- by Mackenzie O'Rear
Chapter 25 - Cornered at Journey's End
Edited by Brien Bigelow
Illustrations by Lucas Marra
The border of Romania was now long past Vincent and Corrine. The fire had been miles away, but was still fresh in their memories. Vincent watched his companion closely after she took the life of Frederick. She didn’t curl up into herself like he had done. She simply wiped away the tears and ran with Vincent as fast as they could. In a way, he kind of envied how she was able to do what was necessary while he had only thought about killing Marlowe or Richard.
It had been hard on her, but she knew deep down it had to be done. If that man had captured her and Vincent, it would only lead to an eternity of pain and misery. On top of that, who knows what he would have done.? What secrets he would have learned, and how he might have used something like her to twist to his own purposes. It was simply better that he was dead.
They had rarely taken a chance to rest since the incident, but on the few occasions they did they noticed something had changed. They rarely spoke to one another as they warmed themselves by a fire, simply because they didn’t think they needed to. There was a new understanding between the two that permeated the air with tension. It felt freeing for them to be round one another. One night, just outside of a town, Vincent found himself with something to ask.
‘May I see the ring?’ he asked, curious. Corrine smiled at him and held out her right hand that had the ring, as Vincent inspected it. ‘It’s very fine craftsmanship. Must have been very expensive.’
‘Gregory would never tell me,’ she laughed. ‘Though knowing him, he probably spent more than he should of.’ Vincent smiled at that before he noticed something.
‘May I ask,’ he started. ‘But why are you wearing it on your right hand?’ Corrine’s eyes fell a little, but her smile never wavered.
‘Because it’s my original hand,’ she said. ‘The same one that held his hand what seems like so long ago. Not like this one.’ She held up her left hand that had a surgical scar just below the wrist. ‘Though I dare, if you gave me a violin I may have use for it.’
‘You told Maria about that,’ he said. ‘When we were in the storage.’
‘Naughty boy,’ she said. ‘Listening to our conversations.’ They both laughed when Vincent got a sly look in his eye. ‘What?’ asked Corrine. He stood and faced the town.
‘I’ll be right back,’ he said. ‘I hear something, and I think you’ll like it.’ Before Corrine could say a thing, Vincent was off, and disappeared into the sleepy town below. Corrine clutched her legs to her chest, her nerves completely on edge. Where had he gone? Had he lost his mind? Was his hunger taking over? All those questions swirled round in her head endlessly, but before long she felt a tap on her shoulder that made her jump with a yelp.
She turned round to see the grinning vampire staring at her, with his hands behind his back. She tried to hit him, but he danced away playfully.
‘You…You scoundrel!’ she yelled. Where did you go? That was dangerous!’
‘Perhaps,’ said Vincent. ‘But what you said got me thinking and…’ He slowly took his hands out from behind his back to reveal a broken and battered violin and bow. Corrine looked at it, stunned.
‘Vincent,’ she gasped. ‘Where did you get this?’
‘Some drunk was playing it in town. Badly, I might add,’ he said. ‘Thought I’d do the townsfolk a service and liberate it.’ He held it out for her to take, and she did so as if it were a newborn.
‘I’m not actually sure I can do this,’ she said. ‘I was just kidding.’
‘Doesn’t hurt to try,’ he said. ‘I wonder who taught me that?’ He shot her a confident grin, which made her smile.
‘Very well,’ she said, placing the violin into a proper position, just like her hand told her. ‘But mark my words, Vincent Harrow…’
‘Just play,’ he said, smiling. She returned the smile, and closed her eyes. She focused all of her conscious mind on her left hand, as it instinctually moved to the proper strings. With a little nudge, her other hand held the bowstring, and together they began to move together as one. It was rough at first, like she had once been known to play, but had forgotten to practise, but after a few attempts, magic happened.
Marlowe and Father Grigori sat at a small table in the back of the tavern, as they waited for their compatriots. Everything had indicated Vincent had stopped moving and had sought refuge in the very castle Richard had visited not long ago.
‘Predictable as always,’ Marlowe thought. He had known all along that was where Vincent was headed, but felt a sense of satisfaction to know his predictions were correct. The vampire had sought a cure for his disease, and his last resort would be to return to where it had originated, though Marlowe knew there would be nothing to find.
Vincent was a weak man. Once he was cornered, he would simply give up just like every other time he had faced adversity. That was precisely why Marlowe had picked him. He was alone in the world, with a weak constitution he originally thought could be bent. It had taken longer than anticipated, but it would be another victory in the long run.
