You are neither my moon nor sun, for you shine more radiant than both and all. You are not my world, for your purity soars above the filth of the ground. You are not my love, for this feeling I hold toward you is so much more than fictitious “love.” You are not any of that. Instead, you are you. The breathtaking, amazing, almost fantastical Amarantha. I say fantastical for I fear your fairy, goddess-like self will disappear every night when I sleep. I say almost, for you are always there when I wake, held tightly in my arms. You are Amarantha, the everlasting, above all else, gliding high with your beautiful angelic wings, that elegant, radiant smile upon your cherubic face. You’re the one for me, Amarantha.
The only one.
Teale Chloris. A clear jade liquid, imported to London from the West. Extremely rare. Extremely lethal. Fatal at a small brush with skin, so much more when drunk.
Aromatic scent of a wild rose.
Heath Manor’s grand ballroom hummed with constant conversation, occasionally pierced by melancholy sobs, high-an-octave hiccups, anguished wails. The monotonous drone of voices, voices, voices seems to bounce off the crystalline chandelier hung at the middle, the precise words muffled by the thick velvet tapestries of midnight-black draped over bright vermilion walls.
At the center of the room stood a grand rosewood coffin, set upon a marble pedestal, lined with bouquet after bouquet of woodland roses. It was toward this spectacular display that Mihael walked, cool blue eyes sweeping over the glass covering. At the height of 6’8”, the blonde lord could just see through the top, gaze resting upon the pale face of the girl inside. For a brief second, that frosty stare seemed to soften, turning almost sad before he caught himself. With one slow blink, Mihael turned on his heels and walked away, nearly pausing to sweep fingertips over the small golden plaque at the foot of the coffin.
He kept walking, not looking back, not looking back into that pale, beautiful face, with an expression as gentle as the angel she was frequently compared to, as if she was merely sleeping. As if she would wake if Mihael would reach out and shake her gently , not shatter like glass if he even breathed upon her.
Taking a deep, steady breath to calm his frayed nerves, Mihael quickened his pace, never hesitating until he reached the oaken double doors, held open by servants. There he paused for just a brief second on the marbled floor, feeling as if he had missed something. He quickly shook it off, walking out of the threshold before the servants had the chance to exchange odd looks. But as Mihael padded down the empty hallways, his thoughts couldn’t help but stray to the sleeping beauty within her scented prison and, for once, he didn’t stop the avalanche of memories. He figured it was a good way to pay his respects. So, he let the memories tumble through his brain, until he found the one he was searching for. The one that stopped his thoughts, stopped his heart when he first saw it. It was that golden plaque. That stupid, golden plaque. The date and that line at the bottom.
1734 – 1751
Beautiful daughter and wonderful friend
Mihael didn’t dare to let his tears fall. At least not until he reached his home, where he would scream and sob into the pillow until seemingly nevermore.
Never…I’ll never forgive…I’ll never forgive the one…That one that has taken him from me…That has made him forget about me…That has him captivated under her evil spell…I’ll never forgive that one that has taken him away from me…!
“Alone…” Adalhar muttered, two fingers nursing the sides of his head as the other hand nursed a drink. “Alone in that coffin…”
Eadric cast a worried look at his friend next to him, his own glass of red wine left upon the rough wooden top of the bar. “Adalhar…”
“I gave it to her.” The words were filled with self-contempt. “I gave it to her, and now she’s dead. It’s my fault. I killed her!”
“Adalhar, it wasn’t in your position to refuse,” Eadric soothed, the hand he laid on his friend’s shoulder as a mean of comfort shrugged off in mere seconds. “And besides, you are not sure that she is dead.”
Adalhar snapped his head around, the sheer venom in his glare making Eadric cringe.
“Do you really think she’ll survive in that airtight coffin for so long?” he snarled, alcohol thick on his breath. But Eadric heard the tiny, practically imperceptible drop of desperate hope in his voice. “There has been no word of anything about Lady Amarantha since the funeral! She couldn’t have possibly lived!”
“It is not your fault, Adalhar,” he continued.
As said trader made to spit back something vicious, his long-time companion pulled him into his arms. Adalhar tensed for a moment, then relaxed into the warm embrace, letting loose the string of tears accumulated through guilt as Eadric continued to whisper soft, soothing words into his ear. The actual speech was lost on him, but he doubted they made sense anyways. He just relished the feel of those arms, around him, arms strengthened through days of steering horses and loading shipments, enjoyed feeling strong fingers knead away the tight knots in his back.
Adalhar took a deep breath, savoring the musky scent of his friend and the warmth it brought before he pulled away, expression hard again. With a calloused and weather-worn palm, he slapped down a handful of bills, not even bothering to count them as he sauntered halfway through the empty room before pausing.
“I’m not drunk,” he said quietly over his shoulder, then continued his trek out of the bar, listening intently for the comforting sound of Eadric’s light footsteps falling into rhythm with his.
Adalhar was not disappointed.
I will seek him out…I will seek my beloved out…I will seek him out, and hear those loving words whispered into my ears once more…I will find him…I need to find him…
“Kade McKinley,” Wilfrid reported. “Not married, no known relatives. Occupation grave keeper, employed here, at the Rayon Cemetery. Time of death estimated to about four last night. Cause of death is from suffocation and internal hemorrhage, though why is unknown.”
