Note: Well I hope people will still read this, I've become a little bit of a career girl so sadly my writings taking a bit of a back seat. Blame my boss and her haunted Castle (I'm not joking either can't spend a day at work without dark figures walking past the door or something flying across the room!)
Here's chapter 33 finally thanks to everyone whose still sticking with my story hopefully I'll get my act together in the next few weeks and aim for regular updates!
Thanks to all my reviewers!
X-kate-X: Thanks for a great review!!! It's great for my confidence when people really seem to enjoy my writing (and makes me feel really guilty when I don't update lol)
Christine Marquez: So your suspicious of Father Abbot? You'll have to keep reading to find out if you should be or not! So here's the update you keep asking me for I officially give you permission to shower me with abuse every time I take too long to update! Xx
JeanieBeanie33: I think it would be the worse thing in the world to be immortal and alone, can't imagine anything worse so a lot of my fears are in this story and hopefully I portray them well enough. Gave myself some fun nightmares with that last chapter anyway, I know I creeped Marston out good and proper.
THE GIPPER; lol you never know I might get into a bad mood and just decide everybody should die. Thanks for another great review hope you'll keep reading!
Helioqueen; thanks for the advice, sometimes I do feel like the stories running away with me hopefully I'll be able to stay on topic all the way through.
filteredlight: Yay new reviewer!!! Thanks for the review hope I haven't made you wait too long for this!
Carl handed Sarah a glass of water and she gulped it down greedily muttering her thanks as he went to refill it. The Cardinal sat opposite her watching her over his steepled fingers. She shifted under his scrutiny looking around the small office with forged interest and trying not to feel the dull aching of her exhausted limbs.
"You say he was in the lower part of the building." He repeated. She looked up and nodded her agreement for the thousandth time.
"Near Father Abbot's room."
"What were you doing out alone at this time of night?" Carl asked handing her another water. She stared at it.
"I just wanted some air."
The Cardinal looked at her sternly. "Foolishness!" he said sharply. "After today's casualties no one should be walking alone even within the Vatican limits." She flushed angrily.
"I know it was stupid…"
He nodded sharply. "If you continue to act rashly I will have Anna confine you to your quarters."
She glared at him sulkily, her hands were still shaking from her encounter and he was treating her like an eight year old? "Fine, whatever but the point is the Necromancer's lurking around here somewhere! Isn't that more important? Shouldn't you be mobilising the troops, searching the base?"
The Cardinal sighed impatiently. "Clearly your shaken but it's late and it's very easy to get lost in the lower levels when you don't know your way. You admitted yourself that you were feeling panicky when you couldn't find the stairs."
Sarah glanced from the Cardinal to Carl in confusion. What was he suggesting?
"There are a number of monks who walk the levels at night and you didn't see his face correct?"
She sat back shocked tears pricking her eyes. "You don't believe me?"
"It's not that we don't believe you." Carl recoiled slightly at her pointed look. "It's just…you were acting slightly hysterical."
Sarah froze staring at him in disbelief how could he say that to her, after everything they'd been through.
The Cardinal nodded "I agree, the past few days have been more than a little stressful for you…and given your history…" He paused fixing her with a calculating stare. "Well, some delusions are expected."
She felt the blood drain from her face and gaped at him in horror, Carl avoided her eyes staring instead at the candle flame.
She fought to keep her voice steady "so-so you're saying that I imagined it?" she demanded.
The Cardinal smiled as though she understood him perfectly. "Some rest is what I recommend." He stated his gaze returning to the papers on his desk. With dawning anger she realised he'd just dismissed her. With one more useless glance in Carl's direction she stood mutely and made her way to the door. Her fingers trembled as she grasped the handle and slipped numbly back to the dormitories.
Dracula watched her from the shadows if she sensed him she didn't look up making her way swiftly and nervously towards her friends. When she broke into a run down the darkest corridor he didn't blame her for her fear.
Van Helsing grumbled his annoyance stomping through the flooded woodland path. His horse stumbled miserably in his wake it's head hanging low through exhaustion. He'd been walking alone for three days now his boots and coat saturated with the endless rain that had plagued him since he'd crossed the border and entered Hungary. It was as though God himself were trying to drive him back, but nothing short of the complete angelic horde would keep him from Anna.
