The woman bound to the tree spat into the neon blue fire that surrounded her. The flames danced with the hay that lay beneath her, black smoke rising into the starless night sky. If anyone had seen the smoke, they still would not be able to make it before the woman had eventually burnt to ashes.
A dark haired man emerged from a bundle of dead trees, the bottom of his black trench coat hissing its way through dead pine needles and yellowed grass.
The woman gritted her teeth at the man’s appearance. It was he who had Oleandra taken from her home and brought to the woods to be tortured.
The infamous Nicholas Drake, the darkest and most powerful warlock alive, stood before her now. Nicholas’s dark eyebrows were set menacingly, while his emerald eyes oozed with pleasure. He was smiling and the woman felt bile rising in her tender throat.
Nicholas Drake was a tall man, over six feet in height, and was built like a street fighter, rugged and muscular, but always seemed to carry himself like royalty, which his bloodline wasn’t far from.
Everyone knew of the Drakes in Elsmere, from their mind manipulating ways to their abundance of dark magic. From the 1400s to the present day, there was no woman, man, or child who didn’t know of their disturbing and chilling heritage.
The freezing autumn wind blew through the forest, whispering through the trees and kissing the fire that burned relentlessly below the woman. She knew what Nicholas wanted from her and he was wasting his time. She would never betray her best friend.
She would die before doing so.
“Oleandra Braswell, how nice it is to see you are still breathing.” Nicholas advanced through the four men that now surrounded the fire. She knew the men too, but one’s involvement surprised her the most.
Thantos Nabokov gazed up at her with sympathy rather than fury. Oleandra would have never guessed he’d be associated with the most feared man in Elsmere.
She nodded down at him and he looked away, his eyes boring into the fire. He always had the most unique eyes, Oleandra thought.
“Oh shut up and get on with it, Nick. You cannot torture me; I’m too powerful for that,” Oleandra snickered, her dark hair blowing against her face.
Nicholas stared into her hazel eyes with a look that could kill and probably had.
“But you can die.” Nicholas placed his hands behind his back and paced around the tree that Oleandra was bound to. She could feel her heart beating in her throat.
One of the men rushed forward, clearing his throat for Nicholas’s attention. Nicholas’s head snapped toward the men and he fixed his jaw. He did not like to be interrupted.
“What is it, Preston?”
“Nicholas, we must make haste before someone comes along. The smoke is growing vastly above the trees.” The man pointed to the sky.
“Thank you for informing me, Preston. And will someone please tell me why the fire was even lit before I arrived? I asked for you to keep her bound, not to stage a Salem witch burning. Who lit the damn fire?” Nicholas left the tree’s side and stopped in front of the men who all grew instantly tense.
“It was me.” a pudgy man stepped forward. His long black hair was plastered to the sides of his thick neck and sweat was nearly pouring from his pale forehead.
The man directed his eyes to the ground and began pleading for forgiveness. The other men averted their attention to Oleandra.
“Basil, I had a feeling it was you. This is the third time that you have screwed things up… and I’m afraid this will be the last,” Nicholas said as he raised a hand from behind him, prepared to cast a spell.
“Please! Who will watch over my children?” Basil cried as he plummeted to his knees. Nicholas took a step back, a disgusted look on his face.
“I will make sure they suffer the same fate as you, my friend. That way, you won’t have to worry about them in the afterlife.” Nicholas’s hand was too quick, gliding through the air as he conjured a death spell under his breath.
Basil toppled over almost instantly, eyes charred and a small billow of white smoke escaping through his gaping mouth. He was gone.
Oleandra turned away, tears spilling down her cheeks. She had never seen anyone killed before and the feeling was indescribable.
“Craven, take his body back to his house and take care of his children for me. Make it look like a hellhound attack.” Nicholas commanded and a tall, brawny, blond haired man hurried forward and knelt down beside Basil, checking his pulse for assurance.
Craven’s irises were as black as night and Oleandra shook her head at him, a dearly beloved school teacher involved in such atrocities.
“I will be back soon,” Craven said. He was such a nice man, Oleandra thought. But she knew deep down that there had been something about Craven Bell that irked her. She just could never put her finger on it.
Quickly, Craven vanished into thin air with Basil’s body, a whooshing sound reverberating through Oleandra’s ears. Finally, she stopped crying and stared down harshly at Nicholas.
“You are as evil as they come. And I will not tell you where Marina and the children are. You’ll have to kill me too,” Oleandra growled.
“I see, but Oleandra, I already know where Marina is. There is something else that I want from you.” Nicholas waved a hand over the fire and killed the flames.
Oleandra grew tense all of a sudden. He knew where Marina was? How did he come to find that out since Marina was cloaked? Goblins, Oleandra cursed under her breath. She should have known it wouldn’t be that easy to cloak her.
“What do you want?” Oleandra snapped.
“Grayson Drake’s scroll, you were the last one seen with it. And don’t try to-” Oleandra began laughing, cutting Nicholas off.
“—Nick, I don’t have the scroll. Katherine does. She took it from me because she said I wasn’t trust worthy. And why do you even want it?” Oleandra explained as she tried to think of a spell that would free her from the rope she was bound with.
But she realized there was no use. Her powers were not working and she knew now that it was the rope itself that shielded her powers. One of Vander Hilt’s many magical inventions.
“Preston, go and fetch Vander and ask him to get the scroll for me from my incompetent little sister.”
