By Lauren Rabalais
Web Content Contributor
The stain of red that colors the pavement
Painted with blood of somebody you love
Is this sacrifice for the broken
Losing the purest of what’s in my heart.
—Survive Said The Prophet, “Red”
“Where are you headed, Your Highness?”
Ashtad appeared besides Alphonse as he made his way to Violet’s bed chambers, hovering behind him like a shadow. It was a strange choice to have their rooms so far away, since her room was on the opposite side of the castle, but he supposed that was yet another way his father kept him sequestered from society.
“Do you not know that already?” Alphonse asked with a fond smirk. “You once said you were always by my side.”
“I had something to attend to,” Ashtad answered with a returning smile.
“Were you watching the birds again?”
Ashtad chuckled. “Something like that.”
Something wasn’t quite right with him. That laugh was almost frightening in its intensity, and Alphonse couldn’t help but be wary.
“I’m en route to Violet’s chambers. It is quite curious that she asked me to meet with her so secretly, especially since we had our investigative meeting this morning.” Alphonse kept walking, letting silence drape over the pair before speaking again. “Wouldn’t it be best to hide? You are welcome to return to the balcony, if you wish.”
“I’m afraid I cannot do that,” Ashtad said with a shrug. “I cannot go that far away from you. Her chambers are too far from yours.”
“But I thought you could traverse most the castle independently?” There was something fishy going on. There was definitely something fishy going on.
“Ah, but not quite that far,” Ashtad said. “I will attend this get-together alongside you. It will be alright, my presence will be undetectable.”
“Very well,” Alphonse said, and the demon was gone. He slowed to a stop in front of an ornately painted door with a gulp. Danger pulsed through his veins as his brain sent out warning sparks. Hopefully this would end up okay. Violet shouldn’t have any dirt on him; he’d been so careful. He opened the door.
She greeted him with an anxious smile. “Good afternoon, Alphonse. Please have a seat.”
The last time he’d been in here would’ve probably been back when he was quite young, but what stayed the same since then was how her room was brightened with speckles of color in beautiful vases. He remembered it vividly— the pinks and blues and purples and the pleasant scent lingering in the air. Today, though, those flowers were sad little things, thirsting for attention as they began to wilt. She must be so tired.
Alphonse sat in a plush chaise by the study table. Violet sat down in the chaise opposite of his, folding her hands delicately on the wooden table.
“Alphonse,” Violet started heavily, as if the weight of her own words could crush her like an insect. “I have a lead. This might be our answer.”
He fought the urge to chuckle— no, she didn’t. “What might that be?”
She pulled out a dark blue book with worn-out pages and a scuffed cover. Alphonse found himself eating his own words as he watched the dying pink anemones behind her with wide, unfocused eyes. If she had said something after that, he didn’t hear it; all he could hear was an awful, low ringing. It almost sounded like the bell he could sometimes hear from his balcony.
She placed the book on the table and opened it to the correct page. “I stumbled upon an intriguing book. It spoke of the devil’s creatures—vampires, incubi…demons. Are you aware the injuries we’ve been appraising look strikingly like a demon’s bite? The size of the holes look to be identical. The corpses also still have blo-”
He felt like his skin was being torched, and something in his chest hurt like hell. He slammed his hands onto the table aggressively, biting his lip to keep himself from crying out when he missed with his right hand and slammed the bony part of his wrist down instead of the palm. “Where did you find that book?!”
Violet recoiled at the outburst. “So sorry! I know witchcraft and the devil are not welcomed with warm smiles in this kingdom, but I… I encountered it laying on my bedside table last night. I have no idea who placed it there—maybe a chamber maid believed it to be mine?”
He picked up the book and stood up from the chaise, taking in a ragged breath. “That is quite strange,” he said as his mind scrambled for a way out. “I was not aware such an evil possession resided in our home. Would you allow me to study it in my chambers? I can see how exhausted you are with your duties, so, please, let me report my findings to you.”
Violet seemed relieved, rising to meet his stature. “Of course, Alphonse. We can finally end all this, together.” She stared down at the opened page one last time before closing it and handing it to him.
“I look forward to it,” Alphonse said, holding the book tightly to his chest as he made his way to the door. “Good evening, Violet.”
With that, Alphonse excused himself. His brain was overrun with static as he nearly tripped over himself while hurrying to his own chambers. Upon reaching his destination, he slammed the door shut and threw himself onto the bed. He let out a wretched scream into a pillow, not caring if Ashtad was around to hear it or not.
If anyone found any evidence in addition to the book’s secrets, like the bloody stones and the black candles, that would be the end of him. He couldn’t afford to be thrown in the dungeon, or worse, executed— not when he still had so much to achieve. This was his life’s calling—his destiny. He clenched his teeth and punched the pillow. She knew too much. He had to eliminate her. There was no other choice.
He called for Ashtad.