Part Fifteen: Tears of Hatred, Tears of Pain

"You cannot deceive me, Jara."

"Rosa......." Jara looked at her. Something was different. It might have been the cruel way she held her sword, or the difference in her posture.....

Or perhaps it was her eyes. When they had first met, she had seemed so sad. Now, there was nothing in her eyes. She was devoid of emotions.

"What happened to you?" She asked carefully.

She let out a scornful laugh. "What has happened?" She shook her head. "I should be asking you that very question. What are you doing aiding the slayers?"

"I was asking Chanaur how he controlled the hunger. Once I had that information, I was going to leave, but he offered me safe passage among his friends."

Rosa obviously didn't believe her. "Is that so?"

"That's not exactly what happened, no. I was paraphrasing." Jara looked at her. "Rosa, I was looking for the answers that could help us escape. What has happened to you?"

Rosa threw her head back and laughed. "Don't you get it? There is no escape! We're doomed to exist as nothing but a parasite on the living!"

"Chanaur said that there's still hope! He says-"

"Chanaur is a fool!" She roared. "He believes those stupid legends, and that was his greatest mistake......" Her eyes changed a little. "What do you mean ask Chanaur how he controlls his hunger?"

"You didn't know? He's part vampire, the grandson of the count." Jara bit her lower lip. Shouldn't have said that.

But Rosa only became sadder. "Just pray Reinhardt doesn't find out. He'll kill him....." But then her eyes reverted to normal, and she resumed her berrating. "It doesn't matter if we can control the hunger, without blood, we die."

Jara's eyes widened. "What? I never knew that....." Her eyes fell to the floor. "It is hopeless....."

Rosa smiled. "Now you see. The truth rears it's ugly head."

Jara raised her head again, defiantly. "Reinhardt sends his love."

Rosa choked. The control whoever had over her slipped for the moment. "He still believes.... He can save me...." She smiled. "I hope Chanaur was right.... That the legends are true...."

Jara nodded. "There is always hope....."

The control tightened it's grip on her, cutting Jara off. "Tell Reinhardt I will deal with him myself." Even her voice had changed now. "He shall not see the next Sunrise." Then she was gone.

Jara stood dumbstruck for a moment, but then took off at a dead run. She had to find them, before something happened....

Carrie awakened suddenly. She could have swore she had heard Chanaur scream....

She looked up to see Reinhardt, his back to her, standing between her and Chanaur. Chanaur was crumpled on the floor, lying very still.....

Then she saw the hilt of Reinhardt's dagger protruding from his breast.

"What have you done?!" Carrie rushed to him. She checked his neck. There was no life in his body. "What have you done?!"

"The bastard has been witholding that he was a vampire! He attacked you-"

"That doesn't mean you had to kill him!" Carrie held Chanaur for a moment. "I've known he was a vampire, but he witheld it from you because he knew you would kill him!!" She pulled the cordial Renon gave her from her pocket, and poured some of it into his mouth. She then gripped the dagger, and pulled it out.

The feathered blade did what it was supposed to. Upon removal, the hole in his chest nearly doubled in size. Flesh and other bodily matter clung to the dagger, which Carrie tossed aside, revulsed. His body slowly repaired itself.

Chanaur stirred slightly, and opened his eyes slowly. When he saw Carrie, just over him, her hands on his shoulders, he shoved her away. He turned his back to her, cursing himself, near tears.

Carrie looked into his eyes. She saw rage, an anger she had never seen in his eyes before. The tears that welled in his eyes were full of abhorration.

"Chanaur?" She moved a little closer. "What-"

He turned back to her, fixing her with those once beautiful eyes. "Stay back." His voice was low, lethal. "I've started on you, I don't want to finish." He then stood up, and walked to the wall. He leaned against it, as waves of tears seized him.

Carrie suddenly became aware of a slight pain in her neck. She touched where she felt it, and blood warmed her hand. He had done it. He had finally broken down and fed on her.

A cold feeling crept into the pit of her stomach. Does this mean I'll be like him? Or worse, a full vampire....?

Although she knew that it had to hurt him deeply, she knew that he couldn't help it. She knew that it was nothing to worry about.

At the moment.....

She knew that he shouldn't be left like this. She couldn't let him be alone with this on his mind. It would tear him apart, if he didn't do it himself. "Chanaur, It's fine." She stepped a little closer. "I'm okay, you don't need to worry...."

"Fine?" He rounded on her angrily. "Fine! I almost killed you, and your perfectly fine with that?"

Reinhardt stepped forward. "How long were you planning on keeping this from me, Chanaur?" It was obvious that he had no problem with almost killing his best friend...... "When I was asleep, and you came after me?"

