A/N: WARNING! Violence ahead.
I was glad there was no clock. The constant ticking would have driven me mad long ago. Light crawled from one side of the room to the other as the day passed and I watched it every inch of the way.
The bleeding had stopped before dawn. The chafing in my wrists took center stage in my mind until that too stopped bothering me and I went completely numb, save a single question, beating like the innards of a clock in my mind: When will he come back?
There was no doubt he would. He had promised, after all.
The following morning, I came back to consciousness in that fragmented, confused way one does after an exhausting day. A stream of daylight warmed my face, and the air around me was stale and foul. There was an ache in my shoulder and a hand was caressing my hip, my thigh, and my ribs.
For a moment, I thought myself in bed with my husband, safe. But when a sinister voice in my mind asked, "Which one?" any illusion of safety was gone.
Before I even opened my eyes, I knew I was being watched.
I felt him lean in so the words tickled my ear.
Gilles stretched behind me, joints popping free after a cramped night's rest. He got out of bed and scrounged about for clothes he had divested himself of in the night.
I didn't want to look at him. I never wanted to lay eyes on him or give him a thought for the rest of my life, but I was still tied to the bed and no matter where I let my gaze wander, he was infecting a corner of it.
Once dressed, he found his shabby coat and, having put it on, turned to me.
"I'm afraid I must leave you for now." He picked up a bag and slung it over one shoulder. "Business calls me away. You needn't worry, though. I promise not to be gone long."
As soon as he closed the door, I let out a sigh of relief and regretted it immediately. The coppery stench of my blood was overwhelming. I felt weak, lightheaded, and so very scared.
Aishe's drunken attempts to free me the night before had not been completely in vain. If I turned my head to a near intolerable slant, I could see the rope was partially sawed through. If I had the strength, a good pull would set me free.
I knew I didn't have it. A few experimental tugs and one all-out attempt to snap the rope in two left me exhausted.
I rolled onto my back. My breath was so loud to my ears, it felt like I was shouting. Not a bad idea, I thought.
"Help!" I cried, the sound as thin as paper. "Hello! Can anyone hear me?"
"Help! Please!" I implored. It was eerily quiet, as if Gilles has cleared the building so no one would find me. I could not accept that. Brishen and that Gadjí girl might be long gone, but there had to be someone beyond these walls. "Please, help me!"
When I'd spent all my breath, I swung my leg backwards and slammed my foot into the wall behind me.
The noise was deafening, and the wall shook as if it might collapse. I did it again and again until my heel was bloody, and then I kept doing it. The pain was distracting - it was feeling - and it meant I was still alive. Rage, pure, and boiling was rising in me like it never had before. I wanted to murder Gilles with my own hands. I wanted to die right there and never be remembered. I wanted to curl up into a ball and weep like a child. I couldn't do any of that. All I could do was slam my foot into the wall, and hope someone might hear me.
When my foot made contact again, I felt the wall give, and my heel lodged within. I tore it free and let it fall onto the bed.
Oh god, I sobbed, why wasn't Erik here?
It was foolish and completely unfair for me to hope he would come to my rescue, yet I resented him with each passing minute my blood dried on the sheets. The man had an extraordinary ability of knowing things no matter how you hid them. How could he not know I was here? How could he let Gilles…?
I looked up at my wrists bound to the bed and for a moment, they appeared so very far away from my body. It seemed that this was where I would be for the rest of my life, lashed to the bed, watching the room slowly disintegrate into oblivion with me in it. I felt so very small, like a speck of dust in a storm and there was nothing for me to do but ride it to the end.
The dark thought amused me. I turned my eyes to the perfect stream of light coming in through the window, and the dust dancing in the air.
And for a moment, my mind withdrew into its farthest recesses, to a place with music and pure sunshine. My father and mother opened their arms wide for me. Nothing could penetrate my happiness here.
But an illusion of joy is exhausting. My parents' loving arms retreated and a part of me wept as the music lapsed and the sound of patrons emerged, returning to their rooms after a long day.
I felt rather than heard him coming back. His heavy footsteps announced him and an answering chill crawling up the back of my neck.
There was tension and violent energy rolling off Gilles when he stepped through the door. Wherever he'd gone, whatever he'd done today, it had not gone well.
He removed his coat and tossed it on the ground. From the bag, he took out what looked like paper and notebooks and placed them on the table. Pulling up a chair, he sat down and began writing as if no one else was in the room.
