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A Halloween fiction by Beckers.

The woods about them were lush and filled with potential.

Roxton whistle merrily, purposely goading his annoyed companion into a threat.

“Quite being so damn happy or I‘ll kick you.”

“How can I not be happy while I’m in your company, my dear?”

Marguerite rolled her eyes, knowing his moods. When Roxton thought he was being clever there was no living with the man. “I need a refill.” She lifted her canteen as they approached a creek.

They were at it again, walking through the rain forest, attempting to find supplies, minerals and plant life, to sustain themselves and their treehouse cohabitants. Would their tenure on this place dubbed The Lost World never end? Two days of searching had garnered them three rocks, five plants and any number of blisters.

Leaning over the creek, Marguerite filled her canteen, anticipating the last half of their exploration. The sooner they returned to the treehouse the better. But, knowing Roxton, they would probably end up camping out one more night before returning.

A flash caught her attention.

“What‘s this?” She spotted a glint of silver in the water. Perhaps something good had come from this tiresome hike after all? Intrigued, the woman placed the half-empty canteen beside her right leg and reached for the glittering object.

She pulled it from the water slowly. It dangled on a chain. It seemed to be a necklace of some kind, possibly dropped by one of the many tribes populating the plateau. However, as Marguerite brought it up, as she examined the delicate fastening and locket, her eyes grew wide.

The act of recognition was so overwhelming she nearly fell backward.

Marguerite closed and opened her eyes, unable to believe what it was she was holding.

It was the woman’s gasp and jerky movement that brought Roxton to her side, “Are you hurt?” he asked, noting his companion’s dazed expression.

“No.” She revealed the necklace, dangling it from her fingers.

“Pretty piece.” He said, interested but hardly staggered. “Unusual to find something like that here. Must have been dropped by a passerby.” Roxton looked up the creek to see if anyone was near.

“John, don’t you recognize it?” Marguerite asked.

“Should I?”

Look at it Roxton!” Marguerite demanded.

Curious as to why Marguerite appeared so distressed, he took the necklace from her, noting how well it was assembled, then opened the locket. There was a small painting of a woman inside and a inscription written in a language he did not recognize. “I don’t …“ he started then it came to him as it had Marguerite. “The ghost castle." Valois, Ariane, D’Argent and the others …

Marguerite nodded, relieved. For a moment she thought she had been mistaken. “We need to get rid of it, John.”

The couple looked at each other then stood as storm clouds began to gather up above.

“It’s just a necklace, Marguerite.” Roxton tried to rationalize, “It can’t hurt us. The castle is gone and …” No sooner had he said these words than Marguerite once again grasped his arm and pointed frantically beyond a gathering of sparse trees.

“Look!”

The Comtesse Ariane’s palace stood tall and menacing not far from them.

“Oh damn.” Roxton exhaled.

Automatically, the couple looked upward and about, hearing thunder and suspecting phantoms were preparing to besiege them as they had two years previously. Except for the wind and approaching storm nothing out of the ordinary appeared.

“No ghosts. That’s good.” Roxton looked down once again at the locket, closing it. “Maybe if we put this back where it belongs the palace will go on its merry way.” He started forward.

“John, don’t do it.” Marguerite urged, the wind about them whipping through her hair and blowing Marguerite’s skirt about her legs. “We can’t go in there again. We might never find our way out!”

He looked down at Marguerite, seeing the fear not just for herself but for him as well. Warmed, Roxton lifted a hand and touched her cheek, “Nothing is going to happen.” He promised, “And I’m going to make sure of it. I’ll place the necklace on the nearest table and we’ll immediately leave.”

“It’s dangerous! Don’t you remember what happened last time? Roxton …”

“Yes, and it was because of the clothes. We know what can happen, Marguerite, but others on the plateau could stumble into this. They might go through what we did and not come out alive. As Challenger would say, it’s our obligation to protect them!” Roxton called above the howling wind. “He’s right. We can’t let it happen again. Do you understand?”

Yes, she understood. However, that comprehension did not cause Marguerite to loosen her hold on his arm. “Please John, wait. Let’s go get Challenger!”

He almost smiled at her protectiveness, “Marguerite, you stay here. I know what to look for this time. I won’t go anywhere near a uniform. Promise.” He lifted fingers to touch the underside of her chin, to divert her attention away from the looming palace, “And if I see a gargoyle’s eyes glowing I’m out the front door like a shot.”

“You swear?”

“I swear.” Gently, he reached down and pressed his lips to hers. Pulling back he said, “I’ll be right back.” and reluctantly but with purpose move away from her.

***

He usually liked his women voluptuous, eager, a little raw, and fairly stupid.

