Disclaimer: Nope, still don't own them! Just the movies :)
Author's Note: And here I am with another chapter! Now that my semester has started up again, I can't promise the quickest of updates. But, I'll update when I can, because I'm really excited about where this is going. And I'm hoping you'll all enjoy the ride too! Thank you for your reviews from last time! Hope you enjoy this chapter as well :)
The morning was hazy as the pale sun dawned over Transylvania. Ian and Ben led the way off the plane, the rest of their tired group trailing along behind them as they made their way into the airport and worked out getting a couple of rental cars for them to get to the hotel. Powell, Nick, and Phil went with Ian while Abigail, Riley, and Clara went with Ben, and they finally arrived at the small hotel in the downtown area after getting turned around a few times on the country roads. Richard Howe and Joel were nowhere to be seen.
But since it was nearly the noon hour when they arrived, their hotel rooms were further apart than they liked since there weren't many available. Ian and his group took the room open on the second floor while Ben and his family were on the floor beneath them. The rooms were also smaller than they had wanted, but since what was considered the downtown area was small and quaint, it didn't surprise them that they had to make the best of their accommodations. In their room, Ian was given the bed while Powell took the chair and Phil decided to stretch out on the floor in front of the television.
"That leaves the couch for you, kid!" the older Scotsman joked with a laugh. Nick rolled his eyes in annoyance as Phil chuckled while Ian glanced at them with a raised eyebrow.
After getting everything sorted out, Nick wandered over to where Ian was standing next to the bed, going through the brochure of the Transylvania area he had grabbed from the airport in England as well as the old journal he had brought back from his father's house. "Whatcha looking at?" the younger man asked.
Ian sighed quietly and glanced up at his stepbrother before turning back to the faded pages of the journal. "The brochure has a map of how to get to Castle Dracula from this area," he answered off-handedly. "Since we only took one, we'll just have Gates follow us. But I'm just looking over the journal my father found when he was here last to see if there are any other clues that could help point us in the right direction. The castle is a big place."
"Going in blind won't be easy," Nick agreed, to which Ian shook his head slightly in agreement. "Find anything?"
"Not yet." The Englishman ran a hand through his light hair as he scanned the script intently. A moment of silence passed before Ian turned the page, his eyes narrowing.
Nick glanced at the older man. "What is it?" he wondered.
Ian didn't answer immediately as he instead flipped to the next page before backtracking to the one before it. "I didn't notice this before," he muttered. "Before the last entry, there's at least one page missing."
"Missing?" Nick repeated. "Do you have any idea where it could be?"
"Not entirely," Ian told him as he shut the journal, his gaze landing on the brochure next to it thoughtfully. "Though there's no doubt in my mind that my father is aware of this too. He mentioned on the plane that he didn't see the mirror the last time he was at the castle, even though he hadn't been looking for it. But his eye is sharper than that, as is his mind. He wouldn't go in blind either. I think he's looking for something else. Something that could lead him to the mirror."
"The missing pages?" Nick ventured to guess.
Ian pulled his cell phone out of the pocket of his jeans, quickly going through his contacts to get to Ben's number. "I wouldn't doubt it," he said. "We need to hurry."
"So, let me get this straight. We don't have the dagger we need to go along with the mirror we're trying to find, though your dad thinks we do, and a couple pages are missing from a diary that's really the only clue we have to find that mirror. And, on top of all that, we're dealing with a man who's basically another you. I don't see how this could possibly end well."
Ian smirked as he turned to the techie standing nearby with Ben and Abigail. "Don't sound so pessimistic, Riley," he said. "So we have a few long odds ahead of us. But it's something you should be used to by now. Right, Ben?"
Ben chuckled as he nodded slightly. "I've been faced with long odds my entire life," he replied.
"I thought as much." Ian laughed a little himself before he glanced at where Nick was standing with Powell, Phil, and Clara. The group was in the back of a long line waiting for the next tour of Castle Dracula to start, and while everyone else seemed to be excited to explore a place that had many stories of hauntings and other strange happenings, they were much more somber since they were there for a very different reason.