Page after page he wrote, only to discard and start again. As he worked, he made frustrated noises to himself so that I almost let myself hope he had forgotten me. When at least an hour had gone by, he stacked his pages and with a grunt of approval, returned them to his bag.
Gilles stood up and finally looked at me. His gaze barely registered my state as he rubbed the side of his neck and asked, "Hungry?"
My stomach gave an answering groan. He smirked. "I'll be back shortly."
Before he left, he crossed the room and knelt over me. I shrank into the bed and shut my eyes. Nothing happened for an endless moment and it was only when I finally opened my eyes that I realized I was alone again.
There was something soft on my forearm. When I looked up, the rope was untied and lying limp across the bedpost.
Was he such a fool? My mind barely registered that I was free, when I made the mistake of sitting up too quickly. My head swam and I was once again lying down on the bed.
I now had the added sting of Gilles' arrogance to keep me company. I was too weak to escape the bed, let alone the inn, and he knew it.
Gilles found me in that spot, dazed and panting, when he returned with two plates of food.
He gave an exasperated sigh and set the plates on the table. Despite his own diminished frame, he picked me up as if I weighed nothing and deposited me very gently in one of the seats by the table, a plate of steaming pork waiting for me. My flesh crawled where he touched me and I would have tried to scrub it off, if not for the smell that made my stomach roll in agony. I could not remember the last time I had eaten. I glanced up at my host, consuming his meal as elegantly as if it were the first of five sumptuous courses.
He felt me watching him and, meeting my gaze, asked, "Aren't you hungry?"
I felt no need to answer, and I'd be damned if I was going to take anything from this man.
He shrugged. "I would suggest that you do. You'll need your strength. We have a long journey ahead of us."
"Journey?" I asked, my surprise overcoming my hatred of him. He waited till he had chewed and swallowed, then lifted a napkin and dabbed his mouth. When he was finished, he nodded.
"I can't go anywhere with you," I said. "I have people waiting for me." And hopefully coming for me.
He laughed, an oddly lovely sound. "Those filthy Gypsies? Come, come. I can't believe you've fallen so far you prefer the company of those thieving degenerates to myself."
"Anything, anyone, is better than you!"
"That stings, Comtess, it really does."
I did not need a clear head to hear the lie.
"Where are you taking me?"
"To see the world," The grandeur of his voice was matched only by his sweeping gesture. "Don't you wish to?"
I could not keep the sour edge from my tone. "I've seen enough."
He leaned back in his chair and regarded me levelly. "You think me cruel, don't you? No need to hide it - you plot my death with every glance you send my way. But I am not all that you think I am. In fact, with me, you'll have a chance."
"Chance? At what?"
"A semblance of our lives back." The absurdity of the situation left me momentarily speechless. "I could do without the parties, the empty-headed twits, but I can't tell you what I would give for a decent grooming every morning."
His face split into a sneer, and a look of bitterness flashed in his eyes.
"I shouldn't have to. Once I'm done with this," this time, he gestured at his papers, "I'll have money and my comforts. If I'm feeling generous, I might bring you along with me."
I had no doubt he would treated me as he had Céleste: less than a pet, a little more than a possession. A toy for him to play with as he wished.
I ignored the insinuation for the moment. "It can't be done. Even if Raoul's death is blamed on me, you can't expect to remain untainted."
Clavell had accused me of being Gilles' lover. If I still had any faith in justice, I had to hope Gilles' timely disappearance would send the bull-headed inspector on his tail too. That Gilles expected to go back to a life of leisure when his actions had banished any chance of Raoul doing the same was too much for me to think of now.
Gilles saw the struggle of my thoughts and smirked. He reached over to his notebook and tossed it next to my plate.
"Anything is possible with the right persuasive means."
The book was open to a simple list. Some of the names neatly penned on the left-hand side were acquaintances of Raoul's, others I knew of by reputation.
On the right side next to each name was written a small biography. The Comte de Forêt, who was a notorious ballet-rat enthusiast, had several bastard children, one of them rumored to be another grand lady's. Below him was Madame Anna Marie Antoinette Deveroux, whose father had shameful dealings with the commune several years ago, and now the daughter was apparently following her father's radical tendencies. Marie Auguste de Morneault, heir to a shipping fortune, was planning to enact a political career. That, however, might not happen if it was known he was a frequent guest at a place called "The Lavender House" and had an insatiable taste for young men. The list went on and on; notable families, noteworthy secrets.
