Part Eighteen: The Art Tower
Chanaur stirred, his head throbbing. The pain caused his eyes to open, though he would have preferred to be blind. He didn't want to know where he was. He didn't want to know who had attacked him. He didn't want to talk to anyone.....
.....But Carrie. She was still out there somewhere..... Alone.....
With that thought, he sat up....
....And immediatly fell back down. His head felt like it was split right down the middle.....
"Ah, your awake. For a while, I thought I'd killed you....."
Chanaur opened his eyes, searching for the source of the voice. He saw a strange, dark room, whose only source of lumination was the blood-red light of the moon, through a single window. It made the unfamiliar surroundings even more frightening.
He felt a cup pressed gently to his lips. "Drink this. It will help the concussion."
He drained the bowl, without thinking. Too late, thoughts of poisons sprang to his mind.....
No. If they wanted me dead, they would have already done it. "Who......" He whispered, straining to see through his blurred vision. "Who are you?"
A hand brushed his forehead, delicately. "Your still awful warm, Chanaur." The voice was quiet, gentle, and femenine.....
"Rosa?" He groaned. "Why.....?"
Her face swam in and out of focus. Her hand touched his cheek, trembling. "Don't worry, Chanaur. My mind is once again my own......" Her hand shook as she gently retrieved it. "I brought you here.... At the Counts request....."
Chanaur put a hand to his forehead, closing his eyes. He was warm. "What does he have in mind?"
"He wants to speak to you..... As do I."
Somehow, he knew this wasn't going to be a quiet chat between friends. She had brought him here to do something...... Something terrible.
"Rosa...... What is it?" He opened his eyes, and looked into her face. His vision had cleared, and he saw what she was holding.
"I..... I want you to..... To take me away. To get me out of here......" Her eyes were locked on the book, that was shaking in her unsteady hold. "To take the pain away....."
Chanaur sat up, and took the book from her hands. As soon as they were free, she buried her face in them. "Chanaur, what am I going to do? I sense..... Something will happen...... To Reinhardt......" She choked back a sob. "If anything happens to him, it will be my fault....."
Chanaur set the book on his pallet. He whispered her name, and touched her shoulder.
She jerked away. "Stay away...... It was all I could do to keep from feeding off of you while you slept..... Now that your blood is flowing properly....." Her body began to tremble.
Without knowing what to do, he sat back down. "Rosa, I can't take your curse away, without killing you....."
"Then kill me!" She hissed.
"I won't." He began. But before he could finish, Rosa punched him dead in the face.
"Damn you! Don't you understand?!" Chanaur tasted blood, as he looked into her flaming eyes. "If you don't, not only will I die anyway, but so will Reinhardt! And if he dies, Dracula will ascend to the mortal realm!"
"But what good will it do, killing you?" He swallowed the blood in his mouth, and wiped the rest from under his nose. Not once had he taken his eyes from hers. "How will your death save Reinhardt from dying himself?"
Rosa stared down at him. Her hand balled into a fist again. She bared her teeth, and drew back for another blow. But then her fist opened, and her shoulders sagged. "I don't know....." She fell to her knees. "I just don't know......"
"Nothing." He continued, his voice harsher than he wanted it to be. "It would accomplish nothing. You and I both know that if I did kill you, Reinhardt wouldn't rest until he had Dracula's head, and mine. Of course, he already wants me dead......"
"I take it he found out about your affliction?" Rosa sobbed.
"Yes." Chanaur sighed. "When I had fed off of Carrie....."
"He won't harm you, Chanaur. I know he won't." Rosa touched his hand. "I'm sorry for punching you....."
"It's okay, Rosa." He put his other hand on his. "I know it's frustrating, and downright frightening..... But hold out for a little longer..... Reinhardt will come through for you......" Or die trying.....
Rosa kissed him on the cheek. "Thank you, Chanaur....." She withdrew her hand. "Thank you....." Chanaur blinked, and she was gone.
Chanaur sighed, settling down with the Necronomicon, waiting for the Count. "Let's just hope those old legends are true......" With a trembling hand, he opened the book of the dead. "And I hope Reinhardt does survive....." With a tear in his eyes, and the taste of blood in his mouth, Chanaur slammed his fist on the open page. "For both their sakes....."
Master, Chanaur is awake.
Thank you, Actrise.
Master, why do you take such an interest in this girl? Why did you ask me to detain her, but not move her?
I..... Wanted to take one last look at her.....
