A misty fog creeps over off of the water and onto the deck of the cruise ship. You cling tight to the railing as the ship's horn blast with an ear deafening blow, announcing the entire world your vessel is nearby. You clutch your coat around you. A light breeze slides the fog around you.
The horn paused and Tasha's voice comes over the loud speaker, "Good evening, everyone. I hope you enjoyed your sleep. They may be a slight discomfort as we return to our world such as headaches, nausea and disorientation. Do not be alarmed. It will go away as your body adjust. The date is November 1st, 2012. We have been gone for a month and a half. I'm sorry for the inconvenience. I had no idea the exp...uhm....trip! would take so long. Please note Dalton and I will make certain you are still able to visit every destination on your tour schedule. You just might not be able to return to your normal lives until February." The crowd grumbles and complains. You were only suppose to be on this tour for three months not half a year! What have you gotten yourself into? You can't even recall what had happened to you during the time you were gone. And what did Tasha mean when she almost said experiment? You didn't now the ROTC even conducted experiments. Was she even in the ROTC at all? Your clutch the railing as your head spins. In the distance, you see the fog slowly clearing as the cruise ship approaches the horizon. Something mysterious beckons you towards the castle ruins in the distance. You swear you see someone on the shoreline dressed in white. You blink your eyes, look again and see the person has disappeared.
"Ladies and gentlemen," Dalton's voice booms with authority over the loud speaker. The other passengers begin to slowly settle down. "Tasha and I are not going to permit anyone to cause a riot on this boat. We assure you we will return you to your normal lives. We have placed copies of yourselves wherever you live so no one knows you are missing. You will be able to return to your normal lives after the tour is over. Now please, Tasha and I want you to enjoy this trip and we need your cooperation, especially in this location. These are dangerous waters. Once we dock we will all meet on dock and we will be traveling with special forces. They are not a threat to you but travel with us in order to protect you. You have fifteen minutes before we dock."
Dalton's voice ends abruptly. Special forces? What on earth did you get yourself into and what was waiting for you on the mysterious land?
|Castle Driveway by Capt' Gorgeous @ http://www.flickr.com/photos/ben_salter/5178586353/|
“Welcome to my house! Enter freely and of your own will…and leave something of the happiness you bring.” –Dracula, Bram Stoker (1897)
Bram Stoker never came here, but he describes our homeland well in his novel. The Carpathians are beautiful in an otherworldly way. I often sit and watch the way the mists swirl around the jagged mountain peaks; the colors of the sunset shift and the mist grows darker as night falls. It soothes and haunts my soul by turns.
Vlad and I fell in love in 1448, when he returned from Turkey to claim his father’s throne in Tirgoviste. We didn’t stay there long. War and political intrigue made him a nomad prince, and we traveled to Sibiu, Brasov, and back to Tirgoviste. When we returned to Tirgoviste in 1456, a brilliant comet lit up the sky for several days. Its image was printed on our coins to commemorate his return as Prince of Wallachia. I hoped we’d stay there, but war came to us again, and we had to move on. People often think the grand Castle Bran outside Brasov belonged to Vlad. We stayed there sometimes, but it wasn’t one of his castles. He eventually established one in Bucharest, which later became the capital of Romania. It was a lovely home, and is still nestled in the busy streets of the city. The castle that I know best, however, is high above the Arges River, deep in the wilderness of the Carpathians—Poenari Fortress.
The commanding view from Poenari overlooks the most beautiful aspects of the Carpathians. The dense forests, the sharp mountain peaks, and the silver ribbon of a river flowing through. It’s quite cold in the fortress perched atop the ridge of the steep mountain, even in summer. The hearths burned day and night. We drank plum brandy and would sometimes sit outside late at night, admiring the magnificent sight of the full moon over the river, the stars so abundant and bright that they were visible all the way down behind the treetops. For me, the poignancy of the fortress will never fade. Of course, you may realize by now that this tour is being led by a ghost. Poenari has long since fallen to ruin, yet for me, it will always be my home. The people in a nearby village renamed the Arges after me; now they call it Riul Doamnei, the river of the princess. I apologize for not introducing myself earlier; I am Ecaterina Floari. I was so happy to see guests I forget myself. It’s rare to see anyone here at the top of the mountain.
There have been many stories told about us over the centuries. Some are true, some are just myths. I invite you to read the history of my life with Vlad as I tell it, in The Veiled Mirror: The Story of Prince Vlad Dracula’s Lost Love. I thank you for joining me and hope you enjoy the rest of your journey.
Christine Frost graduated from UMass in 1994, and a master’s degree in literature and creative writing from Harvard Extension School in 2008. Having worked as a beer and mead brewer and an international sales assistant for a record label, she eventually found her career in the world of words, becoming an editor, writer of historical fiction, and teaching assistant for college-level literature courses. She’s happily ensconced in a place overcrowded with books in Boston with her husband, and is preparing for the release of her second novel, Dark Lady of Doona.
Author blog: http://www.herravendomain.com
The Veiled Mirror: The Story of Prince Vlad Dracula’s Lost Love
Paperback and Kindle edition on Amazon.com
Paperback and Kindle edition on Amazon.com