Disclaimer: Frictional Games owns it all; I only wish I did.
When I opened my eyes, I saw the ceiling of my bedroom in Brennenburg above me. Sunlight was pouring through the windows and reflecting off the floor mirror on the other side of the bed. I sat up and rubbed my face; that had to have been the most screwed up, weirdest, most vivid dream ever. What the hell had Walther slipped into the food?
I then looked at the door.
Or rather, where the door had once been. A twisted hinge that was hanging by one nail to the door frame was the only indication that a door had been there. The door was gone before one of Walther's servants had smashed it down. I held my head in my hands and groaned. It had all been real.
"Alexander?" I called out. No answer. "Alexander!" Why wasn't he answering. Had he gone through the portal after all? The thought had made my heart sink; I had grown rather attached to my Opa in such a short time, and I had really hoped that he would go home with me.
I jumped out of bed, and noted that I was still wearing my jeans and Alexander's shirt. His coat was draped over a nearby chair. I wanted to run off in search of him, but a quick sniff let me know that I needed a shower and a change of clothes, badly. Giving in to it, I took the world's quickest shower, (The presence of hot water stated clearly that the power was back in.) dressed myself in my own clothes (Though I still threw Alexander's coat on over my shirt.) and went in search of someone, anyone, that tell me what happened to Alexander.
I stepped out of the door into the hallway, and nearly fell over a person sitting in a chair outside my rooms, apparently waiting for me to wake up. He leapt up from his chair to catch me, which saved me from an unpleasant meeting with the stone floor.
"Are you all right, Miss Kesler?" he asked politely. His voice was a pleasant tenor, and I knew then who he was.
He smiled at me. "Ah, I see Alexander has told you of me, nothing bad I hope."
I managed to crack a smile at that. "No, nothing bad." He chuckled, and I asked the burning question. "Daniel, what happened to Alexander?"
He smiled again, a softer, gentler smile. "He is fine and is resting at the moment. He should wake up in another day or so."
"Oh, okay." Of course he's fine, Alexandra. I told myself He's a disembodied spook. Maybe he crossed over or something or returned home. But then that last sentence penetrated my brain.
"What do you mean 'wake up'?" I asked.
Daniel smiled at me again and offered his arm. "Maybe it would be better to show you." I nodded warily and took his arm, and he led me through the castle to Alexander's rooms. We walked into the main room to find a young man rich brown hair and hazel eyes reading a book in one of the many chairs. He looked up as we entered, and like before, I knew that he only looked human.
"Ah, Miss Kesler," he said by way of greeting "I'm glad you are back with us. It is heartening to see you up and about."
"Miss Kesler," Daniel introduced me "This is Johann Weyer, a good friend of Alexander and myself." Weyer put his book away and rose to meet me, and he took my hand and kissed it.
"It is a pleasure, my lady." he said formally.
"Charmed." I replied, trying to be polite, but at the same time, not really giving a damn. I wanted to know about Alexander. Weyer chuckled.
"You had better take her in there, Daniel." he said, sounding amused, and Daniel chuckled himself before he led me over to Alexander's bedroom door. He knocked softly on the wood, and once a voice bade him enter, he opened it quietly and ushered me in.
Two figures were on either side of the bed; one was another man that was human with golden blond hair, a beard of the same color, and grey eyes. He was standing on the right side of the bed, and on the left was the white haired woman from earlier. She was sitting in a chair, and both her and the other guy were tending to the person in that was lying in the bed, dressed in a simple white nightgown and lying tucked snugly under the blankets.
"Alexander?" I could scarcely believe my eyes, but it was true. I let go of Daniel's arm and walked up to the foot of the bed. The other two by the bed smiled warmly at me as I walked to the side and took one of Alexander's hands in my own. He was warm, and I could see the rise and fall of his chest and hear his quiet breathing. What was stranger was that he looked younger. He couldn't be called a young man by any stretch of the imagination, but it looked as though a decade had dropped off of him at least. "How is this possible?" The other four in the room looked at me - Weyer had evidently come in while I was otherwise distracted - and the blond haired guy on the other side of the bed answered.
