Author's note: Greetings dear readers! I know it has been months since I last updated, or else since I was last active on the site, but you know me now... And if you don't, you can have a look at my profile. So here I am, with a new chapter for the Dark Saga. I have this story figured to the end, and I thought it'd be a pity to discontinue it since it's getting reviews of a satisfying number and content. So, if you follow this story, please be patient with my totally unscheduled updates, but you can be sure that there will always be updates. It's true, though, that reviews work good towards more frequent updates. And because none is supposed to remember everything that has happened in the story so far, here is a short re-cap to put you again in the picture. If you don't need the re-cap, scroll down and read the chapter! And review, if you'd be so kind...
Re-cap: A 1889 Van Helsing is having flashes where his past life is revealed to him. So far the story takes place in the mid 1400s, in Targoviste, Walachia, Romania. Gabriel and Vlad got very close since they were kids and grew up like brothers after Gabriel's parents died. Vlad fell in love with and married Mina, while Gabriel fell in love with and married Delia, both girls of aristocracy. Delia's older brother, Damian, is a friend of the men, especially Gabriel. Vlad and Mina were expecting a child but she had a miscarriage they never truly got over. Vlad is named Dragulia which is like a title to him, and he is the leader of the army. In the latter years the Turks threaten the Walachian kingdom with invasions, therefore a war is raging at the southern borders. Gabriel was wounded in battle and returned to Targoviste to recover. In the present year 1451 Gabriel is 27 and Vlad 29 years old. Everything is told from Gabriel's POV.
The Dark Saga
Herald Of Woe
Targoviste, the 12th of October 1451
Rays of bright sunlight fall upon my face and wake me up. I flutter my eyelids open and I see myself in my bed chamber. I sit up in my bed and as my head clears after the morning sleepiness I realize it is my birthday today. I also realize that nearly a month has passed since the day I was wounded in battle, and I have recovered almost completely. The war against the invading Turkish hordes is still raging at our southern frontiers, and it will not be long before I return to the battlefield. I presume it will be within this week. The news that arrives from the battle front is usually of victory, but the Turks are not willing to retreat so easily. Still, I estimate that the hostilities will end before the winter arrives.
Shaking off the thoughts about the war, I decide to leave my bed and I move to the window. I feel that I need a breath of fresh air. As I gaze out of it to the exquisite natural beauty of the scenery that unfolds before my eyes, sweet female laughter attracts my attention. I turn my head to the direction of the pleasant sound and I spot my wife and Mina taking a slow walk in the gardens. My heart skips at the sight of Delia; once more I realize that I am obsessed with my beautiful wife and our love. I smile at myself and watch her for a little while. Then I change into proper clothing and quickly leave my room.
Soon I am outside, heading to the two happy-looking women. Delia notices me as I approach and quickly runs to my side.
"Happy birthday, Gabriel!" she exclaims and hugs me warmly. I smile and kiss her softly. Mina's wishes follow and I thank them both. Then Delia's face changes into a more serious, yet playful expression. "What are you doing out here? You should be inside, resting", she tells me and places her hand on my chest. She smiles at me and her eyes shine.
"I am fine, you don't need to worry", I assure her quietly. Then I turn to my brother's wife. "Mina, how are you doing?" I ask her politely.
"Very well, Gabriel, thank you. But if I may say, Delia is right. You shouldn't risk your health… My husband will need you again by his side soon", she tells me kindly. Mina is a wonderful woman with a golden heart. She really is what Vlad deserves.
"Come, let's go inside", Delia says and grabs my arm to pull me inside, even though I would rather spend a few more minutes in the fresh air. However, I do as she says.
The three of us soon find ourselves in Mina's favorite hall of the palace, which is on the third floor and looks out to a balcony and a breathtaking view. Taking seats in plush sofas, we start a pleasant conversation. I speak little, mostly enjoying the sound of Delia's voice, the delicate moves of her hands and her sweet laughter every now and then. Mina is a bit more serious, but the kindness never leaves her eyes. As I look at the two women, I realize that they complete my brother and me. They are what we are not. Mina is a kind and meek woman, who shows affection to those she cares for. Vlad is sharp and sometimes arrogant, and he does not always express his feelings. As for Delia, she has bright eyes of happiness and a warm, down-to-earth personality, while I do not possess either. She often says that she sees a constant melancholy in my eyes and an unapproachable side of me at times. I have contemplated her words several times, yet without reaching an explanation other than the events of my childhood.
A little later a servant appears in the entrance of the hall and his sudden presence shakes me off my thoughts. After bowing slightly, he speaks.
"My lord and my ladies, there is a war messenger outside, and he would like to see Lord Gabriel and Lady Mina immediately", he announces. Mina and I exchange questioning looks. Then we both stand and excuse ourselves to Delia, who gives us understanding looks, and follow the servant to the main entrance. The servant leaves then and we see the war messenger standing before us. It's a man I have never seen before. I quickly assume that he was appointed as a war messenger recently.
"Greetings, my lords", he starts.
