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Ioann was a wine guy, huh? Eli sipped his beer and enjoyed watching the man get hammered on two glasses of wine. He hadn't thought anyone could be that much of a lightweight, but damn. It was kind of cute, really. Way more adorable than the way Forina could pound back lager. Even Ana wasn't showing any signs of intoxication three glasses deep.
Eli cocked an eyebrow. Wasn't that a cliche? Romania, vampires, werewolves... he glanced at Ana and Forina, but they didn't look too irritated by it. "I dunno, why not?" Forina said. "They're all over the globe, aren't they? The myths about them. Gotta be some truth behind them."
"But they're... mythical. There's lots of gods, an' they aren't real either," Ana said. [i Maybe a little intoxication,] Eli amended.
Forina clucked her tongue. "Some people believe in those, Ana," she said, pushing the girl's hair back.
"No," Eli said honestly, looking Ioann in the eyes. "They're just stories." Just fun stories for the night, to scare kids and keep people from getting bored. Explanations for things no one understood. "People had mental illnesses, and no one knew what was happening, so they'd try to explain it with things that they thought made sense." He shrugged.
Ioann looked a little too drunk to really know what he was saying. But that was fine. "You're here, aren't you? Where better to find out about your roots than the place they came from?" Eli said, patting Ioann's head.
Forina smiled and stroked his hair. "We're your friends. We'll be your friends," she assured him.
"Mhm," Ana agreed.
"Even Eli?" Eli protested. What was this Eli-discrimination stuff? He cracked a smile and shook his head. "You're so mean." Eli stood up. "I'll go get us another round, huh?"
Casimir stopped dead. Here. This tavern. The scent was strongest here. People walked past him, brushing by as if he didn't exist. He returned the favor, staring dead at the tavern. Inside. Inside was his destiny. The source. He stepped forward, striding into the tavern. The streetlights seemed to slide off his skin, the darkness soaked into his clothes. The warmth of the tavern wrapped around him. He looked around the room, seeking out the source of the smell. Where was it? Who?
Pink hair. His eyes zeroed in on it. Them. Him. Casimir's eyebrows furrowed. [i Who?]
[center It took a glass of wine for Ioann to really warm up, but a second glass and he could get [i very] friendly. That and his filter seemed to loosen up. Still had enough sense not to be impolite, but he was just free enough in his speech to spill his thoughts.
"You know, I've been thinking," He began, sipping at his fourth glass of the night. "With all the lore and the verbal tradition passed down - you would think the whole vampyre and lycan thing would be sorted out by now. I, for one, am a logical man. Generally, unless there's enough evidence to back it up. And I'm talking... hard, empirical evidence, then it's probably all wives' tales."
Not that this took away from the charm of Romania. After all, it was still an enchanting land full of lore and traditions. But he had never once come across any legitimate information on lycans, vampyres, or anything else for that matter.
"Then again, on the other hand, what with people hunting the ever-living shit out of them, I wouldn't blame them for trying to keep it under wraps. I wonder if they're even actually dead. And also, how that's physically possible for someone to develop into a vampyre. Unless all of that gets accounted for by magick."
He turned to Eli then, leaning in close to the man's face. "What say you? Do you actually believe in the mythology? Hmm, anyone? Thoughts?"
He wanted legitimate answers on this. "And what's worse, from the tell I've heard about my own line, they might possibly have been caught up in some stuff to do with all that business generations ago." He muttered. "But of course, records for them are practically im-poss-ible to find."
He sighed, setting his head down atop his arms. "I just wanna know the truth about where I came from. I'm fine with being an unremarkable little man for the rest of my life if only I can know where my roots lie." He mumbled.
At the very least he could do that, no?
Ioann finished his glass of wine and slumped a bit, cheek squished to Forina's arm. "Thanks for being so nice to me. I don't have friends, so this is refreshing."
Well, shit. That was... not supposed to be said ever. "We should all stay friends. Even Eli." He teased, patting the man's thigh.
Eli almost laughed at the barrage of questions his new friend put the girls through. He was certainly a researcher, through and through.
"There was an impact. If you want, I can show you the dent," Ana said.
