by Steve C.
At about seven o' clock in the evening, Lucard found himself sitting in front of the fire, still waiting for Varney to arrive. It had been two hours since the vampire doctor would have been able to show up, but Varney was known for his habitual lateness, and this wasn't a very pressing matter. Besides, feigning urgency was beneath Dracula.
Finally, the doctor stepped out of his electrical doorway to the left of Dracula, who greeted him on sight. "It's about time," Lucard said, watching him sit down in the chair to his left. "I was almost ready to give up on you."
"Nonsense, my boy," Varney said, setting his cane on the chair, "your transmission indicated nothing that suggested trouble. I hoped you might just want to have a drink."
Lucard raised the corner of his mouth. "Perhaps later. I do believe something is the matter."
"It started about three days ago, right around sunset. I met a woman walking in an empty alleyway, and was just about to deprive her of the rest of the evening and her life, when something came over me."
"And what was that?" Varney asked, already seeing what was happening.
Dracula hesitated, unsure of what he remembered. "It felt like... emptiness. Deep in my stomach." He looked to the doctor. "I couldn't expose my fangs," he said, as if it were an impossibility. "I couldn't go through with it."
"And have you been able to get blood since?" Varney quickly asked, his direct look into Dracula's eyes making the other vampire look away.
"Yes, that's what's so odd about it. I met with the head of a corporation last night--a very ruthless man who wanted to try a complete hostile takeover of my empire, as if such a thing could be accomplished." He thought of the man, remarking at his arrogance.
"Naturally, I figured such a man would be very useful once under my control, but when I was cutting into his vein, I found myself completely severing it, and forsaking the thought of making him a vampire." He paused, sipping from a glass of wine next to his chair, and looked back to Varney. "The emptiness has yet to leave, also."
Varney nodded, and reached to the decanter, pouring himself some of the wine in the second glass Dracula had provided. "It's very common around this time of year, Dracula. Especially now that we're past the nine-hundred year mark. You do remember what anniversary is coming up?"
Dracula's eyebrows furrowed. "No. What are you talking about?"
Varney sighed, draining his glass of wine. "I always said you'd make a terrible vampire, Dracula. And I've warned you countless times about your reckless disregard of our nature."
Lucard turned his eyes back to the fire, saying, "Get to the point, Dr. Varney."
"The pilgrimage of the Cievarians has started--does that help any?"
Dracula looked back at him, realization settling into his face. "Of course; the holiday is arriving."
"Correct. If you paid a little more attention to the world of darkness around you than to your 'empire,' problems like this would undoubtedly decrease tenfold. You're experiencing what the men in my field call Vampric Dissolution. Your reckless way of life is slowly alienating you from our god, and, sooner or later, he may inflict damage on you himself. This emptiness you are feeling is a warning system, no doubt."
Dracula nodded, his knuckles to his mouth. "What do you suggest I do?"
Varney shifted in his seat, crossing his legs. "Most likely, Dracula, they'll swing by this neck of the woods now that you've moved here. Take some time off of work and spend it with them, and take them up on any offers they give you."
"Offers?" he asked suspiciously.
"Well, this castle does have that remarkable chapel I'm sure you never use. Make sure it's cleared of any mortally holy relics by the time they get here, and use it to provide for their refuge as they pass through."
"When do you think they'll arrive?" he asked, sitting up more in the chair.
"My guess is today or tomorrow, actually. And if you'd like I can extend an invitation to their leader on your behalf."
Dracula made one last look to the fire, and thought about his stomach. Even now he felt the considerable ache it had used to damage his system. If it was a warning, then only worse things were to come. And now, with his business eager to add a figure to its annual income, and his plans for world domination reaching near fulfillment, the last thing the vampire wanted was to have the remains of his soul eaten away.
"Give them the message that I would be more than delighted to let them use my facilities. In return for a little guidance, and a cure to this disease."
An hour or two earlier that day, Gustav Helsing had been sitting at home, sorting though his recent mail. The very bottom letter he had just received that morning, and it was resting in a black envelope, with no return address or postmark.
