The pitch-black of the night and the gusting winds of the winter rainstorm gave Werner the shivers. He passed four scholars from the scurrying toward an alehouse as he rode his bicycle down the Ludwigstrasse. He was having second thoughts.
I don’t know what I’m doing out on a night like this. It’s cold, and I’m getting wet. He grimaced, and his hands clutched tighter on the damp bicycle handlebars. On the other hand, that man seems to see me; the real me. This just might be a golden opportunity. He felt tightness in his chest as his mind raced with what-ifs on both sides of the ledger. In the end, Werner’s ego and desire for respect won out.
Raka waited for his young potential protégé by the stairs leading down to the rotunda door of the Temple of Satan. He shuddered in the damp night air. I hate the cold, he mused to himself bitterly. His mind drifted to warm summer days lying naked in the sun.
The sound of Werner’s approach snapped him back to the present, and he smiled to himself. He loved teaching young boys—they were so malleable. Werner, like many of his students, would be eager to please. His mind was fresh, like a clean slate on which to write. He just needed to train the boy.
Werner’s heart began pounding in anticipation as he parked his bike behind the library and strode over to meet Raka. He smiled as he shook the water off his arms and extended his right hand.
Raka frowned and ignored Werner’s gesture. “You’re almost late,” he said disapprovingly. “Did you tell anyone where you were going?”
“No. No, of course not,” Werner replied, a little crestfallen. “You said—”
Raka cut off Werner’s reply by turning his back on him and walking toward the stairs. With a swipe of his newly repaired golden dragon head cane, he motioned for the boy to follow. They descended the curving staircase of twenty narrow cobblestone steps to the dungeon-like entry of the church. The teacher tapped his walking stick two, then three times on the ancient, arched oak door. Werner felt a shudder as he noticed the goat-like gargoyle at the apex of the arch.
The massive door creaked open, revealing an old, cavernous, torch-lit fire-temple with a freshly painted blood pentagram in the middle. Raka motioned for Werner to enter and a statuesque, redheaded woman dressed in a tight-fitting, low-cut black leather riding habit greeted them. Werner heard a subtle hum, and his body began to vibrate as if a force of energy were penetrating it. Raka acknowledged the woman with a kiss on the back of her right hand. Then he motioned to Werner, who was trying to look everywhere at once. “Countess Victoria von Baden, I want you to meet my guest, Herr Werner von Wiesel.”
Not knowing what to do, and feeling out of his depth, Werner made a short bow and nodded.
The Countess moistened her crimson lips as she regarded the boy. Several thoughts of what she could do with a young man like him flitted through her mind.
“Countess, would you kindly show my guest around?”
The thirtyish noble smiled as she fondled her waist-length ginger French braid. “Of course, Herr Raka. I had heard you were bringing someone of interest to the initiation this evening.” The Countess took Werner by the arm and urged him to walk with her, her five-inch leather stiletto heels clicking on the stone floor. Unused to attention from women of any sort, and certainly not from one as sleek and svelte as the Countess, Werner thrilled at her touch.
Raka slipped away to the far corner of the room to watch Werner with the Countess.
The couple made their way through the clusters of men and women chatting in the dark, shadowy, medieval Gothic Dungeon. A torch illuminated each of the five corners of the pentagon-shaped house of dark worship. For some reason, Werner again shuddered when he noticed the goat-headed gargoyles holding the torches on the walls.
The Countess smiled and nodded at several of the members, all of them dressed in black. Werner noted with interest that each carried an ornate walking stick topped with a ruby embedded into a gold pentagram.
Sensing Werner’s nervousness, the Countess grinned to herself. It gave her a feeling of even more control than she usually commanded from men. Her amber eyes sized him up. She saw both potentials in him and someone who would be unable to resist her will. Better than an ally, he could become a servant of her ambitions. The corners of her mouth turned up with pleasure at the thought, and she asked, “Do you know anyone here, Herr von Wiesel?”
Werner looked around, then swallowed hard, his forehead and palms sweating. “No, I don’t think so,” he managed to say. “Who are these people? And, why am I here?” He paused, then his eyes narrowed. “And what is that sound?”
Click Follow to receive emails when this author adds content on Bublish