Part Twenty Four: The Final Battle

The flames of Kyphron's cape died away, and pieces of rubble began to fall from the cieling. Pillars began to fall all around. The Dais split right in half.

By the time the rumbling had started, everyone was already out the door.

The keep collapsed behind them, and they sprinted for the next neo-tower. The stairs began to crumble behind them, each time just as their feet left them.

The next Chanaur knew he had just exited the room where they had fought renon, when something flashed in the corner of his eye. He stopped short, extending his arms to either side, telling the others to do the same. A black arrow whizzed past his head, barely missing his nose. Where it stuck quickly turned black, and crumbled away.

Looking back where the acid arrow had come from, he saw a black Alicorn; A black unicorn with wings like a demons, reputed to be a harbinger of doom. That would have been bad enough, but there was someone astride it. He strained his eyes to see who it was, and when he realized who it was, his heart skipped a beat.

It was Malus.

And yet it wasn't. Malus' mouth had never curled into that melevolent sneer, and neither had his eyes ever shone red like that.....

Carrie's hand gripped Chanaur's arm. "This is the creature I saw in the storage room. The one that looked like Malus...."

Malus kicked the Alicorn in the flanks, and they flew off into the night. After they were out of sight, the tower's began to crumble again.

They were outside the Clock Tower now, but the large door they had come through was sealed. Just as the stones began to fall from beneath their feet, Carrie pointed to a red service elevator just a bit to their left.

Once everyone was safely aboard, they were lifted to the roof.

Once atop the Clock Tower, the wind once again hit them like a blow.

Once the wind had calmed down, they realized the source of it.

The Black Alicorn had alighted atop the tower, and reared onto it's back legs, and let forth a keening neigh. Malus stared out from his perch, and his grin widened. "So, you managed to defeat my servent....." He laughed slightly. "I didn't expect such power. But now, you face the dark lord himself!"

Chanaur raised an eyebrow. So that's what that warning had been about. The battle is not yet over..... "So, are you the real dark lord Dracula, or just another simulacrum? Show yourself."

Carrie's hand was on Chanaur's shoulder. "Chanaur, I think it's about to get ugly." Her grip tightened. "Really ugly."

Reinhardt kept stoicly silent. He wanted to see the puppet master. He wanted to destroy the bastard, utterly, and painfully. He wanted.......

.....he wanted Rosa back.

Malus turned to him. "You shall have her back soon, Belmont. Very soon."

Blue fire sparked into a circle around the Alicorn, and soon leapt higher. The fire bent inward, and Malus' eyes disapeared behind the conflagration. The air grew cold, and soon the light became too bright to look at. Chanaur's breath froze before him, the cold intensifying as the freezing fire burned brighter.

Once visibily was restored, the Alicorn and Malus were both gone. Now in their place stood a slender, muscular man. He wore a robe of midnight blue that was open at the chest, exposing white skin beneath. His face was chisled of marble, perfect in structure, but devoid of any warmth or emotion. His hair was so black as to shine blue in the moonlight.

His eyes were filled with loathing, hatred, and lust for power that burned forth brighter than Malus' red eyes had. He carried no weapon, for he needed none. He was the Dark Lord, Dracula Vladimir Tepes, returned after his hundred year sleep.....

....and restored to his full power.

In a voice that was dark, boiling anger laced with the loathing of an entire world, he spoke.

"Imbeciles. Did you really believe you had won?" He laughed, mirthless, horrible. "Well, it is indeed time to meet your master."

"Malus, what have you become?" Carrie asked, stepping forward. Chanaur noticed that she still refused to remove her hand from his arm. "And what did you do to my Father?" She asked, anger creeping into her voice.

"Your father was necessary to keep my previous body mobile. His soul resided in that cape, and once it was gone, he was freed." Dracula smiled. "Death was a master in his work, indeed. The ability to keep the souls motives in check under the minds third eye...." He shook his head. "But his influence saved you all when the puppet lost it's head....."

Carrie's fingers bit into Chanaur's arm. He didn't need to look at her face to see her anger. He could feel it burning in her touch, tight enough to draw blood.....

