Part Nineteen: The Tower of Execution
"Boy, what happened in here?"
Jara looked sullenly up. Now that the smoke from the magma had thinned, she could actually see more than the glow of the molten rock.
Her jaw dropped. Someone or something had thrown a temper tantrum in here that had descimated the whole area. Apparently there was originally a tower for executions erected in the middle of this chamber. What was left of it was sinking steadily into the lava, only the top two floors above the surface. The walkways leading from the main wall to the tower had been broken off, and were as bad off as the tower itself.
"I'd say someone was upset. I don't remember this place being like this before......" Jara looked around. "I must say, it's an improvement."
"Oh?" Reinhardt turned to her. "What makes you say that?"
Jara sighed, and started to use the fallen walkways as stepping stones. Now that the central tower was destroyed, they had to take the long way around to get to the exit at the top of this chamber.
"Well, for one thing, the mechanisms of killing are no longer visible, and the products of their work as well. No discarded body parts, no bones, no fresh corpses."
"Huh. You've got a point." Reinhardt followed her, guessing she knew the way better than he did. "By the way..... Thank you for directing Rosa away from suicide."
Jara looked back at him, surprise in her eyes. "You heard?"
"Yes. I wish she would have come to see me..... But at the same time, I don't. If she were to, I'm sure that Death would make her fight me again....." He sighed. "I still can't forgive myself for what I did to her....."
Jara put a hand on his shoulder. No words were needed for this moment. All she could do was offer her compassion, and help to get him to the Castle Keep with his head on his shoulders.
Reinhardt suddenly embraced her, and Jara stood surprised in his arms. "I thank you as well for your kindness and compassion. I must admit, that I didn't trust you until you forced me to take that elixer."
Jara searched for words, but all eluded her grasp. She patted his shoulder reassuringly, and wrapped her arms around him as well.
As unexpectedly as he had embraced her, Reinhardt retrieved his arms from around Jara, and then continued on. "Let's get going, and get this over with....." Jara followed him in silence.
And in silence they continued, until the chamber veered left, and some of the execution devices were seen. Bladed pendulums swung back and forth. Sets of spikes shot from holes in the floor at intervals of about five seconds, in massive groups. Where the stone walkway touched the wall, iron maidens literally lines the walls.
"You were right....." Reinardt muttered, observing the large blood stains, and the dead, staring eyes from inside the iron maidens. "It was an improvement when that chamber was destroyed....."
Carefully moving around, over, and through the obstacles, Reinhardt and Jara walked on in silence. Jara's demeanor still hadn't improved, but neither had his. If anything, it had gotten worse.....
Sighing, Reinhardt reflected on the events of the last week. The week that they set off on this desperate quest to slay the Count. The week that seemed like years into eternity......
He had lost Rosa to the Count.
He had stood against the Count, and had paid for it.
He had saved Carrie's life.
He had found Rosa again, briefly, and lost her.
He had done his best to help Chanaur through his poison and fever.
He had helped the child Malus to escape.
He had faced his fear of spiders.
He had saved everyone from the Oubliette, with the aid of the most unlikely of allies.
He had almost killed Chanaur.
He had almost killed Rosa.
He had almost died himself, but Jara helped him through.
And now they were traversing the tower of execution. Here, with a vampire. The one race he was bound by blood to destroy, and he was trusting her every step of the way.
But why is that so surprising? Chanaur's a vampire, as was his father......
And his Grandfather, the Count......
The Count was the reason Rosa was dead. The reason that Lacuna was gone. The reason that Kyphron and Imbrium were gone. The reason that Raine and Alucard......
The name flashed accross his mind, and Reinhardt made a startling realization.
Alucard.... Dracula..... He was a fool to not notice the connection before.....
Jara looked back at him, noticing his face. He was frowning, his lips curling on the right side.
"Reinhardt? What's wrong?"
Reinhardt shook his head. "Nothing. Just thinking of Rosa."
Jara fell silent, deeming it a closed subject. She looked around wanting to get her mind off of the pain of this world. But all she saw was signs of what was or would be human suffering. That, and the bodies of previous victums of the torture devices. The bubbling lava seemed to be roasting her alive.....
Her boots clanked on the metal grating beneath her feet. The lava below heated the metal, and her feet still burned through the leather of her boots. But she didn't care. Nothing really mattered anymore, except helping Reinhardt to reach the keep alive.
That way she could be set free, and she could find Darnell.....
Remembering the night they shared together, Jara's thoughts drifted off.....
She stepped onto a new section of the grating. The charred metal fell through, and she fell with it.