"There are many forms of power in the universe, Alexandra. Technology is only one of them. Magic, which exists in many forms, is another. Such magic to heal terrible injuries, heal the sick, reverse and stop aging, and even to bring the dead back to life exists in Alexander's home world. There its use is strictly controlled, but here, there are no such restrictions."
"It was also the magic that saturated the orb chamber that kept his body from decomposing." I turned around to see that Weyer was speaking. "If it had rotted, there would have been nothing that we could have done. Locking himself in there to prevent Laerk from getting in saved him."
"Laerk?" I asked stupidly.
"Walter." Daniel clarified, and I nodded faintly in understanding.
On the bed, Alexander whimpered quietly and shifted under the blankets, so the woman sitting beside him, Kera, reached out and gently soothed him. He settled back down, and I asked my next question:
"How long will he be like this?"
The blond answered again. "He should wake up soon. We were able to heal the damage that Laerk had inflicted on him -"
"All of it?"
"All of it. As I was saying, he has been healed, though I doubt he'll ever be able to father another child. Right now, he is weak because his body has lain unmoving for so long, and his mind will need time to recover from the shock. He should be fine after that."
"He's going to be okay?"
"He's going to be fine."
"Now," Daniel announced "I'm going to see if I can remember where the kitchen is. I am hungry."
My stomach growled then, which elicited chuckles from everyone, including myself. "I will take you there." I offered "I'm a bit hungry myself. Does anyone else want anything?" There was a general murmur of agreement, and Kera asked for a weak broth so they could try and feed Alexander. Daniel and I then set off for the kitchen.
As we walked through the halls, Daniel filled me in on what all had happened while I was asleep. The blond bearded man was Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa, the famed occultist, and he was the one that Daniel had traveled through the portal with. The woman was of course, Alexander's wife. As she and Agrippa turned to bringing Alexander back from the dead, Daniel and Weyer had taken care of Walther's monstrosities, destroying their bodies and setting the souls of the original owners free.
I can't tell you how thrilled I was to hear that - no more Flappyface or Splitface!
We reached the kitchen, and even though from what he had told me about the technology being more advanced in Alexander's home world, Daniel was still awestruck by the kitchen. That awe only increased when I told him that the appliances were at least 20 years out of date. After he had burned himself on the stove no less than four times, I banished him to the kitchen table, while I cooked up a simple meal of soup and sandwiches and heated up the broth for Alexander. Daniel then helped me load it up on a serving cart and wheel it back to Alexander's rooms.
As we walked into the main room and began laying out the food on a table that someone had cleared, Agrippa walked in from the bedroom and asked Daniel.
"Did you spend several minutes throwing things into the acid this time, Daniel?"
Daniel blushed and mumbled something I couldn't make out, while Agrippa and Weyer laughed.
"There's a story there, somewhere; I know it." I said "So spill, Daniel."
Daniel blushed again. "I'll gladly tell you, but I'm sure that Alexander must be fed first." He picked up the broth and carried it into the bedroom. Through the open door, I watched as he handed the bowl to Kera and then he sat down on the bed and carefully pulled Alexander into a sitting position and supported him so Kera could carefully trickle the broth a spoonful at a time into his mouth.
"He will be all right." Agrippa said gently from behind me "He needs only to rest for now. For now, come and eat. You must be famished after last night." There was no denying that, so I joined him and Weyer at the table, and they regaled with stories of the other world that they lived in while we ate. After a bit Daniel joined us, and it was then that I was told about the acid barrel in the prison's kitchen. Apparently, upon learning that the acid would spit out anything that it couldn't dissolve (like glass) Daniel spent several minutes by the barrel, throwing whatever he could find into it and watching it either dissolve or being thrown out. The best part was he giggled like a school girl the entire time. Alexander had set the barrel up for an experiment and not only did he have to get more acid since it had been contaminated, he practically had to drag Daniel away from it by the ear.
