I grew up in a farming suburb a few miles south from the central plaza of my town. Our population was somewhere near a thousand villagers; everyone knew one another. Our town sat in the center of almost consuming environments. To the north we had mountainous area, the mountains reached into the sky and seemed to never end. In the West we had a dense forest that always kept sunlight out. The southwest had our century old cemetery, and moving to the southeast, we had a swamp covered by aquatic vegetation that sustained animal life. Between the mountains and the swamp was a river of clean water that ran from the east through the central plaza to the forest. Why situate a town in the center of all this? There was a war of between two tribes over a hundred years ago; our people got pushed back here and were forced to settle.
As far back as my memory allows me to remember; my father was always teaching me survival tactics and self defense. It was always a game and playful with my father. I never fully understood what he was doing, but he was training me like a warrior. Our small cottage fit my family. My mother and father, and my little brother Toulon. We all worked the farm together and sold our crop in the central plaza. Toulon and I had school in the morning five days a week, father taught us about basic studies and farming. After father was done teaching; we worked the fields and were left with an hour before sundown to play with the neighboring farm children before coming in for supper.
At dinner Toulon and I told mother all about what father taught us, and what games we played with our free hour outside. Mother would clean table and meet us in the living area where we spent our last hours of the day together. My brother and I always sat in front of the fire, mother would knit and father would relax in his big chair. When we got sent to bed; Toulon always tried to fight it by begging mother to allow us to stay up a bit longer. I always rushed to the room to ensure I would get the better pillow. Our beds were close enough to where we could have a conversation in whispers. In the dark ; Toulon always had me tell him stories of fantasy and adventure, he would fall asleep way before I finished my story. I didn't mind, father used to tell me stories to help me drift to sleep. That night, mother stepped into the room and sat at beside me on my bed.
“yes mother? Sorry I don't feel too sleepy yet”
“it's fine son, I love your stories just as much as Toulon,”
“Their the same father would tell me before bed,”
“thank you and caring for Toulon, he will always be your little brother, he will always need you to watch over him.”
“i know, and I will”
she leaned over and kiss me on the forehead and said good night. This was life, as perfect as I remember it.
This Saturday started like any other, we were all getting ready to head into town to sell off some crops. Father remembered he had left important farming tools near the river's end to the east. He planned to go get them and was hoping mother would take Toulon and I into town to sell. Mother being socially shy and having a more giving nature didn't want to secretly give our produce away for a much cheaper price and asked father to take me into town and decided to take Toulon to retrieve our tools. Father loaded all the crops and we headed for the central plaza.
After only a few hours, we had sold all of our produce and packed up to head home. Father was especially delighted and excited to tell mother of our haul. We arrived at our cozy cottage to find it empty. Mother and Toulon weren't there. Father and I checked the fields and all around. We had enough daylight still to head to the river, but still no luck. All that was left by the river's shore was mother's scarf and Toulon's shoes. Father stood there staring into the horizon with the scarf and shoes in hand
“They must have stopped so Toulon could put his feet in the water, “
I looked up to him scared to say anything As days passed the entire village helped in our search, but after a week everyone told us they were gone. The town's mayor came to our house to speak with my father. I leaned against the door to hear the conversation.
“I'm sorry for your lost, we all searched as much as humanly possible; the swamp, the mountains, the forest, and the riverside. We found nothing, absolutely nothing. I think it's safe to say, the raiders took them.”
“yes, sir. Thank you, please thank everyone for all their efforts.”
“Of course! Your family has been a big part of this community for years! I treated this situation as if I lost my own family, I am sorry if there is anything I can please don't hesitate to ask.”
The mayor shook my father's hand then walked off the porch and into the dusk.
The next few days father said nothing, he just stayed in bed. I tended to the crops and chores; bringing him a bit of food and drink before going to bed. I had never been so confused in my life, mother and Toulon were gone; I began feeling like father was mad at me for it. I sat in front of the fire where Toulon and I sat every night, it wasn't the same. Father came and sat down next me in front of the fire.
