BLOOD SACRIFICE

Chapter Eight

Frida Varga grumbled to herself as she made her way back to the market, wooden basket swinging on her crooked arm. Sometimes she hated being a girl, especially a girl of eleven. She was at that age when boys began noticing her but adults still didn't take her seriously or believe what she had to say. Her father was of the opinion that girls were nothing but airheaded nuisances, worth less than boys except when they were married off to noble or rich families. She was different from a lot of the women in the village. She was in no hurry to get married but it wasn't for her to decide. Men controlled her fate and it would be so until the day she died.

While she walked, she kept noticing a man and woman behind her. When she turned, they would turn and when she stopped they would stop and adopt a casual air but she knew they were focused on her. She finally stopped, let out an angry sigh and turned to face them.

"If you try to kidnap me again, I will scream!" she said, putting her hands on her hips.

"We're not trying to kidnap you, we'd like to speak with you about the earlier kidnapping though," the man said as he and the woman walked up to her.

Frida gave them a wary look. She'd never seen them before.

"Are you gypsies?" she asked them.

"No. We're travelers," the woman said. "We arrived today and we saw that woman try to take you.

Frida took a long, hard look at her face and realized she was the woman that saved her. She told her that and she nodded.

"Yes, I'm Rose and this is the Doctor, he saved you as well."

Frida looked at him. She recognized his face as well but not their hair. When Frida pointed that out, the Doctor nodded.

"We're in disguise in case that woman returns for revenge," the Doctor said. "What is your name?"

"Frida, sir. But I must get going. My father yelled at me for coming back home without going to market and he'll beat me if I don't go."

The Doctor's eyes darkened at that but he smiled warmly and asked if they could accompany her. Frida shrugged. The man and woman seemed friendly and they saved her earlier. She decided to risk it. She led the way and the man and woman walked on either side of her.

"What happened to you earlier, has that happened before?" the Doctor said as they walked. "Have people gone missing?"

"I'm not supposed to talk about it," Frida said.

"Oh? Why not?" the Doctor said.

"Because the countess may have spies listening to us."

"So you think she's behind your attempted abduction?"

Frida looked around, suddenly fearful. The Doctor put his hand on her shoulder.

"I give you my word I will protect you. We want to get to the bottom of the kidnappings and stop them and we need some information."

"Are you police?" Frida said.

"After a fashion," the Doctor said. "We stop wrongdoing."

Frida looked at Rose with a confused look on her face.

"You are also police?" she said to Rose.

"She assists me. We try to right injustice wherever we find it," the Doctor said.

They entered the marketplace. There were wooden tables lined up on either side of the cobblestone street. Men and women stood behind them selling their goods and calling out to passerby, trying to attract a sale. The Doctor followed Frida to a table that had fruits on it. Frida chose a few apples and the Doctor watched while she put the basket on the table, took a tiny pie out of it and bartered it for the apples. She went from table to table, bartering the little pies for food while Rose watched with interest. Meanwhile, the Doctor was scanning the area, using his enhanced senses to detect anything. His nose scented blood and he felt his stomach growl but he could tell it was animal blood from a butcher's table up the way and not human blood. He didn't see the female abductor or any of the soldiers from the castle but he knew they were probably still searching for them. So far he hadn't asked Frida anything, figuring she would be a bit skittish about saying anything where there were so many people. But he wanted to make sure she got her chore done before they questioned her so she wouldn't be beaten further.

Frida walked away from the table and the Doctor and Rose followed her. The Doctor kept glancing around and he jerked his head around when he heard Rose laugh. He looked at the table beside him and saw an assortment of wooden stakes, crucifix necklaces, garlic and books about vampires. Rose glanced at him and giggled when she saw him roll his eyes.

"What's so funny? Nosferatu are real," Frida said to Rose.

"The child is correct," a thin, gangly man behind the table said. "These will protect you from them and I have books on hunting them and nosferatu lore."

