[Destiny] Chapter 8: Count Kurtain

~~~

As with most other hostels, it was better to avoid the 16-bed dorms, or even the 8-bed dorms, as that’s where the collective drunks would be.

2-bed dorms were ideal, but the smallest the Innsbruck hostel had was a 4-bedder so that’s where Sila ended up, on the top bunk with a Korean man below, who at one point, got up and wandered off to have a shower wearing only his underpants.

Somehow, the Chinese stalker had failed to switch to the same room as him, probably cos she booked online, or he’d booked the last bunk in this one, though he knew she was still in the hostel somewhere; he’d seen her lurking in the reception area.

Unless she’d given up and left?

Either way, she wasn’t in this room, which gave him the chance to stretch out on the bed in peace and plan his next move.

Go back to the castle.

Go back to the castle.

Go back to the castle.

Go back to the castle.

It was incessant, the image of the random, wild-looking man slipping through the locked door of the castle, waiting for him on the other side, whispering, ‘come back tonight, come back tonight.’

Was there another cabinet, one without a tape recorder?

Perhaps. Castle Ambras was a large place, with the possibility of secret tunnels and hidden alcoves and torture chambers where he could pin the wild man down on a rack, rub against him a bit, loob up and then fuck him with a solid stroke as he scanned for the iron maiden with Barbara Steele’s eyes peeking out.

There was a noise by the door, someone messing with the lock.

Sila rolled onto his side, holding up his phone again, pretending to read the site on Slovene mythology he’d loaded up.

Another few seconds and the door opened.

The Korean man entered, smiling like a genuine Mormon, towel around his waist, upper body toned and built from the army training he’d told Sila about earlier.

Sila watched him change into new underwear, wondering if there was any normal, polite way to jump down and ask if he wanted to fuck for a bit before anyone else came in.

Deciding there probably wasn’t, he went back to his phone, to the page on Krsnik, which turned out to be a smart move as five minutes later the door opened again and two Indonesian girls walked in with backpacks the size of fridges.

Krsnik have the ability to change shape, which helps them in their hunting of Kudlak, he read, as the Indonesians sparked up conversation with his Korean distraction.

In most tales, they are seen as a force of good.

‘Not in this one,’ he muttered.

~~~

After the other three had gone to sleep, Sila got up and put on the same clothes he’d worn earlier.

The castle was quite far from the hostel, but at night it didn’t matter as the streets would be deserted and no mugger with a brain would be operating this late in winter season.

Besides, he knew how to fight, to some extent, and he had his green knife if things really got desperate.

Which they wouldn’t.

It was Innsbruck, for fuck’s sake, not Helmand Province.

~~~

Setting up directions on his phone, he headed away from the city centre, towards the river, and after five minutes gave up on the phone map completely as he could see the silhouette shape of the castle with his own eyes.

Helen of Troy on a dirt mound, Achilles on a hill of dead TVs, the Korean guy surrounding by dick-less mannequins.

It was exquisite

demanding

reeling him in like a harpoon shaft, his body having little choice but to follow.

The light from the moon and the dark particles buttressing it made the city streets bearable, though whenever another human passed by, his thoughts inevitably turned inwards, his mind telling him without decoration that the sun would come again soon, as would the drudgery, and then he’d be back where he started; alone, defeated, professorless.

A taxi rushed by as he made it to the river, beeping its horn at him for no reason whatsoever.

He took out his phone and checked the time.

Quarter to one.

Not too bad.

Another twenty minutes and he’d be at the castle gate, an hour and a half to look around, then another hour to get back to the hostel. Or not. Maybe he’d just walk the streets instead, set his radar to random search mode. Could be a cabinet hidden in an old composer’s house, or some historical shack he hadn’t got round to discovering yet.

He got to the other side of the river and looked up to the mountains beyond.

Or maybe he’d just go feral. Wander up into the peaks and the Narnia trees and see what happened. He’d read countless books about castle ruins not on the map. Maybe there was one up there too.

All he had to do was go the opposite direction from the one suggested on the signs.

Not difficult.

And if there were bears, or wolves, he had his green knife. Which would make it a fair fight. And a fucking vibrant one. Both him and the beast would feel in control again, each with an equal chance of coming out on top. Instead of slumped next to human bones, watching a jagged-looking thing douse itself in purple liquid, praying for his limbs to work again.

He stopped by a lamppost, closing his eyes.

You got out, you survived.

You got out, you survived.

You got out, you survived.

You got out.

You survived.

Bored of repetition, he opened his eyes and cursed. The castle was only half in frame.

Shifting left a bit, he corrected it.

Ah, Innsbruck castle, drowned in shadow, enigmatic, a portal to something much, much better.

Had to be.

