Iris was walking to her room feeling refreshed by the walk she had taken in the estate. She turned the corner of the hall in a day-dream and stopped in her tracks. She quickly retreated behind the corner and watched Will kissing Daisy. It was a passionate kiss, meaningful like love was. She moved around the corner again not wanting to be seen.
“I will see you soon hopefully,” Will said.
“Yes hopefully,” she heard Daisy replied. There was the sound of footsteps walking down the other end of the hall.
Iris relaxed against the wall, peeked down the hall to see Will stood there gazing after Daisy.
“Iris!” Will shouted down the hall at her.
She stopped thinking he had caught her watching him and Daisy kissing. Will pulled up beside her, he seemed flustered. Her heart seemed to stop.
“I need to know if you will be ready to enact the curse, I have every ingredient,” he said.
She felt her heartbeat regain its normal rhythm, he didn’t see her.
“Yes I know,” she replied. “I will be ready when you need me.”
“Good, come with me Iris” he said. He hurried away and she followed. “I want to get this curse underway but there is something that is still bothering me.”
They went through a small pantry door. The pantry was all hard stone and cold and quite cramped to the point it was almost claustrophobic. It was stuffed to the brim with food such as salted meat, vegetables, and hard blocks of cheese. He went to a wall and to her he seemed to disappear into it.
“Will?” Iris said uncertainly, and went to the place he had disappeared. The wall was split from this angle and she could see an opening.
“This way,” he simply said.
They descended down a twisting stone staircase, her foot slipped on the narrow steps and she had gripped the walls tightly. Her eyes watched Will as a guide because there was little light to help her.
Finally they reached the bottom and a fairly large room with a low arched roof. It had a wooden table in the centre with ingredients laid out. There were small, candles lit creating an orb of white light around it.
“This is where the curse will take place, we will get Dorian to come down here somehow and you will do the rest,” Will said. He spread out his arms for a few seconds he put them down and he frowned. “I am having doubts about cursing Dorian because of the whole framing business, what if he is innocent? He did point out the death mark and helped me when he did not have to.”
“He is not innocent,” Iris said angrily which surprised Will. “You should not spare him of this, it does not matter about him showing a little false compassion and mercy.” She could remember Will’s mother lying dead in Dorian’s murderous hands, he had to be brought to justice.
“You would know that fact of course,” Will said, narrowing his eyes. “Did you show mercy Iris?”
She looked in him straight in the eyes. “Sometimes I did.”
There was the clambering of steps coming down the staircase and Theo appeared.
“Sir you do need to light those stairs,” he said. He noticed Iris stood there and smiled at her sheepishly.
“Does it matter?” Will snapped. He glared at them both. “What is wrong with the both of you?”
“I do not understand,” Theo said, his smile was gone.
"You have been hung up on her since she arrived, the both of you have been all over each other, disgusting,” Will said.
Iris went still, overwhelmed with embarrassment. Theo’s cheeks went bright red.
“You do not say that ever again Will!” he said and started to shake.
“Do I listen to your commands?” Will replied.
Theo clenched his fists and stormed away. His footsteps hitting the each step loudly.
Iris went after Theo but Will’s hand caught her arm.
“You do not go after him or I will not hesitate to hurt you,” he threatened. Iris slapped him across the face, blazing pain blinded him and he roared angrily. She picked up her skirts and ran up the stairs as quickly as she could.
Will was heard swearing and shouting.
She went out through the pantry and heard a door creaking violently on its hinges. She followed the sound into the kitchen and saw the door swinging manically on its hinges in the wind and rain. She went outside. The rain pierced her face and neck and the wind released her hair from the restraints of hair grips. The mud climbed up the hem of her dress and she saw the fading footprints of Theo’s shoes. She followed them down to an indent in the building. Theo stood there head bowed down so his hair covered his eyes.
“Theo,” Iris said loudly to be heard over the rain.
He glanced up at her. “Miss Cadance you are going to catch your death,” he said. He was removing his jacket not caring about the rain being able to soak him to the skin.
Iris went towards him. “You do not need to give me your jacket I can cope with a little rain,” she said.
