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Spanks of Dracula

by Eric Blyton

Copyright on this story text belongs at all times to the original author only, whether stated explicitly in the text or not. The original date of posting to the MMSA was: 01 Nov 2006

For as long as he could remember, Danut knew that the village lived in the shadow of the castle. He had never been there; he did not know anyone who had been there. At least, anyone who had been there and returned. From the village's position on the slopes of the mountain he could see it; perched high above and latched to the side of the Transylvanian Alps. The tall towers dominating the stone walls of the castle; casting their shadow over the entire valley.

Danut never spent much time worrying about it. He heard the other villagers talk about it in hushed tones. "You must never go near the castle," they said. "It is not safe up there." The boy had always shrugged at this sort of advice. He didn't have any intention of going up to the castle anyway. His father had told him that he must not and he always obeyed his father. Well, most of the time, anyway. And on those occasions when he disobeyed his father; well, Papa made him wish he had done as he was told.

Danut's Papa was the strongest man in the whole village. Who else could be the wagonmaster but the strongest man after all? He was so proud of his Papa. He would sit and watch his father load the wagon and drive on to the other villages. The village was located on the only road that ran through the mountains; anyone wanting to send supplies from Brasov to the areas beyond knew that they had to come this way. Danut's father was the only one prepared to brave the pass that that went under the shadow of the castle and so he had a monopoly on all the freight traffic that came this way, slim though it was.

This year had not been a good year; work had been slow, but there had been enough money for food and to buy enough firewood to keep the house warm and toasty inside. No one liked to go too far into the woods to cut down trees; too often woodcutters would not come back and all that would be found would be splatters of blood and gigantic wolf paw prints. On Sundays the village priest would talk about the evil that surrounded them, but such sermons would make the congregation uncomfortable and they would shuffle in their seats.

One day in the fall, Danut was waiting by the door for Papa to come home. He was worried because it was late. Papa had left the morning before to carry a load to one of the villages on the other side of the mountain pass. He would spend the night there and then come back the next day but he should have been back by now and Danut was getting worried. So was Mama; he could tell by the way she was pacing around in their small house. She kept looking out the window, looking at the sun as it sank in the west. At last she could take it no more and went outside. Danut followed her as she went down the muddy village street to the home of her brother, Uncle Simu.

"Andrei isn't back yet," she said to Uncle Simu when he answered the door. "And it's getting very late."

Uncle Simu glanced toward the setting sun.

"It is getting late," he agreed. But there is nothing we can do about this, now. It was raining yesterday; why did Andrei go out in such weather? He probably got the wheels of his wagon stuck in the mud."

"I told Andrei that he should wait," she was muttering to herself. "I told him not to go in the rain, but he said that soon it will be snowing and this was probably his last chance to make the delivery. You know that it's been a slow year and he wanted to have enough money for us to make it through the winter. Please, can't you get a couple other men and ride out to look for him?"

"I am not leaving my house once the sun goes down," Uncle Simu said. "You know that and you know why."

"You are a coward!" Mama said, "Andrei would come looking for you if you were lost. You know he would!"

"Well, then Andrei is a fool and I am not. I am sorry, sister, but I will not go out after dark to look for him. You can ask around, but I don't think you will find anyone else in this village who will, either. In the morning, I'll be happy to go and look for him, but not now."

"But in the morning he could be…." Mama stopped and looked at Danut, as if she had suddenly remembered that he was there. "He might need help now!" she finished.

"Well, he won't get it from me. I'm sorry, Florina but that's my final word on the matter. I'm getting ready to lock up my house. I suggest you go home and do the same and I will come and see you in the morning."

Danut was horrified by Uncle Simu's behavior. He never thought of him as a strong man the way Papa was, but how could he just refuse to help? The boy was sure Papa would have gone out to look for Uncle Simu if he was lost despite the fact that he didn't like him all that much.

"Danut, you go home now," Mama was saying. "Close up all the windows and wait by the front door. Only open it if you hear me ask you to, do you understand?"

Danut understood the instructions, if not the need for them so he nodded his head. This was one of those times he knew that Papa would ask him to be brave, so he tried very hard even if Papa was not here to tell him that himself. He secured the house as he had seen Mama do countless times before and waited for her knock. It seemed to take forever, but at last he heard her voice outside the door. He let her in, but she was alone. No Papa, no men to help go look for him.

"We must wait for the morning," she said, trying to sound positive and not succeeding. "Everyone has pointed out that your Papa has probably just gotten stuck in the mud or else on of the horses was made lame. He's still in the other village, I expect, or else camped out by the side of the road. We will find him in the morning and everything will be all right."

"But Mama," Danut said. "What about the wolves?"

He was not expecting to get a slap across the face, but that was exactly what happened. Danut was shocked and collapsed in the corner of the room, crying hysterically. Moments later Mama was sitting next to him with her arms around his shoulders.

"Hush, baby, Mama is sorry she hit you," she said. "I'm very worried about Papa as well and when you said that, I just sort of snapped. I'm very sorry, Danut."

Danut was able to slow his crying to sniffles and let Mama hold him and rock him, but he could not bring himself for really forgive her. He had had his bare bottom slapped by Papa more times than he could remember, but that was different. Papa only did that when he had done something naughty and then he would explain just what it was he had done before spanking him. He understood that Mama was worried, but so was he and he wasn't going around hitting anybody.

