A/N: Finally another chapter! =] But with this one having a word count of over 4000, which is more than some entire stories on here, I'm sure you can cut me some slack :) This chapter is the lead up to the main bulk of the plot idea, so I hope this excites someone other than me XD.
Please enjoy and review! :D
PS: For the subscribers to this story; sorry about all the emails, I had more than a few problems uploading this chapter correctly, so hopefully it's up right now!
Chapter Five- Battle
Twigs and branches snapped beneath their feet.
The Count tripped and stumbled his way through the forest floor, more than once landing on a fallen log or ant hill. His face and hands were now covered with dirt, his leather pants torn, and his hair array with many different types of leaves and stems.
After the tenth fall, The Count had finally reached the end of his tether.
"I'm going to need a new jacket after this, Renfield!" He complained loudly. "Why don't you lay on the ground wherever I have to step so that I don't trip?!"
His uneasy looking servant answered quietly;
"Because I need to hold the umbrella so you don't smoulder in the sun, Master?"
He knew he'd gone too far when The Count ever so slightly tilted his glasses down on his nose to get a look at him and glowered, before rapping him over the back of the head with a gloved hand.
"Sorry Master!" Was Renfield's immediate response to the punishment; cowering over in reflex.
"You know, you might have a point there." The Count pondered as an after thought to Renfield's earlier statement, before reaching down and pulling the smelly servant up.
"Come on you miserable sack of rotting dirt, my keen and impressive hunting sense is just getting to work! We shall have Vlad by the end of the day, and then he'll have me to answer to, the torrent. Onward!" He commanded, pointing through a gap in the trees in a westerly direction.
Renfield merely obeyed and began clearing a path as he walked for his Master to walk through.
"Tell me again why we need more slaying gear than clothing for this trip?" Jonathan Van Helsing complained, as he and his father made several trips to the car and back to the camp site with arms full of bags containing various slaying weapons that were combination locked. They were heavy enough as it was, but adding another ten pounds with the military style locks on each bag was ridiculous in Jonno's point of view.
Eric charged ahead, carrying five bags at once, labelled "Top Security" as they contained what he called the most 'powerful and dangerous' weapons of them all: the silver bullet guns, garlic juicer, and the wooden stake that he had spent hours upon hours sanding down to a fine point the previous night.
"Because, Jonno, this is our mission, our goal. If we get weighed down with unnecessary items like clothing and tents, we'd have no room to spread out, to conquer! This is it Jonno, this is the big one."
He began unpacking their gear, assorting the weapons in a line according to accuracy, size, type and alphabetical order. Jonno merely rolled his eyes and stood against a tree, rethinking what his father had said. Then it sunk in.
He started with a jump of panic.
"Tents?! You didn't pack us a tent?! Where are we supposed to sleep? We'll freeze to death out here!" He protested, eyes bulging. Even for his mental dad, this was going too far.
Eric laughed in his knowing way and spoke without so much as a backward glance at his son.
"These things aren't important Jonno, believe me. This will make me a legend in the slaying community. I will be hailed above all slayers; I got the big one, the legend that is Count Dracula. A bit of crisp air won't do us any harm! Besides," He added smartly, finally turning to smile at his son in that menacingly excited way of his.
"This is all part of your training. All good slayers can withstand any weather conditions for as long as required. And if you don't want to go to the Academy, I'd be quiet if I were you; this is a lot more lenient than they would be there, believe me."
Jonno stared bug eyed at his father, not daring to say anything. That was probably the only somewhat truthful thing in his eyes his father had said all day.
He'd had the "academy" threat pulled out on him before, and there was no way in the world he wanted to go there.
Sixteen hour days of solid slaying training every day. No normal subjects like science or maths, just anything and everything that was relevant to slaying.
The only subject that sounded somewhat passable in Jonno's eyes was the equivalent of Home Economics, also known as "Food Partition Skills."
