Rinaldo approached the lift at the end of the hallway slowly after assuring that a servant was tending to the child. He had originally dismissed the girl as a drop off, probably of some religious faction which had no desire to finish their dirty work. Certainly, until she had mentioned who she was he had not viewed her as anyone worthy of Vlad or Adrian's attentions. But the revelation of her name, of her family, had placed him off guard.
The servant that the girl had been placed with was the usual kind. A silent maiden that appeared wholly human, dressed in the traditional black starched dress and white apron of a maid, usually with a feather duster in hand and hair pulled back in a restrictive bun. But these maids were of mixed lineage, experiments that had taken many trials and errors to correctly produce so that by the time they took on their duties the sliver of demonic blood in them created the silence, strength, and agility of their demonic ancestry with the appearance of their stronger human ancestry.
Still, Rinaldo saw the situation as safe. These creatures were raised from a young age to obey every order. The girl would not be seen as an enemy. Rinaldo looked up, discovering himself at the brass grate to the lift. He pushed it open a little too forcefully, hearing it clang even as he pulled the lever up, bringing him to the next level of the castle.
Upon reaching the upper level, however, he paused. How would he tell Vlad what had happened? How could he tell Vlad, after everything that had happened with Adrian, that a girl claiming to be his daughter with seemingly no idea of her unique- or nearly unique- ancestry was wandering around in a ripped dress in the library with no idea of where she was?
Vlad would not accept the girl, of that much he was positive. But he had sensed that the girl was genuine. She was telling the truth, unusual though it was, and if he was correct in his assumption that she did not know what she was, however the truth had been kept from her, she would not survive simply being turned back out. She would not survive the humans.
To take the child to Adrian, however, would pose an entirely new set of problems. The half-breed was not yet recovered and was still weak not only physically, but mentally. He had heard the man raving about this other life he had been leading, the wife he'd had, and of Lisa's life.
Rinaldo was drawn out of his reverie when barely audible footsteps shuffling across threadbare carpet over stone floors caught his attention. The old man had expected to discover some monster, but instead discovered none other than Adrian watching him from hooded eyes. The man had grown painfully thin during his poisoning because his body had accepted no form of sustenance, not even water. The champagne eyes were still brilliant, and his gaunt face seemed only to heighten the sense of delicacy that the dhampire exuded.
Rinaldo knew that the man standing before him had either not yet begun to make significant recovery or he had meant to alert Rinaldo to his presence. The dhampire moved silently when he wished, silent as a ghost through the ancient hallways of the castle. The blonde man was dressed in a simple white shirt of fine linen and soft brown breeches, and his hair hung in damp, curling strands across his shoulders and down his back.
As he approached the old man Rinaldo smelled rose water and lavender from a recent bath, the slight leftover scent of some meal, the unmistakeable scent of illness. "Rinaldo?" the man asked softly. His voice was light, sounding more as if he'd been woken from a nap than wandering the hallways after waking from a coma.
"How are you feeling, young master?" the old man asked kindly. "You look much better than you were."
Adrian nodded his head, "Much better," he parroted slowly, bringing a hand down through his pale hair.
"You were speaking to Master Dracula," Rinaldo observed, gesturing to the throne room the man had just left.
"Yes, yes I was," Adrian confirmed, suddenly sounding much more lucid. "I… there were some things I wished to clear up. I am returning to my chambers for a time, though. Come. Walk with me."
Rinaldo felt a rush of trepidation as a ball in his stomach as he followed the man wordlessly back into the lift, allowing him to take the old man back down to the chambers. Rinaldo's tension came to a head as Adrian stopped and his brow creased, seeming to study something on the floor a moment before crouching down slowly.
Adrian stood up again, holding a yellow woollen string that had fallen on the floor beside some small footprints in the dust of the hallway. "Who is here? Who made these?" Adrian asked, brow creasing. "These footprints are…"
"They, Adrian-" began Rinaldo haltingly as the dhampire followed the dusty prints to a doorway further down the hall.