"How do you tell if someone is nosferatu?" Rose said, playing along while the Doctor listened.

"You don't know?" the man said, shocked.

"I was raised in a remote village and no one believed in such silly nonsense," Rose said airily, wanting to see his reaction to that.

The Doctor stifled a laugh when the man almost had apoplexy at her statement.

"They are not nonsense, miss," he said indignantly. "The nosferatu live and they feed on the blood of the unwary. And in answer to your question, they have deathlike skin and the look of a corpse. They can change into animals or mist and they can hypnotize and seduce their prey. It's all in these books," he said, eagerly pointing to them. "Perhaps you might buy one and educate yourself?"

Rose grinned when she glanced at the Doctor. She picked up one called The Truth About Nosferatu, a large book bound in red leather. She looked down but she didn't know what to barter for it. The Doctor rolled his eyes and reached into his trouser pocket, which like his regular trousers were bigger on the inside. He had transferred most of the contents of his trousers into this one and he had put a wooden yoyo in it in case he needed to pass the time. He took it out and demonstrated it, doing a few tricks while the man and Frida gaped in astonishment.

"A fair trade, this for the book?" the Doctor said, pointing to the yoyo.

"Done," the man said.

He took it from him and thanked him. The Doctor returned the thanks and they walked on.

"You owe me a yoyo,Tyler," the Doctor muttered in Rose's ear.

XOXOXOXOXOXOXOXO

When Frida finished her shopping, the Doctor and Rose guided her to the side of a house and made sure no one was listening before asking her about the kidnappings.

"There have been several, sir," Frida said softly.

"For how long?" the Doctor said softly.

"Several years, sir."

"Just call me the Doctor. No need for "Sir"," he said, holding up his hand. "And all of these kidnappings have been young women?"

Frida nodded.

"Your age?" Rose asked.

"Around my age, miss," Frida said.

"Has anything ever found any of the women?" Rose asked.

"No. But there is a rumor…"

She fell silent and looked around. The Doctor reassured her that she was safe and she nodded and continued what she was going to say.

"There is a rumor that the countess has servants who take them to the castle," she said to them.

"Do you know what she does with them?" the Doctor said, already knowing the answer.

"I have no idea. Perhaps they are forced to be servants?" Frida said. "We do not know what becomes of them."

"Has anyone ever tried to talk to the countess?" Rose asked.

"No. She is a countess and there is no one brave enough to speak to her," Frida said. "When her carriage comes into town, everyone must step back and bow in her presence. Only nobility may speak to her."

"Good because I'm a lord," the Doctor said.

"I thought you were a doctor," Frida said, confused.

"I'm both," the Doctor said while Rose held back her laughter.

"You want to arrest her?" Frida said in a barely audible voice after looking around again.

The Doctor nodded.

"I think she's behind all this," he said, matching the softness of her voice. "I think she's a very cruel lady and she needs to be stopped."

Frida nodded emphatically.

"What have you heard about her?" the Doctor said softly.

"That she tortures people and feeds them to her dogs," Frida said softly. "That she kills people who displease her. Some say…" she looked around again, "that she is nosferatu."

"I see," the Doctor said softly. "Do you think that?"

"I don't know. I've never seen her but people say she looks younger than her years. Perhaps it is so?"

"Perhaps," the Doctor said, nodding. "Well, we won't keep you any longer. We don't want you to get in trouble with your father."

"Are you going to be here in the village?" Frida asked.

"For a bit. We wanted to find an inn. Why?"

"Meet me here in two hours. I want to help you," Frida said. "My father doesn't believe that I was almost kidnapped. He thinks I'm a silly girl who makes things up. But you believe me and I want to help you find that woman so she can be arrested and the kidnappings can stop."

The Doctor nodded. He put his hand on her shoulder and told her to hurry home and they'd see in two hours. She nodded and the Doctor and Rose watched while she ran off in the direction of her house.

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