Oh, how she loved the village.
It was a place nestled at the base of the mountain and made her think of all those picturesque towns that a person finds in brochures and travel magazines. A quaint little place you can believe magic existed.
The main street bustled with the sounds and smells of dusk. Families wandered as children ran about and mothers chatted each others ears off. A bar on a street corner was opened for business as it served it’s customers and the restaurants and cafes released a delicious scent into the air everytime a door opened. It was vastly different from the isolation she knew in the castle.
____ hurried her small steps to match Vlads long and relaxed strides as they wandered the darkening cobblestone streets. “Stay close.” He said and placed a hand on her shoulder to steer her in the right direction. He led her into their favorite cafe and sat at one of the tables by the large window. “Any idea what you want to order?”
“Everything.” She grinned. ____ he wouldn’t berate her for eating too much or ordering more than she could possibly consume, because odds are Vlad would be doing the exact same. The Romanian flashed a playful grin, one of his fang like teeth catching the light before calling a waitress and ordering.
Turning back to the young girl, he rested his chin in his hand. “So, what do you want to do next week?” ___ knew what he meant. Her birthday was next week, and Vlad and the others wanted to plan something.
“Oh come on. You only turn eleven once. Maybe we can have a party. Or have a day trip to Bucharest. I can talk old Lukas and Arthur into some dragon riding if you want.”
____ looked out at the street, the orange light of the setting sun bathed the buildings in it’s golden hue. “I wanna go to the festival.” She finally said, looking at him with hopeful eyes.
“Festival? As in the Witch Festival here in town?” She nodded excitedly. “You wouldn’t rather go dragon riding?”
She looked at him, annoyed. “No. We can do that anytime. But this is the first time it’s on my birthday. So I wanna go with all of you.” The Witch Festival was an old tradition in the village. It was part of some kind of local lore that dated back centuries ago. The story went that a lord that owned the village was a powerful witch, and told the villagers that if they celebrated him and the magic he used to keep the manor safe on the first full moon of Autumn, then they would be safe from harm for the next year. Of course, ___ knew that wasn’t true. First of all, the witch lord sat across from her, winking at a pair of giggling women as they passed him. Vlad wasn't even a witch. He was... Well she wasn't quite sure what he was, or if there was even a word for it. But she knew with certainty that what Vlad practiced was not witchcraft of any kind. Lukas, after much of her prying, had told her years ago that Vlads expertise lay in the art of Bloodmagic. A form of magic that was ancient and had ceased being widely used at least five centuries ago. That was the only time in her life Lukas had forbidden her to study something. Secondly, Vlad hadn't even started the trend in the first place. It was the doing of fearful and superstitious peasants who thought it would please their odd lord. Vlad told her he thought the idea fun and felt no need to tell them it wasn't necessary. After all, it was the only newsworthy thing they had until the plague came about.
The waitress came back and laid the plates of treats on the table, she handed them napkins, the one on top held some kind of scribble that ____ knew was the woman's number. The child made a face behind the woman's back as she walked off. Vlad laughed. "Aw. You don't want to share me?"
____ made a face at him next. "I just don't get why ladies always do that and make gooey eyes at you guys. It's gross."
"Well, as difficult as it is for you to believe, little one, I am quite appealing."
"But you're old."
"But I look good for my age." Vlad laughed a bit too loudly and a couple who sat in the table beside them gave them an odd look. But it was true none the less. Vlad and the others had been alive for centuries, yet all of them had the faces and figures of men in their twenties. ____ always wondered if it was a spell or curse that made them this way, or if was simply the practice of magic itself that kept them in the full bloom of youth. It made her wonder if she would live forever too.
"So can we go to the festival? Please?" It really was a magic word.
Vlad smiled fondly and picked a cookie off its plate. "Of course. After all, you are my favorite girl." He popped the sugary morsel in his mouth.
"You know, now that I think about it, Alistar is pretty handsome..."
The red eyed man nearly choked on his cookie. "What!? He's even older than me!"
"Yeah, but he looks good for his age." The girl said with a smirk on her face.
After the duo got back to the castle, Vlad sent ___up to her room for bed before seeking out his two companions. He found them in the library, Lukas sitting at a desk, no doubt looking over ancient texts from his homeland, or writing to his brother who lived in Iceland. Arthur sat in his favorite green arm chair as he read a fat novel with a steaming cup of tea beside him. Vlad laughed in his head, Arthur could be such a stereotype sometimes.
"Honey, I'm home!" The Blood Magician said in a joking sing song voice as he strode into the room. The two looked at him disapprovingly.
"And just where have you been?"Arthur inquired as he shut his book. "You ought to tell one of us before you take ___ away on one of your little outings." He continued to scold.
