This darkness was warmer, comforting and more real. Her eyes adjusted and she noticed the darkness was not as black as it first appeared. Dying blue light was lingering at its edges, it soon became clear it was light filtering through the heavy dark curtains of a room, she noticed the softness of the bed covers against her skin.
Iris saw someone shift in a seat next to her.
“No it is Will,” he said, the light caught in his blond hair. ”You passed out and have been sleeping for two whole days.”
“Where’s Theo?” Iris asked, feeling scared for him.
“He had not left your side all day until I insisted he get some rest, even then he forced me to sit beside you in case you woke up. Personally I said you would be absolutely fine.” Will flashed her a tense smile.
“He does worry too much,” Iris said. She pushed herself up and laid back on the big mound of pillows behind her.
“He always worries.”
“It is not a bad quality, it shows he cares,” she said, smiling. Theo was one of the kindest and haunted souls she had encountered.
“Yes he does care, he said you started to freak out in the pub then you kept saying a certain name over and over,” Will said this carefully, in a way a policeman would ready himself to ask a suspect about a crime. “Arkmas, do you remember that?”
Iris rubbed her eyes tiredly trying to think of what had happened, of that strange name.
“No I do not remember saying Arkmas, I do not know what it is. I know I had a premonition, usually it drains me like this but it is not clear until a few hours after waking,” she explained.
Will rubbed the new blond stubble, which was slightly darker than his hair, on his jaw thoughtfully. His left eye was splattered in swollen, mouldy yellow and grey bruising.
“What happened?” she asked, peering at his face.
His hand dropped from his face. “What makes you think something happened?” he asked harshly which surprised Iris. He was so defensive about everything.
“Your eye is bruised and you have not shaved your face in the past two days at least,” Iris noted.
“It could be nothing knowing what I am and that pub was a rowdy place, a brawl could have happened.”
“It is more than that, it was serious,” she replied. Seeing him touch the bruise lightly.
He sighed. “You sure have a knack for reading into souls don’t you? You told Theo that death was behind him, although it was not right behind him, the carriage round the corner was technically behind him. The driver was murdered there.”
Her hand went to her mouth, she pulled the covers around her like it was some shield.
"Are you going to be sick? I can get you a bowl," Will said, starting to raise from the chair.
"No I am fine thank you," she replied. She still gripped the cover in one hand.
"Sorry I had to be blunt, I could hardly say the driver passed away could I?" Will closed his eyes for a moment like he was reliving that moment.
"No I prefer hard facts you know where you stand," Iris said.
"Yes I agree with you completely there. Theo is the same but unlike us he cannot stand much gore, he threw up at the mention of the driver's demise. He had not even glimpsed the body!" He rolled his eyes like Theo’s reaction was over-dramatic.
“Do you know why the driver was murdered?” Iris asked, pulling at a strand of hair.
“I think-,” Will paused seeing the stress appearing in the lines on his face. “He was murdered that is all there is to say. You need to rest and gather your strength.”
Will got up.
“No tell me!” she said, losing the frightened look and looking more determination to have answers. “Why was the driver murdered? I am not some pathetic woman who needs to be protected all wrapped up in cotton wool topped with a bow!”
Iris threw the covers off her to the ground, glaring at the surprised Will.
“You must learn to treat me as an equal in the very least and that may be a new concept to you, but one that must be adopted quickly.” She crossed her hands over her chest, her face turned a blazing red in anger. “Or I will not be performing that curse of yours understand?”
“We need to sort out this whole mess, get rid of evidence of our involvement,” Iris said. She stood hear the great fireplace it was late at night and after much debate everyone was starting to argue.
“That is so easy considering I was accused of murder in front of the public and there’s a dead body where we fled in the carriage,” Will replied, clapping his hands slowly. He was sat in one of the chairs, his feet resting on the table.
“What fantastic idea do you have Will?” she asked innocently which annoyed him further.
“Do not take that tone with me,” he replied.
“She is right sir,” Theo said watching Will grind his teeth.
"I know all that, I am tired anyway," he muttered. He did look tired, extremely tired.
