It wasn’t long before Anya found herself alone with Isabel trundling along in a coach. The small red haired child gleefully giggling and pointing to houses as they travelled along.
She didn’t quite know why she’d been bought; between Raeanne who was beyond consolation at the absence of her daughter and Maegan who was feeling hurt an angry she certainly felt there was more than enough for her to do at home. Besides what good would she been against the inquisition? Surely Allard or Arabella or even Christopher would be a better companion on this journey.
She’d asked Allard what possible help she could be and the older man had merely told her to trust in Isabel’s judgement. ‘Isabel’ had a way of knowing things mortal’s did not he had said.
It had taken the best part of the night to arrive back in Brightden and when they arrived Isabel suddenly broke from her child like babbling. “I can smell blood” she announced, “Many have died here tonight”
Anya didn’t answer but her stomach which was already lurching at the thought of being here, somersaulted.
“Which way to the church?” the red head asked.
“That way” Anya mumbled pointing.
Calling to the driver Isabel ordered him the head towards it and reaching its doors Isabel’s assessment appeared correct. The church seemed busy for such a late evening and as the drew up outside men could be seen ferrying large sack’s from the church out into the courtyard and up onto a wagon. As she stared at the wagon, she could see blood seeping out onto the cloth in a dark stain revealing the gristly nature of their contents.
“Did the Baron do this?” she asked nervously.
“I don’t know” Isabel replied grimly, “If he did we are in serious trouble”
“What do we do?”
“We need to find out what’s happening. Go and speak with them… see if anyone’s seen your niece or the Baron”
“They won’t talk to me” Anya reasoned.
“They will talk to you, more than they will talk to me” the little girl reasoned.
Nodding Anya understood, she opened the door the coach and headed across the street to where the men worked. Recognising a noblewoman they straightened as she approached.
“Milady” one of the nodded, hurrying forward to meet her. A look of concern and surprise drawn across his face. “This is no place for a lady, How can I help you?”
“I’m looking for me niece” she replied, “a little dark haired girl. Have you seen her?”
“Yes have you seen her”
“Yes Milday, I believe a young girl was found wandering the village a few hours ago. She was taken to the lords house”
Anya let out an involuntary sigh of relief, at least Skye was safe. “And a man, my husband have you seen him? Baron Dacre?”
“What does he look like?” the man asked, looking nervously back toward the bodies.
“He usually wear’s a red coat, he has very long black hair. His clothes will have been very fine” she replied her heart sinking and her voice breaking. Was he dead? Had the inquisition killed him… she was still unsure about the idea of playing wife to some sort of un-natural creature, but in that instant she realised she was even less ready to play widow.
“No Milday, I haven’t seen anyone of that description” the man replied.
“Are you sure?” she asked looking blatantly towards the wagon holding the body’s now as another was stacked up onto the pile.
“Yes Milady” the man replied “I am certain, there is no nobleman there”
“Thank you” she replied, nodding she headed back towards the coach.
Within minutes they drew up outside The Baeumonts estate. She had never visited it before and was surprised how unassuming the building was, closer kin to a rich merchant than a lords home. The house seemed quiet and all was still.
“It will be dawn soon” Isabel chirped.
Anya nodded, the familiar glow was already cresting behind the house. “Will you be alright?” she asked.
“I’ll be fine” Isabel smiled, hoping down from the coach and running towards the front door.
Following her she looked at it nervously, one did not generally knock on nobleman’s doors unannounced and even less before dawn, but before she could even suggest waiting a while, Isabel banged noisily on the door knocker giggling with every knock.
It wasn’t long before a gentleman answered. “Yes?” he asked looking somewhat confused and somewhat disgruntled.
“I’m sorry to bother you” Anya began, “I’ve been told my niece could be here?”
“Oh… yes” the man nodded, seeming to suddenly understand the reason for the un-sociable calling hour “Come in” he smiled “I’m afraid your niece and the Lord are both still sleeping”
“That’s alright” she smiled “I’ll wait, if you’ll allow?
“Yes” the man agreed, “Come into the lounge, I’ll have the cook make you a cup of tea if you’d like”
“I don’t want to be a bother” she smiled.
“No bother” the man decided, “She’s up baking bread anyway”
In the lounge Isabel quickly found some of Eadric’s toy’s to play with while they waited and it wasn’t too much longer after that when Eadric’s voice could be heard all across the house. “Wakey Wakey” he squealed.
