The young woman was jolted awake by a rough spot on the tracks as they sped along. She blinked at the weak sunlight which filtered in through the curtained windows, a large yawn overtaking her as she sat straight and stretched her arms. The traveler looked opposite where she sat, her eyes only falling upon an empty chair. With a sigh she shook her head and rose in search of breakfast, as she was famished from the previous night’s hurried trip to the train.
Opening the door to her compartment, she looked out and spied numerous people milling about in the direction of the dining car.
With her inattentive steps, the young woman accidently knocked into a fellow passenger traveling in the opposite direction.
“Oh, I’m so sorry” she quickly apologized as she turned to the person she had wronged. To her shock she was confronted by the blond woman she had seen outside the window of her Paris hotel room. “I-I wasn’t paying attention” she lamely excused as those cold blues eyes settled upon her person.
“Be more attentive about where you are going” her temporary companion advised as she quickly turned and proceeded down the hall.
The young traveler blinked in disbelief at the woman’s blunt words, but she could only guess the train bothered the other passengers’ senses and proceeded to the dining car. When she entered the small, narrow area, she looked eagerly around for her unusual companion. To her disappointment he was nowhere to be seen.
Not knowing what else to do, the young traveler seated herself in an empty booth where she would have a clear view of the entrance to the car. The door at the other end of the area merely led to the engine, and she could safely assume he would not arrive from such a direction. Soon a waiter came to ask her order, and she merely requested a glass of water. At the moment, her appetite was not with her.
After the waiter had arrived with her water, the minutes ticked by as she waited for Alucard to arrive. She was sure he would come to the car, as there was no other place he could go on the train other than into another compartment.
“Waiting for someone?” a voice behind her suddenly asked, startling the woman enough to turn with a jump.
“Alucard!” she half accused as she looked with amazement upon her traveling compatriot. “Where did you come from?” she questioned, looking back from whence he came and seeing only the closed door to the engine.
“I am afraid your eyes are very poor” he informed as he seated himself opposite the woman and placed a wine glass upon the table before himself. “I was holding a booth behind you, yet you did not notice me.”
“I am not sure how I could” she admitted as she looked at his unmistakably slender and tall frame. “Perhaps you were hiding from me?” she asked with a little pain in her voice.
“Not at all” he quickly answered as he brushed aside her hypothesis. “But enough of such accusations. We should speak of brighter things” he suggested as he sipped from his glass. The red contents swished in his hand as he held the clear object in the air. “The city of Cologne comes upon us soon, and we shall depart to find your missing past.”
“I suppose you are right...” she admitted with hesitancy, though the man before her was appearing more strange as their adventure continued. “But we have no idea where to look in such a large city” she pointed out as her eyes drifted to the window and the dark exterior.
“You underestimate my abilities, my lady” Alucard spoke in a false tone of hurt pride. However, his expression turned unusually serious as the gaze of his dark eyes looked down upon his companion. “Do you trust me to lead you on this journey?”
“Of course” she answered with some confusion as to the deeper meaning of his words.
“But do you know what you agree to?” he asked with the same stoic look, his eyes unblinking as they seemed to penetrate her soul.
“...why do you ask such things?” she questioned with both an intrigued and frightened voice. “I will not leave you, for I have no other person to turn to for assistance.” Here she turned her own blue orbs upon his face, their depths full of determination and stubbornness. “And I wish for no other to lead me.”
For a long moment silence reigned over the booth as each weighed the other’s words according to their own. Finally a small grin spread across Alucard’s face and he let a small laugh escape from his pale lips.
“Perhaps we may yet avoid fate’s grasp” he enigmatically spoke as he leaned back upon the cushioned bench.
“Pardon?” his companion asked as she blinked in confusion.
“Nothing for the moment” he replied as he held up his glass in a toast. “To a long journey together, wherever the future may take us” he announced as the young woman held up her water.
