Curse of the Count

A/N: Vampire Hunter D belongs to Urban Vision, Streamline Pictures, Hideyuki Kikuchi (Asashi Sonorama), etc. No copyright infringement intended; this fic is merely for the enjoyment of fans. This story is mostly based off the first Vampire Hunter D movie (1985). I know little of the rules established in the original universe and haven't the foggiest idea (pun. laugh. :) ) what's in the books that have yet to be translated into English, so my inconsistencies are either (a) non-deliberate, or (b) deliberate if I found the original material just way too depressing... i.e. D is not immortal for the purposes of this story. Long-living, yes, but not immortal. He doesn't go through horses like there's no breeding/manufacturing program, and I named the hand. ;) And for those interested, yes, I do intend to turn this into a mini-series. Mwah-ha-ha...! Anastasia "Stacy" Moonstone is my own character. "Llaw," the name I gave the symbiote, means "hand" in Welsh (And I just picked that language because it's old and most people aren't familiar with it... "ll" is pronounced "hl.") and his back story is my own creation. "Du" of course is the Welsh word for "black or bitter," which to me fits D's personality to a T (Of course, if you want to argue it's short for "Dolores," be my guest. ;) ). "Dorian" in this story is a variant of "Doran," which means "fist" or "stranger, exile." And the horse, Shadow Fright, is mostly mine, although I'm basing him off the one in the aforementioned movie...

I did write a story that precedes this one, but I'm hoping this one will be better and can be read without the first one...

I think that's everything...

Summary: D is hired to slay a vampire lord and rescue the mayor's daughter... And D's companion makes a startling discovery of what D's quest is really about... Sequel to "The White Witch."

Curse of the Count
Evil Overlady

- Chapter 1 -

He remembered the scream, the shrill of a madwoman. Blood surged in his veins as the nine-year-old boy rushed up the stairs and through the hall. He flew the bedroom door open.

The woman was pale, slumped in the vampire's arms, blood streaming down her neck. The fiend looked up, eyes aglow.

"Mom!!" The boy rushed the creature, stake in hand.

The vampire tried to fend him off, but the boy was unnaturally strong. He slammed the wooden shaft into his chest, using a heavy statuette to hammer it home.

The vampire's attempts to survive were feeble and soon he lost his grip on the mortal plane.

The boy was so overcome with rage, he bared savage white teeth. And for the first time in his life two of his teeth began to grow into long, sharp fangs.

The boy sunk his teeth into the creature's throat and tore off flesh, drinking in his blood.

There would be nothing left of this beast! His mother's death would be avenged!

Footsteps sounded in the doorway and candlelight drifted softly into the room. The maid, Morwyn, gasped. "Dorian, what on earth... Oh! My Lord! Heaven forgive us!"

Dorian looked up, blood covering the lower part of his face. The rage vanished, replaced by sadness... and guilt.

"Dhampir!" one of the younger maids accused. "I knew it! Morwyn, I knew it! You raised a demon child!"

"Mehetty, no..." the nanny protested.

"Dhampir! Dhampir! The Lady has been attacked! Her demon child killed her!"

"N-no..." Dorian stuttered, dropping the undead corpse. "I didn't... I tried to save her..."

One of the guards came into the room, shotgun loaded with rock salt aimed at him.

"No!" Morwyn diverted the shot, and it blew a hole in one of the dressers instead.

Dorian flinched.

"D, run!" Morwyn cried.

He did so, leaping over the bed to crash through the window. Glass shattered around him... like his life...

D woke up.

It was still raining, and D's cyber horse, Shadow Fright, was nuzzling their sleeping companion, the girl witch they'd met in the previous village.

The trees they'd taken shelter in kept out some of the rain, but still water trickled off D's hat.

He envied the innocence in the girl's face. She'd not seen the horrors he had. ...She didn't hate who she was...

"Awake, I see..." came the symbiote's voice from beneath his left hand. "Bad dreams again...?"

Llaw... D knew the deception waiting in that question... D shifted his weight on his sword pommel. "None of your business..."

"I don't see why you insist on bringing that girl along. She's nothing but trouble... Those villagers were after her to begin with, not you."

A partial truth. They were after any and all supernaturals... "All the more reason she's safer with me."

"Excuse me? She's not our problem, D. Let the humans have her..."

"You forget that I am part human."

"Ha!" the hand scoffed. "You will never be human. Your path's written in blood. You were born blood-thirsty. You will die a blood thirster. It's who you are..."

"Enough," D snapped. "Stacy is our guest. She can stay with us for as long as she wishes... End of discussion." D rested his chin on his knuckles.

