There had been a time when the Count had not been like this – cool, reclusive, or suspicious. But how he had come to be this way is a complicated story much longer in telling than the events that were currently transpiring in Winchester.
Maximilian Wolfram the Third had been born long ago to two young people in love – two people who turned out to be as fiercely devoted to him as they were to one another. He had believed his family normal as a small child, in spite of his father’s exceptional fear of strangers and tendency to keep his mother close at his side. When he asked his mother about the reason why she always stayed by his father’s side, she had smiled kindly and told him that there had been something peculiar about the way his two parents had met. Her eyes took on a distant gaze as she, for a moment, went to another time and place in her memory. “A terrible old witch was always looking for me and he came to be my protector.”
He was only a child, so easily satisfied by the explanation. It was simple to him. Of course it was the witch who made them move far South away from other family, beyond the witch’s reach. It was, as his mother said, how he came to be born here under the fortunate auspices of a double full moon in Year 1193.
Maximilian’s birth was a victory of sorts against the repeated terror that had marked his parents’ lives in the form of a Black-hooded witch. Unwilling to burden a small child with fear, they did not speak of her crimes against them to him. And so he grew up normally: playing freely with the other village children, skipping about without any purpose, learning his lessons when he could be encouraged to sit down, and then continuing to play some more. And when he finally tired of all that, he would go home for dinner and sleep, to only wake up the next day to restart the happy cycle again.
It was the long, extended double lunar eclipse in Year 1200 that marked the unraveling of the normal life the Wolframs had built for themselves. The double eclipse was a strange phenomena in the world, a rare one that repeated approximately every one hundred and five years. The eclipse would span a month in itself, with complete darkness (or totality) lasting up to several days in the more northern regions.
For those who were in the South, it was a strange summer month — full of dusky days and intensely dark nights in which the glowing insects molted, mated, and then danced in the sky.
Somewhere in this interlude, came word from his grandfather that the witch had finally perished. He listened to the news as his father narrated the contents of the letters aloud to his mother and himself. Max was not able to understand the other things stated — particularly exactly how this great feat had come to pass. However, he was able to observe feelings and emotions. He could see the change developing within them as the days passed– a sort of growing lightness about them. And he could hear them — when he pretended to sleep — quietly discuss returning to the North and to where his grandfather and uncles had built a much finer home.
As a young child, however, his attention had been focused more on the eclipse itself. As the eclipse began to wane, the villagers relented and once again allowed the children to play outside after supper. Maximilian, tired of these discussions between his parents, would often slip out to play with them.
There was much to see in this strange dusky place. There was a natural creek near their village, full of pretty fish and smooth white rocks. They would often follow it down a ways, chasing whatever animals caught their fancy. On one evening, they followed it for some distance in order to dance with the fireflies and chase singing crickets. It had been a long time (in their minds) since they had been allowed outside.
Maximilian, too, was tired of being kept indoors and like the other children, was lost in thoughts of small things. Spotting a rather big bug that shone brightly in a tree above, he lingered behind the children in order to watch the creature gently fanning its wings in the darkness.
He was enraptured in its light, thinking about a song his mother sang about the bright bugs of the moonlit sky.
He hummed the melody of the tune as he reached up to try to capture this pretty thing.
His attention transfixed by the beetle, he was unaware of the sudden silence and the fireflies around him blinking out one by one. There was only the warning of a cold rush of air behind him, before he was enveloped in a sudden and bone chilling darkness.