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|04-18-2007, 12:41 AM||#1 (permalink)|
Daryl's Fanfic. Castlevania: The Tragic Prince
This is a very old fanfic of mine about Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, starting almost right where it left off (spoilers beware!). It's...not bad but I hope a few comments might jump-start my future fics.
Castlevania: Symphony of the Night
The Tragic Prince
The Enlightened's Lost Tome of Wisdom (Vol. 10, pg. 554): Impassivity-the inability to express one's core emotions. This person may emit an aura that ranges from mild indifference to as drastic as monumental cold-bloodiness. Whatever the intensity of the shade this absence of emotion can slowly eat an individual's capability to feel at all-the suppression of such sensations will, ultimately, extinguish them. With the loss of one's sensitivities all other aspects of the soul (see pg. 99 The soul's corruption) will fade as well. This can be deadly for the individual and all those who should tread his/her path.
My fairest Maria,
My heart is but a candle as I write this most wretched of letters. It burns brighter than words can convey but that matters not-the circumstances are as they are and neither I nor you may sway the hand of God. Soon, I must snuff out this candle just as surly as I must snuff out my own heart. Some may take no joy in meeting one such as darling and lovely as you, embittered by the loss, but I shalt not be one of them. Though it makes what I have to say that much harder I shalt be glad to have known someone as wonderful as you, my dear Maria. Yes, I shalt be grateful for that which was even as I lament that which must be.
The confrontation with my father has been fought and achieved. Richter and Annette are safe and well. We are all safe, for now. Castlevania shalt not return in your lifetime and, hence, there is no need for me to see you again. Do not mourn. I am a vampire, as was my father, and have no place in this world. 'T would be best if I return to my immortal sleep. When Castlevania rises again from the cursed shadows I shalt awaken from my slumber, also.
Know this, my darling, that I love you. Well, as much as one of my blood can, I suppose. I could never tell you that to your face lest you seek to make something of this most woeful of unions. And that would be a tragedy. I cannot help but think of my parents and what dreadful things came of their love. I shan't be responsible for another Prince of Darkness, Maria. And so, by the time you read this letter, I shalt be asleep. Please, take heart. For love, I must banish love. Farewell.
With love and grief,
By the time the half-breed finished penning his letter and drying commenced, sunset peeked through his window. Alucard glanced up with champagne eyes to witness the last nightfall he would in this lifetime. It was beautiful, plainly put. Thin streaks of rose and azure merged with lavender and threads of faint crimson. It might have been a tapestry of colors to bide the prince farewell.
He smiled briefly at that thought-but the smile had a bitter edge to it.
Alucard was aware of his blasphemous legacy as the product (or vampeal, as the common phrase goes) of a human female and a vampire aristocrat. He, the son of the most compassionate and loving woman in existence. He, the son of the most unmerciful and tyrannical monster in existence. One might consider the match comical. Alucard did not. It was his life. It would be his death. For he was the embodiment of sin and love, all in one breath.
His gloved fingers deftly recapped the inkwell, careful not to snuff the candle. Breathing over the parchment, to speed along its drying, his other hand lifted a scarlet ribbon. Meticulously, the half-vampire slid the silk over the document in one fluid movement. One tug and the letter was sealed.
Dropping the paper to his writing table, Alucard sat back and rubbed his golden eyes. All was in readiness for his rest. His friends, with the exception of Maria, had helped him prepare for this night. The room he currently occupied had been cleaned and dusted after its original inhabitant had abandoned the keep due to its proximity to Castlevania ('...something about a man-eating cat...' Annette had explained). Alucard found no such apparition wandering the halls, assumed the initial resident's imagination was a brilliant one, and promptly claimed the mediocre castle as his own.
Yes, the place had easily adapted to his needs. And they weren't much. With Richter's aid, the vampeal had furnished the area with a coffin and a writing table. An extensive-sized bed, with azure sheets, had been left in the chamber and Alucard didn't bother to remove it. Once true night fell, he would lie down in that coffin and sleep a rest such as a vampire can only know.
Such as a vampire can only know, Alucard thought acrimoniously, though no emotion registered on his marble face. None ever could because he had slain those passions long ago. It was thus-either he quelled his emotions or permit his emotions to subdue him. No middle ground. He couldn't allow that, of course, and to escape his father's influence the vampeal destroyed all his desires and feelings.
It had served him well. The thought of losing his only friends and the one woman he could consider himself in love with pained him only remotely. The injury hadn't disappeared but he could deal with it now. Not unlike applying ice to a wound, one might note. But how much longer could he withstand the cry of his own dark soul? The half-breed did not know and did not care...all that mattered now was the knowledge that someday he would turn on his friends. He, and he alone, could protect them and the rest of humanity from the wickedness of his birthright.
And now I must take my leave of you, dear companions, silently spoke Alucard. Into the fading candlelight, he whispered, "Farewell...my friends...and, you, my love...mourn me not..." His eyes shut, digesting the peaceful darkness beneath his eyelids.
A voice, soft as fairies: "Hey, who are you talking to?"
The darkness of those closed eyelids altered to the blackness of another's shadows. His metallic eyes focused to absorb the image of an attractive female standing over his desk. Hair the color of sunlight cascaded over her shoulders, pinned into a ponytail with a blackish-green ribbon. Her almond- shaped eyes, like emeralds, flashed with the diminishing light. She wore a green hunter's outfit, complete with frills and saffron belt, and knee-high leather boots. Her cheeks drew back in a childish smile.
The lovely Maria.
As was his custom, Alucard let his cultured voice tone his words, "Good Evening, Ms. Renard."
Her feathery blond eyebrows lifted. "Since when were we on last name bases, Alucard?"
The fiery Maria.
"Never, Maria." His syllables flowed like silk. "What brings you here to my modest abode?"
"What indeed..." she fumed, tapping a silver dagger at one hip and a cross at the other.
Aware her juvenile nature demanded an answer from him, one she would twist to her own needs and toss back at him, the vampeal said nothing. This irritated her, he could tell. Her smooth lips thinned into a straight line. She had a temper, and a fine one. Still, he remained silent.
The beautiful huntress gave in, as he knew she would, "Richter tells me you're going back to sleep." She laid two gloved hands on his wooden table. A sure sign of her vexation.
"That's correct." His words continued to be akin an ice block-cold and smooth.
"You shouldn't do it!"
"And why should I not?"
"And why should you?"
In the private recess of the vampeal's mind, he chuckled. Maria was quite a handful. Then that laughter soured, once a sweet grape now the bitterest of wines. She was one of the rare individuals he'd met that could lift his heart. He idly fingered his heirloom blade. Maybe he could even love...but 't would be better not to spend time thinking of that which can't be.
He refused to spar with her. "Maria, I must. For the sake of humanity and myself, I must. Don't make this any harder for us. I..." Surreptitiously, he concealed the letter in the volumes of his cloak.
"But, you don't have to go! We'll find a way...Me, and Richter and Annette. You don't have to do this!" Her lips formed a pout of her nature.
Irrational anger swept the half-breed. By mere will Alucard contained it and not a line of emotion marred his ashen features. He stood, alabaster hair falling to his waist. With a hand he flipped his ebony cloak over one shoulder. His champagne eyes appraised her. "Why? It's far better this way...I won't endanger you then." The huntress seemed about to speak but he continued, "No, Ms. Renard. I will not allow one of my kind to remain active. I shan't risk it!"
"But I would!"
"Why? Why do you care so much for me?"
"Because...Because, I love you."
The words hung much like the mist that encompassed his domain. Both felt uncomfortable at the statement, though Maria's disquiet was the only one visible. A slender finger picked at a sole lock of hair. Plus, her eyes declined to meet his. His ill ease was far less noticeable. In one fluid movement, as if passing through water, his hand stroked an angular chin. This was going to be more difficult than he'd originally imagined.
As if he was folding clothing, the prince gathered his thoughts. Meticulously, he extracted the most serviceable words to use to convince Maria the necessity of her surrendering this absurd task. Finally completed, Alucard's lips formed the words but the spirited huntress' next action silenced those syllables forever.
She kissed him.
He returned the kiss.
And then the thought of words vanished as they melted into an embrace.
