England, 1726. A young girl's life is centered around calm rural customs and a the fear of the unknown. Whispers feed lies and the syllables form the word; Vampires. Soon, the overtones of sexual ...
Chapter Title: One
Genres: Action/Adventure, Angst, Drama, Fantasy, Horror, Romance
Summary: England, 1726.
A young girl's life is centered around calm rural customs and a the fear of the unknown. Whispers feed lies and the syllables form the word; Vampires. Soon, the overtones of sexual lust and power become too much to bear and her world spins out of control.
Hello and welcome to "In Cold Company"! We are all very glad that you are here and hope you enjoy your stay!
A cool wind whipped across the land, creating an even more ominous feeling to the expanse on which the old Branch House sat. It seemed like forever since the large barn that accompanied the house had been used or even opened. Our story begins almost two-hundred and eighty years ago, when this empty manor was filled with life.
The year was seventeen twenty-nine. In this little spec on the world, a fog usually fell over the moors in the rural area of northern England, creating a very melancholy environment. There was not much excitement to be had in the small town of Kingston; in fact, Kingston was barely a town and more of a county. The people of Kingston were for the most part gracious, once you got to know them. There always seemed to be children running about, yet they never looked healthy. Not one was blonde, not one was pleasantly pudgy, and not one wore particularly nice clothing. Everyone in this town, if you stared at a resident long enough, began to look strangely wrong.
One of the oldest families that called Kingston home, were the Branch family. This most noble manor stood atop of a hill, looming over the rest of the town. The manor always seemed to have an air of superiority when compared to all others. Now, the house had started off small, but as the years progressed and more and more generations of Branches started to accumulate their copious wealth, the house grew along with them.
All members of this strong blooded family seemed to look similar. They all possessed the stone cold expressions, the sharp, high cheekbones, and slick black hair. However, the most notable feature of the Branch family tree, were their eyes. All possessed the same dark lashes and arctic grey eyes framed by high and shapely brows.
A particularly vivid sun peeked out from behind a thin cover of clouds. Today was a perfect day for the youth of Kingston, for today was the first of its kind where the children and adolescents could play outside without fear of catching a cold or worse.
One house especially was restless that early morning.
"But father!" A young girl whined. "All of my friends are expecting to see me!" The thirteen year old cried, her black mane spilling over the cream and grey dress. She held a small sack of unknown contents in her left hand. Her slanted, smoky eyes met those of her striking father.
Talon Branch was only nineteen when his sixteen year old, Irish born wife gave birth to their first child; whom they christened Lucinda. Talon was now a distinguished thirty-one year old, hardly a young man.
"Have you permission to even be away from your studies this time of day?" He asked, checking the large grandfather clock whose pendulum swung to and fro
Lucinda shifted nervously from where she stood. The calling of her name from an outside source was the answer to her father's question.
"Lucinda!" A stern voice rang out. She looked to her father with pleading eyes, his remained that of stone.
A medium sized woman approached the door, her face showed that of displeasure. "Sorry sir, I turn my back for one moment and she was off!" The woman said, gripping Lucinda by the arm.
The youth glared up at her governess; she did not want to return to her Latin lessons.
"Now come on young Missy, stop bothering your father." The governess led the reluctant girl out of the room and down the staircase. Lucinda's effort for escape had been thwarted. She had gone the safe route, and now she would have to be more creative.
It had been another hour when Charlotte, the governess, took her tea in the garden. Lucinda had been left to her own private study, locked in the designated school room.
She hated it. She hated the whole bloody language. The incoherent sentences she was forced to translate swirled around her and suffocated her; choking out every last ounce of happiness until she was left with but a shell of knowledge.
This was not what she wanted to do on the first nice day of the year.
Lucinda's eyes lifted from her accursed parchment to the window-lined walls. "Yes..." She mumbled aloud, a plan formulating within her mind.
