In this excerpt, Yolande, my medieval exorcist, and her companion Geraint the juggler both strive against a dangerous, seductive demon.
Yolande recalled the impossible charisma the incubus had cast over Geraint. He had been perfect. Not daring to close her eyes in case she fell asleep and dreamed what the incubus wanted her to dream, she concentrated on the rank, real scent of the winter cabbages and the hard, dry soil beneath her bottom and legs. The earth God made for us, real and imperfect because we are real and imperfect. Our free choices make us so.
“He escaped you,” she said through tight lips.
“Surprised me, yes, but he was not so much of a challenge, not in his appearance, at least.”
Surface and appearance mattered to demons. Yolande’s left leg twitched as her booted foot went numb. She clung to the discomfort to keep her fixed, to remember she did not float on a great, cushion-strewn bed, surrounded by sweet wax candles and caressed by a loving Geraint. She was sitting in Halme village in a garden plot, beside frost-withered cabbage.
“Human females are earthier than their menfolk, much easier to seduce in the ways of the flesh, but harder to win in the realms of ideas.”
“You like flesh too,” Yolande pointed out.
“Very much, sweet one. Those fresh, pretty things and their randy dreams, and ripe, well-used wives fancying other carnal delights…quite delicious. I want to lose myself in them every night until the day of judgment.”
Pig. Geraint’s face drifted before her as her mind annoyingly dredged up the mud of their last quarrel. She chewed her lip, fighting the urge to argue with both Geraint and the demon. The demon incubus for sure, since he has admitted how much he enjoys women’s flesh and dreams.
“William liked ideas,” the incubus droned on. “Our dear Father William loved the idea of secret knowledge and for a time he loved the idea of sex. He wanted to know what it was like. I helped him find out. He liked it very much for a time and then he got bored with the same female.”
Hilda had been seduced and discarded by her own priest to satisfy his fleeting curiosity. The pain of such casual cruelty twisted in Yolande’s chest and a raging anger launched her to her feet. She leapt out of the garden patch, screaming at the heavens, “He murdered her! By what he did, he murdered her!”
“And the babe within her, sweet one. Two for one, just for good measure.”
This time, grief almost knocked her off her feet but anger kept her up and moving.
“Remember where you left your bow?” the incubus tongued in her ear, sticky as rancid honey. “Why not pick it up and seek out the priest?”
“I will,” she vowed, running. “I will.”
* * * * *
Geraint followed Father William to the priest’s cottage. The man entered and crashed about inside, smashing pots and overturning the trestle, spoiling all that he and Yolande had done.
Time passed, he grew colder waiting and watching, and still Father William lumbered about indoors. How many places has the fellow left to search? What is he seeking?
“Bertha!” the priest yelled suddenly and the rooks in the stand of rowans took flight in a burst of flapping wings. “Bertha, you slattern, where are you hiding?”
“Anywhere away from you, I should think.” Yolande strode to the cottage and hammered on the door.
“Just ignore me.” Geraint wondered if she had even noticed him, but then she turned and he saw the bow in her clenched fist.
“Come out, you!” she shouted, jerking round again to kick the door with her boot. “Destroyer!” One kick and the door shook. “Rapist!” And again, a hefty kick. “Murderer!”
A piece of wood flew out from the groaning timbers, but Yolande merely swatted it aside. More than that, she had not seen him. In her fury she could see nothing but the closed door, and with that knowledge a worm of fear slithered along Geraint’s spine. In all their time together he had never seen her in such a steaming rage.
“Come out, coward. I am a woman like Hilda, a woman like the blessed Virgin. Open the door!”
“And get an arrow in your groin.” Stealing closer, Geraint picked his way carefully through the stand of rowans. He did not want to be shot by mistake.
“Yolande,” he called, before she kicked and hammered afresh. “Yolande, is he worth this?”
She spun about, her mouth agape, her eyes glittering. Rage and more was in her.
“Geraint, he killed her just as if he had dashed her brains out with a stone.”
“I know, cariad, but if he dies by your arrow now, cui bono?” His question, the Latin, was a tug to her learning and training, a reminder of who and what she was and one, he prayed, that would give her pause. “What will it do to your soul?” he went on softly.
She snorted. “Who benefits? The folk here would get a better priest, at least.”
“But would they?” Geraint stepped out completely from the final, closest rowan, and stood utterly still for a moment, letting Yolande see him. “So many priests have died in the pestilence. Father William in there, with his single error—”
Her bow arm tightened. “One mistake? One?”
He did not flinch as Yolande brought her arm up and her bow quivered at him, its string humming as if alive. He knew she was not quite herself. Somehow that incubus has sneaked through her defenses.
His throat was as dry as a desert, but the performer in him was excited, his mind quick and clear. One wrong step, one poor answer and we all go down, but I have not fallen yet.
“An error of fatal curiosity, leading to sin,” he replied quietly. “But can we judge him? Are we the Almighty, to judge?”
“Always so glib.” Yolande frowned and he crossed his fingers tightly behind his back, sweating a little in case she guessed his lie. The priest could go to the devil for him, but if she killed Father William now, the act would haunt her forever.
One false step… The back of his neck prickled, but he was sure, very sure—almost sure—of what he was doing. Here goes.
“I challenge you to show otherwise,” he answered.
Yolande, high and blood-buzzing in her anger, answered without thinking, “Yes, yes, I take your challenge.”
“Good lass.”. Swaying his hips like a streetwalker, he strolled up to her.
#DiverseRomance #Romance DARK MAIDEN http://amzn.to/2qEuKcL
Ghosts, revenants, incubi, vampires and demons haunt medieval England, as Yolande and Geraint must use their love to survive.