Has it been a month already? Why yes, it has. And yet, better pacing than what I review for the site. (Hopefully)
Nickolas had left the Cardinal in the chapel, quite gladly. The room left him decidedly uncomfortable. The pain had left his head the instant he was over the threshold, but he had been left with the general impression that religious devotion was a necessity of life in the household. He wasn’t sure how he felt about that. It was to be expected that a man of the Church would demand his house to maintain high religious standards, but surely there would be allowances. There would be more creatures like the pair of them in the house – did they all feel pain like he did at the sight of the cross?
He thought idly of the daughter, Erzsébet. What of her? Was she like them? Did she live to quench her thirst upon the flesh of others? He could not tell. If she was allowed to venture amongst other people, those who were not damned, then perhaps she was entirely normal. A young girl trapped in the midst of monsters. Her father must keep her safe from the rest of them. Funar certainly seemed to have the mind and mentality of a beast (Nickolas, now that he had the comforts of food and hearth, had immediately reclassified where he lay in the scheme of things), and only fear of his master must keep him away from a young woman.
Nickolas turned over on his cot. This was all pure speculation, based upon a talk with a man who had abducted him from the roadside and on a painting inside an office. The portrait could be lies. If creatures such as he could live endlessly, Erzsébet might be a very old woman indeed. He made himself turn over again, trying to get comfortable on the thin mattress. He did not know why his mind kept returning to her image. Indeed, he had not been particularly interested in women since he had changed. His interest was mainly limited to their flesh, and how it would drip when ripped apart.
A footman had been waiting outside the chapel. He had been instructed to show Nickolas to the stables, where a cot had been prepared and was waiting for him. After all, he was not a gentleman yet, and did not expect to be treated as such. The cot and stuffed straw mattress in the warmth of the stable was a luxury he had not been treated to in a long time.
“And what is to happen to me in the morning?” Nickolas had asked of the footman.
The man shrugged, the collar of his shirt being tugged away from his neck as he moved. Two scabbed wounds were revealed, the ugly brown marks both distasteful and enticing. “I don’t know. All I get told is to show you here, to tell you to report for breakfast in the second kitchen in the morning, and to be clean and wait there.”
“And then I am to meet with the Cardinal and his daughter?”
A fearful grimace passed over the face of the footman and without thinking, his hand went towards the scabbed wounds on the side of his neck. His fingers closed over them, and he scratched them idly with cracked and ragged fingernails. The scabs came away, drops of blood appearing like dark red jewels on his skin. “I don’t know, sir. I was not told anything more.” He had bowed hurriedly, before leaving Nickolas as fast as he could without appearing rude.
The stable was warm, the scent of horses minimal. It was probably only half-used anyway, making it perfect for stowing away illicitly snatched men. Even if he did not become a gentleman, it would be pleasant enough to be a servant who slept with the animals. Nickolas did not think he would really become a gentleman; it seemed to be a preposterous idea that was a passing whimsy of a rich and powerful man. How entertaining it would be, how endlessly funny, to take a common man and dress him in velvet brocade and watch him dance. What a hilarious jape to thrust him into society, and see how he failed so. What did rich men do with their time, anyway? With no fields to plough or animals to tend to, did they spend their days at banquet?
His stomach, satiated for the first time in many months, gave an encouraging noise at this prospect. Laughter was one thing, but warmth and shelter another. Even if this was all one big joke, he was not spending a night in a ditch, his body lying in the half-frozen water and scum that lay in stagnant pools at the bottom. Yes, being a gentleman would be most agreeable. He could always run and return to the wilds if he wished so.
Nickolas settled down for a night of sleep uninterrupted by the screams of animals or the feeling of insects crawling inside of his clothes. His mind, drifting to and from the states of being awake and being asleep, found itself constantly returning to Erzsébet, and those dark all-knowing eyes.