Lucinda stood up from her seat and walked over to the glass panes. They were the kind that opened outwards when pushed. She pushed one. It opened.
The youth looked about warily before hitching up her extensively long skirts and climbing out of the window. She landed with a crunch upon a stray bush, but was otherwise unharmed.
Freedom... Lucinda thought to herself as she stalked past the main house door that had held her captive all winter. She skipped frivolously down the worn path that led to the manor stable. Her long raven hair swished behind her freely, never having known the heavy up-do's that women of age in the larger cities in England sported on a day to day basis.
The heels on her lace-up boots dug into the soft earth around the barn doors as she flung them open and revealed a stable that housed three well bred horses, one for her, one for her father, and one for Liam.
Liam was her older relative who frequented their manor when on Christmas holiday from his business as a book keeper at an esteemed University. He was young, only sixteen to be exact. Liam was the son of William and Genevieve Branch. William was the brother of Lucinda's father, making Liam her first cousin by blood relation.
Liam possessed the same Branch good looks but with one exception; he had vibrant turquoise eyes. Those eyes could be claimed by neither mother nor father, and so were somewhat of an unspoken family ambiguity.
He and Lucinda were quite close, and almost inseparable when together. They seemed to feed off of one another's energy. Their relationship and closeness had always seemed to be there ever since they had first met when Lucinda was five and Liam was eight. When together, they would disappear for what seemed like hours, always to show up before whatever meal awaited them.
Lucinda grinned wildly as she trotted over to Stanley, her rather large stallion. He was white, with light grey spots all over.
"Ello Stan." Lucinda said as she stroked his velvet nose with her long pallid fingers. She strolled over to the saddle and tack rack and retrieved Blue's black leather saddle and matching reigns. With care rarely showed around her friends, she gently slid the metal bit in place at the back of the horse's mouth and lifted the reigns over his head being careful to avoid pulling out any of his alabaster main.
After securing the saddle, she walked Stanley to an old tree stump (used as a mounting stool) and hoisted herself upon his back. Once the youth had fixed her skirt as to retain her modesty, she began short journey away from her home, and Latin lessons, to the little shops in town.
Lucinda had always been popular among her friends, firstly due to her outgoing personality, and secondly due to her name. The name "Branch" ran deep into the roots of English history, along with the wealth that it suggested.
For this reason, Mr. Branch had been disappointed at first when his wife had given him a daughter, instead of a son who would carry on the name. He had hoped that perhaps one of the next few children that his wife would produce would be a suitable heir, but it was not so. Poor Caoilinn Branch had contracted pneumonia and had been taken swiftly.
Perhaps not having a mother around was the cause for Lucinda's wildly unfeminine ways. Her father greatly hoped that this was the reason. After all, he was no woman and could not very well teach Lucinda how to do up her hair or apply powder like any other young lady that was soon to come of age.
Not even into fifteen minutes of her ride, she had arrived in town. Lucinda was pleased when she caught sight of Rosanne, her closest confidant and companion.
"Rosanne!" She called out in reckless abandon. The young lady whom had been addressed turned, her bouncy red curls moving about her round face. "Lucinda!" She cried back as she broke free of her mother who looked taken aback at how daughter's friend sat on the horse like a man. Women were expected to sit side-saddle. Lucinda was one who saw no use in this silly rule, why couldn't women ride like men? It was much easier anyway.
"Here, follow me. I just need to secure Stanley on that fence over there, and then I simply must show you something." She stated with a devilish grin. Rosanne walked beside the beauty upon the horse. She was not a pretty girl herself. Her waist was much too thick and her face was dashed with freckles. However displeasing she appeared, she was still good and kind at heart.
She was poor, living in the farming district of the town. Her family name, Cobbold, was a rather common name.
Lucinda's feet made a soft thud as she dismounted. "Ha! I made it here I think in a better time than the last." She stated as she tied the reins to the fence post and straightened her many skirts beneath the covering of the cotton dress. She then plucked the satchel from the saddle pouch, and began to walk beside her friend.