"Shut up, Reinhardt." Chanaur's hands clenched into fists. "I didn't tell you because I knew you would kill me on the spot. I knew you wouldn't understand."

"I understand perfectly." He spat. "I understand that your a blood-lusting monster. For all I know, you led Dracula to Rosa."

"I had nothing to do with my grandfathers actions of taking Rosa. You know that. Don't throw that in my face, old friend." Chanaur's fists tightened, and blood welled beneath his fingers.

"So, your not only a vampire, but a Tepes for that matter!" Reinhardts eyes narrowed, a cruel grin crossing his mouth. "Now I have an insentive to kill you, spawn of Satan."

"Stop it! Both of you!" Carrie was crying now. "Damn it Chanaur, forget it! I forgive you. I know you can't help it!"

"You may forgive me...." Chanaur whispered, his voice harsher than she had ever heard it. "But I never will."

Carrie's heart shattered. Those few words had caused her pain beyond anything she ever felt in the oubliette. It signified that his thoughts were turning to suicide....

"Let's go." Chanaur growled. The tears in his eyes were dry, but the pure hatred remained, and would until the day he died. "Since you no longer trust me, I will go first." He opened the door out of the room, and stood in the doorjam, when he stopped. He reached into his pack, and violently hurled something accross the room into the corner.

He left before it hit the ground, and Carrie saw what it was he had discarded.

It was the Necronomicon. It was the final proof that he had given up hope.

Reinhardt left the room, leaving Carrie by herself. She stood for long moments, just standing there, staring at the book of the dead. It was the only thing that could possibly allow Chanaur to live a regular life, and he had gotten rid of it.

With a wail, Carrie sank to her knees. She buried her face in her hands, and cried to herself, feeling all but her life force flow from her......

She wasn't aware just how long whe was there. It felt like an eternity, but then she felt someone's arm around her.

Carrie threw her arms around the person, sinking into an obviously female chest. "Jara, what am I going to do? Chanaur's fed on me...."

"It's okay Carrie. Being a halfbreed, he cannot in affect make you a complete vampire....." Jara's other arm closed over her. "It's okay, Carrie." She repeated.

"But...." She choked back another dry sob. "I forgave him..... but he said he'd never forgive himself....." She touched her neck where the punctuals still stung, but not from physical pain. "I told him....." But then a fresh wave of tears hit her, and she lost what she was going to say.

Jara took notice of the blood on her neck. She had fed recently, but it still made her itch all over. She could make Carrie a vampire, without even trying.....

She closed her eyes, and kept whispering comfortingly to Carrie.

Finally, Carrie calmed down enough to speak again. "I told him that I understood that he couldn't help it...." she sobbed again. "Then.... then he threw away the Necronomicon....." She dug her fingers into Jara's arms, where her hands rested. "When we were so close to finding a cure for his hunger....."

"I hate to tell you this, Carrie...." Jara sighed heavily. "But without blood, vampires die."

"No, not half-breeds. They feel the hunger, but they don't need another's blood to survive." She sniffed, and disconnected herself. She walked over to the book, and opened it. "There has to be an answer somewhere in this God damned book....." Carrie tasted the healing cordial, just enough to seal the punctuals. "....and I'm going to find it....."

"For God sake, Carrie, give it up!"

She turned around and saw Chanaur standing in the doorway again. When he saw the tears running down her cheeks, it seemed to anger him even more. "It's hopeless, Carrie. When this is all said and done with, I'll leave. You'll never have to worry about me ever again."

Even though he spoke in anger, she still saw the overwhelming pain behind it.....

He led the way, Jara falling into step beside him. Reinhardt followed him, his hand clenched around his whip. Apparently he wasn't taking anymore chances.

Carrie followed, her entire body numb. She couldn't help but notice Jara's closeness. Couldn't help but notice how she seemed to be speaking with him....

Chanaur, what happened?

I fed on her. Chanaur wasn't ready for this, and was being short on purpose.

I can see that, but why?

I couldn't help it.

There has to be more of a reason. She said that she forgave you, but you would never forgive yourself. She sees no problem with it. What is the matter?

I am weak. If I couldn't help my bloodlust override my feelings for her, it's obvious that she doesn't mean enough to me.

Jara gave him an indignant look, and continued. That's not true. I heard you two talking back in the library. It's obvious that you two are much more than friends. Your both just too hard-headed to admit it to yourselves.

I can admit it to myself no problem. Chanaur glared at her. It's saying it to her that is difficult.

Besides, I know that your hunger has been magnified since you've arrived. They're trying to break you, don't you see?