When I looked up, Gilles Robillard could not have looked more pleased with himself had his face been covered in crème.
"You're going to blackmail them."
He shrugged. "Absolutely. And why not? People need to be shaken up once in a while."
"How can you expect to get back in with these people if you're threatening them with their secrets?"
"I'm not planning on rejoining society here, Comtess. Even if I was, you would be surprised how cleanly money can wipe away any blemish. I daresay I could be quite popular, if I did it right."
I could not argue with that . The system was made and broken by those with power. And the beginning and end of power was money. All he really needed was money and one person on whom to place the blame for the murders.
We lapsed into silence again as he finished his meal, mine cooling in front of me.
"Will you not eat?" he asked. "Money comes to me rarely these days and I would hate to have you collapse on the side of the road while we're travelling."
I stared blankly at my plate.
"Fine," he said, and leaned back in his seat. He said nothing for a time and I thought the matter over. The knife came down so suddenly I only realized what it was later, when he brought his hand back and it swayed, embedded in the wood from the force of the blow.
"EAT!" he roared.
If Aishe had been here, she would have told him to go to hell. I, though, was a weak and sniveling fool. I picked up a piece of pork and put it in my mouth. Overcooked and far too salty, it was the most delicious thing I had ever tasted. I swallowed and groaned in pleasure when it fell to my stomach. I felt rejuvenated as if I'd eaten the whole damn pig.
When I licked the last bits of fat on my plate, Gilles was only halfway through his, watching me with amusement as he sliced his bread.
"That's better. You harm yourself unnecessarily, Comtess. The pig never did anything to deserve your indifference, even if you think I did."
"Let me go," I whispered, so low I barely heard myself say it.
He paused as he was bringing the bread to his mouth.
"And go where? The police? Maybe that apothecary you were robbing? Oh yes, I saw that one. It was really clever of you and that girl, Christine."
"DON'T CALL ME THAT!" I shouted, surprising even myself. He mocked me every time he used my diminished title, but he had no right to call me what my husband had since we were children, what Erik had once called me in longing affection.
He stared at me for several seconds. Then his face turned frighteningly feral and, without a word, he overturned the table, sending plates flying about the room. He did nothing more, but only stared at me as the sound of a plate spinning slowly died and it was silent again.
I bent over and wrapped my arms around my middle.
"Why?" I asked in a whisper.
"You'll have to be more specific than that, Comtess." he sneered.
I looked up at him and realized daylight was fading. Night again soon and a very long one ahead of me.
"Why me?" There were so many other women at that party the night I met him. So many more beautiful, more adventurous, who would have willingly gone to his bed for any treatment at the slightest provocation.
"Why?" He ran a hand through his beard fastidiously, considering my question. "Why indeed."
He was silent a long time. A slightly injured look came over his face, as if some truth caused him real pain. But when he looked up to meet my tired gaze, the certainty of his heartlessness was all I saw.
"Because…" he began his speech with care. "I knew exactly who you were."
He leaned forward and rested on his knees, closing the gulf between us. I wanted the table again, as if a physical barrier might save me from him.
"Quite simply, my dear Comtess, I. Know. You." He emphasized each word with a vocal punch, blows landing hard on my ears.
"You know nothing about me."
"Oh, but I think I do."
I looked away. "I had never even heard of you until Raoul said you were to marry his sister."
"You don't give yourself enough credit, Comtess. The name of Christine Daaé is known throughout France and beyond. I wouldn't be surprised if your little love drama with that ugly freak and the boy is known by the bloody Queen of England."
No, I wouldn't be surprised either. It was why Raoul had whisked me away to Avignon. Why he and I never had a chance at a normal life. But Gilles never seemed like the type to try and rub himself against fame. Lord knew I had met more than a few; Gilles was far too discreet, far too proud. Yet still, how well did I know him?
As if sensing my thoughts, he dismissed them with a wave of his hand.
"I care nothing for gilded notoriety. My interest was only slightly piqued when Céleste turned adoring eyes my way and I learned more of her family. But, when I saw you that night in Avignon, I knew…"
When he did not say anything more, I asked, "Knew what?"
He smiled a wide grin of white teeth and it was so easy to see the handsome, clean nobleman behind the filth.
