I Wish Is To Dream Again
A Trinity Blood Fan Fiction
by Darth Stitch
DISCLAIMER: Trinity Blood was created by Yoshida Sunao (R.I.P.) and is now an anime directed by Tomohiro Hirata and produced by the studio GONZO. I'm just a poor schmuck who wanted to see more romance amongst the all the high adventure, action and intrigue. Again, although this is not a songfic, the title is taken from the song "Nemo" by the band Nightwish. I was inspired by that video I spotted on YouTube – "Mark of My Sins" by Dr. Raven productions. Check it out – it's pretty cool, actually.
The Revenants and their concept is actually all mine. This is what I get when I realize I have Massive Plot on my hands and I realize that my original fictional universe can actually seamlessly merge with Trinity Blood.
AUTHOR'S WARNINGS/NOTES: Again, for those new to the anime/manga series, Trinity Blood is set in a post-apocalyptic world where the Roman Catholic Church/the Vatican is portrayed as a military power as well as a spiritual one. The series also strongly implies major and controversial changes in the Church, such as women being bishops and cardinals as well as romantic relationships and quite possibly marriage between members of the clergy. If this disturbs you, do not read any further.
To my male officemates/readers who're reading this – er, don't worry, there WILL be blood and gore ahead, just bear with us ladies as we like our romantic schmoop, okay? XP
DEDICATION: Aside from my wonderful officemates, this story is also dedicated to you all you great reviewers out there, especially to Arallion, who just put up the latest chapter of her wonderful Trinity Blood story "In the Name of Power" – check it out, it's right here on FF Dot Net – and inspired me to get a move on with the Massive Plot in my own story. This is also dedicated to Perhelediel (Lauren), who drew a wonderful piece of fan art for Beautiful Disaster – wheeeeee! Check it out here:
http// www. Deviantart. Com / deviation / 49935481 /
Just remove the spaces as we all know how picky FF Dot Net is.
Oh how I wish for soothing rain,
All I wish is to dream again,
My loving heart lost in the dark
For hope Id give my everything
Oh how I wish for soothing rain,
Oh how I wish to dream again…
- "Nemo" by Nightwish
Abel Nightroad was most assuredly not jealous of Ion Fortuna.
Puppy love – that was all it was, really and it was rather good for the young, proud Count of Memphis to completely forget his dignity for the moment as he and Esther talked animatedly together, catching up on things as they whiled away the hours on this long train ride. How could he blame Ion for having that worshipful, adoring expression for Esther when Abel knew perfectly well that he probably had that look on his face as well?
Abel fervently hoped he wasn't too obvious about it as Ion was though.
And it was hard not to like the young Imperial nobleman and it wasn't because he was one of the best and the brightest in the New Human Empire, with one of the purest and strongest Methuselah bloodlines. Ion was technically an adult, albeit young by Methuselah standards but he still looked like a young boy, if a rather beautiful one (which annoyed Ion to no end), between 13-15 years old.
It was easy to like Ion simply because he was, for all his pride and occasional blustering, basically kind, good-hearted and honorable and in his own way, still an innocent about the world, despite suffering betrayal and near-death at the hands of the man he'd called his best friend and brother in all but blood. And if Abel was perfectly honest with himself, he knew quite well that the real reason he was feeling…er… "not-exactly-jealous" was because Ion did not carry the weight of sin and regret that Abel did. Ion was, in a sense, "untainted" and even if Methuselah-Terran relationships were frowned upon, there was a tiny part of Abel that thought Ion would be a far better match for Esther than he ever could be.
Ion was very much like Esther, in fact, which probably explained why they got on so well together.
Esther herself put it rather better: "He's awfully sweet, rather like you, Abel."
Okay, so Abel did not melt inside at her comment.
Oh Lord, she had him wrapped around her tiny fingers and well she knew it.
Abel ruefully remembered that last scene in Caterina's office when they'd gone to her for the debriefing after the incident with the werewolves in the Colosseum. The lady Cardinal had taken one look at them as soon as they walked through her door and then exclaimed:
"Well, it was about bloody damn time!"
Abel knew perfectly well that it was useless to hide things from his dearest friend and so he simply settled for saying plaintively, "Are we that obvious?"
He was really rather curious because really, it wasn't as if the two of them had walked in there exchanging lovestruck syrupy glances and holding hands, for Heaven's sake. And Esther couldn't say a word for once; she was too busy blushing and giggling behind her hands.
Caterina had lifted an eyebrow ironically and answered, "I rather commend you both on your discretion but might I ask what is your hair ribbon doing wrapped around Sister Esther's wrist?"
Abel's hand automatically went to his long silver hair and sure enough, it was still hanging loosely down his back, still slightly damp from his bath. He'd completely forgotten about that!
He leveled a mock-glare at the little red-haired nun and said in his best stern tones, "Sister Esther!"
Dark blue eyes blinked innocently up at him. "Yes, Father Nightroad?"
"May I please have my ribbon back? I did keep my word to you about that tea, didn't I?"
Esther made a show of thinking about it. "Why yes, you did. I had a very nice time, in fact."
Abel held out his hand to her. "My hair ribbon?"
She pouted. "But I like it when you have your hair down."
Caterina snorted. "Apparently you two are a match made in heaven, God help us all. Now if we could all get down to business…?"
Esther began to relate the events in the Colosseum as Abel tied his hair back up. He spoke only to add or augment what she was saying and he did not like the way Caterina's eyes grew graver as they continued their story.
"So they have finally come here," Caterina said thoughtfully.
"You're starting to make me very nervous," Abel remarked. "You already know about this?"
The lady Cardinal took up a file from her desk and began to look through it. "I was looking for you before you both had your little run-in with those werewolves. Sister Kate has just given me several reports about werewolf attacks on both Terrans and Methuselahs here in our part of Europe and I've also received intelligence of the same thing happening in the New Human Empire. This arrived from the Empress today."
"Seth-chan!" exclaimed Esther.
Caterina smiled. "Her Imperial Majesty sends her fondest regards to you, Sister Esther and to her and I quote, 'dear sweet silly older brother Abel.'"
Abel sighed. He was aware that his youngest sister missed him and made a mental note to himself to contact her as soon as possible.
Caterina handed the file to Esther for both of them to look at and so Abel had stood up, adjusting his spectacles so he could read over Esther's shoulder.
"As you can see," Caterina continued. "We've both tracked all this activity even as far away as Drakovia and it is suspected that this may be the source of all of this."
"Or a good place to start," Esther remarked. "Drakovia's quite close to Transylvania and that's almost ironic, considering what role Transylvania plays in 'vampire' literature and folklore."
"Oh Lord, I do hope we're not going to traipse about in Dracula's castle, waking the vampire from his coffin," Abel sighed.
"Don't worry, you'll have backup," Caterina said dryly. "This will be a joint mission with the Empire and Her Imperial Majesty will be sending Ion Fortuna, Count of Memphis and Astharoshe Asran, the Duchess of Kiev to work with us. I will also be sending Gunslinger with you. You will all be going to Drakovia to investigate this matter."
"Oh, it will be good to see Ion and Lady Astha again," said Esther happily.
"Ion?" Abel looked at her quizzically, knowing quite well that Esther, ever polite, insisted on using the proper titles and only ever made that exception for a very few people which included his sister Seth, which had scandalized most of the Imperial court.
Esther shrugged. "He insisted and he said Seth-chan wouldn't let me call her 'Empress' anyway so who was he to not follow the example of his Empress?"
