This path has not been walked for many hundreds of years, and for good reason.
She knows what awaits her in the belfry, but unlike those who were entrusted to guard it before her, Camilla can resist the call no longer.
Compelled, her hand closes around the frost encrusted brass handle. The door swings open at her command, and Camilla recoils from the putrid smell of damp and decay that instantly assaults her. She cannot turn back, even though she gags on a rising tide of bile as she resolutely sets foot on the uneven cobbles at the base of the winding steps.
Simply placing one foot in front of another has never been so difficult before. Shadows dance around her, drawing her further into the loving embrace of the darkness with every step that she takes. Crimson streaks of blood from centuries past adorn the cobwebbed walls; barely visible through the deepening gloom, but the metallic, cloying scent that hangs heavy in the air is unmistakable.
Her blood sings with the thrill of anticipation as she climbs higher, working her way up the spiralling steps until she can do so no longer.
Her path is barred by a trapdoor overhead. Camilla knows what is now just moments away, and her hands shake as she stretches them up to lift the rotting wood that stands between her and her destiny.
Weak sunshine breaks through the planks of wood as they crumble beneath her touch, illuminating what is above her. Digging her fingers into the floorboards over her head, Camilla prays grimly that they will not give way as she vaults through the gap that she has exposed and lands in a feline manner safely upon the floor of the enclosed belfry.
It is there.
Just as she had read, the vast, awe-inspiring bell hangs proudly from the ceiling beams. Dirt lays thick upon it, for it has not been rung in over six hundred years. The thin rays of sunlight that penetrate the grime smeared across the pane of glass above the bell reflect against the clouds of dust that rise up into the air, disturbed by Camilla’s intrusion into their sanctity.
Without even a moment of hesitation, she reaches for the woven, knotted rope attached to the mechanism of the bell. For half a dozen centuries it has waited, and time has taken its toll upon it. The rope disintegrates beneath her firm grasp.
Camilla unleashes a low howl of frustration, but she will not be defied; the calling is too strong. There is nothing for it – the ceiling beams now offer the only access to the bell that must be rang.
A shivering stab of yearning spreads through her veins as she climbs gracefully onto the bench that had been pushed up against the stone wall, tenses, then leaps as high as she can, catching hold of the ceiling beam above her.
Her grip is sure, and she swings from one beam to the next until, finally, her slender legs dangle in front of the bell. Gathering momentum, Camilla rocks back and forth, holding her breath as she makes contact with the cold, smooth metal.
Her unclad feet push it forwards, but it barely moves before settling back into its position without ringing as it must. Gathering all her strength, she swings again, and again, and again – and then, success!
With a loud, ominous clang, the clapper crashes against the body of the bell, reverberating through the stones of the belfry and the wooden beams.
Camilla cries out as the peal of the bell shakes the wood and tears it free of her grasp. She tumbles through the air, towards the open trapdoor beneath her – is this how it must end, before she even sees the living proof of her triumph?
No. A pair of hands snatch her out of the air, arresting her fall and dragging her into their owner’s body.
She twists her head up to gaze upon him in awe. Oh, but he is everything she dreamed he would be! The raging heat of his body sears her skin, but Camilla cares not – he is here.
“My lord!” Her whisper is hushed, reverent, and a satisfied smile curves back his scarlet lips.
“My most faithful servant. I am pleased.”
The demon’s curt words of praise inflame her just as surely as a lover’s embrace. Camilla presses herself up against him and gazes into his eyes; eyes that are as black as the depths of midnight, save for the flicker of amber flames smouldering in the very back of them. Entranced, she shivers with delight as he winds his hand through her hair.
“Camilla, will you do one more favour for me?” His voice is low, compelling and irresistible.
She nods eagerly. “Oh, anything!”
His smile widens. “I have seen and experienced the full spectrum of humanity’s sins, my Camilla, but there is one that I glory in and thrive upon above all else. It gives me sustenance, and that, Camilla, is what I now need above all else.”
Her breath quickens as she prepares to give herself to him entirely, sighing with pleasure as he pulls back her head back and stares at her parted lips. Camilla closes her eyes.
They will never open again.
In one fluid, rapid motion, the demon twists her neck and snaps it cleanly from the spine.
Inhaling deeply, he rises to his feet and drinks in the life force that flees from Camilla’s body as his high, triumphant laughter echoes around the cavernous belfry.
Brushing down the dust from his body, he lets Camilla’s broken body fall forgotten to the floor as he stalks down the stone steps, gaining strength with every step that he takes.
The power of the bell that once imprisoned him has been broken by its peals. He is unleashed once more; and now, none can ever stop him again.