“I guess no one sleeps in late” Anya chuckled, suddenly finding herself exhausted from been up all night.
Eventually a tired and somewhat hazy Lord Baeumont appeared carrying a small and somewhat impatient Eadric in his arm’s entered the lounge. “Morning” he grumbled.
“Morning” Anya smiled, finding this rarely seen side of the nobleman a refreshing change. She normally found the nobleman harsh and somewhat unwelcoming though in truth she’d never really spent any time getting to know him.
“Only his Papa would do this morning” Lord Baeumont, informed them. Seeming clearly unimpressed, by being woken so early.
“At least your well enough liked, to be wanted” Anya replied, for the first time considering her pregnancy in terms of the result. In just a few months she’d have her own ‘little wake up call’ and she wondered if her baby would call for her …. Or if it would call for its papa?
“Are you any good with children?” Lord Baeumont asked bluntly.
“I have sister’s” Anya replied.
“Good…. Here” he replied shoving Eadric into her arms. “Come with me, while I sort his breakfast and we can talk”
“Yes of course” she nodded.
“Hiya!” Eadric grinned, not wanting to be ignored, nor seeming to mind being palmed off on the noblewoman.
Following Valdermar to the kitchen as the cook prepared Eadric’s breakfast. It was a very open house much smaller than any noble house she’d been into before. The kitchen and dining room together. It was an odd thing to watch the cook, prepare breakfast while you sat at the table.
Placing Eadric in his chair she looked on nervously. While Isabel who had followed from the lounge came and started to play with him.
“Who is she?” Valdermar nodded towards the redhead, seeming to notice her for the first time. “Is she one of your sisters?”
“No” Anya replied.
“I’m a friend of Baron Dacre” Isabel interrupted, look back with a grin.
“A friend?” he queried.
“Yes a friend” she replied bluntly “The sort of friend who will need a bed for the day, I was thinking of visiting with your sister. If you had no objections?”
Valdermar’s face fell as the realisation hit him and for the first time Anya realised Lord Baeumont also knew of Vampires.
“Your one of them?” he asked, clearly shocked. He suddenly took a protective step towards Eadric.
“I’m not going to hurt him” Isabel giggled.
“The baron said he’d told you” Lord Baeumont replied, half turning his attention back to Anya. The fear in his voice evident. “He said you didn’t take the news well”
“I didn’t” she agreed, “but I’m getting used to it. How’s Skye?”
“Skye… she’s fine… at least she seems unhurt.. but she won’t speak, not a word since we found her”
Anya nodded, “Have you seen the Baron?” she asked.
“No… Why is he here?”
“I was hoping he would be. We can’t find him”
“Mommy I’m tired” Isabel yawned. It was the most un-natural of yawn’s forced the way a child would when pretending to be sleepy.
“Lord Baeumont, Do you have somewhere she can sleep?” Anya asked. Noticing the light outside was getting bright though the windows.
“Only… only the cellar” he muttered, “But my sister uses it. I couldn’t be sure it would be safe”
Isabel giggled, “Risa won’t hurt me, unless she wants to die”
“Very well” Valdermar nodded “It’s the door under the stairs in the hall”
“Thank you” Isabel grinned, kissing Eadric on the forehead, before coming and demanding goodnight kiss’s and cuddles from ‘mommy’
There was an un-certain silence, Valdermar clearly shaken and suddenly highly nervous. However it was quickly broken, when Eadric decided to use the table before him as a drum.
“I did have some news for your husband” Lord Baeumont began, as he placed the bowl the cook gave him down on the table in front of Eadric. “He was going to do me a favour. If you find him can you tell him I need to see him urgently?”
“Yes of course” Anya nodded.
“Thank you” he nodded, “Can you watch him a moment and I’ll go and see if your niece is awake?” Agreeing she watched as the lord disappeared.
He wasn’t gone long and Eadric was more than capable of keeping her occupied in the meantime.
When he returned, Skye followed behind. She’d barely got into the room before the little girl burst into tears and ran headlong into Anya’s arm’s.
“Oh Skye where have you been?” she gasped, “We’ve all been so worried”
“They are all dead” Skye sobbed, “He killed them all”
“Who did?” Anya begged, “Who?”
“The Baron” Skye replied not looking up for a minute.