Captain Valois had been with quite a few young ladies over the years, mostly from the villages surrounding the Comtess’s palace. However, none of the female peasants meant more to him than a passing fancy, an enjoyable way to fill time in between his lady’s commands. He felt the same for these women as he would for his decorative sword or his faithful horse. He petted them, partook of them, but when he did not need the women he could keep them out of sight and not think on them until he was ready for their services once again.

He would then move forward, pursuing that which Valois had always craved and deserved: Power. His ambition knew no limits but, because he was born to a lineage too low to be considered upper pedigree, he bided his time. Valois was fortunate enough to be blessed with a handsome face and athletic figure. All things considered, it served him well.

It did not come as a surprise to Valois, a strapping lieutenant in the Comte’s army, when he found himself enjoying the attention of lovely, sophisticated Comtesse Ariane. Then she had been the youngest child of Comte Gaston de Marchant and the younger sister of Comte Victor de Marchant.

For Valois it had been lust at first site.

There had been a party and he was there, dressed in his best uniform and hairpiece, helping to guard his masters home and guests. She had caught his eye. Actually Ariane, complexion pale with upswept dark hair, wearing a cream colored slightly off the shoulder gown, had caught the attention of nearly every lascivious male in the hall. Who could not want what she had to offer? Beauty, talent, poise and a great deal of money.

Ariane went against the grain. She was not Valois' usual conquest. Certainly, the lady was very beautiful but she was also svelte, reserved and intelligent. For most, if she was a virgin, that made it all the better. Later Valois would learn that she was also crafty, amoral and more than a little iniquitous. In the end perhaps it was her discovered depravity and strange powers, granted to her by a careworn alchemist, which Valois found mostly appealing.

And no, she was not a virgin. He did not really care. Virgins, he had discovered, were often highly over rated.

Comtesse Ariane was an expensive challenge for the motivated Lieutenant and he found himself appreciating her all the more when one evening it was reported her brother had fallen deathly ill. Only a few days previous, out in the garden, she had mentioned to her lieutenant, between kisses, that she often wondered what it might feel like to be an only child.

“In your case,” Valois had brashly said, holding her shamefully close, “I imagine it could be very lucrative.”

“Such a clever Lieutenant.” she had said while smiling up at him, “And my rise in position could very well benefit those I’ve come to cherish. Perhaps one day, my love, you will be the Captain of my father‘s guards?”

“Just as long as I remain in you heart, I don’t care.” he lied then kissed her hungrily.

Valois could see himself enjoying her charms on a regular basis, a woman with position and infinite resources. Ariane took pleasure in the little baubles he brought for her from his soldier travels. She had the two pearls from the South Seas made into earrings. Her gratitude usually consisted of a kind word and, when she was especially impressed, allowing him a secret visit to her warm bed for the evening.

Part of Valois believed Ariane arranged their clandestine meetings to get back at her buffoon of a father but he didn’t really mind. Ariane was an incredible lover. Her very touch heated his blood. How a woman of culture, a titled woman taught to be demure and disciplined, could captivate a man so utterly; placing him under a her seductive spell whilst beneath the sheets, the lieutenant did not know. But it pleased him to know she was equally satisfied with his talents and adoration.

One day, he swore, she would be his unreservedly and there would be no stopping him … them.

Comte Gaston de Marchant died mysteriously from a fall a year after his son passed away. Soon after, Valois had been made Captain of the Comtesse’s sentry. With the position came responsibility. He was called away often and that, he would soon learn, was quickly becoming his undoing. The Comtesse was left alone too much. It was inevitable that her eyes would wander elsewhere.

If that annoying young clerk, D’Argent by name, hadn’t come to the palace to work on the Comtesse’s books there would have been no doubt who the lady‘s announced consort would be. D’Argent was young, dark, morose and totally devoted, it seemed, to the Comtesse. Ariane was more than intrigued, particularly by the boy‘s innocence. She enjoyed being his tutor.

Valoise hated him at first sight and the feeling was mutual. He should have got rid of the insipid, insolent pup long ago, before the plague - that which had cost them all so much - besieged the villages and finally the castle itself.

And now they were dead. All of them. Even Ariane’s young cousin Sophie who Valois found vaguely interesting. She was as beautiful as Ariane and, he had come to learn, just as wicked. If Ariane had betrayed him, dallying with that arrogant clerk, Sophie was a good second choice. Especially after she inherited her cousin’s land, wealth and title ...

That was the plague talking, twisting his mind, making Valois doubt his destiny. He was convinced of it now. He wanted Ariane. He deserved her. And if Valois ever got another chance he would not hesitate to make her his at any cost.

