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✍️✍️✍️✍️ The Crown's Obsession Chapter 261 - 270 ✍️✍️✍️✍️

PHYSIENTS WILL ALWAYS OFFER BEST STORIES AND LIVE STREAMING ALL TIME

Trap- Part 1


Madeline got ready, and with Beth, she left the room. They made their way to the dining room to see most of them had taken their seats at the table while they were late. 

"Looks like everyone is late to have breakfast, isn't it?" commented Samuel, who sat next to Lucy who was unusually quiet today. "You should have slept more too, Lucy," said the man to place a hand over her back and Lucy's face hardened. 

The entire night, Lucy had been upset and heartbroken after finding her husband with a maid. She had not confronted him because she was in shock. When Samuel had returned to the room, Lucy had her back facing him where she had not fallen asleep. When morning arrived, she had got ready quickly and left to join her aunt without wanting to spend a second in the room with him. 

Lucy was not the kind of person who threw tantrums or created scenes in public. She was taught to keep a composed expression, making it look like things didn't faze her, but it was hard to do it. Her parents had married her to Samuel, and she had accepted it without a thought by thinking she would get the love she deserved. But now she came to realize the sham of marriage she had with Samuel. 

She didn't want to look or talk to him. And out of all the days, Samuel had decided to join the table today. 

"Lucy has always slept less, Samuel. Unless you are saying she's not pretty, and the sleep might help?" questioned Calhoun, taking a quick dig at his brother-in-law. Samuel laughed, and Calhoun returned it with a smile. 

"My apologies if my words came out to be like that. I have a beautiful wife," and Samuel was ready to lean and kiss his wife's cheek when Lucy picked up a loaf of bread to put it between him and her so that he wouldn't kiss her,

"The bread is soft, you should try it," offered Lucy and Samuel smiled as if he was a good man. Lucy wondered how he could smile at her without having a pinch of guilt in his heart. How many years they had spent together and how many times she had been lied to on her face. 


Samuel, who was used to fooling Lucy, didn't notice any change in her behaviour and his hand went to reach for the bread. The vampiress then placed the loaf of bread back on the plate and continued to have her meal. She didn't want to be touched by Samuel. If she confronted him, would Samuel accept his faults? Lucy asked herself.

When Lucy's eyes raised, looking around the table, she found Theodore looking at her. There was a faint smile on his lips before he went back to eat his food. What was he smiling about? Lucy's eyebrows furrowed.

In the meantime, Calhoun's eyes fell on Madeline who sat right next to him. She appeared to be in a daze, lost in her own thoughts, which made him wonder what was occupying her thoughts. 

"Where were you? I didn't find you this morning in your room," He heard Mrs. Harris question Elizabeth in a whisper. The woman had forgotten that the table had more vampires than humans who could hear her.

Mrs. Harris was worried that Beth had gone somewhere with Markus as both her daughter as well as the vampire was missing. 

"I was with Madeline in her room, mama," Beth replied, "I slept in her room last night."

Hearing this, Calhoun asked, "Is something wrong with your room, Miss Harris?" 

Beth was quick to turn to the King who had asked her, "My lord," she bowed her head and then said, "There was some disturbance in my room last night. Something outside that was knocking on the window. I was worried, and I decided to spend the night with Madeline."

Calhoun stared at Beth without a word which made it look like he was suspicious that she was lying.

"I will make sure to see that there's nothing there," Beth added. 

"You can ask Markus to come with you," Calhoun suggested as if he was completely alright with them being together. He gave Beth a charming smile and asked, "But where is Markus, I haven't seen him since last night."

Lady Rosamund was the one to answer, "I wish I knew it. He usually informs me, but it appears that he's gone out."


"What a diligent cousin I have. He must be working hard to find out who tried to sabotage his future father-in-law's shop, isn't it," Calhoun smiled with delight in his eyes. He didn't miss the look on his aunt's face but his cousin, Sophie, had been quiet. So quiet that, she had not remarked on Elizabeth. Theodore had informed him about Sophie hovering in front of the dungeon. As if that wasn't suspicious enough, she was making small talks with the guards, which wasn't normal. 

Picking up the glass, he slowly drank the water, the smile spreading further on his lips. It was funny how Sophie was near the dungeon, on the same night, James Heathcliff had decided to turn to a guest there. Sophie tried to behave normal, but by her complexion, it looked like she didn't sleep well.

Was it possible that Markus was inside the dungeon? Putting the glass down, he played with the rim of the glass. 

Calhoun then called, "Theodore," and the man turned to the King, "There are too many old skeletons lying in the dungeon. Get them cleaned out from there." From the corner of his eyes, he noticed how his words caught Sophie's attention, "You know what, I need to come and check the skeletons too. Who knows which dear one's we need to preserve." 

"Yes, my lord," Theodore bowed his head. 

Markus had been snooping more than necessary. Time had come to push him into the grave which his cousin so diligently had been digging for himself, thought Calhoun to himself. 

Markus would soon turn to another antique collection in the dungeon just like their beloved grandmother. 
_________

Trap- Part 2


Music Recommendation: The Witch by Rosenfeld (fast version)

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When Calhoun mentioned visiting to the dungeon at this hour of the morning, Sophie's attention turned to the King, and she tried to get her mother's attention who was having her breakfast. Sophie would have not cared if it was someone else, but this was her blood sibling. She had tried to inform her mother in the morning, but her mother had been busy with the other ministers of the castle. 

With the key that was with Theodore, Sophie was sure that Markus was still locked in the dungeon. But then, it wasn't like it was her problem that he had decided to take a visit. 

Her hand slowly crept under the table to tap on her mother's lap so that she could get her attention. Her mother turned to look at Sophie with an unimpressive look. Sophie would have told it to her mother, but she felt the King's eyes on them. 

"I have something to talk to you about. It's urgent," Sophie said, keeping her words minimum. 

"What is it about?" asked her mother, "Finish your breakfast, and I will listen to you."

Sophie gritted her teeth. If they were to wait until the completion of the meal and if Calhoun went down to the dungeon, they would find Markus there. 

"But mother," Sophie began only to be interrupted by the lowly human she despised on this table. 

"It is considered to be rude to leave the table half-way when you are still having your food," Beth's annoying voice fell on Sophie's ears. Sophie gave a sharp glare at her. 

"I don't think you know what I want to speak to my mother about. Please continue enjoying the food, Miss Harris. I doubt you get to eat so many things-"

"Sophie," Lady Rosamund warned her daughter, who had been waiting to claw Elizabeth. The older vampiress thought that she had brought up her daughter well, to know what to speak where and how to control her emotions, but Sophie had learned none of it. 

Sophie noticed Beth smiling behind the glass of water, and the vampiress gritted her teeth. Her mother had raised her voice in front of everyone at the table. Sophie doubted her mother would appreciate it if she found Markus was locked in the dungeon. 

"It'll take just a moment," Sophie used the politest tone, a sweet smile on her lips. 


Lady Rosamund sighed. Dropping the napkin on the table which she had placed on her lap earlier, she bowed her head at Calhoun before getting up and following her daughter. 

When both the mother and daughter left the room, Samuel was the one to speak,

"Sophie has always been slightly against humans as she grew up in a household full of vampires. Humans have done nothing, but serve in our families."

Mr. and Mrs. Harris gave a small nod. They came from the village and weren't too connected with the vampires except for the rare times in the past. 

"That's alright, Mr. Gerville," Beth was the one to speak as she enjoyed being the bigger person in front of people to receive praises for her behaviour, "I am sure Lady Sophie will one day warm up to me," she had a smile on her face. 

"Of course, my lady," Samuel offered the girl a bow who returned it. "Wonder what Sophie has done to get into trouble this time to take her mother out of the room to speak."

Calhoun was still playing with the rim of his glass before letting it go. As much as his attention was on his relatives, his thoughts were still on Madeline who wore an aloof demeanour. Wanting to test, his hand moved under the table, and he held her hand that was on her lap. The little contact startled her out of her thoughts. 

Madeline had been quiet since she had woken up, answering only to the questions that were asked to her while continuing to eat her breakfast. Even though her family was right here with her, for the very first time, she felt alone. She didn't know what to think. She wanted to brush the dream away like it was nothing, but there were too many similarities and truth in there, coinciding with the current situation of her life. 

When she arrived at the dining room, Madeline saw her parents offer her a warm smile, but she doubted it. She desperately wanted answers to her questions that were brewing in her mind. She tried to look back at the memories and time spent with her parents that seemed perfectly normal. Was her mind playing tricks on her? But then why was she breaking glasses? Last night the glass that she fixed was not a dream, and it was real. 


She had been so caught up in her thoughts that she missed some of the exchange of words that took place at the table. It was only when Calhoun's hand held hers did she snap out of her thoughts to return to the room where she was sitting. 

Madeline felt Calhoun's hand under the table. Before anyone could see it, she tried to pull away and place it on the table, but Calhoun didn't let go of it. 

