Tuesday, May 28, 2013

First Rewrite/Second Draft of PART 1, NICOLAE'S ESCAPE: Chapter 1

Here is the first rewrite/second draft of Chapter 1.  I was just going to post a small excerpt from the chapter, but I was liking how it was developing so I decided to post the whole thing for you guys.  Plus, I feel the new developments start to offer a better insight into the relationship of Nicolae, Sebastian, and Eloisa.

As I said, I do go into more detail with some things in the second draft so it is longer and things are a bit more descriptive (including some of the more sensitive subjects that are touched on in the story).  So read on if you like and I'll be posting Chapter 19 of the first draft by the end of the week (and I'll have to make myself only post smaller excerpts of the second and and other subsequent drafts from here on out :D ).

The excerpts from the second and an other subsequent drafts will also be available in the new SAMPLES section.





CHAPTER 1
JULY, 1844
It was on the second night of their escape into the woods when Eloisa began coming to Nicolae at night after he had gone to sleep.  Sebastian had been feeling exhausted from nearly twenty-four hours of hiking through the woods and Nicolae had to admit that he was also the same way.  They had been following the creek, only making three brief stops, and traveling into the second night as Nicolae had planned for them to.  Nicolae knew that if it been him alone, he would have likely only made one rest stop.  But he had Sebastian with him and Sebastian was still a little boy, requiring more rest and sustenance. 
When the boys stopped to get sleep, Nicolae was able to find a descreet area of brush for them to lie down under.  Sebastian, still frightened and confused, lied down next to his brother.  During their first night in the woods, Sebastian had tried to convince Nicolae to tell him about was happening and why they had left so suddenly.  They had made their first stop to eat a couple small pieces of stale bread that Nicolae had in his bag.  Sebastian had been taking small sips of water from Nicolae’s flask when he tried to approach his brother with the subject.  Sebastian had started with thanking his brother for the stop, to which Nicolae responded with a simple nod. 
“What happened?  Why are we going away now?” Sebastian asked.  The boy tried to choose his words carefully, but there really wasn’t any way of side-stepping the questions he had.
Sebastian watched his brother, hopeful that the older boy would provide him with some answers.  But Nicolae hardly returned his younger brother’s gaze when he firmly said, “Sebastian, you wanted to stop and eat.  So eat.  And hurry up.”
Dejected, Sebastian’s face fell but he decided that it was best to just obey Nicolae at that moment.  He could sense Nicolae growing more impatient and anxious by the second and thought it best to not test his brother by pushing the question.  The boy ate the rest of his stale piece of bread as quickly as he could.  He would let it all go for that time being, but Sebastian still hoped that Nicolae would eventually tell him what happened, and soon.  No matter how terrible the truth was, Sebastian preferred to know the truth as it saved him from his imagination running away with him.  The part that bothered Sebastian the most was Eloisa.
Why isn’t she with us?
Sebastian found it hard to believe that Nicolae would want to go somewhere far away like America and not take Eloisa with him.  The types of feelings and emotions that grown ups tend to develop toward one another was still foreign to Sebastian at his age, but one thing he was able to understand was how much Eloisa meant to Nicolae.  Sebastian had watched their relationship develop over the span of a few years, from their watching one another from afar to the first times they began spending together.  At first, Nicolae and Eloisa would see one another with an adult chaperone present.  But it wasn’t long before Sebastian began to notice his older brother and the girl of his desire figuring out ways to sneak away to be alone. 
Sebastian liked Eloisa.  He found her to be good natured, very pretty, and she was kind to Sebastian, even seeming to take on a more motherly role to the boy as her relationship with Nicolae progressed.  But Sebastian couldn’t help the embarrassment--and slight repulsion—he felt the day he had gone searching for Nicolae and found him kissing Eloisa behind a large tree near the woods.  The boy would always be reminded of that image anytime he would see Nicolae and Eloisa together and especially when Nicolae began sneaking out of their bunk late at night.  But Nicolae was happy and that was what mattered most to Sebastian.  In the end, Sebastian had decided that he could live with knowing that Nicolae and Eloisa would sneak away to kiss.  The younger boy liked seeing his older brother happy and was glad that Nicolae and Eloisa had found eachother. Nicolae’s late night excursions from the bunk started a couple months after Sebastian had found him and Eloisa kissing behind the tree.  The younger boy would awaken, but pretend to be asleep as Nicolae would be getting up from his cot and leaving as quietly as he could out the front door.  Sebastian would fall back asleep shortly after, only to be woken up again as Nicolae returned back to the bunk.  This went on for quite sometime and Sebastian noticed even more of a change in his older brother.  While a normally somber Nicolae’s spirits had lifted upon finding Eloisa, his mood seemed to become almost consistently cheerful after he had begun sneaking out late at night.  Sebastian also noticed a difference in the way Nicolae and Eloisa behaved around one another.  The two of them seemed to be closer and more attatched to one another than they had before.  Sebastian didn’t think two people could get any closer to one another than Nicolae and Eloisa.
