Over the next few days, Erik and I came to a mutual understanding. He apologized for saying the hurtful words promisinghe wouldn’t say them again, but meant them as a training tool. I too, apologized that at times I get a little too defensive. Staring into his eyes, I could see he was genuinely sincere.
Pushing past that, I improvedon my training; learning and advancing quickly.
After training on a particular day, Erik and I met in Marxus’ study, as heexplained he planned a journey involving myself and others.
“Where are we going?” I asked.
“You’ll find out soon enough.” Marxus replied.
“Okay. When will we be leaving?”
“Four days from now. Others have been alerted of the journey. Meet near the garage that morning. Now, if you’ll excuse me…” was all he said, as he returned to his desk, shifting through paperwork, as if Erik and I weren’t there.
We shrugged and respecting Marxus, we exited his study without fuss.
Walking down the elegant curved stairs, Erik joked,
“I’ve learned a long time ago to never ask questions. Especially when it comes to Marxus. It’s pointless. But, you’ll get used to it after awhile, Keeps.”
“Keeps?” I asked as I paused on the stairs.
Three steps down, Erik turned and answered softly,
“Well, yeah. I think it’s better than calling you pissant all the time, don’t you think?”
“Mm.” I nodded.
“But if it’s too personal, I could...”
“No…I think it’s cute.” I interrupted, giving a friendly smile.
“Okay, then. Keeps it is.” he flirtatiously returned the smile.
The day before we left for this journey, Marxus refreshed our memories to pack things we’d need, and to avoid dark clothing of any color or shade, and definitely red. But did we listen? No, for those are the colors we all wore and packed. After all, the attire everyone owned was steampunk…hence the era? Mostly all dark colors; shoes included. No pink, though.
The morning arrived sooner than expected, (as if time was manipulated to speed ahead) as everyone gathered near the parking lotnear the garage just after dawn the following morning. The way was clear and the Boar-wolves had dispersed.
My mom escorted me because shewas determined to see me off. This would the first time we’ve been separated for more than a day. We’ve been in constant company since my father died when I was five.
Taking the walk from our dwelling wasn’t that bad, but dealing with the cold weather was another. The morning weather was damp, due to the rain the night before; dew hanging around, making everything wet and slippery. We met up with the others out by the vehicles, who stood in place keeping warm.
Thomas, Marxus, Sarah and I were the only ones really bundled up; dressed in heavier coats, while Anthony and Nathan having higher and warmertemperatures, hardly felt the colder weather, as they wore lighter jackets. Erik and Jonathan wore heavy hooded jackets and gloves for they too didn’t feel the cooler weather due to their cooler body temperatures. A dampness lingered in the air making our clothing slightly damp to the touch and as we spoke,our breaths fogged.
Of all things, Marxus wore a white Parka.
“I thought I told you not to wear dark colors.” Marxus said, glancing around, “I had a reason for that. But you just didn’t listen!? And really, Erik…Yzavela!? Leather!?” he examined our attire then continued cursing in Spanish; hands waving around.
I quickly answered in my own Spanish tongue, telling him to go to his happy place,
“Vaya a su lugar feliz, Marxus.” then continued quietly in English but loud enough to be heard, “Not all of us own light colored clothing, and white!? Seriously!? Besides, this is the steampunk era, Marxus...the majority of clothing color is of darker shades.” I shrugged.
As everyone turned to me, I stood there looking at the ground as if I wasn’t the one who said it, kicking the ground with my feet.
Marxusshook his head saying nothing. As he staredin my direction with his intense Hazel-Brown eyes, I shrugged. Breaking his gaze in my direction, his eyes scanned everyone else. Shaking his head once more he turned, cursing yet again.
Getting past his moment of his Latin temper, he revealed that we’d have to drive to the harbor and take a boat back to Heysham, in order to get to our destination…in Scotland. He instructed us to pack camping gear and tents on the luggage racks ofone of the steampunk VW shuttle vans. Luckily for everyone and unfortunate for some, the van was capable of carrying all of us. With the doors slid open, Marxus walked over packing sheathed swords and a bow and arrow set just in case we came across trouble.
I hugged my mom telling her I’d be fine when Zanz broke free of his leash, jumping into the back seat. I turned,walking toward him, petting his head. My mom stood nearby, watching as I spoke to Zanz. She held onto his leash, waiting to reattach it to his harness.
