Chapter 1: From the Lion's Den to the Dragon's Nest
Another branch snapped in your hand as you attempted to steady yourself in the dense snow, wool-clad fingers unfurling to watch pieces of the brittle wood fall. The frigid air burned your throat, making each greedy gasp heavier and more excruciating than the last. Your chest ached as well, heart thrumming like hundreds of galloping steeds, deafening you to any sounds that you had keenly listened for.
This winter was premature and unusual, especially when merely weeks prior fresh blossoms had erupted and speckled trees with vibrant hues of white and pink and orange, denoting the rebirth of life again. The muddy pastures had turned green, does appeared with their young, and the birds sang a symphony of return.
“How could this have happened?” your voice reached no one, so fragile you had hardly recognized it as your own. “I need to get out of this weather.”
Your legs had carried you hours away from the town, it wasn’t the time to realize just how cold you were. Sniffing hard, you nestled into your furs and thick scarves to keep your skin hidden from the bitter winds, blinking against the weight of the tiny crystals on your eyelashes and burning in your eyes.
As you pushed onward, treading a path of your own in the endless white, you found the bent trees for support, noting the way they seemed to be frozen in motion as though blown by an enormous gust. Deep holes pocketed the snow with ice entombed corpses of birds, eternally captured in mid-flight, squirrels midst a lunge, and deer on their sides like toppled statues.
‘They didn’t stand a chance…’
It wasn’t until the forest cleared, giving way to an expanse of field that you escaped the horrid images.
Yet, you were immediately cast into another sight, one unlike you had ever seen. Slowly, you pulled the scarf away from your mouth, breath a thick fog as you looked on incredulously.
Before you stood a towering castle, spiraling and desolate. The stones were nearly black, making it a rather glum thing to look at surrounded by untouched white. There were no tracks leading up to the castle; no hooves, nor trails from heavy sleighs or wagons, leaving you to question the occupancy of the place.
‘Surely if someone were there, they would’ve had to leave at some point for food or wood. But, I see nothing…’
Stranger than the presence of the bleak castle itself was the feeling it exuded, a sensation you weren’t foreign to these days. It was very obviously a castle, an inanimate structure expertly built stone-by-stone, yet as the stillness in the crisp air was met with a light gust, you couldn’t help but think it was breathing.
‘This place gives me a creeps, maybe I should keep going–’
Distantly, still very far yet but amplified by the unsettling quiet, you heard the familiar cry from bloodhounds–a distinct yelp when they had found something. Mustering your nerves, you trudged onward through the snow towards the castle, ignoring the unease prickling at your spine and every instinct to turn away.
Better to face uncertainty than what you know awaited you where the bloodhounds called, those ominous devils.
The castle doors were sealed shut, whether by bolt and lock, by ice, or something else–you only stared at them hopelessly, up the entire length and then to the left and right, taking in the way the sun struck the stained glass windows that were perfectly spaced and proportioned on both sides.
‘The doors are locked, the bloodhounds are close… what do I do?’
Your fingers splayed across the grand walls of metal, the chill of winter seemed ensnared by it and you felt it through your mittens. If a portcullis had stood, there would had been some home to climb it or bend the metal, yet this castle was unique in design–in every sense.
‘Okay, maybe if I walk around I could find a way in.’
It was that thought alone that motivated you now; aside from the impending doom of approaching bloodhounds and the absolute certainty that if the hounds didn’t find you, you’d freeze to death instead.
What you found on the other side was another door, a replica of the first. Much as its twin, there was no hope to pry it open despite your efforts to wedge your fingers between the large crevice where they met. For the second time, you gazed high, taking in the stained glass, stumbling through the snow to look at each one.
‘W-Wait, is that… a hole?’
You squinted, hand raised to shield your eyes from the sun, noticing one window in particular had a rather sizable gap in the left-hand corner, leaving the rest of the glass a hideous mess of cracks.
Despite your surroundings being a mess of ice and snow, the castle remained untouched down to the far and few flawed cracks in the stone. You were certain whomever had constructed the castle hadn’t accounted for a single person to invade–much less by scaling the side of it.
‘Oh, man. I am out of shape… I am not meant for this… I’m just a simple person with simple needs. Oh, how did this happen?’
You struggled to root your fingertips in the stone and to find your footing, coming close to plummeting thirty feet back into the powdery sea below. A sigh quivered from your lips, reminded of just how much your body ached and chest burned–your fingers were beginning to stiffen as though cursed with old age.
‘Keep going, keep going, keep going, keep… going…’
Just when you had reached the verge of letting go, your fingers curled the ledge of the window. You promptly splayed your hand across it, fighting the weight of your own exhaustion to climb atop of it. The ledge overlooked but a small part of the forest you had wandered from, but truthfully, even sitting that high up, there was nothing to see that you already hadn’t.
A wasteland of nothingness, there was nothing to yearn for or go back to now.
You didn’t waste any more time dwelling on what didn’t matter. With a careful maneuver; twisting your body on the ledge, your arms shook as you braced your weight and stood, thrusting your foot into the glass to smash it inward. The harsh winter had made the glass brittle, shattering into countless fragments of shining red and blue.
The fit through the window had been tight, but you managed well enough and jumped into the castle, away from the headhunters, but simultaneously into the lion’s den, you thought.
Already, the inside of the castle was a start contrast to the outside, both in terms of appearance and comfort. You eased the scarf away from your mouth while your eyes remained moving, scouring all around for signs of life.
