I do not own Count Dracula…unfortunately.
Like most stories, this one begins with a girl.
However unlike most stories there shall be no beautiful princesses, fair maidens, or brave heroines, but rather a small and simply unremarkable girl named Valerie, whose life was about to take a remarkable turn.
It begins at night, in the depths of the thick Transylvanian forest where wonders our so called heroine. Normally it wasn't a good idea to be walking within the forest alone, especially at night, and even more especially if you're an unarmed girl of no warrior background. And considering that young Valerie had not even a fork on her person, and had she a gun she certainly wouldn't know how to fire it, I think it is safe to assume that her midnight stroll through this particular forest was of very poor planning.
Perhaps you think her brave to do such a thing, but I'm here to inform you that she was not brave, just immensely foolish.
So then why, you ask, is this foolish girl in a place she clearly ought not to be? Let us find out…
"Oh what have I done?" Valerie moaned, whipping the blood from her knees as she struggled to regain her balance after tripping more times than she could even count. Her dress, which she thought was quite repellent to look at in general, was now in an even worse condition than it normally was, tattered and stained with dirt and blood. She sighed and for the first time in her life was thankful that her dress was brown, not the light blue of her sisters that she had always envied and pinned for.
Some where in the distance a wolf screamed, and Valerie could not prevent the tears of fear that poured from her eyes.
"What have I done?" She repeated, pulling her thin shall tightly around herself in a desperate attempt to block out the bitter cold that hung in the air like an icy fog. "What am I even doing here?"
She fell once more, her leg ensnared in the vines that seemed to move of their own accord. She let out a startled gasp as her hand landed upon something sharp, easily cutting through her skin. It took her a while before she could muster the strength to stand again, the events of this afternoon flashing through her mind.
In truth, she didn't know why she had left the comforts of her small bedroom to roam the very forest that had terrified her since she was a child. It was stupid really, a moment of sheer insanity where her rage and desperation outweighed all logic and common sense, and sent her storming into the woods from which she would probably never return.
It began, like most of the problems in Valerie's life, with her sister. And even now as her sister's name, Antoinette, echoed through her mind she felt a shock of fury blaze through her, and for a moment, just a moment, anger replaced any fear she had and sent her onward through the forest. But that moment lasted for only a few seconds, and soon enough she was once again shaking with sobs of panic.
"Stupid Antoinette," she muttered, kicking at a tree stump in frustration. "If it wasn't for her I wouldn't even be here."
This was of course a lie, and Valerie knew it. Antoinette had not forced her into woods; in fact her sister would probably be worried sick when she found Valerie's bed empty. This of course only enraged Valerie more.
Why did Antoinette have to be so perfect? She was Valerie's older sister, and not only was she always kind, even when Valerie spat in her face and shouted at her, but she was beautiful. Valerie felt her tears quicken as she remembered Antoinette's beauty: hair like spun gold and eyes like green emeralds, she was perfect.
Valerie on the other hand was far from perfect; she was small with a face and figure that would seem more at home on a small boy, rather than a young lady. Her hair was brown and greasy, no matter how many times she washed it. It was this reason that had led her to chop it off a few months ago, much to the fury of her mother. It had grown back since then but not by much, and hung lifelessly around her chin. Her skin was stained with freckles, and Valerie always thought they made her look like she had some sort of terrible disease, the measles perhaps.
Perhaps it was silly of her to be so jealous of her sister's beauty, but she couldn't help it. She had spent her life in her sister's shadows, always referred to by neighbors and friends of the family as "the other one." And when her father came home this afternoon, brimming with joy that he had arranged for Antoinette to marry the handsome farm boy next door, that this arrangement would benefit both families greatly…she snapped.
"And what is to become of me father?" Valerie had demanded, stunning everyone with her sudden outburst. It was not like her to speak up so, usually she remained in the background, quite and ignored.
"You shall continue your schooling at the convent, until your final vows." He replied. Valerie couldn't remember much after that. She remembered her screaming, crying that she didn't want to become a nun and spend the rest of her life alone, that she wanted to get married like Antoinette. That is when she had fled from the house and into the woods, where she hoped she would disappear forever, and never see her family again.
Little did she know, her wish was about to be granted.
Valerie continued her hike through the forest, unaware of where she was going or why. Slowly her fear subsided, and numbness overcame her, both body and mind. She realized that she would probably be dead by morning, if the wolves didn't get her the cold would. But for some strange reason she found she no longer cared. And when she again heard the distant howl of a lone wolf, she did not scream but rather pray. Pray that the animal would find her quickly and end her suffering. Maybe then her parents would be sorry, sorry for the way they treated her. She smiled grimly, and with this in mind came upon a cliff.