Vlad rolled his eyes. "We were just going to the village. And I left a note for one of my bats to give you. I swear, you act like I kidnap her sometimes."
The blond man's thick brows lowered to give him an angry expression. "Oh sure. Paint me the heartless one. At least I think of the consequences of what such behavior will have on the child. Meanwhile, all you do is coddle her."
Vlad glared at his friend. The three had been together for gods only knew how long, but anything pertaining to their young ward always spurred argument of some kind. Since Arthur and Lukas actually had prior experience with raising children, Vlad was limited in such matters. As such, the Romanian was regarded as an immature guardian.
Arthur sighed. "Where is she?"
"Did she have dinner?"
"Is she getting ready for bed?"
"Well she should, I told her too."
The British man rolled his eyes and was about to walk out the room to check when Vlad told them what _____ wanted to do for her birthday.
"The Witch Festival?" Lukas asked, somewhat confused. After all, they had expected her to want a trip somewhere, or a party, or something more exciting. "You take her to that every year, regardless."
"Yes. But this is the first time its on her birthday, and she told me she wants all three of us to take her. Not just me. As much as it breaks that my heart that my company isn't enough any more."
Arthur and Lukas nodded. "Fine."Arthur said. "Did she happen to say what she might like for a gift?"
"Not really. But I doubt she would object to us putting your brother in a bow."
____ looked down from the mountain top as she looked at the lights of the town below.
This castle had sat on the mountaintop since the dark ages, and the source for most of the locals legends. Mortals looked up and could just barely make out the shape of stone ruins. But Vlad had disguised the interior long ago. One could explore the ruins, but only those few non mortals could open the barely standing front doors to discover the castle had barely changed since its golden age.
When she had first came here, ___ thought she could be a princess. After all, her room was one of the high towers of the castle that gazed down at the country side. Her walls were a bright and cheery pink with flowers painted everywhere and tapestries of fairytales hung from the walls instead of posters and pictures. Maybe after she turned eleven, she would tell them she was too old for those baby pink walls.
There was faint knocking on the heavy wooden door and Arthur cracked it open a bit. “Are you decent love?”
He opened the door all the way and smiled gently at her. “Ah, you’re all ready for bed.” ___ had changed into her pajamas and had gotten out of the shower a few minutes before. Her hair was even still wet and tangled.
With a nod, she held out her brush, “Arthur can you please help me? I always have trouble getting the knots out.”
He chuckled a bit before he took the brush from her hands. “Of course, Poppet.” He sat beside her by the window and started to detangle the (h/c) mass that was her hair. “So, did you have fun with Vlad?”
“Yep. We went to a cafe and he even bought me a new book.” She said excitedly. “It’s about a boy whose dad is a Greek god and he has to go on an adventure to save the world!”
“That sounds exciting. Perhaps I’ll pick it up when you’re done.” He said as he brushed at a particularly difficult tangle. If there was one thing Arthur knew he did right, it was installing a love of reading in her. “I should try to find you some kind of detangling spell or potion. Because whatever shampoo we keep buying you obviously dosen’t work as well as it should.”
Her head moved to gaze out the window, and he had to make her face forward again so that he could finish. “Arthur, do you think I’ll ever get better at magic?”
“I’m sure you will.” He assured.
Arthur sighed, glad that she wasn’t looking him in the eye. “Impossible to say. Some get better early on. Others much later in life. I didn’t finish my training until well into my teens.”
“Indeed. I was the runt of my family. In more ways than one. So don’t despair, you’ll find your way soon.”
Arthur didn’t have to see her face to know she was pouting. “But I’ve had my powers since I was four!” Turning in her seat, her (e/c) eyes looked up at him, pleading for a real answer. “You guys made me learn all kinds of spells! You taught me stuff no one else gets to see! You always say I can do stuff no one else my age can do, but all I can do is magic for babies! Why can’t I do what I’m suppose to do? Why can’t I do anything right!?”
“Now now love, calm down.” Arthur tried to say calmly, not used to such an outburst. “You’re so eager to grow up that you forget you’re still young.” He brushed some of the wet strands of hair from her face. Sometimes Arthur forgot that she wasn’t five anymore. Why did they grow so fast? “Just remember, you’ll always have me, Vlad, and Lukas to guide you. So don’t think you have to master everything in a day. Just slow down, and everything will fall into place.”
She sniffled. “Really?”
“Really.” ___ hugged him and Arthur carried her to bed and tucked her in. “Now. Off to bed, and sweet dreams.”
As ___ snuggled into bed, Arthur turned out her light and was about to shut the door behind him. “Arthur?”
“You’re welcome, love.”