That only answered one of my questions, Lord. Why does this child vex you so?
That's not important. And why do you care?
Sire, I've seen how you look at her. I see nostalgia in your eyes.
Indeed. I watched her grow. I watched her mother and father grow......
Yes, but why does Carrie interest you so?
Because..... She meant the world to me, when she was younger..... And.... I fear that if I show her my true self, she won't remember.....
Forget it, Actrise. Revive her, and set her on her path.
One more thing....... What do you mean, one last look?
Just do as I asked. It's no concern of yours.
His head snapped up, to see the Count looming over him. He no longer saw him as a person. He was nothing more than a murderous devil. He had destroyed all of these lives...... Rosa's..... Reinhardt's.... Carrie's......
"Yes, grandfather?" He asked bitterly, his eyes returning to the book on his lap.
"Please, Chanaur...." He held up a hand. "Don't call me that. I don't want to be reminded of what I have become."
Looking cautiously up, Chanaur saw the Counts face. Saw past the veil of hatred his eyes had cast over themselves. Saw the man that was beneath the Dark entity......
"Nevermind. You will see, in time. I had you brought here to ask a favor, not explain my history." The Count took the seat that Rosa had been using. "About Carrie."
"Haven't you done enough to her, you evil bastard?" Chanaur spat. "Haven't you done enough damage to her, by taking all she had left in the world from her, but me?" His eyes narrowed. "The only reason you haven't taken me, is because I have something you want. The Dark blood that courses through my veins, that would sustain your line." He smiled bitterly. "But by all means, ask me your favor." Chanaur spread out his arms, opened his hands, and sarcastically added, "What could I do to further ruin my love's life?"
Dracula looked at him sadly, as the verbal blow fell. "I want you to look after her for me."
Chanaur blinked, utterly bewildered. "This from the man who put her through a physical Hell, trying to get at me?" He looked quizically at the ancient face before him. "Why are you concerned about her well being, after all that you did to her?"
"What you need to understand, young Dhampire, is that there are....." Dracula shook his head. "That's not important right now. What is important, is that I have your word that you will watch over that girl. And guard her with your life."
Chanaur put a fist over his heart, and bowed. "I give you my word as a Tepes, that while there is breath and blood in my breast, I will protect her."
"Good." And then Dracula was gone.
Chanaur was back in the Art Tower, standing beneath the sculpture of the Alicorn, where he had fallen. Now he was left with a number of other questions, of which he had no way to answer.
Why was the Count so interested in Carrie?
Why would he care about her after all he had done to her?
What was his angle?
Was it all about the continuation of the bloodline.....
......Or was there something deeper?
Of course there isn't. He's Dracula, after all. He cares nothing about Carrie.....
But those eyes..... They had been so sad...... And somehow...... He had seen them before......
Long ago, when he was young........
He pushed it to the back of his mind, deciding to mull over it later. Right now, he had to find Carrie, to reveal this to her, and see if she knows anything.....
But more importantly, to finally tell her how he feels.....
Shaking his head, he smiled inwardly. After so long, she would know. The strange thing was, he was no longer afraid. The thought of her reaction no longer brought the knot to his throat, or the skipped beat to his heart.
He just wanted to know the truth, no matter what it was.
But, that didn't matter at the moment. Right now, he had to find her. Sending this thought to the back of his mind to accompany Dracula, he continued on his way. Guessing that the door just in front of him led to the rest of the tower and was locked, he walked to the door leading into the west wing.
He stepped into the door, cursed, and ducked a thrown dagger. From his crouched position, he sent two fireballs at the Hell Knights accross the room. The suits of armor shattered, and fell lifeless to the floor. They dissolved into nothingness, leaving behind two cards, one blue, one red.
Crossing the room, he picked up the objects. Each one was the size of his palm, and weighed too little, considering that they were composed of metal. The red one shone bright, the relief of the sun on it's center, surrounded by a border of flames. The blue one's light was pale, and held a picture of the moon, surrounded by stars.
Unless my intuition is wrong, it's night..... He turned to the moon door to his left, and pocketed the strange cards. I'll try this one first..... Cautiously opening the door, he peered into the room. Nothing more than a sculpture of a decapitated human on a dais.
That's the one thing I never understood. If this is great art, why is it all just a bunch of decapitated people?
Shrugging, he closed the door, and walked to the other moon door accross the corridor. Again, nothing more than an extravagent work of art. However, in the corner, was the contract.....