I already owe the Dark One my child, I don't think he wants anything more from me.

I do. He wants you to join his army. Mark my words, he will come to you again, speaking of leadership over the legions of the underworld.

What would I want with control over the undead, when I cannot control my own affliction?

Chanaur, Dracula never makes deals straight out. He waits for the target to weaken, to become vulnerable.

I know that!

Then you must also know, that the best way to break a man is to drive a wedge between him and the ones he loves.

` Yes. I learned that the hard way, my entire life. My father, then my mother, then Lacuna, Carrie's mother, who was my sourragate........

Well, you have to remember them. Whenever the craving arises, remember who you're fiting for. Revenge, for all the people this bastard has wronged.

Look Jara.... He turned and fixed his disturbed eyes on her. I appreciate this and all, but I just need to be alone for a while. I need time to think.

"Sure." She said aloud, and dropped back.

Chanaur continued. Without thinking about where he was going, he finally realized they were back in the gear room. He looked up at the smooth ten foot walls on both sides of him. He jumped up, and held his hands down for the magical nitro.

Reinhardt didn't seem to have enough reach to get it too him, however. Chanaur snarled, and used his telepathy to lift the bottle to his level. He grabbed it out of the air, and continued on, leaving the others behind.

Just before he opened the door to the grand hall, Carrie was beside him. Her eyes were different now. No tears were there, although she was still fighting back. She seemed more angry than upset now.

Taking no further notice of her, he opened the door and proceded.

He knew he shouldn't have done that. But what could he do? He had nothing to say to her. He was afraid of saying just the wrong thing, like when he saw her heart shatter...... When he said that he would never forgive himself.....

But why would that affect her so? Did she really care so much that his personal anguish caused her pain?

His heart shed part of it's burden of grief at that thought. Although it wasn't likely, it still made him feel a little better about the situation.

Still carrying the nitro, he moved on. Ignoring the bloodborns, he was back at the entrance. He opened the door to the Colloseum, and walked over to the wall.

Before setting down the explosive, he cast a nervous look back at the sleeping bull. Everyone else watched, as he put it in place.

He ran to join them. The first sparks were beginning to fly.

They had nothing to take cover behind, so simply stood back a great distance. Visible electricity began to jump from one to the other. Finally, they gave off a blinding light, and exploded.

Rubble littered the floor afterwords, and the rain of shrapnel just barely came up short of where they stood. The dust cleared, and Chanaur stepped through the new apperture.

An enormous, shining crystal stood on a dais that had been formatted to it's form. It glowed with a strange green light......

"Enormous power......" Chanaur bent down and picked up a fragment laying on the ground. "But it's incomplete....."

The thought of that power angered him more. This entire quest was all about power. Stopping the one searching for power over all the world. Searching for the inner power that was yet to be unlocked. Stopping those who had already obtained great power....

But when he placed the shard into the place it had been chipped from, the entire crystal began to glow a deep red.

Chanaur stepped back from the crystal huriedly, not sure what would happen. A thunderstorm started inside the small chamber. Outside in the Colloseum, lightning raged.

Carrie stepped forward. Chanaur looked at his hand where he had touched the completed jewel. He felt foul energies emanting from it, and now it was in his body. The feeling changed as it came into him. It began as a dull pain, but once it reached his heart, he felt all of his feelings ebb.....

But the numbness of his heart at this point was not as unwelcome as he thought it would be. He felt the craving leave his body, and he felt himself drifting away as well.....

A crashing sound came from the Colloseum, causing him to snap out of it. He turned around, and his anger arose again at what he saw.

He had awoken the Abomination. The giant bull was coming they're way, every step shaking the ground. It was about thirty feet away when it bellowed a challenging roar and charged the group.

Everyone scattered in different dirrections. The creature lowered it's head and swung it up in a bucking fashion. The pure power of the attack was just as dangerous as the large horns on it's head.

One of the horns grazed Chanaur's arm. He looked around quickly, to make sure everyone else was okay. Carrie had rolled away, readying one of her specialty axes in the process. Reinhardt had sidestepped the swing, and was beating the creature back by whipping it. And Jara.......

"Where's Jara!?" Chanaur called to Carrie.

Carrie hurled the axe at the bull, who knocked it away with one of it's horns. "She left at the generator room!" The axe hit the ground harmlessly, and she scooped it up. "She went back to get Raziel and Thomas!"

Chanaur joined the fray, taking some of his anger and hatred and turning it outward. He drew his sword and turned it into a chain whip with a mace tip. He wasn't very good with whips, but it definitely seemed to be what the beast found most painful....