Predictably, you found nothing of the sort.
Instead, you found a spacious interior blanketed in dust, plumes swirling about you with each step you took. A grand staircase sprawled before you, the dark stone and red carpeting were discolored from years of neglect; even the gold banisters were lackluster from the weight of dust.
There was nothing particularly fascinating about the castle, to your disappointment. You noticed a set of metal doors far to your right, those likely being the ones you fought with. And several magnificent lantern-hooks seemed to sprout from the stone, branching outward towards the high ceiling. Upon further inspection, you saw structures of similar design embedded into the wall, undoubtedly tailored for actual flames.
‘Just what kind of castle is this?’
That question circled your mind during the entirety of your tour, finding it not only devoid of life but also of accessibility. There were no shortage of doors in the damn place, yet none budged when you tried to pry them open.
All accept one.
The door swung open with such force you were surprised you managed to step back in time to not lose your nose, but more startling than than were the skeletons that emerged from the dark room, bones clattering as they walked.
“What’s this? A human? How strange. How did you get in here, lamb?” spoke one skeleton, the voice had an unnatural distortion to it.
“Kekekeke, a brave one! A real brave soul, this one!” cackled another, drawing a tarnished blade from the depth of its rib-cage.
“Stay quiet, human. You’ll awaken the Master! Come with us, quietly. We haven’t had company in so long!” groaned the last, bony appendages attached by seemingly nothing by air reached towards you.
You couldn’t muster a word, jaw slack as you backed away before turning and sprinting opposite to them, up the grand staircase and through a corridor chiseled from the same stone as the rest of the castle. The skeleton’s cackling wasn’t far behind yet they weren’t sight when you looked back.
“Fucking open! Goddamnit!” you snarled, yanking at the handle on every door you passed, acquainted once more with the scenario from before. “Just open!”
“Come out, come out, sweet little lamb!”
“We won’t hurt ya, just wanna have a nice talk.”
“The sword ain’t nothin’ but a greeting to ya!”
Hearing that they growing closer with no foreseeable escape for you at the end of the corridor, you thrashed against the doors harder than before. Your heart hammered against your chest, pants filling the space before you with opaque fogs and the silence with whimpers.
Your chest was on fire, throat as parched as your lips and your mind was fading in an incoherent haze. You slumped against the wall, fingers twining the candle-holder embedded in the stone to keep yourself from crumpling to the ground altogether.
How did this happen? You only wanted to get out of that town, away from the headhunters and the prying, spiteful gazes around you. Was this fate truly worse than what it would had been at the hands of man?
A loud crack jarred you from your thoughts, the candle-stick dipping you closer to the floor whilst your body dragged across the stone as the wall spun you around, out of sight. Both hands gripped the candle-holder now, you crouched before a dimly lit hall preceding a rather decrepit set of stairs, crumbling and fissured.
It took you but a moment to gather your bearings and continue forward, especially at the grating sound of bone smashing into hard stone, the skeleton’s rambunctious chattering but feet away.
You leaned against the wall as you descended, tentative but quick into the depths of the castle. Twisting tighter and tighter, you soon realized that as the staircase circled more intensely, the walls also were much closer than before.
An end came before you were too claustrophobic, opening up into a large room that was surprisingly well-lit for being so deep under the castle. You stepped cautiously, picking at your nails as you examined the room and the strange contraptions that fed into the walls.
The pipes led to a single point: a gigantic bulbous tank in the center of the room brimming with a red substance. You were no fool to the raised rectangular container there as well.
If possible, mingling with the skeletons was much preferable now.
‘Oh shit, oh shit. I need to leave, I need to get out of here…’
As if on cue, the coffin gave a hiss as the clasps adhering the lid shot upright, allowing the smooth, black stone to slide down and land on the ground with such a ruckus you thought you felt vibrations beneath your feet.
Despite this, you were anchored to your spot, unblinking as you looked upon the slumbering man inside the coffin. His hair was vibrant contrast to the entirety of the castle; platinum with such a sheen you thought it could be spun into a lavish tapestry. His skin was of ash and so translucent you thought you could see the veins underneath even from where you stood.
His clothes were dark, obviously crafted from the finest silk and leather–you thought he could had been a prince. Truly, he was one of the most beautiful things you had ever laid eyes on, but quickly tore your eyes away at the thought and stepped back.
The clack of your heel against the stone sounded so much louder now, and you sure it was to that man. At the moment your heel had struck, his eyes opened, piercing into your own with such intensity that you felt as nothing. Insignificant and small.
‘He’s a vampire…’
You had half the mind to run, yet you hesitated. Where would you run to? Back to the skeletons? Back to the headhunters?
The vampire didn’t move for a moment, those unfathomably sharp eyes never missed a single movement you made; not your jittering, nor the rise and fall of your chest with each breath. You wondered if this is how the hunted felt? Ensnared in the eyes of the predator before death.
“A human steps foot into my castle? How?” said the vampire in tones far colder than the perpetual winter outside. He rose from the coffin–or rather, levitated, from his chamber, long tendrils of platinum draped over his shoulders. You had decided then to stand your ground, no matter how proudly he held himself and stared down down his nose at you. “Answer me.”
“I broke a window.”
The vampire’s face remained unchanged, unresponsive as though you hadn’t said anything at all. If possible, however, you were almost positive he was staring you down harder than before.
Out of the lion’s den and straight into a dragon’s nest.