His arms encircled her slim waist and hers slid around the half-vampire's marble-like neck. Their eyes locked on one another-champagne to emerald-and both could swear the effect was physical. The heat from her body warmed the chill of his own and the silken threads of her hair tickled his cheek. Again, they kissed. And, again.
"Maria..." he breathed, his voice broken for the first time.
She answered by sealing his lips with two of her own.
Sensations, such as he hadn't permitted himself to feel in centuries, now stormed him.
He lifted her up in his powerful arms, listening to her heartbeat, a mate of his.
And Alucard delivered Maria to the bed, laid her down lightly and held her.
Velvety moonbeams and the candle's dwindling light danced over their bodies and their lips merged to one. The huntress lifted her hand to his chest, over the vampeal's ebony coat, and felt his drumming heart. His golden eyes, glimmering with the light, softened at her touch. A sigh expelled from his lips. From hers.
Alucard brought that hand to his lips and kissed. With his other hand he peeled the glove off, ever so gently, and did the same to the other. One purr of delight from Maria informed the half-breed of his beloved's pleasure. She rubbed her cheek against his throat, rasping in contentment. Smiling, Alucard kissed the second hand.
Her pulse beat with each pleasant, startled desire.
His heart thumped at the smell of that sweet nectar.
Two fangs descended into warm flesh.
Maria's scream could have been a thousand vases shattering. Immediately, she snatched her punctured hand away. With her other hand, the huntress cradled the wounded limb. Eyes stared up in fright. For a moment neither could speak. But not for long; Maria was immeasurably shocked but not indefinitely incapacitated as she muttered:
"What have you done!?!"
He could do nothing but gawk, glazed pupils focused inward.
A tiny globe of crimson developed over the mar, scattering into
streams of life fluid to eventually slid down her wrist and fall onto his gothic garments. More blood poured. And still more blood. Eyes aghast, Maria wrapped her hand with the ribbon from her hair. But, the blood persisted.
Words trembling like broken glass, Maria spoke, "....Alucard...Alucard..."
"No!" he cried, his voice several octaves above that attainable of a human.
But he wasn't human. Not human at all.
He was a vampire.
"NOOOOO!" shrieked the prince again. The sound, so loud, shattered the window. A candle, the one he'd used to see his own text, followed suit. Briefly, the flame birthed into a patch of death but it was short-lived, doused by a damp carpet. His next scream could hardly be considered decipherable. All the hate of his race, the pain of his existence, the torment of the damned, colored those incomprehensible syllables.
Maria raised her uninjured hand to his face but he drew back as if she had the plague. His eyes, now animalistic, wavered between rage and grief. The prince continued to back away. His sable cape fluttered around him like shadows to herald his latest crime and his sword clanked as if a toll bell. His actions bewildered the huntress and, grasping her wounded appendage close, she pursed. Like a frightened wild beast, Alucard fled the room, his scream tearing the night.
He had just condemned the only woman he'd ever loved to a life of the damned.
She would be a vampire by dawn.
Into the Rain
Massive blades of lightning cleaved the sky in two. It sliced up the velvety blackness with all the efficiency the vampeal himself could imagine. Ribbons of light illuminated the night like dawn come before its time, flashing against his molten hair and midnight-emulating cape. A second assault on the heavens. And a third. And still more razor-bolts rent the air while savage roars accompanied each blast.
One minute orb of water landed on the half-breed's cheek, feeling much like the tears he dared not shed. Should he allow himself to become consumed by his anguish, Alucard knew he would have no heart to persist in his decision. There was a time and place for sorrow and this was neither. He had committed the ultimate sin-he'd condemned the woman, the only person who could make his heart beat, to a fate worse than death.
His fate. The fate of a vampire.
But he could save her...at the cost of his life...
What a fabulous bargain, dryly thought the prince, as his golden eyes sought the building that was his destination. After having fled his keep, leaving Maria to her stunned distress, the half-vampire's mind swirled with a dozen thoughts in the span of a breath. The only way an individual can be spared the life of the dead was if the vampire who'd inflicted the wound died before sunrise. It demanded even less time to agree to the requirements than it did to accept the concept of death itself. HE was the monster who had done this ghastly transgression and HE would pay the price for his insolence.
Initially, the vampeal had considered a number of efficient demises-some of them quite unpleasant. Burn at a stake. Too reminiscent of the doom his mother suffered. Plunge his sword through his chest. Too bloody and it might rust the edge. He'd even contemplated exposing his body to the scorching blaze of dawn...Much like starvation...long, excruciating, and it granted no guarantee that Maria would be safe...Needless to say, finding a suitable, preferable less painful, death was not easy. Then salvation in the memory of a building came.
By the time he arrived at the terrain, the entirety of his apparel literally oozed liquid. Rotating nearly three hundred and sixty degrees, he finally caught sight of the construction. A rather unimpressive cathedral, one might note, with one-color-scheme walls (plain brown paint, at that!) and a maltreated door. The left portion of the not-so-holy basilica had partially caved in due to the infestation of rats. Alucard was aware of its presence only because Richter, Maria, and he had passed the building when returning from the defeat of Dracula. For some reason the whole structure summoned vague memories to the surface but not any sure idea as to its familiarity. It had the only humane self-extermination he could consider performing.
Proceeding through the threshold, Alucard shut the facet of his emotions off. They had never benefitted him the past and he doubted they ever would. He passed the decrepit hallways and cob-webbed rooms with scant a peek. Oddly enough, he could not locate any crosses the distance of ten paces. Mildly, this irritated the prince. His attention was temporarily distracted by the tug against his step, as if a current bound him. Glancing down, he noticed his cloak dragged in the dust-filled flooring and, with a graceful yank, there was a slight rip noise. The garment no longer hindered him.
Once his champagne eyes lifted, he noted a fork in the chapel. Down the right route led to a meager room while its rival extended the length of several flame-lit corridors. Its reflective nature drew the prince like the smell of blood, very tantalizing to a vampire! Cape undulating, native to the bats that plagued this cathedral, Alucard continued through that path. Though expressionless, he couldn't help but feel awed at his core. Beautiful, he muttered wordlessly.
Twin obsidian pillars beckoned him at regular intervals. Torches flared in iron scones. But his alluring pupils only dilated at the mirrors that engulfed this area. Save for the aforementioned furnishments, his gaze fell only on the mimicking material. A thousand Alucards stared back at him, from a thousand dimensions and a thousand shades and a thousand angles and a thousand...the half-vampire immediately opted to halt his repetitive revelations. Suffice to say, he had entered a fairly speculative passageway.
The Corridor of Consecration. read the platinum sign.
Finally, he completed the journey up the sanctified aisle. Halting before a structure, his boots ending the symphony of walking with a shuffle, Alucard peered up at a holy symbol. And a holier symbol there could not be. Duo wooden rods, crossing one another, was hefted about some distance off the mirror-like ground-eye to eye with him, in fact. A variety of jewels had been encrusted in the surface, glittering with the soft flamelight. They seemed like eyes glowering back at him. At his sins.
This was the holiest of artifacts that transcended even his father's time.
A cross. Exactly what the vampeal had been looking for.
Death, he cried silently in the dark regions of his soul. More lightning scintillated, heralding another onslaught of rain. Each of his reservations, he grabbed in his mind with a firm grip and flung back into his subconscious. True, this self-execution was explicitly humiliating but Alucard endured it. With the fingers of his left hand, he peeled the glove of his other hand off. This much and more he would sacrifice for his beloved Maria. Once he lay in death, who would know or care?
He lifted his right hand to the cross.
He laid five fingertips on the surface.
He rested the remnant of his hand and waited.
But death did not come. Normally, when malevolent flesh came in contact with such a relic of God divine lightning would be activated, then the unholy skin would transmit a fatal bolt to the heart. He should be dead. But there he stood, unaffected. His delicate tawny eyebrows knit. What manner of mischief was afoot? Inwardly shrugging, knowing only that he must unearth another method of suicide, the vampeal retracted his fingers. Or attempted, anyway.
And that's when the pain began. Slowly, like a cancer, it seeped into his senses. First mild, next moderate, then extreme. A gasp expelled from his lips. Any attempts to remove his hand proved fruitless. His flesh warped into ribbons from the sacred flames that immersed his hand. It became so excruciating, it nearly blinded him. He couldn't even scream.