“Yes, Sire,” Preston said and in a flash the man was gone, leaving Thantos behind to aid Nicholas. Unexpectedly, Thantos winked at Oleandra and she tilted her head in wonder. Why had he done that?
“So, why do you need it?” Oleandra asked, switching her gaze from the man to Nicholas. He looked up at her and smiled.
“There’s an invisible spell on the back of the scroll and I need it.”
“You could have just phoned me. You didn’t have to go through kidnapping me and tying me to a bloody tree to get me to speak about that. I have no intentions of stopping you. Now, let me go and I won’t go to the council.”
“I’m sorry, Oleandra, but that is not going to happen. I can’t have you blabbing to anyone about what I’ve spoken of tonight.” For the first time, Oleandra grew truly frightened of Nicholas.
They had known each other since elementary school, played childish games with each other, and even shared a kiss once. She would have never thought, as ruthless as Nicholas was, that he’d kill her.
But she was wrong… the Nicholas she once knew no longer existed.
“Marina will never forgive you and Ethan and Emma will never think of you as a father for what you’ve done and what you will continue to do. You are just like your grandfather and where is he, Nicholas? DEAD! ”
Nicholas lunged forward, growling at Oleandra. But before he could lay a hand on the terrified woman, he was stopped by the sound of a familiar voice.
“Nick, stop!” he whirled around to see his wife, Marina, standing just behind Thantos. He seemed to have forgotten about Oleandra and began heading toward the love of his life.
“Marina,” Nicholas smiled.
Just then, a large beast sprang out from within the trees and knocked Nicholas to the ground with enough force that it broke both of the man’s legs.
The hellhound pinned Nicholas to the ground. He cried out in agony. The beast roared into his face, hot saliva dripping from its large extended jaw.
It roared again, its mangy gray fur standing on end. Its body was as wide as a bull and as long as a lion. It was one of the most dreaded creatures in Elsmere.
Oleandra looked at Thantos with wide eyes. He commanded the hellhound to stop and walked over to Nicholas.
“My friend, you’ve been a nuisance to Elsmere and for the murders you have caused and the pain that you have showered upon us. I sentence you to death.”
Nicholas’s eyes were gaping and teary. He looked at the man as if he never expected the betrayal that had just occurred. They’d been good friends for years and helped each other through almost everything.
He couldn’t believe this was happening. Nicholas decided against responding to him, he simply closed his eyes and spoke aloud.
“Marina, tell my children that I love them. I love you, my darling.” Marina quickly turned away as Thantos nodded and the hellhound tore into Nicholas’s chest, blood and bone scattering about the forest ground.
Marina helped Oleandra down from the tree and they embraced in a hug, relieved that the man who everyone feared was finally dead, torn to shreds by a beast that he had once dominated.
Oleandra looked over Marina’s shoulder, but Thantos and the hellhound had already gone, leaving the body of Nicholas Drake in pieces scattered across the cold ground.
She covered her mouth in disgust and turned away. As much as she hated him, she felt sorry for Nicholas.
Marina did not look well, her eyes seemed hollow and her skin was paler than usual. She looked terribly thin and exhausted. Oleandra knew how much Marina loved Nicholas and though she knew Marina was relieved that he was gone, she knew that deep down Marina was broken.
She wrapped her arms around her friend and soon they vanished into the night, tear stricken and hearts tendered.
After Marina left Oleandra’s cottage, she made her way back to where she had been hiding. She needed to inform Mason about Nicholas’s death before anyone else did.
She also needed to stop by her family’s home to gather some possessions before she departed out of Elsmere to the mortal world, where she planned to live out the rest of her days with her children.
Marina had to vanish quickly. The council still thought she was working alongside Nicholas. It was only a matter of time before they came for her and took her children away for good.
“Your children will bring destruction to this world, Marina. Are you forgetting who their father is, and are you even sure he is dead?” Mason King stared into the eyes of his friend.
Flustered, Marina quickly sat down on a vacant sofa and began crying into the palms of her hands. Mason shook his head and squatted down to her level, taking her hands away from her teary face.
“Nicholas is dead. He was torn to shreds and I watched it happen. The children will not know of him, Mason. I will make sure that they grow up normal in the mortal world. I am going to make sure my children do not follow in Nicholas’s footsteps.” Marina shot up from the couch and snatched her red shawl from the coat rack.
She turned to Mason. She knew he was only trying to help.
“I need to gather a few things from my parents. I’ll be back no later than dawn. Take care of them for me until I get back. If they wake, give them some warm milk with honey. They will go back to sleep. I’ll be back soon.” Marina opened the front door to the eerie full moon.
The trees that surrounded the cabin looked grotesque and alive, their dead branches dancing in the October wind. Today was her children’s sixth birthday, the seventeenth.
“Hurry on and call me if something happens,” Mason said as he watched his friend make her way down the moonlit dirt road.
He didn’t know then, but she would not return.
Marina, along with her sister and parents had been murdered later that night, leaving Ethan and Emma to Mason.
To take severe precautions, Mason made sure that everyone in their world thought the children were dead. It needed to be this way.
After the funeral of his dearly beloved friend, he swore he’d do what Marina had planned. He would take the children and live in the mortal world, leaving everything he knew behind in Elsmere.
He would raise them properly and never reveal their father’s true name or their family’s troubling legacy. Even if it killed him, he’d keep them in the dark about everything that would taint them.