When the train slowed at the station, she barely waited for it to stop before she leaped on board. The passengers who were trying to exit the train gave her nasty looks as she pushed past them, but she cared little for their opinions. She only wanted to get the hell out of Sweden.
She sat in the middle of the car, more than arm’s length from any of the windows, just in case someone tried to punch through and grab her. Her father was powerful and had many, many soldiers who would be more than happy to drag her back to him for punishment. She had seen the things he was capable of doing, and she wanted no part of it.
The car exchanged riders with the platform, and several men and women, and even a few children, pressed in past the doors. She crossed her legs and clutched her duffel bag on her lap, her hand covering her face. She nervously looked at the faces of the people who climbed on board, but to her vast relief, there were no Draugr among them. She felt like she could almost breathe again.
Then he walked in.
He was no Draugr, but he was just as unwelcome to her as a Draugr would have been. He was tall and dark, with long hair and a black leather jacket that was more than a little worse for wear. It looked like someone had taken scissors to it, totally shredding the motorcycle club logo on his back and severing the attached belt. The dangling buckle bounced against his muscular thigh as he walked in and sat in a bench on the other half of the car. There was something strange about him, a shimmer around him that prevented her from seeing his true nature. He wasn’t human, but she wasn’t able to see what he was, which was so much more frightening.
She realized that he was staring at her, and the hand that she held to conceal her face began to tremble. He looked away, maybe to trick her, maybe to be polite. It was so difficult to tell. She gathered her bag and rose, determined to wait for the next train, but a trio of Draugr men appeared on the platform. One of them, dressed in an immaculate black suit and a matching woolen coat, both far too warm for the heat of the evening’s summer weather, lit a cigarette and shook out the match. His eyes locked onto hers, and he took a long drag, then breathed out smoke in a long stream that he sucked back in through his nostrils. He pointed at her.
The doors closed. The train began to pull away. The Draugr and his companions, who were also in suits of a less-expensive variety, just watched her as she was carried away from them.
What are they doing? she asked herself, panicking. What are they waiting for?
She looked back and watched them as they receded, vanishing around the bend as the 9:15 from Stockholm to Paris sped away.
She clutched her bag, looking at the dark-haired man in the shredded jacket. A lock of blonde hair, recently bleached to conceal her native red, fell into her eyes, and she brushed it away. She shouldn’t have cut her hair. It got in the way too easily now, which she would not have expected. Maybe she should have cut it shorter. Maybe she…
She took a deep breath and realized that the man in the shredded jacket was staring at her again. Maybe she should have flown.
The DSB train line she had chosen was her cheapest option, but it would take 20 hours to get there, including a three-hour transfer in Germany. There would be stops in Malmö, Copenhagen, Hamburg, Cologne and then Brussels before it finally reached Paris tomorrow night. She clutched her route map and tried to stop shaking. There would be five options to bail out on this train before she committed to the final destination, five opportunities to run if the man in the jacket didn’t stop staring.
Why is he just staring?
She whispered words of magic, and she tried to put up a camouflage enchantment. The man saw her spell and chuckled, unimpressed. She wanted to scream.
She jumped to her feet and headed back through the train toward the dining car. Hopefully she could find a private berth that she could sneak into before the man in the jacket caught up with her.
She looked over her shoulder. He had stood up, too.
She hurried faster, heading through the sliding doors at the end of the car, passing the connector and going into the next car. She cut through that car, and then the next, moving quickly. There were no private cars that she could break into, unless they were on his other side, which meant that she would have to pass him to find out.
Taking a deep, staying breath, she turned around and faced back the way she had come. A man and woman, speaking quietly to each other with their heads together, like lovers, came into the car. They were the only other people moving around, other than her. The seats were nearly full, all the way from this car through to where she was sitting. That knowledge gave her some comfort in knowing that the man in the jacket wouldn’t be fool enough to attack her with so many witnesses.
A cold breeze blew past her, and she looked for an open window. There were none that she could see. She gritted her teeth and slung her bag over her shoulder, shoving her ticket and train itinerary into her pocket as she did. She was getting so tired of being afraid.
A hand grasped her elbow, and she nearly screamed. She spun toward whoever had grabbed her, but there was nobody standing there. The man in the seat beside her looked at her with disapproval, clearly thinking she was drunk or high or something equally foolish.