The Conundrum of Relations: Part Three
The candlelight inside the mansion was dim, but compared to the pitch black darkness outside in the rain, this was a welcome allowance of sight. He supposed the lighting helped to add to the creepy ambience the Haunted Woods was so well known for. The door slamming shut behind him also added to that same ambience.
Con jumped in surprise and looked to the door. He should have been expecting the door to slam. That kind of thing always seemed to happen. Especially in buildings where the owner was of the malicious type or, in the case of Thade, assuming a malicious persona. The young Lenny frowned and looked into the seemingly empty mansion. Regardless of what kind of danger he may be in, that was no reason to be rude. "H-Hello...?" he called out, regretting the present stutter. "I don't mean to intrude on your abode... And I certainly don't mean to be dripping water onto your floor... So I thank you for allowing my entrance... Is anyone there?"
There was laughter. The kind implying evil amusement. Con glanced around, trying to pinpoint the source of the sound. It was definitely coming from the shadows in front of him. Con could see movement and he watched closely. Soon a Blumaroo practically glided into the available light, though his face was still in the dark and difficult to decipher.
"My, my, young one... You look cold as death. Soaked to the bone!" The Blumaroo laughed again and held out what seemed to be a towel. "Here, come dry off."
Con wasn't sure how sincere this kindness was, but that did not mean he would forsake possible aid. He ventured forward and took the towel. With a nod, he thanked his host. "Again, I'm sorry to bother you so late at night. If I could ask you for instructions on how to return to the main area of the Woods, I'll be sure to leave to cease any possible annoyance as soon as possible."
"Hmm, no, no, child... This is no bother at all." The Blumaroo disappeared back into the shadows. "Come. Let's put you by the fire. I'm sure you would love to warm up."
"I... I can't quite see where-."
"Just follow my voice, child. I will lead you."
The Lenny frowned. Something about this situation was off, but he was not going to get out of it by continuing to stand where he already was. He stepped into the darkness and followed after the Blumaroo. His host was gracious enough to continue talking.
"I hardly ever have guests way out here... Normally, if I have company, it's in my other home on Roo Island. Imagine my surprise when I heard you knocking! But, things happen for a reason, so it is good that you found your way here. After all, it is raining so badly. I can't help but wonder what you are doing out so late at night. That is a dangerous thing to do, especially in the Haunted Woods. You probably have your reason, so I will not pry if you do not wish to discuss it..."
Con noticed that he was starting to be able to see. This meant that the low amount of light allowed him to adjust to the darkness and see where he was going. They came upon what he assumed was a library or study of some sort. The firelight was much brighter and he could now see more of his host. The Blumaroo was an orange-colored Neopet wearing a black and red cloak. He had his back to Con and moved to sit in one of the armchairs. He motioned for the Lenny to do the same with the armchair to the right of his.
"If you have finished with that towel, feel free to leave it on the ground. Come sit! The fire will warm you..."
"Th-Thank you..." Con answered merely for sake of courtesy. He dried off the best he could and then did as he was instructed. He stared just above the fire, trying not to insult his host by staring at him. Sure, he was curious as to whom he was dealing with, but he was too nervous to look.
The Blumaroo laughed again. "Look at me, young one..." Con turned his head and cast a sheepish smile. The Blumaroo laughed again and the Lenny could see what seemed to be two pointed teeth glistening in the light. A trick of the mind, he tried to convince himself. But it was no trick. The Blumaroo leaned towards him, elbows rested on the table between them. "I welcome you to my mansion, young one... Perhaps now you should know who I am...? I am Count Von Roo."
Con's eyes widened and he struggled over his words. Should he run from the vampire? Should he beg for his life? Instead he uttered just one word: "Sorry."
Von Roo raised an eyebrow and smiled in amusement. "Whatever for?"
"I... I didn't mean to bother you. I was just trying to find my way. You see, I had gotten into an argument with my brother and foolishly wandered off and then night fell and I was completely lost by then. The rain didn't help things of course, but I saw the candlelight from your home and was hoping I could get help and I-."
