Stranger in Town

The town of Ivy Hollow was known for many things; hospitality, good food, extravagant parties, and, the most important of all, the many haunted spots and their accompanying stories. There was the old Pumpkin Spice Inn, seeing many years of deaths and gruesome murders; Myrtle’s Grocer, whose ghosts are friendly enough to keep thieves from bothering them; Black-Eyed Susan’s, the bar of ghastly shrieks and shattering glass; just some of the many hauntingly lovely places to be found throughout town. But the biggest attractions are, of course, the cemeteries, where zombies are rumored to spring from the grave, and the castles, where mad scientists, witches, vampires, and a stray werewolf or two are seen wandering the candle-lit corridors amidst the still, midnight air. One castle in particular, Akebiall, was home to a rather strange story. Legend spoke of a vampire who rode a dark horse on moonless nights from there, hunting for his next prey. But what’s so interesting about this vampire and his haunt is that there’s a maiden lying asleep in the tallest tower, and to free her, one must spend three consecutive nights alone in that horrid place. Some only made it through one night and went home raving mad, but those who went for two nights were never seen again.

One day, a stranger came into town, but though most people shook their heads and muttered, “There goes another one,” they took a really good look at him and began to think that maybe, just maybe, he would succeed where others had failed. He was astride a glossy black stallion, an air of confidence blew through his sandy-blond hair, and a fierce determination shone in his grey eyes. But there was something else, something that spoke to the unconsciousness of the townspeople that he was different from most. Like the others before him, he checked into the Silver Key, the only tavern lying in the shadow of Akebiall. The innkeeper took one look at him and knew things were going to be different.

“Are there any rooms available?” the young man asked.

“There are always rooms available, we’re the only place in town that accommodates those who wish to tempt fate by seeking their fortunes at Akebiall, which I’m guessing that’s why you’re here?” the innkeeper guessed.

The sandy-blond smiled, “You are correct in your guess, my good fellow, I am here to free the lady from her imprisonment.”

“Very well, I am Peregrine Turner, the owner of this tavern, if there is anything you need, only ask,” the innkeeper told him, shaking hand with the young fellow.

“Thank you Mr. Turner, my name is Luke Skyler. Right now, all I need are a good night’s rest, food, and any clues or hints that might help me rescue the lady.”

“Well, I can help with the food and the sleep right now, any clues and hints will have to wait,” stated Peregrine as he led Luke to a room. After informing him that dinner would be served in a few minutes, Peregrine left Luke in the room. Luke strode over to the window, Castle Akebiall loomed dark and sinister in the distance, beckoning to him to come and test both his courage and his resolve. once he finally peeled his eyes from the castle, his thoughts turned to the meal Peregrine had promised him. He found it all warm and inviting on a corner table. He mentally thanked Peregrine for putting him in such a secluded area, he really was not in the mood for small talk, though that didn’t stop him from listening in. Most of the talk was about what was currently going on withthe recent ghost sightings, who was being particularly active and who wasn’t. The only mention of Akebiall was when they speculated on when the vampire would stalk the town for his next victim. They briefly pondered over Luke’s entrance and purpose in Ivy Hollow before switching back to their favorite topic, the numerous hauntings throughout the town. Realizing that no more information was to be heard from the town gossip, he quickly finished his meal and went back to his room. He paused when he saw a black-haired man standing by his door.

“Can I help you?” asked Luke.

“Ah, well, more like, can I help you? Peregrine told me you are going to attempt a rescue of the lady in Akebiall’s tower,” came the stranger’s reply.

“I will rescue her. What is your name and how much do you know?” Luke asked firmly.

“Ah-ha, a straight-to-the-point kind of fellow, aren’t you? Very well, Mr. No-Nonsense Luke, my name is Matthew and I know enough for you to achieve your goals and stay alive, if you do exactly what I tell you to do.”

“What’s in it for you?” Luke wondered out loud.

“For this town to be rid of a nuisance once and for all,” Matthew replied, his deep blue eyes seemed to flash with electricity.

Luke nodded slowly, “Fair enough What am I to do?”

“Sleep for now. I shall gather everything you need for your journey,” replied Matthew, a slight grin tugging at his face as he walked into the darkness. Luke blinked in surprise as his visitor practically vanished into the night. Shrugging it off, he decided to at least follow Matthew’s first piece of advice, sleep. Sleep did not come readily that night for Akebiall stood outside his window, teasing, taunting. Finally, he fell asleep, restless though it was. When he woke a few hours later, he thought he saw a dark figure standing by his window. A flash of blue caused him to close his eyes, and when they reopened, the figure was gone.

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