Eventually, the two of them got up and Mama cooked some stew. Neither of them ate very much and Danut insisted on sitting up, waiting for Papa to come home. He didn't know when he fell asleep, but eventually he drifted off in the chair.

The next morning, he woke up and found that Mama was already gone. He yanked on his clothes and went out to find her. She was sitting with some other women on Uncle Simu's front porch and they were all speaking in hushed tones.

"Your uncle and the other men have gone out to find your Papa," Mama told him. This was the first good news Danut had heard for 24 hours, so he went to the edge of the village and sat on the side of the well to wait. Lunchtime came and went but Danut did not leave his post. Sometime around mid afternoon, he heard approaching horses and he ran up the trail to see who was coming. Sure enough, he was Uncle Simu on a horse with the other men mounted as well behind him. He didn't see Papa, but Uncle Simu's horse was dragging something behind it. With acid pumping into his stomach, Danut ran forward.

"Your Papa is alive, Danut," his uncle said, but he's been badly hurt. "He's unconscious so you must not touch him."

Danut saw that what Uncle Simu's horse was dragging was a makeshift liter and his father was strapped to it. His eyes were closed, but the boy could see that he was breathing, albeit with some trouble.

"What happened?" Danut asked.

"We found him with his wagon," Uncle Simu said. "He was returning from the other village some rocks must have come loose from the mountainside in the rain. A big one had landed on him and hurt him and the wagon was crushed. The horses were gone; they must have broken loose. Now run and get your Mama!"

Danut ran down the village street and started calling for him Mama long before he was close enough for her to hear him. When she did she came running along with the other women. He tried to tell her the news, but he was out of breath and she pushed past him, running toward where the men were entering the village. Two of them had dismounted and were now carrying Papa's liter at both ends. Uncle Simu explained in a bit more detail how they had found him as they walked toward the family's house. Once there, the women helped get him onto the bed and one of the men summoned the village doctor. Mama wiped down Papa's face as the doctor examined him. When he was done, he glanced meaningfully at Danut before speaking.

"Danut, go outside and play for a while," Mama said. "The doctor and I have to talk."

"But I don't want to go outside," Danut complained. "I want to stay here with Papa!"

"Go outside NOW, boy!" Mama said, almost screeching. Danut left the house so fast he nearly tripped over his own feet.

He had no intention of playing; he had never felt less like playing in his life. Instead, he went to the side of the house by the bed and pressed his ear against the wall to listen.

"There is nothing much I can do for him," the doctor was saying. "I gave him something to drink that should make him feel a bit more comfortable but his wounds are beyond my ability to treat. He was outside last night and that will have only made things worse."

"But there must be something that can be done!" Danut could hear the desperation in his mother's voice and it frightened him quite badly.

"There are those down in Brasov with more knowledge of medicine than I," the doctor said. "But he cannot be moved. He would not survive the trip down there."

"But can't one of these men come up here?" she asked.

"They would not do that unless you paid them a large fee," he told her. "To leave the city and come up here. Especially to this village…"

"How much? We have some money put aside."

"Unless you have 10 gold marks there would be no chance of getting someone up here. A doctor would have to stay for at least a week to treat him and they would not do that unless there was a lot of money involved. I'm sorry and I'll do all I can for him, but that's not very much."

There was a long silence. Danut pressed his ear to the wall harder in case he was missing something. Eventually his mother spoke again.

"Yes, well, thank you. We don't have that kind of money, of course. We will just have to do the best we can and hope Andrei gets better."

Even through the wall, Danut could hear the defeat in his mother's voice. Tears sprung to his eyes as he realized what that meant. He ran behind the house and started crying great, wracking sobs. He pounded his fists against the hard, packed dirt at the unfairness of it. Papa couldn't die, he couldn't! Who would look after him and Mama if he was gone? Danut was not old enough to load and drive the wagon; they would both starve without Papa. Why did that rock have to fall on his father? Why did he have to be hurt so badly? Why did those greedy doctors down in Brasov need so much money to come and help?

Danut stayed behind the house for the rest of the afternoon, but when the shadows started to get long, he realized he had better go inside. Mama was alone; the doctor was long gone. She was wiping Papa's face with a damp cloth.

"Your Papa has a fever," she said. "The doctor gave him some medicine for it, but it will take him some time to get better. We must let him rest and keep him from getting too hot."

"Okay, Mama," he said. He didn't know if she was lying for his sake or her own, but he was not going to challenge her on it. Perhaps by some miracle Papa would be all right. Danut heard his father's labored breathing and saw the naked worry on his mother's face. She didn't know what to do, that was clear. He felt helpless; always before his Papa had been there to take charge of things, to keep him and Mama safe. Now he lay shattered in his bed and could not even speak to tell him what he must do.

The doctor said that a man from Brasov would come and help Papa if he had ten gold marks. They did not have that; Danut was sure that no one in the whole village would have that amount of money and he suspected that even if they did, they would not all pull together to save Papa. Uncle Simu would not even go out at night to try and find Papa when he was hurt, so there was no chance that the villagers would give up all of their money. Danut considered trying to go down to Brasov himself to try and find someone to help Papa, but he had no way to get there. Papa's horses had run off and his wagon was destroyed. No one would loan him a horse and even if he stole one, he did not know the way there.

Suddenly he remembered the castle. People said that a Count lived in the castle. As far as Danut knew, the Count had never come down to the village; for sure Danut had never seen him. But he had to be rich if he owned a castle; and he was close by. Danut felt that he could walk up to the castle in a day if he pushed himself. The Count might not be interested in helping Papa, but he might. What did it hurt to ask?

Except…Danut knew the way people in the village talked about the castle. No one would go anywhere near the place clearly they were terrified of it. It has always seemed a sinister place to Danut; casting it's shadow over the valley from the peak. The thought of going up there was terrifying in the flickering candlelight of his house; how much worse would it be to approach it? And more to the point, Papa had told him that he must never, ever go near it.

But Papa needed his help; he had to do something! Even if it meant defying Papa's wishes, Danut resolved to try. With a thin tread of hope now established, Danut managed to fall asleep. He did not sleep well, nightmares plagued him and he thrashed and tossed around on his straw bed. He woke up and saw the pale light of dawn creeping under the door frame. Mama was in the bed with Papa and she was sleeping as well. Not wanting to lose his nerve, Danut dressed quickly and unlatched the door.

In the early morning light, Danut crept out of his house. The fog was thick among the trees and on one noticed one small boy as he moved from the protection of the tightly shuttered up houses toward the start of the mountain trail. He knew that he would have to walk for a mile on the main road before turning to the left to take the way up to the castle. He looked up and saw it appearing out of the fog; the dull grey stone looking black in the morning shadows. It seemed so far away and at the same time, too close. Danut had never once been tempted to go up that way, but now he had no choice. With a brisk pace, he walked out of the village and up the road.

He came to the fork sooner than he expected. The well traveled part went ahead at the same level; the other was choked with weeds and winded its way up the side of the mountain. Gulping back his fear, he turned onto the path to the castle and began to ascend.

Despite being only nine years old, Danut was in good shape from doing chores and he found the walking easy going. His ankles did get a bit tired from the constant upward slope, but he pressed on. The cold wind swept through the trees and penetrated his thin clothes, but the excursion kept him warm.

The day had half gone when he came to a flattish area. He picked up the pace; whatever else happened, he wanted to get to the castle by nightfall. Even if the Count didn't want to help Papa, at least he could let him sleep there. He had a thought that there might be no Count there at all, only things that would like to prey on a young, helpless boy alone in the night, but he rapidly pushed that as far back in his brain as he could. He WOULD go to the castle and he WOULD get help for his Papa!

He heard a noise up ahead and he threw himself behind a tree in fright. All of a sudden the shadows cast by the tall, thick trees looked extra dark and he stared to imagine all sorts of horrors hiding in them. The ragged sound of his own breathing seemed startlingly loud and he tried to control it. He grabbed his crotch for fear that he was about to urinate uncontrollably in his pants.

Then he heard singing, strange and mysterious singing in a language that he did not know. Whoever was singing was clearly female and while exotic sounding, it did not sound scary to Danut. He dared to peek around the side of the tree and he saw an old woman with a bucket filling it by the side of a mountain brook. She was wearing a long, brightly coloured skirt and an equally loud blouse and vest. Danut had seen people dressed like her before, but not often. She was a gypsy and the villagers would never let them stay there overnight. They always insisted that they pass though and some of the adults would go so far as to spit on them as they passed, though often in such a way so as the gypsies would not see who had insulted them. From the way Mama had talked about them, they were no better than the rats who would try to steal the bread from off their table.

The woman stood up with her bucked and started to walk back up the trail. Danut could see that she was struggling with the weight of it. Most of him wanted to stay where he was and wait until she was gone. Who knew what a gypsy would do to a small boy alone on the road?

But then he thought about what Papa would want him to do. Papa said that he must always help those in need; he never said that if the person in need was a gypsy that this was an exception. Danut felt sure that his Papa would have helped the gypsy woman so he must do the same. After all, if he was afraid of one old gypsy woman, how would he dare approach the Count's castle? Gathering his courage, he came from out of hiding and trotted up behind the woman.

"May I help you carry your bucket, Old Mother?" he asked as she turned on hearing his approach. Her eyes were brilliant green and Danut felt like she was looking right through him.

"Yes, thank you," she said. "I am vain enough to set off to get a pail of water without asking for help, but not so vain as to turn help down when it is offered."

She put down the bucket and Danut picked it up. It was heavy, but he had offered to carry it and he must now discharge his duty. A bit of water sloshed out onto him as they walked and the icy cold liquid caused him to shiver, but he did not complain. He just hoped she was not going too far with it.

"Our camp is just up ahead," she said, putting his mind at ease. "I told them that we should camp closer to water, but no one else wanted to listen. Ha! They all have sons and brothers with strong backs to help, but not so I. They want me to ask them for help, but I have always managed on my own and I always shall. The day I depend on someone else to do my work is the day I will fall into my grave."

Danut was relieved to see a scattering of brightly coloured caravan trailers on a cleared area by the side of the road. The woman pointed to one at the near edge and he got the bucket there, putting it down with and exhausted sigh.

"My name is Madame Magna," the gypsy woman said. "And you have earned my thanks. Not many from your village would stop to help and old gypsy."

Danut just nodded his head. As far as he was concerned, he had just done what was right. It didn't matter that Madame Magna was a gypsy, she was a woman who needed help carrying a load.

"I would like to help you in return," she said. "Is there anything I can do for you?"

"Can you tell me if this is the road that leads to the castle?" Danut asked. "I think it is, but I don't know anybody from my village who has ever been up there."

"You are going to the castle?" Madam Magna asked in surprise. "That is not a place that many would go willingly."

"But I MUST go!" Danut said. "Please, I just want to know if this is the right way."

"This is the right way, lad, but perhaps I can give you more than simple directions. Come into my caravan and we shall see."

Leaving the pail of water by the steps of the caravan, Danut followed the mysterious old woman inside. The air within was thick with the scent of exotic incense and brightly coloured curtains hung on the walls and from the ceiling, dividing the interior into different sections. Madam Magna pushed through a dark blue cloth and sat at a cluttered desk. In the center was a glass ball mounted on a stand. Surrounding it were several other items, some of which made Danut's penis shrivel up in fright as they included a human skull with a candle mounted on the top of it and a bowl filled with dry, brittle bones. She directed him to sit on a stool facing her which he did with extreme reluctance. Why couldn't she have just left him with just the assurance that he was on the right road? Why did he have to come into this bizarre chamber she called her home?

She opened a desk drawer and pulled out a deck of cards. With a speed that didn't seem possible given her aged hands, she started to shuffle them.

"The priest says that cards are tools of the devil," he said before he could catch himself. As soon as he realized what he had said, he gripped the sides of the stool in alarm. What would this old woman do to him for telling her that she used the devil's tools? But Madam Magna just smiled and continued to shuffle.

"Priests do not know everything, lad," she said. "Now you take the cards and cut them."

She held out the deck to him. Danut did not want to touch them for fear of being contaminated by their evil, but he could find no way to refuse. The priest was not here and Madam Magna was. He would have to confess and suffer penance the next time he went to church, but he took the cards.

"How do I cut them?" he asked, looking around for a knife.

"Just divide them into two piles," she explained. "And then take the pile from the bottom and put it on the top."

Danut felt a bit stupid for misunderstanding what it meant to cut the cards, but he did as she asked. It almost seemed that his hands were directed from somewhere else; he felt he knew just where to split the deck and put it back together. He handed them back to her, glad to have them out of his hands.

"Now," she said, "I am going to give you a five-card reading. The cards will tell me why you are going to the castle and what may happen to you there. You may find this information useful; it is not for me to say. I cannon change your fortune, I can only tell you what the cards say."

"The first card tells me what the root of your quest is," she said as she turned over the top card. Danut looked at it. It showed a man seated on a throne with a crown on his head.

"The Emperor," Madam Magna said. "He is your leader, the one who protects you and allows you to prosper. He is very stern and harsh when needed, but he is also fair in his judgment. Given that you are a boy, this can only mean your father."

Danut nodded. How could Madam Magna have known this was about Papa?

"Let us see what has happened to make you undertake this journey," she said as she turned over the next card. It showed a castle tower being struck by lightning. Danut recognized that the tower drawn was the tallest on the Count's castle.

"The Tower," she said. "Disaster. Loss of security. Chaos. Something horrible happened to your father. I begin to understand your desperation. Yet, he is not dead, is he?"

Danut simply shook his head. Thinking of papa laying broken in bed made the tears come to his eyes again.

"Let's continue," Madam Magna said as she took the next card from the deck. "This one will symbolize you and your motive in your quest."

The third card appeared. It showed a naked boy reaching up to take an apple from a tree. He was also leading a dog on a lead. Danut was a bit embarrassed by this. The artist who had drawn the cards was quite detailed; the boy's bald little penis and bare bottom were clearly defined and there was more than a little resemblance to himself. He blushed to think that this naked little boy was supposed to be him.

"The Fool," she said. "No, don't take offence. This does not mean that you are a fool in the way that someone is stupid. It just means that you are innocent and do not know much about the world. You have no idea of what you are risking by going to the castle. Then again, only someone who did not know would ever attempt it. Sometimes the Fool succeeds simply because he does not know what he is up against."

"This is the third trump in your reading," she added, "That is most unusual and makes this a very powerful configuration." She turned over another card.

"And a fourth trump, no less," she said. The card showed a man standing with a wand raised in his hand. On the table before him was a cup filled with a red liquid.

"The Magician," she said. "This is the person who will be at the end of your journey. This is a very powerful person, a very dangerous person, a person who can work real magic. He has the power to give you what you want, but will he?"

The last card was turned. This picture showed a seated man. In one hand he held a sword and in the other a pair of measured scales.

"Justice," Madam Magna said. "It has been years since I saw an all-trump reading. Something very powerful is going on around you."

"But what does it mean?" Danut interrupted. "Justice? I'm looking for help, not justice."

"Ah, but it is justice you seek," she said. "If your cause is found worthy and noble, you will have the answer you want. But keep in mind that justice is balanced and blind. In one hand he holds the scales but in the other hand the sword. Be sure that if you go forward, you will have to answer for any wrongs you have committed regardless of the nobility of your quest. There is always a price to pay when you face justice. Are you sure you want to pay?"

"I have to," Danut said. "Thank you for your help, but I would really like to be on my way now."

"Of course," Madam Magna said, sweeping the cards back into a deck once again. "You are the Fool, I would expect nothing less. I can do no more than to wish you luck for you will need that."

She got up and led Danut back to the door and outside. Over his protests, she pushed a small bag of food into his hands. With this done, she released him and he started back off taking long strides. He wanted to put the gypsy camp and Madam Magna as far behind him as he could. After a while, he slowed down a bit and realized that he was hungry. Despite his misgivings and their source, he opened the bag and took out the food. There was some meat that was strangely spiced and a pair of sweet rolls. There was also a bright red apple and for a moment he was reminded of the picture of the naked boy reaching for the apple on the Fool card. At least he wasn't naked, he thought as he ate the apple. After consuming all the food and washing it down with some icy water from a mountain stream, he felt much better and picked up his pace again. Every now and then the thick trees would break and he could see the castle getting ever closer.

The sun was starting to slide down the western sky and while the castle seemed close, Danut began to doubt that he would make it by nightfall. He started to trot, but he soon winded himself and he had to stop, putting his hands on his knees as he gasped for breath in the crisp mountain air. He wondered if he should go back to the Gypsy camp and see if Madam Magna would put him up for the night, but then he would lose a whole day. Papa needed help now; he did not have time to waste. He pressed on as the shadows grew longer. He would walk in the light of the stars if he had to.

Danut kept glancing back at the setting sun; all too soon it was touching the forested horizon. Another glance back and it was half-way gone. He trotted once more, coming up to a bend in the road. Just as he reached it, he turned around just in time to see the last sliver of it disappear behind the trees. His fear was starting to mount and he took off again.

As he turned the corner, he saw something most unexpected. A coach was sitting in the middle of the road. Four black horses were attached to it, all standing calmly with their heads down. A door on the coach was open and he could see royal purple velvet cloth adorning it. It was pointed in the direction of the castle.

Danut looked around, whoever was the passenger of the coach must have gotten out to look for something, but no driver was there either. Very warily, he approached it. If he found the mysterious person he could ask for a ride. The black horses seemed to notice his approach and started to paw at the ground. Danut had been around horses all his life and usually he would approach them and talk softly, but these seemed different. Despite standing in place, their eyes looked wild and they rolled in their sockets as they stared at him.

He got up next to the side of the coach and looked it. The seat was empty; there was not even a sign that someone had been there. He ran his hand over the upholstered seat to see if it was warm, but if was not. One part of him felt that it would be best to wait outside for the passenger or coachman to return, but the horses were frightening him and so he decided to get inside to wait. It might be easier for him to get a ride if he was already inside when they came back.

Danut climbed up and slid onto the seat. No sooner had he run his hands over the soft velvet did the door swing shut with a bang. Danut gasped as the four horses took off like a shot. The sudden lurch of the coach sent the unsuspecting boy sprawling to the floor. In terror, he scrambled back up and tried to open the coach door, but it was jammed shut. Even if he could have opened it, they were going too fast for him to jump out. The trees were going by at breakneck speed and the gravel from the road flew up behind the coach as it tore up the trail. Despite the lack of a driver, the four horses stayed right on the trail and the castle was rapidly approaching. Danut held on for dear life at they went up as steep slope. Now they had reached the top of the mountain and he saw the castle sitting on the flattened summit. The horses slowed down as they neared the wall. There was a drawbridge over a moat filled with pitch-black water and the coach crossed it. The drawbridge creaked alarmingly at its passage; Danut had a horrible moment as he considered it plunging into that water with him still trapped inside.

And then he was inside the castle courtyard. The horses came to rest in front of what was obviously the main door and stopped. All of a sudden the coach door swung open and Danut scampered out before he got trapped in there again. The horses displayed none of their previous skittishness now. They stood there calmly as if waiting for some unseen groomsman to come and unhitch them. The twilight was rapidly fading; Danut felt that he should get inside as soon as he could. Whoever was waiting for that coach would undoubtedly be upset that he had commandeered it, but he would have to do his best to explain.

The door was dominated by a huge wrought iron knocker. A wolf's head was holding a big ring in its mouth. The eyes and teeth of the wolf did nothing to calm the mounting fear in Danut's stomach, but his course was set. He lifted the knocker and let it fall.

The resulting sound echoed throughout the deserted courtyard and he jumped. He had not expected it to be so loud! Even the horses seemed disturbed by it. The door swung open and Danut looked inside to see a huge room illuminated by flickering torches and candlelight.

"Good evening," he heard someone say in a richly cultured accent. He looked up to see a tall man with raven-black hair standing at the top of a long flight of stairs. The man was dressed in a black suit and he smiled down at Danut, but to the frightened boy, the smile reminded him of the feral grin of the iron wolves on the door knocker.

"I bid you welcome," the man said as he started to descend the stairs. His movements were so fluid and graceful that to Danut it seemed that he was floating down. "Enter feely and of your own will."

Danut swallowed his fear and walked inside the castle. As if pushed by an unseen hand, the door swung shut behind him and closed with a crash. He jumped and trust his trembling hands inside his pockets.

"I am Count Dracula," the man said as he reached the floor and walked slowly toward Danut. His long, black cape flowed out behind him, causing dust to swirl up in his wake. "I do not get many visitors to the castle. Why don't you come and have a seat?"

The Count picked up a candelabra from a table and indicated to Danut that he should follow him. Heart hammering in his chest, the boy let the Count lead him through a passageway filled with sinister oil portraits. It seemed as if the eyes followed him as he walked. They emerged in a large room with several sofas and upholstered chairs in the center and a huge pipe organ in the corner.

"Would you like to hear me play?" the Count asked. "It is not often that I get to perform for somebody."

Danut did not really want to, but it seemed polite to nod yes, and so he did. He sat on a dusty couch as the Count pulled out the organ stool and started to bang on the keys. Danut had heard the old organ in the village church; this was nothing like that unless you can compare a few drops of rain to a violent thunderstorm. The Count's hands flew across the keys and wild, frantic music erupted from the pipes. Danut found himself both captivated and terrified by it.

How long the Count played for Danut could not say, but eventually the crashing music came to a halt. Count Dracula turned around and smiled his unsettling smile at Danut again.

"Did you like that?" he asked

"Yes sir," Danut said. "I have never heard anything like that before." That part was certainly true.

"So tell me," the Count said as he came over to sit in a chair across from Danut, "What brings you to my castle?"

As he sat, he opened up a decanter and poured a deep red liquid into a tall glass and handed it to the boy. Danut smelled it and realized it was wine. He had been given a few sips before, but never a full glass like this. Not only that, but this tasted so much richer and fuller than the anemic vintages that one would find down in the village. Holding to the stem of the crystal glass, he took small sips and told the Count of Papa's accident and his need for gold for the services of a doctor.

As he spoke, his eyes kept being drawn to the huge ruby pendant dangling around the Count's neck. It seemed to capture him and he would have to break his eyes away but then he would find himself equally ensnared by the Count's piercing eyes. In the dim light they appeared to Danut to be as red as the ruby around his throat.

"And so," the Count said when he was done, "Who told you to seek my castle? Who told you that Count Dracula would provide gold for idiot doctors down in Brasov?"

"No one, Sir," Danut said. The wine was causing him to feel disoriented and fuzzy. "I came by myself. I had to try to help Papa and I knew no other way."

"And did you tell anybody that you were coming?"

"No. Papa forbade me to ever come up here. No one in the village will come up here, but you were the only person I could think of you might be able to help."

For a minute Count Dracula said nothing. He sat there in silence, staring at Danut with his piercing eyes. Then he got to his feet, his cape swirling around him.

"No one has asked for my help for…a very long time, boy. You are the first. I had thought that I ruled a land of sheep but I find that there is at least one who is not. This pleases me."

Danut said nothing. Did this mean that he would help Papa.

"But," Count Dracula said. "You have come to my castle against your father's permission. You say you want to save him, but you are disobeying his order are you not? Did it not occur to you that your father had a very good reason to tell you to stay away?"

"I….," Danut was finding it very hard to think through the fog of the wine. "I didn't have a choice!"

"There is always a choice, boy, and you made yours. What would your father have done if he found that you had disobeyed him and come up here one day?" The Count leaned over and stared into Danut's eyes. The boy felt that he could see clear though to his soul. "He would spank you, yes? Your bottom would be very, very sore for disobeying him in this way."

This was true, but Danut shivered to hear the Count say it.

"But your father is wounded," Count Dracula continued. "He cannot perform this important fatherly duty. But he is one of my subjects as are you. It is only right for me to step in and correct you for your act of disobedience."

Even under the spell of the Count's eyes and the glass of wine, Danut was terrified. Count Dracula sat down on the couch next to him. The boy tried to get up and run, but found he was frozen in place. The Count took hold of his arms and pulled him down over his lap. The man's hands were so COLD! He tried to struggle, but he was held fast. One of the Count's hands was no taking hold of his trousers. Danut was used to his father taking down his pants to spank him, but this was so different to that. Count Dracula gave them a hard tug and they came down to his knees. His bare bottom felt the smack of the cold air hit his exposed cheeks and he shivered in fright. His bald little penis and scrotum was pressed up against he Count's smooth trousers and it shriveled as much from the cold of his leg as from fright.

"I vant to spank your bottom," the Count said in a hiss as he worked the boy's pants down a little further. He ran his free hand over the boy's round bottom and Danut shivered even more, this time from the icy cold touch.

"Are my hands cold?" Count Dracula asked. "They will not seem that way for long, I promise you my naughty little visitor!"

Danut felt the Count's hand being removed and he felt a moment's relief at it's absence, but it came down full force, SPANK!

Danut screeched in pain. Count Dracula's spank felt both icy cold and fiery hot at the same time. It was almost like slipping and falling on a frozen lake. His bottom was seared with cold, deep pain.

SPANK! With the Count holding his wrists behind his back with one hand, his other hand came down again and again on Danut's bare bottom. The boy cried in pain and kicked his legs up and down on the couch. All he wanted to do was get away from the freezing, stinging spanks but he was held fast. SPANK! SPANK! SPANK!

Full force sobs broke from his throat. He was filled with regret for not listening to his Papa; he always knew best and if he had stayed away, he would not now be getting this hard spanking from Count Dracula. The spanks continued to rain down on his defenseless bottom and tears ran in a river down his cheeks and onto the dusty couch. The cold pain seemed to penetrate every part of his bottom and he prayed for it to be over.

"Listen to him," the Count said as the spanks ceased. "Child of the night. What music he makes!"

Danut sensed that the spanking was over, but the Count would still not let him go so that he could rub his bottom. He turned his head to look up at the man and then wished he had not. Count Dracula's mouth was open, but now it seemed that two of his top teeth had grown impossibly long. The Count was looking down at his very red, bare bottom.

"Ahhhh," Count Dracula purred, "The blood flows."