Raziel awakened, sitting bolt upright in bed, a cry escaping his lips. The wet towel he had pressed to his forhead fell to his feet. The person sitting beside his bed jumped to her feet, screamed, and fled.
Raziel watched her leave, and heard her shouting something about zombies. Shortly after, another woman walked in. This one, however, was familiar......
She had silvery-blue hair, brown eyes, and an ever-present smile on her face. He remembered how, eight years ago, he had saved her from the sacrifice to bring the Count back to rule early. She had been released, and Actrise had been.....
Actrise...... He didn't want to reopen that painful subject, so he turned to Ada. "How long have I been asleep?"
"Nearly two days. Your sleep was far too still, your face far too pale. We all thought you to be dead." She laughed slightly. "You gave Odila quite a scare."
She was referring to the one that had been sitting by the bedside, possibly sleeping herself. "Send her my appologies." He put a hand to his forehead. "How did I get here?"
Ada felt his forehead, seeing he was still quite warm. "I'm not sure, myself. You just appeared in the middle of the fountain in the town square, where you fell face first into the water. Someone got you out before you drowned, and brought you here, to me."
Raziel closed his eyes. He asked quietly, "Do you have a dagger with you?"
She looked cautiously at him. "....Yes. What do you wish to use it for?"
"I'm going to cut myself, and see if the wound heels itself. I'm testing to see if Actrise was succesful in romoving the immortality curse on me, or not."
Raziel stated this as a fact, even though it involved a person who was long since dead, and an act that had been proved impossible. But when Ada said this, he told her that Actrise had become a servent to the Dark One, and had sent him home, and had supposedly removed the curse as well.
Ada hesitantly gave him the dagger on her belt. Grasping the knife in his right hand, he cut open the back of his left hand. It began to bleed. Thirty seconds passed, and the gash didn't lessen at all. The curse was gone.
Sighing, Ada wrapped his hand in a bandage from inside a bedside closet. "There are esier ways to test a theory, dear."
"Yes, I know. But that was the most efficient way." Raziel smiled.
"Yep, that sounds like the Raziel I know." She winked at him, her smile returning.
Raziel took hold of her hand once she finished tying off the bandage. Recalling that time eight years ago, he remembered how Ortega had attacked his own village, and captured this girl to sacrifice to the Count. He remembered that she was the last of her line, the rest of her and others families were sluaghtered by the few remaining Man-Beasts. This had occured when Raziel had been off on his Aescetic Training, trying to be able to manipulate the seal on his power.
The Man-Beasts power was volatile. It came into play during times of rage, and always drained the person in the process. By the time Raziel had returned, he had mastered the ability to turn the transformation on and off.
Sadly, his fellow Man-Beasts had become restless, and, even worse, hungry, while he was gone. Thus the feeding had began.....
....And ended when the blue stone Ada wore around her neck caused the Man-Beasts to turn upon themselves. Only Ortega emurged from that battle alive, and he shortly after sought out Raziel, to become the last Man-Beast alive, the strongest of them all.
And ultimately, Ada had been captured. Raziel felt he owed it to her and her line to rescue her, and return her to what was left of her life.
But, that was history. History intended for another time, because a young boy, named Earnest, came running through the door, where he gasped out; "Walla....Chia......Under.......Attack......"
He then sank to his knees, then to floor. Whether he had fainted from fear or exhaustion was unknown.
"Jara, look out!"
Jara's world became a blur. The first thing she knew, she was falling, the grating that was solid a moment ago crumbling beneath her. The next, she was sailing through the air, and landed hard with her head hitting on stone. Then she heard a scraping sound from behind. A noise that sounded strangely like feet scrabbling for purchase upon a smooth surface......
Stars exploded before her eyes as she stood up and ran to the source of the sound. Looking down, she saw that Reinhardt had barely saved Jara and himself from the lava. He was dangling by little more than his left arm, little more than half a foot from the molten rock.
Jara hastily pulled him to safety, where he collapsed, breathing heavily, on solid ground. He gasped out a thank you, and then proceeded to attempt to catch his breath.
Jara was lavish in her appologies. She appologized for being so careless, and nearly costing both of their lives. Reinhardt did nothing but raise a hand, telling her to wait until he could breathe regularly again.
When he was no longer fighting for air, he turned to her, and asked, "Where was your mind wandering, anyway?"
After a moments indescision, Jara told him that it was just an old memory, nothing important. Reinhardt pressed her, however. "You trust me, right? What would it hurt?"