"Are you alright Will?" Iris asked the concern clear in her voice.
He simply grumbled some response under his breath, he took his feet off the table and pushed back on his chair. It squeaked loudly against the floor. He stood up and went out.
"I am worried about him, he is very afraid," Iris said, when Will had gone.
Theo shrugged his shoulders. "I am not surprised he is being potentially framed for murder. You I am sure, was not calm about being framed yourself?"
She had that expression of someone being taken by surprise, that the idea of her being framed was an impossibility like he had made it up, that she knew it wasn't all that simple.
“You were framed?” Theo asked, regretting the question when he saw that look appear on her face like a lie had been exposed. He swallowed the lump in his throat. “Iris please say you are innocent,” he said, watching her tremble.
“I am so sorry Theo,” she said seeing him break with each word. Iris moved towards him to explain everything but he backed away.
“Does Will know?” he asked.
“Yes he does,” Iris replied.
He struggled to breathe, to think that she could be capable of such an act and for Will to not tell him anything or hint at the idea. It made his head spin.
“Theo it is not what it looks like,” Iris said, her voice sounded chocked. He glanced up and saw her crying. Her chest heaved and a sob escaped, it was real emotion. Theo walked over to her and took her into his arms.
“Theo I would never hurt anyone intentionally I swear!” she cried, he could feel her tears soaking his shirt and she shook violently. “I wouldn’t Theo, please forgive me.”
That plea broke his heart it was so full of sorrow and regret. He replied. “Of course I forgive you Iris.”
She hugged him, pulling him close like she was afraid he would disappear.
“I am afraid,” she whispered. “I am so afraid of what happened days ago, I am afraid of what may have happened during the time I was a high priestess.”
“What do you mean may have happened?” Theo asked, a crease appearing between his eyes.
She closed her eyes, resting her head against his chest like she was suddenly tired. “Memory is a funny thing, so important and precious but so easily lost. All I know was a visitor came, that man in the pub with those dead eyes.”
Theo tensed up, the man who had accused Will of murder and got a mob to hunt him down.
“The next thing I know I woke up in a cell accused of conspiracy to murder and treason. Yet it was strange that I knew I tried to kill someone out of desperation, a last resort but I could not remember specific information about the person or situation, only the feeling of anger burning through my veins. ”
“You think you lost your memories?”
“I know I have lost my memories, Will knows the basic details that I did commit the crime but no one only the other person involved knows the truth.”
Theo wrapped his arms around her, feeling the heat of her skin.
“We will find out the truth, all of this is connected somehow and I promise Iris we will get justice.”
“I hope so,” she said breaking away from the embrace.
“I think I know who is involved or even behind the whole thing,” Theo said, she looked at him in surprise.
“Who?” she asked.
“I think it is Dorian,” he replied, he was certain in his response and he could see Iris was now fully contemplating the idea.
“Maybe it is him,” she said.
Theo was walking to his room when passing Iris’s room he heard a low hum of some melody. He went closer to the door, quieting his breathing so she would not hear him. His ear picked up the subtle tones of language often used in spells.
“Why would she be casting a spell?” he thought. His hand reached out to open the door, he paused thinking of how rude it is to enter a lady’s room uninvited but a nagging feeling of doubt forced him to grab the handle and push the door open.
He put his head round the door and saw Iris with her hair loose kneeling on the floor, sketching into the ground as she chanted, the lines glimmered eerily at Theo.
“Iris?” he said.
She jumped at his voice, her chanting stopped, her hand steadied.
“What are you doing?” he asked.
Iris took her hair into her hands and began to tie it up in a simple bun. She pushed herself off the ground.
“Preparatory work for the curse,” she said.
Theo glanced over to the symbols to check, he could recognise some for curses he had seen in old spell books.
“Oh good,” he muttered feeling stupid for thinking she was doing something sinister. “Be careful or you are going to end up as paranoid as Will,” he thought to himself.
“I scared you with this, I should have mentioned that I would be casting a spell,” she said, studying her own work. “It is not like I am exactly trustworthy now, you knowing what I am capable of.”