But before he could strike, it reared back on it's hind legs and threw it's head back. Chanaur saw fire gather in it's mouth, as Carrie took this opportunity to try to lop off one of it's legs.

The abomination saw her, and noticed she was too close to hit her with fire. So it fell back onto it's front legs, and lowered it's head to buck her away.

It had done so in the blink of an eye, and Carrie couldn't slow down in time to avoid it.

Chanaur was already charging toward her, preparing to take the brunt of it to save her. Maybe this would help him to satisfy his inner anguish for what he had done.....

He shoved her roughly out of the way, and the head and horns hit him hard. He sailed accross the room, barely coming up short of a wall. He felt a hole in his stomach and forearm, and one of his legs was bent at an odd angle.

The Abomination reared back, and prepared another shot of fire.

A pain spread over him, as the flames began to consume him. Soon his nerves would be fried, the rest of him charred to a cinder. Soon the pain would leave him.....

At this point, he was almost ready to welcome death's release.....

But then the flames stopped. Carrie stood over him, her hand on his back where the fire had started. She had saved him, returning the favor.

Chanaur healed himself, stood up, and prepared to give it a taste of it's own medicine. He raised a hand, and fire shot from his fingertips, hitting the beast square in the chest. The skin of the torso began to deteriorate, although the flames were already gone. Then the flesh began to dissapear, without falling off. All that was left was the skeleton and the vital organs.

Revulsed, he followed Reinhardt as he attacked again. Carrie went for it's legs again, this time watching the rest of it too.

The Abomination threw it's head back again, and spat out a hail of snow and ice. It hit Reinhardt, who froze in his tracks, locked in ice.

Chanaur unfroze him as Carrie chopped the creature's legs from it's body. It let out a defening roar of anguish, but then started using it's front legs to move forward.

Carrie used her electric axe to put it out of it's misery. As the lightning bolt hit, the entire body exploded.

The room fell strangely silent. No animal was supposed to die and vanish that quickly.

Chanaur let out a huge sigh of relief. No one had been seriously injured but him, and he took that as punishment for releasing the creature.

He walked over to his pack, shivering slightly. The creatures fire breath had seared the shirt off of his back, and he needed to find the other one. Serching inside his pack, he found it. It was pure black, and the part of it that covered his chest laced up. putting it on, he put on his blood red cloak over it, and closed his pack. He picked up the pack, and slung it over his shoulder.

He began to leave, but then he remembered the crystal.....

He turned to face it again, but it was dark now. The magic had been expended. The magic that had caused the affliction of his blood to leave him momentarily.....

The shard..... He bent down and picked it up. It had fallen out of the crystal again. He felt the same energy emanating from this piece as when it was whole.....

With any luck, this could be the thing to cure him.....

"So, where do we go now?" He heard Carrie ask.

"I guess we go and find Raziel and the other two."

Carrie came up next to him. "Chanaur? What do you want with that?"

He handed it to her. She held it, but only momentarily. She dropped it with a cry, as if it had burned her. She looked at her hands, and already angry burn marks were rising.

Chanaur touched her hands, and the blistering skin returned to normal. "I'm sorry. I didn't know it would affect you like that." As he withdrew his hands, he felt her entire body start to shake....

He picked up the shard, and tucked it into the inside pocket of his cloak. "But.... This crystal...." He gestured behind him. "....negated the hunger when I touched it. And now a fraction of that magic is in this shard. Only one such as I can touch it......."

Carrie touched his arm. "I hope it works....." Still holding his arm, she turned around and headed toward the door. Reinhardt was already to the door, and waiting for them.

"By the way....." Carrie whispered. Chanaur looked down at her as her hand tightened. "Thank you...... for taking that blow for me....."

Chanaur smiled. "Any time, Carrie." He shrugged. "Besides, it helped me feel better about what happened...."

Carrie only nodded. And that was enough.

They were back in the hall, outside the next door. Carrie released his arm to open the door. They stepped inside, and headed for the staircase.....

Chanaur was suddenly encased in ice. Actrise appeared in the shallow pit in the middle of the room. She was smiling horridly, gripping the staff in her hands loosely.

"Reinhardt, leave." Carrie muttered, her eyes locked on Actrise.

"Yeah, like I'm gonna leave you and Chanaur to be k-"

"I said leave!" She still didn't face him, but raised a hand and pointed back to the door they just came through. "This is between me and her. Please leave."

Reinhardt shrugged, and backed up to the door. He wasn't about to turn his back on her either.

The door slammed, and Actrise immediately spoke. "So, how did it feel to know that your love had taken advantage of you?"

"Don't give me that, you undead bitch." Carrie seethed. "I know what your compatriots were doing. You were tempting him, making it harder on him than it already is." She walked closer. "But the question I have is, why?"

