Uncompromising, gritty, thrilling, and not for the faint hearted! British detectives suspect a serial killer is on the loose. With the support of American profiler Dr Tessa Davies, they soon realize that this could be the work of a druidic sect.
Please enjoy another chapter of my dark crime novel, Death Marks . For now, I will post a chapter every Monday and Thursday.
Don’t worry if you miss any chapters, since you will find links to other posted chapters here:
Flickering lights flaring from brass sconces gave a soft sheen to mahogany paneled walls. A huge chandelier shimmering with crystal teardrops enhanced the baroque plastered ceiling. Deep maroon curtains covered arched windows blocking out the evil within. A center table covered with a white linen cloth stretched the length of the room. Death gleamed in the cut crystal glasses and solid silver candlesticks. As the diners, a mixture of men and women, helped themselves to brandy and liqueurs, a tall man, his silver hair gleaming under the light, rose to his feet and tapped a decanter.
‘Ovates, your attention, please. I hope you enjoyed the sumptuous repast cooked by our very own chef Monsieur De Clef.’ At that moment, a rotund chef entered, goatee beard immaculate, overalls pristine white; his tall white chef’s hat slightly cocked to one side. Bowing, his small teeth shone in a wide smile. The diners clapped heartily, at which point he bowed again and left the room.
His face composed, the Chief Druid Adakan addressed the assembly. ‘I regret to inform you that the first stage of our initiations failed. We will now return to the Grove to address the matter.’
Silently, the company rose as one, their faces grave, as they walked in single file through huge mahogany doors. In a small anteroom, off the great dining hall, they swiftly divested themselves of their formal dining clothes, displaying bodies covered with tattoos of ancient Celtic spirals. Naked, they donned black hooded cowls and followed Adakan to the sacred place in the depths of the Manor house.
The rough-hewn stone walls of the immense cavern glistened, with the smell of beeswax wafting from candles flickering in wrought-iron sconces. Several wolfhounds stood panting in one corner as their handlers held them back by steel linked lashes.
On divesting their cowls, the members stood by velvet cushions placed upon the floor, their heads bowed, waiting for the Chief Druid to mount a podium carved with oak leaves. Ascending the steps, he stood tall and proud, naked except for a wreath of oak leaves and mistletoe. From his studded leather belt hung a sword sheathed in an ornate scabbard. He gestured for them to sit. Bowing, they obeyed, those more limber sat on the stone floor, crossing their legs, hands resting on their knees. Three men and one woman entered, carrying a drum, whistle, and reed pipes in the silence that followed.
Once assembled, Adakan said, ‘sadly, the first stage of offerings to our Lady of the Earth failed. Our chosen maiden did not give the oracle. His voice lifted, ‘Ovate Hagnivior defiled her, our virgin, our Oracle.’ His voice rose to a scream, ‘bring forth the sinner.’
Four men, masked and clad in black loincloths, decorated their leather armlets with steel spikes. Carrying knives, with cutlasses lashed to leather waist belts, they bowed to Adakan. They watched in silence as the Ovates dragged in a cowering figure, throwing him down before the speaker whose voice filled the cavern. ‘Sinner, confess, confess now.’
The figure shuddered. ‘I didn’t mean to … it was the drugs.’
Adakan turned toward the man, holding him down. ‘Ovate Bleiki, tell us how you learned of this sacrilege?’
‘The Ovate Hagnivior was in charge of the chosen virgin. But I was suspicious of him when I saw him take the woman to his house. As the back door was unlocked, I crept in and watched him take her down to the cellar. I went outside to the garden, where I could see them through the cellar window’s iron bars. I saw him fuck the virgin. She – she enjoyed it.’
Adakan’s face suffused with rage, the pale skin a shade whiter, his grey eyes as hard as slate, as he shouted at the cringing ovate. ‘You despoiled our virgin, the maiden was chosen to be the Oracle; you insulted our Mother of the Earth. As your Chief Druid, I sentence you —’
The figure raised an arm, screeching, ‘no, please. I won’t —
‘Be silent. You do not deserve an honorable death.’ Adakan roared. ‘We will sever your limbs from your body, one by one, and you will watch the hounds eat them here before you. Your head will be severed from your filthy body. Your brain will be food for the crows, your skull cleansed by the virgins. I, your leader, servant to the Great Earth Mother, will take great pleasure in drinking from your skull. No-one defiles the virgin, our Oracle.’
‘Mercy master, mercy, I beg you, I will not do it again, I—’
‘Silence, you cur. Sternly he stepped from the lectern and walked slowly to a large throne carved with the ancient Celtic symbols.
Seated, he cleared his throat. ‘Everyone rise to witness the fate of the virgin. She, faithless woman, will become the whore to the denizens of hell.’