But something did. His name. Not once but twice, in succession. A voice like an angel come from the heavens to relieve the prince of his immortal torment. "Alucard! Alucard!" Almost in too much pain to see straight, he lifted his face. There, in a huntress' green outfit and glimmering gold hair, was Maria. A thousand Marias bolted down the corridor. All running toward him.
Spears of lightning flickered over his face, merging with the firelight and the shadows offering his face an ungodly appearance. The murky cast in his eyes told the story of pain, mental and physical. I must keep her away from me! howled his wordless voice. "Stay away!" But the command from Alucard only confused the huntress. After a brief stop, she continued her advance.
A cliched saying once said, "desperate times call for desperate measures," and Alucard realized how true the proverb was. To salvage his love he'd be forced to banish love, once again. With his unscathed arm, the vampire snaked it at the far wall, detected the fractures in the surface and cried:
True to its name, the flames of Gehenna burst from the vampeal's hand, some brilliant orange-saffron-crimson spheres, others waves of heat, and slammed into the wall. Already under the relentless persecution of the downpour, it gave way to the forces of nature and magic. A grand boom reverberated down the hall. The structure's whole left side exploded. As expected by Alucard, a curtain of water gushed through the aperture. It instantly besieged the marble flooring. Soon, water up to the vampeal's knees had invaded with still more on the way.
Willing with fortitude only a vampire could muster, Alucard forced placidness into his voice. "Maria, you must leave! Depart at once before we both die."
But the huntress would not be curbed from her course. Emerald eyes blazing, Maria strode speedily to him. From the set of her jaw, he could tell she was quite angry. Water continued to stream through the cavity. She reached the prince in short order, observed with eagle eyes, then produced a thin dagger. As she set to task to free his arm, words spilled in offended disarray.
"I suppose-never mind what I think!-you think...that you can run off-damn this wood!"
He sighed. The only emotion he permitted even in this maimed state. Words as hush as the whispers of the wind, Alucard spoke, "You should not have followed me. 'Tis dangerous. I will be the death of you." After having liberated his hand and wrapping the palm with a shred of his cloak, the huntress merely glared at him.
"I should say so...all this chasing after you will bed-rid me for three days!"
"Leave now. When the waters flood this place it will be ended."
"No way, Alucard! You're going to listen to me for once!"
"Now, Maria." Rare was it that the prince raised his voice, but when he did it had the desirable affect of jarring his opponents. The words aligned the huntress's spine. Her lips parted. Her eyes widened. His mouth opened to add more force to his statement when Maria silenced him with a simple gesture.
This time, however, he had the drive to desist
"No, not this time. You will depart." Expecting some sort of resistance, was the half-vampire ever startled (not visibly, of course!) to note that she did not struggle when he drew back. Instead, the huntress merely rested her head against Alucard's chest, listening to his throbbing heartbeat. Her heat, even in this damnable cold, felt reassuring. And he would not say as much to her or anyone else. Especially not Maria herself.
In the vampeal's inhumanly ardent arms, Maria gazed up with a rare serenity. "If you let me stay with you while you die then I promise I will leave." The water was not entering at such a speed as to make this request another ruse to force him out of his decision.
"I have your word?" In the world were integrity was fast becoming yesterday's news, the prince gripped his all that much harder. When humanity lost its dignity that's when it was needed most. And he knew, in the span of her heartbeats, that Maria's thoughts were mutual.
A sigh of appreciation was all the half-vampire extended in response. Encircling her in his arms, reminiscent of Alucard's earlier embrace, his smile briefly divulged to Maria his authentic feelings. Now that he was dying, with no chance to endanger her with his reflections and fantasies, shouldn't he strip the barriers from his soul? Imminent death lending him courage no other disaster could offer otherwise, he spoke:
"Yes, Alucard?" His words seemed to suck the very air from the huntress' lips. She gripped his hand in a grip he thought only vampires had as if Maria feared, should she release the prince, he would die.
"...I love you...I think."
His proclamation promoted a gasp. Emerald eyes sought his gaze and snared it. Having been convinced that such a statement would be impossible to impart, the prince was eternally relieved with its liberation. Too long, he'd frozen all his sensitivities and slain them before first breath. "I...I don't know if I'm capable of love-if a vampire is capable. You deserved to know, though." As Maria remained silent, the vampeal elected to continue, "...When I was little my mother claimed I could love...but she died and I've felt no such emotion...but can I? I mean, can I love?"
The confession and candid manner shocked Alucard himself. He had not intended to be so forthright. But it just flowed so easily...like his vampiric sensations...unharnessable. Soon, his history poured out of his mechanical yet passionate heart. Startled and pleased, the huntress gently squeezed his wounded hand with hers. She lifted both to his heart. The vampeal noted a bite of chill on his palm but, since coldness permeated this place, he assumed it was the result of the steadily-gushing water.
After having expounded on a variety of topics on his life and she on hers, their voices failed them again. A sole issue existed that Alucard wanted to discuss but the toll of his past weighed against his heart. Only his vampiric nature spared him tears, momentarily. "...I want to love!...And to be loved!...But I just don't have the heart-I haven't since my mother's death. Watching her die, burning at a stake...it was too much...I haven't cried since..."
Maria did not comment and the only voice save his own was that of the cascading water, an almost peaceful hiss. "I haven't...cried...until...now..." His eyes glistened with brimming tears. No longer did the huntress gasp alone. He, too, breathed heavily. Dry fear rose to his throat; too late, the emotions flooded him as surly as the waters flooded this damned cathedral.
The huntress eyes softened. She might have been a trying creature but he noted another dimension to her-a courageous, loving woman not unlike his mother. Her constant fascination with touching his heart (figuratively and literally!) both enthralled and unnerved the prince.
And the waters continued their march.
"Alucard, why do you feel you must die?"
Those words gave the vampeal the resolve to contain his tears. It was an action native to him. His father, the infamous Dracula, had little patience for vulnerabilities. 'The weak perish; the strong survive.' But wasn't surrendering to the maniac passion to drink another's blood exemplifying weakness?
Ah, the constant dilemma of his war-waged soul!
"You know that wound I inflicted?" When she didn't respond he assumed the huntress understood. Though his insides twisted like a dish rag, his cool manner concealed it. "If I don't die...you'll become one of us..."
On an unspoken word, the two noted the latest level of the waters. Like the lost city of Atlantis, soon, too, would this structure discover home beneath the pounding of massive waves. Already, it had surpassed both waistlines and wouldn't be long before the waters threatened their sternums. The waters were not transparent-by no means-but staring into the murky depths permitted a distorted view of the underneath; that of their mirrors. Their features, reflected, contorted into a number of shapes, never ceasing, never the same look twice.
The vampeal gently shoved Maria aside. Her face disfigured with sorrow. Oh, how he'd loved to hold her...just a moment more...but the waters beckoned. All any vampire needed to do was dive into water, no matter what type, and immerse his/her heart. Soon, one less vampire would walk the earth...that one less being him.
But the huntress refused to remove her hand. The five fingers tightened over his heart, laced with his own hand. There was his watery grave, summoning; there was his grip on life, pleading. Easily, one such as the prince could liberate himself, but, something in her soulful green eyes gave him pause.
"Please...let me hold your hand...and heart...as you...go."
His thin blond eyebrows lifted dramatically.
"Please...you can go...under...just let me..."
For more precious moments the half-vampire lungs locked with ambivalence. Never before had Maria been so emotional, not in such a mournful fashion anyway. She, an unending storage of astonishment. He assumed it was a rare display of vulnerability. "Very well, but then you will leave. Understood?" It wasn't the faint, sensitive voice of a friend; it was the firm, authoritative voice of a prince.
A slight incline of the head satisfied Alucard. His champagne eyes lowered to his liquid demise. Tormented, melancholy eyes gazed back at him. Am I so transparent? Is this the way it is all suppose to end? he wondered. This is it-my last note in the song of life.
He plunged in.
Again, mortality did not claim him.
The next few moments blurred through his senses. Only the cold blazing in his palm through Maria's hand seemed real. What's happening? he voiced minus words. Cold liquid pressed in on all sides, as if it would wrap around the half-vampire and drown him. The prince could still feel his lifebeat, pulsing through his and the huntress' fingers. With no death in sight, he immediately surfaced.
"What's happening?" cried he in a note below a scream. His penetrating eyes narrowed and by mere will the rest of Alucard's face remained neutral. Golden bangs dangled over his deathly visage and he banished them. He was positively drenched.
One diminutive smile crept into Maria's lips, commencing at the corners and finally seizing her face in a fit of laughter. His eyebrows lowered in displeasure. That erased the grin. Finally, she gestured to their clasped hands, yet over his sternum, and indicated a glimmering object.
A marble cross...undoubtedly, of water protection.
At first, Alucard did not recognize it for what it was. In his weakened state, all aspects of reality became indistinct. Though he did eventually identify it and was undoubtably furious, the prince couldn't tell whether his inhuman heritage or his exhaustion which prevented him from raising his voice. "Ms. Renard, that is completely unforgivable-I had your word."
She flushed but surrendered no ground. Finally, the prince had to cede defeat; if only for the moment. His head swam like the churning liquid below. Why, he didn't know, but the vampeal hauled his undesirable savior to his chest, in a crushing hug. Maria did not resist. His heart wept the tears his eyes would not. Nothing makes her understand! he bemoaned. But she must!
As if the great earth itself clove asunder, the wall and others beyond, fully detonated. Fragments scattered. Water spiraled. Dust soared. The explosion tore his beloved from Alucard's grasp. He, himself, sailed off his feet and flattened, hard, into the opposing wall. A fount of pain erupted at his temple and lightninged down his spine. Slowly, he began to slid into the inviting waters...
NO! STAND UP, ADRIAN! screamed a voice into his subconscious. Without hesitation, he obeyed. Struggling with unwilling limbs and unforgiving waters, the vampeal managed to straighten up. Had he not, the prince realized, he'd be dead (really dead, not undead). Yanking hairs from his cheeks, Alucard instantly scanned the area for Maria. The huntress lay, face down, floating in the ever-increasing waters. A thin streak of sickly pink diffused from her. His heart nearly cracked a rib from the smell of blood, the coppery tang, but he tolerated it.
"Oh, dear God, no..."
Sucking in a breath, the half-vampire waded through a violent current towards her. Though he had little concern for his own welfare-he was suppose to be dead, was he not?-Alucard knew that, should he perish, Maria might as well. It was an agonizingly slow process to reach the huntress while avoiding submerging his chest. Each step brought him closer to her and her closer to perhaps death.
Once he arrived, his ashen fingers probed her neck. Blood continued to pour down from a head wound as steadily as the liquid filled this damned temple. It played havoc with his mind. His vampire sensations went berserk.
He shut his eyes against the craving, much like a drug making the unthinkable, thinkable. Only the prince's love of her prevented his fangs from tasting flesh again. That and the knowledge from a pulse, which claimed Maria yet lived. His eyes opened slowly. A thankful murmur passed his lips-and became a vicious curse, one inappropriate for his position, as a huge wave soared at them. Even his fast-as-thought speed could not aid Alucard as the two were flung down the corridor. Water crashed from everywhere as well as debris. His hand clung on Maria with a vice-like grip and he fought to force his chest afloat.
As easily as one might toss grass, the duo sailed through the hallway. Water rushed in his ears, seeming to come from a dozen directions as they rode the wave. He fought and fought and fought. And still he fought, until his stamina nearly failed. Thankfully, a crease in the flooring snared his cloak and prevented him from going under. Ironically enough, it was the same mar that had irritated him earlier.
As they passed the passageway's entrance, Alucard had enough presence of mind to see the room to their left, the one he had declined to enter in favor of the Corridor of Consecration. Almost like a entity foreign to his body, the half-vampire's gloved hand erupted from the watery depths. It latched onto the doorhandle. His other hand held Maria aloft.
Pain...so much pain...must...save...her...Only these words ran through Alucard's mind, as if they were the sole words he'd learned. A grunt came from his salt-licked lips as he forced both himself and the huntress into the room. His injured appendage blazed without fire and sweat beaded his creased forward, as he slammed the door shut. Pressurized fluid rammed the wooden frame and slipped under the threshold. It would not hold forever, but the prince prayed forever was not how long he'd be here.
Sliding down on his seat, Alucard dimly glanced about. Certainly not dry, the chamber at least looked serviceable, currently, without a dangerous level of water. Neither was it a spacious room. He surmised it was a storage room, what with the crates and bins and all. A single window permitted enter for more water, that of rain, and provided the only light, that of lightning.
The vampeal slithered over to Maria and ensured her head rested comfortably and safely. He could not determine the precise area of her wound and was forced to bound a godly surface. His black and now tattered cape proved an excellent dressing. Satisfied that she was safe, at least momentarily, Alucard's eyes drooped. He needed rest-desperately-and damn the situation...
His eyes fluttered open and his heart seemed to halt.
Adrian, fly as a bat. Get help for your friend. Return, posthaste.
Sweat, water, and maybe even tears streamed down the half-vampire's cheeks. Could that be...mother? But, that was silly. His mother had been dead for nearly four centuries. His champagne eyes trailed to Maria, in his arms. He did not wish to leave her so vulnerable, but the vampeal also knew that he could not carry her to safety. Whether it was his mother, his father, or his own insanity calling, Alucard had no choice but to heed the words.
As the transformation commenced, pain signed his nerves. A feral scream emitted from his lips. His muscles, organs, and skeletal systems reformed. Both eyes narrowed and wings sprouted from his shoulder blades. All clothing and equipment merged with the vampeal's new skin. His old self melted away into a hunter of the night.
Lightning still savaged as the bat glided gracefully through the sole fracture in the window. Rain pounded on his wings, as if determined to keep him from his destination. And, meanwhile, in the nameless chamber, an inconsequential cross glittered.
It mirrored a face.
The face of Dracula.
Smacking into a window with all the speed of a supernova hurt. A lot.
Just another experience the half-breed could add to his less-than-normal life.
The moment Alucard crashed into the glass pane light danced in his eyes, revealing the comically twisted expression of Richter. Annette, nearby, also gaped with astonishment. Lightning flared in that same instant, rippling through the skies like shredded cloth. The glass fragmented and, almost before he could shut his eyelids, impaled the half-vampire. Illogical theories by traumatized masses claimed that if something hurt it would last forever and, if true, than it seemed like the vampeal would be suspended in time ceaselessly.
When the half-vampire landed on the drenched grass, pain engulfed him. Unbidden, the retransformation commenced. His whole body molded and remolded. Again, all the internal and external systems reconfigured, this time from that of a bat to that of a man. One almost inaudible moan came from his ashen lips.
A voice. "Oh, my, God! Ann, did you just see what I saw?"
Another. "A bat just hit the window!"
The prince opened his eyes gingerly, still very much in pain. Those golden pupils absorbed the flash of ribbonated lightning. Alabaster strands tickled his cheeks. With his good hand, Alucard stripped it aside even as it smeared his face. Unconsciousness threatened to steal him away to the darkness but the agony darting up his face suppressed the urge. With pain came thought and with thought came awareness.
"...Ma...ri...a...Maria..." he breathed.
More sounds reached his ears, heralding the forms of the fabled vampire hunter, Richter and his bride, Annette. Richter had befriended the half- breed when Alucard delivered him from the arcane orchestrations of the dark priest, Shaft. A curious friend, no doubt, since Richter's ancestry were dedicated to exterminating the half-vampire's race. But Maria's insistence and his honorable deed gave the vampire hunter a change of heart and whip. As for Annette, she immediately accepted anyone her husband allied with and damn the fact that Alucard's former occupation included blood-sucking.
Infinitely grateful was he ever. "...Thank...God..."
Once the duo arrived they did not remain inactive for long. A quartet of arms encircled his and proceeded to drag the vampeal inside. Neither spoke. It appeared that, were they to voice their concerns or questions, poor Alucard would fall into the dark unawareness. Finally, all three reached the safety of the building. The couple gently laid Alucard on the wooden flooring. Both exchanged glances. Both looked immensely worried.
Such was unnatural for the flamboyant tastes and easy-going attitude for Richter, the half-breed knew. The very fashion of the vampire hunter's apparel proved it. Auburn strands flourished for a mane. His dark violet cloak contrasted sharply against the white silk of a shirt and the pastel blue of slacks. His wife had beauty similar to Maria. A golden waterfall for hair poured down her back, longer than her sister's and currently her outfit was a simple green dress. Viewing Annette's emerald eyes, identical to Maria's, restored remembrance of his mission.
