- by Mackenzie O'Rear
Chapter 27 - Demons at the Door
Edited by Brien Bigelow
Illustrations by Lucas Marra
The sun was beginning to dip low on the horizon, past the massive mouton range that surrounded the castle. Maria would have even called it beautiful if she hadn’t felt so nervous. If it hadn’t been for Vincent’s condition, she was sure she would have crushed his hand with her own. If he felt anything, he was being kind and didn’t say a single word about it.
They were all gathered atop the largest parapet of the castle that overlooked the valley below. She was in awe of the place. It had been built to be defended from all sides, as it sat on the tallest hill itself. There was no possible way an invading army would have ever pulled off a sneak attack on it, and a siege would be nearly impossible, lasting years if the castle had been fully stocked.
But these were all possible only under the command of a full army. Maria sat in the company of five immortals, who had been used to the edge. They were weary, with barely a day’s rest since they crossed one another’s paths. Even then, they had spent all day listening to Flamel teach them the layout of the castle. All the hidden passageways, forgotten from time to time, were laid bare before them.
So many nooks and crannies purveyed every single floor of the massive castle, It would take weeks just to fully explore it all. Even more if they were using it to hide. For a brief moment, she was filled with hope. If they could just hide there, Marlowe and his band of animals would just move on. Those hopes were quickly dashed when she remembered the ethereal hand, passing through the smoke, and showing them exactly where her friends were hiding.
Hiding. There was no hiding anymore. Nor would there be anymore running. For better or for worse, they were preparing for their last stand. To face the ones that made them and take their lives back.To Maria, it didn’t take a detective to see they were all scared to death. Even Sarah, who claimed to have no emotions, seemed to have become more pale as she stared at the valley below.
Maria knew Richard was down there somewhere. She could feel it in her bones. He considered himself the hunter and Vincent was his prey, but she promised herself it wouldn’t hurt him if she could help. It took so long for her to finally understand her feelings for him, and she was not about to let that slip through her fingers once more. Even when he begged her to go, to join back up with the Romanians, she had refused. Secretly, she knew he was glad she was there, and he was just putting on the bravado of so many heroes from the pulp novels he was such a fan of.
She looked at Flamel who had the face of a man who was about to send his own children off to war. The first kind of immortals he might have met in who knows how long, and all he could do was familiarize them with their surroundings, give them some semblance of an edge. But even then, Richard knew the castle as well, having plundered it of its one of its treasures some time ago. Finn was looking round nervously.
‘What’s wrong?’ asked Maria. ‘Is everything alright.?’
‘I didn’t know what day it was,’ he said, pointing to the sky. “There’s no moon tonight. I can’t change with out it.’
‘Is that what you believe?’ asked Flamel. ‘You are just as much a slave to the moon as you are to the beast.’ Sarah put her hand onto his shoulder.
‘You should listen to him,’ she said. ‘He speaks with wisdom.’ Finn pulled away from her, and began to march downstairs, Sarah following after him. The rest were about to follow, when Flamel spoke up.
‘Let them go,’ he said. ‘He will come around.’
‘I hope he does it soon,’ said Corrine. ‘Having a giant wolf round would lift my spirits.’ Maria took Corrine’s hand in hers and looked into her eyes.
‘We’ll make it,’ she said. ‘We all will. We have Vincent with us, and from what I understand, he has a few tricks of his own.’
‘That he can’t use,’ interrupted Flamel. ‘Not without blood. Human blood, to be precise.”
‘I was fine on animal blood,’ said Vincent. ‘Why should that make a difference?’
‘Mother’s milk,’ replied Flamel. “’t can sustain you, but you will not thrive.’
‘Maybe I don’t want to thrive,’ said Vincent. ‘I came all this way, hoping I could find a cure. Instead, I am still the same monster that left London. Maybe it would be better if I let them kill me.” As he finished the sentence, Maria slapped him hard across the face. He looked at her, stunned.
‘Vincent Harrow,’ she said, her voice shaking. ‘I did not put my own life at risk just to see you throw yours away.’ She put her hand on his face. ‘I don’t care about the fangs, or the blood you’re drinking. You’re still Vincent. My Vincent.’
‘Don’t you mean your Watson?’ he said, sheepishly.
‘No,’ she replied. ‘My Vincent. And if you need blood-!’ Before she could finish her sentence, Jack appeared on the tower with the, his grin shining as bright and sinister as ever.