She almost stumbled off it, the fog clouding her vision considerably. She could barley make out the bottom, only that she knew it to be a long way away.
'Would a fall from this height kill me?' she wondered, tossing a rock over the edge and waiting until she heard a faint noise from below. She decided that this indeed would be a fall great enough to kill her.
Her heart pounded furiously in her chest, whether from excitement or fear she was unsure. Carefully, Valerie made her way towards the edge, her whole body shaking in wild anticipation. 'This is it,' she thought, 'this is the end.'
She stood trembling for what seemed like hours. It reminded her of jumping into cold water, the anticipation she felt before. She knew it would be cold, but it would be quick, better than trying to slowly lower herself into the icy pool. This was just like that. Better to die quickly than to wait around and be devoured by the forest.
"Just do it." She practically yelled. "Stop thinking Valerie, jump! Jump now!" She was about to do it, she felt her eyes close and her legs bend, ready to leap forward. Her heart was pounding so wildly she feared it my burst forth from her very chest. "One…two…"
"What are you doing?" A harsh voice from somewhere behind her shattered her thoughts. Her eyes snapped open and as she turned to see who had spoken she felt her self stumble and begin to fall. She knew she had no way of stopping herself. She held her breath, ready to tumble off the cliff only to be pulled back. She felt a pair of strong arms catch her, holding her tightly around her waist, lifting her back, away from death.
Her eyes were still clenched shut and she had yet to breathe, barley registering the fact that she was being carried. Suddenly she felt herself drop, and for a wild moment she feared the stranger carrying her had thrown her back off the cliff. But she quickly landed, albeit ungracefully, on the cold forest floor. She winced in pain, rubbing her lower back in an attempt to dull the throbbing pain caused by the rocks on which the stranger had placed her, or rather dropped her.
"Why did you do that to me?" She cried, unable to control the tears that had once again began to fall, or perhaps they had never stopped falling. Her breath was wild and gasping for air, and she could barley speak between sobs. She knew this man must think her insane, and she wished she could stop crying but she could not.
He was still standing above her, but she had no desire to look at him. And whether in embarrassment, determination, or fear, she kept her head bowed low, so all she could see where his black boots, slightly smeared through her wet eyelashes.
And so Valerie remained that way for longer than she cared to imagine, curled within herself on the forest floor, sobbing wildly like mad women. And was then she began to realize how stupid she had been. How foolish a thing she had done, running away from home like that, just because Antoinette was to be married. If she were a good sister, like Antoinette was to her, she would have hugger her and congratulated her. But instead she caused a scene, a horrible scene, and ran away, only to later try and kill herself.
"I'm such a fool." She whispered, rubbing at her face desperately with her ragged dress, trying to remove any evidence of her previous outburst. But instead she only succeeded in dirtying her face more, so it was now covered in blood and dirt.
The strange man had said nothing, and still he remained silent. Valerie was unsure of how she felt about this, half of her thankful that he had left her in peace, while the other half desperate to be consoled and held, even if it was by someone she had never met. But she had a feeling that this was a man who was not exactly the consoling type.
She glanced up shyly, suddenly aware of how quite it had become once her tears had finally ceased. She didn't see his boots as she had expected to. She glanced around wildly, hoping the man hadn't left her alone again in the foul woods. Her heart plummeted at first seeing no sign of movement from anyone, until her eyes rested upon a dark figure, leaning gracefully against a large tree, watching her with curious eyes.
Valerie gasped. She had not heard him move, but there he was, still leaning against the tree as though he himself were merely an extension of the forest.
She got to her feet slowly, never taking her eyes of the man, nor his off her.
She stood for a while without knowing what to do or say and feeling immensely stupid. She tried to make out a face, but there was far too much shadow. But a dark as the shadows seemed, he seemed darker.
Still embarrassed by her appearance and behavior, she struggle to think of something to say, something that might make him think better of her. But she was at a loss for words, and she still didn't know whether she was grateful or angry that he had saved her. She supposed that she was grateful, for now that she thought about it, she didn't want to die, especially over something as small as her petty jealously. But could she admit this aloud? How did one thank someone properly for saving their life?
The silence was beginning to grate on her nerves, although the man seemed not to notice or care. She opened her mouth, desperate to say something even if it was something moronic, but he beat her to it.
"What is your name, boy?" He asked in the same harsh voice.
She smiled inwardly at the opportunity to finally break the tense quite, until what he said registered properly. It was as though he had slapped her in the face, he had mistaken her for a boy, like so many others before him.
"I'm not a boy I'm a girl!" She screamed, with much more intensity than she had expected. She clamped her hand over her mouth, embarrassed and ashamed by her outburst, again. She was confused as to what was happening to her today; never had she acted so bold, so impulsive and impolite. And to a grown man who had saved her life no less.