What bothered him the most was, by some incoherent chance, he was not only with Frederick and Father Grigori’s resurrected noblewoman, but Blake’s mummy and the wolf. Granted, this had its upside. All his enemies were now in one place now, and all he had to do was capture them. All he needed was a plan, and thus they waited in the tavern.
Before long, Richard and Blake entered through the main entrance. Marlowe observed the two, as the journey had affected them greatly. Blake’s cold eyes had grown weary, darting back and forth over every inch of the room. Clearly, it was a result of Richard’s company. Richard had grown leaner and more animal-like. His hair had become ragged and unkempt, but the most disturbing feature was his grin.
It seemed Vincent’s escape had given him a renewed vigor in the worst possible way. He smiled like a madman, knowing his prey was closer than ever, and he would get yet another chance to catch him. It seemed to be the sole thing keeping him standing upright, as he had dark bags under his eyes, and if Marlowe were to guess, he hadn’t been eating, either. He signalled them with a wave of his hand, and they sat down on the other side of the table.
‘So it’s true then?’ asked Blake. ‘The Baron. He’s…’
‘Dead,’ said Father Grigori, matter-of-factly. Blake’s eyes fell a little, having lost the only other noble in the group. ‘It was his own fault. He let his desires blind him.’
‘A poor hunter,’ said Richard, signalling the barmaid for a drink. ‘But what about his marvellous little invention I’ve heard so much about?’ Marlowe patted the case next to him. As Richard reached for it, Marlowe pulled it away.
‘What makes you think I would trust it with you?’ he asked. ‘Or is it some secret you’ll kill Vincent the moment you have a chance?’ Marlowe thought he had caught Richard off guard, but was surprised to see that horrible smile staring back at him.
‘Of course,’ said Richard. ‘Wouldn’t want to upset your plans. And whom do you have in mind to use it?’ Marlowe shifted uncomfortably. In truth, Richard was the only one who had the ability to use it. A fact Marlowe had hoped Richard would not have stumbled upon. He himself was a man of subterfuge, Blake a prissy noble, and Father Grigori…He simply knew too much to be trusted with such a destructive weapon. What was worse was Richard seemed to read the expression on Marlowe’s face.
‘That is what I thought,’ said Richard, leaning back and taking the drink off the barmaid’s tray. He gestured toward Marlowe. ‘We’ll play by your rules for now, though.’ He took a long, drawn-out sip of his drink, and Marlowe stared at him in anger. Blake spoke, attempting to break the tension.
‘We need a plan,’ said Blake. ‘Those monsters are holed up in that castle, which has survived siege after siege.’
‘When they had an army manning it,’ said Marlowe. ‘They are but four, and we are prepared for them.’
‘How so?’ asked Richard, leaning forward. Marlowe looked over to Father Grigori and nodded. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a folded piece of paper, which turned out to be a map of the castle. Richard scoffed. ‘I already know the castle, top to bottom.’
‘Yes,’ said Marlowe. ‘But with this we will be able to use Blake’s spirit to know where they are at all times. If we can separate them, we can capture them individually.’
‘Divide and conquer,’ said Father Grigori, turning to Blake. ‘Can your spirit do this?’ Blake nodded.
‘Oh yes,’ he said. ‘Far more simple than tracking them across the world.’
‘Good,’ said Marlowe, leaning in close. ‘Then let us discuss our siege.’ The men huddled together, in the darkness of the tavern, and began to make extensive plans. Their creations were cornered with nowhere left to go. They had the element of surprise on their side, and soon they would attack, quietly, and as soon as possible.
It was like she was a completely different person, as the music poured out from her, the violin acting as an extension of her. She could feel the notes coming to her, little by little, as the sounds filled the air. It was a gentle, haunting melody that reminded Vincent of the wolves, but this one told a story.
It brought him the feelings of sorrow and hopelessness. It filled him with a deep longing that almost felt familiar, as the melody carried him away. He closed his eyes and listened, as its melancholy filled the air, and took hold of his very soul.
As the small concert came to a close, the piece became filled with a few notes of hope and redemption. They were weak, but persistent, as though they were demanding to be heard right at the end of the song. A small light that refused to go out in a sea of despair. Corrine finished and looked up at Vincent, who stared at her in awe, before he stood and began to clap. A standing ovation. Even in her head, she could hear all the fragments of others that cringed to her, cheering with praise and wonder.
