In The Night
Chapter 9 - Castle Frankenstein and Emma Wyndon
It was a general consensus to skirt the populated areas and work their way carefully up to the Valerious manor. Jem Kan titled back his head, whistling in admiration. Carl beamed triumphantly.“I told you it was not a bad place to start.”
“Nah, I’m not looking at that,” the fairy said happily and pointed beyond.
Van Helsing and Carl followed his gaze, which was resting on the mammoth Castle Frankenstein in appreciation. Van Helsing sighed wearily and threw his weapons back onto the horse appropriated from a shifty character on the road. He began leading the horse to Castle Frankenstein.
“Van Helsing!” Carl called after him. “Do you think that wise?”
Jem shrank and buzzed after the dark haired hunter. Not a word was spoken in reply to Carl, who watched them, disgruntled. Carl hurried to catch up with the pair of them, spluttering, “There is a wealth of information in the Valerious manor!”
“We’ll just move it,” Van Helsing told him without looking around. “You said you needed the space.”
“No I didn’t!”
Jem buzzed past Carl’s ear and made sure the ex-friar saw him poking his tongue out. Carl swatted at him, but missed. The fairy darted to the other side of him and giggled as Carl frustratedly swung wildly around but missed. Jem flew at his face, making Carl back-pedal and trip over a branch lying on the ground.
It was then noticed that the sky was clouded over with dark grey omens. Carl shot to his feet and tried once more to convince the other two to stay, “The heavens are going to open up on us any moment!”
Van Helsing strode back and grabbed the collar of his coat, beginning to forcibly drag Carl along. “Then we if we hurry, we won’t be caught in the rain.”
Carl chose to remain silent. He tried to wriggle out of Van Helsing’s grasp, but apparently his new found skills didn’t quite match up. Jem Kan giggled at him then zoomed off ahead.
“It’s cold. Where am I going to sleep? Are you sure strangers won’t come in and murder us in our sleep?”
Carl ratted off his list of complaints while waving his arms around the empty – and admittedly chilly – stone walled room. Jem Kan whizzed by and clipped him on the ear, saying shrilly, “If you have no confidence in my locking spells, you can sleep outside in the old grave digger’s hut.”
“If my sword was within my reach...” Carl threatened.
Van Helsing came in, water dripping off his hat. Unperturbed by the derelict building and broken windows, he comfortably sat down on the floor and went over his dual pistols carefully. Jem appeared in his larger form, hands on his hips. “He doesn’t have a problem.”
“Or he is smart enough not to pick a fight with a fairy,” Van Helsing said flatly. “Jem, make yourself useful. I feel a draft – fix that up will you?”
Without a word, Jem resized himself again and conjured glass in the windows. He muttered under his breath, spelling the glass to reflect the innards of the castle as uninhabited. Carl shivered and drew his cloak closer around him.
“Now what do we do?” he demanded.
His companion merely scrunched his sopping hat into a ball and used it as a pillow. Van Helsing muttered, “Sleep, if God is willing. Evil can wait can’t it...?”
Inconceivably, the hunter dropped off to sleep. Carl scowled at him. Before he could say anything grumpily, Jem landed right in front of him. “You need sleep, great man of Gondor!”
“W-What did you just say?” Carl stammered, a month of training his composure down the drain.
“Nothing,” Jem said tartly and blew hard at him.
Carl was asleep before his head hit the ground.
When he opened his eyes, Carl sat up and looked around. He wished he hadn’t, as his bones and muscles protested stiffly. Rubbing his neck, he found Van Helsing calmly sitting in front of a roaring hearth. Carl jumped up, ignoring his aches. He strode over, stretching out his limbs.
“You’re up,” commented Van Helsing without turning around.
Carl winced. “I wish I wasn’t. Where’s Jem?”
Van Helsing shifted so that Carl could have more room to sit. There was a pause, then the former explained, “I sent him out to gather some equipment.”
“Equipment,” repeated Carl. “What kind of equipment?”
“Only the lab equipment you were bemoaning about losing.”
Carl’s voice cracked. “You told Jem to steal from the Vatican?”
Van Helsing smiled cruelly. “I also got him to leave a message. If we’re going after monsters, I’d like us to be well equipped. It would also be handy to know where they are.”
