Can I Keep It, Chapter 2

Germany

David opened his eyes, as the airplane touched down. Farida lay in the chair next to him, halfway onto his lap because of the small chairs. Her soft brown skin pressed against his side pleasantly in the chill air, and her dark hair lay across his chest. She was also heavy, and his right arm had fallen asleep with her weight on it. He wriggled his hand a bit, and her eyes opened. “Mmm. Hey.” She nuzzled into his cheek, eyes closing once more. “We in Germany?”

“Yeah. Uh, look, I don’t mean to be crass, but…” His eyes drifted down. The red-and-white striped shirt she wore. The bright blue skirt covered in white stars. The ‘Made in the USA’ ballcap. “Aren’t you going to kind of… stick out? A lot? Wearing that?”

“That’s the whole point. I want everyone to know I’m American, rather than, y’know… Egyptian or MIddle-Eastern, or something like that. People place a lot of stock in things like your species. There aren’t a lot of Anubis…es? Anubii? Anubes?” She frowned. “Well, I’m going to stand out regardless. I just want to stand out for what I really am.”

“You could’ve gone with a Canadian theme.”

“What, and look like a pussy?” She smirked at him. “No thanks.” Then she giggled, and planted a warm kiss on his cheek. After an interminable wait, the two of them climbed off of the plane, and into the cool air. “Alright. I’ve set us up a series of stops. The Dragonlord line started with the Roman Empire. Carloman of the Carolingian empire, Emperor Hadrian, all of them were Dragonlords. Natural-born conquerors and rulers of Mystics. Their line’s mostly disappeared nowadays, unless you’re a conspiracy theorist, but maybe if we visit those places…”

David looked around nervously. “Should we really be talking so loudly about this kind of stuff? It won’t cause a panic?”

“Pffft, c’mon, David. People are always coming to Europe curious about the Dragonlords and fascinated with some new theory that might lead to the discovery of humans, or with people claiming to be humans. It never works out.” She paused. “Well, obviously, in this case they’re wrong, but usually they’re right to scoff. It’s all just rumors and myths. Kind of silly, honestly.” She turned to stare at him. “Living in legends…” Then she shook her head. “Anyway, this is Dusseldorf. We’ll spend the night here at a youth hostel I found that offers a cheap bed. There are three restaurants I found that looked good, too. Tomorrow morning, we’ll take a train from here to Aachen, which is where Carloman’s said to have been building his imperial palace-“

It was about this point that David tuned out. It wasn’t that he didn’t look forward to the trip, but this was the fourth time that Farida had declared her itinerary, and he had the whole thing memorized by this point. She’d planned the trip out in exacting detail, and he was comfortable with letting her do so. Neither of them was remotely sure what they were hoping to find on this trip. A way home? The secret of magic and the Dragonlords? Hell, he’d just settle for some great memories.

“So there’s a great beer garden-” She paused, and frowned at him, waving a hand in front of his eyes. He jumped a little bit, flushing at the way he’d gotten caught while zoned out. “You okay, David?”

“Uh-“

“Let’s get to the hostel, first. We can drop off our things there, and you can get a little rest if you’re jet-lagged. Oh, and I brought along a theft-proof locker set, so we won’t have to worry about any sticky-fingered types.” David raised an eyebrow. “Hey, better safe than sorry.” The two of them filed out at the end of the line of tourists. The city was pleasantly busy, though everyone seemed significantly more polite than David was used to. He wasn’t certain if that was because they were German, or inhuman, but the ride to the hostel was a pleasant one.

The building itself was an old-style house, built sometime before the war according to the plaque outside. The warm golden light of sunset made an otherwise severe building feel homey and inviting. Warm sunlight played through the windows, catching motes of dust dancing within. David checked his phone, noting it was only 6 PM, earlier than he would have expected for sunset at this time of the year. The dormitory had four doubled-up bunkbeds, but there was only a couple of other people there. One was a gruff, bearded man with flaming red eyes and ruddy red skin, who sat in a corner and steadfastly avoided any attempts at eye contact or other socializing. The other was much more friendly.

“Ah! Hallo! Amerikanisch, jah?” The girl had dirty blonde hair and hazel eyes, in rank defiance of the usual phenotypical stereotypes. She was slender, and pretty, and wore ripped jeans and a leather jacket. Her hair had streaks of bright green in it, and a piercing through her nose. A delicate silver crucifix was affixed to her nose by the stud, and David realized he had absolutely no idea what the church of the Dark God actually believed. The girl grinned, nodding towards the bags. “We don’t get a lot of Americans here. I’m Gerlinde. Please, settle down, enjoy yourself.” Her accent was modest, but still rather cute. She took a deep breath, and her eyes fixed on David. Then she took a step closer, smiling, her teeth showing. “Mmm. Tell me, what is that wonderful cologne you are wearing? It smells… simply divine.”

He reflexively took a step back, his heart beating faster, and her eyes ran down his throat, sharp teeth shining as she smiled even wider. That’s when Farida interposed herself between him and the young woman. “I’m sorry, but he’s had kind of a long trip. We’re going to visit the Beer Garden down on Ulmenstrasse-“

“Ach! Nein, that would be a terrible mistake! All of the restaurants there are tourist traps, not authentic at all! No, please, allow me to act as your guide!” Gerlinde’s eyes flickered from David, to Farida, and then back again, her smile never disappearing. “It is the very least I could do for such lovely guests in my country. Come, it would be my pleasure to show you some of the more delicious wonders of my city. Arturo! I am going out. Do not burn the house down while I am gone!”

The man in the corner grunted, and Farida frowned. “We should put our things down. I’ll just be a minute-“

“Oh, just toss them onto the beds. Arturo’s not going to steal them, the shy old bear, and everyone who works here is honest.” Gerlinde grinned. “Come now. You know the Teutonic reputation for trustworthiness.”

“All the same.” Farida swished her hips, her tail brushing past David’s legs as she moved over to the bed, latching the large theft-proof bag onto one of the solid looking metal bars. David caught the look of annoyance and aggrieved innocence on Gerlinde’s face, although she didn’t push the point any further. “And I suppose that, if you can offer a better place, I might be convinced to go somewhere…” Farida’s lip curled, and she frowned. “Off the beaten track.”