She hung her head in shame, whispering a quite "sorry."
Gasping in surprise she felt a cold hand grasp her firmly by the chin, forcing her head upward. It was the man, how he had covered so much ground so quickly and quietly she had no idea, but he now stood before her, the pale moon light finally giving her a proper view of him. Her eyes widened and she drank in his appearance like a fine wine, never before had she beheld such a being.
His skin was flawless and white, making her grossly aware of her own skin. Dirty and imperfect, covered in blood and sweat, tears and dirt. His hair was silky and black, very black, and pulled neatly behind his head, allowing only a few spare strands to frame his face. It was long, much longer than hers, and again she felt ugly. Of course he thought she was a boy, with hair like hers. But what captivated her most about this man were his eyes. There were dark and deep, seemingly endless, and they were currently staring at her very intently.
Still he held her head in his grip, tilting it back further still until her neck began to ache. She tried to struggle out of his grasp but was unable to do so, wincing as his cold fingers curled further around her neck. She was afraid he was going to strike her, perhaps for her impertinence with him earlier. Or maybe for trying to end her life like she had. Was he a priest? At the angle he held her she could not make out his dress, only that it was black. Perhaps he was a priest, and he was here to punish her for defying god. Or maybe he was from the convent in which she studied, although she had never seen him before. And his was a face not easily forgotten.
He made a swift move, and she braced herself the strike she was sure to come, but it never came. Instead he released her suddenly, watching with indifference as she stumbled backwards, only to once again fall hard on the forest floor. This time she didn't cry out, but remained on the ground in defeat.
"So you are girl." She heard him say above her. His voice was deep and velvety, but he wasn't able to the contempt that he clearly felt towards her. Maybe he didn't want to hide it. "Well miss-" she heard the smirk in his voice and prickled in offense, "what is your name."
She toyed with the notion of saying something cruel to him, as he had done to her, but decided against it. She had already offended him enough, and it wasn't his fault she looked the way she did.
"Valerie." She mumbled, not bothering to look at him. She didn't know if he had heard her or not, but had said nothing so she assumed he had understood. She waited, rather impatiently for his reply. When none came decided to ask.
"And you father, what is you're name?" She said, finally raising her head to gaze once more upon his face.
He quirked an elegant eyebrow. "Father?" He repeated curiously, his eyes gleaming.
"Are you not a priest?" She asked before realizing her mistake. She noticed his clothes for the first time. They were not the clothes of a man of god, but rather of a nobleman, maybe even a soldier. She hoped he wouldn't take offense at her foolish mistake. He stared at her for some time, seemingly in shock. Valerie groaned inwardly, this man must think her such a dunce. And then, without any warning, his lips curved upwards and a throaty laugh burst forth. He rolled his neck back in pleasure, his shouts of laughter echoing off the far away mountains.
Valerie was stunned. She had only known this man for a few moments, but she had never expected him to do this. There was something in his eyes, when she gazed into them, that was so tragic. She didn't expect him to even know how to laugh, especially not like this.
Still sprawled on the cold ground, she began to back away. He was frightening this man, although he had no reason to be. He carried no sword or pistol, and he had saved her life, but she was still weary of him. There was something about him, an aura perhaps, or just a feeling he gave off. He seemed to drip of power and darkness.
"Oh, my dear." He said once he had finally composed himself, his voice seeming much more pleasant now than it had before. Valerie paused in her backwards crawl. She smiled at him nervously, wondering what he had found so funny, but pleased with herself nonetheless for making him laugh, even if it was at her ignorance.
"I have been mistaken for many things, but never before a man of god." He said, seeming to delight in some sort of inside joke only he understood.
Valerie panicked, unsure of what to say now. Should she apologize? He didn't seem upset; in fact he seemed rather pleased.
"Well," she stuttered, unsure of where she was going with this and how he would react. He watched her intently as she struggled, a small smile playing at his lips. "I can't imagine why not, after saving me from that cliff you seem perhaps more like an angel than you do a priest." She knew not a word of what she had spoken was true; she only hoped it would satisfy him. He apparently saw through her for he let out a quick bark of laughter before allowing his lips to settle in the form of a wicked grin. His eyes glittering, he approached her quickly, his face contorted with barley concealed wickedness. He slowly bent down, until he was leaning over where Valerie laid, his face much too close to hers to be considered appropriate.
"An angel of death perhaps," he said in a voice little more than a hiss, his eyes blazing an electric blue.
Valerie's eyes widened in fear of this man. Her heart began to pound viciously, thumping loudly within her head until it was all she could hear. The sound was suffocating.