“We'll never see them again will we?”
“Son... I don't know what to tell you, I don't know what to tell myself.”
“Dad, what are the Raiders?'
“The Raiders are pirates, they kidnap people, women, children and sell them as workers, but don't concern yourself with them. The Raiders didn't take your family.'
“Then what happened?”
“When the time is right you'll know everything, but sadly my son you aren't allowed to grieve for your lost family. Now is time for you to learn and train. Do you remember your grandfather, how hard he was on me growing up. Passing on the skills from your great father of the war long ago? For now go to bed and in the morning things will get started, I'm sorry for what the rest of your life will be like, for what I have to do. One day it will all make sense; I promise you.”
he stood up and went to bed, I stared at the fire a bit longer trying to make sense of everything, but soon gave up and went to bed; no longer having anyone to whisper to in the middle of the night, only left with an empty bed.
Father woke me very early, the sun had just started to rise. He told me to get dressed and meet him outside. My eyes were fighting to stay closed but I forced myself out the door. Father stood there breathing in deep, eyes closed.
“What are we studying today dad?”
He said nothing. I sat down on the porch,
“On your feet boy!”
“Sorry dad, I'm just tired. And I..”
“ENOUGH!... go sling the ropes around the barn's pulley's.”
“What do I do after, it shouldn't take long.”
He turned and look down at me
“ No steps or ladders, stand in front of the barn and throw the rope through the pulley until I come and get you”
I was confused, is this possible?
“Dad I don't thin..”
It was impossible, I had been at it for hours; this was crazy. Finally I saw father coming towards me,
“How many times have you gotten it into the pulley?”
Scared to answer,
“Not once Father, I can't do it.”
He stepped besides me, pushing me a bit; tore the rope out from my hand and did exactly what he was expecting of me.
“Tomorrow morning you will continue to do this; now I want you to come inside for studies.”
Our studies were now focused on survival and defense, ending with religion. During mid day we tended to the farm, till close to evening when father and I began weapons training till night.
“Okay son, go have dinner then get to bed, “
In bed, I kept thinking about what was now happening. Who was this man in my father's skin. This was all so different. A few days into this I made the mistake of asking Father during weapons training,
“Why am I doing this Dad?”
He stopped his demonstration of the Bo Staff; stared at me and began again,
“Dad please, I don't know what I'm doing this for.”
Just as I finished the sentence, I felt the the staff connect with my right shoulder. The pain shot through with a burning sensation.
I had morning exercises, mid morning studies, afternoon farming, evening weapons training. Everyday of the week; except Sunday. On Sunday I had studies for most of the day and farming. Father gave me the the rest of the day to myself. Now that Toulon was gone, I had nothing to do, none of the neighboring kids came around anymore. They all thought my father was crazy, and I was well on my way. So they stayed away. And this became my life,
Years past, ten to be precise. Every day was the same, the only difference was the training. Different skills in the morning, different studies, different weapons at night. Father was getting old and so was I. The only friend I managed to make along the way was Ada. Her family ran the farm across from ours. On most Sunday during my free time we worked on her farm or just lay around my barn. The only friend I had since Toulon.
This week the town had been preparing a Easter Celebration for Saturday night, it just so happened to be my birthday as well. I was hoping to take Ada, and was trying to figure out how to talk father into letting me attend.
Friday night after weapons training, I worked up the courage,
“Dad, you know tomorrow is my 17th birthday,”
Father said nothing
“Well, I was thinking tomorrow I could take Ada to the Easter Celebration...”
Still nothing, he was packing the weapons up from training.
“Father, will you listen to me? I'm telling you I'm going to the celebration tomorrow for my birthday!”
He stopped packing, stood up and looked at me, he was no longer having to look down to meet me eye to eye.
“I don't care what tomorrow is, you have better things to do.”
