Chapter I: Runaway Bride

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This is a new opening I hope you enjoy it.

"Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end."--Marcus Annaeus Seneca

Cornelia's eyes burned with the liquefied salt of her shattered soul; her feet pounded against the rough terrain of the untamed forest - the straps of her sandals flapping uselessly in the wind. A scroll by Cicero, the most lauded orator in all of Rome, was clutched to her chest. She slammed past thorns and stray branches, unaware of the shreds of fabric that ripped from her dress.

She cared little for the cuts and bruises that enumerated her legs and arms. Cornelia was consumed only by ire and scorn, her anger fueled by her hated fate. Her father had announced her betrothal two hours ago. Her 'husband to be' was a glorified monster. Through the eyes of everyone else, he was a man of exceptional wealth and power. He had been unable to persuade her father for her hand until only recently. When his fortuned more than doubled in two short months. His chiseled chin and barrel chest had paralyzed both men and women in the delight of his appearance. All except for Cornelia, she knew the monster that lurked within. The crowds, as always, were mistaken. This was not a 'smart match,' this was a betrothal born of proprietary greed. A match that would be the death of her, and one they could take to the river Styx, for all Cornelia cared.

Cornelia ran for miles, undeterred by the distance that her legs had burned between her and Rome. Cornelia's soul was on fire, and she was unaware of the dangers that lurked between the trees of the San Vito forest, this had been her retreat for years. The one place they could never find her. Her fate was sealed back home to, a narcissistic sociopath, Gastonus Augustus Faustus.

Blinded by her rage, Cornelia did not see the six hungry eyes that followed her retreat, nor the fire that danced between its fangs. She did not witness the sun bounce off the golden hide of a lion or the venom soaked fangs of the snake, nor hear the chorus of snarls and rhythm of the beast's mashing teeth. No, she was too lost in her fury to realize that she was running too far from safety and towards the path of her doom. After all how much danger can one girl face in a single day? The rhythm of her legs brought her mind into a horrid reverie. She let them control her path while her mind flashed back to earlier that day.

Cornelia slammed the door behind her. She wanted to disappear into the aimless crowd of the markets and busy city streets. She needed a retreat; to watch the street performers work their magic. The theater was not one most appreciated, but stories of all kinds set Cornelia free for just a moment.

The man in a mask crooned to the crowd. "Beware the danger of the unknown, that lies in the smiles of strangers and the opinions of friends."

She did not know this play, and based on the thinning crowd she knew it would not go down in history, but there was something about his words that halted Cornelia's movements.

The man perseverated. His voice warbled with theatrical clarity. "For it is the man you least expect who will change your view of the world, and the leader you trust the who will destroy it."

Cornelia felt a hand seize her shoulder; the gesture shattered the brevity of her escape, and turned her to face her own personal villain. His hair was nauseatingly perfect and ebony as always. His smile debonair, but his soul was black as the starless night. Many believed Cornelia to be melodramatic, but she knew him well. She knew how he acted when others cared not to look.

"Hello bride of mine, why did you leave so soon?" His baritone voice echoed throughout the crowd, halting even the player's performance. No one dared to interrupt Gastonus Augustus Faustus.

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