Her heart slowly started to beat faster, and she looked around at the people to make sure no one had noticed it. Bringing her eyes back to meet Calhoun's eyes that were looking at her curiously, she gave a pleading look to him, but this only had him squeeze her hand tighter. His hand felt warm on hers. 

Her heart felt heavy and Calhoun noticed there was something that was bothering Madeline right now. 

When everyone were busy finishing their breakfast, Sophie informed her mother about what happened last night by going far away from the dining room so that the King or no other vampire would be able to eavesdrop on their conversation. 

"And you are telling me this now?" Lady Rosamund's eyes flared up in anger after hearing what Sophie said.

"I wanted to tell you this yesterday, but Theodore was the one who saw me to my room. He didn't leave the corridor and kept on guarding it for almost all the hours that I couldn't come and meet you," Sophie bit her lip, "I think Markus is still there in the dungeon."

"Of course that little swine of a servant would know you were up to no good. Not to mention Markus is missing right now. How hard it is for both of you to follow my words?!" Lady Rosamund asked with an incredulous look on her face. She felt as if she had given birth to two children who didn't know how to play their cards. "At this rate forget about the throne, both of you will end up outside the castle or worse in the cells. Now go stall Calhoun. I will go see what I can do in the meantime." 

One of the servants arrived at the door of the dining room. Bowing his head, he said, "My King, the tailorman is here to see you. He says it is extremely important."

Calhoun's eyebrows raised in question. The tailorman he was interested in was locked in the dungeon. Who was his servant speaking about? 

"It is tailorman Barnby," the servant added and Calhoun gave him a nod. 


"Have him wait in the parlour," Calhoun ordered. The servant bowed and left the door. 

"Are we getting more dresses stitched?" Lucy asked Calhoun, "It would be good to have the wedding dresses tried before the wedding."

"Yes," Calhoun nodded his head. 

James was the one who was working on the wedding dress. Though his assistants were working on the dress, they would probably need guidance from James. His lips twisted in distaste. If Calhoun was right, whatever had bitten James was not simple wolves, but they were werewolves. The type of creatures he wasn't fond of, but then he didn't like humans nor vampires either. There were only a few agreeable ones. 

Werewolves were feral creatures, who lost their minds when they turned, having no recollection of what they did during the time of their transformed state, destroying anything and everything. The one were the Warring's ruled, the land that consisted of a few werewolves and humans while Devon was populated with vampires and humans. 

The wedding gown would need to be finished as Calhoun was in no mood to postpone his and Madeline's wedding. The same could not be said for James and Catherine Barnes' wedding. He wondered what would happen when Mr. Barnes would find out that his future son-in-law was turning into a furry animal. 

When Calhoun saw Madeline had finished her breakfast, he said, "Accompany me, Madeline," he let go of her hand and got up from the chair. Madeline quietly followed him. Sophie missed Calhoun just by two-minutes. By the time she arrived in the dining room, Calhoun was missing and her eyebrows furrowed in worry. 

Lucy, on the other hand, didn't want to stay at the table or near her husband. She stood up, and Samuel stood up along with her. 

Samuel said to her, "I will be late while returning at night. I have work in the outer district." Lucy didn't nod her head, nor did she respond. The pain and anger was still there. 

"Where did brother Calhoun go?" asked Sophie to Lucy and Samuel. 

"Some tailorman wanted to meet the King," Samuel answered and before Sophie could leave in search of the King, Lucy who was in a bad mood said,


"Brother Calhoun has taken Lady Madeline along with him. You should give them space, Sophie. They would like to spend some time alone than being hovered." Lucy had never used such a sharp tone before, and she walked out of the room. 
________

Trap- Part 3


Sophie tried to save her face when she had just asked a simple question, "What did I do?" 

"Don't mind her, Lady Sophie. Lucy didn't sleep enough," Samuel patted the vampiress back.

Near the hall, the tailorman named Barnby paced back and forth while waiting for the King. When he saw the King, and the future Queen who was walking beside him, Barnby gave a deep bow. But because of his age, the back muscle caught,

"My King and Queen!" It took a while for him to stand back up straight again. 

Madeline noticed it was the same tailorman who Calhoun had called to the castle before to show the wedding gowns. "What brings you here, Barnby?" she heard Calhoun ask the short man. 

Barnby held both his hands together. The tailorman looked like he wanted to smile, but he was trying to keep it down. 

"My King, I just came by visiting the village of East Carswell and heard this big news," said Barnby, "I don't think the wedding gown will be completed because of what I heard."

Calhoun's eyes narrowed at the man's words, "And what did you hear?"

"It seems they found a body buried behind Heathcliff's house. Someone found a hand sticking up in the ground this morning. They said Heathcliff killed the girl who was identified to be one of the dutchess' daughter," informed Barnby.

Madeline who heard this information frowned. Did they find a body in James' backyard?

Calhoun was surprised by this news, "Are you sure about this news?" he questioned Barnby, who nodded his head vigorously.

"Yes, my lord. The body was found in the backyard where the vegetables are being grown. I thought I should come here and let you know quickly," Barnby wanted to make sure to get the deal of making the Queen's gown. When he had heard Heathcliff involved in the murder, he was overjoyed hearing it.

Madeline doubted James could kill someone. Though they had never spent time together, she knew James was a good man who would never hurt someone. After hearing Barnby speak, she turned to look at Calhoun who looked back at her. 

"It seems like our tailorman is going to delay in delivering the wedding gown," said Calhoun to her. 

"He wouldn't do something like that," Madeline knew Calhoun didn't like James, and he wouldn't like her taking a stand for another man.


Calhoun's eyes brightened by Madeline's words, "We don't know that now, darling. We will have to go and take a look and speak to the magistrate. Also, speak to the Barnes family to see if they know anything about it." 

Madeline looked at Calhoun, who looked amused by the news. But she didn't know that Calhoun was amused for another reason and not because James was labelled as the murderer. 

Calhoun knew James would not have done it. Less, bury the body in the backyard. He was amused because whoever killed the dutchess' daughter and buried the body, wasn't aware that James was not anywhere near his house yesterday but that he was in the dungeon. The murderer had done a sloppy job. His lips twisted. 

Barnby was too excited and unable to stand still, he cleared his throat, "M-My King," he began to only be cut off.

"Thank you for informing me, Barnby. We can now help the tailorman in clearing his name quickly as we wouldn't want a delay in the making of the wedding gown," Calhoun offered Barnby a broad smile, "Now if you will, you can leave. We have other things to do." 

Calhoun placed his hand on Madeline's back and led her back. It was an opportune time to show Madeline that he was willing to look into James matter and clear the tailorman's name in the murder. But the problem was that James was in his dungeon, who was probably growling and not ready to speak to anyone. 

He was very much interested in finding out who was framing James and he decided to take a look into it. Calhoun could feel Madeline looking at him. 

"Will you take a look into the matter?" came her small yet careful voice. 

Calhoun halted his footsteps and looked into her brown eyes, "Yes, I will be going to the village. What has been occupying your mind?" he asked, bringing his hand up to caress her cheek with the back of his fingers. 

"I had a bad dream," she answered.

His eyes curiously looking at her. "Tell me about it," Calhoun responded to her.

"Once you return back?" asked Madeline. 


It wasn't like she could share what she saw with her parents as it seemed like they were the ones hiding about it. The only person she could share was Calhoun, who was aware of her troubles when it came to her fingers and the glasses. At the same time, Madeline wanted James not to bear the weight of the name as a murderer. She believed he was innocent. 

Calhoun's eyes narrowed, but he decided it could wait, "Alright," he smiled. What he needed was Madeline to trust him completely. 

Away from the castle and at the dungeon, Rosamund pulled out the key she carried every time she entered the castle. A key which she had stolen from her father's room, something no one was aware of. 

"Lady Sophie lost her ring somewhere here last night, I need you to look for it," said the vampiress, her eyebrows had moved up, and she appeared to be in no mood to talk. "It must be somewhere between here and the castle. I don't even know what she was doing here in the middle of the night. What are you waiting for? Go on!"

The guards were quick to go from there to find the ring. Once they were away, Lady Rosamund, saw her son walking towards the closed gates and she pulled out the key to open the lock quickly and let her son out. 

Markus looked ashamed when his mother glared at him for being stuck in the dungeon for the whole night. 

The vampiress caught hold of her son's hand and pulled him away from the dungeon,

"Tell me you have found something worthwhile in there, Markus, and you didn't go there to sleep," came Lady Rosamund's sharp voice. 

"I have good news, mother. Calhoun has locked the man who younger Miss Harris used to like. But that isn't all," Markus spoke in promising words. Lady Rosamund's eyes narrowed, "Last night, I thought it was only a feral animal that was tied in one of the dungeon's, but I realised Calhoun has placed the tailorman along with the animal in there to torture him."

"Are you sure it was him? I thought he was going to marry that Barnes' girl," Lady Rosamund asked her son.

"I made sure to look at him. His clothes are tattered. Seems like he was beaten," Markus informed his mother, hoping this news would be worthwhile to her. 