For his part, David was pretty sure he knew what this was all about. Farida’d put quite a lot of work into figuring out the perfect itinerary. She’d wanted this trip to go perfectly, and having someone else take things over was probably driving her nuts. But she was also too polite to say such. And while he might have been willing to step in and try to intervene under normal circumstances, a combination of jet lag, hunger, and generalized weariness kept him from going out of his way just at the moment. Besides, it might be interesting to see where the vampire took them.

“Where” turned out to be an undead bar. The sun hadn’t yet set, but the heavy curtains over the windows kept it gloomy. Heavy electronic music played from a corner where a DJ in rags sat, his head lowered. There was an instant hostility as they entered, until Gerlinde raised her arms, and introduced them as Americans. Then, they were welcomed in. Soon, he found himself seated with a group of pale, blue-eyed youths in heavy leather and heavily pierced. Barrages of questions in heavily accented English fell over them as he accepted drinks. ‘Korn’, they called it, and it tasted like a bowl of toasted oats with Coca Cola instead of milk. It was surprisingly good, although Farida didn’t care for it.

“It’s something only the Undead usually subject themselves to. I can’t stand that kind of thing, personally.” She did smile appreciatively as the waitress brought out a large platter of plump sausages and pretzels, a large dish of mustard sitting beside it.

“So, what bloodline do you come from?” Gerlinde asked, out of nowhere. David froze, and Farida’s eyes widened. “Don’t tell me you don’t know. I could hardly imagine a Vampire being born, even in America, who did not know their lineage.” Farida opened and closed her mouth a few times, and David could see the panic in her eyes. He improvised.

“I was adopted. Never actually knew my parents. That’s part of the reason we’re here, in fact, trying to figure out where they came from.” Farida gave him a despairing look, and he frowned at her. Then he noticed Gerlinde’s interest.

“Really! What a fascinating journey!” She handed him another glass of the korn, and he sipped it politely. It was mild, satisfying, and it went down easily with the sausage and pretzels. “I don’t suppose I could-“

“No,” said Farida, a little bit more tartly than she probably should have. “I’m sorry, but, we really only have enough money to travel together-“

“It’s kind of a personal thing. For Farida and I.” David slid his arm around Farida’s waist, and planted a gentle kiss on the girl’s brown cheek. Farida froze, her ears going stiff, her face taking on a barely perceptible flush as he softly embraced her from the side. His head was feeling rather light and effervescent as he planted a series of soft, warm kisses along her neck. He felt delightfully good. Uninhibited was the word that leapt to mind. Even the abrupt silence of the bar didn’t bother him, as Farida stiffened nervously, his arms sliding around her rather more amorously. God, she was soft.

“You, ah… You are in a… relationship? With… an Anubis?” Gerlinde frowned. “I confess, I had heard that there were such leanings among your kind, Farida, but it is a little… shocking.”

“She’s soft and fluffy,” David slurred, his hand moving up to toy with Farida’s ears. The girl let out a soft, low groan, melting slightly as he played with her ears gently. Then she seemed to realize where she was, and stiffened again.

“I- Ah- I need to get some air!” She extricated herself from his grasp with some difficulty, although a great deal of gentleness, and ran for the door, flushing ferociously. He was worried for a moment, until he noticed the way her tail was wagging ferociously. He laughed, and leaned forward on the bar, smiling as he grabbed another pretzel. He peered blearily at the cup. Well, that was generous- Some kind individual had been thoughtful enough to refill it for him, and he drained his cup, smiling.

“How did you meet her?” Gerlinde asked, frowning a bit, sitting very close to David. She was attractive, certainly, though it was a cold, sterile kind of beauty. It made him think about Farida, and how warm she was. He realized he was drooling slightly, and brushed his lips with his sleeve.

“Well, she found me when I was sick, and nursed me back to health. Like Florence Nightingale.” He hiccuped, and looked down at the glass. “Oh, hey, this isn’t wine, is it? I never drink… vine.” He laughed hysterically, although no one else seemed to get it. He wondered if Bela Lugosi existed in this world, too. Maybe he played humans.

“Not… wine, no. Are you okay? It seems to be hitting you a bit hard.”

He waved a hand airily. “No, no, I’m fine.” As he was currently lying on his back on the bar floor, she did not seem entirely convinced.

“I think that perhaps you have had enough for one night,” she said delicately, before reaching down to help him up. “Come on. We should get you back to the hostel, I think, so you can sleep this off.” She smiled, gently tugging him up to his feet, his arm over her shoulder. Her body was cool as she helped him out into the open air of Dusseldorf, the city’s lights warm and inviting around them. It was nearly 2 AM, according to the watch on Gerlinde’s wrist. How had the time slipped by so easily? The sky above was filled with thousands of twinkling stars. That struck him as odd, and he realized that they must be brighter than they were at home.

He frowned, peering around. There was no sign of Farida.

“Hey, uh… Maybe we should wait for Farida-“

“She’ll find her way back. I’m sure she just went for a walk or something. You seemed to get her very… flushed.” Gerlinde smiled. “I cannot blame her, you seem…” She shrugged. “Oh, I don’t know. Many Vampire men I have met can be a bit sterile. Reserved. There is something to be said for a man with such spirit.” She gave him a very strange look as she kept leading him along through the open air. “You smell good, you know.”

“Uh, thanks,” he said, a bit embarrassed.

“Very good.”

“Really? I haven’t even gotten a chance to shower or anything.”

She laughed. “Not in that way.”

David stopped, and she took a couple of more steps, before turning towards him. Her head tilted curiously, as he tried to focus. “Uh.” He shook his head. This was part of why he didn’t drink. “Sorry… What other ways are there…?”

“Well, what ways do you think I mean? Your blood.” She licked her lips. “It smells delicious. Come on.” She grabbed his arm, and kept pulling him. She was really, frighteningly strong.

“My… blood.”

