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The Castle and the Count
I was so cold. I could see my breath freezing in the air, and I was almost convinced that there were icicles hanging from my nose. My vision seemed a bit blurred from the cold, harsh winds. Looking around at the frozen wasteland that surrounded me, I gave an exasperated sigh and sank to the frozen ground. My entire day had been going pretty much this way. That is to say, my entire day was beginning to look awful. Well, the past few days had been pretty weird.
I took the letter out of my large coat pocket again, unfolded it, scanned over the words, and then threw it into the snow. If I was supposed to meet the servant in the middle of a frozen wilderness then I would have thought he would have tried to get there on time. I closed my eyes and blew out another sigh, over- dramatizing my annoyance just a little.
It was then that I got my first glimpse of the servant man. He was walking towards me with his long black coat swirling around behind him. His head was bald, and the slight wrinkles on his face suggested that he was probably near his sixties or seventies. I could tell that his round glasses were fogged over. The strange thing was, he was having no trouble at all negotiating the harsh land; he acted as if he were walking through a lovely meadow on a warm spring day. I scowled, secretly jealous of the servant’s ease. Picking up my bags I stumbled towards him through the small layer of snow.
“Hello,” I greeted, trying to pretend that I was polite, “my name is Amelia Staton. I think I was supposed to meet you here. You are Mr. Cotton, I presume, Count Thylos’s servant?” I tried maintaining my pleasant tone, but all I could manage was a neutral temper.
Mr. Cotton nodded slowly, almost solemnly. “Yes, Miss Staton, I am Mr. Cotton. I will take to the mansion now. If I may, Miss, I would be pleased to take your bags.” he spoke slowly, and with a deep, English drawl.
I looked down at my two heavy suitcases and handed the lighter one to him, thinking it impolite to make the elderly man carry both of my bags all the way to wherever we were going. I picked up the other one myself and waited for Mr. Cotton to move. Silently he took my other suitcase and started off back towards the direction in which he had come, carrying both of the heavy bags as if they were full of feathers. I gawked at him in surprise, but then ran after him just as he was disappearing into the swirl of falling snow.
It wasn’t long before Mr. Cotton and I had reached the large, dark, wooden double-doors of the mansion. I stared in awe at the large structure. Dark towers rose from the multiple mansion walls, and the entire building looked as if it stretched into the gray clouds forever. Crumbling gargoyles with menacing fangs glared down at me and their stone eyes seemed to follow me around like the painting of Mona Lisa was said to do.
“Mr. Cotton, the Count’s home is so amazing!” I commented in awe. “I have never seen anything so beautiful!” I looked over at the servant. He gawked back at me, his eyes wide with confusion.
“You are, indeed, a very strange woman Miss Staton. I haven’t ever met anyone besides the count who ever really appreciated the gloom and darkness of the house so much as the Count himself. Well, I suppose you two should get along splendidly.” His last words seemed to have some hidden meaning, but I couldn’t quite understand what. I shook the idea off and stood still and silent as Mr. Cotton rapped on the doors twice. I jumped as the doors instantly swung open. A burst of warm air and a dim, golden light hit my face.
“Come along, please, Miss Staton. This is not a very nice place to stay outside after dark. We will be much safer if we moved inside.” The hurried tone of the usually calm servant frightened me, and I turned around to make sure nothing was lurking behind me.
I gasped in horror as a pair of gleaming, red eyes met mine. I couldn’t make out anything besides the eyes, which were only about a foot away from my own face. I could hear the servant’s cries telling me to run inside, but they seemed distant to me, and my feet were glued to the ground. I couldn’t move, I couldn’t scream, I couldn’t even breathe.
A sudden flash of light brought me back to the real world. Almost immediately the red eyes receded into the darkness. A menacing hiss sounded from somewhere in the same direction. I blinked and refocused my attention on Mr. Cotton, who wore a mad expression on his face as he swung a large torch about in front of me as if he were wielding a sword.
“Miss Staton, would you please go inside now?” Mr. Cotton asked wearily as he stopped swinging his torch. I gulped and nodded submissively, picking up my suitcases and moving inside.
“No, don’t worry about those; I’ll take them to your room.” Mr. Cotton mumbled, taking my bags. “If you don’t mind, will you go into the living room and wait for the count? He should be ready to meet you sometime soon.”
