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Oblivion

By G. Kica All Rights Reserved ©

Fantasy / Adventure

Lackluster

There was a strange stillness to his thoughts – they were more sensations than thoughts, in all honestly, but they were distant, implying and faded. He was old, though that one was more of a rational conclusion than an actual sensation.

Still, he was useful, even after so many years.

Walahfrid Aue contemplated these thoughts as he took refuge in the shadowed nooks of the Train Station. The pre-dawn hours ran wispy, cold breathes into his was face lovingly. He waited, eerily still in the darkness – he was almost like a statue, though one that was never noticed even if from the corner of one’s eye.

Walahfrid consented that he might look a bit otherworldly to the common folk beneath their Mountain, but took condolence in the fact they were not his kin and that high up in the Mountain rested his real home.

Now, if he could only get Oscar to come with him. Stubborn child that he was, Oscar refused to visit his Aunt and cousins. Perhaps he felt lower than them, for that part of the family was high above their station. Walahfrid himself was prone to referring to them as the High Lady Queen of Old Aveolem – or just Lady, as it was somewhere between formal and intimate – and her respectful children.

Aveolem was not, in fact, a Queen. Not in this century at least. As opposed to that, Walahfrid was not, in fact, in any way related to the Lady Aveolem or her children. Once, he had been their guardian – her knight. He had been there, in the zeal of her husband’s conquers that they had plotted, painstakingly slow and carefully, Master Petar’s demise.

However, those times were now long past.

He was free to roam the Earth as he pleased, but he was not purposeless. Walahfrid had made it his life goal to keep others of his kind in line and in good health. He had not tired of it yet but was far from enthusiastic about the whole affair. The time of his youth, of his childish Humanity, was long past.

Vampires were not Humans, though they once were a feared shadow of the other life. The ancient Slavics had been the ones who named their race, which –in the Magical community – meant a lot.

Walahfrid Aue was the Vampire currently in-charge of making sure no incidents were made in Europe – sometimes wider – but he kept an especially close eye on the Balkans. He did not do this because they were problematic. It was, rather, a vacation – a chance to catch up with old friends and relax as much as he allowed himself to. Bloody Roses knew Germany was hell on most moons. Oh, and Italy. What the bloody hell was up with Italy? How about bloody France?

Walahfrid was a calm, collected man who rarely felt like beating his head against the wall. There were exceptions, though, so many exceptions.

Vampires, traditionally, did not like the cold. However, in past ages the high mountain peaks provided excellent cover from Human wanderers. Vampires lived in isolation, for the most part, but now more and more of Walahfrid’s kind wanted to go out and explore, to find warm parts of the world and perhaps stay in those warm parts where it was pleasantly hot but not scorching and where food was in abundance.

Sometimes, Walahfrid wanted to strange his comrades.

Vampires, as a given, were not creatures privy to change. Once they settled into a permanent colony, there was no moving. Ever. Walahfrid preferred that the Vampire way of life continued as it were, for it was much easier to keep an eye on the Vampire colonies in Europe if one knew their exact movements.

Curse the new migratory trend.

Before there had only been a handful of Vampires that patrolled the Earth between the colonies, himself included. It was an important task and a trying one as well. If one did not have purpose and absolute self-control – one became a monster. Poor Master Jasen had learned that the hard way – though he’d managed to regain his rational mind and part of his Humanity. He’d locked himself in his room and refused to come out for over two decades.

It was always harder on the hybrids – or the Vampirich, as they were called on the Balkans. Children of mixed marriages, one could say. Walahfrid had grown rather indifferent to it all, but he remembered, clearly, that the thought of live Humans reproducing with the Undead had once disturbed him greatly.

Vampires were live corpses, more or less. They walked and talked and thought and perceived the world in a sense that was in accordance to their situation – but they needed blood to keep functioning. As they were dead things in a world so vivid and alive, they needed something to keep them going. Fuel.

Vampires could not produce their own blood cells, spit or any bodily fluid. They could not heal or grow but they could be wounded. Their senses suffered from severe malnutrition.

The blood of Humans – warm iron, red velvet, life – fueled them, made them whole. The blood of Humans invaded their own veins, jump-started their organs and, if only for a little while, gifted them with an existence that almost resembled their old Humanity.

It was an addicting drug and Vampires, like junkies, couldn’t get enough of it.

Walahfrid, therefore, was an oddity.

