I n s p e r a t u s
An u n r e l e n t i n g l o v e . A n u n d e n i a b l e d e s t i n y .
k e l l y v a r e s i o
The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious. Any resemblance to persons, living or
dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.
No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or
by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without written permission
of the publisher.
Printed in USA
All rights reserved.
Library of Congress Number: 2009920527
Copyright © 2009 Kelly Varesio
Cover Design © 2009 Cold Tree Press
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To my parents (and little brother)—you’re the best.
And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world,
and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.
For everyone that doeth evil hateth light, neither cometh to the light,
lest his deeds should be reproved.
But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be
manifest, that they are wrought in God.”
John 3: 19-21
I n s p e r a t u s
The men’s drunken laughter and endless taunting filled the frigid air as a lantern was lit from around a darkened, stone corner. The shadowed guard moved back further into a bend by the dungeon cell, watching the flickering light of the lone lantern grow brighter, the smell of beer filling his nostrils. The light finally exposed the two inebriated sentries shoving a bloodied and shackled prisoner through the dungeon’s narrow hallway. The prisoner was a young man, perhaps in his early twenties, and his body was battered and bruised. As the lantern swung side to side, a swollen and bleeding bite mark could be seen on his neck.
The two sentinels staggered, each one holding onto an arm of the dragging prisoner. As they approached the last cell, by the shadowed man in the bend, the young prisoner was unceremoniously tossed into the iron-barred maw, collapsing upon impact. Locking the cell, they stumbled away, still laughing, and the lantern’s light faded off behind the corner.
The only form of light was that of the crimson-outlined moon filtering through a dusty, barred opening at the height of the cell. The young man, wet with sweat, moved to his knees and stared at his ghostly white hands. The guard felt faint as he watched the prisoner suddenly hunch over and grab his stomach. The writhing man in the cell was wincing and panting. The guard could tell he was trying to bear up despite having been battered by the soldiers. With blood dripping down his neck, the prisoner looked up into the dim light of the cell and let out a stabbing cry. Four of his teeth speared into a point, appearing lengthened and sharp. He felt them inside his mouth, hands shaking hard, a look of shock surfacing on his face. He was changing, and with each change came horrible agony. His pain was evident in his posture; he was bent and twisted. His light brown hair streaked darker.
The guard could see through filtered light that the prisoner’s once unobtrusive eye color was now a brilliant shade of red. The prisoner pulled himself to the other side of his cell where a dusty shard of a worn mirror was hung. His curiosity, despite his terror, was all that could have driven him to search his exterior, and the guard suddenly realized why he had been ordered by his own chancellor to place the mirror there.
Using the last bit of strength he had, the prisoner pulled himself up and looked into the mirror, but he shrank back with fear as he witnessed his strange appearance. As he brought up his hand to feel the mirror, he realized that his reflection was slowly vanishing; soon, there was no reflection at all. He had only a moment to see himself as a strange apparition. He was now a pale and gruesome sight.
The guard could not help but feel pity for the man. The prisoner’s expression had gone from fear to something strangely numb. The captive slid his trembling hands over his stomach, to his chest, and stopped. His breathing—his panting—ceased. His hands rested there until he panicked; he could feel nothing, his heart was not beating. He turned with revulsion and eyes cold as ice toward the watching sentry. The guard watched in abhorrence, with knowledge that the boy saw the guard’s own fear and antipathy within him. He dropped his spear at the sight of the young man and ran off behind the corner.
The prisoner’s eyes had glared at him so questioningly. The sentry heard the man still: panting heavily, cursing whoever heard, and yelling for answers.
But neither the guard, nor anyone else ever answered his echoing screams.
The town was filled with the common bustling and busyness of life. Ladies held umbrellas high to shade their delicate skin from a blistering sun, and gentlemen walked with them, their suits fashioned to please. It was a rather common-man town, but it was a wealthy one nonetheless. The houses were quaint and lovely; gates were swung open and carriages were stationed elegantly along the roads; fields stretched across the plains with horses running blithely among the moss. In the midst of the town activity, the town’s surgeon ran the hospital, the bank was flourishing, the grocer and baker’s shop were eventful, the wine house and auction barn had its customers. There was even a learning institution near Sherwood Street called Barnard that was thriving.
It was May of 1843, and just past the boarding school, across the railroad tracks, Rein Pierson bent over to brush the dust from her dress. She stood straight, looking up at the sky and squinting. The weather in Teesdale was warm and the sky was clear, but it was dreadfully windy, and she had no umbrella or hat to shade her. She did not mind the sun, however, or darkening her skin in it. The weather was too gorgeous to hide from.