Sebastian tried to fight the curiosity over where Nicolae had been going every night.  He figured his brother was meeting with Eloisa and knew that Nicolae probably wouldn’t appreciate having his younger brother spy on them.  Sebastian was nine-years-old at the time and was beginning to have some questions about relationships between men and women.  But the boy wasn’t sure of how much information he wanted, especially if was about disgusting things like kissing.  But the curiosity Sebastian had began to overcome him and one night, he made the daring decision to follow his older brother.  He waited while Nicolae quietly left out the door and counted to ten before getting out of his cot and exiting the hut.  Sebastian kept a safe distance behind Nicolae and as he suspected, Nicolae was meeting up with Eloisa.  The boy watched his older brother pull Eloisa into a long embrace before taking her hand and heading off to the woods. 
Sebastian began to continue following them but hesitated as he considered going back to the bunk and crawling back into his cot.  But instead, he ran toward the woods, moving as fast as his legs could carry him. 
Sebastian tried to keep track of Nicola’s and Eloisa’s movements without giving himself away.  The woods seemed to grow darker as Sebastain ventured in deeper.  The boy miscalculated his moves a couple times which resulted in him getting a little lost.  But like Nicolae, Sebastian knew the woods fairly well and was able to find his way back to a familiar path.  He didn’t have to go much further before he would notice a red and orange glow radiating out from a small clearing behind some trees.
A fire?
Sebastian stilled his steps, listening and hearing the sounds of fire crackling and snapping.  He began to creep toward the direction it was coming from, being mindful of were he stepped so as to not make any noise.  Sebastian ceased his steps again as an alarming thought occurred to him.
What if it isn’t Nicolae and Eloisa over there?  What if it’s two evil sorcers waiting to turn me to stone?
Sebastian’s heart began to pound in his ears at the thought, but his fears alleviated when he heard the hushed voices of Nicolae and Eloisa.

“Eloisa…” Nicolae said with a slight growl in his voice.
Sebastian continued his quiet steps toward the clearing as he heard Eloisa say, “All yours,” with a playful giggle.
“Oh get down here, love of my life,” Sebastian then heard Nicolae say before Eloisa would let out a yelp that would transform into a whimsical laugh.
Sebastian stood, surrounded by the trees, the starry sky, the occasional cry of a woodland animal, and what he thought sounded like soft moaning floating back from where Nicolae and Eloisa were.
Why am I doing this? Sebastian wondered to himself.  Why am I here in the woods in the middle of the night and no one knows where I am?  Why am I disturbing Nicolae and Eloisa when they obviously want to be alone?  They’re probably kissing too. 
Sebastian grimaced at that last thought and started to turn back and go back to the village.  But his legs ended up taking him over to the clearing until he was close enough to see what was going on.

What Sebastian had seen in that clearing was enough for him to have a very difficult time looking his older brother and Eloisa in the eyes for at least that week following.  Nicolae and Eloisa were by the fire, on the other side from where Sebastian stood.  Their bodies were intertwined together, locked in the most intense embrace Sebastian had ever seen them in.  Nicolae wore only his trousers and was seated on the ground with a blanket spread under him.  Eloisa was in his lap, naked with her legs circled around his waist as she pressed her upper body to his.  Their lips were smashed together and to Sebastian, they looked like two ravenous animals devouring one another.  Eloisa parted her lips from Nicolae’s, tilting her head back so Nicolae could move his mouth down her neck and chest.  Sebastian closed his eyes, squeezing the shut as he turned his back to the clearing.  He stood in the darkness, taking in breaths as he felt his face growing as hot as the fire that burned beside Nicolae and Eloisa.  Sebastian ran back through the woods, eager to get back to the bunk.  He leapt back onto his cot and threw the one blanket he had over his head. 
Sebastian lay in his bunk trying to block out what he had just seen.  He felt ashamed for having seen Eloisa without her clothes and was afraid that Nicolae would be angry with him if he found out.  But as embarrassing as that had been for him, it had also given Sebastian even more of an understanding for how Nicolae and Eloisa felt for eachother.  There was an intimacy and a great amount of trust between them and though Sebastain wasn’t able to empathize or even completely understand it, what he had just witness between his brother and Eloisa was almost beautiful.  
Sebastian was finally able to fall back asleep but awoke later to the sound of Nicolae returning.  The boy kept his eyes tightly shut as he listened to his older brother’s light footsteps heading back into his cot so Nicolae could get maybe an hour of sleep before getting up to go work in the fields on the Alexanderescu land.  Sebastian could sense the contentment that Nicolae felt after spending the night with Eloisa.  But he also couldn’t help wondering why Nicolae and Eloisa had to sneak around.  If they loved eachother that much, why didn’t they just get married like the other grown ups did?