"Ah." Abel wasn't sure what he wanted to think about that and he really did not feel the first unpleasant prickling of jealousy at that point. No, really.
"Speaking of Her Imperial Majesty Empress Augusta Vradica, she did make a rather interesting announcement at her court," Caterina said, her eyes sparkling with barely-suppressed mirth. "I understand that she's rather caused quite a stir among her nobles."
"What has Seth done now?" Abel asked, feeling a deep sense of foreboding.
"She has announced to the Imperial Court that she is pleased to welcome home her dear brother, His Imperial Highness Prince Artorius Elric Vradica."
Abel fell over, landing precisely at Esther's feet. "Eh?!"
"Does that mean I have to call you 'Your Imperial Highness' now?" Esther teased, looking down at his prone form.
"Eh?!" Abel knew he should say something, anything, at this point but he just couldn't find the words. What was it about the women in his life who took all such a delight in rendering him incoherent? God help him if Caterina, Esther and Seth all took it into their heads to band together – he was probably not going to survive that most unholy coalition of his best friend, beloved and sister!
He was so going to get Seth for this. What the hell was she thinking?!
"In a more private message, our little Empress has informed me that she hasn't said anything about her dear brother being just a simple priest currently living in the Vatican but she thought that mentioning his existence would discourage any of her other 'children' with imperial ambitions. Although he may be required to come to the Empire at some point and…er… be 'introduced' to the Court in some fashion," Caterina said, shaking her head. "If she can figure out something that wouldn't let you get caught between Rome and Byzantium, I don't see why you shouldn't pay your sister a visit later on. She must miss you dearly."
"I'm still going to get her for this," Abel growled, leaning up on his elbows.
"I'm just curious about the name she chose for you," Esther said. "Artorius Elric?"
"Seth is terribly addicted to high fantasy and romantic literature," Abel sweatdropped. "Not to mention a flair for the theatrical."
"She is your sister after all," Esther reminded him, helping him get to his feet. "And I seem to remember you hamming it up with the best of them several times when we were there."
"Hey! I really thought I was dying at that point! Who knew food poisoning could be so life-threatening!" Abel protested. And in the back of his mind, he could hear Professor Wordsworth in his role as Abel's Father Confessor cackling evilly.
"You're absolutely hopeless, do you know that?" Esther said in exasperation.
"Ahem," Caterina cleared her throat. "You two lovebirds might like to get ready for that journey instead of billing and cooing in my office? Some of us aren't so lucky…"
They had left her office with severe blushes that probably matched the color of the good Cardinal's robes.
Transylvania was called the "Land Beyond The Forest" with good reason and it was fortunate that it had escaped the ravages of Armageddon mostly unscathed. It still mostly looked as it might have done to a nineteenth-century Victorian gentleman solicitor – a wild, untamed country of mountains and lush forests, where wild wolves still hunted and where the legends of vampires as terrifying creatures of the night still thrived.
Of course, the two Methuselahs with them weren't too happy about the suspicious looks they were getting from the local Terrans, from the moment they'd all met each other at the train station and during the entire journey. An old woman on the train passed them by, looked suspiciously at Ion and Astharoshe, made the sign against the evil eye and muttered something about "dracul." Abel silently admitted that it was slightly gratifying to see the old lady do a double take when she saw the two priests and the nun sitting with them.
And at that the Duchess of Kiev had glared at her old partner and said:
"The first person to make Dracula jokes, tovarishch, I will make very sorry!"
Abel held up his hands in a warding off gesture. "Eh?! I'm not saying anything Miss Astha! What about you, Tres? Help me out here…" He looked beseechingly at his android AX partner, who was sitting across from them, next to Esther and Ion.
"My programming does not include the ability to engage in jest, Father Nightroad," Father Tres Iquus returned. He cocked his head thoughtfully to the side. "Although I am capable of understanding their concern as the historical Dracula has been said to have performed atrocities that would lead the superstitious to conclude he is a vampire…"
"Ridiculous notion – like I would demean myself by tearing into these Terrans' throats. And their blood is too thin anyways! Bah!" Astharoshe huffed.
Abel sweatdropped. "Miss Astha, I don't think they heard that thing about you biting people's necks all the way in Istvan…"
"They also have tales about a legendary 'vampire' prince in Drakovia, you know," Ion volunteered, wincing over the use of the word "vampire" which no self-respecting Methuselah would ever use to refer to themselves.
"Really? Do tell," Esther asked.
"Well," Ion said, smiling sweetly at her. "He wasn't anything like Vlad Dracula though – the stories portray him as good, noble and heroic."
"Prince Charming with fangs, eh?" Abel remarked.
"You could say that, Father Nightroad," the blond-haired Count answered. "It was said that he came under a terrible curse in order to save his people and thus, used his vampiric powers to protect and defend Drakovia. They name him the Lord of Winter, the Black Dragon and Drakovia's ancient name is said to be Dragons' Lair."
"But how did the story end?" Esther asked.
Ion shook his head. "That part of the legend has been lost to the ages, I'm afraid. But there was a princess in that story so perhaps, in the end, he married her and lived happily ever after." Again, Ion gave her that sweet smile, with that soft, tender look in those rather unusual cinnamon-colored eyes.
"Ah… the young ones are rather sweet together, aren't they, tovarishch?" Astharoshe murmured, patting his shoulder.
"Er… I suppose," Abel mumbled, suppressing the urge to bare his own fangs, grab Esther and snarl Mine! at the young Count.
Okay, this was getting ridiculous. He had to stop being so silly, for Heaven's sake. If Esther found out, she was going to kill him…
Astharoshe was staring at him oddly, almost as if she could figure out what he was thinking…uh-oh. Abel pushed his spectacles up over the bridge of his nose and gave her his best innocent look.
And then, the Duchess of Kiev smirked at him and then suddenly smacked him on the shoulder which made Abel fall out of his seat. She muttered something in Romanian about fools in love. Abel pretended not to understand that, just as he did the last time she'd muttered uncomplimentary Romanian phrases about his supposed lack of intelligence.
"Father Nightroad!" Esther exclaimed as Abel fell over.
"Status report, Father Nightroad," Tres asked, catching him just in the nick of time. The android's eyes gleamed with that faint red light that was the only warning most people got if he was about to go into "Gunslinger" mode.
"Eheheh… I'm okay, Father Tres," Abel said sheepishly. "Miss Astha doesn't know her own strength, that's all."
"You're too skinny, is what you are, tovarishch," Astharoshe said jovially, patting him on the shoulders and chest. "Which is strange considering that you are such a bottomless pit when it comes to food…"
Ion snickered. "Isn't gluttony one of the capital sins, Father?"
Astharoshe slung an arm over Abel's shoulder – she was being awfully clingy for some reason which made every last alarm bell go off in Abel's head. "What our dear innocent Father Nightroad needs is the love of a good woman, I think!" She pinched his cheek. "That would put some meat on these bones! Eh?"
"ACK!" What the hell was Astharoshe doing?
And then, Abel happened to glance at Esther, who was watching him with narrowed eyes and he was suddenly sure that he was quite doomed.
It was Abel's turn to get the odd looks from people when they had finally arrived in Drakovia. He wasn't sure why a simple traveling Vatican priest would elicit such a reaction – surely priests were a common sight in this little country, which was known to be staunchly Catholic or Orthodox. In any case, religious iconography and crucifixes were a common sight wherever they looked.
Abel was acutely aware of the startled glances and the whispers and he gave Astharoshe a quizzical glance, wondering if there was some sort of cultural thing going on that he wasn't aware of.