I'll be sure to salvage some for later, my dear. He grinned at the thought. Just for you.

"As for Malus..... He was yet another pawn. I returned to the world in the body of that child, to crush the world in darkness, and bend all to my will." He gestured quickly to the ground. "You have all proven most worthy. Kneel before me, and you shall lead my armies. Oppose me, and you will die."

No one moved, and all remained silent.

"So that's your answer?" Dracula chuckled darkly. "May your father welcome you with open arms."

He placed a hand to his brow, and disappeared in a flash of pale blue fire.

Everyone was on the defensive quickly. A number of the coldfire portals erupted to life all around, one on each of the four corners of the tower. Dracula was planning on keeping them on their toes, it seemed.

He appeared from the west, and stretched his arm out toward the Carrie. The unnatural freezing flames formed into three projectiles, wich he held in his palm. Dracula sneered. "Your father served me well, Fernandez. You should be honored; you'll be in roughly the same office shortly...."

Carrie smiled back at him. "You'll choke on those words, Dark One." She touched the butt of the staff to the ground, a slight ripple running through the stone. "Literally."

The ripple finally reached him, and she held out her hand, palm up. The stones of the tower formed into five fingers, wich crashed in on him like waves.

He was then behind them, staring at Chanaur. "The Last of the Majere's...... It's a shame to destroy the last of the line....." He smiled cruelly. "Would you really kill your grandfather?"

"My grandfather is dead." Chanaur spat. "You are only a shadow of who he once was." He transformed his sword into a dual-bladed bo. "You aren't worthy of the name!" He manuevered it in a great number of dizzying archs. Dracula evaded every one, until at last he was caught accross the neck.

He put a hand to his neck, and was shortly after pinned by the shoulder to the ground. Chanaur pulled out a vial and collected some of his blood from the slash accross his neck. He put the stopper in it, and smiled at him. "Something to remember you by." He pulled out his bow, and knocked one of his holy arrows....

Unsurprisingly, Dracula teleported again. Right behind Reinhardt he stood, and whispered in his ear.

Reinhardt heard...... her voice. "Reinhardt, I need you. I need you to come with me..... I'm so lonely here..... It's so dark....."

Reinhardt rounded on the Dark One, not bothering with his whip. He struck him several times, using just his fists. "I've had quite enough of your damned games, Vile One." He then brandished his whip and sent it sailing throught the air, to catch him accross his eye, one at a time. "It's time for you to pay."

Dracula made a furious move for Reinhardt, to avenge his face. Lightning flashed, thunder boomed, and electricity sizzle through the air. A bolt hit him in the shoulder, jerking him in a half turn. Blackened flesh fell from his body, exposing bone. He quickly regenerated, and disapeared again.

He materialized in the middle, and raised a hand to the sky. A ball of green energy gathered in his hand, and he forced it downward. It exploded in a shockwave about his waste, and rippled out to meet his attackers.

Barely ducking it in time, Chanaur checked that the others were alright. That was one nasty trick; just by looking at it he could tell that that one blast could have severed skin, flesh, and bone without being slowed down.....

While they were still getting up, a curtain of coldfire errupted around him as a shield, and around them as a cage. Chanaur drew another arrow from his depleting supply, and let it fly.

It struck the curtain, froze, and shattered into a thousand pieces.

The curtain of fire behind them began to close. The horrid chill was already turning sweat to ice, and it was getting closer....

Carrie prepared to call down another lightning storm. Dracula was busy in his pleasure, and didn't notice.

Carrie released the atmospheric charge suddenly, and without mercy. Bolt after bolt lanced through the clouds, and through the Count's body. One after another hit, and he fell to his knees. His countenence was none more than a blackened remnant, his body not much better. He fell face first to the ground, and erupted in coldfire. All dangers dissapeared, including him. And in his place, was......


Carrie began to walk forward, but Chanaur caught her arm. She looked up at him, seeing a deep concern in his eyes. "Be careful, love. I don't like this at all."

