The train bumped along the old tracks as the countryside passed by in a mesmerizing blur, the sun long past as the moon shone high above the cars. The passengers slept in their compartments or, if they could not afford such luxury, seats, the silence of the night hanging like a blanket over the steaming machine and its precious cargo.
Within one of the more luxurious cabins was seated a young woman with strawberry-blond hair, her eyes fast shut in sleep as the cars bounced their way along the rough tracks. She wore a stylish long dress of fine material and elegant shoes, but her short hair revealed a mark of independence. The passenger dreamed soundly until the train came to a particularly poor stretch, which caused the cars to shift rather violently. Against her will she began to awaken.
“Not yet” a young woman weakly protested as she stirred in her seat, her eyes slowing opening to reveal crystal blue orbs.
She looked about her for a moment through a haze of drowsiness, her vision clearing bit by bit as she stretched her arms. However, the young woman stopped in mid stretch as the interiors of the cabin came into full view, revealing a space she did not recognize. The traveler retracted her arms to herself as her world froze, her gaze full of confusion as she turned her head between the closed door of the small area and the window flashing by with scenery. Nothing seemed familiar to her as she peered at her surroundings, her face a mask of rising fear. She appeared to be in a train compartment, the movement beneath her showing the machine was moving. The softly padded seats and expensive plush walls revealed her position on the train was high, possibly first class.
“My name...” she suddenly gasped in shock, her eyes searching about as she tried to recollect her own name. “I can’t remember...” she spoke, her voice rising even as footsteps approached her door.
The door to her compartment suddenly violently swung open, startling her fragile composure to near hysteria. Standing before her was a short, elderly conductor, his face shriveled with age and somewhat hardened by a cold demeanor. He rudely entered the area without asking permission and stood imposingly before her seated form, looking down upon her over his hooked nose.
“Votre billet s'il vous plait, mademoiselle?” he asked in a language foreign to her ears, leading the young woman to look quizzically at him.
When the man repeated his inquiry the young woman could only shake her head in confusion, the predicament she found herself in growing worse by the minute. The conductor, whom she assumed the man to be, grew annoyed at her lack of response and angrily thrust his hand into her face. His words grew almost forceful and threatening as he pointed with his other hand the door out of the compartment and repeated his message, stamping his foot in anger.
“He is asking for your ticket” a voice suddenly spoke, catching both of the occupants’ attentions as their heads turned toward the entrance.
In the doorway stood a tall man with long dark hair, his eyes piercing but amused by the scene before his gaze. With a sweeping bow toward the woman and a flash of disgust toward the conductor he stepped into the compartment, both the previous occupants looking at him in curiosity and some suspicion. The impertinent manner of the stranger seemed to have subdued the conductor and he stepped back nervously as the taller gentleman entered. However, years of training would not allow him to leave without the necessary ticket, and he was obliged to turn toward the young lady.
“Votre billet plaît, la madame?” he asked again, though his tone was more hurried than angered as he looked nervously toward the visitor.
The young woman looked about herself helplessly, searching for an answer to the conductor’s question. Her eyes fell upon a small black purse laying upon her seat, her face lighting up as she hastily grabbed the bag. The young woman opened the container and quickly perused the contents, finding to her dismay very few items and none which resembled a ticket.
“The side pocket” the stranger suddenly suggested, causing the woman to look up and blink in confusion. “The other side” he repeated, pointing toward the purse and twirling one of his hands in a circle.
“Oh” she said, suddenly realizing to what he was referring.
She turned the purse and viewed what he had seen, the outer pocket of the bag. With hurried fingers she opened the area and found the ticket which she sought lying amidst a few other items. The young woman quickly dug out the paper and sheepishly handed the piece to the agitated conductor.
“I am sorry” she apologized, receiving only a slight scowl from the conductor.
“Merci” he grudgingly spoke as he snatched the ticket from her hand without looking at the item, the corners of his eyes still turned toward the tall stranger.
Without another word the man quickly turned and brushed past the newcomer, visibly cringing as their arms touched, and left the pair in silence. The young woman turned her attention toward her savior, her mouth smiling uneasily as she shifted in her seat.
“Thank you for your help” she softly spoke in gratitude, her eyes turning down as his own bright orbs gazed over her form. “I was not sure what language the man was speaking...” she lamely explained, her hands tightly grasping the bag in discomfort.
“French” the man quickly answered as he leant his back against the frame, his eyes wandering about the small room. “He spoke French.”
“Oh?” the female traveler answered in interest, blinking in confusion. “So we’re in....?”
“France” the stranger finished, grinning widely apparently at her childish questions. “May I come in?” he asked after a small pause, his hand gesturing toward the empty chair opposite the young woman.
“Oh, I am sorry” she quickly replied, nodding her head enthusiastically. “Please have a seat. It is the least I can do for your assistance.”
The traveler watched with apprehension as the young man bowed low and stepped into the room, the air growing inexplicably cold as he seated himself upon the cushions. She felt both repulsed and attracted to the man whom she had just meant, two unusually strong emotions for newly acquainted individuals. Her mind thoroughly wished for him to retire so she could contemplate her predicament and decide the next course of action, and thus agreed the stranger was at the moment a hindrance. His voice, which held a peculiar hint of an accent, created even more of an enigma around the young gentleman. The young woman realized, though, that he could be of assistance to her in the grand puzzle she found herself trying to unravel.
