One of the most fun parts of this project to date has been researching the historical accuracy of the content in the book. I’m not talking about Wikipedia, people! I’m talking about books, historical society web pages, and trolling Facebook groups dedicated to the memories of some of the places that are visited in the story.
Unfortunately, research tends not to be a key component in a lot of books I’ve read. I do believe some authors assume 99 percent of their readers will never look into any of the subjects they touch on in their books. And, you know what? They’re probably right. I recently read a fictional book that delved into the life of the Vikings. That author made a lot of false assumptions I knew from my own studies. It didn’t necessarily take away from the plot, but it did linger a bit with me that things were presented as true that weren’t.
For me, that’s the reason that I want to be as accurate as possible. Plus, you learn a ton of fun stuff! Did you know that in the 1700’s, the only book most people ever had a chance to read was the Bible? Or that if you were a bastard child, nobility had the right to strip you of a family name? Hell, I didn’t either! Research has given me these facts, facts that I introduce in my story.
So yes, research seems so ‘tenth grade history project’ in terms of people wanting to do it. Yet, if you choose to write a book that’s not entirely made up and uses time periods to convey a story, I feel it is a great necessity. However, these are all the ramblings of a mad man – you’re just here for the story 🙂
Three days had passed since our encounter with The Jackal. We were on the traveler’s road to Budapest, hunting the creature before he had a chance to recover, both physically and with superior numbers. Werewolf bites were highly infectious, so within a small period of time, The Jackal could rebuild an army of daemons. We’d been lucky so far in our encounters, but the one thing about luck is that at some point, it runs out.
As always, we were traveling in the evenings. During the day, we’d rest in secluded places just off the road. Radu claimed he could go further into the morning than we currently were, but I wasn’t going to call his bluff. The last thing we needed was a severely weakened companion when we caught up to the werewolf. The Jackal was strong; a coward, but even cowards find their true strength when cornered. And that’s exactly what was happening; we were cornering him.
Daylight was almost upon us. “Gabriel,” I said, using his preferred name. “It’s time to seek shelter.”
We were close. I knew Radu wasn’t willing to rest. “We can catch him. He has to rest as well – this gives us a chance.”
“Max is right,” Abigail said, supporting me. “Your weak from lack of nutrition and the sunlight will wipe out the rest of your strength.” Abigail’s knowledge of vampyres was quite vast, as I learned over the past few days. Her company had caught and tortured one in their travels and the daemon revealed much to them.
“I relent, for I do need to feed.” Radu’s fangs were starting to worry me. Would he try to feed on one of us? “Find adequate shelter, I will worry about my nourishment.”
Neither one of us said a word to that. Personally, I was glad not to have to witness what Radu needed to do. Looking for shelter for the day was a good way to keep my mind occupied from imagining the horrors that may be unleashed. Abigail’s silence seemed to match my own. With Radu heading back down the road, the two of us ventured off and into the wooded area running parallel.
Once out of earshot, Abigail voiced her displeasure. “We give him too much leeway. How do we know he’s not biding his time to eat us?”
“He needs us,” I told her. Even though Radu hadn’t told us his story, I was under the belief that if he could’ve killed Vlad, he already would have. “He might be Vlad’s younger brother, but he’s cut from a different cloth.”
“If you say so.”
Abigail and I had been talking more and more as our journey together began. I was a bit more forthcoming about my past than she was, but I was starting to get somewhere. For instance, I knew she was from the northern reaches of Moldavia and that her father was part of the Vatican’s army as well. The need to fight for the honor of our Lord ran strong in her veins. That’s why she was with us, even if she pretended to be mad at God for her handicap.
To me, she had no handicap. Her skill with a crossbow was proof of that. She may have used her hands, nose, and ears to help her navigate, but her sight was as good as anyone’s. Even if it didn’t originate from her eyes anymore.
Off to our right, I saw a rather large wild boar foraging for bugs. “That’d make a tremendous meal for us, wouldn’t it?”
Her nose wrinkled as it caught the scent of the creature. “Father, guide my arrow true.”
She was almost as quick as Radu when it came to movements for her crossbow. She could load an arrow and fire it with speed and accuracy unmatched. No sooner did the bolt leave the firing mechanism of the crossbow, it found its mark in the boar’s head. The poor creature stumbled forward and dropped dead in the grass not even a stone’s throw from us.
I knew what was coming next. “I killed it, you butcher it,” Abigail said dryly.
My knife was in my hand even as she said it. “Of course, dear,” I said with jest.
Butchering a wild boar is a bit of a tedious task. The skin is tough and then once you get through, finding the best parts of the animal to eat can be annoying. The problem with boar is the worms. You need to stay away from the stomach area, focusing on the back and shoulder regions.