"Enough!" Von Roo rubbed his temples and gave the Lenny a slight glare. "That was much too rushed and babbled to understand..." He smiled again and chuckled. "But I can tell by your nervousness that you think I may harm you..."
Con chose not to comment on the fact that Von Roo didn't specify that he wouldn't.
"...And you seem to be the type that loves games. I recently made one of my own. Why don't we play...?"
"I... I rather leave, so as not to bother you any more than I already have." Con stood up and chuckled nervously. "I'll find my own way out, no need to worry."
"Sit down." The command was simple but the Lenny knew he had to follow it. Von Roo pulled out two dice, one black and one white. "Please, play with me. The rules are simple and the prize is great! All you have to do is take this die..." He placed the white die in front of Con. "...And roll higher than me. If you win, I will make you stronger-."
"I- I don't need to be stronger!" Con interrupted. "I just want to return to-!"
Von Roo laughed. "Ah, so strength and power does not appeal to you? Then why don't I change the prize? Roll higher than me and I will provide you with safe passage to your home... Come now, I am a man of my word."
The red Lenny noted that safe passage home would entail the vampire discovering where he lived. But he decided to comment on a different point. "But what happens if YOU roll higher...?"
The Blumaroo grinned, fangs displayed proudly. "Then you provide me with a good meal."
"Wh-What if I choose not to gamble?"
"Then I get my meal regardless. Think of it as payment for bringing you out of the rain!" Von Roo pushed his own die back and forth. "Now, young one, what do you choose...?"
Con took a deep breath and tried to think over his options. Nothing seemed like a good path to take... "All I wanted was to return to Mr. Thade..." he muttered to himself. However, his words must have been loud enough for the vampire to hear.
Von Roo hissed in anger and stood up. "Thade?! You wish to RETURN to that anagram spouting fool?! Who are you, boy...?" The Count took a step forward and the Lenny tried his best to scramble away. "Tell me...!"
"C-Con!" He fell off of the armchair and stood. Von Roo narrowed his eyes and continued towards him and the Lenny continued to back away. "P-Please, I didn't mean to bother you! I'm willing to leave!"
The Blumaroo caught Con by his sweater vest and pulled him closer. "No... Don't leave... I insist." He dragged the young Lenny back to the armchairs and forced him to sit again. "So you must be the Lenny that Thade is tricking into believing that the two of you are friends. How quaint... Has he betrayed you yet? Is that why you are out here so late? Or is he trying to get you to do his dirty work for him?"
Con was stricken by a feeling of disbelief. Was Lit correct about his poor judge of character? Was Thade actually using him like Von Roo was saying...? "Wh-What...?" he whispered in awe.
Von Roo chuckled lowly and patted Con on the head. "Oh, poor thing. I can only imagine how horrible it is to find that the ones we trust are actually setting us up for failure. You must be devastated... Here, play my game. It will distract you from Thade. And, if you want, perhaps I could be your friend instead of that moronic, disfigured ghost!"
The Lenny stared silently at the dice. This was too much. After everything that happened... The more than weekly visits with Thade... The visit with the Brain Tree today... Lit warning him... Him leaving Lit behind... This offer by Von Roo... He was smarter than that! And now he found out that this... This... This evil Haunted Woods denizen was trying to trick him all this time! No, he couldn't stand for this... He had to do something...
He waited for Von Roo to sit down... He picked up the die and shook it in his hand... And he then knocked over the table, shot up, and rushed out of the room.
Von Roo gave a shot of surprise and then growled. "Get back here, Con!" he yelled, beginning to chase after the Lenny.
Con knew this was a dangerous place to be. He was on Count Von Roo's literal home turf. It was dark, even with the candlelight, and he knew that one false move would put him in Von Roo's clutches once more. If that happened, death was guaranteed.
He had to find a back door as soon as possible.
To be continued...