"Could be coincidental, sure," Forina said sarcastically. "Yeah, exactly. If he doesn't want to be seen by the cops, isn't that super suspicious?" She nodded in agreement. It was super creepy. Really suspicious. A man walking where no one ever walked in the dark of night who fled when he was hit by a car? Had to be connected.
Ana nodded. "We reported it," she said. "I think it was before they found the body, though, because they just told us we'd probably hit some kind of animal and sent us off."
Forina laughed. "It's not usually this intense," she assured Ioann. "Usually more... sleepy and boring. This whole deaths thing isn't normal." She didn't want the guy to get the wrong idea about her country, after all.
Eli leaned forward and chimed in. "And who knows? Maybe it was just an animal and your imagination. Could be nothing at all. Let's get some beers and forget, huh?" He climbed to his feet. "Beer? Wine?" he asked, scanning the group.
Once the orders had been put in and Eli bounded off, Ana turned to Ioann and gave him a small smile. "Sorry about Eli. He comes on a bit strong sometimes," she said, leaning in. "He's a good guy at heart, though." She could tell Ioann wasn't quite comfortable here, but Eli meant no harm. He could just be a bit... much, sometimes.
Casimir climbed to his feet. It was dark out. At last. The scent was stronger than ever. He drifted out into the night.
There was tape around the place he'd dropped the body before. He drifted by, barely paying attention to it. The chill of the night swallowed him up, a heady flow of power rushing around him as he walked. The darkness was alive tonight, shadows dancing with a glut of power. He strode forward boldly. It felt like the whole night was urging him on, filling him with the strength he so dearly needed.
Into town. Out into town. The scent urged him on, on, on. He followed it into town, the scent almost palpable. The town was unfamiliar to him. He knew it should be, but he couldn't place any of these buildings, these roads. Still he strode on. The scent. He had to find the scent!
The further he got, the more familiar it got. The old town wasn't completely around, but bits and pieces of it had still stuck around, buildings that he vaguely remembered, a few ancient taverns that still looked just like they ever had. It was in one of those that the scent grew strongest. He strode closer, ever closer. The night urged him on.
[center This was going to be a wild night, wasn't it? He could already tell he was in for it by the way Eli had dragged him away from the university. He had to admit, though. Moving at this pace definitely kept him warm in the chill of the outdoors, and as street lamps began to glow, he was grateful he had someone to walk with.
In the night, the old architecture, the atmosphere-- it gave him chills. As if the city was proclaiming that it was to be ruled by nothing. Not even time itself. And that power seemed to charge the air. He remembered feeling similarly around All Hallows' Eve last year.
Happy to be in the warmth once more as they settled at the pub, Ioann had hardly caught his breath when two women Eli appeared to know had come to join them. "Hullo, it's a pleasure," he offered with a polite inclination of his head.
Introductions had hardly passed when suddenly Ana was regaling them with the tale of her mysterious hit and run. "Wait, he was just gone?" Surely if you hit him there was some impact? So strange. It also seems rather odd to add a second death in the vicinity. Could be purely coincidental. Maybe the man just didn't want to deal with the cops? Who walks the roadside when it's so dark out? It thought it's just the moors and wood."
Day two and already a ghost story was underway. It just got stranger and stranger here.
"Did you call anyone or maybe report it? You never know who he was - maybe the authorities would want to know about some strange man wandering the roads."
For all they knew, he could really have killed that guard, and letting such a person wander free couldn't have been for the best.
"In any case, Romania sure is interesting..." And it had such a strange charm, too. The kind of vibe that made one think anything was possible.
A bookworm? Eli cracked a grin at that. He'd known a few of those back in the day. Most of them weren't above a drink or two, and it seemed Ioann was no different. He waved his hand at the boring comment. If he could pore over ancient tomes all day, he was sure he could put up with a bookworm at the pub!
"No worries, it won't be anything too wild," Eli promised. [i Yet,] he added silently. "Just a few beers at the local pub, a little time to unwind, and we get to know a few ladies, hmm?" He gently jostled Ioann. Sounded like a nice bonus for him.