"We have just been informed that you needed to see us immediately. Well?" I ask impatiently.
"My lords, I am afraid that I am a bearer of ill news…" he says in sorrow and takes an envelope out of his coat. He hands it to Mina and then lowers his head.
I watch her expression darken awfully as she reads the paper. Tears soon emerge in her eyes and blur her vision, and they fall on the yellowish paper, staining it. She moves her head from left to right, as if she is denying something, while her eyes are still fixed on the paper.
"No… no… no…" she whispers.
"Mina? What's going on?" I ask her but she does not seem willing to answer. "What is written in the paper? Mina!" I call at her to tell me the reason for her sudden desperation, but she does not respond. Instead, she lifts her eyes from the paper and looks around in a haze, her empty gaze wandering hopelessly, blurred with tears. Her eyes flutter for a moment, and then she lets out a horrible cry, as if her beating heart was ripped off her chest. She crumples the paper in her hand, while her breathing comes short and uncontrollably fast, and then she throws it violently against me. I stand shocked.
"Noooooo!" she screams in tears and runs away from me.
"Mina! Wait!" I shout at her. Quickly I grab the crumpled paper and run behind her.
She rushes along the corridor, her dress flowing around her feet, and then she rushes up the stairs and along another corridor, and again up more stairs. I try to keep up with her frenzied pace, but I'm not fully healed yet and my breathing comes harder now. She reaches the third floor and runs towards the hall where Delia is waiting. "Mina!" I call her again but she ignores me once more. Upon entering the hall I see Delia rushing to the balcony just as Mina's figure takes a jump off of it and disappears from our eyes. My wife and I run to the balcony gasping and look down in horror. Mina's body is lying down, still and lifeless.
"Mina! Oh, God, Mina! No!" Delia cries and throws herself into my arms. I take her and we go out quickly, running to where Mina's body lies. Many servants are already gathered around her body and look at it in awe and terror. I bend on my knee to check, hopelessly, for a pulse. I find none.
"She's… dead", I manage to say, still unable to believe my eyes, still holding that crumpled paper in my right hand. Delia has hidden her face in her hands and sobs. The servants around wear sorrowful expressions on their faces; Mina was liked by most of them. Wondering whispers rise among them. I look at them and then at the paper I hold. I manage to straighten it and read it. As I do, I feel the blood drained from my face. "This paper…" I start as I stand weakly and hold it forth, "it says… it says that Prince Vladislaus is dead", I say and my voice breaks. Voices and cries of shock and woe rise among the servants. Delia grabs my forearm and literally hangs from me like a ragged doll. I find it extremely difficult to keep my composure anymore as tears come to my own eyes as well. My brother, dead? It sounds so irrational to me, so unbelievable. My heart and my mind refuse to come to terms with the terrible reality. I turn to my wife and hold her trembling body in my arms, without saying a word. I bury my face in her hair as hot tears stain my cheeks. Time seems to have stopped while we remain in that embrace of grief, crying over Mina's dead body and Vlad's death. As the servants begin to scatter, respecting their lords' lament, I bow down and pick up Mina's body in my arms. With my wife by my side, we slowly walk into the palace. When we reach my brother and Mina's room, I gently lay her body on the mattress. I leave Delia to arrange for Mina's body to be cleaned and properly prepared for the burial, and I go to find King Valerious in the throne hall. A lump forms in my throat as I realize the King's tragedy. What can be worse for a parent than to lose their child?
As I approach the hall, I notice the unnatural silence that prevails. Upon entering, there is no guard or servant to meet. Instead, the King is seated in his throne, all alone. His head is sunk to his chest and he is motionless. I kneel before him, not daring to look at his eyes for more than a brief moment. He looks like he has aged a thousand years.
"My King… father…" I utter, and I remain with my head bowed.
He lifts his head ever so slowly and gazes at me. His eyes are red from the tears.
"Vlad was my only son… heir to my throne… defender of my kingdom…" he starts in a shaky voice. "They have taken everything from me. Curse the woe that war brings!" he cries in grief and anger. His features twitch and his fists clench. I remain silent. "No parent should ever have to bury their child…" he laments and brings his hand to his face, sobbing silently. I reach and touch his other hand. "I lament for my son, and I lament for his unfortunate wife. Their deaths have shattered my tired heart", he says and his head sinks again.
"My King… you know that Vlad was a brother to me. I don't forget what he did for me in my time of need. The grief for his death is unbearable. Please, tell me if there is anything I can do, and I will do it", I say and look the King in the eye. He returns the look, and after a moment of silence he speaks to me.
"Go back, Gabriel. Find his body... Bring my son to me. Bring him back to me", he asks of me intensely. I nod firmly. Then I stand and I bow before the revered King.
As I exit the hall, his last words echo in my head. I may not be totally ready yet, but I decide to leave for the battlefield at dawn. I cannot waste any time. I cannot fail the King's wish. But, above all, I cannot fail my brother. If bringing him home is the last thing I can do for him, then I will do it.