Danut tried to scream but he could not get it out. The Count bend his head down and then suddenly he felt agony unlike any he had ever felt before as his naked bottom was pierced by the Count's fangs. Twin bursts of icy pain shot through his buttocks and darkness came up to swallow him.

* * *

Danut came awake all of a sudden. He had no idea of where he was or even that he had been asleep. He looked around and found himself in a rocking coach. Memories came flooding back and he screamed in panic; this was the same coach that had taken him to the castle. Had it all been a dream and was he now approaching the castle for real?

He looked out the windows and saw the light of dawn starting to shine over the mountains. He frantically tried the door, but it was still held past. The wild black horses were taking the coach back down the mountain. He reached behind to feel his bottom and then wished he hadn't. It was sore, very sore. It hurt even more than the time Papa has spanked him for stealing the pie from the Widow Elena's window sill. What had happed? He remembered the Count spanking him but beyond that, everything was like a nightmare whose details were lost upon waking.

All of a sudden he noticed a package on the seat next to him. It was an ornate wooden box with an envelope attached to it. Danut could not read, but the one word he did recognize was his own name that that was what was printed on the envelope in elaborate, spidery script. He didn't open it; there didn't seem to be any point as he could not read it, but he did look into the box. Inside was a stoppered vial with a thick, red liquid and a small bag. He was going to investigate further, but he felt the coach slowing. He looked out and realized that he was just on the outskirts of his village. The coach came to a stop and on of the horses looked back at him expectantly. Danut tried the door again and this time it opened easily. He slid out, taking the package with him. No sooner was he clear of the coach then the horses took off again, making their wild ride back up the trail. Ignoring the pain in his bottom, Danut walked into the village. He wanted to see Papa but figured that the first thing he should do is to get someone to read the letter. He didn't know many people who could read, but he went to the priest because he read from the thick Bible every Sunday. He knocked at the rectory next to the village church and it opened.

"Danut!" the priest said as he cracked the door to look out and then flung it open. "Where have you been? How could you run off and leave your mother? She is nearly dead from worry; not only is she having to deal with what happened to your Papa, now you go off and disappear? How could you?"

"Please, Father," Danut said. "I have a letter. I cannot read it. Can you tell me what it says, please? Then I will go and see Mama."

The priest stood aside to let him in and then closed the door behind him.

"What letter? Who has given you a letter?" he asked.

"Here it is, Father," he said, handing the sealed envelope to the man. The priest looked at Danut's name on the front and then he turned it over. The letter was sealed with a blob or red wax. Impressed on it was a single capital letter. Danut realized that it was the same letter that was first in his name.

"Who did this come from, Danut?" the priest asked again and this time his face had gone pale.

"It doesn't matter, Father," Danut insisted. He took the letter out of the man's hand and opened it himself. He took out the sheet of parchment inside, unfolded it and handed it back to the priest. As if in a dream, the he started to read aloud.

"To my Young Visitor," he read. "Because you did what no one else has dared, I have fulfilled your request. Inside this box you will find the gold you asked for. However, do not waste it on some fool doctor who will be able to do nothing for your father. I have also enclosed something for him to drink. Most of it came from you, but I have contributed a few other things as well. It will cure everything that is wrong with him, I promise you. Tell your father that he is doing an excellent job in raising you and that he must continue to do so. I request that other than him, you do not discuss our encounter with anyone.

And to the person who is reading this letter for you; they would be wise to forget it once they are done."

"It's signed with a letter "D" the priest said, looking like he wanted to faint.

"Danut, what did he give you? You must not let your father drink anything this…man gave you!"

Danut grabbed the letter back from the priest's limp fingers.

"Thank you, Father!" he said as he opened the door. There was no way that he was going to let the man get his hands on the potion in the wooden box. He slammed the door behind him and ran down the street to his house. It was still locked, but he banged on the door until Mama opened it.

"Oh, Danut!" she said, pulling him inside and hugging him tightly. She cried and squeezed him so hard he had trouble to breathe. Over and over she talked about how she thought she had lost him as well as Papa and how she thought her life was over. Danut felt bad that she'd been so worried, but he was anxious about his father.

"Please, Mama, how is Papa?"

"Oh, Danut, he is not doing well. I think he is having trouble breathing."

"I need to see him, please Mama?" he said.

"All right," she said, at last letting him up. He walked over to the bed. Papa's face was ashen and Danut knew he was dying. He choked back a sob; he had never imagined he would see this strong man like this.

"Please, Mama," may I be alone with Papa for a few minutes?" he asked in a halting voice.

"All right, Danut," she whispered. Then she went into the other room in the house, leaving father and son by themselves. Danut opened the wooden box and took out the vial. The stopper was held in place by the same red wax that has sealed the letter and he cracked it open. The liquid inside had a slight coppery smell. Danut lifted Papa's head as best he could and started to pour it into his mouth. At first he didn't think the man was going to take it, but then he saw him take one small swallow. A few moments later, he took a gulp and then Danut was able to administer the whole dose with ease. He put the stopper back in the empty bottle and then sat down to wait. Already is seemed as if Papa was breathing much better. Even so, he was shocked to see his eyes open a minute or so later.

"Danut?" his father whispered weakly.

"Papa! Oh, Papa!" he said, fighting the urge to fling himself on top of his father.

"What happened? I remember a rock slide and laying on the road for a long time, but then nothing."