“To the journey” she agreed as they chinked their glasses together and drank of the contents.
As the two companions placed their drinks upon the table the sound of the train’s whistle came to their ears, announcing the coming of a station. The male traveler arose to his feet and offered his hand to the lady, a wide grin once more upon his features.
“I believe our stop has arrived” Alucard informed with a gleam in his eyes which excited the young woman. “It is time again for another adventure.”
“I am ready” she replied as she took his hand and allowed him to help her from her seat.
They dropped hands and walked to their compartment, mindful not to forget any of their small luggage as they knew their large cases would be once more delivered to the hotel in which they would be staying. The young woman and her guide stepped off the train and into the midst of silence, as the crowds which had existed at Paris were left behind.
To the lady’s astonishment, however, a carriage stood at the end of the pier and Alucard led her to the awaiting driver and horse. He assisted her into the small, open coach and they quickly started off at a brisk gallop toward what she could only assume to be their hotel. The buildings of the new city passed by with ample time to inspect the aging architecture, and she enjoyed the sights with the curiosity of a child.
“The night is still early” Alucard suddenly spoke as he looked down upon his ward. “Perhaps you would like to see the city with the moon as our light?”
“That would be exciting” his female companion eagerly agreed as the carriage slowed to a halt before a large hotel. “When shall we leave?” she asked as they alighted from the coach.
“As soon as we have received the keys to our rooms” he replied with amusement at her enthusiastic response to his suggestion. “The exploration would be less enjoyable with our small bags in hand.”
The young woman blushed a bit at her rash question as she gripped the small bags in her hands. The items were merely the necessities of life, such as money, along with the personal objects which had been found among her person when she had first awoken. She would not let the pieces from her grasp on the train, nor would she wish for them to be lost while they walked the streets of the city.
With a few quick words to the clerk and a short travel to their rooms to remove the objects from their arms, the pair met in the lobby. The female part of the duo could barely contain her excitement and they appeared to rush from the hotel and slow to a near halt upon the streets.
For a long while the two said nothing to one another, merely enjoying the company and sights. To the young woman’s disappointment, however, the city was crowded with new embellishments of the modern age. Construction could be seen everywhere as they strolled along the ancient streets, a sharp contrast to the growing surroundings of modernism. Beyond the tops of the short buildings the young woman could see a heavily fortified wall which seemed to encompass the entire city and suffocate the projects. Thankfully just ahead was a small square where the construction had not reached, and the two unconsciously pushed on ahead toward the promise of a brief time away from the new world.
As they made their way to the square, the young woman noticed an unusual elderly gentleman standing to the side of the street. She tugged upon the arm of her companion and, when his attention had been caught, pointed politely toward the fellow. Alucard, for a long moment, seemed quite suspicious of the stranger and his eyes seemed to grow cold as they settled upon the man’s appearance.
The man appeared to be well past middle age, as his snow white pointed beard and thin mustache showed. He wore a tailored suit and black top hat, which allowed him to go unnoticed by most travelers, and seemed well pleased to merely watch the slim traffic pass him by. By his elegant air he was certainly of a nobler class than a commoner, and he held himself with the dignity of a gentleman of means.
The gentleman, having apparently noticed their attentions upon his person, smiled and tipped his elegant top hat in their direction. The woman and her partner smiled back and nodded, a gesture which must have pleased the elderly man as he suddenly began walking toward them. The female traveler than noticed he held a cane in his hand which rang against the street’s cobbles, but by his sturdy steps she assumed the item was used only for show.
“Greetings, mein travelers” the gentleman greeted with a thick German accent as he stepped before them with a low, old-fashioned bow. “If I may be so bold, may I enquire your journey this fine night?”
“Perhaps” Alucard replied somewhat coldly as he looked upon the man with a look of slight disdain. “But first, what name may we address you as?”
