Corruption Prologue & Chapter 1 Extract

Prologue

In 1827 I lost my life – my mortal life, and as I did I discovered a world so far from my life before that I refused to believe it. When I took the first sip of immortal blood I knew of only one part of the deal, and that was immortality. Kept from me was the truth that came with the small insignificant vial. To become immortal was not as simple as living forever, no, with it came a duty, and a price larger than I could have ever imagined that I would forever have to pay.

Chapter 1

1827, Killin

I desperately searched through the crowd of masks and ball gowns. My father stood and held up his glass to begin a toast for my sister and her new husband.

“Sophie and Peter!” we all called, as glasses chimed together in celebration of her new ownership. My sister bowed her head, a blush reddening her cheeks, and Peter lifted his glass to his lips smiling brightly. I lifted my own with shaking hands and smiled tightly across to my sister, unable to shed the tension from my entire body.

The string quartet began to play. As if it had been rehearsed couples stood up in perfect synchronisation and walked to the centre of the ballroom. My fiancé, Sedric Wright, held out a hand to me and I looked up into his cursed blue eyes. I loved him with my whole heart, so much that it hurt to even consider the depths that I would go to protect him, but still I did what I did.  He placed one hand onto my waist and the other he held in mine. I had danced the same dance since I was able to walk, each step I knew like my own name. My aunt Margaret smiled warmly across to us. She had not been happy since we moved to Scotland from London, but her sadness only lasted until Sedric came to us and my engagement to him was rekindled, the past forgiven and apparently forgotten.

We passed by ladies in their beautiful dresses and men in their suits, their movements timed with perfection. My sister stole my eyes once more from across the room and her beauty caught me. Aunt Margaret had done Sophie’s light brown hair in tight curls and pinned it up onto her head showing off her perfectly shaped face. Her cheeks were always blushed, her skin was as pale as the moon, and her pretty sparkling blue eyes spread warmth and love to whomever she looked upon, to all but me that night.

I took out Sedric’s pocket watch and once more scanned the ballroom. At the back of the ballroom I watched as Francis, my best friend, left the room. I knew where she was going, and I knew that soon enough we would be joining her.

A strong hand rested on Sedric’s shoulder below his roughly made golden blonde hair distracting me from Francis.

“Sedric, forgive me for interrupting, but could I have a word?” Oliver asked in his dark Scottish accent. Sedric looked from my nervous eyes to Oliver’s steady pair. His eyes, darker than earth even then, were a perfect match to his muddy brown hair.

Sedric’s arms dropped from my body, but his fingers remained intertwined with mine. His body tensed and he grew taller as we walked to the back of the room.

“There is a carriage waiting beyond the hillside to take us to London,” Oliver announced, offering no other explanation.

“We can start our lives there again,” I said, pulling at my gown, watching the clock that hung above Sedric’s head.

“We must leave now, Victoria packed your belongings and she will explain everything to you on our journey.”

“You will come with us Sedric, with me?”

He hesitated and looked down to me, his forehead wrinkled with worry. I leant up onto my toes and met his lips with my own for a brief second. Briefer was our final kiss than the time taken to put out a candle’s soft flame.

“You will come?”

“To be with Victoria,” Oliver said, his own desire reflected in the sentiment.

“Always,” Sedric answered, making a promise that would prove to be impossible for him to keep.

As Oliver’s hand reached out for the door handle, when the second hand passed by twelve and the minute changed to exactly ten to seven I was thinking about Sedric, imagining the impossible. I was thinking about what our life together could have been. The smiles and kisses on our wrinkled well worn skin as we sat on the porch and watched over our grandchildren. It would have been perfect. He was perfect. I didn’t want to leave, to live forever, but it was too late for all of us.

My life shattered around my feet as the windows did. It was so sudden that I couldn’t quite believe it was happening. Dresses and suits flew by me with very little grace, the antithesis of mere seconds ago. His hand slipped from mine as our bodies were thrown around like the rag dolls that I had played with when I was younger. Our hair tangled into impossible knots, and our dresses tore. Glass shredded our skin and fire burned our fingers and toes.

