Thirty – A Shift in the Natural Order
“You must not doubt my love for you, Perveen,” I said, this time daring to take her cheeks between my palms, pointy fingernails (the first time I’d noticed them) making dimples either side of her lips, as she had done to me so often already. It was my turn to try to instil confidence, take the burden of responsibility from those lithe, olive-skinned naked shoulders.
When we looked into each other’s eyes this time around, with me peering down upon her never-to-be-fully-grown height from a seemingly taller perspective than I had been used to, with the blood of Vlad Țepeș still coursing through my veins, there had been a very definite shift in control. I knew it, she knew it. And it affected her a great deal more, which is why I had to convince her now that whatever trial lay ahead of us our wedding would proceed as planned.
Twenty-nine –The trek along the cavern wall
There was something wrong with Vlad. His whole demeanour had smacked of ill ease in the chamber, a lethargy that belied his usurping of power and conquering of many fronts during his recorded mortal life. Not to mention his lack of interest in taking human life, given the personal tally of souls he’d sent to the other side, to date.
I couldn’t put my finger on it, even though he’d dragged me in to glimpse his very soul, a thriving version of Hell if not Hades itself; he seemed preoccupied.
As we followed him deeper into the seldom-visited pits of Subterranea, the impression that he was not all there intensified. Once past the tunnel entrance, the pathway almost immediately opened up into a wide ridge cut into the wall of a gigantic cavern. The sheer granite wall rose hundreds of feet above us and descended to our right, plummeting into pitch night.