He didn't notice Ioann's discomfort, too excited at the prospect of a new drinking buddy. "Ooh, a surprise. Let's make it a surprise," he said, throwing in a wink. He led Ioann down the street, away from the modern architecture of the college and towards the more traditional architecture of the old town. There was a little pub, tucked well out of the way, that catered to locals but didn't mind a graduate student or two. Eli led Ioann inside and over to a table in the corner.
He'd barely sat when a pair of women walked in. One was tall, dark-haired, and ruddy-cheeked, her appearance somewhat reminiscent of Imanov's. The other was short, willowy, and fair, her pale skin and hair making her look almost ephemeral against the dark pub. The dark-haired one gave Eli a wave and headed over, trailing the smaller blonde.
"Forina!" Eli greeted the dark-haired one, standing to kiss her hand. "And the lovely Ana." He tried for her hand as well, but she was a little too quick for him. "Come on, sit down! Take a load off."
"Who's the cutie?" Forina asked, tossing a wink in Ioann's direction.
"Your father's newest admirer," Eli joked, patting Ioann on the back. "No, I'm joking. He's here to work with Dr. Imanov on some research or another, right?" He wasn't too clear on the details, but he knew Ioann was somehow involved with the research.
"You're one of father's colleagues?" Forina asked, looking at Ioann. She raised her eyebrows and looked him up and down. "Talk about an upgrade."
Ana poked Forina's side. "Tell them," she hissed.
"You tell them," Forina responded dismissively.
Ana looked up at the boys, then shook her head and leaned forward. "I was driving by the graveyard last night when I hit a man," she said.
Eli blinked, taken aback. Hadn't Imanov said they'd found someone in the graveyard? "Don't tell me, you're the killer?"
"Don't be ridiculous. Listen. The man I hit was white all over. Pure white, except for his clothes, which were black as death. And I know I hit him, but when we went to check..." She looked at Forina.
"He was gone," Forina finished ominously.
"What, you think he was a ghost?" Eli laughed.
Ana looked dead serious, her face drawn. "What else? Apparently the security guard got killed right before then. So maybe... Maybe that was his ghost."
"Or maybe," Forina added in a spooky voice, leaning in, "maybe the ghost killed him."
Ana gave her a panicked look. "Don't say that!" she exclaimed.
[center Damn, this guy was-- friendly. And he meant that in the best way possible. Everyone here was kind, but this was the first person he'd met that had been willing to actually show him the localities.
"No harm done, and I'm Ioann. Though it seems like I'll be stuck in this thing for a time. I'll be sure to return it in the condition is it if it comes off at some point back home."
Home? Oops. "Er-- the manor." He corrected.
Still, now that he thought about it, he didn't actually have any plans going on for the evening. He would just have to let Mr. Drogoi know he would not be returning for dinner that evening.
"That sounds like fun, though truthfully, I wouldn't know the first thing about a night out. I guess you can say most of my time was spent on academic work." He explained sheepishly, unsure of how this Eli would take it. "I know, that must make me sound really boring." He continued nervously. "But I promise to stay open minded."
He had a nervous habit of touching a curled index finger to his lips when he was nervous, and he was painfully aware of the act only after the fact, cheeks flushing a soft rose.
Wait, what had he said about beauties? As in women? Oh, no - he'd make a complete fool of himself for sure! He wasn't even sure he liked women?
Well, he did [i like] them, but he wasn't attracted to them in that way that made some want to chase tail. Which, he guessed, was all right for him personally, but it made things awfully awkward when it came to dates or any sort of romantic group affair.
"Anyway," He began, oddly comfortable in holding Eli's hand. "Did you have any places in mind, or is it a surprise?"
Frankly, he did need the time to unwind. He was [i always] so studious, and it was seldom he had the opportunity to let go. Didn't it make sense, even a little, to take the opportunity to at least have fun on holiday? However informative he had been hoping for it to be, it wasn't like he was on official assignment here.
What was the harm in a little fun?]
Imanov drew his hand away sharply, as if burned. "How odd," he muttered. "I wonder if this is--" he shook his head. "It is well stuck, Ioann. I'd rather not cut it off, so it seems you'll just have to wear it for the time being."
