Bluestone Manor had seen it all. World Wars, political upheaval, civil unrest, visits from royalty and members of the aristocracy, and many a great change to the lives of its various owners since the day it was built hundreds of years ago.
'The Manor’, as it was affectionately known by the inhabitants of the picturesque nearby village of Brand Green in Gloucestershire, had stood strong in the same spot throughout all the upheaval time (and humanity) had thrown its way.
The grand old house nestled imposingly into the surrounding downland becoming a part of the flat fertile valley with a permanence thoroughly deserving a property of such grandeur. Its long magnificent tree-lined drive and large wrought iron entry gate adding to a sense of opulence that was almost tangible.
It was high on the list of 'must see' places for visitors to the area and indeed the manor was usually open every weekend throughout the Summer for such a reason. And its owners did very well earning a living out of this popularity that tourists couldn’t seem to get enough of.
But now the winds of change had blown once again to bring about the onset of a new chapter for Bluestone Manor.
The previous owner, the eccentric decedent of the old guard of British aristocracy Lady Ann Crawley, had recently passed away after losing her long battle with cancer.
Crawley, who had tended to be away in London more often than not throughout the week when she was healthier, had lived in the manor these past 20 years, along with her husband Edward.
And they had appeared to be very happy there.
Lady Ann Crawley was an excellent organizer, as well as being an avid horse woman and breeder, she was often involved in village matters throwing elaborate parties, luncheons, charity dinners, and such like.
So, when it came, the death of Lady Ann was not totally unexpected, due to her being more or less a permanent resident at Bluestone Manor in recent months because of her illness.
But what happened next sent shockwaves around the village.
'Edward Crawley would never sell the manor?' cried the villagers in unison.
And they had all been wrong. So very wrong!
Edward had long-since decided to up and return to his heartland of London 'if' and, what had grown ever more likely, 'when' his wife finally succumbed to that awful disease and had wasted no time at all liquidating the estate and disposing of the manor was just a part of the whole process. He loved London and had no desire to stay alone out in the country and live in the home that only served as a painful reminder of his loss.
But before the 'For Sale' signs had been erected...before the half-page advertisements in those glossy magazines had reached the 'To Do' stage, and pictures were posted on social media of the impending listing...Bluestone Manor was sold!
'Snapped up by a foreign businessman and his wife apparently' said one nosy local with more than a touch of envy in their voice.
The deal had gone through quickly. Very quickly indeed!
And not only had the asking price been met...but the new owners had also provided a bonus of $250,000, such was their determination to secure the property.
The days came and went. Even the weeks came and went. But nothing seemed to change at Bluestone Manor. Not even the merest glimpse of the new owners.
Sure, the moving vans had been spied by those in the village that had too much time on their hands for such things. But they'd belonged to Edward Crawley, who had done his part by moving out lock, stock and barrel one day to leave the old place as empty as the day it was completed, all those many years ago.
'Why had no-one moved into Bluestone Manor yet?' everyone wondered. Not surprisingly, gossip and speculation began to swirl around town.
Rosalind had actually taken residence in some style however, but not one villager saw her rather grandiose and elaborate entrance, via the high thatched rooftops of some of the less grand houses on the outskirts of sleepy Brand Green.
She'd soared majestically, high above the old manor house, taken full stock of her beautiful new abode, and promptly flown in through an open window at the very top of the main wing. She'd insisted, through her lawyer of course, that the window in question be left fully open at all times...'for ventilation purposes'!
Rosalind had longed for this moment. For centuries in fact. And soon she would be free...free to live, if that was the appropriate word, for all eternity with the love of her life. Away from enemies, old and new. The house was to be her safe refugee from the cruel world outside. From the vileness of the daylight.
Her last journey, and one could argue, final journey had seen her fly through time and space from 18th Century Prague into a future, or past if absolutely necessary, full of renewed hope and expectation.
Grant would be here soon too, she mused.
'Dear, sweet Grant' she said out loud, whether or not she had intended to.
