Disclaimer: Tanz der Vampire and its characters belong to Roman Polanski, Jim Steinman and Michael Kunze.
After toying with the idea of this fanfiction for months, here's the sequel to Die Fledermaus. I'm not 100% sure yet what the entirety of the story will be, nor how it will end, but I'm confident about it and I trust to find more ideas along the way.
This story will be a slow burn Krolfred, as it turns out I can't write a TdV fanfiction without it be about Krolfred, whether it's hinted or not at all!
A special mention to The Moonlily, as it's thanks to our inspirational chats I was able to finish this chapter!
This story was beta-readed by penhales, whom I can never thanks enough for her help, her advices and her patience.
"... fred? Alfred?"
The first thing Alfred felt was cold.
The second thing was: that he has the migraine of the century. His head felt like it has been most aggressively split open with an axe, and he felt nauseous. He was shivering and he knew it wasn't just from the cold.
Never had Alfred felt this sick in all his life. He wasn't usually subject to sicknesses, except for the regular cold he would have every autumn and this one time, when he was a little boy, where his head burnt with fever and his stomach ached so badly he had to keep to bed for days while his mother watched over him. Even then, that surprised his peers: as skinny and frail as he looked, Alfred was always keeping in good health.
However, over the past few days, sickness had been coming to him in waves. First, there had been the slight feeling of dizziness, then exhaustion numbing his whole being, and cascades of shivers.
Since the fateful day Alfred and Abronsius had discovered the bat they were taking care of was actually a vampire, they stayed in the inn for another day to collect their thoughts and plan what to do next. After a rich meal, a good night sleep, and a blood transfusion by his mentor, Alfred had recovered from his encounter with the Count von Krolock. At least, just enough for them to face the outside world once more.
They had been walking on the obscure roads of Transylvania, in the search of the nearest inn where they could rest and continue their investigation.
Alfred soon discovered he hadn't recover enough when he found himself weakened after hours of travelling outside. The harshness of the wind and the cold weather attacked him with a violence. In his weak state, Alfred had been struggling while walking on the snow and each step made him more tired, more weak than he ever felt before. Waves of dizziness coursed through his body and it felt like his head was burning on the inside.
It had gotten so bad that Professor Abronsius, with his frail body, had to support Alfred as they awkwardly walked to the nearest village.
"Alfred! Do you hear me, my boy?"
Alfred was vaguely aware of a voice calling for him. It was familiar, but he couldn't put a name on it, as hard as he tried. Fog invaded his mind, making it difficult for him to clear his thoughts.
"He, ho, he, Alfred!"
He forced himself to open his eyes and the simple act of doing so proved to be the most difficult task he had to do lately. His sight blurred in front of him, Alfred could discern something white and shades of black. He willed himself to concentrate.
Finally, he recognised the clouded figure of his mentor. He was leaning on the Professor, however his voice seemed distant to him, like a weak echo. He felt a gloved hand on his forehead for a couple of seconds before it went away.
"Listen to me Alfred, you must not fall asleep! Stay awake, my boy!"
Staying awake was the last thing Alfred wanted to do. His eyelids felt heavy, exhaustion was clinging to him like a cloak, and he wanted nothing but to follow the sweet call of Morpheus and surrender to the darkness and have a long rest. However, Professor Abronsius prompted him awake by shaking him and talking to him.
"Stay awake, Alfred!" Abronsius insisted. "Keep walking!"
Numbly, Alfred hummed and forced himself to keep walking forward, one step and then another, one by one, slowly making his way forward, on the snowy path. He could hear Abronsius's encouragements, like a distant echo.
"That's it! We're almost there. Keep walking, my boy!"
And so he walked again, each step proving to be heavier than before, with the sensation of walking in a never ending sea of snow and coldness stabbing him right inside his skin and his bones. Hot tears were pooling in his eyes from the harshness of the weather and the wind.
Abronsius's step slowed down and he had to stop to readjust his grip on Alfred, but his student barely paid attention to it. He wished it would be over soon, it was more and more difficult to him to resist the call for sleep.
He was barely conscious by the time they reached the village, when the villagers came to their aid.
Only when he felt arms carrying him inside something warm did he surrender to darkness.
Alfred woke up to the soft sensation of sheets wrapped around him. The warmth surrounding him like a cocoon made him feel boneless and his muscles felt too heavy to lift.
For the first time in weeks, since he left the inn with Professor Abronsius, Alfred felt safe.
He opened his eyes. The room was blurry and he had to blink a few times before the shapes started to clear. Slowly and still half-dizzy, he turned his head to the right side and saw the source of heat.
A fireplace had been lit, someone had taken off his shoes and socks and put his feet in a wooden basin filled with hot water. The sheets wrapped around him weren't new, he could tell, but for now they were the most comfortable things he had ever felt.