"What? And you never even let me touch it!" Elijah protested, half-joking.
The professor threw his hands up. "What am I supposed to do? It's stuck. We can try a couple of tricks next time, see if we can't get it off, but I don't want to damage such a priceless ring."
Eli sighed deeply. So much for being the favorite research assistant. Looked like Imanov already liked Ioann better than him.
"Eli, where are those manuscripts?" Imanov asked. "I just recalled a tale I really ought to know better that I'd like to check in the original script..." He lifted a sheaf of paper, found the manuscripts, and started searching for the right one.
While the professor was busy, Eli turned to Ioann, an easy smile touching his lips. "Hey, sorry about that," he said, offering his hand. "I thought you were a thief! Name's Eli, by the way. I'm an out-of-towner like you, here to study under the professor. Hey--you wanna get beers later? I've been here a few years, I could show you around town, if you like. As an apology."
He sidled up closer to Ioann. "And I'm meeting up with a pair of beauties tonight--you don't want to miss out!" He winked at Ioann encouragingly. "C'mon, what do you say? Bet you've only been to the tourist traps so far. Let an almost-local show you around!"
"Eli, stop trying to corrupt Ioann," the professor spoke up from the corner. Eli jumped. He'd forgotten the old codger was still there.
"Corrupt? You mean, show him a good time?" Eli responded playfully. He took Ioann by the hand. "C'mon, let's hit the town! I've worked enough for today anyways."
"Be careful," the professor called out. "There was a man found dead in the cemetery yester--"
The door slammed shut behind them, cutting Imanov off. Eli grinned at Ioann. "So, what're you into? Old-timey pubs? The latest, hottest club? A quiet corner tucked away out of sight?" He grinned at Ioann excitedly. Nothing like showing all the best parts of town off to a newcomer!
[center A fight? This man was going to [i fight] him? Ioann flinched at the prospect, raising both hands defensively. "P-please, no. I-... it's not what you think!" he blubbered. His words seemed to come too late, for in the next moment, the stranger was reaching to snatch at him, hand caught just moments later by Professor Imanov.
"I-" Cheeks falling flush, Ioann lowered his gaze bashfully, clearly regretting his decision already.
Without any further opposition, he offered his hand willingly, brows pinched with worry. "I tried... quite hard - it wouldn't budge. I don't understand it. It fits comfortably and I can turn it, so logically it should be able to come off." He was rambling and he knew it, so he quickly pressed his lips shut, anxiety taking up seat at his core and unsettling his gut.
As the professor's fingers made contact, the very same current, a very insistent 'don't touch me!', passed over to him, to set the deepest chill in his bones and give him a taste of the void he was toying with.
It was very old magick - powerful magick sealed by blood and soul-bound. "Please forgive me - I should never have touched it." Ioann pleaded, worried that this somehow would ruin their relationship. He would never trust him again, would he?
Then again, it wasn't as if he had run off with it. He had made all attempts to remove it, after all, and even then, he had no intentions of denying he had ever touched it, or in the very worst case, was stuck.
Integrity was not something he took lightly, but his curiosity sure did get him into the strangest circumstances.
The ring seemed to hum, that very same warmth spreading this time through his veins, seeping into every sinew and settling into his bones. It was almost... affectionate. How queer...]
"Hey, Professor Imanov," Eli started, backing into the room with an armful of old manuscripts, "Where do you want..." he spotted Ioann, ring still glistening on his finger and slowed, "these..."
He looked at the man, then back at the door, then the ring. "Uh... you're not allowed to touch those," he informed Ioann. "Actually, who are you? What're you doing back here?" Eli paused, realized his hands were full of expensive old books, set them down and raised his fists. If he had to punch a thief, he had to punch a thief, but no one was going to steal this country's history right out from in front of him. "Look, man, I don't know what you think you're doing but just... put the ring down..."
Deep in the mausoleum, Casimir sat bolt upright from the shelf he'd been using as a temporary bed. Something was wrong. He didn't know what, but he knew there was something. He climbed down from the shelf and out into the hallway, up towards the door.
