Major Tarleton was at a low point in his short life. At twenty-seven years of age, his wealthy father having bought his commission, he should have been in high spirits due to his elevated circumstances. Yet tonight he was low. So very low. The woman he wanted, lusted after, craved more than he could stand, had spurned him time and time again. Her name was Hannah and she worked at a public house named “Soaring Gull” near the home where he had been bivouacked. She had flaxen hair, a beautiful smile, and a figure that was the stuff of dreams. She was perfect in every way and he was smitten. She often conversed with him, serving him before any others—a preferential treatment that made him feel special and honoured, not just for being a British Major but because he believed she did it just for him. He had asked several times for her especial company on the occasions of balls, dances, or even a simple picnic. But tonight he had asked her to attend as his escort to a military ball where he was to receive a reward for his service; a glorious achievement to show off to his would-be paramour, but again she refused.
He quaffed mug after mug of strong ale trying without success to drown his disappointment. Occasionally he would glance at the object of his rejected affections working at the end of the tavern, throwing smiles and trading laughs with men that weren’t him. The thought made him sick and the proof of his own sight made him downright ill. It wasn’t the ale that made him vomit upon the west wall of the “Soaring Gull”—it was heartache.
He was outside of the tavern, still reeling from the vomiting, as well as the effects of the massive amount of strong ale he had consumed when she appeared. Hannah Warrant, clad in her stained working apron, beautiful all the same. Yellow hair tied back in a neat bun with lovely tendrils of escaping strands, her pale face extruding warmth, she was the paragon of feminine loveliness. He knew he must look terrible, bedraggled and vomit-stained,with the puffy eyes of the drunken. Still, she spoke kindly to him.
“Major Tarleton, are you well? You looked a bit pale back there.” Hannah smiled as she spoke and it enlivened him. He brushed his uniform, which was miraculously untouched.
“Yes, Miss Warrant, I am fine,” he replied, wiping the remnants of his dinner from his lips. Feeling bold, he said, “I just hate seeing you smiling at other men. I…I believe I’m in love with you, Hannah… um, Miss Warrant.”
She looked shocked then blushed for a moment, the sudden redness of her cheeks accentuating her pale beauty. “You don’t mean that. That’s just the ale talking,” Hannah replied, though her cheeks were still flushed and her delicate hand over her mouth could not hide her smile.
“No, no, I… I think I do.” The Major’s speech was deliberate and precise, not the slurred compliments of drunkards she had become accustomed to. She couldn’t help but feel something for the handsome Major, his cued braid of brown hair, symmetrical features, and honest blue eyes. She felt he might be serious. She was both flattered and confused. She had rebuffed his advances in the past fearing he was just another rich officer more concerned with what she had between her legs than what was behind her eyes or in her heart. Perhaps, she thought, she had underestimated him. She smiled broadly, genuinely.
“Well, Major Tarleton, I am truly flattered,” she said with a broad curtsey and a blush she hoped he wouldn’t notice. He returned the bow as best a half-drunk man could and stumblingly replied.
“M….Madame would you do me the honor of partaking in a cup of tea at my quarters?” She knew he was a drunk, but she did not doubt his sincerity. She also knew the offer might involve more than tea.
“I would be honored, Major. At what time should I arrive?”
Tarleton grinned. Full of liquid courage he said, “Perhaps, now?”
Hannah smiled and laughed despite herself. “Well, I still need to finish my shift. Perhaps I can meet you at the mansion in an hour?”
“You know where I live?” he asked, surprised.
“Of course! Everyone knows that the officers are quartered at the Stone Mansion.”
“Oh, well, yes. I suppose it is common knowledge. I shall see you in an hour then.” He cocked his hat and wobbled off to his quarters. Hannah giggled and returned to her duties, excited for the future.
* * *
Nervously she stood at the main door of Stone Mansion, wrestling with her conscience. She was anxious and worried that Major Tarleton might be just like all the others, simply interested in bedding her as just another conquest. Qithout thinking she rang the bell and took a deep breath to still her racing heart. In mere moments a servant opened the door and looked her up and down expressionlessly. “You are Miss Warrant, I presume?” he intoned.
“I am,” she replied in a near whisper.
“Very well. Please come in. I will take you to the Major.” He gave a shallow bow and moved aside to allow her entry. He led her to the third floor room where Tarleton had his quarters. The house was quiet and smelled of dust and the musky scent of neglect. Clearly there was not enough staff to maintain such a large estate.
She was led to the Major’s room and the servant knocked. Tarleton opened the door and smiled, and Hannah smiled back. The servant bowed and retreated and Hannah stepped inside the small room. The wooden floors were cluttered with the detritus of a soldier. Folded uniforms and large chest dominated the room. A desk stood in the corner, a jumble of documents, quills, and an inkwell obscured its surface. Sitting on a small table next to the bed was a steaming kettle and two cups.
“Thank you so much for coming, Hannah. It truly is an honour,” Tarleton said nervously.
“It is my pleasure, Major. Is it truly appropriate to entertain a young lady in the confines of your private quarters though?” she said with a toothy grin.
“Oh, I... I didn’t think. Would you like to go to the drawing room?” Tarleton blushed with embarrassment. Hannah laughed, a sweet sound of genuine mirth.
“I am only joking, Major. I trust that you are a perfect gentleman.” She smiled again and it seemed to Major Tarleton that the room lit up with sunshine. He returned the smile and gestured toward the kettle.
“Of course, Major,” Hannah said with a curtsey.
They talked for hours about everything and nothing. Trivialities and important events in the Colonies. Hannah was well informed and a natural conversationalist and the Major felt even further smitten. Eventually he felt emboldened and looked her in the eyes.
“Hannah, I feel so close to you. Might I… might I kiss you?”
“Oh, Major, I thought you’d never ask.” She replied coyishly. He closed his eyes and leaned in. He waited for a long moment but their lips did not meet. He opened his eyes and beheld a sight that made his heart nearly stop. The person that was Hannah was gone and in her place stood a creature of fearsome and gruesome features. Before him stood a grinning demon of crimson skin, sagging baggy breasts, a mockery of femininity, and huge bat-like wings. A lithe whipping tail protruded from behind her and an evil grin exposed sharp, pointed teeth beneath a fearsome head crowned with curled horns like a ram’s.
“What… what are you?” Tarleton screamed, scrambling backwards. The thing spoke in a voice like an iron shovel scraped over gravel.
“I am the price for Man’s lust, the cost of avarice, the hate of Eve’s sin, and the curse that springs from the weak craving of your loins. They call me demon, seductress, succubus. And I am here to eat your soul, mortal!” The succubus advanced, its terrible maw open, yearning for a terrible soul-stealing kiss.
Tarleton backed up into the wall, realizing that there was no escape. The thing moved closer and reached clawed out its hands out for him…
* * *
The incubus that had once been Major Tarleton burst forth from the open window on wide wings of leather, the lifeless succubus in his claws. Not quite the meal he had wanted, but it would have to do. He was still drunk on the soul of the succubus he had just overcome, but still had enough sense to know that he needed to dispose of her—it would not do for the mortals to get too scared or suspicious.
He flew up in a high arc over the river and dropped the succubus into it. He grinned as he flew, sharp fangs exposed and wondered what the mortals would think when they discovered both Tarleton and Hannah to be missing. A brief moment of regret made the incubus wish Hannah had been what she pretended, instead of another like him. The taste of a mortal was always preferably to the vile spirit that animated a demon.
No matter, he thought, there was other prey to be devoured. He hungered for a truly human female soul, and hoped he would not again find yet another of his kind.
But such is love…