Instalment 16 of DEMON INTERRUPTED: A Lakeland Witches Story
I hope you’re all enjoying Things that Go Hump on the Night as much as I am. What a fabulous line-up of the very best erotica writers we’ve had, and will continue to have all through October! It’s a month-long feast of paranormal chills, thrills and total sexiness — not to mention fabulous giveaways. And DO be sure to check out the fabulous giveaways and take advantage of lots of chances to win on the rafflecopter at the end of this post.
Also, if you’ve missed any of the exciting posts and chances to win from the first 10 days of Things that Go Hump in the Night, follow this link to the Calendar of Events, and here is the link to Day One.
BUT today, it’s my turn to bring you another instalment of Demon Interrupted.
As you’ve probably noticed, there has been more than one episode of Demon Interrupted, every three weeks recently. That’s because, like most
stories, DI took on a life of its own and would not be wrapped up quite as quickly and as easily as I planned at the beginning. That means that instead of the fourteen episodes I had originally planned for this serial, there will be seventeen. The series will still end on Halloween, the last day of Things that Go Hump in the Night.
And enjoy the scary, sexy, excitement of Things that Go Hump in the Night. Remember, the fun lasts all through October.
If you’ve missed the previous episodes of Demon Interrupted, find the links at the bottom of this instalment.
Enjoy Chapter sixteen, and thanks for joining the fun with this Work in Progress. If you want to read more about the Elemental Coven’s sexy adventures, check out the Lakeland Witches Trilogy: Body Temperature and Rising, Riding the Ether and Elemental Fire. Happy, reading!
The shepherd nearly upset his cooking pot and fell back against the meagre stone ledge that served as a bed. ‘Milord, what are you doing here?’
It was then that Ferris realised he was wearing Farringdon’s body. The man had tried to run from his nightmares, but Ferris had taken advantage and rode him into the woods and into a cave. There he’d led the man deep into the winding tunnels and let him believe he was lost there in the dark, that no one would ever find him except for the demon that he ran from. As long as Farringdon clung to life, he would never be free of the demon. And in truth, the man would not live much longer. Ferris had become bored with his incessant grovelling and whining and grew impatient to get back to his little witch.
Ferris turned his attention back to the shepherd. ‘They all think you’re dead. They think she killed you and done away with your body. They come for her last night and took her off to the gaol, they did.’
The flesh that he wore suddenly felt icy and the heart in the chest he now controlled beat a wild tattoo. ‘They have taken her? They have taken Elaine?’
‘Yes milord. They thought you was dead.’ He squinted at Ferris. ‘In truth you don’t look so good, milord, shall I serve you some porridge.’
‘As you can see, I’m not dead. I’m perfectly fine.’
‘They don’t know that, do they? Everyone knows you think she’s a witch. Everyone’s afraid of her, and the way you look, who knows what vile magic she worked on you, even if she didn’t kill you.’
‘There is nothing vile about Elaine!’ Ferris backhanded the poor shepherd, who fell back on the bed and covered his bleeding nose with his hand.’
‘Please, milord, I meant no disrespect.’
‘I’ll return to High Moor and when they see that I am unharmed, they will release her into my care.’
The shepherd sniffed and wiped his nose on his sleeve. ‘Then you best hurry, milord. The elders are talking to hang her for her crimes. They think she’s cursed, ain’t that what you always said, milord? They think she’ll curse them all and their worldly goods and their seed.’
‘What crimes? She has committed no crimes!’ He grabbed the shepherd by the collar and shook him until his teeth rattled. ‘She is innocent. If anyone deserves their hatred, it is I.’
‘I’m sorry, milord! I’m sorry. Please! I meant no harm.’
He shoved the shepherd back hard against the wall and ran for the door. It was nearly half a day’s journey by horse back to High Moor House. Though alone, Ferris could make it easily in an instant, he needed Farringdon to prove that Elaine had not killed him. Though the man was deserving of death, which he would soon get, Elaine should not suffer for helping to rid the world of him any more than a farmer suffers from killing the vermin in his field.
He rode the horse at a murderous pace. Fortunately Farringdon had a taste for good horse flesh, and during the journey, he ended Farringdon’s worthless existence and chased his spirit from the vessel, which he needed in order to free Elaine, and which would be of more use to him purged of its evil. Any further tormenting of the toad’s soul paled in comparison to Ferris’ need to reach Elaine. He had to reach Elaine. His whole world, his whole existence had become only the need to be with her again, only the need to hold his dear little witch in his arms and whisk her away from this dreadful place. Yes, he would have to come to her as Farringdon, but once she was safe, he could quickly discard the vessel, and he would take her somewhere far away, somewhere warm and exotic, somewhere that they could be together and be happy.
