The Vampire of the Pentacles

Part 1: River-Dale Boarding School

Chapter 1: Monsieur Matthias

River-Dale Boarding School for Boys, was a name never uttered by man or beast, it was a dark name, a frightful name, a name that struck terror into the hearts of the teenagers bound for its prison gates.

The Boarding School had stood in the same place, atop the thirty foot hill of River-Dale, ever since the town was built, some long two hundred years building had orignally been used as an insane asylum, up until nearly forty years ago, when it was transformed into a Boarding School. Rumour had it that over two thousand innocent patients had mercifully died there within the one hundred and fifty years that it had stood under its original purpose. The ten feet tall iron gates that surrounded grounds and had done ever since it was first built, still stood firmly and threateningly, without change. The dark brickwork and the heavy oppresive air too, were unchanged and never once seemingly altered. Some used to say that it was a torture house, others daren't even whisper the name to themselves in the cool, innocent air of their own creeping minds...

The halls were lit with dim, flickering candles, casting their minimal, orange glow around the dull walls. In the deep shadows of a far corridor hunched the shape of a boy, perhaps seventeen years of age, with dark floppy hair and deathly pale skin. His emerald eyes glinted from beneath his long bangs and a slow smile swept across his lifeless face. A long black cloak, trailing almost an inch along the ground, covered his under clothes and his eyes darted at every sound from the distant classrooms surrounding him. His name...was Matthias...

Matthias lifted his vacant gaze to the dark corridor ahead, there were sounds of footsteps coming towards him and swiftly he dodged back against the wall, into the murky shadows, to avoid being spotted. The last thing he wanted right now was to be seen ditching classes. The footsteps neared and he absently watched, unbreathing, as a large, dark figure ambled past, cloaks flailing and arms bundled with study books, all large and smelling of old, musty corners. The figure looked from left to right at regular intervals, uneasy glances only occasionally broke by the odd hitch of the small round glasses perched high on his nose.

Mr. Spline...the school's finest example of secondary teachers who know not how to handle the everyday issues that arise from working with groups of twenty to thirty, twelve to eighteen year old boys. Mr. Spline taught chemistry and from the eye of an unexperienced onlooker, he taught quite well. But, from the point of view of an eighteen year old boy, who's mind was elsewhere with the world, he was nothing but a rambling old man with a scent of damp that seemed to cling to him like the scent of old age clings to a man in their late nineties.

Matthias watched carefully and silently, like a mere shadow of the flickering life that had once thrived at those halls, as Mr. Spline rushed by, shimmering black shoes clicking on the old stone flooring. He eyed the man slowly as he dissappeared around the corner, unaware of the boy's presence. Then he began on his way, where to...he had no idea...why? Because he felt that he wanted to. He wandered the closing corridors gently, keeping to the misery of the shadows all the while. His feet made no sound on the cobbled stone as Mr. Spline's had done and his eyes continually watched about him, in a kind of unapproachable manner.

Young Berlioz, a mere fifteen year old boy, though by the size and weight of him he looked only in the innocent years of around eight, was last again to class. He sprinted down the dull corridors, short oaken locks hovering over his sapphire eyes as he did so, the small mounted candles that lit the hallways were nothing but an orange and yellow blur. His large bag was stuffed with ancient books, pointed quills and black and red robes hung loosely over his small frame. Without really looking where he was going he collided with something, or someone, and tumbled forwards on staggering knees. He fell upon the cold cobbled floor and slid another two and a half meters into the wall, books, white trainers and pens scattering the ground.

"YOW!" came an echoing cry from the darkness and a huge black shape lumbered out of the shadows, cloaks tangled and twisted. "Watch where you're goin' next time!" the stranger told him briskly, staring down hard at the boy.

"I'm zorry Monsieur." the boy quickly apologised.

