First Reflection

an excerpt

The fresh air helped to gradually improve Constantin's condition and though he was still far from sober he was more in control. He stood upright, pushed away from Andreas and Ettore, staggered for a couple of steps before straightening his back. He turned around to face the others, gave a small bow and a sweep of his arm. Andreas watched him carefully and soon decided he was capable of walking unaided though he would keep a close watch on him just in case. Constantin succumbed to the effects of alcohol sooner than either he or Ettore.

"It's quicker if we go through the park," Ettore said.

"It always looks spooky in there at night," Constantin said.

"Oh come on, it's fine if we stick to the path," Andreas added. "Anyhow, didn't know you were scared of all those old wives' tales."

Constantin pulled a face but turned into the gate with his friends. "Legends, not old wives' tales and there's always a smidgen of truth in legends."

Andreas laughed. "You sound like my great aunt Sibelia. She would always mutter under her breath as we left the Temple after prayers. Said it was always wise to ask for help against the evil the Temple said didn't exist. That never quite made sense to me, but she swore there was more that Divinity could protect one against if you bothered to ask."

"Crazy old bat," Ettore said.

"Maybe, but it does make one think," Constantin said. "There are many things now that the Temple says don't exist, yet once there were prayers of protection against those non-existent things."

"What kind of things?" Ettore asked, now looking vaguely concerned as he glanced at their dark surroundings. There were very few torches in the park at night to illuminate the paths through the trees; some of the older ones were huge with branches spreading over half the park. An owl hooted and Ettore jerked as he swung around.

Andreas edged closer and said, "Nightwalkers who suck you dry of blood and eat your heart, bone men who steal your soul, spectral departed who won't leave the world of the living, men who turn into beasts when the moon is full, women who--"

"For Divinity's sake, stop!"

Andreas laughed. "Oh, you're so gullible."

A man suddenly stepped out from the darkness and Constantin came to a halt, his face a picture of shock. Andreas belatedly realized that in fact the man was walking on another path that merged with the one they were on and relaxed. Ettore laughed at Constantin's over-reaction to the abrupt appearance of the stranger, a handsome looking man indeed, Andreas couldn't help but notice. Tall, with black hair and dark eyes, dressed all in black too, which was probably why his skin looked so pale.