Clara took a deep breath as she looked around at the high-ceilinged entrance hall, flooded with light from the tall windows that towered above them. She pulled her hooded sweatshirt a little closer around her, her fingers absently moving to the wooden cross that she wore around her neck.
Nick glanced down at his cell phone to check the time before he slid it back into the pocket of his leather jacket, raising an eyebrow as he glanced at Clara. "You all right, cutie?" he asked. "You look nervous."
The fifteen-year-old jumped slightly as she turned to face him, a small smile appearing on her face. "Oh, I'm fine, Uncle Nick," she answered quietly. "I'm just... I don't know. Something about this place makes me uncomfortable."
Powell let out a deep breath as he looked around them as well. "You and me both, kiddo," he muttered before he wandered over to Ian. He glanced down at the watch he wore around his left wrist as he stopped beside his long-time friend. "The next tour should start in about five minutes."
Ian nodded slightly in response. "Now, either my father has already been here, or he's waiting until the tours stop for lunch in an hour."
The Scotsman's gaze faltered slightly, his thoughts traveling to the older Howe that they had met on the plane from England. "You know him better than anyone, he said quietly. "What do you think he's doing?"
"What do I think?" Ian repeated as he glanced back at the older man with a sigh. "I'm hoping it's the latter."
Soon, more excited murmurings were heard from the hallway in front of them as the group who had just finished their tour returned to the entrance hall. Kids were laughing as they pulled their parents along toward the gift shop that had been added to the castle near the front door, and the tour guide smiled as she waved goodbye to them. Both Ben and Ian rolled their eyes when they saw that she was wearing a pair of fake vampire fangs and was dressed entirely in black.
"Hello, my name's Mina, and I'll be your guide today," she said in a thick Transylvanian accent as she turned to the new group that awaited her. "Make sure to stay close together, now. We don't want anyone getting lost. So, if you'll follow me this way, we'll begin our tour with the west wing."
Ian and Powell led the way after the rest of the group as they followed the tour guide down a carpeted hallway away from the vast entrance hall, Riley, Clara, Abigail, and Nick close behind while Ben and Phil came last, all keeping a sharp eye out for something that they weren't entirely sure of. They really paid no attention to what she was telling them about the sinister paintings that hung along the walls or the history of the style of architecture, though Ben and Abigail would have loved to take the tour again to hear all of that information.
When they paused for a minute to listen to a scary story about Count Dracula as they stopped in front of his portrait on the wall, Ian took the opportunity to get a better look at a couple painted vases that were sitting on a pedestal against the wall near him, trying to figure out what the images were depicting.
But then, he glanced down when he felt a pair of eyes on him, seeing that a blond-haired boy no older than six was holding onto his mother's hand as he looked at him intently. The Englishman gave him a small smile as he rejoined the rest of his small group, but the kid only looked away when the tour guide began to lead them on again.
However, Clara slowed to a stop when she reached the painting of Dracula, and her eyes widened in horror. She recognized the figure immediately, from the dark robes that he wore to the black hair that fell to his shoulders in layers, and most importantly, his pale, handsome features and his dark, intense eyes. It was the man she had been seeing in her dreams.
Then, her eyes narrowed slightly when she thought she saw his gaze move to her and meet her eyes, and she stood transfixed, unable to look away. The man terrified her, there was no doubt about that. But at the same time, there was something about him that attracted her to him.
There was that voice she recognized once again, the voice that was soft yet dark and menacing. But yet, she was drawn to him, and Clara was hardly aware as she lifted a hand and began to reach out toward the portrait of Dracula.
The fifteen-year-old gasped quietly as she quickly tore her gaze away from the painting, letting out a soft sigh when she recognized the tall man standing next to her. "You scared me, Uncle Phil..." she muttered.
Phil gave her a small smile and set his hand lightly on her shoulder, his gaze moving to the portrait of Dracula she had been staring at so intently. "Look, I'd love to stand around and stare at creepy paintings all day too, but we're gonna fall behind," he told her.
Clara looked around him, watching as the group continued to make its way further down the hallway. "Oops, sorry," she replied, grabbing onto his hand. "Let's go."
"All right, sweetheart." Phil watched as Clara then began to lead him after the group, noticing as she glanced back at the painting one more time before turning away completely. He briefly glanced at the portrait of the dark-haired count again himself before he began to follow her.
