Shadow of Darkness

Chapter One- The Colour Red

Summary: Princess Anna Valerious and Aleera- Bride of Dracula seemed to have a more personal association than that of the other brides. What linked these two women, above the bonds of the enemy? The bonds of friendship? A prequel to Van Helsing.

Author's Notes: Disclaimer first, unfortunately I don't own any of the characters of Van Helsing, what I wouldn't give for a few minutes with Velkan and that loincloth!

What caught my attention first and inspired this fic, was that Anna and Aleera were on a first name basis, and then throughout the movie, the more personal interest Aleera took in fighting the gypsy princess. Another thing that caught my attention were Aleera's words (and I may be paraphrasing here)- 'Take comfort in the fact that I will cry over your death Anna." It seemed to me that the two had a history beyond Dracula and it is this I am exploring in this fic, it's only a personal opinion because it stirred the plot bunnies in my brain. When Anna told Van Helsing Dracula had robbed her of everything and everyone she cared about, perhaps she not only lost her family, but also, her best friend…

The sun rose a pale silken yellow over the trees, its rays cutting through the crisp Transylvanian morning to stir the slumbering populace to another day of work.

Velkan Valerious had been awake since the moon had first began to wane the evening before, standing in the west tower of Valerious Manor and watching the occasional flash of electricity pierce the darkness from the neighbouring 'Castle Frankenstein' as it had been dubbed by the villagers.

Dark work was afoot in that place. The mysterious Dr. Victor Frankenstein had arrived in the village a little less than a year ago and suddenly, instances of grave robbery had become commonplace, or sometimes corpses would be left mutilated, missing a limb or an organ and abandoned in the street.

Death was no stranger to Transylvania, especially in those parts, thanks to the elusive Count Vladislaus Dracula and his demonic Brides, who swept off with two or three villagers a month. At least that was what the villagers were led to believe by that slimy 'Top Hat' the gravedigger. In reality Velkan knew the number of victims to the vampires' bloodlust was probably double or triple that, the bodies were just never recovered.

But still, Dracula and his horde never troubled themselves with sacking the graves of the already deceased, any poor soul the creatures 'turned' into one of them inevitably found their own way to the Count's presence. No, Frankenstein was the cause of these robberies, there was just no proof yet, and no incentive for the villagers to concern themselves with the disappearances. What were the dead to them, when it was a battle enough for them to stay alive in the face of Dracula? But Velkan suspected that Dracula was not 'innocent' in all of this. The castle Frankenstein acquired had long been a suspected haunt for the vampiric Lord, he would not simply abandon it for the convenience of an eccentric doctor lightly.

"Prince Velkan." The dark haired man turned at the voice, he had sent his friend Costel to await news that night, having had a feeling that Frankenstein's ravages on the village's graveyard would continue.

"It happened again."


"A family member of Marius' I believe. The whole body taken this time, dug free of it's grave some time in the night."

"And there were no witnesses?" Velkan's eyes hardened as he looked back up to the now darkened and dormant castle opposite.

"None, there was another bride attack last night, Marishka alone to begin with I believe, but soon after the first attack they both kept us busy."

"I see."

"The villagers are growing restless my friend, Top Hat is stirring them up once again, I fear they will soon lay siege to Frankenstein's castle, and end up prey for the Count and his brides."

"My father holds sway over them yet. Many are too cowardly to act. It will take a great injustice for them to worry too greatly about the doctor's dealings. Keep a sharp eye. I want to be informed of new developments."

"As you wish Velkan."

And with the echo of footsteps and the clang of the door, Velkan was left alone with his thoughts once more.

"Anna my love! The town is in an uproar!" Princess Anna Valerious felt a pair of swift arms wrap around her shoulders in a tight grip.

"Aleera, must you creep up on me so, I could have killed you." Anna chided thrusting the dagger she had grabbed in defense back into her belt as her auburn haired friend swirled around to walk alongside her. The other girl was not quite as tall as Anna, but had her figure, lithe body covered by a dark blue skirt down to her ankles, and an airy white blouse tightened around her abdomen by a black corset.