Basically they got to cook up a new dish each lesson and learn how to spike it with some form of garlic, whether it be fresh, minced, or liquefied.
Then they got to eat each others dishes in an attempt to determine what form of garlic it was.
Not that it made up for actually having to be there.
He'd heard students had to sleep on beds of hard nails and rocks to keep them in shape, and the headmaster, a distant relative of Eric's, Adrian Van Helsing, was the strictest teacher around, not letting anybody go to the toilet during their six hour "Vampire Watch Techniques" class.
Although mentioning Adrian more than a passing comment was enough to set his father off; Adrian hadn't spoken to his relative in many, many years, due to the fact that Eric was considered a "disgrace" to the name of slayers in the slaying community. He merely mentioned him as a great teacher and slayer himself, and then all other conversation about him was forbidden.
"Fine, I call the backseat then." Jonno grumbled, opening the back door of the car and analysing just how much room he was going to have, if any.
"Don't worry too much Jonathan, with any luck, we'll have the little fiend by nightfall and we won't even need to sleep here. It's all in the skill."
Jonno was pissed off to say the least, but decided not to argue. He didn't know why he'd gotten his hopes up for a proper camping trip anyway.
"Right Jonno, I've got your pack loaded up. Let's get to it."
He passed a heavy looking backpack to his son, and body straps lined with silver bullets and various stakes of all sizes before donning his own.
There was that unmistakable gleam in his eye that meant he would not be deterred. Jonno sighed, put the pack on, and followed his father into the depths of the forest.
He was in for one long day.
After another long round of hiking, bird watching, mountain climbing and river hopping, Vlad and the Branaugh's made it back to camp just after three o'clock. Robin and Vlad were fairly exhausted to say the least, and plopped themselves down in their tent as soon as they arrived back. Chloe stayed out to help her father relight the camp fire.
"So about last night..." Robin's muffled voice came from his pillow, as he tried to steady his heartbeat and puffing from the long trip they had just been on.
Vlad thought if his cheeks burnt anymore this week, he would surely get a hole in one of them. "Don't mention it. I'm glad to help you out Robin, you're my best mate."
Robin looked over at Vlad from his side of the tent. He could tell from the boy's droopy eyes he felt just as tired as he. "You're my best mate too, Vlad. Well, you're my only mate, but if I had more you'd still be the best." Vlad laughed.
"I wonder what's for dinner, I hope we hav-..." Robin started. But what he hoped to have, Vlad never heard, as his friend had dropped off to sleep with a wilt of his eyes.
It wasn't long before he himself was also dead to the world, and he found himself having yet another Robin-related dream.
The walls of the Dracula household were lined with red; this was the celebratory material that was a sacred tradition within the family.
As Vlad ran down the long stone hallway, he pondered the fact that none of this had been done when his sister had turned sixteen; had become of age.
He almost felt sorry for her; she had actually been looking forward to it.
"You can't escape your destiny boy; it's in your blood!" The Count's voice boomed down the hall. "Oh, my little Vladdie is finally growing up, he's going to take some responsibility and become the vampire he truly is!"
As he ran, the walls seemed to become more and more narrow, as if they were closing in on him, suffocating his mind. "No! No! I won't do it!"He continued to run; the hall seemed never ending. At a sudden corner, he spotted Robin. He was crying in anguish.
"Don't leave me Vlad, don't do it! We'll run away! I'll be alone again like before you got here! Don't leave me!"
Vlad found himself unable to speak. Not from emotion, but the physical inability to pursue the action. He opened his mouth, but nothing came out, not even a breath.
"I knew you'd leave me in the end Vlad, I knew it!" Robin griped, almost hysterical now. "You can't let your dad control you like this!"
Again, the inability to speak made for a very frustrating moment. Vlad wanted to tell Robin just how happy he'd be to stay here with him, and not become a vampire. To live a normal life and go to school and hang out with him and watch videos and eat junk. But he couldn't communicate this to Robin.