The Ovates dutifully rose to their feet, covering their heads with the hoods, and stood quite still.
As Adakan pounded his iron staff on the floor, two women in white silken robes entered either side of a young woman sobbing and pleading for mercy. The room was hushed to a deathly silence broken only by her piteous pleas.
The drums began softly thrumming as the women stepped aside. Reed pipes played softly above the drums as two of the leather-clad men came forward. One held her delicate arms whilst the other stood behind her, his steel sword raised. The reed pipes now screeched above the drums as Adakan nodded. In that split second, the sword flashed in the light of the flares. Swift and silent, it came down, severing her head from her body. The Ovates standing near raised their hands to catch the spurting blood, reverently painting a bloody oval on their foreheads.
No one cried or moved; only the sobbing of the Ovate broke the dreadful silence.
A woman stepped forward and gently placed a sprig of mistletoe in the dead girl’s mouth and gently closing it.
With grim faces, the four leather-clad men gathered around the penitent, now gibbering with terror, scrabbling on all fours away from his executioners.
Two of the men held him down whilst the other two prepared their weapons. Some group members lowered their eyes as one of the executioners raised the struggling, sobbing ovate’s arm out from his body, at which point, the axe came down, severing his left limb at the shoulder. Upon Adakan raising his hand, one of the leather-clad men threw the twitching limb to the hounds who snapped, ripped, and chewed the bloody flesh. The Ovate’s screams rent the air, knives, and cutlasses sparkling, falling on the flesh and limbs of the accused, the blood arcing, splattering his attackers. The squish of severed limbs filled the cavern, followed by the crunch of bones on steel. As the Ovate’s head and torso sobbed, grunted, twitched, and wriggled on the stone floor, Adakan nodded to one of the men, who bent over and skewered the skull, pulling out the grey matter slipping and slithering near his feet. He looked up to Adakan, who signaled for him to put the wretch out of his agony. In one swoop of the axe, the deed was done, and the Ovate’s torso lay still, whilst Adakan examined the head. Most of the Ovates looked on gravely, knowing this was their fate if they broke the rules.
Raising his hand, Adakan said, ‘gather round; we shall read the signs of his wicked crime.’
In silence, the Ovates watched as the body was ripped open, and the senior Ovates searched for signs of the accused crimes in the organs, each artery a portent. Adakan stood right over him. ‘You see the signs; the man is guilty of crimes against our Lady Mother Earth. We will not demean the Gods by reading for goodly omens or marking the entrails.’ Turning, he said, ‘Ovate Fjorn place the mistletoe in the fiend’s mouth, and let there be an end to this.’
The reed pipes faded away with the last drum beat as the four executioners gathered the bloody detritus into a leather bag. Bowing to the Chief Druid, they left the cavern.
His voice silky, Adakan said, ‘he will reincarnate as the lowest of the low, a mere slug or fly. I will pass you over to Ovate Bleiki.’
Bleiki walked to the podium beside the dais. ‘Now we must discuss our search for another chosen. We must find two more worthy. It will be difficult to use the same Grove to place our offerings, but there is another similar near a barrow mound, early Neolithic. It is just below the summit of the Downs so that it will be an auspicious site. We must mollify the Gods at the first opportunity.’
He nodded as another Ovate raised his hand. ‘Yes, I have heard of it; pagans and the neo-druids alike use the ground.’
‘How the neo-druids can even use the name Druid is blasphemy. They follow a different path. First, we must find a suitable companion to escort the defiled woman to hell. It must be some inconspicuous young man. Now, we need to decide how we will procure the next Oracle. This time we should look for those with more merit. After all, these are sacred offerings.’
A voice rang out from the back of the group. ‘You are right. Maybe this is a sign from The Mother, that the offerings were not acceptable.’
Clasping her hands over a rotund belly, a woman said, ‘We should keep to those who blaspheme against nature, despoiling the body of Mother Earth with their scientific experiments. They should serve as an example, as well as an offering.’
The Chief Druid smiled, ‘Good point, Ovate Asleifra.’
Ovate Bleiki spoke up, ‘I think we should refine our search for the Oracle among those who live alone, or young couples setting up home together. They are less likely to be missed.’
Adakan pursed his lips, ‘So be it. I think a nightclub or bar near the university would be advantageous. Ovate Braddulfr that is more your scene. See to it.’
He then turned to a tall man stroking a lock of dirty-blond hair over a balding pate. ‘Do the police suspect anyone at this time?
‘The male head is identified, but forensics has not come up with anything as yet.’
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This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and events are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © Katy Walters
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Don’t worry if you miss any chapters, since you will find links to other posted chapters here: