Title: Dreamer's Moon [1/3]
Theme/Prompt: #48 'Writer's Choice'
Warnings: Slightly graphic male/male sex, blood.
Summary: Vampire AU. A traveller inquires about the owner of the sinister-looking castle on the side of a mountain and is intrigued when clues of possible vampirism pop up. However, the resident isn't quite what he expected when he decides to investigate for himself.
Travelling this far into the country had been made difficult by the lack of civilisation in between stops; one town or village for every fifty miles meant that by the time Julious had arrived at the inn at Lamperlin, (a small town known in the distant past for being a popular country destination), his mood, already a little soured by his disdain for long travel, was not much improved. This was remedied somewhat by the easy nature of the local population, who had been most helpful and kind and even had drunk and laughed with him in the evening until, bolstered by this, he'd brought up the matter of the current owner of the large, white castle on the mountainside. Coming across an old framed sketch in the inn, he'd deduced that it was a fairly recent affair, only fifty years old, (less a castle than a mansion really but the original architect had had his vanities), but no one really wanted to stop and talk with him about it, and all conversation had stopped once Julious had made it clear that he wasn't going to be diverted from the topic once his curiosity was aroused. The men in the taproom of the inn overcame their disquiet long enough to tell him frankly that it wasn't safe and not to bother investigating for himself, and the few women there had gasped, turning their heads away with mixed sorrowful and frightened expressions.
The landlord had called him aside then, and with an impossibly sad cast to his whole demeanour, told Julious about the erratic kidnappings and animal slaughter ever since the dark-haired stranger had stayed one night in this very inn before proclaiming himself to be the new master of the castle and moving on. Paler than anyone they'd seen before, with only a slightly aloof manner, he'd been courteous enough to show that he wasn't the typical gentry that might find themselves dealing with local peasants with disdain.
Right up until his peculiar announcement, he'd been friendly enough with everyone in the bar. It hadn't been some time after his abrupt departure, without even a word or written note (which was slightly unusual, but as the landlord told Julious, the man had paid in advance and who knew the whims of the nobility anyway), that anyone had remembered the slight details that hadn't quite seemed important at the time of the guest's stay. For a short while, most of it was chalked up to the aforementioned whims but the old legends that were still rife in these parts, told to every child from the age they could understand the words of their elders, and some superstitions were stronger, almost held religiously. The word 'vampire' wasn't mentioned, but Julious could feel it hanging thickly in the air around him as he glanced out of the window into the night, the silhouette of the mountain against the moonlit sky lending an imposing cast to the landscape. It was as if the castle, invisible in this light, was calling to him, the thrill making his blood sing and his body tremble in anticipation. He suppressed a shiver, a persistent chill on the back of his neck despite the large fire in the common room of the inn, and the shadows seemed to loom much larger in the corners of the room, muting the resumed laughter and crude singing of the evening's drinkers. Turning his back to the room, he made his way upstairs and back to his room with an order for a late supper and pondering deeply on the evening's revelations.
He woke up quite early, the sun only just shining through the thin curtains covering the window. As if to herald the opening of his eyes, crows cawed outside in the branches of the old oak framing the entrance to the inn, and in a rush, the previous evening came back to him. The warnings of the townspeople, their obvious fear of the unknown terror from the old world, and the innkeeper's story of kidnapping, slaughter and a dark, polite noble with skin like white marble, faceless for now in Julious' imagination, were foremost in his mind as he washed, dressed and went down for breakfast.
Only the landlord's wife was down this early, sleepily hailing Julious as he sat at one of the tables before the fire and ladled some thick, sweet-smelling porridge into a bowl. She set it down before him just as the landlord himself appeared, looking much more awake, and came over to Julious' table. He clearly wanted to talk to the traveller about something, and satisfied that the porridge could wait a few minutes to cool down some, Julious obliged by starting the conversation.
'It looks like it will be a clear day today,' he remarked casually, with a glance out of the window showing him that the mountain was well lit by the newly risen sun that was burning away the night's dew in the fields. Perhaps I shall take a walk a bit further afield this afternoon,' he added, wondering whether this was what was occupying the innkeeper's mind. His suspicion was confirmed when the man's eyes widened a little in obvious alarm and so he set to quickly reassuring him, with,
'But although I should have liked to see the castle for myself, alas, I have not the correct gear for mountain climbing, in any weather.' The landlord settled a little, expression clearly relieved, and quickly nodded.
'Perhaps you could try the fishing along the river on the opposite side of town, sir? It is a less famous spot for travellers, not as pretty as the one here but just as plentiful with fish. If you have no fishing rod, I would be glad to lend you my own, and my youngest son, Marcel, will guide you to the best spot on the bank.'
Touched at the man's offer, though slightly disappointed that he wouldn't see the castle today, Julious smiled and nodded.
'I would be glad too, good sir. You are most kind. Fishing is one of those pastimes I have always wanted to do more of but can never seem to find the time. This will be an excellent opportunity to catch up on lost experience.'