Lady Rosamund took two steps away from him, thinking about the situation and then she said, 


"Put in a word about it to the girl. I am sure she would love to meet him here, and also this will damage the budding relationship between her and Calhoun. Even if things don't work out now, it is going to be helpful in the future to separate them," said Lady Rosamund turning to look at her son, "And next time, inform me about things before you do anything unless you want your head floating in the river."

"Yes, mother," Markus bowed his head. 

"And take a shower. You reek of the dungeon," commented Lady Rosamund before they made their way inside the castle. 

When Markus had been locked, he had tried to take a better look around the cells that were open as he didn't know how long he would be stuck. He had hoped his sister would return, but with the gates locked, there was no way he would be able to get out. 

In that time, he had found many locked rooms. And while walking around with his hands in his pockets, Markus didn't realise that when he had pulled his handkerchief from his pocket, a letter slipped out of his pocket to fall on the ground without his notice.

It was a letter that was written by the maid who once used to work in the castle until Calhoun had killed her, for spreading the rumour about Madeline. 
________

Lurking- Part 1


The villagers surrounded the house of James Heathcliff where the body of the duchess' daughter had been found. The rays of sun had started to touch the ground. The people had work, yet out of curiosity and to know more about what was going on, they hovered around the house like flies that sat near a piece of meat. 

"Who would have imagined that a man such as Mr. Heathcliff would kill a person," said a villager who was standing near the house like many others, who had a look of curiosity on their faces. 

"I heard he lost his father yesterday," said another man who stood next to the first one who had commented earlier, "He must have gone mad in pain. It is possible to lose mental stability when something so tragic happens. Losing your family member is never easy, tch," he shook his head. 

The first one shook his head to say, "Why would he kill the duchess' daughter? I heard he was going to get married to Mr. Barnes, daughter. Do you think the one who was found dead wanted to get married to him and tried to stop the marriage?" 

"Whatever it is, he was foolish to bury the body in his backyard. And with the hand sticking up," the other man took a deep breath, "The dutches is not going to be happy that he killed her daughter."

The villagers continued to crowd around Heathcliff's residence. They were talking about what happened and what was the latest news they heard about the murder. Since the body was found, James Heathcliff had not shown up at his house, nor did he show up at his shop, which was near the market of EastCarswell. Theories had started to fuel one after another. 

Many other officials arrived at the scene. The magistrate forehead was in a deep furrow as it seemed like this month was very hard for him with people missing and getting murdered here. This was not good for his job. He would need to put the blame on someone to prove that it wasn't his fault, which was true because he never asked the human to kill and bury the body. Which idiot even did that?

"What happened to my daughter?! Where is the man!" the Duchess of Greenway questioned the village magistrate who was standing in front of her. 


"My Lady. The men are currently trying to find the man whom this house belongs to," the magistrate was trying to keep things down, but with every other person swarming like flies around the house, it was hard not to let the word spread out about what happened. 

The Dutchess had arrived ten minutes ago and was questioning the magistrate after seeing her daughter.

"What do you mean you don't know?" questioned the duchess, her red eyes flaring up in rage and holding unshed tears, "My daughter Layla was found dead three hours ago and you have no idea where the culprit is?" she demanded from the magistrate. 

The magistrate responded to the lady, "We are doing everything that we can. We have even called the family he is associated with, who are on their way so that they can tell where he is. I know it is a hard time for you, but please be patient-"

"How can you ask me to be patient? Do you know in what condition my daughter was found?!" The Duchess questioned and then walked near her daughter's body, which wasn't in one piece. "Her head has been torn from her body. Her body was disposed into the mud like she was some piece of garbage! And you ask me to be patient?!" 

The magistrate turned to look at the girl who was dug out of the ground this morning. Her body had turned brown because of the wet mud. When one of the neighbours who was walking by noticed a hand sticking out, the village woman had been confused before screaming her lungs out to gather other people who were nearby. 

At first, when the body was pulled out, it was noticed that the head was missing from the body. After some more digging in the same backyard, the decapitated head was found in the corner, which was hidden better than the other half of the body. 

"What happened here?" came a deep voice from behind the magistrate. The magistrate's frown deepened at the question, he turned around to see it was the King who had arrived at the scene. The people quickly bowed their heads one after another, some even moved away to keep a distance from the vampire while some stood there in curiosity. 

"It looks like you are not happy to see me, Charmire," the King commented on seeing the village magistrate who bowed another time, this time deeper than the previous one. 


"My Lord! Why would you think that? Your presence brings light and strength to us all. You are our dear King, yo-"

"That's enough with boot licking," Calhoun walked past the magistrate whose face turned red.

"Milord!" The Duchess sobbed coming forward, "Look at what they did to my daughter!" the woman's shoulders shook as she cried, bringing her hand up to cover her mouth, "They said they are not able to find the man. He must have fled after killing my dear Layla."

"I am sorry for your loss, Duchess. Let me see what help I can provide," he assured the woman who vigorously nodded her head. Believing the King would help her to find justice as he was here now. 

Calhoun patted the duchess' back, and walked forward, to take a look at the girl who was murdered. He observed the girl who was laid on the ground with her head placed at the top of her body. The villagers couldn't help but stand there. 

"What do you think is going to happen?" asked the first villager who had earlier spoken, "The King is here. He never shows up here."

"Maybe he knows the Duchess," responded another one, "It is rare to see him getting involved in cases."

When the last word left the villager's mouth, the King automatically turned his head to look in the direction where they stood. This had both the men straighten their back, their body turning stiff because of the King's intense gaze. 

"Hello, gentlemen," the King greeted the villagers, his voice unfriendly, "Are you helping the magistrate in finding the culprit?"

One of the men who stood there made some noise at the back of his mouth as if wanting to speak, but was unable to bring out the words in front of the King. The King stood far away from where they were standing, which had the villagers confused as to how he was able to hear them speak. 

"If you have nothing better to do here, go on with your day. I don't think anyone of you would like to be a suspect for standing here for so long now, would you?" Calhoun asked the two men whom he had heard talking. His eyes fell on the others, and within a second, the villagers immediately dispersed away from the scene, going to a place where they could discuss about the murder. 


Calhoun turned back to look at the magistrate, "You cannot even keep the situation low?" he questioned when the Duchess was taken away from the scene as she was in grief. 

Charmire, the magistrate cleared his throat and then opened his mouth to speak.

"When was the body found?" inquired Calhoun. 

"Three hours ago, my King. It was reported by Mr. Heathcliff's neighbour," Charmire turned his head in the direction of the house to let the King know. "Mr. Heathcliff is not here, milord. I have sent out the officials, but he is nowhere to be found."

"What about Mr. Barnes' house?" Calhoun asked, even though he already knew James was not there, but in the dungeon. 

Charmire quickly nodded his head. The thin moustache on his face moved feebly, "He wasn't there either. I checked with his assistant, but no one has seen him since last morning. It looks like it has been nearly a day since the girl died. Both her head and body were retrieved from the backyard."

"And Mr. Heathcliff decided to dispose the body recklessly without bothering to cover it?" Calhoun raised one of his eyebrows and Charmire nodded his head.

"It is what we found out."

Calhoun knew what kind of job Charmire did here. He barely did anything, but Calhoun had continued to keep him positioned in this post for his purpose. It was times like these that the magistrate came to be useful, not because he was helpful but because he wasn't. 

It was only Theodore and him who knew James was in the dungeon, while the rest in the village thought that the tailorman had run away from here after committing the murder. 

"Greetings to the King," another villager arrived, who was dressed more decently compared to the other villagers, "I have something that I would like to share." Seeing the King give a small nod to go on, the man said, "Three or four days ago, Mr. Heathcliff had asked me for a maid's address."

Calhoun's eyes were quick to narrow as he found out who had led the path for James.

"What does it have to do with this?" questioned Charmire. 

The man looked apprehensive. A small gulp followed down his throat, "The maid had disappeared the very next day. My wife told me that there was no man who the maid wanted to elope with and something must have happened to her."


Of course, Calhoun was already well aware of it. It was because he had killed the maid himself. 
___________

Lurking- Part 2


Calhoun's expression barely changed and he continued to look at the man, who had come to give more information about James. 

Poor James, thought Calhoun to himself. Nor would he have tried to chase or court Madeline, nor would he have been in such a mess now. 

The reason why he had come down to East Carswell wasn't just to impress Madeline and show her he was exactly the person she was looking for. He was curious to see who had framed James Heathcliff because coincidence was something he didn't believe in. Not when it came to matters like these. 

"And why was Mr. Heathcliff interested in meeting the maid?" Calhoun pressed, "Mr…"

"Fisher," the man answered warily. Mr. Fisher knew he would be questioned by the King, but he didn't want a murderer moving around freely, "My apologies for my earlier actions," and he bowed his head. 

"Let's hope that you don't repeat it," Calhoun murmured, his red eyes glaring down at the human, "I must say, people, appear to be far worse idle than they look." Charmire who didn't know what the King was speaking about, his head moved back and forth between the two men. 

"Yes, my lord," Mr. Fisher bowed his head again and said, "They said they haven't found the girl. I think something similar like this must have happened to her too."