“Sorry, boy. You can’t come with me. Not this time.” I said softly.
He whined ashe leaned forward licking my face, but I quickly withdrew.
Marxus walked over and leaned against the side.
“I happen to know that a familiar always travels with their owner.” Marxus observed as he attempted to reached out petting Zanz’s head, but he snapped at Marxus’ hand, “Protective fellow.”
“Yes he is. So, he can come with us?” I asked.
“Of course. He’s important to you. I know that bond too, remember? I’ll be bringing my friend as well.” he pointed toward the sky, “But just make sure you bring his muzzle. We’re among lycans and vampires. And he’ll have to ride in the back row of seats since he’ll take them up alone.” he replied softly, then called out to everyone to get ready.
Glancing up, I caught the faint outline of Axeon’s figure flying overhead.
Ilowered my head, looking at Marxus with a smile then turned to my mom, telling her to be careful.
“Me!?” she argued, “YOU be careful and remember…try not to…”
“Get mad and steam? Yeah, I know.” I replied, “I’ll try. I love you.”
“Love you too, sweetheart.” she hugged me once more, “I’ll miss you…both of you.” she felt tears stinging her eyes.
“And please don’t walk around here alone.” I worried then called out for Nick nearby; appearing instantly alongside the van.
“You call?” he smiled.
“Yes, I did.” I replied, “I want you to keep an eye on my mom. Make sure she stays safe around here among the lycans.”
“You got it.” he walked over, standing alongside her, “I’m Nick.”
“I kind of…figured that out, when she uh…called for you.” my mom teased.
“Right.” he glanced at his feet shyly, “Sorry.”
“It’s alright, sweetie. I understand all that dye must have gone to your head.” she referred to his dyed spiked hair.
We chuckled before I had to get going, joining the others after a brief introduction to Erik’s father Hiromi and Sarah’s uncle Leonard.
Tucking Zanz away in the last back row of seats, I climbed in. There was an immediate tenseness in the air, due to the seating arrangement inside the van. Thomas and Marxus sat in the two front seats. There were three rows of three seats in each row. The first sat Anthony, Nathan and Sarah. Erik, Jonathan and myself sat in the second set while Zanz indeed took up the last row all to himself. The luggage was piled up behind him in the cargo trunk as well as the rack on the top of the van.
I flashed a smile toward my mom once more before we drove off. Nick smiled, sending thumbs up my way. I knew she was in good hands. Nick was trustworthy according to Jonathan and one of the most reliable vampires around here, other than Erik.
Exiting the gates, I turned in my seat glancing out back through the trunk window. I didn’t know if she could see me, but I gave a brief wave before her form disappeared behind the inner gate that immediately closed behind us as we passed through the tunnel. Erik and Jonathan smiled as well, understanding the moment for they too, were going to be separated from family.
We swiftly drove the 20 minutes to RP and V, and parked at the end of the village. Vampires appeared, taking our luggage from the van and bringing it to the harbor dock. We followed Marxus, exiting through the gate and onto the docks. I didn’t notice it before for there was so much thrown at us when we first arrived, but toward the left of the harbor was a large locked port house with a restricted access sign posted on the doors.
Marxus told everyone to stay put and without giving any further hints, he disappeared. We waited for five minutes when the port house doors were pulled open by two vampire guards. We all watched as the nose of a boat emerged and as it fully revealed itself, there it was, a massive yacht painted with a high shine copper finish. Everyone stood in awe for what didn’t Marxus own? As he approached the harbor parking it in place, painted on the side was the beautiful name DIANAH-LILY with a rose alongside it.
We gathered our luggage, quickly boarding the yacht. Vampires aided in packing the camping supplies on board and with great appreciation, Marxus remained in his place at the helm. We waved at the guards before exploring the yacht in curiosity and intrigue.
The ride across the waters was rough on occasion but smoothed out the rest of the way. Luckily for everyone on board, none of us felt motion sickness, except for myself and Sarah. Here I go again. More water. Four and a half hours we sailed with unsettling encounters to go around. Despite burning a whole in his jeans, Nathan just wouldn’t give it up. As I stood outside on one of the decks holding onto the railing, he startled me, coming up from behind me.