My head bounced from wall to floor and I could do nothing but scream. We all screamed. The wedding feast moved in slow motion as it propelled into the air and exploded as the fire burst into the room. Each flame was like an angry soldier coming to attack, no mercy in their furious hearts. There was no escaping any of it, not the glass nor the fire. Tears stained the pools of blood and lifeless bodies had their souls ripped from them, as they lay cold as ice within the heat of the destruction.

Blood flowed violently out of my left arm, but I felt no pain. My heart beat far too slowly. I was going to die. It was inevitable. I closed my eyes tightly and prayed that I would see Sedric one last time before I was torn from our godforsaken world.

1970

It would be my one hundred and sixty sixth birthday in a few days and I had never felt more like the twenty three year old corpse that by all natural laws I should have been. Had there been a tomb stone lying above me it would have read, ‘Victoria Roseanna Jewels, taken from us by a really big lorry.’ I sighed and laughed, what more could I do?

 The storm had been threatening for weeks, but it was finally upon us.

Francis slammed the door, in our home in Killin, behind her, shouting curses as she flurried out of my room. Gabriel threw his arms into the air and forced himself down next to my bed.

“I wish I could drive an articulated lorry into her!” he shouted so that she would hear him. She kicked the door and I heard her leave the house, carrying her curses with her.

Gabriel was my creator. He was the reason that I had lived nearly one hundred years more than I naturally should have. He was also the man who broke my best friend’s heart by falling in love with me.

“Gabe, please,” I uttered quietly, putting my hand over his.

He sighed and kissed my wrist; his breath was warm on my skin as he whispered, “I’m sorry Victoria, no more now.”

I smiled and looked up into his shining grey eyes, like the sea in the midst of a tempest. “So, I’m guessing that you haven’t organised me a surprise party?”

He shook his head and raised his brow with a slight shrug, “What can I say, if you had have come to London I would have wined and dined you, but…”

“I threw myself in front of a lorry?”

“Victoria,” he began, pausing as he always did when broaching a sensitive subject.

“Out with it.”

He gave my hand a tight squeeze and stood to walk over to the window. He looked back at me and forced a worried smile onto his lips, “Was it an accident?”

I pushed myself up and searched the floor for my slippers. He moved to help me, but I held up my hands. He watched as I walked to him and stood tall in front of him. “Ask me that again,” I said, placing my hand onto his chest, “And I’ll kill you.”

Of course the love which he had felt for me all of those years ago had not been reciprocated, my heart had always belonged to Sedric.

He laughed with relief and put his hands onto my cheeks; he leant down and kissed my lips softly as he said, “I had to ask.”

I furrowed my brow and sighed, “Fetch Francis.”

“Bu…”

“Fetch her,” I kept my eyes on his and waited until he succumbed to my order.

Although he was my creator I was his master, the monster behind the man. I say creator lightly however. Unlike most immortal creators he was unaware of his creations initially. It was Francis’s doing, which was one of the many reasons why they detested each other.

I could remember perfectly, it was 1825, right there in that very house, the house that had belonged to her father.

 “His name is Gabriel, he is perfection Victoria!”

 “How long have you known him Bernadette?” I asked, using her Christian name, as I put my sewing aside and smoothed my dress.

She smiled and tilted her head as she mentally counted the days, her dark brown curls slipped from behind her ears and covered her mischievous eyes, “three weeks.”

“How have you managed to keep him hidden?”

“He’s very good at keeping things hidden,” she glanced around her father’s study with her piercing brown eyes promising trouble. Out of her dress she presented to me a slim vial of what I desperately hoped wasn’t what it looked like.

“What is…?”

“This,” she said, taking the vial back from me, “Victoria, this is the liquor of immortality.”

I shook my head, “perhaps I should call the doctor you don’t look well. Have you a temperature?” I asked, whilst reaching over to place my cool hand onto her forehead.

She stood and span around twirling her dress smiling ecstatically. “I am fine! Victoria, this is real,” she knelt down and placed her hands onto my knees, “we can be young forever, never to grow old, we will never have to know the pains of death.”

