Welcome back noble readers of the blog,

The Host was kind enough to get me permission visit with the most reclusive man on the planet. I traveled to a castle high in the Carpathian Mountains in what is modern-day Romania. The home of the Prince of Wallachia, the descendent of Vlad Dracula, also known as Vlad The Impaler. An opportunity to sit with the Prince for conversation. (He would not grant a formal interview.)

What follows is a summary of my brief visit.

A heavy mist enveloped the car on the mountain road. When we stopped it parted enough to reveal a glimpse of what might be a fortress.

The driver and I waited at gate for some time. When the gate opened the driver got out and opened my door. He spoke no English, but it was obvious he wanted me to get out. His complexion was as white as a Catholic school boys freshly laundered  shirt. He unloaded my bags and pointed into the fog. A figure walked toward us. I strained to make out who it was when the car suddenly sped away.

“Good afternoon good sir, Jonathon Harker at your service. I will show you to your rooms, so that you can freshen up from your arduous journey.”

staircases-abandoned-complex-19646077I follow after this young man smartly adorned in Victorian clothes up the stairs and into a huge hall. The walls are constructed of well dressed stone and decorated with the most spectacular turkish wall hangings. “You’re British?”

“Very good sir. Right this way if you please.” He starts up the stairs. Our heels echo into the vast darkness that lurks just outside the circle of light provided by our lantern.

“I was expecting The Prince.”

“Of course sir. He sends his apologies for his ill manners, but he has been delayed out of necessity. He will join us for dinner.” The upstairs hall is decorated with portraits of fierce-looking men. Mr. Harker stops at the first door. “Down the hall is my room next to the library. If you need anything please feel free to knock. Normally I am in the library. I’ll let you get to it then, shall I.”

“Mr. Harker?”

“Please, call me Jonathon.”

“Jonathon, I don’t mean to be impertinent, but may I ask. Are you the butler?”

“Heavens no. I am a very old friend of the Prince’s. I’ll come to get you at half past seven. Dinner will be prompt.”

“Thank you.” I hear the key in the door locking me in before I can object. I check the door to confirm my suspicions.  My rooms are magnificent. A sitting room fully furnished including a bar. The bedroom is luxurious. Layers of heavy draperies insulate the window from sound, light and drafts.

The fire is laid up so I strike a match and set it roaring. My bags have been delivered already so I pour myself a brandy and unpack my things.  The warmth pushes against the damp chill that pervades the room. A title from a shelf stocked with dusty leather-bound tomes and a comfortable chair did me in.

I’m roused from my unplanned sleep by a loud rapping on the door.

Jonathon opened the door and called out, “Hello, Dave. Mr. Benneman?”

“Yes, coming.” I shake myself fully awake. “Is there something wrong?”

“Not at all.” He blinks, as if he’s trying to determine why I’ve asked. “Dinner will be served shortly.”

“Sorry, I must have fallen asleep.” After changing my shirt and donning a sport jacket I follow Jonathon to an elegant dining hall large enough for twenty or more. Five large candelabrum on the table illuminate the space to the best of their abilities. And still dark shadows cling to the corners and walls.

“I fear I have a piece of rather bad news for you sir.” Jonathon pours a ruby-red claret. “The Prince has been called away suddenly on business. I am to follow him first thing in the morning.” He swirls the wine glass then samples the nose. “You are welcome to stay for as long as you like. Renfield will see to your needs.”

As if on cue, a small man scuttles into the massive dining hall and places a soup tureen before us. His deep-set eyes shift about the room nervously.

“I admit, I’m somewhat disappointed.” I swirl my own glass taking a cursory sniff.

“Of course. That is understandable, however the Prince had urgent matters to attend to. It was unavoidable. To your health.”  We clink glasses.

The wine warms a path down my throat to my empty stomach. “When will he return?”

“Impossible to say really. I received a message from him this evening with instructions to follow him at my earliest convenience and to extend his deepest regrets to you.”

Jonathon uncovers the soup and the aroma makes my stomach lurch. I realize It’s been twelve hours since my breakfast consisting of a hard roll and bitter coffee.

“I see no reason to stay on here. May I accompany you down the mountain?”

Jonathon’s hand hesitates with ladle in mid-air, but he recovers quickly and serves my soup. “Of course. Have your things packed up tonight. We’ll breakfast enroute.”

The ox tail soup was followed by roast mutton. A simple dinner with a delicate lemon pudding for dessert. Throughout I pressed Jonathon for details about the Prince to no avail. Finally I blurted out. “Are you related to the Jonathan Harker whose journal entries are apart of Dracula?”

“It would be an unusual coincidence if I were not.”

“Maybe you could clear up some of my questions about that most famous book.”

He laughed. “You seem to have some strange belief that it is true. I sure you Lord Stoker had quite an imagination.” He poured us a brandy and checked his time piece. “the only things not wholly of Abraham’s invention were the descriptions of the  places and of course the names he slandered.” He stood up abruptly. “Now you’ll have to excuse me. I must prepare to travel. You may take your brandy in your suite.”

“Is it necessary to lock me in?”

“I am  afraid it is. For your own sake, there are things that roam the castle at nite that are not to be trifled with.”

“Yes like the undead brides.”

To this he gave no response. Leaving me with a fine cigar and the brandy when he locked me in for the evening. The next morning I was awakened by the funny little man who reminded me of a roach in his movements. I was not surprised to learn that Jonathon had left hours ago and Renfield would drive me down the mountain after my breakfast.

Renfield proved to most companionable during the drive and learned much from which I will share at another time if your interested in hearing what the little madman had to say.

We’ve gone a little long today so we’ll end it here for now.

Todays quote comes from Lou Reed.

“Things always seem to end before they start.”

Thanks for stopping by,

Dave Benneman

 

 

 

 

 

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