That was still a question Sebastian had even as he walked along side of Nicolae through the woods.  They continued through the rest of the night and into the early morning as the sun rose and brought light in through the trees.  Night’s black veil was lifted to reveal the fresh, green foliage.  The shrill screeches of the bats and mournful cries of owls were replaced by the cheerful chirping of the morning birds.  It was a much welcome change for Sebastian. 
The brothers would continue following the creek toward the Romanian-Hungarian border over the next two weeks with Nicolae maintaining his stoic silence for most of the journey.  Beginning with their second night in the woods, Sebastian would sometimes wake up as he had done on the nights Nicolae would sneak out to be with Eloisa.  This time, he would awaken to see Nicolae sitting at the creek’s bank looking off into the night sky, seeming to be lost in a thought or memory.  Sometimes Sebastian would go and sit beside his brother.  Nicolae wasn’t easy for Sebastian to read when it came to what his brother was feeling, but there were times he would catch a glint of pain in Nicolae’s eyes. 
Maybe Eloisa left him for another boy, had crossed Sebastian’s mind.  But Sebastian had seen Eloisa with his brother up until the day before he and Nicolae left and the two of them had seemed as in love as they always did, if not more.  There were even a couple times recently when Sebastian thought he heard Nicolae and Eloisa refer to one another as ‘my husband’ and ‘my wife.’  The more Sebastian thought about it, the less sense it all seemed to make.
A week into their travels, Sebastian had woken to what sounded like talking.  As he came to conciousness, he realized that the voice talking was Nicolae’s and he was speaking the name of Eloisa, the only girl he could ever love.

~~~~~
 
Two weeks had passed since Nicolae had taken Sebastian out of their slave village on the Alexanderscu land.  He felt terrible for the abruptness in which he had pulled Sebastian up from sleep, but he hadn’t had a choice.  If they were going to leave their village, Romania, and then Europe with any chance of surviving even that first night, getting out immediately was crucial.  Nicolae hadn’t been able to bring much in terms of supplies, but in some ways, that was for the better.  He knew how to use what the wilderness had to offer them and he also would be able to stretch the things they did have to buy them at least another week or two.  Traveling light with only the basic necessities and knowing how to use them was essential to a life on the run.  Nicolae turned his head to look at his sleeping brother.
 If I can do this correctly, we won’t be on the run for too much longer, he silently promised the younger boy.
Nicolae lay awake, his mind racing as he turned to stare back up at the night sky.  The older Ganoush brother was accustomed to sleepless nights as he and Eloisa had risked many to be with one another.  Two weeks ago, the night had been a time he and Eloisa would create a world in which only the two of them existed.  They would leave their village and disappear someplace where they were not slaves but simply two individuals connected to one another with their bodies and souls.  Nicolae looked up passed the treetops and toward the stars that lit the sky.  The night was still his sanctuary, a time that offered him a temporary escape from his existence.  He would still share this time with Eloisa, even if all he had were memories.
Nicolae had plans to leave Romania long before the fateful night two weeks ago.  The planning started approximately a year ago as he would plot how he would approach taking Eloisa and Sebastian to a seaport out of Europe while he did his work in the fields during the day.  Nicolae began to share his plans with Eloisa soon after the idea came to him and she had responded with great enthusiasm.  She even helped him with refining some of the plans.  Eloisa was more than a lover to Nicolae.  She was everything for him, a friend and a partner in life.  She was his life and, other than Sebastian, his reason for being.
A summer breeze crawled over Nicolae’s body and pushed at the strands of his wavy black hair, sweeping them into his eyes.  Nicolae moved his hand to rake the dark strands from his face.  His mind wandered back to a rainy evening two months ago.  Due to the weather, Nicolae and Eloisa had gone to the empty shed that stood near the back of their village instead of their place in the woods.  The shed was used for storing tools and was rarely ever opened at night.  Nicolae had moved an old, discarded mattress that he had found in the cellar of the Alexanderescu holiday home when he and some of the other men had been sent to do some work on it one day.  Nicolae had managed to set it aside and, with the help of some friends, he smuggled it over to the shed.  As expected, the Alexanderescu family either did not notice or care about the missing old mattress and it sat in it’s new place inside the shed against a wall surrounded by a few tools.  The old mattress inside of the small shed allowed Nicolae and Eloisa another option during rain or snow. 
Nicolae closed his eyes as images of him and Eloisa together seeped into his mind.  They seemed to flow with the breeze that wrapped around him the same way Eloisa lay wrapped around him that night and many other nights.  That rainy night a little over two months ago.  It seemed more like two years…

“I just want to be your wife,” Eloisa said, moving to close the smallest distance she had between her and Nicolae.  “That’s all I want.” 
They were lying together on a blanket that covered the old mattress.  The dim light of the lantern beside them provided just enough of a warm, romantic atmosphere.  The rain pattered on the shed’s roof and every so often, a soft roll of thunder could be heard from somewhere far away.
