Gargoyles, created by Greg Weisman, is the property of the Walt Disney Company. Dracula, created by Bram Stoker, is the property of everyone. Everything else in this story is based on real made-up history.
Special thanks to Masterdramon, Gryphinwyrm7 and Bookwyrm for beta-reading and feedback.
15 Pall Mall, London, April 23rd, 11:55 p.m. 1926 AD
A woman clothed entirely in black stood framed in the door, her face veiled like a widow. "I'm here to see 'M'."
The white gloved doorman nodded silently before ushering her in. She followed as he led her down the narrow corridor, passing the main reading room where several club members sat, each silently ensconced within their own little nook. Each of them might as well have been the only living thing in the room for all they were concerned.
They stopped before an unremarkable door. Only three words emblazoned on a brass plate even hinted at its purpose.
Tʜᴇ Sᴛʀᴀɴɢᴇʀ's Rᴏᴏᴍ
The doorman bowed as he opened the door for the woman in black, closing it silently behind her once she had stepped inside.
"Enter freely and of your own will, Mrs. Harker," a voice boomed from the darkness. Steel grey eyes watched her through a haze of cigar smoke.
"M?" she said, taking a seat. She pulled back her veil to reveal a face that seemed incongruously young for the greying dark hair that framed it.
"I'd offer you a drink but…" he said, pouring himself a brandy.
Her face betrayed no reaction. "It is my understanding that you are something of an information broker?"
"Among other things, but information does not come cheaply."
"You know what I came for. What is your price?"
He slid a photograph across the table that divided them. It depicted a portly gentleman with a bushy mustache standing atop the battlements of a castle. He was beaming proudly, a dream-like gleam in his eyes.
"Karl Schappeller," 'M' began. "Self-styled inventor and occultist, born 1875 in an Austrian poorhouse. He has recently been courting various… esoteric groups in Germany, seeking support for some sort of expedition."
"What of him?" she asked.
"My sources also indicate that Schappeller's been sighted in Budapest, accompanied by an as yet unidentified hooded figure. A figure who has been sighted only at night."
She raised a skeptical eyebrow.
"My price is simple, discover the object of Herr Schappeller's exhibition and prevent it from falling into the Hun's hands at all costs. I'll be happy to reimburse your expenses, of course."
"I was under the impression the Great War was over?" she remarked.
"For now, but there are several in the Teutonic body politic quite eager to make a second go of it. I intend to deny them every advantage possible."
Her eyes widened in something approaching shock. "I know there a great many rabble-rousers on the continent, overly fond of shaking their sabres, but you can't seriously believe anyone in Germany is that insane?"
M leaned back, puffing on his cigar as he somberly regarded the ceiling. "I sincerely hope I'm wrong, Mrs. Harker. "For the sheer novelty of it, if nothing else."
She glared at the photograph. "And if I accomplish this task?"
He smiled without mirth. "Then I'll tell you everything I know about your son's current whereabouts."
Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris, April 24th, 11:55 a.m.
Before the oaken doors of the cathedral stood a tall, Valkyriesque woman with blond hair braided into a thick rope. Three slash like scars ran above her left eye.
Fiona Canmore glared up at the looming bell towers, stone demons perched ghoulishly atop the supposedly godly edifice. Six years had passed since she last stood here, not nearly enough.
Still, it couldn't be helped. She needed the information her contact held. She crossed herself as she stepped over the threshold, silently making her way through the aisles before coming to an obscured confessional booth.
Shutting the door behind her, she tensed like a cat in the darkness. A panel slid open, letting in just enough light to accentuate rather than dispel the darkness.
"Give me six lines written by the most honest man in the world," a French accented voice spoke. Its owner was little more than a pointy bearded silhouette.
"And I will find enough in them to hang him," she replied.
"Thank you for coming on such short notice, mon enfant."
"Father du Plessis," Fiona Canmore eyed the shadowed priest. "Yuir telegram said you had something urgent for me?"
"Look under your seat."
Fiona found a large envelope. Tearing it open revealed several official looking documents. "My Hungarian is a little rusty?"
"Reports from Budapest, apparently, many of the citizenry claim to have seen a winged fiend flying about the city at night in recent weeks. Alas, the local gens d'armes seem more interested in hounding the city's Hebrew population than seriously investigating the matter."
Fiona rifled through envelope, drawing out the ticket and a small silver crucifix attached to a set of rosary beads. "You do realize I'm not actually Catholic."