A small window let in light from outside. The sun was just low enough to stream directly inside, burning into his shoulder like a hot poker. It was only pain. He clenched his teeth and pushed through it, shying out of the light. He could do it. As long as there were shadows outside, he could do it. He had to figure out what was going on. Maybe this was the answer to why he'd been awoken.
He staggered to the door. Light spilled in through the crack, diffusing into the room. The heat of it felt like an open flame. The closer he got, the hotter his body grew. His face cracked from it, rifts opening in his skin. A deep, persistent ache pushed into his bones, digging through his veins. The sun, damn it! Why couldn't he be strong enough yet? He staggered to his knees and sagged to the floor. He couldn't. He wasn't strong enough. He had to wait for night.
Eli reached out and tried to snatch the ring away. Seconds before he touched it, a sturdy hand closed around his wrist. "Eli! How could you. He's our guest," Professor Imanov admonished him.
"Oh--sorry!" Eli said, backing away. "I didn't know the professor had let you try on the rings."
Imanov gave him a funny look, then caught sight of Ioann's hand. "Couldn't resist, huh?" he chuckled. "Here, it gets caught sometimes. Let me help you out." He reached out to touch the ring.
Morning broke over the land in a haze. It was thick and rolled down from the mountains, spreading out over the moors and shrouding the estate partially. In a certain slant of light, it was almost like a mirage - some dreamlike structure that only appeared to one in dreams.
But it was very real and bustling with life the moment the clock struck nine. Marina had already been up and looking about breakfast, dressed for the day and already clicking up a storm in her boots.
"I swear... Cristina? [i Cristina]."
"She's out to fetch milk." Explained Luca as he glided through the doorway.
"Morning, Mr. Drogoi."
"Oh, stop that."
"But Ioann calls you that. It's endearing really." She mused, a mischievous smirk teasing at the corners of her lips.
"What are you implying?" Luca begged suspiciously, cutting her a pointed look as she ever so conveniently turned to fetch the toast.
A platter laden with thickly sliced and toasted loaf bread, fresh butter, and preserves was quickly carted away to be placed on the table.
Ioann had barely entered the room when a chair had been drawn for him, and he sank into it with a polite word of gratitude. Today, he would venture out and about to get a better idea of what this country was like - what history the museums had to offer him.
In actuality, he did know a professor in the city who had invited him to visit at any point during his stay, and he absolutely would be taking him up on his offer.
In fact, as the day wore on and morning turned into the afternoon hours, he had finally finished settling his affairs at the manor and had set out for the city. A stop at a cafe here, a sweet shop there, a bookstore where he got a nice haul for more detailed inspection back at the estate, and when all was said and done, he'd finally found himself making his way to the museum. It was still open, as it kept relatively late hours, but when he met the professor there, it was in his 'office'. More like the large space where he authenticated and cataloged what was meant to be relegated to an exhibit or collection.
Ioann found himself drawn to nearly everything there, but what struck him in particular were some jewellery pieces. There was a ring in particular that struck him. It seemed so familiar.
"Ah; that one belonged to someone high born - noble blood."
"How did it end up here?"
"Well, the family scattered. Or, what was left of it anyway. Those were-- tumultuous times."
"Dr. Imanov? There's someone on the phone for you from the university." Came a smooth alto.
"I'll be right there. Excuse me for just a moment." He murmured, laying a gentle hand to Ioann's shoulder.
Of course, left alone, how could he resist picking each item up. One by one, he felt the weight of each once prized possession, laying them carefully back in place. The ring was a different, story, though.
Glancing about, he carefully drew it closer to his face, pushing his spectacles up as they slipped. It was beautiful. The metal reminded him of... something, and based upon what he could tell, it was a rich lapis lazuli, set between two onyx. The design was ornate but not overdone, delicate despite the weight of it.
He fingered the setting gingerly, noting how the gold swirled in a spiral to cradle the main stone. It was like looking at the universe, all encapsulated in one tiny symbol.
Before he knew what he was doing, he had already begun to slide it into place, shivering from the warmth of it, as though it lived. [i A perfect fit.]
