The Undying of Dracula.
The battle was lost. The Knights stood ready to follow their Prince to the end, but the rest, they had switched sides mid-battle seeing defeat as inevitable.
Vlad Dracula fought as ferocious as a blood lusting beast, he bled from many wounds, yet he continued on.
Nicolai could not believe his master could still be alive, could still be slaughtering the Turks as they came for him.
Nicolai fought until he was by his masters’ side, the other Knights fought to clear a path.
“Dracula, Master, we must flee. The battle is lost!”
Dracula, his eyes glowing yellow with a ring of red, howled incoherently as he cut a Turk in half.
He turned to face Nicolai and his expression changed. He saw the fear in his oldest friends face and knew he was right. The fight was lost.
Dracula nodded once and they quickly began to retreat. A man, who could pass for Dracula, stepped forward, only to be beheaded.
The Knights each stepped forward to cover their Master, only to fall. Soon, only Nicolai and Dracula were left, but they had disappeared into the mountains on horses.
As they retreated, they could hear the Turks yell out in victory.
They had defeated Vlad Dracula. Vlad Tepes. Vlad the Impaler.
~1 month later~
Vlad Dracula lay dying. He had survived his wounds, secreted away, he had been taken to a place known only to the Order of the Dragon.
Dracula, Son of Vlad Basarab Dracul II, The Dragon, was feared by many. His reputation for death followed him and it had reached the ears of the Church. They deemed him guilty of crimes unmentionable, and now, though he was sick, and dying, he was going to be punished.
Two Knights, clad in the armor of the Church, pulled Dracula from his bed and dragged him before the Bishop.
“Vlad Basarab Dracul III, Dracula, Son of the Dragon, Prince of Wallachia, Count to the Order of the Dragon. You are hereby excommunicated from the Church. Your crimes deemed to be the works of evil, not in defense of the Church, but for your own enjoyment of blood and torture of innocents.
Your punishment will be that your flesh be scourged, you will then be taken and placed in a coffin of Hawthorn and Oak with the wood chips of an Ash and Dogwood tree dumped over your still living body. Then dirt of the land you cursed with your presence, soaked in the blood of those innocents you murdered, will be shoveled into your coffin to crush you and choke you until dead.
You will be denied your last rights.
With the lid then closed, it will be marked with the symbol of the unholy. You will then be buried in the walls of your Castle, high in the Carpathian Mountains.
Have you any last words?”
Dracula, weak as he was, stood in defiance, his eyes a normal icy blue now. He spat on the ground and spoke nothing. He would not dignify them with last words spoken.
He had heard that the Turks claimed him dead in their victory, and that even his head sat ona spike this very moment.
His wife, his beautiful wife, had leaped from the tallest point of the Castle after hearing of his death.
He had never felt such despair.
The next few hours, he was beaten. His skin flayed open from whips and canes. He, at the start, had defied them with silence, but by the end, he was unable. His screams sounded like the howls of a dying beast. Like an injured and tortured wolf.
The Knights added their own sick piece to Dracula’s torture. His friend, his Knight, Nicolai, was brought forth and was held above Dracula’s dying body.
They slit his throat and forced Dracula’s mouth open. He was forced to swallow and swallow. His face and body covered in blood. He watched the life drain from Nicolai’s eyes and Dracula, for the first time since he was a child, shed tears.
As the wood chips and dirt were tossed on, Dracula closed his eyes and vowed that they would pay. He had defended his people, he had defended the Church, yet now, they buried him as a monster. They had taken the last of what was his.
He, before his face was covered, screamed out. “I will return. You will all die! I embrace this curse!”
Then, as the last shovel full covered his face, he breathed his last.
~One Year Later~
He watched the young boy from the shadows. The boy and his friends had found sticks about three feet long and as straight as the trees of the forest provided and had taken another piece about a foot long and attached it with vines to become a cross guard. The boys were pretending to be Knights who protected their homeland from invaders.
Each boy took turns being the lone Knight fending off the invaders. He smiled, remembering his own boyhood with his best friend. Each dreaming about defending their own homeland.
The sun slid behind the mountains and the boys continued to play until one boy saw the man in the shadows and came closer. the man smiled as the boy stopped before him and marveled.
“Are you lost Mister?” The boy had the brown eyes and hair that was so familiar to the man. He got down to one knee before the boy.