Carrie smiled reasuringly, and then hurried to the boy's side. Malus looked up. His eyes were those of a child again. "Wh.....where am I? What's happened?" His gaze fell in confusion. Carrie extended her hand to help him up, which he took.

The eyes changed almost immediately. The melovalent grin returned. The grip tightened, and she could feel the icy death course through his body, ready to take hers......

Blue fire erupted around her, but..... It didn't burn her or freeze her. Malus screamed horribly, and fell forward again, lying still.

"You cannot decieve me!"

Everyone turned at once to see Charles Vincent, still with a giant cross strapped to his back, standing with another vile of holy water held in his hand. The holy flames, of course, did not affect Carrie, but had given her quite a start.

"Do you still not understand? This child is Dracula?" He shook his head. "Now do you understand why you should leave the vampire hunting to the veterans?"

Chanaur smiled back. "You barely made it here, ancient one. Let's see you beat us to the ex-"

"M..... miserable human scum!" Malus struggled to his knees, and glared out at them from his prison of flames. "How long do you think you can oppose me?"

"Until you die, you bastard." Carrie spat at him. "Until you die for every life you've destroyed."

He turned to Chanaur. "You said you wished for me to show myself? Very well. You will cower before my true power, my true form!"

The world seemed to spin about him. Everything turned to a blur, a gray and blue smear accross Chanaur's vision. Once he could pick out his surroundings again, everything had changed.

They were standing in a barren wasteland. Brown sand crunched underfoot, blew past them in a lashing wind. The sky was full of clouds the color of sulfur, all swirling towards a center vortex high above. There was no sun, no moon, no stars beyond them; they supplied their own light.

Carrie and Reinhardt landed just beside him, seemingly just as dazed.....but where was Vincent?

The pale light of the clouds slowly faded, eclipsed by something from behind. Chanaur whirled around in unison with the rest......

....And his heart missed a beat.

Hovering about thirty feet in the air above them was Dracula's true form. It was a monster that had the upper portion of a dragon, the bottom that of a giant centipede. His yellow eyes blazed forth with fire and brimstone, and his breath stank of it. A ridge of spines ran the length of his back and insect tale, ending in a pair of poisonous pincers at the end. Grand wings sprouted from his forarms, but seemed unnesessary for flight. Claws sprouted from his fingers, the legs of his tail just as deadly, if not more. Teeth the length of Chanaur's sword lined his mouth, and a hissing roar escaped from between them.

The abomination lowered itself to ground level, touching down with a resounding crash. The tail coiled around him, and for a moment he just stared down at them, his reptilian mouth smiling slightly.

"You were right Carrie." Chanaur muttered, trying to drown out the sound of the Centidragon's breathing. "Things did get real ugly."

As if he heard this, Dracula went into his attack. He clasped his hands together, and, after a few seconds pulled them apart. Between them was something best described as a cell of pure destructive force: it seemed to be made of liquid fire, with a nucleus of a bright golden light dancing in it's center. He fried it, allowing it to drift wherever it may.

Chanaur drew an arrow, choosing to shoot it through. If it was created the way he thought it was, it would explode when touched.

Instead, it split into two, and both came toward them, and fast.

"Run or die!" Chanaur shouted, and the other two scattered as he ran toward Dracula, his sword shifting form to a war hammer. His scales probably wouldn't be permeable to a blade, sacred or otherwise. However, he could always try to break it apart.

He leapt into the air, aiming for the carapace that should cover the creature's heart. The tail lifted to interscept him, and knocked him away.

He heard the thunder of the what had to be one of the bombs exploding. Once he landed, he looked around huriedly to see if the others were still alive. Carrie and Reinhardt came running to his side. Apparently they had ran at each other, hoping that the cells would colide.

And, judging by the smoldering crater, they had. As well, he realized that they weren't controlled by Dracula; he was gambling with a destructive force almost equivilant to an exploding star, and he wasn't able to control it. As well, they seemed to respond to attacks only.....

An idea sprang into Chanaur's head, and he grimaced. It was going to be messy, but if it worked......

He can't control those charges. Reinhardt and Carrie turned to him quickly. All we have to do is direct them toward him, next time he launches one.

