Von Haunt Estate
Miko landed on her hands and knees with a thud. Cupcake week—it was worse than she thought.
Smoke and something else burned her nostrils as she glanced around the room. Where were the bodies? Had the Good Order Monks turned everyone into vessels?
Sims waking up with dust in their eyes, power at their finger tips, gods in their mouths…
No, no, no, she couldn’t focus on that. This did not have to happen. Somnus only worked with the Good Order Monks because he was covetous. The God of Death had Phobos and Agony and all the rest. Even The Owl chose—
She caught a glimpse of a small hand peeking out from underneath the rubble.
Gods and swords and steel and death.
No. Somnus would not get his army, Miko would make sure of it. Alice might be dead, Penny and Mikel too, but they did not have to stay that way. She could go back! She could fix this!
Gritting her teeth, Miko let her time magic surge forward. It sparked and wavered for a moment before finally ramping up. I must be getting tired, she thought, reaching for the universal mainspring and slipping into the timestream.
Caleb had started seeing his therapist in 1989. Thirty years might seem like a long time, but he had over two centuries worth of trauma to unpack. At first, he thought of it as a place to complain about the things that drove him crazy, namely Vladislaus. Vivian Spencer-Kim Lewis tolerated that for a few years before she began to, not so kindly, disabuse him of that notion.
So now, here they were, attempting to address something beyond the vampire that Caleb loved and hated in equal measure.
“He keeps acting like he’s changed. Do you know that I found him watching Dignity and Decorum the other day? On television! I installed electricity in Straud Manor in the 30s, and the night he discovered it, I awoke from my dark meditation with a hand missing. Now, Alice comes along and—”
“Have you moved into your apartment yet?” Vivian asked, cutting him off.
“Caleb, we’ve been over this. We are not talking about Vladislaus, we are talking about you.”
Caleb bristled. “Well, of course, I haven’t. I’ve been very busy dealing with Alice and the hunt for The Owl and now, William departing for the Library of Magic. This is the second safe house I’ve had to arrange in less than a month! And the prophecies about the—”
“Okay, we’ll mark that down as ‘in progress.’ What about this new friendship?”
Caleb tried to sound nonchalant. “It’s not a friendship. My job is incredibly busy, the zombie is a protege of sorts.”
“You tried to put some purposeful distance there, by not using his name.”
Caleb frowned. There was, in fact, nothing to put distance between. He and Deacon did not have a friendship.
“Caleb,” Vivian sighed. “I want you to tell me what your life is going to look like.”
“It doesn’t look like anything,”—Why was he so uncomfortable?—”The sheer number of crisis piling on top of each other make it impossible to envision right now and—”
“Despite the crisis,” she interrupted.
Caleb shook his head. “Despite the crisis? I’ve only just now made significant progress in the search for Lilith. Once I’ve located her, she’ll need help.”
He mumbled to himself, “Perhaps therapy? The trauma of her departure will be something we need to work through and—”
“Have you considered what she’s been doing all these decades? She may be different than you think,” Vivian suggested.
“Doing?” Caleb leapt to his feet, “What has she been doing? She was cast out. Violently and without recourse, and we may not be talking about Vladislaus, but he was the one who did it!”
“I’m going to suggest something,” Vivian said after a long pause, “Your whole identity is wrapped up in dealing with outside problems because it means you don’t have to think about yourself. It might feel nice now, but it’s not sustainable.”
She got up and crossed to her desk. “Mark my words, it will not help you to replace one codependent relationship with another. If you chase your sister, don’t show up planning to fix her.”
“But Vladislaus has—”
“I am a sim, Caleb; if we don’t move on from Vladislaus, I will be dead before you make any progress. Things change. You have to change too.”
She sat down at her computer and began typing notes, which was a clear sign that he’d been dismissed.
Windenburg Woods, Dryad Territory
“Aye, Caleb, you look as if you’ve had your favorite daggers melted down for scrap,” William teased. “Are you hiding your worry for me behind your displeasure?”
Caleb shot William a dark look.
“I think that’s just his face,” Deacon said amiably, reaching for a plate, “You don’t want that last biscuit, right?”
“Of course not,” Caleb sniffed. “What are you doing anyway? None of this is brains.”
“Variety is the key to a good diet, my man. Sometimes brains, sometimes arms, sometimes biscuits,” he took a bite and offered it to Caleb, “You should try it. I didn’t think Death’s Vlad could bake, but these aren’t half bad.”
William hid a smile. Alice was furious when the restaurant didn’t include biscuits with their order. Vladislaus took one look at her scowl and made a cryptic statement about recipes. He returned a few minutes later, covered in plasma and holding a notepad.
