Monday, February 18, 2013


If you're just catching up, read the FULL PROLOGUE, Part 1-4 and Conclusion UNEDITED and PART 1, NICOLAE'S ESCAPE: First Interlude (UNEDITED) *Explicit* and CHAPTER 1 before reading on to Chapter 2. 


An alarm had gone off inside of the older Ganoush boy, jolting him from sleep.  He knew it was back.  It was the shift in the air.  The last time he had felt it was two weeks ago before the incident.  Nicolae didn’t know how to refer to it other than being an incident.  He and Sebastian had found the creek and had begun to follow it when he suddenly felt a surge pulse into his body.  As quickly as the surge came and went, so did the things he saw.  The dark shadows, a small dark-haired young woman lying bleeding on the floor, and two newborn babies.  It had lasted for only a second, but it was long enough for Nicolae to feel as though the wind had been knocked out of him.  He must have looked that way as well because Sebastian had given him a rather odd look asking him if he was alright.  And here, he felt whatever had been in the air that night two weeks ago returning.
The skin on Nicolae’s arms began to crawl as he closed a protective hand even tighter around the most cherished possession in his bag.  He struggled to open his eyes.  Nicolae made an attempt at reaching an arm to Sebastian to wake his sleeping brother, but his entire body felt like the large sacks of stone and brick he used to push in the fields.  His relentless struggling paid off when he was finally at least able to force his eyes open. He could see the moon casting it’s iridescent light through his blurry vision.  When Nicolae’s site began to clear, he could see what appeared to be a light mist forming in the air.  The moon was also changing from a yellowish white to a pale silvery blue color.  Nicolae watched as the color-changing moon also began to drop toward the earth.  It stopped just beyond the top tree branches, filling the entire sky.  It was close enough to where craters were visible even through Nicolae’s hazy vision.  The moon’s light was blinding, but Nicolae was afraid to shut his eyes again in the event he would not be able to re-open them and he was still unable to move his arm.  But the light spread through the area, lighting it up as if it were daylight.  Nicolae’s eyes began to adjust and he shifted them to his left, expecting to see Sebastian awake.  But his younger brother remained fast asleep.  Nicolae started to wonder how his brother was able to sleep through this, but his thoughts were halted when he saw movement behind the trees.  By now, Nicolae’s hazy vision had cleared, but he didn’t have time to be amazed by the giant moon, the lit up forest, the mist that grew denser by the minute, or the fact that Sebastian remained asleep through it all.  A dark shape moved out from behind the trees.  It appeared to be floating, carried by the mist that wove through the brush.  Nicolae could feel his heart pounding in his chest as his blood raced through his immobile body.  His eyes turned back toward Sebastian who still slept soundly next to him.  He tried calling over to his brother, but his voice failed him.  The younger boy’s breathing seemed deeper, slower, louder.  Sebastian’s breathing and the sound of Nicolae’s heart racing filled their surroundings.  Nicolae struggled again to bring up his arm to wake Sebastian, but it was no use.  The figure was close to them, only a couple feet away and it wasn’t long before it stopped, hovering over them engulfed by the mist (which by now was so dense that Nicolae could barely see anything that was two feet in front of him).  The visitor wore a dark cloak that billowed around him.  The cloak’s hood covered it’s face, making Nicolae unable to place the figure’s identity.  But he still could feel his visitor’s eyes piercing into him, as though it were looking through him, invading the darkest crevices of his mind.  Nicolae tried to move his limbs again.  But he grew weak, and everything began to spin before it all went black.

