Sunday, October 14, 2018

Signings and Awkward Social Anxiety

I get it, author signings and events, Q&A's, Vlogs, interviews, and so on are all part of the life of being an author. HOWEVER, yes, that's a big 'however,' because there's something about writers/authors that you should know or might have forgotten about them, and that's most of us are incredibly introverted. This means social functions (places where it's too peopley) can overwhelm and hinder our overanalytical, observing, calculating brains from working at their normal ludicrous speed. Lol. 
Now, I wouldn't consider myself too introverted, but the right balance between outgoing and always ready to go home and put on an oversized, raggedy sweater. Nevertheless, being highly empathic, large crowds with tons of energy can be, at times, over-cumbersome to me, and that can lead to incredibly awkward social interactions, and it has. 
Some have been simple moments of when someone says, "Hey," and I would reply, "Thanks," only to stutter over my words through a nervous laugh and try my greeting over. Most of the time, I believe it adds to my charm. Yet, there are other times when that happens, and I get the quick, judgy side-glance that says, "What's your problem lady?" Which I have, and I'll tell you about it. I was at an author signing to promote my book A Drop of Universe in the middle of this past Summer, and I had a woman come up to me and say, "You wrote a poetry book?" Proudly, yet humbly used my standard reply, "Yup, you're more than welcome to pick it up, check it out." She complied and began thumbing through the pages. Already I'm wringing my hands together, all nervous and hopeful that she would enjoy what she saw/read and would purchase a book. However, she had already given me the quick-judgy side glance that shot skepticism and challenge from her very being while her voice dripped with opposition when the words poured from her mouth, "What's your favorite poem?" 
Knowing the answer immediately I stated smoothly, "Sin Eater is my favorite one in the entire collection." 
As quick as a sharp whip, she cracked another sentence in the atmosphere, "Recite it." 
There it was, the sentence that f#cked me up and threw me off my confident swag that held back my acute level of social anxiety. Flooded with the impromptu performance on how well I could play the game of Memory, my mind went blank. I only could remember the damn title. Instead of picking up a copy of the book and reading it to her, I stupidly allowed word-vomit to rise from the vibrato of my voice as I said, "I can recite a fan favorite titled 'Cow.' Without a prompt from her, I began reciting the short poem, and just I was finished she had put my book down and walked away. Anger and self-loathing followed, yet I swiftly shook it off knowing what happened had been done, I couldn't take it back but learn from it. In the cliche words, 'It is what it is." Though when the event was long since over, and I laid in bed that night thinking, (oh, the bitter bitch of having anxiety-fueled thoughts at night) "Shit, well that was awkward." 
Lol, I can laugh at it now, but then it was a bruising Charley Horse to my confidence that my usual swift charisma and problem-solving skills couldn't click together and fix. So the point of this blog post today, authors and readers, is that sometimes we're going to encounter moments in which we might appear just less than. Sometimes our introverted-ness will get in the way (because we are in our head ALL THE TIME. We're writers and story-tellers after all.) We're not always going to meet the challenge with vigor, grace, and success due to many reasons that make us who we are. However, as long as we learn and keep going using our awkward moments as stepping stones to our higher occasions, all will be well. Just press on and relate, connect the best way you can.  

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

The Mystery Behind M: The Pen-name

Throughout the six years of being a published author, I’ve learned a few tricks of the trade one of them is being known as M and learning to adapt to the name and learning to love it. When I first started writing Beast Blood, I knew right away I wanted a pen name. I had my reasons for choosing a different name than the one I hear every day. I wanted one that would be easy to remember, universal sounding, mysterious as well as sentimental. Admittedly, I enjoy my privacy when I want it, who doesn’t. It might be a bit strange but think of it in Superman’s perspective. If he was always Superman, he’d never find the ability to fade into the shadows and just be the simple news reporter, Clark Kent. He’d always have to be Superman; always on and ready to spring into action. Thinking I might have the same overwhelming dilemma, though I don’t fight crime by any stretch of the imagination, I decided to go through with my pen name. So, after a few moments of shifting thoughts, M. A. Levi was ‘born’. Carrying through with the final publications of Beast Blood, the name was solidified, and just as secure as ever. It was time for signings and events. Going to college for business, and running several Businesses before I focused on my passion for writing, I knew the name was a brand. I could create a whole new persona, an image; but that was hard to do. I was still Clark Kent playing Superman. At first, it felt ridiculous when I’d go into my signings and they (the readers, librarians, bookstore owners...whoever) would call out Levi or M. or M. A.. I almost wanted to shout, “I’m a fake, a phony, a bamboozler: that’s not my name.” Lol, I felt like a creeper walking around introducing myself as someone else, but I wasn’t someone else, I was still me. It was I who still put in all the damn sleepless nights and 16 hour days to get my book done within a nine-month span. However, it still felt unnatural. Nevertheless, when the signings and appearances were over, and once I left the parking lot, I could be once more the simple, nonchalant (Think George Reeves version) Clark Kent. That feeling of returning to ‘normal’ fed the reason for the pen name. After a bit of owning the name, I learned to love being known as M.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

There’s Always Room for Improvement During the Journey

The following are the words of M.A. Levi, author of the Beast Series. For more information on M.A. Levi or her book, find her on her websiteAmazon or Goodreads. Download the Archway Publishing free publishing guide for more information on our supported self-publishing services.

There’s Always Room for Improvement During the Journey

Moreover, with such knowledge, improvements in ones’ writing is not only wise, but it progresses success further. Speaking from experience, I started writing my book ‘Beast Blood’ in October of 2013 after a lightning bolt of inspiration struck, and I became obsessed with these ideas and characters and with completing the overall story. Nine months of busy days and sleepless nights of writing and re-writing and enduring the editing agony everywhere and anywhere I went; I had completed my first book! It nearly took me a full year after to find the perfect publisher for my creation. Finally, in 2015 I found Archway Publishing my passion had become fulfilled as a published author. After several months my book was available to the public! Now, I had a solid, tangible mass that I could share with the world. Overall, Archway had given me the base knowledge that I needed to pursue my dream. However, I knew there was much for me to learn. My job wasn’t even close to done, but only beginning.

Along the Way

Compared to the more established authors, I was a newbie in the market. For my first signing, I had a few good pens, my books to sell and sign, and a shipment of confidence. Months on end I scheduled signings, meet-and-greets, Q’s and A’s and with that, I had people interested in my book and who I was. By this time, I had expanded and developed a solid reader base; it was amazing to hear such beautiful reviews for something I had created from a small thought that had much moxie behind it. Nonetheless, with the unanimous praise came the stinging criticism, and that my fellow authors, can break your confidence when you’re early in the game. It’s natural to meet such a negative comment or two with confusion and anger. Oh, yeah, there were times that I had done so. Trying to appreciate their perspective, even though it pounded against my confidence like a sledgehammer, I found that some had a touch of truth. However, it wasn’t until I wrote my second book, ‘Flames to the Beast’ to the point of such precision that I realized I made countless rookie mistakes in my writing. I finally had seen what the few had seen. Grammar issues, plot holes- the works. Determined to perfect the craft, I researched for hours on end, took classes, brushed up on everything that pertained to my weaker areas, and then I researched some more to find the elements that would amp up my game. Diligence and perseverance birthed success.

Learn from your failures but be sure to congratulate yourself for your successes. They are both stepping stones to progress.

Now, understand that some no matter how hard you to try will dislike or find something wrong with your creation. Taking on the attitude of ‘if you don’t like what I wrote, then you write a book to your liking,’ will help you with that. Also, the security and confidence that comes from knowing you had improved yourself will push you through the obstacles. Personally, proud of my endeavors, I walk into a signing assured my writing is where it needs to be, and that has helped create opportunities for success. I currently have my book ‘Flames to the Beast’ stocked in several indie-bookstores while growing the rapid reader/reviewer base. Sales and demand have increased as well. Despite all this, I know in the back of my mind, there’s always room for improvement along the journey.
Archway Publishing is always looking for content for its blog. If you’re an Archway Publishing author and would like to share a guest blog post, please visit our Blog Guidelines Page.