Happy? The concept twisted his heart. In all his endless existence he had never thought about happiness. He had never contemplated what it might mean to be more than himself by virtue of giving himself to someone else, but since Elaine had summoned him he thought of little else. He urged the horse on still faster. He had not realised that the pleasures of the flesh hung in such a fragile balance with the frailties of the flesh. His heart ached, his stomach knotted, and the breath he now needed to keep the vessel viable raked at his chest like fire. He could not lose her! It was intolerable even to contemplate such a thought. He understood the frailty of flesh, he understood the delicate frailty of Elaine’s flesh, and he knew just how tenuous the life force was that animated all flesh. He feared that the frailty he now felt had little to do with the flesh he wore and had everything to do with frailties he had no idea a demon could experience.
The horse threw a shoe when he was but a short distance from High Moor. Cursing at the top of Farringdon’s lungs, he dismounted the lathered horse and continued afoot pushing the man’s weakened, unfit flesh beyond what it would survive if it were not animated by a rider. But even so, he could not save Elaine without the lump of flesh he wore as proof of her innocence and, indeed in his eyes her innocence shone like the sun. The rasping for breath, the hammering of the heart, the aching of muscles were easy enough for him to ignore when his plan was to discard the flesh of Patrick Farringdon as soon as Elaine was safe and away from High Moor. He prayed to the goddess of all things good, though he doubted she would listen to one such as he, he prayed on Elaine’s behalf. Surely the Divine would not deny one so vibrant, one so worthy, one who had already suffered so much. But he knew in the selfish depths of his demon’s being, that he prayed to a deity in whom he had little faith for one reason and one reason only. He could not lose her! He could not lose Elaine!
‘His fever’s dangerously high,’ Ferris heard Sky’s voice as though it came to him through a long tunnel as he ran, endlessly ran, on Farringdon’s cursedly weak legs. ‘What the hell is he doing? We’ve got to bring it down. It’s almost like he’s rejecting his body.’
‘It’s not his body,’ Tim Meriwether said.
Ferris viewed them as though they were all looking down at him through a mist.
‘He’s dreaming.’ He felt his lovely Cassandra nudging at the edge of his consciousness, trying to ease her way into his dreams. ‘If I could just get in, maybe I could help him.’
‘Then hurry,’ Tara said. ‘If you don’t, there may be no choice but to…’
As the wall of High Moor appeared from the top of the hill, Ferris forced all thought from his head except reaching Elaine. He had to reach her on time. The burning in his chest, he knew beyond a doubt, was from far more than his efforts to push the flesh he wore beyond its endurance. Something was wrong, something that he should know, something far too important for him to have forgotten. The feeling of wrongness pushed at his sternum like a leviathan trying to escape, and he ran, stumbling and falling, ignoring bruises and cut, ignoring the hammering of the heart taxed nearly to failure as he raced down the stony road that led to the village.
‘He will not like this.’ He could barely hear Lucia’s voice above the roar of his efforts to breathe. ‘It was never my plan for him to go through this again, and alone. But he would not listen to me. He would not yield.’
She mattered not: nothing mattered but getting to Elaine. As he shoved his way into the gate, stumbling in the dust, the village was quiet. He saw no one on the streets and the feeling of wrongness tightened around him. A skinny cat blinked at him from its post atop a wood shed. As he rounded the corner into the square, he nearly ran into an old woman carrying water from the well.
‘Where’s Elaine,’ he shouted, grabbing her by the shoulders and giving her a shake. ‘Where is my wife?’
The old woman yelped and dropped to her knees covering her head. ‘Please milord, don’t hit me. They thought you were dead. We all thought you were dead. We all thought she kilt you.’
‘Where is she?’ He screamed.
‘Oh dear goddess, please, mother, please don’t make him see this again,’ Cassandra cried out to Lucia.
‘I cannot prevent what he must do,’ the Lucia said.
He ignored their voices, even as the truth of it crashed around him, even as he forced his way to the village green hoping against hope that he was not too late.
‘Dear goddess, there must be something we can do,’ Tim cried out. ‘Cassandra, can’t you help him? Lucia? Damn it do something.’
The crowd stopped jeering when they saw him. They parted for him and the world went deadly silent as he stumbled forward to see what he never wanted to see, what he had blocked from his memories for 300 years.
