All His Engines
It began with two men.
One was a mighty warrior. The other was a brilliant mind. Together, they served their country and its people in the name of God. But one suffered a terrible tragedy, its pain poisoning him and turning his mind to darkness. Renouncing God, he instead initiated a plan to gain great power and take revenge for what he had lost. His manipulations extended to even his best friend, who he also scarred with the brand of tragedy. Unlike hin, though, his friend would not fall from the heavens. Instead, he would make a vow to undo what his fallen friend had done, at all costs, no matter how long it would take. Where he could not act, his descendants would. Until the end of time.
One would come to be known as Vlad Tepes, or better known as Dracula, lord of vampires and king of darkness, the ruler of the cursed palace Castlevania and commander of all dark, supernatural forces in Europe and the world. Eventually, Dracula would go to war with humanity, despising it for its failings and weakness.
The other was Leon Belmont, whose lineage would meet Dracula throughout the centuries and turn back his assaults. Granted the power of the Vampire Killer whip, given to their patriarch in the tragic events that made him swear his family would hunt the night, Dracula would find his plans thwarted time and again, destroyed in battle against the family of the man who had once been his dearest friend.
But by the nature of how he had empowered himself, all those centuries ago, Dracula would always return, time and again. Eventually, a prophecy was made that Dracula would return one year before the second millennium, 1999, and the Belmont clan chose to engage in a long game, passing their whip on to other heroes while they prepared for a final battle.
In this timeline, other heroes would engage and defeat Dracula in the intervening years, and the dark lord would suffer his final defeat at the crux of the millennium, as the prophecy had told.
But time, much like a river, takes odd twists and turns…
Perhaps elsewhere, there was a timeline where the prophecy had never been made.
What would a world like that be? Would it be condemned to death?
Or does righteousness manifest no matter how time unfolds…
For many in Europe, it was just another night.
But within the country of Hungary, on the cursed lands known as Transylvania, it was the end of the world. Again.
The year was 1882.
The wicked architecture had once again manifested, its dread lord returned from the grave to wreck havoc and misfortune. It had returned on a cliff-side this time, as it had before, the massive, foreboding bastion looking over the forests and villages nearby like the angry visage of its ruler. A thunderstorm rumbled above, the rain not yet arrived, though the wind howled through the spires and courtyards of the palace like the many monsters who dwelt there. The trees of the forest shook, and the planet itself seemed to be holding its breath, like it had for so many nights before, over the passage of the years.
Within its confines, in its tallest and most malevolent looking spire, a door opened.
Through it walked Lorin Belmont.
The darkness within the room seemed to shrink back, just a bit, though the figure did not really present a good reason for it to do so. Lorin was of average build, though fairly tall, and possessed what could be considered a bright, happy looking face, not the hardened and scarred visage of a warrior. His short, tangled blonde hair and the fact he wore glasses did nothing to contribute to an aura of strength and power. Most Belmonts had looked every inch the warrior they were. Lorin looked like he should have been filing books somewhere in some dusty library.
Looks, however, were deceiving, as Lorin limped into the room, moving very slowly. He left a blood trail as he walked, his outfit torn and battered, blood leaking from several wounds and soaked through his clothing. Despite his injuries and his appearance, there was something that would have told an observer things were not as they seemed.
Held in one hand, as he dragged it behind him, was a massive, demonic scythe. It had once belonged to Death, Dracula's most loyal servant, who had sworn that, separated from his companions, Lorin would suffer a fate worse than hell before he made it to Dracula.
Death had been wrong in his assessment, again.
He'd made his mark though, as Lorin stopped. His eyes flicked around behind his curved, rectangular glasses (specially made, which was needed considering what Lorin had had to do, and had been doing for several days). His wounds burned, and his head swam from the exertions and blood loss he'd suffered.
However, he had not entered Castlevania unprepared for such a possibility.
Dropping the scythe, Lorin reached into his torn, half-destroyed coat, hoping that he hadn't lost the container in the fight. Death had given him a war, and Lorin had given him one right back. After winning, Lorin really didn't want to collapse and die in front of the staircase that led to his final goal. It would be ironic if he'd held onto the larger bag and lost the one he'd actually need.
He hadn't, as he withdrew a small leather satchel from his coat and popped it open. Three vials lay within. Lorin felt along the tops of them before selecting one, really hoping that he wasn't so weary that he'd picked the wrong one. That would also be embarrassing.
When he drank it, he thought he had.
"ARRRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!" Lorin screamed, collapsing to his knees, fire surging through his whole body. The downside of the potion he had just drank, as it closed up and healed all his injuries, was that he had to experience all the pain he would have experienced during normal healing at once. Not a fun experience, despite the benefits of not dying.
