"You are MAD! I won't marry you, a stranger!" Countess Eve shouted as she slammed her fists on the table. "I don't even believe that my husband is DEAD!"
The stranger tapped his fingers on the table a few moments, looking back towards the door. "There would be nothing left of him, out there, by now."
The Countess covered her face with her hands, collapsing in an ornately carved chair, sobbing. He quietly knelt beside her. His arrogant tone faded.
"Listen...we are both trapped by your husband's folly. This broken spell must be mended, or all is lost" He took a deep breath. "Have you heard of the demon named...Bloodwing?"
The Countess looked up with a start. "Indeed! On this island, a bridesmaid pours a circle of salt around her bed before her wedding day, lest the demon..."
"Yes, yes, that was centuries ago...but more to the point your husband tried to summon him, for what purpose we may never know. But Bloodwing died when he rode a comet and crashed it straight into the castle of Hades himself! The portal opened at the spot where he was destroyed...which is now a pool of slag."
"But if the demon is dead, what was that monster we heard?"
"Under the Iron Citadel was a gate that kept a monster entombed that even the gods of Olympus feared...the Hydra. Even now the molten metal that was the gate keeps the creature submerged...but it will escape if we do not close the portal!"
The Countess trembled and shut her eyes, trying to make sense of the chaos that that has befallen her island. "Is a contract not dissolved when one or both parties dies?"
"Your Count opened a gate to forge the contract, but instead of finding Bloodwing he found the Hydra. Only the act of signing a contract will close the gate the Hydra is prying open. You are the inheritor of the Count's estate, and I...am destined to be the new Bloodwing, an amalgamation of human and demon."
The Countess traced her finger along the lines of the parchment, silently reading the words. "Marcus Gabriel Mason...that is your name?" He nodded. "Must this be a marriage?"
"No." He drew a quill from his satchel. "We can have a power sharing arrangement. Grant me the title of Count Marcus and a parcel of land, and we shall rule together...that is, until your husband returns."
She was ready to spit venom at his smug certainty that her husband was gone, but she was startled by another roar and the din of snapping trees. Marcus winced as he drew blood from his hand with a wrought iron fountain pen and hurriedly scratched out lines and scribbled frantically in the margins.
"The Hydra's reach is long, Countess! If he reaches us the Earth is doomed!"
The countess screamed as the great stained glass window over the front entrance shattered. Scenes of an idyllic Belhaven past disintegrated in torrents of multicolored glass. A great yellow eye the spread of a man's length pressed to the shattered frame, its black vertical cornea narrowed as it rotated to gaze down at them.