‘Fill the tub with ice,’ Sky commanded. ‘We’ve got to bring his fever down.’
‘If this isn’t really his body,’ Tim said, ‘then he must be rejecting it. Is that what’s happening?’
‘He rejected it a long time ago,’ Lucia said. ‘Trust me, rejection of the vessel he wears is not an issue now.’
The silence dissolved into an endless roar long before he realised it was he, screaming his anguish to heaven. Four men lay dead at the foot of the oak, the last managing to cut her down before Ferris ran him through with his own sword. He kept no count of those he killed or injured in his rage before someone cut her down. Would that everyone in the village was dead and the place burned to ash and razed to the ground. Their lives he would gladly trade for the beating of a single heart. His own life he would gladly trade to feel once again the breath of the woman he cradled in his arms. But she was gone, and even he with all of his great power could not return her life force to her.
Cassandra sobbed in empathy.
‘Let him finish the dream,’ Lucia called out. ‘He has to finish the dream if he is to heal.’
But he would never heal. There was no balm for the depths of his wound, no comfort in the Ether, the Dream World or any realm beyond. The heavens opened and the rain poured turning the village green into a sponge and the streets of the village into a swamp. He did not remember when those who had come to watch her die had left. Surely they must have fled in fear for their lives. He remembered once pushing the battered flesh of Farringdon beyond its limits as he carried his beloved Elaine to a place on the hillside covered in heather and riddled with caves. There above the village in a remote place, he buried her near a stream that tumbled from a spring in the caves.
Two nights later, he attended the meeting of the village elders in the meeting hall. By then the rage in his belly had turned to ice. Only he walked away from the flames. From the side of her grave, he watched the blaze long into the night, heard the anguished cries of the villagers as they struggled to put out the fire and identify their dead. In his mind they were, all of them, already dead. They would sleep soon, and he would return to the village. If Elaine could not live, then neither could they, after all it was their actions that cost her life.
‘I don’t care! We have to get the fever down now,’ Sky said.
‘The ice bath is ready,’ Kennet replied.
But it was fire he watched, fire that burned, fire that avenged and yet it was the icy cold of death and emptiness he felt in his belly.
‘Come back to them, my darling Ferris.’ Cool lips pressed against his.
‘Elaine?’ He opened his eyes and found himself alone in his bed with Elaine leaning over him, caressing his burning cheek. ‘Elaine my darling, I told them! I told them you were here.’
‘No, my Rider, you are hallucinating once more. I am not real.’
Once again he sat on the hillside by her grave watching the flames rise in the night sky below.
Elaine sat down next to him and took his hand. ‘If you kill them all, every last one of them, and their livestock, even those from the next village who came to watch me hanged, I shall be no less dead. And you will live on, my darling Ferris. ‘You will suffer endlessly alone. I do not want that for you. I never wanted that for you. Go back home. They wait for you. They love you, and this world you see is now nothing but dust. It has been dust for a very, very long time. Remember it, for you must. Mourn it, for you lost much, but you cannot undo it, not now, not ever. Go home, my love, and remember that you are much loved by your little witch.’
He wanted to hold her, but she had no substance, like the mists that rose up from the high meadows at night.
‘Go to the Fire Demon, my Love. She will help you. She has use for you. Time does not hold her as it does me. Go with her, my love. Go with her and heal. Wait for me at Elemental Cottage, and when the time comes, when you have healed, I will come for you. We will be together again’ She blew him a kiss, then turned and walked into the hills.
He woke with a gasp of blessed oxygen as though it had been an age since he drew breath. The ice was no longer in his belly, but all over his body. The giant tub in his bathroom had been turned into the arctic and he was naked and shivering in its depths with the three strong men of Elemental Coven holding him in place while he struggled, Cassandra held his hand in an unyielding grip and Sky shouted, ‘hold onto him. Keep his head up! Keep his head up, damn it!’
‘I remember.’ He forced the words through chattering teeth. ‘Goddess help me, I remember.’ And then he wept as he had not wept in 300 years.
Don’t miss the sizzling final episode of Demon Interrupted coming October 31st!
Here are the links to the previous episodes in case you missed them:
Chapter 6 Beneath the Weight of Shadow
Chapter 7 Possessions
Chapter 8 Necessities and Inconveniences
Chapter 9 Demon Dreams
Chapter 10 Backlash
Chapter 11 Chasing the Dream
Chapter 12 The Summoning
Chapter 13 Tenuous Threads
Chapter 14 Corporeal
Chapter 15 The Vessel