Nightfall was painted over the cold sky on Castle Dimitrescu. On cold days such as this one, the girls were not allowed outside, limiting themselves to watch how the village prepared itself for a cold winter night, illuminated by the orange light of the electric lights of the castle piercing the blue darkness of the outside, gazing from the window at the outside world, deadly wind howling like an uncaring god, a deadly caress to the cheek that could be mortal for them.
Bela the eldest, was content with just watching the village from the highest tower, the mortals living quasi feudal lives were usually content with their undead overlord, feeding from only what they needed to survive. Perhaps one or two exsanguinations per month, not counting lawbreakers and foreigners.
Daniela, like an ophelia, risked herself walking on the flower gardens of the castle. There was some sort of sick risk there, like an extreme sport, she wanted to dominate the beast that she was, fear of the cold was something to be tamed like the fear of fire. She wanted to dance and sing in the dead of the night while the snowflakes filled her hair, but only in her fantasies that happened. As soon as the first ice shard formed on her skin, she was already inside, screaming in pain.
Meanwhile, Cassandra was in awe watching the old arms and armor left by the Moldavian strikers from the age of the Dracul. Her throat now dry, craving the blood of the infidels while gazing the relics of ages past, imagining herself on that same spot where the bodies of countless heretics were staked for all the world to see. If not for the masquerade that they had to put in place in order for the world to not know that such creatures as her existed, she would be the first to ride the frenzy of the beast she really was and start another killing spree like the one the son of the dragon of ages past did. It singed to her those distant fantasies.
The head of the house was in her study, reading her books in her nightgown, smoking her cigarra. Absorbed inside the world of myths and legends of Romania and of her family, the book she was reading was called “Origins of a world war”, written by the foreing minister of Romania at the onset of the Great War, the writer was a member of the Dimitrescu family, her uncle to be precise, a knowledgeable individual absorbed in the personal mythology of the small house that was connected in a tangent and small way to the greater Romanian nobility of the time. He, Alcina knew from her time before Mother Miranda, was interested in the castle and the time of legend where it was built. Mythos of warriors cladded in sun shaped armor doing battle against werewolves, that Alcina in a moment of skepticism wrote of as age appropriate knights killing infected people by the mold by accident. That thing, the Black God was ancient beyond belief, and it was something that did not surprised her that such occurrences and accidental infections were interpreted as acts from the devil in a strange witch's sabbath by the ignorant peasants of more than five hundred years ago.
Still, it was fascinating for her, as someone that had lived almost a hundred years, saw two world wars, a cold war, and the siege of Sarajevo in the flesh, the paradigm change of the times were interesting in a very deep and personal way. Perhaps she was a lot more like that forgotten uncle than what she initially assumed. She never knew him, anyway, she only had those books to satisfy her curiosity for the man. What else could she know, everyone else was dead from that time, but the shells of the artillery were still ringing on their eardrums, the half tracks of the germans and the speeches of the ignoramus Hitler were still fresh on her memory. Her daughters, taking a glance at them from time to time, were born on an age derived from her memories, never knowing the horrors of the camps that she saw. Perhaps that was why her immortality was spent only on her own self focus, perhaps they didn't knew what horrors humanity could inflict upon themselves and so, being blood leeches that ate humans for sustenance was fairly easy on their minds.
It was the paradigm that she had for herself, and perhaps just as she saw the paradigm of those ignorant peasants as completely wrong, maybe in the future she or someone else would judge her wrong for that.
Finishing immersing herself in the deep studies of ages past, rising from the frigid waters of another time, she started to take a stroll through the castle. The servitude was already sleeping, no one was out except for her. She started to turn off the lights as she saw fit, taking the time to settle up, feeling the wood of the floor on her feet, feeling the marble on other paths. It was almost like her ground wire, feeling the temperature and different materials on the floor. It meant “Here I am, here I remain”, her castle, her marble, her wood, her touchstone holding her sanity after living more than a hundred years or so, and she could very well live even more, if she was careful enough.
The Lady went to the wine cellar to take one of her best, uncorking it after in the kitchen and serving herself on an oversized glass. Of course, oversized for anyone else but her. Gazing at the cold distance in the window of the kitchen, a wild cat growled and the wind carried the distant voice to her after opening the window to feel the cool air in her face. She was alone, her daughters would not feel it.
Ah, the sweet taste of blood and wine down her throat, exquisite aging. Perhaps forty years. But the perfect aging was around thirty in her opinion, the hormones on a settled body gave the best taste, before the onset of physical frailty brought by the ravages of age. This was a city dweller that somehow ended on the remote village, so he had an exotic taste rather than the already known taste of the locals.
