backson



by Atlantis Forester





Prologue
My Last Breath



I have been called many names, notably Milady de Winter, Baroness of Sheffield, and the Comtesse de la Fère. I was, however, born of the name Charlotte Backson, who was once a nun.

As I reflect in this moment of my past, all those people I've been seem far away and estranged to me. I have morphed into a nameless creature of darkness and corruption hated by all and which belongs nowhere. Loneliness swamps my heart; I can feel myself fall into a bottomless pit of despair as I fall on the ground by the river, and I sense the presence of five beings behind me--three of which are the most involved in my cursed existence.

From the corner of my eye, I catch the glint of the moonlight on the sword which the executioner--my executioner--raises above my neck.

They say that as a man takes his last breath, he sees his whole life flash before his eyes. But a woman... a woman will see the one she holds dearest to her heart and soul. A woman will die with the image of her deepest, most profound love burning like a brand in her eyes, filling her sight.

Do not be mistaken in thinking that even someone like me can love, for this creature that I am can still love, though not willingly.

I glance at the silhouettes of the men surrounding me, lowering my lashes as to keep them from noticing. Time seems to slow as I stop on one man. His last words to me rang over and over in my mind like the regular peals of a churchbell.

'I pardon you the ill you have done me. I pardon you for my blasted future, my lost honor, my defiled love, and my salvation forever compromised by the despair into which you have cast me. Die in peace!'

Yet, do you truly forgive me?

With my last breath...

I hear the whistling of the sword slashing through the air. I feel the cold blade pierce the skin of my neck, a few locks of my golden hair falling to the ground. Red... red, the color of my lifesource, pours out of me...

That dark hair, that beautiful and melancholy face, that noble bearing, the proud lift of your head, that tall and mysterious stature, that strong and lean frame, those soft, warm lips, those bottomless eyes once filled with so much love for me now empty...

Oh, Athos.