~~~

For a supposed tourist hotspot, the castle was incredibly easy to break into.

At the back, next to the sunken garden, there was a gate that led into the old dungeon, or a replica of it, and the padlock to that gate looked genuinely Tyrolean.

Sila picked his way in and headed up to the ground floor, where all the suits of armour and Count of the castle paintings were.

It took a few minutes for him to adapt to the dark, but once he did, everything was fine. No need to turn on his phone and point it at things he didn’t recognise.

There was little in the way of noise.

Just the occasional nightjar from the grounds outside.

And his own footsteps as he walked on the tiled floor.

He didn’t bother trying to disguise it, there was clearly nothing in the way of security, no cameras that he could see, which come to think of it was a bit odd.

Maybe none of these things are real, he thought, walking up a spiral set of steps to the next floor. Or the real valuables are somewhere hidden.

Either way, he didn’t care. The cabinet was the thing he was interested in. During the day, perhaps it did only possess a tape recorder, but at night, it could be completely-

He stopped mid-step and pushed to the left, tucking in behind the wall.

There was someone in the corridor, up ahead.

A large figure.

Or a shadow perhaps?

Slowing down his breathing to monk level, he pushed himself back to the corner of the wall and poked one eye round the side.

No, he was right, there was a figure.

A man.

Staring right at him.

Fuck.

Keeping his right arm tight against his side, he slid his hand into his jacket pocket, feeling the handle of the green blade.

‘… … … … … … … …’ said the figure, his voice soft yet somehow engulfing the entire corridor.

German, thought Sila, catching a few familiar words.

‘… … … … … …?’

No, hang on. French.

There was a hacking cough then more speech, this time in clear English.

‘I was hoping you would return.’

Sila pulled out the knife from his pocket. Don’t walk out, he told himself. And don’t speak.

‘It’s been so long since I’ve had visitors.’

Don’t walk out. Don’t speak.

‘Please, show yourself. Don’t be afraid.’

Don’t walk out, don’t spe-

He feigned a deep breath and walked out, tucking the green knife back into his pocket.

‘Ah, it is you,’ said the figure, now several steps closer and, thanks to the moonlight streaming in through the corridor window, revealed to be a tall, rough-bearded man in a purple cloak.

Oddly beautiful, thought Sila, as the man glided forward, his feet moving without sound, his hand reaching out and wrapping itself round his own. Like Van Cleef and Volonte merged,

cold skin

glowing blue eyes

Kinski smile

the silk before the stabbing.

‘You’re…’ Sila stammered, not able to think of a name.

‘…the Count of this castle,’ the man replied, gripping Sila’s hand with strength that came from swinging ridiculously heavy swords around all day. Or occult voodoo. One or the other.

‘Kurtain…’

The man grunted, which may have been a laugh, and released Sila’s hand. ‘It is a lonely business. Though, at times, serene also.’ He repeated the line to himself, grimacing. ‘Forgive me, my English is unpractised, there may be some errors.

Sila looked past the alleged Count, checking for others lurking in the shadows.

‘But then, you did mispronounce my name, so perhaps apologies are redundant.’

‘Are you real?’ asked Sila, straightening his back out and realising they were almost the same height.

‘Come, let us go somewhere with a bit of warmth. There is a fire burning nicely in the quarrel room.’

The man, Kurszan, turned his back on Sila and returned down the corridor to the spot where he had first appeared. Hanging back, Sila studied the man’s form, the movement of his boots on the tiled floor, the cloak covering most of his body, the faint sound of the breath flowing in and out of his lungs.

‘Unless you are content to stay in this tedious corridor?’ the man said back, not shouting but certainly wearing the costume of it.

Sila waited out a few more seconds,

hoping to give the impression of a sceptical scientist instead of the lunatic reality that was playing out in rest of his mind, a man who had found his deity and was now busy drawing up plans for a rack to fuck him on,

then coughed and followed after him.

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