He sighed, mesmerised, but before he could fall too much in love with it, Ioann reminded himself that it was not his to keep and gently worked it from his finger.
Or... he tried. And tried. The little fucker wouldn't budge.
"Oh... oh, no."
He turned it gently, and round it spun, but the moment he pulled with any significant force to take it past his knuckle, it refused, as though actively repelling the act. The professor was going to kill him for sure...]
Why could he not enter? Casimir raced off into the night. No, he knew. The mansion was no longer his. There was a threshold there that no longer belonged to him. He would need to be invited in.
The scent was on the other side of that threshold. Whatever it was, it was on the other side. He had to find a way in. How? What could he do? He didn't understand anything. Not the beasts, not the strange clothes, not the odd speech patterns. Nothing. It was all so strange. He must have been locked away for centuries, if not millennia. Perhaps he should just presume that everything was gone. All his friends, his family, his bloodline. The warlock, even. It was all gone.
Maybe that was why the spell had broken: he was the last left. Fierce sadness coursed though him. He'd known that there would be very little left, when, if he managed to break free. He'd thought he'd made peace with that. But now, seeing the reality of it, it hurt. Everything he had built was gone. Even the mansion was rebuilt, the original frame there but the inside, he was sure, would look entirely different.
Casimir sagged against a tree, slowing to a stop. What had he been living for all this time? Why had he survived, if everything else was gone? There was nothing left for him. It'd all been destroyed. Nothing left at all. His gaze turned to the horizon. Maybe he would stand out here until he faced the sun down. As weak as he was, it would surely kill him. Maybe it would be better than living like this.
[i I will not kill you. I will make you feel despair.]
He clenched his teeth. Was this what that horrid warlock had meant? Was this it? Because he felt despair. He had [i already] felt despair. Was watching his family, his bloodline, die, not enough? Was having his lover die in his arms not enough? Why? What had he done to the warlock, to make him so furious?
No. He wouldn't give the man the satisfaction. Not for the warlock. And what did he know? This was one night. They could be out there. He just had to find them. That scent, for one. Maybe that was someone. Someone he knew.
The sun would rise before too long. He had to find shelter. Where? He didn't know anything. No... there was only one answer. Back to the mausoleum. It was the only place he knew. He hated the idea of being stuck there, in the same place that he'd been imprisoned, but he had no other option. The door hung open, the lock broken. He slid back inside and shut the door behind. Tomorrow night, he'd give it another try. Perhaps the scent would be somewhere less difficult to get to. Perhaps he'd find someone, anyone, that he knew.
[center Lids fluttering rapidly and heart practically skipping a beat, Ioann leapt up from his bed, hurried footsteps slapping against polished wood until they met the runner in the hall.
His first instinct had been to hurry to the scene, but what he could do there he wasn’t sure. In fact, it seemed that Luca had already begun tending to the woman he recognised as Cristina.
“Is everything okay?”
“Quite all right now.” He assured, tossing Marina a wry look. It was difficult to be upset with her when she could be so amusing. But frightening the wits out of her sister wasn’t going to help.
“Here, we’ll shut the window.” He proposed, ensuring that the latches on the heavy frame were secure before moving to check the rest of the bathroom, including the adjoining boudoir.
“Are you hurt, Miss. Cristina?” He inquired, moving closer. She seemed for the most part all right, if not a bit shaken. Such excitement on his first night here already. He hoped this wasn’t a sign of something to come.
“Omen absit.” He breathed, patting her gently.
Marina, in the meantime, offered to sit with her for her bath if she still felt fearful. After all, the chores were done for the night. All there was to do was prepare for bed.
In the meantime, their trusty groundskeeper, Alexandru, was busy surveiling the grounds. Whomever it was that had attempted to break it couldn’t have gone very far, and as he followed the trail as best he could with the darkness, it was odd to believe it had been a mistake.
You had to be a fool or very brave to attempt something of that like on this estate, of all estates.
Granted, it wasn’t as though the more modern feature of a security system had been added. They had done their best to rebuild and restore as much as possible, and that had included everything from the carved archways with their decorative vinery or sprites, or even lions heads, to the cobble that led from the main entrance and anterior courtyard and met the black pavement of the main road.
