The echo of her own footsteps in the alley did nothing to help Nicole's nerves as she made her way, alone and frightened in the dark of the very early morning. Normally she would not be so frightened in a strange town, but this was more than a strange town, it was a foreign country and it was much too late for a woman to be walking safely about the steets. She cursed herself for her idiocy and pulled the cloak more tightly about her, hiding her face with her hood despite it hindering her peripheral vision. She slowed her walk in an attempt to make her presence less noticable. The crunch of the pebbles beneath her feet seemed to screech in her ears in her heightened paranoia and even her own heartbeat seemed to giving her position away. The blood running her veins sounded like a waterfall and her breathing a hurricane. She was more frightened than she had ever been as she had heard the tales of this place and the ever common deaths. She was fool, an absolute fool. As she walked about quickly and as quietly as she could manage she neared a large heap lying in the alley. Instantly knowing what it was she pushed herself on, thinking it was only paranoia getting the best of her. It was probally some carpet someone had thrown out. She made her way slowly, knowing this was her only chance of getting home as she was trying to retrace her steps from earlier that day, toward the dark heap and could see as she came ever nearer that it lay in dark pool. She was right and her paranoia had been well founded as the eyes of the young girl's body stared unseeing at the night sky. An umbilical cord lay between her legs, but there was no sign of the child.Nicole glancesd around her, trying not to scream but having little care for silence now and she ran. That woman had been younger than Nicoleby two or three years and now the pounding of her heart and the flow of her blood and the unsteady rythym of her footfalls all seemed to drown out every noise in the world. Her head reeling she ran not being able to remember the way she came in her panic but she could not stop, dared not stop.

She came to another alley way. No.. this was the wrong way. She had gone the wrong way and now she would die for it. She turned to run back but caught a glimpse of a figure coming out of the previous alley. She had no choice and she had little logic left in her. She shot down the next alley and through several more. She passed two more bodies, a man and a small child, and now tears blurred her already unclear vision. She fell, tripping over the body of another small child, perhaps five years of age: it was a little girl with long blonde hair and bright blue eyes now dimmed and shrouded in darkness forever, the flame of her youth put out with so much left yet for her to see.Nicole was sobbing now in fear, disgust, and sorrow and she treid to pull herself to her feet. There were two figures coming toward her now and though she managed to get to her feet and begin to run, she soon found herself on her knees a searing pain through her skull and then all was black.

Nicolelay still, barely aware of her own consciousness, noticing only the dull pain of her head. As she began to fully rouse she felt the cold of the stone floor and opened her eyes to see nothing but darkness. Slowly she began to make out the outlines of objects in the room. It looked as if there was a bed to her left, large and four postered with a canopy. To her right a chair where someone apparently sat and a couch where another looked to sleep. She was much too afraid to move. Did they know she was awake? Why had they brought her here rather than killing her? Or were these even the killers? She could not make sense of anything with the throbbing in her temple and moaned despite herself. A pair of blue orbs peered at here, shining through the darkness. She started, sitting straight up and lowering her head as the pain of her action hit her, but she crawled away.

"Do not run, My Lady. We mean you no harm as of yet and you will be quite unable to open the doors." The voice was low and masculine, but not terribly intimidating. She looked about her trying to see something, make some sense of her situation or find some way to escape. There was nothing, only the pain.

"You took quite a blow. We will need to have a look at it. We weren't certain if you would make it through the night." Another voice, this one female and sounding much more kind though blatant.

"Wh-where am I? And who are you? I don't understand." She stammered, mustering whatever bravery she had to find her voice. She was still not fully convinced of the things she had seen. Perhaps it was a dream... mayhap she remained in that dream world as of yet.

"Can you stand?" The first voice asked. Nicole nodded, though she was uncertain of her claim. Slowly she drug herself to her knees and attempted to rise ro her feet. Once standing the room began to spin and Nicole's hand went instinctivly to her head... she felt a strong arm slip about her waist just as she began to collapse.

"Apparently not." She said softly, nausea overwhelming her and pushing the person away. Her attempt was in vain as he held her fast and her stomach lurched. There was nothing she could do to stop it, and soon she was on the floor again, the strong, deep voice now shouting in disgust.

"I cannot believe she just did that!"

