You have solemnly sworn the unbearable oath to do as I say. You break the oath and you belong to me for me to do as I please with you and your powers.
Malphas stood before the mirror dressed in the simple and elegant attire of a butler. His smart black tail coat accentuated the perfectly muscular, lithe and angular long lines of his human form and he glanced again at the gilded gold watch in his hand before smoothing a gloved hand over the clear crystal-cut face of the clock. He wondered, not for the first time how a human would feel in his place; a human awaiting the presence of a girl who he had literally been sent for. He smirked as a small voice suggested guilt but he ignored it; seduction had always come easily to him and he had as long as he needed in human time to get the deed done. She would not even know what happened because afterwards he would suck her soul out of her body, burn the large manor and leave for his throne. It was a shame really; the manor was an extravagant work of art and burning it was not something he was looking forward to but now he was bound by an oath that sat atop his handsome looking bedside table in the form of a dark purple rose stained by his own blood, preserved by darkness and enchantments that no human being could handle without being destroyed.
He turned to the door to see his old, dark skinned master watching him, dressed in a dapper plum-coloured velvet suit with an ivory cane. "Yes master?"
"Lillian is here. I would like you to meet her." He tugged at his droopy black tie as Malphas strode over to him. "You mustn't do anything that would scare her. Remember that Lucifer only sent you here to ensure that my soul was preserved for him. It does not involve my daughter or anything that concerns here."
Malphas focused on the large winged alabaster horses that stood in the emerald green gardens and was tempted to leap up and knock the five twittering sparrows out of their tree. "And I am to not let her have any knowledge of our contract or the true roots of what I am." Malphas frowned in boredom as they strode to the huge winged mansion that grinned stupidly at them like a gap-toothed little man with green stubble.
He was struck by a strange low, sweet hum that travelled melodiously from the house and teasingly ruffled his Raven hair in pretence of a breeze, heightening his senses and making his eyes become scorching, cat-like anger. He clenched his jaw; nostrils flaring as the gently intoxicating power of her soul tugged at his scorched stone of a heart. He had never been exposed to a soul so zesty and laced with seductive liveliness and he almost regretted the decisions that had themselves chained suffocatingly around his neck.
He was so lost in his own conflict that he hardly noticed her. She appeared before him like a caramel skinned offering with shiny copper-tinged curls, a large, smooth forehead, delicately arched eyebrows, a little snub-like nose and big eyes full of complex secrets bad a childhood shimmer. They were the colour of moss infused with gold and bronze flecks like leaves and laced by eyelashes like thick, gossamer fringes of delicate garments. Her lips were perfectly pouted and the colour of cherries at the height of their ripeness. She was small with a petite frame clothed in an embroidered navy blue dress that showed of the sharp and narrow polished peaks of her shoulders and covered her gentle slender arms. Her waist was minute; small enough for him to curl his hands around and feel the sublime and sweet heat of her being and soul that sung sweetly for him from across the room.
"Lillian. Lilly." Her father touched her shoulder, drawing her close so that her scent made his eyes blaze. "This is our butler who shall serve you like a slave in any and every way that you would like him to. Your every wish is his command and he is to comply with no resistance "
Mal bowed as was considered right of him before turning to his master. "Master Byron, what would you like me to make for your supper?"
"Whatever you consider right, as long as you serve it in the garden, the weather is nice enough for us to have it outside."
Mal bowed again before soundlessly drifting to the kitchen.
He had almost forgotten about her as he silently and thoughtlessly stirred the stew with his sleeves rolled back when the same enticing scent swept to him like a breeze. Before he could react, she was standing in the kitchen doorway.
"Would you like any help?" Her voice was sweetly bird-like and teasing.
He glanced over his shoulder in time to see her drifting closer to him like a faerie capable of controlling him like a magician with a single spell disguised as a glance. "It is quite all right ma'am. I have already made much of what was supposed to be made."
"May I ask you a question?"
"Where are you from?"
"Upper Helliston, on the outskirts of Wales."
"How long have you worked for dad?"
"Little more than a few days."
"And you already seem to well acquainted with everything it is admirable."
Mal focused on setting trays and elegantly gathering bone-white plates and the best cutlery and utensils. "I do as is needed, being the butler I have to make use of what I can do to the best of my abilities." He placed everything on a tray and she smiled at him, something he pretended not to notice as he walked purposefully into the garden with her.