"That faraway look in your eyes, the way you seemed to set yourself apart from anything and everything, as if you would throw it away in a heartbeat and be lighter without the load. And the longing - oh, the longing, Comtess! It broke my heart to see it. It was never enough, was it?"
Something within me went very still.
He stood up, a movement that took me completely by surprise. I thought he meant to attack me. I tried to back away and fell out of my chair, knocked myself against the overturned table and landed in a sprawl on the ground. He left me there and began packing his papers and belongings into his bag.
Something bright caught my attention and I had to focus on it several seconds before I recognized the knife embedded in the overturned table. I scooted along the floor until I was right next to it, then waited until he turned before I grabbed the handle. With more will than I'd thought I had, I yanked it free. My hand fell and for a moment, it sat there in my open palm, red from my blood. I heard Gilles shuffling around and slid it beneath my skirts, next to my thigh.
When he had finished, he took his seat again and left me where I was.
"I can understand why you hate me. But I was just as trapped as you in that place." He turned his head and looked out the window. "It's enough to drive anyone mad. I know it did my father - poor man cracked and never recovered. Gambled away all of my inheritance to the point that I had to take the first empty-headed money bag that came my way. I would have flung it all away if I could have, but duty staid me. The weight of a name kept in chains. I had no chance to be my own man. I had to be what they wanted me to be."
They. He said the word with such bitterness. "They" being Lady Simonette, the Comte de Forêt, Raoul, Céleste, perhaps even me. Did he hate because he thought they had trapped him in the idea of Gilles Robillard rather than who he really was?
"I think you know something of that. I told you once that your past was charming, didn't I? You rose from gutter-rat to diva." He knelt in front of me and I didn't object when one large hand cradled my face and rubbed away a tear on my cheek. "You touched something extraordinary and you did it all on your own. Yet they looked down their noses at you simply because you rose under your own force of will rather than having it handed to you at birth. You were just as trapped as I was by what they thought. And you tried so hard to please them, didn't you? And for what? What glory is there in self-denial, Comtess? What's wrong with simply being who you are and taking what you want?"
His words hovered so close to something dangerous and I didn't care. Deep down, there was a part of me locked and hidden and I had always feared it would break free. And yet I wanted to throw it open - damn the whole world - and finally stop hiding. Those shackles I'd carried for so long were heavy, and I was tired. I knew I couldn't just lay them aside; I needed to break them.
"I saw the way you held back from your husband when he was near and I knew how you pulled away in your mind, even if you let him embrace you." Just as suddenly as it began, the spell was broken. His hand was ice on my cheek, and dirt on my soul. He smiled. "No matter how good Raoul was to you, no matter how decent, it wasn't enough, was it?"
"Stop." I tried to struggle free of his grasp, but his hand was iron and forced me to look deep in his eyes.
"You accepted him and played the devoted wife, but no matter how you tried — "
" — no matter how tightly you closed your eyes, you could never convince yourself — "
"It's not true!"
" — that Raoul was enough for you. There was something else you craved, wasn't there, Christine? A part of you closed off forever from your dear husband, begging to be let go. Let me help you, Christine. Let me set you free. Let yourself out and see the world for the first time in your life. There's room to breathe out here."
I struck like a snake. I swung the knife and slashed Gilles Robillard's handsome face from jaw to forehead.
My heart sang at the sight of his blood rising beneath the skin and spilling down his face. To know that I could hurt him was the greatest high I had ever experienced and by god, I wanted to do it again so badly my hand trembled from the need to do it.
But more than that, I wanted to be free of this man forever. I grabbed his bag and made for the door like my life depended on it. When I threw it open and ran into the hallway, my injuries caught up with me and my knees buckled. I caught myself on the opposite wall before I fell and waited several seconds for the world to right itself.
Too long. Gilles, carried by his anger, tore out of the room and straight for me. I forced my feet one in front of the other and stumbled blindly toward the sound of people eating and talking in the distance.
He reached me at the stairs, at the landing above the inn where he'd caught me the night before. He spun me to face him. I took sickening delight in the blood welling from the wound I'd inflicted, but the effect was horrifying – he was like an animal out for more flesh.
"You think yourself clever, don't you? You can slash and cry all you want, Comtess, but no matter where you go, I will find you. You can run to hell and I'll be there, breathing down your neck!"