As soon as he shifted, a hand appeared to lift up his head as the edge of a glass was pressed against his lips.
"Here, my dear! It's strong but it'll warm up up!" a feminine voice gently told him. Alfred, being in no physical state to refuse, instinctively opened his mouth. The drink was strong indeed! As soon as the drink reached his throat, Alfred felt the urge to cough and he straightened up in his seat. Whatever she had given him certainly wasn't water! Tears pooled in his eyes and his throat burnt, but Alfred felt more awake.
Now fully awake, he was able to pay more attention to his surroundings. His eyes found the person standing by his side. It was a round and kind looking lady with pink cheeks and brown hair.
"There you are!" she said with a smile. "How are you feeling now, my boy?"
"G… good, thank you," Alfred replied weakly.
He was feeling better, though still so frail that a mildly determined squirrel would probably be able to knock him out.
"That's good!" the woman said, satisfied. "Magda! More water!" she cried toward a young woman that stood nearby.
Once she returned with a bucket with steaming water, the older woman shifted her attention on Alfred again. She poured the hot water inside the basin and Alfred felt like he might melt from pleasure.
"There," she said once she was done, "that ought to put more colours in those cheeks!"
She put a hand on Alfred's forehead and clucked disapprovingly. "How unconscious it is to bring such a young lad in this cold!" she said, casting a glare at the man beside them. Alfred followed her glance, only to find Professor Abronsius seated a few feet away from them, with his feet in a basin filled with hot water.
"The winters here can be terrible, and the effect they have on people who are already delicate – "
Alfred flushed. He agreed he certainly didn't have a strong built, but he wouldn't consider himself to be delicate.
Abronsius huffed impatiently.
"Madam, please know Alfred is my assistant and was fully aware of the risks when he agreed to accompany me on this journey!"
The woman turned to face Abronsius, a hand on his hip.
"Maybe so, but this boy is young! When you have someone younger as your charge, it's your responsibility as a senior to take care of him!" she said, gesturing at Abronsius with a rolling pin she took from a table nearby.
"Madam, I know how to care for my assistant!"
Alfred grimaced and lowered his eyes to the ground. He wished they would stop talking about him, though he admitted there was something entertaining when a force of nature, such as the lady, met another, albeit more stubborn, such as Abronsius. Professor Abronsius wasn't the kind of man to get intimidated, not even by a woman armed with a rolling pin, even one longer than his head. His moustache twisted in a comical way as he replied back:
"Madam, this trip of our is no whim! We are investigating in the name of science! A very important mission!"
"What mission?" asked a villager.
Alfred hoped his mentor wasn't going to bring up the topic of vampires right now. He didn't want them to be noticed because of their unusual area of study on their first night on the inn. Attracting the wrong attention could lead to being ousted by the villagers. He could feel the weight of the starngers's eyes on him and Abronsius. Some were talking amongst themselves and, every now and then, throwing them a cursory glance.
Either Abronsius didn't pay attention to them or chose to ignore them, for he talked with confidence.
"You will know soon enough! For the time being, I wish to speak to the innkeeper."
"I am the innkeeper!" said a bearded man, approaching him. "Chagal is my name. You already met my wife, Rebecca." He added, gesturing to the woman who had been taking care of Alfred.
"Indeed. A charming creature," Abronsius replied, casting a glance at Mrs Chagal.
Chagal's smile could have been mistaken for a grimace. He didn't dare to look at his wife who was now glaring at him. "What can I do for you, my good sirs?"
"I wish to rent a room. Two beds and a bathroom."
"Of course. Rebecca, why don't you show the young man to his room while I speak with this gentleman?"
Mrs. Chagal said nothing to voice her discontent but instead helped Alfred as he arose from his chair and dried his feet to put on his shoes. On her lead, they went upstairs, the villager's eyes following them as they did. The stairs were made of wood and cracked under their feet as they went up until they reached a small hallway. It was a bit narrow and plunged into a semi darkness, prompting Mrs Chagal to take a lighted candle that stood nearby. The light of the candle made their shadows seem bigger against the wall, and Alfred tried not to pay attention to them as he followed the innkeeper's wife. She led him to the third door on their right, and she took a pair of keys from her pocket and used one to open the door, revealing the room to him.
It was large, with bare walls. Like most inns he stayed in during his travel with Abronsius, the room wasn't fancy, but it had the basic necessities: two beds with a nightstand and a lamp, a desk with two chairs. However, Alfred noticed with delight the room had a large chimney as well as a couple of carpets on the floor and thick curtains to keep the heat in, as well as an adjacent bathroom. The room looked comfy enough. Mrs Chagal bid him goodnight as she left him on his own.
Alfred fell asleep as soon as he changed into his nightclothes and climbed on the bed.