“Yes,” William began, “It is—”
“Ridiculous,” Caleb finished, glaring in Vlad’s direction.
Ignoring the vampire’s black mood, William rapped his spoon against his glass. “Alright, you merry band of lunatics, it’s time for a toast. I, being the best-looking creature at this table—”
“Oldest,” Vlad interrupted.
“None of that from you, sir. You are not so far from 600. Now, last time we did this, you were crown prince, and we were set off to sail the seas and bring back treasure—”
“Did you?” Alice asked, her eyes bright with curiosity. This was William’s farewell dinner but the entire performance of the evening was for her. He and Vladislaus had traded stories of their exploits—merry knights and castle shenanigans, explicitly chosen to avoid the topic of Josef Straud, long-dead families, vampirism, and war.
“Of course!” he laughed with faux outrage. “Blue silks, priceless jewels—”
“And plenty of dysentery,” Vlad quipped. Alice pinched him and he chuckled.
“Alright, alright enough,” William waved a hand. “Shall we have an old one?”
Vladislaus nodded, a pensive smile playing at the corners of his mouth.
“Strike hands with me,” William began, dropping the volume of his voice, “The glasses brim, the dew is on the heather. For love is good, and life is long, and friends are best together.”
Straud Castle, 1537
Miko leaned against the stone wall, trying to keep her breathing steady and silent. She could hear the Monks beginning their chant. It echoed off the walls of the dungeon, making the sound even more ominous.
This time, there were five monks, one at each point of the circle. They wore those dark robes and burgundy hats. She could hear sobbing, and it took everything to steel herself against it.
She couldn’t save them. Not now. She had a new plan. She finally understood her past mistakes. In 1537, the Good Order Monks were on the ropes, having failed Josef for decades. When Miko showed up with her flashy magic, disrupting the ceremony, they weren’t discouraged. They just tried again. That’s why Phobos would always pop up weeks, months, or even years later.
In one loop, they raised him in a cave! That had been a mess—Vladislaus in the baking contest, Penny getting too close to the Monks, B’Ollithiranon acting strange. It pained her to erase all of that and start all over, but it was necessary.
This time she would get it right. This time was for all the marbles.
Quickly, quietly, she let confusion, sloppiness, even hubris roll off her fingers.
She didn’t hear Vladislaus enter the room but she could feel the weight of his supernatural energy. Even though he was young for a vampire, he was accomplished, mastering the dark skills with an incredible sense of drive and dedication.
Of course, that was by design. Josef needed him strong enough to withstand the making but broken enough to submit to it.
“Don’t stop your chanting on my account,” a cold voice called out. Miko suppressed a yelp. She had spent so much time in the future that she had forgotten this version of the vampire—empty, unfeeling, blank behind the eyes.
“You wish for a vessel? Take this useless soul. I have nothing. I wish to be nothing.”
Windenburg Woods, Dryad Territory
“Dreaming of a medieval feast?” Alice teased as they took a nightcap on the back patio. She swiped at his glass, trying to steal another drink.
“Bad form, God of Death, your nectar is on the kitchen counter where you left it.”
“Eh, that seems like a trek. Don’t we belong to each other? I thought that involved sharing.”
He looked up at her, twining his fingers in the soft cotton of her dress. “Everything I have is yours,” he said softly.
“Except this glass of nectar?”
“Except this glass of nectar,” he agreed, “I am Fear Itself, after all. I have a reputation to maintain.”
She brushed her fingers along his jawline. “Keep saying that, but you’re different. When I first met you, you thought cars were a curse. Now you’re smiling; no one’s dead—”
He cleared his throat.
“I’m not going to count the chef at the restaurant, that guy was a dick. I think you deserve an actual medieval feast.”
Vlad tried not to shudder. Though he had longed for his past, the idea of having it set before him was…unsettling. Barring a few decades of exception, his past was a nightmare. What had he been thinking?
He liked what he had in the here and now.
Pulling her closer, he stopped himself from getting too lost in thought. “Given your poor reaction to my consuming a mortal heart, I don’t think you’d be interested in serving what I consider to be a feast.”
They stayed out at the table until just after 1 a.m. Vlad did give up his glass and every subsequent refill. Eventually, he carried her, half-drunk, half-sleep up to the bed.
“But we’re going to bone out,” she yawned, stretching her arms and accidentally hitting him in the face.
“No,” he laughed, kissing her forehead, “I assure you, we are not.” He didn’t even finish his sentence before she was snoring.
Downstairs, he joined William and Caleb, the latter of whom was muttering angrily while tapping on his phone. Vlad gave William a questioning look.