Even when he found his way barred by floods or the forest impassable he ignored the signs and continued on his way. By the fourth day when he stood seething with anguish and exhaustion staring at the empty space where a bridge had once stood he'd become aware of a voice telling him calmly and sweetly the "Everything happens for a reason." He couldn't remember now who'd said it, he'd known many such people in his unnaturally long life who could be guilty of such a statement. Now it haunted his every hindered step.
Each night staring into his campfire he wondered what that reason might be. Anna wasn't dead, of that he was certain so why couldn't he get to her? Why was he being forced from Transylvania?
The fifth day he found that his horse had died in its sleep and that he was suddenly fighting a bitter blizzard.
Exhausted and freezing he turned his wrath up to the heavens. "What the hell do you want from me?" he spat into the wind snowflakes blinding him. "God! Why do you care now where I go? Why now?"
"God has a plan Gabriel and I doubt he will be very forth coming if you yell like that."
Van Helsing whirled in astonishment squinting through the blizzard. A dark shape regarded him calmly leaning against a tree. Van Helsing pulled his gun and blinked as it vanished. "What the hell? Demon! Show yourself!"
He forced himself through the waist high powder astonished to see no tracks in the snow. Letting out a breath he shook off his hat replacing it thoughtfully. I am losing what little sanity I have left. He decided miserably.
Dracula watched the Hunter continue along his way. "You always were stubborn." He muttered in annoyance.
The Hunter froze turning sharply. This time Dracula was closer rocking back on his heels in the white his fingers making patterns in the snow. "You never had the patience to listen when God was talking to you."
He smiled up at his old friend in amusement. Van Helsing stared at him, his mouth agape. "Your not here demon."
Dracula stood stepping elegantly forward and bowing patronisingly. "Indeed not, I am a mirage if you will, an apparition. Perhaps that rabbit you ate wasn't quite cooked correctly?" Van Helsing stared at him coldly. "Does that help you?" the Count asked eagerly.
The Hunter regarded him coldly. "Why are you here?"
"To guide you of course."
"I asked for answers from God, not the Devil."
The Count grinned wickedly. "Ah, but which has the answers for you?"
Van Helsing scowled turning on his heel. "Your dead, act like it." He called back over his shoulder.
"She's not in Romania!" Dracula called suddenly.
Van Helsing faltered at that but when he turned the Count had vanished. He stood for a moment before taking a tentative step forward towards the Counts absent snow drawings. A rough sketch of Italy adorned the snow a tiny cross adorning the west coast.
"She's not in Romania."
"She's in Rome?"
Even as he uttered those words the wind ceased and the snow stopped.
Chris walked hurriedly along the familiar woodland track, for the last four days he'd returned to the Alton Woods, sitting for hours under the chained tree waiting and hoping to see the flash of light and another world to appear before his eyes.
He felt sick as he settled in his natural seat among the trees roots wondering briefly how many of his friends would make it back when the portal did appear, if it appeared at all.
Today would be the day, today they would come back he told himself just as he had the day before and the day before that as he began his silent solitary vigil.
"Are you sure it was the Necromancer?" Tony asked again squinting at Sarah from his bedroll. She was sitting at the table by the window staring miserably into the flame of the candle.
She nodded closing her eyes in frustration. "I already told you, it was definitely him in all his perverted, menacing, homicidal, glory." She said miserably picking at the drops of melted wax that had pooled around the base of the candle.
"And he showed you the future?" Marston muttered sceptically.
"Not exactly…he said it was what could happen…"
"What was it like?" Jory asked eagerly.
She shuddered but was saved answering when Amie gasped loudly. "Oh my God, I'm going to be poor aren't I? That's what you don't want to tell me!" She grabbed Bob burying her head in his shoulder. "We're going to be poor! And our babies will have to live in sacks."
Her boyfriend nodded gravely. "Like me."
She pulled back rolling her eyes sarcastically. "Yes like you, many moons ago."
They both glanced up when Sarah uttered a small sob burying her head in her arms. Marston shuffled over to her putting his arm round her. "Hey, come on don't cry."
She shook her head looking up at him tears streaming down her face. "I saw it Marston we were all dead, all of us and Chris, we died here!"
Amie pulled her into a hug stroking her hair "Sarah, Chris isn't here is he?"
The girl blinked startled and pulled back to stare at her friend. "He didn't come with us this time." Amie said patiently smiling.