Marking The Twist
Walachian southern frontiers, the 14th of October 1451
It's late in the afternoon when I arrive at our military camp. Quickly I dismount my horse and take off my helmet. I make for Damian's tent. He is among the highest ranking warriors and definitely the one I trust more, so I decide he is the right person to talk to about the King's wish and to find out about Vlad's death. The wind is blowing manically, swirling the dust off the ground, whipping my hair against my face and threatening to rip off my cape, but I can't care less. I ignore the soldiers who are welcoming me back, giving them only a few glances and nods. I wonder how they are able to smile while the prince is dead and our army leaderless. Angered, I quicken my pace. For a moment I turn my eyes to the western sky, where heavy clouds are gathering, while the twilight will soon give its place to the night. I pull my cape tight around me as I take a turn, reaching Damian's tent. And then I freeze at my place.
Opposite me stands Vlad, his head turned to the South, where our enemy lurks. Casually, he brings a hand to his hair and swiftly pushes back some stray strands. It seems to me there is a faint smile on his face, and I am wondering if I'm seeing a ghost.
I take two slow steps towards him, holding my breath. Then he randomly turns his face towards my side. His expression changes completely when he sees me.
"Gabriel!" he exclaims and walks up to me quickly. I stand still and look at him. "My brother! So good to see you are back so soon!" he says smiling and places his hands on my shoulders.
"Vlad… you are alive", I utter and look at him from head to toe. "You are alive!" I cry in happiness and hug him tightly. He is taken aback.
"What do you mean I'm alive? Of course I'm alive", he says and looks at me again as if I have lost my mind. I see that he is trying to figure what I'm thinking. "What is it Gabriel? What happened? Why are you here so early?" he asks in a serious tone and stares at me intensely.
"News reached us two days ago that you had died. A war messenger delivered a note. Your father asked of me to come here and… well, bring your said dead body back", I tell him briefly what happened. He looks at me skeptically, as the rain starts to fall.
"This is irrational. What messenger would deliver such false news? Not only I'm not dead, but I haven't even been wounded the slightest!" he assures me as he leads me to his tent. He fills two chalices with wine as we enter and I put aside my sword and helmet. He hands me one chalice and sits on his couch.
"Maybe someone who wished your family harm?" I offer an idea as I take a sip. He looks at me with his intense icy blue eyes and nods.
"It could be the Turks, and it could be someone else as well. Not few are those who covet the crown. We need to arrest this messenger. What is his name?" he asks me while anger starts boiling inside him.
"He was registered by the palace guards as Anton Ionescu, but he may very well have been using a false name", I warn him.
"It doesn't matter. We have the means to find him. I will hunt him to the end of the world if necessary, and I will make him pay for what he did. And then the one who had him do it will pay worse!" he hisses and his eyes narrow. He stands and takes a few steps across the tent. Then his expression changes again as he looks at me. "Tell me Gabriel, how are my parents and my wife after this terrible lie?" he asks me and I avoid his gaze. How can I tell him of Mina's suicide? But how can I keep it from him either?
"Your father… he is desperate. And so is your mother. I've never seen the King like that. He was like he lost the whole world. You are everything to him", I say and look at him with compassion. Vlad's eyes betray his emotional state and he clenches his jaw muscles to suppress the tears. "And Mina?" he asks me. I waver and turn my eyes elsewhere. "What about Mina, Gabriel?" he insists, his voice harder. I take a breath and look at him.
"She could not bear the grief. The horrible news was more than she could take. As soon as she read the message, she ran off… We couldn't… I couldn't stop her", I say in a shaky voice and lower my head.
"You couldn't stop her from doing what, Gabriel?" his voice comes like a bitter hiss.
"She ran and jumped off the balcony. It was too late when we got to her", I manage to tell him.
"What… Are you saying that… are you saying that my wife is dead, Gabriel?" he gasps.
"I'm sorry, Vlad. I'm so sorry", I mutter. I don't know what else to say.
"You promised me that you would take care of her!" he shouts at me and pushes me away violently. I don't fight back. I let him have his outburst. "Get out of my way!" he hisses and pushes me aside as he storms out of the tent. I walk behind him.
"Vlad, where are you going? Vlad!" I call at him and he quickens his pace. The heavy rain quickly drenches us.
"I cannot be here while Mina is dead!" he says and jumps on his horse.
"Vlad, wait! You can't just leave! There's nothing you can do for Mina now, but there's a war raging here!" I call at him, trying to bring him to his senses.
"Don't tell me what I can do and what I cannot do! I have been fighting for God and look what I got! To hell with His war! It's not my war anymore!" he yells and spurs his horse to a wild gallop to the North.
I watch him gallop away for a moment with a concerned gaze and then I run to Damian's tent. He is surprised to see me, but I try not to waste time, so I tell him briefly what has happened and I leave him in charge until Vlad returns. Damian agrees to remain silent and not reveal anything about Vlad's true reason of departure to the army, and I promise him that I will remain in touch and that I will explain things better in the appropriate time. Wishing each other good luck, we part. I grab my armor and then I mount my horse, galloping towards the direction Vlad left.