Chapter One: Run Away From This Hell
England; late June 1888
There was a house just outside of London that was the envy of all middle-class Londoners. It was the home of a prosperous man who owned a well-off shipping company, along with his wife, his older son, and his younger daughter. Usually, the house was a bustling center of activity, but, in the pre-dawn hours, the house was quiet.
Deep within the house, in a small room in the basement, a young girl quietly set a bag down on her small bed. She quickly loaded a few things into it from the small chest-of-drawers in the corner, then placed a bow and a quiver of arrows next to it. Glancing around cautiously, she picked up her things, opened the door, then slipped out into the hall, heading towards the stairs that led to the main floor.
On the main floor, as she crossed the vast foyer, she heard footsteps coming from her right. She froze, prepared to hide if she had to, but it was only a girl a year or so younger than herself. The girl's long blonde hair caught the moonlight coming from the large window as she hurried forward.
"Vivian, what are you doing up at this hour?"
The blonde, Vivian, kept running until the two girls came face-to-face. Then, Vivian stopped and put her hands on her friend's shoulders. Her bright blue eyes were deathly serious. "Alexis, are you insane? You're really doing this?!"
Alexis pushed her friend's hands away. "I can stand it no longer, Vivian…You know what it's like here! The Master and Mistress are horrible, working us until we're half-dead! And that odious wretch they call a son is even worse! You know what he's done to all the female servants here! The only redeeming thing about this whole damned family is their daughter, Elizabeth!"
A single tear leaked down Vivian's face. "You're really running away, then?"
Alexis sighed, but confirmed her friend's thoughts with a nod.
"Where will you go, Lexi?"
"I don't know," Alexis said. "Transylvania, probably. I think I have family somewhere out there…"
That thought-the thought that she may have family out there- was the only reason Alexis would ever even think of going to Transylvania. She definitely looked as though she had some Gypsy blood in her, with her long black hair, exotic features, and slender frame. Her only non-Gypsy feature was her eyes-a vivid shade of emerald.
"I'll miss you," Vivian said sadly, her voice thick with tears.
"And I, you, my dear friend," Alexis said.
She briefly embraced her friend, then turned to leave. Suddenly, Vivian grabbed her arm. "Wait! Lexi, I…I want to give you something…"
Vivian reached into the pocket of her tattered dress and pulled out a silver cross on a black cord. She took Alexis's hand and pressed it into her palm. "Take this…if you're going to Transylvania, you may find that this comes in handy…"
Alexis smiled, holding back tears, then fastened the cross around her neck. She reached down and picked up her things, slinging her quiver over her shoulder, grabbing her bag in one hand and her bow in the other, then headed to the door, opening it and slipping out into the moonlit night.
Alexis slid into a dark side alley, a shortcut of sorts to the harbor. She leaned against a wall, pausing for breath, having run all the way from the mansion.
A nearby gaslight flickered to life, and she could see something plastered to the alley wall opposite of her. She glanced around, then approached the opposite wall of the alley.
It was a poster, a wanted poster. Large black letters screamed for the arrest of one Van Helsing. The poster also gave a cause for arrest-the fact he was wanted for several murders-a reward amount-2,000 pounds-and a picture. Most of the man's face was obscured by either his wide-brimmed hat or the scarf tied across the lower half of his face, but he was still ruggedly handsome in Alexis's eyes.
After a moment, she tore her eyes away from the poster and continued down to the harbor. Her boots and the frayed hem of her tattered dress stirred up the dust of the road all the way down to the harbor.
Despite the early hour, the harbor was actually bustling already, with ships preparing to sail for the day, and the harbormaster opening up his little station. Roughly about half of Alexis's pitiful wages secured her a passage to France on the ship Lady of the Sea. What was left would be used to purchase some supplies she'd need for the journey once she reached France.
Alexis stepped aboard the small passenger ship and leaned over the railing, watching the sun rise, staining the sky and clouds in shades of pink, purple, gold, and orange. A cool breeze lifted strands of her raven hair off her neck. And, for the first time in years…she felt truly free.