“I do not want you to risk catching a cold,” he said. He swept it over Iris's shoulders.
“What about you?” she said, feeling guilty at seeing him shivering in a thin, cotton shirt.
“I will be fine, a gentleman’s duty is to make sure a lady is looked after,” Theo replied.
Iris smiled at that thought. She went closer to him, so close she could feel his hot breath on her face. Her lips lingered above his almost touching. The idea of those lips on hers was too much and she broke away, embarrassment came to the surface of her emotions again.
"I'm sorry I took vows," she said dropping her gaze. "Do they still count or is it just me holding onto my old life?"
"I also took vows of solitude, to always put duty before love," Theo said. "I still stand by them for now until something changes that." He twisted the heel of his boot into the mud. "I was to be a witch of light, the first in a hundred years, I even took my vows. But it went all wrong," he said mournfully.
"I was a high priestess, to be one for hopefully many years fostering wisdom, kindness and prosperity. But it all went wrong."
They both saw they wore that same knowing expression of longing and sadness for the past.
“The carriage is hidden here, are you going to be alright Theo there is still blood stains on the driver’s seat,” Will said.
“I will be fine sir,” Theo called, ducking under a branch.
They were all going into the forest where Will had hidden the evidence of the driver’s murder. Eventually Will stopped and in front of them was the carriage hidden under the rough arrangement of branches and leaves. The front wheel and part of a window poked out from under the greenery.
“Here it is,” Will said, he began to pull some of the branches away.
Theo went to help by grabbing the branches Will passed to him. He placed them on the ground. Soon the front half of the carriage was revealed.
“Thank you Theo,” Will said.
He had been trying to get back into Theo’s good books for the past week by being as polite and helpful as he was capable of, he had apologised multiple times but not to Iris. He had not even addressed her by name.
“You can now use your magic to see who the murderer is,” Will said stiffly, giving her that accusing look that was exclusively for her.
Iris moved forward seeing the wooden seat stained in old brown blood and leather. The water had gathered on the seat in small pools.
She felt the cold leather under her hands. She slowed her breathing trying to calm herself in preparation for this spell, it was sort of time-travel to her. To create a mental link with the object that was at the event, the carriage on which the driver was murdered. Dampness seeped in her bones, sharp shudders rattled down the length of her spine that caused her muscles to spasm. Her skin on the tips of her fingers split and white light bled out like blood. It diverged into smaller branches of light covering the whole carriage seat brightening, brightening.
The brightness cut off and Iris let go stepping back into a street at night-time. She blinked to get rid of the repeating flashes in her vision.
“It a col’ night.”
Iris saw the driver alive, wrapping his coat round him. She thought he was talking to her until he said.
“Ain’t it?” He patted the horse fondly with a gloved hand.
Iris stood back to get a better look at the driver. A few moments passed like this until a shadow in the background caught Iris’s eye. Shouts and crashing sounds stole her attention as she saw in the distance Will running out of the pub with a mob after him. An intake of breath and a horrid gurgling sound was heard from the carriage.
The hooded figure was on top of the roof of the carriage, the thin silver blade had finished swiftly slicing open the driver’s throat. His eyes bulged from his sockets and the blood spurted all the horse who whinnying and huffing in distress. Iris felt repulsed wanting be throw up.
The hood slipped giving Iris a glimpse of the murderer’s face.
Iris fell back from the carriage not onto hard ground but the soft mud of the forest.
“It’s her, it’s her!” she shouted. She turned over and threw up. Theo went to help her but he looked queasy at the thought. He hovered over her. Will rolled his eyes.
“Let me help her,” Will said, and pulled her hair back from her face, a little too roughly. He saw Theo covering his mouth. “Please do not be sick, I am not helping you too.”
“I-I will be okay sir,” he replied weakly.
“Give me your handkerchief,” Will said, holding out his hand. Theo took out the silk handkerchief out of his pocket and handed it over. Will held it to Iris who took it and wiped her mouth clean.
“Thank you,” she said, sitting properly. She glanced down at her ruined dress plucking at the muddied skirt.
