Monday, February 25, 2013

Chapter 4 Coming Friday, Music Update

I'm getting over this slight head cold (and as I always do if I get sick:  did it all naturally...no drugs) and should be back in full action by the end of the week.  Meaning, Chapter 4 (and maybe some other updates) will be posted on Friday.

In the meantime, Josh Groban's cover of "Hallow Talk" is on the playlist and I'm working on putting together the Spotify playlist.

Hope everyone has a fabulous week!  :)

Friday, February 22, 2013

Chapter 3 is Up

I just posted the unedited first draft of Chapter 3. This chapter takes place two years later from where we left off.  Check it out here.

Or if you are just catching up, check out the Prologue through the Second Interlude in the CHAPTERS SECTION.

I also added some new info in the BEHIND THE BLOODLINES SECTION and new music has been added to the playlist in the Music Section:  Sarah Brightman's "Only an Ocean Away" and Tori Amos's "Precious Things."

Another interesting thing regarding "Precious Things":  the character Joanna (you all will meet her and Everett later) is, as I mentioned, a pianist.  Paganini is her favorite composer and Tori Amos is among her favorite artists. 

But until then, enjoy the Prologue through Chapter 3 and stay tuned for Chapter 4 coming soon!

I will be updating every Monday and/or Friday (one to two times a week).

PART 1, NICOLAE'S ESCAPE: Chapter 3 (UNEDITED)

If you're just catching up, read the PROLOGUE through the SECOND INTERLUDE in the CHAPTERS SECTION.



CHAPTER 3
Aragon, Spain
 May, 1846

The elusive young man had taken over Teresa’s every thought since she crossed paths with him by the lake three days ago.  She and her younger sister Alea had finished washing clothes and were returning the bucket they were using to the shed some of the men from their small Gitano village had built.  They were walking the short distance back to the village to hang the clothes on the line to dry.  Teresa was a girl of sixteen and Alea was twelve.  Teresa had caught site of the young man in the opposite direction, walking rather quickly toward them along the trail.  Alea tugged at the sleeve of Teresa’s dress trying to steer her older sister in a direction away from the approaching stranger.  But Teresa’s curiosity overtook any fear she may have had, especially when she was able to see how pleasing to her eyes the young man was.
“Teresa!” Alea urged, pulling on her older sister’s arm.
But Teresa ignored Alea and continued her walk toward the young man.  Alea kept up behind the older girl as she still made attempts at taking them in an opposite direction.  Alea knew that even if the man turned out to be nice, they could still get into trouble with Gabriella and the elders of their village.  Both of the girls were unmarried and conversing with a young man not approved by the girls’ guardian or village elders was not permitted.  It was also known that the girls’ guardian, Gabriella, and the elders were actively seeking out a suitor for Teresa.  Teresa’s peers were, of course, thrilled for her and Teresa would feign a smile whenever it would be brought up. 
Teresa loved her village and the people she had grown up with.  Gabriella had been the only real mother figure Teresa and Alea had known.  Teresa had also helped raise Alea through the years.  An outsider could observe that Teresa was content with her life and Teresa herself would also be likely to say so.  But it would be during the quiet nights she would lay awake in the hut she shared with Gabriella and Alea.  There were many nights Teresa would look out at the night sky and feel nothing but emptiness.  But it wouldn’t be until the day she would first encounter the young man on the trail that she would begin to understand where that feeling came from.  Teresa had been captivated by the man’s dark eyes and wavy, shoulder length black hair.  As the man got closer, she was able to see a beautifully chiseled jawline and mouth under dark, facial hair and a strong, but lean, build under his dark clothes.  He carried all he had in the world inside a bag slung across his upper body.  Teresa smiled and greeted him when the gap between them had closed.  He was about a foot taller than she was when she stepped up to him and he appeared to be a few years older than she was; perhaps his very early twenties.  The young man’s half conversation was brief and clipped.  She was able to get his name (he called himself Luiz) and the fact that he, like her and Alea, was Romani.  She could tell from the way he spoke that he wasn’t a Gitano, but he wouldn’t offer any information on where he was from. 
“I’m not from here,” he had simply stated.
Teresa wasn’t very well learned when it came to dialect and geography, but she knew enough to figure that he was from somewhere further east.
Teresa attempted direct eye contact with him before he shifted his dark eyes away.  She could tell that he was deciding whether or not to trust her.  She made a bold move by reaching out and touching his arm which caused him to tense up and Alea to gape wide eyed at her sister.  Teresa’s heart picked up it’s pace as she felt the muscle definition in the young man’s arm.  It was then that Teresa suggested that he come stay in her village until he was ready to continue on.  Luiz hesitated, moving out of Teresa’s touch and looking from her to Alea before finally accepting and muttering a ‘thanks.’ 
The brief walk back to the village was rather silent despite Teresa’s further attempts at conversation with Luiz.  The only other real piece of information she was able to get out of him was that he was on his way to a seaport.
“Where are you going?” Teresa asked full of interest.
“Wherever it will take me, I suppose,” he answered.
Alea walked along side of them, watching intently.  She could tell her sister had taken an instant liking to the strange young man despite his unwillingness to say much to her.  There was a spark in Teresa at that moment that Alea hadn’t seen before in her older sister.  But dread began to fill Alea as the village came into view.

Sure enough, Teresa had been scolded by Gabriella.
“How do you expect to attract a decent suitor if you are bringing strange, young men here?” Gabriella yelled.
“Sorry,” Teresa said, her voice barely above a whisper.  “But I thought since he is a Rom…I never would have brought him back otherwise.  Honest!” 
Gabriella sighed and rolled her eyes to the heavens.  She then looked at the young girl in front of her and said, “Fine.  Because he is a Rom, he can stay.  Only a day or two.  No more than three.”
“Yes,” Teresa said, “thank you!  I’ll run out and tell him right now!”
“Ah!  You will do no such thing!” Gabriella said, stopping Teresa from running outside of the hut.  Teresa turned around to face Gabriella again, unable to mask her disappointment. 
“But who will tell him?” Teresa asked.
“I’ll inform Felipe that you and I had this discussion and he will tell the young man.  We will let this go, but don’t ever pull a stunt like this again.”

