One late and damp evening, a voice pierced the overall gloom of Castle Warg.
"Shrowdy, where are you?!" echoed across the tower.
The midget vampire cringed at the sound, but materialised in front of her nonetheless. The fact that his newest love was hard to please had been well etched into his head by now, and he often found himself wishing she had shared his passion for coloring books. Coloring did not require much talking outside the occasional: "Hey, do you think I should color this roof with brown or red?" It did not require much thinking either, something which Shrowdy thought was perhaps the best part.
"What is it, my beautiful belladonna bud? You are up early tonight."
"I'm bored. Bored out of my mind! Do you hear that, Shrowdy?" the girl asked, her tone sharp. She made it sound as if he was the cause of her boredom, and not the fact that she was locked in a tower. By him, but that was a different story.
"Yes, Vampy McShortpants, we're out of ideas. Why don't you do something about it before Mona here smacks you with her upcoming bottle of... Merlot. Like, you know, last time" added the bat.
Normally, Froderick did not muster the courage to confront him directly, preferring to go about that in a more subtle but no less annoying way. But alas, he was seated high on Mona's shoulder and therefore safely behind enemy lines. Shrowdy gulped once and fidgeted with a corner of his generic black cape.
"Is there nothing that can entertain you, my love? Perhaps Shrowdy can bring you some books from Mother's library?" offered the vampire.
He was rewarded with one of Mona's blank, if slightly disgusted looks.
"Really, pal" muttered Froderick and shook his head, "after half a year you should have known better."
Inwardly, Shrowdy grudgingly had to admit that the winged rat was right. The aspiring opera singer rolled her eyes and flailed her arms around.
"Oh, just let me go back to Paris already! The stage is my life! What ever shall I do without it?"
"But nobody here is stopping you from singing, my dear" Shrowdy replied.
"The few rooms I'm locked in do not compare with a stage and an audience. Bah, forget it. What would someone like you know about it?"
Shrowdy was preparing to reply that he had been to quite a few musical events in many theatres across Europe (though not particularly for the sake of music as much for potential Mother lookalikes), when Mona continued to rant:
"The closest you ever came to public attention was when you got drunk on blood and tried to drain the scarecrow from the Mayor's yard on Halloween. In your underwear."
"How did you find out about that?... Oh that damn raven and his newspapers!" he wailed. Mona gave a very distinct "Hmph!", stuck her nose up in the air and turned to leave. And then, out of the blue, Shrowdy was struck by something very unusual for him: a good idea.
"Just you wait, my love. If I cannot let you go to the stage, I shall bring the stage to you! You may think me vile and stupid, but I will prove the purity of my feelings by offering you this present" he nodded, his eyes closed and his mind locked on the image of Mona being overjoyed with her personal stage.
"Don't forget to bring my Merlot" rang Mona's voice from upstairs.
Realising that he had been talking all by himself, Shrowdy kicked the black firepoker that had been resting near the fireplace. For a second, he thought he heard the bear rug chuckle.
Despite being angry, the vampire was by no means discouraged. The first step in making a stage for Mona was finding a room wide enough for it. And not just any room, but one in her tower. The answer came pretty easily: he would use the throphy display room, which had never interested Mona too much in the first place. This decision once made, he proceeded out of the tower to retrieve the key from that ever annoying Rufus. The weather was awful; it was raining heavily and the wind threatened to turn Shrowdy into a vampire kite. He was halfway across the gargoyle bridge when a gust of wind from behind blew his large cape over his head. From the balcony, Mona and Froderick watched in amusement how the black bundle hopped around the narrow bridge.
"Too bad he's too short to fall over."
"At times like these, I'm almost sorry for him" chuckled the bat while Shrowdy smacked his head against one of the stone statues guarding the bridge.
It took him a while, but in the end Shrowdy managed to flip his cape over his head and approach Rufus.
"Oh, and just when he was in hitting range" muttered the creature and sighed heavily.
Von Kiefer had a very strict self-imposed "no talking to Rufus unless necessary" policy, and therefore he extended his open palm towards him.
The creature responded to this gesture with a very ironic "Why, good evening!"
Frowning, Shrowdy shook his palm, making it obvious that he was expecting the key.
"Your hand is very ugly. Your fingers are stubby and the creases on your palm show that you have a very short lifespan, if my cheiromancy knowledge does not fail me. Well, at least I have one comforting thought out here in the rain."
Shrowdy's face suddenly turned into a feral mask and he punched Rufus' gray belly with all his might. Rufus smirked at the crouching vampire holding his throbbing fist and spit the key on his head.
This scene could have been, no pun intended, the key to Mona's salvation, if she could have seen better through that blasted rain. Squinting and trying to shield her eyes from it did not help. She was not sure if the key was hidden in the first or second gargoyle from the door. The wind and rain made everything blurry, and that huge cape Shrowdy was wearing was blowing in every direction possible, further obscuring her view. She sighed and shook her head. Froderick perched himself on her shoulder.
"Let's go back inside. We'll see it better next time, we just have to keep trying."
Mona nodded and brushed a wet strand of hair behind her ear.
"I swear to you Froderick, one day I will get so mad that I will grab that big wooden mace from the dungeon and start smashing ALL of those gargoyles!"
"Sure you will. Now can you open a pack of dry fruits for me? Rain makes me hungry."