Mina led them up a set of twisting stairs to the second floor, beginning to lead them down a wider hallway that had the same deep red carpeting as the first. There were no paintings lining the walls in this hall, instead replaced by doors opening into various rooms. In front of them all were thick velvet ropes preventing the general public from stepping inside.
Ian didn't pay any attention to what the tour guide was saying, looking inside each room as they passed only to find that they were mainly set up just for display, until she mentioned something about Dracula's bedchamber and many mistresses.
"It is the only room in the castle to remain untouched in the renovation process," Mina was explaining. "They wanted to keep some trace of authenticity to the place when..."
The Englishman tuned out the rest of what the tour guide said, anxious to reach the bedroom she had been telling them about. He had no doubt that this was where his father had come across the journal that belonged to their family.
Ian came to a stop in front of the room, his eyes quickly scanning over the tall bookshelf that stood against the stone wall to the four-poster bed, a deep purple velvet curtain concealing it from view, that sat across the room from it to the antique desk that sat beneath the window. He then glanced down the hall as the rest of his small group stopped around him, waiting until Mina was around the corner before he nodded to them.
"Okay, go. Five minutes tops."
Powell, Phil, and Nick stepped over the thick rope into the bedchamber without question, the latter helping Clara over after him. Riley stepped over next, grumbling under his breath about rule-breaking, while Ben and Abigail followed, both seeming to be disgruntled that they had to leave the tour so early. Ian stepped one foot into the room before he paused, noticing the blond-haired boy who had been watching him before was looking at him again, this time with wide eyes. He gave him another small smile, bringing a finger to his lips to tell him to stay quiet before he followed after the rest of his group.
"So, what is it that we're looking for, Ian?" Abigail asked, turning to the Englishman.
"When my father came to Transylvania, he found this journal that has belonged to our family for centuries," Ian explained. "Earlier, I discovered that a couple pages could possibly be missing. From what I gathered from the rest of the journal, my ancestor learned that Dracula kept things he valued, including objects taken from his victims, here since he was wary of most of the castle's inhabitants. This is where my father probably found it, and this is a good place to start looking for them. I doubt the mirror is here, because my father would already have it if that's the case, but if we find the pages, we may have a lead to it. Four minutes. Go."
Abigail followed Ben over to the closet in the corner of the room, struggling to turn the rusted handle before they finally pulled the door open and began to go through the thick, leather bound books that were sitting on the shelves inside and were coated in layer upon layer of dust. However, nothing they came across was written in English, so they didn't think it was what Ian was looking for, and they continued on.
Clara and Nick made their way over to the four-poster bed, and the fifteen-year-old knelt on the floor to look underneath while the latter pushed aside the purple curtains to look inside. He moved aside the pillows and the blankets but found nothing. Clara was about to get back to her feet, but then she noticed that a thin, dark box was sitting under the bed. She reached out and managed to grab it before pulling it out.
"What's in there?" Nick wondered, glancing down at her after he finished situating the bed to look neat once more.
"I'm not sure," Clara muttered, brushing off the thick layers of dust on the box to reveal a symbol engraved in the case– a crescent moon with a wreath of thorns encircling it. She had seen it somewhere before, but for the life of her, she couldn't remember where...
Powell glanced over from where he had been looking through the bookshelf curiously as Clara pushed on the rusted latch with some difficulty before she pulled open the lid of the box. Inside sat what appeared to be a small silver stake.
Riley glanced down at it as he crouched on the floor next to her. "Well, if that isn't ironic, I don't know what is," he said, reaching out and carefully picking it up. Despite its age, it had not taken on the same rust as many of the other objects in the room and still retained its shine.
Clara studied it intently for a moment. "I think we should take this," she replied.
The techie nearly dropped the stake as he met her gaze. "What?" he asked in disbelief. "Clara, are you crazy? We can't just take this."
"I don't think anyone knows this is even here, Uncle Riley," Clara answered, carefully taking the stake back from him and setting it back in its dark, velvet-lined box. "Something just tells me we have to do this."
Nick chuckled from where he stood next to the fifteen-year-old. "You've been hanging around us for far too long, cutie," he muttered.