“Oh, may I beg your forgiveness” the stranger apologized as he gave them both a bright smile. “My name is Baron Vilhelm Von Lichtenstein, a long-time resident of this fair city.” Then he gave them a polite bow. “May I excuse myself by allowing to be your guide through the magnificent city?” he asked as he looked eagerly between the two for recompense.
“I believe we have no need for such a favor” the tall traveler replied with some rudeness to his voice which would have brought insult upon most strangers.
“Ah, but have you not heard of the incident on one of the Paris trains?” the elder aristocrat questioned in surprise as he apparently did not notice the tone of the younger gentleman. The young female traveler was amused at his expression, as his face showed the eagerness of a gossiper who had finally found an audience. “A man’s body was found aboard the baggage car of a train this very night, his body drained of blood” the baron slowly revealed with a wide grin on his forehead as at least one of his listeners reacted with horror.
“Who could have done such a horrible thing!?” the young woman replied with disgust as she grimaced at the thought of such an occurrence.
“A vampire!” the elderly man nearly shouted, catching the unwanted attention of others around. “Perhaps the king of vampires has returned to our fair city” he spoke now with a whisper as he cupped a hand over his mouth.
“Surely one aged such as you can not believe in childish superstitions” Alucard noted with slight ire as he waved the man’s words away with one of his hands.
“Oh, but he was the most famous vampire to ever walk these narrow roads!” the baron exclaimed, throwing up his short arms in a dramatic effect. “No one knew who he was or where he had come from, only that he could allude the police at his fancy, for they never could catch him.”
“Vampires...” the woman slowly repeated, the word catching an echo of a memory as her dreamy tone was noticed by her two male companions. “She told me to be careful of vampires...”
“Who?” Alucard suddenly asked, interrupting her contemplative state. “Who told you of vampires?”
“I cannot remember” she answered in slight frustration, cupping her forehead in one of her hands as she attempted to concentrate. “I can remember sitting upon a rug before a woman, but I can neither see her face nor do I know her name.”
“Is the Fraulein ill?” the baron asked with true concern as he placed a soft hand upon one of her shoulders. He looked for a long moment into her face, his eyes penetrating, before he gave her a sudden wide smile. “Perhaps the modern buildings have upset you” he assumed as he suddenly took a step back. “I believe I have the perfect building to visit, mein Fraulein” the baron announced with pride as he swept his hand with disgust across the new buildings. “These models do not compare to the beauty of our Cathedral.”
“A cathedral?” the female traveler repeated as she looked about to where such a magnificent structure could be standing. “Can you take us to it tonight?” she pleaded with a hint of more eagerness to her tone.
“I am afraid I must abstain from such an adventure” Alucard suddenly spoke as he bowed to the others. “A duty of business must pull me away from such a joyful sight, so I must beg pardon to excuse myself.”
“But you spoke of none earlier“ she bluntly spoke with a hint of suspicion and disappointment in her words as he gave her an apologetic smile. One which he seemed fond of giving her of late. “If you must then” she answered in a resigned tone, her gay time once more secondary to his ever-present responsibilities.
“Then I shall see you tomorrow evening, in the lobby of the hotel” he suggested as he bowed one last time and left the two alone.
“An unusual man you have found, Fraulein” the baron spoke as they watched him disappear amongst the crowds. “And I believe you have yet to see the end of his mysteries.”
“Why do you suggest so?” she asked her elderly companion as he chuckled quietly.
“Because I have lived long enough to see many unusual things, but the man who has just left us is one puzzle I cannot solve” he replied as he gave a wink to the young lady. “Now with your escort gone, I may act as your sole guide for our fair city, Fraulein?” the baron asked with a friendly smile as he held out his arm for her to take.
“I would be honored” she answered with a small laugh as she took his arm and they walked off into the distance.
The pair walked for a few long minutes, one immensely enjoying the company while the other held an air of expectation about herself. As they further traveled she noticed the age of the structures grow older as time showed itself upon the cobble stones of the street and the weathered fronts of the buildings. An opening was making itself visible beyond, and she held her breath as they finally broke free from the jumble of new and old and stepped into an ancient past.