Chapter 2: Finding Sanctuary
If you had to choose a death, it being at the hands of a beautiful vampire was preferable. And yet, you were determined to survive the doom that hung over your head in whatever way you could. Even if that meant bargaining with a vampire.
Fear gripped you in mysterious ways. Every limb in your body felt heavy as though anchored to the floor by chains, and though your eyes were free to roam, they remained fixed steadily ahead on the vampire with hair of spun gold. Bizarre as it was not to wither beneath his gaze, you had come to accept should you be meant for an untimely end, this would be it.
You wondered if fear had seeped into the marrow of your bones and into your head, numbing you to the severity of the situation at hand. Even though an endlessly frozen landscape awaited you beyond the walls of black stone and marble and jowls of hatred and searing torches, you couldn’t will yourself to respond appropriately.
“Do you have a name, Vampire?” you ventured daringly, unable to curb your intrigue despite his unwavering gaze. Surely, your terror was so intoxicating at this point that you had the audacity to attempt a conversation with him. Those glistening waves of hair, unfathomably sharp eyes, and unmarred flesh seemed too angelic for him to be the work of the devil.
One of these days, if not now, your insatiable curiosity would be the end of you.
“You claim to have entered the castle through a window.” He said at last, stirring from where he had been rooted before you, peering around the expansive basement as though keenly aware of it for the first time. “There were defenses placed on it to keep everything out.”
“I don’t know anything about any defenses, my lord,” you replied, feet shuffling in place to follow him as he walked around you with long, fluid strides. “But, I just scaled the walls and the window was so weak from the cold.”
The echo of his footfalls ceased, his back still facing you. “The cold, you say?”
“Aye.” Once again, you felt rather brave and took several tentative steps forward, fingers steeping as you slunk closer. This roused greater interest in the circumstances surrounding his slumber; it made you wonder just how long he had been asleep in this castle of decay and dust. “Have you not seen the world outside at all these days?”
He never turned back to you, instead the confident clack of his heels as he walked away reverberated off the dank walls and his reluctant response stayed with you. “I… have not.”
It was only once he had vanished from your sight, cape trailing and dragging the steps behind him as he ascended the stone staircase that you finally found the gumption to haul after him. Your fingers twitched as they splayed across the stone, balancing you as you stretched to get view of the tail end of his cape.
A greater part of you felt as though you were falling prey to the butcher, a lamb far too bold for its own good and yet you couldn’t stop yourself. There was no telling what would happen if you stayed behind.
“Does the lord of the castle have a name?” you tried again, feeling winded the longer you climbed the stairs. It was always humorously how much easier it was to go down than to climb. Your heart thundered in your ears, breaths as faint puffs of air before your eyes.
The vampire continued to ignore you as he climbed, eliciting a simultaneous rumble in your throat of disappointment and awe when you noticed he wasn’t short of breath in the slightest. If being a vampire didn’t entail needing blood, being beasts borne of the devil’s magic, and bursting to flames in daylight–perhaps being one wouldn’t be so bad.
You nearly walked into his back then, realizing that you both had reached the top of the staircase and faced the revolving stone wall. The vampire reached forward surely, giving the sconce a firm thrust down. Just as before, the wall gave a crack as it shook and swung around, catching you by the back and forcibly ejecting you into the hall behind the vampire.
“Master! You have awoke!” came a clatter of bones.
There was another rattle as the skeleton with the blade sheathed in its ribs took notice of you. “Kekeke, and he is not alone. If it isn’t the lost lamb!”
“You’re just gettin’ yerself into all kinds of trouble!” said the last, the distorted voice sent a shudder racing down your spine. “Tresspassin’, then runnin’, and waking our Master! Unforgivable wretch.”
The skeletons circled you both, edging you closer to the vampire as you instinctively furled your fingers into his cape, head swiveling to track their movements.
“That is enough.” His voice was calm, yet verged on annoyance as he yanked the cape from your grasp and walked forward, causing the skeletons to jolt in surprise, bones clanking as they huddled. “Move aside.”
As they were ordered, the skeletons scuttled away, forming a rigid line with their bony chins pointed high in the air. They possessed no eyes, no eerie glow from within their deep sockets, but you felt as though they watched you as you passed with the vampire–not from malice, but fascination. Their figures shrunk in the distance but they remained as statues.
“How is it that possible. They are skeletons; the dead.” You rounded him to walk alongside him now, tempted to grab his sleeve but thought better of it. “Are they possessed by demons? How have they been reanimated? Tell me!”
“Their exact purpose is what they could not prevent,” he replied, obviously referencing your invasion yet never broke his forward trance to confirm that. “Magic flows this castle like blood the veins of a human. And yet that was not enough to even keep a single one out.”
Your lips stretched taut at the mention of magic. The Church forbid the use of it, of witchcraft or any variation therein. As of recent, they chose to reinforce this law with public spectacles that you had omitted yourself to witnessing; you couldn’t bear to watch those people and the fire–their homes and lives engulfed in spite, in fear, in red.
However, you were jarred from your thoughts as warmth scattered your face, almost as though enveloping you in a nurturing embrace. You were only just realizing the vampire had led you to a wing of the castle you unfamiliar with; tall shelves lined the walls, fit with unkempt trinkets and oddities beneath dust, and books were open on their spines with golden, stiff pages.
And yet what captured your attention more were the three windows that reached from the ceiling to the floor, allowing the radiance of the sun to filter through the veil of wear and dirt layering them. The closer the vampire ventured towards them, the more plumes of dust rose, particles floating back towards the floor and catching the light.