Luiz stayed alone (something he seemed to favor) in a tent on the men’s side of the village.  He had shown his gratitude to the village elders, but he seemed to prefer being left alone.  He didn’t communicate with anyone unless it was absolutely necessary to do so.  Teresa would sneak glances over to the area where Luiz’s tent was.  She couldn’t help becoming more intrigued by the brooding young stranger.  Of course, Gabriella had forbidden Teresa from going over and talking to him. 
Teresa was five years old and Alea a year old when the two girls had lost their parents.  While the women in the village all contributed to raising them, Gabriella (now in her mid forties) had been their primary caregiver.  Gabriella was widowed shortly before the disappearance of Teresa and Alea’s parents and had never been able to have children.  She was happy to take on raising Teresa and Alea.  Like most inhabitants of their village, the two girls were descended from the Romani of Spain and France. 
Teresa had a natural curiosity to her and often wondered about what had happened to her parents.  But anytime she would try to ask someone for answers, she would walk away discouraged.  Teresa knew that her father’s name was Ferdinand and her mother’s name was Dominique and that she had awoken one morning to find Alea crying in her cradle and their parents missing.  She had learned a little of the rather gruesome history her kind had had in Spain and France and that she and Alea were all that remained of her bloodline.  There was one night in particular that Teresa remembered.  She was eleven years old and had asked Gabriella again for information about her parents. 

“Why do you insist on bringing up the past?” Gabriella said.
“I just want to know!” Teresa cried, on the verge of frustrated tears, “why won’t you tell me?!”
Gabriella paused, taking in a breath and turning away from her adopted daughter.  Teresa could see the wheels in the older woman’s head turning.  The little girl waited with anticipation, hoping Gabriella could finally tell her something.
“Be careful,” Gabriella simply stated, keeping her eyes forward.
“Of what?” Teresa asked.
“You’ll know,” Gabriella answered.
“What?”
“Your mother, Dominique, was a free spirit.  Maybe too much of a free spirit.  I can see a lot of her in you,” Gabriella said with a small sigh.
Teresa frowned and began to question Gabriella further, but Gabriella cut her off saying, “Our race has been through enough pain and suffering.  We are just now beginning to live peacefully among the outsiders.  Please keep it that way.”
Teresa stood, wondering what Gabriella’s final words had to do with her mother and father…

Teresa had gone over that conversation many times in her mind over the passed few years.  That night was the first and last time anything was ever discussed.  She had also tried conjuring up memories of her parents.  The memories were vague, but Teresa was able to recall the carefree personality of her mother and the strong, serious nature of her father.  She also remembered them being rather secretive with some of the activities they participated in.  The stories about the previous generations were scary and Teresa could only imagine what they had gone through.  She could see the weariness on the elders and most of the elderly folk in her village, their faces were careworn from the centuries of persecution and nomadic lives. 
There were times when Teresa wished she could be more like Alea.  Alea had no recollection of their parents and she was the type to just accept things as they were.  Alea would sleep well at night as Teresa lie awake consumed by scattered, broken memories and the desolate void in the pit of her stomach.  Meeting Luiz had jarred something in Teresa.  She thought of his words when he mentioned he had planned to head to a seaport.  The more Teresa thought about it, the more the idea of the seaport (and going with Luiz) appealed to her. 

Teresa now stood in the doorway of the hut looking out to where Luiz was staying.  It was late enough for most in the village, including Gabriella, to be in their huts asleep.  Teresa had crept as far over to the area where Luiz’s tent was.  She kept herself hidden, peering over to the silent tent as she began to have thoughts of him asleep inside.  Teresa smiled to herself as she wondered what he was dreaming of.  She began scolding herself for having such a silly, childish thought when she saw the flap of the tent open.  She held her breath as she watched Luiz depart from the tent.  He was clutching his bag protectively as he headed out into the darkness away from the village.  Teresa felt her heart sink.
You’re not leaving already…?  Without saying goodbye to anyone? 
A feeling of nausea entered her stomach and without giving it much thought, she began following him, running as silently as she could keeping up with him in the dark.  Luiz stopped at the lake and Teresa situated herself behind some brush, watching as he grabbed a bucket from the small shed.  He walked back over to the lake’s shore and set his bag down before setting the bucket down on the ground beside it.  Teresa slipped further behind the tree when he stopped to observe his surroundings.  When he seemed satisfied that he was the only one present, he knelt down and dug into his bag. 
Teresa came back around to watch him remove what appeared to be a small wooden box.  He hunched over, holding it to his chest and she could hear him whispering something to it.  She tried her best to listen to what he was saying but to no success.  He was then silent as he held the box for a few seconds longer before he returned it to the bag.  Luiz rose and looked out to the lake before removing his shirt.  Teresa could feel her heart thudding hard against her chestwall as she watched him peel it off over his head.  Her breath caught in her throat when she saw his defined torso was in the moonlight.  But there was also something else.  Scars.  Scars that criss-crossed Luiz’s upper body.  Pangs of sadness began to wash over Teresa as she wondered what kind of suffering he had been through.  In her mind’s eye, she had a brief vision of a whip being cracked.  Teresa covered her mouth, suppressing a gasp that threatened to escape.  She turned her eyes back toward the young man.  By then, he had loosened his belt, removing it and placing it by the bucket.  He removed the dagger from a sheath, placing it on the ground.  She ducked further back into the shadows when he glanced around once more before he removed his boots.
I should go back, Teresa told herself.  But her eyes remained glued to the half naked young man in front of her. 
She watched, clutching the tree for support, as he undid his trousers, sliding them down his firm thighs.  The awareness that she was watching a young man about to bathe made her face flush hot.  Her breath quickened as he shed the last of his clothing and stood naked in the moonlight.  Teresa shut her eyes and leaned against the tree as she began to feel dizzy.  She could hear him stepping into the lake, filling the bucket with water before dumping it onto his body.  Images of Luiz naked and soaking wet began to assault Teresa’s mind.  She turned and ran back toward the village.  The images of Luiz were replaced by ones of Gabriella and her many looks of disapproval. 
Teresa couldn’t re-enter the village fast enough and to her relief, the huts were all dark and Gabriella and Alea were fast asleep.  Teresa entered the hut as quietly as she could, hearing the soft breathing of Gabriella and Alea.  She slid into her cot, bringing the blanket up to her chin and willing her breathing to return to normal.  Her heart continued to race as thoughts of Luiz remained with her.  She lay awake with all sorts of emotions pulsing through her.  That feeling of emptiness she always had was gone.  And it frightened her.
 