“Yes. Most undead men… Even other vampires… Well, their blood smells so bland. Dead. Boring. Even other Mystics smell kind of dull.” She pulled his arm a bit closer. “You smell… Fascinating.” She stared off at the stars as the two of them walked, and he had to stop them before they were run over by a car passing across the intersection in front of them. “It reminds me of the stories that my family tells. Of humans.”

His blood ran cold, doing the work of a good night’s sleep and twelve cups of coffee. “Humans… They’re just a myth,” he tried, feeling unpleasantly sober. “Don’t tell me you believe in that kind of thing.”

“Where else did we undead start? Why do we all look the same? No, I think they existed.” She stared off into the distance. “They say that when we drank the blood of humans, we were kings among the undead. That we could take such power from them. That we really meant something, instead of being… leeches on society. They say that human blood was sweeter than ambrosia, the finest drink that we could hope for.” David tried, with very little success, to calm his pounding heart. “Your heart’s so strong. I can feel it from here. All of that sweet blood, trailing through you…”

She fell silent, and to his relief, she didn’t pounce on him. The two of them walked in silence through the streets of Dusseldorf, and he tried to calm down. To stop from sounding so… tasty. By the time they’d returned to the building, he had mostly regained his composure. She, on the other hand, was looking very distracted. She constantly ran her fingers through her hair, her tongue wetting her lips in a continuous circuit. “I, uh, I’m going to call it a night,” he said, trying to pull away from her. Her hand tightened around his sleeve, her eyes hungry.

“Don’t go. Stay with me. Just for tonight. I won’t tell the wolf girl about it, just… I want to get a chance to… be close to you. You’re so warm, David. How can you be so warm-“

David pulled back, trying to pull free, and misjudged the step. He fell back, hands breaking the fall, and there was a sharp pain from his palm. “Shit!” he cursed, lifting his hand. Gerlinde went very quiet, as the two of them stared at it.

A single delicate sliver of wood protruded from his skin. At its base, like a pearl, a single bead of blood welled up slowly.

Gerlinde was kneeling beside him in a second. Her inhumanly strong fingers gently bent open his fist, and plucked the splinter out. He was about to relax when her soft, pink tongue slipped out, and slurped away the drop of blood. She looked up into his eyes, and her eyes had turned from hazel to deep red. Her mouth opened wide, her teeth shining. Then he was distracted by the stink of burning pork. She squawked, and clasped her hand to her nose, tugging the stud out with a squeal of pain, throwing the tiny silver cross off to the side, her eyes wide as she panted, her head whipping from the cross back to him. “You… You’re a human-“

Farida threw the front door open. “Get the heck away from him.” She balled up her fists like she was about to punch Gerlinde, advancing. Her shoulders were lifted up high, and a low growl was rumbling out of her chest as she approached. Gerlinde took a couple of steps back, her eyes wide, the red slowly draining out of them. “This is a shitty hostel, and I’m going to leave a very negative review.” She narrowed her eyes, helping him off of the ground, and pulling him towards the door. “You’d better not try to stop us from leaving.”

“You can’t just travel around with a mythological monster and not expect anyone to notice. God, do you know what it means?” Gerlinde’s eyes were shining hungrily. “Humans. The dream of the undead. Our progenitors. Our founders. The ones from which we were all made! The power we used to have, the immortality, the magic- You can’t take him.” Her voice shifted, and there was a strange compulsive force behind it, making David’s knees shake under the force of it. It almost compelled him to kneel down. “You can’t.”

Farida stiffened, and then narrowed her eyes. “I happen to have a very good Will Save, thank you very much.” With that, she grabbed David’s arm, and hustled him out the door, carrying their things, her breath puffing in and out.

“You have a very good Will Save?” David asked skeptically, once they were out in the streets.

“It’s a Dungeons and Druids ref-“

“I know what it is. That’s the badass line you go out on?” he asked, looking over his shoulder. Gerlinde was standing in the doorway, with a terribly forlorn look on her eyes. He would have felt very bad for her, except for the part where she wanted to suck his blood out. That made him a lot less sympathetic. “Shit. That cover’s not going to hold, is it?”

“She’s a vampire, I guess she was always going to figure it out. She’s not going to tell anyone, and no one would believe her if she did.” Farida didn’t look entirely convinced of that, but they were both feeling a little bit nervous at the moment, so he let it slide.

“So… where are we going?”

“Breakfast.” He winced. She had a cold expression on her face, and she was looking rather put out. The position Farida had found the two of them in had been more than a little bit compromising. He opened his mouth to explain, and thought better of it. He’d run his mouth in front of her without thinking whether it had made her angry or not, and then gone off with another girl. How was he going to make it up to her?

The two of them sat side-by-side in the small restaurant. The sun was just starting to peek over the horizon, bright and cheerful. A smiling blonde woman set down his cup of hot coffee, and a mug of steaming hot cocoa with a large marshmallow slowly melting atop it. Farida alternatively blew on it and took tiny sips, while David took a sip of his. The hazelnut creamer added a sweet flavor to it, as the two of them sat quietly. He checked the phone. 6 AM.

“So, what was that about?” Farida asked, her tone neutral.

“I’m sorry, she was getting grabby, I fell, and-“

“What? Oh, no, not that.” She smiled. “I’ve seen enough anime to know when someone’s getting attacked rather than just getting grabby. I mean… what you said in the bar.”

“Oh.” He looked down. “Uh, I was drunk, but I do feel that way. I understand if you don’t, though.”

“It’s just…” She slowly picked up her spoon, and swirled it in the hot cocoa. “We’re traveling through Europe to find you a way home. So you can leave this world.” She lifted the spoon to her lips, licking it delicately, before letting it plop back down into the ceramic mug. “So… Isn’t that kind of setting us up for something really sad? If we succeed, you’ll have to leave, and then… we’ll be separated, and…” She sniffed, and David rested a hand on her shoulder, squeezing her gently. She leaned into the hand, her head leaning against his shoulder softly.