Before the two, within the center of a large, open square, stood the grand cathedral. Two massive Gothic towers arose above a sharp belfry, while the two arms stood on either side of the nave which held the doors leading inside. Tall, thin stained-glassed windows looked out upon the fountain in the center of the square, as though watching over the city and its inhabitants with a protective care. Here people milled about, wondering at the sight of the beautiful structure which rose into the sky high above any of the modern buildings.
“A meager structure dedicated to Saint Peter and the Mother of our Lord” the baron spoke with awe and pride as he himself gazed upon the massive structure. “A wondrous sight to behold, and a crowning achievement to our reunion.”
“What reunion?” his female compatriot questioned though her eyes remained fixed upon the Cathedral.
“The reunion of the German state, mein Fraulein” the baron answered with glee as he bowed in a respectful gesture. “The empire had not had such a since the time of the Holy Roman emperors.” Then he shook his head and turned a more saddened eye upon the church. “But such masterpieces never last, and much has this site seen of destruction and resurrection.”
“What do you mean?” she asked as his words seemed to become more confusing with each sentence.
“Ah, but you would not know” her guide mournfully replied as he turned his unhappy expression upon her form. “There have been many dedications to God upon this same ground, and all are lost save for the one which stands before us now. Fire, faithlessness, all have caused the downfall of the others. Perhaps this will also see the end of its days in such a manner.”
“I would never have been able to guess such a long history existed in such a quiet area” the traveler admitted as she looked with new eyes upon the grand building.
“Many things are not known, such as what you have hidden within your blouse” he suddenly noted as he turned his eyes toward her neck.
“Oh, so you noticed” she sheepishly replied as she grabbed at a chain upon her neck and pulled forth the cross which had been found among her person when she had awoken on the train. “For some strange reason, I cannot bare to leave it behind wherever I go.”
“Perhaps a very important person gave you this medallion” he guessed as he carefully took the cross in his gloved hand and admired the fine piece of Christian jewelry. Then he noticed how hard his female companion was trying to stifle a yawn which threatened to burst forth. “But our time is spent this night” he announced as he held his arm out to the young lady. “I will escort you back to your hotel.”
“Thank you” she gratefully replied as she returned the object within its hiding place and took his arm.
Within a few minutes, with the masterful guidance of the baron, they arrived upon the premises of the hotel. Reluctantly she removed herself from her guardian, as she took the elderly grandfather figure to now be, and stepped toward the doors. However, she hesitated for a moment before deciding to perform a rash request.
“Shall we meet again later this day?” the young woman eagerly asked as she turned toward the elderly gentleman at her side. “We may see other parts of the city” she suggested.
“I am afraid you may not have time, mein Fraulein” the baron informed as he held up his hand to stop the coming questions of his temporary ward. “Your friend is quick, and I am sure he has found what you were looking for in my city. I foresee we will not have time for another grand tour this day, nor the next.”
“Are you so sure?” she asked with worry and disbelief in her tone. When he nodded, she could only agree with his wise observation. He had yet to lead her astray. “So...I guess this is farewell” she sadly replied, a few tears upon her eyes.
“Not all farewells last forever, Fraulein” the baron responded with a smile upon his weathered face. “Perhaps one day we may meet again” he spoke as he gently took one of her hands into his aged palms. “For now, keep safe and never forget the charm a caring one gave to you” he said as his eyes fell upon the small chain around her neck.
“I won’t” she promised as he released his hold and she stepped back toward the hotel.
With a final wave she turned and dashed through the doors, tears in her eyes as she ran the entire way to her room.
Outside, the baron watched her leave with some apprehension, especially as he looked upward and noticed the drifting curtains of a room upon the second floor.
“May God and your dark angel save you from destruction” he quietly whispered as he turned and walked away into the darkness.