“Wait!” you called out, lunging towards him to reel him away from the light. You were both surprised in the moment; the vampire caved towards your pull, whereas you immediately flung your hands away from him, holding them aloft in submission. “F-Forgive me! But, you’re a vampire. Won’t you burst into flames or something?”
He straightened his back, training a rather harsh stare in your direction that wavered as his eyes traced towards the windows once more, striding towards them with a confidence that made your heart want to burst from your chest.
At first, you flinched the moment he stepped into the light, going as far as to shield your eyes from him, unsure of what would happen. When the air didn’t tear with hellish shrieks or the roar of flames, you peeked through your fingers at where he stood looking outside. “You’re… not on fire.”
Your legs carried you to his side, practically floating in your excitement. “You’re not on fire. How is it you can bear the sun? Just what kind of vampire are you?”
While the tall man’s visage remained beautiful and still as stone, the curtain at his side swayed as his fingers wound it tighter. He spared you a single, fleeting glance before turning away from the window with a flourish. It wasn’t a surprise when he changed the subject at hand. “Winter is upon the land, surely you can fare on your own to nearest down. You will leave.”
“W-Wait! No, no, no!” you sprinted after him, quickly maneuvering your body in front of him to block his path, arms fanning wide. “You don’t get it! It’s not truly winter! The winter has long passed. Not so long ago it was spring. There were blossoms on the trees, there were flowers and squirrels.”
“Absurd,” he replied coolly. “Step aside and take your leave.”
Suddenly, the reality that you could be cast back out to the headhunters and hounds lurked closer. You couldn’t let them find you and take you back to that town. Truthfully, you didn’t feel any more content confined in a castle that breathed magic and death, but you preferred this fate to the other.
“Don’t you think it’s bizarre, Vampire?” you pressed, legs rooted defiantly to refuse him further passage. “A human manages to break into your castle, despite you saying that magic was supposed to keep me out? You’re hearing firsthand from someone who braved that weather, it’s not normal.”
He stared down the length of his nose at you, chin tilted slightly as though to challenge you resolve. “What do you propose the cause is then?”
“I don’t know.” You let your shoulders roll forward with your response. “Maybe magic? Perhaps there’s something evil out there? But, the town I come from, many of my friends have died. Our crops are destroyed, cattle are dead. We’re starving.”
“Why are you here?” he asked cautiously.
You decided to be honest. “Why? Well, surely you can understand survival? I wasn’t sure what else I was supposed to do. My choices were limited to finding a way out, or dying with the rest.”
For the first time since meeting him, he couldn’t seem to refute. Even though the severity of his gaze was enough to make you shrivel, it felt distant as though his mind was elsewhere–contemplating. The only thing you could think to do was to keep your feet planted and wait for him to say something else, though you had taken to burrowing your hands in your layers to retain warmth.
At last, the words spilled forth from his lips, “What is it that you want?”
“Nothing.” You answered simply, lifting your shoulders dismissively. “I don’t want to hassle a vampire, I just want to stay somewhere warm until spring. I am a person to my word, the moment the ice and snow melts, I will leave and you’ll never see me again.”
Of course, you chose to withhold your speculations on just how long the weather would stay. Even you had no true answer.
“I have nothing to accommodate a human.” His logic was sound, you couldn’t deny that.
With a broad sweep of your arm, you attempted to ease his wariness by gesturing to the entirety of the castle. “Nothing to accommodate me? Please! I’m already a scavenger, don’t worry about that. You have a castle with fireplaces and rooms with beds. I can breathe life into this place if you allow it.”
You wondered if it was merely because he was finished dealing with your persistence that he relented, eyes forward as he grazed past you through the corridor.
“At the first sight of spring, you will leave.” He proclaimed, voice loud enough that it carried through the emptiness of the hall.
It was finally sinking in that you were safe at last, for the time being at the very least. Your fingers gripped eagerly at your scarf, raising it over your mouth to keep your lips from drying worse in the frigid air.
Just then, a thought crossed your mind and your whirled in his direction.
“A moment there, Vampire! Give me your name, unless you really don’t fancy the idea of me knowing it.” Third time’s the charm, or so you wanted to believe. He was some ways down the hall when he came to a stop, hair falling away from his shoulder as he turned his head.
He hesitated briefly, voice seeming to linger and swirl endlessly in your mind even once you both had gone separate ways in the castle.
“My name is Alucard.”
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Chapter 3: Falling Into Routine
The days pass for you in a lull and you find yourself settling into a routine that brings you unease. More perilously, Alucard seems to have a hunch that you are capable of using magic.
With the passing days an unending stretch of glistening white and numb fingers despite the layers you wore, there was time to contemplate your next move. There was a part of you that held the hope you would awake one morning to the soft tweedle of birds and blossoming trees. You yearned for the warmth and vitality of spring.
Each day was much like the last, however. You would approach the heavy drapery framing windows and move it aside, wincing from the harsh glare of the sun and chill that drifted from the glass. The world still sprawled in ice and snow, entombing much of everything in it.
It brimmed your heart with unease when one day, while sweeping the parlor and feeding the fireplace, you realized you had settled into this routine and found yourself questioning things less and less. Your fingers tightened around the handle, the splintered wood dug into your skin.
“You haven’t forgotten to mark in your book today, ‘ave ya?”
