To make a monster into a pet, one must first break the monster into a husk, leaving nothing of personality or mind. Then, and only then, can it be rebuilt to fit the master as a pet.
Title: Sing Fair Raven, Nevermore: Chapter One

Beta: Jacob

Pairing: None

Rating: T

Genre: Angst, Horror

Summary: Dracula's fall into darkness, lured by the words of a demon.

Warnings: Occult

Author's note: Additional chapters of this story will be posted on Updates for this story are done on the first of every month.

Age. It was the one enemy no man, prince or beggar, could defeat. Age robbed man of his strength, his power, and his mind. As cleaver kings aged, their people would begin to seek out younger leaders. As tactical generals age, their soldiers begin to wonder if their minds are really up for the task of leading them into battle.

Some do not believe age to be such an enemy. To be aged meant one was wise to the ways of men, and cleaver enough to live long and become aged. It was a terrible, unfair deal for man. For this wisdom, age took life and energy as its price. Man does not have a choice if they wish to make this deal, unless man wished to be old and foolish and dead before their time.

Death. It is the ultimate price, the ultimate foe of man. Man may use sorcery to cheat age, but death could not be escaped. Death rode faster on his pale horse than man could run. All men bowed to death, unless a Deal with immortals could be made. Dracula bowed to none, feared none. He would not be defeated by age, and he had found a way to escape it.

The dark prince stood at his window, looking out over the hill-blocked view of the horizon. Wrinkled, skeletal fingers brushed over a map laid out across a table for him. It detailed the movements of an invading army, one that was moving much faster than he had anticipated. It had wiped out every village and camp, farm and settlement that it’s path crossed.

“They’ve moved into the lands then?” Dracula’s dark voice penetrated the stillness of the room. Several candles burned, but did not completely chase away the pressure in the air, the pressure of the darkness.

“Yes, Prince.” The guard stood at attention, his armor glinting slightly in the candle light. Even he could feel the tension, the heat and stillness before battle. The night promised something wicked and dark before the sun would rise again.

“Leave me. Ready the army.”

“But…Prince, they are thousands. There is but a few hundred of us left.”

Dracula whirled from his place at the window, sword instantly in his hand. Even in his old age, he was an intimidating figure. Dressed in imposing armor, red cape swirling around him, and graying locks of dark hair falling well past his shoulders in soft waves, framing a pair of gleaming green eyes that sparkled with anger. The soldier’s face fell as he found himself looking down the glinting blade of his leader.

“Did I not just give you an order? Are you questioning me?” The Prince’s dark eyes narrowed in anger, a sneer across his lips. They all doubted him, he knew. They called him mad, believed him insane with his defeat and hatred. They thought him weak from age.

“N..No, my Prince!” The guard backed up, raising his hands slightly. “I’ll gather our men at once!” He backed from the room, bowing low as he exited.

Dracula sheathed his sword, striding forward to shut and bar the door behind his guard. Once the bolt was secure, he turned to make his way back to the window. The hills blocked his view, but he knew they were there, they were coming. Soon, they would top the hill, rage through the village, and attack his stronghold. The Turks had finally cornered him, but he would not go without a fight. There were at least a hundred prisoners in the dungeons, if not more. A small forest of impaled bodies may hinder the attack, stall it from shock, but not stop the invasion completely.

“You are worried?”

Dracula turned quickly at the sound behind him, a hand upon his sword as the temperature of the air dropped several degrees. Before him stood a child, no more than four or five. This had happened several times in the past few days. Once he was alone, the child would come to him, bringing promises and spurring his hopes. His eyes narrowed at the child, roving over the soft golden curls, over the tattered clothing. He had still not been able to determine the gender of the creature.

“You’ve lied to me,” Dracula stated, tightening his grip upon the sword. “They still come. My enemies still live, and they are coming here to kill me. They wish to steal what little life I have left.”

“Ahh. Perhaps a better phrasing would have been acceptable?”

Dracula turned his back upon the child, ignoring its sinister voice. He exchanged the sight for the scene outside his window.

“I only have a few years left. Already my muscles ache, and I find I am not as strong as I once was.”

The sun was setting, painting the sky with bright pinks and purples. Sunset had always been his favorite time. With the night came peace, and ease of mind. It was also the best time of attack, when the enemy was asleep or drunk upon their liquor. The mists that rose from the ground at night offered perfect cover.

“You want your strength back, yes?”
The child asked.

Dracula tensed when he felt the thing grip his cape, tugging at it as if the child wanted him to pick it up. Even if it were a true child, he would push it to the side. Such gentleness was not in his nature. It was beginning again. The same offers every night. Offers of power, life eternal, and strength.