"Don't look at me, tovarishch," she said, shrugging. "I'm rather glad that Ion and I aren't the center of attention anymore."
They arrived at the Steward's Palace where they were met by Marik Radivoi, the Steward of Drakovia himself. This was the title given to the little country's Head of State, as the throne of its royal Prince had been empty for more than two thousand years. The Steward was a distinguished-looking man in his fifties, with dark hair shot through with silver strands and bright gray eyes. He too had also been taken aback when he first met Abel.
"Forgive me, Father, your appearance… it's rather startling," said the Steward Radivoi, regarding him with an expression that was somewhere between awe and reverence.
Abel blinked owlishly behind his spectacles. "Eh?!" Honestly, it wasn't as if he'd suddenly walked in there in his Crusnik form, glaring red eyes, wings, fangs and all.
Esther sighed. "Honestly, is that all you have to say for yourself, Father Nightroad?"
"I would like to say that I'm very confused and would appreciate it if someone would give an explanation for all this," Abel said plaintively.
"I think you will all understand it better if I show you," said the Steward. And he led them all to the large portrait that hung in the Great Hall of the Steward's palace.
"Good Lord," Abel murmured, as they all stood before the portrait.
It was the painting of a handsome young man with long silvery hair, dressed in rich robes of black and gold. Bright, laughing green eyes regarded them, even as both his hands rested casually on the pommel of a great broadsword that oddly enough, had a pure black blade. The artist had captured his likeness so skillfully that it seemed almost as if the young man in the portrait could just step out from the frame and welcome them.
He also looked exactly like Abel, even more than Abel's twin brother Cain did, ironically enough, all except for those bright green eyes.
"This is our Prince – Kyrys Ivan Alexander Alyardi, the Lord of Winter, the Black Dragon of Drakovia. Our legends say that he has never died and that he only lies sleeping, to return in our hour of greatest need. Which is why I and those before me have ruled as Steward, not prince, for the last two thousand years," said Radivoi with reverence and pride.
"The resemblance to Father Nightroad is remarkable," Tres commented.
"Amazing," whispered Esther.
"So you must forgive our astonishment, Father Nightroad. It's almost as if we are watching a legend come to life before our very eyes," the Steward said, looking at him carefully.
"The legendary Prince of Drakovia," murmured Ion and gave Abel an odd, speculative look.
"I'm not a prince," Abel muttered, intensely uncomfortable with everyone's eyes on him. It was uncanny how the Prince looked like him but there was something else in those green eyes that seemed oddly familiar. He shot a telling look at Esther and glanced at the two Imperial Methuselah noblemen meaningfully. Seth had never announced their kinship in front of Ion and Astharoshe, during that time he and Esther had escorted Ion back to the Empire and helped to foil that assassination attempt on Seth. However, it was probably quite clear to the two Imperial nobles that Seth and Abel knew each other, especially since the two of them had taken the opportunity for long talks together, having a great deal of catching up to do before Abel and Esther finally had to return to Rome.
Seth had wanted Abel to stay with her, to help her rule her Empire, but it wasn't a life Abel knew he would be able to lead, as much as he did love his sister. And he was still going to have a very long discussion with her about that whole business of declaring him as an Imperial prince, of all things…
"Perhaps your ancestors were this prince's descendants, eh, tovarishch?" Astharoshe said thoughtfully. "Royalty in disguise… sounds like the very best of fairy tales!"
"I highly doubt it," said Abel wryly. All of the Crusniks - Lilith, Abel and his siblings - were test tube babies, created in laboratories by scientists with delusions of godhood in them. It was more the stuff of science fiction than fairy tales.
The Duchess of Kiev again casually slung an arm over his shoulders and plucked his glasses off his nose. "Oh, don't be so modest. If you would only get rid of these ridiculous spectacles and that silly ponytail, you'd even make a passably handsome specimen of the male species, one I would find most attractive, even if you are a Terran. A very fitting Prince Charming, eh, Ion?"
Ion sweatdropped – he wasn't too sure of what was going on either and what his fellow Imperial noble was up to.
"Eh?!" Abel's eyes bugged out, feeling just as lost as Ion was at the moment. And Tres, of course, was no help at all, merely regarding the humans with a quizzical expression that meant he was just processing and storing everything with his perfect android's memory.
Esther simply glared at them both and grabbed Ion's hand, asking the Steward if he could tell them more legends about the Prince. The Steward was only too happy to lead them to his library. Ion was startled but was evidently pleased to be dragged along in her wake.
Abel wasn't sure what he'd done to offend his beloved but he quickly disentangled himself from the Duchess of Kiev, took back his spectacles and hurried to catch up with them.
"Lady Astharoshe," Tres spoke then. "I require an explanation as to why you are treating Father Nightroad with such familiarity. It seems that your actions are causing Sister Esther great distress."
Astharoshe smirked. "Am I?"
"My programming parameters include seeing to the well-being of my colleagues," Tres said flatly.
"Don't worry about it, Father Tin Man," Astharoshe said cheerfully. "I am merely amusing myself on this mission of ours and I swear to you that your comrades will come to no harm. My word on it."
It was during that discussion in the library that the Steward briefed them about the werewolf activity in Drakovia. They were already aware that the werewolves claimed to serve an entity or a person they called "The Mother" and were apparently driven to destroy both Terran and Methuselah, bringing about an apocalypse that would cleanse the very earth from the so-called "abominations." What they did not know was that the werewolves also claimed to be in the service of the Lord of Winter, the long-lost Prince Alyardi and were preparing for his return.
Drakovia was rich in supernatural and magical traditions and the Steward said that the werewolves and their legend had existed even before the Armageddon and so was not connected in the least to the later wars between the Methuselahs and Terrans. But it was only in these times that the werewolves had finally come out in the open.
The werewolves had last been seen lurking in the ruins of the ancient Alyardi Castle, high up in the mountains. The Steward had promised that he would send a guide with them to that area tomorrow.
In the meantime, Abel found that he was quite unable to sleep and found himself alone in the Great Hall, staring up at the Prince's portrait once more. To the Drakovians, this man was not a legend and had, in fact, been so well-loved that his memory had endured for more than two thousand years.
Abel couldn't help but wonder about the flesh-and-blood person this Prince who bore his face had been. The green eyes that stared back at him were hardly the eyes of an "accursed vampire" but were kind and gentle.
And suddenly, it hit Abel. The Prince's eyes were Seth's eyes, full of warmth and good humor.
"Who are you?" Abel whispered and thought that perhaps he would actually receive an answer…
A soft step behind him made Abel look around, only to see Esther clad in her nightgown and dressing robe. She twitched nervously, almost guiltily, when she saw him.
Now what was that all about?
"Couldn't sleep?" Abel asked her gently.
"Too many things to think about, I suppose," Esther answered. She gave him a wan smile. "Fairy tales and accursed princes… they'll all probably end up in my dreams tonight!"
"As long as you're well rested for tomorrow…" Abel said, trailing off. He felt awkward around her suddenly and wasn't sure what he wanted to say.
"It's amazing how much he looks like you," Esther murmured, looking up at the portrait and then at him, obviously comparing the two of them.
"Miss Astha is probably not going to let me live this whole prince business down!" He said with a rueful laugh.
Somehow, mentioning her name was a mistake as Esther drew back and not-quite-pouted. "Lady Astha cares about you a great deal, doesn't she?"
"She is my friend – it's just her way of showing that she cares, I think," Abel said carefully, realizing he was treading across a verbal minefield right at that moment and not quite sure why that was so.
