Notes: This one was a doozy to write and edit! I’m really trying to barrel through this last insane week at work so Part II will have to come later this week…also I have a CW for the whole blog but heads up, this chapter does get pretty violent.
Oh yeah, and there is a tiny (so small) easter egg if you click the link in Vlad’s part of the story and skip to page 3.
It is not widely known that the requisition forms for the summoning of Bonehilda’s husband are actually non-existent. He just shows up whenever he wants…which is pretty rude if you think about it. – The Book of the Dead, Revised Edition
Alice swallowed. This was fine, right? This wasn’t her first rodeo. She knew at least…er…two other vampires. And besides, Ben just got finished telling her all the multitude of ways she could kill one without even really trying.
Ben cleared his throat. “Yes, well, this feels like a good time to remind you that even though you have the powers of the God of Death, your body is still very much mortal. Best to proceed with a modicum of caution…Alice? Are you listening? This is pertinent information…”
Alice didn’t answer. She was too busy trying to slow the panicked beating of her heart at Ben’s “timely update.”
“Well, I’ll just let you handle things. Good talk!”
At some point, when they made it out of this situation alive…if they made it out of this situation alive, she would have words with Ben about timing and pertinent information.
Alice tried for conversational but her voice came out tense. “So there are a lot of vampires in San Myshuno?”
The woman raised an eyebrow and gave her a cruel smile.
Correction: Scary vampires. There were a lot of scary vampires in San Myshuno.
With a finely manicured hand, the vampire gestured around the room. Her accent was slow and smooth, dripping with honey. “Oh indeed. Vampires are everywhere my dear. We are legion.”
Alice gave her a weak smile but a dark look passed over the vampire’s face as she continued. “And we creatures of the night are quite territorial. A queen does not like interlopers tromping through her lands without an announcement.”
“Queen?” Alice squeaked out.
She didn’t understand vampire politics at all. In fact, before now, she didn’t even know there was such a thing as vampire politics. Her father would be beside himself at her idiotic mistake. She could hear his voice now, chastising her for assuming that every culture was just like hers.
Mouth dry, she dropped into what she hoped was a curtsy. “Oh! Uh sorry your…” she groped around for the right word. “Majesty? We…uh…I wasn’t quite myself the other day when I was making arrangements but I can see now that I…uh…made a mistake and I’ll just be going.”
Alice wrapped up her rambling apology with a desperate, cheerful wave as she stepped back towards the door.
“What are you doing?” Ben cried. “That’s the most expensive stove on the market! And I should know, I used that flat talking screen in your pocket to check!”
Had Ben lost his shit?
“What am I doing?” Alice hissed between gritted teeth, “I’m getting the fuck out of here. Post-haste!”
“Did you forget what you just said to me?”
“No. I said proceed with a modicum of caution. As in, ‘move forward, but with a little caution.’ Not run at the first sign of trouble!”
Now Ben was passive-aggressively defining words at her?
Alice continued backing away as they argued. “Run? Stay? Fight? Make up your mind! You can’t see the vampire lady licking her lips and preparing to eat us? And not in a good way!”
Alice paused, remembering that Contessa was still in the room and that no one could see Ben except for her. Was looking insane a good defense against vampires?
“No offense, umm…”
“Contessa,” Ben supplied
“Contessa,” Alice finished.
The vampire—Contessa fluttered a hand across her chest and looked amused. “Of course, my dear. None taken. In fact, why don’t you stay awhile?”
Alice blinked and then yelped when the vampire dissipated and reappeared behind her.
Contessa’s voice took on a sharp, dangerous tone. “I was just hoping that we might get to know each other a little better.”
“What is dark within me, illumine.” – John Milton, Paradise Lost
Vlad watched as William slammed one of Contessa’s henchmen into a wall. The blond vampire had led them on a chase to an alleyway underneath the Admiral Landgraab Bridge, all the while dodging cars and flaunting his speed and strength. There was no time for William’s patented charm or manipulation and Vlad had ignored Caleb’s call for a diplomatic negotiation—Alice had stepped out into the night and disappeared.
It was just like a mortal to go and get themselves into trouble.