Tearing away the skin, the pungent order of the innards hit me. I made quick work, getting the parts we could cook and that would taste well. Once the meat was procured, knowing the dead carcass could attract unwanted attention, I grabbed some branches and a rock. Working quickly, I was able to get a spark from my blade and the rock to fall on the wood. The boar’s organs were rather flammable and it didn’t take long for the creature to catch fire.
With my work done, I hoisted our dinner up and began to walk over towards Abigail. It looks like she found a good spot for us. Coming from the other way was Radu, looking a bit more refreshed. He saw me coming as well, and quickly wiped away the blood that was still on his face. Privately I was concerned what he had just done. Of course, the same could be said of Abigail and I of the boar.
Radu didn’t say a word as he entered the sheltered encampment, instead lying down and rolling over just before the sun peeked over the horizon. While he slept, Abigail and I built a fire and began to cook our own food.
Looking back at the sleeping vampyre, “I wish I could say I wasn’t disturbed by his actions.”
“If we weren’t disturbed, Abigail, I doubt we’d be considered humans,” I explained to her.
“Our humanity, the one thing that keeps us from joining the daemons.”
It was an interesting choice of words. Years ago, when my grandfather was the Brinza who was fighting the daemons off, people who lived around us believed us to be part of Satan’s forces. There was no way a mortal like Denis could battle those creatures, they would say. Some theorized his fighting prowess came from bathing in Satan’s own blood. It was only when Denis fought and killed the Witch of the Wild to save the village’s children was he finally recognized as a hero.
Even then, there were some he spoke ill of him.
When my father, Ivan, took over, popular opinion begun to shift in our favor. My father was a charismatic man whose words were as quick as his sword. He won over Stefania’s loyalty with excellent tales and a generous tab of the local bars. When he left on his ill-fated journey, he was at the height of his ability and popularity. His loss was a difficult one, for everyone.
I was more like Ivan than I was Denis in the people’s view. I knew the importance of plying people with ale and stories of my achievements. However, deep down, I’d rather be hunting creatures than telling tales in a bar. My mother, before she died, told me I was as powerful as my grandfather was. Those who were in the know knew Denis was the pinnacle of daemon slayers. My father was no slouch, but Denis’s skills were incomparable.
“You sad your father was in the Vatican’s army, no?” I asked.
Abigail was in the middle of chewing a mouthful of boar. Like the crude woman she was, she answered with no regard of manners. “Yes,” she mumbled. She swallowed her bite, making it easier to understand what she said next. “The Vatican came to Moldavia to recruit God fearing soldiers to combat the growing darkness. My father believed in the mission, as did I.”
“That’s why traveling with Gabriel makes you a bit uncomfortable.”
“He wouldn’t be my first choice of companions, yet I know what’s at the end of this road. If he truly is on our side, we will need his skill as much as he’ll need ours,” she reasoned.
The boar was a tad tough, more like jerky. Ripping off a piece and eating it gave me a moment to collect my thoughts. “I fought him, back when he came to Stefania to recruit me.”
“You fought Gabriel?”
“Sword against sword. He was toying with me, of course, yet through it all, he could’ve killed me with ease.” I spoke truthfully to her. “I’m not saying he cares for us, but as you just admitted, he needs our skill. I believe we’d be fools not to trust him completely.”
With food on our stomachs, I could see that Abigail’s eyes were starting to get heavy. “Do you think we’ll catch The Jackal tonight?”
As she asked the question, a foul wind rushed through camp. It chilled me to the bone. “We’re close. I think The Jackal knows that and is leading us towards an area that’ll be more suited for him to fight us.”
“I too have ill feelings about tonight.” She kicked some snow over the fire, putting it out. “We should rest, Max.”
Abigail’s instincts were correct. “It will be okay,” I told her.
“You say that now, but when The Jackal makes his final stand, how can we be so sure?”
I pulled the Bible that Julius gave me the night I left out of my jacket. “God is on our side. He brought the three of us together as his champions.”
She put her hand on the old book. “The word of the Lord, it shall guide us.”
I placed mine on top of hers. “If we believe the Father is watching us, his protection will see us through.”
“That reminds me of a passage, 2nd Thessalonians 3:3 – But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you and protect you from the evil on,” she quoted.
I was highly impressed with her Biblical knowledge. With those reassurances, the two of us joined a sleeping Radu inside the shelter and did our best to rest as the sun hung in the sky like an ever present guardian.
They we have it. Tune in next time for more blood, Bible verses, and crazy vampire action!
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