Chapter 9: “The trouble with being legendary is that it is very difficult for me to remain anonymous, at least for very long.” The infamous vampire, King of the Undead, Dracula stood before the seventeen-year-old wizard with a smirk on his face, just faintly revealing his twin, elongated fangs.
“So what happens now?” Landon had faced foes as powerful as the vampire liege before, but never without allies, especially his mentor and friend, the golden dragon. Now, on this half of a mysterious world forever in night, he was alone.
“Why whatever you want, my young magician.” Dracula clapped his hands twice and then sat back on his obsidian throne. Presently, a score of servants, all appearing as human as the teen, came out from behind curtains left and right, quickly supplying a table and chair in front of the sorcerer, and then producing platters of beef, chicken, assorted vegetables, and a flagon of ale.
“Having not partaken in a meal such as this in so long, it was difficult for me to decide how to serve you, so I selected a variety of food stuffs.”
Landon looked down incredulously at the dinner he had been offered, and then back up at the vampire. “You’re feeding me?”
“If it’s not to your liking, I’m sure my cooks can prepare something else. I assumed you would be hungry after your long journey.”
“I’m sure it’s fine. But I didn’t expect this.”
“I believe Greta informed you that you would be treated as our guest.”
“What’s the catch?”
“If I was going to kill you, it wouldn’t be through poison. You may rest assured your meal is simply a meal.”
“Thanks, but I had a big breakfast.”
“Dine not with thy enemy? I understand. A matter of honor.” The seated figure in black clapped twice again, and as before, the same servants, male and female, dressed in white tunics and black trousers, appeared and removed what they had brought moments ago. Then Landon and Dracula were alone again.
“I could have your seat returned. Perhaps you would like a bit of conversation. Believe me boy,” winked the vampire, “I have some amazing stories to tell.”
“How about the one where you kidnap hundreds of magicians from across the realms and force them to play your obscene version of wargames.”
“Really?” Feigned disappointment shone in his face and voice. “That one isn’t interesting at all. I was bored and needed a distraction to kill the time, so to speak.” Then he grinned broadly, his canines glimmering in the half-light.
“Bored while you had your minions torture the dragon?”
“I had spells to prepare, and complex ones, designed to wrest terrible secrets from your former teacher. Alas, you liberated him prematurely, placing him temporarily out of my reach.”
“Yes. You’ll find that nothing is impossible if you put your mind to it.”
“Which brings up the issue of your newfound abilities.”
“Magic you mean? Child, I’ve lived for over six-hundred years and associated with some of the most ruthless necromancers in all of human history and otherwise. Think about it. Wouldn’t you imagine that I would find a way to steal those secrets and put them to good use? Oh, don’t bother to pit your feeble skills against mine. You’ve practiced a mere decade, while I have been quietly mastering sorcery for centuries.”
“Temporarily. You’re stalling.” A look of shock crossed Landon’s face as he reached across the realities with his mind.
“Only now do you realize that my armies have already begun the assault on your pitiful friends and their fort. With any luck at all, they are dead already.”
“You…! Leaving the epithet unsaid, Landon lifted the staff and with a murmured word in a long dead language, hurled a bolt of intense solar light at the dark creature, only to see it shatter harmlessly ten feet from its target.
“Can you do no better than that?”
The magician raised both arms, summoning eldritch energies of crimson, emerald, and azure, surrounding Dracula and then crashing down toward him like lightning bolts, but sadly with the same negative result. The vampire hadn’t even bothered to rise from his throne.
Then he blinked at a sudden revelation, and commanding the atmosphere in the room, formed a whirlwind, pulling the undead mage from his seat and casting him upon the floor.
The vampire slowly rose, a malevolent smile creasing his face. “An interesting guess, and not entirely wrong. The throne is carved from one of the lost seer stones and does amplify my power, but I am hardly helpless without it.”
The shadowy wizard suddenly thrust his right arm out at Landon, palm open, and an invisible bolt of force threw the lad backwards and slammed him hard against the closed doors at the back of the room, the shock making him release his staff.
Landon quickly got back to his feet, but was still catching his breath as Dracula retrieved the boy’s cane.
“Interesting item. I sense nothing special about it, but somehow it does for you what my throne does for me.” The vampire shifted his gaze from the staff to the boy, who was just now standing completely upright. “What is the secret, magician?”
“Like I’d tell you.” Landon did what the vampire had a moment ago, reached out with mystic senses detecting the power around him. He had no idea why the staff did what it did, but he could sense that not only was the throne a source of power, but so was the tower itself, not just constructed with precious gems, but with power crystals containing elemental magic.