“Should I be worried that you’re thinking well ordered thoughts?” demanded Carl, but in good humour. “Perhaps I should knock it out of you.”
Carl unsheathed his sword and waved it in front of his partner’s nose. Van Helsing smothered a yawn. “If you think it would help.”
Jem Kan was enjoying himself. He loved havoc, particularly if it him doing the wreaking. He’d upset a monk already, destroying years of scroll work. But he had his orders and couldn’t spend all day annoying the Vatican. He snapped his fingers and Carl’s equipment vanished. The poor soul using it caught sight of him and screamed, “Warlock!”
“I’m a fairy,” pouted Jem. “A silver deranged psychopath sent from your enemies to haunt you!”
“I have no enemies!” cried the scientist and fled.
Jem happened upon the very man he’d been sent to see. He grew to his human size and bowed deeply. “Cardinal Jinette, I bring you tidings of the mercenaries Jack and Faramir Willis.”
“Tidings of destruction, I take it,” the man in red said grimly.
Jem beamed at him and launched into his rehearsed speech, “Alright, here’s the deal man-who-is-red, these brothers – they know what they’re doing. And they know all about you. I think they captured some random friar guy. Anyway, they’re going to run things their way. This means, when you send someone to slay a creature, you’ll find the Willis boys have already dealt with it. Your purpose in this world will be little and your work reduced to chasing those better than you.
“You may even find that those who you would slay are helping the world, not hindering it as you are. Take me for example,” the fairy added thoughtfully.
Jem had to disappear as a blade came flying at him. The message was delivered. The Vatican knew they were being reduced to cinders. Now, if only he could pinch some of that silver...
Carl didn’t know why he was dismayed to see his lab equipment again. He was pleased that it wasn’t broken, though spent the better part of two hours scrubbing away at grime.
“No respect for science,” he grunted as he worked. “Probably tried to vaporise Jem on the spot.”
A twittering voice sounded from behind him, “Aw, becoming soft on me?”
Carl spun around and glared at the fairy. “It doesn’t do to eavesdrop!”
“Oh, so you lost to Van Helsing again,” Jem remarked. “You can’t use by the book strikes and parries all the time.”
Carl pushed his hair out of his face, frowning. “You, I need to talk to.”
“We are talking.”
“Why did you call me a man of Gondor last night?” Carl asked keenly.
Jem rolled his eyes. “Because you are. And no, don’t go pelting me with questions. You’ll remember when your mind wants you to. Just like Van Helsing...”
Here the fairy decided to vanish. Carl growled and kicked a loose stone. It skittered across the floor and nearly hit Van Helsing who just entered the cellar room.
“Jem says there are gargoyles in Budapest,” the hunter said tersely.
Carl snapped to attention. Finally something he had some ground with! He knew what was needed to deal with gargoyles, and that had come from book study, not useless and vague dreams. He rummaged through the mess.
“Alright, you’ll need steel tipped bullets to puncture the thick armour. You’ll need to be fairly close to get a good shot. Ah, I see Jem brought me what I’d call viscous material. My short tests have led me to believe it is acidic and will burn through almost anything. Whoever was working on this must have had a good head on his shoulders...”
Van Helsing accepted several vials of the substance and tucked them into his belt. He studied Carl for a moment, then said, “You’re coming with me.”
“I’m not a field – God, what am I saying? Give me a minute! I’ll be right along.”
“So you consent to having Jem guard the castle while we’re gone,” Van Helsing sounded dispassionate.
Carl wrinkled his nose. “Well, as much as I find his habits annoying, Jem is trustworthy. Just don’t leave anything silver lying around.”
“It’s a bit late for that,” noted Van Helsing. “But I’m sure he wouldn’t devour our weaponry. I’ll get the horses saddled.”
Being jerked about on a horse in pouring rain was not Carl’s favourite past time, but he was too caught up thinking to notice. Jem Kan obviously knew something about the pair of monster hunters that he wasn’t willing to disclose. Was the fairy truly honest and with good intent?
Carl forced himself to remember Frankenstein’s monster.
Not all creatures are evil, he told himself firmly.
Good reasoning, Faramir said dryly.
Carl jerked and nearly fell out of his saddle. He choked on a drop of rain that had fallen in his mouth and had to bend over to still his coughs. He swallowed and tried to formulate a response, I have not heard a peep from you since before entering Transylvania.