She sighted sonorously, feeling the air in her lungs, the after taste of the blood and the alcohol on her. Then she finished the cup, washing it on the sink and then came back to her room, checking on her daughters before opening the door to each of their rooms to make sure they were sleeping fine. Cassandra was on her cellphone sprawled on the bed, Bela was sleeping, and Daniela was on her laptop also in bed. She gave a kiss to each and one of them on the forehead, followed by a “I love you very much, my sweet angel”, and finally settled on her own bed, with all the space on the bed for herself.
The next day she woke up at seven in the morning before the clock rang. She took a shower and got dressed in her usual white gown, they were all home alone with minimum servants as was the custom at that time of the year and so, the castle was quieter than normal. Only the footsteps of Lady Dimitrescu could be heard, and from time to time the flapping of the wings of blowflies, since usually Casandra never wanted to walk and opted to glide everywhere.
Winter was harsh for the girls and so she preferred to never leave the estate on that time of the year, even canceling board meetings and other work related issues pertaining to her mortal mask, pretending to be the heiress to a rich wine making company with vineyards in Italy and Argentina. She was not the heiress, she was the sole creator of the franchise, of course. Meanwhile, her daughters pretended to be reclusive socialites, opting to not have a “mortal” mask in order to blend in. That was part of the harsher rules that the Lady had imposed on her daughters after the Racoon City incident, where now the world was privy to the existence of mutants and the like. Of course, she could not be called a B.O.W because she simply was not a weapon, and the word “mutation” was what she opted for, for lack of a better word.
She had some Zoom calls with the investors, closing the door with the keys in case noisy Casandra came unannounced in fly form, or Daniela wanted to enter the room in order to complain about how Cassie stole her cookies.
It was mini vacations for her, or at least felt like it. She simply wandered rather aimlessly in her house, with nothing to do but play with her daughters, spending quality time with them. Mother Miranda shinned with her absence, she was busy in the Winters Household, making the plans for the kidnaping of Mia Winters, working full time abroad and leaving the village to self govern for a bit because she was needed elsewhere, working with The Connections on a mission with few details given to the Four Lords.
So, everyone was just sorta…doing nothing, waiting for the curtain to raise and the play to start, with Mother Miranda not caring about what happened to them in the meantime. That meant they were unsupervised. The cast was soon to be eaten by the play, the set giving away and the backdrop peeling.
The Lady soon found herself bored to death. Usually there was something to do, a mission Mother Miranda commanded her to do, perhaps arousing the local villagers in order to draw attention from some other place, some monetary movements so she could fund her experiments. Something. But she was away now, Alcina lost with the freedom she had in her hands.
Her mind slipped away from boredom to hunger, with her daughters she became a little bit more creative when killing the evildoers of the village. It was almost a weekly ritual, whoever committed a crime in the region was brought to her and her brood as a sacrifice, given a weapon and let lose on the castle, provided the servitude was out first. Then they hunted them, stalked them and finally drank them dry, watching how the life ebbed from their eyes as Bela, Cassandra and Daniela got their fair share of fresh meat, usually man meat.
After the fifth week it was not funny or interesting anymore. The dress was shredded to bits, at least three times, thanks to gunfire that did not even bothered her in the least. Blood sports started to be more bothersome than anything, and so canceled them because those hand made dresses were expensive. Donna made them for her, but she didn't wanted to bother her sister with making yet another dress because the last was blown up by a grenade, again. Well, meanwhile that happened at least someone had something to keep herself busy with.
Again her mind started slipping, this time to legend, devouring every book she could find in her library. In her years she had read them almost all, making sure to cultivate her mind, mold it to be as sharp as her claws. That's how her third reading of Orlando Innamorato and Orlando Furioso came to be (in Italian, not translated), and the second reading of Carmilla. Then the most newly bought books that her servants brought from the city of Bucharest, namely Dr Sleep, a new edition of Dante's Inferno with a look alike of Mother Miranda on the cover, and the official novelization of the movie The House that Jack Built .
Her mind was full of the horror, the gothic and the epic. A mixture of extreme polar opposites, yet weirdly compelling for her in a tornado of different sensations and tastes.
Maybe thats why she later immersed herself in the mythology of her own house, reading even more passages of Origins of a World War for her daughters in order to maybe rouse her same interest, but to no avail. Even the level headed and mature Bela found it very boring.
Still, what interested her was the game of sources. All the sources the book named were books she had in her house, and so she scoured them, from the historical to the esoteric, in a game to find the most interesting book to read and kill her boredom.
Until she found it.
Frankly it sounded even more fantastic than the wildest passages of Orlando Furioso, but it was strangely appealing to her hunger for weird tales. An ancient book it was, dating from for hundred years ago, detailing the tale of a knight in sun armor. Probably it was some kind of figure akin to the sun clad warrior that other tales detailed, some sis hundred years ago, some five. Perhaps an order of warriors, waging holy war against the creatures of the night.