There was a pause. "Why...?"

D grit his teeth but didn't answer.

"You think there's still hope for this world, don't you?" the symbiote sniffed. "My, D... You have become sentimental since you started hunting for these humans... A single witch won't be enough to oust the vampire nobles from power... Face it. You're on the wrong side..."

D's eyes shone a slight shade of green. "You are my guide, but I am the leader. When you lead me to my prize, I will find you your own body. That is our agreement..."

"It's what you do when you find that 'prize' that worries me..."

"We'll discuss the matter in more details as they become relevant..."

"Huh. Typical..."

A twig cracked loudly and D's vampire-enhanced pointed ears lifted slightly.

Shadow Fright looked up as well.

D motioned for the cyber horse to stay put, and then he slipped into the underbrush...

Merula Hanoch grit her teeth as snap of wood sounded under one careless hoof. Way to go, Merula... Probably woke up the entire forest population...

Her horse, Red, pulled taut the reins in Merula's hand, hanging back, realizing her error.

But freezing wasn't going to take back the sound. I know you're sorry, Red... But we can't just sit here. They'll know where we are.

Suddenly, Red let loose with a shrill ninny and reared up.

"Oh!"

A dark figure grabbed her. Raindrops trickled off the silvery knife suddenly near her throat. "Who are you?" a low male voice asked softly. "Why are you sneaking around my camp?"

Merula resisted the urge to swallow. "I am Merula Hanoch, eldest daughter of Harrell Hanoch, the mayor of Engleberg. We sent word three days ago of our need for a Hunter. Our scouts reported last night that they spotted him in the woods." She raised blue eyes. "May I ask your name, sir?"

"I am D." He lowered the knife. "And I am a Hunter."

Merula slowly eased her way out of his grasp and faced him.

The man was tall and shadowy, wearing a wide-brimmed hat with a jeweled pin in it, and a particularly formidable sword hilt poked out of an opening in his cape.

He held Red's reins. "You shouldn't got wandering outside of town unarmed." He handed her the reins.

"I'm not," she corrected, thumbing the strap of her crossbow slung over her shoulder.

His face held no change in expression.

"Will you ride with me to Engleberg, then?" Merula inquired.

He sheathed his knife. "In a moment. I must awaken my companion."

"My scouts said nothing of a companion," she told him, confused.

"Good," he said and disappeared into the woods again.

Merula rubbed her neck with her free hand then ran shaky fingers through her short black hair. Phew...

"Stacy..." came a soft voice.

Stacy slowly opened teal eyes and moaned, pushing herself onto her knees, brushing zigzagged brunette hair back over her peach-colored blouse... "Uh... How long was I out...?"

"Not long." D slid pale thin fingers through the black leather of Shadow Fright's reins. "Here. Take Shadow Fright."

Stacy rubbed a palm against her head. "You know that when you say 'take Shadow Fright' he actually takes me, don't you?"

That coaxed a small smile out of the normally serious-faced dhampir. "Just take him..."

Stacy pulled her old pack close, dusting off her brown skirt as she stood. "Where are we going?"

"Into town."

"Into Engleberg?" she asked, but he was gone again.

Stacy sighed. "I hate it when he does that... Well, come on, Shadow Fright. No sense in letting him get himself killed..."

The cyber horse whinnied his agreement, lowering his head to help her into the saddle.

Stacy climbed on and settled in while the DL4 picked his way through underbrush.

When they finally made their way into the clearing, Stacy saw D talking to a short-haired woman standing beside a chestnut regular horse. Stacy's eyes brightened. "I've never seen a natural horse before..." she commented, coming up alongside the mare.

The woman looked up and ran a hand over the mare's flank. "Red's one of a kind... My father owns an entire ranch... Just our way of reclaiming what's left that's pure and good in this world..."

"I'm sure there'll be a demand for them..." D assured her. "Particularly in the south where the numbers of demons and vampires are relatively few and the farmers are on the look out for more work animals..."

"I'll be sure to pass on your suggestions to my father..."

D looked at Stacy. "Stacy, this is Merula Hanoch of Engleberg. Merula, this is my companion, Anastasia Moonstone, Stacy."

Stacy lowered her hand. "Pleased to meet you, Merula."

"Likewise," she acknowledged and faced D. "Come. We must hurry. It'll be nightfall soon and the rain won't last for much longer after that. That's when Lord Sertius has promised to unleash his minions on our town for failing to meet his demands..."

The rain had lessened to a light drizzle and Stacy atop Shadow Fright had wrapped herself in a warm black cloak Merula had lent her.