“What do you want?” I barked.
“Thought I’d try again…that’s all, but maybe this time, the splash of water would burn out your fire.” he taunted.
“Oh, no amount of water could put out my fire, Nathan. Careful, before its ignited even stronger and not in a good way. Maybe next time, I’ll burn something else far more precious. Now, stay the hell away from me before I find out if scum could float.” I warned then walked away.
Taking a step toward me he then paused, hearing Marxus’ loud voice boom, instructing him to back away and stop before things escalated. He sneered, then approached Sarah who called him over.
Everyone then engaged in a game of cards to pass the time that quickly approached for we had now arrived in Heysham. It felt like a bad case of deja-vu for me. We grabbed our personal bags while the harbor guards; the vampires my mom and I encountered when we passed through, politely retrieved the other supplies. Marxus led everyone to the large warehouse on the restricted lot, opening one of the doors, pushing it upwards and latching it in place. Entering inside, there were six Jeeps and hovercrafts, two boats on their wheeled trailers and a seaplane off to the right. This warehouse was so massive in size that it could contain a Boeing 747 plane. I couldn’t have thought this warehouse belonged to just one person.
“Marxus…you own all of this?” Sarah asked in wonderment.
“Yes.” he answered proudly, “I have acquired a lot over my years. Some are given as gifts while others I personally obtained.”
“Wow, Marxus…” Jonathan added, “what else do you have locked away?”
“Nothing that you can get your vampire hands on.” he turned to Jonathan, raising an eyebrow, “Or have you forgotten what you and Erik did, hmm?”
Jonathan remained silent, looking away and Erik too, glanced away in shame.
“Alright, now everyone…that ride over here took up most of our time so we need to get going.” Marxus urged, “Time was wasted so once we pass through Scotland’s border, we’ll have to find lodging.” and he paused for everyone stood in amazement, “Come on, everyone…get your feet moving! You’ll have a tour later.” then he clapped his hands together in haste.
We quickly shook the awe from our minds as we packed away into two of the hovercrafts. They were painted black (of course) with brass trim and accents. They sat raised off the ground with helicopter-like-feet. They each carried six people with the cargo racks atop. Doors slammed and locked, the crafts interiors were cozy and comfortable, providing ample viewing capability with the passenger and large dashboard windows. With instructions, Marxus explained the crafts were powered by engine boosters along the belly which would cause a brief turbulence upward. He wasn’t kidding. The whole craft jumped upward then leveled out once the boosters warmed up.
Marxus drove with Thomas, Nathan and Anthony leading the caravan, while Jonathan, Erik, Sarah, Zanz and I drove in the other, with Erik driving;trailing directly behind. We carefully drove from the harbor and began our journey.
“Wow…this ride is smoother than I thought it would be.” Erik commented, “Always wanted to drive one of these.”
“Of course you do, but don’t break it like you did the bike.” Jonathan joked.
“Um…you were there too, Jonathan…breaking the other.” Erik answered.
“Bikes?” I asked, “What bikes?”
“Never mind.” they both said simultaneously.
Marxus’ voice interrupted on the two-way speaker system built into the dash board,
“Just stayclose. We’ll have the tail lights on so you can see them. And before anyone asks, hit the green button next to the speakers to respond.”
Two hours slowly ticked away when Marxus spoke,
“We still have an hour and a half to go before reaching Scotland’s border.”
“Scotland?” Sarah asked.
“What could possibly be in Scotland?” I added, “You’d think we’d take the boat all the way around, right?”
Erik and Jonathan wondered the same, but focused their thoughts elsewhere. Erik followed the craftahead and pulled over, parking right behind it on the side of the road. A few of usclimbed out stretching our legs, allowing the engines to rest.
Zanz enjoyed it more than we did; running around the surrounding area near the vehicle, jumping and acting like a little pup.
I sat on the edge of the back seat with the door open. Zanz finished his exercise, jumping back in with me, panting yet relaxed. I removed a treat from my bag handing it to him as Marxus casually walked over, leaning alongside me,
“How are you?”
“Good.” I looked at him, “But why are we going to Scotland and why couldn’t we just take the yacht to a harbor somewhere there? I’m sure you have connections there too.”