Clara just smiled at him while Riley cast him a dark look before she closed the box and secured it before she slipped it into the bag hanging over her shoulder.
"I'm gonna tell your parents," Riley grumbled, glancing over at where Ben and Abigail were still engrossed in the thick-volumed books they were finding in the closet.
"It's not like you're stopping me, Uncle Riley," Clara told him, quickly kissing his cheek before she rose to her feet. It was something the techie didn't have a response for.
"Two minutes," Ian announced to the group as he wandered over to the antique desk beneath the window with Phil. Nothing sat on top of it, and when he tried to pull open the drawer, he found it to be locked.
"Got it," Phil said when the Englishman glanced at him. He pulled a pin out of the sleeve of his leather jacket and worked on the lock, picking it in only a few seconds.
"It's old," he told his leader with a smile as he took a step back.
Ian returned the look before he pulled open the drawer, and his eyes shone when they landed on what was inside. "Phil, I'm going to need to borrow your pen."
Riley sighed as he watched Clara make her way over to the bookshelf that Powell was still looking through, pausing when he saw that a large, ornate mirror sat on the wall beside the door that opened into the hallway. "Mirror, mirror on the wall, who's the fairest one of all?" he murmured sarcastically, causing Ben to roll his eyes from where he stood in the closet doorway while his niece chuckled quietly. "Hey, Ian. It's not a mirror like this, is it?"
The Englishman shut the drawer of the desk, straightening out his leather jacket as he handed Phil his pen back before he glanced over his shoulder at where the techie was standing. "No, Riley," he said. "What we're looking for is a hand mirror."
"Well, that's good," Riley replied. "Easier to carry at least."
Another minute passed before Ian made his way to the door of the room. "All right. The tour should be making its way back to the main entrance hall by now to go into the east wing," he told the group. "We can rejoin them without them even noticing we were gone."
"Already?" Abigail asked, sounding slightly disappointed as she looked at the manuscripts that still lay before her. "There are so many years of European history from this era here to translate..."
Ian sighed quietly. "If you do not wish to be arrested for trespassing, Dr. Gates, then I suggest you come back with us," he answered.
Abigail hesitantly set the thick, heavy book back in its proper place as Ben made his way over to where the Englishman and his group were gathered. "Did you find anything you were looking for?" he wondered.
A slight smirk appeared on Ian's face as he met the treasure hunter's gaze. "Something close." He then shared a knowing look with Phil while Nick and Powell glanced at their leader curiously.
The group quickly stepped over the velvet rope and left the bedchamber, making their way through the hall and down the spiral staircase back to the main floor of the castle. They waited in the cover of the hallway filled with sinister paintings until Mina's echoing voice reached their ears, watching as she led their tour group across the vast entrance hall. They waited until the guide turned around before they ran out to join the back of the line, slowing their paces to a casual walk as they followed her toward the east wing. The same young blond-haired boy turned around to look at Ian, who simply smiled back at him.
The rest of the tour passed by relatively quickly since there wasn't quite as much to see in the east wing, much to the dismay of Ben and Abigail, and they once more found themselves in the vast entrance hall as Mina bid them all farewell. Most of the group hurried off toward the gift shop or left the castle while the guide herself took out her fake fangs to go on her lunch break, but Ian and Ben's groups lingered behind to speak to each other in quiet tones.
"So, what'd you find in that room, Ian?" Powell pressed.
Ian smiled at him as he began to reach into his leather jacket. But before he could answer, he stopped when another voice reached them as the hall continued to clear.
"So, you went on the tour anyway. Did you find anything useful?"
The group turned and watched as Richard Howe made his way over to them from the tall, double doors of the castle with his young hired hand close behind. Nick stiffened slightly as he drew nearer, and Ian set his hand lightly on his shoulder.
"Who's this?" Riley asked quietly, wrinkling his nose slightly. The question hadn't been intended for the new arrivals to hear, just Ben and Abigail, who were standing nearest, but it was heard anyway. Joel turned and sent him a dark look, which made the techie flinch slightly, while Richard simply smiled.
