For Sue Vincent’s Thursday Photo prompt
Another bit of fiction – another continuation of previous entries that I have decided to collate in one place – here.
Here Sue’s photo for this week.
By Scott Bailey © 2018
This was the second time Ilaria had walked down this Avenue of trees today. Earlier it had been bright sunshine and lush green grass. Now it was grey and blue in the moonlight.
Then, he had walked with her. The Count. She had learned he was a Count almost immediately. It had amused her mildly. She had followed all the clues and they had led her to a castle where a Count lived.
It has all the makings of a horror movie. Or maybe a quaint period romance.
She had no taste for either. She rarely read fiction. She preferred a good textbook, preferably history.
Somehow he had known that.
She had badgered him with questions which he deftly danced all around and avoided with politeness. As she talked, he walked. Moving at a leisurely pace. She noticed that despite his age – she guessed around mid-fifties he seemed quite fit. Moved with a strong, feline confidence.
She barely noticed that they left the darkness of his personal museum and found themselves strolling in the dappled sunlight beneath the trees.
When she did she also realised that, despite his blindness, he had not faltered once. He had been sure-footed and need no guide.
She stopped. Taking in the implications.
“You have lived here all your life?” It was the only explanation, he must know the place intimately.
“As have my family for several generations.” he smiled, amused at her question.
“A French Count.” she mused.
“An English title, my family moved here many years in the past, the title came with them and stayed.”
“And you? You have stayed here, never left?”
“Oh, I have travelled in my time, all over the world.” There was sadness in his voice now. Maybe he had not always been blind? Did he mourn the loss of all the sites he had seen?
She pushed on with her quest for answers though.
“Is that where you collected all those weapons?”
“No, that was not me. That was father’s passion. I don’t really care for the collection – it holds no interest to me.”
“Except for that sword.” There could be no denying his interest in that sword. It had pride of place n his house.
He smiled wryly, as is admiring her insight. He nodded.
“Yes, except that sword.”
“Was that one of your father’s acquisitions?”
“It was. One of his last.” he began walking again, drawing her down the avenue.
“He never knew what he had, he dies shortly after bringing home.”
“But you do?” she said. “You know what is special about it. What is it? And what are those figures?”
He stopped again, turned and faced her. He sighed and appeared to be considering his answer. Finally, he spoke again.
“I know your type. You are obsessed with facts – with explanations, not mystery.”
She bristled at this description of herself, to the way he had pigeonholed her, she wanted to dispute it, but she didn’t know what to say. She realised that he had hit the mark.
He went on.
“You want answers, explanations. I am not sure I can give you that. What I can tell you, you would not believe.”
“Try me,” she said. Something about all this had hooked her. She needed the answers in a way she had never felt before. Her calm assessment of everything that had gone before in her life seemed to have been washed away by this sudden, irrational obsession. Though it frightened her – she found she could not turn back any more.
So her heart lurched when he answered.
She began to protest but he held up his hand.
“I cannot tell you in any way you would accept. Therefore, I must show you. Meet me here again, this exact spot at midnight.”
She almost snorted, almost derided all this theatrical nonsense. Almost walked away from it all.
But he did not give her the chance. He whirled around and stalked away from her, leaving her open-mouthed.
So she found herself back beneath the trees in the cool night, wondering if she were starting to go mad.
“Are you ready to open your eyes?”
She jumped in fright. The count had come up beside her in silence.
The air felt chill now. Yet, somehow, in spite of the situation, she did not feel any threat from him.
“What are we waiting for?” she asked, trying to keep the scepticism from her voice.
He pointed his cane down the avenue.
Where two faint white figures approached. They were misty and translucent and seemed to be sunk in the ground up to their waists.
She stepped back several paces in fear. What the hell! They looked for all the world like ghosts approaching them.
The air felt colder still.
This could not be! She whirled around looking up in the trees for the light of a projector.
“This is no illusion!” said the Count. “Take all the time you need to confirm that after, but for now – attend closely.” He nodded in the direction of the approaching figures.
She could see them more clearly now. They were indeed sunk up to their waists into the earth. But they seemed not to notice. They ran as if it were not there.
They were figures from the most ancient of times. Almost naked, wearing simple animal hides. Their hair wild. They both carried spears, wooden with flint heads.
They passed her. The nearest was a young woman, barely an adult. The other was an older, man. He looked strong but worn by time. Somehow, despite the fact that he was not eyeless, she could tell that he, like the Count, was blind.