“No young one. I am not. I knew a man from here, once.”
“Really?” His eyes grew wide in wonder. Not many people from this village ever left or interacted with strangers. Some did though. “Who was he?”
The man smiled, his black mustache revealing his canines which were a little longer than most.
“He was a very brave man. A Knight.”
“My Papa was a Knight! Momma says he did something bad though.”
The man reached out and patted the boy on the head. “What is your name?”
“A good strong name, for a good strong and proud Szgany boy.”
Calls sounded from the village and the boy turned to look. “Momma is calling me home. Bye Mister.”
“Goodbye Young One.”
He watched the boy run off and he smiled. “You will make a great leader. Just like your father.”
Chapter One – Death Does Not Contain.
Lisbeth sat at the small wooden table by the fire and gritted her teeth as hard as she could. The pain was unbearable, but she knew that she needed to. For her son. She felt something wet drip on her hand and looked down to see blood. Her nose was bleeding again.
She stood and grabbed a cloth. She held it to her nose as she brewed tea that the old witch had given her to lessen the headaches and the pain that wracked her body. It was a dark dark brew, almost black and it was very bitter, but it did indeed help with the pain.
She looked out the window and sighed. Who would watch her son, Nicolai, once she was gone? Was there a way to cure this disease eating away at the time that remained of her life?
The door to the small cottage opened and her husbands Father entered. Stephano was a proud man and Chief to his people who had stood with Vlad II Dracul, offering the young men of the village as fighters for his army. This sacrifice, had these particular Szgany looked upon with great favor. Even his own son, Nicolai I, had left as a child with Vlad II to train and become a Knight.
He lived with the Dragon and his son, and the two boys became close friends. When Vlad III Dracula took the throne, he honored the men who had stood with his Father, and swore the people would see no harm.
Stephano had been proud to learn his son, Nicolai, stood with Dracula against the Ottoman Turks. It was a pride that not many could fathom. Most Szgany were just slaves, but Stephano, his son Nicolai and the men among them, had ensured that none would dare touch. That was until Dracula lost to the Turks. Nicolai was said to have died a brave man, but the men had been betrayed. A betrayal from deep within the men among them. Dracula’s own brother, Radu.
Stephano and his people lived in the Carpathian Mountains, hiding from those who would once again enslave them. They had tasted freedom, and more with Vlad II Dracul and then his son Dracula, that they now knew they would always be free, or they would die defending themselves to remain free.
Stephano moved his considerable bulk to a large wooden chair by the fire. He sat and silently fiddled with his long graying beard before he spoke. His voice was deep and rumbled forth like small thunderclaps.
“Two more wolves were spotted. They nearly attacked Sarveni and Theodar. Curisai also saw men on horseback at the foot of the mountain, testing the path up the mountain. Soon they will be here. We will have to fight.”
Lisbeth did not look up. The bloody rag was discarded on the table before her. Stephano saw it and sighed. “You are in pain once more?”
“I’m always in pain now. My body grows weaker.”
“We will find a way to end this disease. We will.”
Lisbeth knew that there was no way for that to happen. She was growing weaker and weaker by the days and soon, it would claim her. Stephano stood and walked to her, hugging her to his chest. She accepted the hug, and he spoke low in a whisper, “Nicolai will be safe. I promise.”
~One year Earlier~
He came awake with a start, his arms and legs thrashing about. He did not understand why he felt pinned down, then he remembered the dirt. He also felt sharp burning pains and realized the wood chips in the box with him were burning him. He forced himself through the dirt only to have his way blocked with by a wooden lid. Touching it burnt his hands, but he knew he had to be free. Remaining in this box would kill him. With power unrealized yet, he smashed the lid on the box and forced it away from the coffin. his first instinct was to breath, but it sounded harsh as he gasped for air, and his chest burst into pain. He fought to breath for several minutes until he realized, he no longer drew breath. Surely this was just a trick of his mind, of having been buried alive. He climbed from the box, and as he eased out of it, he fell to the floor, weak.
Had he only passed out? He thought for sure he had died. He remembered dreams though, nightmares, of being tortured by creatures who beat him, cut him, bit him. And the face of the old crone, laughing as he screamed in agony. As he begged her to please stop this madness, to let him free.