The following morning, Teresa had no trouble with avoiding contact with Luiz.  She could feel her face turning scarlet the few times she would see him throughout the day and on the second night, she had stayed in her hut, curled up in her cot.  Gabriella had asked Teresa if she was feeling well and Alea regarded her older sister rather curiously.  Teresa had lay thinking about how Luiz would be leaving if not tomorrow, than surely the day after. There was something about him that she had felt drawn to. 
On the third and final night of Luiz’s stay in her village, Teresa stood in the doorway of her hut, once again looking out to where he stayed.  Her heart raced again when she pictured him emerging from his tent and heading over to the lake.  Her face grew hot, but she decided she wanted to talk to him before he would leave that morning (and she would of course try to catch him before he would get to the lake).  Teresa took a quick glance around to ensure no one was there to see her.  She had stepped out into the night when a voice from behind stopped her.
“Where do you think you’re going?”
Teresa slowly turned to see Gabriella standing in the doorway, eyeing her suspiciously. 
“I…just thought I’d go for a walk…” Teresa stammered.
“Well you can go for a walk in the morning.  It’s too late now and a respectable girl your age has no business walking around by herself late at night.”
Teresa rolled her eyes when Gabriella had turned her back.  She looked back out toward Luiz’s tent, lost in her own world.
“By the way,” Gabriella said shaking Teresa from her thoughts, “I have wonderful news.”
“What,” Teresa replied.
“The elders and I…we’ve found you a suitor!”
“Really,” Teresa asked, a numbing sensation taking over her.
“Yes,” Gabriella answered, “he’s from another Gitano village.  Comes from a good family…”  Gabriella’s voice trailed off when she saw Teresa crestfallen.
“Well what’s wrong with you, girl?” Gabriella exclaimed. “This is a blessing!  You should be thrilled!”
“Oh, I am,” Teresa said, feigning the same smile she always had when such things were discussed in front of her.  “I am,” Teresa repeated at Gabriella’s critical gaze, “I’m very happy.”
“Good,” Gabriella said, “now come inside.  We begin the official arrangements in the morning.”
Teresa responded with another weak smile before Gabriella turned and disappeared back into the hut.  She stood alone, turning to look back toward Luiz’s tent before retreating back inside. 
Teresa did her best to cover her restlessness as she got read for bed.  Overall, she was a good girl and did what was expected of her, but meeting Luiz had awakened something in her that began to complete the emptiness she felt.  He would be leaving early in the morning.  It was strange, the feelings she was developing for him.  It was something Teresa had never felt for anyone.  Though she hardly knew him, she cared about him.  The young man was alone in this world and Teresa understood what it was like to be surrounded by many people yet still feel alone.
She lay in the dark, thoughts of the young man she knew as Luiz filling her mind.  She remembered his scars, the vision of the whip, and the box he seemed so protective of.  Teresa turned her head and looked at Alea, who lay asleep next to her.  Teresa got out of her cot and stood watching her sleeping sister, marveling at the serenity of the little girl.  She leaned over and softly kissed Alea’s forehead, taking care not to disturb her. 
“I love you,” Teresa whispered sadly. 
She returned to her cot and lay staring out at the night sky as a lump began to rise in her throat.

Continue on to Chapter 4

Monday, February 18, 2013

Update

Chapter 2 is now up and because it is so short, I also posted the Second Interlude of Part 1.  I plan to update this site between 1 and 2 times a week which includes new chapters, music, information behind the "bloodlines," etc.  It will give it more of a sense of 'order' and allow me time to pace everything as I also have other projects I need to finish and work on!  I plan to post Chapter 3 on Friday.

I've also changed the SAMPLE CHAPTERS page to simply the CHAPTERS page.  I decided that for the time being, this makes alot more sense since I decided to release the full version of Book 1's unedited first draft.  As I said, this is kind of experimental for me and where I'm going with this can best be explained in the following link (if you're just joining us):

News on BLOODLINES

I've also added some new music to the playlist.  Borrowing from the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise, Dokken's "Dream Warriors" is another song I've been listening to while writing this.

I also will continue to label some chapters as explicit and/or violent for a little while longer.  That is only for the time being as I'm introducing the story.

So if you are just starting here, read from the beginning in the CHAPTERS section.

Or continue on with PART 1: NICOLAE'S ESCAPE: Chapter 2 (UNEDITED) followed by PART 1: NICOLAE'S ESCAPE: Second Interlude (UNEDITED) * violent content* 

PART 1, NICOLAE'S ESCAPE: Second Interlude (UNEDITED) *violent content*

If you're just catching up, read the FULL PROLOGUE, Part 1-4 and Conclusion UNEDITED and PART 1, NICOLAE'S ESCAPE: First Interlude (UNEDITED) *Explicit* and CHAPTER 1 and CHAPTER 2 before reading on to the SECOND INTERLUDE. 




SECOND INTERLUDE

The dagger drew close to Dimitri’s throat.  The terror in the young heir’s eyes was unmistakable and Nicolae couldn’t help being swallowed by the sense of power he felt.  He watched as the dagger’s blade sliced Dimitri’s throat, ear to ear in one clean, swift, movement.  He could see the blood beginning to gush out of the wound and from Dimitri’s mouth.  But watching him bleed to death this way wasn’t enough.  Nicolae drove the dagger deeper into the other man’s throat, slicing through muscle and down to the spinal chord.  Blood began to squirt out everywhere as life drained out from the spoiled, rich boy.  There was a small hatchet among the weaponry on the wall next to them.  Nicolae reached out and grabbed it before hacking into Dimitri’s nearly decapitated corpse…


Continue with CHAPTER 3.

PART 1: NICOLAE'S ESCAPE, Chapter 2 (UNEDITED)

If you're just catching up, read the FULL PROLOGUE, Part 1-4 and Conclusion UNEDITED and PART 1, NICOLAE'S ESCAPE: First Interlude (UNEDITED) *Explicit* and CHAPTER 1 before reading on to Chapter 2. 



