Dangerous Masquerade

Disclaimer: I do not own Van Helsing, nor any of the characters there within.

Princess Anna Valerious had fallen into nothing short of an ecstatic dream; a most delightful fancy of graceful ball gowns, handsome costumes, and colorful dancing. It was a pleasant atmosphere to be surrounded by these courtiers; all enjoying themselves in their indulgence of life and the feeling was infectious. The room they shared was extravagant; lacking nothing that was of good taste. Beautiful tapestries tiered the walls celebrating a house color she was unfamiliar with. There were many entertainers of different sorts to be seen this evening, each with their own performance to portray. Anna felt somewhat dizzy with the spectacular color and languid décor, or perhaps the vertigo had come from somewhere else.

Her attention turned to her partner and a dull tremor erupted through her spine, as if there was something she should be remembering but could not quite tack it in place to name it. She dimly realized that she and the composed gentleman she was to dance with were in the centre of the ballroom. The music struck up a Hungarian tune around them, raising to waft among the rafters and fall with liquid perfection into their ears. Her partner ran his hand along her arm and she mimicked him with unconsciously matched elegance and their hands met in a lovely arc. She could feel a chill through the fabric of his palm. There was something terribly amiss. Anna tried to pin the feeling to conscious knowledge, but her mind and body refused her command. They waltzed around each other; two perfectly majestic figures among the crowd of hundreds. She only had eyes for him.

No, that could not be right.

A soothing sensation trickled softly into her mind, pacifying her. She ceased her indignant rebellion and relented to be calmed. She wanted the gentleman closer to her and seeming to read her mind, he did so—pulling her from a twirl swiftly and firmly against him. They paused in their dance as his hand reached out gently to cover her mask, shielding her visions. She shut her eyes, unable to reopen them as she felt her mask slip away. Her lips parted in longing, her breath coming in short bursts. His mouth was close to hers and she shuddered in his grasp, a war raging within her. His lips met hers and she could feel her body rise, a helpless whine emitting from her throat.

Dracula!

Having pinned the curse at last, she regained some consciousness of her immediate surroundings; it was not far from the truth except, she realized, she was being held firmly by the greatest enemy of her family for the past nine generations. Yet here she stood, the last of her line and so close to the prize yet it was beyond her grasp. Content for the moment with conscious thought, though she still had no power over her body, she resisted him with what little will she had been allowed. He seemed amused at her efforts and pushed her into the dance once more.

"So how does it feel to be a puppet on my string?" his silky voice washed over her and she shivered, though she was uncertain whether she had trembled at the statement or his languid voice.

"I won't let you trade me count." She countered flatly, ignoring his first statement in hopes that the curt reply might physically harm him. Recalling the conversation he and a colleague of his had been discussing which he seemed to have wanted her to hear. With no hurt in his voice besides the coy toying of his mind tricks, he replied back with calm demeanor.

"And I have no intention of trading you."

Anna closed her eyes briefly as her fear seized her; he had confirmed perhaps her worst fear. "And if I know Van Helsing, which I do, he isn't planning on making a trade either." He pushed her into an elegant spin and snapped her right back, as if she were indeed a toy on a string. "Neither of us ever settled for half". He gripped her hand tightly in his and brought her body firmly against his; his lips almost on hers. His will worked on her to return his desire, but she turned her head from him angrily.

"You make my skin crawl." She snarled coldly. He smiled simply at her words which surprised her; was there nothing she could do to anger him? He moved smoothly behind her, she had difficulty following him with her eyes, he image lost in the sway of the dance. His will enforced on her with firm severity and her head tilted to rest on his shoulder like a trusting lover. His breath fanned over her neck.

"That is not all I could do with your skin..."

She struggled against him, but her body would not respond; she could sense his amused smile. She felt helpless to him as a sudden yearning filled her. She wished for him to bite her—to feel the power he felt, to live the life he lived. But...her family; they would never forgive her. The death of their arch-nemesis rested like a mountain upon her shoulders; her duty had been written in stone since her birth. Their souls depended on her decision.

What was she thinking? She could never join with the enemy! This had to be some trick of the demon's spirit-force.

Dracula's will fell away for a moment and she was free. She fled his embrace and flew for the grand doors of the entrance—but his will returned over her like a storm-cloud descending from the mountains. A chain jerked taut at her neck and the entrance doors suddenly seemed so far away. He transformed her fleeting shy into an elegant twirl and called her back to him. It had all been a ploy, she thought bitterly; cursing him with all the vain names she knew. His cruel smile sent chills through her.

