Reckless Magic (Page 45)

“Da, da. Timisoara?” he clarified our destination, since the airport was outside of the city a little ways.

“Da.” I repeated the Russian “yes”, most Romanians used.

He nodded his head towards the back seat and I climbed in. The springs underneath the well-worn upholstery dug into my sore legs. I yawned, but refused to close my eyes. Not that I necessarily trusted this stranger, nor did I know how long the ride would be exactly, but there was much too much to see as we made our way towards the western metropolis of Timisoara.

Communist block apartments rose on every side of me; the tall, simple, concrete buildings emoted a melancholy dismalness that was enforced by the incessant rainfall. Small corner shops and gypsy children begging for money lined the now narrowed streets as I held on for dear life. The driver swerved in and out of traffic more precariously than Avalon and not nearly as gracefully.

The olive skinned Romanians walked, or biked or took the tram, all with their heads down, minding their own business. In my Guide to Romania book I picked up along with my dictionary, I read that the Romanians fought their way out of Communism by a revolution started in this very city. What was once called the Paris of the East was only a shell of its former glory.

Timisoara was destroyed by Communism after World War II; the Communist dictatorship that enslaved the Romanian people raped them of any technological or artistic advancement. And although they were well on their way to recovery after a Revolution that had happened over twenty years ago, there was still an oppressiveness that settled on the country’s inhabitants.

I had yet to read anything in either of my books pertaining to an Immortal Citadel. In fact, the only folk lore of any kind related to vampires. I had no idea where I would end up or what to expect but for some reason entering Romania was like coming home. The desolate streets and war torn buildings held an eerie beauty I found captivating.

The cab slammed to a stop in front of an old building on the edge of a piazza or square. The driver tapped his finger on the meter, indicating the fare I owed him. I clumsily tried to count out the Lei, but in the end I threw a stack of bills at him, hoping he appreciated the tip.

I exchanged plenty of money in the airport, and was told that most places accepted my American credit card anyway. Hopefully, Aunt Syl wouldn’t be too upset with the credit card bill this month. Who was I kidding? If it wasn’t the bill that made her go ballistic, it would surely be my spur of the moment trip across an ocean to a third world country after I was specifically forbidden not to by more than one authority.

I shouldered my backpack once again; its weight had definitely increased throughout the trip, from old clothes to my new books, it was getting kind of heavy. I pulled the straps tight though, hoping to discourage any type of pickpocket and worked my way through the busy train station doors.

My travel guide had informed me that the Blue Arrow train was the only way to travel in style and I decided to take its word for it. I found the ticket counter without any problem, and pulled out my dictionary for the necessary terms. A stout, elderly woman who had seen better days sat behind a thick glass partition.

“Buna dimineata, doamna” I stuttered through, reading directly from a page marked Popular Phrases in my English to Romanian Dictionary. Good morning madam.

She grunted her reply, and I forged through another phrase.

“Un bilet la Sibiu va rog,” One ticket for Sibiu, please. I gave her my award winning smile and she simply grunted back what I assumed to be a number, but I had no idea really. She could have said anything; she probably called me a stupid American.

I held up a small handful of cash, unsure of what any of it meant. Unfortunately, Kingsley didn’t offer a monetary conversion class. Or maybe I just hadn’t been forced to take it yet.

She took my handful of Lei and counted out what she needed; even if she took a little more for herself it didn’t bother me. She passed me back the change along with a ticket and pointed in the direction of the platform, holding up her hand to signal five minutes.

“Multumesc,” I tried again, saying thank you before walking away quickly to the platform.

I found the train I was assigned to and it was thankfully the Blue Arrow. The only modern and smooth looking ride among a line of trains that looked like they could be the first model of a train…. ever. Breathing my one hundredth sigh of relief I walked through the automatic doors, passed seats filled with all different social classes of Romanian.

The train was slightly deceiving in that I expected luxury once inside the automatic doors, but instead was met with a pungent smell that nearly made me hurl. I politely covered my mouth pretending to cough and collapsed into my seat, just in time to hear the whistle and feel the earth begin to move slowly beneath my feet.

On the long plane ride over I had time to plan and plot. I had gone over my speech a thousand times, and I was determined to give it once inside the court room doors. The only problem was that I needed to be able to find the courtroom.

The town of Sibiu was located in the central part of Romania and in the mountains; this was as far as I knew to go. I only remembered the name of the town Kiran had given me after I recognized it in the guidebook.

The biggest problem was that the festival was for sure not in the city, and apparently somewhere in the middle of nowhere. The train would take me directly into the city, but once I was there, I would have no other direction to follow. I was still determined; although regretful I hadn’t pressured Avalon for more information.

