Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Branded, Chapter 5

“I must go now!”

“Wait! You can’t leave now. I have so many questions. You have shown me things; I want to know more; to see more,” I pleaded pathetically. I became nauseated hearing my own words. What has come over me; I sounded like a whining child. But I must admit I am quite intrigued by the events of this night. I must know more.

“I’m sorry; I must go. You can find what you seek in Sancta.”


“A city to the northwest. It is one of the oldest cities in the known world. Be wary; there are those that would see you perish there.”

He was Off before I could even open my mouth. As he fled, his thoughts entered my mind, “Go! He is there.” More cryptic nonsense?

Perhaps I should forget this night and go on as if it never happened; dismiss it as a dream. As much as I would want to, I feel driven to learn more about myself; who, or what I am.

I spent the next few days mulling over everything he had said; everything he had shown me; everything he had taught me. I can’t turn away now. I have to pursue this now.

After some time searching the web, I could find no reference to Sancta at all. I’m beginning to think I have been duped. I should have known better. Although there was some truth to what this man said and showed me, I realized that the life I had now was all I wanted. I’m living comfortable and I can remain here for a while longer, before having to move on. I have plenty of time to decide to look into this later.

I closed the browser window just as a chat box opened with instructions to book the flight at the enclosed link. Curiosity got the better of me and I clicked the link. It indeed was a booking for an airline ticket for tomorrow afternoon. The destination was Sancta. I click the buy button before I realized I was doing it. I waited for the purchasing information page to come up on my screen, but instead was greeted with a “Your purchase has been confirmed” message. There was a button to click to print the e-ticket; I turned on my printer and printed it. I shut down the computer and stared at the flight information for some time.

“Well, I guess I’m going on a trip,” I affirmed to myself, wondering why I could find no information on Sancta.

I guess I’m going to find out if it actually exists, or if I’m going nowhere. This is all so cloak and dagger; I couldn’t help but wonder what I was getting myself into; and conversely, why my father (if he truly is) was putting me through all of this.

Whatever the case, I’m going to see this through - for now.

I packed a small bag, not intending on staying long. I gave myself plenty of time so I would be sure to catch the flight. The woman behind the ticket counter gave me odd looks after checking my ticket, but said nothing and processed me through.

Several hours, and a flight change later, the plane began to descend into a veil of fog in search of the runway. I couldn’t see the pavement below; the pilot making a smooth landing. We deplaned down the steps onto the tarmac; I haven’t exited a plane in this manner in a very long time. I found my way to baggage claim and retrieved my sole piece of luggage; hailed a cab and asked to be taken to a nice hotel.

“I know just the place, mister,” the cabbie announced. He raced through the streets of the fog filled city. I was barely able to make out the buildings in the thick blanket when the cab pulled up in front of a hotel.

I stepped up to the front desk and the clerk handed me a key without either of us saying a word.

“Excuse me; I don’t have a reserva…” I began to protest, but was cut short by the quick reply of the desk clerk.

“Oh, but you do, Mr. Friedrich. We’ve been expecting you,” she concluded with a pert smile. “Gilbert,” she continued, speaking the name with a heavy accent, pronouncing it as zheel-bear, “will show you to your room.” She nodded to the bellboy just to the right of the counter.

Gilbert was young; I would guess in his early twenties. He had a glazed look in his eyes. He did not smile or speak all the way to my room. He seemed fixated on a single goal; zombie-like; nothing else mattered; never turning his head once.

Safely tucked away for the night, I recounted the events of the day. The looks of disgust from the airport staff when they became aware of my destination to the hotel clerk who had been expecting me. For some odd reason, I felt calm; serene. Sleep came easily.

I was awakened by a knock on the door. It was him; the man who had made me come to realize just who or what I was, although I was not ready to admit it to anyone, least of all myself.

“Good morning,” he began, “I hope I didn’t disturb you.”

“No, not at all,” I lied. I had been sleeping like a log.

“I am to deliver this message to you,” He said, handing me a sealed envelope. “I will take my leave.” And he was gone; as quickly as it took me to look up from the envelope.

I closed the door and laid the envelope on the table. I made a cup of coffee to help wake up before I read the note.

I opened the envelope to reveal a note written in old style handwriting on parchment. The note simply stated:

Why can’t these people be straight forward for once? I’ve come this far, I may as well keep going. Not having brought any formal attire with me, I will have to do some last-minute shopping. I showered and dressed, then had one more cup of coffee while I took in the view from the balcony.

I can’t believe this is the same city I enter in a blanket of fog just the day before. I can see for miles in any direction and only last night, I could barely see past the nose of the taxi.

