|Vlad Drakulya (The Impaler)|
Today I'm sharing with you a portion of a chapter out of Vampire Nocturne, where Sabrina Strong meets Vlad Drakulya--the real one, who has found a way to turn himself into a vampire, and lives in another world where vampire's out-number humans ten to one, and where Drakulya is ruler of his own realm. I had to do a good deal of research on Dracula, and also about Victorian dress for this book. I hope you enjoy it and if you have not bought it, or any of the other Sabrina Strong series, I hope you take advantage of the sale price going on now through November 3rd--all my books are $0.99!
Now without further ado...
I hesitantly stepped into a large study of wall-to-wall bookcases and one huge fireplace. A normal-sized person could easily stand upright in the fireplace at the other end of the room. Gas-fed light washed the room in gold, bronze and browns. Wingback chairs were positioned at angles before the fireplace. Mahogany panels covered the ceiling giving the room a gloomy atmosphere. A large mahogany—or cherry—desk with ball-in-claw feet was stationed in the corner. Odors and scents ebbed and flowed conflicting with one another as I paused a few feet inside the vampire's lair. Drakulya's aura hit me first. Impressive. It was the scent—or, in this case, stench—that bowled me over. As with every vampire I've ever met they all had their individual scents. Dracula smelled of a dense musky odor of an old house, with a pungent reek of decay cloying around it. I had to hold my breath against it.
The door shut behind me with a terrible thud.
Without warning an unbidden vision flitted through my mind: A dark haired child huddled in a filthy cell where plumbing was not available, and soap and water were not involved in regular hygiene either. Someone screaming in the background... the dark haired child smiled cruelly... “I know what they do here... they like little boys... my stupid brother bows to their whims... they know I will resist them... ”
I pushed the scene out of my mind and scowled at the man standing across the room from me. I presumed he fed me this scene to give me an idea of how fowl he can be. Vampires were able to give you any visions they wanted, whenever they wanted. For some reason this was something he wanted me to see, and I knew this came from when he was a prisoner as a child in Transylvania.
Woodsmoke, the burning gas lanterns, and some other odd scents came to my olfactory's rescue. It nearly concealed Drakulya's unpleasant vampire odor. I cursed my werewolf heightened sense of smell. A dozen cans of Lysol, and twenty bottles of Febrize would not help, I decided. I resisted the need to pinch my nose. If only I had a jar of Vick's to plug up my nasal cavities. I was relieved that his vampire scent was so repugnant. He would have to be appealing to someone in order to have kids. Or, maybe not.
I stood facing the back of the vampire who had summoned me. He wore a red tunic made of the richest velvet, belted in a gold mesh and held rubies the size of quarters. The gold and rubies glittered in the candlelight. His legs were ensconced in scarlet hose, black boots came up to his knees, then doubled over, pirate-style showing off their fur linings. I found it odd that he chose to dress in attire which did not reflect what I'd been seeing. He rejected the 19th century apparel, apparently. Dark hair threaded with silver flowed down his back in tight curls and it reminded me of Vasyl's mane, but not as black, and not as shiny—or as clean. The thought of Vasyl turned to a longing; I wished Vasyl were here now, because he would be able to protect me from this vampire. Would I never be able to separate myself from the male who could protect me? I now felt foolish for traipsing into this by myself.
I'll be fine. Right.
“You are a stranger in my land,” his accent thick, his voice deep and rich. I imagined he could, were I not wearing my ring, put me under his thrall the second he spoke. He was most likely wondering why I wasn't at this very moment kneeling before him, holding out my unprotected wrist or neck for his drinking pleasure.
“This is true. I am a stranger to your world,” I said, keeping my voice even in tone, trying not to sound scared to death. I should be nominated for an Oscar, because I was scared shitless.
“I have been told you are from the Earth realm.”
“This is also true,” I said. I had expected the news of my visit would precede me. I had guessed correctly.
“Since I am also from Earth, do you know who I am? Who I was, when I was a living man?”