“I will get you another new dress, one better and more suited to a lady,” Theo said. He put his hand out to her and she gripped his hand, the mud squelching as she was pulled up.
Will scowled. “She has plenty of other dresses at the house.” He started to place some of the branches back over the carriage. “We will discuss what you saw back at the house but firstly do you know who the murderer is?” He narrowed his eyes at her.
“Yes,” Iris replied.
“Burn the carriage Theo, get rid of the evidence,” Will said, taking a small orange gem from his pocket and held it out to Theo. “Do it quickly.”
He dropped it into Theo’s open hand, who raised it to his lips and breathed into it. The orange intensified and he shouted a word before throwing it at the carriage. It burst into a raging wave of fire that threw out a cloud of heat in their direction. It ate away the carriage until it crumpled into nothing but black ashes. The fire disappeared.
Will and Theo turned and began to trudge through the mud. Theo paused and saw Iris still stood there.
“Miss Cadance are you coming?” he asked hesitantly.
She glanced up at him paler, her lips having turned a light shade of blue. She lifted a hand that was slowly bleeding from the fingertips.
“Mortals bleed so easily,” she said in the wrong version of her voice.
“Who are you?” Theo demanded, he stepped forward but Will grabbed his shoulder.
“Do not go near her,” he warned. Theo brushed his hand off his shoulder.
“You should listen to him Witch of Light,” Iris said.
Theo’s breath caught in his throat at the title, the scar on his chest ached in memory of the murder’s knife piercing his heart.
“Are you the Witch of Light?” the man asked, his smile revealing the huge gap between his front teeth.
“Yes, I guess I am,” Theo replied, smiling politely.
A flash of silver, the agony as his heart seemed to burst and drown his lungs in blood.
“Good,” the man said, twisting the knife deeper into his chest.
“Still haunted by the circumstances of your death,” she said, her hand dropped to her side.
Theo was struggling for breath feeling the world narrow around him.
“Theo, Theo it is not happening,” Will said, shaking his shoulders roughly. He stood up and pointed an accusing finger at Iris. "Who are you to mock Theo and possess the body of my priestess, I decided to resurrect her with the help of Theo after all," Will said haughtily.
"Sir she is possessed and you are trying to reason with that thing!" Theo said in disbelief.
"Yes I am, who are you?" Will asked her.
"I am her God," Iris replied.
"I do not believe in gods, too many people impersonate them," Will replied. He watched as a single bloody tear rolled down her face without her even noticing.
"She is my vessel, I have cared for her, guided her and protected her."
Will laughed. "You did a fantastic job."
Iris stared at him blankly for a long time.
"I sense that you mock me," she said.
"Yes I mock you and-"
"Will!" Theo cried, trying to stop him from losing control over his tongue.
"Sacrifices had to be made, she knew that," the god replied. "Will you were born out of tragedy, never fully accepted by your father, forever a cursed object."
Will clenched his jaw tightly had it not been Iris but a stranger possessed he would have made the god regret its words.
"I have a message for you," Iris said in a faded voice. "Arkmas never dies, death is close and breathing down your necks, do not think that having death touch you once that it will not for a second time."
Iris breathed out an electric current wrapped in white cloud, it contacted with the air and a bright spark followed, it was gone in an instant.
She blinked slowly her face creased in confusion at what happened.
"Iris are you alright?" Theo asked, rushing to her and taking her hand to keep her steady. She leaned against him closing her eyes. He took her hand into his own the fingertips still crusted with blood and grimaced. “You are hurt, your hands need to be bandaged.”
She looking at wavy line of red blood turned brown trailing down her arm. She smudged it slightly with her thumb near her wrist.
"Sir we need to get back to the house," Theo said. He saw Will grasping the nearest tree, staring at them like he was trying to make sense of something. Slowly he hung his head low, the tip of his shoe flicking small drops of mud everywhere.
"If you insist," he said, releasing his grasp and turning heel.
Iris had revealed the one behind the murder, it was one of Dorian's people the woman who Iris met and had to pretend to be one of Will's ladies to.
Will laughed at that. "I think I prefer a woman with more meat on her bones, you are more Theo's type of woman." He laughed more forcefully, trying too hard to forget the fact he was called a cursed object by the god. Theo noticed later on that Will had begun to drink heavily again.