Now worry became fear.
"...Must...go to her.."
Like a predator loathe to relinquishing its prey, the infinite blackness sought to drag him under. Only by an inhuman force of will did the half- breed remain conscious. And, only because of such an paranormal parentage did he keep the assailing pain from his voice. Polished, he spoke, "She's in danger. She...came looking for me and...we arrived at the cathedral-"
"What one?" Annette immediately inquired, rightfully distressed.
Now that the monotone had full leisure of his words, Alucard could continue, unhindered, "It's at the outskirts of town. A wall exploded-near the watervein-and flooded the church."
Richter whistled in alarm while Annette's face contorted in dismay.
"But, we managed to reach a safe room. Maria and I were injured. She was not conscious and I could not bring her here...We must return."
Without another word, the vampire hunter snatched his whip, Morning Star, and crackled it expertly a few times. An attractive whip, with slender inscriptions on the hilt and several gems embedded in the hilt. Beautiful but deadly. Neither as beautiful or deadly as his own weapon, an heirloom blade, but impressive nonetheless. His other hand yanked the violet cloak close. "Right. I'm going after her."
"I shall accompany you." Alucard was surprised at how elegant his voice held. He had been swimming with death after all.
"And me, too!"
Two pairs of eyebrows, one the color of champagne, the other of chestnut, lifted as Richter and Alucard turned to face a defiant Annette. To even more disbelief, the woman produced a dagger, and sliding it along the hem of dress, made the length far more navigable. She stuck the knife through her belt. Her eyes glittered with a defiance rivaling Maria's.
"Oh, no, you're, not!"
"Oh, yes, I, am!"
Inwardly, the half-breed chuckled. She was so much like her sister! Both Belmonts stared each other down. Declining to discover who would emerge victorious (Richter had quite an intimidating snarl while Annette could be formidable once angered), the vampeal spoke, traditionally cold, "Seeing as time is of the essence, I don't think we have much of a choice. We must help Maria posthaste."
Though he shook his head sadly, Richter didn't argue. Alucard continued, swift as thought, "To the church!"
Richter grabbed his wife's arm and proceeded toward the door. Immediately, an inspiration dawned on the half-vampire and he halted the couple with his cool as ice tone, "Follow me." Without waiting for an affirmative or negative, he commenced the transformation again. For the third time that day his body mutated, shaped and reshaped, all the while tearing an animalistic scream from his throat.
Vampeal became bat.
His wings extended, hands of the night, talons gleaming. After a hasty nosedive, nearly colliding with the wooden planks, he then banked sharply upward. Regaining control of the currents, Alucard swooped over the threshold. The half-breed thought he heard a chuckle in Richter's voice as the hunter hollered, "Lead away, bat!"
As if the heavens wept the fall of the brightest of angels, another sheet of rain savaged the vampire hunters and their unlikely winged companion. It took mere moments for the three to become drenched thoroughly. Fortunately, this all indicated that dawn was yet hours away. Both Annette and Richter were forced to shout at him to slow every so often lest the blinding shrouds consume his silhouette from view. Lightning illuminated his curves with fierce efficiency but such was of no use if he aviated too fast. It was difficult to remind himself that they were mere mortals while the blood of an immortal vampire coursed through his veins.
Was HE the fallen angel they mourned? Fallen into the path of his father, Prince of Darkness?
He didn't know. He didn't think he ever wanted to know. The half-breed slammed a mental fist on the lid of such thoughts. Self-analyzing had served him as much as emotions-not at all.
It was a trying time, indeed, as the trio sought to battle the furious gusts and vicious rain. Richter, his footing rarely sure, uttered such a string of obscenities that Annette promptly told him to shut up. Not that her husband was prone to cursing, but the anxiety he surly experienced gave him quite a mouth. All three were on edge.
Those dreadful feelings only worsened when they arrived at the cathedral. If the condition was bad before, now it was far times far worse. Forever seemed to come and go as the hunters and Alucard sought the window he'd flew from earlier. Just as all their hearts were quicksand with despair, the bat's heightened sense of smell indicated to a broken pane that Annette fingered.
Not waiting for the others, the vampeal darted in. His impatience was rewarded with a rude landing as he lost control of the wind streams and collapsed. Once inside, the retransformation began and he clipped a shriek as the electric agony parched his limbs. He fought off unconsciousness.
Annette appeared by his side, quickly helping him into a sitting position. How they had managed to enter did not become clear until Alucard looked up and saw the furthered shattered window. Tiny shards fell like the drips of icicles after the onslaught of winter ended. Richter, without delay, glanced about for his missing sister-in-law.
"Are you sure we're in the right room?"
The half-vampire's golden eyes scanned the area.
He frowned and murmured, his immaculate voice slightly off key. "This is the room...the cross!" Two obsidian gloved hands, both the injured and uninjured, snatched up the water-protection holy symbol. Ice blazed in his palms yet he ignored it. "She was here but..."
And that's when he saw it.
Blood. A pool of blood.
"Is that Maria's?" Annette's voice, unusually calm.
"I have a bad feeling about this..." Richter's, this time, and unusually serious.
When a ribbon of light enlightened the chamber, and the life fluid become distinct, the half-breed recognized the writing. A partially coherent pattern, thin lines and curves of blood formed into a number of sentences. It was in a language only a few in this time era would know. He was one of them.
My dear son. Your beloved mortal is unharmed, by me, and in my care. If you wish to see her again, and I know you do, return to the Corridor of Consecration. Your destiny and I await.
Swallowing, his vampiric heritage keeping the turbulent emotions in check, Alucard whispered, "Dracula has Maria..." Annette instantly gasped but otherwise seemed in control. Richter looked grim. "He wants me to go to him in the next hallway..." His voice trailed off in question.
"We're going with you," the huntress insisted, pushing back a golden strand.
"Can't let you face big, bad vampire alone, can we?" her hunter husband contributed, able to leak a tad of humor in. Then he added, "Man, how many times do I have kill that monster?"
Alucard wondered that himself. Will I spend the rest of my life slaying my father, burying my emotions and residing in a coffin? his silent voice asked. Dismissing that unbidden line of sentiment, the half-vampire gathered his midnight cloak around him and stood, politely refusing Annette's aid. With a elegant gesture and the three huddled. "I have a plan...but you must all listen very carefully." Gripping the cross in one hand and the hilt of his sword in another, he let his cultured voice detail the plan...
Save for the steady whisper of water and the trio's footfalls, silence pervaded the air. Lightning also rumbled, but distantly, as if it, too, acknowledged the muteness' supremacy. Alucard led, his head bowed, white- gold bangs concealing a deathly face. His black cape trailed behind, like the shadows of his past, and he uttered not a word. His companions noted his ill ease and continued to be similarly quiet.
I am sorry, dear friends, to deceive you...but I fear no other way remains, Alucard sighed.
Flames harassed and licked the half-vampire's clothing as they sprang like hands to him. Those brilliant sparks reflected off the mirror-emulating walls and flooring. They passed the obsidian pillars, the half-vampire ever in the lead while the vampire hunters followed in his wake.
You are far safer this way...I have created this calamity...forgive me...
So immersed in this heartrending state of mind that Alucard didn't lift his head until a voice, from the darkest pit of hell, snapped it up:
Emotion lightninged to his heart, the half-breed breathed, "Father..."
Once you laid your eyes on Lord Vladimir Dracula Tepes, the Prince of Darkness, there would be question that the legends spoke true. Dracula emitted such an aura of fear that most mortals run screaming in terror. Like steel from a blade, silver hair poured to his shoulder's, and capped a chin. Thin lines embedded in his face only accentuated his prominent demeanor.
Richter growled low in his throat as the Prince of Darkness approached. Paying no attention to that, and not even to Annette's cry of "Maria!", the half-breed encountered him half-way. His father stood taller, about seven feet, towering like a shadow from above, and his extensive cape flickered, one side black as night and the other; as blood. As Dracula lifted his son's chin in one white-gloved hand, Alucard did not balk. He met the soulless eyes, though his heart threatened to punch out of his chest.