"I tried to push you away, stubborn." She argued, surprising even herself. "And besides... if you are whom I think you are I highly doubt vommit is the most grotesque of things you have seen as of late." Her words hid her fears and she knew it. Finally she was gaining an upper hand.

"I suppose you think you're brave?" The figure said, andNicole found herself being drug by her hair down the hallway. She raised her arms and screeched, the pain of her head already nearing more than she could bear. Something sharp along the floor cut her thigh, though that was theleast of her concerns. She tried to concentrate on something, anything to help her handle the pain. She watched the dark stream of blood mark their trail as he drug her down a rough stone hallway. At the sound of a door opening she was flooded with light, which did little for her already wretchedly throbbing head, but her captor soon released her and was standing over her. All she could see was a blur, her eyes still stinging from not only the pain of her head but also the switch from darkness to light. She could feel cold air on her legs and soon found that the skirts of her dress were over her head. She pulled at the fabric to get her face free and when she felt strong hands holding her hips still she struggled with all the strength in her. The fabric ripped, but she continued to beat the heavy body now almost crushing her as he tore at her undergarments.

"Stop! Stop! I will not let you touch me in such a manner until I am dead! I swear..." All her fury poured out of her and she struggled to stay conscious. This was no time to be weak. This was no time to lose her witts. She cursed herself silently for her tears and when the dress was lowered once moreNicole found that she could finally see the evil thing that detained her.

"Well then, we will see about that, though I cannot deny it is a tempting offer." He said, his voice much too cold and menacing sent shivers down her spine. His cruel smile revealed extraordinarily large canines.

"What would you have me do, Sir? Just roll over and die? I will not accept defeat. My situation may seem hopeless but you are more than I have ever been, even now. What have you left?" She managed to squeak, her voice and tears betraying her fear utterly. The man's dark hair fell into his eyes as he tilted his head to one side.

"Your bravery wont last, chit, but I will not ravish you this night. Get up, clean yourself, and for heaven's sake change. I will bring you some food and drink later." And with that he was gone. She had not even felt him lift himself off of her, but she did hear the door slam closed. After lying on the floor for a good while, trying to gain control of her nerves and her body, Nicole rose to find herself in a bedroom, a ready wash basin with now chilly water, and a wardrobe with garments of numerous shades, styles, and sizes. After washing herself thoroughly the basin was nearly crimson with blood. Keltsy attempted to brush her hair, but the abrasion on her head made it much too painful, so she simply let it hang loose over the wound as she found nothing to pull it back with. As she searched the extensive wardrobe she finally setltled not upon one of the dresses, but on a pair of boy's breeched and an oerly large shirt. She felt nothing like a Lady now and could find no reason to dress as such, and thus she dressed for comfort. Her aching limbs seemed to demand rest and Nicole tossed her shredded and filthy garments aside. She slowly crawled into bed, climbing between the covers with amazing relief at the softness of it and decided if she never moved again she would not mind at all.

Nicole woke next to the sound of the door opening and the same dark voice called to her, almost gently now.

"Are you awake?"

"I would rather not be, but yes." She said groggily, then looking to the door found that though the voice sounded the same this was not the same man at all. His deep r ed hair and green eyes were much kinder and genteel than the ruthless face of the one who she had encountered earlier.

"How is your head?"

"It will not be quiet long enough for me to ask it."

"We were worried Calem might have wounded you further with that horrid display. I must apologize, though I know it does little good. Your bath water was red as blood."

"That happens when you bleed."

"You're not in the most social and friendly of moods, but then I don't suppose you would be. Listen, you have a comfortable bed, no? Then please, try to make the best of this while you can."

"I don't even know what I am making the best of. I cannot explain any of this."

"I know, but answers will come in good time. For now, rest. Calem will be here soon and you will need your strength."

"So I have found. Can't you help me get out of here? I only wish to return home. Whatever ransom you ask you will recieve." Nicole was silenced by the man's laughter.

"You are here until Calem decides what to with you. Until then, just try to heal and make the best of it." And with those extremely unhelpful words he left her to her own devices. Nicole was still sore and tired and ill and she decided that if she was going to die she would rather do so in this wonderfully comfortable bed. Thus, she laid back and closed her eyes once again. No sleep graced her this time for it was not long until the dark one, Calem, arrived with food and drink as he has promised. She stared at him from the bed, making no move to greet or scorn him. He returned her stare, taking in the clothes she had chosen and how comfortable she seemed to have made herself right at home in the bed.