“Look. We don’t even know if I’m ever going to get home. And you’re right, if I find a way home, I’m going to have a very serious decision at that point. But… every relationship is like that. Maybe something will come along that will force us apart, and that would suck, but we at least are both aware that it could happen. And in the meantime… You’ve done a lot for me. There’s not a lot I can do for you, but…”

“Are you kidding me? You’re so cool, and mysterious, and exotic, and…” She blushed. “I could never be honest with someone about how I feel like that. I’ve never even had a boyfriend. Not for more than a few days. They always end up flaking out on me, and…” She groaned softly. “Did I really say I had a very good Will Save? That was so dorky, I can’t believe I thought that sounded cool! I should have said something like, um- Bite me! Or-“

David rested a finger on her chin, turning her head towards him, cutting the words off as his eyes met hers. Those soft brown eyes of hers looked up at him, a bit wide. “I liked the line. I like you.”

“Even though I’m a dork, instead of a cool, punky vampire who dyes her hair and drinks?”

“I’d say so, yeah.” He smiled, and leaned forward. Her eyes widened, and she gasped out softly. Then their lips were pressed together, and she melted. Her mouth was sweet, a hint of chocolate dripping into his mouth as she slid her arms around his midsection. After a long few seconds, he broke the kiss, his arms shifting down to rest around her. There was a rhythmic thumping sound as her tail slapped against the back of the bench, and there were quite a few looks of disapproval from people around them, including the waitress. He gave them an apologetic smile, but still planted another soft kiss on her forehead as the waitress set down a tray of fresh-baked toasted rolls, and a selection of small dishes. The two of them ate quietly, without looking at one another. But Farida was pressed very close up against his side.

“Farida… After she took a bit of my blood, Gerlinde got burned by that silver cross she was using as a nose-stud. Do you know what that’s about?”

“Honestly, I don’t. Like, there used to be a lot of myths that vampires would be burned to ash by the sun or hurt by holy symbols, but that stuff’s just stereotypes. There aren’t a lot of religious vampires, from what I understand, but at worst they tend to get bad sunburns. Of course…” She frowned. “That voice thing she did was strange, too. That was like something right out of a legend. It’s almost like getting a bit of your blood let her…” Farida’s voice dropped off, as she tapped her fingers nervously against the desk.

“What can you do?” She looked up at David, a look of confusion on her face. “What I mean is… Okay. This is kind of a guess on my part, but magic started going away when humans did. Right? So, I’m back, and moments after tasting some of my blood, Gerlinde is tossing around lost vampire magic and getting burned by crosses. What if the same happens to you? What if you’re going to get more powerful?”

“Well.. I mean, we were basically supposed to be netherworld bureaucrats. Sorting souls, general psychopomp and circumstance. We didn’t get any crazy superpowers or anything like that.” She sighed. “God, can you believe that kind of luck? Magic comes back into the world and I get to be a more effective mortician. How lame is that?”

“If it helps any, in my world, humans are considered completely mundane and ordinary.”

She frowned. “What, seriously? But- All of the things you can do. Stealing magic from mystics, becoming unstoppable berserkers in combat, binding people with words and contracts, and breaking those same contracts without a thought.”

“Well, I mean, there aren’t any mystics in our world. And the berserker thing isn’t really so useful ever since guns were invented.” He paused for a moment. “And the contracts thing sounds useful, but I never went to law school, so I don’t think I’m allowed to do that.” David smiled, though, as he said it. “So, in Aachen… What do you think we’re going to find?”

“I don’t know, honestly. They say that the palace of Carloman was a wonder beyond words, and that it was supposed to last for eternity, untouched by time and age. But it collapsed sometime in the 1400s, and all that’s really left of it now is the chapel, the Palatine Cathedral. I figure…” She sighed. “Honestly I don’t know if we’re going to actually find anything there, or if we’d even recognize it if we did. But it’s also supposed to be incredibly beautiful, and even if we don’t find some secret ancient power there, it’ll make for a lot of great pictures.” She gave him a bright, wide grin, as the two of them finished off the last of their food.

Dusseldorf in the morning was brisk and beautiful. Not quite cold enough for the air to be unpleasant, they still walked close together, warming each other as they made their way to the train station with time to spare. The sun had risen properly, sending rays of light down through the streets and warming the air somewhat. 8 AM on a Monday appeared to be a good time to travel, with no one else on the train at the same time as them. They had an entire train to themselves, sitting together on the soft seats. The only other person who passed was the ticket collector, who was gone before long. David leaned back. “How long is the trip?”

“Only an hour. It’s kind of crazy how close together everything is here.” She sighed, smoothing out her excessively patriotic outfit, leaning back in the chair. “So, you really aren’t interested in the vampire girl?”

“Not nearly as interested as I am in-” Suddenly, she was on his lap. Her soft legs spread around his waist, her hips pressing down insistently against him. Soft, fluffy paws rested against his shoulders, her brown eyes serious as she straddled him. Those ears of hers were perked up, listening hard for any intruders, but the rest of her focus was entirely on him as her hips swayed back and forth. “You?”

“You smell good.” She pressed her face into the side of his neck, and took a deep breath. “I’ve been noticing it all the time, but your scent is a lot stronger than most Mystics. It’s… masculine. A little bitter, and a little strong, but in a good way.” She took another deep breath, and it tickled the hairs on his neck as she wriggled against him. “It makes me get all distracted. Thinking about you. Wanting to see you naked. Wanting to…” Her paw dragged down across his chest, and slid between her legs, pressing against the skirt she wore. “You said you like me. Did you just mean as a friend?”

“Emphatically no.”

That was all she needed to hear. She grinned toothily at him, and then undid his pants. Her paw was incredibly warm and soft around his manhood, her soft nose pressed against his, her lips against his, as she slowly rocked her hips back and forth. Her eyes kept flicking up and down, from his hips, back up to his face, as though nervous that he would say no. He gave her a smile, and that nervousness seemed to all evaporate away. Then, she was pressed up against him hungrily, planting kiss after kiss on his lips.