I nodded again and hurried into the house. I stopped in the hall for a moment, taking in the bright and luxuriant tapestries that hung from the walls. I looked down at the finely woven rug that carpeted the entire length of the hall. As I walked towards the living room, I passed multiple, grand stair-cases. The inside of the mansion was so different from the outside of the building. The outside had been dreary, but mysterious and interesting. The inside was bright and warm, but just as interesting and attractive.
In the living room, I sat down in a large, comfortable sofa beside the fire. I gazed intently at the wooden design around the fireplace. There were little creatures, the likes of which I had never seen, that had been carved into the design. I smiled, thinking how wonderful and beautiful I thought Count Thylos’s home was.
I was about to drift off to sleep when suddenly the doors to the living room swung open behind me. I sat up straight in my chair and tried to rearrange my rumpled, ebony hair. I turned towards the man as I stood up.
“Ah, Miss Staton, I am so glad to finally meet you!” Count Thylos Exclaimed as he bowed deeply to me. I smiled politely, and tried to curtsy back. I only managed to stumble over my own feet though.
“Um, Count Thylos, I am pleased to make your acquaintance.” I replied, running my pale fingers through my hair. “I am still unsure, though, sir, why I have been summoned to your mansion. I’m not quite sure why you would want me here.” I looked down at the carpet, unable to look into Count Thylos’s eyes because he was so intimidating. When I looked up again, after what I only thought to be a second, the count was standing next to me, pulling me back over to the chair I had been in.
“I will explain everything to you soon Miss Staton, just give me a little time if you please.” Thylos chuckled. We sat down on the chair and the count handed me a small cup of some warm, sweet, liquid to drink. It tasted delicious, but made me extremely drowsy. I fought to keep my eyelids from shutting.
“Miss Staton, I would be extremely pleased if you could call me by my first name, Damien, instead of my title. It is so boring to hear myself referred to as Count Thylos all of the time. I mean, I feel like Dracula when people call me count.” I nodded assent, and Damien smiled. My eyes flew open when I thought I saw two long canines in his mouth.
His smile instantly faded, and Damien stood abruptly. “I believe that you are in need of sleep Miss Staton. I will show you to your room.” He snapped. I was so surprised at the sudden mood swing that I sat in shock for a moment. “Now, please, Miss Staton.” Damien snapped again, locking my black eyes with his green, furious ones.
“Yes, sir.” I replied meekly, shooting to my feet in obedience. Damien swept off towards a side door and threw it open. I followed him as quickly as I could, trying to make as little noise as possible. We ascended one flight of stairs after another, until finally the count opened a door and gestured to the room. I went in and sat down on the bed.
“Thank you.” I mumbled, casting my eyes towards the floor. The count took two steps inside of the room, stopping right in front of me. He lifted my chin so that he could look into my eyes, and tried to soften his expression a little bit. I tired to smile, but it came out as a sort of semi-pleasant grimace.
“Miss Staton, I am very glad that you are here. Please excuse my sudden mood swings, and do not think that I mean anything against you personally.” I nodded quickly, trying not to invoke the wrath of the count. “Also, during your stay, you are free to move about in the open rooms in my mansion as much as you like. That invitation only extends to unlocked rooms, and you can only wander about during the day, unless, of course, I ask you to come downstairs.” Damien’s voice was soft and unthreatening again, but his eyes were still filled with some of his previous anger.
“Yes, sir.” I nodded, agreeing with his terms. Damien bowed to me once again, and swept out of my room. I waited, listening for the click of a lock, but there was no noise. I supposed he trusted me to obey his orders. I would, of course, obey him. Even though he only looked about my age, I would still respect his authority. I went to bed planning to wake up early and explore the mansion. I didn’t wake until about noon, though.
I awoke form the nightmare I had been having, dressed in my usual t-shirt and jeans, and raced down the stairs. As I flew down the last flight of stairs, I ran flat into Damien and Mr. Cotton. I tried to keep my balance, but I ended up flat on my face. The two men seemed unaffected, though. Pushing myself back to my feet I brushed myself off and smiled at the two of them sheepishly.
“You are correct Mr. Cotton; I believe it is time to discuss the reason for Miss Staton’s visit before she hurts herself.” Damien said to his servant. I laughed, but neither of the two men thought it was funny.