He liked to travel. He liked to wander the Human towns and cities. He liked interacting with Humans – Human women, in particular. He did not hunt. He could do all of this because he knew the meaning of self-control. He’d more or less invented self-control.

Most Vampires were not famous for suppressing their desires.

Walahfrid blinked away the sun-light that had invaded his shadowed nook. Some time had passed without him noticing, a trait that Walahfrid had found annoying in any and all of his kind. He really was getting old, if his attention span had gotten this short.

The train, luckily, hadn’t arrived yet. Three trains passed though the Station – Walahfrid had always preferred trains as a means of travel – and four buses came while two went.

Finally, his train arrived.

Some thirty odd people piled out, all of various ages and blood-types. Walahfrid had been shown the pictures of his new charges and his sharp eyes singled their faces out among the crowd. Some of them, he realized, had not yet arrived. It seemed he would have to send someone else to guide them up the mountain, when he delivered the first wave of contestants.

He located his targets with the ease of a predator on the prowl and approached them like the whisper of a shadow, uttering “BG75344PL” or “KG2274VV” or “UE6973MR”, and vanishing before they even registered his presence.

.

It took seven cars – all different models, ages and registrations – to take eight humans, two hybrids, one Werewolf and one Demon-in-disguise up into the Mountains. Walahfird was silently following each of their movements, both through GPS and from his perch upon several pine-trees. Most did not notice his presence as he balanced, precariously, upon the tree-tops – though a few birds did look at him rather oddly.

Walahfrid had been quick to memorize the scents of all his charges and though they were jumbled with the fumes of automobiles and other beings, the old Vampire knew how to tell the difference. Skin and bone as he was, he was quite powerful and quite eccentric – both in the minds of Humans and Vampires alike.

Oscar would have said he was unique, but Oscar always had been too sentimental. That was why Walahfrid kept him around for so long. Amusing, shy, nervous, brilliant, Human – his son was quite the strange concoction.

He wondered, idly, if any of the children he had met today were anything like that.

.

When dealing with a impossible situation, one had a plethora of defense mechanisms to choose from. You could laugh it off like a madman twisted by his experiences, or cry like a new-born babe that knew not the cruelty of the world it was born into. Perhaps you could shut the world out of your heart, close the window of your soul, and rest for a while – but whatever you do, just don't lose the key.

There was also the techniques of twisting reality to suit your views – or delusion, as it was more commonly known. Then there was the denial of reality. Then there was distraction.

Drina took care to distract herself with the smallest of things. Today, it had been nursing her bloody fingers and finding her designated car. Curse Dorotea and her diamond-hard skin! What was that girl made of, anyway?

What was she?

Vid, she tried not to think about. She still hadn't thought of what to do, but turning back now was impossible. She was already here, after all. She couldn't run if she had no idea where she was going.

Then came her co-passenger. Well, hadn’t that been an interesting conversation.

“Hi!” a voice had greeted almost before Drina even opened the door of the car.

Drina paused. She bent down a bit to get a better look inside the vehicle and was surprised by what she saw. “Um, hi?” she answered.

Inside was a rather jubilant eighteen-year-old, well-dressed African boy. Drina had seen a lot of immigrants around the Train Station, beneath the Center, but hadn’t really had any interaction with them. Her mother had done some work in the make-shift tent of the hospital and her father had given up an old coat of his, but Drina hadn’t been too interested. Foreigners weren't really all that common in her country, thus she was rather unused to different cultures.

Hers was a people who knew troubles well. She was a girl who could not solve her own problems, so who was she to try and solve the problems of others?

The boy’s accent was strange to Drina’s ears. It fluctuated in a merry way, tickling her hearing in an inquisitive song. She’d always been fond of funny accents, though ones she could understand and mimic.

Despite her independence, Drina didn’t like to stand out much. When she was in Montenegro, she tried to imitate the accent spoken there. It was the same thing when she was in the North. When she was in the South... well, she was glad she didn't go there very often.

Drina’s first thought when she got into the yugo had been that the teen had spent a bit too long in the sun. She was rather jealous, actually – why couldn’t she get a tan?!

Not knowing what to do, she just sat there. It was the right registration plate and she had been warned beforehand that there would be some kind of safety procedure once she got off the train, though this was far from what she’d expected.

It was kind of cramped in there, but both she and the boy were small enough not to push the other away. The car lurched forward without warning.