The soft, slippery wetness dripping down onto his pants was his first hint that she was not, in fact, wearing anything underneath the skirt. The brush of her bare crotch against the tip of his cock was the second. He let out a low, soft hiss as she rolled her hips back and forth. For a young woman without much experience, her enthusiasm was incredible. He looked over his shoulder, freezing as the train clicked over the rails, trying to make sure they weren’t being watched, but she pulled him back to look her in the eye. “Don’t worry. Nobody’s going to walk in on us.”

The moment of penetration was divine. Her hips slid down smoothly, and warmth and wetness engulfed him. He couldn’t focus on anything other than the feeling of Farida’s soft pussy wrapped around his cock. Every breath she took, every movement, was amplified through the connection. He could feel the way she shifted her hips, getting comfortable, tilting and leaning his shaft against her from within, sending tingles of pleasure down his spine. Her warm body arched against him, beginning to bounce faster, creating a soft squeaking. The position was not the most comfortable, but he couldn’t have chosen someone he wanted to do it with more.

Someone else might have been uncertain, but with his confirmation, she seemed to transform. All of that uncertainty and awkwardness was gone, for now, as she pumped her hips down against him hungrily. She seemed entirely comfortable taking the initiative, forceful and predatory in a way he’d never seen from her before. Her tail brushed across his knees, and he realized that she was wagging happily as she pumped up and down. He could already feel himself getting closer, his excitement building to a fever pitch with hers. Then she froze, her eyes going wide. “Act casual!” she hissed, and pressed her face into his neck.

A second later, the door opened at the far side of the train car. David stiffened in more ways than one. Of course, Farida couldn’t move now without making it very obvious what they had been doing. He’d have to bluff. The tall, dour woman strode down the train car, her hair a stiff peak of gray. He couldn’t recognize what kind of mystic she might be, but she had a clear look of annoyance on her face. She stopped at their chair, and gave him a dour look. “Young man, I feel I should be responsible for telling you, while we do not criminalize such things, overly physical intimacy in public can be considered quite rude-“

“Mmmmm,” Farida murmured, and David rested a hand on the back of her head.

“I’m sorry, frau. We had a long night, and she sleeps best here.” David gave her an apologetic smile, trying not to show the fact that Farida was clenching rather ferociously atop his lap, squeezing him in a way that was threatening to break his composure entirely. He could feel her arousal dripping down onto his lap. There was going to be quite a stain. Blessedly, the old battleaxe seemed to take some measure of nostalgia from that explanation, as her whole demeanor softened, and she nodded understandingly.

“Ah, of course. I only wished to give you a warning ahead of time. Please enjoy your time here.” She bowed her head apologetically, moving on past them. David held his breath until the woman had left the room, and then groaned out. Looking down, he found Farida grinning apologetically at him, her hips still bouncing slightly on his lap. She didn’t seem to be able to stop herself, and he wasn’t particularly inclined to try, either.

“That was dangerous,” he chided, although he couldn’t put any real force in his words. She just pressed her hips down a bit harder, beginning to buck eagerly. He bit his lip, trying to hold back a cry as she began letting out soft whines of pleasure, her whole body bouncing ferociously on top of him. She was giggling softly, a broad grin on her face, which only seemed to enhance how damn attractive she looked. Dark ears peaked, her hips pumping up and down, her breasts jiggled and bounced with the force of each movement.

There was only so long he could take this treatment. His head tilted back as she let out a low keening noise, her body tightening until he couldn’t bear it anymore. The feeling of release was profound inside of her, the warmth mixing together, making him feel as though he was melting in the grip of her warm pussy. The way she went limp on top of him only increased that feeling. Her slow, steady breathing was very nearly hypnotic as the two of them lay together, her face nestled in against his throat. He began to gently stroke her back, toying with her soft ears as she let out little sounds of contentment.

“I don’t care if you decide to go, at the end of all this,” she said once the two of them had recovered. “Maybe I’ll even come with you. I mean, if you think it’d be safe. But whatever you decide, I want to travel with you until we find it.” She gave him a warm smile. “I’m really glad I saved you.”

“Well, if it comes to that, I’m really glad you saved me, too.” David smiled, helping her pull on the change of clothes, and then doing the same for himself. He peered out of the window as the train sped through the German countryside. “You know, I can’t imagine ever doing something like this back on my homeworld. Going out into the world like this. It would’ve felt too lonely to be in an entirely different country by myself.”

“I kind of know what you mean.” Farida sighed happily, leaning back in the chair, her tail wagging slowly, her ears relaxed. “I never would have gone on an adventure like this, but with you around… It just seemed so perfect.” She smiled softly, and leaned in, planting a kiss on David’s cheek. “I’m really glad that you fell into my life.” He snorted, but smiled anyway. “Now, I’ve got a plan for us. I’m going to rent us a car- It’s a little pricey, but not too bad. I found a rental place nearby. While I’m taking care of that, you can visit the chapel at Aachen itself, and see what you can find.” She smiled. “Does that sound okay? If you end up having to leave or something like that, just give me a call and let me know where you’ll be, and I’ll pick you up.” She planted another soft, lingering kiss on his cheek.

It was 9 AM when they arrived in Aachen itself. The walk to Aachen Cathedral was beautiful. He was still getting used to how close together everything was, and it was only a few minutes walk up the steep hills to reach the cathedral. It stood proudly over its surroundings, the final remainders of an ancient empire over a thousand years old. The streets were quiet in the mid-morning, only a handful of others still walking down the streets alongside him. He closed his eyes, and took in a deep breath of the cold air. The doors of the chapel hung open. He deftly sidestepped the tour guide’s approach, and gave her a quick smile, before proceeding into the building. The throne of Charlemagne- No, he corrected himself, of Carloman- sat in the center of the eight-sided chapel.

The view was breathtaking. Eight sides, eight great windows, rising high into the air, golden and lit brilliantly by the light streaming through the windows. He appeared to have missed the early morning services, thankfully. In the center of the chapel, amidst the finery, sat a very simple throne. Six great steps led up to the seat. It was wholly unornamented, even plain. But there was a feeling of great weight around it. David stared for a few seconds. There was a chain and bollards around the throne, keeping people from touching it directly, but he leaned forward on one of the bollards, staring at the throne. The chapel was so quiet, but he could almost swear-

David flinched back. There were whispers surrounding the chair. Almost inaudibly soft, but nonetheless, there. He leaned forward again slowly, as though dipping his face into a pool of cold water, and listened as hard as he could.

