I took off my shirt and handed it to Vlad to use as a towel. We helped him to his feet and he went into the bathroom to wash the blood off his face.
“Whoa, hey!” said Mossy. “Nice ink! When did you get that done?”
“When we were in Belgium,” I said, turning around for him to get a good look at my new back tattoo.
“No way! That’s when I got mine,” he said, and then lifted his shirt to reveal a large tattoo of his own.
As we were comparing body art, Vlad came out of the bathroom and froze, his wide eyes fixed on us. Mossy and I were both shirtless—me with a full back tattoo of a crucifix, and Mossy with a giant bulb of garlic etched across his chest.
“Assassins!” cried Vlad, as he reeled back against the wall.
“Whoa, Vlad, take it easy,” I said.
“No!” he hollered. “I know who you are—assassins! You work for the doctor!” He edged his way around the room, cringing like an injured animal, and stopped by the window.
“Vlad, what doctor?” I asked.
“Forget it, man,” said Mossy. “It’s the drugs.”
“He sent you!” screamed Vlad as he frantically wrenched open the window.
“Keep your distance, bro,” said Mossy. “I reckon he’s on ice.”
A swirling, black fog enveloped Vlad, and he transformed into a bat.
“Yep. Definitely ice,” said Mossy.
The bat flapped out the window and hovered there, watching us. Mossy grabbed his phone from the bedside table.
“You’re weapons are now useless against me, mortals,” the bat spoke in Vlad’s voice. “You will die in a few short years, but I will remain. Different though this world may be, it will suffer my vengeance!”
Mossy took a photograph of the bat. The flash from the phone’s camera stunned it. In a panic it flew up into the eaves above the window and almost knocked itself senseless. The bat dropped to the ground one storey below and crawled around in a daze on the grass. We watched as a fox crept out from a hedge by the house, took the bat’s head between its jaws and shook it violently. The fox then dropped the bat’s limp body on the frosty ground and ran away.
The rest of our stay there was delightful. The young lady who had escorted us to our room, Zelda, must have been sick the night we met her, because the next morning it was like she was a different person. Colour had returned to her cheeks, and life to her eyes. Though we couldn’t understand anything she said we got along wonderfully. When we would leave to go running in the mornings, she would follow us outside to say goodbye; when we would return after our training, she was there to greet us both with bunches of freshly picked wildflowers. At night we would fall asleep to the sound of her angelic singing echoing through the corridors.
As our weeklong training camp concluded, Zelda presented us with hand-woven silk scarves and a brick of pure gold. She embraced us and then sent us on our way with a song she had composed on the dulcimer. I’ve never known such a thankful host.
Upon our return to the village at the foot of the mountain, we were given a hero’s reception. Hundreds lined the streets to cheer us—we had no idea they were so passionate about women’s athletics. The townsfolk showered us with gifts, and the children performed a play in our honour (it seemed to depict the slaying of some parasitic, nocturnal monster. It was a little creepy if you ask me, and I still don’t know what it had to do with our upcoming athletics meet in Greece). But aside from some oddities that we simply ascribed to cultural differences, we had a lovely stay in Romania. Our training camp turned out to be a success as well, with my long-distance times improving and Mossy ending up as the number one ranked female five thousand metre runner that summer.
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