She hadn’t been wrong.

They were both stood at my door turned from each other looking down at me, with knowing and concern painted on their faces. I smiled up to them and the tension sat upon their shoulders melted and pooled around their feet.

I had had trouble with my memories since the night of my sister’s wedding. They would come without warning, take over all of my senses rendering me useless, something that I had been fighting to control with little avail.

“Sit down the both of you.”

They sat back to back at the end of my bed, their miserable faces directed towards me.

“When I am fully healed I am going away and I wanted to let you both know sooner rather than later.”

Francis’s misery turned into a look of the deepest fear, “Tor you can’t …”

“Where and for how long?” Gabriel asked remaining calm and straight faced.

 I held out my hand to Francis and she held onto it like her life depended on it. I smiled reassuringly to her, before looking across to Gabriel and answering his question, “France, news reached me before my accident that there was an attempt to corrupt the balance.”

“Corrupt the balance?” Francis asked, the question slipping out slowly.

Gabriel’s look of fatherly concern remained on his face as he said, “I heard whispers of the new corruption back in London. Did Katelyn call you?”

Francis spoke over him and began to ask, “Surely there are others they can…”

“Kate called for me personally,” I said, silencing her.

Francis turned her head sharply to me. She frowned and tilted her head to the side, saying in her sweet naïve voice, “Why on earth would she do that?”

I closed my eyes and took a deep breath, “My reputation is… quite something out there.”

Tor,” Gabriel uttered mocking Francis, “is one of the best hunters of our day; she has a reputation outside of Killin that you wouldn’t believe.” He said it with such pride in his voice that I couldn’t help but smile.

“How come you never… I don’t…” Francis started.

“Victoria only comes back here to escape her name, and she leaves to escape you. I think that going to France will be the perfect opportunity to solidify her status.”

Francis jumped down off of the bed and looked down to me. I closed my eyes and bowed my head. She shook her head, a storm brewing in her eyes, and ran from the room. Gabriel knew that I would want to follow her, so he stood and helped me up. I pushed my body to its limits and left the house to find her.

“Francis!” I called, as I stumbled out of the house. I had kept my hunting business as far from my life in Killin as I could. Francis had a delicate soul and I had spent my immortal life fighting to keep her safe, keeping the danger as far from Killin as I was able.

The rain had started to fall and my pyjamas were soaked through within seconds of me leaving the safety of our home. I fell, but didn’t hit the floor. Francis’s protective hands wrapped around my forearms and held me up. “Is it true?” she asked, moving away from me.

I pushed my sodden hair behind my ears and stood back from her, “I love you Francis! I hunt because it is who I am I have a duty… We chose this life!”

“You have a duty to your family Tor.”

I sighed and took her hands in mine, “There are so few of us out there Francis and hunters are even sparser. I have no choice, I have to hunt. If the balance…”

She held up her hands and turned away from me, “I know, I know, I’ve heard it all before.” She sighed and turned back to me, “I can’t lose you Tor, if I lost you I don’t…” She looked away from me and down into the forest and frowned. “Did you hear that?”

I sighed and took her hand, pulling her attention back to me, but she kept flitting her eyes back to the forest, “Francis, listen to me, I promise that I will come back for you, I will always come back for you.”

She put a finger up onto my lips and pulled me closer to the house, “listen,” she whispered.

Without warning a bolt of lightning thundered down from the sky and struck a tree beside the house, I stared in star struck wonder and didn’t notice Francis pulling me towards the house. As I span around I saw a figure stood in the opening of the forest and shouted through the storm to Francis. I let go of her and pushed my soaking wet sleeves up over my elbows. As the figure stepped out I could feel the darkness sweep over us.

Francis stopped dead.

“Tor…”

“Gabriel,” I shouted back to her, “Get Gabriel and run.”

“Tor, I can’t leave you…”

“Go.”

Without another word she ran into the house and that was the last time I saw her. My companion from the forest stepped out into the light of the pale moon and behind him emerged two others. I was faced with a tribe, a small tribe albeit, but a tribe none the less.