Once that amusing story was told, they told me the more serious one of how Daniel and Agrippa ended up entering the portal. History records that Agrippa died in 1534, when in reality, he was living in Brennenburg at the time with Alexander, along with Weyer. Weyer, as I suspected, was not human and his parents, like Alexander had been banished to this world before the birth of Weyer and his siblings. After Agrippa found an orb, he, Weyer, and Alexander managed to use it to open a portal. Weyer went through, willingly leaving his human wife and their grown children behind. As far as history is concerned, Weyer fell ill and died, and the churchyard where he was supposedly buried was later obliterated. Agrippa and Alexander were planning to reopen the portal again, but once it began to close, the orb shattered into six large pieces, ruining their plans.
Some time later, Agrippa sickened, and while Alexander was able to keep him alive for a while using his own magic, he couldn't hold off death forever, and he knew it. To keep Agrippa from passing on, he did some kind of ritual to prevent his soul from leaving the dying husk, while still allowing him to communicate. At first, he kept Agrippa in the upper part of the castle, in a guest room, but to prevent the servants from seeing him (and freaking out) he moved him down to the nave and to that little candle lined, spike guarded space I had seen earlier. The spikes were to prevent any wandering people from reaching him if they did find him, as most wouldn't have been able to climb over them without getting gored.
In 1839 Alexander received a letter from Daniel, begging for help. He had discovered an orb in a tomb in Algeria, and not long after its discovery, he had been sent home, taking the orb with him. Not long after he made it home to London, something had attacked the rest of the expedition, killing everyone left behind. That something then began stalking Daniel, killing everyone he came into close contact with. To make a long story short, Alexander invited him to Brennenburg, and showed him how to hold back the orb's mysterious guardian, which was simply know as the Shadow. Ritualistic sacrifice was the preferred method. Anyway, using Daniel's orb, they were able to open another portal, and this time Alexander allowed Daniel to pass through, taking Agrippa with him. (That procedure involved some kind of potion and sawing the head off the dead husk that Agrippa was stuck in. I didn't ask for details.) Once on the other side of the portal, it was a simple matter to create him a new body. The husk that had been left behind was the source of the bones I had found in the nave.
After we had eaten I was shocked to look out a window and learn that it was nearly sundown. After checking on Alexander one final time, Agrippa departed for the guest room that he had once occupied all those years ago. Daniel and Weyer did the same, leaving only myself and Kera with Alexander. I seated myself in a chair on the other side of his bed from her and asked a question that had been bothering me since I realized who she was:
"Are you angry?"
She looked at me, and I noticed that she had aged herself up to match him. She had also changed her eyes to the same dark brown as his. "Why would I be angry?'
"Because he was with another woman and had a child with her."
"No, I'm not angry with him. Expecting him to keep it to himself for so long would be too much to ask for anyone. It was a one time event, and it was just happenstance that a child was conceived. I've waited too long to be with him again to throw it away over a regret."
"Are the two of you going to return home?"
"This is our home now. His banishment was overturned long ago, but neither of us wish to return to a society that condemned him so readily on a false charge."
"What was the charge that they slapped him with?"
"Laerk was the leader of the region in which we lived. He was our.. king to use the human word. He had a few friends beat him and then swore that Kanael did it. No one gave Kanael as chance to explain or defend himself. Much later, after Kanael had been gone for years, one of those friends confessed to what he had done, but it wouldn't be until Agrippa, Weyer, and Daniel worked together that we were able to get the banishment reversed. No, I do not want to go back there." Alexander shifted again, and we both spent a moment soothing him, before she looked back up at me.
"Go get some rest, child." she said gently "He will still be here in the morning." She reached out and patted my hand, and I leaned over and kissed Alexander on the side of his head, which caused him to smile in his sleep, before I got up from my chair and walked out of the room.
In the hallway, I nearly fell over Daniel again, who had again been waiting for me.
"We have to stop meeting like this." I mumbled as it hit me just how tired I was "What will people think?" He flashed an award winning smile at me and offered his arm.