'Then I will have my son find you once you are ready to leave, sir. Enjoy your breakfast, my wife has sweetened it with honey from our own bees this morning and is anxious to know what you think.' With this he left, leaving Julious to his breakfast and a feeling of growing impatience that he quickly forced away. He would go fishing, as planned, but perhaps tonight, he would go and take a look around the town for any sign of the so-called mysterious happenings. The thought of perhaps meeting the 'vampire' in the act thrilled him and anticipation made his breath catch in his throat so that he almost choked on the porridge. The innkeeper's wife bustled over with a cup of tea, which Julious accepted gratefully and almost scalded his mouth taking an eager gulp to clear his throat.
When he had finished, she cleared away the crockery as he rose and went upstairs to pull on a coat and don sturdier shoes before going downstairs again to look for the landlord or his son. He found them in front of the inn, a short, slim boy of about thirteen or fourteen with his father as they prepared a box with bait and an assortment of tackle. As he approached, the boy turned, and Julious could see that he was holding two fishing rods in the peculiar design of this country, much shorter and thicker than most, although one was obviously made for the hands of a child with an easier grip.
'Morning, sir,' the boy greeted him effusively, with a grin that lent him a charmingly mischievous air coupled with his long, blond hair, kept back out of the way in a ponytail.
'Good morning, he replied easily. 'And you must be Marcel, then.' Nodding, the boy grinned again and held out the longer of the two fishing rods to Julious, and indicated his father, who was still going over the contents of the tackle box.
'Pa's just makin' sure there's all we need for today. The fish 'round here aren't too picky about what they like so it shouldn't take long, that right, pa?'
'Right,' his father agreed, 'still, it's been a while since we last went, and can't be sure that everything is still as it was.' He straightened, box in hand, and gave it to his son, giving him a stern look when he tried to swing it about. Grinning again, Marcel turned to Julious and pointed down a lane that looked like it led past the backs of the houses nearby into the town itself.
'Straight through the town is better,' he said as they said their goodbyes to the innkeeper. 'And then there're a couple of lanes that will get s straight to the spot I'm thinkin' of. I think it's just me and my friends who know of it though, 'cause I've never bumped into anyone else there and Ernst, who's mad on fishing and knows the best secret places, told me he used to go there when he was my age, and he's nearly forty now.' This last was said with a faint tone of amazement that made Julious smile as he listened to Marcel go on about the wonderful places that this Ernst, who seemed to be something of an uncle figure to the boy, had told him about.
Not much later, they reached the spot on the bank and Julious had had to agree that it was a very beautiful and peaceful looking place to while away the morning. It seemed though that they were not the only ones to take advantage of a wonderful, clear morning to fish however, and Marcel ran up to greet the boy with dark hair, pulling him over to meet Julious. The much older-looking boy was introduced as Randy, due to go off to the capital after the summer and become a university student. Inclining his head, Julious took in the pleasant demeanour of the other and smiled politely.
'Marcel has been telling me all about this spot,' he said. 'It seems you all have quite the monopoly of beautiful sites in this town. It's truly wonderful.'
Randy grinned back, nodding in agreement and enjoyment of the blond's praise for the town; his whole stance was easy and relaxed, yet somehow giving nothing away at the same time.
They settled down in a spot between clumps of reeds and bulrushes, Marcel spreading the large woollen blanket on the ground so they could sit without fear of getting their clothes dirty and they put bait to hook, settling in for the wait when the fish might bite.
Hours later, the sun was much higher in the sky and they were thankful for the light shade the spot they had chosen to sit in provided. Julious had had a little luck in his fishing, two river bream now on a string beside him, and the two lads were enjoying themselves with crowing over their respective catches. As they'd been sitting, a friend of Marcel's had come by, a sullen, quiet teenager introduced by the blond boy as 'Zephel', who had glared suspiciously at Julious before being prompted by Randy to shake the proffered hand in greeting. Nonplussed, the writer had taken no offence but chuckled inwardly to himself at the cajoling that the silver-haired boy was receiving from his friends, both the elder and the younger.
It was about half past eleven when they decided that the fish were no longer as amenable as they were and it was almost time for lunch anyway. With plans to take their catch back to the inn for Marcel's mother to clean and prepare, they each rose, Zephel parting ways with them with only a muttered 'Later' by way of goodbye. As they walked slowly back to the inn, Julious remembered with a little start that he'd been so taken up with the fishing and the relaxed atmosphere that he'd forgotten about his decision to learn more about the mysterious castle on the mountainside and its possibly vampiric master.
It was at that point that Randy turned back to him and inquired the nature of Julious' plans for the evening.
'My father works in the library here, sir, and interested in travelling, for all that he's never been more than twenty miles from Lamperlin. I'm sure he'd be most gratified if you'd take your evening meal with us and share some of your adventures.'
Julious chuckled. 'I'm sure nothing that has happened since I left my hometown could be considered an adventure. But I'd be glad to eat with you and do the best I can to recall some of the more interesting moments during my journey.'
Randy grinned brightly. 'You have my thanks, sir!' He said eagerly. 'Father will be so pleased.'
'Would you give me a tour of the town after lunch? I only arrived in early evening yesterday, so I couldn't really see much in the dark,' Julious said as they rounded the last corner to the inn and Marcel ran on ahead of them to the kitchen entrance, bucket of fish in hand. Randy nodded.
'I'll take you 'round all the best spots then. Since people stopped coming, they kept up the town in the hopes that it might become popular again.'
They entered the dining room and chose a table near a window, the sunlight streaming in wonderfully, the light breeze outside playing the shadows of the trees across the table's surface.
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