Grant’s arrival at Bluestone Manor was going to be a much more complicated affair all together.
Their Lawyer, Mr. Jones, was on hand for matters such as this but there was only so much a mere mortal could do after all!, thought Rosalind.
The morning after Rosalind arrived, at 11:45 AM to be precise, a well-built, dark-haired man in his 60's clambered out of his car, a black Honda, and knocked loudly on the large front double doors of the manor.
Rosalind didn't hear him...why would she? She was otherwise engaged shall we say!
Moments later another car, an old blue Toyota, also pulled up outside the manor. This time two women got out and made their way over to the first man.
'Mr. Jones?' said one of the women, emphasizing the ‘Mr.’ and offering her hand.
'Indeed yes! Andrew Jones replied...and you are the Crawford sisters, have I got that right?'
'Yes! I'm Liza and this is my sister Martha'
'You have a key I assume?' said Liza
'I do indeed' said Mr. Jones
'I knocked several times...but there doesn't seem to be anyone in' added Jones with a look of exaggerated puzzlement and frustration on his face.
'Well, that’s to be expected really sir' said Martha knowingly
'Shall we all go in?' said Jones, pointing to the front door and making a door-opening gesture with the keys.
Inside Bluestone Manor all was dark and quiet. There were no paintings by old masters (or anyone else for that matter) on the walls and all the rooms, on first sight, appeared to be totally devoid of furniture. The house was entirely hollow and vacant. ‘Was anyone living here?’ Jones wondered.
Fortunately, the manor hadn't been neglected for too long and so the electric light in the large hall immediately illuminated the scene at the throw of a switch just like anywhere else.
There was something stirring in the grand old place though...Martha felt it almost instantly but chose not to say anything, in case it caused upset to Mr. Jones!
Liza, and in particular Martha, were psychics...that was without question.
They had proved their amazing abilities on many occasions, whether by providing the police with information from otherworldly sources to help their investigations or giving comfort to individuals via messages from the afterlife.
They had never married and lived together in a little cottage in the South East corner of England along the rugged coast.
But despite being cut off from the hubbub of modern life, the sisters had no phone or other such gadgetry in their house or in their personal possession, they were easy to contact...if you knew how.
Rosalind knew exactly how but chose to use the reliable Mr. Jones on this occasion...though the information she passed on to the sisters via the unquestioning lawyer (The Jones’ had been family 'friends' for years...many years actually!) made it impossible for Liza and Martha Crawford to ignore her request.
Poor Grant didn't know where he was!
One minute he'd been strolling down the Vodičkova Street, as was increasingly the fashion these days, deeply engaged in conversation with his beloved Rosalind, when the next minute she'd suddenly taken flight and by the time he'd fully manifested in a nearby park, where he thought she might have flown for cover, he was somewhere else completely...somewhere dark...somewhere very dark. Where there were no lights, man-made or celestial. A place where there was no light at all!
Grant’s full name was Grant Elliot Arthur Von Klaus. He was loosely related to the German aristocracy. Unfortunately, during the first world war his family was forced to flee London due to the harsh anti-German sentiments.
He had lived the last years of his life quite quietly, and happily enough, reminiscing about the past in his ancestral home in virtual seclusion, high up in the mountains of Czechoslovakia, where snow lay around and about for most of the year.
Upon his death, at the tragically tender age of just 41, 'the castle' (as it was known locally) passed down to a distant male cousin of Grant's and he and his young family, a wife and two small children, both girls, had set up home there.
But their lives had been shattered one cruel night by a devastating and frenzied attack by the organization of blood-thirsty vampires to which Rosalind had belonged.
While others in her group had callously slaughtered all before them, including all the servants, and had joyously drunk the blood of young and old with equal relish, Rosalind had stopped short of joining in the mayhem.
The moment she entered the castle, she had sensed something, something none of the others could sense.
For Rosalind possessed special abilities, far beyond those of any ordinary female vampire.