Despite enjoying the sun, the wind was so frustratingly fierce that it stirred the dirt from the road high into the air, making her cough. Her hair had been pulled back in a chignon, but she realized she had not made it tight enough. All she could see were the black, wavy wisps of her hair pulled from their placement as they tangled and blew into her eyes. Pushing them behind her ears, she lifted her dress above her ankles to walk across the wide, dirt road.
Opening a large iron gate, she saw old Jonathan Kendrick tip his hat to her. He was hunched over and sweating while raking his yard, as he did every day, around his prized flowers and small trees. He chose to do it himself over his servants.
Good day, Rein,” he said to her as he propped his arm on the rake, wiping his tanned forearm across his face.
She smiled back in greeting. “Afternoon, Mr. Kendrick. How are you today?”
He glanced up at the beaming sunlight, his heavily wrinkled eyes bunching up. He laughed looking back at her. “Ah, I’m well, dear girl, not granting the sun being hotter today than it should be, but I can see you do not mind it.” Rein smiled as he took another break of laughter. “Is it Saria you’re looking for?”
Yes,” she replied, shading her eyes with her hand. “Is she home?”
She’s most likely waiting for you, dear girl! Check around by the garden. She spends all day in that garden of hers behind the estate.”
Rein smiled at him again and thanked him with a nod. She let go of her dress, letting it fall and drag in the dirt, and walked around the back of the estate into the garden.
Saria, a small, thin girl, sat in the garden with her head tilted to the side. She was almost hidden between the ivy and the different sorts of flowers she was watching from the bench. Her parasol was high and her bonnet large, shading her well from the sun. Her dark, braided hair was neatly tied in a ribbon, and she was in a most elaborate dress. She motioned for Rein to come near, but as she approached Saria’s face grew grim with shock.
Rein!” she called with frantic distress, sitting tall and slapping her hands on her thighs. “Dear Rein! What are you doing to your dress?”
Rein looked down at herself and laughed a little. “It is an old dress, Saria.”
An old dress especially! It is much too beautiful and antique to be dragging in the garden! Look at the bottom of it—already filthy!”
Rein blinked a few times as her hair blew into her eyes again. “Why do you worry so about my dress?” she asked, taking a seat next to Saria on the garden bench.
Oh, please do not make me say it!” Saria huffed with intolerance.
Rein smiled. “I merely came to ask you if you’ve spoken with your father yet.”
Oh, please, Saria, the trip! Have you spoken to him about the trip?”
Saria looked bemused for a moment, but then sighed with a giggle. “I did, I did, yes. Have you written to your own father?”
I don’t need to write to him,” Rein answered impatiently. “He is still in France, and I’m sure he won’t respond. He hasn’t for fourteen years.”
Saria looked sad for a moment. “You want this much to leave?” she asked with a sigh. “America is beautiful, I am sure, but I do not think your idea of leaving England for it is suitable enough for my parents.”
Rein stared down at her feet. “It isn’t that I want to go to America. I just want to see the ocean, on a ship. Visit a place far from here—”
Oh, Rein! Can you not give up these dreams of yours? We’re meant to be here! We are barely even allowed to travel around the
, let alone to another country!” She sighed. “Rein, it’s hard to have a serious conversation with you when you are so careless and obstinate about your attire! Look at you; you’re dustier than an ox! Your beautiful face is filthy and your
Is dress all you can think about?” Rein asked with a moan. Her smile won Saria over. “I’ve looked into it,” she continued on, forgetting Saria’s distaste. “I’ve spoken to Mr. Harold, the baker, and he said he’s been there. It's wonderful. He said there is a port as close as Easington.”
But we have no reason to go,” Saria replied, her green eyes looking hopeless. “Can I do nothing to change your mind?”
Saria, it’s only a trip. Only for a little while. Imagine seeing the ocean on a steamboat! Wouldn’t it be wonderful?” Rein looked at Saria’s father on the front lawn. “I have no one to stop me from going. My father has no choice. I have been out of Barnard long enough to do what I please. I have the money.”
You know that my parents tried very hard to get you out of that boarding school to live with us, but your father—” Saria cleared her throat, and then she smiled. “And I must agree, Rein, that I would enjoy a trip away from here.” Her smile became mischievous. “And I
going with you…I’m just trying to persuade you to stay.”
Persuade me to stay?” Rein repeated, still pushing the lingering thought of Barnard from her mind. “Why persuade me?”
She slid her hand across her head to make sure her hair was in place. “I don’t know. I just think it’s an insensible notion. I
want to go with you, though.” With a bite of her bottom lip and a teasing smile she pulled three pieces of paper from her hand purse.
I’ve even made arrangements,” she said slyly.
Rein’s eyes widened and she smiled with overjoyed delight. “
? You have
, Saria! You love to torment me, don’t you? Well when? When are we going?”