“Yes.” I didn't pause. I could see he wanted to bask in his own egotistical thoughts of himself as a great man. I decided to oblige him if only to inflate his already over-blown ego. It wouldn't hurt. Vampires might be cunning, but they were push overs when lavished upon with utterances of how great they are—or in this case, were. “Vlad Dracula, a.k.a. Vlad the Impaler, prince of Wallachia—sat upon the throne at least three times during your life. And also a novel named after you was written in a later century by an Englishman by the name of Bram Stoker. You are called Count Dracula in it.” Dracula was a prince, not a count.
“Am I handsome in this book? Brave? Fearless?”
“You are a vampire who attacks humans. Women, mostly.”
A sharp bark of laughter told me he found this delightful. “But of course,” he said, sounding impressed with himself and I saw him go up on his toes a little bit and bounce some. Relief wash through me. This news delighted him. But I knew it would be short lived.
“How does it end?”
“You are killed.”
“With a stake through the heart, I believe.” I had never read the book. But I caught the movie version of it in all its erotic overtones and blood, in different versions remade in different decades. I enjoyed the one in which Gary Oldman played Dracula. He had done a fine job, but the real Dracula standing here had me wringing my one glove, my mouth became parched. The real Dracula would tend do that.
Drakulya laughed. It was a crude and cruel laugh and stopped abruptly. His head leaned back, eyeing—I supposed—the large painting of himself there above the mantle. He gestured toward it. “I was the Prince of Wallachia. I ruled with an iron fist.” His hand clenched. He then relaxed and dropped his hand to his side and finally half-turned to look at me, his head cocked in a curious pose. In the light of several tapers, I took him in. His eyes were Byzantine large, the nose somewhat long and thin—aquiline—the end of which fell over the bushy mustache. His lower lip seemed ruddier that it should have been for a man, but common for a vampire who may have just fed. The high cheeks were sharply defined in this light. The mustache rose with what may have indicated a smile, but it was not a friendly one. I could not see his upper teeth, only the lower ones, and they were not perfect; some were crooked one gaping hole revealed a missing lower incisor as well. It isn't true that all vampires are beautiful, or perfect. It depended upon what their human life had been like. In Dracula's day there were no dentists. Having lived the life of a prisoner for nearly half his life, a warrior-prince the other half of his 45 years, had taken a toll on his over-all appearance. There were scars on his face, hands, and I suspected there was one that ringed his neck where he'd been beheaded during his last and final battle against the Turks. This one fact flashed in my mind. How was he here now? Vampire or not, the decapitation of the head was a stalling point I couldn't get my mind around.
Having become initiated, so to speak, in vampire lore, I had looked up anything to do with vampires, and Dracula had come up in my search—the historical, and Bram Stoker's Dracula. How Dracula's body and head had wound up reunited, I couldn't guess. The head had been severed in battle, and sent south to Constantinople and displayed on a spike for the sultan to gloat over. Meanwhile, his body was buried in a hidden grave on an island outside of Bucharest. How he'd become a vampire was his little secret, but I didn't doubt that some sort of black magic was involved. It wouldn't be wise to pull up the memories of his human downfall, or ask Vlad the Impaler details of his transformation from death to un-death. But my curiosity was really spiked.
He had an eager look in his his large dark eyes and I knew by the way they swept over me while the mouth curved down with something like disdain, I'd already insulted him.
“You are a warrior?” he asked me, turning to face me fully now. One hard knuckled hand at the hilt of a large knife, the other sweeping toward me in his gesture at my choice of clothes.
I looked down at myself. It had not been the first time tonight the men found my attire unbecoming, or unwomanly. What could I say? Get over it, already.
He smiled now, the upper teeth flashing, fangs drawn. Shit!
“You are human, and yet I cannot thrall you.” He surged toward me in long, threatening steps, his voice carrying through to the towering reaches of the ceiling. If he'd wanted, he could have been on me in a second, but wasn't, and I wondered why in the one and a half heart beats I had left to think.