Reinhardt looked at him like he had sprouted a second head. Carrie nodded solemnly, and rubbed her hands together. "Alright. Let's give it a shot."

Dracula bent over, and dug his clawed hand into the sand. Where his claws raked, five rifts of sand sped toward them, ovbiously able to slice through them all like blades. They escaped with only a few gashes, and he launched another charge.

Chanaur attempted to harness it. It was far too much power for him to control, but he could at least slow it's progress.

Carrie stepped up beside him, and placed her hands on his shoulders, lending her powers to his.

Slowly, steadily, the mini-nova began to drift back Dracula's way.

Suddenly it exploded, before it could get close enough for his complete incineration. Half of his body had been burned away, instead of all of it.

He closed his arms around himself, to regenerate. Carrie planted her staff in the sand, grasping both sides of the crescent moon. The sapphire glowed brilliantly, and a ray of light lanced out and speared through the dragon's head. It slumped forward, and lay still.

Chanaur looked at the battered and bleeding creature before him. "That was just too easy. He can't be...."

Lurching back to an upright position, the abomination began to reapair itself again. It hissed, and fire spewed forth in an enormous stream; one too wide to evade in time. Chanaur cast a bubble of holy power around him, holding the flames at bay.

"I hope one of you has a plan, because I'm all out of ideas!" Chanaur shouted, even though it was silent inside his shield.

"I..... I have one." Carrie whispered. "It'll cost me greatly, but..... It's the only w-"

"No. There has to be another way..... You can't....."

Carrie placed a reassuring hand on his shoulders. "That's not quite what I meant. I'll live, but.... I'll be very weak." Her voice echoed hollowly, resounding, magnifying. "I'll be absolutely defenseless during the incantation. I'll need you two to protect me."

Chanaur relaxed slightly. "How long do you need?" He whispered.

"Not too long. Normally it'd be two hours, but I have a little help this time." She tapped the butt of the staff on the ground. "You'll have to lower the shield for me to cast it, though."

Chanaur dropped the shield just long enough to give her a quick kiss. She melted into his arms, and Chanaur heard the roar of indignation behind him; being a noble, Dracula couldn't strike when their backs were turned. Replacing the shield, he whispered softly in her ear. "Whenever your ready, hon."

Reinhardt cleared his throat. "Well, I'm not just going to stand around here, twiddling my thumbs like last time. I'm going outside, and I'm going to fight for life." He smiled. "Hope you two have fun; 'cause I will."

Chanaur extended his hand, which Reinhardt took. "Just be careful. Don't do anything stupid, alright?"

Reinhardt smiled tensely. "I can't promise that. You know me well enough to know that."

Releasing hands, everyone began to prepare for the final conflict. Carrie planted the staff into the ground. Reinhardt readied his whip. Chanaur said a soft prayer under his breath, and closed his eyes.

When he opened them, sound returned and the wind battered them again. The shield was gone.

Reinhardt stepped out, of the spells radius, and charged at the dragon. He could have swore he heard Dracula laugh just before he replaced the shield.

God, I feel guilty about locking him out like this..... He looked back at Carrie who had just began to start to cast the spell. I have a feeling I know what he's doing, and it seems I'll be protecting two people with one shield.....

"Mentra listoc tirandol peramiste......."

Chanaur didn't know her words, and doubted she knew what she was saying. Her eyes were no longer her own; they had become pure white. Her voice seemed to echo with three different voices, not all of them female. As the only sound present aside from their breathing, it began to grate on his nerves.

"Drenkhal yergandi ristolai lenshikah....."

Reinhardt was still making his way to the Count, evading everything he threw at him. More sand rifts, a couple of nova bombs that floated about placidly, flaming dragon spirits soared about, trying to strike him down. At last Reinhardt stood before him, and cast his whip. The barbed end tore a hole in the scale armor, cauterizing the flesh beneath. Although he couldn't hear it, Dracula screamed in pain.

"Seschtah entrahlme greclahs shijatke vornistha lerandrahst......."

