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[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.
[center [i What a wretchedly long flight.] thought Ioann as he ventured out into the crisp night's air. Sweet breeze wrapped him in whorls of chill, prompting a sneeze that some kind soul blessed him for. Heh... what a funny tradition. Blessing someone for fear evil would take seat in them. He was fairly certain one's heart did not stop in such moments, either, but he appreciated the sentiment nevertheless.
Pulling a hard shell suitcase alongside himself, his eyes strained against the darkness to find his ride, flitting unseeingly at first to discern who had moments later called his name.
"Ah- Donceanu? Me?"
His name sounded so different to his ears now that he was back in Romania. Back in the states, and even over in the UK, his name had frequently mispronounced as 'donsanu'. Refreshing to hear it fall so flawlessly from seasoned lips.
The man that drifted forth to collect him wore a warm smile, collecting his case from him to gently place it into the trunk of a waiting car.
"N-no, please, you don't have to go to such trouble."
"Tis no trouble at all." Assured his mystery handler. His voice did sound vaguely familiar, though.
"Are you, per chance, Mr. Drogoi?"
"I knew you would recognise me." He affirmed with a fond chuckle. "I must admit, you're a lot smaller than I expected."
This, of course, made absolutely no sense to him whatsoever, but he guessed everyone had to have some mental image of someone they had only ever contacted via phone. In fact, they had phoned so frequently in the past few months, that he had admittedly acquired some expectations of his own.
Mysteriously, however, now that all of his features had come into focus, Mr. Drogoi was exactly what he had pictured. It made him uneasy, and yet, there was a warm familiarity here that made absolutely no sense whatsoever. Not quite nostalgia but not quite deja vu, and it was altogether confusing.
Still, he snapped rather quickly from his daze when he realised a door had been drawn open for him, tucking his small frame into the warm embrace of the car's cabin.
"Back at the house," Began Drogoi as he slid into the driver's seat. "Dinner is awaiting us both. I've already taken the liberty of preparing a room for you as well."
"That was very kind," He murmured bashfully, unused to such treatment. "Thank you for your hospitality."
❀ ❀ ❀
"[i This] is the [i house]?" What the [i hell]?
"I should have mentioned before, but I did mean the estate."
Uhu... he might've mentioned he'd be so much in danger of getting lost just on his way to the loo.
As he crossed the threshold, a shiver licked the length of his spine, something akin to an electric current licking at his fingertips and soles. He rubbed the sensation out of his hands and curled his toes in his boots, daring a glance behind him as the french doors were shut to gaze out into the night.
Before long, his things had been taken up to his room and Mr. Drogoi had done him the pleasure of sitting him down for a long-anticipated meal. Even with the prospect of food to be devoured, though, he couldn't seem to settle, that strange energy still ever present. Maybe it as nerves from the flight? He had never been a fan of flying, so logically, it made the most sense to him.
Though, there were other things. Though he was certain this was the first he had ever visited the estate, the main manor danced ever at the edge of familiarity, from the sweeping polished floors to the thick, masterfully carved archways that connected each room.
"Shall we begin?"
It was the hunger that woke him.
Desiccated eyelids cracked open, revealing pearly white eyes. He stared unseeingly at the roof of his coffin. After all this time, he barely felt the holy weapons that impaled him. They were a burn, a constant buzz in the back of his mind, but nothing more. No; the more pressing question was the hunger.
He had been woken by it many times before. At first regularly, to rant and rave and writhe, bashing on the ceiling inches above him, then at depressingly irregular, long intervals, his body grown too frail to move carelessly, too weak to raise a finger, let alone beat on the wood that imprisoned him. How long would he last, bound like this? How many years had it been? How long, since his love had been torn away so cruelly?
But this time, it felt different. More insistent. He shifted, feeling the rasp of dried skin against decaying muscle. Why would it come back to taunt him like this? Why now? A long-dried throat tried to swallow, but all that came of it was pain. He was bound. Bound away forever, where no one could reach. As good as dead, yet undying. And what a hell to have to live in, his beloved forever out of reach.
Something shifted in the air. He breathed it in, trying to understand it. The hunger blocked out rational thought, the pain broke his conscious mind, but there was... something...
The spell was weakening.
He felt it give, slowly, going soft like a rotten apple. A hand lifted to his chest, so dried and decrepit he had a hard time recognizing it as his own. It closed around the silver stake that impaled his heart and pulled, the same way he had hundred, thousands, millions of times before.
The stake slid free.
He coughed at the pain that surged through his chest the second it was free and sagged forward against the lid. It spilled open, enchanted chains breaking like dried grass, the long-sealed lid opening as though it had never been held shut. He stumbled out into a dark mausoleum. Out. Out. The night. Fresh air. The thoughts drove him onward, nearly in a panic, stumbling forward on long-unused legs and rickety joints. The stairs seemed miles long. The door gave at his touch, creaking open. For the first time in more years than he cared to count, he saw the night sky.
He held out his hands and basked in the light of the moon. It had come. His day had come at last. He was free once more. Free to wander the night. Free to watch the glory of the stars overhead and race the night breeze through the--
"Hey! What're you doing over there!" a rude voice shouted.
Light played over his body, making him flinch back. Not a torch, but some other thing, bright as the moon in the man's hand. He stared at it, uncomprehendingly. What was this thing?
"Fucking--" the man jumped back, then shook his head and wiped down his face. "Alright, kid, nice prank. What're you supposed to be, a zombie? Oooh, I'm so scared. Now get the hell out of here."
He looked at the man. At the fat, brash human slug that stood before him. [i This maggot dares to tell me to leave?] A smirk stretched long-blackened skin. He stepped forward.
"Whoa there, stop right--" A piercing scream filled the night air for a moment, and then silence fell over the grave once more. Dried skin became fresh and soft, old muscles inflated, ancient wounds mended, marble eyes regained color, stringy hair grew into supple waves, no longer dark but as white as the moonlight above.
Casimir stood, letting the body fall to the weeds, and scented the wind. It was close. Whatever had woken him, whatever had piqued his hunger... it was near.
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