“Amisyia,” the vampire answered, “Seems the siren has not been returning phone calls.” He cackled, throwing his arms out wide, the contents of his glass sloshing around dangerously, “And here I thought Caleb was forgoing a night of carnal pleasure just to spend it with you and me.”
Alice had enchanted their nectar, just a little, and William was in the best of moods because of it.
Caleb hissed and threw himself onto the couch. He took an angry swig, “Amisyia is no one.” Narrowing his eyes, he focused on the vampire who was now doing the cha-cha as he sipped at his drink, “This is your farewell, William. We should talk about you. How was dear, sweet, Dylan?”
“He means boring,” Vlad snorted, finally getting a chance to enjoy his own glass.
“Dylan is not boring,” William countered without enthusiasm. “He’s…he’s….”
After a few more moments of sputtering, he relented. “Oh fine, you old bastard. He is very nice, but yes, also very boring.”
Vlad laughed, but it was bittersweet. This was not what he wished for his old friend, the one who signed his own death warrant from the moment he got in Josef’s way. Never again, the knight hissed one afternoon, tending to injuries the young Prince could name, and growing furious at the ones he could not.
“You deserve to be happy,” Vlad said, nearly cringing at how wistful he sounded, “And you too, Caleb. This life is very long, and you should find some joy in it, however, or with whomever you wish.”
Caleb blanched and then took another drink. “Windenburg’s Vampire King does not believe in joy,” he mocked.
But that wasn’t true. Not anymore.
“King is more of an honorific,” Vlad replied.
“An honorific! Tossing aside the title after all that effort?” Caleb seethed. His words slurred, and he teetered as he stood.
“I quite enjoyed the effort,” Vlad joked, “The king-ing, not so much.”
William threw back his head and laughed. Vlad joined in. He was so busy wiping the tears from his eyes that he had no defense when Caleb hauled off and punched him in the face.
Straud Castle, 1537
It always made her stomach turn, the smell of sulfur. It resulted from the ritual; anything that burned through the veil between the worlds would leave its mark.
Vladislaus’s body was suspended in mid-air now, the circle nearly complete. It should begin to falter soon. She had listened to the Monks knock over candles, snipe at each other for bringing the wrong kind of knife, and forgo the grimoire because their victory was so assured.
Miko clutched at her hair, almost pulling it out. How was it possible? They didn’t even say the right words!
No matter how many times she tried, she couldn’t stop it.
It was like the beast crawled out of the Underworld himself and chose this body!
Before she could move, a growl tore through the air.
Miko reared back as one of the monks went flying into the stone wall.
Dropping to her stomach and rolling, she tucked herself into a corner, trying to become as small as possible.
It was so hard to think. The sounds…the screaming. The Monks wanted to make sure Phobos was fed and—oh gods—
A sickening crunch.
The tearing of flesh.
The screams cut off in mid-air.
Windenburg Woods, Dryad Territory
It wasn’t the fact that he punched Vladislaus in the face that scared him; it was the fact that Vladislaus didn’t fight back. He swung again, but William gripped his shoulder.
“Stow your fist, you fool! I’ll not break a fight up again!”
Caleb would not be cowed. “You bastard!” he roared, shaking off William’s hand. “You’re selfish, self-centered. You have no idea the suffering or the sacrifices others make. You do not wish to be King? And everything done in the name of it, you do not wish that either?”
Vlad wiped the plasma from his busted lip, “I have wished for many things, and by Sages’ grace, I did not get them. Change, Caleb, even one such as I am capable.”
Change? Did Vladislaus think he was a fool?
“Now, you say that? To me?” he fought for calm and lost. “You can change? The creature who saw Lilith terrified and begging not to be turned out. The creature who told Bloodvein to lock the doors behind her. The monster who said there could be no weakness in their kingdom.”
“She did not have the constitution for it,” Vlad replied quietly.
“Bullshit!” Caleb yelled, “You’re lucky she survived. You sent her to her death! I would have—”
“You would have killed her!” Vlad shouted suddenly inches away.
“I…” Caleb was stunned. “What are you even saying? I…it didn’t matter how I was, I-I would have never—”
“Of course you would have,” Vlad retorted, “I did, and you’re just like me.”
Caleb opened his mouth, but no sound came out.
“Do not drag up this past, Phobos,” William warned, “Lilith is not Neva. Caleb is not you.”
It was the second time Caleb heard William speak to Vlad as if he and Phobos were one and the same.
But they weren’t. Phobos was a monster trapped inside Vladislaus. This talk of being Fear Itself…it was nonsense. Ridiculous. An excuse.