You hardly seem to need me, his inner voice noted airily.
Well, I sure as Hell want to know what Jem knows about me! Seeings as I can’t even help myself.
Carl did not get any sort of reply to his outburst. He glowered at the mane of his horse and looked under his hat at Van Helsing. “How much longer?”
“We’ll stop for tonight,” was the answer. “There’s a hollow tree ten metres ahead that should shelter us.”
Carl swung off his horse and led it near the tree. He tied the reigns onto a branch then collapsed into the dry mound of bark and leaves beneath the tree. Van Helsing soon joined him, not bothering to start the futile task of lighting a fire. The only sound for a few minutes was the continuous down pour and the roaring wind.
“I don’t think I’ll ever like Transylvania,” remarked Van Helsing suddenly.
Carl wrung out his soaked hat. “Well, yes, the weather is atrocious. Oh.” He realised. “Anna.”
Van Helsing leant back against the hollow of the tree. “It was a poor ending for such a woman. She deserved better.”
“Uh huh.” Carl knew he had to tread lightly. Finally his partner was opening up and he didn’t want to be the one to close the flood barrier.
“For years those I killed deserved to die,” Van Helsing continued. “But not Anna. She was...pure. I don’t know if I’ll ever get over her.”
Carl shifted nervously. “I’ll let you in on a secret.”
“Do tell,” Van Helsing grabbed at the distraction.
“I keep dreaming about a wonderful woman. I feel deeply for her, but she is gone. She’s just a dream, a figment of the past. I move on. Perhaps it is time for you to move on.”
Van Helsing raised an eyebrow. “I take it this is one of those Faramir things.”
Carl confirmed this with a nod of his head. He hesitated, hoping offence hadn’t been taken. “I don’t mean to sound insensitive...”
“I know,” Van Helsing sighed. “Move on. Right. You give out the easiest advice to follow, don’t you?”
“It’s a living.”
Van Helsing rolled his eyes. He shifted around to find a comfortable position. “Now that we’ve picked apart my emotional issues, can we get some sleep?”
“Oh, dammit,” Carl snapped. “I’m going to get a cold with all this wet.”
“It’s a living, isn’t it Faramir?”
Emma Wyndon, once known as Eowyn, cursed softly. She was furious with herself for missing the departure of her quarry and was thus unable to procure any trail they may have taken. She began to wonder if it had all been a dream, seeing Faramir.
She saddled her steed, uncomfortable with the dark stable. Emma mounted up and gave her horse a nudge. She whispered to the animal, “Well, Steward, let’s find him.”
Upon entering Transylvania, she wondered if the locals could be more flighty. Emma asked around with a description of her Faramir, but came to no conclusive information. When at last her voice was worn out from asking, she decided to search the vast fringe outside the village by herself.
On a muddied path winding into a lightly wooded area, Emma was startled to find hoof prints. The area had looked abandoned, with a dark and foreboding castle as its crowning glory. She guided Steward up the path onto the cobblestone entrance to the castle’s battlements. It reminded her of Minas Tirith, but on a smaller scale.
Emma looked up at the desolate building, perplexed. On loose inspection, it was uninhabitable and uninhabited. But her searching travels had taught her not to judge a book by its cover. She led her horse through rotted wooden doors, glancing about.
A noise startled her into drawing her sword. Emma kept her voice steady, “Who’s there?”
When she turned to the doors, she saw a boy standing there, watching her calmly. Emma walked slowly towards him. “I thought this place was abandoned.”
“It was,” the boy admitted. “But my masters live here now.”
“And who might they be?”
The boy frowned hard at her for a moment, then his brow relaxed. “They go by the names Jack and Faramir Willis.”
“What do you know of them?” Emma questioned, hand tightening on her sword hilt.
She’d obviously come to the right place – and she wasn’t leaving until she found out more. She waited impatiently, tapping her foot. The boy gave a sweeping bow. “They have recently departed for Budapest, my lady. Perhaps it is better if you hear that information from them.”
He vanished without a trace. Emma spun around, trying to find him, but the boy was long gone. She would wait here, she supposed. But by the suddenly chilly atmosphere in the building, she guessed correctly that hanging around wouldn’t be such a great idea. She’d heard of phantasms and how they tricked people to their deaths.
Emma left quickly, spurring her mount towards Budapest.