“Yes. I do. Not only strength. I want a life that will never end. I want my youth returned,” Dracula whispered, closing his eyes. He could not bear the thought of this being his last sunset.

“What would you give?”

The Prince turned to the child, flinching and fighting the urge to back up a step when he found himself inches from his own face. It was mocking him. The thing was mocking him with his own haggard form. Never had it shifted form like this before.

“What would you ask? We have danced around this for days, Creature. I have naught but a few hours, and you wish to play games with me! Tell me what you want!”

Dracula drew his sword, lashing out at the thing that had taken his form. It mocked him, grinning and holding out its frail hands as the sword tore through its form like ones hand through smoke or shadow.

“Your obedience.”

He had not been prepared for this, and backed up, dropping his sword as he hissed, gripping at a sudden pain in his chest. It was a pain that had been bothering him for months, another sign of his life’s end. How could this creature ask such a powerful thing from him? Dracula bowed to no one! Though, if he did not agree, he would not live long enough to brag.

“Very well,” the Prince growled, straightening and staring into his own cat green eyes. “I’d agree to your terms, Creature. With my own as well.”

The mock form tilted its head to the side, a maddening grin never faltering.

“Oh? And what would these be, Tsepesh? Voievod. What else could you want when I already offer you such a generous gift?”

Dracula ignored this comment, clenching his fists.

“I want to destroy the sultan. And I want to kill my brother with my own hands. You will not deny me this.”

Vengeance was a powerful force. It, along side with sorrow and hatred at his ageing and uselessness. Already his men thought him crazy, and there were murmurs among them that he was not strong enough to lead them any more. Soon they would turn upon him, most likely tonight. Several of the men had already turned against him. Charging out to face the Turks was suicide. And not only this; there were spies among his ranks.

“Ahh. Granted. Your obedience will grant you this, with everlasting life.”

Obedience. This creature was demanding he relinquish his freedom. It was an undertone, a reading between the lines. Demanding obedience was nothing more than demanding a slave.

“Why? Why have you chosen me?”

The false Dracula laughed, backing up a step and sweeping a hand before his face. Instantly the features reversed in time, aging backwards until he was young again, dark eyes bright with life, and hair deep ebony. Dracula gasped, gritting his teeth at yet another mockery.

“Chosen you? But Voievod, I did not choose you, you have chosen me. Your anger and hatred so great, I could not help but tilt my ear to your call. I offer you a chance to get what you want, and you will help me get what I want. Such a simple offer, I cannot see why you doubt me. You fear losing your strength? I can make you so strong, you will tear through the armies of your enemies as if those men were made of nothing but smoke and ash.”

Dracula fought to keep from stepping back as the young mockery reached out, running the tips of its fingers over his face. The flesh was so cold, it seemed to suck the very heat from his body like the deep winter chill. He found himself shaking, though not so much from the chill, but the sudden knowledge, the sudden understanding of how much power this being actually possessed.

“You despise the ache of your bones? I can cure this, and make it so pain is nothing to you. You wish to defeat age? I will make you immortal. And what is this?”

The creature lashed out, gripping Dracula’s jaw, causing him to cry out, and forcing his head back, shoving him against the wall.

“You detest humanity? How quaint. When I am finished, humanity will be your prey. Is my offer not good enough for you Prince?”

Dracula kept his eyes open, though narrowed darkly at the being. This was a position he had placed many into, and he did not enjoy the switch. The creature’s offer continued to thrum through his mind. Would it truly be so easy? With such power as was being offered, he could easily escape this creature. Obedience would only be mandatory for a short time. He knew he could worm his way out of almost any situation. Such was his gift.

“What are the terms? Every offer has a bad side. I wish to know that I will be giving up for this power,” he answered, finally gaining his wits and shoving his younger self from him.

The creature chuckled, now taking on the Prince’s own voice. Dracula watched his ageless image elegantly turn from him, sweeping an arm toward the window.

“Sunlight will be barred from you. Maybe forever, maybe not. The metal that bought Jesus’ life will be poison to you. God is your enemy, fear Him.”

This did not seem so difficult. Hardly a price at all. God had turned his back on him years ago.

A loud banging at the door stole Dracula from his thoughts, and he blinked to find the room empty. He growled, moving to snatch his sword from where it had landed upon the floor, and strode to the door. Throwing the bolt back and shoving the door open, he narrowed his eyes at his guard.

“You have interrupted something very important. For your life, this had better be worth disturbing me,” he hissed.

The guard paled, but made a quick, jumpy gesture at the empty hallway behind him.

“It’s your brother. He has come demanding your presence. I know you wished to stay undisturbed, but I felt this important enough…” The guard trailed off at the grin that had spread across his leader’s face.