Finally, after a dozen seconds that felt like years, the fires passed. Lorin lay on his hands and knees, gasping for air. Again, not the most intimidating sight.
Lorin was used to that.
Standing up once more, Lorin picked up the satchel and selected the second potion. This would require some precision.
Lorin dripped the foul-smelling liquid on himself, and his clothing hissed as the magical elixir went to work. The severed links of the chain mail he wore knitted back together, the cured and enchanted leathers also being repaired, the gashes, holes, and tears closing up. After several more seconds, Lorin's armor was back to pristine condition, albeit still soaked with sweat, blood, and other foul secretions from the myriad of beasts he had battled within the walls of Castlevania.
Lorin inhaled through his nose, feeling human once more. He looked at the stairs that lead up to the final door. The keep of the castle's master. The goal he'd been tasked to accomplish.
"Faster Lorin, FASTER! If you don't learn this, you'll have no chance! Dracula has no mercy, no pity, and will show you hell before you even begin to die!"
Lorin adjusted his glasses. It was time.
But, he hadn't made it this far alone. His companions had been unable to join him…but they were with him in spirit, and in gifts.
First, Lorin withdrew a silver cross on a necklace, placing it around his neck…
"RARGGGHHHH! DIE FOUL BEASTS!" The man yelled, as he smashed his staff of wood over the fish-man's hand. It staggered off, shrieking in agony as the holy power in the weapon burned its flesh, but it was swiftly replaced by more. The man kept swinging, crushing limbs, ribs, and skulls, but the fishmen kept crawling and leaping out of the foul moat.
"I will not yield! I have worked too hard!" The man yelled. "I will kill you until I drop, or you do!"
The two fishmen sprang at the man's side.
The whip sliced them both in half, their bodies disintegrating as they fell. The gathered fish-men stopped, and then began drawing back. The man turned around, stunned.
"Hello." Lorin Belmont said, and hurled a dagger into the nearest fish-man's eyes before lashing out with the whip and decapitating another fish-man. The monsters shrieked as their companions died, knowing the power. They fled, disappearing into the disgusting murk of the protective waters.
"…thank you." The man said.
"Not a problem." Lorin said, pulling his whip back into his hands. The man stared at it.
"…the Vampire Killer."
"…Yes. It is." Lorin said, looking at the man. He was dressed in metallic armor, his neck and the back of his head protected by a strange sort of semi-helmet. He was at least 50, his hair long and gray, with a square face and a closely-cut beard. The armor had a notable marking on the neck, making it look like he was wearing a clerical collar. "You're a priest?"
"I was…once. Diederich Wiegand, at your service." Diederich said. "You are a Belmont. You have not been seen for some time. We thought you had abandoned us."
The blackened waters of the boat erupted, as a massive, long-necked dragon like creature rose up from its depths. Diederich whirled around.
"Yes, it is." Lorin said, releasing the whip from his hands. "He's blocking our way in."
"This is impossible! There was a door here a moment ago!" Diederich yelled, pounding on the wall.
"Now it's gone." Lorin said, turning to face the army of skeletons approaching the pair. "This castle is as much a monster as its ruler. It changes constantly."
"Trust me. My family wrote about that a lot." Lorin said. "I guess we have to fight our way out."
"After some consideration, FINE BY ME!" Diederich roared, and the two tore into the skeletons.
"You're certain that we will be safe here?" Diederich said, looking uneasy. The small room's door was bolted, but that would hardly keep out most of the monsters that lay within the castle.
"It worked for my ancestors. Dracula may be king here, but he can't watch every section of his castle every second. As long as we don't slip out of his general visage for too long, he'll keep focused on certain points. Give us a moment to rest. So…what's your story?"
"PERISH!!!!!!!!" Diederich screamed as he crashed his staff down on the flying eldritch horror. The monster shrieked as it fell, blood fountaining from its skull.
However, on its way down, it managed to grab the priest. With a yell, Diederich went over the edge of the abyss with the monster.
"FATHER NO!" Lorin yelled, as he charged forward and lunged over the edge. He just, JUST managed to grab the former priest's wrist, though the action nearly pulled him off the edge with him. The strain exploded through Lorin's body.
"Let go, child! Save yourself!"
"No! We went in together, we leave together!"
"You are destined to stop Dracula! Do not throw it away for me!"
Second, Lorin removed a Walker-Colt revolver from within another coat pocket. He gave it a spin, checking the bullets that lay within it, and then snapped the wheel shut and holstered it in his belt.
The whine and the small explosion of stone caused stinging pellets to slam into Lorin's cheek before he ducked down.
"What in God's name was that?!" Diederich yelled, ducking down as well.