Calhoun found it to be laughable that people were so quick to jump into conclusion even though they knew each other for years, "And you think he killed her. Has anyone ever seen Heathcliff talking to the dutchess? Any mention about her of why he would try to kill her?" Saying this, he walked towards the body and bent down to take a closer look. Charmire was right. It had been less than a day since the girl was murdered. 

"Did you know the man lost his father?" Calhoun questioned both of the men. Hearing no response coming from either of them, he conjured that James had buried his father by himself, without informing anyone, "He lost his father last morning. I don't think he would be interested in fancying a woman. Bring the caretakers of the cemeteries' who are in and around the village. Find out where James has been."

"Yes, milord!" Charmire quickly left, and Mr. Fisher went on his way after giving a bow.


Calhoun's eyes trailed on the dead body. He faintly remembered meeting this girl, the Duchess' daughter Layla. He doubted James had done it because if James was already in the process of transforming into a werewolf, tearing a neck wouldn't be as neat as it looked right now. It would have also left scratch marks on the body. If the question arose if he committed the murder before he was bitten by a werewolf, that was impossible. James was a human, not a vampire nor a werewolf before. 

His eyes then fell on her neck. Calhoun moved closer and dusted the girl's neck that was covered in mud. Though nothing was confirmed, speculations had already formed against James Heathcliff. But there were two marks of fangs above the place before the neck was torn away from the rest of the body. It was a vampire. 

After a while, the magistrate arrived with a man next to him, "My lord, this man said he saw James last night." 

The caretaker of the cemetery bowed his head to the King. With hands folded, he replied, "I helped him with his father. He was very heartbroken when he came to the cemetery in the afternoon." Calhoun, who heard this, sent Charmire on another errand.

"What time did he bury his father?" questioned Calhoun. 

"I had one of the graves ready and open for use, it must have been around three in the afternoon when we helped his father to rest in peace, milord. I don't think the man would have killed the person here," informed the caretaker. 

Calhoun pushed himself up to stand, "Are you close with Mr. Heathcliff that you are supporting him?"

The caretaker quickly shook his head, waving his hands in front of him, "No, my King! It is not what I meant. I just feel he is innocent," the old man looked worried that he had offended the King in some way. 

"Do you remember until what hour he was at the cemetery?" Calhoun wanted to ask something, which was why he had sent Charmire on an errand, "Where did he possibly go after that." 

"Ah, he didn't leave his father's grave until the time of night. He was there for a long time until some wolves came and bit him," and there it was, thought Calhoun to himself. So it hadn't been long since James had been bit, and it was out of accident. 

"Wolves are often feral, and their bites can be painful," Calhoun commented to have the caretaker nod his head in agreement. 


"You are right, my King. I tried to help him and offered him aid. But he didn't stay long. He just left. He didn't say where," the caretaker replied. 

"You can leave," Calhoun dismissed the man. After speaking to some more people to understand what transpired yesterday and what the other people had to say about the last time they had spoken to James, he heard from the assistants of the shop that the Barnes family had sent a carriage to the shop yesterday.

The Duchess was back after some time, taking her beloved daughter to put her to rest in the graveyard. As this was no ordinary person's death, a word had been sent to the higher House so that they knew what was happening. Calhoun didn't care about it, because the death had nothing to do with him.

Why leave in James' backyard when it could be disposed of anywhere else, questioned Calhoun in his mind.

During the time of burial, Mr. Barnes arrived in the carriage, "My lord," the older vampire greeted, "The man said you wanted to meet me. You could have called me to the castle, instead of coming here."

Calhoun smiled at Mr. Barnes' words, "I felt the need to stretch my hands and legs. It has been a while. I summoned you here because this is about your future son-in-law. I heard that Charmire sent his men to inquire if James was in your mansion."

Mr. Barnes quickly nodded his head, "Yes, we were surprised when we heard that they were searching for Heathcliff."

Calhoun's lips twisted, "Yes, indeed. Didn't you try to find him?" It was ironic how Mr. Barnes had not bothered to search the man who was going to marry his daughter in seven days. 

"I sent out my men to search, but they have no idea where he is. I really thought he was a naive man. Who would have killed the Duchess' daughter," Mr. Barnes tsked and exhaled air out of his lips. 

"That's right. I wonder why he would do that. Catherine must be heartbroken," Calhoun commented, knowing the affection the young vampiress had towards James. 

"Yes, she's in the house and very upset," on Mr. Barnes words, Calhoun hummed in response, "Did they find out why he did it? I never knew he knew the girl. I mean he is a human," the older vampire tried to play it off as if he knew nothing that had transpired yesterday. 


"We will need to find out about it. I have entrusted the work to Charmire," Calhoun gave a look at the magistrate who bowed his head. Mr. Barnes was least bothered if the magistrate was going to work on it or not. James Heathcliff had been framed, and it was only time for the human to be executed, and his daughter would finally let go of the human. 

It was easy to cover up the deaths of people who didn't matter to the people who belonged to the higher status. But hushing deaths like this, it was difficult to do and the High House always kept an eye on such important matters. They were the people who made laws with rules that were unorthodox.

"I heard Miss Layla was acquainted with Catherine," Calhoun started to have Mr. Barnes turn to look at him.

"What do you mean to imply, my King?" Mr. Barnes' defensive tone was picked by Calhoun. 

"Hm? I thought Catherine would be here to see her friend rest in the coffin. It's not like it is Mr. Heathcliff who died," Calhoun offered Mr. Barnes a faint smile, "By the way, Mr. Barnes...What are your thoughts on furry animals?"
________

Lurking- Part 3


Madeline was in the parlour room of the castle listening to her mother and her sister speak to each other in the room. Lady Rosamund had left the castle after breakfast, telling she had to go back to the mansion. To Beth's delight, the older vampiress had taken Sophie along with her. The only reason Lady Rosamund had taken her daughter was for the sole reason, to avoid Sophie causing any trouble. 

Lady Lucy was in her room, resting as the young vampiress had told she had a headache. Madeline wondered if Lucy was alright. She had missed her breakfast before, and today, she stuck to her room. 

"What did the tailorman want, Madeline?" asked her mother. 

Madeline, who was in her thoughts, looked up to meet her mother's as well as Beth's curious eyes. She didn't know if she should tell it or not, as no one knew if James had really done it. 

"It seems they found a person's body in our village, which was buried in Mr. Heathcliff's backyard," Madeline said softly to receive gasps from the two women. 

"How did that happen??" her mother looked quite taken aback by this news. 

Madeline then said, "I think they are still trying to figure out what happened."

"Who knew Mr. Heathcliff would do something like that," Beth was quick to jump into conclusion, "This is why you should be careful about people who are quiet and behave as gentleman-like."

Madeline frowned upon hearing this, "I don't think Mr. Heathcliff would kill anyone. Just because the body was found in his backyard, doesn't make him a murderer."

Beth laughed at this, "You should be careful of what you say, Madeline. Speaking out your mind so openly. If you are going to turn to a Queen, you should know how to behave like one, but you were never prepared to be one. What did the King say to it?"

"He told he would look into it, and Beth, nobody ever wakes up to be a Queen. Things like those are picked on the way," Madeline reacted to Beth's words which was a jab to tell how unfit she was, "Even if I don't know things, whatever the Queen says goes. We should not worry about things like that." 


Madeline noticed how Beth's eyes narrowed over her words. They were sisters who had spent most of their time next to each other, but they were different. Madeline knew from the beginning that she and Beth were always different. She had been hearing taunting words like this from her sister for all these years, but she was not going to let Beth look down upon her anymore. She loved Beth, but that didn't mean she would stand Beth speaking to her in such tone. 

"You don't have to feel so offended. I was merely telling it-"

"And so was I," Madeline offered Beth a smile, "The King said he would look into the matter to see what is going on."

Beth felt slightly humiliated. Just because Madeline was going to be a Queen, her behaviour towards Beth was changing, "You might think things are easy, but it's going to be hard, Maddie." Madeline didn't have the backbone to be the Queen, but Beth decided to keep it to herself. Standing up, she said, "You should be careful with what you speak with the King and the affections that you display for Mr. Heathcliff. Loving another man while being married to the King is nothing less to treason."

Mrs. Harris, who was sitting with them, listening to the exchange of words between the two girls, said,

"Both of you," she warned while looking at the door to make sure no one was there or walking by to hear. The woman then looked at Madeline,

"Beth is right, Madeline. It would help if you were careful with whom you side with. The King might appear tolerable now, but that doesn't mean you can favour another man."

Madeline stared at Beth and her mother, "I don't think there's anything wrong in expressing my thoughts that a man is not guilty," she pursed her lips and then said, "And I think the King knows how I feel about things right now. It shouldn't be a problem."

Mrs. Harris nodded her head, a sigh escaping her lips, "That's good to hear. But who do you think would have killed the person?"

Madeline didn't have an answer to it. She hoped Calhoun would be able to find something out. At the same time, she wondered if Calhoun found James to be bearable now as James was not someone who held her interest anymore. She felt bad for James. Beth left the room soon, leaving her mother and her alone. 