‘Jack,’ said Flamel, uncomfortably. ‘I see you made it.’ The others stared at him.
‘You know him?’ asked Vincent. ‘Springheeled Jack?’ Jack gave him a bow, and his exceptionally long nose hovered mere inches from the ground.
‘There are not many immortals in the world,’ said Flamel. ‘But when you live as long as we do, paths tend to cross.’
“Nicholas and I go way back,’ said Jack, standing up straight. ‘I must say, I am so glad to see al my friends in one place.’
‘We’re not your friends, said Maria. Jack put on a facade of hurt.
‘Course you are,’ he said. ‘None of you would have gotten half as close without me. Some of you wouldn’t have even left London.’
‘It’s true,’ said Flamel. ‘I asked him to…intervene only your behalf.”
‘On the promise there would be some fun,’ said Jack, smiling. ‘And you did not disappoint.’
‘So you were looking for us?’ asked Corrine. ‘For Flamel.’
‘Not at first,’ replied Jack. ‘I came across some of you by sheer accident. Then Nicholas here got in touch and the rest, as they say, is history.’
‘Yes, thank you, Jack,’ said Flamel. ‘Your help has been invaluable to us all.’
’It will do you a lot of good,’ said Jack, winking at them.
‘What does that mean?’ asked Maria. ‘What is he talking about?’ Jack spread his arms wide, attempting to be as theatrical and over the top as possible.”
‘Well I just thought I should tell you,’ said Jack. ‘They’re here.’ With that, he disappeared in his usual manner. They had not even noticed the sun had gone down completely, shrouding all of them in darkness.
They looked down into the valley, at the foot of the castle, and silently cursed themselves for not paying attention. They knew instantly Jack was telling the truth, and somewhere in the castle, their greatest enemies found their own shadows to hide in, waiting for their prey. It would be the longest night any of them would ever experience, and there was no knowing if they would survive it.
For someone like Richard, it was far too easy to get in. He had memorized every possible entrance and exit in the massive castle. There was a sickening pleasure he took from taking away any security his prey might have felt when they arrived here. There were no safe havens, no hiding spots, and now there was nowhere to run from his pursuit.
On the way up, he had noticed Marlowe’s shallow breathing, how he clutched his side as they hiked up the small trail all the way up the side of the Carpathian mountain range. It had taken half the day, but the old man seemed to be falling apart, and therefore he would be in no condition to stop Richard once they were inside. Despite all his power and wit, a weak body was a weak body and Marlowe had clearly reached its limit.
The entrance he had chosen was a simple side entrance that was completely unguarded in the derelict castle. Even the lock had been easy to pick, and soon they were all inside without a sound. Somewhere deep inside him, he hoped the vampire knew he was coming. That Richard would find it, cowering in fear in the corner, and begging not to be hurt.
His companions looked round at the massive hallway of the castle, a thin layer of dust covering every inch of the castle walls and floor. Blake seemed to be particularly wary of this, as Father Grigori stomped past him. Marlowe, of course, was unimpressed, as he had probably seen a hundred castles just like this.
‘Well done, Richard,’ said Marlowe, trying his best not to double over. The man hated showing weakness, but even he couldn't hide the sweat on his brow or the rasp in his voice. ‘Let’s get on with it, then.’ Blake nodded, and pulled out the two candles and the map of the castle. As soon as the wicks were lit, Richard knew something was about to go in his favour.
Blake held the candles above the map, but instead of a hand coming out showing them the current locations of the escaped experiments, the wax of the blood-red candles began to melt rapidly, pooling on the floor.’
‘What is happening?’asked Father Grigori. ‘Where is the guide?’ Blake looked at him with a stunned expression, completely at a loss for words. He attempted to extinguish the wick, but he howled with pain, as the fire roared on the small thread. Smoke began to pour out from the candles, as the candles were made bare, the wax swirling below the smoke.
‘Blake,’ said Marlowe. ‘What is the meaning of this?’
‘I…I don’t know,’ he stammered. ‘The spirit. It’s gone rogue.’
‘How is that even possible?’asked Marlowe. ‘You assured us she was sympathetic.’
‘She is, but…but…’ said Blake.