He found himself in the woods, struggling as he walked in the snow. The full moon was casting its bright shadow, making the shadows of the trees seem bigger and menacing. He was wandering alone, the sound of his feet crushing the snow. Finally, he reached the end of the woods and found a field with freshly powdered snow glittering in the moonlight. Alfred breathed a sigh of relief when he saw a village glooming with light from afar and he redoubled his efforts to reach it.
As he kept walking, he soon discovered he wasn't getting closer to the village. He hastened with all his might, but found himself unable to reach it. The more he walked, farther away the village seemed to be, like a prize impossible to seize. Desperation was beginning to eat him and he let himself fall on the snow.
He then noticed something strange. Shadows came from behind him, but they weren't coming from him. They had a strange shape, and he glanced behind.
A bat, then two and three then more were flying from the dark forest, chirping as they went, until a thousand of bats were beating the night with their wings of tight skin. Alfred noticed with nervousness they weren't flying away, in the darkness of the night. They were flying toward him.
Alfred wasn't afraid of bats, yet there was something impressive and definitely terrifying about this storm of bats flying in his direction with their eyes gleaming at him. The sound of their screams and of their wings flapping made him anxious.
He got up and almost slipped on the snow as he did. He could feel the will of his muscles going far beyond what exercise could ever demand, and felt the screaming of his lungs and the frantic beatings of his heart.
The sound of the wings became louder, like a terrifying music in his ears. He took a look behind him and saw the bats were even more numerous than before, so much that he couldn't discern the night sky from the black of the bats, as if these creatures had formed a black sea surrounding him… coming closer to him…
A huge black wave approached him, roaring as it went. Alfred covered his face in a desperate attempt to protect himself. The bats were so close to him he could feel them brushing against his ears, his arms. His legs felt weak and Alfred knew he couldn't stand anymore.
As he fell down on the snow, the endless black sea swallowed him whole and Alfred knew no more.
Bright daylight woke him up, hurting his eyes. Alfred groaned as he turned over the other side of his bed. His sleep had been restless, plagued by strange dreams that robbed him of any feeling of sleep. First, there was the nightmare about bats chasing and surrounding him until Alfred could see nothing but an endless black sea and the sound of fluttering wings, then he dreamt of glowing eyes in the dark following him with a hungry gleam.
Alfred clutched the blanket over him, as if it was a shield of protection against his fears. He remembered how real and terrifying his nightmares had been. Those eyes, watching his every moves… Alfred couldn't forget the glowing blue eyes of the Count von Krolock. Sometimes, it seemed like he could feel the weight of his eyes on him. Yet, Alfred knew it was absurd, the vampire escaped them nights ago, leaving nothing but a mark on Alfred's neck. Perhaps he left something more inside of him. The very thought made Alfred shiver.
He also remembered faceless people singing about garlic, which was the most absurd dream he ever had since coming to Transylvania. Surely it had only been a silly dream… who would sing about garlic?
Alfred winced as he felt a pang of pain in his head. He remembered falling asleep with a headache last night, hoping that sleep would make it better, but he soon discovered his headache came back with a full strength.
He first heard the rustle of cloth before feeling something wet and cold on his head. The cool feeling made him feel slightly better. Instinctively, Alfred brought a hand on the source of the coldness and recognized the sensation of a wet… sponge?
Alfred turned his head on the side to find the most beautiful girl he had ever seen. She had the most lovely face with red haired curls and deep brown eyes.
"Who..." Alfred began to say.
"Shh! Not so loud, or Papa will know I'm here and he will lock me away!" She said, putting a finger to her lips to emphasise her point.
"Your… father?" Alfred asked, confused. He must be dreaming, why else would he sees such a lovely girl by his bedside?
"I'm Sarah, the innkeeper's daughter," she introduced herself. "Where do you come from?"
"Er, from Prussia," Alfred replied. "Why would your father..."
"Prussia!" Sarah exclaimed, curious. "That's so far! You must have seen so many places to come here!"
"The Professor and I had to cross three countries before coming to Transylvania." Alfred explained, as he briefly remembered their travel when he and Abronsius visited Poland, Hungary and Slovakia.
His head was still hurting him and the pain made him feel like his head was weighting him down, yet he didn't want to stop talking with Sarah, or else she would leave. He didn't want her to go, as unreasonable as he knew that thought was.
"Three countries! That's a lot of places!" Sarah said dreamily. "I wonder how it is, out there…"
While she talked, the sponge slowly moved from his forehead to his cheek, trailing down to his neck. Alfred shivered, and he knew it wasn't just from the clammy sensation of the sponge.
"Isn't it soft?" Sarah asked. "This is my favourite sponge, I took it from school."
"Yes, it's… lovely." Alfred awkwardly replied, though he wasn't just talking about the sponge.
"Are there interesting things to see in Prussia?" Sarah asked.