"Father… did he bring a child…?" Adrian asked suspiciously. Vlad had always thought that the notion of feeding from a child was disgusting. It was not that he had any particular affinity for them, he had killed enough of them in his reign as the Voivode Vlad the Impaler, but for whatever reason he had always found the idea of feeding from them repulsive.
"No, Adrian. You know your father does not take children," Rinaldo began patiently. "I do not know how the child arrived-"
Adrian cut him off again, "You were going to inform father?" The words were more of a statement than a question. But Adrian felt hope spring in his chest. Valeria, if he remembered correctly, was wearing yellow when he had left. He scarcely allowed himself to hope that it was her. But if it was… What if his mother were here? He could prove to Vlad that this was real. Lisa could try to fix him and end the war that he had instigated so many years past.
Adrian did not wait for a response from the old man, choosing instead to enter the room. Warmth, humidity, and the scent of rose and lavender hit his nose as he entered, accompanied by the slight sounds of something moving in water.
He turned to his right, entering the small bathroom without knocking in time to see a young girl being wrapped up in a fire warmed towel by a maid.
Familiar platinum locks curled down her back as Valeria hugged her towel close, shivering as the door opened and a waft of cool air entered the room, spilling across the flagstone floor and swirling upwards to dissipate the warmth that the bath had created. The girl turned toward the doorway, amber eyes coming to rest on Adrian.
A smile spread across her lips and her eyes lit up excitedly as she turned to fully face him. "Adrian!" she exclaimed, running up to him and hugging him tightly, wrapping thin arms around his waist. "I couldn't find you anywhere and I was so scared! Where are mama and papa?"
Adrian opened his mouth, then shut it again slowly as if unable to process that she was here, real, in this castle. "Valeria," he began placatingly, "I- they-"
His words caught in his throat and he found himself having difficulty speaking to the girl. The presence of the maid frustrated him. He could feel the silent woman's eyes on the pair, even if she did not disrupt the private scene. He fought the rising anger in his chest, instead looking up at the girl in the maid's uniform. "Could you leave us?" he requested civilly, the pent up frustration of the last several hours once again rising in him.
It had not been a full day since he had returned, gazing up at his father from a cold stone altar, but already the world he had grown to love seemed an eternity away. For all reality it was an eternity, unreachable as it was tangible to Adrian. Except now a symbol from that world stood against him, her hair soaking into his fine linen shirt, her breath warming his chest, her heart fluttering like a bird in a cage against his stomach.
The maid left as silently as she had arrived, joining Rinaldo near the writing desk in the bedroom and both respectfully concentrated elsewhere, neither bringing their attentions to the bathroom.
Adrian brought his arms around Valeria, resting one on her shoulder and placing the other against the back of her head, twining his fingers gently in the soft, damp locks before letting her go as she loosened her grip around him.
He knelt down to her level, placing a hand gently on her shoulder as his eyes drank in her familiar appearance, her slight form, high cheekbones, the smattering of freckles across the bridge of her nose, full lips. His eyes darted upward and he froze upon seeing an intense and unnatural amber not unlike his own where he had expected to see a dark coffee brown.
His hand turned leaden against her shoulder and an icy, heavy sensation swept across him, pricking his skin with goose bumps as more features became clear to him. The sharp edge to her nails, keen enough to slice through flesh, skin sickly pale even in the golden light pooling around the bathroom, the features that had been tweaked and modified to a deceptive beauty that no human could achieve.
He released a breath he had not realised he'd been holding and gently grasped her left arm with his right hand, pulling her into an embrace against him. She laid a small hand upon his chest, the other still hanging limply where Adrian held it.
She was afraid of his obvious fear, his silence, and his actions. "Adrian?" she asked gently, her voice wavering, "What's wrong, Adrian? Are you okay? Where are mama and papa?" she repeated her earlier question, unsuccessfully attempting to squirm out of his grip.
The realisation struck Adrian that she did not know anything had changed. She did not realise that she had changed. He had trouble imagining another dhampire in the castle, especially one that would do this to the girl, change the child. Apart from her he was an only child. Dracula had confessed to never having had other children in the long years before he'd met Lisa. If she hadn't been bitten, then how did she become a dhampire?