He glanced over his shoulder seeing the others were momentarily occupied with other things. Leaning in, he joked,
“I’m taking you to a demon convention. Shh, don’t tell anyone.”
I laughed then wondered with much curiosity, knowing Marxus could’ve meant that,
“You’re joking, right? Please tell me you’re joking.”
He nodded as he turned; eye brow raised and smirk.
“Yes, Little One. I’m joking.”
“Right…okay” I mumbled.
“And as far as taking the yacht into the Scotland’s waters? Unfortunately, I have no connections there. Its independently owned by someone else. Now, I have something for you.” he whispered, as he stepped toward the passenger side of the craft.
Reaching into the glove compartment, he retrieved a rolled up parchment and small round wooden box.
I peeked my head over the front seat, wondering what he removed.
“I want to show you something while everyone’s occupied. It’s for your eyes only.” he whispered.
“Why does this sound familiar?” I joked, climbing out closing the door behind me.
He smiled as he laid the parchment down on the front seat and unrolled it,laying it flat. To the naked eye it was completely blank. He handed me the small round box and told me to open it.
“What is it?” I teased, “Another orb that’s going to choose me for something else?”
Marxus chuckled as he replied,
“No. Just open it.”
I smiled then opened the box, emptying its contents into my hands. Falling into my right palm, was an antique compass.
“A compass?” I asked, laying the box down on the upper left corner of the parchment. “Gee Marxus...you shouldn’t have!”
“Of sorts but it’s only used once and for this purpose. I want you to turn the compass clockwise then once it spins, wave it over the blank parchment.” Marxus instructed as he held down the outer corners of the right side of the parchment, leaving me holding the lower left, “Once you do, let me know what you see.” He ignored my sly response.
I nodded then turned the compass clockwise. Once I did, it started spinning rapidly, making small clicking sounds as it spun in its casing. Before slowing down, I waved it over the parchment in a singular inward then outward motion. Images started etching themselves onto the parchment, revealing a very detailed map.
Sarah and Jonathan walked over, peeking their heads between our shoulders.
“Ooo...what’s that?” Sarah asked.
“Something for her eyes only.” Marxus turned, placing his hands on their shoulders.
Jonathan understood as he walked away with Sarah, who yet again, felt out of place.
“BLOODY KEEPER STUFF!” she thought.
Nathan however, stood by the other shuttle, lighting a cigarette.
“Another private moment, huh? Wow...” he remarked smugly, “isn’t that sweet. He keeps handing her these little gifts. Just an old man’s crush. Good luck with that!”
“Watch your tongue, Nathan.” Thomas replied with a raspy Italian accent.
Nathan leered, giving a hateful expression, followed by a smug grimace as he blew the cigarette’s smoke in his direction.
“Fottuto licantropo.” Thomas cursed in his Italian tongue then spat at Nathan’s feet before turning away.
Marxus and I ignored Nathan, as if he didn’t exist. But Marxus indeed, heard his comments.
“Can you see our current location?” Marxus inquired, glancing down at the map.
On the map; a glowing redDOT with a dotted line trailing behind it showing our travel from Ravenstone to our current position. Up ahead on the map was a black glowingX with the word BORDERwritten next to it.
“What kind of map is this?” I asked, “It looks like a Google satellite map.”
“Similar yes, but not quite. This is a Traveler’s Map, showing the past, present and future destinations of your journey. Wherever you are, whatever country you’re in, it will mark it. It was given to me by a magical friend in one of my many travels in the past and it’s proven to be very helpful. Just tell it where you need to go and leave the rest to it. I’ve already done that so while we’re driving, keep an eye on it.” then he turned, “I think we’ve rested enough. Let’s get going everyone.”
I gathered the map and compass thenclimbed back inside the shuttle. I listened to my music on my I-pod, watching us; the little red DOT, moving forward until we were right on top of the black X. When I looked up, we approached a redbrick wall;eight feet tall that stretched across the two lane road, with heavy iron gates. The gates opened inward in opposite directions.
A guard shack stood in the middle of the divided roads where two guards stood, heavily armed. Above the guard shack, was a large sign written in a Celtic font with a 3D effect:
Scotland Welcomes You
I turned off my I-pod and removed the ear plugs, gazing out the windshield with the others. Both hovercrafts stopped as one of the guards approached Marxus’ craft with a stern expression.