Vulturu’s Ghastly Graveyard
Taïga usually hangs out with some American kids at school. First, there’s Leann Moreland. She’s kind, cute and caring but what she lacks in personality, she compensates with stubbornness. Her parents are some kind of historians, specializing in researching vampires and old Transylvanian folk tales, and their daughter is mostly left to fend for herself. Then there’s Crina Elena Maria Ionescu, but she wants so badly to be considered American that she insists on being called Jennifer Doe. She tells anyone who listens the tragic story about her father who was an American marine killed in Iraq. Even if there’s some doubt as to the identity of her genitor, her mother is definitely a native. It’s quite handy, making Jennifer their translator as she’s fluent in both languages, but she’s very jealous and doesn’t like the attention Taïga is getting from her best friends Leann and Mitchell. Which brings us to the only boy in the group.
Mitchell Flynn came to Romania two years ago with his younger siblings to live with their uncle, Professor Varujan Torje, after their parents tragically died in a plane crash. He doesn’t speak Romanian very well, but he understands the language as his mother was born and raised in Bucharest. He is obsessed with the occult and firmly believes in vampires. He is the little group’s uncontested leader and tonight he has convinced them all to meet up at the cemetery for a very special ritual.
Jennifer is doubtful and as usual she doesn’t hold back her thoughts. ‘I’m sure she won’t come, and she’s probably convinced Leann, too. She’s a bad influence over Leann and-’
Mitchell nudges her, motioning towards two dark silhouettes advancing towards them.
‘She came,’ Jennifer says incredulously. ‘And she brought a cat!’
‘I told you so…’ Mitchell smiles to himself. He has finally succeeded in convincing a reticent Taïga to bring her black cat.
Leann waves to their friends, nudging Taïga. ‘They are over there!’
The sudden gesture frightens Miezul Nopţii and she leaps out of Taïga’s arms, disappearing among the tombstones.
Jen stomps over, looking accusingly at Taïga. ‘Where’s the cat?’
‘Err… I couldn’t hold on to her, she scratched me.’ Taïga tries to catch sight of Miezul Nopţii, but the scared cat is probably covering behind one of the tombstones. ‘I have to find her or my Aunt will totally lose it…’ She starts away but Leann’s words stops her.
‘But without a cat we can’t summon the demon. Or can we?’ Leann asks.
‘What demon?’ Taïga looks questioningly at the three others.
Mitchell doesn’t know what to say, he looks at his feet, shuffling some snow around. Leann looks accusingly at Jen, ‘Do you mean you haven’t told her?’
Jen raises her chin. ‘It wasn’t my idea anyway. Mitchell, you told her about the witches executed and buried here, and how the ground turns blood red when the moon is full, didn’t you? But-’
Leann interrupts Jen, turning towards Taïga with an excited expression on her round face. ‘We’re witches!’ she blurts out.
Taïga stares at her and Leann nods excitedly. ‘But you mustn’t tell anyone.’
‘You… You are witches?’ Taïga gapes, searching the three children’s faces. This is the most fantastic news she has ever heard of, and she can’t wait to tell Granny. Their mothers must also be witches and Missy probably knows them already…
‘Well not exactly, not yet. That’s why we need to summon Alastor*…’ Mitchell says.
‘He’ll take over the spirit of the cat, and then he’ll make us witches…’ Jen adds.
‘Are you serious?’ The happy haze quickly vanishes as Jen’s words sink in, and Taïga feels horribly betrayed by her friends. It’s not only the fact that they’re not witches at all, but, more important, they have lied to her about why they needed the black cat.
‘I thought you wanted the cat to signal if there were any ghosts around. I’ll NEVER let you hurt Minuit so you can do this!’ She stops for breath, looking at them. She needs to ask Granny about this Alastor.
They don’t answer her, they don’t even meet her eyes. The only sound is the soft creaking from the trees.
Mitchell has to make a decision. ‘Well… It’s Taïga’s cat after all… So let’s find him, before Alastor does.’ He tries to get his authority back by scaring the girls a little. ‘Leann, you search that area, Jen, you go that way. Me and Taïga, we’ll look over there- Taïga? Wait!’
Suddenly Mitchell finds himself all alone, the three girls disappearing in the gloom of the old churchyard. ‘Hey, wait for me!’ he calls after Taïga, trudging through the snow filled brambles after her vanishing figure.
Somehow Taïga knows Alastar can’t be around if he hasn’t been summoned yet… No, something else is upsetting her. What if Miezul Nopţii can’t find her way back to the house? ‘Get a move on! I have to find my cat-’ Taïga yells back at him, ‘-or my Aunt will kill me!’
They look behind the tombstones and under the bushes. Nothing. Suddenly Taïga thinks she saw something in the snow a bit further away.
‘There are some prints here… Look!’ She motions Mitchell over.
‘Yeah… they’re going that way.’ He points towards the looming Mausoleum.
Her friends joins her as she follows the trace of tiny paws.
‘What if she’s hidden in the Mausoleum? Or somewhere else we can’t reach her?’ Leann inquires, jogging after Taïga.
‘Shut up, Leann.’ Jen mutters, schlepping through the deep snow after them.
The prints are leading them straight to the Mausoleum. Hesitantly Taïga pushes the creaking wrought iron gate open.
‘Maybe we should go home?’ Leann whimpers. ‘You promised we wouldn’t go near the Mausoleum, Mitchell. It’s haunted…’
‘It’s not.’ Jen finally joins the little group in the shadow of the gloomy building.
‘My parents say that it is,’ Leann whispers.
‘Your parents believe the pizza place is haunted.’ Jen mutters back.
‘Who’s buried here?’ Taïga asks.
‘The founders of Vulturu – the old Duke and his ancestors,’ Jen answers.
‘My dad once told me the coffins are empty, and that the Duke is now a vampire,’ Leann adds.
‘Oh, c’mon. You’ve never said anything about it. Tell us!’ Mitchell musters up some interest, turning towards Leann after having craned his neck studying the gargoyle at the roof top.
A sudden movement catches Taïga’s eye and she kneels in the snow next to some thorn bushes. ‘Minuit? Tsk-tsk-tsk…’ Something is definitely moving and she inches forward. ‘Minuit?’
A raspy voice whispers, ‘What are you doing here?’
She freezes. Slowly she raises her head… A pale silhouette breaks away from the shadows. How come she hadn’t seen it? Where did it come from?
Jen’s terrified scream makes Taïga scramble backwards and fall. She doesn’t know how she gets back onto her feet, but she’s soon running screaming like the others away from the mysterious character who seemed to have detached himself from the mausoleum wall.
In panic they fan out over the graveyard, each of them running for their lives with only one thought in their heads – escape!
Taïga heads for the entrance. She slips on a patch of ice, but scrambles up again continuing her frenzied rush towards security.
Once outside the graveyard, she bends over, gasping for breath. Who- or what was that? She looks over her shoulder and the creepy figure is right behind her holding something in his arms.
Panicked, she scans the surroundings for her bike.
Taïga jumps on her bike and pedals as fast as she can out into the night. But the road is icy, and she skids and almost falls, hardly keeping her balance.
A high pitched screech she recognizes as Miezul Nopţii, followed by another bloodcurdling unworldly scream, echo in her head all the way home.
Part I – End of Chapter 18