At that, Esther sighed. "Goodnight, Father Nightroad. I'm off for bed."
She looked so downcast and Abel didn't really know what was going on but he couldn't let her walk away like that. He took a step towards her. "Esther, love, what is it?"
And at that, she was suddenly in his arms, having buried her face in the front of his robes. "I'm sorry, Abel. I'm being very, very silly, aren't I?"
He nuzzled into the soft red strands of her hair, an almost instinctive reaction. "I thought I was supposed to be the silly one here."
She giggled, a rueful little sound and looked up at him. "I think I'm allowed to be silly too. At least once a year would be enough."
And at that, Abel finally figured out exactly what was going on and quite cheerfully swept Esther up for a kiss. Esther made a delightful little squeak but was otherwise quite content to kiss him back, her hands caressing the back of his neck and tangling into his hair, letting it loose from its ponytail.
"My Prince," she said, a little breathlessly, her cheeks flushed and looking quite delightfully dizzy.
"Yours," he agreed contentedly, his lips shaping the word against her own mouth before he kissed her again.
When they'd all gathered together for breakfast the next day, Astharoshe had taken one long, meaningful look at Abel and Esther and then was quite obvious in trying to hide her smirk behind her teacup.
Feeling a sense of déjà vu, Abel's hand abruptly went to his head and he realized with dismay that he'd forgotten to put up his hair in its customary ponytail yet again. Wordlessly, he simply glanced at Esther who ever-so-nonchalantly unwound the ribbon from her wrist and handed it back to him.
Thankfully, Ion was completely unaware of the byplay, intent as he was on breakfast and a stack of old books from the Steward's library. He did, however, wrest his attention away from those two very important things long enough to greet Esther and positively beamed when Esther affectionately ruffled his hair.
Somebody growled and everyone was startled at the sound.
"Did you hear that?" Ion frowned.
"Yes, where… who was that?" Esther wondered.
"I didn't hear anything – you two must be imagining things," Astharoshe said very casually, trying not to look in a certain direction.
Abel was quietly sipping his tea, fervently praying that nobody noticed the very faint blush staining his cheeks. He was being ridiculous and he knew it but he just couldn't seem to stop himself. Really, this sudden possessive streak he was developing was quite disconcerting!
Astharoshe, bless her, was trying to change the subject. She had picked up one of Ion's books and whistled. "Well, no wonder your imagination's gone wild! 'The Tale of the Revenant Prince' – what is this you're reading, Ion?"
"It's the story of the Prince Alyardi, of course," Ion answered. "I thought that we might find something of use in here and now I know why those werewolves want to bring him back to life."
"Didn't the Steward say that he was a master sorcerer as well as a vampire?" Abel asked. "He would be a very formidable figure to contend with."
"Don't forget the 'accursed' part in that description," Astharoshe put in, scowling. "Superstitious Terrans…"
"He wasn't just any ordinary vampire," Ion said, obviously warming up to his subject. "They called him the 'Revenant Prince' and the real nature of his so-called curse didn't just have something to do with him being a vampire. The Prince Alyardi was a vampire who fed on other vampires."
Abel promptly choked on his tea.
"Father Nightroad! I warned you about all those sugars in your tea!" Esther scolded him, patting him on the back and handing him a glass of water. Their eyes locked together for a moment and they understood each other perfectly, both having the exact same thoughts running through their heads and not wanting to mention them to either Astharoshe or Ion.
Prince Kyrys Ivan Alexander Alyardi – a legendary Prince who was not only Abel's almost mirror-image but was also a vampire who fed on other vampires' blood? Revenant or Crusnik, there were just way too many coincidences for Abel's liking.
"Interesting," Astharoshe said slowly. "If those werewolves wanted to unleash hell on both Methuselahs and Terrans, what better weapon could they find, eh?"
"Indeed," Abel murmured, feeling chills running down his spine. The last thing he wanted was a mad Crusnik-like creature running loose – it was bad enough that they all had to worry about Cain and the Rosen Kreuz Orden.
Abel's musings were interrupted by Tres, who had come in to announce that everything was set for their journey to Castle Alyardi. Abel ruefully remembered making that joke about traipsing about in a haunted castle, trying not to awaken the vampire from his tomb and it looked like they had come to Drakovia to do precisely that.
Naturally, Castle Alyardi was one of those impenetrable, impossible mountain fortresses that could only be reached on horseback. It would be a two-day journey up the mountains and through the forest and although it was still late autumn, it would be very cold. The Steward had insisted that the Vatican/Imperial group be accompanied by at least one dozen of his best soldiers, aside from the guide who would lead them through the trail.
The guide was a middle-aged shepherd named Gavril whose thick brown hair and beard was shot through with white and was a solid, no-nonsense, down-to-earth sort who apparently didn't hold with the locals' fear of the werewolves or of getting too near the castle ruins. He said that he had often pastured his sheep in the castle's shadow and that he'd never seen or sensed anything odd about the place. On the contrary, it was quiet and peaceful – perhaps the spirit of the lost Prince still watched over it benignly.
"Feh - he's not the bloody Impaler anyway. He was a good man, our Prince," Gavril had said.
Esther was in a bit of a quandary as she was the only one in their group who had never ridden a horse in her life. She was simply too nervous to be trusted to ride alone and so had ended up riding pillion with Abel. Ion had scowled, which made Esther intensely uncomfortable. She was fond of Ion, only not in the way he might want her to be. Lady Astharoshe had smirked and teased the young nobleman out of his sulking while Father Tres, thankfully, remained his usual impassive self.
It was rather nice to be held in Abel's arms like this but looking up at him, Esther noted that he was looking quite uncharacteristically grave and serious. She knew why – he'd been troubled over what they had just learned over breakfast and he'd been rather quiet since the beginning of their journey.
But there was good thing out of being in close quarters like this and Esther was resolved to make the most of it and do just a little bit of gentle teasing…
"Poor Ion," Esther sighed, angling her head so that she could peek over Abel's shoulder and figure out what their companions were up to. The young man and Lady Astharoshe behind them and were quite engrossed in talking with Gavril, who knew quite a lot about the other Drakovian legends and folk tales and even now was narrating a tale about some sorceress child, a magical little girl who never aged.
Esther also saw that Father Tres was also busy scanning the area for any danger, just as the soldiers with them were relaxed but alert.
"Poor Ion?" Abel asked absent-mindedly.
"At least he's not sulking now," Esther remarked, resting her head against his shoulder and looking up at him. "And at least you've got nothing to be jealous about anymore."
As expected, Abel's blue eyes went comically wide behind those round frames. "Jealous? Me?!"
"Yes, you," Esther said archly, taking care to lower her voice so that the others would not hear. "I can't believe you're jealous of Ion, of all people."
"I am not jealous!" Abel protested.
"He's my best friend, for Heaven's sake – almost like my little brother."
"Well, yes, he is – I noticed," Abel said, quite obviously flailing for words. "And really, why would I be jealous about that? I'm glad you two are friends."
Esther raised a brow. "You're really being ridiculous about this, you know."
"You're imagining things. I swear, I'm not jealous, honestly."
"Really? I know it was you who growled during breakfast and that wasn't your stomach!"
"And lying will get you ten Our Fathers for penance," Esther continued blithely, enjoying the fact that she'd gotten him out of his dark mood. "Actually, you're really cute when you're like this…"
Then, she meeped when Abel finally did growl, bent his head and gave her a rather heated kiss.
