(A Castlevania Fan Fic)
By: the Kat
"Again, when, after the battle of Mohacs, we threw off the Hungarian yoke,
we of the Dracula blood were amongst their leaders, for our spirit would not brook that we were not free."
--Count Dracula (from the novel Dracula by Bram Stoker)
14--, Tirgoviste, Romania
14--, Tirgoviste, Romania
The boy suppressed a shudder and an overwhelming sense of nausea as the Turkish delegation passed through the dreaded Prince Vlad Dracula’s Forest of the Impaled. The air was thick with the putrid stench of blood, sweat and human waste. The reek had all of them reeling. The boy also wished he was deaf so he would not hear the agonized screams of the dying. He dared not look up, knowing that instead of seeing the leaves of trees, he would see a canopy of flailing limbs and brutalized human flesh. He gulped, feeling another wave of nausea coming on.
"Idiot!" said his master sharply, giving the boy a painful cuff on the ear. Nadir al Hashib had little patience with boys. Especially those whose features clearly carried the stamp of infidel blood running in their veins, Muslim now or not. Nadir leaned closer to viciously whisper in the boy’s ear, "Disgrace yourself now and I’ll have Prince Dracula impale you on his sharpest stake!"
The boy rubbed at his ear, a look of fear masking the anger he felt inside. They had already arrived at the gates of Castle Dracula—nicknamed Castlevania by the peasants and the boyars. They were admitted by the sentries and were led into the courtyard. The boy went cold when he felt the presences of many restless souls here, heard their weeping voices. It was a gift he had. Right now, the boy wished he hadn’t such a power at all. For he remembered, as he dismounted, that Castlevania had been built by the boyars, the noblemen who had long ago lost any fear of the power of the prince’s throne. In their pride and arrogance, they showed none of the servility and respect required by Dracula when he first ascended the throne. For that, the boyars, along with their wives, including their children, were forced to build the Castle stone by stone, until they died.
The boy began to raise his hand towards his forehead, as if to make some sort of gesture, but he caught himself in time. He was slender, with black hair peeking out from under his turban and clear blue-gray eyes. His features and his coloring, which were impossible for a Turk, drew the cold stares of the Prince’s Christian guards. For it marked the boy as a janizarie, a Christian child taken from his parents and made to convert to Islam, to one day become the elite of the sultan’s soldiers.
They entered the Prince’s throne room. Prince Vlad Tepes Dracula was a large man, which was obvious even as he sat on the throne. He was muscular, with long unruly dark hair, cunning green eyes and a cruel mouth with a thick moustache. Here, the new boyars the Prince created were taking off their hats in homage to their lord.
It was their turn to be presented. Nadir al Hashib and his fellow emmisaries made their obeisances, proud Turkish nobles secure in the superior power of their Sultan.
Dracula leaned forward. "How strange. Have you so little respect for me that you do not remove your turbans as a sign of homage, according to our custom?"
"It is our custom, Your Highness, never to remove our turbans. Begging your pardon, we meant no disrespect," said Nadir politely.
Dracula made a slight, almost imperceptible gesture to his guards.
Immediately, every member of the Turkish delegation was grabbed from behind by Dracula’s soldiers. The startled Turks opened their mouths to protest when Dracula cut them off to order yet another soldier to bring him a hammer and nails.
Dracula smiled. "I am a fair and just prince as all know. Indeed, I will ‘respect’ your customs as you have respected ours."
He ordered his soldiers to drive the large nails into the turbans of the Turkish delegation, pinning it to their heads. The guards carried out their ghastly order, heedless of the blood and the Turks’ cries of pain. Until at last, they came to the boy.
The boy stopped struggling and the fear left his face. Amazingly, he began to smile, catching the Impaler’s attention.
Dracula frowned. "Well, boy, now that your master is dead, you shed no tears for him?"
"He was not my real master." A change had come over the boy’s tone and accent. It marked him from the Northern mountains. But the voice seemed higher, lighter somehow…
Dracula’s voice sharpened. "Who are you? Who do you serve?"