"But of course. How thoughtless of me," the older Howe muttered. "Since we are all working to find the same thing, we may as well get to know one another." He turned his gaze from Ian to Powell, nodding slightly at the Scotsman before his gaze landed on Phil. "You I recognize as well. My son hired you some time ago after a Russian man, if I recall. Phil?"
Phil nodded once but didn't say a word. Richard's smile lingered as he then turned his gaze to his stepson. "It has been a long time, Nick," he stated. "You look well."
"It has," Nick agreed stiffly, his tone not wavering. "As do you."
Richard chuckled quietly as he turned away, causing a quiet sigh of relief to escape from Nick. His attention was moved to Ben, and he nodded slightly. "Good to see you again, Gates," he said, which Ben simply nodded in return to as the older man then turned to his daughter. "And Clara as well, of course."
Clara didn't respond in any way as Abigail set her hand on her shoulder securely. Richard turned his gaze to her, his smile returning. "You I do not know."
"This is my wife, Abigail," Ben told him quietly, keeping a close eye on the older man. "And this is our close friend, Riley."
"A pleasure." Richard nodded slightly to both Abigail and Riley. "My name is Richard Howe, and this is my hired hand, Joel. Good help is hard to find these days, so I am certainly fortunate."
"So wait," Riley said, glancing from Ian to his father. "You're Ian, Sr.?"
Richard chuckled at the name. "I suppose that is one way to put it, yes," he replied. "Considering I have taught my son everything he knows." Ian sighed quietly.
"But this leads me back to my original question, Ian," Richard continued, turning his gaze back to his son. "Did you find anything useful on your tour?"
Ian met his father's gaze, keeping his face impassive as he gave him his one word answer. "No."
Richard studied his face for a long moment before a smile slowly spread across his face. "Very well."
The blond Englishman watched the older man carefully as he started to pace slightly. "Not that I thought you would find anything. In my travels here, I have checked every room." He paused for a moment. "Except for one."
Ian arched an eyebrow. "And what room would that be?" he asked.
Richard stopped and met his gaze. "It is completely blocked off to tourists. Even employees rarely go down there," he answered. "But underneath the castle is where Dracula is said to have tortured his numerous victims. The only trick is finding the door."
"Do you know where this door could be?" Ben posed before Ian had a chance to respond, his interest piqued.
"Of course." Richard turned his attention to the treasure hunter. "I had this trip planned out in its entirety. All that's left is to investigate, which I am going to do now while most of the employees are on their lunch break. You can join me if you wish. It is entirely up to you." And with that, the older man turned and began to make his way in the direction of the west wing with Joel.
Powell leaned closer to Ian, who was watching his father's retreating back intently. "He's almost as unreadable as you are," he muttered.
Ian nodded slightly, almost thoughtfully. "I'm going to go as well," he finally announced to the group. "I'm not sure if there is anything to be found there, but I would rather not take the chance to allow him to gain valuable insight while we do not."
"I'm not sure if that's a good idea, Ian," Nick spoke up. "I don't trust him."
"I don't either." Ian turned to face his stepbrother, his brow furrowing. "But I need you with me on this one, Nick. I need you to trust me."
The younger man studied the Brit's face for a long moment before he took a deep breath and nodded once.
"Of course we trust you, Ian," Phil said. "You've never led us astray. Even in the most dire of situations."
Ian smirked slightly. "I appreciate your faith in me, Phil."
"We'll go with you too," Ben added. "I mean, we're in this thing together. And if your dad's as dangerous, and as intelligent, as you claim, you'll need all the people you can get." But then, he amended, "Though, I wouldn't mind if you stayed behind for now."
Abigail rolled her eyes when her husband's eyes moved to her. "Ben, if I hadn't intended to join you on this hunt, then I wouldn't have shown up at the airport," she stated. "Besides, with all of you big, tough guys, I think I'll be just fine. But I would feel better if Clara wasn't around Richard..."
The fifteen-year-old quickly shook her head in protest. "You can't leave me behind by myself."
"Don't worry, Abigail," Powell spoke up with a smile, wrapping his arm around Clara. "We'll keep a close eye on the kiddo."
Abigail gave a grateful smile to the Scotsman. Ian sighed. "Well, since we've gotten that all straightened out, let's not fall behind," he told them.