"Please, mon enfant, humour an old man. It pains my conscience enough that I send a poor lost sheep, led astray by the madness of Luther and Calvin, to contest with the Adversary."
"Alright, and what do you want this time?"
"You wound me, mon enfant. I am simply extended you a small kindness in the hopes that one day you may be in a position to do the same for me."
She smirked as she tucked the envelop and its content away in her long coat. "In other words, you want me in your debt?"
He chuckled darkly. "Such a cynical child, and after I took the liberty of arranging transportation on your behalf?"
"What kind of transportation?"
Gare de Paris-Est; 6:50 p.m.
Fiona slowly edged her towards the Orient Express, through the crowds swarming the platform. The celebrated train cut an impressive figure, the golden badge of the Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits proudly emblazoned on each carriage.
"Gallic idiots!" A voice cried in English. Fiona turned her head to see Wagon Lit attendants struggling with a large wooden crate, while a third figure unabashedly berated them.
"The contents of that crate are worth more than you pathetic ill-bred troglodytes shall likely make in your entire lives!" shrieked a pale, buck-toothed figure, his arched nostrils flared in outrage. He glared haughtily through a monocle, gesturing imperiously with his cigarette holder as though it were a marshal's baton.
He was well dressed, almost dandyish, though in a style reminiscent of the Edwardian age. Something which struck Fiona as slightly odd considering he looked no older than twenty.
She put the annoying toff out of her head and boarded the train, the conductor directing her to the sleeping compartment assigned by her ticket
"Hello," a voice spoke as she reached for the door handle.
Fiona turned to be greeted by a young middle-eastern girl. She was plainly and modestly dressed, save for the eclectic collection of gold jewellery adorning her neck, wrists and fingers.
"Um… Hello?" answered Fiona uncertainly.
"It appears we'll be traveling together," said the girl, nodding at the compartment.
"Really," Fiona smiled but eyed the girl suspiciously. Much as du Plessis liked to style himself as a humble man of the cloth, Fiona knew too well he had a veritable legion of spies and informants scattered across the continent, and he had been the one to book this ticket. She wasn't at all be surprised that he'd assigned her a 'minder'.
"I'm called Shari," the girl smiled warmly, extending her hand.
"Fiona," the Scot took the proffered hand, thinking it best to play along for now.
"I'm heading to Istanbul, myself. How about you?"
"Oh, what brings you there?"
"It's a long story."
Shari smiled. "I'm partial to long stories."
Orient Express, 8:55 p.m.
"The story is told, though who can say if it be true…
"Of a simple shepherd who one day perceived his heifer bleeding and limping. The shepherd followed the trail of blood back to its cause, a great and impossibly ancient sword embedded in the soil. Its blade was black as night, a shining blue jewel embedded in its hilt.
"The shepherd took the blade and presented it to his monarch, Attila, King of the Huns. Attila claimed the sword had been bestowed on him by Heaven, as a symbol of his rightful dominion over the Earth. The Christians of Rome claimed the blade was a sign that the Hun had been divinely ordained to punish the Empire for its decadence, they called it 'The Sword of God'.
"For years, Attila held the Eastern Empire in a state of terror, extracting ever more exorbitant tribute until he was ready to march on Constantinople itself. To celebrate his impending conquest, Attila took the latest of many brides unto himself, a beautiful Dacian princess. Their wedding feast was one of the most extravagant the Hun court had ever known."
"Then what happened?" Fiona asked as she sipped a Turkish coffee as the two women sat in the dining cart.
Shari smiled. "Attila drunk himself into a stupor, got a nosebleed and drowned on his own blood as he slept. At least, that's one version of the story."
"Dinnea take this the wrong way, luv, but that ending's a tad disappointing."
Shari shrugged. "One could argue there's a lesson about hubris in there somewhere."
"So whatever happened to the Sword?" asked Fiona.
"Supposedly, it now resides in the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna. But I have it on very good authority the sword there is a tenth century forgery."
"So you haven't told me yuir story yet. Are you one of these lady authors I hear so much about?"
Shari smiled slightly. "Something like that."
Fiona was more convinced than ever the girl was hiding something but didn't feel the need to press. Everyone had a right to their secrets. The Scot certainly had plenty of her own.
Fiona felt a chill run up the back of her neck.
A woman, clad entirely in black and wearing a widow's veil, stood silently by their table, watching Shari intently. Fiona wondered how the hell some strange woman had got so close without her noticing.