The girl nodded and closed the balcony door. She walked with tiny steps to Froderick's bat cage and opened the plastic wrapping of the pack with one slight tug.
"Really, I do not know what to do anymore" she said while feeding him a dry plum, "I have tried to do everything bad so that he gets bored or angry and releases me. Last week I took his favorite toy, set it on fire with the candles by my bed and threw it through that dreadful stained glass window by the stairs that lead to the hall. His reaction? Mona my love, you have an eye for redecorating! Bah! He even replaced the broken panel with one depicting a spider."
"Wait, what did the old panel have?"
"At least the Baroness can be sure the Von Kiefer esthetic values live on" mumbled Froderick.
Before heading out into the cold night to purchase some Merlot for the object of his obsession, Shrowdy searched in the "Draxylvanian Red Pages" for the addresses of people who could help him bring his plan to completion. A phone would have been a great help, and he bought one once, but Inky had eaten the wires along with the crew that he had hired to install them. He scribbled the addresses on the back of one of his coloring book sheets and descended from the Baroness' library.
"Von Kiefer, sir! What a... pleasure to have you in our humble shop."
The old man spoke with a heavy Draxylvanian accent and eyed the Baron Shrowdy von Kiefer suspiciously. There had been some strange rumors in Vlad's Landing because his mother gave birth to him in mysterious circumstances (no more mysterious than her husbands' death, though). Nobody had seen any signs of pregnancy on the Baroness, and the Baron had been long dead by the time of the happy event. But the man knew better than to question the ways of the nobility. Right now, he had to deal with the current Baron von Kiefer's request of building a theatre inside his castle.
"It is a gift for my beautiful wife" explained the Baron in his pathetic voice.
Wife? The Baron was married? Poor woman.
"I want it to have a large memorial plaque with the words: The Mona de Lafitte Memorial Theatre painted on them."
The wife is dead? POOR woman.
"And I also want some seats for the theatre, but something special..." added Shrowdy, crinkling his nose. He did not like having to mingle with commoners. Especially those who were too old to be eaten.
"I happen to have some fine seats from Vienna... the Mayor wanted them for the City Hall, but..." explained the old man.
"Excellent" nodded Shrowdy. "I want everything delivered to my castle tomorrow at 10 pm. Order your men to bring some sturdy rafts. My lovely wife will be happy to see her present."
His dead wife will be happy to see his present? POOR BARON. So young and yet already cuckoo, thought the old man.
"And one more thing" Shrowdy turned slowly, aiming for a dramatic effect. Which was difficult, seeing how he was the size of a table leg. "Do not try to cross the lake without me. I shall be waiting for you and your men on the shore at the appointed time."
With that, the Baron left the workshop and disappeared into the windy night. Or got blown by a particularly strong gust of wind. Considering his height, the old man wasn't sure.
Mona was kneeling on the carpet in her room, studying the objects in Shrowdy's toy chest. She had just singled out a toy pitchfork, when Froderick flew inside and settled in his cage. The rain had stopped and he had gone out to stretch his wings a little. Mona preferred to remain in her human form as much as possible and thus did not partake in her companion's midnight rides.
"Hey Mona, did you ever notice how weird clouds are in this area?"
"What do you mean by that?" she asked absent-mindedly while looking at something that resembled a disemboweled plastic torso.
"Well, they have these freaky shapes... I swear some of them are shaped like witches, while others look like spiders!"
"No wonder this place looks like it's Halloween all year round."
"I guess. Hey, why don't you sing one of those sweet French lullabies while we wait for Shrowdy to bring your bottle of bl... er, wine."
"I'm not in the mood. Besides, my throat is so dry I can barely speak, let alone sing."
"Don't you think this thirst is a little strange, Mona?"
"I am sure it is just because of Shrowdy's curse. The thirst, my bat form, my cold and sticky skin and the fact that I apparently cannot stand awake during the day. All will be back to normal once I escape from here and return to Paris. Just wait and see!"
"You're lucky I'm a gent, or I would have dared you to bet with me on that."
"Don't be silly, Froderick. Ladies do not make bets, nor do they gamble. It is very... do you hear that?"
"What? Oh, you mean Shrowdy's dorky voice downstairs?"
"Come down, my moonlit raindrop! I have brought your delicious O positive Merlot!"
"One more sugary name and I'm going to set him on fire."
"How?" asked Froderick , genuinely curious.
"I do not know that yet, but I am sure you will help me."
The thin young lady descended from her room and saw Shrowdy standing near the fireplace, holding an opaque bottle in his hand. He wiped clean the raindrops from it with his cape before handing it to Mona, who grabbed it and made a theatrical turn, followed by a swift departure to her room. She had turned the boudoir (which had been both the Baroness and Shrowdy's room) into an off-limits sanctuary where Shrowdy was not allowed to set foot in, unless he was looking for serious trouble. Hell hath no fury like a Mona angered, as Shrowdy once found out when he tried to enter the room and almost got whacked with the candleholder.
"At least he is good for something" sighed Mona and gently shook the bottle a few times before drinking it empty from one shot.
Up on the vanity mirror, Froderick watched in amazement. He knew his lovely friend was not the brightest bulb in the box, but surely she noticed that she was drinking a whole bottle of what she thought was wine in one shot? Surely?
"And now that I have gotten my little sip of Merlot, we should think of something fun to do. I feel particularly inclined to tease Shrowdy tonight!" she chimmed.
Nope. Still oblivious.