"You've come..." His father's voice could have been a knife beneath silk. It sounded smooth but underneath was unmistakable danger. One word wrong, one breath wrong, and Dracula probably wouldn't hesitate to slay them all.
"To kill me, I presume?"
"Then, to accept my offer?" There was no need to expound on that statement. Alucard was all too aware of the offer, Dracula frequently questing him about 'redeeming himself in the eyes of his kin and embracing his destiny'. The dark eyes trailed over his companions. They tensed. He smiled. It had all the humor and none of the warmth. "If true be your words, why are they here?"
Alucard swore his heart would flee but he forced neutrality in his tone and face.
"They want their friend back...If..." For a moment the half-breed couldn't go on. Lightning flashed that same instant, illuminating his father's malevolent visage. Finally, after breathing deeply, he finished his proposal. "If you let them go...and take their friend...I'll follow your path...I'll do as you ask..."
Dracula's eyes flickered curiously, briefly, as if confused. The next action he did shattered Alucard's heart and made his blood run cold.
His father threw back his head and laughed.
When the Prince of Darkness dropped his hand, Alucard nearly got whiplash. Swinging his arm in one perfect arch, Dracula muttered a magical word. Both his friends forthwith collapsed in agony. Annette swore vehemently while Richter gasped. The half-breed had expected it to be vice-versa. Then, his father turned his attention to the sleeping Maria.
"You love her, don't you?"
The question received no response. Alucard merely gazed at the huntress huddled form. She was as beautiful as ever. Curls spilled from her head to partially conceal her cheek as Maria lay on her side. If her head wound was still present, then the blood had at least ceased.
"I'll give you a choice, Adrian...if you suck Maria's blood and prove to me you truly have come over to my side then I'll let her friends go. If you should refuse, however, then I'll have to content myself with murdering you all..."
Alucard's eyes dilated almost to the point of being heard. His father stood, waiting, his own pupils glimmering with the ribbons of light. Groans and protests came from his friends. Maria didn't awaken.
He fell to a knee.
Prince of Darkness[/B
]Flames from the not-so-distant scones flared as if in answer.
"I accept," Alucard echoed, forcing dispassionateness into his voice. As ever, he used his vampiric soul, free of trivial feelings, as a counter to his human heart and the emotion it inevitably entailed. His father's lips curled, a mockery of a smile, and he laid one cold hand on the half-breed's shoulder. The other lifted to probe his own chin in contemplation.
Words haunted each other in the vampeal's mind. Please, take my word. Please, whatever God is out there, make him believe me! I know I am a darkness vanquishing darkness, in an evil cycle, but if my blood is tainted, is not my heart pure? Please...
God answered his prayer.
"Rise, Adrian, I embrace you as dose the darkness that is your birthright. Too long, I have waited for this moment-the moment you admit your destiny." Though his father's voice was like the night, piercingly cold, it carried a tint of warmth. Love for a son?
Perish the thought, Alucard! spoke the half-vampire to himself. He does not love you, has never loved you, and cannot love...much like yourself.
Slowly, he obeyed, coming to his feet. Gripping Dracula's hand in his own, Alucard straightened. In the background he heard more groans and objections. Richter sounded angry and in pain while Annette almost seemed faint. He had no time to worry about that, however, as the Prince of Darkness led him to the body of Maria.
Dove. Angel. Rose. Whatever one might consider the blond beauty Alucard himself, as poetic as he was, couldn't compare. Soft breaths misted from her lips, as her eyes twitched with some unseen thought, unspoiled by his bandage. For a moment, he could do nothing, enraptured with her loveliness.
Then, Dracula gestured for him to begin.
Kneeling, the vampeal kept a champagne eye on his father. He could not hope to destroy the Prince of Darkness if should he attempt too soon. Blood pulsed in his veins with abnormal speed. The fragrance of Maria's own life fluid was blindingly intoxicating for the vampeal as he lifted her hand in a fictitious display of draining her blood. He waited...
His father turned away for a brief minute. And that's all he needed.
A brilliance of white, Alucard leapt to his feet. In those seconds between victory and defeat, time tempered the air, it seemed, into agonizing ineptness. Dracula revolved his head, two eyes, a window into a nightmare. Alucard's breath even suspended. Forever could have come and gone as the cross, the one Maria had used to save the half-vampire's life, buried into his father's forehead.
Dracula should have been the one screaming someone's name. Dracula should have been the one howling in pain. Dracula should have been the one crossing the barrier between life and death.
He wasn't. For centuries Alucard had denied darkness the opportunity to seduce him. But, as the blackness wrapped him up, and the sensations faded, the half-breed could but heed their call. What he was heeding, he could not imagine.
Mother. Mother's precious voice.
"Mother? Mother, is that you?"
Blackness. Utter Blackness.
"Yes, my beloved child, it is I."
Home. He felt so home now.
"Where are you?! I can't see!"
Panic. Panic gripped his heart.
"Open your eyes...and save me from those wicked humans!"
Adrian immediately complied. When his vision returned, his eyes fell on a most atrocious scene. There was his cherished mother, Lisa Marie Tepes, strapped to a burning stake. Where was he? Who was he? What was going on? Then, it all came back, with frightening suddenness. Of course! He was an eight year old boy, watching as the foolish, cruel humans were engulfing his mother in flames!
He did not hear the flames.
"You bastards! Stop!! Stop! STOP!" A cold hatred, not from human emotions but from vampiric rage, swept him. The vampeal raced for his mother, drawing his blade and slaying the evil peasants who defied him. Something at the core of his being pleaded with him to halt but Alucard would not. These malevolence humans were killing his mother. He must save her! Blood scattered, a perfume to his nose.
He did not smell the blood.
"Yes, Adrian! Kill them! Kill them all!"
A portion of the peasants fled, others screamed, still others were foolish enough to contest his sacred vow to save her. The humans had decided that his mother was evil-but they were the evil ones! They chose to kill what they did not understand. He would make them pay. Those within range of his gleaming blade were either cleaved in half, beheaded or stabbed in the gut. Still some of the commoners persisted. After slaying a wide path to his mother, Adrian reached up to untie her.
He did not burn from the flames.
Once he freed her, Adrian intended to flee with his mother. But as he pulled toward an opening through the wicked masses, she resisted. "No, my son. They have hurt your mother. They must pay!"
He froze, confused...Something wasn't right...It seemed surreal...
"THEY MUST PAY!!!"
This time he did not question. Raising his sword, Adrian continued to massacre the commoners. His mother indicated to two of the masses in particular-a brown-haired man carrying a whip and a blond woman in a green dress-and he immediately attacked. Both individuals appeared stunned and horror crawled over their features...but he minded that not. They had hurt his mother and they would suffer.
The man dodged a massive downward cut from him and continued to duck. A string of obscene language came from his lips. Dismissing him for the moment, Adrian thrust his blade at the woman. She was not so fortunate. The blade hit home in flesh, the shoulder to be precise.
His mother howled. "KILL! KILL!!! KKKIIIIIIILLL!"
Seemed so surreal...so unreal...
"Alucard! Oh, my God, what are you doing?" yelled the man.
"Stop, please!" cried the woman.
Their voices...so real...
Adrian turned to his mother, sword lowered. "Why, mother? Why must I kill them?" His mother looked enraged. In the time it took for him to breathe, however, the look metamorphosed. Then it contorted and warped into a far more gracious expression. She gestured for him to come into her arms and he went willingly. All the while the other two stared in utter shock, exchanging appalled whispers.
"Don't you want to protect your mother?" Lisa asked in an ultra-honeyed tone.
"Then, you must." Her eyes were infinitely loving. Just as he remembered them, a crisp blue. Her golden hair, a shade deeper than his own, flowed over him. "...but there is something more significant..." Ignoring the whip- bearing man and the injured woman, his mother led him to another blond female. She, too, evoked memories...so shattered...
His mother lifted his face to hers. The ruffles of the ebony gown should have been tickling his chin. But they did not.
"Drink her blood."
"Do what your mother says."
To say it was difficult to resist the woman who had given birth to Adrian was a grave understatement. Her voice was an odd mixture between hypnotic and soothing. In his soul, where the turbulent emotions once lived but now only drifted, dead, a coldness filled him. Once those feelings faded the wild vampiric sensations seemed logical. So natural.