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Beast Blood” is My Creation and Archway was the Machine that Brought It to Life

From time to time, Archway Publishing turns over its blog to its authors, giving them the opportunity to share stories and perspectives about their individual self-publishing journeys. The following are the words of M. A. Levi, author of “Beast Blood.”  For more about the author and her book, visit her WebsiteFacebookTwitter and Goodreads. Download the Archway Publishing free publishing guide for more information on our supported self-publishing services. 
From the moment I typed the final words from the last chapter of “Beast Blood” onto that blank virtual piece of paper on the computer screen, I knew I had finished something extraordinary. Honestly, I knew it before then, but in my own right it was amazing. It was never my intention to write a book. I never dreamed it was possible. Me? No way! I had no prior experience, no degree, nothing. I was always an avid reader, a poet, but never an author. Nevertheless, inspiration came as sudden as lightning and obsession, along with words of encouragement, carried my determination to seeing it through.
11392958_1630173673914073_3938420631559957583_nAfter a long nine months of concerns, discouragements from myself, encouragements from others, research, brainstorming, editing, writing and rewriting; I finally created “Beast Blood”. In comparison, I felt like Mary Shelly’s ‘Victor Frankenstein’ when he had finally mended the parts of his creature together and starred at its crude appearance.
Astounded and mystified by how far I had come, I knew it was only the beginning. I needed to bring my book to life and progress it further.
Immediately, my family and I looked to our bookshelves. We flipped to the publisher’s page and wrote down their information. After nearly a month, my research on the countless publishers were void. The publishers that issued the books I read and loved were not a right match for me. Fortunately, it made me even more determined to find what I was looking for. I had came too far and for many reasons, I wouldn’t allow myself to give up. It wasn’t long after that until the solution I needed for my obstacle was found. I clicked on a link for Archway Publishing and progressed my reading. After my research on the company, I had to trust my instinct, which told me ‘this is it’. Immediately, I talked to a friendly consultant and several days later sent in my completed manuscript.
SKU-001012607After a couple weeks time, “Beast Blood” was accepted. I was beyond excited. Finally, I did it! There was still much more to do, but I had found the ‘machine’ that would bring my creation, “Beast Blood,” to life. Unlike the dark regretful nature of Victor Frankenstein, I didn’t have any. I knew when working with Archway Publishing I could trust their experience and dedication. I worked incredibly hard on “Beast Blood” and putting so much into it. What I liked most about Archway Publishing is that they respected that my manuscript was near and dear to my heart. The staff members that lead me through the entire process were wonderful professionals. I loved working with them and openly accepted their great ideas. Now, that “Beast Blood” is published and title live, their continuous help has made me even more successful and confident as a new author. Overall, we worked together to create something wonderful and for everything they have done to make the experience worth reliving, I am beyond grateful.
Archway Publishing is always looking for content for its blog. If you’re an Archway Publishing author and would like to share an idea for a guest blog post, please tweet the Archway Publishing Twitter account @ArchwayPub and Like the Archway Publishing Facebook page.

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Sunday, July 8, 2018

A Moment Too Late (Flames to the Beast)



Fortaleza, Brazil
January 23rd, 1881

ushing down the narrow alleyway, Leonardo made his way through the darkness in a panic. While stealing brief glances behind him, he continued to run at his fastest pace, oblivious to the sleeping homeless man sprawled out on his back in the middle of the stone path. Leonardo didn't look ahead until it was too late. He stumbled forward when his bare foot slipped under the man's back and kicked his rib cage.
 The old man startled awake by the forceful impact and swift insult. His bloodshot eyes bulged from his sunken, bearded face as he rolled on his side coughing hard. He took ragged intakes of breath as his doubling, and spinning vision tried to focus. Finally, he found the blurred silhouette of the man who awoke him. Knowing where to aim his words, the old man began to swear at him in slurred speech.
             Leonardo broke his fall by pressing his hands against the jagged stone walls of the buildings. He steadied his tall, lean body from falling to the ground, and felt the pain of the ridged stone rub hard against his calloused hands and knew it had left gouges into his palms. He dropped his arms, and the stark color of his blood was staining the sandstone walls on each side of him.
            "Jesus!" Leonardo said with an exasperated sigh. He knew if someone from his clan was tracking him, it had become easier now. They would smell his blood on the walls, recognize it as his and follow his course by the undeniable scent. Leonardo continued a fast walk to prevent any more accidents from occurring. He clenched his bleeding hands and shoved them into the pockets of his trousers. His anger, already beyond its capacity, became unleashed toward the man. Leonardo cocked his head to the side and growled over his shoulder.
"Drunken fuck. Get the hell out of the alley!" The old timer replied with a loud snore signifying he’d receded into an alcohol induced sleep. “Forget it,” Leonardo whispered under his breath and kept walking. If he had the time, he would've made an example out of the man by putting fear into the last fragments of life the old drunk had left. Leonardo wouldn't waste his last moments of freedom on such a person when an agenda needed to become upheld. His mood turned darker, matching his grim features when he thought about his plan. There were three men, and Leonardo was going to kill them. He knew his actions would become justified since they were Half-Breeds. In other words, humans possessed without redemption. Leonardo could tell these men were mortals with demonic souls. They had soulless black eyes, sunken into their narrow faces and reeked of rotting flesh. He knew they were responsible for the massacres of the half-devoured mortals they had found scattered on the outskirts of town. He was going to rid of them by waiting for the exact moment when he would become their ultimate killer. In doing so, it would prove to Eli that he could take care of himself without giving away their existence. Leonardo felt fidgety and anxious about enacting his plan. He had been planning this for a while and knew exactly where to go and what to do when he got there. The men resided in a familiar tavern located in the slums of the city. Leonardo remembered the place of ill repute well since he used to spend days at a time partaking in all the pleasures they provided.
Leonardo ran the back of his hand across his forehead. He was sweating profusely and had suddenly bent forward, twisting from the waving onslaught of trembling pain. Working through his suffering, Leonardo willed his feet to keep moving. He needed to quicken his plan since he was traceable, and time was against him in many ways. With the moon entering its high point of the night, it began calling on Leonardo, and so he shot a glance toward the sky. Assessing the teasing orb, he saw the brightness of the full watchful sphere. It was hanging low to the earth taunting him to reach out and touch it. He longed to succumb to it when it began wielding its ancient power over his stirring blood. It demanded him to transform. Breaking free from the trance, Leonardo gnashed his teeth and held back the inner beast that pained him for release.        “Not yet,” he growled as he looked away from the sky and the moon's haunting gaze, scowling as it forbade him to take another step forward. But he wasn't going to turn back. More than determined, he kept walking to the outskirts and slums of the thriving city before it was too late.
Blasting through the silence, crashing crates, and splintering wood sounded behind him. Paranoid someone was following close on his trail, Leonardo suspiciously scanned the dreary surroundings. Suddenly a blurred shadow caught the corner of his eyes as it bolted down the narrow alley, and with such warning came the sound of boots clicking on the stone. Leonardo turned, running like a fugitive from the law. Rushing, he turned right into another alleyway, then down another proceeding onward. Thrilled to see the oil lamp illuminating the back entrance of the tavern, he grew fidgety in his excitement. He was almost there, and it didn’t seem as if anyone was coming for him. The salty breeze blew from the Atlantic and churned around him. It wafted the putrid smells of mortals and animals that had sat stagnant a moment ago. Leonardo’s heightened sense of smell amplified their horrific compounds, and his stomach roiled. He bent over again in pain waiting for the bile that threatened to rise from the back of his throat. His eyes glistened with a sheen coating, glowing when they reflected the flames of the oil lamps. Every sound and detail around him collaborated through his elevated awareness with precise accuracy. He didn’t know how much longer he could fight against the instinct to change. Grunting in pain, Leonardo tightly closed his eyes against the radiating torment. Forcefully, he willed his concentration on his rampant thoughts. After a few moments, the agony numbed, and he could walk again, but in slower shuffles than before.