“Ahh! Radu the Handsome! I told him what would happen the last time he would come here…” Dracula turned to the guard, his eyes narrowing again.

“You must think me for a fool. Treachery and lies are things I will not tolerate!” His voice was a low hiss, but the emotion and fierceness behind each word carried as if he had screamed them to the heavens. The guard had no chance to defend himself as Dracula’s sword flew in his hand, slashing over the unprotected flesh of his throat.

He did not even have a chance to call out a warning. Their plot had been discovered, or perhaps Dracula had known all along. Mesmerized by the life seeping from the guard’s neck, Vlad found himself hesitating a moment, then smiling and stepping over the bloodied mess to the hallway.

Yes, he had known of this plot for days. The creature had told him of it. At first he had not believed it, but events soon told the truth, especially now. It had told him his own troops had been infiltrated by spies, and that on this night, his brother would seek to speak to him. They would get him alone in a room, cut off from his allies, and slaughter him.

What fools they were, to think he could be outsmarted. Dracula grinned to himself, moving through the hallways in slow stride. These were the final moments. The air was thicker in this level of the castle. The halls deserted, speaking of the coming terror of the invading Turkish army.

He stopped at the chapel, lowering his head and frowning. It was a habit of his, to pray before battle. Even after God had betrayed him, it was done just for looks to the others. The creature had said God was his enemy. God had turned His back on him years ago. Why was he to continue following a being that had no care for him? Dracula turned, feeling as if he had reached a final point of no return. This was indeed the end. He continued through the hall, finally reaching the main hall.

Pushing the doors open, Dracula smiled to see his brother, surrounded by several Turkish guards. Radu was several years younger than he, and had thus retained much of his beauty and strength. Again life was mocking him, mocking his frailty as a human. Frailty that would not last much longer.

“Brother!” Radu smiled, coming toward him. Dracula allowed himself to be embraced, and hugged his brother back, stepping back from him with a smile.

“You’ve ridden ahead of your army? I suppose to offer me a final chance at surrender?”

The look in his brother’s eyes told all, and the Prince shook his head, frowning.

“I will not. You should have known this before coming. Now you have wasted a trip. I told you the last time I let you go, that I would kill you the next time we meet. And now you test my patience.”

“Brother, you are a fool to continue this! You will be killed, regardless of your threats against me. We both know this; I can see your strain. Why not end it now? Surrender.”

“Radu, do you take me for such a fool? I will not surrender. I know not the meaning of such a word!”

Radu sighed, backing up from his brother and shaking a head. Vlad had always been stubborn. Perhaps it was why he was so successful, but his luck was running out, and fast. Age was taking a toll on him, and his mind was probably failing as well.

“Then I have no choice but to force you. I will not let you pay the price of your men’s lives for your foolishness.”

Each guessing the other’s move, both brothers drew their swords, facing each other down. The guards around them seemed to multiply to Dracula’s eyes. They came from the shadows where he could not perceive them earlier. There must have been at least twenty or more. They formed a circle around the brothers, drawing their weapons. There would be no escape from this situation.

Dracula laughed, lunging for Radu. Their swords clashed again and again. Both dancing around each other like lions protecting pride territory. A move, taught to them by their father, cost him his life. It was a fake. Radu moved to swing at his legs. When Vlad lowered his sword to parry the blow, Radu arched his motion upward in an instant, slashing across his brother’s chest and throwing his backward him backwards with the blow.

The Prince cried out as the metal cut through his armor, but his cry was silenced when Radu lunged forward to bury his blade deep into Dracula’s chest. Blood gathered in his mouth, lining his lips and dripping from his chin. The moment had come, now was the time to make his choice. A dull clatter reached his ears, his sword slipping from his grasp.

“Forgive me, Brother,” Radu whispered, but the look in his eyes was of malice and hatred. The words were hollow, reflecting nothing.

“May Lucifer claim your soul,” he growled lower, kicking his brother from his sword. More truth to the words than he knew.

This time Dracula did not cry out, only grunting as he hit the floor. He could feel his blood, his warmth, leaking from his chest. Even the forms of his brother and the guards above him were fading.

“I accept. You have my obedience,” Dracula whispered, closing his eyes.

Radu laughed as he watched the life leave his brother.

“Fool, now is a good time to accept surrender! As if it would have done you any good to begin with!”

Spitting upon the corpse, he gestured to his men for the doorway.

“Let us claim this land in the name of the Sultan!”

Their cheers drowned out the whispered voice of a small child huddling in the shadows, unseen by all.

“I will await you the next sunset, Voievod.”

@темы: Hellsing, Dracula