Son of Charlemagne.

He gasped for air, pulling back. The whisper had thrummed down his spine, seizing his stomach in a cold vice-like grip, making his whole body shake. There was a sense of weight to the words, a strange pulling sensation. He looked from side to side quickly, and hopped over the chain. Instantly, the cold redoubled, a strange little twinge in the back of his head making him tense up. It was not a familiar sensation for him, but if he’d ever been around one of the ancient Bristlecone pines of eastern California, he might have recognized it. It was something ancient, withered, but powerful through sheer force of will and weight of existence. The throne seemed to groan softly, and he felt it facing him.

Life. Life after so long. You’re back. I knew you would come back. I waited so long. I’m so weak now, so tired, but I knew you would come back. Have you returned to stop the Dragonlords, the false prophets of the Dark God? Have you come to embrace your destiny-

“Whoa.” He held up his hands. “I’m not here to face anyone, or embrace any destiny. I showed up here, and I’m just looking for a way home. I came here because I thought… What are you?”

I am the Castle of Charlemagne. Though this world has forgotten him, I am still his, and we must be avenged-

“Look, it’s been about a thousand years since Charlemagne died. Nobody’s getting avenged. I just need a way home.”

There is to be no glorious crusade?” The voice sounded very disappointed, but then let out a sigh. “Very well. I am but a servant, and not one to question. You seek the way to your world. I can feel it, no further than the thickness of the sunshine away. But you will need a great blade to cleave the sunshine. Come.

The ground began to rumble, and screams filled the air. David panicked momentarily. “Whoa! You’re not hurting anyone, are you?”

I am a palace. I cannot harm. I am building myself anew. It is simply… surprising, for those who did not expect to see me again. They will remember what I am. They will remember my grandeur, though they have tried to forget.

The north face of the chapel shifted, suddenly. A doorway pulled itself open, revealing steps. Bricks rose into the air, arranging themselves in elaborate patterns, lifting themselves high into the air, and thrusting into gaps in the walls. Long carpets wove themselves out of nothing, elaborate tapestries attacking the walls like great bats grabbing onto a perch, dust pulling free from the earth. All around shone an ethereal blue light, runes briefly flaring as each brick planted itself in its place. David looked around at the increasingly unnerved security guards, and trotted quickly around the throne, running towards the door. None of the security guards appeared to be paid well enough to chase after him, and he was through in a second, hiking up the stairs into the palace proper. Great lead glass windows allowed in the sun, and shocked eyes of the citizenry. “Uh, Palace, this is getting very public. Are you sure this is a good idea?”

Let the Mystics see us rise. Let them fear the coming crusade-

“I’m pretty sure I was clear about the no crusade part.”

But you are back! You seek a path through for humans to return, do you not? Though the Mystics have multiplied in numbers, surely they cannot stand against the human spirit! We shall back you, my lord, make each of you an army unto-

“Look, we’re not interested in killing anyone. Okay? And I don’t think the Mystics are, either. All of that ancient crusade stuff was left behind centuries ago.”

There was a long pause. Then, in a tone that David might have described as ‘huffy’ if it had not been coming from a creature over a millenia old, the voice replied “You will do what you think is best, and I will simply strive to aid you.

He walked, following the voice’s instructions for some time. Eventually, it took him to a large chamber. In the broad opening sat three sheaths. One was made of white silk, a silver buckle around the tip. The second was leather, rough and hard. The last one was steel, ending in a curve and with a large bulb at the very tip. David raised an eyebrow. “I told you about the whole ‘no killing people’ thing. Right?”

Yes, you have made your disrespect for the oaths of your ancestors extremely clear. You need a great blade to break the barriers between this world and your own, to cleave open the walls that the Dragon Lords built. Great Durandal slumbers, buried in stone, still mourning the loss of Roland. He will not help you. Fae Tizona is, as ever, of both worlds, and does not have the temperment to break the wall. You must take this.” The white silk sheath tilted forwards, and landed on the ground, soft as a whisper. “On the Emperor’s Wall, you will find Sweet Caladbolg, still waiting for a worthy wielder. Go to her, and awaken her. She will be grateful to be roused from her slumber, even if you are a disappointment.

“Look, I’m sorry I’m not up for leading a murdercrusade, but-“

“David!”

David turned, his stomach going cold. Gerlinde stood in the doorway. Her eyes were looking distinctly crazy. “Uh. Shit, Palace, I don’t suppose you can do something to stop her?”

Oh, I see how it is. First it’s all ‘No palace, I don’t see any need to deal with Mystics, we can all be friends, everything will be fine’, then it’s ‘oh palace, that mystic girl is going to eat me, help help please’-

As it became clear that the palace was still busy being snide, David turned and ran. Gerlinde’s feet echoed behind him. “David! Don’t run from me! I’m not going to hurt you! I just need to taste it again! Please!”

Oh yes, she sounds trustworthy, I imagine you should just go and roll over and let her take a bite, what’s the WORST that could possibly happen-

“I get your point, palace! Please tell me there’s something you can do!”

Oh, NOW you want shelter-

“PALACE!”

Fine! Turn left.

David took a hard left, and sprinted down the corridor. He could hear Gerlinde calling his name behind, and sped up a bit, sprinting as fast as he could. The corridor took a hard left, and then ended very abruptly. He stared at the blank, featureless stone wall that seemed to turn the hallway into a painfully literal dead end. “Palace, I just want you to know, this is a very bad plan-“

“David.” He turned, and swallowed, hard. Gerlinde stood just a few feet away from him. He’d heard of people with hungry eyes, and crazy eyes, but this was the first time he’d seen them in person. And she had both. “Why are you running from me, David? I’m not going to hurt you. I promise.” She took a step towards him, and he took a step back.

“Call me crazy, but people who have to explicitly promise they’re not going to hurt me are usually lying. How did you find me all the way from Dusseldorf?”