I stood my ground, thinking to go for my squirt gun would be a foolhardy move; his six-foot frame had crossed the room in a matter of two seconds, which didn't give me enough time to draw a gun and properly point and pull the trigger. But I had to stop him, and stop him now. Quickly, I reached for the only other thing I knew would stop him: the chain around my neck attached to the crucifix. I knew for a fact he had been a Christian in his human life. I hoped the sight of it would stop him in his tracks.
It did. He stopped within inches of me, but he didn't hiss and cover his eyes or glance away, like Nicolas had, who was 200 years younger than Dracula. I stared into his dark, malevolent eyes—something I probably shouldn't have done, but if I didn't challenge him he would think me a sniveling cowardly woman in man's garb. My hackles were up, and really, I was not going to back down from this asshole who had some how cheated death. If the wolf came out and I chewed him to pieces, I figured I saved this world from his tyranny.
His eyes flitted from my face to the crucifix and gazed at it for a long moment with what I could only call self-pity.
“It pains me that I can no longer wear a crucifix, let alone touch one—the cruelty of it all!” He looked longingly toward the object, licked his lips, then turned on his heal and stalked back toward the fireplace. Hissing his frustration, he leaned against the mantle with both hands, head bent. “I, who was responsible for five monastic foundations and endowments, I built churches for those ignorant cur to pray in!” He threw something. It crashed to the floor steps away. I jumped as shards hit my legs and boots. “I was voevod!” he roared and twirled around. “I never let the boyars think that they could get away with anything!” Swiftly he crossed toward me again, but not as quickly. He stopped an arms-length away, swinging one hand in the air above his own head. “I made them pay! All of them! I impaled five hundred of them on the spot! I knew among them were my father's enemies—those who plotted against him and caused his death!” Fists balled up, he was in my face. Spittle hit me. It was all I could do to remain stock still and not run for dear life. I knew if I did show any sort of fear he'd be on me like a pit bull. He would use my fear in a way only a vampire would: To feed on me. Fear enriched the blood, I was told once. Thus it would feed his jaded need for something more than mere calm, sedated blood. His cocktail consisted of the fear-induced, not those he could simply enthrall. No. He wanted to terrify me. But, I wasn't playing along, and I think that really pissed him off more than anything.
“What faith are you?” he asked, eyes darting from my face to the crucifix and back again.
His lip actually arched into a snarl, the mustache lifting, like a black cat arching its back. “Methodist,” he repeated as though the word was repugnant. His mouth fell open in a feral pose, the mustache trembling slightly. Fangs glistened.
“Do you pray, Sabrina?” Right now I am.
Leaning toward me, the flesh of his face like a tight mask over the bones of his nose, cheeks, chin and skull. Still grimacing with that hideous open-mouth as if ready to strike me like a viper, he stared intently into my eyes, willing me to bend like a blade of grass to his mind-touch. “Why can I not bend you to my will? You are human, yet your blood—it is different somehow.” He wanted me to put away the crucifix. Na-a-a-a-ah.
“I've been bitten by a werewolf,” I said, hoping he would buy it.
“No. That is not it.” He turned away, swiping a hand to dismiss what I'd said.
“I also belong to a master vampire, older than you, at home waiting for my return.”
Renewing his efforts, he swiftly twirled back to me, the cape flying wildly. Once more he was before me, eyes darting over me, searching for something that would reveal the clue to my abilities to resist him. “I am told you wear a ring.”
Oh, God. Skrlock had told him about the ring. The rat fink!
Before I realized it, he grabbed the wrist of my right hand and held it up to examine the mystic ring. His grasp crushed my wrist enough to make my knees bend. I winced, tears burst to my eyes, but I held back my scream of pain. Instead, I growled a warning, my own teeth now bared. The Were in me wanted to come out. Another moment, it would have. I knew from the last time someone tried to really harm me, full moon or not. I didn't care what Jett and Skrlock had said about me not being able to go into a complete change here.
“Perhaps if I cut your finger off? See if that makes the difference.” A large dagger was in his hands, blade shimmering in the light.
