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The Castle of Bran
by Stephen S. Keeney

Category: Young Adult
Description: Seattle is saved, and Spencer Herold and the rest of the Lake Union Adventurers are more than ready for a return to normal. With the evil Count Drizel dead, it seems their troubles are over. But there are still a lot of unanswered questions. Why did Drizel so hate Spencer's family and their friend Luther Baum he was ready to destroy an entire city to get his revenge? And what secret lurks in Luther's past? The answers lie in Romania, where Spencer and the gang accompany Luther as he seeks to learn if he's a descendent of the Romanian royal family, and where the mysterious Castle of Bran, once home to the infamous Vlad Dracul--Dracula--hides a dangerous puzzle only Spencer, with the help of his friends, can solve. In this exciting sequel to The Emerald City, Stephen S. Keeney provides another exciting episode in the lives of Spencer Herold and his brave band of adventure-seekers.
eBook Publisher: Zumaya Publications/Zumaya Thresholds, 2009 2009
eBookwise Release Date: July 2009


Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [314 KB]
Words: 70940
Reading time: 202-283 min.

Five o'clock came too early Tuesday morning, and Spencer hoped to get some sleep on the plane, as he hadn't been able to the night before. For most of the night, he had stared at the ceiling and wondered what would happen once they arrived in Bucharest. He needed to learn a lot more about Maxwell Hubbard and what he knew about the past.

The Emerald Air shuttle bus showed up at the Herold residence, and as bags were being loaded into the van, Spencer felt a stiff breeze blowing in from the sound. Even though he couldn't see the water very well through the darkness, his experience told him that white caps were dancing on the surface of the lake.

"Not again," he murmured to himself. "This can't happen again."

Luther and Maxwell had already been picked up; one of them was in good spirits while the other appeared more reserved.

"Does everyone have their passport?" asked Luther. "I dropped them off yesterday, and I'm not sure that even I can get you into the country without them."

"You mean a count can't get that done?" teased Jennifer Herold.

The driver loaded the remaining bags as Maddy and Spencer said goodbye to their parents.

"Now, you two behave, and don't get in the way once you get there. I'm sure there's going to be a lot of busy work that Luther has to get done."

"Don't worry, Mom. I'll be chilling," answered Spencer.

"For you as well, young lady."

"Ditto, Mom. Low profile from me, too," said Maddy.

"And no problems for your grandmother, Spencer. You are being given some real independence here, so don't blow it."

"Dad, I got it!" Spencer answered with a little exasperation in his voice. He was never comfortable lying to his parents. He was capable of stretching the truth once in a while, but today he was straight-out lying.

Maddy, he knew, wasn't all that excited about it, either. "Bye, Mom. I hope to see you in a couple of days," she said.

"Hope to?" asked Mrs. Young.

"I mean, I look forward to seeing you in a few days," she corrected, burying her face as she hugged her mom goodbye.

They climbed into the back seat of the van, and the driver closed the door. They greeted Luther, Maxwell and Grandmother Rockwell as the van backed out of the driveway. For the first time in his life, Spencer was a bit nervous about taking a trip. He'd already faced losing his family once this year, and he wasn't sure he wanted this adventure. But he knew he had no choice.

The van ride to Sea-Tac Airport was quick and uneventful, as not many people were up and driving at that early hour on a Tuesday morning. Luther and Grandmother Rockwell talked quietly; both were excited about the upcoming events. Maxwell, like Maddy and Spencer, was quiet, likely thinking ahead.

At the airport, everyone did a double check to make sure they had everything they needed, especially their passports.

"Thank you," said Luther, tipping the driver.

"My pleasure. I hope you have a nice flight."

The five passengers of Emerald Flight 007 checked in, moved through security and made for the international gates. The airport started to stir with activity, and Spencer could tell many of the people he saw were British, on their way home for the holidays.

When they reached their gate, they found seats and dumped their carry-on baggage on the floor.

"Does anyone want some coffee?" Maxwell asked. "I hear Seattle is known for it."

"I would, Maxwell," answered Grandmother Rockwell. "I just noticed you're walking without your cane. You're having a remarkable recovery from your recent fall."

Luther studied his newspaper, not wanting to deal with all the mistruths. Faced with quick thinking in order to explain Maxwell Hubbard, he had come up with the story that Maxwell had fallen on an escalator upon arriving in Seattle. It wasn't the best he had ever come up with, but it seemed to be working.

"Thank you for noticing. I am feeling much better."

"I'd love a cup, too," added Luther.

Maxwell turned and headed towards the coffee shop. "Three coffees it is."

"Hold up, Mr. Hubbard, I'll help you." Spencer got up and headed off with him. As they got out of earshot, he finally broke the silence.

"I got to tell you, Mr. Hubbard, that Maddy and I are a little freaked out!"

"Call me Maxwell, please."

"Okay. Maxwell, Maddy and I are a little freaked out."

"I don't blame you," he said calmly.

"You don't blame me!" Spencer fired back. "That's not very comforting."

"It's not meant to be."

Spencer stopped in his tracks and felt queasy. At the same time, emotion was welling up in his throat and he wanted to scream. After a few seconds, he regained his composure and hurried to catch up.

"Spencer, I must tell you that this is not an easy thing. Not for you or me. And I am not sure what the outcome will be. I know I haven't been able to tell you much yet, but you need to trust me. You are the only one who can set this right."

"Why me?"

"It's a long story, and during the trip I will try to tell you more."

Spencer ran his hand through his blond hair, and Maxwell must have understood that he was confused and frustrated.

"And what about this Vlad Tapas guy?" he blurted out.

"How do you know this name?" Maxwell stopped.

"Okay, now, there's some interest on your part. The only thing that scares me is that you know this name."

"First, Spencer, the name is Vlad Tepes, not Tapas. Tapas are Spanish appetizers. Tepes was a man who ruled Wallachia during the mid-fifteenth century, and Wallachia eventually became Romania."

"So, Dracula is real?"

"He is, and he isn't. Vlad is real, while Dracula is made up from certain parts of the Vlad Tepes myth. It's all a little complicated, but many parts are very real. That is why we are going to the Castle of Bran."

Spencer's head was spinning. "Castle of Bran? You're losing me, Maxwell!"

Maxwell walked on. "We have plenty of time on the way to Romania, and I will try to best educate you on the past and how you fit into this mess. But you still have to trust me."

"I'll trust you. If all that you say is true, I have no option but to trust you."

"Good, Spencer. I appreciate this."

"One last question for you. How are you mixed up in this? How do you know so much?"

As they reached the line for coffee, Maxwell turned and looked at him. "As a child, I was stolen and made part of a bad family, a family that forced me into a life of lies and crime, a life in which I was made to hurt others. Count Drizel and his evil mother Lizuca beat me into submission, and I was miserable. These two come from the lineage of Vlad Tepes, who ultimately fought for the good of his country. Drizel, Lizuca and his father, Drazel, never did an ounce of good in their lives. They have tarnished the good name of Behrone, and have stolen a part of Romanian history. I want to end this and make sure you family is safe. And you need to be a part of it."

Spencer was always pretty good at dealing with stressful times, and he wasn't going to stop now. "Alright, Maxwell. I'm in, and I am sure Maddy will be in. Just tell me what I need to understand and what I need to do."

Maxwell put his arm on the boy's shoulder. "It's a long flight, Spencer, and I have plenty to tell."

Ninety-five minutes later, as the rain started to fall harder, Emerald Flight 007 took off from Sea-Tac Airport en route to London, England. On board were five people who would play a part in something that could make or break them all.

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