Fire, water, air, earth, illusion, power, reality, time, transforming, mind, death, and life were surrounding him, and now that he had focused his awareness, Landon could see the energy streamers flowing into the room from all directions, surrounding the vampire and centering on his unbeating heart.
Then, to himself he said, “If I could just…” He shrieked in agony as his mind was flooded images of battle, a legion of vampires descending upon the war world just after midnight, the carnage and blood coming in waves along with the deaths of hundreds, all his friends, and Carmen’s body was being fed upon by three of Dracula’s vile lieutenants.
“You monster!” In a rage, Landon lunged at Dracula, who easily sidestepped the boy. The magician slammed onto the floor at the foot of the onyx throne as his adversary casually turned in his direction.
“Tsk tsk. I thought you would have put up a better fight than this.”
Landon sat up on the floor, his back against the vampire King’s throne. Then a quake shook the room, and for the first time, Dracula looked worried. Then he saw the teenage wizard smile.
“I can.” The ceiling above them shattered and huge shards flew upward and out as brilliant sunlight shone above them in a brilliant blue sky. “This world wasn’t always tidally locked.”
“You haven’t won,” cried the now smoldering vampire as he produced a dark cloak and shrouded himself within it. The cloth spun tighter and tighter and then vanished, taking its wearer into an unknown oblivion, as the now unattended staff clattered to the floor.
A moment later, the endless night returned as the hastily constructed time spell expired. Landon stood, releasing his hold on the streamers of the gem magics around him. Then, reaching out, he sensed, “There’s still time.”
Landon found his staff in the center of the room, a scorch mark on the middle of the wooden staff left by the burning hand of Dracula before he vanished. It was night above him, a cool breeze coming down from the hole he had made in the ceiling, as he picked up the item. Then raising it in his right hand, he summoned a portal to whisk him back to his comrades and hopefully turn the tide of battle.
The portal didn’t come. “What the heck?” He looked up at the head of the staff, appearing only as a simple, lead knob. He tried again with the same result, but then the direction of the breeze changed. He looked around and figures were coming out from behind the curtains on either side of him. The vampiric guards had returned in force, snarling werewolves and jackals straining at their leashes.
“You didn’t think we’d allow you to leave so soon, did you? What poor manners you display.”
He hadn’t heard the doors behind him swing open. Quickly spinning, he saw Greta again, but this time, instead of the frail, alabaster girl, she was transforming into soemthing half-human and half-snow wolf. With a vicious snarl, she led the other beasts surrounding Landon into their attack.
Everyone had moved into the secure wing at the hospital, the small squad left to guard the fortress pocket universe now reduced to a tiny remnant. There were only eight of them in the locked, unwindowed chamber including Carmen and the still wounded Steven. He was able to stand but just barely.
They were all silent, listening with trepidation at the vampire army outside as they wrought carnage on the rest of the grounds, hideous screeches and howled filling them with terror.
“When do you think they’ll get around to us?” Steven had his hand on Carmen’s shoulder for support.
“What’s the rush?” She was still looking at the bolted steel door, the room designed to hold the most dangerous potions and medicines. “Whenever they’ve had their fun.”
The pounding began without a prelude, and in a ridiculously short amount of time, the door first bent, once, twice, thrice, then it began to glow, going from dull red, to orange, yellow, and then white-hot. The small group moved to the back of the room behind the box and bottle laden shelves, seeking what scant shelter they could against the heat.
The metal oozed and dripped, forming puddles on the floor, finally revealing an opening large enough for a man to pass through. The molten steel hardened in an instant, a victim of elemental magic rather than natural forces, and stepping through was not one of the vampires, it was the Master of Collars, their old trainer, whom Carmen herself had put in a suspended animation chamber.
“You may all come out now.” His voice sounded almost pleasant, as if he were a stern but fair school master chiding misbehaving children. “I offer you a choice. You can die as the others have, or resume wearing your collars and joining our forces in our attack on the dragon city.”
“There is one other option.” The leader of the vampire army, dressed in filthy black robes, his pale head and face without even the hint of hair, entered behind the master. “They can join us as some of the others have, as the undead.”
Carmen felt herself tremble at the sight of the dagger-like canines of the head of the vampire legion, dripping with the blood of her already doomed friends.
Here’s the table of contents for this series so far:
My nine-year-old grandson, who I’m writing all this for, generally approves of the series thus far, but I didn’t want things to end to quickly, so I’m extending the menace, both to his character and his companions. In fact, just about all of the “good guys” are in trouble now, but when discussing the story line with the real life Landon on Thanksgiving, he guessed generally, how the day would be saved.