A strange light enveloped the boy, making the guards holding him recoil in fear. Freed, the boy took off his turban and shook the shoulder-length black hair of his secrecy free from its coil. The illusion "he" had cast fell away and as the light around "him" faded, they beheld a girl instead.
"I worship God, not Allah, and I serve Prince Kristoff Alyardi, the Dragonlord. My name is Isabel."
She curtsied gracefully to the Prince, a little girl no more than twelve or thirteen years old.
The whole court stared at her in disbelief. Prince Kristoff Alyardi, the Dragonlord, was an enigma, a mysterious, almost legendary figure. This Prince ruled a winter kingdom up in the Northern regions of the Carpathians, nearly impossible to reach because of the bitter storms there. The storms were said to be created by the white sorcery of the Prince, who supposedly descended from a long line of warrior-sorcerers. Even the nosferatu—the vampires, did not dare to venture into Prince Alyardi’s mountain kingdom. For they all feared the Dragonlord.
That title, of course, had no connection to the Dracul clan and the Order of the Dragon where they belonged, vowing to defend the Church and their homeland. The Dragonlord had something to do with legends that were almost forgotten. It was said that the child Isabel was always with him as his right hand, a powerful sorceress in her own right.
Legends and fairy tales aside, Dracula knew this Prince Alyardi was a mighty warrior who had no love for the marauding Turks. And he needed all the allies he could trust, not idiots like the other princes who fled at the mere flash of a Turk’s scimitar.
Dracula leaned back on his throne. "I have heard much of the Prince Alyardi and of Isabel. A mere child, black-haired, gray-eyed…with a silver ring clasped in the crest of the dragon and the wolf."
Isabel held up a slender white hand with the ring.
The Impaler smiled in satisfaction. "We live in times of peril. Too dangerous for a child to go spying in the Sultan’s throne room."
Isabel smiled a strange wise smile, betraying a knowledge of far more years than what seemed to belong to her. Briefly, Dracula wondered if there was any truth to the rumors abounding that she and Prince Alyardi had been alive for centuries.
She said, "My lord Prince, we hate the Turks as much as you do. And I, as you can see, Highness, am doing what I can against them."
A perfect opening. "We must all stand together against the Turks. The Sultan will soon gather his forces to march against me, the last line of defense in Christendom."
"And all the Princes must ally together if we are to stand victorious," she answered.
"Yes, I need your lord’s aid." Dracula smiled bitterly. "I shall be most grateful…it’s an irony to trust to another when one’s own brother turns traitor and marches against me."
Isabel understood. Radu, Vlad Dracula’s own brother, had become a servant of the Sultan. Many whispered that he served the Sultan’s needs in more ways than one.
"I shall do as you ask, my lord. All I need is a horse. In two days, I will come back with my lord Prince Alyardi’s answer."
The boyars in the court began to murmur to each other. It would take far more than two days to journey from Tirgoviste to the Carpathians. Prince Dracula silenced them all with a look.
"Then two days it will be," said Dracula. "Go and Godspeed to you, Isabel."
"Thank you, my lord."
It was said by the superstitious peasnats that a glowing white light appeared in the forests beyond the villages in Tirgoviste. The two days promised by the mysterious Isabel had passed with no sign of her return. Meanwhile, spies had reported that the Sultan’s army was already on the march and beginning to advance upon Tirgoviste.
Prince Vlad Tepes Dracula stood at the borders of his country with his army, clad in the traditional uniform of the Order of the Dragon. The dragon crest of his family blazed on his standard. For that was the symbol of their name: Dracul—the dragon.
Isabel had not come. The Prince’s lips were set in a thin, grim line. Very well, they would stand alone. And he’d be damnned if he didn’t see every last Turk of the Sultan’s army impaled!
Suddenly one of Dracula’s soldiers gave a cry of excitement and pointed. "My lord, look!"