"Foolish girl." Actrise sighed. "That child means more to me than you ever did. If his father hadn't have been so rebellious, than Chanaur wouldn't have to become the new Dark Lord......"

Carrie paused. "What are you saying? That your trying to bring him to his knees......?"

"Exactly, child." Actrise smiled. "Just as your father....."

"Don't even think about speaking their names." She spat. "You killed them, isn't it enough? You don't have to desecrate them in death."

"Which brings me to why I have come to...." Actrise sneered. "I am here to tell you that one of your parents is dead, and both of them in this castle."

Carrie made a move for her. "What? Tell me what you mean, or I'll kill you here and now."

Actrise laughed quietly. "You have power girl....." She shook her head, and took a deep breath. "But your opponent today is not me....."

"And what of Alucard and Raine?" Carrie demanded.

"They are truly gone. They were of no further use." She gestured over her shoulder. "However, we did capture your cousin....."

A new woman had appeared in the far corner. She had a wooden staff in her hand, and she wore a golden head band. Her blue hair and her face told her that she was indeed a Fernandez..... She was dressed in a tattered blue dress, with an old green cloak over it. The neck of the dress was torn.....

Someone has been taken.....

The boatman's words came back to her. The puddle of blood.... The shred of cloth.....


Actrise laughed. "Yes, it is your relative, Alice. We found her crossing the moat. She was injured when the ghost ship sank, and we took that opportunity to take a new recruit....."

"You mean...." Carrie's breath caught in her throat. "You mean she's one of you now?"

"Oh yes. She struggled valiantly against the curse, but now she is a full vampire. Desperate for blood. We have told her that she may have yours....." Alice began to drift closer, not using her legs to move. "How sweet. Two blood relatives fighting to the death....." She laughed one more time, then began to fade away.

Before she was gone, however, the saphire in Actrise's staff glimmered slightly. It seemed as though someone was trapped inside......

One of your parents is still alive.....

No.... That's impossible. It has to be another head game.....

Alice now stood before Carrie, her face devoid of emotion. They stood in silence for long moments, as if sizing up their opponents.

Then her face changed, emotions springing to her eyes. "Carrie, I want you to kill me now."

Carrie was startled at this. It seemed that whoever had control over her had slipped. "Alice, I can't. I can't kill a fellow Fernandez."

"Don't you see? I'm no longer human." She seemed to be fighting for control of her body now, for she was jerking slightly. "You must kill me, before I lose my control....."

"I won't." Carrie said, clutching the axe behind her. "I.... I can't."

"But you will." Her face changed back again, her voice hollow. It now sounded like she had two voices, melded together. "Prepare to defend yourself, or die." She put an arm accross her face, as fire appeared in her hand. She cast her hand toward her, and it split into three fireballs.

Carrie dodged these easily, but they homed in on her, and hit her from behind. She had forgotten that that was the Fernandez's hereditary power to be able to control the movements of magic.....

She hit the ground, nullifying the fire on contact. She rolled away quickly as the wooden staff Alice held nearly went through her head. Coming back up, she realized that Actrise was still watching them, from above....

Actrise was obviously Alice's puppeteer. Carrie vowed revenge then and there, for Alice. For Kyphron.

For Imbrium.

Alice resumed the assault. She spun about, a mist spreading around her. Carrie was too close to avoid it, and as a consequence was incased in ice.

She had seen and used this technique many times, but had never had it done to her before. Her entire body was still functioning, yet immobile. All that moved were her eyes, which felt lifeless. Alice advanced on her. She waved a hand, getting rid of the ice around Carrie's head and neck.

Carrie melted the ice as best she could, but couldn't get through the entire thing. Alice was stronger, being older and more experienced. Besides, her power was magnified now that she was a servant of Darkness.....

She could now move a bit, but her body was still trapped in the ice. Alice came forward quickly, preparing to take her blood....

Carrie broke free of the ice just as Alice's teeth touched her neck, and thrust her cross roughly into Alice's chest.

Her mouth widened in a scream, as she stumbled back. She tore the cross from her breast, and dropped it. The hole was growing rapidly, and she fell to her knees.

Her normal face was back. "Carrie....." She moaned, clutching her chest. "Thank you......" She then fell forward, and was still.

Carrie kneeled where she had fallen, and said a prayer. For her deliverance, and for her forgiveness. She then turned to where Actrise had been a while ago, and called out to her.

"If what you said about my parents is true, be sure I will get the answers from you, one way or another!" As if in answer, the ice around Chanaur shattered, making a sound like breaking glass.