“Is this not what you wanted? Is this not what you chose those many nights ago, when you came to me seeking power over an enemy you could not defeat?”
Her words still echoed as he climbed to his feet unsteadily. Now, as he stood on weakened legs, he still did not breath. How could this be? Next came the smells. Rotting flesh, old blood and death surrounded him and overwhelmed him. He looked about the darkened room. He could see near perfectly. But how? It was pitch black in here. In the tomb. So they had buried him in the tomb at his Castle.
He heard rats, insects, and other things crawling around. the slightest scratch or scrape clear to his ears. Each scent was crisp and his brain was able to tell him if it was alive, or dead. Rat or insect. Snakes slithering or things on four legs.
He followed his ears, and nose and found himself at the entrance to the tomb. Though he felt weak, he was able to force the large stone door to the crypt open. The sight that stood before him was familiar, but it had not been done by him.
Hundreds of people were impaled on stakes. Some were Szgany who had served Dracula, others were the Nobles and Knights who had supported his place of power. Some were just women and children. He then heard groans and whimpers from a few, and realized, they were alive.
The scent of blood raised a feral reaction within himself and though he had felt weakened, soon he was by the side of a woman, no older than 16. She looked at him, their eyes meeting and she groaned.
The stake she was impaled on had been forced from the bottom up but had burst from her chest, missing her heart. She could barely speak. “Kill me.” She whispered.
He began to lose rational thought as he felt his canines extend. Soon he had pulled her from the stake, her screams loud and pitiful as she was removed. He ignored her pain and soon, he was drinking blood from her. Blood. It was so warm. The blood he had had before, was always cold by the time it came to him. It struck him now that he should have took it straight from their veins, not let it collect in buckets below them.
Horror was in her eyes when he was done, she was barely alive. How, he did not know, but on instinct, he opened one of his own veins and made her drink his blood. She cried as she did, but he forced her to look into his eyes as she drank of him. Something happened, a spark passed between them.
She laid her head back and sighed. “No pain now.”
“Good, my child, good.”
“Who are you?” she whispered.
“I am Dracula.” She then died in his arms.
Chapter 2: The Scholomance.
He walked up the steps carved into the stone of the Mountain, enveloped in shadows. The Scholomance was deep in the mountains of Transylvania, a School taught by the Devil himself. Dracula stood before the massive stone carved gates and motioned the sign that would open the doors.
He entered and found the Gargoyles standing guard as they always did. Gargoyles came in many sizes, but these were behemoths to behold. The smallest he had seen at the Scholomance was six feet tall, their skin hard and leathery. They were also built large of frame and heavily muscled.
He moved past them and moved deeper into the mountain, carved out and made into a magnificent Castle and School. Dracula remembered coming here all those years ago, to learn, as his father had. He had been a weak young man, overwhelmed by his duties to his country, to the Church, and his family. That all changed though when he came here.
He stopped before a simple wooden door, inside was the one he sought, who they all sought, eventually. The door opened without his needing to touch it and push it open. He entered, seeing the room again made a flood of memories return. Flashes of pain and screams, torture that most could not bare.
The Old Crone sat in a chair, hunched over beside a fireplace, a cauldron boiling something that looked green and smelled of rot. She did not turn when she spoke. “You are becoming stronger Young Vlad. Such power you possess now, more than you ever did in life.”
“I do not go by that name now.” It was all he could say. His disdain for her was so strong. She served the Dark Lord of this school, having been one of the unfortunate to remain here as his servant. He could not imagine the tortures she had endured, and probably still did, but it had turned her into something less than human. Her power was enormous, he knew that from the time of his torture. He never did learn whether it was his soul or his actual body that had endured that task, and she wouldn’t be telling him anytime soon.
“You will go by whatever I choose to call you, for you have yet to ascend to the peak of your power and cast me in your shadow.” She turned to look at him and he could see her face had grown more ugly and haggard since his last visit. The students called her a hag behind her back, but little did they know she heard every word and took delight in planning what she would do to them should they be the one chosen as payment among them.
Dracula moved forward and stood to the right of the fireplace. He had been coming here frequently to learn from the Old Crone. She was an expert in Blood Magic, and it had been her teachings that, when alive, had provided Dracula with the power to overcome the Turks, but now, he was something far stronger. He was Undead. There existed many words for what he was, but he was unique among them in the fact that he had been cursed by the Church and then by sheer will and by the power of magic, he rose from his grave and was not contained beyond the veil. He was the first of his kind of undead.