Son-of-a-bitch. What choice was there for me? She wanted him, and I needed the money. He cut his words short when he reflected the passing memory, allowing several more to flood his concentration. He used the anger he felt as an aid to block the pain and to make the last several yards possible to walk. After their parent’s death, and before Eli and Roslyn had married in short order last July, Roslyn's name was under horrible scandal. Rumors about her swirled off the sharp tongues of high society and began to spread like a plague. She became shunned because of Leonardo’s shameless lifestyle. Even more so, after it became known they hadn’t a penny to their name; the creditors and gossips spread the truth of how he had used their entire family fortune for his selfish pleasures in the slums of society. No reliable person would accept his name as credit or his word as truth. So, he decided he would borrow money from those that held practices of a shady nature. In trade for money, Leonardo gave them the ownership papers of the family businesses. Next, he had sold their many homesteads and family heirlooms. Then, the time came to sell the furniture. Their house had become turned out in the middle of the street where everyone stared at their misfortune. After the last cabinet had sold, there was nothing left, but the small townhouse they resided. During all times of the night and day, more creditors had pounded on their doors demanding their payment.
            They fell even deeper into poverty and closer to danger. Leonardo couldn’t leave the house without becoming muscled into a nearby alley and beaten senseless by hired thugs. Last time he’d been shot in the kneecaps as a final warning. Desperate for freedom and money, Leonardo had considered selling Roslyn into prostitution. He knew he could’ve had a high offer for her. At the time, she had been a virgin in prime youth with flawless features. Men and even some women would've paid significantly for her. However, he couldn't take the idea of her pure heart dying to the constant hardships that lifestyle would've brought her. Especially after experiencing the demented pleasures the winner would force upon her. Sickened that such a thought would’ve crossed his mind, he had grown angry, and self-loathing became his drinking companion.
Since their parent’s death, she had depended on him. She looked up at him like she used to do to Father. He wasn’t close to the man their father was, but Leonardo wasn't so into himself to subject Roslyn to that type of miserable existence. She deserved a better life than what he provided for them. A respectable man with a reliable name and excellent prospects was the ideal suitor for her. Still, such a man of wealth wouldn't have her for an acceptable wife. The other members of a potential husband's family would never accept what they thought was a charity case. Nor would they ever accept him as her brother. It was too late. Marked with bad blood, Roslyn became scorned to the status of a lowly whore in quality clothing. Months went by and marrying Roslyn off seemed impossible. Until one day when a man named Keller Luis Costa had wanted her hand in marriage.
Even now, a tightening feeling of repulsion entered in his stomach as he recalled meeting Keller. Leonardo still regretted opening the door and allowing his introduction. He remembered Keller had smiled at him, revealing his dull, sifted, and unnaturally pointed teeth. The young man's eager smile didn't calm Leonardo's uneasy feeling about Keller. It only made Leonardo more determined in his answer and course of action. Taking off his black wide-brim hat, Keller unveiled his head of thinning white hair. Even his eyebrows paled against his skin, appearing nonexistent. Keller’s thin lips turned even more pastel as they spread over his sharp features when he introduced himself.
            Blankly responding on cue, Leonardo flowed through the conversation as he looked the man over. Keller was homely with sunken eyes, a sharp pointed nose, and sloping light blue eyes. Keller appeared to be close to Roslyn's age, but he looked diseased and near death. The white skin on his hands contained no marks, and his face appeared smooth and waxy. Keller’s skin had a translucent sheen confirming a sickness plagued him enough to keep him from the elements for years. The weird combination of his appearance and pitch-black apparel shrouded him in an underlying viciousness.
However, what revealed the sinister thoughts of the smiling man was his eyes. The bluish-white orbs held promises of twisted desires and unnatural acts of pleasure. He remembered stopping Keller during his structured speech, and sternly told Keller he wouldn't condone the request for his marriage to Roslyn. Keller, of course, pressed his advancements harder intending to sway his mind. Nonetheless, Leonardo had firmed his statement, with a solidifying rejection. Unsatisfied with that response, Keller became enraged and slammed his stout hand against the closing door. His pale skin flushed with color, and his eyes turned whiter while he bared his stained teeth, revealing his blood-red gums. He even sounded different than moments before. His smooth voice turned to a deep snarl, demanding to know the reasons for his rejection.
Leonardo became alarmed and prepared to defend the doorway. He pressed his weight against it and hoped Roslyn wouldn’t walk down the stairs during their confrontation. He slowly reached for the pistol that he carried with him, which became a habit after the hired thugs had shot him. Leonardo remembered he had a firm grasp on the smooth wooden handle of the pistol. Not alarming Keller of the weapon, he had housed in the back of his trousers, Leonardo had managed to tell him to leave.
Keller lunged at him, and Leonardo had pulled the pistol from its hiding place. With a hard thrust, he pressed the barrel against Keller's chest and lingered it over his heart. A thick silence fell between them. Keller looked at his chest and snapped his cold gaze to him. Murderous thoughts occupied his emotions while logic and impulse created an inner turmoil. Noticeably, Keller slowly relaxed his stance, but his trembling hands made his fury purely clear. He glared at Leonardo and venom filled his words as he threatened him in Leonardo's native tongue. "Cuidado con la oscuridad, voy a matarte dentro de sus sombras!"
            Leonardo clenched his jaw as his anxiety turned into anger and replied coldly. "I like to see you try, bastard.” Upon those words, Keller gave him a tight smirk, left the front porch, and walked into the pouring summer rain. Leonardo slammed the door and locked it behind him as he ran the words of Keller’s threat through his mind. "Beware the dark; I’ll kill you within its shadows."  That was the last he had seen of Keller.
Several weeks passed when Roslyn had another caller come, but this time, it was by her invitation. Leonardo remembered walking into the house, and Roslyn was in a lover’s embrace with a strange tall man. Habitually carrying his weapon, Leonardo pointed the gun at him and demanded to know who he was. Unafraid of the gun and caught being with Roslyn, Eli walked with ease to Leonardo and introduced himself as her childhood friend, and then her fiancĂ©. Eli had quickly become part of the family, and in short order, they had married. I didn’t take long for Eli to gain the account books and the notes of debt that had accumulated under Roslyn’s name that Leonardo had credited. Furious to the point he appeared deadly calm, Eli paid all debt owed to the creditors and loaners with Leonardo shamefully in tow. Then began the growing resentment between them.
Now his arrogance made sense, Leonardo thought. Still lost in his memories to hide from the current torment of his body, he relived the night when the truth revealed the existence of creatures that had been real to him only in myth.
Learning since the beginning of civilization, Beast Bloods blended amongst humanity. During the day, they were watchers keeping their awareness sharp for threats. At night, Beast Bloods transformed and became the mortals’ protectors from the hidden evils the world owned. Through the centuries, there were times when the truth became known to the humans. But, uncomprehending of the purpose Beast Bloods had, fear ruled them. Breakouts of mass panic spread amongst villages and kingdoms. Mortals had set fires to the forests and the homes of the accused, destroying acres of land in hopes to draw out the werewolves. They slaughtered thousands of innocent people and drew the attention of countless demonic entities. During the years of destruction, over thousands of mortals and Beast Bloods died in the hysteria and chaos. Halfborns and Half-breeds prolonged the hunts after bodiless demons began possessing the youth. Then their numbers grew triple fold. Unable to fight the mortals to stop their courses of action, they had become fearful of being ousted. Pushing their purpose aside, Beast Bloods went into hiding to protect their families from the fires that would kill them. After that, the world went quiet.
Centuries passed, and humanity’s beliefs changed with the advancement of technology. Society forced analytical logic and the study of progressive sciences to explain their fears. The supernatural became tainted by reason and became nothing more than entertainment. Fortunately, this allowed the existence of Beast Bloods to become quickly forgotten. Even so, the few superstitious people who still believed dreaded an encounter with one and enabled the folklore around the world. Then over time, that’s what it had become; legendary.
Being a worldly man, Leonardo once thought the stories came from the deluded imaginations of the mentally altered. Until his viewpoint changed when he had an encounter of his own. Without much choice, Leonardo had become a lupinotuum pectinem. He hadn’t become bitten as the folk tales made one believe that’s how a mortal became a Beast Blood. A human must willingly drink the blood of a werewolf to become kindred. That’s how it had happened to him.
Given to him in a silver chalice, Leonardo drank the blood of his brother-in-law, Eli. He grimaced in his hatred when he thought of Eli and how it all began with a night out. As usual, the day started out with rounds of gambling and drinking tequila at a deteriorating tavern named The Wicked Snake. Being a creature of habit, it had ended with a dark haired, brown eyed, fair looking prostitute. Together they had nakedly indulged in the pleasures while tirelessly receiving his monies worth out of what she’d offered. Hours passed, and no longer could he endure the intoxicating mixture of drunkenness and endless release. Despite refusing to stop he’d eventually blacked out on the floor of the whore’s bedchamber.          
Sometime later, he’d awoken by a cold bucket of water splashing over him. The shock of the freezing water hitting his overly hot skin made him bolt upright in the chair. He’d felt a rush of adrenaline shooting through his body when gaining the awareness of being a captive in the middle of a moonlit cellar. He’d looked around the room in distress. Neither hearing or seeing anyone, he’d fought against the constraints that cut mercilessly into the soft flesh of his wrists. He knew he wasn’t an honest man and had made countless enemies that wanted him dead. Realizing he couldn't break free, Leonardo tried reasoning and pleading for his freedom. He even went as far as promising the gathering of money, assuming his abductors were hired thugs. After a noise had rang ears, he knew he wasn’t alone and waited for his captor to appear from the darkness that shrouded the solitary gleam of moonlight that had highlighted him.
Immediately, the grating squeak of an iron door sounded throughout the room. After a few moments of waiting for a gruff man to emerge from the darkness with a weapon in hand, he was shocked when he saw the angelic face of a smiling woman, whose flesh was hauntingly pale in the silver moonlight. Startled, he swallowed a large intake of breath and began coughing uncontrollably. The woman rushed into the beam of light, reaching out to him and he could finally recognize her as his sister, Roslyn. He put his head down as he relaxed his tense muscles while confusion crossed his rugged features. She looked apologetic but didn’t move further to help him. He remembered she was going to say something to him, but before she could, Eli's booming voice echoed around him in the spacious room.
Without the mincing of words, Eli revealed the secrets of his family name and their longevity as Beast Bloods. Then, he had appeared in the moonlight before he walked around him. Thus, he went ahead to tell Leonardo what he had turned Roslyn into and claimed it was his turn to become fully part of the clan. That’s why they’d tied him to a chair. They needed his full cooperation if he was to reign as a full member of the Santos family.
Broken from memory by another crippling round of pain, Leonardo screamed through his teeth. He recognized this stage of the progression. His muscles were tearing from the bones and tendons as they shaped into a distorted form. Accompanied by violent spasms and broken ribs, his body convulsed. Time was running out. He needed to transform, but it had to wait. He was more than halfway there to the tavern, and he couldn’t enter it already a monster. Gnashing his teeth together, he still proceeded through the pain and went back to his numbing thoughts. Scoffing aloud, realizing the naivety of his past beliefs, Leonardo remembered the skepticism even then. He thought it all was a cruel joke well played. He demanded to be set free from the accursed chair. However, they didn’t move and only gone ahead with what they had intended. Suddenly, Eli had gruesomely transformed in front of Leonardo by the will of the commanding moonlight. Eli’s black eyes never left Leonardo's fearful gaze.
It was then when Leonardo couldn't deny the truth of their story. He’d seen Eli transform and heard his sister’s conjoining screams of her metamorphosis come from the shadows behind him. The massive creatures they had become caused fear to clog his throat. The sight of blood, the undeniable sound of cracking, shifting bones as they took shape in their monstrous forms; it was still a fresh image in his mind. Then silently, Eli moved from the light into the shadowed darkness of the cellar. Leonardo couldn't see or hear what they were doing and cranked his neck as far as he could to see where they would emerge.
            After that, Eli's overly large hand, which looked to be a strange mixture of man and beast, had moved from the darkness into the shaft of moonlight. He still could picture Eli's clawed grasped around a silver chalice full of thickened blood. Eli had slowly thrust the glittering item in front of Leonardo's frightened face. He remembered looking up to see Eli’s silhouette was lightly touched by the silver light of the moon as his eyes glowed within the shadows. Leonardo had refused, but Eli shoved the cup up to his mouth. At that moment, Leonardo knew there wasn't a way to escape if he didn't drink the blood. Eli wouldn’t allow a separate way but this course of action. So, Leonardo had slowly nodded and willingly accepted the blood from the chalice, and had forceful encouragements to drink every bitter drop. Then, with a flick of a claw to his constraints, Leonardo was free to go. When he left the cellar, and entered in a familiar parlor room he’d realized he was in Eli’s family home. Suddenly, his head spun from the drink while his heart raced from fear. Overwhelmed, the world went black.
            It wasn't until the next morning at breakfast when he learned that it was Roslyn's wish to have him, her only sibling, become part of the clan. Touched by her gentle heart, he remembered embracing her tightly while starring grimly at Eli, knowing something more came with such a revelation of a well-kept secret and lifestyle. It was later that afternoon when Eli had pulled him aside and told him the responsibilities that came with the blood of a werewolf and being part of the Santos clan. Leonardo vaguely listened while only catching the information that would pertain to his selfish desires. The chance to live a thousand lives over in the constant pleasures he dabbled in was what most mortals in his position would kill to have. It was a second chance at a life that would last forever.
            Within the hour, the horrible sickness had come with endless chills from fever, tormenting pain, and gut-wrenching vomit. His mortal blood was thinning from his veins as the blood of the beast took over. When the night descended again, he awoke from his day of fitful rest and saw the moon gazing at him from the window like a childhood friend calling him out to play. In a trance he rose from the overly warm bed, naked. As if a hidden instinct controlled his body, he understood what he had to do to rid the ailment from his body. He walked through the field that laid behind the mansion Eli and Roslyn owned. Obediently, he waited for the moon to accept him into the blood. Then, it did. Quickly and painfully, his bones snapped. They twisted, bending into shape as blood poured through the ribbons of his falling skin. He shed his human bindings before completing his first transformation. There he stood bewildered and Eli, along with Roslyn, stood beside him and guided him through his first night being a newly born werewolf.