"I. Am. Not. Jealous," he whispered darkly against her mouth and there was just the faintest tinge of red in those icy blue eyes.
Esther gently caressed his cheek and answered, in a meek little voice: "No, of course you're not."
He sighed and pressed his forehead against hers just for a second before looking up again. "I'm sorry, love. I know I'm being very silly about this."
She giggled. "You are supposed to be the silly one in this relationship, remember?"
He chuckled. "Minx."
And then, it was his turn to meep when Lady Astharoshe suddenly caught up to them and said, "And what are you two lovebirds billing and cooing about, eh, tovarishch?"
Ion choked, hearing the exchange going on in front of him. "Lovebirds?!"
Esther promptly squeaked and hid her red face in Abel's shoulder, feeling a sense of déjà vu. Lady Astharoshe even used the same expression Lady Caterina did to describe them!
"Lovebirds? Us? Ahahahaha," Abel said innocently and knowing him, he probably had that silly sheepish grin on his face. "Why, Sister Esther was quite tired and she's fallen asleep. Shhh! We mustn't wake her."
Esther made a soft little sigh, pretending that she was deep into dreamland.
Unexpectedly, Father Tres came to their rescue. "Sister Esther is not used to long hours on horseback. Perhaps we should let her rest."
God bless Father Tres. Esther was going to make sure she'd mention that at least thrice in her prayers tonight.
Lady Astharoshe muttered some few choice words in Romanian before apparently pulling back her horse and letting them go ahead. Esther didn't even want to know how Ion looked. Oh dear, oh dear…
However, it was nice being tucked against Abel like this – he smelled soap-and-water clean, even with the hours they had spent riding, with that faint hint of incense that always clung to his cassock and she nuzzled against him quite contentedly…
"Esther," Abel said in a voice that was not quite strangled, "Don't do that…"
She blushed again. "Sorry."
"It's nice but if you don't stop we might end up scandalizing our companions," Abel murmured, his cheeks stained just a little bit pink.
"Although I'm distinctly not beginning to care what they think at this point…"
"Abel!" She didn't know whether she ought to be embarrassed or delighted.
"Shhh, you're supposed to be asleep, remember?" He was not quite smirking at her.
"Hmph," she grumbled. But she leaned against him again and found herself closing her eyes, knowing she would be quite safe up here, completely forgetting that she had never been on a horse before…
The moon was full and bright when the werewolves came.
Despite all their precautions, the sheer numbers of their attackers were too much for them. They appeared as if by magic from the shadows of the trees and Father Tres had been the only one to detect their presence and give warning just a few scant seconds before the werewolves rushed their campsite.
The soldiers with them were armed with silver bullets but they simply were no match for the werewolves' speed and strength. In seconds, most of them were already dead or bleeding out on the ground.
Gavril the shepherd was nowhere in sight – Esther could only pray that he'd managed to hide himself somewhere.
Father Tres was now blasting away at the werewolves, one eye gleaming red as his targeting systems tracked each lightning-fast attack, the guns in his hands almost a blur as he shot at them. Lady Astharoshe was fighting near him, using her own staff to send blue bolts of energy at the creatures.
"Esther! Ion! Take shelter up in those trees!" Abel ordered.
"What about you?" Ion shouted.
"I'll be fine – you two will be safer up there and you'll have a better chance to get those werewolves!"
He had a point – both she and Ion had a better vantage point to shoot at the creatures from up there. She and Ion ran for it, Ion covering for her with his own gun – the short sword which was his usual weapon was useless for this kind of fight, even with Ion's Methuselah strength and reflexes. She was just about to climb up when Ion grabbed her around the waist and leapt for the topmost branch, just missing being narrowly slashed at by another werewolf.
Esther was able to shoot it in the forehead and she tried not to wince at the blood and gore that spattered on the ground.
"Good shot," Ion said approvingly, helping her find a safe perch among the branches. He frowned as he saw Abel ducking and rolling on the ground, shooting at the creatures with his own gun and moving just as fast as Lady Astharoshe was. "I didn't know Father Nightroad could move that fast."
"He told us he would be fine and those werewolves are too fast, even for us," Esther said, remembering what happened the last time she didn't follow Abel's orders with a wince and knowing she would not be so foolish again. Abel might normally play the clumsy fool but she knew that there was no better person to count on in a life or death situation than him.
Two more large wolves appeared from the shadows and reached for them with claws and fangs – Esther and Ion took them out together.
Esther could already feel the faint electricity in the air that warned her Abel would be shifting into his Crusnik form. She knew that he did not wish to reveal his abilities in such a fashion but he had no choice.
Nanomachine Crusnik 02. Release of restrictions to 80 percent. Approved.
"What the hell?!" Ion exclaimed and Esther abruptly remembered that Ion had never seen Abel in his Crusnik form before.
Black wings unfurled and the great red scythe that was the Crusnik's main weapon appeared in Abel's hands. The wintry blue eyes were now blood red and he bared his fangs at the werewolves in challenge.
And then, Esther recognized the large gray alpha werewolf that they had faced earlier in the Colosseum at Rome. The werewolf's form blurred and shifted until they saw a wild-haired man with feral amber eyes, dressed in gray, furred robes.
"Night Lord, we are pleased that thou hast returned to thy home," the man spoke. "I am Samael, thy servant."
"I gave that name up a long time ago," the Crusnik rasped in that harsh, deep, metallic voice. "And this is not my home. What do you want of us?"
The man – Samael? – merely smiled, baring sharp white teeth. "We only wish our Lord restored to us and to wreak the Mother's vengeance upon those that pollute this very earth."
"I will not allow that to happen."
Samael turned a predatory glance towards Esther and Ion, still high up in their tree. "You travel in poor company, Night Lord." He raised a hand and then, there was a bright light –
With horror, Esther knew that they would not be able to get out of the way. She thought she would have enough time for a quick prayer.
Oh love, I'm sorry…
Abel was suddenly there in front of them, black wings outstretched to shield them from the blast –
And then, he was gone, black feathers floating gently in the breeze.
Samael and the other werewolves were suddenly nowhere to be found as well.
"No! Abel!" Esther screamed. Somehow, she'd made it down from the tree and she was kneeling on the ground where Abel had been standing on just a few seconds earlier. Something dark fluttered on the ground and she reached for it and found that she was holding his hair ribbon. Right next to that were his glasses.
"Esther! Look out!" Ion had cried out in warning but Esther could only turn tear-blurred eyes at the wounded werewolf who had raised himself to make one last attempt to tear out her throat.
Blood flowed and spattered on her face and her habit and Esther saw another werewolf – a white one, take down her attacker. The white werewolf's form blurred and shifted to become Gavril, the shepherd.
His eyes were the same amber color as Samael's but they were grimly determined. "This was not meant to happen, Lady. You will all need to come with me."
Ion had already leapt down from the tree and stood in front of Esther, having drawn his sword. "Why should we trust you?" he snarled.
"Samael and those who are with him are outcast from our pack. He wants power and he hides it with fancy words about the Prince and the will of the Mother but you'll just have to take my word for that."
"Status report, Sister Esther," Father Tres helped her up, offering an arm to steady her. She was trembling but her mind felt oddly clear at that moment.
"I'm fine," she whispered.
"What did you do to Father Nightroad?" Astharoshe growled at Gavril.
"He's not dead, if that's what you're wondering," Gavril answered. "Samael would not harm our Prince."
"Abel Nightroad is a priest of the Roman Catholic Church," Father Tres stated flatly. "He is not your Prince."