He was just about to leave, when he felt his stomach rumble. He suddenly realized how hungry he was. Reaching for his pack, he realized that it was gone.
"Damn." He muttered, crossing over to the contract. He picked it up, and muttered, "Renon, I-"
"Yes?" He was standing just behind him now, smiling broadly.
Putting the contract down, Chanaur grudgingly asked, "What have you in the way of food?" He knew he shouldn't be asking this Demon for help, but he had little choice in the matter.
Kneeling down beside the dais, Renon opened his briefcase. He pulled out enough food to feed a small army, of every type of delicacy known.
"No, just something that will give me strength. I don't need to indulge myself here." Chanaur still hadn't taken his eyes from Renon.
Renon smiled slightly, and everything dissapeared. In it's place was a few pieces of salted beef, and a canteen of water. "Will this suffice?"
"Yes. Now, what do I owe you?" Chanaur fished out his coin satchel.
The smile on Renon's face broadened. "Nothing." And then he was gone.
Normally, Chanaur would have tightened his belt and continued on. He didn't trust this Demon any further than he could throw him.
But now, he found himself swayed. Anything that would help him get to Carrie faster was welcome, no matter the cost. He hurriedly finished off this small repast, and stepped through the door. Turning to the sun door, he lifted the sun card to the iron door.
It shone briefly, and the door opened. The sound of machinery filled his ears, and the spectacle before him filled his eyes.
He stepped into the cavernous room, and the door banged shut behind him. Walking to the end of the platform he was standing on, he stared down into what appeared to be a bottomless pit. Looking to his left, he saw a long track running downward at an angle, leading to the other side of the passage. Every now and then, he saw the flare of fire from farther down the track.
The platform he stood on shook, and Chanaur hurriedly attempted to regain his balence. Slowly, the platform began to move down into the mist, toward the unknown destination.
When he had first entered, there had been two torches lighting his way. Now, as he descended, everything became darker and darker. Far below, he saw the foggy glow of another pair of torches.
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw a jet of fire coming toward him. Falling instinctively to the floor, he avoided being singed. After the illumination of the fire left him, the only light he saw was the two torches before and behind him. The platform began to pick up speed.
He tried to judge whether he could make it to the landing below by jumping. He didn't want to risk anymore fire spurts, after all. But how did he know that there was even something there to stand on? After all, when he first walked in, the platform was there, and nothing else.
That damned key better be down there......
Dodging several more fire jets, Chanaur finally found himself before a moon door. He hurriedly opened it, glad to see a well lit room, and a key glistening in the fire light. He picked it up, and muttered to himself the words to the Egress spell.
He was now back in the corridor, looking at the sun door. He smiled to himself. That wasn't so bad.
The creak of metal from just behind him said that it was about to get worse.
Chanaur threw himself forward, trying to put as much distance from himself and the halberd as possible. Too late, he felt the blade melt through his side. The blow was meant to slice him in half, but only succeeded in wonding him. Severely.
Clutching the deep wound in an attempt to keep his innards inside, Chanaur rolled away from the downward motion of the next strike, unknowingly rolling right before a second Hell Knight. It raised it's sword, and tried to do what it's companion failed at.
In desperation, he flung himself farther away. He watched the possessed suits of armor slowly walk toward him. Hearing another creak of metal against metal, he realized that the two he had dispatched earlier were back.....
Mustering as much dexterity as possible, Chanaur managed to avoid being killed, narrowly. He had almost lost his arm, instead of his head.
Chanaur stumbled to the middle of the room, dizzy from blood loss. He only had one chance, but he had to do it before they came to close.....
Again, he cast the egress spell, and cringed, awaiting the sword to descend. When the death blow did not come, he opened his eyes, and looked up. They weren't in range, and hadn't been brought with him.
Groaning, Chanaur shoved his organs back inside the gaping whole in his side. Healing himself to the best of his flagging strength, he stood up. His wounds were closed, but his blood had not been restored. He was still weak, and dizzy....
He needed to feed, or he would collapse.....
Attracted by the smell of blood it seemed, two vampires appeared just before him. The mist was closing over his eyes, tinged red with fatigue. Either that, or he had blood in his eyes.....
He smiled somewhat, and felt his canine teeth lengthen. Never before, had he felt the Hunger grow this strong...... It was more than overpowering..... It was consuming......