“Like what?! Train for the end of the world. Times are different now Dad; You've trained me so be this unstoppable monster!, there is no war anymore! Mom and Toulon were taken by Raiders! Mom was probably sold to the sex trade and Toulon as a slave on the ships!”
It hurt so bad to say it out loud, but it had to be said. He just stood there staring at me.
“Fine! I'll just go to bed then!”
“Stop! We have more training to do in the forest!”
Some days we would continue exercises late into the night, most nights were in the forest, other we traveled around the town to the different areas.
“No Dad, I've been doing this for ten years! I think I deserve to enjoy my birthday... I'm going to bed, and tomorrow I'm going to the celebration with Ada.”
I walked inside and went to bed.
The next day I slept well into the mid morning. Scared I went looking for Father, he was sitting on the porch.
“What happened? Why didn't you wake me?”
“tend to the farm before you go”
He got up and walked inside. I was so excited, I finished all my chores and got ready to go meet Ada. As I was walked off the porch I turned to hear my Father
“Take care of yourself, don't come home too late... Happy Birthday Son.”
It was so great to have him talk to me like I was his son, and not some soldier. Ada and I headed to the central plaza. The celebration was amazing! They had shows, game stands, and raffles, after winning Ada a prize, she kissed me! The fireworks drew the celebration to a close. Ada and I began talking the trail to the farm land hand in hand.
As we walked, a breeze picked up. Then winds came roaring through the plaza, it seemed to be coming from the Town's Church. Lightning covered the sky. The clouds covered moon's reflection, and we were left in darkness. The people at the celebration panicked, started running for the hills; emptying the plaza. A bolt of lightning struck the church; it glowed for a minute then cooled. Men in black hooded robes came running out of the church and into the plaza. Ada and I ran; just trying to make our way through the people. We ran as far and as fast as we could and ended up in the forest. We stopped to catch a breath.
“what was that!”
“Ada, are you okay?”
“yeah fine, just scared,”
I held her tight, we stood there in the woods. I noticed where we were, and began walking the path I memorized to get back to the farms.
“where are you going?”
“Come on Ada, I know where we are, just stay close, okay?”
“no way! Are you crazy? I'm not going in there, besides we'll get lost!”
“Ada, I promise I know where I'm going.
“...but I'm scared”
“just stay close.”
I smiled at her and gave her my hand. I navigated through the forest just as father taught me. The late night training in the forest really paid off. We finally made it to the clearing leading to the farms.
“Figures the night I go out to enjoy myself in ten years, would be a night weird stuff happens.”
Ada stopped and pull me close. She kissed me! She looked me in the eyes and said
“aside from the church practically blowing up by lightning, I had an great time. I cant wait for our next date.”
We walked the fields leading to our houses. The wind began to pick up; it was deathly cold. It seemed the storm was chasing after us. I could see our breath as we started walking faster.
I felt something push by me, must be the wind. I began pulling Ada through the wind. Suddenly I was pushed forward, I looked up to see a black cape covering my line of sight. It couldn't have just been the wind. I got to my feet only to realize; Ada was gone. A figure was pulling her away, it looked like he was starting to jump into the sky as if to fly, I ran after her screams.
I grabbed the black cloak and pulled the person down to the ground. Throwing the cloak aside, the figure wasn't a man, it was a skeleton. I had no time to process this, I just had to save Ada. I grabbed a boulder from the ground and struck the skeleton. I managed to crack the skull and it fell into a pile of bones. I pulled Ada up and we ran. This time I felt something stronger pull me back and lift me into the sky. I couldn't see what it was, It let go; I fell to ground. All I could hear was Ada screaming, I look up to her being dragged away into the woods by the black robes. Then she was in the sky heading north to the mountains.
I staggered to my feet and walk over to where I last saw her. I stopped at the woods, I could see a trail of her feet dragging into the woods, then it ended. I walked back to the house;father met me half way he had his Bo Staff in hand.
“Son! What happened?! Where's Ada?!”
“Dad, something took her!”
I looked down to the ground catching my breath.