Surely a smart thief, or whatever he was, would be wise enough to take one of the several footpaths? And yet, as he searched, the perpetrator was nowhere to be found.
Back at the main house, Ioann had already returned to his room, after bidding Mr. Drogoi goodnight for the second time and received the promise that these disturbances were highly unusual.
He glided through the open gates, coat fluttering as he walked. The stone crows that marked the gateposts were a little more worn than he remembered, their details obscured by layers of black paint. More of the strange black rock continued up to the door. It seemed some kind of new road surface. How long had he been gone? Everything seemed so strange. The metal beast that had struck him, the odd way these people spoke. None of it was right.
Long enough for the mansion to be rebuilt, and a whole extra wing added. He paused halfway up the drive, nostalgia interrupted. Was it even still owned by the bloodline anymore? [i Was] there a bloodline anymore? They'd been all but wiped out by the warlock and his awful crew. What if they were the ones who'd rebuilt the mansion? What if this was all a trap?
The doors opened, letting out light and a man in a dark coat. In the time before the man's eyes adjusted to the dark, Casimir dashed to the trees and pressed his back to one. "Hello?" the man called.
Casimir scented the air. He didn't recognize the man's scent, or his voice, for that matter. A stranger. If the man had a bloodline or was a warlock, he couldn't tell. His powers were still diminished. For now, he'd do the only thing he could and assume the man was an enemy.
He slunk away. The scent was right there. So close he could almost touch it. Ally or enemy, he'd deal with them later. After he'd found that... whatever it was.
Closer. Closer. A faint warmth filled the air, just enough he felt it on his cheek. A tub by an open window, a curtain fluttering invitingly in the breeze. He was at the window before he knew what he was doing, already halfway into the room.
The door opened. He surged through the window, ready to silence whoever had interrupted his infiltration.
Energy surged though the air, an electric repulsion that pushed him bodily back. Nearly in the same instant, a woman shrieked. The whole house seemed to come to life, footsteps racing in from all directions. Casimir staggered to his feet and ran off, even as a rough voice from behind demanded him to stop.
"Christina! What was it?" Marina asked, arriving late to the scene. Mr. Drogoi was already comforting her, and as she understood, the groundsman was already in hot pursuit.
"A, a man--he lunged at me!" she gasped, barely a second from hysteria. "A white haired man!"
Marina scoffed. "An old man scared you that badly?" she asked.
Christina shook her head. "He wasn't old! There was something wrong with him. His eyes, they were so pale..."
Mr. Drogoi shook his head. "The groundskeeper will deal with him, I'm sure. Just another lout here after the ghost stories, in all likelihood."
"Unless..." Marina paused dramatically. "He was the ghost..."
Christina went as pale as a sheet, and Marina couldn't help a smirk.
[center Dinner passed relatively without incident, and as the table was cleared, Ioann drank down the last of his rich wine and slide from his place. Mr. Drogoi... Or Luca, as he'd amicably offered, had already shut him down when he'd offered to help, explaining that all would be taken care of and that it was likely best he took the opportunity to rest. After all, he'd had a very long day, and based upon his enthusiasm, he clearly intended to be very busy the next day.
Came with the territory, though. How could he be in a city so brimming with history and [i not] indulge? You bet he was about to tour his ass off. Hopefully he'd also be able to get some personal answers, too, but all of that was for later consideration. It was too much to ponder with as much drink as he had in him.
Drifting woozily back under the archway, to which he momentarily clung for stability, the strawberry-cream-haired lad made his way for the lift. It was one of those beautiful old wrought iron affairs that reminded him of a fancy gaze. In fact, the estate was a Gothic admirer's wet dream. But here he was... just a little drunk and shutting himself in nevertheless.
Having a soak seemed like the worst idea with the way he was feeling, but it had already been drawn up for him, and the moment Ioann sank into the steaming herbal infusion, he was grateful. The window had been left open just a sliver so the steam didn't completely kill him, and the breeze against his face carrying the sweet night air made it all worth it.
Perhaps he'd just sleep right here. He'd freeze by the morning, but he certainly considered it anyway.