A shadow host was coming out of the mountains. For a moment, Dracula froze, thinking that the Turks had finally arrived. But no, these were Christian knights and soldiers. Out of the mist, a banner unfurled, gold upon sable, the dragon and wolf entwined.
In the very front of the army rode Isabel, clad in a dark blue cloak. She urged her horse forward and stopped in front of the Impaler. "I have kept my word, my lord Prince."
The leader of the shadow host brought his horse beside Isabel. He wore a hooded black cloak, hiding his face. When Dracula saw the dragon-wolf brooch clasping the cloak closed, he guessed that here was Prince Kristoff Alyardi himself.
"I come to offer my aid, Prince Dracula," said Prince Alyardi.
"For which I am forever grateful," laughed Dracula. "Ask anything of me and it shall be yours for I do not know how to repay you."
The other Prince removed his hood. Dracula was surprised. Kristoff Alyardi was so young, his face that of an archangel’s, clean-shaven. He was rather pale, with midnight-black hair and green dragon’s eyes touched with the barest hint of gold.
Prince Alyardi spoke then, his voice like dark velvet, "One day, I will tell you what I wish in return. All that I ask is that you keep your word to me when the time comes."
"I swear it," answered Dracula.
They won that battle and sent the Sultan scurrying back to his palace, fearing the curse of Dracula and the high throne reserved for him in the Forest of the Impaled. The peasants whispered and crossed themselves as the two Princes returned to Tirgoviste—the two dragons. They looked upon the pale fair face of Prince Alyardi and called him the Black Dragon, a name that came from a garbled legend dating back centuries. It was the name given to a heroic prince who defeated a powerful lord of the Undead to save his people, only to become Undead himself…
The Prince Alyardi did not stay for the victory feast. He and his shadow host passed over Tirgoviste, disappearing into the mountains once more.
The child Isabel lingered for a time with the village children, telling them strange and magical stories even as their parents feasted. Then, she too disappeared into the mountains.
The years passed.
A life of cruelty and betrayal at every turn had long stripped Dracula of any faith in his family, his friends and his Church. Dracula well remembered how his own father had given him up to the Turkish Sultan as hostage, considering his life already sacrificed. Then, his brother Radu, acting under the orders of the Sultan, did his utmost to grab the Wallachian throne for his own. Dracula’s friends conveniently forgot their bonds of loyalty as soon as his power began to waver. Dracula soon found it easy to switch from the Orthodox faith of his childhood to Roman Catholicism. He had learned well the lessons of ruthlessness and cunning to keep his throne.
But he knew that he could not keep this up alone. Dracula had fought in the crusades for an ungrateful God who did nothing to help him against all those treacherous jackals who sought to take away the throne which was his by birthright. He soon found a Master far more powerful and willing to grant him what he needed.
In 1477, the news reached Western Europe that Wallachia was conquered by the Turks once again. Dracula was dead, assassinated by his own men. His head hung on the longest stake in Constantinople where the Turks could clearly see that Kaziklu Bey—the Impaler—was no more.
But it was false news. Dracula’s tomb at the Snagov monastery was empty. And the peasants reported in fright that Castlevania, which had been burned down by the victorious Turks, was whole once more. Dark and nameless things began to walk the night. The dead were no longer resting peacefully in their graves.
It was not long before the people of Wallachia realized the frightful truth. Dracula was now vampir, a prince of darkness more powerful than any had ever seen before.
Dracula reveled in this new unlife, feasting on human blood night after night. What did he care about mortals—these pathetic fools who prayed so fervently in their churches, only to betray their own mothers if the price was right. He, who had been betrayed by human frailty at every turn, was now perfect, beyond humanity, beyond the comprehension of these humans who were now his prey.
But then, there was Lisa.