CHAPTER 2

An alarm had gone off inside of the older Ganoush boy, jolting him from sleep.  He knew it was back.  It was the shift in the air.  The last time he had felt it was two weeks ago before the incident.  Nicolae didn’t know how to refer to it other than being an incident.  He and Sebastian had found the creek and had begun to follow it when he suddenly felt a surge pulse into his body.  As quickly as the surge came and went, so did the things he saw.  The dark shadows, a small dark-haired young woman lying bleeding on the floor, and two newborn babies.  It had lasted for only a second, but it was long enough for Nicolae to feel as though the wind had been knocked out of him.  He must have looked that way as well because Sebastian had given him a rather odd look asking him if he was alright.  And here, he felt whatever had been in the air that night two weeks ago returning.
The skin on Nicolae’s arms began to crawl as he closed a protective hand even tighter around the most cherished possession in his bag.  He struggled to open his eyes.  Nicolae made an attempt at reaching an arm to Sebastian to wake his sleeping brother, but his entire body felt like the large sacks of stone and brick he used to push in the fields.  His relentless struggling paid off when he was finally at least able to force his eyes open. He could see the moon casting it’s iridescent light through his blurry vision.  When Nicolae’s site began to clear, he could see what appeared to be a light mist forming in the air.  The moon was also changing from a yellowish white to a pale silvery blue color.  Nicolae watched as the color-changing moon also began to drop toward the earth.  It stopped just beyond the top tree branches, filling the entire sky.  It was close enough to where craters were visible even through Nicolae’s hazy vision.  The moon’s light was blinding, but Nicolae was afraid to shut his eyes again in the event he would not be able to re-open them and he was still unable to move his arm.  But the light spread through the area, lighting it up as if it were daylight.  Nicolae’s eyes began to adjust and he shifted them to his left, expecting to see Sebastian awake.  But his younger brother remained fast asleep.  Nicolae started to wonder how his brother was able to sleep through this, but his thoughts were halted when he saw movement behind the trees.  By now, Nicolae’s hazy vision had cleared, but he didn’t have time to be amazed by the giant moon, the lit up forest, the mist that grew denser by the minute, or the fact that Sebastian remained asleep through it all.  A dark shape moved out from behind the trees.  It appeared to be floating, carried by the mist that wove through the brush.  Nicolae could feel his heart pounding in his chest as his blood raced through his immobile body.  His eyes turned back toward Sebastian who still slept soundly next to him.  He tried calling over to his brother, but his voice failed him.  The younger boy’s breathing seemed deeper, slower, louder.  Sebastian’s breathing and the sound of Nicolae’s heart racing filled their surroundings.  Nicolae struggled again to bring up his arm to wake Sebastian, but it was no use.  The figure was close to them, only a couple feet away and it wasn’t long before it stopped, hovering over them engulfed by the mist (which by now was so dense that Nicolae could barely see anything that was two feet in front of him).  The visitor wore a dark cloak that billowed around him.  The cloak’s hood covered it’s face, making Nicolae unable to place the figure’s identity.  But he still could feel his visitor’s eyes piercing into him, as though it were looking through him, invading the darkest crevices of his mind.  Nicolae tried to move his limbs again.  But he grew weak, and everything began to spin before it all went black.