"That would have soured our relationship somewhat I agree." Aleera laughed as the two walked into the town square, the other pausing Anna briefly so that she could admire a bejewelled necklace on a trader's stall.

"Another body?" Anna queried as Aleera sighed dramatically and pulled them away from the stall, lamenting that she was unable to buy the trinket with her meagre amount of money.

"Or the lack of it." Aleera giggled. She had a morbid fascination with such occurrences, and the recent snatch of grave robberies only heightened her interest.

"Strange, Velkan did not mention there were any new thefts when I saw him this morning." Anna frowned, she disliked it when her brother withheld information from her, he reasoned it made her go looking for trouble, and that her inquisitive nature was a danger to the family. She knew well enough the risks presented by Dracula, but she longed to bring honour to her family and end the curse that had plagued them for centuries by slaying the fiend.

"He probably did not want to worry you, what is one more body for a crazy professor, we must concern ourselves with Verona and Marishka. My Aunt Teodara was almost carried off by Marishka last night, but Razvan and Radu beat her off." Aleera's eyes dropped to the ground in a moment of seriousness.

"The attacks are becoming closer to home Anna, you have lost much, but my family has been lucky, until now."

"I know Aleera, but have faith, my father, my brother and I remain, and we will vanquish Dracula, before he brings more sorrow to our land." Anna promised, her dark eyes flashing. Dracula had killed her mother himself, attacking in daylight when she and Anna had been shopping in the square. It had happened over a decade ago, when Anna was still a child. The day had been dark and rain had drizzled all morning, but even in such conditions it was rare if not unheard of for the Vampiric Count to venture out himself for the kill. But silent and deadly as the plague he had swooped in his heinous winged form and tore her mother away from her grasping hand, rising into the air and sinking his vicious fangs into her neck right there, before draining her dry and dropping her back into the square with no more fuss than had he been swatting an insect. Then he vanished, as swiftly as he had come. The square had become silent, transfixed by the terrible scene, but unable and unwilling to help. Anna had screamed then, having been rendered speechless by the vampire's horrific appearance. But her mother had fallen in front of her, fair face withered as the life had been drained from her, and she did not stop screaming until Velkan had arrived and dragged her home with tears on his face, and her eyes were forever imprinted with the image of her beloved life giver, twisted and broken upon the stone. It was a small mercy Dracula had not turned her, Anna would not have been able to live if her mother had been turned into that which her family hated and fought against for centuries, and became the vampire's lover. The thought turned her stomach. She stood now upon the place where her mother had fallen, chilled to the bone.

"I know, the last of your family will bring peace back to us, you will make your ancestors proud Anna dear." Aleera smiled sadly and squeezed her friend's shoulder. The dark haired beauty often lapsed into memory, she had lost so much in her short life, and from birth had been trained to fight against the vampires and demons that haunted the land, bound by the promise her ancestor had made to slay Dracula or else have his family burn in the fires of hell for eternity. Aleera pitied her friend and would not have wished for Anna's life, although, she supposed she wished to marry into it.

"Velkan would be lucky to have you Aleera, you are more loyal than our family deserves." Anna smiled thinly. Aleera fairly glowed at the compliment. Her interest in the Prince was no secret, but the two had been dancing around each other for many months now. Aleera was enough a sister in Anna's eyes as it was, if only Velkan would make it so in name too.

"When does your father leave for Rome valiant Anna?" Aleera questioned with a glance up at the cheerful sun in the sky. It was not often for a bright and cloudless day in Transylvania, so the townsfolk duly noted it when on occasion it did happen.