Dracula would not have believed it possible that he would love a human woman so much. He had many wives as a mortal man but these were marriages of convenience, a simple fact of life for any man born of noble blood. But Lisa was different. Her exquisite, angelic face reflected the purity of her soul. There were times when it seemed to him that he could see an inner light blazing within her. Perhaps, it was that light that drew him to her. He would never admit it, but she filled something in the cold and perfect darkness that was his soul.
Lisa gave him a son, a beautiful boy whose features closely mirrored his mother’s. Dracula could sense the beginnings of dark power stirring in the boy’s blood—the child born of the forbidden union between vampire and human. This boy would be the perfect heir to his power—how fitting would it be to see him one day standing by his side in Castlevania.
Lisa would not have it, however. She had this absurd notion that it was possible for him to be redeemed. Redemption…for Dracula, Prince of Vampires? He found it laughable. He had no desire to go to a Heaven where the God he had fought for all his life had betrayed him at every turn. He preferred Hell.
But sometimes, as he watched her sing their son to sleep, Dracula could almost believe in her notions of love and hope…
Some years later…
"Crucify her! Crucify the witch!"
The cross was raised and the people jeered and spat their curses. This was how they repaid the woman who had done nothing but heal their ailments and soothe their pains. This was how they showed gratitude to Lisa Szilagy, who had spent her life helping them in their hour of need.
Centuries ago, people like these had done the same thing to a certain Jewish carpenter.
They paid no heed to the anguished cries of Lisa’s young son, Adrian as they dragged his mother away. They felt nothing as mother and son were brutally separated from each other’s arms. All they knew was that Lisa was the consort of the dread prince Dracula. It was no sin to send such a whore of the Devil to hell.
The face of the new village priest glowed with religious ecstasy. He was a man in his late thirties, a former soldier whose zeal in fighting against the infidel was now turned towards destroying the creatures of darkness. He smiled benevolently at the dying woman, confident that in crucifying her, he was only releasing her soul from its bondage to the Devil.
The priest gave the final blessing and left the mob to their devices. His mind was on other things, the witch’s son in particular. Such a lovely boy, with the face of one of God’s own angels. It would please him to send such a one to Heaven with all possible speed.
He went to the local gaol where the son was being kept. He had made sure that the boy was kept in a cell whose window afforded a perfect view of his mother’s salvation. The boy should be glad. His mother was being saved. But of course, the priest understood the boy’s sorrow now. Soon, he would understand.
The priest entered the boy’s cell. His eyes strained to see in the gloom. The sun had already set, making the cell even darker than usual. He was expecting the boy to be curled up in some shadowy corner.
The cell was empty.
"No, good Father," said a voice. "Adrian is no longer here."
"Mother of God!"
The priest called on his God for help, holding up his crucifix, as Dracula turned the fiery glowing gaze of the Undead at him. In the last moment of his life, as the vampire ripped his throat out, the priest wondered why God did not hear him.
The snow was falling fast as Vlad Dracula came away from the village, his son fast asleep in his arms. The thick carpet of snow did not trouble him, he passed over it with the light step of the Undead. The blood he had taken made the years fall from him until he became the beardless youth he had been, before he had taken the Wallachian throne.
Lisa had been a fool; she deserved to die. This was what she got for foolishly helping mortals. It was this and more that had finally driven them apart.
He looked down at the sleeping boy. Lisa had refused to let him give the boy his birthright. She would have raised him in her foolish ideals. Already, she had begun to deny Dracula any right to his son. Soon, she would have taken him away, foolishly thinking there was a place in the world where Dracula could not find them.
The boy was unique—a mingling of vampire and human. Once awakened to his true nature, his power would be great. He would be a worthy son to Dracula, not like his mortal-born half-brothers. This was the heir to Castlevania Dracula wanted. Lisa’s death was necessary; Dracula would not regret it. Her blood was not a high price to pay for his son and heir.
He would take Adrian and teach him all of the ways of the night. He and his son would hunt together, strenghtening their powers with every death. There was an endless supply of peasants and boyars even, to satisfy their appetites. They were the true princes of Wallachia and every soul in every village belonged to them, to do with as they pleased. Soon, they would extend their borders, like any good ruler would. They would create an Empire of Night that would take all of Christendom and the Sultan’s Empire as well.