"I wish I knew how to ride. Father thinks it too dangerous for me. Yet he's happy to teach Michael, James, Aaron, Devon, and Luke....." Rosanne sighed as she brushed some stray red from her face. "All I will ever aspire to be is a housewife...." She mumbled.
Lucinda smiled and linked arms with Rosanne quite forcefully. "Well, when I travel abroad there will be no need for horses. We will travel by a grand carriage wherever we go!" She giggled with triumph. Both girls dreamed of one day leaving this town and seeing the world.
Little did they know that soon enough they would regret ever wanting to leave their small town.
As the girls strode along, the difference between the two became more obvious. Lucinda was very slim and petite. Rosanne's flesh was much more abundant; she was almost twice the size of Lucinda.
"Here." Rosanne said, pointing to a small building clustered among many other street vendors and shops. "Let's go in, my mother has given me a bit of money for a new hair ribbon." She finished excitedly as they entered the frilly ribbon shop.
"'Ello Miss Branch, Miss Cobbold." The clerk chimed. He was an elderly man, already bald. But he could match a ribbon to any dress that was brought to him. Lucinda grinned slowly, not replying. Her companion looked at her quizzically.
"We're just... err... Browsing..." Rosanne said, flashing a smile before dashing around a corner of the cramped little shop. "Lucinda... where are you?" She asked rather harshly,
Rosanne caught sight of movement from behind a rack of hand-made quilts and pulled them back to reveal her friend crouched low, a dark leather book clutched in her pallid hands. Lucinda put one finger to her lips and motioned for Rosanne to come forward and close their curtain of quilts.
The small area behind the cover of the blankets had a warm, old cinnamon type smell to it. Rosanne crouched low and shuffled over, depositing herself neatly next to the raven haired youth.
"Do you know what this is?" Lucinda asked in an excited whisper. Rosanne's eyes shifted from the obviously old book to Lucinda and back.
"Umm.... No." She stated plainly, eyeing a faint intricate carving on the cover. Lucinda rolled her eyes.
"Well, obviously you don't know. I found it in the attic a few weeks ago." She lowered her voice even more until it was barely audible. "It's in a different language."
Rosanne looked relieved. "Well if that's all then what on earth is the big deal? Is it French?"
Lucinda giggled and opened the book, showing the bizzar characters to her. Rosanne took the book in her hands and began to try and read it. "This makes no sense...What language is this?"
Lucinda took back the book and also looked upon the words. "It's something Slavic. I'm almost sure of it."
Lucinda flipped to a page on which there were large, detailed drawings; Each more violent then the next. It showed scenes from ancient battles past, and many pictures of prisoners of war impaled upon large spikes.
One picture stood out among the rest. It showed the large spikes impaling what looked to be still live people. On the edge of those cluster of spikes sat a man at a dinner table, eating a bountiful feast in their presence.
Rosanne looked upon it and grimaced, having never seen anything so disgusting in her life. "This is terrible...who is that man?"
"Count Vladislaus Dracula is the name printed below the illustration. He's the one I want to know more about." Lucinda said, tilting her head to one side to further examine the picture.
Rosanne sighed and closed the book before the blood and gore made her vomit. "You're completely crazy."
Both girls' heads turned violently as they heard someone in the room, very close to their hiding spot. "Quick, I must go. Think about my words, Rosie! We could be together forever!" Lucinda stuffed the damned book back into her bag and opened the small foot window at the base of the wall and shimmied out, leaving Rosanne to fend for herself.
End Chapter One
Excerpt from the next chapter: "Well, good night then." He said, laying down as well. Unlike her, he did not close his eyes, he continued to watch her as she rolled so as her back was facing him. His turquoise eyes glanced tentatively towards the stars that were so bright. "Good night indeed...." He whispered as he turned down the lamp that sat on the small end table that divided the beds, bathing the room in only a sliver of moonlight.