The thought flashed through his mind that perhaps it was the same way he himself was only half human. Her father was Vlad Tepes, and the human Vlad Tepes did not exist in this reality. Neither did Lisa, and she hadn't for four hundred years though the child standing before him was only eight.
Perhaps she had somehow been brought over, that had somehow changed her… He loosened his grip slightly and looked into her eyes. "Are you okay, Valeria?" he asked seriously, gently brushing the fingers of the hand formerly holding her arm across a cool cheek. "Have you been injured?"
She wrinkled her nose slightly, "No, Adrian. Do I look hurt?" she asked, watching him owlishly, head cocked to one side. "You look different. What happened to your eyes? And why are you so pale?" she asked, "Are you sick?"
He shook his head slowly, "No, Valeria. I am not sick," he said softly, cupping her cheek briefly before standing. "Come; let us find you some proper clothes. I am not sure we will be able to find you a dress on such short notice, but if worst comes to worst you can wear some trousers and a shirt."
"Adrian, what is this place?" she asked, "Where are we? Can't we just go home?"
"I am sorry, Valeria," he said wearily, his tone soft as he placed his hand against one towel covered shoulder, leading her to the door, "We cannot go home right now. We are," he paused, searching for an appropriate term, "being kept here," he finally continued, "for a time."
The child immediately opened her mouth to protest but Adrian squeezed her shoulder, making her look up at him as he held a finger to his lips in a silencing gesture. "We will speak later," he promised as they exited the bathroom.
Adrian led her silently from the room she had been stationed in, glancing back once to where Rinaldo and the maid sat, a silent indication that he did not wish to be followed.
They entered a room freshly done up, the covers a deep burgundy and the accents shades of crimsons and purples. The room did not have a great many personal effects, merely a soft linen nightshirt lying on the bed, a half written letter in an elegant hand lying on the handsome writing desk, and night cloak of brown, fur lined wool. To Valeria, though, the room was distinctly Adrian. His scent was unique, but for the first time she could place the notes that reminded her of nightfall and soil mingled with the water and floral scent from his earlier bath. The scent comforted her and reminded her of home, if only a little.
Adrian slipped his hands under her arms, lifting her gently up and onto the high bed, watching as she curled her legs underneath herself and settled onto the covers. "I do not think," he began, moving to the large set of drawers against the far wall and opening a bottom most drawer, "that there is anything for a young girl kept here, but if you would not mind wearing trousers..."
The girl wrinkled her nose, "Trousers, Adrian?" she asked in a moody voice, close to a whine. Adrian looked over at the girl. She was tired, that much was easy to tell, and had just been put through a great amount of stress. What he had not counted on was crankiness, an aspect of raising the child that was designated to Lisa.
He stood, looking with slight condescension at the fruitless chest of drawers. "Yes, Valeria, trousers," he strode to the bed, pulling a few strands of her pale, curling hair behind one of her ears, feeling how the ear peaked before curving to the lobe, a characteristic of vampire blood, but hardly noticeable on her, as with him. "There are no dresses here that would fit you, my pet," he said, endearing her with the nickname he had heard Vlad and Lisa use, "and your little yellow dress is ruined. I promise that as soon as we can we will get you a new dress, but for now will you please act agreeable for me? Help me out?" he said, trying to appeal to her.
She peered into his eyes, hesitantly softening and nodding, "Fine, fine. I'll wear the trousers."
Adrian nodded, resting a hand on her shoulder briefly before leaving, returning a few minutes later with a child sized set of white linen breeches, fine woven black woollen hose, a long sleeved white linen shirt, and a black brocade kirtle with golden embroidery.
He left the girl to pull on the breeches and shirt, helping her pull on the hose, which had leather soles to act as shoes, belt, and kirtle which were not only made for a man, but made in the style of the 1400s in which Lisa had lived and was the style to which Dracula still subscribed.
Once he had finished the diminutive girl looked very much like a son of past nobility, striking with her vibrant amber eyes and porcelain complexion. Adrian pulled her hair back from her face, braiding it gently so that it fell down her back neatly, little hairs escaping and curling softly around her face.