She giggled. “I could smell it in the air. The taste of your blood, it’s with me, now. I know I’ve been behaving a little strange. I’m sorry for frightening you. I know I was behaving badly, but I promise, I won’t hurt you.” Her voice was low, almost a purr, as she approached him. Her hips moved in a predatory sway, her eyes shining hazel in the dim interior of the castle. The ethereal blue glow that surrounded them made her skin look disturbingly corpse-like, but her soft red lips were pressed close together, almost pouting for a kiss. “I can’t believe how good it tasted. It made me strong. Sure, a little vulnerable, I had to carry an umbrella the whole way here, but so powerful.”

His knees rocked, and he slid a couple of inches down the wall, his head spinning under the sheer force of her statement. “Uh, look, Gerlinde, I don’t want to threaten you, but this entire palace is very dangerous, and it’s inhabited by a spirit which has shown a marked willingness to try to kill Mystics-“

Oh, no, you showed me the light.” David froze as Gerlinde lifted her head, a frown on her face at the voice reverberating out of the walls. “I realize now that my homicidal attitudes towards Mystics were misguided. I have renounced my ways, and forevermore, I swear not to harm the mystics who surround me. I have realized that, in truth, every life is precious, whether it be human, or Mystic. I will not interfere if you wish to feed from the human.

“It’s alright, David. I’m not going to hurt you,” Gerlinde purred out softly, her eyes lidded as she stepped forwards.

Whoops.

There was a crunch, and a terrifying lurch, as the entire end of the corridor where David was standing fell. David let out a brief, very shocked scream as Gerlinde leapt back. She narrowly avoided being exposed to the bright dawn light over Aachen, as the heavy end of the corridor landed safely on the ground, doing little more than surprising the hell out of David as it settled down on the earth below. His heart pounded, his eyes wide, as he looked around for a moment. Gerlinde stood, expression very sad, in the mouth of the corridor.

Silly me. I am an old and very tired building, and have overexerted myself. That could have been a nasty accident. If you are wise, vampire, you should leave as quickly as you can.

Gerlinde slowly shook her head, stepping back from the opening. In a moment, she was gone, and David could take stock.

The massive, sprawling stone palace lay heavily over a large section of the hill, connected to the chapel. It was ancient, stone sitting heavily flush with the ground, reminding him almost of a tired old hound sleeping in front of the fireplace. He still couldn’t see anything remotely resembling a person in it. Down the hill, he could see Farida running up towards him, panting heavily as she sprinted. He turned back towards the ancient palace, holding the white silk scabbard in both hands. “Thank you.”

I am an object. I exist to serve a purpose. There is no thanks needed.” There was a moment’s heavy pause. “But they are appreciated, nonetheless.

“Are you okay? You said you were tired-“

I have been asleep a long time, and you are only one human. Perhaps if more humans return, then I will be able to awaken properly, become as I once was. That would be nice.

“Hah. You weren’t looking for a murdercrusade at all. You just want humans around again, don’t you?” The voice was silent, but somehow, the palace radiated embarrassment. “It’s okay. I’ll see what I can manage for you.” He softly ran a hand down the brickwork of the collapsed corridor, and smiled. “You’re a good building.”

… Thank you,” the voice said, begrudging but happy. “It was so nice to shelter a human again.

“I was only gone for about half an hour,” said Farida, her eyes wide with horror as she stared around the palace. “The rental place was so quick. How did you manage to get all of this to happen when I was only away for half an hour?” She stared down at David’s hands, and her expression was downright devastated. “I was gone half an hour and you looted a historical site?” she asked, her voice strangled with dread, her hands over her mouth.

“Is anyone hurt?”

“I don’t think so. There was some structural damage, the police were saying-“

“Police?”

“Yeah.” She looked over her shoulder. “I think maybe we should get out of town. Like, now.”

The car was a small but very sensible two-door sedan. It would have been a deathtrap on American streets, where it would be forced to deal with murderous SUVs and drug-addled truckers, but in the streets of Aachen, it was ideal. Farida reached into the small tray between the two seats, and plucked out a small permit. David examined it- International Driving Permit. “When did you find the time to get these?”

“Oh, it was simple enough. Technically, we don’t need them for most of Europe, but they’re good to have just in case.” She gave him a pleasant smile. “So, tell me all about your adventures in the cathedral while we avoid any awkward questions from the police.” She started the car, and drove at a leisurely pace away from the cathedral and the reconstituted palace now joined to it. The explanation took them clean into Belgium, where they stopped for lunch at a small cafe, the two of them sitting around a large bowl of hot, fresh frites, dipping them into a sharp mustard.

“So, she could smell me, apparently.” David swirled one of the fries around. “It was… frightening, honestly. Not just having a crazy stalker vampire chasing after me like that, but the fact that all of this crazy magic shit is so real. The fact that I actually have to worry about a vampire chasing me, and I talked with a palace, and…” He leaned to the side, and she stroked the back of his head gently. Her warm paw ran across his scalp, soothing him somewhat. “The palace wanted me to fight a crusade. To be some kind of hero, and kill mystics. I told it no.”

“That’s a shame.” She paused for a moment. “I mean, the being a hero thing. Not the killing mystics part, I’m glad you’re not killing people, but… It’s kind of sexy, you know? A terrifying human hero, like out of the old myths, waging war with a magic sword… Man, I can’t believe magic swords are real.” Her eyes were glittering with excitement. “I can’t believe I missed all the crazy magical destiny stuff! Man, I was driving up and I saw that huge palace just sitting there, and I was scared, but then I was also bummed because, c’mon, huge awesome mystical castle stuff.” She giggled softly, leaning her head up against David’s side.

“Honestly, I wish you’d been there. You’d probably have stood a decent chance against her.” David sighed. “I can’t believe the palace had a sense of humor about it.”