Nicolae’s head throbbed as he opened his eyes.  He brought his hand up, grasping the side of his head.  He felt his insides jump at the realization of his own movement.  Nicolae let out a relieved sigh and began to sit up.  As he sat reliving the details of the dream he had just had, he noticed that his suntanned skin had a slight, red tint.  It appeared to be glowing.  He frowned, puzzled, and began to look around to see the source of the red light; what he saw startled him.  The giant moon that had been a pale, silvery blue only a moment ago had turned blood red.  It filled a pitch black, starless sky and touched the top branches of the trees.  The tree branches were grotesquely twisted and gnarled.  Nicolae’s eyes moved downward as his eyes adjusted to the darkness.  The trees had thick bark that was almost as black as the sky.  The branches appeared sturdy and unbreakable despite their uneven appearance and not one leaf grew on any of them.  They seemed like contorted arms, tangled with one another reaching out to where Nicolae sat.  Nicolae looked down to where Sebastian slept only to find the space empty.  His eyes widened in a state of panic.  He sharply turned his head to also find his bag missing.  Nicolae was frantic, looking around at his surroundings again.  He cleared his throat, testing his voice before he called out to Sebastian.  The echo of his voice through the forest was his only reply.  Nicolae picked himself up, his shoes crunching on the barren, rocky soil.  He called out to Sebastian again with no answer from his brother.  The forest was still and Nicolae’s solitary state began to sink in with him.  The trees appeared alive, breathing.  They loomed over him, seeming to taunt the young man.  He was starting to feel physically ill when he noticed a movement in a cluster of trees.  Nicolae narrowed his eyes as the movement became more pronounced.
“Sebastian,” he called out, his voice dripping with hesitance.
There was no answer, but who(or what)ever it was moved closer to where Nicolae stood.
He maintained his stance, placing his hand on a dagger that hung from his hip.
“Who’s there,” he called. 
His adrenaline had started pumping (the same way it had the night they took Eloisa…) as the other presence closed in on him.  Nicolae watched as it stepped out from the shadows and into the small clearing where he stood.  It was the same cloaked figure Nicolae had seen in Transylvania’s woods not too long ago.  This time, the figure was on solid ground.  Dark colored pants and black boots was visible underneath the black cloak.  The two of them stood, fixated on one another, one challenging the other to make the first move.  Nicolae tightened his grip on his dagger, preparing to remove it from the sheath; but the figure turned away from Nicolae and walked back toward the black tangled brush.  Nicolae loosened his grip on the dagger when the figure turned back to Nicolae and lifted a hand, beckoning to the young man. 
Nicolae found his voice again.  “What do you want?  Where’s my brother?”
The cloaked figure offered no response and simply stood, waiting for Nicolae to follow.  Nicolae looked from the figure to the neverending brush behind him.  He turned back to where the figure stood.  It lifted it’s black gloved hand again, motioning for Nicolae to follow him.  Nicolae lingered, his hand on his dagger.  He wondered what this person could want with him.  It was obvious that the cloaked figure was not going anywhere until Nicolae followed him.  Drawing in a jagged breath, Nicolae slowly walked toward the figure.   The cloaked individual turned his back to Nicolae and started back through the forest.  Nicolae followed, keeping himself at a safe distance.  The forest thickened and the red moon offered very little light.  Nicolae kept his eyes forward on the black cloak, but that didn’t stop him from noticing how void of any kind of life the forest was.  There wasn’t even a breeze to rustle the branches of the trees.  The eerie silence of the woods accentuated the footsteps provided by Nicolae and his new companion. 
It seemed as if the black forest would never end, but they finally came to the edge which opened up to the rocky sands of a beach.  Nicolae caught up to where the cloaked individual stood, looking out to the ocean as the waters splashed back and forth at their feet.  The giant moon spread across the horizon beyond the river, outlined by the black sky and casting it’s red beams onto the ocean, coloring it like blood.  The site was mesmerizing and Nicolae was able to shake himself from slipping to a trance.  He turned his head in an attempt to now get a better look at the cloaked individual.  Nicolae could see that it had the physical build of a man.  The hood had shifted back just enough for a thin slate of a mouth surrounded by a pale jawline to be visible.  The cloaked man turned it’s head, returning Nicolae’s stare from under the shadow of his hood and gestured a black gloved hand toward the river.  Nicolae turned back as a large boat approached them.  It appeared to be made of the same thick, black wood of the trees and built to resemble a Viking ship.  The boat curved up at both ends and as it got closer, Nicolae could see a dragon head carved into the front end.  The boat was empty, moving across on it’s own as though it knew where it needed to be.  Nicolae jumped out of the way as the large boat reached the shore, stopping in front of Nicolae and the cloaked man.  When the vessel came to a standstill, the hooded figure signaled for Nicolae to follow him. 
They sat inside the boat facing one another.  Nicolae faced the river and saw that there wasn’t a single oar on board.  As the boat began to leave the shore, it let out a loud creak that almost resembled a groan from a human voice startling Nicolae.
As the boat drifted further out to sea, the unreal nature of the situation began to sink in with Nicolae.  