Soon, though, exhaustion called him to bed, clad in a long nightshirt and spectacles set on one of two end tables. Even through the thick haze of fatigue, he couldn't help but take stark notice of that strange sentiment that welled up in him once more.
Slipping into bed somehow felt... coming home. Which was impossible. Was his connection to the past truly so strong? Were such things even possible in real life?
He found himself questioning this as he gazed upon the moon, drapes swept aside so that it cut across the floorboards. It didn't penetrate the canopy of his by-the-way abso-fricken-lutely ridiculous bed, but it was a comfort to him as he gaze dreamily through his lashes.
Mr. Drogoi could be faintly heard making his rounds for the night and speaking in hushed tone to the staff there. They were few, but they were loyal, and according to him, they had been there for a very long time.
There was one woman, Cristina, who was remarkably sweet, and her sister, Marina who was clearly the sterner of the two. Mr. Alexandru was the head butler and main chef, and there was one other gentleman that he had only briefly glimpsed and did not yet know the name of. Perhaps the groundskeeper? He'd been donning a coat, but something about his relaxed demeanour - and the work boots - implied he had very much been busy at work. ]
He stalked toward the scent. Driven, almost drawn, he moved forward, onward and onward. His shirt shredded around him as he walked, breaking like spiderwebs around his chest. Leather boots deteriorated and flaked away. Trousers sloughed off, stiff and dead like old parchment. His feet were lacerated by twigs and brambles underfoot, his skin snared by thorns, scratched by branches.
He didn't notice. He barely noticed anything but the scent. The hunger. What was it that'd woken him? What had broken the chains? He had no guarantee that it was the source of this scent, but what else could it be? A snarl flitted over his face. Was it that horrible warlock? [i I will tear that slime limb from limb,] he vowed, [i tear his stomach open and throw his guts to the crows, gouge his eyes, twist his bones from his spine one by one--]
A shrill scream caught his attention. He turned, impassive, and found a pair of young girls in less than their underwear running away from him. His brows furrowed. What were they doing dressed like that outside? In their pantaloons? It was unspeakable.
Clothes coiled around his limbs, cladding moon-white skin in night-black cloth. Black boots swallowed his feet as he stepped onto a strange black rock. It stretched for a long distance in either direction. He stepped out onto it and was halfway across when two pairs of that odd light from earlier zoomed at him. He turned. What odd magic was--
"Ana!" Forina screeched, jerking the wheel to the left, out of her friend's hand. The truck only clipped the man instead of hitting him dead on. There was a heart-stopping crunch that made her cringe, and the man's body went flying.
Ana stomped the brakes. The vehicle screeched to a stop. "I didn't see him!" she shouted, knuckles white on the wheel. The whites of her eyes were showing when she looked at her friend. "He--he was all in black, I didn't--"
"Just--just hold still, call the ambulance. I'll go take a look," Forina said, hopping out. She ran over to where the man had fallen. "Sir! Sir, are you..."
The man had been thrown into the brush at the side of the road. She ran over to him, but he was so pale. How could he possibly be alive? There was a smudge of dark blood on the man's face. She reached out with trembling hands and felt for a pulse.
Nothing. His skin was icy cold.
"Forina, is he alive?" Ana asked, voice shaking.
Forina hesitated. He wasn't. He couldn't be.
Eyes flew open, revealing irises a horrifying icy gold. A hand closed around hers, tight as a vise. What was this attack? How [i dare] these measly humans hurt him? He threw the girl away and stomped off, too angry to even check if he'd killed her. It wasn't his time. And he was so close.
"Forina? What happened?" Ana shrieked, as her friend crashed to the ground.
Forina glanced back at her friend. "Call my dad," Forina replied, tense. This... this was odd. "Sir--"
The man was gone.
It was so close. He could feel it, almost, like energy on his skin. A familiar mansion lurked on the horizon. For a moment, he saw it in flames, the bodies of his friends and family splayed amongst the ashes--and then it was an impassive block of darkness against the sky once more. They had rebuilt it? Then--were there still members of his family out there? Still those who were loyal to his name? He drifted closer, caught up in nostalgia.
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