And yet, even as he sneered the thought it felt false. The truth tumbled through his mind without dispute. Alice had disappeared just as Vlad found the perfect mark—because Vlad had found the perfect mark. Jimena was beautiful, vain, calculating and destined to win. He knew that even if he couldn’t taste her food. He chose her over Alice because she had a mean glint in her eyes and commanded the camera’s attention like a general commanding troops.
He fought to avoid Alice’s gaze at the end of the night. He could sense her surprise, her frustration and, sages save him, her disappointment.
Why had William agreed to follow when Vlad was stalking the streets based on some driving need he couldn’t describe and didn’t understand?
It was a simple word: “crazy.” A thoughtless comment. William hadn’t meant anything by it, and yet, it filled Vlad with rage. For a second, he forgot to control himself. Alice was strange, but she wasn’t insane. No one would insult her. No one would hurt her.
Vlad gave a hollow laugh. The curse was in full effect now. He could no longer tell where his conscience ended and he began. Yes, he had hurt her. And for reasons he could not even begin to unpack, it bothered him.
He turned his attention back to the fight. The vampire was not yet breaking under William’s assault and Vlad felt his patience growing perilously short. He caught William’s eye and nodded.
There was a loud pop as the vampire’s arm was wrenched out of its socket.
“Perhaps, you did not hear us the first time we asked,” William bit out. “There is a woman. Small, mortal, curly hair. We know she came through here. Does Contessa have her?”
The vampire cried out but refused to answer. He twisted and swung with his other arm catching William in the eye. William roared in frustration and the fight continued.
Vlad closed his eyes and tested the tight hold he kept on the swirling energy behind his ribcage. He tried to convince himself that all would be well and shortly, they’d be off to get Alice and bring her home. He tried to tell himself that his infatuation was absurd, he hardly knew her and she wasn’t part of the plan.
But it was to no avail.
Vlad hardly listened to himself anymore.
You’re my first vampire. He turned the phrase over in his mind, marveling at how much pleasure it gave him that Alice expressed some ownership over him.
Pleasure which quickly turned to fear. She wasn’t a part of the supernatural world. She would not survive a monster like Contessa. She knew not the protocols, nor the politics. She had his name, Vladislaus Straud, but he never told her he was a king, or that she could invoke his name to protect her.
A choked off cry lurched Vlad out of his thoughts. The vampire, who William held by the throat, sputtered, a mix of strangled sounds pouring out as he struggled to talk.
“Let him speak,” Vlad snarled.
As William released his grip, the vampire doubled over struggling for breath.
“You’re trespassing on the territory of the Contessa,” he gasped, “She won’t look kindly on it.”
She won’t look kindly on it? Vlad repeated the words, feeling the hold loosening inside his chest. William turned and gave him a quelling look that was also, somehow, half a plea. Not here, it said. Not now.
But the fury was already clawing its way out of his ribcage. To Vlad, it seemed like he was practically vibrating. There was no room in his head for any thoughts other than breaking this vampire.
Only Alice’s voice rang out clear as a bell. You’re my first vampire. The combination of words and righteous anger swirled around until they became a great jumble, knocking against his bones and begging for release.
“Is that all you have to say?” Vlad asked, his voice eearily calm.
Something inside him had uncoiled,
and taken notice of its surroundings.
“Think carefully now,” he continued, enunciating every syllable.
For a moment, the vampire hesitated but Vlad had already stopped seeing him as an obstacle. Now, he was prey.
“Go on,” Vlad said, his voice dropping to an almost seductive octave. “Take a stand.”
Up until this point, Alice had been proud to keep her voice from shaking. But having a vampire suddenly appear right beside you could do things to your heart.
“G-Get to k-know each other?” Alice whispered.
“Oh! I love this game! She loves torture but has impeccable taste in clothing. Throws a great New Year’s Eve party! She could at least make the 5th underworld,” Ben told Alice in a conspiratorial whisper.
Alice gave a shocked whisper. ”Torture?”
Contessa froze and narrowed her eyes. “What?”
“You like…uh…torture. But you have impeccable taste in clothing and your New Year’s party is legendary…” Alice said softly as she backed up, her hands in front of her like a shield.
Contessa chuckled, a brittle and broken sound—amusement laced with malice. “So it’s true then? I had my suspicions but nothing I could confirm, you see, not without revealing it to the other vampires. Vultures, the whole lot of them,” she drawled. “It appears I’m the only one who found you. First in line and all alone with the very mortal conduit of the God of Death. How lucky.”
