Glancing backwards, the whites of your eyes flashing, you wonder what it was you heard rustling in the brush. A few leaves blow out of your way, but the rest crunch under your feet as you hurry forward on the path. Trees press in around you, the branches seeming to grab at your clothes. It is darker here in this forest where you are lost, and the sky above merely taunts you, growing purple-gray with the onset of twilight.
A clearing, a blessed clearing appears like a secret passage out of the forest. Yet you hesitate as you confront the castle before you with your stare. Old as knights, made of stone, ivy climbing its walls, the place seems uninhabited. Not a single light shines from within the dark windows. There exudes an air of being cared for, however, exhibited by the old concrete urns on each side of the shallow steps leading to the door. Shrubbery, clipped in the shapes of guardian lions, grow in the huge pots.
You hear that sound again, something following you.
Your feet take you past the lions. They rustle in the wind as you go between them, but you can breathe again. Nothing has attacked you and your backwards glance reveals nothing on the path.
Your attention is startled by torches blazing on either side of the door. Strange, you don't recall seeing them from the edge of the forest. The door before you is old, darkened with the varnish of time. It is nearly twice the height of a normal human being, and rounded at the top in the fashion of the Normans. Drawing your cloak tightly around yourself, moving closer, you notice the knocker. The bronze face is of the sun, and in Sol's mouth is the crescent moon knocker, waiting to reflect daylight into night, bidding your soul to enter. . .
Your hand is encased in a burgundy-colored, fur-lined suede glove, yet it trembles as you raise the moon shaped like the scythe blade in Death's merciless grip.
KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK!!!
I respond to your need, opening the door on well-oiled hinges, opening it as if it isn't weighed down by time. I abhore the sound of a creaky door. You gaze upon a tall, slender man with blondish hair, his face shadowed yet translucent, seemingly made solid from objects behind. . .
I see you clearly where you stand beneath the blazing torches. The fog, exhaled by the very cobblestones, silently slips in by your feet. Save for pale skin and fair head, you still can't see much of me.
Is that a glow in his eyes just now? you wonder.
"Please come in. We humbly welcome you."
A lady appears behind me as you cross the threshhold. She is petite in black velvet. Some sort of jewelry sparkles on the bodice of her gown. She has dark waves of long hair.
"Welcome, visiting stranger. I am Lady Evangeline," she announces, "or would you rather call me Countess?" As she smiles, does the light reflect off gleaming points of white fangs?
"And this is Lord Trufort."
I nod as she glances back just once, a soul-piercing glance. Many Kindred know her as Countess Sigula, though she has had other names in her centuries of existence.
Another gentleman, dark-haired like the lady, appears behind her. He wears black and his waistcoat is also studded with marcasites, flashing like black diamonds of the night.
"And this is my beloved, Louis Dumond," she purrs, smiling at his floating visage.
"Please, unfasten the frog on your cloak and warm yourself beside the fire," he invites in a voice which sounds human, indicating the way to a comfortable parlor. . .
. . .where an eerie, ethereal waltz plays on the old turntable, lulling you from the thought are there others here?.
The lady laughs. She puts her hand on her beloved's shoulder, and asks as she looks into his eyes: "Doesn't this remind you of Frank Langella dancing with Kate Nelligan?" before they whisk themselves off into the waltz.
Your hosts have a deep red wine for you to drink, an excellent vintage, and a bit of diversion in the body of words and images that take you from your world into theirs -- whichever path you follow in the maze of this castle.