The driver did not speak to them, he didn’t even look back.

Drina shrugged “I guess it’s just the two of us.”

She’d lived through stranger situations than this one. Damn! She clutched Vid’s letter in her pocket, suddenly nervous. He said she needed to warn people of an on-coming danger, but that if this letter ever got out he’d... Drina didn’t want to dwell on that now and vowed to pay attention to her co-passenger.

“I believe so.” the boy besides her nodded, unperturbed and strangely content.

Drina raised an eyebrow. She was a rather curious girl, but she did not know what to ask or how to say it, thus she settled for a simple: “So...?”

“Yes?”

Boys, so bloody difficult.

“Where do you come from?” It was the first thing that popped into her mind. The boy looked kind of disappointed, which made Drina feel oddly guilty. She’d practices being indifferent to her peers every second of every class, but how can you be indifferent to someone so very like yourself?

The boy rolled his eyes at her with a small smile. Drina found it... strange. She’d never known such an easy smile. Life in this county was difficult in its own right and the general consensus was that staying here was equivalent to being permanently doomed. The economy was bogus, the industry had been systematically shut down and kids her age were either killing themselves studying to get a scholarship abroad or hitting their first lows in life. Very few hung in the in-between.

Something as tranquilly accenting as this smile – no sarcasm, cynical undertone, empty reassurance – it seemed... almost unreal.

“Why is it always the same question?” the boy asked, shrugging his shoulders “I come from the Afolayan family, were rather famous in the Magical community.”

That did not answer Drina’s question, exactly, but she was content with the answer anyway. She, however, acted annoyed – just out of habit. “That’s all very nice,” she said “but what’s your name?”

He looked surprised, this time. Drina wondered what was so fascinating about his face.

A moment passed. Another smile formed.

“Enitan, my name was Enitan.” he said simply.

“Nice to meet you Enitan, you should know better than to tell me your real name to a complete stranger.” Drina smiled, too, though she wondered – for the first time in a very long time – if such an expression could really be called something as nice as a smile.

Enitan froze, though only for a second. His shoulders went slack a moment later, as if the weight of Drina’s words slid off him like grains of sand. “I guess there’s no way to persuade you to forget it?” he sighed, light and with the echo of a joke.

Drina felt slightly disturbed.

“Nope.” he word fell from her lips, almost as an afterthought. Enitan cringed, for the compromise of one’s secret name – though really, what was secret in modern society anymore? – was not a passing trifle. Drina thought he did not realize the severity of his situation, though he was still, technically speaking, a child – and the world of children was both gentler and crueler than that of adults.

There was silence for a while. Drina wondered at her temporary companion, but found that no matter how hard she tried she could not form an opinion of him. He was at the same time so far removed from the usual confides of her life, yet still close in ways of both wanting a better life and being both desperate and proud enough to seek it.

She took a deep breath and willed her caution away.

Then, “I’m Drina, by the way.”

Your name is safe in my mouth, those words promised silently.

The boy blinked at her, as if he did not understand. Then he grinned, easy and accepting – like there was no deeper meaning or inner conflict; as though life was simple and divine, defined by good will and good people.

Drina swallowed around the lump in her throat.

“Now, my second question would be...” it was a joke, really. Everything was a joke. Vid had been right. Everything and everyone was one big, bloody joke.

“Uh, let me guess...” Enitan groaned, light and free of irritation or long-suffering routine.

Drina grinned.

“What do you prefer, curry or sushi?”

Enitan blinked. “I don’t get it.”

Drina laughed. No, he really didn’t. That was okay though. That was part of Enitan’s charm.

Drina decided she rather liked the boy.

The rest of the ride had been spent on the discussion of travel, tennis and family. Enitan lived with his mother and older siblings. His father was in some council or something in another country and the running of the small Yoruba community had fallen onto his mother’s shoulders. His older siblings were twins – Ade and Abeni – and were powerful Magicians in their own right. Enitan spoke of them both with wonder and with lament, which had disturbed Drina more than his previous tranquil cheer. She decided not to ask, though – for asking meant she was interested and being interested in a perpetually, happily unmoved being was dangerous for the heart.

After that came the Vampire.

Oh, and the Vampire had been a definite surprise. She’d always thought Vampires would be more... emo-looking. Though this guy did look rather eccentric in his long, sapphire coat and blue-tinted cylinder. The boots too, were kind of odd.