"You know, you really are quite beautiful." He said, the coarseness of his voice from earlier had vanished. Keltsy continued her stare, taken aback by his compliment. All her life she had been called strange and awkward and now the first man tio ever see her as beautiful was likely a killer.The irony of the situation infuriated her.

"And I suppose that gives you the right to sate your lust with me?" Her glare might have been enough to frighten a demon, but there was no remorse on this man's face at her words.

"You are of little consequence to us, Miss. I would concentrate intensely upon my manners for the sake of surivial if I found myself in your position."

"Oh, would you?" She feigned sweetness. "I do not doubt that human life is nothing to you but there is reason you have yet to harm me I know."

"You think that reason important enough to tolerate your insolence? You head's ache may be dulling, but I assure you it proves that harm is not the issue here, My Lady." The sarcasm with which he spoke My Lady held warning.

"None the less I would not simply dote upon you and plead with you for my life. I would rather die than lower myself to giving someone as heartless and vicious as you more power."

"That can be arranged, you realize." He was pouring a glass of wine and not even looking at her. She stood and started toward him. He held out a hand, warning her to stop, but he looked at her now, his eyes hinting of amusement.

"You are the one who killed all those people. aren't you? You and the others, I suspect. My God there were children!" The man's intense gaze into her eyes made her reolve as well as her bravery wither. He took a step toward her now, lowering his hand and wrapping it about her waist. The strange man pulled her to him and gripped the back of her neck with his free hand, squeezing. He was stronger than she could bear. She cringed.

"You will not always be so brave." His voice seemed a whisper. She opened her mouth to speak but the pain of her neck seemed to delay the words; she stood gaping for a good minute before she could force them.

"None of us will," she paused, trying to keep her witts about her. "We all lose our attributes in the end." He released her with a hard jerk. "There is an end... for everyone. Even you."

"You think you understand everything, don't you? You know why those people died, and you know that all things come to pass. Well congratulations."

"What do you intend for me? Why are you keeping me here?"

"So, our bright little girl hasn't figured everything out, now has she?" He continued pouring the wine. "Sit down."


"Just do it, you pompous child!" She sat. Though she did sunmit Calem knew she had gotten what she wanted... proof that he could lose control. She would use it against him. She would try to escape. She would be an utter fool twice in one day. He looked to her now, hiding his compassion with pure anger as it was all her had left to protect her.

"You don't have to scowl. I sat."

"Eat." He shoved the plate at her and then handed her the wine and took his seat. Nicole scoffed and took the cover off of her plate and looked with delighted surprise at the dish before her.

"I have expected a still bleating lamb."

"You don't like lamb." He grinned in a less than friendly manner.

"No, I don't. I do however love spanish salads." It was all she could do to eat slowly, but the foreboding knowledge of her captors being informed of her past helped. She refused to please him by asking how he knew. He sat wwatching her, no more starring than observing. He was attemping to make her uncomfortable. She had made him angry and he was punishing her. "Toying with women is not the best way to win their affections, you realize."

"You may find this childish haphazard ability to defy all sense and logic impressive to daddy, but you are on dangerous grounds, Nicole." Her head snapped up to meet his eyes at the sound of her name. She knew he knew who she was.. he knew what food she liked, but somehow hearing him say her name sent uncontrollable panic straight to her heart to be pumped like ice through her veins. His grin broadened. She stood, the food falling to the floor. Normally she would be appalled, fresh vegetables were impossible to find this time of year.

"Let me go."

"Oh now surely can think of something more to convicne me than ruining my salad."

"How dare you! Is murder not enough for you? Must you torment the innocent as well?"

"Innocent?" The word sounded vile coming from his lips. "You dare call yourself innocent? I have never met someone witch such audacity as you, Nicole. What makes you so much better than me, eh? What makes you of all those in the world innocent?"

"I did not say I alone..."

"No, but you implied that you alone in the room were deserving of the title. You have never smirked or snickered at those less fortunate? You have offerd your large comfortable home to those who are homeless? And all your fine clothes have been graciously given to those in rags in the winter. Correct?" She stared at him blankly. "You think those children you saw dead in the street feared death? They prayed for it. Better to die quickly than to freeze and cough and starve."