The Crone looked at Dracula now, her eyes white and dead. “How is the girl?”
“She grows, too, in power. She is infatuated with serving me, though.”
“As she should be. You are her Master, she your Bride. You command her every function now that she is undead.”
“Like the Necromancer?”
“Similar, yes. In time, though, she will grow in power and be able to have some free will. The older the two of you grow, the more she will become independent in some ways, but more dependent in others. You must remember, before you, only a Witch could become Undead. You have broken that rule, and found a way to also make others like you. The Necromancer, he makes the dead rise, but they have no mind or will of their own. They are animated by his will alone.”
Dracula knew the Necromancer had an immense amount of power over the dead, but only over the dead and gone. Or at least he hoped it was only over the truly dead. “Can he control me?”
“I dare say he will not even try. The Master has taken a vested interest in you, and your power. You are unique among those who have attended the Scholomance. Those who leave here, though taught in these hellish halls, are not bound by service to the Master, only those chosen as payment like myself, or the Necromancer. Each of us chosen to complete different tasks and master different magics.”
Dracula looked into the fire and wondered at the fact that the Old Crone was the only female to have ever entered the Scholomance. Stories existed, claiming she had come to the Scholomance to be the devil’s lover, or that she was taken as a prize from some other rival to the devil and his power.
Dracula had heard a name whispered once. He never spoke it, but he remembered it. Lillith. His teaching at the Scholomnace said she was the first companion to Adam, not Eve, but he had little to discern if it was true as it was not taught by the Master of the School, but by his second in command.
“You, Young Vlad, did not finish your instruction here as the other Solomanari did, you were called away before you could finish, and dead before you could return. Only the Dragon could make such a request and a student be allowed to leave as you did.”
The Dragon. That’s who his father was. Long ago he made a deal at the Scholomance. Upon his death, he would take his place as the Dragon in the Scholomance, in exchange, he gained amazing power over the minds of others, and a renewed strength and vigor like none had seen from him as he grew older. Vlad II Dracul was betrayed by his own men and once he was dead, the Devil took what he was owed. Now The Dragon is all that remained. He was a Commander among Hell’s army and its hierarchy of demons. The story was that when Vlad II Dracul joined the Order of the Dragon, he took the name Dracul and became the Dragon. The fiercest fighter among the Order, and one of the most feared. Little by little The Dragon took his time and turned the order towards his Master’s purpose. After his death, he joined fully with his Master and served his will only.
Dracula looked at the Crone. “How much more do you have to teach me?” He grew impatient with having to wait to dispense his revenge. He had been warned that the Master had forbidden his taking revenge against the Order of the Dragon or the Bishop who condemned his soul.
“You already know that the power resides in the blood. I have taught you all I know of blood and its magic. You are not a Witch, so what I can teach you will not do you any good. You need to seek out The Necromancer now, and learn of the dead and undead.”
“Will these lessons never cease?” He exclaimed, the power in his voice making the tables and the items on them tremble.
“Remember, Vlad, you are not like other Strigoi, or like the Moroi. You are something more, something greater. Your power grows after each new moonrise. Soon, you will rival even the oldest among us here.”
Dracula wasn’t so sure that he was that powerful yet, or ever would be. He was learning new things each time he came to the Scholomance as well as exploring new sensations by intuition alone. The Crone had told him, the girl he had given his blood to before her death, was now his bride. She was bound to him by the magic of blood and venom. Her blood sustained Dracula, and his venom renewed and resurrected her from death.
He had also learned that he could change others to be like him, but they would be pale imitations to his own power and they would never grow to his strength and power level. Some would also die and not turn into a creature like him. Many factors contributed to who could accept the change and be resurrected and who could not, but not all the rules were clear yet.
Dracula walked to the door and then spoke in a low voice. “One day, when my power overshadows yours, I will return to you and you will pay for my torture.”
“I expected no different, young Vlad.” As he walked from the room the door vanished. So many times the Scholomance changed to the whims of its inhabitants. He had learned all the Old Crone could teach him, and now she had removed herself from his reach. He would return to this place soon enough and seek out the Necromancer, but at this moment, he felt he was needed elsewhere.