He looked rather out of place, even in the mist. Then again, didn’t they all?

Drina did not dislike this man, despite his nature. It fascinated her, as all things foreign and unknown. It was a nice distraction, all in all. That and trying not to fall flat on her face while they trekked up the hill.

On the way up, before they even reached the Gates and went up the winding road, they passed an old cemetery. Drina wondered about that. Vampires were supposed to be immortal, weren’t they? What need did they have for a cemetery?

The Witch tried to read the engravings in the stone, but they were nothing but twisting lines upon uneven, crumbling rocks.

Names held power. Drina remembered, dimly. Names were empty words above fresh graves.

.

She didn't see the Mansion at first. It was all bared stone and towering pine up here, and the Mansion came into view like a chameleon in a rainforest – it didn’t. The black-haired, olive-tanned guy had been the first to spot it. The Greek – at least, Drina thought he was Greek – gasped and stopped dead and his tracks and, if Drina hadn’t been standing right next to him at the time, she might have missed it.

Drina had followed that fixated, wide-eyed gaze up into the South and still did not see. “What were you looking at?” she’d asked.

He whipped his head – his whole body – around so fast Drina barely registered the movement until frightened amber eyes locked on her own. “Be quiet. I’ll tell you.” more of a plea than an answer, as if he expected Drina to rebuke him in some way for seeing something she didn’t.

Before she could contemplate this further or even open her mouth to respond, he pointed – so minutely, so well hidden by waves upon waves of baggy black sleeves, it was almost impossible to tell what he was doing. “We’re going towards that building, over there, at the top of the incline.”

Drina looked towards one of the hill-like peaks in the landscape ahead with more intensity this time. Her eyes wandered the expanse of land for a futile minute, before she began to notice the cracks and erect stone that no natural force could have created. There, indeed, stood a house – or a castle, really.

Drina blinked. The enormous thing was still there, clear as day now that she knew where to look. She blinked again and glanced at the boy walking next to her. His steps were hesitant, slower than hers, as if he hoped she would not notice and leave him behind.

“Thanks for the info.” Drina said to him – because she felt she needed to say something, because what else to say to a frightened deer on a leash?

She wasn’t sure why she thought of him as the Deer. He just had that doe-eyed, scared out of his mind look about him, as though he might run off at any given moment. He had an olivine complexion and a black fringe, all wrapped in baggy, black cloths that hid the rest of him well. His eyes, perhaps, were the liveliest thing about him. Maybe it was the bruises under his half-closed eyelids, or the tired lines of his face that gave accent to it – but the colour was much more vivid than anything Drina had ever seen. Amber-green-bright-brown and then some, all wrapped up in a poignant spectacle of fear and loss.

He looked like he’d just come back from a funeral... and couldn’t find his way back home.

For some reason, this made her angry.

“You’re supposed to say you’re welcome, you know?” she snapped at him, more for the sake of distraction than of real anger “If you hadn’t wanted to help me, than you shouldn’t have.”

The kid – because that was what he was, compared to Drina – hunched into himself. “It kind of... slipped out.” he murmured, somewhere between a half-hearted excuse and a beseeching apology.

Drina frowned at him, at herself. “Yeah, well, next time, say something because you wanted to say it – not because it slipped out.”

What was it about this kid that made her so...sorry? Sympathy, empathy, affection... all those things were well and good and currently unnecessary. She’d come here to prove her non-existent prowess – to make the illusion of power that might actually grant her a chance to seize it. No, that wasn’t actually the real reason. Magicians world-wide followed the Olympic Agones Magiae – there was a chance, then, that her brother might notice her. He was alive, he existed and he was somewhere only Magic could reach him.

She could find him them. She could bring him back home and they’d be happy. Just the two of them. They wouldn’t need a mother who was out working all day and a father that was meandering this way and that across the country. Just the two of them and their mutual happiness and every crazy adventure they could think of. The Ghumno, her would-be Apprentices, her would-be Master, her brother – it would be perfect.

The kid was looking at her as though he could see right through her and beyond. “Call me Zabat.” he said, like a drop of rain from clear skies.

Drina blinked. The clogs of her mind began to process reality once more, as the words replayed in her head.

“Not your real name, I gather.” she said, after a pause. Someone as constantly on edge like this wouldn’t just hand their secret name on a silver platter – let alone to someone who they hadn’t said a full five sentence to.