"Don't take Beth's words to your heart, Maddie," her mother placed her hand on hers, squeezing it encouragingly before letting it go, "She must be upset that she wasn't the one who was chosen to be the Queen."

"Can I ask you something, Mama?"

"Yes, anything, my child," responded her mother, who looked at her curiously as to what she wanted to ask. 

"Yesterday when Beth and I were talking, in the room, she mentioned a boy with whom we used to play when we were at grandpa and grandma's house. Do you remember who it was?"

Mrs. Harris' eyes turned wide, and she took a second to compose herself, "Which boy is that?" 

Madeline went to explain, "It was when we were small. Beth said a boy used to play with us. Is he still in the village?"

"W-who knows if he's still there. It would help if you asked your grandparents about it. We used to send you both there to spend some days," her mother laughed. 

"We used to spend a lot of time with them, isn't it?" came Madeline's fond voice, "How come you and father didn't stay there with us? I think as much as I remember, it was just Beth and me."

On her question, Madeline saw how her mother grew uncomfortable in her seat, and the expression on her face turned worried. In the past, neither Beth nor she had questioned things related to them staying there.

"You both were very fond of your grandpa and grandma. What silly questions you ask," replied her mother, picking up the kettle to keep herself busy, and she poured herself tea in the teacup. 

"I guess you are right," Madeline went along with her mother, "I mean, I don't remember spending much time with our maternal grandparents. But we must have spent time with them when we were really small, isn't it?" Madeline doubted she would get a direct answer if she asked her mother. Therefore, she tried to poke in other directions to find the answers she was looking for. 

Her mother gave her a small nod, not meeting her eyes, and Madeline felt her hands turn cold. With her mother dodging her questions, she felt like the dream she had dreamt was true. She bit the inside of her cheek. 

Mrs. Harris then changed the subject, "What is going to happen to the wedding gown? I thought James was going to finish it."

"Calhoun will get it sorted," Madeline offered her mother a smile. 


"Madeline," her mother said, "I know you are new to all this, but you need to know how to deal with people. You need to be wise while choosing your words with men. They can be immature at times, brash if you choose something that doesn't involve them in it. Do you understand what I am saying?"

Madeline's thoughts were everywhere about everything, and she nodded, "Yes, mother."

"That's good," her mother responded, "Here, take this one," she offered the teacup. 

"You have it, mother. I don't think I have an appetite for tea now," replied Madeline and she then leaned forward to kiss her mother's cheek, "I will go check on Lady Lucy if she needs anything. Will you be alright here by yourself?"

"I will have your father come and join me. Go on," Mrs. Harris saw her younger daughter get up and leave the room. The woman's smile fell from her face and she stared at the gap of the door. When a maid entered the room, Mrs. Harris asked the maid to tell her husband to join her in the parlour room. 

"Where is Beth and Madeline?" questioned Mr. Harris, who arrived at the room. 

"They went to take a walk and visit the other guests," Mrs. Harris replied, stirring the tea with the small spoon. When her husband took a seat, she said, "She was asking me questions."

"Who?" Mr. Harris furrowed his brows. 

"Madeline. She was asking me about the boy. She and Beth were speaking about it last night," Mrs. Harris said in a worried tone, "She has never asked such questions before. Do you think it is because she visited the village?"

"She has visited before too. I don't think there's anything to worry about," Mr. Harris assured his wife, "Whatever it was, we have already dealt with it."

"I hope so," murmured the woman, "I don't think your parents will help this time…"

Away from the parlour room, Madeline who had left her mother didn't go to meet Lady Lucy, but instead went to take a walk in the open garden. 

She sat under the warm sun, feeling the heat on her skin which felt pleasant compared to the cold atmosphere inside the castle that lacked light or warmth. Madeline felt there were too many things going on, keeping her mind occupied. She hoped justice would be provided to James.


Madeline had a lot of questions about her childhood, but doubted she would get an answer right now for it. Her hands were careful when they touched the surface of the glasses. It had been a few hours since Calhoun had left the castle, and she wondered what time he would return. 

With her parents hiding and lying to her and her sister, who was passive-aggressive with her words, Madeline didn't know how to feel about it. A few days ago, she had been eager to meet them, to have them here so that she would not feel lonely, but why was it that the loneliness didn't go away? There were doubts and questions on her minds, and it made her feel wary. Wary of the people whom she once trusted. Instead, she felt like she could trust Calhoun. 

"Lady Madeline." 

Madeline's eyes that had somewhere closed itself opened to see a man standing in front of her. Because of the bright sunlight at the front, it took a while for her eyes to adjust to see the silhouette of the man. It was Markus Wilmot. She offered him a bow from where she sat. 

"Do you mind?" asked Markus, looking at the space on the bench next to her. The bench was long enough to accommodate two people. When she gave him a nod, the vampire took himself to sit while keeping a gap between them.

"Lovely weather, isn't it? I was looking for Lady Elizabeth, and I thought she would be here with you."

"She must be looking for you too," Madeline responded. If Markus was looking for Beth, he should have gone searching instead of taking a seat in the very same bench, thought Madeline in her mind. But as he had taken a seat, she believed that he had something to speak about. 

Silence fell between them for a few seconds. Instead of letting Markus talk, Madeline asked,

"What are your intentions with my sister?" 

Markus was taken aback with the direct question. A smile appeared on his face, "I intend to marry her, milady."

"There are many other girls of better status and maybe looks in your own kind. I find it slightly odd that your mother accepted my sister so readily," Madeline stated, not forgetting of the time how Lady Rosamund had insulted. Madeline was sure if she asked him just about looks, he would compare himself to Calhoun and get away with the question.


"It must be because I am her son. She finds it very hard to refuse my wishes," Markus answered with a polite smile on his face, "My apologies for the way my family treated you in the past but it is only because they weren't aware you were going to be the Queen."

That was right. Once Madeline was announced to be the future Queen, the way people looked and treated her had changed, thought Madeline to herself. 

"My mother said we would be choosing the dates for our marriage once you and my cousin are married. How do you feel? To be part of the royal family? With your sister getting married to the same family, you must be excited."

"It feels wonderful," Madeline replied before looking ahead of her, "Will Lady Rosamund and Sophie be returning to the castle tonight?" 

"Yes. Mother said they would be here by dinner," answered Markus. He saw the human girl from the corner of his eyes, noticing how she was looking at the front. Though the older Harris' daughter had strong features that were attractive, there was something very delicate about this girl. The girl who the King had chosen for himself. 

When his mother, father and he were discussing what to do, the idea to defile the human had come up before it was brushed away. His cousin, Calhoun, didn't appear like he would throw the girl away even if something like that happened. They had to break the marriage while also trying to frame the King. 

The main reason his mother had left the castle to go back to the mansion wasn't because his father was alone. But it was so that she could send a letter to the High House, that the King was taming a werewolf who was killing people. It would take a couple of days for the people of High House to arrive here. And it was enough to kill people and put the blame on the King. 

Unlike humans and vampires, werewolves were not considered to be in the same category. Instead, they were lower than humans. Creatures who were feral and turned every time the moonlight touched the ground. The land ruled by the Warring was the place where the werewolves originally originated, people often thought that it was the land of humans and werewolves. The werewolves were often used to hunt preys and enemies. 

Markus then said, "Were you able to sleep well? Both you and Lady Elizabeth."


Madeline wondered why Markus was asking this, "Yes. Why do you ask?"

He shook his head, "I could hear a man screaming from the dungeon. I think it makes it easier when you have a human hearing," saying this, he stood up, "I should get going."

While Madeline and Markus were talking to each other, Beth, who was walking by caught sight of them sitting in the garden. Her eyes hardened to see her sister spending time with Markus. Markus looked like he couldn't keep his eyes off her little sister. The man offered Madeline a sweet smile, and Beth's blood only boiled under her skin. Gritting her teeth, she waited for Markus to leave the garden before making her way to where Madeline was. 

"What are you trying to do?!" Came Beth's furious question. 

Madeline was making her dress proper when she saw Beth walking around the garden to come and stand in front of her,

"What?" she asked, confused. Why did Beth look upset seeing her smoothen her dress? 

"Don't act coy, Madeline. I saw Markus sitting and talking to you," Beth's green eyes were bright, and she looked at Madeline intensely. 

"He came looking for you and decided to sit with you?"

Madeline wasn't sure what had upset Beth. 

Beth huffed. This was something she had always been worried about. Her younger sister, taking more attention to herself. It had happened in the past. Therefore, she had been keeping a keen eye to prevent it from happening. 

"What?" Madeline questioned, not knowing what had got her sister so upset. 

Beth said, "You are always doing this to me. If Markus was looking for me, he would have continued to look. Not sit next to you and talk. I saw the look he gave you."

Madeline raised her eyebrows, "Can you hear what you are saying? It was a simple talk, and he left. We were speaking about your wedding." She couldn't believe Beth was accusing her of something so silly, "If he is looking at me, you should be questioning him and not me."

"So you do agree that something is going on," Beth placed her hand on her waist, "I cannot believe this."