“I did not mean to distrust you, I was being irrational and filling my head with paranoid nonsense,” Theo said. He stepped towards her till he was close, seeing those big, blue eyes in all their glorious detail. He felt his cheeks growing hotter as she stared back at him. He saw her lips were slightly parted and his gaze lingered on them.
He tore his eyes away.
“I must be go to bed, I am tired and yes we do need to prepare for the curse,” he said.
“Yes of course,” Iris replied, diverting her eyes to the ground.
“Goodnight Miss Cadance,” Theo said, he took her hand noticing how soft her skin was and how small and delicate her hand was. Fitting into his perfectly. He leaned over and placed a light kiss on her hand that lasted a moment longer than it should. He let her hand go and saw her blushing.
“Goodnight Theo,” she said, watching him disappear through the doorway leaving her alone in that big room.
She waited until she no longer heard Theo’s footsteps.
“He is gone,” she said loudly.
The wardrobe door creaked open and Will appeared.
“How long are you going to make me lie for you?” Iris demanded.
He stepped out squinting in the light of the candle, he had that wolfish look more pronounced in his features, and his eyes were becoming more yellow.
“However long this keeps happening,” he replied. She saw the cut above his eyes has become crusted with blood, he swayed his feet losing the rhythm of walking.
Iris caught his arm, holding him steady. She led him to the bed.
“Sit,” she said.
“I will clean that wound of yours,” she said, taking hold of a pillow cover. She ripped a piece off.
“What are you doing?” he asked, “that is expensive silk you are ripping.” He was scowling and it caused more blood to trickle down his face.
She dipped the silk into a clean bowl of water and went back to him. He turned his face away.
“Please let me clean it up at least?” she said and he turned his head slightly towards her. She dabbed the wound gently, the blood tinging the silk pink. Will closed his eyes feeling coolness of the water against his scorching skin.
“Why are you keeping this away from Theo that you are changing more often?” Iris asked. He opened his eyes that had a darker yellowish sheen to them.
“I do not have to share everything with him because he is a good friend and basically family to me, it is not the type of friendship where we reveal our innermost feelings I keep my secrets to myself and Theo keeps his own secrets to himself. It does not get in the way,” Will explained. He batted her hand away.
"This is not any secret this is hurting you!" Iris said.
He narrowed his eyes at her. "I told you because I cannot tell Theo about this. Do you think I like this?" He slammed his fist on the bed. "Do you think I would have told him if I could?"
Iris backed away frightened of what Will was capable of.
"I-I don't know," she stammered.
He started to laugh hysterically. "I think I could die from my own curse, because of what I am if I do not get better. I don't want to fucking die, it is such a disappointment."
"People die all the time," Iris said stiffly. Gripping the bloodied silk in her hand till little rivers of water ran down her arm.
"It is different, I thought I would not have to fear such a fate, I had a gift of immortality but to have it snatched away like it was nothing replace with that." He waved his hand like he was pointing out death in its true form.
“You may be exaggerating you do not know if anyone else is like you and you can get better.”
He started to lay down on the bed pulling up his muddy feet and placing them on the clean, white sheet. He breathed heavily.
“I keep changing, it hurts like I am dying as my heart starts to beat frantically like it will leap out of my chest, my bones snap like thick sticks of wood and my flesh rips as easily as paper. Every time I think this is the end.
“That is not the worst part of it, the worst part is before I change when I know it is upon me. It is like a fever raging inside of me making me shake and causing my head to feel so heavy I cannot lift it off my pillow. I feel like this all the time now unlike before where it was a few days at most this is constant. Sometimes it manages to almost blend into the background but other times I wish it to end, to die. Yet I do not want to die really but I am scared this is leading to that possibility that my heart will give out during a change one day."
Iris turned away, scared by Will’s words. She crossed to the table and placed the piece of silk down on the table. She turned back to him.
“I am going to tell Theo,” Iris said and started towards the door. Partway there she felt Will’s hands tightened around, dragging her back roughly. Iris screamed but his hand clamped down on her mouth.