Reinhardt burst through the door, whip at the ready. Carrie smiled at him. "I told you, I can handle this. You don't need to worry about me."

Reinhardt shrugged. "I just didn't like how quiet it got all of a sudden." He rolled up his whip, and put it into his jacket. "Lead the way, oh fearless one." He said sarcastically.

Carrie smiled, and walked to the staircase. She smiled to cover up her sorrows.

She had just killed the last remaining living Fernandez beside herself. She could't stand the thought of killing her old friend..... She was no better than Actrise.....

She felt Chanaur's hand gently touch her arm. "You did the right thing."

She turned to look at him, his eyes still holding the hatred for himself. But that had been forced back by the sympathy he held there now. He could always sense when things were bothering her....

"You've sent her to a better place. To be with Imbrium....." He squeezed her arm gently.

She placed her hand on his, and sighed heavily. "No, Imbrium is still here. I saw her."

Chanaur's hand tightened, almost painfully. "Where?" He asked gently.

They stepped through the sliding iron grate that was the door to the next room. "Actrise-"

The moment they stepped through, the door slid shut. Reinhardt was still in the other room, and was fighting to open the door.

"Behind you, Reinhardt." Came a familiar voice.

He spun around, and saw Rosa. She was coming up the staircase, her katana in hand.

He stepped toward her. "Rosa, what-" She held her sword closer to him, holding him at bay. "What are you doing?"

"Didn't I warn you?" She asked. "Didn't I tell you to leave while you still had your life?"

"You know I wouldn't leave Rosa, you creature." He wasn't concerned with the blade before him. "I know you are not Rosa. You may inhabit her body, but you could never control her spirit this way." His eyes narrowed. "You can be sure that I will not rest until I have my love back."

Rosa stepped closer. "So..... You are determined to take the Count's life....."

There was a slight rush of wings behind her. Reihardt looked behind her, and saw a hooded figure hovering just behind her. He was holding a scythe. "It's him.....!"

Rosa swung her sword at him, which he dodged. She brandished it at him again, forcing him to back down the stairs. "An enemy of the Count is an enemy to all vampires. Die!!" She took another swing at him.

Reinhardt dodged again. "I'd rather not. I suggest you leave her body."

She advanced again, taking several swings. She finally caught him on the arm, and he stumbled back. The blade was red hot......

"This is indeed Rosa." She snarled. "Just with an attitude adjustment, love." She lunged again, aiming for his head. "I was weak, and they strengthened me. And as payment, they asked me to kill you."

She scored again, this time on the leg. "I don't want to fight you, but if you insist." He cast his whip, aiming for an arm.

But suddenly, Rosa gained control, and lept into the direct path of the whip. It hit her square in the chest, laying bare her sternum. She fell to the ground, her sword clatering a distance away.

Reinhardt nearly dropped his weapon. She looked up at him, her breath seething, tears of hatred and pain in her eyes. "Finish me......" she gasped. "Finish me!"

"Rosa, I didn't mean to...." He stepped closer.

She gasped again. "I cannot stand this agony. Since birth, I was marked for death. I never believed it myself, until it happened....." She sobbed softly. "A damned soul, to forever live as a vampire...."

"You were..... Why didn't you tell me?"

"I didn't want to worry you..... I didn't think it was right to-" Then she clutched her chest, a groan escaping her lips.

"Rosa....." He came closer. He was just about to kneel by her side, when a blade flew by his head, sticking into the metal floor by his side. He backed up, as Death came between them.

His skull-like face seemed to smile, if it had any muscles. "Still youthfull as a vampire, she could not bear to kill you." He moved to the side, so he could see her. "But in time, the curse will deepen, and take stronger hold." They both began to fade from his view. "I will enjoy watching your next encounter...." with one final laugh, they were gone.

Reinhardt stood staring at the pool of Rosa's blood that had remained on the floor. Blood that he had spilled.

It made him furious with himself. But more importantly, it made his hatred for the Count even greater.

He picked up her sword, and walked toward the staircase. First, he would kill Death himself. Then the Count.

Chanaur stepped forward, offering to heal him. Reinhardt looked down at the wounds. They were blackened, and blistering. Still, he refused. He walked on, on to where Raziel and Thomas were. He needed to talk to them.....

And he needed a sacabbard for his new memento.......

Chanaur sighed. "Poor guy....."

Carrie nodded. "I can't see how he can withold tears for that long.... And in these circumstances....."

Chanaur shook his head. "We should probably go after him......" He began to walk away, but Carrie caught his arm. He turned to her, and she looked up at him, with startlingly bright eyes.