She sensed and picked up on Grant's lingering ghost in less than the blink of an eye and straight away felt a strange connection with the sad phantom who still dwelt within the castle walls.
Grant had never found, or been close to finding, love.
That special girl, or woman for that matter, had never entered his life.
People had tried...of course they had...to fix Grant up with this Baron's daughter here or this widowed heiress there...but true love had remained elusive.
Grant was happy enough however and despite falling terminally ill, he'd gone to his grave a fairly contented man, grateful that money had never been a problem for him and that he'd had the privilege to reside in such a pleasant dwelling...in such beautiful surroundings.
His spirit was obviously not so content though and Grant hadn't yet passed over into the 'other side', as he'd always thought he would when he was alive. His restless soul had chosen instead to wander the large rooms and cavernous grounds of the castle...searching for eternity if needs be...searching for something...something that had eluded him in life.
Rosalind proved to be the answer to Grant's quest for love...a quest that had continued, almost unknowingly, beyond the grave.
From the shadows, he was at once captivated by the beautiful vision in front of him, this half-woman/half-beast who took no pleasure from the vile behavior of her cohorts and refused to drink the blood of the slain, despite her pale and frail appearance suggesting she was in desperate need of sustenance.
She was truly a sight to behold, thought a totally enraptured Grant, her raven-black, long hair perfectly framed her sharp angular face...and her emerald eyes seemed to sparkle almost jewel-like to an utterly besotted Grant.
Rosalind caught Grant watching her. Her senses were razor-sharp and detecting spirit activity was an ordinary occurrence for her.
Unlike the other members of her group, who were all pretty common and ordinary vampires, Rosalind was blessed with attributes none of her kind possessed.
She had been 'blessed' in her homeland of Romania but she was special before that...so very special.
Her Mother, Ophelia, had practiced dark witchcraft from a young age, as had her mother before her and several generations of female relatives prior to that. Rosalind came from a long line of strong and powerful witches.
But Rosalind was the finest witch of them all, her talent and gifts far outweighing that of any other family member before her.
Bucharest, however, was the scene of another vampire 'strike'. And Vlad had taken great pleasure 'turning' Rosalind.
He was the one who spotted her leaving that little bar downtown where she worked for a few evenings a week, trying hard to maintain a 'normal' life and resisting the temptation to fully embrace the darker side, as others in her fold had to their cost.
He was the one who had summoned his superhuman strength to overpower her that dark, dark night.
And he was the one who had sunk his teeth into her pale, white neck and drunk her warm delicious blood.
At first, Rosalind had taken to life in the group just like any other convert to the magical world of vampirism.
She had learned to fly long and hard into the inky night sky as well, if not better, than those around her. And, Vlad thought, she'd adapted to the ways of a vampire wholeheartedly too, taking full part in all the necessary 'strikes'.
So, it was a shocked Vlad who watched on in horror as Rosalind took flight, with Grants's fearful ghost in tow, that night at the castle.
Rosalind and Grant had escaped!
Rosalind from the clutches of the vampires and Grant from his endless search for love.
By use of Rosalind's witchcraft, finally deciding the time was right to put her powers to good use, they had ended up in England.
London to be precise.
Grant was understandably somewhat confused to have suddenly found himself in the English capital...and according to a newspaper he'd read over the shoulder of a patron of one of the many cafe's, it was the late 1700's!
He wasn't even born yet...not for many, many years...but somehow here he was, or at least his ghost was!
And he was accompanied by the divine Rosalind Maxwell, the woman he'd fallen head over heels in love with, who was a vampire!
Surely, they were safe here, thought Grant. But Rosalind had told him that ordinary vampires too could time travel. They would have to be on their guard at all times. Vlad and the others would come for them one day. That was their way!
And everything was wonderful...for a while.
Grant and Rosalind's mutual love deepened to a level no human could ever dare to imagine and life as honorary Brits suited them just fine.
There were some obvious drawbacks. Grant and Rosalind could never stroll along the banks of The Themes in daylight together like so many other romantically-involved couples.
