Frequent Flyer Livery Service (Part 1)
He watched through the clear glass window of his private room in the center tower. It was the only room in his castle– a large, grey-brick structure with four turrets and the taller tower in the center–with such a large window. It was more than just a window, however. For Count Marcel, it was a two-way looking glass that allowed him to see any place, any time. Scientists later would call it a portal, though it really was not. This particular moment, he watched as a carriage moved swiftly down the dirt road in the woods beyond his home. His lofty position in the tower and the fact that the window ran around the entire room, gave him an eagle’s view of the surrounding territory. He usually knew a visitor was coming long before they arrived.
On this day, however, he was not expecting any guests, and the carriage on the road beyond was not heading his way. It was heading for his archenemy’s castle on the other side of the woods. The nostrils of his long beak-like nose curled as he whiffed the air.
Female, he thought.
His eyes stared into the scene in the window until it zoomed in on the carriage. The sunset struck so brilliantly into the traveling carriage when it gained the hilltop, that its occupant was steeped in crimson. The woman was quite lovely with her soft brunette hair pulled up into a large, sheer, pink hat. Her full bosom burst from her pale, pink frock. She held a small hand mirror in front of her face and smeared paint on her lips. Her beauty was lost on Count Marcel, however, as all he could see was the crimson flooding the carriage. He hurled himself through the window, his black cape winging out behind him as if he were flying. He swooped down into the carriage, scooped up the helpless female, and threw her in front of the carriage. The horses charged before the driver could stop them and trampled the woman to death, filling the path with a shade of crimson such as to rival the sunset.
He smiled from his perch in the tower, pleased with his work. He looked at the corkboard hanging on his wall, and flicked his index finger through the air. Ghostly fingers scratched a one on the white page tacked to the board, just above the number four. A noise from behind him caused him to turn and he observed yet another carriage worked its way slowly over the mountain behind him. He pulled a small vial filled with red liquid from his pants pocket and set it upright in a pan before redirecting his attention to the new carriage.
He tended to ignore the mountainside, mostly because those who traveled the mountain were too poor, their blood too tainted for his experiments. Something seemed odd about this particular passage though, and his hawk eyes trained to the carriage until it seemed to be in the room with him.
Interesting place for a Prince! He thought as he recognized the carriage occupant. His eyes squinted slightly as the gears in his brain churned. Beyond the mountain was nothing but barren wasteland. Acting hastily before the carriage breached the bottom of the mountain, he jumped through the glass, his cape fanning out behind him, and free fell straight into the carriage.
“Wha…?” said the startled Prince as the Count landed smoothly in the seat across from him.
“Good morning, Sire,” Marcel said, making a slight bow from his waist. “I am amused that one such as you should be traveling this dark route. Have you no fear of the haunts that lurk these hills?”
The Prince trembled slightly in his seat. “None would dare face the King’s wrath,” he said unconvincingly. Marcel laughed, and laughed again as he watched the Prince shudder at its sound.
“Those who live in these hills fear nothing, least of all your King.” Marcel extended a hand out to the Prince. “I am Count Marcel. I own the Frequent Flyer Livery Service you should have engaged for your journey. I keep a vigilant eye from my castle there.” He pointed out the window as it came in view. “I am here solely to service good folks like you who have no business traveling alone through these parts. I have rerouted this drab excuse for wheels the city calls a carriage to my home where we will switch to one of my much finer ones for the duration of your journey. There is none in these hills who dare interfere with my riders. The risk is too great.”
As the last word rolled off Marcel’s tongue, the carriage approached the grey brick castle and a sharp whistle slipped from Marcel’s lips. The drawbridge came down. The carriage rolled over the drawbridge with enough speed to jostle the men inside.
“Whoa, that’s a rather rough ride,” the Prince said. The Count pointed out the window again at a group of wolves running behind the carriage. Only one of them was daring enough to try to jump the drawbridge and found itself sliced in half as the bridge closed on it. A satisfied smile crept across the Count’s face as its blood splattered against the castle walls.
“There, see? Already I am protecting you.” He stepped out of the carriage and held the door open for the Prince, who stopped just outside the carriage.
“Where is your carriage?”
The Count whistled again and a horse came from around a corner. A man sat on a bench atop a carriage behind the horse. This carriage was indeed grander than the one the Prince had just emptied. The black paint was shiny and trimmed with gold. The black steed pulling it was young and frisky. Even the driver looked healthy and extravagant in a black suit.
“That will do quite nicely, actually, Count. What do you require in payment for your services?”
“Blood sacrifice,” the Count answered, a sick grin on his face. The Prince startled and cast a glance from the corner of his eye. The Count chuckled, a dry, sinister sound that did not relax the Prince even a little. The smile left Marcel’s face. “It is only a small vile. At least, you will live, unlike the others.”
The Prince’s head turned to take in his surroundings. For the first time he noticed where he was. It was a graveyard of sorts, though perhaps torture chamber described it better. The yard was full of black birds -vulture, crow, raven- all of which were feasting on decaying flesh hanging from gallows, dangling from stocks, and there was even one in an iron maiden. The stench hit him next and he gagged, bending over, which was all the Count needed to slit the Prince’s throat. He gathered a vial full and pushed the Prince out of the carriage before whistling the drawbridge down and letting the pack of wolves in.
They gathered around the Count like beloved pets, whining and scrambling over each other eagerly, hoping for a pat from the master’s hand.
“Well done, my puppies, well done.” He led them to the not-quite-dead Prince. They danced in anticipation, growls of delight leaving their throats. He eyed the Prince slowly, carefully. A full-mouthed grin crossed his face as terror froze on the Prince’s as the hungry wolves swarmed in.
Count Marcel watched from the tower as the wolves devoured their meal, a feeling of warm satisfaction filling his cold heart. Another ghostly finger left a scratch on the board as he set the vial in the box next to the first.
Two, he thought, and it is not even lunchtime!
The Count walked over to a corner of the room, the only part not encased in glass, and clapped. A panel in the wall slid open and he stepped into the darkness beyond. A light turned in the center of the room above a hospital bed. Shadows along the wall became clearer the closer he moved to the light. Medical equipment used to sustain life lurked there, the various wires running to and from the bed.
“Perhaps, my darling, I will finally have enough blood to give you a transfusion.” He stepped to the edge of the bed and pulled the sheet down. Fine white hair spilled across the pillow. Beneath the hair lay a shriveled face. Only its lips held youth. Marcel closed his eyes and kissed those lips as his hand reached up and stroked her hair.
He sighed deeply, the pain of his loss forcing it out. He did a quick check of her vitals. A frown creased his forehead. She was getting weaker. A volley of tears slid down his face. He could not stop crying and rage replaced his sadness. He threw the sheet over her face and stormed out of the room, the whisper of the wall panel filling the silence behind him.
And last but not least, and although its about a 1,000 words over the suggested word count, I finally managed to use a prompt from Inspiration Monday: Can’t Stop Crying.
I missed the deadline and a new photo prompt is up, but last week’s Picture It and Write (posted in the story above) planted the seed for the story so I wanted to give the creator of the meme due credit. A new photo prompt goes live every Saturday or Sunday. You should check them out!
The second part is being written now, and you can expect to read it tomorrow.
I welcome and appreciate all honest feedback on my writing. Please share your thoughts in a comment.
Thanks for stopping in!