"And Roman Catholic priests are known to turn into black-winged Revenants, eh? Where are your wings, Father?"
"Abel Nightroad is a Crusnik," Esther said then, knowing precisely what they needed to do now. She had to be calm. She had to pull herself together. There would be enough time for tears but Abel was still alive out there and they were going to get him back. "But maybe that is the same thing for you, isn't it? We want answers and we want them now."
The white werewolf looked at her approvingly and with respect. "You will have your answers. But first, we must leave this place. Please – my lady, come with me."
"Esther, we don't know if we can trust him," Ion warned.
"He saved my life," Esther said quietly. "And we don't have any other options as of this moment."
"Werewolf," Astharoshe said with soft menace, "I will rip out your throat if you are lying."
"And I will finish what she begins," added Father Tres with a definite threatening chill in his usual monotone.
Gavril offered them a crooked smile. "Samael was wrong. Our Prince does travel in very good company indeed." He shifted back into his werewolf form and trotted a little ways from them, looking back over his shoulder. "Follow me."
Esther had just finished tying Abel's ribbon around her wrist. She then wrapped his glasses in her handkerchief and tucked it into her pocket. The others looked at her, evidently waiting for her to take the lead.
She followed after the werewolf.
Listen. This is the tale as the Storyteller told it to me.
It begins, as it always does, with the Prince, who we name the Lord of Winter, the Black Dragon of Drakovia – the one who came to the Tower of the Revenant Lord in order to defeat him once and for all.
The Lord of Revenants styled himself the greatest among the vampire lords – he who saw both mortals and his own kind as his rightful prey, to rule over and do with as he pleased. There were others like him as well – Revenants all, but even they bent the knee in obeisance to him.
The Prince had traveled with two other trusted companions on his quest – the Lady who was his beloved and the Sorceress Child, the eternal little girl who was his dearest friend. And together, they both fought by his side against the enemies that came against them.
In their travels, they came to befriend the Great Wolves, the lords of the forest and they swore fealty to the Prince, pledging to him their eternal loyalty and service. They too would fight at the Prince's side in very many battles.
But in the end, it was the Prince alone who faced the Lord of the Revenants and destroyed him.
The Tower fell, the other Revenants were scattered to the four corners of the earth and the Prince was left in its ruins, forever changed. His dark hair had become the color of frost and his eyes were bright with the hunger for blood that came with being a Revenant. The wind howled and the storm came, for the Prince had called down the ice and snow in his anguish and rage.
For that was the Revenant Lord's final, bitter vengeance – that he who should dare to strike down a Revenant should become one in his turn.
The Lady and the Child would not leave his side, accursed though he was and they too were touched by it in their turn as well. And so, throughout the centuries they existed, all three of them, together with the Great Wolves, bound by blood and love and ties of friendship and fealty, to protect this land and to find and destroy the remaining Revenants.
The day did come when the last of the original evil coven fell and only the three of them were left and they thought that their tale was done and finished at long last…
Abel Nightroad came awake to the sound of a child singing.
It was the most beautiful and sorrowful sound he had ever heard. In her voice was loss and pain and anger and he wanted to reach out to the singer, to offer comfort and understanding, for he too knew all these things…
"Awake at last?" inquired a solicitous voice.
Abel tried to move because he knew that voice but he was bound tight, his arms, legs and wings held back by some sort of force that he couldn't get free of.
So he settled for snarling, "Kampfer."
"My lord Abel," Isaak Fernand von Kampfer, Panzer Magier of the Rosen Kreuz Orden sketched him a mocking bow. "We really should stop meeting in this fashion."
"Well, I would appreciate it very much if you would kindly let me loose and maybe I can give you a proper welcome," Abel said sarcastically.
Kampfer chuckled lightly. "You don't really think I would fall for that, do you?" He made a point of circling around Abel – they were both in some sort of stone chamber, which was covered in all sorts of strange occult symbols, some of which Abel recognized somewhat from his own studies in the priesthood. While the occult was not necessarily something most Roman Catholic priests were taught, the nature of Abel's work did take him towards a more supernatural direction at times and so he'd had to make a study of these things.
The room was also noteworthy for the three portraits hanging on its walls – one painting was recognizably that of the Prince. The one on his right depicted a beautiful, golden-haired woman and the other was a laughing, black-haired, blue-eyed little girl who looked extraordinarily like Seth.
"The Prince, his Lady Elora and Isabel, the one they call the Sorceress Child," remarked Kampfer. "Interesting names for your ancestors, isn't it?"
"Come, now, surely you see the resemblance?" Kampfer purred. "And isn't it interesting that they are vampires who actually prey on other vampires? Had the Crusnik nanomachines already made it to earth even in those ancient superstition-ridden times?"
"No, really? I think this is getting to be a really boring subject," Abel returned, trying not to struggle too visibly. Why couldn't he get free?
"Don't bother – you're not going to break free of that, even with your Crusnik strength," Kampfer told him. "We are dealing with magic and sorcery, here, the ancient knowledge that has long been lost to this dull little world. Our host has been gracious enough to allow me access to his library and I have found a lot of fascinating reading…"
"Wonderful – so what do I need to do to get a library card around here?" Damn and blast – he just knew exactly why Kampfer would be interested in this. Cain would be no doubt delighted…
"You're not here to read, my lord Abel, but try and make yourself comfortable. Tonight you'll be participating in a very special show…"
Haunted castle. Check. Mad werewolf lord who possessed supernatural powers. Check. Evil vampire mage pulling the strings from behind the scenes. Check. Damsel in distress who needed rescuing – okay, so maybe Abel didn't exactly qualify for that role but he sure as hell needed rescuing right about now.
Samael, in the tradition of evil villains everywhere, informed Abel exactly what he intended to do – use Abel's blood in a magical ritual intended to resurrect the long-dead Prince Alyardi. The werewolves had all gathered in that chamber while Kampfer was simply an audience member in one corner, all too obviously interested in committing every nuance of the ritual to memory for future use.
Abel could now feel the power that was somehow holding him bound and helpless and he snarled helplessly as six werewolves in human form brought in a stone casket. The lid was lifted away and Abel saw what or rather who lay within.
Prince Kyrys Ivan Alexander Alyardi, the long-dead Prince, whose body had somehow lain uncorrupted for all these long centuries.
Once again, Abel could hear the unseen child's song, lifting her voice almost as if in defiance of Samael's chanting of his spells. And then, Samael's knife flashed and Abel saw himself bleeding from his wrists and throat. He saw his blood trickling down into that casket, staining the Prince's smooth, ivory skin, seeping into his dead flesh…
The Prince's eyes opened.
The last thing Abel heard, just before he lost consciousness, was Esther screaming. Esther and the others had finally arrived, just a few seconds too late…
The afterlife seemed to be a place of pure, blinding white, almost as white as the space station Abel had spent the beginning of his life in. He looked around, half-wondering if he was dreaming and if he would actually see Lilith again…
But in that moment, what he saw, most vividly, was Esther's face, her dark blue eyes filled with tears.
"Let the dead bury their dead," Abel whispered and realized, finally, that he had to get out of here. Perhaps he had not fully forgiven herself, perhaps he never truly would but he had to come back, because Esther was waiting for him…
"You are right, you know," came an unfamiliar voice.
Abel whirled around and saw the Prince standing before him.
Abel was no stranger to seeing someone else wearing his face – he was a twin after all. But this was different from looking at Cain. The Prince's green eyes were kind and understanding and he'd lifted a curious hand to gently and briefly touch Abel's cheek.