Before he knew what was happening, the pair were being hit from all different directions with soft, small balls of something in a deep red colour. Closer inspection revealed they were in fact red grapes, being thrown at the two from nowhere in particular.
Vlad watched as Robin cringed when one got him straight in the eye, but he kept up his guard. "Don't leave me Vlad, don't..."
His voice began to fade, as did the house around him. Everything began to get foggy, and Robin slowly disappeared from view. Vlad reached out for him, but in that second, the whole place was turned white, and he felt himself slipping away, falling down.
And then he awoke on the cold hard tent floor moments later, wondering why on earth he'd had such a dream, and hearing the sounds of Robin's father calling them for dinner.
"Come on boys, you were starving before, eat up." Mr Branaugh looked at his son and his best friend in concern; neither of the two had showed any interest in food since they woke.
Vlad's mind was elsewhere; he couldn't stop thinking about the strange dream he'd had.
Robin was surprisingly unresponsive also, which Vlad put down to exhaustion and probable embarrassment at what had happened the night before.
The 'dinner' Graham had set in front of them was a bean and bread mix, followed by dessert.
Upon seeing the contents of the bowls of dessert put in front of them, Vlad flinched.
He noticed Robin also flinched at the site of the fruit. This puzzled him greatly.
What was wrong?
Graham was busying himself with tidying up the campsite and consequently noticed nothing, however Chloe gave Vlad a strange look as he and Robin picked at their red grapes with distaste. Vlad knew why he couldn't look at them, but found the fact that Robin also didn't seem to want to eat them when he usually gladly wolfed down everything that was – and wasn't – edible. Again, he put this down to exhaustion; it could sometimes make you lose your appetite. Although he'd eaten dinner perfectly happily before...
He had no time to ponder on the thought any longer, as Graham got up from behind his tent and forced the boys out of their seats.
"Right then boys, it's getting on dusk! You go off for one last walk now with Chloe, there's a good lad- or lads should I say."
He laughed at his own cringe inducing joke and patted Vlad and Robin on the back, sending them in the direction of a rather dark clump of trees over to the east.
It hadn't been two minutes of walking when Robin was already complaining of sore feet and wanting to go back to the campsite. This was the first time Vlad had heard him speak since they'd woken up; and he was glad to see he was relatively back to his old Robin self again.
Chloe sighed. "Robin, you'll live. The tribes in Ethiopia walk for miles each day for food and water, and they don't even have shoes." She said matter-of-factly, amazed at her brothers pain threshold.
Robin was retorting with a lame comeback that had something to do with the fact that people just shouldn't live in Ethiopia to start with, when Vlad heard a noise in the near distance.
"Shut-up you two!" He snapped, causing the siblings to halt their bickering and stare.
"I thought I heard something. Can you hear that noise?" He asked anxiously, wondering if he was going mad. He'd definitely heard a crunch of what could have been footsteps.
The Branaugh children looked at him warily. "It was probably just an animal, Vlad..." Robin said quietly; although he looked scared.
Chloe nodded in agreement, but when they heard the telltale sound of a twig snapping nearby, the three of them jumped a mile.
"Come on... it's getting dark, let's get back to camp." Robin stuttered, obviously cursing himself for acting so childish to a noise that could have been anything.
"Right." Vlad agreed, and went to turn back around in the direction before an ear-piercing scream from behind made him retreat, only to get pulled by his collar downwards to the ground by a frantic Chloe, screaming his name.
A wooden stake went soaring through the air above their heads, and landed straight into a tree directly behind where they were squatting. Vlad could see Robin's pale face looking scared, his eyes wide and staring. Chloe was looking in the direction of the bushes in front of them, where the stake had seemingly come from.
"Vlad..." She whimpered quietly, grabbing his arm and motioning in that direction.
Vlad turned and was greeted by the very last people he wanted to meet out in the forest when he was unarmed and virtually alone; Eric and Jonno Van Helsing.