However Will was not the only one to be haunted by demons, Arkmas haunted Theo. The one behind his murder, the one who forced him to turn to the dark arts of magic and corrupt his soul in the process, the name written in the permanent scars on his back.
He was sleeping fitfully when he heard the scratching, sawing sounds coming from across his bedroom. He believed for a moment it was the rats that used to scamper along the walls of his cell in Arkmas's house.
He jolted up and saw a hunched shadow in the blur of sleep.
"There is no liquor here Will," he mumbled. "None for you anyway," he thought. Until his vision cleared and he saw it was Iris.
Slowly Theo climbed out of bed putting the covers to one side.
"Iris, what are you doing?' He asked, noticing her nightgown had slipped off her left shoulder revealing bare skin.
"Angels," she whispered, when he was close.
She turned aside, her hands were cut all over and splinters stuck into her palms. There was a half scratched symbol in the wall.
“Are you trying to contact these angels?” Theo asked, he put his hands on hers lowering the small, blunted knife in her hand. “May I?” He held the blade between his fingers.
“I need to communicate with them, I need to-“
“You do not need to do anything. I know these angels but they are not angels, they are demons,” Theo said. “Anyway I already tried to carve a symbol in the wall over there to communicate.” He pointed to a worn down scratches near her.
“Oh that would not get enough moonlight to work properly,” Iris said. She grimaced at the mess of her hands, slowly she let the knife go and he put it to one side. “Will said not to trust them, do you think he can see the angels?”
“When did Will say that? Have you seen the demons before?” Theo asked rapidly.
“I followed the angels to the roof and I slipped, I almost fell but Will caught me. That was when the angels did become demons, they were horrible,” Iris said, and she started to cry. “Don’t leave me Theo, I don’t want to be alone.”
Theo took hold of her bleeding hands. He saw her shuddering from the sobs and wanted so desperately to stop them, to end her misery.
“Iris I will never leave you,” he said. He let go of her hands and went to get the clean bowl of water and a bottle of whiskey that was half empty.
“Hold your hands out,” Theo said, carefully he picked out the splinters. Perspiration shone on his forehead and she could see that it was taking all his effort to help her. She was biting her lip to the point it bled.
“You do not have to do this,” Iris said.
“I am glad to,” he said despite him half-squinting at her hands. He held out the bottle. “This will sting so clench your teeth, you do not want to bite your tongue.” He quickly poured it onto her hands and a cry escaped through her teeth.
He put the bottle down and took hold of her wrists, guiding her red raw hands to the water, immediately the water turned a dark shade of pink. He turned away as she washed away the blood.
“Is there still some left-over?” she asked, tipping her head towards the whiskey.
“A little bit,” he replied.
She reached over and took a mouthful, wincing at burning sensation as it travelled down her throat.
“You are not really meant to drink that,” Theo said, “Well it is Will’s, he will kill you for drinking his whiskey.”
“Then why do you have it?” she asked.
“Medical reasons,” he replied slowly.
She held out the bottle to him. “Then tonight you can have it for a recreational reason.”
Theo took the bottle warmed by her touch, he saw a red flush swept across her cheekbones.
“I don’t know Miss Cadance,” he said.
She placed her hand on his hand. “Theo you need to live a little bit, what’s the point of being resurrected otherwise?”
Theo glanced at the bottle and necked the last drop of whiskey. He slammed it back down on the floor. Feeling it burn in his throat and heat up his insides.
“Sir’s going to kill me,” he said, chuckling.
“I never had this type of drink before,” Iris admitted and hiccupped. Theo burst out laughing and it caused her to hiccup again.
“Once like ten years ago and I said never again,” he said. He leaned in close to her, smelling the fumes of alcohol. “Oh well.”
“Oh well,” she repeated. She moved closer, her lips about to brush his. Their skulls connected with loud whack! Immediately she retreated.
“Ouch,” Iris said, rubbing the bruised part of her forehead. Theo was doing the same. “We should go outside, I want to see the stars.” She got up, her hand still on her forehead. She grabbed hold of Theo’s hand with her free hand and dragged him up. She ran through the hall giggling loudly so it echoed through the whole house.