"I'm not afraid." Gerry began, grinning as he waited for someone to pick up where he left off and add to the cheeriness that the rising sun only sprinkled with even more brightness.
"Disturbia!" Trish flung in with a fist pump and a swish of her head that almost blinded Julie who looked slightly dazed.
"Addicted." She offered finally, shifting and smoothing a hand down her skirt.
"Diva." Lilly muttered as she glanced at Ahmad who had the book and various papers open before him as he and Alisha skimmed over them.
"Apologise." Mal suddenly stopped the car.
"Why did we stop?" Pete looked up from his console, jerkedout of game-land as the car stopped.
"It seemed safe enough outside and I reckoned that we could do with some fresh air." Mal gently thumped out of the car and onto dead leaves. "As long as we meet up back here when we are we should be ok." He slammed his door shut behind him.
"Ok.." Gerry raised an eyebrow. "Someone's being weird."
Lilly glanced at Alisha who had looked away from the papers spread before her and Ahmad and was looking anxiously at the door her brother had just walked out of and turned to Damon who was scribbling something on a small card with the tip of his tongue sticking out, tasting the air.
"Be right back.." She muttered as she hopped out, feet crushing dead leaves as she marched around the car to where Mal was stood leaning with his palms pressed against a moss-covered fallen tree and his head down.
His hair was a slightly spiky raven coloured mullet that trialed back, following the nobbles of his spine, ending where his shirt began. He looked like a haggard but shockingly beautiful clothed mannequin left out for the sun to bake and the wind rumpled his clothes and hair, trying to tug him back into its icy embrace.
He turned as though sensing her and her his lips looked strangely pale, his eyes too big and dark circles under his eyes; he looked like a pale, haggard ghost that the wind could easily push over and shatter and she worried slightly, unable to move as she saw the flaws even beneath his shimmering beauty.
"Are you ok?"
He turned around, splaying his gloved hands. "Yes " He waggled his fingers at his sides. "I just wanted to take some time to appreciate the nature around me before it was all taken away seeing as we're literally marching into an apocalypse." The only living flowers around him seem to wither and die, crumbling to scented dust that was carried to her by the wind that gently forced her to move closer as leaves danced around her feet.
She folded her arms. "Mind if I join you?"
He shrugged. "I apologise for not being the best when it comes to company."
She slowly, carefully closed the distance between them as though he was a rare butterfly she was terrified of scaring away. As she moved closer to him she felt a strange coldness seep into her; wrapping around her bones and tracing her veins with frozen fingers that made her shudder involuntarily.
"You never really talk of your parents."
He shifted slightly as she sat down on the mossy tree. "If I did, no one would believe what I said and therefore I find it best to keep things to myself."
"Do you think that it might have anything to do with what's happening now?"
He frowned confusedly.
"I heard you and Ahmad talking about what happened to them and you said how you think that it has to do with demons and he agreed I feel like I should confess to thinking the same and the other night, I remembered what happened to dad I remember going to the room where I expected him to be and all I saw was his dead body before these strange blue flames sort of ate it up and left nothing behind."
Mal looked lost in thought. "Blue flames?" Some blackened veins stood out against his pale neck.
"Yes." Lilly frowned.
"Do you remember anything else? Anything about the butler or-" Mal anxiously toed around the topic.
She shook her head.
"And you believe that demons exist?"
She nodded. "I was thinking about what's wrong with Damon and I thought maybe he somehow knows they do perhaps he sees them and is scared by them. I don't know why but I feel like I'm so close to finding all my answers and yet they are too fuzzy and confusing for me to understand. I want to know who killed my dad and why I don't want revenge but I just want answers because everything seems so confusing." She rose and strode over dead leaves to a nearby tree trunk.
"So you assume Damon is possessed?"
"But how does that explain how everyone thinks you a 'marked' woman?"
Lilly turned to look up at the bleak white sky. "I don't know Mal. I just want to know so that things can go back to normal. This is so tiring and scary and I just wish it would stop."