"You are of my blood, are you not?" the Prince asked him.
Abel opened his mouth to say No but found himself answering Yes and realizing or finally admitting to himself that it was true. This Prince was his father in a sense, the being who had been the source or was one of the sources that provided the genetic material that created Abel and his siblings. The Prince wore his face and had Seth's eyes and perhaps was the reason why Abel and the others were the only ones whose bodies could accept the Crusnik nanomachines.
"We were taken – all three of us – Elora, Isabel and I," the Prince told him. "We were not the only Revenants they had found but they said we were most excellent 'specimens.'" His voice had a tinge of bitterness to it that Abel understood all too well. "They stole our blood, our flesh from us… to create you and others like you. I died trying to protect Elora and Isabel. The wolves too are my people – they too were taken for those experiments and now they are as you see them."
"I am sorry," Abel said, feeling the old resentment and rage rise up in him again, the very same things that had once led him to become, like his brother, Contra Mundi, the Enemy of the World. And in the end, it had brought him nothing but despair and ruin and the loss of her…
"Don't be sorry," the Prince told him, smiling at him. "You have your mother's eyes, I see."
Abel blinked. "My mother?"
"It is her voice that you hear singing."
Abel's eyes went wide. "The child… the little girl?"
"Isabel is the last of us. She still lives. But she is no longer here. You must find her. The other wolves believe that they carry out her will but they are mistaken. She may want justice but she does not believe in vengeance."
"I will find her," Abel promised. "But I don't know how to get out of here."
The Prince drew a line against his throat with one long-nailed finger. Bright blood welled along that cut and he beckoned Abel to him. "Drink from me – take my strength and my memories, all that you need to know. My gift to you, Abel Nightroad…my son."
Abel hesitated. "I can't… I can't do that."
"I'm already dead," the Prince told him. "My tale is done; my story told. It is your turn to pick up the threads and carry it on."
The Prince stepped forward and held Abel close to him, almost in a fatherly fashion, one hand gently guiding Abel's head down to the wound in his neck, bidding him to drink.
Destroy my body, leave nothing of my flesh or my blood behind for others to steal. Find Isabel, the Child, your mother. Swear to me.
I swear. I promise.
Esther had thought that the worst moment of her life was the day she saw the Reverend Mother, the woman she'd thought of as her own mother, die.
Now she saw Samael draw that knife across Abel's throat and knew exactly what it meant to shatter into a million, tiny pieces.
But somehow, she'd found the strength to raise her gun and shoot the werewolf down.
It was Ion who'd shielded her from the enraged attack of one of Samael's followers. Ion who looked at her with eyes shining with hopeless love and sorrow and understanding.
"You love him very much, don't you?" Ion had asked her as they were hurrying to Castle Alyardi.
She couldn't lie, not to him – he was her friend, even if she was painfully aware that he wished it to be more. "Yes," she had admitted.
"And he loves you – he might as well shout it from the highest tower, with the way he looks at you," the young Methuselah said ruefully.
Esther had blushed – were they really that obvious?
But Ion had touched her shoulder and said softly, "We will bring him back alive – you can be sure of it."
"Esther, it's not yet over," Ion was telling her now. Samael was still alive and it was now a pitched battle between him and Gavril, between the werewolves who served Samael and those on Gavril's side. Father Tres and Lady Astharoshe were also engaged in battle – the Vatican's Gunslinger and the Duchess of Kiev fighting side by side as if they'd been doing it for years.
Gavril had brought them all to the secret dens in the woods where he and his own pack had dwelled. He told them the true tale of the Prince Alyardi and of his people – of the ancient battles that had been fought all throughout the centuries, until the modern ages, when the Prince, his beloved wife and his dearest friend had thought that their never-ending war was finally over. But somehow, they had not escaped the attention of a certain faction of scientists and scholars who had been making a study of the Revenants for centuries.
The three of them had been taken, along with some of the Great Wolves, imprisoned and turned into experimental subjects. The Prince and the Lady Elora had both died in the destruction of the laboratory they were imprisoned in, trying to escape. Isabel – the Child – had been the one to finish the job and with the werewolves' help, she had brought the bodies of the Prince and his Lady to the Castle. And then, heartsick and grieving, she too had lain in sleep and the werewolves guarded the Castle and their tombs for several hundred years.
But Armageddon happened and the Mars Returners had come back to Earth and they were changed by the bacilli in their blood into the new breed of vampires. And the Crusniks had come among them – Cain, Abel, Lilith and Seth, the three Nightlord siblings siding with the Methuselahs while Lilith alone defended the Terrans. The ancient stories and legends of the Prince and his companions were once again reawakened in Drakovia and were twisted by those like Samael, who thought that this was a sign that the hour of vengeance had come.
So Samael and those who followed him broke away from the pack, firmly convinced that it was Isabel's will that the world be cleansed of the Methuselahs and Terrans who had wrought so much destruction. The world would be given a chance to start anew and the werewolves would finally be free to come out of its shadows, to roam and hunt in the empty cities and forests.
But Isabel, the Child, the Mother, seeks justice, not vengeance, Gavril had told them.
"Where have you hidden the Mother, Gavril?" Samael snarled, staggering from the wounds inflicted by Esther's gun and Gavril's claws. "The Prince awakens and they should be together!"
"You will not find her – she is safe, far from you and your madness!" The white werewolf snarled back in turn.
Samael gestured and in his hand appeared the black sword that had once belonged to the Prince. He was too weakened by blood loss to change back into wolf form but he could still fight. He leapt at Gavril, sword held high.
Esther looked at Ion – the werewolves were engrossed in their own battle now. "Help me get to Abel."
The two of them started for the stone coffin in the middle of the room. When the ritual had finished, Abel had fallen inside. She had no idea whether he was still alive or not but she was not going to leave him here…
"Oh no, little ones, not another step," Isaak Fernand von Kampfer purred, suddenly gliding in front of them.
"Get out of our way!" Ion warned him, brandishing his sword.
"Stay and play with me a little while, Count of Memphis," Kampfer answered mockingly. "You and your little redhaired friend will find me interesting company."
He spoke strange words and then, several horned things that Esther could only describe as demons appeared around him. They attacked.
Esther and Ion stood back to back – Esther with her gun, Ion with his sword. She fired; Ion slashed away at one demon and then –
The other demons exploded in a burst of blue fire.
Esther turned to see Abel hovering above the coffin, black wings spread wide, holding the body of the Prince against him with one arm while the other held his scythe. The Crusnik's red eyes shifted to a brilliant green for just a moment.
Samael and Gavril paused in their battle.
"My Prince," Samael whispered.
The Prince's body suddenly dissolved into ash.
Samael howled in fury and loss. He raised his sword and struck with a bolt of blazing white lightning.
This time, it bounced harmlessly away from the Crusnik who simply looked at Samael and said, "That sword is not yours to wield."
The black sword flew out of Samael's hands and was driven deep into the far wall.
"Oh dear," Kampfer said then. "Perhaps it's time to leave this party."
The Panzer Magier disappeared into the shadows.
Abel now faced the angry werewolf pack leader. "This was not the Prince's wish nor is it my mother's. You know that perfectly well. Give it up, Samael – it's over."
Samael laughed mirthlessly. And then, he thrust one clawed hand into Gavril's chest and took out his heart.
The white werewolf fell, shifting back into his human form.
Tres' guns blazed and it was Samael's turn to fall, his chest blasted open by gunshot wounds.