That was when he heard the music. A child’s voice, singing sweet and clear, leading him into the forest at the foot of the Carpathian mountains. Puzzled, he followed the voice into a clearing. A figure in a gray cloak was waiting in the middle of the clearing. As he got closer, the figure drew back its hood.
It was Isabel.
She was unchanged, still the thirteen year old girl he remembered from years past. And now, he could guess why.
"No," she said quietly, reading his mind. "It is a gift, to remain unchanged, to die when I wish and to be reborn anew when I choose. But I am not Undead."
That took him by surprise. That she could read his mind—he, who had become one of the most powerful members of the dread School of Black Sorcery.
A darker figure emerged from the shadows, pale face shining in the moonlight. It was Prince Kristoff Alyardi, unchanged as well by the years. "It is I who is like you. Akin, but from a different brood."
Dracula’s face remained impassive though his mind was working furiously. The mere fact that Dracula had not sensed Alyardi’s presence meant that he was quite powerful. It was not a good sign. Dracula laid his son in the snow, wrapping him in his cloak. The Impaler did not want any distractions if it came down to a fight between him and Alyardi. Strangely enough, the boy hardly stirred, completely oblivious to what was going on around him.
Dracula straightened, dusting off the snow from his clothes. "What do you want?"
"To keep the promise you had made to me."
Dracula crossed his arms. "I remember. What do you wish?"
"That you will never venture into my land and make my people your prey."
Dracula laughed. "You must be jesting!"
Alyardi was unperturbed. "Nevertheless, that is my wish. And you have sworn to grant it."
He was a powerful vampire but Dracula refused to be intimidated. He boldly moved closer and circled around Alyardi. "I know who you are. The great vampire killer who rode off to defeat the Vampire Lord. You should have gone home a hero and passed into legend. You became a vampire instead! Damnned by that God we both served. You owe Him and these humans nothing!" He paused. "In a way, we are alike, you and I."
Alyardi smiled faintly. "I know how much you loved Lisa."
Dracula scowled. "It was a moment’s foolishness, nothing more. Human emotions mean nothing to us."
Alyardi looked down at the sleeping Adrian, an odd look on his face. "She gave you your son."
"Stop playing games," snapped Dracula. "So you want no rival predator on your lands? I understand the laws of the beast. I shall do as you ask." For now.
Alyardi laughed softly. "The laws of the beast. Yes, I understand them as well. You will stay away from my people—for a while, at least. And then, you will come back and challenge me when your prey here grows scarce." He shook his head. "No. A bargain is a bargain. You will never cross my borders. You will never prey on those I have placed under my protection. Do not include my people in your dark designs, Dracula."
"And if I don’t keep this ridiculous bargain, what will you do?"
"What I must do."
"Ah," Dracula began to laugh again. "Of course. You will put a stake into my heart. A fitting end for one who was the Impaler."
The green eyes flared with a hunger Dracula only understood too well. "Not a stake but this."
The world spun in a kaleidescope of images for Dracula. Alyardi’s fangs sinking into Dracula’s throat…the blood draining away…his flesh wrinkling and crumbling into dust…
And then, he saw Lisa, singing their little boy to sleep. He saw her hair fall like moonbeams on his skin as she lay in his arms. He could see the inner light of her spirit filling the darkness and emptiness of his own. A lifetime’s worth of betrayal and pain was banished under her touch. With her he could forget how his beloved father had given him to his death, how the brother he had most loved had been foully murdered, how the family he had left betrayed him at ever turn.
And then, he saw her dying on that cross. Pain and agony were etched across that lovely face and yet…she forgave the people who had done this to her. As she breathed her last, Dracula finally felt the overwhelming sorrow he had not allowed himself to feel. Wave after wave of grief racked him as he realized the loss of the one thing that had filled his empty soul, of losing the one woman he knew he would truly love.