"A few months yet, there is much to be done before he leaves. I believe he is still wary about leaving Velkan and I on our own, after what happened the last time he ventured out for help." Anna sighed, the Wolfman had killed their uncle Petre when he and Velkan and other members of their clan had gone into the forest to track Dracula's servant over a year ago. Anna had been lef tin the village to protect the other villagers from the Brides should they attack. Anna's father had believed that if he had been there, with his greater experience in hunting Dracula's spawn, he could have saved his brother's life. As it was, Velkan and the other men had to kill Petre before he became that which they hunted, at their uncle's demand, before continuing on to find the werewolf. And even then they only succeeded in injuring the beast before it fled. Anna did not know if she would have had the strength to kill one of her kinsmen had she been in her brother's position, true her uncle would have become a killer, and liable to become controlled by Dracula, but he had still been family. There was too little of it these days to cast a member aside so easily.

"Who does he ask for help, who would care about the plight of our poor village out in the wider world?" Aleera queried, brushing a strand of her reddish-brown hair out of her eyes.

"I do not know, he will not tell me. But I believe it has something to do with that man, Van Helsing, whose name is spread wherever murder and mayhem travel. He is a killer, as far as the stories tell, innocent men fall where he goes. But I have heard Father talking with my brother about help from a holy source in Rome, our ancestors sought help there in darker days than this, when Dracula first gave his soul to Satan. And Rome is said to be Van Helsing's home. Father called him a holy man, though I cannot see how."

Aleera's eyes widened at this new controversy, she had indeed heard the tales of this man, but why the Valerious family would seek help from him was not for her to guess, though she would try.

"Perhaps you could pry some clue from Velkan?" She suggested, eager for gossip on this man.

Anna sighed. "It is not from lack of trying. Perhaps your…ample charms can be more persuasive Aleera." She smirked at her friend who grinned and nodded.

"I will do my best. Though of course it is only for your benefit dear Anna." She said innocently, with a gleam in her eye.

"Of course, a selfless act of friendship." Anna agreed with a roll of her dark eyes.

The two laughed and began the trek back up to Valerious Manor as the day's first clouds began to roll across the sky.

Count Vladislaus Dracula's eyes snapped open as he raised himself up and through the barrier of his icy coffin to stand in the great hall of his Castle. His beautiful brides were awaiting him. Dark haired Verona and golden waved Marishka clung to each other by his bed, pouting in the seductive manner that they were best at. Dracula looked between them, thinking idly that something was missing from the picture.

"My lord." Verona purred as the two flew forward to stand in front of him in the blink of an eye.

"We hunger." Marishka supplied as she took one of the Count's ringed hands and began to kiss it eagerly.

"Why is this?" Dracula asked absently as Verona mirrored her counterpart's actions with his other hand.

"We were discouraged by those peasants last night, they fought back. Poor Marishka was beaten most tiresomely with their pitchforks and spikes when she tried to snatch a woman." The dark headed vampiress explained in between kisses.

"And once they had been alerted, they retreated back inside, and we were left with only one man between us." Marishka sulked.

"My poor brides. How…disappointing for you. You really do need an extra pair of wings to aid you in your hunt for food. But no matter, soon, we will have hundreds of little hellspawn to help us. Once that fool Frankenstein has created his beast, we will have all we need to awaken our babies to life."

"Oh yes Master, it will be wonderful!" Verona smiled toothily.

"And that pitiful Valerious is plotting to leave for help, well, I have plans for him too. Only three left to die, and then my entire cursed family will rot in hell for what they did to me." Dracula laughed maliciously.

"What of his children lord?" Marishka asked, eyes glinting.

"Can we play with them?" Verona finished the other bride's thought with a smile.

"Not yet, my dears. We will savour their defeat, one by one. They will pay dearly for causing me such trouble. That prince greatly inconvenienced me by injuring my werewolf. He will be the next to go." Dracula declared haughtily.

The two brides laughed along with their lord as the three retreated back through the gates of ice to slumber once more. As he drifted into a dreamless slumber, Dracula realised what it was that was missing from his demonic family. The colour red.

Well that's chapter one, more of an introduction and a set up than a real chapter, as it's more exposition than story. But it needs to be said to give you the situation. Next chapter there will be more action, more Anna and Aleera, and more Brides. I hope it doesn't seem contrived, I'm going to try and build up more of a back story for the two women in the next chapter. Tell me if it has potential, flames will be used to roast my marshmallows. Hope to see you next chapter!