Mal opened his mouth, ready to say something when she slowly turned: A maggot-infested corpse hung from the creaking branches of the tree behind her. Torn, bloody and bloated bodies of snakes were wrapped around his thin neck and his lips were badly torn and puckered into a gawking hole that revealed black teeth covered in mud and blood. His nose was flattened and bruised as though someone had stepped on it. His clothes were twisted cruelly around his maggot-eaten form. His transparent eyelids flickered open to reveal soul-less black eyes.
Lilly screamed and crashed back, toppling over the tree and landing with a thump at Mal's feet.
"Are you alright?" Mal asked her anxiously as he helped her up so that she could brush herself off.
She turned to him, ready to respond when he strode over to the upside down, rotting corpse tethered to the tree, his back towards her.
"Beezle." Mal muttered, making her raise an eyebrow in confusion; curiosity glued her to the spot.
Beezle sucked in a rattling breath that reeked of vomit and urine. "Malphas."
She frowned as the name jabbed her like an old friend would and filled her empty mind with a jumble of blurred black thoughts.
"Dr Lusciano." Beezle hissed. His eyes rolled shut again.
Mal turned to her, face drawn into a blank stare.
"Malphas?" She cocked an eyebrow.
He examined her face for the slightest trail of recognition but was relieved to find none. "I don't know what that means but we should get back to the car." He strode purposefully around her, not stopping to see if she was actually following him.
Seeing Beezlebub had made Mal's senses heighten to an extent that meant everything was too bright and loud. He was repeatedly struck by pain that twisted and coiled itself around him and yet he was determined to drive. Now was not the time to reveal that he was a wolf in sheep's clothing and strangely enough he felt the weight and slight ache that was caused by carrying everyone's fate upon his shoulders.
"We will be visiting Dr Lusciano." He heard himself say in a voice that made spines freeze."I believe he has answers that could help us."
"But we tried to find him and he was impossible to get hold of." Alisha focused on her brother, struggling to make him turn and face her because she could sense that something was wrong and he was struggling to hide that from her.
"Yes but he has a home nearby." Ahmad offered as Mal jolted the car towards a collection of grey-rooved houses with arched black windows and eerily still, quite cobblestone covered streets and winding pathways leading to them.
"What is this?" Trisha gawked dumbly out of the window at the tall, proud houses shielded by grim, thorny hedges that robed the houses.
"Little Levithiana." Ahmad offered, "most houses were abandoned after an outbreak of the black plague but Dr Lusciano has chosen to live her because he finds that living in this remoteness helps him think better."
"But he didn't believe that any of this is true?" Alisha ran a hand through her hair. "We should be careful because the last time we tried to get there he wanted to lock Mal up."
"Well it is a risk worth taking if it is for the world." Mal parked the car outside a grey-walled house with windows curtained in thick plum coloured curtains.
"Are we all going?" Damon asked.
Mal glanced at him, peering intently at his eyes; amazed by the growing power and anger he felt there. "I think you should stay in the car. Ahmad and I shall go in and see if we can try to get through to him." He pushed open the door and Lilly shuddered at the stillness and coldness of the moist outside air.
Ahmad and Mal glanced around them. The trees were grey gnarled knuckles and fists covered in wart-like purple growths that were like throbbing pustules. Dead leaves in various shades of crimson and scarlet were covering the bumpy cobblestone ground and driveways stood open and empty, devoid of cars or any trace of human life. The houses glared down at the intruders through slit-like blackened eyes with moss wrapped around the creamy white walls and over the rooves and chimneys. Dead roses lay in curled, withered heaps in gardens. Broken twigs crackled like distant thunder under their feet as Mal and Ahmad marched up a wide driveway to one of the largest, bleakest house with an ochre black door.
Mal glanced all around them, taking in the large bone-white vases and the upturned deckchair to one side before reaching out to tug at the creaky knocker shaped like a snake. When he let it go the knocker smashed against the door and the sound of it ricocheted through the house as though it was an empty coffin.
The door was pulled open with a barely audible hiss. A tall, slender woman clothed in ivory grey pulled tight over her shapely breasts and her small waist before the skirt billowed out around her hips and legs. Her hair was a simple plait wrapped up atop her head and her eyes were amber, a small black mark shaped almost like a heart graced the edge of her cushion-like lips and a dark silvery scar showed up under her tanned skin like a snake barely held back and hidden.
"Yes?" Her voice was a high, soulful wail-like note of music.