Sarah closed her eyes in relief. "No he didn't."
"So it can't be real can it?"
She opened her eyes blinking back tears of relief "No…but it felt so real."
The group glanced up as the door opened and Anna walked in, Velkan beaming around them all from her arms. Amie grinned broadly as the Princess handed him over for a cuddle.
Carl wandered in behind the princess colouring when he saw Sarah avoiding his gaze. "Your still angry then?" he asked tentatively.
Sarah looked at him coldly. "I was never angry Carl, I was scared and I needed you as a friend in there."
He had the decency to look ashamed of himself at least.
Anna scowled at him then crouched down so she was level with the young woman. "What did the Necromancer say to you?"
She looked up at the princess and nearly burst into fresh tears to see the trust in her eyes. "You believe me."
Anna smiled and drew the girl into a sisterly hug. For the first time she felt safe, her trembling subsided somewhat, the princess pulled back brushing the girl's hair back off her face. "What did he say?"
"He…he said something about bringing Dracula back." Sarah whispered her throat harsh. "…he wanted me to help him do it…" she swallowed hard. Staring down at her feet, what would Anna say if she knew she had been speaking to Dracula all this time, that she'd been betraying her trust? She'd known about Van Helsing, knew he was alive now so why hadn't she said something? The answer was simple, she was afraid. Such a coward, terrified that they would all turn away from her, fear her even…maybe they should.
Anna sighed wearily taking a seat in the armchair by the fire. "So that's it." She muttered.
The group had fallen deathly silent. Amie hugged Velkan tightly to her. "He couldn't could he? He can't bring The Dracula back?"
Jory frowned. "Even if he did he'd just come back like the others wouldn't he?"
"Yeah!" Marston agreed cheerfully. "We'd just cut his head off and that would be it!"
Carl shook his head fearfully. "Dracula was already dead before, God knows what he would come back as or what the Necromancer would gain from him."
"Power." Sarah answered hesitantly. "He wants power."
Anna nodded thoughtfully, her face pale. "I hope it's that simple."
Sarah smiled "Thanks Anna, at least you don't think I was being "hysterical" a poor swooning woman, right Carl?"
"Damn right!" Tony exclaimed grinning.
She threw a pillow at him, which he dodged with practiced ease. Pleased when he saw the smallest smile grace her face.
Carl settled himself on the edge of one of the cots keeping his silence.
Anna spoke for him. "The Cardinal is taking your accusations seriously even if he doesn't quite believe them."
"Nice to know." Bob scoffed.
The Princess sent him wry smile. "But still the Necromancer was here, he is getting more powerful and even the Vatican won't protect us for long."
"We need Van Helsing." Sarah whispered.
Anna nodded. She looked to where Velkan had fallen asleep in Amie's lap her gaze longing and distant.
Tony frowned. "How long has he been missing now?"
"Seven months." Carl answered quickly. He turned to Sarah obviously trying to make amends. "It's All Saints Eve tomorrow you know, Hallo'ween."
She glanced up with interest. "Really?"
He nodded eagerly. "Well today actually" he amended glancing at the clock on the mantle as its hands shuddered on to midnight. "The Vatican celebrates with a feast and I dare say you are all invited."
"Would they really still do that after they lost their friends today?" Marston asked quietly.
The Friar nodded. "More so because of that."
Anna rose and prised the now sleeping baby from Amie. "It's been a long day, I think we all should get some sleep." She decided.
Carl nodded and left Anna following close behind. Sarah bit her lip worriedly before calling out. "Princess?" Anna turned expectantly. "Lock your door tonight."
The Princess smiled and nodded closing the door close behind her.
"Thank God for real food!" Jory laughed tearing off a piece of chicken happily.
Amie stared down at her plate sulkily. "I can't eat this! All the vegetables have touched dead animals, the gravy is even made with the dead animals!"
Sarah smiled at her and passed her a bowl of potatoes dripping with butter. "These haven't touched anything, they should be alright."
Bob glanced up with a mouthful of chicken. "Ohh potatoes!!" he leant over his girlfriend and started to rummage in the bowl with his chicken laden fork looking for the best one. He pulled it out triumphantly and added his prize to his groaning plate.
The two girls stared at him and he flushed suddenly realising he'd just contaminated Amie's potatoes. He turned glared at Jory. "You know I blame you for this." He muttered darkly.