“What is your name?” she found herself asking, the silence of the compartment uncomfortable.
He stared at her a long moment, a peculiar amusement in his eyes, before he spoke.
“Alucard” he finally answered, apparently humored by his reply as he slightly chuckled. “And what may yours be?” he returned.
“I...I don’t really know” the young woman hesitantly replied, shuffling uneasily in her seat. “I can’t remember.”
“Perhaps you do not wish to tell me your name?” he asked, one of his eyebrows raised in question.
“No, no!” the traveler protested, shaking her head in the negative. “You must believe me when I say I do not know my name!” She bit her lip nervously and settled herself back into the cushions, afraid her outburst had startled the stranger. “I woke up in this compartment and can not remember anything.”
Again her companion paused for a moment and merely stared at her, a habit which would have forced one to assume the gentleman was slow. However, his prepossessing demeanor and a strange but confident atmosphere which surrounded his person required the young woman to believe otherwise. Also, his look held both a thoughtful and intrigued expression, but with a hint of an emotion she could not decipher.
“Do you recall memories from your life? Names? Places?” he questioned slowly, eying her carefully.
“Nothing” she answered, shaking her head in dismay. The young woman was partially relieved, though, by his willingness to believe her words, as she had no one else to turn to at the moment. “ I can remember nothing at all.”
“Quite the mystery” Alucard calmly spoke, his eyes wandering to the window. “By your accent you are English, but you now head south along the continent toward the capital of France” he summarized, his eyes narrowing as they flickered for an instant back to the traveler. “Do you wish to return to England?” he suddenly inquired, his voice more than curious.
“I do not know” she honestly replied, shrugging her shoulders helplessly. “I may be able to find someone familiar to me, but I would not know where to look for them.”
“Then such an option is not a choice at all” her companion decided as he turned his gaze back to the young woman. “What of the bag in your hands?” he suggested, pointing toward the mentioned item. “Are there any papers in there which would help?”
“I’d forgotten!” she replied as she eagerly looked down and opened the container, her fingers and eyes thoroughly perusing the contents. To her dismay she could find nothing which would help her search until she arrived upon the pocket which had held her ticket, a slight intake of breath catching in her throat as she pulled forth several objects. “What do these mean?” she asked aloud, more befuddled than before.
Within her hands she grasped a sheet of paper, a picture, and a small, silver cross. Upon the paper was written several locations across the European continent, each marked with an underline, and the bottom of the page appeared to have been torn off. She turned her attention to the picture and peered into the blue eyes of a beautiful woman with a dark complexion, her black hair cascading over her shoulders as she smiled warmly at the camera. The silver cross was a simple piece of jewelry, with small pieces of wood strangely placed within tiny crevices along the arms.
“May I see the picture?” her companion suddenly asked, startling her from further examining the objects.
“Oh, yes” she quickly answered, carefully handing him the photo. He seemed to cringe as the cross brushed against himself, forcing her to worry about his health. “Are you all right?” she inquired, her mouth set in a thin line.
“I am fine” he briskly answered, laying back as he thoughtfully inspected the photo.
“Do you know her?” the young woman asked, his face holding a look which suggested more than a passing interest.
“I thought I had” Alucard slowly, softly replied before he held out his arm for the young woman to retrieve the item. “But perhaps I was mistaken” he added with more energy, laying back as the traveler took the object from his hand. “What is written upon the paper?” he inquired, looking toward the small sheet she held.
“Places” the female traveler replied, looking over the list with no recognition in her mind. “Paris, Cologne, Venice, Rome, and something I can’t read at the bottom” she read aloud, shaking her head in puzzlement. “Have you been to these cities?” she asked of her companion, turning her attention to the quiet gentleman.
“I have” the gentleman answered, nodding his head. “Perhaps you would like a fashionable escort on your journey?” he suggested, grinning widely as she returned the gesture.
“I thought that long hair had gone out of style years ago?” she teased, somewhat more relaxed by his offhand manner.
“Ah, so you do remember some things” the stranger noted with a grin, his words starting her with joy.
“I do, don’t I?” she slowly replied, her newfound knowledge little comfort against the reality of a lost past. “I suppose I am able travel such long distances with this money?” she wondered aloud as further searching through the purse revealed a large bag full of banknotes and francs. “I must be quite rich but I do not know why I am traveling on the continent” she said in an astonished tone, her eyes blinking in amazement at the large amount she held. “Perhaps someone may know me in these cities” the young woman hoped, placing the fortune back within its container and safely tucking the purse beneath her arm. She turned her attention toward the gentleman who had so far helped her in so many ways. “But I cannot ask you to accompany me if you are not going in my direction. We have only just met.”
“I will go with you to these cities” Alucard replied, crossing his legs as he tilted his head forward and to the side with in enigmatic smile. “Your predicament interests me, and so I would like to see the journey through to the end.”
“Thank you so much” the young woman replied with a gracious smile thankful to have a companion on her unknown trip.
However, looking out the window at the passing lights of the few farm houses with lamps, she sighed heavily and shook her head in pessimism. It was a big world to be lost in.