Reinhardt delighted in the sound of the dragon's screech, and cast his whip again. The brown scales tore away as easily as regular skin under the whips barb. The creature's cries raised to a hiss as saliva came to it's lips. A forked tongue whisked it aside, and a jet of flame shot out to try to roast Reinhardt alive. He could faintly hear Carrie's voice through the screeches. The world seemed to be teeming with something...... He thought he felt the wind breathing, the earth seemed to move with the rhythm of a heartbeat.

"Ohdrelckha mienjahti bieranto shiracnostil!"

Chanaur felt the spells power swell. It was almost time, and he watched Reinhardt intently. Wave after wave of spells battered at the shield, all of them absorbed and added unto Carrie's mantra. Reinhardt still seemed unscathed, and continued to attack the Count.

Reinhardt had the Centidragon's blood on him. Blood that he had drawn. He had caused him pain, and heard the proof of his labors. He was satisfied. Now was the time to return to Rosa's side......

He cast his whip at one of the charges. It split, and both of them came speeding towards him.

"Miandrast hisbotrin thriastnoma khrastni viotehnach quardtheste!!"

Reinhardt kneeled and waited for the explosion that would incinerate him. He waited and waited, but he didn't hear it, or feel it. In fact he heard nothing but the heartbeat of the earth.....

He stood and beat his fists against the invisible barrier. "Damn you, Chanaur!!!"

Chanaur watched as the spell's power was at last released.

The Count stood powerless as he realized that his efforts had come to an end.

"Mentra; Water....."

Rain began to fall upon the dragon. Rain from heaven, the very tears of angels. Every place it struck the scaled skin it burned to the bone, and even through them. The abomination howled in pain, his body pockmarked with bloody holes.

"Drenkhal; Wind....."

The rain stopped, and a strong winted gusted from all directions toward the center of the wasteland; where the incapacitated dragon stood. Sulfurous sand was washed into the open wounds, but he could only hiss softly in weakness. Lightning came from above instead of the rain, doing even more damage then before.

"Seschtah; Fire......"

Red fire blazed from the tip of the centipede's tail to the dragons snout to the tip of his wings. Blue fire sprung up from his bowels, melting him from the inside out. Now he found his voice again, and it his a crescendo of pain that was horrible to hear.

"Ohdrelckha; Earth."

Where the abomination stood became a black shadow. The earth had split open to accept him back to his dark realm. Cries of the dead called up out of the pit, a chilling chorus of moans that chilled to the bones, and made flesh crawl. Chunks of rock and earth flew up out of the fire-ringed abyss to slam back down on top of the creature's head. Rage and curses poured from the Count's mouth. Just before his head was swallowed in the rippling darkness, he gave one last hissing screech.

The fire that surrounded the portal washed in upon it in waves, and sprung up to the sky. For one brief moment, water, wind, fire, and earth were made one. With one last dissonantly hormonious chant, the dead fell silent, and all was still.

Chanaur dropped the shield, his strength finally gone. What he hadn't used to create and maintain the shield he had given to Carrie. Reinhardt stood dumb, but Chanaur could feel the resentment radiating from his body.

The world began to spin again, everything blurring together. The world brightened, slowed, and became one again. They were standing on a cliff overlooking the poisoned lake. What was left of the castle rested placidly in the lake. The battle was over; Dracula was put to rest again.

Chanaur stumbled over to where Carrie had collapsed. He knelt beside her, and gethered her up in his arms. He looked up and saw Jara staring bewilderedly around. Reinhardt had fallen to one knee, anger etched deep in his face.

Jara looked around and realized she was standing in sunlight. She was no longer a vampire. Her face changed to one of jubilation, and she gave a cry and sank to her knees, weeping for joy.

Carrie's eyes fluttered open, and a lead weight was loosed from around Chanaur's heart. "We won. He's gone...."

"For now." Reinhardt snarled. "But tell me.... Will the battle against evil ever end?" He held out a hand to no one, a gesture of helplessness.

A single rose petal fell into his outstretched hand. More fell around him.

Standing slowly, he looked into the sky. A single rose was falling from above, dropping petals during it's descent.