"Really, it's nothing that would interest you..... I'd just burden you, at any rate." Jara lowered her gaze.
"Boy, have I heard that one a lot." He lifted her chin until both their eyes were linked again. "I want to help. The path from inner turmoil begins with a friendly ear. Besides, if it's enough that your entire world is lost in this memory, then it must be fairly important."
"We really don't have the time to waste, but if you insist......" Jara sat down heavily, recalling once more that night......
......The night she was turned.......
The night was cool. The sky was clear. The moon was full. The stars were shining bright.
Jara laid down in the grass, staring up at the moon, the great pale eye in the sky. The stars twinkled around it, a halo around the eye. This had been the first time in over a month that the night sky was clear. For so long, clouds had marred the heavens, blocking out the comforting light of the stars.
Jara had long since considered the stars her most faithful of companions. They were always there, whether she could see them or not. They never truly left her......
She sighed heavily, and closed her eyes. She reminded herself that she came out here to relish in the night sky, not remember her past failures in human relations.
But, once she thought about them, the memories wouldn't go away......
Sometimes she wondered why it was her that had to be alone. Why it was her that was unable to find love......
What did it matter? That was the past. She was contempt to just lay out here with the stars.....
Well, almost contempt. The only thing that could make it better was if she had someone to share it with. Someone who would just come and talk to her. Even if that someone was a complete stranger......
She lapsed into a troubled half-sleep, until she heard soft footfalls from behind her.
She didn't open her eyes. She had, since she came here to Wallachia, half wanted some unknown monster to come bounding and galumphing out of the forest, and devour her. Anything than stay here in the world and live on in heartache......
The footsteps began to recede, and Jara's eyes opened, and looke in their direction. Seeing not a creature of darkness, but a young man. He stopped in his tracks, seeing that he had awakened her.
For long moments, he had stood there staring at her, as if unsure what to do. So, Jara beckoned to him to have a seet, and they could talk. Hesitantly, he obliged, laying down within arms reach of her.
After an awkward silence, he said, "The stars are bright tonight."
He stated it matter-of-factly, and meant it as an ice-breaker, his voice quiet. Now that he had come closer, Jara saw him better. She saw that he had hair the soft, silver color of the stars. She saw that his eyes were the deep blue of the night sky. She saw that his skin was the pale color of the moon.
"Brighter than I've seen them in years......" She turned her attention back to the stars, suppressing his smile. "But then I haven't seen them at all for the past month."
"Nor I." He sighed. "Whenever the stars go missing, I don't know why, but I fall into a slump....."
Jara laughed slightly. "And I thought that I was the only one. Sometimes I feel that the stars and moon are the only friends worth having."
"I've been led to believe that my whole life. Led by my own pain." He shook his head, causing the grass to rustle beneath him. "But the stars are too cold and distant to offer any real companionship....."
"All too true......" Jara rolled over on her side she could look at him again. "But when you look for physical comfort, you usually look for it in the wrong places."
"Yes....." He smiled ruefully. "Or it just isn't there at all....." He turned to her. "May I ask your name?"
She smiled sweetly. "My name is Jara. And yours?"
He reflected her smile. "Darnell. If I may ask, why does a young woman as pretty as you speak so of loneliness?"
"Well, Darnell, beauty tends to attract the right ones as well as the wrong ones. The only problem for me is, the wrong ones are far too numerous, and the right ones are usually shoved aside in the process."
"Ah, so your problem was too many to deal with, and not enough that were worth it." He shook his head, and returned his gaze to the sky. His muscular body expanded as he drew in a deep breath. "I think I'd rather be fought over than avoided as if I carried the Plague."
Jara touched his shoulder gently. "The world is a cruel place."
Darnell placed a hand softly on hers. "Indeed."
Soon, they found themselves in a deep conversation. One that ranged all the way from the stars to more..... personal matters. It turned out that Darnell's bloodline was what scared everyone away, but he wasn't sure why.
They continued to talk for hours and hours, until the moon began to fall from the sky. Darnell looked at down at Jara, whose head was now on his chest, and whispered, "We should be getting you home."
"But....." She yawned widely. "I'm not tired......"
Darnell smiled. "There will be other nights, Jara. This isn't the end, but the beginning."
"We could just sleep out here......" Jara's eyes closed.
"Not tonight. For now, we need to get you home."
Jara sighed. "Alright......" She stood up, and helped Darnell to his feet. She embraced him. "I thank you, all the same, for listening. I thank you for your warmth, your compassion."
Darnell wrapped his arms around her. "And I you. After so long, I've finally found a friend worth having....."