The rest of the group began to follow the Englishman as he hurried in the direction Richard and his hired hand had gone, leaving Riley and Nick lingering behind for a moment. "You know, I still don't think this is a good idea," the techie mumbled. The other man shook his head in agreement, but they hurried after the others anyway since they were already almost out of sight.
Richard led them past the hallway of sinister paintings they had been taken down when they had started their tour, instead making their way over another thick velvet rope and down a much darker hall as their footsteps echoed off the stone floor. The path began to gently spiral downward, growing darker and darker as they went.
"You know, there are many legends about who Dracula really was," Richard said from the front of the line, pulling a flashlight out from under his long, heavy jacket as he used its narrow beam to guide their way. "Some people will say he was a ruthless mercenary. Some say he was just a cruel ruler. Others say that his power was much more extensive. For example, it is said that he can enter dreams and torture the mind."
From where he was walking near the back of the line, Riley laughed a bit nervously while Abigail, who was nearby, set a reassuring hand on his shoulder. Nick just simply rolled his eyes.
"How much further?" Ian wondered from where he was walking with Ben and Powell behind his father and the young man he had hired. He was tired of hearing these stories.
Richard glanced over his shoulder at them, a small smile on his face. "Not much further, Son."
Soon, the group reached a small, circular room with a single stone bench along the wall. Across from them loomed a tall wooden door with a rusted, antique lock keeping it closed. The Englishman turned to his tallest colleague. "Phil."
Phil nodded as he started to walk forward, but burly Joel stepped forward first and simply broke the lock through use of force. The young hired hand then began to pull open the door, having a little bit of difficulty with how heavy it was, and Ian nodded to Powell, who helped to pull it the rest of the way open. Richard took a couple steps closer and shone his flashlight into the darkness, revealing a steep set of stone steps that led down to who knew where.
"That looks safe," Riley mumbled.
Ben glanced back at him before turning back to Richard to see what he would do. The older man simply glanced at Ian, who met his gaze for a moment before he slowly set a foot on the top stair, trying to see as far down the stairs as he could in the light of his father's flashlight. But the staircase was not only steep but spiraled, and there wasn't much he could see from his position.
Nick immediately walked forward to join Ian, sending Richard a distrusting look as he passed him, while Phil followed close behind. Riley gave a resigned sigh, knowing they would be ending up going down the flight of dark, creepy steps one way or another, as he went after them, and Ben grabbed a secure hold of Abigail's hand as he walked toward where Richard was lingering in the doorway with her and Clara.
But then, Abigail stopped when a quiet ringing sound came from the depths of her purse. She slid her hand from her husband's grasp and quickly pulled out her cell phone, ignoring the curious looks the rest of the group was giving her as she checked the name flashing on the screen.
"Sorry, guys, I have to take this," she told them. "It's the National Archives Building."
Ben nodded as he passed Richard, lingering in the doorway across from him as he waited for his wife. Clara glanced back at her mother curiously and lingered back for a moment as she spoke quietly into her phone.
Ian looked up, startled, when he heard his colleague's startled cry, reaching out along with Ben as Powell was roughly shoved forward from where he was holding onto the tall door by Joel to catch him before he could hit the hard stone floor. Phil set his hand on the older man's back while Riley watched with wide eyes, Nick quickly turning to his stepbrother. The blond Brit moved his gaze to his father while Clara and Abigail watched with horror, seeing the smirk that had appeared on his face.
"Proceed carefully, Ian," Richard muttered, the taunting look the last thing the group saw before the heavy door slammed closed, casting them all into complete darkness.
Author's Note: As you guys probably know from previews stories and even previous chapters of this one, my cliffhangers aren't going anywhere, lol. The good news is, I have the next chapter underway, so I'm hoping I can get it done in my free time! Also, just a note. They don't really have anything to do with the trilogy, but some references will be made to them in some of them, I'm doing a series of four oneshots that center about how Ian and his group came together. Just a little character study for my own amusement, but you're welcome to join me there too! Powell's is already up with the story Snow Angels, and Shaw's will be up next with Iron Pen. But anyway, hope you liked this chapter! I'll get the next one up as soon as I can. Your reviews are much appreciated. Thanks!