“And let's see what my crucifix might do to your flesh!” I countered between gritted teeth. The holy object automatically in the fingers of my other hand, I pressed it to his face. I touched him for barely a second, before his eyes flashed wider with realization and I smelled the stench of burning flesh. Crying out angrily, hissing a curse in his language, he let me go and flew across the room. Winding up next to his fireplace, he bent slightly at the waist, holding his hand to his face. His burned flesh would heal quickly. Within seconds, in fact.
In the meantime, my wrist felt as though it had been held in the jaws of a vice grip, and it had simply released me. Residual pain still throbbed through me to my core. Gasping, and bend at the waist, I thought the bones might be broken. After a few moments the pain eased and I straightened. I slowly opened and closed my fingers to test them. Painful, but not unbearable. My Were blood working on the healing process already. As the vampire healed, I healed. I don't think he understood I too could become a mindless creature, filled with the blood lust. Possibly Skrlock had been right about my not changing completely into a beast, but I would become more violent. Which suited me just fine at the moment, considering the company.
Having realized I had a weapon, and I could not be thralled, Drakulya returned to his spot near the fireplace. He still didn't know I had something worse than a crucifix. Something I could throw him across the room with the magic of my ring. But, I didn't want to piss him off even more, because I couldn't kill him with anything I had at my disposal, plus I didn't feel the ley line I would need to get out of here pronto, big chicken that I am.
He leaned again against the fireplace, but then he straightened, looking wary of some other presence. His eyes flashed to the other end of the room. Odd that I hadn't noticed it before, but someone in a full-hooded black cloak stood there. Because he stood so still and wore black, he simply blended in with the shadows. He made no noise and stood absolutely still. I could see no face within the deep cowl, and his hands were hidden inside the roomy opposite sleeve. He looked like someone in a Halloween costume assuming the persona of Death. I really hoped this was not an omen. My Knowing told me this being wasn't human, but something more. Supernatural, but what, I wasn't sure. I couldn't get a read from it. Not at all, and I couldn't feel an aura. Almost as though the thing didn't exist. Even a ghost would give off something I could read. I became aware of an oppressive feeling of dread emanate from it. I shouldn't have gotten that at all.
Drakulya flung a book across the room at this cloaked thing. The wrath vanished like a ghost. The book hit an object, and crashed. Drakulya cursed again, raged toward the place where the strange spirit had been. He muttered something and spun around. His hard frown turned to a smile that widened as his eyes glared at me.
As if forgetting about the apparition, Drakulya moved back across the room.“I understand you seek someone from your world?”
Skrlock and his big mouth. I'd have to remember the man was a big squealer. Possibly he was Drakulya's spy. Whatever. I would never trust saying anything in front of him again.
“She is a relative, or a friend?”
“Relative. A cousin,” I said.
“And what will you do once you find her?” he asked, thumbs hooked on his belt, looking down his long nose at me.
“Take her back,” I said.
He chuckled dryly. “You can try. But you will fail. Anyone who crosses through the Black Veil, can never go back.” I cringed at the expression on his face. The worse I had yet seen—it was an almost feral smile with sexual undertones.
I swallowed. “So I've been told.” I had done it once before, I knew I could do it again. All I needed to move from this world back to mine without really trying was a ley line. Odd that Skrlock had failed to tell him this one talent of mine.
“You might as well consign yourself to becoming my Blood Dame, because that is your destiny here.”
I snorted. I know. A bad time to show my confidence, but I couldn't help it.
“You doubt me?”
“I'm sure we'll both find out soon enough.” I knew I would not win a battle of wits with The Impaler. In fact I'd probably dig myself in deeper. Time for a different strategy. I glanced around the richly decorated room. “Actually it wouldn't be bad living here.” I stifled a yawn. This conversation had come to a boring conclusion and I wanted to find a ley line. I would pop back home for a while, and re-group, find a larger crucifix, and maybe buy a flame thrower come back and take out a couple of vampires, starting with Vlad here.
Drakulya pulled a satin length of cord which hung from the ceiling. The door opened behind me. I turned as the majordomo stepped inside.