Adrian stepped back and nodded to himself, seemingly under the impression that that would do. "Let us get you something to eat, shall we?" he asked the child, the smallest of smiles given to her by the man which prompted a shy smile of her own, and she nodded.
He opened the door to his bedroom, leading her out of the room and down the hallway to a door about halfway down the long corridor that looked completely nondescript, like every other door leading down.
This door, however, did not lead to another bedroom but to a short stone hallway which lead to a heavy wooden door that did not at all resemble the elegant doors of the private chambers. This door was made of heavy slats of dark brown wood nailed together, a door which groaned and sent puffs of dust upward as it moved.
Valeria sneezed, wrinkling her nose and clenching her eyes shut momentarily as the dust hit her, making Adrian chuckle. "You are fine. This door just has not been used for many years," he explained, leading her inside.
"How do you know so much about this place, Adrian?" the girl asked, wide eyed.
Adrian hesitated, "I… stayed here once," he decided to say, finally. He did not want to lie to the girl, but he felt that, in this circumstance, the whole truth would be less prudent an offering. He would tell her everything eventually, but not yet. And the statement was not a total lie.
"For now," said Adrian, "come. Let us eat. You look as if you could use a good meal."
The dining chamber was a large stone-walled room with a huge, rough crafted wooden table dominating the centre and plain wooden chairs surrounding it with a high backed chair, presumably for the owner of the castle, at one end. Adrian sat Valeria down at a chair near the head of the table and disappeared behind one door, coming out a moment later with a five-sided silver goblet which held water inside. The girl took it from Adrian as soon as it was offered, eager for the cool water to parch her throat.
The simple meal consisted of some cold meat, a few choice vegetables and some buttered bread that arrived only a moment later on a plain ceramic plate.
It did not take the child long to finish these morsels and she turned to watch Adrian watching her, his look contemplative. He realised she was returning his gaze with a hint of impatience and stood. "Is there anything else you would like?" he asked, his voice deep, calm and cultured.
She shook her head no. "We should try to find mother and father, Adrian," she suggested, her voice holding the slightest hint of reproof.
"There is something you must know, Valeria. Father-" he began slowly.
Her eyes grew concerned, "What is it, Adrian? Is he hurt?"
His tongue snaked up, wetting his lips as he considered his next course of action. "No, Valeria, he is not hurt. But he has… suffered," the man said delicately, "And he is not himself."
"Can a doctor not tend to him?" she asked, brows creasing.
"This is not something that can be cured by a physician," Adrian tried to explain. "I will tell you what. If you can be good and wait patiently in my bedroom I will speak to father and will judge if he is… well enough to come and visit you."
The child looked about to argue the point but instead exhaled in a slightly exasperated manner, nodding in agreement.
Adrian found himself regretting his offer to make Vlad aware of the situation the closer that he came toward the throne room. He knew that the vampire would have to be made aware of the situation soon enough, but every moment that he could delay from informing the vampire would be a moment longer that, in his viewpoint, he might be able to keep his sanity.
The vampire would most surely not take this new news without a proper amount of scoffing and perhaps even anger and worse yet, Adrian was hard pressed to imagine the man accepting the child.
He had left Valeria in his room only a few moments earlier and had to trust that she would not slip out to go exploring.
Vlad was sitting on his throne as the dhampire entered the throne room. The vampire was resplendent in a white, ruffled linen shirt, red, leather lined silk vest and black brocade, ermine fur lined kirtle of a long style, which trailed nearly to his feet. His hose were simple, drawing attention to his torso, leading up to the bright, crimson eyes which were a striking feature in his face, with its sharply pointed ears, blue tinged flesh and gaunt, aristocratic features.
"I have heard of an odd tale, Adrian," he began before the man could even open his mouth and Adrian felt his throat plummet to his stomach.
He swallowed with some difficulty, his own intense golden gaze meeting that of the vampire. "A tale, father?" he asked, schooling his face to one of polite curiosity.
"A young boy, wandering the castle. I have been told that it is as if you yourself were a child once more," the vampire stated, evaluating his son through narrowed eyes.