Nicolae responded to Eloisa wrapping her slender limbs around him by tightening his own embrace around her for the direct skin on skin contact.  They were both winding down in the aftermath of their climaxes only a few short minutes ago.  Nicolae could feel the wetness that lingered between Eloisa’s legs against the top of his thigh.  He was the only one who could affect her in that way and that was something Nicolae intended to keep.
“You are my wife,” he replied, “and nothing will ever change that.”
“I know…” Eloisa said.  Her voice trailed off, signaling the regret she felt and Nicolae understood.  They both hated that they couldn’t be open about their relationship, thanks to Dimitri.  Nicolae looked forward to a time when he would freely be able to live as Eloisa’s husband.
“Not to worry, my love.  It won’t be too much longer,” Nicolae assured her, kissing the silky black hair at the top of her head.
“I await that day,” Eloisa said.  She picked her head up from Nicolae’s shoulder and softly touched his lips with hers. 
Nicolae returned her kiss and let his hands trail down to the small of her back.  He let out a soft moan as Eloisa’s lips moved down his neck to his collarbone.  He could feel her sudden pause when she got to his chest.
“Eloisa?”  He didn’t want her to stop.  He wanted for to keep going until he could reach that heavenly euphoria with her for a second time that night.
“I hate that they do this to you,” she answered, gingerly touching a welt from a whip lashing Nicolae had received two days earlier.  The welt was among many other whiplash scars across his upper body.  “It breaks my heart that they hurt you like this,” Eloisa said.
Nicolae gently lifted Eloisa’s chin so she would look at him.  He could see that her dark eyes were moist with tears that threatened to spill down her face.
“Eloisa please,” Nicolae whispered, “I don’t want you to feel any guilt.  You did nothing wrong.  The only thing I hate right now is Dimitri and how he thinks he has right to you.”
Nicolae could feel anger beginning to boil inside him at the thought of Anton Alexanderescu’s son. 
“It’s my fault,” Eloisa said choking back her sobs.
“Eloisa, stop saying that!” Nicolae exclaimed.  “That spoiled little pansy should consider himself fortunate I didn’t kill him.”
“But then they would have killed you,” Eloisa said, “and I don’t think I would be able to live with myself.”
Tears began to escape down Eloisa’s face with some of them dripping onto Nicolae’s skin.  His heart wrenched at the site of the girl he loved in such emotional anguish.  Eloisa lowered her face down, sobbing silently onto Nicolae’s shoulder.
“Eloisa please,” he said with his voice shaking, “don’t cry because of me.  I’m still here with you.  Nothing will change that.  I will never let anyone or anything separate us.”
Eloisa lifted herself to look down at Nicolae.  Her long, thick hair dropped around her face like black curtains.  The skin on her face was stained with the tears she had just shed.  Nicolae looked into her eyes from where he lay, wishing he could make the pain she was in disappear.  He couldn’t deny the violent fury that brewed below his surface over what Dimitri had done to her.  Nicolae knew that he could very well have killed Dimitri and the Domn would have likely saw that Nicolae be executed.  Then where would that leave Eloisa and Sebastian?  But knowing that it wouldn’t be long before the Alexanderescus would be nothing more than a distant memory for the three of them gave Nicolae hope and comfort.  He wanted to reassure Eloisa that Dimitri’s horrendous actions did nothing to alter the love he had for her.  If anything, they made him want to love and cherish her even more.
“My Eloisa,” he whispered, pushing her hair back behind her ears.  “You know how lovely you are?”
Eloisa sighed and gave him a small smile.  “I love you, Nicolae.”
“And I love you, my beautiful wife,” Nicolae responded.
Eloisa’s smile grew wider and Nicolae lifted his head up so his lips could meet Eloisa’s.  He ignored the pain from the new welts in his skin, sitting himself up as he brought Eloisa to him again.

Nicolae opened his eyes as he swallowed back the lump that was forming in his throat.
At least he can’t hurt you anymore.
The incident that had been the cause of Eloisa’s pain had taken place a month prior to that rainy night in the shed.  It was the beginning of the chain reaction that would bring about the cause of Nicolae taking Sebastian and fleeing for their lives in the middle of the night. 
Dimitri Anton Constantin Gavril Alexanderescu was the son and eldest child of Anton and Elsa Alexanderescu and was born in the same year Nicolae was.  One could say that Dimitri had been the reason behind any trouble that occurred for Nicolae and Eloisa.  The heir to Alexanderescu Castle was to be betrothed to the daughter of a prominent Austrian aristocrat family, but that did nothing to quelch his wanting of Eloisa and making that wanting known.  As Eloisa tried to keep her focus on the tasks she was to complete, Dimitri would often place himself close by so he could watch her body’s every move.  When Eloisa would ignore him, Dimitri would move in closer until he was close enough to physically brush her and whisper his inappropriate propositions of things he wanted to do to her, including wanting to keep her in the castle as his mistress after he had gotten married to his Austrian fiancée.  Nicolae remembered how upset Eloisa was after Dimitri had told her that and it also angered Nicolae.  To say that Nicolae found it insulting was a gross understatement and seeing how much it upset Eloisa only escalated the rate at which Nicolae’s hatred toward his master’s son grew. 