“Now you listen to me,” Will snarled in her ear. She squirmed in his grasp. “Listen or I will hurt you!”
Iris stopped moving.
“You will not tell Theo anything not even a hint of something being wrong or I will have to silence you,” he said, his voice losing that threatening edge towards the end. He sounded like he was crying. “Do you understand?” he asked, demanding an answer.
He slowly removed his hand although kept her trapped in his arms.
“One word is all it takes,” he said, and he let her go.
Iris stepped away and spun round to face Will. He moved round her, circling her as he went to the door. His expression grew darker, his eyes almost devoid of humanity and replaced with animalistic instinct. She covered her mouth in shock at this glimpse of the beast.
He moved away silently as a wolf. Leaving Iris all alone.
Theo had gone into the town for supplies, alone. He needed space for himself, to think about the previous days with the murder, Iris. He breathed in the damp air of the estate, there was fog on the borders of this place, writhing like ghouls. He wanted to walk the small, overgrown pathway that ran along the forest with bursts of weeds and tangles of undergrowth strewed across it. He remembered the new driver’s expression staring at him as if he were half-mad to walk in this weather but he did not question Theo.
The house’s roof rose out of the fog and its brick walls began to materialise. Theo’s carriage came into view but this was behind another carriage that was silver and black, expensive looking.
Theo rushed over to the house. Thinking Will was in danger, that Dorian will go to more extreme lengths to keep their silence and then there was Iris. She could be dragged up in front of that man and hurt. He had to stop that somehow.
Theo burst into house shocked by how cold it was, as cold as outside, more even. He could hear voices coming from the drawing room. He immediately entered.
Will paused in his pacing, stress was a taunt part of his body language. He squinted at Theo like he wasn’t sure if he was really there.
“Theo, you came back early,” Will said, he looked terrible with his clothes all crumpled, untidy hair and unshaven. His eyes were blood-shot and wide-open, a sheen of sweat could be seen on his brow indicating a raging fever.
Theo saw Dorian sat behind him in the armchair, composed.
“Why is he here sir?” he demanded, glaring at Dorian.
Will laughed, stumbling forward. He wrapped an arm round Theo in a brotherly embrace like he was drunk except there was no smell of alcohol on him. He was delirious, had Dorian done something to cause this madness to fester?
“I am desperate Theo, I am being framed for bloody murder and I don’t want to be hanged like-“
“Sir!” Theo cried to prevent him saying Iris’s name. This seemed to get through to him and he said.
“Like those criminals,” Will said, tears fell down his face.
“But sir Dorian is hardly the first person to call, what has gotten into you head?” Theo hissed in Will’s ear.
“I need help desperately and Dorian has eyes and ears in the whole city.”
“He wants to kill you Will or have you forgotten that?” Theo whispered.
“I can still hear you and I am not interested in killing Will,” Dorian intruded, making them both stopped in their conversation. He tapped the arm of the chair in a tuneless rhythm. Taking his time to elaborate.
“He enjoys watching us squirm,” Theo thought, clenching his jaw. Will was growing heavier like he was gaining weight with each passing second.
“If I wanted to kill Will I would have a long time ago,” he said, tapping the arm of the chair in an out of tune melody.
Will pulled away stabbing his finger in Dorian’s direction. “See, see Theo he doesn’t want to kill me!” he shouted.
Theo worried for Will, he knew Will could be irrational sort of person but this was erratic behaviour even for him.
“You need to calm down, you are not thinking straight,” he said.
“I am thinking more clearly than ever,” Will replied, he staggered forward. “Thinking clearly…” He repeated and collapsed.
Iris woke up to loud voices that were muffled by the floorboards. She rubbed her tired eyes and yawned. She heard more words and strained her ears to make out the words.
He’s not waking up.
I have done nothing to him.
The last voice chilled the blood in her veins, it belonged to that monster of a man Dorian. She threw the covers off herself, her legs becoming entangled.
She quickly got a nightgown that was hanging from the wardrobe and tied the sash quickly.