"A bullet?" Lorin said, confused. A moment later another whining twinge entered Lorin's ears as someone shot the wall again.
"These creatures use our own weapons now?"
"…I…" Lorin said, before standing up. "Hold your fire!"
The bullet whizzed over Lorin's head.
"Okay, fine! Have it your way!" Lorin yelled, reaching into his coat and hurling what appeared to Diederich to be a four-sided boomerang like weapon into the distant. It slammed into an upper wall and ignited in a pulse of white power, and a moment later a yelling form tumbled out of the makeshift sniper's nest. Despite its surprise, it landed on its feet.
Her feet, as the woman stood up and yanked twin guns from within her hunter's clothes and jacket. A few other guns were also strapped to her, though Lorin's attention was drawn to the ones pointing at him.
"A girl?" Diederich said in confusion, reaching for his own personal firearm. One of the revolvers thundered, a bullet flying past Diederich.
"I missed on purpose. I don't miss twice." The girl said. Her voice was flat and cold, and her appearance was slightly darker than the normal complexion Lorin was used to seeing, though she was a fairly lovely girl, angry expression aside. "Move aside."
"Wait wait, who are you?"
"The one who's going to kill Dracula. Move or I'll shoot you."
"Wait wait…you want to kill Dracula?"
"I have to."
"None of your business. I'm wasting time." The girl said, as she lowered her guns and pushed past the men. Before they could recover, she was gone.
"…well, that was…"
The girl came running back, firing both her weapons. A second later a bull-like creature charged out of the shadows after the girl. She managed to dodge out of the way, but then her luck ran out as her guns ran out of bullets.
"Well it'll do." Lorin said, and ran to help.
"So do we have a name we can call you?"
"Jaelle. Why do YOU want to kill Dracula?"
"I'm a Belmont. It's what we do."
"The Belmonts are dead. They grew tired of constantly protecting the world from Dracula, just to have him revive over and over. Because the very people who they protected him kept calling him back." Jaelle said.
"Just because that's what everyone believes doesn't make it true."
"And what do YOU believe?"
"I believe that you working with us has a better chance of stopping Dracula then going at it alone."
"…fine. For now." Jaelle said, as she reloaded her rifle. "But his head, and his ring, is mine."
"I'll remember that."
"We've been going around in circles for days! Where the hell is that monster?!"
"Dracula is not the type to come out and face us immediately." Lorin said. "He sits up on his throne, directing his forces, and waits. If we kill enough of them, he'll finally deem us worthy and open the path to himself. Though he'll certainly put some obstacles in that path."
"It does not matter. We will find him. He will die."
"He won't if you're not careful old man. That three headed dog…dragon…thing almost ate you. If I hadn't got him in the eye, he would have."
"You should be." Jaelle said. "Not many people know how to do that well."
"DIE YOU GODDAMN ABOMINATION JUST DIE AND DIE!" Jaelle screamed, as she fired shot after shot into the approaching skeletal beast. It's bird-like head shrieked as it continued to charge forward.
Her guns clicked dry. Jaelle's eyes went wide with fear as the creature lunged out with its spear.
Lorin got in the way first.
The point burst out of Lorin's back, splattering Jaelle with blood.
"Lo…rin?" She said, mystified. Lorin's only reply was a yell as he lashed out with his whip. The weapon cleaved off half the creature's long beak, and it shrieked and staggered back.
"IRA DEI!" Diederich bellowed, smashing his staff into the creature's ribs and igniting holy power within its body. The monster wailed as it consigned to ash. Unfortunately, its spear went with it.
"Lorin!" Jaelle said, as the Belmont collapsed, blood pooling on the ground around him.
"Lorin! Hold on! No!" Diederich yelled as he ran over.
"…potion…right coat…inside…!" Lorin managed to rasp out. After several seconds of frantic fumbling, the two managed to retrieve the potion vial and feed it to Lorin. His screams afterward briefly terrified them, wondering the same thing Lorin would wonder later.
"…what the hell did you get in his way for, you idiot!?" Jaelle yelled once the wound was closed.
"…it seemed like the right thing to do." Lorin replied. For once, Jaelle had no reply of her own.
"When this is over, what do you want to do?"
"…I'm not sure. You?"
"…well…I thought I could go back to my people…show them what I've done…" Jaelle said. With those words, it finally clicked for Lorin. Jaelle was a Romani. "But…"
"Let's not put the cart before the horse. We still have some distance to go." Diederich said, before kneeling and beginning to pray. Jaelle was oddly silent again.
"Well then, maybe I'll go with you. So they don't accurse you of falsehood."
"What's THAT supposed to mean?" Jaelle snapped.