The chattering bones was married to the distorted voice that echoed across the room. You barely acknowledged the skeleton as he approached, though you could feel the empty sockets searing into the side of your head.
“The book? I think I left it in my room.” You replied monotonously, tapping the coarse bristles of the broom into the floor as you thought about it. “I dunno. I’ll have to look. Where’s Seymour and Donnavon?”
“Ehhhh,” Chadwick clicked his teeth, bones rattling as he walked around you towards the fireplace and flung another log atop the flames. “Probably runnin’ around thinkin’ they’re patrolling. They ain’t got anything better to do these days. I think they’re tryna make it up to Master for lettin’ you in, Lambie.”
After a while, the skeleton warriors had ceased most of their antagonistic attitudes towards you, though Chadwick had been the only one to take a genuine liking to your presence and even bothered a proper conversation.
He was the most stout of the three, even though they were all just bones articulated by magic. According to him, they had never been human–or dead for so long they couldn’t place skin nor features to themselves.
Apparently, Alucard had risen them from a graveyard of bones some centuries ago and they had faithfully remained at his side ever since. It had been difficult to quash your keen interest in the vampire’s mastery of magic, much less not use any in the castle yourself.
Of course, you were a fool and as fools do, you slipped up. During the first few weeks of your stay, you had found a rather ornate fireplace in one secluded section of the castle. The air was dry and cold, flitting dust in the air with every step you took and plumes rose off of the armchairs and couches when you smacked them.
The fireplace stood tall, painstakingly carved marble detailed the heads of beasts and the demonic. Despite the work that went into it, the features of the mantle felt smooth as silk. You thought it was only appropriate to light it.
The palm of your hand felt hot as an orb of red curled around your fingertips and slithered towards the fireplace, igniting it and ushering in a breath of life and light to the room. Your contentment didn’t last long, as on your trip around other parts of the castle, you had caught the disjointed conversation between Donnavon and Alucard.
“You assume magic is being used in the castle, aside from my own?” Alucard seemed disinterested, though you were sure his expression wouldn’t have indicated much even he was intrigued. “And where do you suggest the source?”
“Aye.” Donnavon replied. “That human reeks of it. I’m sure ya have felt it, being the man that ya are.”
When the conversation came to a halt, you had been tempted to check around the corner to see if they were still there, but the more intuitive part of yourself kept you flush against the wall.
And as though fate were humoring you, you heard languid strides coming in your direction, the heels of Alucard’s boots were deafening despite the distance.
“I’ll handle it.”
You hadn’t left things to chance that day and immediately scuttled away down one of the other halls to avoid being seen. Since then, you had pointedly avoided being in too near proximity of Alucard, despite you unbridled curiosity pleading otherwise.
Even though he had said that, he never acted on it. And you had assured to keeping your use of magic reserved for the few instances you ventured outside to collect supplies.
“How’s about I fetch yer book for ya? You stayin’ on the second or third floor?”
Chadwick jolted you to your senses, the handle of the broom nearly slipped between your fingers. You stared blankly at his black sockets for a moment, taking notice that his bones clinked as he knocked them together, shifting impatiently and obviously eager to leave.
“Sure, yeah,” you said vacantly, fixing your posture as you began sweeping again. “Second floor, third hall and fourth room on the right. I’ll probably explore the third floor tomorrow. The book is, uh, probably on the dresser.”
He left you then following a stiff salute and you couldn’t help but feel fortunate for the silence that permeated the parlor. The scuff of coarse bristles against the floor lulled the tension from your body. Although, you couldn’t claim you had ever found a moment of relaxation since entering the castle those weeks ago.
You were only able to keep some concept of time by detailed record keeping in a journal you had stolen when you first arrived. Burgundy with stiff, golden pages that made an awful ruckus when turned; an inconspicuous item that lured your attention from the start, much the same as your uncle’s forbidden texts had.
“I’ll need to add another tally tonight.” You mused, sweeping several centuries worth of debris and gunk towards the wall. “Will this be week the third or fourth, I wonder…”
“Two days will mark the beginning of the fourth.”
Alucard’s callous voice was unexpected, sending a chill rushing through your body as you whirled towards him, broom raised a little more defensively than you had intended. He paid you little heed as he sauntered past, the cape of exquisite fabric seemed to shift like water and his hair near glistened white when light reached it.
He was beautiful as he was cold, a mystery that you couldn’t help but fixate yourself on at times. The Church had taught you he was everything you were meant to despise and fear, and yet you could not bring yourself to do so.
Not fully, at least.
“Has it been that long already?” you approached him tentatively, bracing your weight on the handle of the broom. “Hard to believe when everyday seems exactly like the last.”
If he had heard you, he chose not to respond to your little quip and kept his eyes ahead at the sea of glimmering white and frozen trees. He studied it a while longer, eyes thinning against the brilliance of the sun while his expression grew more severe.
He turned then with a flourish, startling you upright and back to give him room to walk by. You were surprised when he stopped before you, head tilted at the slightest to fix you with a sharp look, those gold eyes of his traced every discernible movement you made.
“I’m beginning to suspect there’s some truth to what you spoke before, about there being some forces at work behind his winter.” He seemed satisfied with that, continuing onward through the hall without another glance to you. “You would do well to be wary of where you go when you wander outside.”
Even though he had gone, you still felt his gaze and his presence linger with you. Had he said that out of concern? Was it meant as a threat?
You felt your frustration fester knowing that you couldn’t get a read on him.