Chris and Max were watching TV--a very low budget vampire movie--neither one paying much attention to it. Gustav had been eavesdropping on their discussion of religion, which had been instigated by a character in the movie's cross burning a scar into the pale-faced antagonist. Helsing stopped short, though, upon opening the letter and reading the first words. His face darkened as he went down the lines of ink, and, as he read the final note, he slowly uttered the words, "My God."
Max turned around, noticing the seriousness of his tone. "Uncle Gustav?" he asked, "What's the matter?"
"It's a letter from the Cievarian monks," he said, eyes still on the paper.
"'Dear Helsing, the followers and I are dropping into your neighborhood on our way back to the holy land. Since your presence is due to that of Dracula himself, I'm sure that you brought that nice young lady along with you on your quest to destroy him, and my informants tell me that two new young hunters have been seen with you. Why not just give up and let him take over? It's inevitable, anyway.
"Our main purpose for stopping into your city is--as usual during the pilgrimage--to convert a very powerful vampire along the way, and Dracula has become the target this year. So you see, Helsing, mortality is about to be put on the endangered species list.
"If you happen to find me in the daytime I would be more than happy to have lunch. We can catch up on old times, and bring the young girl along. There are two people that I know she'll be happy to see. Yours, the chief priest of the Cievarian monks, Metolocles.'"
"What are the Cievarian monks?" Max asked, squinting in concentration.
Gustav put his hand on the back of his neck, rubbing it as he answered. "A race of vampire dedicated solely to the worship and following of Ciev, the god of the Undead."
"Ciev?" Chris asked. "Who's Ciev?"
"According to vampire beliefs he was the first vampire to ever live. He was a sorcerer that cast the wrong spell and made himself into another walk of life. He lived about two hundred years, surviving on blood, acting like a complete animal at night, and living a normal, extremely righteous life by day. He was born around sometime before Christ if I remember right, and died at the hands of a mob of townspeople around the early four hundreds."
"And this guy made people into vampires, and they've worshipped him ever since?" Chris asked. Gustav took off his glasses, trying to put his words together. He stood up and walked over to them, the boys turned around on the couch and sitting on their knees.
"No, not according to belief. The Cievarians believe that after Ciev died he was sent to Hell, but the fires couldn't consume him. Since he was incapable of being tortured, the Devil cast him out and he had to find his way to Heaven to appeal to God."
"What happened?" Max asked, greatly intrigued by the story.
"He was given his own afterlife, for his and all others that came after him. He's known as the Dark One to most vampires, and is responsible for all the powers and rules that they subscribe to."
"Like repulsion to crosses and garlic, and the ability to turn into bats and stuff, right?" Chris said, turning back around and switching off the TV.
"How are the Cievarians different from all the other vampires, Uncle Gustav?" Max asked, trying to figure out a plan that was forming in his mind already.
"Well," Gustav said, pointing to the upstairs. "I haven't really told you why Sophie lives here with me. Three years ago, her parents were taken by the Cievarian monks, just before I found Dracula's location here." He pointed to the floor of the house, but was referring to the city itself.
"They are ten times more powerful than the average vampire. The weakest Cievarian could probably defeat our friend Lucard in a matter of minutes. Their nobility however, in honor of the Dark One's righteousness by day, keeps them from destroying everything around them they are unhappy with. When they transformed Sophie's parents, they left her to me, saying she was too young to become a vampire. I've never told her what really happened to them, so I can't have you repeat any of this to her."
"No, of course not," Chris said, thinking of how terrible it would be for her to find out something like that.
"What are you going to do?" Max asked, seeing Gustav begin to gather up a bag of their hunting items.
"Stay here and make sure she doesn't leave the house. Don't open the door for anyone, tonight or tomorrow--even me--unless I'm holding a cross in my hands."
"But, what are you going to do?" Chris asked, standing up from the couch.
"I'm going to the castle," he said, the boys following him to the front door. Max started to ask to come with him, but Gustav shot him down before he could get the question out.
"Do not leave this house," he told them both, and left, slamming the door behind him.
Concluded in "A Cult Classic," second half.