He could taste her fear and anxiety. She was searching his eyes, and his very soul for the answer to some unspoken question. Her eyes were sad. So sad that it hurt him to look at her. But then he felt pain from seeing her period. He couldn't live with himself after what he had done.....

"Chanaur, I don't want you to leave."

His heart lightened, ever so slightly, even though the rest of his body gave no evidence of it. He said nothing, just stared into her eyes.

She reached out her hand, taking his. She could sense that he was nervous, because his hand was tensed in hers.

"Damn it, I hate to see you like this....."

They had both spoke at the same time, the exact same words. Chanaur smiled slightly. "I'm really sorry, Carrie. The last thing in the world I wanted to do was hurt you....." He shook his head. "I thank you..... for forgiving me in my moment of weakness."

She smiled a little. "Chanaur, no matter what you do, I will always be your friend. For the longest time, you were all I had left in the world...." Her smile turned a little bitter. "I don't think I could live without you."

Chanaur took her other hand in his. "Really? You couldn't live without me?"

Carrie flushed slightly. "Well, let's just say that it would be very diffucult for me to continue if you were to leave. It better be that the only time you leave me is when you've died."

"Gee, Carrie, that sounded an awful lot like 'till death do us part', to me." He smiled charmingly. "You're not proposing, are you?"

Carrie demured, which was something she never did. "Why must you always quote me?"

Chanaur squeezed her hands. "I enjoy seeing you blush. It makes me feel like I have a power over you."

Carrie laughed. She hugged him and rested her head on his chest. He was back to normal, more or less. At least he wasn't obsessing over his mistake anymore.....

Chanaur ran his hands over her shoulders gently. "I'm just glad...... That I didn't hurt you permenently..."

Carrie kissed him hesitantly on the cheek. "Chanaur, it was nothing. You can't control who you are......" She put a hand where her lips had just been. "Besides..... If you had been normal, do you think you would have turned out so sweet?"

Chanaur smiled down at her, a twinkle in his eyes. "You really think I'm sweet?"

Carrie rubbed her thumb accross his face. "Of course, you hopeless flirt." The corner of her lips twitched a little. "You may not use it sometimes, but you've got the smoothest toungue I've ever seen...."

Now Chanaur blushed. "If that's true..." His eyes sparkled. "Then you must not know many guys."

She sneered at him. "I know plenty." Her gaze fell momentarily. "But most of them are bastards." Then she looked up at him. "I'm sorry, Chanaur......"

He smiled. "It's okay. I know what you meant."

Carrie smiled back. "Thank you." She put her hand on his arm. "Thank you for always being there for me, and always understanding....."

He looked deeper into her eyes. Something was on her mind. "Carrie, you seem preoccupied. What's wrong?"

The moment before the battle with Alice came screaming back to her......

"Imbrium..... Is here." Carrie's eyes dimmed. "She's...... She's been here for five years....."

Chanaur's face obtained a quizical look. "That's impossible. I was there when she died....."

Carrie sighed, her gaze falling to his cross necklace. "Yes, but her soul..... was captured." She felt Chanaur's hand on her shoulder. "Actrise......" Carrie felt tears rising.

Chanaur's hand moved from her shoulder to her cheek. With his thumb, he wiped away the tear rolling down her face. "Don't worry, Carrie." His voice was quiet, and sympathetic. "We'll free her."

She looked up into his eyes, and saw the strength that he always turned toward her in her weakness. She touched his cheek gently, rubbing it with the back of her hand.

That very strength was what had scared her so much after he had fed on her. He seemed broken, just like back in the Villa..... She had to be strong for him, to give him hope..... She had done her best, and it seemed that she just wasn't strong enough......

In the Villa, Dracula had been the one who saved him. With that deal, Chanaur had saved himself.

The time just previous, the crystal had made him forget his affliction. Dispite Carrie's best efforts, she had not been able to help.....

It seemed she just wasn't strong enough for him.....

The tears finally came, and in full force. She dissolved into his arms, crying into his chest. He embraced her, consoling her.

Chanaur had always believed her when she had said that she was strong enough to make it on her own. She could tell that it hurt him to see her cry..... Although she tried her best, she still had difficulty facing her past.

And that always caused her to break down during the present. But Chanaur was always there, to give her strength when she couldn't find hers.

Chanaur said nothing, just held her. He couldn't help but notice how frail her emotions seemed to be getting. Maybe it was her past coming back to her, or all of the close calls they'd had.......

All he knew for sure was that she relied on him more than anyone.....

"Carrie...." He whispered. "Are you okay? You've been getting worse lately....."