Lisa was gone and there was no hope for him left.
Yes, I will keep my word!
Dracula found himself in an old, ruined chapel. Lisa was sitting at the foot of the altar, Adrian’s head pillowed on her lap. She stroked his white-blond hair, singing him a lullaby.
"Lisa," he breathed.
She looked up then and the illusion was shattered as soon as he saw those clear blue-gray eyes.
The rage filled him again, masking away the grief. It was easier to bear than that agonizing pain. How dared Lisa die, leaving him all alone! She was no better than all those he had loved—father, brothers, friends—she had betrayed him too. The need for revenge burned within him but she had gone where even his Undead power could not reach.
"Dracula," said Isabel quietly, her eyes filled with pity.
"I do not need your pity!" he snarled. "Leave me and my son alone! Didn’t I tell your Revenant Prince that I would keep my word!"
Isabel gently eased Adrian’s head off her lap as she stood up. She looked down at the boy with an almost maternal fondness. "Lisa left you a son. She will never really be gone from either of you."
"Spare me your consoling words!" Dracula spat. "She was a fool who deserved to die! And be warned, Sorceress Child. One day I will no longer be cowed by any pretty little illusions you or your Prince can conjure!"
Isabel shook her head. There was no help for this one. Somehow, this mad and twisted soul had finally found love and its loss had finally sent him over the edge. The bargain struck on that battlefield so many years in Tirgoviste might hold him for a time but not forever. And when that time came, she and the Revenant Prince would be ready.
But then, time was what they wanted. Time for Dracula to perhaps find a hope of redemption instead of fulfilling his twisted schemes. Time perhaps for Adrian to save his father. It was all that they needed. It was not yet too late.
"We do not condemn you, Prince Dracula," Isabel said quietly. "We have no right to judge you." She walked away. The chapel darkened and took on its abandoned forlorn look again as soon as Isabel stepped out the door.
Dracula went to pick up his son. The boy stirred and murmured his mother’s name. An ghostly echo of Isabel’s song echoed in his head. He turned to look but Isabel had already disappeared in the falling snow.
AUTHOR’S NOTE: Actually, I’m confused by the Castlevania timelines. According to some of the websites I’ve seen, Dracula is placed at 700-800 years old. Is this his age now (as in, our present time) or is it his age during Symphony of the Night which takes place in 1797, according to those same timelines? Either way, that doesn’t explain how Dracula can live as a mortal prince during the 1400’s, which was the era of the real Dracula. But anyway, the video game profile I got from yet another website says something about Dracula being the big kahuna of evil for ages. It’s a video game—different story, different version. Anyway, I decided to take everything that I knew about the real Dracula and the Castlevania Dracula and combine them together in a workable story. Also, I played around with the details of Lisa’s death and Al’s age at the time. The real info on that part of Castlevania history is also pretty sketchy. Then again, this is a "what-if?" story (like most of fan fic) and every Castlevania fanfic author out there probably has their own view of the Castlevania universe. This just happens to be mine.
Oh yes, the incident with those Turkish ambassadors, plus the tidbit about the Sultan getting scared off Dracula’s Forest of the Impaled actually happened. I read about these incidents from Raymond T. McNally & Radu Florescu’s In Search of Dracula. In fact, it was the Turkish ambassador story that got me thinking about THIS story…
Again, Castlevania and its characters belong to Konami. Dracula belongs to Bram Stoker. Kristoff and Isabel are mine. No copyright infringement is intended, no money’s being made off this, I’m just having fun. Helpful comments and info about the Castlevania universe will be most welcome. Flames will be, of course, blasted away by my favorite Revenant Prince (hehe, I’ve finally introduced him!). A gazillion thank you’s to Elaine for putting up my stories and just letting me rave about Al (sigh, it’s the androgyny, can’t help it).
I finally got a new e-mail! (email@example.com)