Shari just smiled back serenely.
"Can we help you?" Fiona asked, not making too much effort to hide the irritation.
"Pardon me," spoke the woman in black. "I thought you were… someone else." And without another word, the veiled lady was on her way, prowling through the dining cart.
"What the bloody Hell was that about?" asked Fiona.
"These things happen. A woman of clearly near-eastern extraction traveling through Western Europe is bound to attract a certain amount of… attention. I'm used to it." She shrugged with resignation.
Fiona's eye narrowed. "You shouldn't have to be."
"That's a very… Enlightened of you."
"Are you sure this is wise?" asked Pierre Michel, picking nervously at the buttons of his uniform. It was well past midnight and most of the passengers had long since retired for the night. Still he couldn't help constantly throwing furtive glances up and down the empty corridor.
"Of course," Replied Jacques as he tried to quietly unlock the compartment with his master key. "Everyone is fast asleep. None will be the wiser."
"But if we're caught, we'll be sacked for sure!" replied Pierre. "I have a daughter to think about, Jacques. Whatever's in that crate can't be worth the risk!"
"Is not about the money," snapped Jacques. "It's about pride! It's about self-respect! If we let some English aristo pig treat us like slaves, then what was the Hundred Years War even for? Why did the Maid of Orleans martyr herself? For what cause did the heroes of the Revolution shed their blood? We do this not for ourselves, Pierre, but for the honour of our forefathers and the glory of France!"
"Really?" Pierre glowered. His father had fought in the Great War, losing a leg and much of his mind for the 'honour and glory of France'. The attendant did not care for his friend's supposed patriotic zeal.
"Well, if we make a few extra Francs for our trouble…" the door opened with a soft click. "Go to your station and stand watch." Jacques slipped into the dark compartment, gently closing the door behind him before quietly lighting a match.
The compartment was empty save for the large wooden crate on the floor. It seemed a waste to book a first class private compartment for a box. Typical decadent aristo, thought Jacques.
He readied his clawed hammer and began quietly prying a nail from the lid of the crate. He practically salivated at the thought of the riches inside, doubting that anyone would notice if he took a pocketful or two for himself, and maybe a bauble for Pierre. After all, everyone knew all these English aristos had more money than they'd ever be able to spend.
It was slower than he would have liked, he had to pry each nail individually. Doing as little damage as possible so they could be pressed back in afterwards. Finally, he was able to lift the lid, revealing.
The box was empty save for an inch-thick layer of what looked like common earth. He frantically shifted through the soil in a futile search for hidden valuables. "Dirt! That blasted English pig put us through all that for a box of dirt?"
"Pierre?" he whispered, looking around for the source of the odd noise.
It was coming from the window. He stepped closer, and took hold of the drawn curtains, ready to pull them back at a moment's notice.
He swiftly drew the curtain aside, revealing nothing but pitch black night. He shook his head and turned away. His nerves were clearly playing tricks on him and he didn't have time to waste.
He inched back towards the window, not really understanding why. Opening the window, he gingerly leaned his head out into the night.
The last thing Jacques saw were two shining crimson orbs just inches from his face. The last thing he heard was his own muffled scream as pale talons clamped around his jaw, dragging him bodily into the void.
Outside in the corridor, Pierre knocked softly on the door. "Jacques? Are you alright?"
The compartment was empty. The window was shut and the curtains drawn. The wooden crate lay secure and undisturbed. Pierre shivered. It bore a fiendish resemblance to a coffin in the gloom.
Still, he was relieved. Obviously, Jacques had come to his senses before doing any real harm. Though for the life of him, Pierre couldn't imagine how his friend had slipped away without being seen.
Hanging desperately from the Cathedral, the city looms below. Stone talons seize her throat before hurling her into the abyss.
The Demon laughs
Fiona awoke with a start.
"Bad dreams?" Shari's voice asked from the lower sleeping berth.
"Sorry…" groaned the Scot. "Did I wake you?"
"Not at all, I was just doing a bit of reading." The girl held up a tome with a single blood-red word emblazoned on its yellow cover
"Have you ever read it?" asked Shari? "It's delightfully chilling."
"No," Fiona replied. "Frankly, I canne understand what anyone sees in that garbage. You'd think there'd be horror enough in the real world?"