            Subjected to be forever his minion, Leonardo thought bitterly while the anger felt toward his brother-in-law caused his mind to race to the present and solidify his plan. He cursed his actions, and for being submissive to Eli’s command right from the start. A year had passed, and by his clan’s standards, he was still just a newborn werewolf. Frustration overcame him as well as more horrific pain which made him fall to his knees; dry heaving, and convulsing. For a moment more, he’d waited, but the vomit that stung his throat wouldn’t rise further. He was suffering by denying the moon his powerful ability, and once more cursed Eli for forcing this way of life on him.
It wouldn’t be irritating if I weren’t a slave to Eli’s command any longer. In defiance, Leonardo’s thought caused him to spit on the ground, and mumbled aloud, “I could kill him. Always telling me how to run my new life, treating me an unruly child.” Once more Leonardo retreated into his memory reliving the times when he’d go to his usual places of dwelling, and Eli would be there ready to drag him from his seat and forced from the tavern before a single drink could race down his gullet. Then he’d learned Eli had other members of the clan spy on him as he walked about the town. The tight rein on him was becoming even more constricting. Before he could lay down the cards or the women, Eli would be waiting for him to take him home. Everything he did became controlled, and his free will began to fade. The lines of tension between Eli and him were thin fraying pieces of rope that had finally snapped.
Today was the last goddamn time, he vowed. Several hours ago, Leonardo was asleep, sharing a bed with several paid women when Eli burst through the wooden door and startled them awake. Eli stomped to the middle of the room, his grim face and solid black eyes held unspoken anger directed at Leonardo. In one swift move, he’d tossed his clothes at him and turned around, waiting for him to assemble himself. Leonardo was instantly enraged. He couldn’t take the high-handed treatment anymore, withstanding another night of unspoken judgment that swam behind his hard features. Leonardo lunged from the bed and attacked Eli. Being the stronger opponent, Eli had grabbed him by the throat and threw him to the ground. He heard the women behind him scream in shock, and remembering he had a mortal audience; he commanded them to leave. Leonardo laid on his back staring blankly at the ceiling before Eli’s powerful body clouded his vision. Eli lifted him by the collar of his shirt and finally released his irritation. The cautionary words of Eli still rang through his head.You are a fucking fool for wasting yourself, Leonardo. No longer are you a mortal to remain this irresponsible. You're going to expose yourself and the clan. You’ll kill us all if you're not careful! That's why you are constantly under a watchful eye. Now, dress. You’re a disgrace to your name and your sister’s vision of you.’
       Hatred overcame him again as Leonardo spit on the ground at the thought. He would rather die before anyone told him how to run his life. Now, tonight, he oversaw his destiny. Not the clan, not his sister, and not the mighty clan master. He knew how they all viewed him, and he didn't care. So, he had decided to prove he was a leader. As the others moved like mindless animals to answer the Calling, he slipped from the group. He was going to bring Eli the dead Half breeds as a trade for his freedom from the clan. He wanted his old life back, but with all the benefits of his new one.
            Hearing something metallic scrap against the stone wall behind him, Leonardo stopped walking and broke from his bitter thoughts. The aura around him suddenly changed. He focused his highly sensitive hearing while trying to catch the slightest difference, but the sound was gone. After a few passing moments, his attention was on his plan again. He stood before the tavern, La Cabeza de la Cabra. He could hear the gruff voice of owner, a loud portly Spaniard named Rico, singing a crude melody about a woman’s sexual adventures. The crowd enjoyed every word he sang as the loud, rowdy cheers of excited men and lusty women replied on cue. Leonardo curled his lips to feign a relaxed smile as he walked forward, ready to transform inside. As he proceeded forward to the lively tavern, a new sound quickly entered his attuned hearing. The strange jangled noise grew increasingly louder on the stone path. Immediately recognizing the sound was of heavy boots swiftly running behind him, he spun around ready to attack.
They found me, he screamed in his head as he released a loud yell to his attacker. Leonardo's expression of fanatical anger faded as he gazed upon the empty alley. Expeditiously his mind began to place his hidden attacker strategically. He wasn't foolish enough to doubt his senses. Someone was there watching, playing with him, waiting for another moment to catch him off guard as they remained cloaked in the darkness. He coiled his body as an eerie tingling sensation crawled across his flesh. While he stared into the shadowed alley, the subtle breeze of ocean air blew harder. The wind swirled past him, teasing his long brown hair and his loose-fitting clothes. He could feel the wind growing cold, and the nature of the night had changed into something more sinister. Leonardo leaned his head back inhaling, filling his lungs with the chill air while searching for the unseen figure. His nostrils flared as the smell of mortals, food, and freshly spilled ale engulfed him. Within the dense mixture, he had caught the faint and familiar smell of iron and leather.            
            Leonardo's lime green eyes burst open becoming glowing orbs as the nocturnal sheen reflected them in the moonlight. He whipped around as he cast his gaze skyward finding his follower. Keller stood silent and unwaveringly still within the pale moonlight starring down at him from the rooftop of the tavern prepared for battle. Leonardo glared to see the rest of his face, but the eerie features of the man stayed hidden underneath a billowing hood. He noticed Keller had armed himself in tight, dulled ebony armor, which intermingled him to the darkness. Leonardo saw Keller’s gloved hands twitch in murderous anticipation near the black handles of the blades resting on his slender hips.