"Would you like me to escort you back to your rooms?" he asked, and I nodded gratefully. It wasn't necessary, but it was a nice gesture. As we walked, he told me of the mischief the Shadow had gotten into once it had tracked him to Brennenburg, which included and not limited to: flooding the cellar archives (Hence the evidence of water damage I had seen earlier.), tearing down centuries old trees in the forest, and crashing the elevator - while Daniel and Alexander were in it. They had been bruised but unhurt in the accident, but Daniel had never heard Alexander curse so much at once before. Repairs had taken several days, and Alexander had been so furious, since he had been mighty proud of being of the few to own an private elevator at the time. The two of us chuckled at the stories as Daniel walked me to my rooms and bade me goodnight, and then he walked away, seeking his own bed. I watched him (by the light of electric lights! Yay!) until he had vanished around the corner. Only then did I go to bed myself.
I was awoken in the morning by Daniel knocking on the door. I dragged myself out of bed and answered it to see him standing there with his eyes bright with excitement.
"Alexander's awake." was all he had to say to make me fly out of the room light one of Walther's monsters was on my ass.
I burst into Alexander's room to see Agrippa and Weyer sitting in the main room, and they both smiled at me as I ran past them to the bedroom. Alexander was sitting up in bed, propped up on pillows, and Kera was beside him, holding his hand and talking to him. Alexander looked up and saw me standing in the doorway, and I can't describe how thrilled I was when he smiled at me.
"Alexandra," he said, and his voice was so weak, nowhere near the rich baritone that I had heard through my trek through the castle, but I still recognized it. He held out his arms, and Kera excused herself as I ran forward, sat on the bed, and wrapped my arms around him. I felt his arms encircle me, and I held him tight, still a little shocked that he was there, in my arms, and that he was warm and living instead of cold and lifeless.
After a few minutes, I felt his grip slackening, so I let go and eased him back against his pillows. He smiled at me again, and I couldn't keep the stupid grin off of my face for nothing.
"Don't cry, meine enkelin." he said quietly, and he reached up with on shaking hand and wiped a tear off my face. When had I started crying? And "meine enkelin" is German for... "my granddaughter". I managed a watery laugh and hugged him again, which made him chuckle. Once I had released him and laid him back against his pillows, he asked me something that made me quit grinning instantly.
"What will you do now, Alexandra?" I frowned thoughtfully; I hadn't thought that far yet.
"I don't know." I admitted "I still have three or four days left before I have to be back at work, but I really haven't thought about it yet."
"Have you thought about staying here?"
I sighed. "Honestly Opa, I can't. I have a job, friends, and a house back in South Dakota. I love Brennenburg castle, but I can't keep it. It was always my intention to sell the property and go home."
He cast his eyes down to look at his blankets." I see. I can understand why you would do that. This is not your home, is it?"
"Can't you stay here?"
"No, I cannot. Alexander von der Brennenburg vanished nearly two centuries ago, and you are the only descendant left. It would be impossible to explain if I were to appear and try to claim the castle as mine."
"Then you'll come home with me. You and Kera both." Alexander blinked at me in surprise, and I kept talking. "Hey I have friends and coworkers, but it would be nice to have family again. We can fix up my house and live happily ever after. Daniel can come too, if he wants."
"What of Agrippa and Weyer?"
"Correct me if I'm wrong, but I've had the impression that they're not staying. Am I right?"
He nodded. "You are right. They'll be leaving as soon as they judge me well enough." He looked up at me. "What will you do with the contents of the castle?"
"Well we could always go through it and pick out things to keep. The rest we could sell or something, I guess."
"It would be terrible for the castle to be destroyed."
"It would, but the property taxes would eat me alive, Opa, and the German government would seize it for taxes owed within a year or two."
Alexander nodded, sadly. "Hey," I said gently "it's the people that make it a home, right?" He smiled weakly and nodded, and I hugged him again. He chuckled and returned the gesture and whispered in my ear.
"Thank you, meine enkelin."