Vladislaus continued as if William had not spoken, his eyes bright with an emotion Caleb was surprised to categorize as grief. “I made you,” he said with a humorless laugh, “Formed you to be broken and beholden just as my father made me.”
Suddenly, the house was too small, the room suffocating. Caleb raced through the kitchen and out to the yard. Disappointingly, Vladislaus, and William followed.
He turned to face the two creatures he had lived with for centuries, his anger now a freewheeling thing. Of course, William knew this secret. Of course, Vladislaus thought this entire thing was about him. “Beholden? I am here now because the situation dictates it. But rest assured, I have my own life and my own place too. I don’t need to be added to this replacement family you’ve been building!”
“Caleb!” William snapped.
He tried to get some space, but both vampires moved to follow. Caleb didn’t remember pulling out his dagger, wasn’t even sure why he had it for a family dinner, but here he was holding it. Without preamble, he thrust the weapon into Vladislaus’s chest, enjoying the miserable sound it pulled from the former King’s mouth.
“Bloody hell! You daft thing!” William rushed forward to intervene but Vlad waved him off, pulling out the blade.
“You are not like me? You intend to move out?” he croaked, “What of your fury? Your singular drive? Your disdain for other creatures? You are not so singular, Caleb Vatore, you are not so special. In three hundred years you’ve been nowhere, and if I wished it, you’d come crawling back. I am your misery and yet, you would rather endure me than go.”
There was a rushing sound in Caleb’s ears. He felt almost dizzy. It was not supposed to be like this. Vladislaus was supposed to fight him and then in a show of how much he needed Caleb, beg him not to leave.
He was needed.
But here was Vladislaus, calling his bluff.
“Y-you’re mad,” he sputtered.
“Yes,” Vlad said wearily, “That’s rather the problem. I am.”
“I do not wish to be King,” Vlad stated, his voice tired. “I have a life, a hobby. You were right. It’s the 21st century. I have learned to live with it.” Running a hand through his hair, he looked around the yard. “I hang onto this new sense of myself by a thread. If I pull too hard, I will lose it completely. I do not wish to be King, Caleb, I cannot. Do you understand? This power I’ve sought—I cannot have it, not without losing. And I will not give this life up.”
Caleb dropped his head in his hands. Conquer the world. Now leave it alone. Centuries had passed, and he was still at this creature’s whim.
“Come now,” William said softly. “It’s alright. We’ve had a wee bit to drink, and things are dire. Come sit, and we’ll talk this out.”
For a moment, Caleb wanted it so badly, his whole body shook. But he did not know how to become himself in their company. He was too full of hate, too full of sorrow, too tempted to do precisely as Vladislaus said and never go.
A throat cleared. Caleb turned to look.
What was Deacon doing here?
“Hey,” the zombie whispered, managing to do so loudly and without any kind of decorum, “Uh…wanna take a walk? Or like, blow this joint?”
And just like that, a cool air passed over, and Caleb felt calm. Sparing a last glance over his shoulder, he followed Deacon to the gate.
“What are you doing here, anyway?” he grumbled.
“We’re friends,” Deacon shrugged, “It sounded like you needed an out.”
Straud Castle, 1537
The dungeon was quiet. Miko wiped the sweat off her face and stepped out of the shadows. Immediately, she vomited at the sight. Neva Straud and her mother lay in the middle of the circle, their limbs twisted, faces pale, necks torn open.
She must have fainted. She had no idea how Vladislaus left or how long ago it happened.
Save a world, she whispered in her head, winding up her time magic. But her hands were shaking.
Save a world. She could try again. She was so close now. These deaths wouldn’t even count if she could get this right.
The Owl! Miko laughed and the sound of it was almost hysterical. It was stupid to think she could do this without The Owl. And no more worrying about the God of Death, Miko could just compete! Then she would be free of her mistakes! She could get her life back!
Reaching into the timestream, she felt her magic spark and almost fizzle before blinding her with a bright light. When her vision cleared, she was hanging in mid-air over the ruins of Straud Castle.
She tried to get out the words to soothe her captor and make them drop her. But all her brain could think was help, help, help, help, help…
Windenburg Woods, Dryad Territory
“Did you avoid striking him back because you found some restraint, or are you too far given to your melancholy?” William mused, joining Vlad on the bench.
“Melancholy!” his friend barked a laugh. “Careful, Aurelius, your diplomacy is showing.”
“Aye, that seems to be my permanent unpaid position. Diplomat between you two fools.”
Vlad looked away, his expression unreadable.
“You are the cause of his misery, yes, but also no. What Josef did to you was” —unspeakable—“Not the same,” William said firmly. “But Caleb cannot spend his life trying to fix you. None of us can. You’ve been wrong to expect it.”