Perhaps I’ve died, Nicolae thought absently, I’ve died and I’m going to hell…
But the thought snapped Nicolae to attention.  His thoughts immediately went to Sebastian and to Eloisa.  Leaving Sebastian alone with no one to look after him was troubling to Nicolae.  He also knew that if he did die, he hoped to be reunited to Eloisa. 
Nicolae stared into the horizon struggling to hide the anxiety he felt as the boat glided over the vast, surrounding waters.  He felt anger at the hooded figure who maintained it’s dignified silence.  The urge to grab the mysterious man and throw him overboard began to rise inside of Nicolae.  But it wasn’t too long before and island appeared in the distance.  Like the last one, it had a thick forest of tall trees and the giant red moon hovered beyond.  As the boat drew them closer to shore, Nicolae noticed a rather foul stench projecting out from the island.  He also began to notice something strange about the trees that stood.  Nicolae shifted in his seat to get a better look.  The trees appeared to be moving, writhing.  He could hear faint, agonized moaning along with some throaty gurgling.  Nicolae kept his eyes on the trees and as they drew closer the beach, the stench grew stronger.  It was over powering and Nicolae fought his body’s desire to throw up what little content there was in his stomach.  He looked over at the cloaked man who did not appeared bothered by the stench.  The cause of the unpleasant odor began to dawn on Nicolae.  It was one he had come to know well in his nineteen years.  He looked back to the island and they were now close enough for Nicolae to see the trees…and that they were not trees at all.  Nicolae’s eyes widened at the sight of thousands of rotting corpses impaled on large, wooden stakes in various states of decay.  There were some that did seem to be grasping on the last threads of life, writhing and groaning on their poles.  Cries of scavenger birds could be heard from above, mingling in with the agonized sounds from the island’s “trees.” 
The boat docked on the beach that was the same combination of rock and sand that the other had been.  The cloaked man stood, giving Nicolae a brief glance before getting off of the boat.  Nicolae remained seated, watching as the figure began to walk up the beach before glancing back in the direction they had come from.  Red water stretching out into the darkness was all Nicolae could see.  He turned back to see that the cloaked man had paused, staring at him as he waited for Nicolae to get off the boat.  Nicolae could see that his choices were limited at this point and reluctantly followed the cloaked figure into the forest of impaled humans (this time keeping a very short distance between him and the cloaked man).  He could feel the eyes of those still alive on him (just as Dimitri’s eyes were when you killed him) and did his best to keep his eyes forward.
They were well into the forest when Nicolae caught site of a flock of crows perched on a wooden stake tearing away at the rotting flesh and muscle of a carcass.  The corpse stared back at Nicolae with it’s face half eaten away.  Chunks of muscle tissue still clung to the skull and one of it’s eyes hung out from the socket by a muscle fiber while the other still remained in tact.  The skin and muscle around the mouth had been eaten, giving the corpse a permanent, hideous grin.  Crows and buzzards were heard as they perched on the stakes and the limbs of some of other bodies.
I’m sure they never go hungry here, Nicolae thought.  The thought amused him slightly as he drew his gaze upward to the birds of prey circling in the red light of the moon.  There were some that appeared to have a reptilian appearance.  He brought his gaze forward again, being careful to not lose site of the cloaked man.  Time seemed to drag before they finally came to a clearing at the edge of the forest.  Dread filled Nicolae as he anticipated what may be waiting at the other side. 
An abyss, a fiery pit filled with bloodthirsty beings…
Nicolae began to feel anger again at the unfairness of it all.  But when he looked out to what was in front of him, he saw a beautiful field stretched out in front of him.  The field was a beautiful green and up above it was a blue sky decorated by white clouds.  Further down into the field was a small workshed and even further down was what appeared to be a two floor house.  Nicolae looked up and could see a break in the sky, the separation between the black sky of the island and the blue daylight of the field.  He slowly reached out and touched the tips of his fingers to a membrane that separated the field and the island.  He once again felt that small magnetic surge.
“What are we?” Nicolae asked, “Where’s Eloisa?  Is she here?”
The cloaked man was silent before simply answering with a deep vocal tone, “No.”
 “Well can you please tell me why the hell you’ve brought me here?” Nicolae asked, his heart swelling with fury and despair. 