They ran out of the kitchen door, the cold air causing goose bumps to appear on her bare arms. She sat down on the grass cross-legged with her neck craned up to look at the stars. Theo sat beside her with a thud.
“Have you ever had a drink like that before?” he asked.
“No first time,” she replied, grinning.
“I think I might be drunk,” he said, his face scrunched up in thought. “Yes I think we both are, that was strong stuff.” He glanced over seeing the reflection of stars in her eyes, the light glinting off her eyelashes. “Miss Cadance I have never felt like this.”
She took her eyes away from the stars seeing Theo’s cheeks reddening and the way his mouth did that small, sweet smile, the way his eyes shone brightly.
"I want to make you something beautiful," Theo said. He plucked out a blade of grass, a grey light slivered out of his hand. The magic wrapped itself round the blade of grass, switching its molecular makeup into different positions. Yet Iris felt uneasy at the display, his magic was sick, damaged.
"My magic is broken,” Theo said, as if he had read her mind. "That is why it is grey, the light of my magic darkened by evil."
Green petals flurried out and lightened into a pale pink, the petals swirled up and lengthened. Spreading out like the delicate wings of butterflies.
"This is for you," he said, holding it out to her.
She took it from him feeling smooth stalk, her fingers skimmed the soft petals. Yet with her touch the petals began to fade in colour, crumbling into ash. Iris was distraught and tried to give it life again but it was too late it became black ash in her hands.
"I am sorry I forgot I could not create life anymore," Theo said, he was trembling.
"You gave me life," she said, still staring at the black ash staining her hands.
"I stole your soul from the afterlife without permission that is necromancy. I use to be able to create life like that flower, heal people. My magic flourishes only when I use dark magic, light magic is painful to use if it is a strong spell."
"I am saddened to hear that," Iris said.
"I am used to it," he said, shrugging his shoulders. “Will and Edward, his father, have helped me through it all. I know Will can be irritable and trying at times.”
“He is like your brother to you,” Iris said. “I think he can be a good man.”
“Yes he is,” he replied.
Both of them sat staring at the stars.
“I have always loved the night sky,” she whispered, so he had to come closer. Her hand brushed the stray lock of her out of his eyes. He let her.
“Me too,” he said, taking hold of her hand. He went closer and this time his lips touched hers, lightly at first. It was a cautious kiss. Theo stopped unsure if she wanted that. Iris opened her eyes and said.
Theo did not hesitate he kissed her once more strongly letting their lips move in their own way, the different pressures that sent passion shooting through his body. His hand became entangled in her soft hair as he brought her face closer.
A strangled cry tore the pair away. Theo was so startled that his hand gripped her hair and yanked it back. She cried and he realised what he had done.
"Oh I am so sorry Miss Cadance," he said, carefully prying his hand free from the knots of hair.
Another cry sounded, deeper and filled anguish and pain.
“Will,” Theo said.
There was a trampling and snapping of branches loud, clawing at your eardrums. A beast emerged.
Iris screamed and Theo hugged her close to his chest. Letting her hide her face, let darkness overcome her vision, providing false protection. For this beast was nightmare embodied into reality, a face of twisted, flayed muscle distorted into a shape of a wolfish snarl, along with those yellow wolfish eyes. Another wretched growl came from its mouth. Iris felt weak, gripping Theo so tightly her arms shook.
“I saw you,” Will said in a voice that sounded like he was talking through a filter. A growl ensued.
“Will are you alright? Why have you changed I thought-“
“I saw you with her, and she was repulsed by me!”
“She is only shocked by your appearance that’s all,” Theo replied. He saw Will’s face unravelling, the muscles starting to align into a human face, it was a gruesome transformation. By the end his face was covered in sweat, his blond hair limp and dirty, he still had those yellow eyes that had only dulled down in vividness.
"She is repulsed, aren't you priestess?" Will said, she felt his breathe on her neck. "All fucking high and mighty."
"Shut up Will, swearing in front of a lady," Theo replied angrily. He saw the blood drying on Will's face where the muscle had knitted itself together.