“Come along Amelia, I will explain to you the reason you have been invited to my home.” Damien told me coolly. I smiled politely at Mr. Cotton, and followed Damien. The count walked so fast that it was hard for me to keep up with him.
“Do you remember what I wrote to you about in my letter?” The count asked me as we turned yet another corner.
“Yes. You said that you had a very good use for me. You said that I would need to report to your home immediately.” I went over the strange letter again in my head.
“Exactly. Now, Amelia do you have any idea what sort of use that I have for you?”
I replied no, trying to think of any reason at all that someone so dignified as a count would want me in his home. After all, I was only an author of vampire novels. I was surprised that Damien had even ever heard of me.
The count smiled a sort of wicked grin and opened a door that lead out onto a balcony on the east side if the mansion. I followed him out into open. I walked over towards the ledge and looked out over the stone railing. There were no houses near Damien’s mansion. He saw me looking out over the forests and tilted my chin up so that I was looking into his eyes again.
“Yes Miss Amelia, this is the only home for miles. No one would hear you if you were to scream. No one would be able to help you if you wanted to escape.” Damien’s eyes seemed dark and dangerous as he said those words.
I laughed hysterically when he removed his hand from my chin. “Ah, Mr. Damien, you have read my books. I remember that one. I think I titled it The Castle and the Count, didn’t I? Hah, very suitable!” I smiled and shook my head, returning my gaze back towards the sprawling wilderness.
“I don’t believe you quite understand the gravity of the situation, Miss Amelia.” The count growled from behind me. I turned around to face him, waiting for an explanation. My gaze was met with that of a pair of glowing, red eyes. Damien also sported a pair of long, white canines. My eyes widened a fraction, but I let the fear flow from me in the form of a high-pitched scream.
“Hah, no one can hear you remember. Tell me, Amelia, do you still want to hear why I brought you here, or have you realized the reason?” I gulped and kept my silence
“I brought you here so that I could make you like me. I am also extremely thirsty. I mean, not having any neighbors is good for concealing my prey, but really, it is hard to find prey at all when there is no one around. I would like to keep you after I take your blood though. I mean, you seem to like vampires, and I am getting pretty lonely.” A wicked smile spread across the vampire’s lips as I backed away towards the ledge.
“How many unsuspecting, innocent victims have you decided to keep? How many others are there like you?” I whispered trying to buy more time to concoct a plan.
“Only you.” Was Damien’s only reply. He moved quickly towards me. Without really thinking, I unsheathed the small dagger that had been hanging at Damien’s waste. As he lunged forwards to bite me, I plunged the sharp blade into his heart. The count stumbled back, making choking and gurgling noises. Dark, almost black blood dripped from Count Thylos’s lips. He stumbled and tried to lean on the railing for support. Unfortunately for him, the railing crumbled from his weight. I closed my eyes as the man fell to the earth far below the balcony. I heard a thud as the vampire’s body hit the ground.
“What is going on here?” Mr. Cotton’s vice distracted me from the count’s lifeless body. I ran over to the servant and clung to him for my sanity.
“Thank goodness you are here now!” I exclaimed, remembering the night before when Mr. Cotton had defended my life. “Damien, your master, tried to kill me! Mr. Cotton, please don’t think me a loon when I say this, but Damien was a vampire!” Mr. Cotton just nodded.
“I know Miss Amelia.” Cotton replied coolly. I shook my head.
“You aren’t listening Mr. Cotton. I said that Count Thylos was a vampire! He tried to kill me and make me into one of his fellow creatures of the night!” I was pretty much screaming.
“Hush Miss Amelia, no one can hear you but me and Damien.” Cotton replied darkly. I didn’t see the fangs that protruded from his lips.
“Don’t you see, Mr. Cotton?!” I continued manically. “Damien is dead! I stabbed him, and he flew off the balcony!”
“Oh don’t worry Miss Amelia, Damien’s not dead,” the servant continued, “why, he’s right behind you.”
I didn’t have time to turn or do anything to defend myself. I felt the fangs plunge into my neck. I felt the blood rush from my body. I felt everything grow even colder, and I felt my heart stop. Everything went black, and the last thing I heard was Damian’s voice.
“‘And so she was changed into one of the creature’s that she had written about and dreamt about for so long.”’
I laughed as I recognized the last line from the last book I had ever written and would ever write. I laughed until I was no longer able to. I laughed until I became a vampire.