"We are here," Merula announced, standing between D and her horse. She circled her hand around her mouth and called, "Auditus! Merula crinus in! Nullus vexare!"

A shadow in the watchtower beside the giant gates nodded at her and turned away.

D touched a hand to Shadow Fright's shoulder and asked softly of Stacy without turning, "What are they saying...?"

Stacy frowned. "The language these days aren't like those in the books. It's mostly gibberish... but I think it's some sort of code. She ended it by saying, 'No trouble,' which seems to suggest that if she had left that off then the watchman would know she was being coerced."

D lowered his chin. "Good tactic..."

In a moment the sounds of giant working gears roared and the large gates slowly opened.

"Welcome, my friends, to Engleberg!" Merula greeted, leading them in.

Stacy decided to dismount and walk on the other side of D, leading Shadow Fright.

Some of the townspeople had come out from indoors to stare at the new arrivals. Others peered from kerosene lamp lit windows.

Stacy eyed them nervously.

"You'll have to forgive them..." Merula said quietly. "They're not used to outsiders... but they agree our need is dire..."

The moans of the closing gate made Stacy jerk around, startled.

She thought she saw shadowy figures disappear around a building.

D lay a hand on Stacy's shoulder, and she jolted again before calming her breath.

"We'll do what we can to help you," D told Merula.

Merula seemed relieved. "Thank you." She turned. "This way..." She led them to a white-washed building with fancy eave decorations. "My father is expecting you..."

A quiet young man stood on the porch by the door, leaning against the building, sucking on a cigarette, white fedora drawn low.

"Colt will tend to your steed."

Stacy was about to hand over the reins when D's voice stopped her. "My companion will accompany you to the stables. Afterwards perhaps you would be so kind as to show her to our rooms." D looked at the man pointedly.

Stacy glanced at the vampire hunter questioningly. "D?"

The young man bowed his head. "Of course, sir." He gestured to the back of the building. "This way, miss..."

D nodded and, reluctantly, Stacy went along, wishing she had a clue what he was thinking half the time...

D watched the girl leave, feeling Merula's eyes on his back. "You need not have sent Colt to be her escort. I would've done so myself as soon as you and Father were acquainted."

"My mount trusts Stacy. He does not your farm hand," D explained.

"I thought DL4s were programmed to obey. That's why they make such better mounts than wild beasts..."

D faced her. "Shadow Fright is no ordinary DL4," he told her and stalked through the door.

"Okay..." Merula's voice drew out.

Stacy watched the sun set, uneasy, and with it the rain stopped all together.

"I thought Merula said the rain wouldn't stop until after dark," Stacy said shakily.

"The weather here is unpredictable," Colt said, tossing his cigarette down and stomping it out in the wet street before leading them on into the stables. "We keep as many of the stalls clean as possible... Occasionally we catch a stray..."

Stacy blinked. "You do? A stray horse? Where by the two moons do they come from...?"

"Two moons?" Colt cocked his head her way.

Stacy thumbed her backpack straps nervously. "It's, uh, an Ebonian expression..." she said reluctantly.

"Oh," Colt replied slowly then shrugged suede shoulders. "Well, we're not exactly sure... We've been sending scouts to find out. ...They never make it back."

Stacy suppressed a shiver.

The man chuckled. "Oh, don't be like that. Hanging out with that guy's a helluvalot scarier than my story." He guided Shadow Fright into a stall.

Shadow Fright stomped around tentatively then gave a satisfied grunt, and Colt hoisted up some hay and filled his water trough.

"You mean D?" Stacy blinked. "He's not that scary. He's just... quiet. Actually, I saved his life when we first met, and I guess he kinda feels he owes me..." She shrugged.

"Well... Who you choose for companionship is your own business, but in your place I'd choose settling down in some small quiet town to tromping about in the woods... Why are you traveling with him?"

"Uh. ...Well..."

The loud sounds of bells cut her off.

Stacy turned, hand to her chest. "What's that?"

"Trouble..." Colt told her through clenched teeth. "Stay here," he said, grabbed a rifle off a wall mount and ran outside.

Stacy watched him go then grabbed a pitchfork and stood guard outside Shadow Fright's stall.

The cyber horse stopped mid-chew and pricked his ears forward. He whinnied and Stacy whipped around as a vampire burst upward from the hay floor and knocked Stacy to the ground.

The vampire scrutinized the pitchfork and tossed it away.

Several other vampires emerged and started to close in on her and Shadow Fright.

"Mayor Hanoch made a mistake going for help," the first vampire said and his eyes glowed red. "Now, you shall pay..."

Stacy's breath caught in her lungs. She was too afraid even to scream...

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