Two days after Alexander was awoken, Daniel and I were out in the carriage house/garage to the side of the castle, which gave us a clear view of the drive. I heard the unmistakable sound of a car engine and looked up to see a car coming towards the castle, and I told Daniel to run back into the castle and make himself scarce. The world he had been living in had technology that outstripped ours in some areas, in other areas they were way behind us. Despite having them explained multiple times, Daniel still had a little trouble with the concepts of cell phones, four wheeled vehicles, computers. and television.
Daniel went out the back of the carriage house, so not to be seen, and I knew that he would go to Alexander's room to warn the others. I then walked up to the front steps to greet whomever. A tall gentleman wearing an expensive suit and carrying a briefcase stepped out of the car and said something to the driver in German (Telling him to wait, I presume.) before he approached me.
"Might you be Ms. Alexandra Kesler?" he inquired politely in English, and I nodded.
"I am. May I ask who you are?"
"Forgive me. I am Gustav Kappal of Schuster and Kappal Law firm. I am pleased to see that you received our letter, though I expected you to contact us before traveling here. Is there a place where we may sit down and discuss things?"
I nodded again and led him inside the castle to one of the small study rooms in the archives. Once we were seated he opened his briefcase and began pulling out papers and setting them on the table in front of me. I noticed that several of them had the law firm's seal on them, and that they did not match the seal on the letter I had received at all. I frowned for a moment, which was not noticed by Kappal since he was busy getting papers out of his briefcase. The seal on the letter I had read that been a black eagle holding a wreath in one hand and a scepter in the other...
That sneaky bastard. Evidently, Walther had let the law firm do the leg work, and once they had found me, he somehow stopped their letters and sent his own, using the Star of the Order of the Black Eagle as the seal. I had to admit, it was a clever move on his part. Kappal started to speak, so I focused my attention on him.
"We have been searching for you for quite a while, Ms Kesler." he said "We at first did not think that Freiherr von der Brennenburg had any children, but we were contacted by a unknown person who informed us that he had fathered a son and then sent that son away to live with foster parents. We couldn't identify this person, but they proved to be accurate, and the paper trail did the rest. We sent out several letters, but none of them seemed to reach you. I was about to travel to the United States to meet you in person, when I learned that you had already come here."
"What exactly do you need to speak to my about, Herr Kappal?"
"The estate has been in flux since Freiherr von der Brennenburg vanished all those years ago. Caretakers for the castle as well as the property taxes have been taken out of the sizable fortune that he left behind, but the money has begun to run low. We needed to find someone that could lay a legal claim on the castle. If that failed, the property would have been auctioned off and likely condemned. Once we are able to prove that you are indeed the descendant of the Freiherr, you can claim the property and the estate and do with it what you will. You can live here, sell it, burn it to the ground if you wish."
"Who would want to buy this place?" I asked with one eyebrow raised "It certainly is a beautiful castle, and I would hate to see it destroyed, but it is old and has been poorly maintained. Whoever bought it would need to spend lots of money to fix it before they could do anything else."
"That is true, Ms. Kesler, but there are those that would do so, simply to have the privilege of living in such a storied structure."
I nodded in agreement. "That is true, very true. Tell me, how much exactly, of the estate is left?"
He shuffled through some papers and quoted me a rough estimate. No, there wasn't much left, but it would more than enough to do what I needed to do.
"Herr Kappal, I know from reading books and watching TV shows that this part of Germany is very popular with vacationers and tourists, am I right?"
"You are right, yes."
"Then I have an idea. Do you think it would work if..." I leaned towards him and began to tell him my idea.
The beautifully haunting melody of Michael Nyman's "The Promise" drifted through the kitchen as I stood in front of the stove in the newly remodeled kitchen, showing Kera the finer points of cooking. A new roof and new windows kept the out the freezing rain that was falling outside, and a new furnace kept the house comfortably toasty, while an extension to the house made sure there was room for everyone. Daniel was seated in the next room at the well worn, lovingly cared for, century and a half old dinging room table, studying from one of his books. It had taken some doing, including him taking some day classes to get his education up to snuff, but he was strangely enough going to school so he could go back to work as an archeologist.