Vlad grabbed onto his best friend and sister and slowly, whilst maintaining eye contact with the Van Helsing's at all times, stood up and backed away.
Eric came through the bushes, followed closely by his son, who didn't look as though he really wanted to be there. As his father stepped into the slight daylight that was left, the children got their first look at Van Helsing's gear, and the full extent of what they were facing.
He was dressed head to toe in army camouflage gear; a black beanie on his head, and two black streaks of what looked like some form of grease on either cheek.
Straps of silver bullets and stakes were lining his body, and the garlic juice gun was over one shoulder. His son was dressed quite similarly, although minus the juice gun.
Eric's fierce stare was enough to let them know just how much he meant business.
The three retreated backward slowly, as he smiled maliciously and followed gradually, silently daring them to run.
"You can't hide, Vladimir." Rang out his cold voice, staring straight at him with one hand wrapped around a stake.
"You can't run... you can't hide. You can merely stand their like the pathetic little vicious blood sucking fiend you are and quiver. Why not give yourself up now, Vlad? Make it easier for yourself? Then I won't have to kill the Branaugh's here." He laughed a high, cruel laugh, and his son cringed.
"You're insane." Was all that Vlad could say, praying to god that Jonno still didn't believe his fathers words. The three of them were still slowly moving backwards, connected with the link of their hands gripping each others arms.
Jonno looked as though he wanted to agree, but said nothing as he looked at his father who's eyes were gleaming with excitement.
"Am I Vlad? Am I really? Maybe it's you that's insane, daring to insult the world's greatest slayer?" Vlad didn't laugh, merely thought back to his fathers vampire training that now seemed so long ago. If he could just outsmart Van Helsing, they might just be in for a chance.
When nobody replied to Eric's self adoration statement, he shook his head and got into his "battle stance". Jonno recognised this at once, and inwardly cringed on how ridiculous his father looked, one leg in front of the other and hands on hips, still clutching his beloved stake.
Vlad, Robin and Chloe exchanged quick glances, knowing this was their only chance of escape. Without moving so much as an inch apart from their eyes, they silently agreed on the direction of the nearest lake, which was murky and brown, but still had a chance of saving them.
"Goodbye, Vlad. I'll be sure to say hello to your father for you, seeing as you won't be seeing him any longer. Maybe he'll join you in hell soon though, when I've finished with him." His teeth gleamed through his vicious glare.
Before another word could be said, a flash of movement was seen, then a string of silver bullets came flying out and over toward where they stood.
It was within another flash of Vlad's ever improving reflexes, that he seized the back of the jumpers Chloe and Robin were wearing, and began to run, and run fast, toward the direction of the lake.
He was surprised to find they could keep up with his gait; he may not be his father but his speed had dramatically improved over the past year.
Panting as they were, they kept up, Vlad's senses helping them dodge the stream of bullets and stakes that were being pelted their way. Heavy and fast footsteps from behind let them know they were being closely followed.
"On the count of three, we halt." Vlad instructed his friends, heading in the direction of the mini jetty that lead part way over the lake. As they approached, Van Helsing's steps thundered onto the loose nails and splintered boards. It was now or never.
They got a quarter of the way across.
Upon reaching the very end of the jetty, the three of them skid to a complete stop, and flung themselves down onto it flat.
Chloe stuck out her leg at the very last minute Van Helsing and Jonno caught up with them, successfully launching the father and son into the air, canon balling them into the lake with a loud whoosh and fierce splash.
Stakes, bulbs of garlic, a pocket knife, extra silver bullets and the garlic juice gun all soared out of the grips of the pair in mid air, landing on the jetty behind the three with a crunch.
They knew they didn't have much time, and so Vlad, Robin and Chloe seized the gear and began smashing it with their feet against the wood. What else were they to do with it? It was the only way they knew they could stop Van Helsing from getting them. This time.
"Hey! Don't you dare touch those valuable weapons you scoundrels!" Van Helsing spluttered from the middle of the lake, choking on water and trying to keep Jonno a float.