"Not… a young boy…" the man began slowly, finally exhaling a breath he had not realised he'd been holding. "A young girl, dressed in my childhood clothing. The child that I mentioned earlier, father. Valeria."
Vlad's expression turned ugly, as if could not decide whether to be angry or concerned for his son. "That was a dream, Adrian," he said, half muttering, "Nothing but a dream."
"But it was not, father! Her arrival proves it!" Adrian insisted, taking a placating step toward his father. "You do not believe, but if you are willing to be open minded, then come and see."
Vlad hesitantly rose from his throne, looking wary. "Yes, I believe that may be the best course of action," he admitted slowly.
Lisa was brought into the castle; she was a slight woman, her hair limp and wet from the rain and eyes wide in her face. It had been two large, armoured guards of the castle with no voice or no face that had caught her, something she had discovered upon flipping the face guard up.
She was terrified. She had found herself outside of this ancient castle several hours earlier without a soul in sight, only a well kept garden and a foreboding looking door.
She had been left, cold and alone, when the rain began to drizzle down on her and had sheltered behind a stone in the overgrown garden, discovering her own name etched on to the grave stone when she had removed the vines and leaves.
The guards had come not long after she had sunk to the ground and had lifted their axes high above their heads; they were ready to attack her when something had stilled them. A man, an old man with a long silver beard in rough brown robes had sternly told them to capture her, not to injure her, to bring her to the throne room.
And so she was brought to this point, being carted unceremoniously through labyrinth rooms with untold horrors, past corridors where monsters loomed threateningly out of the shadows and up to a huge room which held a large, ornate throne, a chandelier that must have cost more than her home, and a gigantic, threadbare area rug. There was no lord, no king, nor any being of any sort upon this throne.
The old man from before was in the room though, and he beckoned her to a seat, gesturing for the monsters with the impossibly strong grips to release her.
"How did you command those things?" asked Lisa, her face as pale as her flaxen hair.
"I am a denizen of this castle," the man stated, "The head librarian, actually. But I am a confidante to the master of this castle. You do not recognise me, my lady?"
"Why should I?" Lisa demanded. "And what were those creatures we saw on the way? Demons…" Lisa murmured, "They were horrible."
"They won't hurt you, my lady," Rinaldo stated in a soothing voice.
Lisa looked up absently, "How did you know that they had gotten me? How could you tell?" she asked, her voice soft and curious.
"I know much of what goes on in this castle," he said placidly, "and the news that I do not yet know travels quickly. These creatures are usually found guarding the area to my library. I suppose that you could say I have developed an innate sense for determining when I am needed. Though I must say that this is a highly unusual day, I have scarcely had need to leave my library before."
Lisa nodded slowly, and then a thought seemed to come in to her mind. "I am looking for my husband and children. Have you seen them? A man, taller than you or I by about a head, greying hair? His name is Vlad-" she began, stopping when the old man held up his hand in a quelling motion.
"I must speak to someone," Rinaldo said calmly, interrupting her, "who may know the whereabouts of one or more of the members of your family. I must leave for a moment, and," he stated firmly, as he saw her rise, "I must ask you not to accompany me."
Lisa watched him, looking almost mutinous. "And what harm would me accompanying you bring?" she asked.
Rinaldo seemed to hesitate, "As long as you insist on following me, my lady, I cannot leave."
Lisa appeared suspicious, "And this person would know of my family's location?"
Rinaldo again hesitated, "I believe so, my lady."
Adrian stopped Vlad once they reached the dhampire's bedroom door. "Father…" he began hesitantly, "If you could just… be easy on her. She does not know about any of this. Not… what she is, not what who she is means in this world. She does not even know whose castle she is in. Please, if you cannot be gentle with her… just let her be," he requested quietly, his gaze fixed on the man's collarbone, seeming unwilling to raise his eyes to meet those of the vampire.
Vlad remained silent for a moment before turning on his heel and twisting open the knob leading to the room, neither confirming nor denying his son's request.
