A BRIDE REBORN
PART ONE - ANNABELLE – 1454 AD
CHAPTER ONE – A GRUESOME DISCOVERY
IT WAS ALREADY quite warm when I took my routine stroll along the beach to find whatever the tide had washed up. I knew this was going to be a hot summer’s day, so I had dressed as lightly as possible, which meant not wearing anything over my chemise. I knew this would upset Marcus, so I decided to leave the house before he woke.
Walking barefoot in the surf and going through the debris the sea had swept out, I stopped. What I found lying ahead of me was not the expected ocean garbage of driftwood, seaweed, shells, or even some rare piece of shipwreck the ocean did not want. Today, instead, I found something gruesome: among the stinky kelp, ocean slime, and what I first thought to be a pile of rags, lay a man. He looked dead with his skin shriveled up and burnt, revealing the outline of his skeleton. As I edged forward, I felt nausea creep up from the pit of my stomach. He lay face down, covered in seaweed. Barnacles had attached themselves to the piece of wood he seemed to be clutching. This meant he had been adrift for a very long time. Curiosity took over. I needed to know what he looked like, so I took a stick and started poking him. Every time I moved him, I would shriek with fear and excitement. It was like testing frigid water: first putting in your toes, then your feet, and then slowly wading into the water. Well, just like the water, I would poke his body and try to turn him over, going at it a little more each time. He was a large man, I guessed over six feet tall, and his skin was either burnt or crusted with blood and pruned as if the salt of the sea had dehydrated him. I took a larger piece of driftwood, wedged it under his body, and with all my strength succeeded in moving him onto his back.
I screamed and ran back a few steps and was finally sick; the sight of him was something quite unexpected. His staring eyes were blood-red and sunken in his skull. His mouth revealed white fang-like teeth and his thin lips were drawn back in his grey, gaunt face. Settling down enough to venture closer to the body again, I examined it a bit more carefully. Never before had I seen any dead human or animal look like this. My stomach churned again, but nothing came up this time. I realized there was no sign of decay on his body, which was unusual. I was just nineteen but I had seen dead, decaying bodies before. The war had seen to that. I had helped in makeshift hospitals for months, so death was not new to me. But this body unsettled me for some unknown reason. There was something about him; I just didn’t know what. He both scared and troubled me. It was like two sides to a coin: he seemed to be cursed on the one side, but on the other he generated a peaceful aura, and this made me want to help him.
I walked over and knelt down next to him and lifted the stinky seaweed and algae from his body and hair. He was a middle‑aged man; his hair was dark brown, almost black, long and matted, that covered part of his face. I dared not look at his gaunt features as they scared me too much, so I concentrated on removing the debris from his body. His clothing, although old, torn, and worn to rags, looked as though it belonged to a soldier without armory or weapons. I needed to move him, clean him up, and maybe see if I could revive him in some way. Although he looked dead, I was sure he wasn’t. How I knew this? Well, for one, I kept on hearing a man’s voice deep inside my head pleading over and over for me to help him. His voice was clear and deep and seemed to be full of pain; he wasn’t wailing or sobbing, but sounded stern and lucid. Looking down at the size of the man, I realized I would need more than just my strength to move him.