Madeline took a deep breath, looking away before she looked back at Beth, "No, I cannot believe this. I said 'if'. He is your possible finance, and I am your sister."


"Yes, the sister who steals everything from me!" Beth gritted her teeth. "Is the King not enough that you are attracting the one man who decided to show interest in me?"

"I stole nothing from you, Beth. You are imagining things." After spending time yesterday, Madeline thought everything was normal, but it wasn't. 

"Am I?" asked Beth, "Why didn't you refuse when it came to going to the ball? Somewhere deep down, you wanted to catch someone's fancy. You act like you don't want it, but the truth is you do. Every time I liked something, it is given to you. You even took Jennine. She was my friend. Even this place could have been mine."

Madeline frowned, "You cannot blame me just because things didn't go in your favour. I came to the ball to accompany you because you wanted me to be there. I have no hold over who is going to be friends with us or Jennine in the past. Markus and I barely spoke a few words, and it is a big accusation to be claiming that I want Mr. Wilmot. How could you even think like that? I have no interest in him, and maybe if you stopped being so insecure about everything, you would feel less worried and actually come to see how things are."

Beth didn't hide the hate she felt for Madeline right now. Madeline thought that her sister had forgiven and forgotten what happened the day Calhoun had told her to live in the castle. 

"And what did I steal from you? I have always followed you, stayed in your shadow and never questioned your actions. I have put you before me."

Beth rolled her eyes, "I never asked you to follow me."

"I won't," Madeline turned around and started to walk. 

"Where are you going?! I am not done with talking to you," Beth shouted.

Madeline paused her footsteps and turned her head over her shoulder, "Making my path. You can go and dip your head in cold water to gather your scattered thoughts."

With this, Madeline walked away. She had too much on her plate right now, instead of deaingl with her sister's tantrums which were baseless. 

She had always overlooked and forgiven Beth time in time again, but the truth was that Beth was selfish enough to impose her insecurities upon her. She didn't want to deal with her sister right now, and would instead wait for Beth to come around and accept her faults. It was time for Beth to stop blaming her. 


The day continued to pass, and Madeline tried to keep herself away from Markus as well as her sister. Walking on the castle grounds now where the sun was slowly setting down, her footsteps stopped when she saw the dungeon. She remembered Markus mentioning a man screaming there. It must be someone new, who Calhoun had imprisoned for breaking the law or someone who had crossed him, thought Madeline to herself.

Not realizing her feet moved to come and stand at the back of the dungeon. 

One second it was quiet, and the next second she heard a man's voice which felt like he was being tortured, "AH! Stop this!" shouted the prisoner. The voice felt familiar, but she couldn't point who it belonged to. 

The sudden scream startled her, and she took a step back, her back hitting something. Quickly turning around, Madeline saw it was Theodore. 

"It is a new prisoner that we have in here. He tried to break into the castle last night," informed Theodore, giving her enough to keep her interest. He stretched his hand in the direction of the castle so that he could escort her back.

Madeline could still hear the painful groans of the prisoner, but there was something else. It felt less human, sounding more like an animal's growl. Glancing at the backside of the dungeon's wall, Madeline walked back with Theodore, feeling a little suspicious as Theodore had arrived there out of nowhere. 
___________

Tip toes- Part 1


With the time of evening that passed to bring darkness in the sky, Madeline stood at the high tower. She knew she should not be here, but it was the quietest place compared to the rest of the castle where no one ever came to venture. Touching the surface of the raised platform, she wondered how she even came to stand here the day when she was sleepwalking.

Madeline didn't want to be afraid. She didn't know what or who she was. She was scared to confirm if she was really the daughter of her parents. Right now, she had mixed emotions. She wanted the dream to be true, and at the same time, she didn't want it to be true. If it was true, she could confirm that she belonged to the Harris' family, but that also meant she had killed the girl. 

There was something that was bothering her. Her dream and the reality, they were not aligned together. The casket her family had opened was of the girl named Jennine, and at the same time, the girl Beth witnessed to be murdered was Jennine too. Though it wasn't uncommon to have the same names in the land they lived, Madeline found it to be uncanny that both the girls named Jennine had died when she was around. 

Madeline was still thinking, when she felt a sudden pain from the back of her body. 

"Ah!" a cry escaped her lips which went unheard by people as there was no one around her. 

Madeline gripped the surface of the platform with both her hands that was in front of her to support herself, but the pain suddenly increased. It felt like the bones on her back were twisting and being pulled, bringing tears in her eyes. And the next second the pain disappeared, leaving her huffing for air. Her chest heaved back and forth, and she closed her eyes to gather herself. 

She didn't know what was happening to her. She felt lost and the people who had possible answers, she doubted they would willingly give it to her.

Worried, she quickly left the high tower, and her feet made its way to her room. She locked the room before going to stand in front of the mirror that was near the bathtub.

Madeline then unbuttoned her dress so that she could take a look at her back. Turning around for her back to face the mirror, she turned her face to see the discolouration on her skin which wasn't there the last time she had checked. On her pale skin, there were patches of the blue-green bruises. 


"Oh God," the shuddered words escaped from her lips. 

How did one find answers when the answers were not being given? Asked Madeline to herself. 

While she started to button back her dress, Madeline remembered the scream of the man who was imprisoned in the dungeon. The scream kept repeating over and over in her mind, making her head hurt. She splashed cold water on her face, hoping to bring her back to reality, but it felt like everything was piling up one after another. 

"Madeline." 

Hearing someone's voice ring in her ears, Madeline stopped throwing water on her face, and she leaned back with water dripping down from her face. Her eyes opened, her eyebrows furrowing as she tried to match the voice with someone she knew. Her eyes moved left and right subtly as if her mind was experiencing an overdrive of thoughts. Was it possible?

'AHHH! Stop it!!' 

The words were short, but she remembered it. It was because there had been times in the past where she had let the voice play over and over again because it brought her happiness. Her head snapped around, and she said, 

"Why does it sound like James?" 

It didn't make any sense why James would be there, and she wasn't sure that it was James. It was possible that the prisoner was someone who shared the same voice, but what if it was James? Madeline didn't know if she was going paranoid and losing herself with the number of things she was thinking right now. 

She bit her lip, the frown on her forehead deepening. 

James was possibly on the run, and the girl's body was found today. Theodore said someone had tried to trespass and break into the castle. It didn't sound like James would do something like that, reasoned Madeline with herself. It was probably not James. Calhoun had gone to check on the murder that took place, where James had been labelled as the murderer. She hoped she would be able to get some insight on it from Calhoun. 

She nodded to herself. She would wait for Calhoun to return to the castle so that she would ask him herself. 

When the time of supper arrived, Lady Rosamund had returned along with Sophie after their visit to their mansion. But Calhoun was yet to return. It made Madeline question why he wasn't here yet. 


"Has brother Calhoun not returned yet?" Lucy asked Madeline, who had come to join them for supper. Her husband was missing at the table again. 

Theodore was the one to answer, "The King told he might not be able to join with everyone for supper. He has gone to the village and told from there he would be going to the town to speak to some of the ministers there."

Lucy was displeased that Theodore had replied to her question. Nonetheless, she turned her head and continued to eat. The table was unusually quiet as everyone had some issues going on in their head. Madeline and Beth were not on speaking terms. Beth only chose to smile at Markus' words. Mr. and Mrs. Harris were caught up with the questions Madeline had asked before while Sophie glared at the humans at the table. 

"Where is Samuel, Lucy?" asked Lady Rosamund, "I barely see him, and I wonder if that is why things have been going awry." 

Lucy's face hardened at the words, but she chose not to speak on it. 

"What went awry?" asked Sophie, showing interest in the possible gossip. She would have been more interested to hear the Harris' girls death but seeing how impossible it was, she decided to find another subject to dwell.

"Just the usual stories in the family and society," Lady Rosamund hummed, "Mrs. Harris, I was wondering if we could get your approval with Mr. Harris for Elizabeth's wedding with my son Markus. We were thinking about selecting dates after three weeks from the King's wedding. What do you think?"

Sophie, who had only taken a sip of water, started to cough as the water had gone in the wrong pipe. 

Madeline was glad to see that it wasn't just her, but even Sophie had an issue with Elizabeth marrying her brother, which was for different reasons. Today when she was spending her time in the garden with Markus, she had felt his eyes on her. Staring at her, that made her feel uncomfortable.

She didn't like Markus for more than one reason. Beth was not aware of his true intentions, and even if she tried to speak to her, Beth would not listen. 

Madeline's mother and father looked surprised, not knowing what else to say but be happy for their daughter, they gave a nod of approval. 


"But we will need to prepare things from our side. It would take time to get the cards made and the clothes," said their mother slightly worried. 

Lady Rosamund smiled at this, "Please don't worry about things like those. I know you don't have any money with you," laughed the older vampiress. Even Beth, who was eating, her hand stopped at the comment. "I am aware that my nephew is covering the expenses. But considering your family status, I wouldn't want to burden Elizabeth's family in terms of money."

