Black Thorn Prologue II

More prologue! This is mostly a rehash of Wolf’s Bane epilogue, because it’s been a hot minute. The usual warnign about typos apply.




Vervain Hall

It had been one year and a day since Charlotte buried her husband. 

As chance had it, that was also the day Luis and Miles returned from his quest in the west lands to find an ancient relic from the founders. 

The entire household and then some had gathered in the courtyard to welcome the returning travelers. Charlotte watched the crowd. A kitchen maid on her way back from the village had spotted Luis and Miles on the road and dashed back to Vervain Hall with the news. Charlotte, efficient as always, arranged for a room to be prepared for Luis and Miles before they dismounted their horses. 

The man who climbed off his horse and strode across the courtyard was not the unsure young man who left. Time and the trial of the journey had changed Luis, in more than physical appearance, but that had changed considerably, as well. His frame had filled out with thick, solid muscle, and exposure to the elements turned his complexion a golden tan.

Luis moved with confidence, and Charlotte hesitated to know exactly how many skirmishes had tested him along the way. Miles appeared equally worn, but he beamed at Luis like he hung the stars.

Pangs of envy went through Charlotte. She had fiercely believed that she could have been happy in her marriage, or happy enough, but Lionel had never looked at her with such devotion. 

If he had, he would not have been a monster, after all. 

Charlotte’s dear friend, Solenne, gripped her husband’s hand. Another happy match. Another monster anchored to their partner. 

She pressed a handkerchief to the corner of her eyes, and then mopped her brow to disguise her tears. It was later afternoon and rather warm, after all. 

Solenne pointed to the sun dipping near the trees. “And what kind of time do you call this? You’re late.”

Luis crushed his sister into an embrace. Even from her distance, Charlotte smelled the distinct aroma of sweat, horse, and leather.

“Gah, you smell disgusting,” Solenne muttered, her face pressed into his chest.

“I missed you, too,” Luis said. “Are you shorter?” He pushed her away, hands on her shoulders. “You’re shrinking. Must be all the magic. I do not approve.”

“It’s not magic,” she said, knocking his hands away, “and you’re a giant now. Everyone is shrinking from your vantage.”

“Mystical werewolf bond magic.” Luis wiggled his fingers.

Solenne laughed, sounding so pleased to have her brother back.

Luis and Miles made the rounds, embracing and slapping everyone they saw, including Travers who stood motionless, enduring the hug.

“Well?” Solenne asked. “Did you find Blackthorn?”

Luis gave a dramatic yawn. “We’ve been traveling for days—”

“Only because you were so excited to be near home that you refused to rest,” Miles interrupted.

“Days without pausing to eat or sleep,” Luis continued, as if he could not hear Miles. “I’d like a bath and a meal. Then we can talk.”

Miles rolled his eyes. “Draven has the sword. Apparently, he’s been waiting for someone to come and fetch it.”

“So you have it?” Alek asked.

Luis shook his head. “He wants a trade that I was not qualified to make.”

“What does the vampire demand?”

“A bride,” Luis answered. He then added, like it would help, “Only for a year. He says she can leave after a year.” 

It did not help, but it intrigued Charlotte. 

The crowd fell silent. The Marechals looked at each other, like they had lost the battle before they had fired a single shot.

“I suppose that’s that,” Solenne mumbled.

“Yes. I said I’d send word, but how could we ask—” Luis trailed off.

“An interesting fellow, but an unreasonable demand,” Miles added.

That family. Charlotte loved them, but they lacked imagination and had a disturbing forgetfulness when it came to history. They squabbled amongst themselves, demanding to know the terms of the negotiation or if Luis just accepted the terms without protest. 

Alek and Miles watched the exchange, amused and exhausted.

A year with a vampire? One of the oldest creatures on the planet? Not just old, but an original settler… 

Imagine the knowledge he had. The lost history. 

Charlotte was a student of history, particularly the time humans settled on Nexus, but she lives in a village on the fringes of the civilized world. Requesting books and waiting for them to be shipped took ages and she long gave up hope of accessing original source material. To read the original diaries and logs of the colonists, she’d have to go to the university in Foundin, which was not an option. Her father’s controversial opinions made him, and by extension her, unwelcome at the university. She did her best with the books and reprints she could get, but her mind reeled at the possibility of speaking to an original colonist. 

It was too good an opportunity to pass up. 

“I’ll go,” Charlotte said.

No one heard her.

“I will go,” she repeated, raising her voice to an unladylike decibel.

The family turned as if one entity, as if they just noticed her presence.

“No,” Solenne said. “Out of the question. You’re not giving yourself to a blood drinker. They’re dangerous.”

“Don’t be ridiculous. Send me. This is what I do, isn’t it?” Charlotte retorted. “I marry monsters.” 

What is Charlotte getting herself into?

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