Of course his calling did no good; the weapons were smashed within no time, and the pieces discarded within the lake.
Once that job was done, a mad dash back to the campsite was in order, leaving the Van Helsing's to attempt to swim back to the jetty and piece together their weapons again.
Needless to say Eric was not impressed.
"I'll get you next time, you blood sucking fiend."
Congratulating themselves on the way back to the campsite, hi-fives and laughter galore at their narrow and tricky escape from the Van Helsing clan yet again, the last thing they were expecting greeted them as they returned.
"There you are, Vladimir."
The Count's cold and smooth voice dripped with fury, and he peered at the site of his son over the top of his sunglasses, obviously disgruntled with Vlad's dirty appearance.
Vlad's heart sank. And from next to him, he could see Robin had gone as stiff as a plank at the site of The Count's menacing glare. As cool as he thought Vlad's father was, he was not immune to the power of a Dracula's wrath.
Graham was standing in the background, looking slightly awkward and fuming. Vlad could tell the two must have had a row.
"CAMPING! Vladimir. Of all the things in the world you could be doing to defy me, you choose to go camping. What's wrong with you?! Only pathetic, lowlife peasants go camping!"
Graham's stance faltered. "Hey come on now, I say that's not a very nice accusation!" He was getting pumped up again, balling his hands into fists and his face turning red.
"Just because it's not apart of the Romanian culture doesn't mean Vlad can't try new things here in Britain! Stop pushing your own morals on the boy and let him decide for himself what he likes and dislikes!"
Robin groaned; this was exactly the sort of thing about his father he'd always hated. When he finally had the guts to stand up to the Count who he had no idea could crush him into smithereens with the snap of a finger.
The Count stopped what he was about to say and turned slowly on the spot to look at Graham. Despite the fears of the children, The Count merely looked amused at his words, rather than furious.
"Vlad, go and pack your things at once; we leave in two minutes." He spoke to his son while still staring at Graham, as if silently daring him to contradict his words.
Vlad didn't need telling twice. He and Robin made their way back to their tent, while Chloe offered to stay out and make sure their father's didn't kill one another through the staring contest they appeared to be having.
Once inside the tent, Vlad slumped onto his mattress and began to pack up his sleeping bag and returning Robin's clothes he'd borrowed. They tidied up in silence, listening with baited breath for any noises outside. The Count appeared to be maintaining his silence.
"Thanks, Robin. For everything." Vlad said miserably once they'd finished.
"I've had fun, even if it had to be cut short. But I'll see you at school soon won't I?"
Robin laughed. "Of course you will Vlad, when am I not at that horrible place?"
Vlad smiled. "Well, goodbye I guess. I'll see how soon I get can back to school after dad's through with me." His face crumpled. What was his dad going to do to him?
The boys stared at one another for a lingering moment, and Vlad noticed the spot on Robin's neck from the night before; the sunscreen now fading a little.
All of a sudden the spot seemed to be a lot closer than it was a few seconds ago, and Vlad realised they'd been slowly moving closer to each other subconsciously.
A finger or two brushed Robin's neck, and with a shaky hand Robin placed his on Vlad's shoulders.
What were they doing?Eyes were closed, and the impulse took over them both completely. They were so close they could feel the breath from the other softly caressing their cheeks, and Vlad could hear Robin's heart thumping away madly away in his chest.
A centimetre closer and their lips would be touching. They would be kissing.
This all changed when a gloved hand reached into the tent, pulling out Vlad by the scruff of his neck and crushing what little happiness he had left.
"You've had five minutes Vladimir, we're leaving!" Renfield was waiting nearby, the umbrella not needed any further as it was getting quite dark.
Vlad trudged after his father slowly, his insides tearing him apart as he took one last glance back at the tent. Robin was staring out the door, unmistakably sad, a single tear rolling down his pale cheek, watching Vlad leave with a look of forlorn.