“Yes, master?” He bowed deeply.
“Take this one upstairs, for my entertainment later,” Drakulya instructed.
“Yes, my lord.” He bowed again.
“I want her to be treated in the same way as all those I have sent there,” he added, as if secretly imparting something that only the servant would know.
“Very well, master.” Rumbel bowed more deeply.
“Sabrina.” I was half-way out of the room when Drakulya called to me.
Turning to glance back at him, I swung my hair off my shoulder. I gave him a raised-eyebrow look.
“Do not play the fool with me, Sabrina. I have killed lesser women than you.”
“So I've read,” I said. “Gutting them like fish and impaling them takes absolute detachment. ” And an absolute lack of empathy. “You must get really bored with yourself.” Psychopath.
Face burning, I turned and swiftly left the room. My spine tingled. My hand went to my water pistol filled with holy water underneath my jacket. What I wouldn't give to have had the Dagger of Delphi on me. My ears cocked, listening for the slightest rustle of his clothes should he move a muscle.
The door shut with a definitive click, and I strode along the hallway with Rumbel leading me up the curving stairway. I realized it was carved out of marble. The carvings were exquisitely done, if only I could get past the fact each and every newel was an impaling. The good old days personified in marble. Lovely. He had not impaled anyone here recently—like within the last two months. I would have read it from the occupants of the dining hall, and seen the impaled carcasses along our way here. The only one in recent history was the werewolf lady Jett had mentioned. From my estimation, Drakulya had graduated from the need to let blood flow on the ground, to drinking it to his fill. Thus, impaling was not his ideal mode of punishment any more. I had yet to meet any of his Blood Mares—no they were not Zenyetta and Chairelott. I had to wonder where they were kept. Probably locked in one of those special rooms like I would be tonight.
A comfortable room opened up to me. It wasn't exactly the Hilton. However the bed had a canopy, the colors were warm. Atmosphere, if I were to describe it: Old World Quaint with a dash of Psycho. A fragrant vase of flowers—much like the ones in the dining room—resided on a sideboard. A frilly nightgown was laid out for me. I made a half-chuckle at the sight. As if! I understood tonight's meeting with Vlad was a prelude to other activities.
Pervading the whole room was the stench of blood, which sort of put a whole new spin on “Old World”. You can't get blood out of carpet no matter how much you scrubbed. And with my heightened scenting abilities, I knew human blood when I smelled it.
The key on the other side of the door clicked. Drakulya was not messing around. He would visit me tonight. I was to become his Blood Dame.
No. Frigging. Way.
There were no windows, so the room felt more like a prison cell than a bedroom.
And there it was. That little tingle in the bottoms of my feet. A ley line. Perfect!
I stepped toward the bed. I had been able to go from my world to this one and back again the first time, without stepping into a damned portal. What had summoned me here in the first place? That's how it all had begun. I did have a ley line run beneath my own house, and there had to also be one here beneath this palace, so knew I could tap it, if I concentrated. The network, if it worked like Joha had claimed, would take me precisely where I wanted.
Maybe if I relaxed some and thought about home I could do it. Dorothy's mantra went through my head: “There's no place like home... there's no place like home...”
I settled on the bed, and found it soft—it was stuffed with wool and goose down—suddenly I had flashes of all sorts of things that went on in this room, and knew I wanted no part in vampire games. I also knew that this was not the original mattress. This one was new. It had never been tried—so to speak.
Pushing out images that wanted to play out in my head, I suddenly felt exhausted. Adrenaline gone from the meeting with Drakulya. My muscles ached and I reached to rub my opposite shoulder. I'd had a long night, come to think of it. I couldn't remain here, in Drakulya's palace—in this room especially. What happened to Johnathan Harker was nothing compared to what may happen to me.
I breathed out, settled my hands in my lap, rolled my shoulders, and closed my eyes. I breathed in and let it out again. I thought and concentrated on my own room, visualizing it in my mind's eye. I yawned. Yawned some more.