      He snarled, understanding Keller’s intent. "I see you're trying to keep your promise. I take it you've been following me for quite some time. You know what I am now." Leonardo hissed through his white, clenched teeth as he shot a piercing look at the unresponsive silhouette. "Since you're well equipped for our fight, then allow me to become prepared as well." Leonardo ceased to resist the Calling painfully and let it come forth. He felt his breath getting shorter while his heart pounded harder within his chest. Spreading his arms outward, Leonardo took a mocking bow toward Keller, pressing his hand to his heart. As he looked up at him, a dark flash crossed his features, and he flicked his eyes toward the full moon. Finally, Leonardo thought as he prepared for what was to come.
            His eyes enlarged as the possessive moon wielded its ancient power over his responsive body. Still bent forward, Leonardo's torso quickly twisted as his bones began to break. The silver light of the moon consumed his flesh as his blood boiled underneath his thinning skin. His echoing yells of agony filled the quiet alley while his casing began to tear across his expanding muscles. His bones started to puncture through his skin and blood ran down his mangled body in pouring streaks. He clawed at his clothing to free himself from the clinging material, which dripped with sweat and fresh blood. He fell to the ground holding himself up with his hands and knees while his screams became gurgled growls when his jaw broke, and his human features began to distort from the reformation of his skull. Leonardo could feel the grinding bones in his limbs and spine break only to elongate, mending to take shape into a massive creature. Twitching through the unbearable pain, chunks of his dermis fell from his body and into a black-crimson puddle. Fur darted over his tougher rejuvenating epithelium, completing the transformation.
            Suddenly Leonardo realized the music and laughter from the once lively tavern had stopped. Residing on all fours with his eyes focusing on the stone path, Leonardo inhaled deep, shaky breaths of air into his enlarged lungs. Quickly, he shook his matted deep brown fur of remaining flesh and blood and rose from the ground to stand on his hind legs. Piercing screams echoed in his ears as he caught sight of stumbling men and women pouring from the tavern after witnessing a man becoming a monster from legend. Realizing he had transformed in the public eye, Leonardo suddenly regretted leaving the others, but it was too late. The element of surprise was gone, and they all knew who he was. He looked back at the dispersing crowd and saw the three men he planned to kill escape. He couldn't kill them all even if he wanted too. He wouldn’t find them all in time to keep them from telling the rest of the city. Even if he could, Keller would prevent him from doing a complete job of it tonight.
Abruptly, Leonardo understood Keller had followed him from the moment he left the clan. He knew it was the perfect opportunity to stake his revenge, and Leonardo had played the greatest part of Keller’s plan. Regret filled his murderous anger as he snapped his glowing eyes on Keller's face. Leonardo started this and knew it needed to end tonight. He howled at his enemy in murderous fury.
            Keller laughed from the roof of the tavern in pleasure at the sight of Leonardo's dismay. "You are the strangest combination of fool and genius.” He paused for a moment to assess Leonardo’s thoughts and concluded. “I can see by the way you're watching me you know who I am. Ah, but how? How do you know me? You might remember me as the sentimental man of wealth and moral fiber wanting to marry your darling sister. But, then again, that was almost a year ago.” Keller challenged him. He had waited a full year to kill Leonardo, and now he had a cause to do it.
He laughed again seeing Leonardo hadn't a clue to who he truly was and what power he owned. "Let me enlighten you then. I am untouchable, wolf. Anything I say is truth to my Masters and the thousands of knights I command. I could kill you tonight and claim you were the long-awaited and feared werewolf. Then, I would still be the hero of my people and to your people, and no one would doubt me. Especially after your incredibly dramatic display here tonight. Although there maybe be one doubting man. Perhaps, your brother in law, Eli? He would doubt me, wouldn't he? Along with his clan. All those children, ready to turn. Their parents would doubt me."

            Leonardo loudly snarled from the implied threats, fearing for Roslyn's safety from the crazed man that brought back rushed dread and anxiety. His heart pounded fast in his, and he roared a threat of his own while taking a step forward to show he wasn’t going to stand down.