Jara smiled against his chest. "I'm glad I could make you happy." She looked up into his eyes. "You have made me happy, and for me, thats a great accomplishment."
He laughed slightly. He gave her one final squeeze, and then released her. "Sweet dreams, Jara......" He turned to walk away.....
......and Jara grabbed him by the arm, wheeled him around, and kissed him.
Their lips met, and the world stood still. They embraced again, and Darnell returned her kiss. His lips left hers, moving to her cheek. Then, after a moments hesitation, to her throat......
Jara clutched him to her. This was moving far too fast, but she had found someone. She had found someone......
Darnell hesitated again, but then renewed his lip's dance across her neck, and his hands caress along her body.
But where she should have felt the warmth and pleasure of a kiss, she felt pain......
Too late, she realized that it was too good to be true. Darnell was a vampire, and she had fallen for the age old trap, like the foolish, lonely woman she was.....
As if he suddenly became concious of what he was doing, Darnell released her, and Jara fell to the ground. She stared up at him, at the blood on his face, at the pain in his eyes. Then her world began to fade, as her life's blood seeped from her.
But before she died, before the waters of death closed over her head, Darnell said something that made her feel just a little bit better about the whole situation.....
Jara, please forgive me.......
"......And then I woke in the Castle Center a vampire." Jara drew a breath, and let it out slowly. "Now you see the reason I followed Chanaur. He reminded me of Darnell. Also, If I went with your group, there was more of a chance that I'd find..... What's wrong?"
Reinhardt had listened to the whole story, with nary a word. But now that she had finished, a frown marred his face. "Now, you say that you wish to find him. Why?"
"So that we can make amends for this situation. Plus, once the Count is vanquished, we can both be returned to normal humans."
Reinhardt's frown deepened. When Jara asked why, he was prepared to tell one of this little comforting falsehoods, known to humans as white lies, when she used one, very important phrase:
"The truth, please."
Reinhardt looked at her. The embers of the underworld burned in her undead eyes, and he wasn't sure if any tears could make it past them without being burned away. However, as a respected friend, he deserved to tell her the truth.
"Now, he said that everyone was afraid of him, because of his bloodline, right?" Jara nodded. "Well, sadly, vampires by birth are not...... returned to normal once the count is returned to Hell..... Only the ones freshly turned, such as yourself and Rosa, will be....."
Reinhardt's question about tears making it past the embers in her eyes was answered. Tears welled in her eyes, and began to run their course down her cheeks. They fell to the stone floor, where the hissed and evaporated.
"I'll..... Never see him again? We'll still live worlds apart, even after I'm alive again?" Jara's voice cracked, and her face fell.
Reinhardt cast about his mind furiously for anything that might help her demeanor. Unable to come up with a solution, he embraced her. "Don't cry...... You'll see him again..... If he has any feelings for you, he'll want to find you, and see you again."
She wept, seeming not to hear him. Well, she asked for the truth..... Reinhardt stroked her hair, whispering what he thought were comforting things in her ear. However, dispite all of his efforts, she only cried harder.
But then..... Then he remembered something. Something about that accursed book, the Necronomicon, that could help Darnell. If Chanaur still had it......
"Jara....." Reinhardt pulled her off of his chest, and looked her in the eye, what he hoped was an encouraging smile on his face. "The Necronimicon. If Chanaur can find the correct passage, it's possible that he could free Darnell from the bonds of his blood....."
Jara sniffled. "You really think so?" She didn't seem to want to get her hopes up.
Reinhardt nodded. "Yes. Chanaur still has it, I'm sure. He'll want to find that information to release himself....." Reihardt brought her to a standing position. "But we'll have to worry about that later. Right now, we need to get through this damned tower......."
He started walking, but Jara threw her arms around him, kissing him on the cheek. "Thank you Reinhardt. You don't know....." A sob escaped between her words. ".....know how happy you've made me......"
Reinhardt gave an affectionate smile. "I can't stand to see a woman cry. Especially a friend."
Jara held him a little longer, and then released him. She stared up at him, a smile on her face. "Now, if I remember correctly...." She turned from him, and began to examine the wall. "...There should be a passage in the wall, to facilitate the executioner's passage through the tower....." Finding what she was looking for, Jara pressed a stone that had a crack down the middle. The crack split all the way up the stone wall, and opened a doorway.
"Well, that should help things....." Reinhardt muttered under his breath, and followed Jara. But before he entered the pitch black tunnel, he grabbed a lit torch from the wall. I was wondering why they had torches in a tower lit by lava......