Driven by something he didn't quite understand, Chanaur leapt up and, his movements a blur, circled around the female, then kicked her hard in the small of the back. She fell forward with a scream, and lay motionless on the floor, save for some nasty twitching.
The male came at him, apparently to exact revenge. Chanaur opened his arms, the blood lust flaring all around him. He felt exilerated, thrilled to his very soul to feel this new strength, and finally use it......
The vampire snarled, and leapt at him, bringing his claws down in an attempt to spill his heart's blood.
But it's claws passed through nothing, and it's balance was lost. Chanaur was now behind him, and before the vampire could regain what he had lost, the Dhampire bit hard into his neck.
The howl of pain and anger powered Chanaur as much as the blood that flowed into his mouth. It washed into his ears, like sweet music, as the blood down his throat, a heady wine. His savage heritage had arrested his mind, and all else was lost.
The vampire went listless in his arms, and Chanaur tossed it aside. Cleaning his face, he turned to the female, who had regenerated after he broke her spine. She now looked at him cautiously, no longer seeing the broken human child she saw only ten seconds ago. She saw before her a maddened nosferatu, who was obviously out for her head as well as her lover's.
Knowing that the first attack one makes is usually their last, Chanaur waited for his enemy to come to him. Although he wasn't sure, He could have swore those were tears in her eyes....
Chanaur stopped smiling. He looked long and hard at the vampire before him. She had red hair, much like Taolins. She had brown eyes, much like Rosa's. She was small, but powerful..... Just like Carrie.
He shook his head, not allowing that to weigh him down. It was a trick, a way of lowering his defenses. He continued to stalk her, his arms ready for the attack.
In a blind rage, she shouted and flung herself at Chanaur like a missle. She struck him in the chest, but he didn't give at all. She merely bounced off. She leapt at him again, this time preparing a downward strike with her claws.
Chanaur slid beneath her, and came up behind. He wrapped his arms around her, pinning her's to her side. He bit into her neck, and she screamed.
The scream shattered the hazing grip the blood lust had over his mind, his inhibitions, his very soul. The scream that sounded just like Taolin's, that night he fed on her. The scream that sounded just like Rosa's, the night she was taken. The scream that sounded just like Carrie's, that day in the Oubliette......
He cast her away, and put her out of her misery, with a cry of his own. She fell to the floor, beside her lover. She embraced him, holding him close in her arms before she died. They dissolved into purple flames, together.....
Chanaur looked down at himself, staring at the blood that covered him. The blood of those two he had spilled. The blood that he had drawn out of savageness and hunger.......
Feeling deeply aggreived, Chanaur fell to his knees. The exhiliration wore away, as the pure blood began to pulse through him again. The hunger was no longer consuming, now little more than a nagging feeling in the back of his head.
The very thing he had been trying to stop, he had drawn deeply from.... He shouldn't have allowed himself to lose all control..... He had destroyed what seemed to be two happy lives, if they could be called lives. The blood, whose taste he had relished moments ago, tasted as ashes in his mouth.
The scream she had uttered still reverberated through his mind. It changed several times, to the very pitch and voice of Taolin, Rosa, and Carrie, over and over...... His head felt as though it might explode......
He let out a scream. A cry of hatred, of loss, of anguish...... That scream would forever ring in his mind, as the sound of his very soul crying to the heavens for forgiveness.
He fell forward on his face, and wept like a child. All of his dignity was gone; he had wasted it within a span of half a minute. He looked at the three pools of blood; his own, and the vampire's...... He growled in anger, and dug his fingers into the stone floor. The rock fell away, and his fingers bled. The physical pain helped to ease the spiritual torment he was feeling.......
What if Carrie had seen him that way? Never again would she trust him......
He vowed then and there that he would not continue the bloodline. He would end the worlds pain with himself. He would not allow the madness to continue.
He fell to his stomach, and lay on the floor. He began to cry himself to sleep, visions of Carrie fading into nothingness.
Sire, he sleeps.
So he does.
Sire, did you hear what he said?
Indeed, I did, Actrise.
He refuses to continue the line. That means that Carrie can now be exterminated.
Yes, it does.......
But what of this one? Do we kill him as well?
No. Let him sleep. Let him find Carrie.
Sire, do I kill Carrie?
But sire, if she comes to the darkness, she will be with you forever.
Let Carrie continue on. You are still to engage her, to test her strength.
Oh believe me, sire. When she finds me, her power will be no more.......
End Part Eighteen