"I can ask the King to help," said Madeline after what the older vampiress spoke. Lady Rosamund raised her eyebrow as she turned to look at the insolent human. If Madeline was not going to marry Calhoun, Rosamund would have made sure to show Madeline's place, but instead, the woman smiled.

"And how do you intend to do that, dear? The King is Markus' cousin," Lady Rosamund reminded Madeline, her eyes twinkling. 

"Yes, that's true, Lady Rosamund. You said Markus and Beth would get married three weeks after my marriage to Calhoun, by then I will be Calhoun's wife," stated Madeline to the vampiress, "And we all know the position of the wife comes first and then comes the rest."
___________

Tip toes- Part 2


Music Recommendation: Antiphon by Nicholas Britell

.

On hearing Madeline's words, the room fell silent. No one had expected the human girl to speak the way she did. Lady Rosamund stared at the lowly creature, her red eyes bright and slightly wide. 

"As the wife of the King, and as the Queen, I believe it would give me the privilege to conduct the marriage without the need to borrow money or let my family be indebted," said Madeline, her eyes looking straight at Lady Rosamund. Madeline was not pleased with Beth marrying Markus, but at the same time, she wouldn't let the Wilmot's look down at her family. They were humans, but they were respectable humans who didn't hurt and put down people. 

Beth was still angry at what transpired in the garden, and she wanted to refuse Madeline's offer as she didn't want her younger sister to flaunt her position in front of everyone. But before Beth could speak up, Lucy said,

"That is wonderful. I think it is a great idea, that Lady Madeline wants to have her sister's wedding to be grand," Lucy smiled, looking at Aunt Rosamund, who slowly smiled as she stared at Madeline. 

Lucy had felt the friction taking place between the people at the table, and she had tried to ignore it. She was surprised when Madeline offered her help and made sure to let her aunt know that her family would not be poor forever. With Calhoun not here, she wanted to make sure to diffuse the situation. 

"Indeed, what a good sister you have, Elizabeth," remarked Lady Rosamund.

Madeline offered Lady Rosamund a polite smile before continuing her meal. 

Lady Rosamund wanted to push her hand through Madeline's chest and pull out her heart right now. This dining room where everyone was sitting, it was the place she grew up in. She was the princess of this castle before she was married off. This was her home, and this mere human girl had the audacity to speak back to her. To use such tone, Rosamund never forgot people who insulted her. She always served it back to the person with three times more effect. 

The girl was new, and she had no clue about the royal vampire family. Someone lower than her was trying to correct her, thought Lady Rosamund in her mind. Somewhere in between having the meal, Rosamund turned to Markus as if indicating something. 


Madeline was with Lady Lucy after finishing their meals, talking about the time back in the village, where she was telling one of the stories when Markus appeared from the other side of the corridor, 

"I hope I am not disturbing," said Markus.

"Of course, not. Feel free to join us, cousin," Lucy's words were polite, "Lady Madeline was telling me about the time when a man spilt the bag of rice during the time of snow." 

"Must be interesting," Markus commented, looking at Lucy before his eyes fell on Madeline. Madeline offered the vampire a small smile. 

Madeline and Lucy had walked away from others, spending some time as both of them could bear each other's presence without being disappointed. But who knew that Markus would come looking for them. The smile he offered her and the way his eyes looked at her features, it made her more uncomfortable than what she felt in the evening. She and Beth were not on speaking terms, but that didn't mean she wanted to spoil their relationship.

"Where is Beth?" Madeline asked Markus.

"I dropped her to her room. She appears to be upset about something," Markus stated in a thoughtful tone. 

"Hm? Did you do something?" came Lucy's question. 

"Nothing at all. I decided to give her some space," Markus smiled and then said, "We should all go hunting tomorrow. Both Lucy and I missed hunting."

Madeline tilted her head, "Wasn't it just some time ago that you took Beth on hunting?" 

"I meant everyone. I didn't get the opportunity to hunt with the future Queen," Markus responded with a polite smile.

"Pardon me, but I lack interest in hunting animals just for fun," Madeline replied, returning the polite smile, "But you should all go. I am sure with everyone there, it will be a wonderful time to spend. Beth was telling me how much she enjoyed it."

"What do you like, my lady? It would be easier to know what pleases you so that it can be arranged in the future to gain your favour," Madeline heard Markus joke casually, but there was something underneath his tone which Lucy didn't take note of. 

She didn't understand why he was suddenly being interested and hovering around her. Lucy looked intrigued by the question. Therefore, Madeline answered, 

"I like people who are down to earth. People who don't cover themselves up with lies." 


It was not the answer both the vampire as well as the vampiress were expecting, but it was a subtle indication for Markus from Madeline. The smile that was on Markus' face faltered. 

"Then you are in good company, my lady. Our family has always been together and loved each other." On Markus' words, Lucy didn't comment, and Madeline wondered if Beth saw Markus for who he was. The man was cunningly nice to her sister, and Beth believed he wanted her for herself. But at the same time, Beth wanted to marry Markus because of the family he came from. "Especially when you are living in the castle, no harm can befall on you. The King makes sure to have people guard, and if someone breaks in, they are taken to the dungeon. For example, yesterday someone broke in here and was taken to the dungeon right away for questioning." 

"There was an attack yesterday?" Lucy frowned. 

"Yes," Markus nodded his head, "The King has kept it quiet so that no one worries about it." 

 This caught Madeline's attention, and she asked, "Do you know who broke in?" 

Markus shifted his gaze from Lucy to Madeline, "Yes, I heard the person was from East Carswell. Though, I didn't go and visit the prisoner. It is a waste of time to go and look at them." He looked at the human's delicate features which he had overlooked before. Had she always been this pretty? "I heard it was someone the King knew, but I don't know the name."

Madeline felt her stomach churn hearing it was someone from her village. This only made her suspicious stronger that the voice belonged to James. But if it really was him, why would he be locked up in the dungeon? Somewhere it didn't make sense, but Madeline wanted to go and confirm it by herself. 

"I don't know why people even try to break into the castle," commented Lucy shaking her head, "They are not only going to be caught, but they will be killed. Brother Calhoun doesn't like people snooping around."

"That is true, Lucy. Also," Markus looked around before lowering his voice, "It looks like it is someone special, the prisoner I mean. Else he would be given a quick death." Something in Markus' tone told her that the vampire knew who was in there and he was only being secretive about it.

Returning back to the room, Madeline wondered what to do.


She was curious. Theodore suddenly arriving next to her near the dungeon and Markus dropping hints, she questioned if Calhoun was hiding something from her that she was not supposed to know. When more time passed, Madeline decided to take a look in the dungeon. Instead of her sitting in the room and doing nothing but worry, she could clarify her doubts. 

It wasn't that Madeline was doubting Calhoun. If he was here, she would have asked him by now but he wasn't back. She only wanted to take a look. Just one look to see who the prisoner was.

Walking to every corner of her room, Madeline blew the candles that had been lit. She made sure to darken the room before going to her bed and putting the pillow to the far side of the bed. If someone were to step into the room, they would see the pillows on the bed and think she was sleeping because of the low light from the fireplace. 

She would be back soon, told Madeline to herself. It was just a few minutes. With that thought, Madeline stepped out of the room. Closing the door behind her and on her way, she looked at Calhoun's room to murmured to herself,

"Be back before he does."

Taking a deep breath, Madeline quietly made her way out of the King's quarters, taking the route through the garden. 
__________
Tip toes- Part 3

Madeline was glad that she hadn't taken her shoes off, even if they made a little sound on the marble floor of the castle. It was because the path through the garden was not a path at all. During her initial days here, in the castle, she had tried to look for possible escape routes. To see which way would lead to a easier escape without anyone's notice. 

The path she had picked now was not a place for a female as she was wearing a dress that could quickly get stuck in the sharp thorns of the bushes. Madeline walked on the muddy ground that wasn't smooth but had sharp stones that would have been bothersome if she had walked barefoot. 

The castle was well guarded by the guards, and each of them had their timing, and one had to be careful. She could have gone through the doors of the castle, passing by the guards. But they would have informed the same to Calhoun. Somewhere as time passed, Madeline wondered if Calhoun was hiding James from her. 

When she came near the dungeon, Madeline noticed the two guards who stood at the front. How was she going to get past them? She asked herself before taking herself to go behind the dungeon where she had earlier been this evening. 

It wasn't necessary to go inside the dungeon if she was able to take a glimpse from here. But the window of the dungeon was built high and near the ceiling. Even a stool or a platform would not be sufficient for her to take a peek.

Wondering what to do as time was quickly ticking by, Madeline went back near the front and leaned forward, taking a look at the guards before her back touched the wall as she hid behind it. It shouldn't be too hard, thought Madeline to herself. She picked up a stone from the ground, clutching it, she threw it at the bushes that were at the front, making the bush rustle. 

"What was that?" asked one of the guards, looking in the direction where Madeline had thrown the stone. 

"Must be some squirrel," answered another.

"Let me go check," and the first guard left the front of the dungeon. Madeline searched for another stone and then threw it in another direction when it was just one guard. This caught the man's attention, and he looked left and right. 