“As if anyone had ever used it.” The Zabat-kid looked away, small shoulder shrugging – imperceptible, if not for the black ripples they caused in his cloths. He was far from indifferent about it, though what he actually felt about the matter was lost to them both.

Drina nodded, almost to herself. “Zabat, then, call me an Angel.”

Trust had always been a two-edged sword.

The kid snorted, softly “You seem more like the Devil incarnate.”

Why that little...! Honestly, you try to be nice to someone for a change and this was what you get! I should have stayed the grumpy git, Drina decided sourly.

Out loud, she said “Well, if one were to fall from grace...” Spirits, where was she going with this? Why was she still trying to be nice? Who was she kidding?

“...they should steer clear of you.” Zabat finished, voice soft. As if too loud or too sharp a tone would break their current, hesitant and strange companionship.

The kid answered none of her questions, just drove the joke further out – into unknown territory.

Drina raised an eyebrow at him and looked searchingly into his face. She had to bend her neck oddly to get a good look at him, backwards and left because he still walked behind her and he was still two heads shorter. “What makes you say that?” What makes you ask?

Zabat smiled “You look like an illusionist.”

Okay? This was getting weirder and weirder by the second. Drina decided that life was fucked up anyway, so why the hell not just go along with it?

“Illusionist.” she tested the word out, the way her tongue twisted to pronounce it correctly “Why an illusionist?”

Zabat blinked up at her, like he’d never before been asked the question of why. As if before this, no one had ever asked questions – for him, about him. He acted as though everything in his life had been set in stone long ago, into some opaque, cold, cruel twist of rock.

They were now walking side-by-side, though Drina couldn’t say how that had happened. Zabat opened his mouth, almost like a fish out of water, and said:

“You see the world for what it is,
but never the less, you take a risk,
twist it left, twist it right,
for an audience filled with strife.”

A second passed, then another. Drina stifled a laugh. “I think you missed your calling, Zabat.” she said, almost breathless.

The poet-child looked at her as though she was crazy.

Maybe she was.

Maybe they all were.

.

The Gates came into view first. It was a rather misty morning, thus their progress had been slow, and Walahfrid had grown impatient waiting for his charges to arrive. He’d gone ahead some time earlier, to open the magic-enforced barrier and was starting to regret offering his services to Lady Aveolem once more, though she would have laughed and said he was in another one of his foul moods. Lady Aveolem was so childish.

The twelve candidates for this year’s Witch trials – very morbid joke, my Lady – came up one by one. The cars had deposited them a mile down the road, as instructed, and the group had had to hike up the rest of the way. Good thing they still had three miles before they reached the actual Castle.

As the number of candidates rose in front of the Gate, they began to huddle together to ward off the cold and start some form of conversation.

Walahfrid waited, patiently, until they were all there before stepping out into the foggy morn to greet them.

“Once again, good morning to you all.” he announced himself pleasantly, though most of them still looked perturbed at his sudden appearance. “Please stand side by side and give a signal when I speak your name.”

They looked at each other in confusion, but none the less did as instructed. Walahfrid never was a man of many words and frankly, the cold had started clinging to his bones unpleasantly. The feeling was becoming more poignant and border line painful as the hours passed.

He hadn’t fed in quite a while and was starting to feel the after-effects. He was not yet hungry, but he wanted to get to the Mansion as soon as possible. There was a comfortably plush chair by the hearth with his name on it and a tankard of blood to boost.

Speaking of names...

“The person of stories.”Afolayan, Enitan. A tall, African boy raised his hand nervously. Walahfrid racked his eyes over his body. He was a finely sculptured, gangling thing of lively eyes and dark ebony. He shivered in the cold.

“The moonlit girl of Karma.” Bandyopadhyay, Chandra. A girl, dressed in bright colours and with features harsher than most young females, bowed her head respectfully. Her large eyes did not leave Walahfrid’s, however, as they cautiously surveyed the unknown. Bracelets of all kinds chimed together in quiet, harmonic disarray.

“An hour, a season.” Pissari, Orazio. The boy smiled and did a casual salute, one that was often seen in the current day armies of Humanity. He cockily met the eyes of his guide, or tried to – for the reflective glasses that adorned Walahfrid’s face prevented the boy from looking into twin wells of eternity. He seemed self-assured, purposeful and strangely naive.

