I am so sorry for the wait! I've been doing midterms, and then Assassin's Creed 3 came out, so I have been a little busy. Now, though, I can add another chapter. Enjoy!
Lindsey Stirling has some damn good songs.
That's what I was thinking as I was riding my motorcycle. It was a Harley Davidson, not bad looking if you look past the ugly brown coloring. After arriving at the Transylvania airport, I immediately headed towards the nearest car dealer. Seeing as they didn't have one, I went to a motorcycle shop instead. This was the best bike, and the owner was sure that I wouldn't be able to pay for it. I wish I had taken a picture of his face on my iPhone when I easily produced the money in cash – it was all I could do to keep from laughing.
I digress. At the moment, I'm roaring down a street that looked like it was ripped from the screens of a Tim Burton film. It always looked like eternal autumn in Transylvania – that's part of the magic that Dragon's Shadows weaved.
Oh yeah, I forgot to mention – Dragon's Shadows is pretty much the UN of the supernatural world. After Dracula turned the Scarecrows to his cause, the few supernatural creatures (and the few humans who were willing to help us out) struggled to form any sort of resistance. Things finally started looking up after the Cold War – three of the most powerful creatures known to supernatural creatures came together and forged Dragon's Shadows. There's Nefane, a human necromancer who loves science and the study of magic like a starving man loves food. Solina is a faerie, and pretty tall for her kind. She actually comes up to my chin. She's always trying to seduce me, and I'm getting a restraining order on her next month.
And then there's my favorite leader of Dragon's Shadows. And by "favorite", I mean the guy that I would love nothing more than to punch in the face repeatedly. His name is Ahktura, and he's a minor god. He claims to be the rightful ruler of Tarturus and the Greek God of Shadows, but all he seems to be good at is ordering people around. If he were getting them to do something useful, I wouldn't have a problem with him. No, all he seems interested in is propaganda. Every time I see him, we either have shouting matches or fist fights. Sometimes both.
Finally, I never thought I would get here! I stopped outside an old bar. Wood that was just on the verge of rotting made a Revolutionary War era bar, complete with a sign that read Three Kings Pub. Fading red paint clung to the sides of the door. It may seem strange, but when you're faced with the fact that you're a Scarecrow that can send the US Military crying for their moms, you develop a different definition of the word strange.
Stepping through the door, I saw that this place was somewhat popular. There's about thirty people, not counting the couples covering each other with kisses. Nobody was drunk, which was probably a good thing. Getting drunk out here in Transylvania is the equivalent of sending up a flare and shouting "Hey, vampires and other predators! I'm okay with you eating me!" Instead, everyone was talking, filling the air with laughter and storytelling and the clanking of glasses.
Taking a seat to the side, I signaled one of the barmaids. Seriously, this place has barmaids?! Anyways, she came up to me in black heels that clicked against the wood. Pushing her blonde hair out of her eyes, she asked, "What can I get you, sir?"
"What do you have that's non-alcoholic?" I asked in turn.
She uttered a small laugh. "You come to the bar looking for a non-alcoholic drink? Kinda… what's the word?"
"Oxymoronic?" I offered. "Ironic?"
"The last one," she replied. "You a teacher or somethin'?"
"Newspaper editor," I answered. "How about this? Until further notice, I'll just have water. Is that okay?"
I would have been more polite than that, holding a proper conversation, but a man walked in that arrested my attention. He wore all leather, with steel wiring forming a skeleton pattern on his gloves. He had on a motorcycle helmet, so I couldn't see his face. What arrested my attention was that he wore a cutlass on his belt, and that he had a shotgun poking out from behind his back.
Everyone seemed to stop what they were doing and stared at the stranger. This guy was so captivating, the bartender was spilling Jack Daniels on the table. This man couldn't have cared less what they were doing – he walked over to my table and sat down with me. Still everyone stared. It took the man turning his slowly towards them that they went back to their business. This time, however, the noise seemed forced.
Turning back to me, he got comfortable in his chair. Once he had, he asked in a voice that reminded me of an aged Orlando Bloom, "You Nathaniel?"
You're not the only guy with a disguise, buddy. I had on my outfit that I used in San Francisco, so he couldn't see anything from my face. "Why do you care?"
The man sighed, saying, "I'm not here looking for a fight. I just need to be sure. Are you Nathaniel Bloodstraw?"
That made everything click. No wonder why this guy was giving off weird vibes – only people who know about the supernatural know about my last name. Everyone else thinks that my last name is Albus. "I am, but you have me at a disadvantage."
"The name's Connor," he replied, holding out his hand. "Connor Blackpoint."
I didn't take his hand. Being on Dracula's most wanted list teaches you a few things, the first one being – never shake the hand of someone who knows about the supernatural. You never know if it might activate a spell or something. Eventually, he lowered his hand, and we proceeded to stare at each other. Finally, he asked, "What are you doing here? Isn't this a bit away from your neck of the woods?"
"I got a visit from… some of Vlad's friends," I replied, choosing my words carefully. (Author's note: for those of you who don't know, Vlad is the true name of the guy who inspired the legend of Dracula) "I came here to put a stop to him and his plans."
That got this guy's attention. He placed his hands on the table as if he was about to start yelling. "You? Take down Vlad? I know you're powerful, but that guy isn't like anything you've ever faced. He eats Reaper Bullets like you or I would eat a Snickers bar."
Crud. There goes plan A. I stayed silent until he asked another question. "What were you planning? Just curious."
"I know this place attracts a lot of… people like us," I replied. "I was hoping that I could find someone who has information on Vlad here. It seems I have."
"Please, Nathaniel, you give me too much credit. However, I do know of someone who can help you. Several people, in fact. Would you be willing to meet them?"
Ah, hell. If I'm going to die, I might as well die doing something worth the pain. "Sure. Where are we going?"
"You'll see," he replied. We both got up and started walking towards the door. As we passed one of the tables, he grabbed one full beer bottle from a college aged guy. The kid didn't even notice. In fact, he looked like he was outright avoiding looking at Connor.
The moment we stepped outside, I whirled towards Connor. "You got the bar to ignore us with a stare… you stole a beer bottle without anyone noticing… what are you?!"
"You'll see soon enough," he replied. The smile hidden by his biker's helmet was more than apparent in his tone. This guy is really starting to get on my nerves.
Rounding a corner, I saw the validation for my earlier statement. This place is a setting in a Tim Burton film. Connor was approaching a horse, but it was unlike any horse I've ever seen. This horse was black as night, but something was off. You couldn't see it's hide at all – it was as if it was composed entirely of shadow. The eyes were the complete opposite – red eyes whose blaze matched my own. Little droplets of darkness fell from its hide, dropping onto the ground and swirling for a bit before dissipating. The saddle was the same as the horse, only there were dark blues and purples mixed in with the black.
The entire time I was staring at the beast, Connor was checking on the saddle, tightening straps and tying knots. Walking in front of the horse, he offered the bottle of beer to him. The horse wasted no time, taking it between its teeth and looking up towards the sky so the liquor would disappear down its throat.
"Midnight can't drink water," Connor said fondly. As I turned to him, he continued, "That's because water refuses to get anywhere near him. Not just water, but anything found in nature. I've seen water jump out of buckets just to get away from him. So I decided a long time ago to use beers and, when they came around, sodas."
A horse named Midnight… a cutlass on his hip… good Lord, I know who this is.
"You're the Headless Horseman," I whispered.
He bowed before me like he was on Broadway. "None other. Now, get on your motorcycle, Bloodstraw. We have a lot of ground to cover before nightfall."