Selwyn stared at the bright green handprint upon the dead man’s chest, glimmering brightly in the dawn light.
“What’s the handprint?”
His assistant only shrugged in response.
“The coroners don’t know. They believe it might be poison though, and it seeped into the muscle tissue and destroyed part of the lungs.”
The raven-haired chief of police screwed his eyes shut as the migraine developed from last night’s double shift took over again. Crime had no right to occur at such wee hours of morning, waking him up from his blissfully earned nap of twenty minutes. At least wait until noon for the body to be found, couldn’t they?
“So we’re at a dead end. Let’s just pray to God this is a one-time thing, and we’ll all forget about it, okay?”
Unbeknownst to Selwyn, the prayer was just a few minutes too late, as the shrill scream of absolute terror rang through the morning air of London, followed by the loud slam of a carriage door.
Mother wouldn’t tell me…Wouldn’t tell me where he is…Makes sense…She’s never liked him…So she’s gone…She’s gone, so she wouldn’t stop me…Wouldn’t stop me from finding my beloved by that simple touch…Where to seek next, God? Where to seek next…?
Golden bells chimed merrily as the about-to-be-wedded couple met at the front of the chapel. Azarya grinned down at Miryam, Prussian blue eyes twinkling. This was it. He had won the bet with Shai, with his brother. He had won over the priest’s daughter’s heart. Besides the pride and twenty-thousand dollars promised through winning the bet, being married to the richest family in town’s daughter was promising as well. Finally, people will know the great Azarya. People will recognize him for being him, not the son of the great doctor Zeke. Finally, his dearest wish will come true.
Mumbles disrupted the priest’s recitation of the wedding vows, a yelp of disbelief, then finally a scream of terror. Even Miryam turned in curiosity, and the look of pure horror on her face was enough to prompt the groom to turn as well too.
His heart stopped.
Beautiful ebony curls framed the delicate, porcelain face of an angel, the long tresses flamboyant upon the plain white gown that graced her frail frame. Two trails of clear-colored tears fell from magnificent eyes of deep, deep ebony on the expressionless face. No, not expressionless. The amount of shock, pain, and betrayal in those thoughtful eyes was enough to fill a mountainous void.
At the confirmation of the goddess-like being, trailing down the isle as light as a ghost, the room which was under the blessing of God, instantly turned into a fiasco of hell and more hell. Screams ruptured from every aisle as person after person tumbled for the open doors. Miryam promptly dropped to the ground in a dead faint as Azarya backed away from his once-lover.
“Azarya…” Her voice rang high and clear, just like the tolling bells above them. “I hate…waiting for you…”
“B-but…y-you’re already dead…!” the groom shouted, feeling his clothed back hit the wall behind him, hands tensed, clawing at the smooth wood in search for a sure hold.
“Amarantha…how can this be?”
Azarya could only watch in fright as the girl gently picked up one of the many bouquets of flowers flanking the aisle, a sad look in those ever-deep eyes.
“Wild roses…” she whispered, gently pressing a pale crimson petal to her lips. “I have been waiting for the day…where I would hold this bouquet…and say ‘I do’.”
“I was in that dark coffin,” Amarantha continued, walking up to her once-lover, ignoring his frenzied screams of “Don’t touch me! Don’t come near me!”
“I was in that dark coffin…waiting…waiting…so tired of waiting.”
She did not speak of her growing fear of the lack of oxygen. She did not speak about her naïve hopes of Azarya as her gallant prince charming, coming to save her at the last moment. So instead, she whispered her one dearest wish in the gloomy depths of the coffin, buried underneath the dark earth.
Azarya seemed frozen to the spot, eyes wide as he stared at the woman he had claimed to have loved, mouth opened as he breathed in the frail scent Amarantha seemed to carry around with her—the scent of her favorite flowers.
“Tell me…like you always did before…” Amarantha further prompted, leaning in, tears still falling. “You are Amarantha, the everlasting, gliding high with your beautiful, angelic wings, that elegant, radiant smile upon your cherubic face. You are the one for me, Amarantha…” The only one.
Ange stood beside the two bodies on the ground, his sharp, handsome features stoic, golden-green eyes emotionless. One of his best friend’s brother, the other his cousin; the love of his life.
Azarya and Amarantha.
Their lips had met in a brief, chaste kiss.
Emerald. An emerald kiss.
Azarya’s face was contorted as of one in agonizing pain, his hands at his throat. A thin green trail leaked from the edge of his mouth.
Amarantha was smiling.
The Count’s eyelids fluttered shut as he bowed his head in respect for his dearly departed love, then turned on his heels and walked away. Ange walked out the door, momentarily blinded by the bright sunlight. His ever faithful manservant, Lieve, held the jacket for him to put his arms through, then the door, for his lord to step within the carriage.
Angèle, the Count’s sister, hugged her big brother tightly around the middle, swallowing her questions for later. Ange smiled gently.
“Go ahead Angèle,” he said softly. “Ask your question.”
The girl looked up, kissing her brother’s cheek gingerly, selecting the one question that topped her mental list. There would be time later. “What happened in there?”
Ange was quiet for a moment, expression showing deep contemplation. For a moment, Angèle thought he wasn’t going to speak, and loosened her cuddle around her brother a bit to sit back in her own seat. The Count’s arms tightened around her, keeping her from moving.
“The forgotten Juliet,” he answered. “She came to take away her Romeo. ”