His voice was light and echoed his French origin. Brushing away the creases from his clothing, he looked up at the tall stranger and quickly noticed that he was a pupil. It was young Berlioz's turn to smile. "Shouldn't Monsieur be in class?" He asked, beginning to pick up his scattered belongings.

The stranger pushed a long, dark strand of hair out of his eyes and drove his pale, slender hands into the oversized pockets of his cloak, peering at the boy with great interest.

"Erm...I am in study...shouldn't you be in class?" he asked, trying to redirect the converstion to the boy instead of himself.

A thought suddenly struck him and he shook his head, somehow he thought he had seen this boy somewhere else. But no...that was quite impossible.

Berlioz's head was cocked to the side as he stuffed a rather large, leather bound book into his bag. His own cloak slowly slipped down his shoulder and he carefully hitched it up with light digits. Pale sapphire eyes watched his new friend with interest.

"Oui Monsieur I should be in class hence the reason vhy I voz running. I have already gotten von veeks vorth of detention…but yes Monsieur seems to be late too, did he forget to go to class or iz he not bothering to go?"

He could report the stranger, but Berlioz was already in knee deep trouble of his own.

"Does any of my business actually matter to you?"asked the stranger, now frowning in mere disgust rather than anger. He had never before met a boy, quite so small, with such a demanding attitude.

"Now if you don't mind, short stuff, I'm think I'm jus' gunna lurk around here for a while...or does that contrast with your beliefs?" he added, his emerald eyes glinting from behind the dark covering of floppy and unruley hair.

The stranger watched as the small boy childishly bounced on his heels slightly and then replied good naturedly.

"No. Not at all Monsieur, lurk avay…but shouldn't you older pupils be setting the younger vons a good example."

Berlioz peered up at the rather sinister figure, his huge shiny eyes gazing up with the most definate air of awe.

"Younger ones may learn of their own account." came the stranger's blunt reply. "It is not my job to do what the so-called teachers are paid to do."

He smiled adolescently and then frowned again at the boy. He made him feel cheery, yet he worried him at the moment and he stooped so that he and the boy were at eye level.

"What's ya name kid?" he asked, in a softer voice of which he hardly ever remembered using in the endless months before.

Berlioz returned the smile with one of his own angelic effect, though a small white fang, peeping over his cherub lips, made his appearance slightly eerie in the dark light.

"My name Monsieur? It'z Berlioz Orson Dagenais, but Berlioz iz fine vith me…and my I ask vith whose presence I am graced vith?"

Berlioz often gave off that affect, cute and innocent, yet slightly creepy at the same time. His child-like hand tugged the corner of his t-shirt as the stranger slowly decreased in height; it was often hard upon the height when someone so small had to always look up at his superiors.

"I'm Matthias-Lee Swifte, but ya can call me Mattie, everyone else does." the stranger answered his voice reflecting a friendly tone and holding out his right hand to welcome the small boy into his circle. "Pleased to meet you...Berlioz..."

Matthias could now see directly into the young boys sapphire eyes and witnessed the same dullness in the distorted pupils, as he had with many a child whom had undergone the natural harassment of living.

Berlioz gently took Matthias's much larger hand, though they both were smooth and of the same pale shade.

"Mattie? Hmm vell it'z nice to meet you…" he told Matthias softly, his other hand rubbing the pale skin of the back of his neck, nervously. "Vell…I am really late for class now and another detention vill not hurt…so...vould Monsieur like to play?"

When the boy said 'play' Matthias instantly realised that he didn't mean riding his bike or anything a normal child would suggest. He obviously meant something along the lines of perhaps a little bit of devious mischief. And Matthias began to wonder how it was that an angel like Berlioz could be so cute, yet incredibly sinister. Currently he was giving off an Oompa Lumpa vibe, laced with demonic happiness, at his new friend.

"Hmmmm...?" Matthias was beginning to take to Berlioz quite rapidly and he thought for a moment before adding, in quite an interested, yet vacant vioce, that always tended to escape his lips when he thought about causing trouble. "Why not..." and he gave the small boy a sly look, before heading down the dim corridor, cloak waving like the wings of a giant bat.