He must heed the call. He was a vampire. He was the Prince of Darkness.
"Yes, mother..." Flipping his twilight cloak over a shoulder, he lifted the delicate hand with his fingers. Warmth, from her coursing blood, excited him and sensations jumbled within the prince with an alarming rate.
Leather across his face forced the vampeal back. He retreated and scowled at the assailant. A man with a fiendish whip stood before him, fury radiating. His female companion menaced a dagger near. His would-be victim was stirring but not yet awake.
Shaking his head, his adversary whispered, "I don't know what's come over you...Dracula must have done something...but I can't let you hurt Maria."
"We'll stop you!" The daggered lady added.
Laughter, cool, enveloped the area. Adrian looked up. It was his mother's laughter. But it wasn't his mother's laughter...But it was...He balled his fists and covered his temples in a portrait of despair. Where was he? Who was he? What was going on? As the vampeal knelt, confused, his mother flung out her hands and both of the opponents sailed up and then down. After that, she walked over to him and touched his arm.
Something strange happened then...All the doubts fled his mind, washed with his purpose.
He lifted the hand again....
He opened his mouth....
He brought his teeth down...
He froze. Both golden eyes lowered to the sight of his soon-to-be victim. Her own eyes, green as the deep ocean, gave him pause. She smiled. "Alucard! You came for me! Just like I knew you would!" Ambivalence thieved the air from his lungs. Had he been able to speak-not that could!- Adrian/Alucard would have found his conversational inventory quite empty. "Maria..." he murmured brokenly. His soul, once a haven for unemotional hate, erupted with sorrow and love. Now the vampeal knew what had occurred.
This was a dream. A magic-induced, emotionless-enhanced, father-designed dream.
"Maria, I..." The two held close, he with his head buried into her shoulder, she rubbing the half-breed's back as one might do for a distressed child.
"ADRIAN!" His mother's voice...but not his mother's. Adrian stood, gesturing for the huntress to help their friends, now so clear to his memory. Richter lay some distance away, his face and body seared. Annette was yet beyond him with a burned arm and wounded shoulder. As the huntress obeyed, he riveted his attention on 'his mother' not with cold hatred but grieved love.
"You are not my mother."
"You are my son."
"You have failed. I will not be manipulated in a dream to do your bidding. And that's all this is-a dream. But my friends are here so I guess I'm actually sleepwalking, right? But now that I know and have defeated your evil influence, I will awaken and stop you."
A snarl came from his father/mother. "Do you think you can so easily evade your fate, foolish child? You are a vampire and cannot escape this realm. If you kill me you will simply rise as another of me."
Dracula. Prince of Darkness.
Alucard. Prince of Darkness.
As the image of his mother faded so did the images of the others. Even Maria vanished, extinguished in a swirl of nothingness. All the son of Dracula saw was a bloody field devoid of bodies that should be there. The life fluid made him violently ill and he fell down again. Was he doomed to be trapped in the vaults of his own mind until the half-vampire accepted his immoral destiny?
"No, Adrian." The sound immediately made him look up.
His mother. Only this time it really was his mother.
Instantly, without knowing why, Adrian/Alucard knew this was no Prince of Darkness. Her angelic eyes shone with a love his father was not aware of. She merely stood there, a sad smile on her face. "If you wish to return to save your friends and yourself you need but truly believe and it will happen."
"I miss you."
"Do you? I've been with you."
"Remember when the waters flooded this chapel and you almost died? I did not want to see you die so I spoke to you.and the time I told you to get help for Maria...and...so many times."
Tears streamed his face, as his cultured voice wavered, "I do remember."
"Remember this also: I love you."
And with that the apparition diminished, light merging with dust. Since the vampeal had never known much of true emotion the whole experience frightened him. However, his friends were in serious danger. Dracula's intentions were obvious enough-to make him a full-blooded vampire. Now, Alucard knew what must be done.
He must die.
Lifting the blade, his heirloom, the half-vampire thrust it into his own heart...
I am dreaming!
...and he awoke. Once the amber eyes flittered open, the half-vampire's gaze fell on that of his sire's. Two steel-gray pupils locked on his. The Prince of Darkness' lips set in a straight line as he laced a hand through his silver hair. "You deny your destiny?" The manner he spoke would convince an uneducated onlooker that he mentioned the weather but there was both mental and physical pain in it.
So clear it was to the half-breed now as it was not then. Once he had embedded the cross into Dracula's brow the Prince of Darkness had cast a very powerful incantation on him. That spell encased Alucard into a dream- mental world that his father had manipulated to his own devices. Only the combined efforts of his mother, friends, and his own reason had restored his sanity and sensitivities.
"Yes..." the vampeal answered as his eyes continued to scan the area. As he straightened, his vision also revealed the forms of Maria, Richter, and Annette. The three lay, huddled, assembled into a pile of unconscious victims. Alucard prayed his weakness, that of such poor control over his emotions, did not cost them their lives. They deserved so much more...and his sacrifice was a simple price to pay.
"Will you not cease this madness, father? Do not force me to plunge your soul back to the flames of damnation!" These were not just the words of a son distraught over his father's fall; they were words spoken by an avenging angel. He did not recognize his own voice.
Only laughter and the vampire's blazing palm, threatening his friends, answered him. So this is what it has come to, Alucard noted bitterly. Father verus son for eternity! Pinching the bridge of nose in dismay, the vampeal's other hand probed his scabbard for his blade. With a yank and he menaced it before Vladimir. Silvers of predawn, an indication of the precious time he had remaining to kill himself and restore his beloved, glittered along the blade.
"If you will not desist then I have no choice but to destroy you..."
"Or die trying..."
Both combatants charged toward one another, cloaks rippling as if alive. Dracula's weapon, a massive spear, interlocked with that of the younger Tepes', a slender heirloom sword. Champagne to silver eyes met. Each used his supernatural strength to force the other down. Because Alucard carried only half-vampire blood the vampeal was overpowered. He stumbled to the waterlogged tiles, seeing the morning streaks and all too aware of what that connoted.
Meanwhile, whipping in a shining arc, his loosened blade sliced through the air and landed some distance away with a clank. The next events progressed so swiftly that Alucard didn't have time to think. Dracula made a low cut to his head. He ducked. High slash to the knees. Dodged. Thrust. Slash. Hack. Again and again the half-breed evaded the swings as the elder Tepes sought to murder him. More often than not Dracula's rapid efforts scored wounds in his son's flesh. Each step left a bloody footprint in the vampeal's wake.
"When your better half prevails victory shall be mine."
"When my better half prevails victory shall be mine." The half-vampire countered, each breath torture. As his father advanced the vampeal immediately induced a transformation, this time, of mist. As his structure dissolved he admitted only a moan. It was indeed painful.
But the next thrust by Dracula proved ineffective because his strike impacted mere air. Mist brushed pass his midnight/crimson cloak, rustled, and emerged behind. Fast-as-thought, Alucard retransformed. At the same instant Vladimir spun around, the vampeal snatched up his blade. With a warcry, tore from raw passions, he slammed the blade in.
Now the son's efforts were unrewarded. While a string of blood sprouted and left a gap in Dracula, the Prince of Darkness grinned. "Foolish, foolish child! Mere toys cannot kill me! I will kill-kill you all-and resurrect you, my son, in my image." With that, he drove his son to the vampeal's knees.
Horror, disbelief, and despair all took turns playing over Alucard's face. The sensations, so newly discovered, reached everywhere but his eyes. In them burned determination. Ivory-gold bangs draped over his brow. Sweat beaded his forehead. Blood fled his veins. Pain, mental and physical, assailed him brutally.
But he still got up.
Water and blood splashed with each step son made toward father. Once face- to-face, the half-vampire exhibited the blade. Dracula's chortles filled the corridor. Apparently, the Prince of Darkness believed Alucard about to cleave him asunder. He had no such plans.
The blade, a beautiful weapon from eras ago, clanged noisily to the floor. For a moment, that was all the action in a stoic world. But there was subsequent action, a slight of a hand as five gloved digits darted over to the wooden cross that hung. It was the same holy symbol that had scorched his skin a short while ago. Just as in the dream, death was only answer. His other hand snatched his father's.
This time Dracula screamed...echoed by his son.
What a horrible night to have a curse.