“He could have his pick of any woman in Romania!” Eloisa exclaimed as Nicolae tried to keep his own anger under control while he comforted her.  “Why is he doing this to me?!  Why won’t he just leave me alone?!”

Eloisa was not wrong about Dimitri being able to have his pick of any woman he wanted and that may have just been the problem.  Dimitri was someone many women would find handsome.  His dark hair was thick and he was built well along with being in excellent physical shape.  He was known for his philandering activities with women and it was even rumored that there was a young man from another high end family that he would have the occasional liason with.  For as long as Dimitri Alexanderscu had been alive, the one word he had never heard from anyone was ‘no.’  Not from his parents, servants, or lovers.  Eloisa had told him no.  She had rejected him and his advances which was something that did not sit well with Dimitri in the least. 
When Eloisa would be assigned her tasks for the day, she always seemed to be placed in an isolated part of the castle away from anyone who might be a witness to what was happening with Eloisa.  Nicolae knew the castle well enough to know where he could sneak in periodically to ensure Eloisa’s well-being.  The first time Dimitri acted on his desires for Eloisa, Nicolae had been working in the fields, going up to the castle to see Eloisa periodically as he always did.  But on that particular day, he hadn’t been able to see her after late afternoon had rolled around.  Nicolae tried to tell himself that perhaps she had been assigned to another area of the castle, but there was a growing feeling of dread in him that he couldn’t shake off.  When Eloisa didn’t return to the village that early evening, a worried Nicolae had gone to search for her.  He knew the Master Alexanderescu’s area well and if needed, he knew where he could slip unnoticed through certain parts. 
Nicolae was determined to not stop his search until he found her, but he wouldn’t need to go far to do so.  Something told him to go to the shed first and he did.  It was there that he discovered a terribly shaken Eloisa.  She was curled up on the floor, sobbing and shaking almost uncontrollably.  She was dishevled with her blouse and skirt torn and her hair tangled.  Nicolae ran over to her, taking her into his arms and demanding to know what happened.  At first, Eloisa shook her head and Nicolae begged her again to tell him what happened to her.  Eloisa lifted her head up and that was when Nicolae noticed a bruise forming on the side of her face.  He pulled back from her in an attempt to examine the bruise when he noticed a small amount of blood on her inner thighs.  Nicolae began piecing everything together into a possible scenario as Eloisa’s eyes lowered back to the floor. 

“Eloisa, please tell me.  Who did this to you?” Nicolae asked.  The agony he felt seeing Eloisa in such a state strained his voice.
Eloisa still didn’t answer and her body began to shake even more violently.  Nicolae pulled her into a protective embrace as he felt his anger beginning to boil.  He looked down at Eloisa and suddenly remembered Dimitri.  A wave of nausea entered his stomach as the suggested scenario entered his mind.  Nicolae didn’t even want to entertain the thought of anyone hurting Eloisa, but the thought of Dimitri putting his hands on Eloisa was enough to make him lose any sense of reason.  Nicolae almost backed away from pressing Eloisa further, but he had to know what had happened.  He had to know so he could make sure it never happened again.
Steadying himself—as his own body was beginning to shake violently—Nicolae took in a deep breath before asking, “Was it Dimitri?”
Nicolae could feel Eloisa freeze in his grasp, as if to confirm his suspicion.  The anger that was brewing inside of him began to reach a boiling point.
“He did, didn’t he?” Nicolae growled.  “Eloisa, answer me!”
Eloisa slowly looked up at him and tried to speak, but her voice was caught in her throat.  With fear and regret in her eyes, she finally nodded.

That small nod confirming Nicolae’s suspicion was enough to send him into a blind, fiery rage.  He could barely hear Eloisa protesting after him, pleading with Nicolae to come back as he started toward the castle on the hunt for Dimitri.  Nicolae didn’t have any memory of the time in between finding Eloisa and slipping through the gate, passed the guards, and into the castle.  He did remember finding Dimitri in one of the castle’s dens.  He was facing away from Nicolae with all of his focus and concentration on practicing his fencing as his nemesis entered the room.

Nicolae stood in the shadows, biding his time as an unsuspecting Dimitri fenced alone in front of the fire that roared in the large, stone fire place.  Thoughts of revenge and murder took over Nicolae’s mind. 
‘There are so many ways I could kill you, Nicolae thought.  ‘What will be my chosen method?’
Nicolae glanced over the fine weaponry that hung on the wall, some of which were in his reach.  He imagined sneaking up behind Dimitri and lopping off his head. 