Nicolae’s head throbbed as he opened his eyes.  He brought his hand up, grasping the side of his head.  He felt his insides jump at the realization of his own movement.  Nicolae let out a relieved sigh and began to sit up.  As he sat reliving the details of the dream he had just had, he noticed that his suntanned skin had a slight, red tint.  It appeared to be glowing.  He frowned, puzzled, and began to look around to see the source of the red light; what he saw startled him.  The giant moon that had been a pale, silvery blue only a moment ago had turned blood red.  It filled a pitch black, starless sky and touched the top branches of the trees.  The tree branches were grotesquely twisted and gnarled.  Nicolae’s eyes moved downward as his eyes adjusted to the darkness.  The trees had thick bark that was almost as black as the sky.  The branches appeared sturdy and unbreakable despite their uneven appearance and not one leaf grew on any of them.  They seemed like contorted arms, tangled with one another reaching out to where Nicolae sat.  Nicolae looked down to where Sebastian slept only to find the space empty.  His eyes widened in a state of panic.  He sharply turned his head to also find his bag missing.  Nicolae was frantic, looking around at his surroundings again.  He cleared his throat, testing his voice before he called out to Sebastian.  The echo of his voice through the forest was his only reply.  Nicolae picked himself up, his shoes crunching on the barren, rocky soil.  He called out to Sebastian again with no answer from his brother.  The forest was still and Nicolae’s solitary state began to sink in with him.  The trees appeared alive, breathing.  They loomed over him, seeming to taunt the young man.  He was starting to feel physically ill when he noticed a movement in a cluster of trees.  Nicolae narrowed his eyes as the movement became more pronounced.
“Sebastian,” he called out, his voice dripping with hesitance.
There was no answer, but who(or what)ever it was moved closer to where Nicolae stood.
He maintained his stance, placing his hand on a dagger that hung from his hip.
“Who’s there,” he called. 
His adrenaline had started pumping (the same way it had the night they took Eloisa…) as the other presence closed in on him.  Nicolae watched as it stepped out from the shadows and into the small clearing where he stood.  It was the same cloaked figure Nicolae had seen in Transylvania’s woods not too long ago.  This time, the figure was on solid ground.  Dark colored pants and black boots was visible underneath the black cloak.  The two of them stood, fixated on one another, one challenging the other to make the first move.  Nicolae tightened his grip on his dagger, preparing to remove it from the sheath; but the figure turned away from Nicolae and walked back toward the black tangled brush.  Nicolae loosened his grip on the dagger when the figure turned back to Nicolae and lifted a hand, beckoning to the young man. 
Nicolae found his voice again.  “What do you want?  Where’s my brother?”
The cloaked figure offered no response and simply stood, waiting for Nicolae to follow.  Nicolae looked from the figure to the neverending brush behind him.  He turned back to where the figure stood.  It lifted it’s black gloved hand again, motioning for Nicolae to follow him.  Nicolae lingered, his hand on his dagger.  He wondered what this person could want with him.  It was obvious that the cloaked figure was not going anywhere until Nicolae followed him.  Drawing in a jagged breath, Nicolae slowly walked toward the figure.   The cloaked individual turned his back to Nicolae and started back through the forest.  Nicolae followed, keeping himself at a safe distance.  The forest thickened and the red moon offered very little light.  Nicolae kept his eyes forward on the black cloak, but that didn’t stop him from noticing how void of any kind of life the forest was.  There wasn’t even a breeze to rustle the branches of the trees.  The eerie silence of the woods accentuated the footsteps provided by Nicolae and his new companion. 
It seemed as if the black forest would never end, but they finally came to the edge which opened up to the rocky sands of a beach.  Nicolae caught up to where the cloaked individual stood, looking out to the ocean as the waters splashed back and forth at their feet.  The giant moon spread across the horizon beyond the river, outlined by the black sky and casting it’s red beams onto the ocean, coloring it like blood.  The site was mesmerizing and Nicolae was able to shake himself from slipping to a trance.  He turned his head in an attempt to now get a better look at the cloaked individual.  Nicolae could see that it had the physical build of a man.  The hood had shifted back just enough for a thin slate of a mouth surrounded by a pale jawline to be visible.  The cloaked man turned it’s head, returning Nicolae’s stare from under the shadow of his hood and gestured a black gloved hand toward the river.  Nicolae turned back as a large boat approached them.  It appeared to be made of the same thick, black wood of the trees and built to resemble a Viking ship.  The boat curved up at both ends and as it got closer, Nicolae could see a dragon head carved into the front end.  The boat was empty, moving across on it’s own as though it knew where it needed to be.  Nicolae jumped out of the way as the large boat reached the shore, stopping in front of Nicolae and the cloaked man.  When the vessel came to a standstill, the hooded figure signaled for Nicolae to follow him. 
They sat inside the boat facing one another.  Nicolae faced the river and saw that there wasn’t a single oar on board.  As the boat began to leave the shore, it let out a loud creak that almost resembled a groan from a human voice startling Nicolae.
As the boat drifted further out to sea, the unreal nature of the situation began to sink in with Nicolae.  
Perhaps I’ve died, Nicolae thought absently, I’ve died and I’m going to hell…
But the thought snapped Nicolae to attention.  His thoughts immediately went to Sebastian and to Eloisa.  Leaving Sebastian alone with no one to look after him was troubling to Nicolae.  He also knew that if he did die, he hoped to be reunited to Eloisa. 
Nicolae stared into the horizon struggling to hide the anxiety he felt as the boat glided over the vast, surrounding waters.  He felt anger at the hooded figure who maintained it’s dignified silence.  The urge to grab the mysterious man and throw him overboard began to rise inside of Nicolae.  But it wasn’t too long before and island appeared in the distance.  Like the last one, it had a thick forest of tall trees and the giant red moon hovered beyond.  As the boat drew them closer to shore, Nicolae noticed a rather foul stench projecting out from the island.  He also began to notice something strange about the trees that stood.  Nicolae shifted in his seat to get a better look.  The trees appeared to be moving, writhing.  He could hear faint, agonized moaning along with some throaty gurgling.  Nicolae kept his eyes on the trees and as they drew closer the beach, the stench grew stronger.  It was over powering and Nicolae fought his body’s desire to throw up what little content there was in his stomach.  He looked over at the cloaked man who did not appeared bothered by the stench.  The cause of the unpleasant odor began to dawn on Nicolae.  It was one he had come to know well in his nineteen years.  He looked back to the island and they were now close enough for Nicolae to see the trees…and that they were not trees at all.  Nicolae’s eyes widened at the sight of thousands of rotting corpses impaled on large, wooden stakes in various states of decay.  There were some that did seem to be grasping on the last threads of life, writhing and groaning on their poles.  Cries of scavenger birds could be heard from above, mingling in with the agonized sounds from the island’s “trees.” 
The boat docked on the beach that was the same combination of rock and sand that the other had been.  The cloaked man stood, giving Nicolae a brief glance before getting off of the boat.  Nicolae remained seated, watching as the figure began to walk up the beach before glancing back in the direction they had come from.  Red water stretching out into the darkness was all Nicolae could see.  He turned back to see that the cloaked man had paused, staring at him as he waited for Nicolae to get off the boat.  Nicolae could see that his choices were limited at this point and reluctantly followed the cloaked figure into the forest of impaled humans (this time keeping a very short distance between him and the cloaked man).  He could feel the eyes of those still alive on him (just as Dimitri’s eyes were when you killed him) and did his best to keep his eyes forward.
They were well into the forest when Nicolae caught site of a flock of crows perched on a wooden stake tearing away at the rotting flesh and muscle of a carcass.  The corpse stared back at Nicolae with it’s face half eaten away.  Chunks of muscle tissue still clung to the skull and one of it’s eyes hung out from the socket by a muscle fiber while the other still remained in tact.  The skin and muscle around the mouth had been eaten, giving the corpse a permanent, hideous grin.  Crows and buzzards were heard as they perched on the stakes and the limbs of some of other bodies.
I’m sure they never go hungry here, Nicolae thought.  The thought amused him slightly as he drew his gaze upward to the birds of prey circling in the red light of the moon.  There were some that appeared to have a reptilian appearance.  He brought his gaze forward again, being careful to not lose site of the cloaked man.  Time seemed to drag before they finally came to a clearing at the edge of the forest.  Dread filled Nicolae as he anticipated what may be waiting at the other side. 
An abyss, a fiery pit filled with bloodthirsty beings…
Nicolae began to feel anger again at the unfairness of it all.  But when he looked out to what was in front of him, he saw a beautiful field stretched out in front of him.  The field was a beautiful green and up above it was a blue sky decorated by white clouds.  Further down into the field was a small workshed and even further down was what appeared to be a two floor house.  Nicolae looked up and could see a break in the sky, the separation between the black sky of the island and the blue daylight of the field.  He slowly reached out and touched the tips of his fingers to a membrane that separated the field and the island.  He once again felt that small magnetic surge.
“What are we?” Nicolae asked, “Where’s Eloisa?  Is she here?”
The cloaked man was silent before simply answering with a deep vocal tone, “No.”
 “Well can you please tell me why the hell you’ve brought me here?” Nicolae asked, his heart swelling with fury and despair. 
“Look in front of you,” the figure answered, unphased by Nicolae’s tone.
Nicolae turned back to the field.  His anger cooled when he saw two little boys playing there, chasing and kicking a ball.  They looked to be about seven and had heads of thick hair, one sandy and the other dark. 
Nicolae stood watching them.  He saw how happy and carefree they were, something hardly experienced in his childhood.  There was also something about the two little boys that was familiar to Nicolae.  He strained to get a better look at them, but the magnetic shield began to dissipate and the scene before them went from day to night and the two little boys disappeared.  A cool breeze of a crisp, autumn night and the fragrance of autumn leaves was a much welcomed change from the heat and stench of the island. 
“It is now safe to step over if you wish to do so,” the cloaked man said.  He stepped forward onto the field and Nicolae followed, catching up to walk beside the man. 
As the two of them stepped out onto the field, the island, the giant blood moon, the crows, the buzzards, and the forest of impaled human bodies disappeared behind them.  In it’s place was a lush forest of trees.  A full late autumn moon hung high in the sky casting a cool beam down, emphasizing the emblem on the clasp that fastened the man’s cloak.  Nicolae recognized it as being the seal belonging to The Order of the Dragon.  He frowned, wondering how he hadn’t noticed it before.  The man slowly turned his head toward Nicolae causing Nicolae to quickly turn away. 
They continued across the field, passing by the shed, and coming to a stop when they were within a few feet from the house.  A large oak tree stood at the side of the colonial farmhouse. Under the tree was a tall, sandy-haired young man with a lean, solid build embracing a rather petite dark-haired girl.  Nicolae could feel the love that radiated off of the couple locked in a passionate kiss.  It was a cruel reminder of what he had had with Eloisa.  Heartsickness began to fill him as gruesome details began to re-enter his mind.
Eloisa’s terrified screams, the bloodspill…
Nicolae forced the thoughts away as the two lovers as they parted their embrace and began to speak a language that Nicolae barely understood.  He looked over at the cloaked man.  The man also stood facing the young couple and Nicolae could sense sadness, as if he wasn’t the only one who had experienced a great loss in his life.
“It continues,” the man said suddenly.
“What?” Nicolae turned back to the man…