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Chapter 4: Companionship
Months have passed since arriving at the castle, you are comforted by routine and your growing bond with Alucard.
Four months had come and gone without you realizing it. Your life had become a routine, sated by the warmth and towering cobblestone that protected you from the ice and snow, as well as the worries that continued to throttle you every effort to achieve complete peace. They coiled your heart like a serpent and snapped at your mind like the jowls of the bloodhounds that stalked you.
There were days when you believed that the castle was truly a sanctuary bestowed by God, though it had been in jest to also make it the home of a vampire. More often than not these days, you spent the hours staring through stained glass windows while the snow fell; frigid gusts of air dusted your footprints until they faded entirely.
The castle had a different feeling than it once did, fear abandoned in place of light that reached darker corners, and warmth from flames and company that held everything outside of the walls at bay. It took you time to understand why you felt so at ease, despite the rattling bones and cackles that followed you through the halls, and the thick novels that hovered across your shoulders in boundless curiosity.
You could bear the moans of the damned, the thumps beneath the floorboards in the cellar, and the nondescript passages that led to visits in the night. Magic seeped into every crevice of the castle; between your fingers, into your hair and clothes, finding that it amplified what power you had.
True to the discussion you had heard long ago, Alucard had confronted you on the matter of your magic once and then no longer. It had come just at dusk; any touch of light to the land had gone and you thought you could hear the ice climbing the walls and trying to break the windows.
But, surely you were imagining things in your isolation with a vampire.
The palm of your hand glowed a faint orange, reluctant to conjure a flame to set the twigs ablaze. You felt the fire reach for your fingertips, curling them as they reached back for the source in your palm.
“You did not tell me you could use magic.”
Even though his voice was firm, it held no malice nor was it exactly confrontational. On the contrary, he seemed tentative as he approached, the snares of darkness fell from his shoulders and face which were barely illuminated by lantern.
You resolve to keep your magic hidden dropped at that, giving you the gumption to light the fireplace and revel in the warmth. The animated hues of orange and red danced around your hand as though they were alive, bouncing atop of your fingertips as they sprang into the wood and, in a grand flourish, burst to live brilliantly, sending sparks and charred fragments of wood skittered across the floor.
“Are you mad about it?” you spoke at last, swiping your knees clean as you stood and faced him. “That I didn’t tell you that I could use magic? It’s not something that I go around trying to flaunt. Or, at least…ah, no. I don’t. Magic is a sin, after all.”
By this point, you were used to the piercing stare he fixed you with. Until recently, being under his gaze would chill you marrow, sending thoughts spinning through your head as you weaved one horrible outcome after another. In those days, you thought his eyes were dull and his attitude loathsome as he left you fend for yourself. To live or to die, it was no concern to him.
Sometimes he hid from you, other times he would appear in the eve, scrutinizing you and struggling to make sense of you.
When you looked at him nowadays, you thought his gold eyes flickered more, they were lively and inquisitive. He took the fires you lit at night and having your presence nearby.
“A sin?” he echoed, mood fouling at he cruised past you to stand before the flames. And once more, his eyes were on you, along with the unmistakable absence of space between you both. “Is that what you believe? That magic is evil? What of science?”
You found yourself focusing on the window across the spacious room, plucking at the threads hanging from your sleeves. “It is my belief that magic and science are… worth exploring. Though, I can only tell you about one. The other is beyond my comprehension.”
Alucard faced you fully, the light below capturing his handsome features and the slight tilt of his head. “Humans are rarely endowed with the ability to use magic. You would have had to learn it yourself, correct?”
He was far too keen. “Well, you’re not wrong.”
“From whom did you learn?” Alucard pressed, his investment in the conversation was unheard of to you. You had expected to him to burst into a fit of rage, or kick you out of the castle when he learned you omitted such an important detail. And yet, that was ridiculous considering who he was.
You felt your throat tighten, words snagging there as you hesitated to give an answer. Or, rather, you didn’t want to give one. You could already recall a town swallowed by flames and the heavy odor of smoke and decay. “My aunt taught me the bare basics… before…”
To your surprise, he didn’t pursue your answer once your voice tapered to silence. You heard the scuff of fabric as he shifted, his eyes danced across the room and saw into the darkness. “Forgive me, I will not question you on the matter again.”
That night, he left you silently, the only remnant of his presence was the air that gushed past you as he went.
You admitted to yourself early on thereafter that you craved his companionship, suspecting it had to have been from being confined to dark stone walls and an endless winter. Maybe you wished for a familiar touch and hearty laughter over a pot of stew, or nestling into a warm embrace and the touch fingers in your hair.
He would not give that to you, yet you wanted him near you all the same. And as the days continued forth in the same pattern, the lull of routine, you noticed his absences become fewer and fewer.
A part of you prayed that he felt the same.
“Wait, so this castle isn’t really yours? What’s the story with that?” You offered Alucard a brief glance to signal your interest, but otherwise trained your eyes on the floor as you swept.
He pried himself away from one of the windows that overlooked the southern wing of the castle, the area in which you had initially broken into, and eventually stopped before a gigantic portrait that hung over the fireplace.
You often found yourself staring at it, marveling at the artist’s dedication to catch the likeness of the subject. As the painting had worn through the centuries, you could only imagine the details of it. The woman was statuesque with a long neck adorned in gold and jewels, you could visualize the attention that she demanded with the red gown that complemented her rich skin.