            Keller released another hearty laugh as he paced the edge of the roof. "Leonardo, I feel joyous tonight. I feel like celebrating because of how much of an idiot you are!” He pressed his tongue against the roof of his mouth and clicked. In a mocking scold, he shook his head in feigned disappointment before laughing at him again. "Slinking away from your clan just to transform in the middle of the city with hundreds of spectators watching your frightening performance.” He flicked a brow as his voice took a sly undertone. “I can use this to my advantage now. After I kill you, I’ll tell the Order Masters you were attacking everyone here. Thus, I simply did my job and protected the mortals with your death.” He heard Leonardo growl at him. “Who would say anything different; the innocent citizens that ran from the tavern? The Order?" He smiled maliciously. "No, tonight will be special for us. I'll do what I know best. You can struggle if you want, it'll just add to the immense pleasure I'll feel when I destroy you, demon."

            Leonardo growled and snapped as he yelled in his head. "You are truly more a demon than me. I’ve seen your soul, and it's blacker than any sin I have committed!"

            Keller rolled his eyes as he removed the hood from his head and began walking the edge of the roof, back and forth. "You know I can't understand you, but, I'm sure you said that you’ve repented and now want to die.” In a flippant tone, Keller switched thoughts. “Maybe, your whole clan is evil with the tainted blood of the demon werewolf? All of you will soon become free from the curse, Eli, had put upon you. After you die, Eli will too. Then, of course, there is the matter of Roslyn, which I'm sure is now a corrupted soul too.” Keller tauntingly said as his face darkened. “While I'm thinking about it, she'll be the last one I'll have destroyed. Being the commanding leader in my army, I'm sure I could keep her alive. But, only long enough until I've had my fill of her tight little body. Unless I get bored with her. Maybe I'll kill her while I’m getting off -.”
Hearing enough of Keller’s demented desires, Leonardo's rage couldn’t remain held any longer. He released an ear-piercing howl while darting toward Keller. Leaping from the alleyway, he landed on the second story balcony of the tavern. Digging the claws of his hands and feet into the thick wood siding, he quickly scurried toward the rooftop. He could hear Keller taking his swords from their sheaths and his heeled boots stomped along the edge of the roof. Swords ready, Keller leaned forward to see the side of the building. Expecting to find Leonardo's strong form clawing upward, Keller became dumbfounded nothing was there. His eyes dilated wider to see clearer within the darkness of the alley below. He saw nor heard anything. "Where are you, bastard dog." Keller harshly whispered in the dark.
In reply, a puff of hot breath breezed against the back of his neck. Spinning around, he saw Leonardo’s shining green eyes and snarling fangs. Before Keller could react, Leonardo’s razor-sharp claws sliced gouging streaks into Keller’s unmarked face. Taken back, Keller flung himself from the deathly blows of Leonardo's claws. In fluid reaction, he swiped a blade across Leonardo's exposed chest. Forgetting his place on the edge of the roof, Keller began to lose his balance when he stepped back. In reflex, Leonardo grabbed his slender throat preventing his fall. In a quick motion, he turned around and slammed Keller’s body through the slate roof.
            Shards of red slate and splintering wood exploded from the impact of Keller's body going through the ceiling. Falling to the second story floor, Keller landed flat on his back on a wooden table. He heard the crunching of glass bottles underneath his body as a whoosh of air deflated from his lungs. Disoriented from the fall, he tried to focus his vision by looking through the vast hole in the ceiling. But the light from the burning oil lamps in the spacious room made it impossible to peer outward. Materializing from the air, Leonardo jumped through the gap, watching Keller roll off the table the last second before his body landed on top of him. Keller bustled off the ground. Reaching behind him, he removed hidden daggers from the crossed sheaths on his back. Keller grabbed the handles of the weapons and launched them in a precise sequence as Leonardo marched toward him. Swiftly, Leonardo dodged the first dagger with ease while the second knife shattered an oil lamp into bursting flames as it stuck into the wall behind him. Leonardo roared with pain as several had pierced through his chest. He fell on his knees.
            Keller swelled with victory at the sight of his opponent falling. He relished in the sound of the daggers slicing through Leonardo's thick skin. He saw the flames of the broken oil lamp licking the side of the walls. It began spreading to the tossed blankets on the large, wooden bed. The room became brighter as the fire greedily consumed all in its way. Keller hastily walked to Leonardo. Before he reached him, Leonardo stood back up, blocking most of the light of the inferno behind him. Gnashing his teeth together, Leonardo glared at Keller's smug face in defiance. Slowly, he pulled each dagger from his chest, and dropping the last blade to the ground; blood streamed from the wounds. As soon as the knives were gone, Leonardo's skin quickly mended together. Straightening himself to stand on his feet, Leonardo looked more monstrous than before. More than eager to finish the quarrel as the victor, he howled an ear-piercing battle cry. Unexpectedly he heard a howl merge with his own and knew Eli was nearby. His ears perked, and he turned to the sound of Eli's forthcoming. Pride overcame him. If he killed the betraying Commander of the Holy Order, Eli would respect him and would be forever in his debt.  
            Keller uncovered his ears from the thunderous bellow as a fury, hotter than the flames that surround them, burst forth. While screaming at the top of his lungs, he dropped his hands and charged at Leonardo, catching him unaware. Together they entered the inferno of the flames.

            Eli had smelled Leonardo's blood on the stone walls and followed the undeniable scent. Running past a sleeping mortal, he was unsure if Leonardo left his blood behind to throw him off his trail. However, it was the howl of fighting rage that confirmed Eli was on the right path. He released a cry of passing outrage and rising trepidation. Leonardo's well-being was the fuel that drove him harder through the dark alleyway. Sending a quick prayer to the heavens, Eli ran through the engulfing black smoke. Swirling puffs filled the sky, blackening the light of the moon and creating stark darkness. Eli blended in from the jet-black color of his fur. The suffocating smoke stung his eyes, burned his throat as it filled his lungs. Knowing he had to get out of the smoke, he ran even harder through it. Quickly, he leaped from the stone path several feet onto a wall and catapulted himself to the rooftop on the opposite side. While emerging from the clouds of smoke, Eli's swollen black eyes mirrored the burning tavern. He rapidly searched his surroundings and couldn't see Leonardo anywhere.
Suddenly, Leonardo's screams of agony within the burning flames of the hellfire broke through, and his heart stopped. His worst nightmare had become a reality. Eli ran across the roofs of the buildings trying to reach Leonardo in time. He saw the flames were progressing and bursting through the windows on the lowest level of the tavern.
            With every passing second, the flames weakened the wooden structure, and the chances of saving Leonardo were thin. Leonardo's howls become faint compared to the drying timbers loudly cracking. He saw the roof of the building collapsing inward. In a sudden explosion of fire, flaming embers and debris flew through the night sky. Smoke billowed in the form of a mushroom cloud from the shifting building. Eli quickly halted, and the momentum of his speed caused him to skid across the roof and fall on his side.
He couldn't hear the horrific cries of Leonardo and knew death had consumed him with the flames. Eli's heart sank into his stomach as it churned in revulsion. He arrived a moment too late to save his brother in law. Eli became overwhelmed by the mixture of emotions that had reigned over him. He had failed. Eli closed his eyes while gathering enough breath. In a sharp cry, he released a haunting howl that echoed through the roars of the fires. After a few seconds, he slowly opened his eyes. A dull shine reflected from across the abyss and caught his eye. Through the smoke and flame, he saw a tall, thin man clad in ebony armor standing on the other side of the fiery pit watching the building burn. He recognized the man at once. Eli could see that ash and blood covered Keller’s burnt face as his glittering, smoky white eyes held a victorious sheen. Eli carefully listened as he began to speak to the flame in increasing volume.