A massive bolt of divine lightning jolted from the cross. His earlier attempt was in vain because of the high concentration of human blood. But, this time, the life fluid of a true vampire was in the circuit, spelling death for both. As the pain seared every nerve in his body until it created a level of nonfeeling Alucard sank down. His hands were yet gripped by the holiest of artifacts and the darkest of demons.
At last, death...the half-breed sighed, his final words thus:
Out of the Ashes
A young boy squat down on the grass and cried. He wept because his mother, misconstrued for a witch, was being burned to death by aggravated peasants. The flames blossomed in the not-so-distant distance while the shrieks of manic merriment savaged his little ears. Tears continued to stream his cheeks because he realized why this calamity was transpiring-and the onus was on him.
"Mama... I'm sorry.cough.sob.If I hadn't.sob.sob.told them about me.being a.vampire..sob.cough...sob.they wouldn't be hurting.sob.you...mama.sob." These words, from a broken heart, were not lost on the tot's observers. They were three and an odd trio if there ever was one.
The one at the far right was a demon straight out of a nightmare. His lengthy silver hair flowed like water as he stared with sharp eyes. A cloak billowed from his shoulders, of expensive and gothic taste, only emphasizing the appalling pallor. To the left stood a ravishing woman with hair the color of the sun and a smile to match. White ruffles contrasted with her ebony gown. And in the dead center, a man that could have been, and was, another version of the child, watched with doleful metallic eyes as his own black garb fluttered in tune with his amber hair.
Alucard turned to his mother, voice splintering, "So, you know.I am so sorry."
"Yes, Adrian. I wish you would face your grief and you have nothing to feel sorry for. You were a child trying to understand your heritage. It must have been hard to bear."
His father grimly added, "A terrible burden, indeed."
The vampeal's eyes flashed. "What does it matter to you!? I have never mattered to you!"
"No.Adrian.I do love you.in my own way."
Before the half-breed could protest his mother spoke up: "Adrian, we love you. Both of us. You've defeated your father but that doesn't change the fact of who you are."
Bitterness besieged his voice as he answered, unable to contain feelings he attained short moments ago. "Yes, I am a vampire.always will be.and so I am dead and that's the way it should be."
Both parents exchanged a look.
"You're not dead-just your vampire side is," explained the Elder Tepes.
"And now it's time you returned to the mortal world," his mother declared.
As if the mere mention of another existence were enough to bring it to life, the half-vampire's head spun and he collapsed to a knee. Was he dreaming again, in a bridge of life and death? Pondering this, Alucard struggled to stand. But he failed.
The wife of Dracula immediately caught him in her arms, oddly strong, and lowered him. Still within his matriarch's soothing embrace, the prince whispered, ".Mother.I don't want.to go.If I return, she is in danger." Even as the half-breed articulated this, grayness cluttered his eyes. His mother was shaking her head, gold strands crowning her brow. "With your vampire self dead she is no longer at risk now." A sensation of nonsensation seized his body. He fought-furthering the haze.
"Don't you want to see your friends again?"
A second voice, now. "Then let go, Adrian, for you are yet alive." Though his vision was so poor that it would not permit him a view of his sire, the prince knew that Dracula was at his side. With a hand, the injured, Alucard gripped his father's arm. "I.am.sorry."
"Don't be. You've won, my child, and I accept the loss. The battle has ended. I will enter the realm of death with your mother.you've earned my admiration and.love."
The darkness almost complete, Alucard murmured, "I love you."
His mother smiled, "We love you, too."
And then the darkness was complete.
"I love you, too!" gushed a female voice.
Slowly, the prince's eyelids fluttered. Twice, there were false starts. Finally, he succeeded in opening his golden eyes and his sight resumed in time to catch a woman leaning forward and kissing him. His face comically contorted, shocked. It was a full kiss, a soulful kiss, a loving kiss. And, it was also Maria's kiss.
An electric jolt skittered through his body, more pleasurable than the sweetest wine. Very similar, actually, what with the euphoric feeling and the taste. Without thinking, he lifted his arms and encircled the huntress' slim waist. He had kissed women before, held them in his arms, but never had such rapture been the result.
Maybe because I've never allowed myself to feel before-never taken pleasure in something so simple as a kiss, Alucard noted with a hint of joy.
"Yeah, he's okay, Annette. Boy, he's more than okay!"
Immediately, the two parted. Marian glared indignantly at her sister and brother-in-law and Alucard himself couldn't help but frown. Meanwhile, both Richter and Annette laughed at the romantic display. Then, the vampire hunter snatched his arm and helped him to his feet. Alucard immediately replaced his blade in its scabbard. Flushing like a schoolgirl, Maria stood also.
"Yes, I'm fine," replied the prince, a tint daring his cheeks. "Thank you for helping me. It is much appreciated." A more serious thought crossed his mind. "Maria, let me see your hand." Puzzled but obedient, the young woman extended it, half-expecting him to kiss the flesh.
When he detected the absence of his teeth-inflicted wound, Alucard decided to oblige. He drew his lips over the smooth skin and she giggled uncharacteristically. Richter and Annette both roared until the poor vampire hunter doubled over. "Getting any ideas, Ann?" asked the brown- haired man between coughing/laughing fits. The instant he uttered that, however, she gave him a sharp rap on the skull and he promptly silenced.
"It's time we went home," his wife declared. Snatching a fistful of shirt, Annette dragged her husband down the hall. Both stepped around Dracula's body gingerly. The waters had receded to a decent, maneuverable level but a new line of curses came from the Belmont because it was not that maneuverable.
"Are you coming, Sis? Alucard?" She called over a shoulder as the two diminished in the distance. Soon, they were almost dimensionless, mere colors of gold, green, copper, and violet.
No, I am Alucard no longer.My name is Adrian and the man who can now face his mistakes and tragedies and doesn't need to hid behind his lineage any more. Out loud, his words were, "Call me Adrian. That is my name...We'll follow...in a minute." After nodding, both husband and wife vanished.
Turning his gaze on the window, Adrian's eyes drank in the features of dawn. Before, he might have considered it a graphically pleasing phenomenon. Now, his eyes saw the true loveliness through the mixture of hues and shades and tints. Crimsons and pinks and golds made his heart ache.
How could he have stared at the dawn each morning and not seen the beauty of it?
The moment his eyes fell on another wonderful sight, that of Maria's, Alucard shook his head in pure amazement. For months now the duo had been side by side, struggling against the wickedest of evils, dependant upon each other for their very lives and he had rejected every one of her advances. And even when he, at length, returned those feelings the prince had been unable to balance his two halves, his two souls.
Now, with his vampire blood gone (and even mildly missed!) plus his emotions restored, the prince now had the opportunity to experience the highest of emotions-love. Not just that love for relatives since he knew he loved both his parents dearly. No, he could love a woman as only a man can.
"Time to head off," that woman announced. Tossing her blond locks aside the huntress shyly looked up at him. "Aren't you coming?" The wistful note was not lost on him. His eyes yet on the morning, Adrian breathed, "...Beautiful."
She smiled. "Yeah, I've always loved the sunrise."
"I meant you."
"I love you."
There, he'd said it. Not for the first time and certainly not for the last. It just came so easily now. Her gleaming green pupils informed him such a declaration was more than welcomed. Maria grasped his hand, mocked the prince's own kiss, and lead him down the Corridor of Consecration. He followed gladly, enjoying the emotion called happiness.
For he was a new man. A new man with a new life.and love.
And, a note.
Withdrawing the saturated letter with the hand releasing Maria's, the prince peered at it. The entire script was indecipherable. In fact, it wasn't much more than a lump of paper. But, he knew, it was far more than that. In it lay the words that spelled the end of his world.
As the huntress looked on, bewildered, Alucard ripped it up bit by stinking bit. Like the flakes in a snow globe the paper scattered onto the half- water, half-mirror floor. Some descended in the murky depths while others floated down the hallway. At once, the two resumed their departure from the church and into the morning's multi-colored greeting, hands clasped, laughter trailing behind.
It was a good day to be The Tragic Prince.
For they could not love you, but still your love was true
And when no hope was left in sight, on that starry starry night
You took your life as lovers often do,
But I could have told you, Vincent,
This world was never meant for one as beautiful as you
Vincent-by Don Mclean
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