‘But her brother is close,’ said Richard, watching the display with a smile. ‘And she’s as hungry as the rest of us.’ They all looked on, as the wax began to change colour and rise up from the floor, first forming the shape of what appeared to be riding boots, then a pair of legs before a torso and arms. It finally ended, as it formed a head round the smoke, that of a young woman’s, with flushed cheeks, auburn hair, and dark eyes Richard could see every time he looked in the mirror. The eyes of a hunter. The woman laughed, a high-pitched and melodic affair.
‘Finally,’ she said with an Irish accent. ‘Now you’ll excuse me, gentlemen.’ Before she moved, she took one look at Richard and mouthed ‘follow me’ to him, before winking and blowing him a kiss. Afterward, she became a torrent of wax and smoke, and blew through the halls like a whirlwind, cackling all the way. The men looked on, stunned, when Richard took his chance and grabbed the case containing Frederick’s last invention from Marlowe, who looked at him with abject hate. Richard followed the spirit, barely hearing Marlowe bellow at the other two.
‘What are you doing?!’ he shouted. ‘After him! Don’t let him harm the vampire!’ This was all followed by a round of rough coughing from Marlowe, who fell to his knees. Father Grigori tried to help him up, but was pushed away. ‘I said go!’
There was a brief moment Richard heard the sounds of Father Grigori and Blake running after him, but it was far too late, as he ducked behind a secret passageway he had known about from the previous visit. He sat there in silence, as the two ran past him into the dark corridors, followed by Marlowe’s wheezing body. Several minutes had passed, until he was sure it was safe, and exited the passage, only to come face to face with the spirit.
‘Hi there,’ she said to him with a smile. ‘I hear you’re a fearsome hunter. Is that true?’ Richard smiled at her with his brilliant teeth, unaware of how yellow they’d become in the previous weeks.
‘The best,’ he said. ‘Do you know where the vampire is?’ They walked over to him and placed her waxen hand on his cheek.
‘I can find him,’ she said. ‘But I need a favour.’
‘You want your brother dead,’ said Richard. ‘But why me?’
‘You’re the one with the gun,’ she laughed. ‘Do you still have it?’ He reached into his coat pocket, and revealed the shining revolver. He popped open the chamber, and revealed six silver bullets, as clean as the day they were forged. The girl smiled.
‘Excellent,’ she said. She looked up at him with excitement in her eyes.
‘Why don’t you take it?’ he said, offering the gun. ‘And tell me where that little rat is hiding.’ The girl sighed, and held out her hand. Richard dropped it, and immediately saw the problem: the gun was too heavy for her frail body to hold. It simply sank into the wax and out the other side. Before it could hit the ground, Richard caught it.
‘You see my dilemma,’ she said. ‘I need you to do it.’ Richard thought about that for a moment, then decided he very much liked the idea of killing a man who could turn into a giant wolf. It would be a good precursor for when he set the vampire ablaze.
‘Very well,’ he said. ‘I’ll kill your brother if you tell me where that horrendous little bloodsucker is hiding. Partners?’ He extended his hand to her which she took gingerly and shook. They smiled at one another.
‘Partners,’ she said. ‘You wait here for me. I’ll go find him and let you know.’ Before she could leave, Richard stopped her.
‘Let him know I’m coming,’ he said. ‘It makes things so much more fun.’
‘I like the way you think,’ she said, and soon disappeared in her torrent of smoke and wax. Richard put his back to the wall and laughed to himself. There was nothing he couldn’t kill, and it filled him with such insane glee he was about to prove it.
After all the humiliation. All times that abhorrent little bookworm had slipped through his grasp. He would avenge himself and prove to be the alpha predator, and there was no corner of the Earth that wasn’t his personal hunting ground. Then he would return home, find Maria in whatever little hole she was hiding him, and force her to marry him. She would have to when she heard about his exploits. He would be Richard the monster slayer, and even Marlowe wouldn’t be able to hide what had happened. It was about time he got the recognition he deserved.
He pulled out a cigarette, and the match he used to light it. He inhaled deeply from it, enjoying the taste of the tobacco. It was a habit that had had to drop when he began courting Maria, as it was something she abhorred. But she was far away now, and he wanted to enjoy his victory as much as possible.
He took another long drag from it, and looked down the hallway. It was only a matter of time before the girl came back, and he would be on his way. Patience was the key. It had always been the key. The perfect tool for the ultimate hunter, and he had mastered it. For now, he would wait in the dark as the fools above bumbled about, and then…he would strike.
Presented by Lake Arrowhead Repertory Theatre Company
Victorian Nightmares 2018
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