…and awoke to find himself back by the creek in the familiar, Transylvania woods.  The blue, early morning light filled the sky.  Nicolae sat up, rubbing the sleep from his eyes.  He noticed his bag next to him picking it up, making sure everything was still inside it, especially the box.  Satisfied, he turned to wake Sebastian and was stopped cold when he saw that his little brother was missing.  Nicolae stood up, frantically calling out to his brother.  He noticed a movement in the shadow of the trees. 
“What the hell do you want now?!” Nicolae exclaimed.  The figure slowly stepped into the clearing.  It was Sebastian.  The younger Ganoush boy froze as his older brother ran toward him.
“Shit!  Sebastian!” Nicolae had yelled grabbing his brother by the shoulders, “what do you think you’re doing wandering away like that?!
“I’m sorry!  I just had to take a leak!” Sebastian protested, confused and frightened by his older brother’s actions.  He stood staring wide-eyed up at Nicolae. 
Have you gone completely mad?
Nicolae realized what he was doing and how this all must look to Sebastian.  He collected himself and let go of Sebastian, apologizing.  Sebastian watched his brother walk over to the creek, sitting down on the bank.  He slowly approached Nicolae and sat down next to him.
“I did try to wake you,” Sebastian offered, “but you wouldn’t move.  I actually thought you were dead until I heard you still breathing.”
Nicolae looked at his brother, giving him a small half-smile.  He reached over and playfully ruffled the eleven-year-old’s hair.  Sebastian smiled, letting out a small giggle.  He was relieved that Nicolae wasn’t angry with him.
“Come,” Nicolae said as he stood from his seated position, “it’s nearly daybreak so we may as well get a start out.” 
The two boys began walking along the bank of the creek, following it across the border of Romania and Austria-Hungary.  Sebastian looked up at his brother and said, “Nicolae…will you ever tell me what happened?”
Nicolae ceased his steps.  Sebastian could see that his brother was giving some serious consideration to the question.
“Yes,” Nicolae said finally, “perhaps sometime soon.”

Read on to the SECOND INTERLUDE (UNEDITED) *rated for violent content*

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

PART 1, NICOLAE'S ESCAPE: Chapter 1 (UNEDITED) *Mildly Explicit*


If you're just catching up, read the FULL PROLOGUE, Part 1-4 and Conclusion UNEDITED and PART 1, NICOLAE'S ESCAPE: First Interlude (UNEDITED) *Explicit* before reading Chapter 1. 
 





JULY, 1844
CHAPTER 1

Nicolae’s dreams of Eloisa had started the second night after he and Sebastian escaped into Transylvania’s forest.  The two boys had gone through the forest, following the creek without stopping until the second night just as Nicolae had planned.  They had found some brush to lay down under, both exhausted from almost twenty four hours of hiking through the woods, only having stopped three times since their departure.  If it had only been Nicolae alone, he would likely have only made one rest stop.  But he had Sebastian with him and he did understand the fact that his younger brother needed sustenance more than he did. 