"Every race and nation since the dawn of history have told tales of demonic creature that prowled the night, preying on the innocent. Perhaps human beings need frightful tales of imagined monsters to better cope with the real ones?" The girl mused, turning a page.
Fiona said nothing in response, instead climbing down from her berth and yanking on her heavy boots. "I'm going for a breath of fresh air."
"Enjoy," said Shari, watching the Scot depart before returning to her reading. Once again, she journeyed by the side of the young English solicitor, along the winding paths of the Borgo Pass, through wolves and witch-fire to the very gates of the ancient castle until…
She perked up, laying her book aside. "Hello?"
It came from the window.
Fiona passed the sleeping car attendant, dozing at his station. She patted her pockets and swore softly before returning to her compartment.
"Sorry, I forgot my…" The words died in her throat.
Fiona stared in horror as Shari was forcibly dragged out through the open window, pale talons wrapped around the girl's throat as twin scarlet orbs gleamed hellishly in the darkness beyond.
In an instant the girl and her abductor were gone.
Without thinking the Scot lunged for her pistol and "lucky backpack". Ever since it had saved her life in Paris, she made a point of never traveling without it.
Strapping the pack tightly and securing her pistol, Fiona climbed out the window. Clinging to even the slightest finger or toe hold as she made her way to the train's rooftop. The whipping winds threatened to send her hurtling to her death at any moment.
Reaching the roof, Fiona saw Shari's struggling in the grip of a shadowed figure. "Drop the girl!" she cried, crouched and training her pistol on the attacker.
The shadow turned, snarling like a beast at bay. Bone white fangs shone in the moonlight.
Fiona didn't hesitate to respond by sending a bullet right between the hellishly glowing eyes. The thing crumpled to the ground unceremoniously.
The Scot made her way to the young girl. "Shari, you alright?"
"I think so… what was that thing?" the girl murmured, staring at her fallen assailant. Fiona followed her gaze. It was not what she had expected.
The body was unmistakably human. Even in the moonlight, Fiona recognized it as the imperious Englishman she had seen on the platform in Paris. He looked exactly as he had then, save that his bucked teeth had somehow narrowed and sharpened into rat-like incisors. And of course the bloody bullet hole in his forehead.
"We'll worry about that later." Fiona helped the still disorientated girl make her way to the final carriage, where she was safety lowered onto the platform abutting the end of the train.
"Can you make it back from here?" asked Fiona.
"I think so, thanks," replied Shari.
"Dinne mention it… to anyone." Her charge safe, Fiona made her way back along the roofs of the carriages. Going slowly and cautiously due to the gathering mist.
It wouldn't do to have a body with a bullet in its skull found aboard when they pulled into the next station. Fortunately, that was easily solved. So Fiona was surprised to find the corpse had already disappeared by the time she reached where she had left it. She wondered if it had slipped off.
Suddenly, a pale wizened claw materialized out of the mist, talons digging deep into her throat. Mist continued to coalesce around the claw, forming into the shape of the supposedly dead Englishman, who now stood seemingly alive and whole before her.
"You owe me a meal, you Scotch harridan, and Lord Falsworth always collects on his debts," the dead man hissed as a serpent-like tongue flickered unnervingly close to his Fiona's throat.
Fiona looked over her attacker's shoulder. The veiled widow from earlier stood atop the train car, her black cloak billowing in the wind.
"Harker!" the creature spat.
"Run, you idiot!" Fiona yelled. "He isn't human!"
"What are you doing here, Falsworth?" asked the woman in black, nonplussed. "I thought your master said he'd stake you himself if you ever showed your face on the Continent again."
"Funny you should mention that, I was actually on my way to Budapest, seeking to buy my way back into his good graces. But on further reflection," He chuckled darkly. "I think he'd much prefer having your whimpering, bleeding carcass tossed at his feet!"
"Business before pleasure, Falsworth." the veiled woman spoke. "Let. Her. Go."
The creature grinned as the train began passing over a deep gorge. "As you wish," he quipped before hurling the Scot over the edge.
"NO!" the Veiled Woman cried.
The thing called Falsworth dropped down on all fours, its shape beginning to shift grotesquely. Clothes seemed to melt into a dark purplish hide. Thin leathery membranes stretched between arms and legs as nails grew into gnarled talons. His face flattened, ears flared like a bat's as eyes grew into blood-red orbs. Finally, the thing's mouth tore open from ear to ear, revealing row upon row of needle-like fangs.
It hissed at the woman called Harker, then pounced.
To be continued…