Even now after centuries of vacancy and dust, she still claimed the castle as hers. Alucard revealed he left the castle much as he had found it, you suspected it was out of respect to the woman. But, even he admitted to not knowing her identity nor what happened to her.
“Her clothing is familiar to me, I would place her close to when the witch hunts most widely spread around here.” Alucard always sounded bitter when the topic of witchcraft arose, yet you didn’t have the courage to ask why. “I suppose there is a chance that she was not a part of them.”
That was being optimistic, or at much so as someone as pragmatic as Alucard could be.
You tapped the stiff bristles of your broom into the hard floor, luring his attention from the grand portrait to you. “Was everything already covered in dust when you found this place?”
His eyes floated towards the top of your head for just a moment, returning to your face as he gave an answer. “When I arrived, the castle looked different than it does now. Back then, there was furniture and open books, plates, silverware. I could tell that they left in a hurry.”
His explanation was met with a grimace, a flick of disbelief that he quickly remedied. “Yes, there was dust.”
Your expression eased as you gave your broom a triumphant tap on the floor. “Hah, I knew it.”
“Afterwards,” he continued, entranced by something just over your head. “I built barriers around the castle to conceal it from view, and to keep anyone from getting in. It worked well… for a time.”
Prompted by his insistent stare, you slid a glance across your shoulder to the nothingness in the room. “What do you keep looking at? But, I don’t think I ever truly apologized for breaking in and waking you up. If you would have told me back then that I’d be apologizing to you now, I’d call you a liar and a demon.”
As his gold eyes settle on yours again, you found they were even more breathtaking in the daylight than by lantern light. With each passing day, you found something else to be mesmerized by him, his very being brought you bliss and you relished the flutter in your stomach.
Just then, his hand neared your face, rooting you to the floor in surprise as he reached into your hair and withdrew a stiff bristle that had gotten caught.
He twirled it between his fingertips. “Do you believe in fate?”
Your mouth felt as dry as it would after sucking on cotton. You couldn’t answer.
i feel like i needed to put in here the bond between mc and alucard. starting next chapter tho, i am getting the ball rolling with the main plot. so strap your asses in.
Chapter 5: Out of Luck
Your bond with Alucard has only strengthened over time, encouraging him to investigate the wasteland outside of the castle. He gives a stark revelation that stirs unwelcome feelings. The past is finally catching up with you.
Something called to you beyond the sprawling forest, intangible as fog and as dark as the shroud that hid the stars from you at night. The pull was inescapable, inscrutable like strings tugging at your limbs, bringing you just a couple inches closer by the day. And for just a moment, the crunch of ice beneath your feet, the howls of wind and brittle branches splitting against the force all faded to nothing.
You were swallowed in a void of still, black air where you could feel nothing but the invisible hand reaching through skin and your ribs, coaxing you ever closer. There was nothing for as far as the eye could see, not in the void nor beyond ancient trunks with roots far too deep to break.
This sensation was familiar, it had followed you for sometime now. Magic was what lured you to Alucard’s castle, and it was magic that entombed the world around you in ice and snow; you could feel it with each step you took, with the frigid air you breathed, and in the snow that landed in your hands.
You were on the cusp of something important. It danced tauntingly in the forefront of your mind, prodded at memories and suspicions you wanted to dissuade yourself from pursuing.
And yet, you could not deny that the magic that encompassed you with such wicked presence was familiar. Far too familiar for it to be coincidence, but were you ready to accept what waited for you at the end of the trail?
Those answers faded with the haze in your mind where the sound of cracking ice rooted you back to reality, finally making you take notice of the rather monstrously sized wolf making a tentative approach. It had taken you all but a solid five seconds to even notice it, as the white fur matched a little too nicely with pristine landscape.
No, what caught your attention were the black sclera that made those pale gold eyes as beautiful as they were unnerving. There was little point in masking the disappointment that flashed across your face, for a moment you had been ecstatic to see another living creature among the wasteland apart from yourself.
To be sure, it was a creature but not of the type you sought.
“You should really try to announce yourself a little better, I was going to take my torch and set you on fire.” You said, jostling the knapsack on your back and haphazard bundle of wood, cloth, and string. “Seriously, Alucard. You blend in with everything.”
He cruised closer, seemingly unperturbed in his usual fashion as he sat at your side. With his ears pushed forward, eyes unblinking, focused on the endless spread of trees ahead, you had to wonder the intensity in which he felt the magic all around in comparison to yourself.
His ears flattened against his skull when you stroked the top of his head, reveling in the warmth of his fur even through the layers of your gloves. You couldn’t keep the smile from wearing into your parched lips at his displeasure, yet he made little motion to shake you off. “I can’t believe how soft you are. When we get back to the castle, let me touch your fur without gloves. Can I hug you?”
You wore your luck too thin, giving a pout as he snorted puffs of fog into the air, shaking your hand free before meandering deeper into the forest as you both had initially planned.
These daily excursions with him were something new, yet graciously welcomed all the same. Under the guise of investigating the powerful magic he detected, he chose to venture out with you whether sun or cloud. You remained mystified by his ability to endure the sunlight, though even he admitted he had his preferences for the night, or just about any other time in the cycle of a day.
Just what kind of vampire was he to be mostly immune to the effects of light?
“How far have you ventured from the castle?”
You had just broken a sizable walking stick from a tree when he rounded another one up ahead, lingering conspicuously near the shadows cast from it. Aside from the rather exquisite, dark clothing he wore, you thought his pallor suited the scenery; angelic and lethal all the same.