“The one who will judge others.” Ebner, Ella. This girl seemed startled by her description – strange, since she herself had chosen it. She was a wispy thing, relatively tall for a woman with long orange hair fanning out this way and that. She looked at him in innocent curiosity, as though she herself could not perceive the malice her actions would bring.

“The hunched man has heard.”Grbich, Simeon. Another boy. He was not a hunched old man, as his surname implied but the youngest of all present. Small as he was, his back was ramrod straight and his shoulders strong and proud. Walahfrid wondered if they could hold the weight of the worlds as easily as they claimed.

“The person who can tell right from wrong.” Karan, Faruk. Honestly, Walahfrid was rather proud of himself. To include the meaning of the boy’s surname would have been... both hilarious, awkward and implying of sex. The Bosnians really were the craziest lot of them all. Still, the boy looked rather calm and self-conscious, though there was a glint in his eye that spoke of nonsense and mischief.

“The Lion. ” Bovary, Leon. Walahfrid felt a wave of sadness pass over his ancient soul. The boy was young and chipper, with awed brown eyes that watched the world in quiet wonder and an easy smile to match. Beside him there stood an echo, a mirror image – reversed.

Walahfrid continued on with his role call before he could dwell on that thought any longer. Immortals were indifferent to the affairs of Humans and other short-lived creatures and their short-lived tragedies.

“To war of fortunes.”Povalej, Edita. The girl raised her hand politely, as if in the middle of class. She was pale and had painted red hair, tense shoulders and calculating eyes. Here was a person who did not speak their mind openly, but wiggled their way into the inner-workings of another’s livelihood.

“To protect the helm you guard.” Povalej, Vilma. This one looked quite alike to her predecessor, only her hair was black and flowing like a waterfall upon midnight. She was a bit stockier than her sister, her eyes a bit closer together, but the look in those blue irises was the same in both girls.

Walahfrid recognized the surname, as well as the region it came from – Styria, Slovenia. It also reminded him of a saying regarding the inhabitants of that area: “If you have a Styrian woman for a wife, you need not have a guard dog.”

He’d found that out the hard way.

“The fisherman’s beloved.” Rais, Agapito. He was tall, tanned and quite obviously not Italian. Long, messy black hair was tied in a pony tail at the nape of his neck. His eyes spoke of disinterest and indifference, though the quick, cautions glances with which he surveyed his comrades told another story. Also, his frame was lanky and though he stood tall he looked like a gust of wind would have easily blown him away.

Walahfrid noticed, also, that the last girl in line tensed at the title. Peculiar, though not worth the effort of investigating. Vampires were not curious creatures, in the least.

“The one who dwells by shallow water was not evil.” Zabat, Acacias. The boy whose name Walahfrid had called stilled his nervous fidgeting. He was the smallest of the lot, hunched in on himself as though to make himself even smaller. His hair was black in colour and his eyes were not unlike that of a deer caught in headlights. His eyes, though, they saw everything. They understood everything.

They were so very full of fear.

Walahfrid held back a giggle. It was under his pride to laugh at others, even Humans.

“The leader is a river.” Serdar, Drina. Oh, the expression on the human’s face was priceless. Walahfrid lamented his lack of a smart-phone, if only for the quality of their cameras.

A moment passed while Walahfrid’s mind drifted through the nothingness of his mind, before he turned and stalked towards the Gates. They groaned at his approached and began to spread apart to welcome him back into their secure arms. Good, for a moment there he’d thought he’d forgotten to unlock them.

“You haven’t told us your name yet, oh gracious host.” a voice snapped. The nosy girl, indeed, did not know when to keep quiet. She had a point, though, and she could not be punished for being right.

“Oh, but of course, how unbecoming of me...” Walahfrid intoned, unfazed, and turned to look at her over the brim of his orange-tinted glasses. “I am the stranger who brings peace.”

Aue, Walahfrid.

She held his gaze with a challenge of her own. Her eyes were the bright, fiery colour of seasoned brandy. Those eyes searched for an explanation, a reason, something.

Walahfrid had never been a generous man, but he decided today he would make an exception and play the relatively gracious host.

“Welcome to the Mansion, please do enjoy your stay here with us.“ he said, gesturing to the open road behind him. Drina only narrowed her eyes, as if trying to get a better look at him through the fog. How arrogantly curious, how very human. Walahfrid allowed himself a small smile. “Also, during your stay you are to fend for yourselves. Do not make friends here, for this is as much a home as it was a tomb.”

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