But no, this did not talked about any Knightly Order of any sort. It detailed the story of an individual, of a single person, living countless of years, an immortal that came from another world, worshiping strange yet familiar sun themed gods, ready to do battle against a world of darkness that was settling on the grounds of what was, for all intents and purposes, the medieval incarnation of the current House Dimitrescu. The warrior had made a bow of obedience: “May no child of Seth bearing the surname Dimitrescu live a life without the Knight of the Sun, immortal protector of the bloodline”.
Legend said that he was the responsible for making the dreaded Dagger of Death´s Flower, spending more than a hundred years traveling Europe and Asia to gather the most foul and baleful poisons in order to hunt beasts and demons. Alcina´s interest peaked with that last bit, as she had some encounters with that weapon, and was aware of how dangerous it could be.
Still, everything was very much fantastic, laced with a vivid imagination.
Supposedly, the warrior entered indefinitely torpor, placing himself in a stasis of sorts, using ancient techniques of mind over matter in order to sleep for a thousand years so he could be cured of his strange disease.
And so, he was still resting over there, in the mausoleum of the family, waiting for someone to wake him up from his slumber.
“Well, I suppose a little of archeology won't kill me.”she said to herself, reading the ancient manuscripts of legend, immersed in her study room, planning to open a grave just to sate her curiosity.
The next day Donna gave her a surprise gift that she was working on for quite some time, a gift that Alcina could not refuse. It seemed she was not the only bored one, and so thanked her and quickly got to use her gift.
It was a new dress, a unique variation of her normal white gown but this time it was red and with a black leather belt in the middle to hold it. It came with no hat but with a red bow, of course, and some exquisite black shoes, including some red pantyhoes that were largely obscured by the long of the dress.
“I think Donna just dressed me like Catherine Earnshaw '' she thought after parading the new dress around the house with Donna holding her by the arm.
“You are exquisite, Mother” Bela said.
“Even Mother Miranda will look at you with envy” Daniela said.
“Someday I hope to be as beautiful as you, Mother.” Cassandra told her.
Donna simply smiled under her facemask, proud of her work, and when she felt overwhelmed by the amount of social interaction she simply left the estate.
Now Alcina was alone to do her archeology.
The Mausoleum was gray and blue, a mix of cobblestone and cobwebs, rifts in the ancient stone and a solemn silence. How many dead were resting here, how many of the legends and the ancients, the kings of the lands remained in this place sleeping forever, while Alcina had the entire of forever for herself and her daughters. Would those ghouls some day awaken from their slumber to ask why they are not sleeping with them? There was no death in the air, but the frozen abandonment of the ages, like an abrasive file trimming away everything in its path.
She walked down that path, amongst the tombs on the walls, the ornate decorations of celebrated and exalted ancestors, even her own parents tomb was there. And, after her time there were no more tombs, no one else had died, now a family composed of just four.
Inside the crypt there it rested a coffin unlike any other. Written in an ancient tongue that appeared as confusing as cryptic, it was not cirillic, or even latin. A tomb dedicated to a holy man, of course, with silver knights with pointy helmets doing battle with oversized bows against dragons carved on the sides, black knights slaying bull-like creatures, and a weird insect with the shape of the sun crawling unseen on the sides. It was a weird mixmash of mythologies, with some nordic themes, some greeks, and even some shinto symbolism, weird sincretism indeed with no place on the lands of the Dracul, so faithful to the teachings of Rome and the Pope. It must have been a considerable man because the tomb was not desecrated in any way, its unique religious symbolisms remained intact, untouched.
Even the passage of time seemed to not have afflicted the stone, that was almost polished and brand new. The symbol of the sun rested on the plaque of the tomb, a sun that seemed to be drawn almost by a child, or an unskilled adult, bearing an almost doodled face on the center. It was certainly gauche on its presentations, specially compared to the artful and skilled bas reliefs on the sides of the tomb, carved by expert hands.
According to legend, the man was in a coma induced by powerful meditations. So Alcina effortlessly moved the lid of the tomb, seeing what she was going to find, a dead person perhaps. But she wanted to see anyway, she wanted to see what the fuss was all about that more than ten books written by the hands of her family were written about him. She wanted to know, she NEEDED to know.
And she opened the lid, moved the stone to the side and let it fall to the floor in an almost scared reaction, a sudden jolt of action that she did not controlled because…the man was intact.
He was blonde and built with very strong and pronounced muscles that his chainmail could barely contain. He appeared like sleeping, peaceful, his hands forming a lotus pattern. His face was that of an eagle, with a sharp look even with his eyes closed, one could know he was a very observant man.
Alcina just stared at him, extremely confused, focusing her supernaturally sharp hearing to try to detect some kind of heartbeat on him.
Yes, there was one, albeit small, one heartbeat per minute. She was no doctor but she knew that were to be impossible.
And then he opened his eyes.