It took you a moment to reel yourself from your stupor, blunting the bottom of the stick into the hard ground for a while. “I’ve gone as far as three miles. Any more than that and I’d probably be dead.”
Alucard glanced towards the direction through the trees again, eyes thinning. “We will not be traveling that far. Gather what you need and we’ll return to the castle.”
“Not what I meant, but that’s fine. Whatever.” You grouched under your breath, pecking the base of a tree for any nuts that had frozen beneath the deposits of ice, snow, and dirt. “Hey, what does it feel like to you? That magic?”
After a brief quiet, you heard his languid footfalls lead to your side. “Overwhelming. My senses are heightened a great deal more than your own, and even I cannot trace the true source. It seems to be purposefully misguiding…”
You tightened your face, crouching low to pocket a couple of nuts and other questionable, hopefully edible things. “Strange. To me, it’s like an invisible trail.”
“Where does it lead?” he asked, curiosity stirring in his tone.
You shrugged your shoulders to your ears, using your newly acquired walking stick and the sleeve of his coat to hoist yourself to your feet. He didn’t react. “I don’t really know. What I do know is that it goes farther than three miles. Goes north quite a ways, I don’t think I’ve ever gone in that direction.”
The ground cracked underfoot as Alucard shifted, eyes moving about cautiously in a way that you wanted to believe was protective. You thought he was a little closer than before, standing there with his broad shoulders tense, shielding you away from the path of the unknown.
“Power of this magnitude… the effects must have spread far beyond the country now.” There was a moment where you wondered whether he fathomed the gravity of his words, taking into consideration how terrifying it was to hear them from a monotonous vampire. “Perhaps even the continent. This happened all in a relatively short span of time, correct?”
You didn’t feel like scavenging anymore. With a rather sudden change in mood, observable to even yourself, you matched the strides of the tracks left behind previously. Alucard seemed to hesitate a moment, perhaps startled, perhaps unsure whether he had wounded you in some way.
“I don’t know much more than you do,” you said shortly after, attempting to ease the heaviness of the silence between you both on your trek through the crystal wilderness. “All we have to go off of is speculation. Just… speculation.”
“You feel it, do you not?” he asked, now walking alongside of you an arm length from reach. “The creature that wields this magic has enough power to go beyond just these forests and this country. How long have you stayed in my castle? When you arrived, you said it was supposed to be spring. We should be experiencing the end of summer by now.”
No lie sprouted from his lips, you didn’t think that he could be bothered with softening the harsh truths that he reminded you of. Truthfully, there were days where you believed you could forget about what haunted the world outside the walls of the castle.
Your comfort had taken precedence over everything else, you had forgotten about the sanguinous headhunters, the fetid wafts of smoke and burning flesh. With Alucard at your side, gradually, your fear ebbed into a lull of daily trivialities.
And you were content in staying that way.
By that point, the conversation had thinned into nothing. You weren’t watching the path ahead of you, nor the trunks your shoulders repeatedly scuffed while you walked. It was Alucard’s back that kept you from straying too far and losing yourself among the pines, engrossed by the tail of his coat just skimming the surface of the snow.
That realization struck you rather significantly.
You were walking through loose snow.
It inspired an idea that would either end favorably to lighten the mood, or sour him enough that he would avoid you altogether. Again. Considering that there were no longer any guarantees in your life, you opted for the risk and slowed your pace; stooping to gather some snow in your hands, hopping a couple more feet and collecting more.
“Hey, give me a second.” You said, prompting him to stop and turn towards you. A mischievous smile sprawled across your face despite the orb of snow crumbling in your gloved hands. In hindsight, as the ball exploded into a mess of fine powder that clung to his clothes and hair, you were astounded at your own audaciousness.
Alucard didn’t flinch, rather you caught the subtle way his face tightened as though wordlessly chastising you for the delay, yet his eyes flickered with uncertainty. “What was the purpose of that?”
“Have you ever had fun a day in your life?” you withered beneath his glare, palms shooting up in submission. “Okay, hey, I’m sorry. Don’t get mad.”
You were convinced he was pouting rather than angry, mustering to keep your lips from pulling taut over your teeth in a daring grin as you tromped closer. At first you hesitated to touch him, assuming it was as foreign to him as it was yourself, and something you undeniably craved to do.
“Let me just…” your voice trailed, fingers lightly grazing his coat, flicking away the snow. It grew increasingly difficult to avoid his gaze searing into you, the drum of your heart and the excitement that burst in your chest made your hand tremble.
You wanted to argue it was the cold.
And so he did.
Just as your fingers twined into those locks of spun gold, you nearly jumped out of your skin feeling his tighten across the back of your hand, holding it at length yet not painfully at all.
“You’re going to freeze if we do not return to the castle. Enough of this.” He said this without dedication or edge on his tongue, words spoken for the sake of speaking them.
Still, you persisted. “I was just trying to help.”
Strangely enough, he was the one hesitating to let you go and only did so when the wails of bloodhounds severed the silence in the still air, voices brimming with malice grew in number until a ring of fire narrowed closer.
It was then that you saw the men hoisting their torches high in the air, barely restraining the mutts on leather leashes with snapping jowls. You could no longer see the path beyond the horde of men, only the hatred that burned into you.
They found you.
if you did enjoy this, p l e a s e make sure to let me know! whether it's a kudo, comment, or whatever! also, do ya'll have a preference for shorter-ish chapters like i usually do, or longer-ish like this?