All in the Cards

Echoes bounce across the cavernous hall, disappearing into the shadows and reappearing behind rich wooden pillars, as the shaken farmboy is escorted forwards by the servant of the house.  Dressed in a man’s waistcoat yet a woman’s long skirt—both sky blue like her eyes—the woman tilts not an inch of out line between the archway in the front of the room and the stone desk at the back, whereat a solitary figure is seated.  The farmboy shivers; his eyes flit from a shadow here to a deceptive piece of tapestry there.  Fear snaps at his feet, like the pups of wild dogs, heralding the true danger the sires and dams of that fear will bring.  This place, this mansion, is not right.  It’s too cold, but too hot; too empty, and yet so very much not empty enough for his tastes.  He should never have taken shelter from the storm here.  He should have pulled the cider cast with his out two hands when his horse had broken its leg.  He should have asked himself why a kindly woman beckoning him inside was too good to be true.

         The figure at the desk looks up long before his servant and uninvited guest are within respectable talking distance, allowing the young man a look at his features.  White; white was his first and only thought.  Clothed in a white robe like a priest’s, there was no way of knowing whether the man’s slicked-back hair was whiter still, or whether either were whiter than his skin.  His eyes seem the only thing to truly break the stunning blankness of his visage, but the redness of the irises provide no true respite to the monochromatic nature of the face, and his expression offers no additional aid.

“Mister Howard John Sutler, my viscount,” the servant woman introduces, stepping to the side to allow the white man an unobstructed view.  “His horse was wounded on the road, and seeks a temporary shelter from the storm.”

The man at the desk massages his sculpted chin, looking Howard over.  Every inch of Howard’s skin is damp; any portion that manages to dry itself from the rain is immediately replaced with a cold and unyielding sweat.  He manages a stiff-yet-deep bow all the same, and says timidly, “I, I do not mean to intrude, sir; Your… your servant insisted on my hospitality.”

“Mmm, yes, indeed,” the man answers, his voice large, pompous, and bored, like that of a billionaire being forced to listen to a beggar.  “Your horse was wounded, you say.”

“Yes, yes sir.  A, a broken leg, she…  The storm prevented her from seeing a gash in the road, and she mis-stepped.”

“Mmm, yes, indeed,” he repeats, sounding no less bored.  His long, bony fingers tap against the dark grey stone desk, nails like claws, contemplating the situation.  Finally he leans back in his chair, and nods.  “In my house there are many rooms, and many beds.  It will be no inconvenience to me if you inhabit one of them.  I’ll have my doctors look at your horse in the meantime.  You may address me as Viscount Draan.”

Howard forces a smile, the dread of the entire situation filling him despite the solution to his travel hardships being handed him on a silver platter.  “Thank you, Viscount Draan, I would be honored,” he replies mechanically.  Who is this man, he asks himself?  What is this man?  Why does the servant girl stand so still, never twitching, never blinking?  What where those whispers and giggles in the hallways leading up to this room?  Why were there no windows anywhere in the house?

“However,” Draan adds, holding up a finger and prolonging the tension in the room even further, “There are certain… instructions, that you would be wise to keep close to your mind.”  With a sickening squeal like nails on a blackboard he opens one of the thick stone drawers of his desk and pulls out a stack of yellowed cards.  Straightening them on the polished surface as if they were a poker deck, he glides away from behind the desk and stands ten feet from Howard, head and shoulders above the farmboy in height.  Howard swallows.

“Firstly:  I am a vampire.  On this we will have no debate.”  Draan flicks the card away, and it flutters to the floor unceremoniously.

“Second, I will ask you to abandon all hope of ever leaving this place.  I fully expect you not to do so.”  This card too he flicks away.

“Thirdly, at some point you will have your blood sucked by something in this house, possibly by me; I haven’t decided yet.”  Another flick of the wrist.

“I have monsters in this house.  Yes, they will try to kill you.  Yes, some of them defy natural laws of existence.  Stop acting so surprised; it bores me.”  Flick.

“My wives are not as even-tempered as I am; you will likely end up having sexual relations with one or all of them.  They are all very beautiful and tempting.  I take no responsibility for the consequences of their actions, or yours.

“Crosses don’t work; don’t embarrass yourself by trying, please.

“Yes, we can fly.”

“No, the phones in this house do not work.  We put them there to spite you.”

“If you were stupid enough to actually come here, you’re too stupid to figure out how to leave.  But we enjoy watching you try.”

Growing tired with the whole charade, he eventually pinches the rest of the cards between his thumb and middle finger, and throws the entire remainder of the pile on the ground in front of Howards boots in a huff.  “Read the rest yourself; you interrupted a perfectly productive evening.”

 

{Sometimes I wish spooky villains would just do this up-front and cut out about a dozen very tedious dialogs from the story.}

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