She hurried down the stairs as fast as she dared to without making noise. The door was straight ahead and she went to it. Iris held the door handle in her hand feeling the cold, hard metal but prevented herself from opening the door. Instead Iris peered through the keyhole into the room.
She saw Will slumped in the armchair with Theo fretting beside him. Every so often glaring at Dorian who was stood to one side with his arms stuck stiffly to his sides. His expression appeared blank merely observing the scene.
“What have you done to him?” Theo demanded again.
“I have done nothing but I know what may be wrong,” Dorian replied. He moved in front of Will. Theo blocked his way. “Move,” Dorian said.
“What are you going to do?” Theo asked, tilting his head back in order to see Dorian’s eyes glinting in the light
“Open his shirt and you will see a death mark over his heart.”
Iris gripped the sash of the nightgown her eye trying to detect the symptoms in Will. Was this why Will had been ill like he had claimed? How could she not have sensed it?
“What are you doing?” a woman’s voice asked.
Iris jumped back, hurting her back when she straightened up. Her eyes landed on a young woman who had a thin, sharp face, deep brown skin and small hazel eyes. She was dressed in a man’s clothes to Iris’s surprise, leather pants, a simple cotton shirt and a large fur jacket to keep out the chill. Her hair was tied back in a neat bun.
“I- I was just wondering what was happening that is all,” Iris said trying to sound clueless to the events inside. “Was Will still alright, Theo?”
The woman studied her for a moment with a hand on her hip. She rolled her eyes as if realising some annoying truth. “You one of Will’ ladies?” she asked.
“Are you one of Will’s ladies that warm his bed at night?”
Iris wanted to disagree with her, how dare did this stranger assume she was like that. Instead she licked her dry lips and said.
“Yes I am and I wanted to see Will,” she lied. She pursed her lips and twirled a piece of hair in her fingers trying to come across as arrogant and bored of the woman’s presence.
The woman stepped forwards so she was in between the door and Iris.
“He is busy so I suggest going someplace else like the kitchen if you are hungry or you room to change into something more appropriate,” the woman said, waving a hand in dismay at what Iris was wearing.
“I guess so,” Iris muttered. She stepped away feeling the woman’s eyes trained on her all the way up the stairs until she disappeared out of sight.
Theo still stood there for a moment before turning to Will. He opened up Will’s shirt and just as Dorian had said there was a grisly blackish green mark over where his heart laid.
“How did you know that?” Theo said, seeing how the mark was already darkening in colour and spreading.
“I have seen the symptoms before,” Dorian said and moved past Theo.
He placed a hand over the mark, there was a harsh light appearing under his hand, leaking through the gaps between his fingertips. The light died down. Will was roused from his sleep for a moment opening his eyes that were more human and closing them again.
“He will be better for a few days but I suggest finding a permanent cure for that or he will die,” Dorian said. He walked past Theo who hurried to stop him leaving.
“Wait why did you cure him?” he asked.
“Why not? It is not that I have suddenly developed some family bond with Will it is simply less messy than to clean up his death.”
“Why did he want you? He said you were not the one who tried to kill or set him up or something. Now I do not believe that for one second but I need to know what you know.” Theo was adamant on getting an answer.
Dorian took out his gloves out of his coat with deliberate slowness and pulled the gloves over his hands. Once finished he said.
“You both know I am a powerful figure in the city and I have my own people all over the city. He was worrying about being set up and had asked me if I had heard anything of that sort, I said I have heard gossip but no solid information for him being specifically the one behind the murders. That is all I know and he did try to threaten me and accusing me of setting him up but I said on my word.” Dorian placed his face uncomfortably close to Theo’s. “Why would I bother going to such lengths to frame an insignificant mutt.” He pulled away.
Theo clenched his teeth keeping back the urge to spit an insult back in Dorian’s face. Dorian went past Theo and exited the room.
Theo stood there hating that man with his hands bunched into fists. The anger became controllable when he heard the horses whinny and the scattering of gravel as Dorian’s carriage pulled away.