Jory grinned. "Just because I ate one kangaroo burger in front of her."
Anna chuckled. "Don't worry Amie I've had one of the chefs prepare you something vegetarian."
The girl visibly brightened when a plate of steamed vegetables and potatoes was placed in front of her.
Despite the grisly events of the previous day the banqueting hall was buzzing with chatter and laughter. Though some of the monks avoided Anna and her friends several had made attempts to include them in conversation and Tony was busy trying to learn as much Italian as he could from an energetic young friar called Father Thomas.
Sarah laughed nudging Marston as Tony struggled over a difficult sentence. "I swear he's only learning that so he can insult me in three languages."
"Yeah, he already swears openly in English but you should hear him when he gets going in Cantonese!"
A lone monk stood by the door watching the crowd with calculating eyes. Anna had glimpsed him as she'd entered the hall and been uncomfortably aware of his stare for the past half hour. She carried on with her meal joining the groups banter and engaging some of the friendlier monks in conversation but all the time her attention was on him. When he suddenly began to sidle over to their table she tensed and was ready when the knife slipped from his wrist slashing towards her neck.
Sarah screamed in shock as the Princess dived across the table kicking out and catching the monk in the chin with a sickening crunch. The monks at the other end of the room stared in mute shock that would have been comical if the attacker hadn't let out a guttural roar and leapt after Anna stepping in Amie's dinner as he went.
"I won't have this in my Vatican!" the Cardinal yelled angrily.
Order members around the room began to advance on the pair as Anna did her best to hold the monk off clearly trying her best not to hurt him more than necessary. "Sarah your sword!" She cried out.
Ever since her encounter with the Necromancer Sarah had kept her sword close much to the annoyance of the Cardinal. Anna held the Monk off with one hand and held out the other for the sword but before Sarah could pass it over Anna lost her grip and the monk took his chance sinking his dagger in to the flesh of her shoulder.
Anna gritted her teeth against the pain and twisted her body catching the monk off balance. He gasped in surprise as she swung him round using his own weight against him until he found himself staring up at her from the banquet table.
Several monks from the order seized his wrists and feet pinning him while Tony and Jory pulled Anna away. She slumped against the wall grunting with pain as Carl grasped the end of the dagger and tore it free from her shoulder.
"It's not bad, just a flesh wound." The friar reassured her hurriedly tearing the hem of his robes and binding the wound.
A shriek of surprise made them look back to where the monk still struggled. The crowd that had gathered had stepped back sharply some of the monks hurrying from the room whilst others fell to their knees praying fervently to the saints that adorned the walls.
Anna pulled away from Carl fighting her way through the throng until she stood staring at her attacker lying spread eagled on the table amid the wasted food and broken glasses. His robes had fallen open revealing a great decaying chasm in his chest. Maggots slithered and writhed among protruding ribs and the remains of the organs, a withered parchment heart hung uselessly amid bone and muscle.
Sarah hurried up beside the princess staring in morbid fascination as the creature struggled against its disgusted captors.
"Dead." The Princess finished coldly. She looked up and caught the Cardinal's eyes nodding towards the struggling corpse. His cold stare narrowed and he bowed his head towards her before turning and striding away.
Anna watched him leave then turned to the pale girl beside her. "Sarah, your sword." Sarah looked up at her and unsheathed her sword passing it shakily to the Princess.
Anna tested its weight and balance wincing as it tugged on her injured shoulder. Slowly with morbid ceremony she made her way to the tableside so that for a moment she stood at the head of a human pentagram mirroring the sacrificial ceremonies of the ancients.
The corpse spat and moaned at her, staring up with murderous hate as she raised the blade and brought it singing down on to the creature's neck.
Sarah watched numbly, vaguely remembering a time when she was innocent of such things and might have shied away from the sight. Now she watched the head roll and heard the sound of her sword sticking in bone and flesh. When had she gotten used to this?
The teens stood silently as the monks began the task of preparing the body for burning.
"The Necromancer's become bolder." Carl remarked sadly.
Marston shivered. "Did this feel like a message to anyone else? A kind of horse-head-in-your-bed-I-can-kill-you-at-any-time warning?"
Sarah turned to stare at him in realisation. "He's showing me that the vision will come true." She whispered. Amie frowned "We already said that it won't"
"Yeah but do we want to take the risk?" Bob wondered.