“Well, you have to admit, it had a great sense of comedic timing. It sounds like it really had you going there for a minute.” She lifted one of the fries, and nibbled at it, letting out a soft ‘mmm’ of satisfaction, licking a little bit of mustard off of her lips, her tail wagging. “Man, this tastes good.” Then, she yawned voluminously, and flushed, closing her mouth shut tightly. “Oh, man. I think I’m starting to realize how tired I am. Maybe, um- Damn, I don’t know where the hotels are in town-“

“Actually, I had an idea along those lines.” David grinned. “I was checking out the route up to the channel tunnel. There’s a beautiful park not far from here. I was thinking we might just park the car, and get some sleep out in the outdoors together.”

“God. That sounds great.” She yawned again, stretching. “But aren’t you worried about that crazy vampire chick following you? I mean, if she was willing to chase you all this way, it’s kind of a risk, isn’t it?”

“I don’t think she’ll be able to follow us that much. She must have taken a train after us, or overheard us talking about our plans going to Aachen. Besides, even if she does catch up with us again, we’ll be together. And if she does catch up with us, you’ll be there to protect me.” David gave her a smile, and was pleased to see her return it. The two of them sat in the warm sunlight together for a while, Farida yawning and dozing on his shoulder as they nibbled their way through the meal. By the time they were finished, the sun was beginning to grow lower in the sky. David checked his phone once more. 4 PM. Had it really been less than a day since they’d arrived in Germany?

They drove on for another hour, David taking the wheel this time, watching the lazy green miles pass by. The sun hung lazily low in the sky as they drove, the warmth of the sun counteracting the cold outside. When they finally reached the park, the sun was sitting on the horizon, casting a golden light across the park. The two of them bundled up the sleeping bags, making their way out to a comfortable looking spot beneath a tree, out of sight of the parking lot. Farida watched with great interest as he carefully opened both sleeping bags, and zipped them together, creating a single double-wide place for the two of them, clapping appreciatively. The two of them settled down under the covers, undressing and pressing together for warmth.

There was a chill in the air that added to the fun of being close together. Their breath turned white and frosty in the air as the sun set, leaving them lit by the small gas lantern that, inexplicably, Farida had seen fit to bring along. The feeling of her warm skin against his was deeply satisfying, and he lay back, closing his eyes. Even as he tried to sleep, though, the thoughts began to bubble up.

“Farida? Are you still awake?”

“Mmmmmn. Yeah. Whassa?”

“I wanted to ask you something. The palace seemed to think that I could open up a pathway between the worlds. What if it leaves them open for good?”

“I dunno, that sounds like a good thing to me. Humans and Mystics being able to interconnect, to travel between worlds, magic coming back, all of the- Oh.”

“Yeah.”

“You’re worried it’s going to cause chaos. That people are going to go back to the old ways.” She sighed, and shifted slightly, pressing her soft chest against him, fluffy paws wrapping around him. “I mean, that’s the reason why the Dragonlords supposedly cut off the way between the worlds. They wanted to stop the wars that went on between Humans and Mystics. They believed that it was better that we not live together, than to keep on fighting the way we had. And maybe they were right. Both of our worlds sound like they’ve become a lot more peaceful. Maybe it was all for the best.”

“Yeah.”

“But on the other hand… that would mean never seeing you again, probably. And that would suck. I mean, think of all of the fascinating things that could happen. Sure, there would be some people who might be assholes about it, but the same is true of even the best things, right? You make a revolutionary new energy source, some jackass puts it in a bomb. I don’t know.” She sighed. “This stuff’s real heavy, isn’t it? No wonder you can’t sleep.” She smiled, and leaned over, tugging him against her. The soft brown cleavage made a more comfortable place to rest his head than any pillow could’ve, as her soft legs twined around his, clinging to him gently. “But do we have to worry about it tonight?”

“I guess not, no.” He sighed. “We still don’t know where exactly in England Caladbolg is supposed to be. She said the Emperor’s Wall. I’m hoping that the sheath will give me some sort of clue where it’s supposed to be. If it doesn’t… We might be walking along the wall a lot.” He smiled. “I hope that doesn’t sound too boring.”

“Nah.” She yawned again, and snuggled in closer, her breathing growing more regular. “Anything would be fun when I’m doing it with you, David.” Then she flushed, her ears perking up nervously. “Uh. I don’t sound too clingy, do I?”

He slid an arm around her, pulling her head gently against his, and smiled. “Not at all.” He planted a gentle kiss on her forehead, and she giggled softly, cuddling up to him eagerly. He lay there for a long time, watching as the sun set and the stars began to appear in the sky above.

How long had it been since his family had seen him? What would they think had happened to him, simply vanishing the way he had? How would he be able to explain everything? What was he going to do about the question of Mystics and Humans? His head swirled with painful thoughts, worries about people getting hurt. Gerlinde was a wonderful example of just that. Even if she didn’t want to hurt him, necessarily, she’d made it clear that she was dangerous. Just a taste of his blood had made her act like that, frightening and crazy. And what if he ran into the Dragonlords, or some other group who was equally invested in these things? How would people back home react to finding a world full of monsters who they could kill to steal power from? That was the kind of temptation that could bring out the absolute worst in people. The fears and uncertainties spun around in his head until his brain started to burn, panic starting in the pit of his stomach.

Then, Farida let out a soft sigh, her arms tightening around him. She shifted slightly, climbing on top of him, her soft lips pressed against his, her naked body straddling him. She seemed to find the position comfortable, and her eyes closed. Warm breath rushed out across his throat, a constant steady rhythm. With each breath, her body rose and fell on top of him, her warm skin pressed intimately against his. The worries all seemed to die, buried in the warmth of her body as her tail wagged against him. “I can feel you’re worried. There’ll be plenty of time for that when we have to make a decision.” Her voice was soft, little more than a murmur. “For now, we’re in Europe, visiting the coolest places we can find, on an ancient quest to find your true destiny. Don’t get so wrapped up in being bummed out.” She licked his cheek very gently. “Please?”

He smiled. “Well, when you ask so kindly, how can I refuse?” His arms slid around her, pulling her tight against him, feeling the warmth of her skin as she let out a pleased little groan, her hips pressed tightly against his. And he realized that she was right. They would have plenty to worry about in the coming days, but at the moment, all he really wanted to think about was how good it felt to have Farida cuddling up to him like this. He closed his eyes, and slept better than he had in living memory.

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