Mal was gripped by unbearable agony as he realised that her flesh was awash with scented salt and he was astounded to find that the affects of the salt on his human form was unbearable. He longed to cover his face but the dark eyes of the woman shone with righteousness; he could visualise her with gothic wings and ivory, silvery flowered satin wrapped around her shapely chest and small waist.
Ahmad stepped forward.
Mal moved back as though accepting the shield he formed with his chastity and mortality.
"We are here to meet Dr Lusciano. We have some important business to discuss with him and would like it if he could see us about-"
"My master is busy. Yet he will be happy to see you if you could come in." Her eyes swept over Mal and glimmered with a hidden threat that challenged him.
Mal looked up, meeting his gaze with an iron-strong one of his own. "We shall."
Ahmad led him in, seemingly not noticing the angry ripples of negativity that lashed from Mal to the maid and back.
Mal felt poised at the edge of a blazing pit that would scorch him. Large sofas were covered in clear plastic with stuffed grey owls and foxes stood around the room at intervals; beady eyes full of malice and spidery cobwebs draped over their cold, hard forms like wings and silky dresses. The house was scented by the smell of roses that stung Mal's nostrils as he took in the simplistic decor and resisted the urge the smash the ornaments and large frames; a darkness was palpable and beat through the house like a wild pulse but it only sickened him and leered at him from beneath the illusions that hid it.
"Please be seated." The maid strode through another door. "He shall be with you shortly."
"Are you alright?" Ahmad asked Mal anxiously as Mal slowly lowered himself onto the sofa beside Ahmad, wincing as it felt like burning pine-kneedles were being stuck into his entire being.
"Yes." Mal shifted helplessly, struggling to relax.
Echoing footsteps carried to them through the house like the beats of hidden hearts. Mal gritted his teeth helplessly even as he slumped back, feigning ease and looking pointedly unamused as he looked at his own feet and felt the suffocating darkness around him push close enough to devour him whole.
Dr Lusciano was clothed in a courdurouycoat and trousers with smart, shiny patent-leather shoes. He was tall and slender, face handsome and craggy with a sharp, cleft chin and big heart-shaped forehead as well as an inky expanse of perfectly smoothed back hair. His eyes were large and the swirly pools of hot ebony framed by silky lace-like lashes and his skin seemed luminous.
Mal gritted his teeth, refusing to meet his gaze as Dr Lusciano refused to look away from him.
His lips curled into a cunning smile as he looked from Mal to Ahmad and settled in a patent leather rocking chair. "What can I do you for?"
"We have a proposition." Ahmad offered firmly. "One that you will help us with, so we hope."
Malphas was folding the last of the clothes, ignoring the distant bird sound that drifted like a soft tune through the open windows where fingers of the wind were tugging at the curtains, fighting to shove them back and knock the closed bottles of ink onto the floor. The small ginger tabby; one of the many Mal had taken in playfully skipped around on the floor after a dead moth that flapped its wings feebly as though trying to ride the wings of the wind. Almost instantly, the sweet scent struck him dumb and made him put aside the final garment, looking down at Chester before scooping him up and cradling the fluffy warm kitten in his arms as he gently ruffled the soft white fur on his warm belly and felt him purr and lovingly bat at his shoulder with a soft, leathery paw.
"You ought to stay with your mother." He chided the kitten even as he smiled. "It is not safe for you to wonder around on your own."
He looked up, feigning shock as he saw Lilly standing in the doorway.
Lilly's face took on a scared, pinched expression as she looked at Chester.
Mal almost laughed at the waves of fear rolling off her and smirked lazily before gently plopping Chester atop the windowsill. "Out you get." He gently tapped the kitten's back as he struggled to nuzzle his hand. "You ought to be getting home to your mother."
"Yes My lady." He bowed and then lifted his eyes to her face, making her flush like he was a magician and his greatest magic trick was making her blood boil and heart scream.
She held out a soft black suit.
He raised an eyebrow.
He looked down at his clothes. "Surely this is-"
She shook her head and walked forward to place it on the table before him. "You shall be my escort."
"But surely it is immoral for me; a 'slave' to be the escort of someone of your nobility to the ball it is for you after all and I find it unethical for me to-"
"Mal, I order you to escort me. I do not care. You seem to be the only fitting suitor for the night the other boys are giggly little gits and pasty-faced boys who hardly know a single thing about dance or how to treat a lady properly."