‘It would be so easy,’ Nicolae thought.  He then saw himself snapping Dimitri’s neck from behind. 
‘That’s how I’ll do it,’ Nicolae thought.  He slipped further into the room, hiding behind a stone pillar.  Nicolae made up his mind to snap Dimitri’s neck, feeling the life drain out from him before feeding his body to the fire, and slipping out the way he came.  By the time Dimitri’s remains were found—if there were any left--no one would have any thought as to who could have done it…
Nicolae’s adrenaline pulsed stronger as moved forward toward Dimitri, passing all the fine weaponry on the wall.   Dimitri’s body tensed at the surprise of Nicolae seizing him from behind by the throat and the wrist in which the young heir held his sword.
“I can’t wait to see the life drain from you after I snap your neck,” Nicolae hissed.

Nicolae hadn’t killed Dimitri that night, but he had come close.  Being a trained fighter and in top physical shape, Dimitri was able to put up a good defense even after Nicolae wrestled the sword from his hands.  Dimitri had been quick to obtain another weapon from the wall and came back at Nicolae.  The heir was caugh off-guard at how well the gypsy slave handled a weapon.  Dimitri may have been taught by Europe’s finest instructors, but Nicolae’s life of hard labor and self-sufficiency combined with his rage and devotion to Eloisa ended up posing a challenge for Anton Alexanderescu’s son.  The challenge of fighting Nicolae was elevated when Dimitri taunted him by referring to Eloisa as a whore and implying how Nicolae should have seen how ‘she begged him for’ his advances.  Nicolae lost any sense of control he had left and became an animal out for blood as he rushed at Dimitri with the intention of slicing off his head, but Dimitri was able to block him.  The movement allowed Nicolae to slice the other young man’s hand, causing Dimitri to drop the weapon he had leaving him at a disadvantage.  As Nicolae raised the sword again, Dimitri gave Nicolae a blow to his stomach with his other fist.  The impact made Nicolae release the sword onto the floor as Dimitri grabbed him, sending both of them to the floor were they both fought for dominance and Nicolae maintaining his original plan of grabbing Dimitri’s head and breaking his neck.  It wasn’t long before the noise level of the commotion was loud enough to be heard throughout the castle.  The guards burst into the room, separating the two young men and seizing Nicolae.  Dimitri and Nicolae both had a fair amount of cuts and forming bruises—including bruised ribs for Dimitri as Nicolae had given him a blow to the chest while they were on the ground--that resulted from the brawl.  But while Dimitri’s wounds were looked after by one of the area’s finest doctors, Nicolae had been taken to the dungeon level of the castle where he was given several violent whip lashings and made to sit alone in a cell.  Nicolae had spent his time in the cell not knowing what his future held.  He was physically exhausted, but his mind was racing.  Even the slightest sound put him on edge as he expected the authorites to come barging into his cell to take him to an official prison to await his sentence of either death or a life of rotting in a dark prison cell.  Nicolae’s most prominent concern was of Eloisa and Sebastian and what would they do if he was gone.  He hoped and prayed that the Alexanderescus wouldn’t take their anger with him out on his little brother and the girl he loved. 
On his second night in the cell, Nicolae sat with his back to the wall.  He had allowed the rats that inhabited the dungeon walls to have the stale bread that was thrown into him by a castle guard.  Nicolae wasn’t about to trust anything given to him by the Alexanderescu family.  He had decided that as long as Eloisa and Sebastian were still around, he wasn’t going to make it easy for the Domn to do him in.  Nicolae’s attention was turned toward the door of his cell as he heard the latch unlocking.  He knew it was too late for the guards to be throwing in more rat food.  Nicolae used every ounce of strength to rise to his feet, taking a defensive stance as the door opened and in walked two of the castle’s guards. 
They’ve come, Nicolae had thought.  He looked on with anticipation as he expected for the authorities to enter in after the guards to place Nicolae under arrest.  But instead, the guards told Nicolae that he was released to return to the slave village. 

“Is this a trick?” Nicolae asked as he wearily eyed the guards with suspicion.  His back was to the wall as his legs shook as a result of exhaustion and lack of nourishment, save for a few necessary sips of water.
“No trick,” a deep voiced bellowed from behind the guards.  Nicolae watched as they stepped aside for Domn Anton Alexanderescu III to enter.  The Domn looked at Nicolae as though he were an insect he wanted to squash beneath his boot. 
Nicolae returned Anton’s glare to show that he was not threatened by him.
“Well if it isn’t the hornery little gypsy boy I brought here ten years ago,” the Domn sneered, saying the word “gypsy” as if the word were a gross obscenity.
“I’m a Rom,” Nicolae said as he struggled to keep his temper under control.  “If you are going to address me, you will do so properly and respectfully.”
The Domn’s black eyes widened before he burst into peels of laughter at Nicolae’s words.