"I-I don't k-know what you mean." She lied feebly, desperate to stall him as she began to slowly back away once again. She wanted to get as far away from this man as she could. But it seemed he had other ideas as he slunk closer to her, crawling like a beast, his eyes never leaving her own. His shoulder blades moved rhythmically, like a wild cat. She watched him slowly get closer and closer, until he was almost on top of her.
Without thinking she scrambled to her feet and bolted into the woods. Dodging trees and leaping over branches and roots, she had never moved this quickly in her life. Not even bothering to go around, she charged through bushes, ignoring the pain of the thorns ripping through her stockings and slicing her legs. Glancing behind her wildly, she saw no sigh of the man who claimed to be an angel of death. She continued to flea, fearing he may be close. Jumping over a small boulder she looked over her shoulder again, only to run straight into what felt like a tree.
She was sent flying to the ground, her head pounding in pain. All she could see were bright lights exploding before her eyes, the trees blurred and wavered. She felt something wet dribble down her chin, only to realize it was blood, her blood, streaming from her mouth.
She moaned, unaware of whether she was even standing or sitting, the forest around her seemed to be moving, spinning around and around, desperate to throw her off balance. She fumbled for something to hold onto, her fingers finally grasping something soft and silky. Her eyes closed, see leaned closer into whatever it was that seemed so strong and steady, holding onto it tightly as through afraid she may just fall from the earth were she to let go. She let a few moments of blissful ignorance pass over her, forgetting about the scary man chasing her through the forest. Her eyes still closed, she felt her breath begin to calm and the pain in her head begin to clear. Still holding onto the tree she had run into her eyes snapped open suddenly. It was then she realized she wasn't holding the tree, the tree was holding her.
She looked up in wild panic, only to lock eyes with the man from before. She struggled to break free but he was far too strong, and easily subduded her as if she were nothing more than a child. She was far too panicked to wonder how he had found her so quickly, and instead continued to thrash around in his arms, like a fish being pulled from the water.
"Hush Valerie," he said, but his voice was far from gentle.
She felt tears welling up in her eyes. "Please! Please let me go, please don't kill me." She sobbed into shoulder, finally relenting in her struggle.
She continued to cry, louder and harder than she had ever before, her sobs muffled into the fabric of his fine overcoat. He let her weep, stroking her back absent mindedly, as though bored.
"Are you going to kill me?" She asked weakly, finally removing her face from where she had buried it into him. He looked down upon her, eyes flashing dangerously.
She waited, not bothering to breath and dreading the answer.
He looked thoughtful for a moment, allowing the silence to drag out for as long as he could before shaking his head.
"No, I have already dined tonight."
She looked at him in confusion, wondering what dinner had to do with murder. Maybe he only killed people before dinner time she thought, pondering the logic of this.
"So will you let me go?" Valerie asked hopefully.
He smiled evilly at her. "I'm afraid not." His voice took on a tone of mock sadness. "You see, I've been trying to keep a rather low profile recently, and I'm afraid I cannot run the risk of you alerting your fellow peasants to my return. At least not yet." He smirked.
She stared at him in violent confusion. "I don't even know who you are!" She shouted, "I don't even know what your name is, how would I tell anybody!"
His grin seemed to only widen at this remark.
"Where are my manners?" He said dramatically, as though forgetting to introduce himself was worst thing he had done tonight.
She felt his arms disappear from behind her as he stepped back slightly.
"Allow me to introduce myself, I am Count Vladislaus Dracula." He bowed slightly, sweeping away any hair that had fallen into his eyes.
She stared at him in horror. Of course she had heard the stories of him and seen the bodies of the countless innocents he had feasted upon, but she had never beheld the man with her own eyes. 'Not that he is a man' she thought viciously.
"No," She said softly, "No that's impossible. Dracula is dead, the warrior from-"
"The warrior from Rome," he interrupted, his voice taking on a frightening chill, "was apparently not as successful in killing me as he thought he was. For as you can see I stand before you now."
Valerie backed away in terror, and although she would like to believe he was lying, that he was little more than some crazy man who thought he was the infamous Count, she knew he was telling the truth.
There was no way she could escape him now.
"A-are you going to bite me?" She asked nervously, clutching at her own neck.
"I already told you, I dined earlier tonight." He said sounding very annoyed.
"Than release me," she shouted, sounding much braver than she felt. "If you're not going to-" she paused, desperate to find a phrasing that wouldn't sound too vulgar and horrible. "If you're not going to-to drink from me than I am of no further use to you. I won't tell anyone. Please, please let me go." She ended with little more than a whimper.
"I am a very creative man, Valerie, I'm sure I could think of something useful to do with you."
It was finally too much for her. She felt her self falling, unconscious before she hit the ground. Had she not fainted she would have seen Dracula's other self pull her from the ground and into the air, far over the trees, towards his castle.
Well I hoped you enjoyed the first chapter! Please let me know what you think!