"Wait, Papa, let me get Mama!" Danut said, running to get her and yelling for her at the top of his lungs. She came right behind him and soon she was in floods of tears as well. Papa said he was hungry and so Mama fed him some broth while she and Danut explained how the men had found him and brought him home. Mama sent Danut for the doctor who came and was amazed at how much better the patient he had given up on seemed to be.

"I felt broken ribs before," he said with an amazed look in his face as he ran his hands over Papa's body, "But other than some bad bruises, you seem all right now. It's a miracle!"

"I prayed for one," Mama said. "And it has been granted!"

Papa was in bed for the rest of the day, but late in the afternoon he felt well enough to get up. He did no more than walk around the house for a few minutes before getting back into bed, but it was clear that he would be all right. The next morning he got out of bed and sat on the front porch in a chair. Danut sat next to him, just enjoying being near his father. The other men from the village came by to see him and wish him well. Some of them seemed a bit ashamed and Danut knew it was because they had left him out all night in the road, but Papa didn't even hint that he was upset about it.

"Well, Danut," he said at one point when they were alone, "We have lost the horses and the wagon. I'll be able to build a new wagon with the money I got from that last delivery, but it's going to be a very hard winter for you and your Mama. And by spring I will find horses from somewhere."

"No, Papa, see?" he said. He had finally looked inside the box again yesterday evening and had opened the small bag and now he showed Papa the contents.

"Danut?" Papa said as his son dropped the ten gold marks into his palm, "Where did you get this?"

"Count Dracula gave it to me, Papa," he said. He noticed his father's hand tremble slightly as he said that. Danut started talking, telling his father what he had done and why. Even though he felt ashamed about it, he even told Papa how the Count had spanked his bare bottom but more that that he did not remember. He just said he woke up in the coach.

"Danut," Papa said in a very serious voice, "Pull down your pants. I need to see your bottom."

"Now, Papa? But someone might see."

"Do in now, boy!" Papa snapped and all of the familiar sternness and force was there. Danut did not give it another thought, he jumped to his feet and lowered his trousers so Papa could see. He felt his father's hands run over his sore backside.

"I see two dark bruises," Papa said, more to himself than Danut, it seemed, "But that's all."

"Pull back up your pants and then come and sit in my lap, Danut," Papa said. The boy did as he was told and his father put his arms around him.

"Count Dracula was quite right to spank you. If he had not, I would do it now despite the fact that I still don't feel all that strong. I had very good reasons to tell you to stay away from that castle and you should not have disobeyed me."

Papa paused and then let out a deep sigh as he ran his fingers through Danut's hair.

"But you did and I am very grateful. I understand how frightening that was for you and I'm more touched than you can imagine that you did that for me. It could have ended badly, but the fact is that it did not. I'm very proud of you, son."

Hearing this, Danut pressed himself deeper into his father's chest. Hearing those words made everything worth it.

"We must follow the Count's instructions and not mention this to anyone. And that includes your Mama. I am sure our good Father will not, either. And Danut, you must never go back to the castle. The Count's letter did not include and invitation to return and it would be…most unwise to presume on his hospitality again."

"Papa," Danut said. "Will you tell me why people are so afraid of the Count?"

"No, Danut, I will not. Not today. One day you will be old enough, but not today. It is best not to ask; I will tell you when the time is right."

Father and son sat there for a while, just taking comfort in each other's presence. In a few days, Papa was as healthy as he had ever been; more so it seemed to him. Papa saved the gold marks and used part of one the next spring to buy a new team of horses for the new wagon he's spend the winter building. That year there was enough business to buy a second one and hire another driver and the following year they added a third. By the time Danut turned eighteen, the family was the most prosperous one in the village and Papa gave Danut the 8 gold marks he had left. He used some of the money to build an inn since there was not one in the village. Some of the villagers were annoyed because he would welcome gypsies if they wanted to stay, but the food and drink were good and it was one cheery place in an otherwise gloomy village. Danut and his father both lived to be very old and neither had a sick day in their life.

One last bit to the story; when thinking of a name for his inn, Danut decided he would name it the Bare Bottomed Boy Inn and on the sign he had a painting of a naked boy face down over a man's lap getting a spanking. Nobody in the village understood the joke and Danut did not bother to explain; he would just smile mysteriously when anybody would ask. Only his father and he knew the true meaning of the name. Them and one other; a few days after the sign had been put up on the newly opened inn, a huge wolf walked into the village one moonlit night. The wolf stood in the shadows of the overhanging trees and studied the sign for a minute before throwing back his massive head and howling in amusement at the moon. Then is went back into the forest and added Danut's inn to the short list of buildings in the village that he would never enter.


Author's Note: A few points; the title of this story is a tip of the hat to Scars of Dracula my favorite of the Hammer Dracula films. The story itself borrows from different Dracula books and movies, as well as the Ravenloft Dungeons and Dragons adventure module and the novelezation of it, Vampire of the Mists.

Another point most tarot decks show The Fool as a man in a jester's costume about to walk off a cliff, but some others depict it as Adam and/or Eve before the fall as well as a small boy about to pick from tree of knowledge. I find that depiction the most accurate of what the card is supposed to represent and so that's the one I used. The Fool is the only one of the Tarot decks trump cards to survive into the modern deck of cards in the form of the Joker, but hardly anybody knows what it means.

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