“You don’t scare me,” Nicolae said.  “None of you do.”
Anton ceased his laughter, turning his eyes back to Nicolae.  “Such audacity.  I would watch what I say right now if I were you.  If it were completely up to me, there would be a public execution in the town square with you as the subject.”
“Then why am I being let go?” Nicolae asked.
“You have my son to thank for that,” Anton answered.
Nicolae frowned.  “Dimitri?”
“Yes,” the Domn simply stated and offered no other explanation beyond that.
Nicolae shook his head.  Why would Dimitri want his release?  He wondered again if this whole thing was a setup.
As if he were reading Nicolae’s mind, Anton said, “Nicolae, if I was going to have you arrested all I would need to do is bring the authorities in here.  And if I was going to trick you into a setup, believe me, I’m perfectly capable of concocting something that wouldn’t need questioning.  Don’t underestimate my intelligence.  I especially won’t have it insulted someone of your kind.”
Under regular circumstances, those would have been fighting words for Nicolae.  But in this instance, he knew that if he wanted any small chance of seeing Eloisa and Sebastian again, he couldn’t afford to make the Domn angry.  Nicolae drew in a breath and through gritted teeth he said, “Well I apologize for that.  Now please, let me return to my brother and Eloisa.” 
Nicolae was relieved that he had caught himself from saying the word ‘wife’ in regards to Eloisa.  But the Domn gave Nicolae a rather perculiar look at the mention of Eloisa’s name which did make Nicolae uneasy.  The two men stood, gazing wordlessly at one another for a few moments before Anton finally said, “Very well.  You are free to return to the village.”
Nicolae nodded and slowly walked to the doorway as the Domn stepped aside so he could follow Nicolae and the guards up the winding stone staircase and out to a door that led outside.  Nicolae never thought he would be as thankful to breath in fresh, outdoor air as he was when he had stepped outside.  The sky was overcast, but the sunlight that managed to poke through the clouds was still enough to temporarily blind him after being in a dark cell for two days.
One of the guards shoved Nicolae forward, disturbing one of his new welts.  Nicolae grimaced at the sharp stab of pain but it was quickly overrided by the thought of seeing Sebastian and Eloisa.  He pushed away any thoughts of them being anything other than alive and well.
‘They have to be alright,’ Nicolae thought, ‘God wouldn’t be that cruel.’
As Nicolae began to head toward the village, he heard the Domn call out to him.  Nicolae turned to see him standing like a large, sturdy tower in between his two guards.
“Yes?” Nicolae replied.
“I just wanted to inform you that you may want to practice caution in what you say and do from now on,” Anton said.
“Is that a threat?” Nicolae countered.
“Consider it to be more of a warning.”
The Domn followed those final words with that same peculiar look he had given Nicolae a moment ago when Eloisa was mentioned.  It was disconcerting to Nicolae.  Not for himself, but for Eloisa.  Why couldn’t they just leave her alone?  And why did Dimitri insist on Nicolae’s released? 
With one final glance at the Domn, Nicolae turned and walked to the village.  He was starving, physically spent, and emotionally drained.  But keeping his mind on Eloisa and Sebastian was enough for him to quicken his steps so he could return to them.  For that time being, he was willing to allow himself to forget the Domn’s warning.

Nicolae remembered returning to the village and to the other concerned Rom.  He was grateful to have them all care about what happened to him, but he wanted to see Eloisa and Sebastian as soon as he possibly could.  From what one of the other men in the village told Nicolae, nobody was informed of what had happened to him.  They were all aware of what happened to Eloisa and that Nicolae had gone off in search of settling the score with Dimitri.  They knew that Dimitri was still alive, though injured, but when it came to Nicolae, for all anyone knew he was dead or in prison.  One of the women took Nicolae back to the hut he and Sebastian shared where one of Eloisa’s friends, a girl named Mala, sat with her and Sebastian.  Eloisa sat on Sebastian’s cot, holding the little boy and trying to comfort him as she herself tried to keep herself from shattering to pieces.  Mala sat on Nicolae’s cot with a sympathetic expression in her eyes.  All three eyes looked up at Nicolae’s entrance.  Nicolae could see Eloisa’s eyes going from disbelief, to horrified at his appearance, to elated joy.  She and Sebastian ran over to Nicolae, who assured them in was alright for them to embrace him despite his still painful whiplash welts.  Mala smiled and slipped out quietly as Nicolae and Eloisa shared a passionate reunion kiss while Sebastian tightly hugged his brother’s waist.  Nicolae was thankful that the two people he cared for most hadn’t been harmed while he was locked up.  Eloisa then insisted on making dinner for the three of them after Nicolae mentioned that he let the rats have the small amount of food he was given while being locked up.  He could see the purple bruise on the side of her face where Dimitri had struck her.  But he pushed any boiling rage that threatened to erupt aside and focused on his happiness of being back with Eloisa and Sebastian.