"You are blind Theo, so blind to what she is," Will snarled. "But I guess all of us cannot get pleasure out of cursing innocent people, can we Miss Cadance?"
Iris flinched at the question. It was a long time before she felt his presence recede. Theo watched Will stagger away.
"You are not having any more of my drink!" he shouted over his shoulder.
"I thought you have never cursed anyone before," Theo said after a while.
"I never have cursed anyone, I swear on my life, I don't know why he would say such a spiteful thing," Iris replied, feeling anger raise inside her at the insult. She felt the damp sweeping into her nightgown.
"Then I believe you," Theo said.
"What is your problem?" Iris asked, almost shouting the question at Will.
He knocked back another glass of whiskey, he stank of alcohol and sweat. He was sprawled out in the chair in his room.
"You," he said.
He laughed and poured another glass. He took his time swirling it around before sipping it. He bared his fangs at her. She backed away.
“Why?” she asked, pleading him to answer.
“I do not trust you and especially when it comes to Theo.” Will stood up and placed the glass on the table. “I do not like you playing with his feelings.”
“I am not playing with his feelings,” she replied.
“I saw you two last night,” he said. “I do not want you anywhere near him, do you understand?” He watched her with those yellow eyes, unblinking. She was not going to let him intimidate her.
“No I do not understand,” she replied icily.
Will walked towards her until he towered over her. His hand shot out and he caught hold of her arm.
"You keep your hands off me!" she snapped, pushing him away. He strengthened his hold and dragged her to him. She whimpered in pain as his fingers dug into her arm.
"You said you did not understand and I cannot be bothered to explain what I mean today. I want the embrace of a woman and you are already here," he snarled.
Iris glared at him.
"You do not want me in that way, I repulse you and you repulse me," she said. "You are being ridiculous and do not think that you can scare me for one moment. What would Theo say if I told him you used me, hurt me?"
She felt his grip slipping.
"Hurting someone he cares about? What a way to repay your friend, your brother!" she shouted. Will flinched and let go of her arm. “You dare lay one finger on me again and I will rip you apart.”
“Oh I bet you would like that Iris, let that anger run wild,” Will sneered.
“You are an awful human being.”
“I thought I was not human but a dog,” he said. His scowl deepening.
“Well such small details do slip my mind, I mean you did accuse me of cursing people in front of Theo when you know for a fact that I have never cast a curse.”
“Oh yes I did say that,” Will said, grinning. “I know your kind, behind that façade of innocent and goodness of your old order was a black heart of corruption.”
“I fought that corruption, I think I tried to stop it,” she replied. "He is too good for me, I know that.” Her shoulders dropped. “I have sinned, I broke my vows long ago."
"How?" Will demanded.
"I will never be good enough for him," she said, twirling her hand slowly to reveal a flower much like the one Theo had wanted to give her. She plucked it out of the air and sighed sadly. "Perhaps I would have been almost good enough for him before all of it happened, it’s too late!" She threw the flower away where it hit the wall and burst into sparks.
"Memory is a funny thing Will, so fragile and easy to lose. My memory has been wiped clean, you seem surprised maybe you could put a light to what happened over the two years. I do not remember what happened specifically but I remember the anger, the almost sweet bitterness, and the dreaded taste of fear even.
"Theo is good and is lost, I would never give him false hope purposely and it would be a sin to hurt him."
"He is the best person out of us," Will said. "He should not be hurt but sometimes a small amount of hurt is necessary. I want you to say it was a meaningless kiss, a spontaneous event that would not have happened under normal circumstances.”
“Why?” she asked in a broken voice.
“You are involved in this business with Arkmas somehow. That person is dangerous and hurt Theo to the point he has never recovered mentally and physically. I was the one who had to reassure him he was not back in that hell-hole when he would hallucinate, I would find him bleeding and crying for help from the demon-like angels, from Arkmas.”
Will sat back down in the armchair looking very tired.
“Do you believe me getting completely involved in Theo’s life will endanger him, bring this Arkmas back?” she asked, and watched in dread as Will opened his mouth to say the answer.