Coffee gone, I ventured out to look for a tuxedo or other suitable attire for an opera house. As I entered the lobby, I saw Gilbert standing near the front desk, apparently waiting for the next guest needing an escort to their room. I walk over and asked him where I might find a shop to purchase formal attire. He told me the name and proceeded to use his arms for this direction and that.

I wandered through the streets, not completely sure of his directions, but found the establishment in question with little effort. I tried on a few outfits, choosing a modest tuxedo for the night. After a few measurements, the tailor assured me it would be delivered to the hotel with time to spare.

As I handed him my credit card, he waved his hand, saying “No, sir, it has already been taken care of.”

Arguing with the merchant would have proven pointless, so I bid him good day and left. With the better part of the day still ahead of me, I decided on a small tour of the city. My first stop was a local curiosity shop.

There were goods of all kinds displayed for sale here. I suppose there is someone out there for each item for sale here. You know what they say, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” There was an abundance of treasure here.

I hadn’t planned on buying anything; just biding my time. While perusing the shelves, I spied a beautiful young woman across the store. I lingered a little longer, moving slowly about the store, just to sneak peeks of her as she shopped. “Damn, I’m stalking her!” I thought to myself. I decided to quickly buy something and make my exit. I absently took a book from a bin and made my way to the register.

As I was making my purchase, the woman approached the far end of the counter. She shyly smiled as I looked in her direction. I quickly turned away in embarrassment and finalized my acquisition. I hastily made my way to the door, bumping into at least two displays on the way out.

Once outside, I took a moment to admire my new treasure. I purchased a book entitled, “Fishing for the Moon.” I chuckled to myself as I hurriedly placed it back in the bag and moved along the street. I took in a few more shops in my travels and found myself in front of the science museum at the docks.

I made a quick tour of the museum, finding some interesting displays. As I made my exit, I felt a chill run down my spine as if I were being watched.

I shrugged it off to being in an unfamiliar setting and began to admire the collection of fish in the pond outside. Wishing I had my rod and reel with me, I looked up and noticed the beautiful woman across the pond.

This has to be more than mere coincidence, I thought. I gathered my resolve and walked around the pound and introduced myself.

“Excuse me, Miss, weren’t you at the curiosity shop earlier?” regretting my forwardness.

“Yes, I was there earlier,” she tittered.

“I thought it was you. My name is…” I began.

“Jadon; yes, I know, and I am Natalia,” she finished.

I’m getting used to people making arrangements for me and paying for my purchases in my stead, but I am getting quite tired of them finishing my sentences. I quickly shrugged off my irritation and turned my attention to Natalia.

“So, Natalia, how do you know my name?”

“My brother, Rogan; his master was expecting you. That is all he has been talking about for the last two days.”

“Master? You make him sound like a pet.”

“Oh, no! You have it all wrong. It is a pleasure for my brother to serve him.”

“Do you serve this master, as well?” I inquired.

“Sadly, I am not worthy to serve him. I am human.”

“And your brother is not?”
“No, he is one of the Branded. My mother was taken by a vampire and gave birth to Rogan.”

“I would love to learn more, but I fear I must get back to my hotel; I have an appointment I must keep. May I meet with you later?”

“I understand. I would love to meet with you again. There is a lounge just down the street from your hotel. I can meet you there tomorrow.”

“That would be wonderful. Until tomorrow, then!” She gave me the name of the lounge and directions to get there.

I walked around the corner and spied the hotel off in the distance. I made my way back as quickly as possible. True to his word, the tux was waiting for me at the front desk.

I laid out the tux on the bed, and proceeded to shower and shave. I began to don the tuxedo and was amazed at how well it fit from the few brief moments I spent with the tailor. It was modified perfectly; neither too tight nor too loose. The gloves may be a bit too much, but the merchant suggested them. Who am I to disagree?

I again made my way to the lobby, where Gilbert was waiting to escort me to a waiting taxi. I was no sooner in the back seat when the driver pulled away at flank speed, as if there were a fire to get to. Arriving at the Opera House in what must be a record time, the driver was off as quickly as ever.

I climbed the steps to an old Gothic façade that overshadowed the reset of the neighboring architecture, although it was the shortest of them. I reached for the handle on the huge ornate door and it began to swing open on its own. I stepped through into a lobby done in entirely too much red with rich wood panels on the wall.

As I walked in further, I was surprised to see the man who visited me pass through the lobby. Natalia was not too far in his wake. I greeted her, expressing my curiosity at her presence.

Before she could speak, the man beckoned to her, “Come Natalia.”

“I’m sorry! I must not keep my brother waiting. You must not keep your appointment waiting, either.” she said as she turned to follow him.

End chapter

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