“Look in front of you,” the figure answered, unphased by Nicolae’s tone.
Nicolae turned back to the field.  His anger cooled when he saw two little boys playing there, chasing and kicking a ball.  They looked to be about seven and had heads of thick hair, one sandy and the other dark. 
Nicolae stood watching them.  He saw how happy and carefree they were, something hardly experienced in his childhood.  There was also something about the two little boys that was familiar to Nicolae.  He strained to get a better look at them, but the magnetic shield began to dissipate and the scene before them went from day to night and the two little boys disappeared.  A cool breeze of a crisp, autumn night and the fragrance of autumn leaves was a much welcomed change from the heat and stench of the island. 
“It is now safe to step over if you wish to do so,” the cloaked man said.  He stepped forward onto the field and Nicolae followed, catching up to walk beside the man. 
As the two of them stepped out onto the field, the island, the giant blood moon, the crows, the buzzards, and the forest of impaled human bodies disappeared behind them.  In it’s place was a lush forest of trees.  A full late autumn moon hung high in the sky casting a cool beam down, emphasizing the emblem on the clasp that fastened the man’s cloak.  Nicolae recognized it as being the seal belonging to The Order of the Dragon.  He frowned, wondering how he hadn’t noticed it before.  The man slowly turned his head toward Nicolae causing Nicolae to quickly turn away. 
They continued across the field, passing by the shed, and coming to a stop when they were within a few feet from the house.  A large oak tree stood at the side of the colonial farmhouse. Under the tree was a tall, sandy-haired young man with a lean, solid build embracing a rather petite dark-haired girl.  Nicolae could feel the love that radiated off of the couple locked in a passionate kiss.  It was a cruel reminder of what he had had with Eloisa.  Heartsickness began to fill him as gruesome details began to re-enter his mind.
Eloisa’s terrified screams, the bloodspill…
Nicolae forced the thoughts away as the two lovers as they parted their embrace and began to speak a language that Nicolae barely understood.  He looked over at the cloaked man.  The man also stood facing the young couple and Nicolae could sense sadness, as if he wasn’t the only one who had experienced a great loss in his life.
“It continues,” the man said suddenly.
“What?” Nicolae turned back to the man…

…and awoke to find himself back by the creek in the familiar, Transylvania woods.  The blue, early morning light filled the sky.  Nicolae sat up, rubbing the sleep from his eyes.  He noticed his bag next to him picking it up, making sure everything was still inside it, especially the box.  Satisfied, he turned to wake Sebastian and was stopped cold when he saw that his little brother was missing.  Nicolae stood up, frantically calling out to his brother.  He noticed a movement in the shadow of the trees. 
“What the hell do you want now?!” Nicolae exclaimed.  The figure slowly stepped into the clearing.  It was Sebastian.  The younger Ganoush boy froze as his older brother ran toward him.
“Shit!  Sebastian!” Nicolae had yelled grabbing his brother by the shoulders, “what do you think you’re doing wandering away like that?!
“I’m sorry!  I just had to take a leak!” Sebastian protested, confused and frightened by his older brother’s actions.  He stood staring wide-eyed up at Nicolae. 
Have you gone completely mad?
Nicolae realized what he was doing and how this all must look to Sebastian.  He collected himself and let go of Sebastian, apologizing.  Sebastian watched his brother walk over to the creek, sitting down on the bank.  He slowly approached Nicolae and sat down next to him.
“I did try to wake you,” Sebastian offered, “but you wouldn’t move.  I actually thought you were dead until I heard you still breathing.”
Nicolae looked at his brother, giving him a small half-smile.  He reached over and playfully ruffled the eleven-year-old’s hair.  Sebastian smiled, letting out a small giggle.  He was relieved that Nicolae wasn’t angry with him.
“Come,” Nicolae said as he stood from his seated position, “it’s nearly daybreak so we may as well get a start out.” 
The two boys began walking along the bank of the creek, following it across the border of Romania and Austria-Hungary.  Sebastian looked up at his brother and said, “Nicolae…will you ever tell me what happened?”
Nicolae ceased his steps.  Sebastian could see that his brother was giving some serious consideration to the question.
“Yes,” Nicolae said finally, “perhaps sometime soon.”

Read on to the SECOND INTERLUDE (UNEDITED) *rated for violent content*

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