“Well, what was it?”
What took her? I couldn't believe it myself, should I even say it aloud? Maybe my mind was playing tricks or the lightning might have thrown me off. My father placed his hand on my shoulder,
“Come on boy! What took her!?”
“A skeleton in a black robe!”
Jeez, did I just say that? Without missing a beat father pulled me walking back to the cottage,
“Come on son, there isn't a second to lose!”
Maybe he misheard me;
Back at the cottage, father was gathering all our weapons and survival bags. Rushing back and forth between rooms.
He stopped dead in his tracks.
“Dad, what's going's on? Did you hear me when I said a skeleton?”
He walked over to me, placing both hands on my shoulders, looking me dead in the eyes.
“Skeletons in black hooded robes, moving with the speed of cold winds. The storm started in the central plaza, with a powerful bolt of lightning striking the church. “
“Dad, what's going on?”
He began packing again,
“Some of the black robed figures, were men. Having a black mass in the church to resurrect evil. So evil's legion of loyal minions could take our land from us once again. I was hoping there'd be more time son, but now we have to get to Ada, before it's too late. Now where did they take her?”
Father and I began making our way to the mountains north of town; we traveled through the night, it must have been nearing midnight. As we got closer to the top of the mountain, it got colder, darker, and the lightning returned. Lighting the sky and our way. Finally we got to a clearing, stopping to look towards the top. We saw nothing; no black robes, no skeletons, and no Ada.
“Don't get discouraged my boy, just keep going.”
The thunder came roaring full force. Lightning completely illuminated the sky. Father and I fell back. Now the weather was constant. We got to our feet and looked to the summit. There was now a gigantic castle standing alone on the edge of the mountain.
“There son! We must go now!”
We made our way, between the boulders, shrubs, and large dead trees. We heard the crowing of birds in the distance, the sound grew louder. When we made our way over another boulder, a fleet of ravens came dive bombing us. We were covered, all I could see were black feathers everywhere. We pushed through, knocking the birds as much as we could. Father lit a torch, waving it in the air, trying desperately to rid us of these ravens. As quick as they came, they were gone, I looked over to Dad, his face had cuts, from the birds. He looked so different, a determined man, on a mission.
“What was that about?!”
“Keep your wits about you son, this is only the beginning.”
As we turned the corner of more rocks and dead bushes, three black robed figures appeared. They stood in front of us. We walked closer and they pulled their hoods back and dropped their black robes, Skeletons. They were dark and dirty, covered in cuts and gashes. Some looked like they had ripped themselves out of vines and plants. They withdrew swords made of bones from their rib cage. Father tossed me his Bo Staff, and we engaged the skeletons. It was so unbelievable to think of what was going, how calm Father was about all of this. All I could think about was finding Ada again. I had to save her, and if tearing apart skeletons got me to her, then that's what I'd do.
We beat the skeletons to the ground, to pieces; and continued to the summit. At the top, we found ourselves in front of a gate that connected the brick walls that surrounded the area; which enclosed the castle. I reached to push the gate open, Father reached out and handed me the supplies.
“Now is your chance to avenge your mother and Toulon. They were never taken by Raiders, or anything of the sorts. The thing responsible for taking your childhood from you and mine and every one of your ancestors is in that castle.”
He fell to his knees, then slumped himself to his side. I kneeled beside him, holding him.
“Father what's wrong?!”
He held his side, I could see blood coming from his wounds, he must have been stabbed by the skeletons. He was gasping for air, dying.
“Father, please don't go! I need you!”
He handed me his bible, hatchet, and whip.
“Go now, save Ada before it's too late. You can do this, it's in your blood.”
He fell over, dead in my arms. I gave him my last embrace, and laid him against the gates.
The dark clouds past by the crescent moon lighting my way. Bats and ravens flew everywhere behind the old rusted gate all the way to the darkened castle. I can do this. It's my duty to bring peace and stability back to Transylvania. I am Simon Belmont and I will prevail...