He laid eyes on the child almost immediately. She seemed to have fallen asleep in the wait for the two and lay in the middle of the bed, curled into a loose ball. Her likeness to Adrian was immediately prevalent, not that she was masculine. Adrian had been a particularly effeminate child and with the girl wearing the clothes of a young boy the similarities between the two were striking.
What she was was evident to Vlad almost immediately as well. Her hair pulled back into a braid revealed slightly pointed ears, her pallor resembled alabaster and there was not a blemish on her skin.
The door closed with a soft thud and golden eyes fluttered sleepily open. "Papa?" she murmured softly, pushing herself up into a sitting position and blinking in an effort to focus on the man. The situation that she was in seemed to war with her exhaustion but as adrenaline flooded her body again she became swiftly more alert.
"I am Vlad Tepes, child. Dracula," the vampire stated firmly, watching her with a critical eye. "And I presume that you call yourself Valeria Tepes."
The girl's eyebrows knitted. Adrian went to take a step forward but held himself back, watching the interaction between the two closely. "Of course I call myself Valeria Tepes. That is my name, papa," she said, her voice rising in pitch just incrementally, "and I know you're Vlad Tepes. But I've heard the name Dracula before, and I don't know it. The librarian, Mr Rinaldo-"
"This is my castle. Dracula is the name the common people know me by," he interrupted in a clipped tone, trying to keep his patience with the child and to keep her from becoming emotional.
"Common people… we are common, papa. You never told me we had a castle. Why did you bring me here?" she said, trying to suppress a demanding whine from her tone.
Dracula's expression soured, his crimson eyes narrowing. "I did not bring you here, child," he just refrained from spitting at her. "And I do not know who did."
The child's eyes widened and she sniffled, "Are you okay?" she asked, her voice just above a whisper. "I didn't mean to make you angry, papa. I was just asking… But you look so different, and you're acting different, and it's like you don't know me."
Vlad repressed, with difficulty, the urge to pinch the bridge of his nose. He had little experience dealing with children and the last one he had dealt with, his own son, had not been a child for four hundred years. "I do not look different," he stated delicately, his ego somewhat pricked, "I look much the same as I always have."
"No," she insisted, "Both you and Adrian look a lot different from before."
"From before when?" asked Dracula, wrinkling his nose slightly and glancing at his son. He now had an idea where this was going.
"From even this morning!" the girl insisted more vehemently than before. "You're pale and your eyes are different and even your clothes. You've never worn a cloak. You always insisted they were fri- friv-" she tried the word again on her tongue.
"Frivolous," Adrian supplied quickly, finally speaking up. "Father, I think it is best if-"
"It is quite fitting," the vampire interrupted his son, "for nobility, however, especially one of my stature. How would it look? A vampire wandering about in peasant clothing."
The child sniffled again, her expression wide eyed. "You're not, papa. You're not a- a vampire," the girl's voice was tiny and afraid.
"Oh, you would know, would you?" Vlad scoffed, "You are not exactly a shining example of humanity either, are you?"
"I am. I'm not a vampire, I'm not!" she cried, her eyes shining now with unshed tears.
"No, you are not. But as I said, you are not exactly human, either," Vlad said silkily.
"I don't know what you mean. What are you talking about?" she pleaded. "I'm not a monster!"
"Father," Adrian's voice was nearly a growl, "that is enough!"
"I am done, Adrian," Vlad shot a look of contempt at the child and then offered a smile, just enough to display a flash of his fangs, "I suggest you ask your brother if you want to know what I am talking about."
With those words Vlad turned on his heel, shutting the door loudly behind himself.
Valeria swallowed hard, trying to wipe the tears from her eyes. Adrian sighed and sat down beside her, rubbing her back in a comforting manner. "We're not really monsters, Adrian, are we?" she asked, her voice had dropped to nearly a whisper. "I don't feel evil."
"You are not evil, Valeria, not unless you choose to become so," Adrian stated firmly, then more slowly, "but… father was telling the truth. You are no longer fully human."