"So...what would ya like to do?" he asked, his footsteps echoing around the hollow hall.

The small figure followed, ever so tempted to pounce upon the twirling folds of material just a a few feet in front of him. It made no wonder he was always falling over, his mind just tended to wander to odd childish things that amused him so. His faint footfalls were not as sharp or as elegant as Matthias's, his white trainers scuffing the cold ground.

"Erm…vhat iz there to do here Monsieur? I do not really leave the school...seeing that I am not fully accustomed to the place just yet." the boy asked.

Skipping ahead, so that he kept up with Matthias's strides, his small hand clasped the hem of Matthias's cloak absentmindedly, like a young child a security blanket. Berlioz smiled innocently and looked ahead, often turning to look up at his new friend, whose looks and grace seemed flawless to the child's eyes.

"Well..." began Matthias, his gaze turning to the boys gentle grip on his cloak and then smiling warmly, "There are alot of mere mortals that live in the town below...that could do with being learnt a thing or two."

Matthias said this in quite a startling way and did not realise until the harsh words had fallen from his tongue. He checked the boy and was suprised to find that he had not been startled. Matthias smiled again at the boy a sort of respectful smile and corrected his recent call.

"I mean...they dislike young adolescents wandering aimlessly about the town...with no found purpose..." slowly his own tone of vioce was beginning to change and the young adolescence was beginning to fade away, leaving an empty shell in which the age old follower of darkness, of long forgotton years, could weave his way in and reveal himself.

Excited and filled with adrenaline at their little masquerade, Berlioz listened eagerly to the each word. He noted the change in tone, but no reaction came from the child...

"Mischief to make Monsieur? I'd like that." He said lightly and then head cocked and brow furrowed slightly, his delicate hand tugged at the swift material of Matthias's dark cloak. "Monsieur Matthias. Monsieur…iz everything okay?" he added looking up, though being his size he couldn't really see much.

"Fine." answered Matthias, quite suprised and forcing the innocence of adolescence back into his voice. "Why'd ya ask?"

They turned the sharp corner of the corridor and came to a blocked off end where nothing but dismal shadows grew, due to the sudden lack of candle light. Beneath the thick blanket of shadows and at the end of the echoing hall, the door to the outside world was firmly situated and so had been since Matthias could remember. He hurriedly plunged them both into darkness and could feel the oppresion in the damp air that had lain, unbreathed, for continuos, desolate months. Berlioz did not answer the question and kept his loose grip on Matthias's flailing cloak all the while.

Matthias reached out with an outstreched palm and felt his warm fingertips close with something cool and asperous. He shifted his digits along the rough wall and instantly found what he was scouting for. It was the smooth, circular door knob of the hidden entrance to the world beyond the school and he felt his trim fingers wash over it.

Berlioz clung to the estoric trim of the long cloak with considerable excitement. Matthias flashed him a faint smile, before twisting the elegant door knob then pausing slightly, before gently pushing the door open, letting a trail of winding breeze float its way, leisurely around them, ruffling their robes. The door swung on its old, rusty hinges, letting out a faint creak as it did so, before revealing the comforting view of the grasses ahead of them.

"And vhat if somebody seez uz, Monsier?" asked Berlioz in a trembling yet highly delighted voice, that made Matthias feel like he was an experienced friend, leading a young angel astray.

Matthias put his arm gingerly around the small boy's shoulders and silently led him out of the building, steps slowly treading along the short, velvety grass with no sound.

"If they do..." he began, his voice now light and cheery in the sunny air, "...we this." and, without the slightest bit of warning, he took off down the hill, footfalls as silent as stars, cloak tumbling out behind him.

Berlioz hesitated for a moment, before joining his new found friend, in the carefree frolecks of midday.