Lady Coraline returned to Kraken Moor this morning in the midst of a terrible snowstorm.
When I retired to my room this previous evening, there was no hint of a storm descending upon us, yet when I awoke this morning, it appeared as if the entire world had been freshly covered with a soft, wet, cold blanket.
It was a surprise to everyone but Lord Shepherd that his aunt was returning. She arrived in a carriage borrowed from a merchant in Marehaven, and when she exited the coach, I was further surprised to see that Saffron Selton made the journey with her. Miss Selton was dressed in a huge black coat, its hood pulled up and over her head, obscuring her burned face.
Already at the door, Lord Shepherd called to whichever members of staff were in the area. I was in an adjoining room, dusting in the gaming area, when Lord Shepherd placed his head into the room and called to me. “Come, now, Miss Sharper,” he smiled, “Lady Coraline’s bags aren’t going to sprout legs and walk upstairs.”
“Yes, sir,” I replied, moving after him.
When I stepped into the snow, Silvio Tiattore was already talking to the coach driver about stabling the horse.
“I must get back,” the young boy replied. “Ol’ Sheena can get me back.”
“Nonsense!” Lord Shepherd said, interjecting himself into the conversation. “You can stay here. The Haupts have three children who would love a new playmate for the day!”
I thought the idea of subjecting any child to playing with the Haupts absurd, but I held my tongue. Joy softly burst inside of me, however, when this boy stood his ground and insisted on leaving.
“Let the boy go, Jenson,” Lady Coraline scolded, shooing the carriage away from Kraken Moor.
“Yes, aunt,” Lord Shepherd said politely. “I see you’ve brought a guest.”
“The librarian,” Coraline murmured, pulling her white shawl tighter around her neck. “Come, come, get me inside, I am old and cold.” The old woman eyed me tightly. “Miss Sharper can carry my satchel.”
“And only Miss Sharper shall attend Miss Selton and myself.”
“Always the one with a comment, Jenson,” she scolded sharply.
Several minutes later we were in Lady Coraline’s room. The door was shut behind us. Lady Coraline had been placed in her bed and Miss Selton stood with her back to one of the room’s dark curtains. Once the door had been closed and she stood in a place of semi-hiding, she had removed her hood.
“Shall I bring you anything, ma’am?” I asked politely. Unsure at how I should proceed around Coraline and Miss Selton, I settled on the professional approach. Lady Coraline, however, was in no mood for formality.
“Bugger the food,” she mumbled, looking to Miss Selton. “Tell her,” she instructed.
“Kanarl wishes to make a deal,” Miss Selton informed me.
I felt a chill envelop my soul that had nothing to do with the falling snow outside of Kraken Moor. “Thanks to Kadul, I am well versed in the deals demons offer.”
“This one is different,” Miss Selton said, her eyes blazing momentarily with a spark of orange heat. “After your conversation with Kanarl through the Haupt child-”
“His name is Hans,” I insisted, wanting them to know the child was an individual and not simply a carcass for a demon to inhabit and then toss aside.
Miss Selton bowed apologetically. “Kanarl sees that you have a strength in you that-”
“I am not interested in laying or rutting with demons,” I said harshly, staring directly into Miss Selton’s eyes. The woman who has been both scorned and burned in her life flinched at the severity of my words. For a moment, I considered backing down, but I held my ground. The two ladies I shared this room with needed to understand that I was not to be pushed around. In terms of my professional employment, I would, of course, placate Lady Coraline’s wishes, but professional courtesy did not extend to the forfeiture of my soul!
“Do not be so quick to judge Miss Selton,” Lady Coraline said, scolding me.
“What is Kanarl’s offer?” I asked, desiring this conversation to be over.
“With all due respect, Miss Selton, I do not see that happening.”
Lady Coraline sat up in her bed, “So you will join Kadul, then?” A pulse of purple in her eyes caused my resolve to harden.
“I do not wish to join any demon’s cause,” I said resolutely. “I very much enjoy living.”
“Side with Kanarl,” Miss Selton said, striding forward, “and he will not only spare Hans’ life, he will fight to save the rest of the Haupt children.”
“Why would he do that?” I asked.
“Because Kadul knows you to be important,” Coraline answered.
“But why am I important?”
Lady Coraline smiled slightly and leaned back against her pillows. “I am tired. Bring me soup and bread, Miss Sharper.”
“All I know,” Miss Selton added, “is that Kadul sees you as his key to leaving, and thus, if Kanarl can stop you, he can prevent that from happening. As you were told, the demons of Kraken Moor are afraid, Miss Sharper.”
“Yes, but of what?”
“What color were Lima’s eyes when you killed her?”
“Her eyes? They were … they were …” I struggled to remember.
Miss Selton placed a gentle hand on my arm. “They were not the purple of Kadul, nor the orange of Kanarl, nor the yellow of Tchitok. They were black, weren’t they?”
“Promise your soul to Kanarl and he will save you!” she pressed, squeezing my arm. “He will save the children and allow you to live your life out as a free woman. You will belong to him only when the natural course of life ends for you, and that eternity will be spent in the greatest luxury! If you do not … everyone in side these walls will die, and the death of yourself and those 3 children will be upon your head!”
What scared me most, in that moment, was that Miss Selton’s eyes betrayed no hint of Kanarl’s presence. She truly believed that giving my body and soul to Kanarl would be the proper act for me to take.
30 minutes later, I returned to Lady Coraline’s room with her bread and soup. I opened the door and pushed the serving cart inside. Lord Shepherd’s aunt was sleeping in her bed, and Miss Selton was on her knees before the gargoyle-topped mirror. She was-
From the other side of the mirror, Kanarl growled at me as his claws gripped Miss Selton’s hair.
“Noi Tapi Cit Na,” he commanded, and the Necklace of Anticipation that I still wore around my waist began to burn. I could see the words in orange in my mind and I could not escape them. My body was paralyzed and I could not take my eyes away from the carnal display before me. The wolfman demon kept his orange eyes locked to me the entire time as he chanted in a guttural growl, “Noi Tapi Cit Na. Noi Tapi Cit Na. Noi Tapi Cit Na.”
With every incantation, the burn spread through my body, evening out and becoming warm as it cursed me with a psychical fire.
When Kanarl was finished with Miss Selton, he pushed her to the floor and stepped through the mirror. I feared that he was coming for me, but he walked past, the stink of sulfur and sex on his white fur. “I only take those who want me,” he snarled confidently.
“I am ready for you, my demon Lord.”
I turned and saw Lady Coraline lying on her back and opening herself to the demon. Kanarl howled, extended his claws, and tore the quilts to shreds before climbing onto the bed.
“Run,” Miss Selton whispered, and I did.
It is only now that I sit here, putting the memory of these events into physical form in my journal, that I realize “Noi Tapi Cit Na” is “Anticipation” spelled in opposite form.
I see now the danger of the necklace and I struggle with keeping it on my body.