We all had a good laugh when Alexander told him completely deadpan not to touch any orbs he came across this time. No one mentioned the hidden orb chamber that had been added to the house's cellar, where Daniel's orb currently resided, safe from anyone that would want to mess with it.
As for Alexander, he was at the piano in the living room. The piano was one of many things that he had taken from the castle when we left. Alexander claimed it had a deeper, richer sound than modern pianos, and after listening to him play a few times, I had to agree. He head learned to play, he said, because it was the only thing that allowed him to cope with his loneliness for all those years.
With a little help from Agrippa and Weyer before the latter two departed, we had created the documentation to allow Daniel, Alexander, and Kera to live in this world with no troubles, along with the background information to back it up. As far as everyone was concerned, Alexander and Kera were my granduncle and aunt, and there was no one left alive to say otherwise. Daniel was being passed off as their unofficially adopted son, though we did have to scramble to explain his London accent.
Castle Brennenburg had been sold to a wealthy group that wanted to restore it and turn it into a hotel. (We sealed off and hid all entrances to the prison areas and lower, just to be safe.) Not only did I get a nice chunk of money out of the deal, (Which I use to fix up the house.) but they had offered us free stays whenever we felt like it. It was due to open in a couple years, and I was thinking about attending the opening ceremony, and Daniel had said he would go if I did.
Alexander, on the other hand, was reluctant to.
"I rebuilt Brennenburg," he said "restoring it after it had been gutted by a fire. I chose the materials with my own hands. There was nothing about that castle that I did not know, and I loved it almost like one would love a child. But almost all of my memories of it are sad ones. Memories of being alone and miserable, of being frightened. I was tortured and murdered in that castle and trapped there for many years. One day, I may go back, but I cannot now." He had fallen silent then, and Kera had held him close for a while before he had gone over to the piano.
"Well at least they won't have to worry about the ghosts or anything." Daniel said, which made me look up from the stove. He was right. One of the last things Agrippa and Weyer had done before they left was to perform a cleansing ceremony, which freed the trapped souls, chased out the bad ones, and just made the entire castle seem.. lighter. It was a nice change and only after it was done did I realize how dark the castle was.
"It looks like it's done." Kera said, and I looked back at the pot of chicken and rice stew we were cooking, the perfect thing for a cold winter's day. (Kera hated winter already; Alexander was used to them.)
"I believe it is." I agreed, and I turned off the burner. "Daniel, would you might setting the table?"
He closed his book and put it aside. "Not at all." He opened my great grandmothers china cabinet and began pulling out bowls and bread plates. I carried the soup to the table and sat it down on the cast iron piece that kept the hot pot from touching the table and scorching the wood, while Kera followed with the pitcher of iced tea and four glasses. (Daniel had scoffed at the idea of drinking tea cold at first, but he was soon addicted to it.)
As "The Promise" reached it's end, I called out "Alexander, dinner!" The final notes died away, and I soon heard the creaking on the well worn wooden floor as Alexander walked in. As everyone sat down, I thought about how shocked my coworkers had been when they asked if I brought any souvenirs home and I introduced my new family instead. It still can make me laugh just thinking about it.
On my left Daniel flashed me a smile, and when I returned it, he blushed a little and looked down at his soup, which caused me to blush and look away. On the other side of the table, Alexander snickered and Kera gave us a knowing smile.
"Don't say it." I interrupted before she could say what I know she had been planning to say. I looked over at Alexander. "And you. Don't go all fatherly and start threatening him." Alexander looked disappointed for a second, before I added: "If he does something stupid, I'll deal with it myself." Alexander suddenly looked like Christmas had come early, while Daniel groaned beside me.
"I am in so much trouble." he grumbled, and I laughed and patted him on the shoulder.
"Don't worry, Daniel." I said "I won't hurt you... much."
The other two at the table started laughing as Daniel asked plaintively; "Can we eat now?"
The sound of laughter filled the room as everyone, including Daniel, joined in on the mirth, and the once silent house was again filled by the sound of family.