She took a deep breath. "I'm sorry, Chanaur..... I'm just not as strong as you are....." She hugged him closer, burying her face in his chest. "I can't help but-"

"Hon, that's not what I meant." He put a hand on the back of her head. "I wasn't accusing you of weakness, I was just asking what was wrong. Something is really bothering you, and I'm sure I know what it is." His other hand found hers, which he squeezed gently. "Don't worry about Imbrium. I know you'll free her."

Carrie seemed to relax slightly. "Chanaur, if I can't even rise above their head games, how can I hope to conquor someone as powerful as Actrise? Especially when she's using my own mother....." She choked.

"All you have to do is have faith." He brought her away from him, and looked into her eyes. "I know you can survive this. Your not the kind to lay down and die after all you've been through." He smiled slightly. "Don't you see? They're trying to do this to you. They're using your greatest weakness against you, trying to turn you to them."

She sniffled. "Chanaur..... You are a blood descendent of the Count..... How can you stay so strong against him? I know what kind of a hold he has on you....."

Chanaur shrugged. "I'm not so sure from time to time. It's hard, but I just think of you and everyone else I'm fighting for....." He touched her lips with two fingers, silencing what she was about to say. "Just do your best. And always remember that I'm here for you."

"But....." She sighed. "I don't like burdening you...."

"Most of the burdens you give me are already mine, hon." He smiled. "You don't have to worry about me. There's nothing I can't handle."

"Except for what happened before. That really tore you up....." Her hand found his chest. "Why, though?"

Chanaur didn't answer right away. At first he thought it was because he didn't want to say it......

But then he realized the difference in her touch. He found it disconcerting that this woman could cause him such trouble......

Reflecting, he realized that he had fought demons that would cause most people to die of fright. He had faced and destroyed his own dark brethren, that most people wouldn't dare stand against. He had done so without feeling fear.....

But this one woman scared him more than anything he had seen in his life.......

This young lady who he loved so much, but dared not say it. This young lady who had been his friend almost from the beginning. This young lady who he had almost killed.....

She was right. He shouldn't be so hard on himself. He couldn't help it anymore than she could help her tears.

"Well...." He whispered, finally finding his toungue. "I hate the feeling of hurting someone. Especially one as close to me as you....." Carrie smiled. "And besides, I thought that I had the hunger under control....."

And I love you. I almost killed the woman I loved, and if I had, I would have followed you shortly. If I had, I couldn't go on living.......

I love you. I want nothing more than to hold you and to never stop. I love you.

But I can't for the life of me say it out loud.......

Does that mean that I love you any less....?

Her hand dug into his chest nervously. "Chanaur? Are you okay?"

"Yes, hon. I'm fine." He put his hand on hers, holding it to his chest.

"And another thing. Since when do you call me hon?" She nudged him with her elbow.

His eyes sparkled again. "I thought it might help you feel better."

"Indeed it has....." She kissed him on the cheek again. "Thanks. I feel a lot better now. Lets go find the others and get going...." She grabbed his hand, and led him on. No sooner had they rounded the corner when Reinhardt came down the staircase, Rosa's sword bound to his belt in a scabbard.

He spoke, his voice dry and emotionless. "Thomas said that this contraption will take us to the towers." He gestured shortly to the pillar in the middle of the room. "Raziel is going to stay here for a while, and then head back home. Let's get going." He muttered. He activated a switch set into the side of the pillar, and it opened up.

They all stepped inside, and it began to rise. After about thirty seconds, they found themselves on top of the pillar, which was in the middle of a large room. The room seemed to go on forever. They seemed to be inside a tower. Connected to the floor were two wooden walkways. One was whole, the other broken.

Without another word, Reinhardt began to walk to the whole track. Chanaur, still holding Carrie's hand, followed him.

As they neared the end, a large hole appeared in the side of the tower. Carrie's hand tightened on Chanaurs suddenly, reminding him that she was still there.

They stepped into the 'door' and Chanaur squeezed Carrie's hand back. "Carrie, I think....." He whispered, unsure that he'd be able to do it. "That you should know something."

She loosed his hand and came closer. "Yes?"

Looking at the ground, he stuttered. "Well..... I want you to know that....." He was suddenly bathed in light, as he said, "I love you."

He turned in her direction, to see her reaction, but she was gone. He was alone, in the midst of a new room. Sculptures and paintings lined the walls and stood in the middle of the grand hall. This was the Tower of Art.

Chanaur growled. "Just when I summon the courage to say it, she is torn away from me....." He started walking toward the door to the rest of the tower. "What else can go wrong?"

As if in answer to his answer, something heavy hit him from behind. He struck his head on the carpetted stone floor, and fell unconcious.

End Part Fifteen.

Part 16