The first night in the woods, Sebastian had tried to convince Nicolae to tell him about what was happening as they stopped briefly to eat a meal of small pieces of stale bread and water from Nicolae’s small flask.  But Sebastian’s older brother had simply looked at the younger boy and with his dark eyes gleaming in the moonlight, firmly said, “Sebastian, you wanted to stop and eat.  So eat.  And hurry up.”
Sebastian dejectedly obeyed, eating his stale bread as quickly as he could.  He could sense Nicolae growing more impatient and anxious by the second.  But what really bothered Sebastian was Eloisa.  The younger boy was hardly familiar about the types of feelings grown ups had for each other, but he understood how much Eloisa meant to Nicolae.  He had seen them sneak away together several times.  At first, they would see one another whenever they could during the day and sometimes early evening.  Sebastian liked Eloisa, though he couldn’t help feeling embarrassed and even slightly repulsed the day he had gone looking for Nicolae and came across him and Eloisa kissing behind a large tree near the woods.  But Eloisa had always been nice to Sebastian and Sebastian was actually glad for Nicolae that he and Eloisa had found eachother.  But then, after maybe a few months, Nicolae had begun to leave the bunk late at night.  Sebastian would sometimes wake up to the sound of Nicolae getting out of bed and would pretend still be asleep as his older brother try to sneak out as quietly as he could.  Sebastian would then wake up again a few hours later to the sounds of Nicolae returning from wherever he had been.  Sebastian did notice a change in his older brother.  Since the sneaking out at night had begun, Nicolae seemed to consistently be in a good mood.  There was also a difference in the way Nicolae and Eloisa behaved around one another.  They actually seemed even closer than before, something Sebastian didn’t think was possible. 
Sebastian couldn’t help his curiosity and decided to follow Nicolae one night.  Sure enough, Nicolae was meeting up with Eloisa.  Sebastian stood at a safe distance as he watched his older brother and Eloisa embrace before joining hands and heading off to the woods away from their village.  Sebastian hesitated, feeling a little guilty for following them, but he also wanted to know where Nicolae had been going.  He ran in the direction he had seen Nicolae and Eloisa go in, as fast as his legs could carry him. 

The forest was dark and Sebastian had lost track of the direction Nicolae and Eloisa had gone in.  He had gotten a little lost, but like Nicolae, Sebastian knew the woods fairly well and was able to find his way back to a more familiar path.  It was then that Sebastian had seen what appeared to be a campfire in a small clearing behind some brush.  He had stopped and listened, hearing the sound of fire snapping accompanied by two voices Sebastian recognized.  He crept his way toward the light of the fire knowing that he would see Nicolae and Eloisa.
Why am I doing this? Sebastian had wondered to himself, they probably just want to be alone.  And what if they’re kissing again? 
Sebastian grimaced at that last thought, but he continued toward the fire’s glow and what he would see in the clearing would be enough for him to have a difficult time looking his older brother and Eloisa in the eyes over the next week.  Nicolae and Eloisa were by the fire.  Sebastian saw them on the other side of the fire from where he stood.  They were entwined together in the most intense embrace Sebastian had ever seen them in.  Sebastian could see that Nicolae wore only his trousers and was sitting on the ground with a blanket spread under him.  Eloisa was naked and sitting against Nicolae in his lap with her legs intertwined around him.  Their lips were locked and they appeared to be devouring one another like two ravenous animals.  Sebastian shut his eyes as Eloisa tilted her head back giving Nicolae access to her neck and chest.  The younger boy turned away, feeling his face flushing in the darkness.  He ran back through the woods eager to get back to the bunk where he leapt back onto his cot and threw the one blanket he had over his head.  Sebastian fell into an uneven sleep, only to be awoken when he heard Nicolae returning.  Sebastian kept his eyes tightly shut as he heard his brother get into his cot to get maybe an hour’s sleep before he would need to wake up again to go work in the fields.  But as embarrassing as that moment had been for Sebastian, he understood how deep the feelings that Nicolae and Eloisa had for one another ran. 

As he ate up the last of his stale piece of bread, he considered asking Nicolae again about why Eloisa was not with them.  But Sebastian knew better than to push his brother further.  They continued through the rest of the night and into the early morning as the sun rose and brought light into the forest.  Night’s black veil was lifted to reveal the green foliage.  The small screeches of the bats and the mournful cries of owls were replaced by the more cheerful chirping of the morning birds.  It was a much welcomed change for Sebastian as he continued along side of his brother who maintained a silent stance for most of the journey. 
They continued to follow the creek, stopping two more times before dark and finding a discrete cluster of brush to spend the night in.  They would continue on this way over the next two weeks. 