Abel roared and his great black wings seemed to extend even further. Glass shattered and the ground rumbled and some of the werewolves were caught by the blaze of blue energy and burst into flames. It had suddenly become bitterly cold and it was as if a snowstorm had begun to rage right in the chamber for the wind was howling and there was snow and frost forming on the stones.
Esther ran to him, heedless of the danger, crying out his name. "Abel! No! Stop it!" She didn't care if Samael was dead – she only regretted that she hadn't been able to finish the job, at least before she could prevent him from killing Gavril. A part of her knew that wasn't quite the way she had been taught to see things but right now she had other concerns. That impossible, seemingly magical snowstorm was still raging and she knew Abel would never forgive himself if he managed to get out of control and bring the room down upon their heads. Her tears for Gavril were already freezing on her cheeks.
Abel had fallen to his knees next to Gavril, the scythe dropping from his hand to clatter on the ground and disappear a second later. Esther was at his side in a few moments, kneeling right next to him. Abel's lips moved silently and she knew he was quietly reciting the prayers for the dying. She too added her own silent prayers.
Gavril looked up at them both – impossible as it was, he was still alive. The old werewolf's amber eyes regarded them both and he smiled.
"My lord and lady," he whispered.
And then, he died.
The sun was rising when they had finally made their weary way out of the Castle. The wind blew and the first snowflakes had begun to fall – whether or not Abel had managed to call it up somehow in those last few moments, it seemed that winter had come at last to the land of the Lord of Winter.
Abel had the Prince's sword with him – it was now slung across his back in its scabbard. Somehow he knew he wasn't meant to leave that particular weapon behind.
Gavril's werewolves carried the remains of their pack leader with them. They would choose a new leader among themselves and they would stay in Drakovia quietly defending and protecting its people as their beloved Prince had always done.
"I can hear someone singing," Astharoshe said wonderingly. "A child, a little girl…"
"Negative. My audio receptors are not receiving anything, Lady Astharoshe," said Father Tres.
"Then your audio receptors must be malfunctioning because I'm hearing it too," Ion said.
"It's Isabel's voice you're hearing," Abel told them quietly. He had already shifted back to normal. "The last of the Revenants. The Sorceress Child. My mother and Seth's too, I believe." He thought of that painting and knew that there wasn't a doubt about that – the girl in that portrait looked too much like Seth to have any doubt.
"Well, where is this Sorceress Child now?" Ion asked. "Gavril was being awfully cryptic and the werewolves won't say anything either."
"They can't say anything. Apparently, Gavril had her taken away when this whole mess with Samael began but he was the only one who knows where she's been hidden," Abel answered. "But I promised that I would find her."
He knew that he had to – God only knew what would happen if Kampfer or any of Cain's people had gotten hold of her.
"Well, anyway, I think we've been terribly remiss," Astharoshe said, looking at Abel thoughtfully. She sketched him a graceful courtesy. "My lord Prince Artorius Elric Vradica, I'm glad you're safe and well."
"Your Imperial Highness," Ion said, bowing as well, cinnamon eyes bright with mischief.
"Eh?!" Abel was nonplussed.
"Well, we're not dense, tovarishch – after that little display you did back there, it's not as if we can doubt who you actually are!" Astharoshe said with exasperation. "And you are just like your sister – you're both terribly fond of traipsing about incognito!"
"Lady Astharoshe!" Ion exclaimed with mock-horror. "We have to show our Prince Artorius more respect!"
"Please stop calling me that – it's not even my name," Abel begged. "Seth just made it all up! Tres, help me out here!"
"I am not programmed to mediate in petty squabbles," the android said. One brown eye gleamed red. "My lord Prince."
"Tres!" Abel then turned his attention to Esther, who was being uncharacteristically quiet. "Esther, at least you're on my side here, right?"
He was startled when she stepped into his arms and buried her face in his shoulder. He could feel the warm wetness of her tears sinking into the cloth.
"Oh, love," he whispered into her hair. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw that the others had gone a little off to the side, giving them both a little privacy.
"I thought I'd lost you – first when Samael had taken you away and then when he – your throat – there was so much blood…" she sobbed. "And Gavril – poor Gavril…"
"Gavril's death was not your fault."
"And all I could think of was how I had to get to you and I thought I was too late…"
He held her tighter. "All I could think of was how I had to come back to you."
"And so you did," she answered, sniffling. "I'm so silly – I shouldn't be crying, I promised myself I wouldn't cry and you're still here."
Abel slid a finger underneath her chin and tilted her face up so that he could gently brush away her tears. "I thought we'd agreed that I was supposed to be the silly one here, remember?"
At last, he was rewarded with a tremulous smile. "I'm not supposed to be silly for at least another year, I think," Esther murmured.
"Precisely." Still cupping her face in his hands, Abel bent to kiss her – a long, leisurely kiss where he could still taste the salt of her tears and when he drew back, he pressed kisses to both her palms, noting with pleasure the becoming blush on her cheeks and her kiss-reddened mouth. Now she looked ever so much better.
"Oh! I almost forgot!" Esther took a cloth-wrapped bundle out of her pocket, unfolded it and handed him his spectacles. "You dropped these."
He slid them back on, realizing that she also had one other item that belonged to him and that was his hair ribbon, which was still wrapped around her right wrist. "You still have my hair ribbon."
"I know," she answered archly.
"I won't ask for it back. At least not yet."
"Good," she said fiercely. And he laughed.
Author's End Notes:
Oh. My. God. My first completed LONG story. And all because this Massive Plot has snuck in to play with my Romantic Fluffy bunnies! Oi vei! (facepalms)
Again, I have to thank my officemates – who still insist on feeding my plot bunnies and getting me to continue and finish this story.
Years before I even encountered Trinity Blood, I'd sat down to write my little original fictional romance featuring a Prince who was a vampire who fed on other vampires' blood, a fey little girl and naturally, the heroine Princess. That was way back in high school and I was in the midst of my Anne Rice phase (don't laugh, you lot all went through that, admit it! Hehehehe!). And of course there was much aaaaangst and brooding and tragic romantic love that could never die, reincarnation of lost lovers and all that jazz. And it was all set to MeatLoaf's "I Would Do Anything For Love (But I Won't Do That)." Blame that song's MTV.
But then, I grew up, grew older and just a tad wiser and that little romance story grew into what would be my college thesis – a screenplay for an animated film. My Prince changed from an Anne Rice vampire wannabe to a rather cheerful funny sort of hero – much like Abel Nightroad in a way. His little girl sidekick has since emerged into many of my other original stories and fan fiction as a recurring character who's a bit of a mystery in her own right but I hope that I've done my best to steer her away from Mary Sue-dom and let her be just herself – a Singer of songs and a Teller of tales.
I was staggered to discover Trinity Blood and see the similarities in that anime and my original tale and I knew that if I ever tried my hand at writing fan fiction for this universe, I knew I could pretty much weave it into my own, but without losing the focus on Abel and the other TB main characters, because, I want to tell their story and their adventures and not focus on original characters that the readers would not care overmuch about and run into the whole Mary Sue/Harry Stu block.
Plus, I've finally stumbled on what will apparently happen in actual Trinity Blood canon so I now know how close I'll stick to that and how far I'm going to tapdance away from it. Looking at this now, there IS going to be a lot of tap dancing but then, I don't really want to tell the canon story. That's Yoshida Suano-san's story and it has been told, mostly. This is fan fiction, so I'm free to tell another story and hopefully, you guys will like this fic as much as you've liked the earlier ones and the ones that are still to come.