            "Once I told you to beware the dark, that I would kill you within it. After a year passing, I've kept my word. I might not have killed you in the dark, but I found you and killed you with fire. With your charred body, I'll make one more promise that I will keep. No matter how long it takes or wherever I must go, I will kill Eli, and I will have Roslyn for myself. I promise you that. She'll become lowlier than your fucking whores. If you hadn’t denied me, she would've been my wife, and you might have lived longer if you would've just given me her as I wanted! She could've been my wife and me as your brother in law! We could've been family!" Keller shouted violently.
Then, in a flash, he quickly cocked his head and raised his hand as if to settle his violent emotions. After a few seconds of composing himself, he continued to speak again to Leonardo's dead body. "Then once I've had enacted every torment I could do to her, I will fuck her one more time. I will leave her still warm body to the those that would do their worse to a corpse.” In the far distance, he heard the chime of a church bell. He sneered. “A call to my brethren. I will meet my men and tell them of my side of this sad story. Under my command, they’ll set your clansmen on fire. Happy rotting in hell and taking my place, Leonardo.”

            Roslyn. Eli thought of his wife as the shock from the words radiated throughout his body. After Keller had spat on the fire and left, Eli took that as his cue to leave as well. At breakneck speed, he ran back to Roslyn knowing she would be on the property of his ancestral home with the other werewolves. Eli cursed at himself knowing a larger group was an easy target for the Order to trap and kill. He was indeed living his worst nightmare. The same people that he had trusted had put mark of death upon his family. He snapped his snout and bellowed loudly. If Eli would’ve known sooner, he could’ve cleared the situation before turning Leonardo into a Beast Blood. Then, all that had happened and all that’s going on now could've become prevented. Visions of Roslyn's death clouded his mind. He shook his head desperately trying to clear his mind of all cynical thought. However, horrific images of his people dying plagued his mind. He pushed himself to run faster and harder to rescue Roslyn and to save the others before it was too late for them as well.

The Origin of Escape (Beast Blood)

The Origin of Escape
Raven Eye Castle, Wick, Scotland
August 23rd, 1515

lexandria! Come out, right now, you incorrigible lowlander whore. I know what you have done. All the bloody clans see what you have done. You have made a mockery of me lying with him, and you are now...,” Frances let out a loud, raspy scream. “I’m going to kill you. Show yourself to me, Alexandria. Nona, old barren shrew! I know you’re with her, and I’m going to kill you too for shrouding her from me! I know you both can hear me from wherever you’re hiding,” Frances yelled as he stormed the dark corridors looking for them.
            Alexandria’s hazel eyes grew larger as she heard her husband's thunderous approaching footsteps accompanied by his roars of vehemence. They echoed murderously through her private parlor, through the connecting wall and sounding into her bedchamber from which she was escaping. She’d known Frances would have eventually come for her when he read the letter, but in the nervous moments, she still became paralyzed with the immense dread of it becoming real.                                
“My Lady, you have to move more quickly. He's in the parlor making haste to here. Hurry inside and shut the doors. I must get you out of this place.” Nona pleaded in a hushed tone laced with worry.           
Alexandria stared perplexedly at her elderly companion, Nona, as fear radiated through her numb body, cementing her in her place, and yet, she found herself following the frantic demands and closed the wardrobe doors. Once they were both inside securely, a sliver of candlelight poured through the weak seal of the doors, and she could see Nona moving her trembling hands along the inside walls of the closet trying to find the notch that promised their escape. Suddenly a loud crash of shattering glass and overturned furniture radiated through the tense silence followed by Frances bellowing her name. Nona jumped, and Alexandria’s stomach churned harshly in response to how near he was to them, and vomit pushed up into her throat. Frances had already beaten her last night until she had bled from her nose and mouth until she began to cry. He’d raped her poor bruised body until he made himself come inside of her anus. Now that he knew of her infidelity, there was no doubt he would kill her with a swipe of his sword across her neck as he’d always threatened to do. Through a dry throat, her voice sounded small and scratchy as she eagerly begged the elderly woman to hasten her search.
 “Oh God, Nona, be swift. He’s in here.” Shuddering, she pressed her face against the cabinet doors, observing through the space between them as Frances stomped throughout her chambers like a rampant beast. He was so close to her; she could smell the irrefutable scent of whiskey that clung to his skin and sparse clothing.
Drunkenly he cut into the tapestry of her family crest with his dagger while breaking her perfume bottles on her vanity table with the swipe of his arm. Unsatisfied with the destruction thus far, Frances set his bloodshot eyes on her four-poster bed and began chopping at the posts before he’d ripped the heavy wool curtains down.

            “Are you hiding in there, whore!” He said in a slurred bellow that sounded out in a spent breath.

Alexandria saw the look of disappointment fill his once hopeful green eyes before hatred clouded them once more. He sneered, and in a quick movement, he flipped her bedding across the floor and vigorously stabbed her mattress with his longsword accompanied with a few jabs with his dagger. Feathers cascaded with each rise and fall of the violent plunges of his weapons. Alexandria knew he wished it was her taking the brunt of his actions, and with that thought, more acidic bile had stung the back of her throat. She swallowed it back down, hoping for relief, but none came. Alexandria clutched her bag of jewels and her pearl rosary tighter as he looked toward the wardrobe before he looked under the bed. Hitching her breath, she stayed incredibly still while Nona still searched for the well-concealed notch.
“I found it, Miss.” She heard Nona whisper and experienced a small touch of relief. With the button found, Alexandria saw her press the indent inward to activate the sizable wooden panel on the back of the wardrobe to slide open. They crouched low, leaning on the padding of their slippered feet gazing into the darkness of the small passageway that promised to lead them to freedom.
“My Lady, you must go first. If he caught me, I would only take a beating, but he will kill you. Do you understand?” Frances yelled again when he couldn’t find them under the bed and began knocking down her bookcases. Nona quickly grabbed Alexandria’s head to turn it to face her sensing she was unmoving from her dread. “Now listen to me. You’re a smart lass. I know you understand, and I know you're afraid, but you must be brave. Now go, I’ll be right behind you.” 
Alexandria looked at the fragile, but resolute elderly woman in front of her, and knew she was right. The years of torment and constant abuse had broken her, but she had to be strong, especially for the growing life within her. Alexandria began to enter the passageway; however, it was Frances’s stomping boots approaching the wardrobe that made her quickly taper her cotton skirts and plunge through the opening headfirst with alacrity.
“Close the panel, Nona,” she hissed while bustling deep into the cool shaft. She felt the texture of the floor change from the smooth oak of the wardrobe to the rough floor of the stone tunnel, as it grazed her delicate hands. “Hurry,” she said as her eyes adjusted to the blinding darkness, but it was useless.

“I’m right behind you.” Nona quickly turned around and barred the short, thick board across the brackets before Frances could open them. The doors jiggled violently, creaking against the metal.

France swore as he clattered the wooden doors once more trying to free them open, “Damn your blood! Damn that bastard your carrying, Alexandria! May he die just all the last had!”

Upon hearing his cruel words echo through the short tunnel around her, Alexandria felt her body flush with horror from the memory of her miscarried son and sobbed. The pressure of her withheld emotions came hard, hitching her breathing to barely a breath. Sorrow and regret filled her, and warm tears dawdled against her hot skin until the small droplets pooled down her cheeks. Crawling with some measure of strength that laid untapped within her soul, she moved onward allowing her instincts to guide her further away from that devil of a man she’d once loved long ago.

“He’s a vile man, Miss. May God take him soon.” Nona said in hopes to give Alexandria comfort, but no such feeling reflected on the young woman’s pained visage nor did her crying cease.

Moving several more feet into the dark passageway, Alexandria thought of her lover, Lord Baron Laycerath Edwin McKenzie making his way through the same tunnel when he’d come to see her during the late hours of the night. Her stomach rolled from the decedent thoughts and quickly shook her head to make the plaguing memories go away. Deciding to turn her attention to call upon divine intervention, she began thanking the Almighty that her pregnancy was in the early months and couldn’t hinder her swift movement, and then quietly begged for God to have mercy and save all their lives. She finished with a plea. Lord, if not for Nona or me, let it be for the innocent soul that grows within me.
Unexpectedly, she became startled from of her thoughts when she felt a warm gripping hand clutch around her ankle. Instinctively, she kicked back. “No, no! Don’t kick back. It’s just me, Miss. The panels closed, remember? We’ve escaped. He won’t find us in here,” she heard Nona say.
Forgetting briefly of her prayer as her shattered nerves clouded her valor, she recalled her husband hadn’t known about her hidden tunnel. He won’t find us in here. Alexandria thought and almost laughed aloud until her logic laced with anxiety had chimed making the trepidation return, Unless, Laycerath told him through his gloating letter. Alexandria let her emotions fuel her harsh tone, “Where was he, Nona?”