This time, when Contessa smiled, she bared all of her teeth.
Either the vampire didn’t sense the danger he was in, or he was too young to know that it was a literal monster who conquered Forgotten Hollow and ruled the Windenburg vampires. He tossed his bright yellow hair and bared his teeth in a defiant grin.
For a moment, the alley was completely silent.
And then Vlad let go.
William opened his mouth to say something but then seemed to think better of it. Instead, he took a step away from the blond vampire, finding cover behind the overgrown ferns against the wall.
There were tales of this Vladislaus, whispered like a myth from vampire to vampire. Those few who had survived the first battlefields in Forgotten Hollow, who had seen their brethren buried beneath the ground of Straud Manor not as flesh but as bone and dust—they recalled him.
Invoked his name as a talisman and a warning.
Beware the reaper.
In Windenburg, the story went, a vampire discovered secrets so dark that they devoured even his immortal soul.
He could feed on other vampires, fly on black wings, and centuries ago, had been nigh unstoppable in his slaughter.
Long since, had the story been considered apocryphal. Vampires, with their long lives and many histories, were prone to myth-making.
And so few remembered that that save for the last great knight of Windenburg running a sword through his friend, Vladislaus Straud would have never leashed his monster.
Vlad spoke with a voice that took up residence in his throat, but didn’t live there. It echoed off the walls. The blonde vampire froze as the alley became full of the sound of one word.
Alice stopped backing away and stared at Contessa. Conduit? The vampire clearly knew what she was, but Alice had never heard that term before. At least Ben’s information about Contessa had been helpful. She wasn’t attacking. Yet.
“Lucky? Conduit? I’m confused,” Alice confessed, “Are you going to kill me? Because your words and your tone don’t seem to match. You said I trespassed on your territory because I’m trying to use your kitchen, but you’re first in line with me…not that I want to die but what is happening here?”
Contessa yawned and waved a hand as if that was all water under the bridge. “Please, relax. Take a load off, or cook if you like. I’d have to be crazy to kill you now. If you’re dead, you can’t win the contest and give me what I want.”
Alice blanched. She could feel Ben’s anxiety—her anxiety?—climbing.
“Alice, the prize is of great value. It isn’t safe in anyone else’s hands—”
This time Alice bit her tongue to keep from responding. She wasn’t going to forget everything her father taught her. Allies didn’t fight with each other in front of the enemy. You showed a united front.
You spoke with one voice.
That statue was the key to her normal life and she had no intention of giving it away to some random vampire. Now that she was in, she was all in. Nothing would stand between her and that prize.
She turned to Contessa, giving her the warm and professional smile she reserved for only the most irritating of customers.
The kind of smile that made them think she was actually interested in their problems and that she was here to help.
“And what is it that you want?” Alice asked, her tone deceptively naive and bright.
“The only thing worth having, of course. A favor from a God.”
The blond vampire cowered and the act pleased something dark and ancient and not-quite-Vlad. There was no guilt and no conscience now, only clarity: Where is Alice?
Had he spoken the words aloud or simply thought them? It was hard to know anymore with the power ricocheting off his bones and singing.
“I…I can h-help you!”
The way the vampire’s voice hitched was…amusing. Both Vlad and the thing that took up residence where his soul used to be, gave a delighted chuckle.
In an instant, Vlad was standing behind the vampire, hand around his throat.
“The Spice District!” he cried, his voice panicked, “A place called Dolly’s! Please! She’s in the Spice—“
But he never got a chance to finish. Vlad devoured the life-force, while not-quite-Vlad devoured the fear.
First the vampire went pale, then white as a sheet. In minutes, there was nothing left but a husk which quickly crumbled to the ground leaving a pile of dust.
William stood stock still against in the wall. He didn’t cower, but he didn’t make eye contact either. Not-quite-Vlad sensed there was nothing to hunt.
No wings this time, Vlad gathered the darkness around him and floated into the air. Molecule by molecule, he fell away into a mist and reappeared on a city street in San Myshuno’s Spice District.
From the fabulous Natalia-Auditore:
- Burned Witch Set
- Vampire Killer
- Vampire x Male Victim
- Goth Poses
- Angel Wings
Emotion Poses 2 by Cassandra Grusel
Emotions 9 by Simmerberlin