Feb. 22nd, 2013

Thirty-One

Feb. 22nd, 2013 12:25 pm
“Coffin?” Tyrol says, nearly choking on the word. “What do you mean? Of course they aren’t coffins!”

“Caskets, then,” I say.

“But who would load up a whole cart full of caskets like that?”

“Someone who needs more than one,” I say. “Here’s what I think happened: Heizer was driving across country, but he wasn’t carrying cargo at all, he was taking a passenger and their baggage. Either your inspector opened the wrong box, or he made Heizer nervous somehow… either way, he died for his troubles. The experience shook Heizer enough that once he was inside town he drank heavily, and in a drunken rage or exhilaration, he took steps to free himself from the thrall of his passenger… by dropping him, box and all, into your well. That’s running water down there, after all, even if it’s running slowly.”

“But… but… you sound as though you’re suggesting…”

“A vampire? It sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? Wait until nightfall and repeat it to yourself, see how it sounds then,” I say. “And it’s the only thing that fits. The water! I couldn’t figure out was wrong with the damned water, because I couldn’t see anything in it. And that was the problem.”

“What do you mean?”

“Have you spent much time gazing into your reflecting pond lately, Tyrol?” I ask. I can tell by the look on his face that he hasn’t, that it makes him nervous now. “The reflections are gone! Your town’s water doesn’t carry a reflection. You see, your problem is far worse than a vampire on the loose. That’s something that can be hunted. Something that can be fought. Something that can be killed. You can hang up holy symbols and strands of garlic or wild rose to keep a vampire out of your house, but you can’t keep out water. You need it. You carry it over the threshold yourself, or your servants do. You drink it. You cook with it. You wash your face with it.”

“You mean to say that we’ve been drinking… vampire water?”

“Oh, yes,” I say. “You’re one of the lucky ones, though… I suspect you drink more wine than well-water, and in any case you’re one of Bel’s customers.”

Thirty-Two

Feb. 22nd, 2013 07:25 pm
“The baker’s daughter?” Tyrol says. “What…?”

“You all call her that, but you forget that she’s her mother’s daughter, as well,” I say. “Her mother taught her that garlic is healthsome, so when the town started sickening, she started baking it into her bread. Maybe she even knew or suspected, though she didn’t want to say it out loud. A little dried garlic in bread probably wouldn’t do much more than burn the mouth of a vampire bite victim, but it’s the perfect little counter for the incremental infection that’s been creeping in.”

“What do we do? I can’t very well tell the whole town they’ve been drinking bits of vampire!”

“I could, but it’s a bit late to tell the rest of the bakers and cooks to start spicing up their wares, anyway,” I say. “Much of the town is too far gone to take it voluntarily… I don’t think they’re past the point of saving, since they haven’t died yet. I’d say we need to strike at the source. The question is how? If blessing the water didn’t destroy the creature, I can’t see dumping a load of garlic into the well having much effect. And if the vampire is trapped, what’s been causing the disturbances and disappearances at night?”

“You mean there might be another one? Free?”

“Maybe a rescue mission of sorts,” I say. “I don’t know. I need to see this Father Toma. He might be able to fill in a blank or two for me. You said he’s local?”

“Yes, though his dwelling is somewhat remote… he’s a bit of a hermit. That’s why I chose him to bless the well. He’s less interested in things like local politics or other worldly matters.”

“An ascetic?” I say.

“That would be the word, yes,” Tyrol says.

“And is his hermitage easy to find?”

“Easy enough,” Tyrol says. “Just half a day’s ride down the forest road.”

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theonecalledwander

June 2013

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