Nona answered, “He was rummaging under the bed again thinking we were hiding there, Miss. However, remember he commanded the guards to scout for us. They might be patrolling the forest by now.”
 With that reminding knowledge, Alexandria knew the odds weren’t in her favor, but she believed that God, despite her mortal sin, heard her prayer and provided mercy on her plight, and that gave Alexandria a glimmer of comfort in the resulting escape.


The minutes stretched to a slow passing hour as Alexandria and Nona appeared from the tunnel onto a winding stairwell and down a long corridor. Growing tired from their fast-paced escape and from the anxiety that weighed their minds, the immediate threat of danger seemed to have passed, but they knew it was only an illusion. The tunnel was void of noise from the world above, yet their imaginations played with their logic and dictated the reality of what could have been occurring in their absence. Alexandria imagined the castle was in ruin by now as Frances made his way through it, mistreating the servants as he stormed by, killing those in his way, and ruling harshly over the household as she fled. He wouldn’t stop searching until he found her dead or alive, but she had no idea where he was and not a clamor from the castle ever reached the depths of the hidden passage. It was only the sounds of their haggard breathing, shuffling feet, and the thoughts that screamed in their head that had packed the silence until they finally reached the ending point of the maze.
Alexandria broke the taciturnity and croaked, “I see the moonlight.” She saw slivers of blue light breaking through the thick blanket of hanging moss and tree roots that hid the entryway’s existence from anyone who might’ve been wandering the forest. “We've made it outside the castle and the property.” She heard Nona’s sigh of relief as they continued into the clearing. As she poked her head out from the veiled opening, the glimmer blinded her eyes as they adjusted to the well-lit night. Once she could see again, Alexandria scanned her surroundings and listened. After a few moments, she neither saw nor heard anything. “I believe it’s safe to press on.”                                                                     
Nona appeared from the damp corridor hidden in the steep mounding hillside, and she smoothed out her cotton skirts while viewing the surroundings. They arrived in the heavily timbered valley that sat between the two Lord Barron’s lands, and by the blood red tartan that was nailed to a tree no more than twenty feet away from the opening, Nona knew that they had emerged onto McKenzie land. Coming to terms that Alexandria was Mistress to Lord McKenzie, she naturally asked. “Are we seeking refuge with the McKenzie’s, Miss?” 
Alexandria tried to go to Laycerath only a fortnight ago, but she found he used her for his selfish pleasure and sought vengeance against Frances. He turned her, her proclamation of love and their child away for the twisted game he played with Frances. Alexandria remembered it had all begun with the war. That’s when Frances became a monster and Laycerath was there to give her comfort. Alexandria felt a jolt of longing and sentimental placement within her chest, and close herself against it, refusing its existence. She thought back on the promises he made; he would love her for all eternity, and he’d take her away from her neglectful and womanizing husband, and together they would face the world. Alexandria could spit on the ground at the thought of his lies, and for being a gullible child that allowed herself to fall into that arrogant bastard's bed. Despite it once being a sweet release, his tenderness was only vindictive the moment she had fallen in love with the Leviathan. Suddenly, Alexandria vowed not to be absent-minded ever again and take full control of her life. Recovering the bravery that she had in her early youth, she began to trudge through the woods answering Nona in all seriousness, “We walk to the shipyard. The night and the forest will be our cover until we’ve made it to town and can gain access on board. If we go now, we’ll arrive before dawn. I have my jewels. That’ll give us passage on a cargo ship.”                  
Nona looked away from Alexandria and sighed again. “Cargo? They have finer ships that your jewels will gain. Miss, with your condition a three-hour walk could be fatal to the child. Let alone the journey abroad could prove deadly for you or the child. Maybe we can seek a host out of Mary- Ellan in the village?”
Alexandria whipped around so fast she had startled the older woman, but continued by harshly cutting off the rantings, “I’m pregnant, Nona, not dead yet; and Frances won’t expect me to stow away on a blasted cargo ship. He’ll look on the luxurious others. I won’t take myself to Mary. She’s been a true, noble friend, and my bad fortune won’t seek her out. I must leave this country. My parents are dead; my husband is a monster as much as the man who sired this child. My affair is notorious among the rest of the gentry; I’m ashamed, Nona. He’ll find me in Scotland, and he’ll send us to the dungeons to be tortured and raped by all his men until he’s ready to kill us with a public execution. I only have you now, but if you want to stay, then stay, but I have no other choice. I must go to the New World.” She saw Nona’s round bright blue eyes sparkle with thoughts and challenge as her pasty wrinkled face squirmed from indecision. Alexandria knew she wanted to discourage the plan even further but had nothing more to say. Fortunately, Nona held her tongue, silently agreeing to the impetuous plan. Satisfied, Alexandria turned around and began walking toward the small village of Wick. This arrangement was their only alternative, and her freedom meant everything to her. Life and her choices had led her to a pressed conclusion; she would be her own woman; no man’s will can ever sway her again. Daybreak will bring her a fresh start, and she would grow into her own wherever God wanted to lead her.
Alexandria looked over the vast lands of Scotland for the last time. In the distance, Raven Eye Castle stood proudly on the hillside, domineering in beauty and strength. She had called it home for years, loved everything about it, and now it looked like a haunted prison in which she had fled. Feeling one last pang of uncertainty and dread, Alexandria hurriedly looked away from what she was leaving behind, and in the corner of her eye, she noticed how the moonlight struck the blood-red eyes of the snarling silver wolf head that adorned her right hand. As she looked into its ruby stare, Alexandria remembered the peculiar words her mother said the day she married Frances and received the strange ring.      
Alexandria impulsively whispered it to herself the obscure words.After today you're forever bound to the wolves; it's your destiny." She remembered the unhappy look on her mother’s face as she placed the beautiful ring in her hand and closed it with her long, thin fingers. She gave her a gloomy smile before she’d kissed her cheek and walked away. Alexandria didn’t understand that day, or even now, what the evocative words meant, but she had a feeling she was going to find out soon. The frigid wind started to rise, blowing her long blonde hair away from her face, and its cool touch had brought her back to the present. She took the brisk gale as a signal to follow her path and start moving. She looked to Nona, who’s white frizzy hair that popped wayward from her bonnet matched her visage of chaos and trepidation. Alexandria’s heart reached out to her friend and felt sorry for putting her through so much in the past years. “Come on, Nona,” Taking a deep breath gave her a slight touch on her arm and started walking. Together they journeyed to the shipyard.


             Silently scouting from inside the treetop to wait for Frances to arrive, Laycerath hopped the man would be in the middle of the forest to look for his runaway wife, especially since he’d let him know of the tunnel he used to continuously sard his wife for the past year. He smugly thought, Serves him right, the pious bastard. He fated me to this existence; I’ll send him right to his.                 

The moon had reached the highest point in the inky sky, and he was at full strength; all the ready to slaughter those who tried to keep him from completing his goal. Alerted by a faint rustle from the brush line he prepared his position to attack but was disturbed to see Alexandria and her elderly nursemaid scurry from the property border in haste. Knowing she’d had locked the doors to keep Frances from reaching her while they used the tunnel to escape, Laycerath had to modify the location of death he’d planned for her Lord husband. Relaxing his attack, he watched them with a personal interest as he quietly slunk through the branches of the tree, edging closer to where they stood. He could smell the fear on her mixed in with the rosewater she used on her velvety skin. With a deeper inhale of the air, he picked up on her pheromones; life indeed grows strong within her belly. My child, he smugly thought as he inched around her undetected. She started to speak, and he stopped moving. However, she still didn’t notice his presence and continued talking to the elderly woman of her plans to escape to the New World. Nevertheless, staying cautious, he made his way to the dark passageway to finally kill Frances.