Tony scowled. "So what can we do to stop it? Sarah's not going to join him anytime soon so the only other option is that we leave."
Anna nodded. "Yes, we'll leave Rome and the Vatican."
"Not just Rome." Sarah countered. "We have to leave here, this world, we have to go home."
Anna closed her eyes briefly and let out a breath. "This is not the place to discuss this." She led the way back to the dormitory closing and locking the door securely behind them. Sarah settled herself beside the fire taking small comfort from the heat of the flames and trying not to look at Dracula's lone silhouette leaning casually against the mantel.
"We already said that we can't go home." Amie said suddenly snuggling up to Bob on the edge of her bedroll. "We're too far from the portal aren't we?"
"We'd have to go all the way back to Vaseria to do it and the Necromancer would pick us off on the way." Jory agreed.
Carl cleared his throat reluctantly. "er…actually all you need is a weak point but they're difficult to locate, we only know about the one you came through because you came through it."
Sarah looked up suddenly her eyes shining with new hope. "It's Halloween Carl, Samhain, the one day the barriers are weak everywhere."
"That's convenient." Bob quipped.
Anna looked at them all sadly. "So you would go? If given the choice you would leave us? Leave Van Helsing?"
Sarah shook her head. "I'll stay." She said firmly and turned to her friends. "You'll all go."
Six angry voices rose at once. "Like hell we will!"
"We wouldn't leave you here."
"Don't be an idiot!"
She glared at them all. "I'm not going to let you stay here if it means you'll die!" she screamed at them angrily.
"That's not your decision!" Marston yelled back jumping to his feet. "You didn't force us to come we chose to, because we want to help. Anna and Carl and Van Helsing mean just as much to us!"
"We knew the risk when we came here." Amie shouted suddenly. "We knew what happened last time and we knew it might happen again to any of us."
"What makes you think we'll leave just because you tell us to Sarah?" Bob asked angrily.
She looked from one to the other trembling with her urgency and need to see them safe. Every time they looked at her she saw their eyes vacant and staring their expressions frozen in deepest agony. She glanced over at Carl and saw the portal device in his hands; he was fingering it nervously staring from one determined expression to the other in fear and confusion. Quickly she dashed forwards and snatched it from his fingers.
"What are you doing?" Marston yelled in shock.
"Making the decision for you!"
She tore the leather glove off her injured had letting the bandage fall loose across her skin.
"What the fuck!" Jory swore trying to climb over the beds towards her.
"Sarah stop it!" Amie yelled fearfully.
"You've lost it!"
She looked up to see Tony and Marston diving for her and quickly dragged her dagger across the still healing cut feeling it burn and tear under the blade.
Marston caught her arms trying to grab the device. She lost her footing and fell to the floor Tony made a wild grab for her arm but she dragged it away and with a cry of pain pressed her bloody hand to the device completing the circuit and pressed the button.
A brilliant white light exploded out from the device knocking the two boys away. A warm wind filled the room pulling at their hair and clothes and suddenly warm summer sunshine caressed their skin and shone brightly from the lush woodland beyond the breach.
"Go! Whilst it's open, you have the option take it!" Sarah screamed.
Her friends stared at her from the other side of the room. One by one they backed away from the opening staring at their home world but unwilling to enter it.
"We told you, we're staying." Amie said stubbornly.
Anna stepped up beside Sarah. "If you stay you'll die." She said sadly. "Go."
Tony shook his head. "No."
Carl stared into the portal. "er…theirs something moving in there." He stammered.
The teens stopped arguing and stared into the portal. Something large was running towards it, getting closer and closer.
"It's closing!" Marston called suddenly.
Sarah stared as the figure leapt forward striking the barrier just as the portal wavered and flashed out of existence.
The group stood in shock staring at the figure crouched in the center of the room.
Amie stepped forward cautiously. "Chris?!"
Chris straightened and blinked round at the group casually brushing twigs and leaves from his hair a bright grin splitting his features. "Hey guys!"
Sarah stood gaping at him; Marston snatched the portal device from her fingers waving it happily in front of her. "Well that backfired a bit didn't it!" he exclaimed cheerfully.
Note: hope you all like it, please review the more reviews I get the guiltier I'll feel and the faster I'll update xxx