And I knew he was right. Gilles would be good as his word. Even if I made it back to my troupe, every village, every fair, every time I turned, he would be there. He would give me, the troupe, and Erik away to the authorities in a heartbeat. He'd pile his own crimes on top of our own and walk away free. Then? Labor camps for my troupe, from the old welder to little Dika. And I had a horrifying premonition of Erik swinging at the end of the hangman's noose.
I tried to raise the knife to strike again, but he had my wrist in an iron grip and laughed at my efforts.
"Don't think you can discard me so easily, Comtess. You're mine until I'm done with you! Do you hear me? Mine!"
And then I finally understood Gilles Robillard. For so long I had thought him nothing but a cruel man who delighted in harming others. And while he was cruel, that wasn't the key to him.
He thought himself a giant among men who deserved every sumptuous meal, every fine suit, and every holiday by the sea because he was Gilles Robillard. Gilles Robillard now could barely find a way to feed himself. Gilles Robillard thought himself victimized and unfairly denied his rightful place, and would blackmail anyone with his knowledge, because the truth was sneaking up on him. The mirror could only lie for so long and he couldn't stand it.
I had succeeded by my own efforts, while his success had been handed to him. Never earned, never his own. There was nothing to him but those possessions and he had lost them . He was a failure of a man in every sense of the word.
I knew then there was no way out of this for us both. He would never let me go until I'd worn out my use, and I could not suffer him to live either.
"You're a disgusting, weak excuse for a man. It's a wonder you weren't drowned at birth," I spat directly in his face and my spit mingled with his blood.
He shook me until my teeth rattled and I felt my dilko break free of my hair and fall to the ground. "This excuse, Comtess, is the same one you kissed that night under the stars, or did you block out that memory - how you panted after me? Would you like another taste, Comtess? I promise not to be as gentle as I was last night."
My blood turned to ice at the threat, but my eyes blazed with anger. "You're pathetic! You couldn't make it four months on your own and now you're using your slimy methods because you're useless at everything else!" I saw my own death in his eyes. I saw my lifeless, bleeding body and knew he would relish every moment of its demise. "I would never bother with anything so uselessly pathetic as you! The filth on Raoul's boots was ten times your worth! And that ugly freak wouldn't even bother with your shadow. You're nothing, do you hear me? Nothing!"
He leaned in until his breath burned my eyes. "Ask him yourself, Christine, and see how he finds my company."
Below us, the tavern was silent. I felt dozens of curious eyes bore into the back of my head as they watched our little drama play out. I could feel our weight tilt over the banister, and the unrelenting pull of gravity calling us both home.
Who was I to refuse?
He shook me again and it was a wonder I didn't bite my tongue. But when he finished, I gave him the same awful grin he had given me and for a moment, he looked afraid.
"You wanted me to let go, Gilles? Let's do it. Now. Together."
I shifted my weight back only slightly and sent us both over the edge.
Holy Angel, in heaven blessed, my spirit longs with thee to rest…
Such a beautiful phrase, I thought abjectly. I was oddly proud of myself for thinking of it. But why it was appropriate, I could not remember, nor could I say the words myself, because I was missing something.
Air, I realized. I wasn't breathing.
I opened my mouth to scream and nothing came. I felt my face burning and my lungs painfully empty, and wondered if I would be trapped in this moment forever. Suddenly, my lungs inflated and air returned to me in a violent rush. I coughed and heaved until my vision was red with blood and I lay gasping as my breath became easier.
There was something soft beneath me. I tried to push off it, but breathing took precedence for the moment and I succeeded only in moving my legs.
I sat up, clutched my head, and wondered why every inch of my body ached. My eyes came slowly back into focus and faces came into view.
I knew none of them. Or maybe I did. I couldn't remember. My head was pounding as every breath scraped against my lungs. I was swaying too, but not because of any state I was in. The surface beneath me was soft, unstable. I took another breath, planted both my hands firmly on the ground, and forced my eyes to focus beneath me.
Gilles was sleeping. He looked peaceful and unmarred by any past or present hate. I stared at him and wondered at how handsome he was, despite the dirt and beard. My hand felt compelled to trace the line of his jaw, his cheeks, his strong nose, and the oddly beautiful slash running over the length of his face. I slowly realized my earlier assessment that he was asleep was wrong, because his eyes, though open, stared blankly out at nothing. I traced a finger along his brows as if I might compel some light back into them. I couldn't and I pulled my hand back down his face, and across a neck cleanly broken.