Reinhardt's heart skipped a beat. Hope sprung where he thought there was none left. The small flower touched the ground, and then blazed forth with a bright light. He shielded himself from it, and turned away.

When the light was gone, he looked back. There, in the place of the rose, was a tall, slender, brown-eyed blonde-haired woman in a red dress. Her skin had returned to a healthy color......

....Rosa was back.

For the second time in his life, tears welled in Reinhardt's eyes. And for the first time in his life, they flowed like water from a fountain, completely unchecked. He ran to Rosa's arms, and held her tight.

Chanaur smiled. Although he hadn't seen this one coming, he knew that Reinhardt had to keep living. And he was right. Hell, I'm always right.

Usually, anyway. Carrie leaned up and kissed him on the cheek. But you can be a bit of dummy from time to time.

Jara looked at Reinhardt and sighed. He had his love back, and was at last happy. Carrie and Chanaur had finally exposed their souls to one another. Everyone was happy..... But her.

She turned to walk off, and standing right in her path was someone new. His hair was a platinum color, his skin pale. His eyes were gone, but Jara recongnized him immediately.

"Darnell...." His head turned to where he heard her voice. His hand was reaching out for her blindly. She stepped toward him, took his hand in hers, and placed it on her face. "It's me. Jara."

He croaked her name, as though he hadn't spoken in a long time. "Oh, if only I could see you now...."

He felt another hand on his shoulder, a strong, warm, healing hand. His sight returned to him, and he saw Jara's smiling face before him. He embraced her gently, reverently. The healing hand withdrew.

"How are you outside? You're no longer a vampire?" Jara said softly, barely believing what was happening.

"Well, when you live for a couple hundred years you build tolerances." He sighed, and held her closer. "I am a full vampire, dear. I'm sorry I didn't tell you because I thought..... thought that......"

Jara placed a finger to his lips. "I'm not going to leave you, Darnell." She kissed him. "If I have to, I'll become a vampire, just to be with you. I still remember that night like it was yesterday....."

Chanaur cleared his throat. "Actually....." He hesitated. "I could make you human again." The Necronomicon was under his arm. "You'd start life over, your past erased. You will not age a second more than you are now."

"But Chanaur....." Jara said softly, embarassed. "You were to use that spell to remove the curse from yourself."

Chanaur laughed. "No, I don't Jara. I've found a way to keep it well under control. Besides....." He turned to Darnell. "I think he needs it more than I do."

Darnell bowed low. "I thank you sir, from the bottom of my heart. How can I repay you?"

Chanaur smiled. "By making sure this young lady is happy. That's all. Now, step back a bit, and it'll be done in a second."

Chanaur opened the book to the page he had found earlier. Holding the book in one hand, he raised the other to the sky. He began to speak the soft words of the language of the dead. Darnell stiffened, and fell to his knees, then to his stomach.

Chanaur lowered his arm, closed the book, and returned it to his pack. Jara looked worriedly at him, but he gave a reasuring nod.

Darnell's skin changed to a soft tan color. He stirred, and moved back to his knees. He looked down at himself, and blinked rapidly. "I'm..... I'm alive." With a glad cry, Jara threw herself at him.

They say that Dracula is given rebirth when hate arises in the hearts of man, and that love keeps him trapped in Hades. There was enough love on display between the six of them to keep him down there for a long, long time.

Chanaur smiled again, and turned back to Carrie. "I'm happy to see your fears gone, love." She wrapped her arms around him, and kissed him. "And look how we've brought everyone together."

Reinhardt was sitting on the ground, holding Rosa, blubbering like a baby. Rosa was smiling slightly, seeming happy that he finally showed emotion, but a little annoyed at how much. She shook her head at Carrie, and tried to calm Reinhardt down. Darnell was pinned to the ground, trying his best to disconnect his lips from Jara's long enough to speak. Of course, Jara would have none of that.

"Well, that's that. Let's go home, honey." They kissed again, and walked back down the path that led to Wallachia, hand in hand.

End Part Twenty Four.

Part Twenty-Five