Adrian cast his glance aside, as if he did not want to witness her reaction to this news, but the arm that had formerly been rubbing soothing circles into her back pulled her closer to him. "Then what am I?" she asked, her voice barely audible and was shaking. "How did I…"
"What you are now," Adrian said, resting his chin on the top of her head, "is the child of a vampire and a human, called a dhampire. You saw how father had changed, and that is why, and it is the same thing for myself as well. As for how, I cannot answer that. You have heard the tales, how vampires make their victims like themselves. This did not happen to you, nor to I."
"How do you know all of this?" Valeria asked, worming her way to sit up on his lap and laying her head against his chest.
Adrian seemed reluctant to answer her question, "Do you remember when I was… sick, Valeria? When I said all of those things?"
"Mama wouldn't let me in the room," Valeria said a bit morosely, "but I heard her and papa and Maria talking about it. You said… you couldn't be here, this wasn't right, that you had to defeat papa," she shuddered.
"I know you have known me as your brother all of these years, Valeria, and I am now but… those were truly my memories. I am back to what I knew before, to what I was speaking of when you assumed I was in fever delusion. I had never known what true humanity was like until a few weeks past now," he murmured. "I suppose the only thing is that when I was brought back… I brought you back with me. For that I am truly sorry."
"Why? I didn't want to leave you, Adrian. Why are you sorry?" she asked, her brow creasing.
"Valeria-" Adrian began, his voice a sigh. But he did not receive the opportunity to complete his statement as the door swung open to reveal Rinaldo.
"Young master," he requested with a gentle urgency, "I need to see you a moment. It is, I fear, important."
Adrian silently nodded, and gathered the child from his lap and into his arms before once again placing her amongst the plush feather covers of the bedding and exiting the room.
Rinaldo faced Adrian, "Your father is in his room but only briefly. We must stop him entering the throne room. Much in the same way as the girl, Adrian, your mother has returned. I discovered her in the gardens outside. She does not remember the castle at all, an oversight on my part when I brought her to the throne room."
Adrian wetted his lips before speaking, "And her state?"
"She is well. Scared, obviously, but she is uninjured and… unaltered," he stated delicately. "I suggest you speak to her before Vlad does."
Adrian stopped before the large throne room door, peeking inside almost childishly before pulling open one of the huge double doors and stepping inside.
Lisa's first impression of the man who walked in was that he was like a vision. His face was perfectly sculpted, effeminate and flawless, matching alabaster and at sharp contrast with fierce golden eyes and long, wavy platinum hair that curled delicately about his face like a gilded frame. He was tall and dressed generously in the softest of linens and wools with a dark brown brocade kirtle matching embroidery in golden thread. This finery looked like something out of an old history portrait from the 1400s or 1500s. He almost did not strike the woman as his own son.
"Adrian?" she asked, her voice a gasp, half standing.
"Yes, mother, it is me," he said, talking a slow, cautious step toward her again.
"Adrian, love, what's happened to you? Are you alright? You… you are so terribly pale," she murmured, closing the space between them and compassionately checking Adrian's forehead for fever before cupping his cool cheek.
"Mother…" he closed his eyes, allowing her contact before breathing deeply and stepping back, feeling his heart clench as he stepped away from her. "Mother, there is something that you need to know…"
"This castle, Adrian," she said, her voice still warm but scared and thin, "there are monsters here. We must escape this place! Your father and sister, Maria, if we are here then they could also be."
"Valeria and father are safe, mother. I promise they are safe. But we cannot leave," Adrian said firmly, scooping Lisa's hand up and clutching it in both of his own.
"Mother, let me get you to a room. Come, I promise you will not be harmed. You need some food and rest, and I will bring father and Valeria to you," he urged her gently forward, "Come now, mother, please."
Adrian led the woman gently down the hall, hurrying her into one of the spare bedrooms before rushing down the hall and returning a moment later with a floor length linen night dress for the woman and a brush made of horse hair bristles.
"I will be back with some dinner shortly, mother. Do not leave this room," he said gently, kissing the woman's forehead once before turning to leave.
"Be careful, Adrian," she burst out, gripping his wrist, "and mind those creatures…"
"I promise, mother," he murmured, gently untangling himself from her grasp, "I will be careful. Nothing will harm me."