Mal nodded and bowed again. "As you wish-"
She had walked away, making him frown before he could say anything else as he realised that she was falling in love with him and rolled his eyes at the patheticness of the soft human feeling. She had started spending a lot of time with him in the pretense that she wished to learn from him but he kept realising it had more to do with her spending as much time as possible with him. Nonetheless; it made him smirk imagining the faces of the nobles when she refused to leave his side for a night despite what was considered right.
Mal was annoyed at the breathless humans gawking at him with drool gathering in their slack mouths. He wished to be invisible and yet he was apparently at the peak of beauty and grace. Drifting over the glassy marble floor, he ignored the soft dream-like music, the tittering laughter, swollen bossoms, flushed faces and colourful skirts of the guests. His eyes sought her out and focused; she stood to a side, close to a tapestry of a woman whose face was a collection of many intertwined fragile butterflies with gold flecks in their wings.
She wore a dress that was the colour of rubies and blood, something that made his eyes blaze. It turned her skin to buttery, smooth gold; her shoulders sharp, boney, delicate and polished. Her coppery hair was twisted effortlessly atop her head, a single unruly lock twisting down the side of her slender neck and dipping close to her bodice teasingly. Her bodice was intricately embroidered in red and white intersecting, small flowers and curled stems that ended at her tiny waist after which the skirt flowed out fluidly over her slender but strong legs. Her arms; long, slender and delicate were bare save for a slender gold bracelet that coiled around her left wrist; a ruby-eyed snake with a garnet studded tongue that dipped against the inside of her wrist and her delicate blue veins. Another coiled snake nestled against her sharp collarbones, its pointy tongue tasting her flesh and her delicately adorable face was fixed in a pleasant smile as her gold and green eyes flickered over the room, taking in her guests.
"Malphas!" She grinned, dimples cutting in to her face as she saw him and her eyes sparkled like gems.
"Ma'am." Malphas bent, gently taking her hand and bowing as he planted a soft kiss on its back, hearing her screaming pulse and battling the urge to pin her down and devour her deadly fascinating soul on the spot. "Shall we?" He gestured to the dance floor as the music slowed.
She moved closer and he gently placed his hands in the right places, sweeping her around with ease; there was so much difference but so many similarities; she was tiny and he was tall yet they danced like they were made to dance as one, together, their bodies moved fluidly and easily. Occasionally she would throw back her head and laugh, lips like blood and her delectable neck exposed and begging him to crush it and drink to his full. When they were finished he bowed for her again and seemed not to notice as she waved at him, watching him retire dreamily to his chambers and fight against the hunger that was making him feel like a caged animal. She knew not that the small, black cat with red eyes that tapped a leathery paw on her window and let her carry it in, lie it on her bed and fuss over it was him. She had no idea what dangers she was in or how many rules he was breaking as his body and stone heart filled with sizzling fire that would eventually burn them both.
"But it is a lie." Dr Lusciano rose, suddenly very tall and angry. "I can not let you-"
Ahmad opened his mouth to protest but was silenced by a single look from Mal.
"Yes." Mal rose, confusing everyone. "So be it " He turned to Ahmad. "Maybe we should turn back? Head home?"
Dr Lusciano held out a bone-white china pot, almost slamming into Mal's chest with it.
"What is this?" Mal asked in mock interest, ignoring the pain it caused him.
"Take a pinch of salt and you shall be safe." Dr Lusciano examined his face, laughing inwardly at the flickering weakness in his eyes as he avoided his gaze and reached into the urn, happy to be wearing gloves and took a small mound before turning to Ahmad.
"Are you ok?" Ahmad asked Mal as he watched him shake the salt on to the ground.
Mal nodded, lost a million miles away.
"What was that about?" Ahmad frowned, refusing to move as he sensed the dark monster curled under Mal's papery skin snarl and writhe in a struggle to get out.
Mal's eyes blazed as he looked intently at Ahmad, making him dizzy. "Ahmad, what else does it say about the demons in the book?"
Ahmad felt his eyes widen as he was struck by sudden realisation. "That was Lucifer-"
Mal nodded, not turning back as they strode to the car. "Maybe you should drive now? I feel slightly unwell."