Madeline threw one more stone, which went to fall far away from the dungeon which was enough to distract and keep the guards busy. Seeing the guards leave, she quickly caught the front of her dress, and she stepped inside the dungeon. The dungeon was sometimes left open and sometimes closed. She was glad that it was open now. 

As she walked through the passage of the dungeon, Madeline was greeted with the smell of rusted iron and a slightly foul smell that was possibly coming from the bodies that were chained in here. Torches burnt on the dark walls that looked somewhat wet in appearance. She picked one of the torches on her way as there wasn't enough light in here. 

Madeline had been here only once with Calhoun and Sophie, which was why she didn't know her way in and out of this place. The dungeon looked small from outside, but the truth was it was big. It was big enough to accommodate people of an entire village inside it. Swishing her hand back and forth in front of her, she continued to walk in the direction she thought the prisoner of East Carswell was imprisoned in. 

The dungeon was quiet without a single noise, leaving some sort of eeriness in the atmosphere. As she passed through the cell rooms which were enclosed with rusted iron bars, she caught sight of skeletons. There were too many skeletons, and it seemed like Theodore was yet to complete the work which was given by Calhoun this morning. 

When Madeline finally reached the place for what she came looking for, she came to stand in front of an old wooden door which had a brownish-green appearance. There was a small gap on the door, and she tried to peep inside the room to see what was in there, but all she saw was ground. Holding the handle of the door, she tried to push it, but the door didn't open. Of course, thought Madeline to herself, the door to this room was locked. 

Madeline wondered what to do. 

She had no key to this door, and she couldn't see what was on the other side of the room. Her heart had not stopped beating loudly in her ears since she had left her own room. This was not something she was supposed to be indulging herself in, but her curiosity got the best out of her.


Placing her hands on the door, she moved closer, "James?" she called the name, "Mr. Heathcliff? Are you in there?" she asked, keeping her ear on the door as if it would help her hear better. 

But there was no response to her words. All she received was silence. 

Pulling her head back along with her body, she stepped away from the door.

She wondered if the room was empty. Maybe it was not James, and it was someone else. And even if it was James, she should not worry, right? But what if he was imprisoned because of her?

The first time Madeline met James, she thought he was a calm and sensible man. At least that is what she thought until hers and Calhoun's path crossed each other. James had turned impulsive and reckless. It was something she had witnessed by first hand when he had locked himself and her in the powder room. 

Madeline was about to look for another room, before leaving the dungeon when she heard some sound come from the room. 

The next moment, she heard scratching sounds coming from the other side of the door, and it had her frown. 

"Madeline…" came the voice and her eyes widened. 

"Mr. Heathcliff?!" It was him! And Madeline looked around searching for something that could be used to open the door, "Are you alright?" she asked him, but she didn't get an answer to her question. She wondered what happened to him. Was he earlier being tortured by the guards when she was standing behind the dungeon? 

Realizing the hair pin in her hair, she pulled it out. Twisting it before pushing it into the lock. It wasn't the first time Madeline had tried to pick a lock. There weren't many things to do in the village to pass time and she had learned to pick locks out of boredom. Hearing a click sound in the lock, Madeline pushed the door open to see James who was on the ground. 

Her eyebrows drew in together at the sight of James' condition. His clothes looked as if it had been torn because of their tattered condition. His hands and legs were chained to the walls so that he wouldn't be able to reach the door of the room. 

"Mr. Heathcliff!" Madeline went towards him, sitting down to look at James, "What happened to you? How did you end up here?" questions came one after another. He looked tired and worn out, looking as if his age had increased. 


James huffed for air, "You are here," he whispered. 

Madeline didn't know how to feel, "They said you killed someone. They found a body in your backyard." James didn't seem to understand what she was saying, and he just stared at her, "Mr. Heathcliff?"

James surprised her by saying, "Save me. I think I am going to die."

Was Calhoun going to kill him? When Theodore and Markus had mentioned about someone trespassing into the castle, did they mean that person to be James? 

"Let me speak to the King. I will ask him to spare your life," Madeline assured James. This was not a condition in which James was supposed to be in. Was it because of her that James was suffering? James shook his head, "He will listen to me if I speak to him." Calhoun was the King, and if she could speak to him, maybe there could be some ground of understanding between the two men where there was no need for any torture. 

"You don't understand," James spoke the few words with great difficulty. 

James was happy after seeing the girl whom he loved was right in front of him. Amid the chaos, he was glad to see her, and he moved his shackled hand to place it on her face. 
________

Tip toes- Part 4


Music Recommendation: Sous La Surface by Pontiver Bogross

.

Madeline was startled by this sudden contact, and she was about to move away when she heard some gurgling sound coming from the man. Not knowing what was going on, she quickly moved away, stumbling behind towards the wall. She heard James say something that she quite didn't catch. 

She felt her blood turn cold, noticing something was wrong with James. His skin started to shed and it looked nothing less to sunburns. He appeared to be in pain as his body hurled on the floor. He was growling, a growl which was similar to a feral growl.

The next time when James and her eyes met, his eyes had changed its colour to gold and yellow. Something was happening to his body and Madeline didn't know what because James's appearance had started to change. 

At the same time, Madeline heard voices coming from the other side of the dungeon from where she had entered.

Madeline's eyes turned wide, watching James slowly start to transform from a human to look like an oversized wolf. But this was not how wolves normally looked, not at least how Madox looked. Before she could spend more time thinking and trying to wrap her head around on what was happening, she saw the creature move. She quickly stepped out of the room before it could catch hold of her. 

Looking back and forth, she quickly closed the door, her hands shaking as she locked the room. Madeline then ran to find another room to hide in. The footsteps of the guards got louder, and they walked past the room she was in. 

Madeline placed her hand on her chest, wanting it to stop beating so loudly. It felt like at any moment it would jump out of her throat. 

"Did you hear that sound?" asked one of the guards who had come to check the inside of the dungeon after hearing the loud growls. 

"I will check here. You go there," ordered another guard.

What did she just see?! What was happening to James? So many questions were running in her mind, and she could barely keep her head straight. While she hid there, Madeline took note of a folded parchment which was on the ground near her. Bending down, she picked it up and opened the letter to read what was inside it. 

'Sir Wilmot,


I have spread the word to the lady and others. The rumour has already leaked about the girl trying to commit suicide, and people are questioning the King's action and behaviour. I have heard that someone has even gone to put in a word to Lady Petronelle. This will bring in more light on the King's rule. I still have a day more before I will be going back to the castle. I will find you more information. Your servant.'

Wilmot?

Madeline didn't get time to dwell too much on the letter as she had to step out of this cell and out of the dungeon. Putting the note in her pocket, she pushed and peered through the gap of the door. She noticed the guards had walked further and into other rooms to check. Grabbing this opportunity, she opened the door and quickly darted towards the exit of the dungeon. 

Making her way out, Madeline didn't dawdle around the dungeon, and her feet traced back in the way she had come here. Madeline's eyebrows deepened by thinking what was going on with James. For a moment, she didn't know if she had fallen asleep, and if she was sleepwalking in her dream. James was a human. She knew the man.

What happened to him?! 

Turning around in the direction she had come, she looked at the dungeon which she could still see from where she was. She placed her hand on her forehead and huffed for air before running her hand through her hair. 

Madeline could feel her heart beating loudly, and she took ten seconds to breath in and out, calming herself before she reached the King's quarters. Removing her shoes and holding it in her hands, she padded on the marble floor. 

On her way, she took a glimpse at Calhoun's room to see the lights were not lit. It seemed that he had not returned yet. She had taken as little time as possible during her visit to the dungeon. 

Entering her room, Madeline turned and closed the doors. 

Madeline tried to adjust her eyes to the lighting as the candles had been blown out. The little light continued to come from the fireplace, and she started to move towards the dressing table when she heard,


"Your bed is cold," spoke a voice in the room that had her eyes go wide in fear. Nervously, she turned around, gulping softly to see a shadow on her bed as if someone laid down there. The man who had been lying down sat up emerging out from the shadows where he had been waiting for her.

Calhoun was here.

Madeline felt a nervous chill run down the back of her spine, seeing the shadow move. It was from the same place where she had placed pillows earlier. 

"What are you doing here?" she asked, trying to even her voice when Calhoun's feet touched the ground and he pushed himself up to start walking towards her. His handsome features looked darker than usual because of the lack of light in the room.

"I came to meet you," Calhoun tilted his head, "Where did you go?" 

"I went out for a walk," came the quick reply that had him smile, a smile that scared Madeline.

Madeline took a step back when he came close to her. But that didn't stop him from cornering her, and her back hit the wall behind her. She told herself not to be scared. She hadn't done anything wrong by going to the dungeon. Would he consider her taking a stroll in the night as a lie? 

Calhoun raised his hand towards her face, and she closed her eyes, scared. She shuddered when his fingers trail down from her temple and her jaw and neck. Her blonde hair had been let down because of the pin she had used to pick on the lock.

"In the middle of the night?" Calhoun's voice lacked surprise, and this made Madeline worry that he knew. 
_______


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