‘Well, Let’s get in.’ The old man walked past me and opened the door of the wooden carriage. I climbed inside and sat on a leather seat which must have been crimson red eons ago. The old man sat opposite me. The carriage took a violent swerve and I realized with a shudder that we started the climb to the top of the hill. I peeked through the window to see the sky. Somehow I had this thought in my mind that I was not going to have the privilege to see it for a long time. Sadly, I couldn’t get a last glimpse of it. The ancient trees formed an arch from both sides of the road and made a perfect tunnel which shaded us from anything above. The carriage was running faster than the car which took us to the point where we got picked up. The old man sat like a stone statue. His newspaper was longer seen in his hands. His eyes were fixed on an invisible point across the seat. After what seemed to me like minutes, the carriage went over a bump in the road and I got the glimpse of a stone wall passing. From there onwards, the ride was smoother for a few minutes until the carriage took another violent turn to the left and stopped.
‘Let’s get out.’ The Old man spoke and opened the door for me. I jumped out. The driver was nowhere to be seen. It was dark except for a traditional torch lighting the front portion of what I imagined to be the Castle.
‘So, it’s true.’ I said. ‘It truly exists.’
‘I told you so.’ The old man said.
‘Thanks, Wilhelm!’ I looked at him. He stared back at me and walked off to open a heavy wooden door.
‘Come in.’ He said. I took my bag and walked after him. The room had stone walls. It had ancient looking tapestries and lively portraits of people from the past. There were stairs coming down from the far end of the room and a candle was lighting the last few steps. I wonder if this castle ever knew the existence of electricity.
‘Welcome to my humble home.’ A voice said from behind me. I instantly turned around. There was the tall man standing with his hands in his coat pocket. He looked at the old man.
‘Wilhelm, I believe your job is done. You could stay in the outhouse, as usual and I will see to it that our guest is treated well. Thank you, for your service.’ The old man nodded at this courteous dismissal and slithered out of the room without even looking at me for a second time.
‘You are…’ I began.
‘The caretaker, I suppose. You could call me, Mr. Tepes if you like.’ He extended his hand for a shake. I shook it. It felt like holding an iron bar on a winter night.
‘I never believed the existence of this Castle until I saw it with my own eyes.’ I said.
‘Wilhelm is a good man. He always brings people like you to stay over; people who are interested in our culture, heritage and history. I am more than happy that you are interested in all these, Sir.’ He bowed like he still believed in Victorian manners. I noticed that he walked like a knight from an old movie I watched.
‘So, you are just a caretaker of this Castle? There are no inheritors for this?’ I asked.
‘Let us just assume that I am one of the inheritors presently doing the job of a caretaker.’ He motioned me to walk with him. ‘As time is short for you, do you mind if I show you around while illuminating you on the fascinating history of this castle?’
‘Not at all.’ I said, walking along with him.
‘This Castle came into my possession from my Father. I had three brothers and I’m sad to say that I am the only one left now. The war took the rest of them and left me to live here.’ He paused.
‘I hear a lot about the war. Wilhelm also mentioned it.’
‘Ah! Wilhelm… he was a good soldier too. Took a sword for me once.’ He said with his eyes wide.
‘You were a soldier too?’ I asked.
‘Yes. I conducted several raiding parties across the river after my brothers perished. For almost six years or so as far as I can remember.’ He said.
‘And, you did not get recognized for that?’ I asked curiously.
‘Yes. I made the enemy rethink their strategy and fight back with more support. I fought an empire. But, I’m sure you will not find it any interesting. I’m sure you will not find it believable too. It is all the more horrifying and shocking.’ He tried to evade but succeeded in only increasing my curiosity.
‘No. I would love to hear it, if it doesn’t bother you.’
‘As you please, sir.’ He said with a smile. ‘It was nothing but a few ambushes and failures to capture meaningless pieces of land from the enemy. At last, I was left with depleted forces and no allies. I was on the way to my own birthplace for a regrouping and…’
‘And…’ I asked.
‘…they ambushed me and my remaining soldiers and murdered me.’ He said slowly, letting the words sink in.
‘Wh… what?’ I asked in disbelief.
‘They brutally chopped my head off for that tyrant to believe that I was actually dead… cowards! They threw my dead body into a pit. Even the church did not raise their voice. All those times I fight for them and they didn’t even come out of their precious buildings to speak for me. Gods and their Glory…’
He looked at me. I felt my tongue not moving. My hands were shaking.
‘But, I lived on. For that I had to renounce whatever I believed when I was alive. Saw how everything changed. How they resurrected my name. Books, ridiculous pictures, stories, movies, post cards, masks… nothing about what I did for the people matters anymore.’ He walked and stood next to a painting on the wall.
‘Wilhelm is a faithful servant. Once in a while he brings people to me; people who are hell-bent on re-discovering my past and this castle… two things that I am overtly protective about. You are no different. I warned you about not knowing the story but it doesn’t matter anymore. Does it?’
He walked slowly towards me.
‘Do you know what I do to people? I put them in a dungeon so that they can see how their predecessors were dealt with. Since you like history very well, I’m sure, you won’t be disappointed with this peculiar treatment of mine. I’m sure the stone walls and skeletons have a lot of stories to share you with. If you are really lucky, you might find Mr. Siegfried alive down there. He is a fighter, the last I checked on him… also, if you could fight for your life in that darkness for a while, I’ll be sending down that new American novelist too…But only after discussing a bit of church-matters with him. I hate novelists!’
I blacked out.
- (The End)