With a whimper, I rolled off him and forced myself to my feet. I backed up until I ran into a table and, remembering I was not alone, looked up.
All were wide-eyed, some with hands stilled halfway to bring their drinks to their lips. No one said a word. I began to slowly back away toward the door and no one made a move to stop me. I remembered – they had seen everything that had happened. Perhaps they found compassion for my self-defense.
My blurred eyes swept the faces of everyone in the tavern. Most were too shocked to do anything but stare openmouthed. One young man had his finger raised at me, shaking it as some knowledge gradually worked its way through his mind. As I neared the door, though, he suddenly stood and pointed the accusatory finger at me.
"That's her! That's the gypsy bitch that robbed my father!" The apothecary's son, I remembered, was short a vial of ointment for a baby girl.
This snapped everyone out of their stupor and their looks of confusion and compassion quickly changed to suspicion and hate. I ran out the side door and into the night before any of it could turn to action.
It turned soon enough. I heard them behind me. First a few, then a growing crowd of men hot on my heels. I didn't have the head to throw them off, so I made a straight line for the village walls as fast as I could, overturning carts, knocking over people as I ran toward the Gypsy camp, towards safety.
My heart pounded with one certainty as I ran. My troupe would protect me. If I could get there, I'd be safe. I was a Gypsy too! I had a family! And I had a husband who not only could kill grown men in a seconds, he would enjoy it!
My terror gave me wings. But outside the walls of the city, the wind blew so violently I was nearly knocked over several times. The sun had already sunk in the west, and the last flickers of daylight were swiftly dying. I thought I was on my way back to the camp, but I could have easily been going the wrong way.
It did not matter. I heard dogs barking behind me and I pushed my feet to running long after I thought them flayed. It was still damp from the rain and I could barely see beyond my nose, I slipped and stumbled so many times, but my heart lightened when I recognized the landscape and realized I was heading in the right direction.
The camp was just over the hill. I felt myself gag as I pushed beyond exhaustion to run. It didn't matter. Nothing did except that I would be with my people soon and I could rest easy then. Only a little farther…
I crested the hill and collapsed in a muddy puddle as the sky opened again and drenched the earth. I gagged and threw up as my poor abused lungs tried again and again to give me air. But it was all right now. I made it back. I raised my eyes in joy and laughed at the men far behind, who dared to try and capture me.
But joy earned is swiftly spent, and mine took flight like frightened birds. I saw not a single caravan or tent in the darkness, though I strained my eyes to see them. I forced myself to my feet and stumbled in every direction, searching for something, anything that would give me back my hope.
On the south end of what had been the camp, the caravan tracks were not fresh. If my Gypsy teaching was sound, the troupe had packed and left sometime the night before, when Aishe had gone for help.
I stood in the middle of an open field, alone save the wind and rain.
They'd all left me.
He'd left me.
"Erik!" the word tore out of my throat like an open wound. "Erik, where are you?"
Nothing. No answer, only the constant fall of the rain all around me.
They were coming with dogs. Nasty, snarling things that never stopped barking. I used what little strength I had left to crawl into a hollowed out tree. It was poor shelter. The only good I could say about it was that I was less wet than I would be outside, though not by much. It didn't matter. I wanted the rain to clean me. I wanted it to wash everything away until I was nothing but a blank slate. No past. No present. No future.
Eventually, the sounds of the dogs died away. The weather was too dangerous to stay out and my hunters went home to their warm fires. Still I sat, growing colder by the moment and wondering over the irony of wanting fervently for death and yet never before feeling so painfully alive.
Or perhaps I was dying and this was the prelude; cold, shivering, bloody. All I needed was a requiem. Weakly, I mouthed the words that had so recently become my mantra.
Holy angel in heaven, blessed, my spirit longs with thee to rest…
My mind grew numb and my heartbeat slowed with each repetition. I was ready. As though lured by my swansong, a pale, lifeless form, as unspectacular as myself, emerged in the distance. Holy angel in heaven, blessed…
Gradually the form became a man, though the ghostly face remained. And eventually, the form came to stand before me, leading two horses.
"Come," Erik commanded. "I know a place we can go."
And there was nothing else for me to do, but follow him into the night.
A/N: Yes, it's been a while. But please still review!