“Yes,” Vlad sighed, “I know. And I am selfish, I did consider him part of my…” he trailed off.
“Gwendolyn?” William filled in.
“How did you know?”
“It seems dear Alice knows you better than you think, your former majesty. It would not have occurred to you to ask anyone, much less tell us.”
Vladislaus frowned, and William laughed, “Don’t look so insulted,” he tsked, “You’re a shite king just as you were a shite prince; it doesn’t suit you.”
“So it would seem,” Vlad smiled. “You made that bet in 1485. I suppose you’ll be looking to collect with interest.”
William chuckled and then seized by the moment, got up and crossed to a patch of grass. Stretching himself out, he motioned for Vladislaus to join him. “Please, you couldn’t afford the interest, even with those gold bars you been stockpiling for ages. And anyway, that was not the future for you and I. We were meant to be telling war stories to disinterested grandchildren and buying brew from the nuns at the summer palace.”
“And we would only come to town for the spring festival,” Vlad added, stretching out his long limbs, “To buy pies, since our job was to grow old and fat and spoil the little grand-devils until our children blamed us for their poor comportment.”
“Blamed you,” William scoffed, “I was the very picture of decency.”
“You were a scourge and they banned you from the tavern,” Vlad reminded him.
They laughed and traded more memories and barbs as they stared up at the night sky.
“Gwendolyn will be welcome,” William said, “And she is no replacement. Caleb was right about many things, but he was not right about that. ‘Tis no dark thing to pursue this happiness.”
“Not a dark thing, no. But it still earned me a knife to the chest,” Vlad chuckled.
“Could he have killed you?” William asked.
It was a genuine question. One he had been wondering since he’d dragged his friend’s body out of that cave. He buried Neva and her mother, cleaned Vladislaus up as best he could. For weeks, the vampire said nothing, only stared. Then one day his eyes flashed and he was all fury. They rode for months, joining whatever army they came across and still it was not enough to quell his appetite.
William had always believed that Phobos took up residence and made Vlad a killer. But now he saw there was no line between where the dark entity ended, and Vlad began. They were as one creature, their memories, desires, even their trauma, all tied together.
“I don’t believe so,” Vlad replied, his tone slightly bleak, “That is not a path open to me, such as I am.”
The sun began to rise, chasing the dawn away.
“You know,” William began, “There are a few things in case I—”
He sat up. “You’ll let me finish, you unruly creature! I’ll be wanting you to tend Tobias’s grave. And get rid of that painting of me in that hoarder’s palace you call a museum!” He poked Vlad in the chest, “And don’t be giving away my armor, or so help me, I’ll come back as a ghost and haunt the daylights out of you.”
Vlad sat up too, “You’ll come back as a vampire when the trip is over,” he replied stubbornly. “You’ll retrieve that sage-forsaken book and then I shall be forced to fight a battle—”
“Forced?” William snorted.
“Haven’t you heard?” he laughed, settling back down. “I’m turning over a new leaf. I intend for my murderous rampages to be mostly domestic now. I’ll kill a god or two to secure my legacy and be done with it.”
William smiled, playing along. “Oh aye, and the Library of Magic will be a cakewalk. They’ll serve ridgeports and offer massages and the witches will hardly be suspicious of me at all.”
It was a good game, pretending that things would not go sideways. They played it until the yard was bright and they could tarry no more. William was due at the portal and Vladislaus had to bake.
Cupcake Week was upon them.
Emotions 6 by Simmerberlin
Emotions 5 by Simmerberlin
Emotions 2 by Simmberlin
Desperate Girl by Natalia-Auditore
Fighting Series – Magic Power by Raygun
Toast by Phobis
Dead on Objects by Natalia-Auditore
Werewolf Posepack by Natalia-Auditore
Drinking Stand Poses by Natalia-Auditore
Drunk in Sofa by Natalia-Auditore
End of Party Posepack by Natalia-Auditore
Angry and Drunk Bar Poses by Natalia-Auditore
Vlad’s Phobos form: Teeth, eyes, and claws came from Sewer Sims. The wings are from Natalia-Auditore, as are the sewed corpse accents. The bloody claw marks are by taraab and the horns are a World or Warcraft horn conversion by Illikid.
From the Sims 4 Gallery
Modern Eco Family Home by ashbatch16
The castle is a screenshot leftover from my last story. I cannot for the life of me find the original download to credit it. If this is yours, let me know (the dungeon is just a set I built)!
Also, I did not write William’s toast. I stole it, of course (lol). You can read the real version here.