‘That was beautiful,’ he said. ‘I’ve never heard anything like it before.’
‘To be honest,’ said Corrine, sheepishly, ‘I’m not sure where it came from. Though I imagine my hand is.’ She held it up and watched the firelight cast its shadows dancing over it, secretly vowing to let the songs be heard. That thought alone caused an odd calm to resonate from the hand, and she smiled.
Corrine sat next to Vincent, the violin in her lap, as they watched the fire. The sorrow didn’t just come from her hand as she had thought. She was reminded of Frederick and what he had said about Gregory. As she began to worry about him, Vincent placed a hand on her shoulder as if he could read her expressions.
‘You’ll see him again,’ he said, assuringly. ‘Forget what he said. He’s gonna be fine. Even better when he sees you.’ She didn’t look at him, but she smiled nonetheless, as she placed her hand on top of his. They sat like that until the fire disappeared into the ashes, which signalled to them to start moving once again.
It was another two days before they spotted the castle in the distance, made all the more ominous by the setting sun. They were so close, it filled them with both relief, and dread with whatever awaited them there. No matter what, this would be the end. They could feel it in their bones.
They made their way quickly and quietly through the dense forest and rocky hills of the Carpathian Mountains, Vincent making sure to guide Corrine as best as possible. At one point, she had gotten onto his back as he clung to a ridge, and made his way down.
By the time they reached the main path, night had fallen, and a surreal calmness had fallen over the surroundings. As they walked, Vincent stopped Corrine, as the hairs on the back of his neck stood on end.
‘What is it?’ asked Corrine. ‘Is something wrong?’
‘We’re not alone,’ he replied. ‘Get behind me.’ Corrine scurried behind Vincent and watched him, as he gazed into a particularly darkly lit forest.
‘Can you see anything?’ she whispered.
‘Yes,’ he said. ‘It’s big, but I can’t make it all out.’
‘What are we going to do?’ she asked.
‘I’ll transform,’ he said. ‘And when I change, run towards the castle as fast as you can.’ Corrine looked at him, shocked.
‘You’re too weak,’ she said. ‘You haven’t been properly fed in weeks. I knew I should have let you have Frederick.’
‘Doesn’t matter,’ he said, calmly. ‘I can do it. I’ll force it if I have to.’ Before Corrine could object, the thing in the forest began to approach them with an audible growl. Vincent rushed towards it, fangs bared, as the creature left to meet him. Corrine gasped as she looked at the monstrous beast that seemed like a wolf that had learned to walk.
Mist was emanating with Vincent, but it took a strain on him as the two creatures of the night clashed. Even weakened, Vincent was formidable. They struck one another, blow for blow as Corrine watched, unable to move.
Blood spilled from both of them as they grew weaker and weaker with fatigue. Just as they clashed again, staring one another down with rage, a voice broke through the tension.
‘Stop!’ cried the familiar voice. Both Vincent and the wolf backed away, as Maria emerged from the woods, followed by a strange girl. She ran towards Vincent and held him, as the wolf whimpered over the other girl.
‘Maria?’ he said. ‘Is it really you?’ He smiled at her, but before she could answer, he collapsed in her arms. Corrine ran forward and met Maria’s gaze. Time stood still, as they all gathered round, until a familiar figure appeared before them.
‘This way,’ said Jack. ‘It’s time to have some fun.’ They all stared at him in confusion and fear, as he pointed to the gates of the castle that slowly began to open. They had all done it. Vampire, werewolf, mummy, resurrected, and detective. They had reached the castle where it all began.
Marlowe had confidence Vincent would be weakened, even at night. His refusal to drink the blood of others would be his downfall. Corrine was simply a walking corpse, no more than a simple woman to them. Blake would take care of his mummy, having prepared the necessary spells to contain it. And as for the wolf? Supposedly, he changed in the light of the moon, which was easily circumvented by sheer providence. Tomorrow night, there would be no moon.
The pieces were falling into place. The plan was set. And in the eyes of the men at the table, there would be no hope for those who hid from them. Marlowe closed his eyes, feeling his weakened heart beating slowly. It was dying with every breath he took, and it was only Grigori’s draught that kept it beating, but not for much longer. He was coming for Vincent, and one way or another, he intended to survive.
Presented by Lake Arrowhead Repertory Theatre Company
Victorian Nightmares 2018
All Rights Reserved