Later that night, as the rain had poured down onto their village, Nicolae and Eloisa went to the shed to be together.  But Nicolae’s joy would be interrupted when he would learn more of the details of Dimitri’s attack on Eloisa.  Nicolae listened as Eloisa painfully recounted how Dimitri had started with his usual leering, brushing against her, and verbal advances.  But then he grabbed her hand and placed it between his legs to show her what she ‘did to him.’  Eloisa had been able to break her hand free from his hardened crotch and slapped him across the face, demanding that he never touch her or come near her again.  She had turned to run away from him, but he had roughly grabbed her arm, spun her back around and kissed her roughly.  She responded by spitting in his face and it was then he backhanded her jaw before forcing her into the closest room.  It was at that point in her retelling that Eloisa stopped and broke down in tears.  Nicolae took hold of her saying that it was alright and she didn’t have to continue any further if she didn’t want to.  He had a pretty good idea of what had happened after Dimitri dragged her into the room and he didn’t need to hear anymore, especially if those details were too unbearable for Eloisa to tell. 
The two of them sat on the mattress, holding eachother.  Nicolae tightened his already protective embrace around Eloisa until her sobs died down.  She lifted her head up and told him that she could tend to his welts with the ointment she had brought.  He remembered the horror that filled Eloisa’s eyes when he had stripped off his shirt, revealing the deep, fresh, open wounds on his torso.  He remembered her holding back more tears as she tended to the slashes.  There had even been a couple of old whipping scars that had been reopened. 

Nicolae sat on the mattress, his heart heavy as he saw the guilt on the face of the girl he loved as she took care of his lashing welts. 
‘This is unfair.  If anyone should be tormented by all of this it’s Dimitri,’ Nicolae thought. 
He looked at Eloisa, seeing the purplish bruise on her slightly swollen cheek where Dimitri’s hand had left it’s mark.  It made Nicolae physically ill to hear even a little about what she had gone through. 
Nicolae lifted his hand, and brought it to Eloisa’s face.  His thumb gently caressed the swollen, bruised area of her cheek.  Eloisa paused from what she was doing and closed her eyes, taking in Nicolae’s touch, something she feared she would never have again.  Nicolae slowly brought his lips to hers, giving her a tender kiss as a small clap of thunder was heard above the roof of the shed.  He touched her forehead with his, lingering there as the quiet rainstorm continued outside.
He began to feel aroused and immediately tried to push that away.
‘How could I even think of that at a time like this?’ Nicolae scolded himself.  But he had missed her immensely over the last two days.  Not being able to even see Eloisa had been a far greater torture to him than the most brutal lashing. 
He lifted his head back up, searching for the right words.  How would he even bring it up after what Dimitri had done to her?  He could see the trauma that Dimitri’s forcing himself on her had brought.
Nicolae looked at Eloisa, her dark eyes wide with anticipation.
“Eloisa…” he began, but his voice had stuck in his throat. 
Eloisa stared back at him.  She could tell by the look in his eyes what he had wanted to ask her. 
“I’m sorry,” Nicolae said.  “I shouldn’t even bring that up now.”
He looked away from her as strong emotions of guilt and shame filled him.
“Nicolae,” Eloisa said.
Nicolae kept himself turned from her as his own eyes filled with tears.
“Nicolae,” Eloisa said, her voice dropping down to a whisper, “Nicolae, please don’t turn away from me.  I need you.”
Nicolae turned to look back at her.  “Eloisa…we don’t have to be together again until you’re feeling better.  I can wait.  For as long as you need.”
Eloisa embraced him, drawing him close to her while taking care to not disturb his welts.  They laid down on the mattress and remained in eachother’s arms until the sun’s rays announced the early morning.

The memories where sometimes too much for Nicolae to handle, but they were all he had left.  The nights of them holding eachother under the stars or in the middle of a rain or snowstorm were something he would never have again. 
Nicolae stared up at the stars, recounting the memory of being a boy five years of age and his father teaching him about the constellations, pointing them all out to him and telling him their stories.
And now, Eloisa is an angel up there among them…
Nicolae covered his eyes with his arm as tears began to fall down his face.  He shut his eyes in an attempt to fall back into sleep.  In his mind, he saw Eloisa lying in his arms as she had during the many times they were together.  He could almost feel her body against his and his hands touching her skin as she lay wrapped around him with her head resting on his chest.  He remembered the night their union becam official; the night he made her a woman and she made him a man.  The night they had made their vows to one another. 
Nicolae took those memories with him as he began to drift from where he and Sebastian lay and into the dreamscape.  He absently reached over to the bag he carried, his hand resting on a hard, square object that was inside with the supplies.  He anticipated seeing Eloisa again as he had everynight after he had gone to sleep.  But his bliss would be interrupted by another presence that was approaching the area where he and Sebastian lay sleeping.

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