Vlad watched the figure of his sleeping wife with an expression Adrian had not witnessed on him in four hundred years. He seemed unwilling to wake the woman, as if she may merely be an illusion and he ran his fingers gently over her hair, tracing a brow with one finger. His expression was set in a mixture of grief and wonder, his brow creased and his lips slightly parted.
He slid his hand underneath hers slowly, allowing her to fold her hand around his fingers naturally in her sleep. Trying not to move too much he pulled a chair up to himself and slid down into it in the fashion of a man who has been much aggrieved and wearied.
"How is it that this can be?" he asked, addressing the man who was standing slightly behind him. "How can she truly be returned to me?"
Rinaldo was standing with his hands clasped in front of himself, eyes lowered respectively to the flagstone floor. He opened his mouth to speak, and then closed it quickly as Dracula spoke.
"Do not tell me of miracles, Rinaldo, when all of the spell books and arcane magics of ages past could not bring her back to me. Adrian spoke of another world," he said, inclining his head slightly to the man standing just inside the doorway.
"There are theories, Master, of other dimensions. Worlds past our own world, and offshoots of our own world that never came to be, such as people that never were existing or choices never made being chosen, and vice versa," he began. "I suppose that creatures once human such as you or myself, or creatures inextricably locked with the human world, however powerful, do not have means or access to these secret worlds. A creature such as Death, it is said, might well have. It is the spirit of vengeance that sent young Master Adrian to the place which he has described.
It may be easier to see these worlds as opposing sides of a magnet. Certain events in each world repel each other and they split. I can only fathom a guess but considering how you shaped this world in many ways perhaps if you did not exist, at least not in your present form, in that world it would be a large enough change to cause such a splinter, or a dimensional rift, if you will. Vengeance brought Adrian to that world, but put the power in your hands to bring him back, linking the worlds as if the magnets were placed facing each other yet not touching.
When you decided to bring Adrian back you moved those magnets briefly together, giving you the ability to bring Adrian, or his consciousness, at least, back across the rift. My best theory," he stated, now looking over at Adrian, "is that your consciousness, held in that world, was still strong enough that when you tried to hold on and prevent returning to this dimension your mind focused on what you most wanted from this other world, your family. Between the both of you a link was made between both worlds, a link strong enough to accommodate Adrian's wishes not to leave this family behind, but not strong enough, with the pull from your mind, Vlad, to complete his wish of staying in this other world."
Finally Adrian spoke up; his voice sounded soft and broke slightly, as if he were dealing with a cold. "Father and I have bodies in this world, Rinaldo. My mother-"
"-Has a body here already," Rinaldo finished the man's sentence. "Why else would she have appeared where she did? The girl, who possessed no body here, I can only suppose ended wherever a higher power, be it the chaos that rules this castle or Vengeance herself, chose to place her. For yourself and even Vlad, it fits that the consciousness travelling across this void would simply take residence in the living, or undead," he acknowledged Vlad with a slight smile, "bodies that you both already occupy. As neither of you are human, or at least not fully, your consciousness would overtake that of the weaker human mind. Though I am not sure how far this consciousness might extend, you technically are the same people with differing life experiences. It may be thoughts, emotions, or memories that you did not know you possessed being the extent of the changes offered to you or it may be more overt than that."
"Will she know of me when she wakes?" Vlad broke the silence that had settled like a smothering blanket over the room upon the librarian's last statement.
"That," stated the librarian hesitantly, "I cannot say. I…"
"I need to know the truth, Rinaldo," Vlad said softly, his eyes still having not left the prone woman in the bed.
"I could only assume that… that she would not, my lord," the old man said softly, keeping his eyes on the floor, "but I cannot state anything as fact until my lady wakes."
Wow, so SUPER long chapter- I hope that assauges the soreness of a long wait for the 'publication', and I hope that it is not TOO long! I have to say, writing this is super fun and I have very much been enjoying reviews- feedback really is the highest form of flattery, so thank you.
Wonder what Lisa's reaction will be upon waking... I will try to have the next chapter out much sooner everyone!
Disclaimer- you should know by now. But for the particularly slow, I do not own Castlevania. Obviously.