The train left the city and wound through the breathtaking Romanian countryside. I refused to sleep during that part of my journey too and watched as the train flew by fields being farmed by old fashioned horses and wagons and primitive gypsy villages with naked children running about.

Eventually someone came by to take my ticket. The train employee laughed out loud at my white, sleeveless sweater tank top and ocean blue capris. If only he knew the clothing options I was given in the middle of an Atlanta airport while trying to catch my international flight, I thought he might have been proud of me.

After he continued on his way, I realized how ridiculous I looked. I hadn’t slept in two days; my long hair was greasy and knotted into an impossible mess on the top of my head. The cruise wear I purchased was obviously out of season, and then to top it off I was still wearing my school clogs. A cold shiver ran over my body and giving up completely I pulled out my bright red Nebraska Corn Huskers sweatshirt and threw it on over my tank top.

I remembered Avalon’s expensive black suit and tie and cringed to think how out of place I would look upon arrival at the Citadel…. if I could find it. By my calculations the trial would be late this evening, and I had only precious hours until my time was up and all of this would have been for nothing.

I hugged my worn out back pack as if it were my last hope for success. I couldn’t have come this far for nothing; I wouldn’t have come this far and do nothing.

“You’re one of them,” An elderly woman took a seat next to me and spoke perfect English. I sat up shocked to hear my own tongue and even more shocked by her words.

“Excuse me?” A wave of nervousness washed over me, and I searched out a current of magic in the old woman but sensed nothing.

“One of the Old Ones,” the woman smiled genially and revealed toothless gums. I did not know what to make of the woman who was clearly human and by the looks of things, a gypsy. She was dressed in layer upon layer of rags, her hair tied behind a dirty bandana. A large gold ring protruded from her nose, and larger golden rings dangled from her ears. Her hands were small and gnarled; the dirt under her nails prominent. Her eyes, a brilliant violet, were her only beautiful quality. They reminded me of Angelica.

“The Old Ones?” I asked, confident she meant Immortals, but unsure how she would know about us, or that I was one of them.

She reached out suddenly to grab my hands. Hers were warm and moist as they gripped mine firmly. I tentatively tried to pull them back, but her grasp was so tight and her gaze so intense I was honestly scared of her. I thought to offer her money, but she began to inspect my palms as if looking for something in particular.

“It can’t be,” she sighed softly taking my hands and holding them high above me towards the light.

“I’m sorry?” I pulled my hands away from her and tucked them under my arms, afraid of what she found. A chill worked its way up my spine.

“You are the next Oracle,” she spoke with such awe and her gaze searched my eyes so intently that I looked down, once again afraid of this tiny old woman.

“Do you know where they are? The Old Ones?” I found my nerves and asked bravely; although I was unsure why I would trust this stranger.

“Do you not?” she pinched my chin tightly between her thumb and forefinger, and then moved my head in a circle, inspecting it for who knew what.

“No, I am…. I am trying to find them,” I confided, still unsure if I could trust her.

“You are going to the mountain village?” she asked turning my head sharply in one direction and then letting out a loud giggle.

“Yes,” I said, hoping she meant Sibiu.

“Then follow the magic,” she suddenly stood up, then bent down and kissed my forehead with wet, sticky lips. I refrained from wiping off the slobber immediately. “They have waited for you for a long time.”

The train suddenly lurched to a stop, sending me sliding forward in my seat. I looked up, expecting the feeble, older woman to be sprawled on the floor since she was standing precariously during the sudden stop, but she was already at the doors and gone before I could even get out of my seat. After she was safely on the ground the train began again as if it was scheduled to make that very stop.

Chapter Thirty-Nine

The gypsy woman still a mystery, the train came to a stop in the humble, but beautiful town of Sibiu. I exited the train, backpack in tow, to an outdoor platform. I breathed in the less polluted air of the countryside and lifted my face to the late afternoon sun, whose warmth I barely felt. I pulled the hood up on my sweatshirt and took in another big breath.

It was during that breath, that I finally felt it; the small hum of magic coming from some distance away. It was almost like a calling; the buzzing electricity beckoned me to find it.

I took another big breath and let the distant call of magic fill me. I may not have known exactly where to go, but at least I had a general direction to follow.

I looked around for cab drivers, but the smaller town wasn’t as convenient as the booming Western city of Timisoara. In fact, the town looked nearly deserted. The tourist shops were all closed and the streets empty. I didn’t know how far the Citadel was from this small town, but it was too far to walk, the magic could at least assure me of that.

I had no choice for now however, and began to jog in the direction of where I felt like the magic was located. The city was very hilly and I found myself walking up a very steep incline when I finally stumbled upon a cab driver taking a smoke and sitting on the hood of his run down Dacia.

“English?” I asked, not expecting much.

“Da. English,” he smiled, and I could see rows of gold teeth behind dirty lips.