Heart of the Dragon Ch. 01byAurora Black©
Tatsu Island, Japan
The night wind blew through the trees, causing the leaves to stir and produce a soft rustling. The waxing moon shone in the ink black sky and was reflected on the surface of the still water. The moonlight was the only illumination, an ethereal beacon unveiling the secrets of the darkness and finally resting on an abandoned castle.
The castle had been empty for years, but no one could have guessed that from a glance. It was magnificent. Surrounded on all sides by lush forests, it radiated power. The heavy iron gates at the entrance were topped with some sort of family crest, featuring a golden dragon. The eyes of the dragon were ablaze, and it spewed fire within the portrayed scene on the emblem.
Near the castle, through another throng of trees was a graveyard. Many tombstones were there. Some of them were from many centuries past. The inscriptions on a few of the graves were so old that they were ruined by time and completely unreadable.
The winds grew stronger, and the sounds of the night creatures lessened. The frogs in the area stopped their night songs and leaped from their lilypads to return to the safety of the water. Ripples formed and they spread over the small pond, reflecting the recent condition of the sky. The moon had disappeared. New clouds shielded it from what was about to happen.
The clouds multiplied, blanketing the sky with a sinister intent. The thunder rolled. The ripples that were already in the water from the departing frogs were joined by the ones caused by raindrops. The clouds churned, and the glow of the moon was abducted and replaced by the harsh zigzagging of lightning.
Zap! The lightning struck a tree close to the water, and a great thud sounded with the tree's fall. Zap! A frog that wasn't as lucky as its earlier companions was struck next.
The once quiet pond was greatly disturbed by the wind and the rain, and the greater purpose behind them.
The clouds developed a darker tint as they edged closer to the castle. The family crypt was located behind the trees, almost completely guarded from the storm's path.
The grayish-black of the storm clouds gave way to the incredible flashing within. Blinding light emerged from the cloud in the form of a lightning bolt, and made its way through the air, through the trees, to strike within the graveyard with a huge crash.
A great burst of light exploded in the graveyard, followed by maniacal laughter.
Almost immediately after the destruction, the clouds dissipated and the moonlight returned. The storm had ended. It left as quietly as it arrived. Other than the tree and the frog, one could say that the storm never happened.
The moon beamed even brighter than before upon the castle, and its cemetery. Especially the cemetery. Something was different. Something was wrong.
The sound of snapping twigs resounded throughout the area as a figure stepped away from the burial ground and into the night. All of the graves had been spared by the sudden, violent storm except for one.
The lightning bolt had entirely destroyed one of the most beautifully decorated graves on the property. Only a few bits and pieces remained of its intricate design, which had obviously been crafted with great reverence for the tomb's owner.
The stone fragments that still existed were severely charred and blackened, but one part of a large piece was miraculously clear; the area with the epitaph for the deceased.
"Let the Light pierce the darkest corners of the Universe."
* * *
The old man cried out and sat up quickly in his bed. The early morning was quite warm, but it went unnoticed as he panted, in the throes of a cold sweat. He closed his eyes and willed himself to calm down. It did the trick, but it was slow in coming.
He laid back on his damp sheets and thought about what he had just experienced. He went over the vivid details of the dream one by one, and his terror returned when he recalled what happened concerning the shadowy figure.
"Oh God," the elderly man moaned. It wasn't a dream. It was heartbreakingly real.
He quickly sat up again, slipped on his shoes and robe, and rushed from his bedroom. In his haste, he knocked down papers and other loose objects, but he did not care.
I have prayed against this. That THING was supposed to be gone from our lives forever. We were thought to be free from the pain and suffering that it brings. The being is back, and with it's return, almost all hope for salvation from the terror is gone. I have to get to a phone.
* * *
New York City
The sky is very beautiful and clear this afternoon, thought Keiko Nakimura as she stood out on the balcony overlooking Central Park.
She was taking a break from her sculpting to go out and get some fresh air. She sat in a patio chair and focused her attention on the park below, letting her mind drift. Her thoughts returned to her daughter, Grace.
28 years ago today, a miracle came into our lives. My, how fast time flies.
Keiko was pleased at the news that Grace was going to go back to school to work on her Ph.D., but she was surprised when she learned of the method that she chose to do it. Grace, out of the blue, had made the decision to continue her studies at the University of Munich.
Munich? What is there in Munich that could make Grace want to cross an ocean?
Keiko asked herself the question, but she already knew the answer.
It is because of that man, that writer. The one with the flaming red hair and the bedroom eyes.
Yes, Keiko knew about him. It wasn't that hard to piece together, with Grace's reluctance to return to New York and to Yale. Oh, yes. His reputation as a novelist and as a man was well known in many social circles; about him being a loner and a heartbreaker concerning women.
I wish that I knew what she was thinking, Keiko thought.
In the beginning, when Grace first moved to New Orleans and got a job at the St. George Bookstore, Keiko believed that it would be a good exercise in independence for her. But when she continued to stay...