The dull scrape of stone against stone, a loud thump, and the loss of all outside light told him that the door had closed. Reinhardt handed Jara the torch, and allowed her to lead the way. After stumbling through the dark passageway for several minutes, they found their way out.
The wall opened up for them, and they saw before them a short, dark stairway. Taking it, they found themselves in a short corridor, red carpet leading into a room filled with the sounds of clocks......
A door slid shut behind them, sealing them inside.
Jara looked nervously around. "Something.... Isn't right......."
"What makes you say that?" Reinhardt asked, walking the corridor to the room of clocks.
"I sense...... Someone." She looked above her..... "He's here. Death is here......."
Reinhardt smiled grimly. Death. At last, I can repay him for what he made me do......
He searched the small room, and soon found an elevator. Looking up, he saw that it lead to the roof. Now he could smell it; the stench of decay, the smell of burial spices..... Death was indeed here......
He stepped onto the elevator, and Jara stepped on with him. Together, they rose into the windswept night.......
The elevator stopped, and they stepped onto the stone tower. Jara's eyes were darting here and there, searching for him.
She gave a startled cry, and then dissapeared. Death had apparently sent her away.
A spinning blade flew past his head, grazing his cheek. Looking around he saw several more blades spinning around him. He was surrounded.
Death's dry laughter reached his ears. "Wretched cur, I will slash you to pieces!"
One after another, the blades were hurled at him. One after another, they were dodged. But then one hit him in the back of the leg, and he fell forward. He couldn't move. The blade's poison had paralyzed him....
Death came before him now, and lifted his scythe. "This is the end!!" He brought the scythe down, and several more blades apeared, and sped toward him. Reinhardt gritted his teeth, waiting for the steel to tear through him.
A flash of red crossed his field of vision. He thought it was his own blood coming before his eyes, but he felt no pain. He had heard the sound of the blades sticking into human flesh, and yet.....
Then he could move again. He held out his arms, and something fell into them. It was a body......
Death was thunderstruck, and silent for a while. But then, he laughed, and taunted, "Well, Belmont, you got what you wanted. She's in your arms again."
She opened her eyes, and looked up at him. The pain in her eyes was overpowered by the love that was there as well. "Your will is strong, your heart is pure......" She drew a shuddering breath. "You can kill the count....."
Her warm blood covered him. She was dying, again, and there was nothing he could do about it. "....Have no fear, Rosa..... I will return the count to hell....."
Rosa smiled. "Good...... Ah, I fear death..... My sinful soul cannot hope for forgiveness......."
Reinhardt nodded. "Yes..... I can." He touched his head, his stomach, and then both of his shoulders in turn, forming a cross on himself. "God, have compassion, forgive her....." He then placed his hand over his heart, and whispered a prayer quietly..... "Father, forgive us our sins, and lead us on into eternal paradise, with you......"
Rosa's eyes closed, a pain filled grimace on her face. But still she smiled.....
"God has forgiven all......" Reinhardt brought the cross from his jacket, and pressed it into Rosa's hand. "Rosa......"
"I love you..... Reinhardt....." She opened her eyes, and looked into his.
"I love you too, Rosa....." For the first time in his life, Reinhardt felt a tear slide down his cheek. The lone tear winded it's way down his face, and fell to Rosa's cheek. She gave one last convulsion, and then died.
Reinhardt kissed her on the forehead, and then her body dissapeared into the night.
He closed his eyes, and bowed his head. "But you......" He opened his eyes, stood, and glared up at death, flying mere feet above him. "....You, I can never forgive!" He brandished his whip.
Death laughed. "Ah, so now, after so long, I again see the anger of a Belmont. Vampire slayer, you mourn a vampire's death?"
"This is not the anger of a vampire slayer......" Reinhardt's eyes narrowed. "This is the rage of all humanity!!" He shouted this, and then lunged at him, his whip sailing through the air.
The whip caught Death's scythe, tearing it from his hands. Taking the scythe in his left hand, Reinhardt cast his whip again, catching hold of Death's foot. He dragged him to the ground, and lifted the scythe.
Death cowered before him. Reinhardt severed both of his wings, and then he brought the scythe over his head.
"Now, Death, you will pay for every drop of Rosa's blood you shed......" He looked down at the incarnation before him, bleeding out of his shoulders, his blood black in color. "....With a gallon of your own."
Death's dying scream reverberated in Reinhardts ears. He had avenged Rosa's second death.....
......and now it was time to avenge her first.
End part nineteen.