Anna was suddenly filled with hopelessness. She would never escape this monster's grasp. The count was toying with her, she knew, she had become a mere play-thing. She could have choked on her bitterness and disgust, but the vehement reminder of her family's dependence kept her alive.

Dracula waltzed her to a grand mirror and dipped her swiftly, holding her there, forcing her to cling to him. He smiled ruefully at the glass.

"Don't we make a lovely couple?" there was laughter in his voice.

Anna gazed at the mirror to see only her reflection, bent over backward by an unseen force.

"My God..." she moaned as the reflection revealed that she was the only living creature in the ballroom among those who masqueraded life. The count jerked her up so swiftly a few bones popped in protest. She noticed, with great discomfort, their chests were crushed together. She could feel the frightened throb of her heart against his chest but from Dracula, she felt nothing. She peered into his dark eyes with guarded curiosity.

"You have no heart beat." She murmured.

At last, a twinge of indignation flickered across his features. He thrust her back into the dip and ran a soft hand over her stomach and ribs. Her breath caught in her throat and she found herself panting in her struggle to resist him as his trembling hand traveled over her breasts.

"Perhaps, it just needs to be rekindled..."

His words were not just words. Anna gazed up at him through half-closed eyes with numb horror as Dracula's eye-teeth elongated to sharp points and his eyes became a shocking crystal blue. She gasped in terror—she could see her future in those dark pupils and she was...happy. He treated her with the utmost respect and she felt a deep love for him. She, in the reflection, turned to face her; eye-teeth elongating and her eyes became a luminous indigo with streaks of crimson. Herself hissed back at Anna and reached for her lovingly through Dracula's eyes. Anna wanted to collapse into the vision, to be accepted into this future, her fight against the count seemed futile and she was tired—so very tired. Anna could feel herself smile through the counts influence and gave herself wholly to him. She surrendered.

The vision shattered and a blast of cold wind hit Anna's ribcage. The spell was shattered as a heat replaced the biting chill. Dracula was under attack by...fire? The flames engulfed him and he shrieked more in surprise than in pain as his grip slipped from her and she tumbled from his grasp.

Freedom!

It was too good to be true, everything seemed to be moving in slow motion, as Anna caught a movement heading toward her in her peripheral vision. She turned her head to get a better look and the object was a man! A man dressed for a masquerade, heading toward her on an acrobat's swing. He was coming too fast, coming for her. She had had enough of this, enough of these undead and their games. She backed away, ready to spring to the entrance doors, but uncertain of whether to wait for him to pass or leap before him.

She took a moment too late to decide.

The man had her in his arms and they were flying—not like Dracula's forced dancing—no, actual flying up to the balcony. His timberland and leather scent reminded her of something, but she was still drunk with Dracula's influence. His body was firm against hers and she wanted to remain this way forever, with this feeling of safety and compassion, away from her choking duties.

They landed on the balcony and the impact jarred her to her senses and out of her reverie she had so longed for. She stumbled and pressed her back to the wall, she would fight this new adversary tooth and nail if need be, but she felt so very weary; bled of her strength. Dracula had taken much of her with his advantage and she had been left to pick up the scattered pieces.

"Anna," the man who had swung her up and swept her off her feet was patting her cheek gently to awaken her. She could feel Dracula's influence falling away and she tore at his walls in fierce compassion. "Anna, wake up!"

She shook her head and blinked several times, finally free of the spell and angered at her own folly. She angrily ripped the jewelry from her ears and threw them to the floor. Damn him. She had been so close and yet so far away, he had been teasing her.

Her attentions shot to the man who had rescued her form Dracula's clutches and quite literally saved her mortal life; Van Helsing. She was filled with a deep appreciation for him and also something else which she could not identify. She was filled with a deep urge to throw herself over him and press him with hot kisses. She quickly dismissed the notion as heat rose to her cheeks.

She opened her mouth to thank him, but the count below them had begun a speech. Anna would have to speak with Van Helsing on the matter at another time, if there was ever to be.

Fini

A/N: This was, obviously, my favorite scene of the movie and it tore at some primal instinct within my body so ferociously, it just had to be written! I would have to say that the most ironic bit is, I did not have much love for Anna in the movie, but I suppose she won over my liking after viewing the movie at the cinema a few times (it's a curse to have many friends sometimes, they burn up all my cash!) At any rate, I hope you all enjoyed this little story and all reviews will be tremendously appreciated!

Blackfire 18