There would be a couple times over those two weeks when Sebastian would awaken as he had the nights Nicolae would sneak out of the bunk to be with Eloisa.  But this time, he would awaken to see Nicolae sitting by the creek’s bank looking off into the night sky, lost in an intense thought or memory.  Another time, he had woken to the sound of his older brother talking in his sleep.  And of course, Nicolae would speak the name of the only girl he ever could love.

~~~~~
 
The night was Nicolae’s sanctuary.  It was a time to disappear, offering temporary escape from his existence. 
Nearly two weeks had gone by since Nicolae had taken Sebastian from their village and escaped into the woods.  He wasn’t able to bring a whole lot of supplies, but knew how to make use of what the wilderness had to offer them and he would be able to stretch what they did have to buy them at least another week or two.  Nicolae lay awake, his mind racing as he stared 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 could create a world in which only they existed.  They would leave their village and disappear to the woods, into their own universe where they were not slaves but simply two souls connected to one another. 

Nicolae had begun to plan leaving Romania about a year prior to the fateful night in June.   As he worked in the fields during the day, he would plot his approach to how he would take Eloisa and Sebastian out of Romania and to a seaport.  Nicolae had started sharing his plans with Eloisa a couple months after.  Eloisa had responded with enthusiasm to Nicolae’s idea of escape and they would often talk of the plans while lying together after winding down from a passionate tryst.
Nicolae now looked up passed the treetops and into the starry sky.  A summer breeze crawled over him, pushing strands of his wavy black hair into his eyes.  Nicolae raked them out of his face as his mind wandered back to a rainy night two months ago.  Nicolae and Eloisa had gone to the empty shed at the back of their village instead of their place in the woods.  The shed was used for storing tools and was rarely opened at night.  Nicolae had moved an old, discarded mattress he had found in the cellar of one of his master’s homes.  Nicolae had managed to set it aside and, with the help of some friends, smuggle it over to the shed one night (and as expected, his master and master’s family did not notice or care about the missing mattress).  The mattress sat inside the shed against a wall surrounded by a few tools and allowed Nicolae and Eloisa another place to go during rainy or cold weather.  Nicolae’s eyes closed as images of him and Eloisa floated over him, carried by the breeze that enveloped his body.

“I just want to be your wife,” Eloisa said. 
They lay beside one another on a blanket covering the old mattress with only a dim lantern giving them enough light to make love by.  The rain pattered above them onto the shed’s roof and every so often, a soft roll of thunder from somewhere far off could be heard.
Nicolae tightened his embrace around the girl who lay with her slender limbs wrapped around him before saying, “You are.”
“I know…” Eloisa replied, her voice trailing off. 
Nicolae understood what Eloisa had meant as he also wished for a time he would be able to live freely as Eloisa’s husband.
 “It won’t be too much longer,” Nicolae assured her, kissing the silky black hair on the top of her head.
Eloisa picked her head up from Nicolae’s chest and softly touched his lips with hers.  He returned her kiss as he let his hands trail down to the small of her back.  Nicolae let out a soft moan as Eloisa’s lips moved down his neck to his collarbone.  She stopped suddenly when she got down to his chest.
“I hate that they do this to you,” she said, gingerly touching a welt from a whip lashing Nicolae had received two days earlier. 
“I hate that Dimitri thinks he has right to you,” Nicolae said, feeling anger begin to boil inside him. 
“It’s my fault,” Eloisa said choking back sobs.
Nicolae frowned, taken aback.  “Why would you say that?”
Eloisa paused before saying, “You went after Dimitri after...”
“Eloisa, that spoiled little pansy should consider himself fortunate I didn’t kill him,” Nicolae answered.

Nicolae re-opened his eyes as the incidents that had occurred two days prior to that rainy night crept their way back to him.  The incident that would start the chain reaction that would bring about the final event leading to Nicolae taking Sebastian and fleeing for their lives in the middle of the night. 
Dimitri was the son of their slavemaster, Anton Alexanderescu.  Dimitri was the same age as Nicolae.  He had also been the reason behind the most brutal whip lashings Nicolae would endure before being sent to a solitary confinement cell for two days.  Despite Dimitri’s betrothal to the daughter of a prominent Austrian aristocrat family, he had made his desire for Eloisa and wanting to keep her as his mistress very clear.  To say that Nicolae had found such a thing insulting was a gross understatement and seeing how Dimitri’s lustful leering and propositioning upset her only escalated Nicolae’s hatred toward his master’s son. 
Nicolae normally worked in the field and would sometimes sneak by the Alexanderescu Castle where Eloisa was a houseservant to catch glimpses of her.  But on that particular day, he hadn’t been able to see her and he would later know why.  When she 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 the gate.  But Nicolae wouldn’t need to go far to find her.  He had gone to look in the shed first and would there discover a terribly shaken Eloisa.  She was curled up on the floor, sobbing and shaking almost uncontrollably.  Her blouse and skirt had been torn and her hair had been disheveled.  He had run over to her demanding to know what happened.  At first, Eloisa shook her head and that was when Nicolae noticed a bruise forming on the side of her face and a small amount of blood on her inner thighs.  He again begged Eloisa to tell him how she ended up as she was.  She was only able to utter out Dimitri’s name; but it was enough for Nicolae to understand and send him into a blind, fiery rage.  He barely heard Eloisa’s protests as he started for the castle on the hunt for Dimitri. 
Anger pulsed through Nicolae as he slipped through the gate and into the castle.  He had found Dimitri in one of the castle’s dens, practicing his fencing.  He was facing away from where Nicolae 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 his mind.  There were so many ways he could kill him.  It would be so easy to just go up behind him, snap his neck, throw him in that fire, and slip out the way he came.  No one would ever have to suspect a thing…
Nicolae began moving forward toward Dimitri, passing the fine weaponry that hung on the wall.   Nicolae seized the unsuspecting young heir by his throat along with the wrist of the hand that held the sword. 
“Give me one reason why I shouldn’t just snap your neck right here,” Nicolae hissed menacingly.

Nicolae hadn’t killed Dimitri that night, but he had certainly come close to doing so.  The commotion had been heard throughout the castle, sending the guards into the room.  Nicolae had been taken to the lowest level of the castle where he was given several violent whip lashings and made to sit alone for two days in a cell.  His punishment may have been even more severe but out of his own wounded pride, Dimitri had begged his father to not draw attention to the incident.  Dimitri was in excellent physical shape and a skilled, trained fighter; but Nicolae’s life of hard labor and self-sufficiency combined with rage ending up posing a challenge for Anton Alexandresu’s son.  Even without a weapon, Nicolae managed to overpower Dimitri.
Nicolae had spent the two days in the cell more worried for the well-being of Eloisa and Sebastian.  He prayed that the master wouldn’t take what he did out on his younger brother and the girl he loved.  
Nicolae was released that rainy evening.  A visibly relieved Sebastian and Eloisa met him at the village’s entrance.  Nicolae was thankful that the two people he cared for most hadn’t been harmed while he was locked up.  That night as the rain had poured down onto their village, he and Eloisa had gone to the shed together.  He remembered the horror that filled Eloisa’s eyes when he had stripped off his shirt, revealing the deep, fresh, open welts on his torso.  He remembered her holding back tears as she tried to tend 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 wounds. 
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 had struck her.  It made Nicolae physically ill to think about what she had gone through.  He lifted his hand, and brought it to Eloisa’s face.  His thumb gently caressed the swollen, bruised area of her face.  Eloisa paused from what she was doing and closed her eyes, taking in Nicolae’s touch.  Nicolae 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, hearing the quiet rainstorm outside.
He couldn’t help the arousal he felt and 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.  Eloisa embraced him, drawing him close to her while taking care to not disturb his welts…

…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 where something he would never have again.  When Nicolae was a boy of five, his father had taught him about the constellations, pointing them all out to him. 
And now, Eloisa is an angel among them all…
Nicolae covered his eyes with his arm as tears began to fall down his face.  He shut his eyes, trying to fall back into sleep.  In his mind, he saw Eloisa lying in his arms as she had after the many times they were together.  He could almost feel her body against his and his hands on her body as she lay wrapped around him with her head resting on his chest.  He remembered the very first time he had made love to her, the night he made her a woman and she made him a man.  The night their union became official. 
As Nicolae began drifting from where he and Sebastian lay in the woods into the dreamscape, he anticipated seeing Eloisa in again.  He reached over to the bag he carried, his hand resting on a hard, square object that was inside with the supplies.  But Nicolae’s temporary bliss would be interrupted by another presence that approached the area where he and Sebastian lay sleeping.