With a sigh, Keiko stood up and went back inside the apartment.
"I hope he's worth it, honey," she said to the empty room.
Meanwhile, in another part of the apartment, Hiroshi Nakimura was sitting in his study. The daily newspaper was on top of his desk, and he was glancing at the New York Stock Exchange while sipping at his coffee. He slipped off his glasses and rubbed his eyes.
Munich. It should be a good experience for her. She'll be able to see the world and meet new people, he thought.
Contrary to his wife's opinion, Hiroshi believed that Grace had changed for the better since her tenure in New Orleans. He also suspected that Grace's decision to move to Europe had something to do with Gabriel Knight, but he trusted his daughter's judgment.
I'll just sit back and see what happens for now Hiroshi decided. But if he hurts her in any way, I'll rip Knight's balls off and use them in my next tennis match!
He was interrupted from his reverie by the ringing of the telephone. Hiroshi had to stand up and rifle through a few papers before he could find the phone. He answered on the third ring.
An elderly man's voice responded. "Son, is that you?"
"Yeah, Dad. How are you?"
Hiroshi was glad to hear from him, but nothing could prepare him for what his father was about to tell him.
"Not well, Hiroshi. I need to talk to Grace. It's urgent."
A shiver went down Hiroshi's spine. "She's not here, Dad. She moved to Europe. What's this about?"
Yukio Nakimura took a deep breath. "Our worst nightmare has become a reality, my son."
Hiroshi suddenly felt the need to sit down. His breathing quickened, and he took a moment to find the ability to speak.
"You mean... the spirit has...?"
"Yes, my son. The time has come to talk to Grace."
Hiroshi let out a sigh as he stared sightlessly at the phone. He began to feel a painful pressure behind his eyes, an ache that no aspirin would cure.
"I agree, but how shall we tell her? We've kept her ignorant about the family's plans for her, and now that it's time..."
"I know, Hiroshi," Yukio broke in. "But it'll be better to let her know now before IT..."
His words trailed off, but he knew that he didn't have to finish that statement. He knew that his son understood.
"I'll get in touch with her, Father. Don't worry."
Keiko was still in her sculpting room, molding clay. Hiroshi entered the room with a very grim expression. Keiko looked up, and could immediately tell that something was wrong. Hiroshi walked up to Keiko's chair and kneeled down, locking eyes with her.
"Something terrible has happened."
At Keiko's sudden expression, he rushed to tell her that Grace was fine.
For the time being, Hiroshi thought with bitterness.
"What's wrong?" Keiko held her breath, waiting for the answer.
Hiroshi's voice trembled when he finally uttered the words.
"The spirit has returned to torment the family."
Keiko stilled her hands, causing the clay to fall to the floor in a heap. She didn't care. She started to sob, her entire body trembling in fear. "Oh, my God. Grace. No, please no..."
Hiroshi stood up, bringing Keiko with him. He hugged her tight, not caring that she was covered with clay. They stood together, holding each other for a long, long time.
* * *
Gerde Hull performed her normal evening routine at Schloss Ritter; washing the dishes, going into town to collect the mail, and talking for a while with Werner Huber, the local gastof owner and her uncle.
When Gerde returned to the castle, she fixed herself something to eat and settled down at her desk to get some reading done. She read a bit, and then she looked around, taking in her surroundings. It was about six in the evening, and the only sound in the large hall was the crackling of the fire in the fireplace.
Gerde sighed. Another night alone at the castle.
Gabriel and Grace had left a while before to go to a party that Ubergrau was throwing to celebrate the release of the new Blake Backlash novel, "The Lone Wolf."
They had invited Gerde to join them, but she politely turned them down, saying that she needed to finish some work at the castle. That was only part of the reason. It was that time again; the anniversary of Wolfgang's passing was near, and she was feeling down.
God, how I miss him.
Besides, she didn't think that it would have helped things if she had taken them up on their offer. She would have felt like a third wheel if she had tagged along with the lovebirds.
She jumped when the phone rang, and she briefly laughed at herself for reacting that way. Gerde picked up the receiver.
"Schloss Ritter, may I help you?"
The voice on the other end was feminine, strong, and very upset.
"Yes. Is Grace there, please?"
"I'm sorry. You've just missed her. May I take a message?"
Gerde searched the desktop for a pad of paper and a pen as she heard a heavy exhalation of air come from the caller.
"Um, yes. Could you please tell Grace that her mother called, and that it's urgent?"
Gerde sensed a feeling of desperation coming from Mrs. Nakimura, and she rushed to comfort her. "Yes, of course I will. Don't worry. She'll get the message."
"Thank you very much," the other woman sighed.
"Good-bye, Mrs. Nakimura."
"Good-bye," said the worried mother.
With a ball of fear forming in pit of her stomach, Gerde returned the phone to its cradle.
"Something's wrong," she said aloud, hearing her voice echo in the huge hall of the castle. "Something's very, very wrong."
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