But by some magic or other, Grant could at least 'feel' the warmth of the sunshine on his solitary excursions around the city and little things like that made him forget that he was dead...long dead...years ahead in the future!
For Rosalind the major adjustment had been the drinking of animal blood instead of human.
Away from the pressures of the other vampires, she had no desire to kill or 'turn' anyone. She bore no human any malice and thought there were already enough vampires in the world without creating any more.
But eventually Vlad and the other four remaining members of the old chapter tracked Rosalind and Grant down.
They'd pursued their quarry using the one method they had at their disposal that Rosalind and Grant didn't.
They had friends...very powerful friends...and many of them.
Many witches had been slain, many of them tortured first and many spells had been given up to the vampires.
Hunting down Rosalind and Grant after that had been easy!
But Rosalind's magic was strong...very strong and, in a flash, she'd been able to transport herself forward in time...many years forward...to 21st Century England.
The spell she used had included Grant as well, of course, but Vlad had hexed poor Grant, using magic stolen from the witches ('Wasn't that the best kind!' thought Vlad to himself), before she could respond.
Grant was sure he would manifest in the park they'd agreed to use as a rendezvous in the event of an emergency such as this one. But although the co-ordinates had been correct he was somewhere else entirely.
Martha Crawford sat at the head of a long, oak table. To her immediate right was her sister, Liza, while to her direct left was the inestimable Mr. Jones.
On the table was a single candle, the only illumination in the room, flickering slightly this way and that in a gentle breeze that had begun to blow across this most unlikely trinity the moment Martha had mentioned Grant's name.
Martha knew where Grant was...even if he didn't have the slightest clue.
He was trapped inside a spell, inside a spell, inside a multitude of other spells.
But Rosalind's encyclopedic knowledge of both dark and light magic meant Martha's psychic skills, aided as always by her sister Liza's own particular talents, had a better than even chance of rescuing poor Grant's spirit from the dark dungeon in which he was currently held within.
Via Mr. Jones, Rosalind (who was presently resting upstairs in her custom-made coffin, though still psychically alert) had passed on ancient tools of the trade to the sisters Crawford.
Armed with these, Liza had soon located the whereabouts of Grant's soul and now she was uttering ancient words of her own, passed down by generations of Crawford’s, to call back Grant to those who loved and cared deeply about him.
The candlelight was suddenly snuffed out by a violent gust of wind...the room was thrown into a darkness that was darker...much darker than it should have been.
Then all three of them saw a spluttering outline start to form, out of nothing, and then the features of a man became more discernible.
A fine-looking man too, with the most magnificent pale blue eyes and...the bearing of a nobleman.
Grant was back!
Grant was safe!
Grant had arrived at Bluestone Manor!
Later that day, when the last beams of sunlight had fallen on the village of Brand Green, there was a reunion like no other.
Rosalind had rocketed out of the upstairs window at the first opportunity available to her.
She'd been aware that her beloved Grant was back...back from God knows where, as soon as the Crawford sisters rescue mission was successfully completed.
And she'd been buzzing with a kind of electric charge ever since...even though she'd had to stay within the confines of her coffin.
But now she was free and she climbed up higher than she'd ever flown before, up above her and Grant’s new home, feeling as if she could float forever up here...and she probably could have!
However, on spying the instantly recognizable apparition of her dear, dear Grant, walking nonchalantly, as only he did, along the fabulous tree-lined drive of Bluestone Manor, her heart (her dead heart!) virtually exploded and she had to make an urgent, and rather ungraceful, landing only a few feet away from the object of her desire.
It was going to be interesting, to say the least, making the manor work for them both. But for now, at least, they were free to try and forge a life together.
The Crawford sisters had placed a 'ring of protection' around the manor and its environs...and all Rosalind and Grant could do was hope that it would stay in place long enough...these things were known to hold fast for several hundred years after all.
But, such was the tenacity and durability of the vampire, Rosalind and Grant knew deep down that they would remain under threat forever!