Yearning never dies ... And neither does avarice.

***

Twilight came and the wind still whipped about but at least the rain hadn’t come.

“You’re back.” Marguerite breathed easier as she watched him approach. Roxton seemed unhurried and at ease. That was always a good sign. “Is everything all right?”

“Of course. I did everything I said I would.” He grinned as he looked at her.

“Thank God. Can we go back to the treehouse now?”

Roxton stopped and stood in front of her, “Anything you like, My Comtesse.”

Marguerite started at the title and huffed, “It’s not funny, Roxton. I still think you were foolish for going to that place. We should have waited for Challenger. He could have done some kind scientific hocus pocus.”

Roxton reached forward and took one of her hands in his, “Perhaps. But nothing happened, did it?”

“Well, no.“ Marguerite hesitated. Something seemed strange about the hunter but she could not figure out what it might be. Had he seen something in the old house he did not want her to know? Perhaps it was just in her imagination. With the wind, locket and the sudden appearance of the palace -- everything seemed strange to her right now. “This time things have worked out.” she said, pulling from him and turning about to find her hat. “But that’s not always the result and you know it.“

He watched her every move.

She bent over, seeing the her dark hat laying beside the tree she had been resting near, waiting for Roxton. “You may not be so lucky next time …” Unexpected, Marguerite felt something cool slipping around her neck. It happened so quickly she didn’t realize what Roxton was doing until she reached up to touch it and even then … “What is this? What have you done?!”

He snapped the clasp and stood back as she turned about and stared at him, her lovely eyes wide with anger and fear of duplicity. He watched as a glow infused her body then disappeared. The necklace, with it cursed locket, looked as lovely as ever against the V of her fetching décolletage.

Marguerite walked slowly to him, her expression unreadable but seeming strained. She pushed his hat from his head then dispensed with her own … Suddenly she was on him, her lips crushing to his, his arms enfolding her passionately. They clung to one another as old lovers do when they have been long separated.

“My Captain … My Captain …” she whispered, feeling his lips travel from her mouth to her cheek and neck. “And now all we have to do is get the others ….” she said, looking over his shoulder at her palace which waited for them in the distance.

“Must we?” he asked, pulling back but still holding her in his arms.

She smiled, “Perhaps not Sophie and D’argent but we still need Prospero. Only he can transport the palace.”

“He’s failed before, Comtesse.”

“But things are so obviously different now. Never before have we been allowed to travel outside the walls of my home. We will go beyond, my love, and find the wizard ….” She thought a moment, trying to remember. “Challenger they called him.”

“Yes. But what of the others?” He searched Roxton’s memory, “The jungle girl and the journalist.”

Ariane’s smile was calculating, “I’m sure - between the two of us - there will be a way of dispensing with them.” A hand lift from his shoulder and touched the barrel of the rifle at his back, “Yes indeed.”

He understood and returned her smile, “And we will be together, living our lives to the fullest, all our regrets behind us.” He hugged her to him once again.

“Oh yes, my Captain.” she sighed internally. Let him believe what he wants, she thought. He deserved such a reward for freeing her once again. The future would take care of itself.

Night was falling. A bright moon would greet them.

It occurred to Ariane, a memory she was feeding on from the woman whose body she now occupying, that this was a special night.

It was Halloween.

How appropriate, Ariane thought, reveling in the possibilities that lay ahead. “Make love to me, Valois.” she whispered in his ear.

“Right here?” he asked.

She kissed him deeply. “Yes.”

He needed no further urging. He took her to the ground. The night was theirs.

***

In the morning Marguerite and Roxton awoke, laying together on a blanket, having no memory of possession.

Marguerite reached for her throat but nothing was there. Should there have been?

“Let’s go home.” Roxton said, taking her hand and helping Marguerite to her feet.

“Yes, I think we should.” she said, lowly.

Marguerite put her hat on as Roxton rolled up their blanket and looked to the stream. She saw a incessant silver flicker, as if something was calling to her, but she did not investigate. “All that glitters is not gold.” she whispered, “Or silver. Or …”

“What?” Roxton called.

“Nothing.” She turned and smiled up at him, “Let’s go.” Marguerite did not resist when Roxton took her hand and they walking into the forest together. It felt natural and very safe.

***

From the trees an unseen swath vapor and intelligence watched the couple depart.

“Perhaps next time, my Comtesse. We grow stronger and stronger each year.” he said.

“Yes.” she replied, “Next Halloween, My Captain … Next Halloween ….”

THE END

October 30, 2004.

This was just a bit of spooky fun. And yeah, I did want to go into the past, give a small bit of history re: a couple of those Stone Cold characters. Hope you enjoyed!

Beckers