To the Bastille
Erik cradled Anna’s lifeless body to his chest, sobs wracking his hulking frame. Never had he cried so hard in his life, not even when his blessed mother had passed, for at least her death had been natural. At least she’d lived and loved.
Anna would never again have that chance.
He stared back into her cold blue eyes, bloody, shaking fingers pushing her blond strands from her face, before a new wave of agony pulsed through him. He gripped her tight, pulling her to his chest and cradling her with all his strength.
His fault, it had been his doing. He’d angered that vile boy, provoked him in the brothel, and he’d exacted his revenge in the worst of ways. Erik had been the one to uproot her and bring her to this despicable city. It would always be his fault.
The boy, Simon, lay a few feet in front of him, his body twisted and mangled, almost beyond recognition. Erik had thrown his dagger aside, instead using his bare hands to torture the boy until he’d finally ceased his pained cries and attempts to escape his fate. It hadn’t satisfied Erik, had done nothing to satiate the ancient blood of his ancestors that ran through his veins. If he’d been born during the Viking era, Odin himself would not have been able to save the boy from the things Erik had in store for him.
As it was, the boy was dead, and Erik was enraged. Simon had been pathetic, pleading and blubbering and crying before choking on his own blood. It hadn’t lasted long enough. The boy had given in to death before Erik had his fill. His screams, however, would satisfy him for the rest of his days, however numbered they were.
He’d heard the shop door open, had heard the gasp as someone had stumbled upon the grisly scene. He knew his fate was closing in around him, now, and he wanted his last moments to be spent with his kin, muttering ancient prayers into her deaf ears. Her spirit would hear them, this he knew in his core.
Although Norway had been Christianized hundreds of years ago, Erik’s family had taught them the old ways, of Odin and of Valhalla. It was there he wished his sister to go, to be with their mother. It was there she would be happy, free. It was there she belonged. His tears seeped into her hair as he wept, muttering still his aged prayers.
“Lo there do I see my father,” his deep voice whispered as he pulled Anna back to gaze upon her pale face. Not even death could mar her beauty.
“Lo there do I see my mother,” he continued, “and my…my sisters and my brothers.”
His weeping grew louder, more pained.
“Lo there do I see the line of my people, back to the beginning.”
He laid her down as the doors to the shop clanged open once again, and angry shouts and thundering boots wound their way to his ears.
“Lo they do call me, they bid me to take my place among them,” he cupped her face, using his thumbs to close her icy eyes forever.
“In the hallowed halls of Valhalla,”
The door to the apartment burst open as Erik stood, still staring down at her. She could be sleeping, if not for the long gash across her slender neck, her bloodied face.
“Where the brave shall live forever.”
He felt their hands on him, pinning his wrists behind his back. He didn’t fight, though he knew he very well could. It would be easy. But he didn’t care, not now. No. Now he wanted to face his fate, however harsh. It wasn’t in his blood to give in, to dishonor his sister in such a way. He would fight in her memory for as long as he continued to draw breath.
The Duke d’Orleans had never seen such an abhorrent sight in his life. Holding an embroidered handkerchief to his nose to stifle the scent of coppery blood, he gazed at the two bodies on the floor. None said a word, the quiet altogether foreboding. Sun streamed in through the main window, mocking them with its brightness.
The woman was beautiful, her features striking, even in death. His nephew, however, was nothing more than a bag of skin stretched over hundreds of broken bones. Whoever had murdered him had been a monster.
“What happened?” He said aside to the inspector in charge, gut roiling. He’d seen enough atrocious sights for a lifetime, but this was by far the most unnerving.
“The neighboring shopkeep was up late, and as he went to lock up he heard the woman screaming. He said he watched as the blacksmith’s apprentice entered, and the screams doubled, before he heard nothing more. He sent for help right away, milord.”
The Duke nodded, the mystery clicking together.
So, his nephew had opted for an unrequited romp, and had himself killed by the woman’s husband or kin.
“The man apprehended?” He asked, feeling less pity than he should have for his sister’s only child. That damnable boy had evil tendencies, of this he knew. Their household cat had gone missing months ago, only to be found, dissected and mangled in the garden bed by a screeching maid. Simon’s chilling ways were sure to have evolved until not even human life was acceptable to satisfy his demonic urges anymore. But the Duke had been so busy, he’d not given the boy much attention. He now felt a mass of responsibility and guilt settle onto his shoulders.
“A big man, Scandinavian descent.”
“What?” The Duke breathed, turning to stare wide-eyed at the small inspector. He nodded, glancing down at his leather-bound notebook.
“Oui, oui, he was adamant that he came upon them, that your nephew murdered her right before his eyes, that he killed out of a need for revenge. But…he was covered in too much blood, milord, to be from one person, and the girl was raped. We found him still fondling her—”
“Enough!” The Duke barked, for he knew the man-in-question. His insides churned. The young Nord wouldn’t even touch his wife when she threw herself at his feet. He knew that Erik adored his only family, hence working two jobs to keep them afloat while Paris crumbled around them.
The inspector shook his head, confused where he shouldn’t be. The case was clear as day, but seeing as the Duke was related to the so-called victim, the government would spin this tale in his favor. He grit his teeth together.
“Where was this man taken?” He asked, reigning in his justified anger. The little man’s eyes widened in a flash of fear.
“T-to the Bastille, of course.”