"Oh yes! In Koenigsberg, where I come from, there's a university, a big library, a lot of museums…"
"Are there shops with beautiful dresses and shoes and sponges?" Sarah asked, starry eyed.
"I think so, there are a lot of shops, you can find anything your heart would desire."
"And a ballroom where ladies can dance all the night?"
"I suppose so." Alfred wasn't really the kind of social and outgoing lad, and he was most likely to be found inside a library than in a ballroom where he would be too embarrassed to ask a lady to dance with him.
"It sounds so nice!" Sarah sighed. "I lived all my life in this boring village. There's nothing to do here. How I wish I could go to big cities, buy beautiful dresses and dance! But Papa won't allow me… he always wants to lock me in my room."
"Why would he do that?" Alfred asked.
"Oh he's silly, that's all! He started acting this way when I came back from school… Sometimes, I wonder what Mama saw in him!"
Alfred awkwardly nodded and kept silent. What could he answer with respectfully? Fortunately, he didn't have to as Sarah didn't seem to expect a reply and began to talk again. It seemed she wasn't used to have company. If her father locked her up in her room, it was likely she didn't have any friends and was often left alone. Alfred considered her with sympathy. He knew what it felt like to be friendless.
A part of him hoped he could befriend the girl during his stay, as soon as he felt better. Such a nice and beautiful girl as herself shouldn't have to be alone and miserable. Perhaps he could tell her about the places he'd been?
"What happened to your neck?" Sarah suddenly asked, breaking him out of his daydreams.
"What do you mean?" Alfred asked.
"The bandage, around your neck. What happened?" She asked again, gesturing the bandage on Alfred's neck.
"Oh… it's nothing! Just a little bat bite" Alfred quickly responded as he covered his neck with his blanket.
Well, not quite a bat and rather a vampire bat, Alfred grimly thought.
Sarah arched an eyebrow as her expression turned skeptical, and Alfred's cheeks suddenly felt hot under the girl's gaze. She stared at him for a few tense moments and opened her mouth to speak.
Whatever she wanted to say, she didn't have the opportunity to do so,. The chamber's door swung open violently, making the wooden walls tremble, to reveal a bearded and angry looking man. It was the innkeeper, staring down at them in a scary way. Sarah jumped from where she was seated, recognising the man.
"Sarah! What do you think you're doing?" the man cried out in displeasure. "Didn't I tell you to stay inside your room?"
As he spoke, he walked closer to them and roughly took Sarah by her arm, pulling her away from Alfred and toward the door.
"But Papa…" Sarah tried to protest.
"Hush girl! This is the guests's room, you have nothing to do here! Now go to your room!"
The man left the room, not bothering to acknowledge Alfred, while dragging his daughter away. Alfred stared at them, feeling bewildered. He stayed in his bed for a couple of minutes, wondering if he should interfere and go to them, but the man was such in a bad mood that he didn't want to worsen it, as much for Sarah's sake than his own.
"REBECCA!" he heard the man shouting. "REBECCA! Where's my hammer?"
What a strange fellow this innkeeper is! Alfred thought.
Alfred remained still, seated on his bed and looking at the door from where Sarah and her father left, still stunned at the strange scene that happened. Whatever he expected to happen upon waking up, it certainly wasn't this! How different this inn seemed to be, compared to the previous one…
Professor Abronsius's arrival in the room broke him away from his thoughts. The old man's eyes lightened upon seeing his young assistant awake.
"Alfred, my lad, you're up! How are you feeling?"
"A bit better, Professor." Alfred softly answered with a weak smile.
His professor approached him and sat on the bed side. He put a wrinkled hand on his forehead.
"Hum… it's still a bit warm," Abronsius said. "You will need to rest and – "
He was suddenly interrupted by a loud sound. In synchronicity, Alfred and Abronsius both looked toward their open door, toward the hallway where the sound was coming from. Alfred swore he recognised the familiar sound of a hammer hitting nails. What on earth was the innkeeper doing?
Alfred and Abronsius shared a surprised glance.
"This Chagal fellow seems quite unbalanced!" Abronsius remarked. "However, we will have to stay here for awhile. It will be good for us to rest, and you need to recover. We will need all our strength to be prepared for our next confrontation with the Count!"
After patting Alfred on the leg, he got up and went to unpack their suitcases. Alfred grimaced and his mood darkened. He didn't know if he would ever feel ready for this confrontation, he didn't want to dwell on it though he knew he was only delaying the inevitable, nor what he should expect next..
He would need to recover to clear his thoughts and consider of what he should do and what he should expect. Yes, he thought, that was the best solution.
He hoped nothing strange would happen during their stay, or at least nothing stranger.
Here's for the first chapter, I hope you liked it :) As always, comments are most welcome. Let me know what you think!
We're going to stay in Chagal's inn for a couple of chapters, I hope the wait until we see Krolock again will be worth it :)
Thanks for reading!