"What? Nothing! Nothing! I mean, some people don't believe stories at first, and…"
"Keep talking. Dig yourself deeper." Jaelle said, aiming one of her revolvers. Lorin wisely chose to shut up.
Finally, Lorin removed a leather glove. He wondered for a moment if it would fit on his hand, and chuckled to himself. It did fit, but it would have been oddly appropriate if it hadn't.
"Hi! Are you the landlords?"
The speaker leapt out of the way as Jaelle and Dierderich's guns roared, the bullets missing him as he bounded around several times, stopping in a crouch.
"So, yes then? Because I'm kind of lost." The speaker said. The guns roared once more, and the speaker dodged once more. He also dodged out of the way when Lorin tried to whip him.
"Wait, whips?! Aw man, did I stumble onto that S&M movie set again? I thought I'd stopped going in circles!"
Diederich's staff crashed down on the ground, the speaker having dodged again. Despite his speed, Lorin could see he was human-like, albeit with golden-streaked hair and eyes. He wore a close fitting outfit that seemed to be similar to leather, though it was the strangest looking leather Lorin had ever seen.
"You are being very poor hosts!" The speaker yelled.
"Nimble creature." Diederich growled.
"It won't save it." Jaelle said, reloading her guns.
"Hey! I'm not a creature! That's existenialism!" The speaker said. "Why, if I was a creature, I'd breathe, eat, sleep, and have a need to reproduc…oh. Well then, this is just embarrassing. I do apologize."
"And it rambles like a lunatic. It can't die fast enough." Jaelle said.
"…wait." Lorin said, his whip in his hands. "…what are you?"
The speaker grinned, a rather disturbing grin, and for a moment Lorin thought it might be best if he went back to trying to kill it.
"I'm Met. And chaos bends to my will."
A second later a bucket fell on Met's head. He yelled and staggered around a bit, finally yanking the bucket off.
"Ugh. Okay, fine. I bend to chaos! You are a jerk, universe." Met said, looking up. Lorin looked at his two companions, who looked just as confused as he was.
"Can we resume shooting it?" Jaelle said.
"…he's not being registered by the Vampire Killer."
"It lets me know of the presence of evil. It's how I knew neither of you were secretly servants of Dracula." Lorin said. "…what are you doing here, Met?"
"And now it's time for Bum Reviews. Unfortunately he doesn't seem to be around. I miss him." Met said. "Well I was fighting Ricky in Metropolis or maybe it was Fin Fang Foom in Shangri-la, and my chaos nature kicked in and I got tossed around, and then I was on a movie set and there was some guy with a leather vest that showed off his nipples telling me it would hurt, but I'd like it, so I beat him up and ran off, and then some colorful bears told me I needed to care more so I beat them up too and jumped off their cloud home, and then I fell on some guy and maybe killed him he was groaning a lot, and then I met Tupac but he was lost too and I didn't want to trouble his pride by asking for directions, so I ran off and I ended up here. I don't like it here. It's cold, and it smells, and it's full of monsters who don't like me. You're the first normal people I've seen. Where's the exit?
"…begone, rambling demon!" Diederich yelled, thrusting a cross in Met's face. Met cocked his head.
"That supposed to do something?"
Diederich rammed it into Met's forehead.
"…kind of itches a little?"
Jaelle pushed Met aside and aimed a gun at him. He dodged aside, the bullet missing once more.
"Jaelle!" Lorin yelled.
"He's babbling nonsense! It makes my head hurt!"
"I don't think he's part of Dracula's army. I don't know WHAT he is, or why he's here…but he's not evil. We shouldn't attack him."
"Fine. Let's get out of here then." Jaelle said.
"WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING?!" Jaelle yelled.
"I find you interesting. I follow you!' Met said. Jaelle fired her gun several more times at the strange creature, and as usual didn't hit him.
"We aren't on a vacation, creature. We don't have time to put up with-CURSES!" Diederich yelled as a pair of gargoyles swooped down from the roof above.
Lorin felt heat flare on his back, and turned as Met fired twin golden blasts from his hands, each attack blowing off a wing. The creatures screamed and hit the ground, the end result being messy.
"Like I said, none of these monsters like me. I like you. I'll follow! And help!" Met said. "And later, we can be pen pals!"
"We have to get rid of him." Jaelle said.
"I know he constantly talks all that bizarre nonsense, Jaelle…but he's strong, and he's helped us." Lorin said. "The beasts here certainly don't like him. He seems as alien to them as he does to us, if not more so. We're entering the last stages. Any help we can get is useful."
"Are you CERTAIN he won't betray us?" Diederich said.
"Nothing's certain. But I'd rather he chose to leave on his own. I suspect more problems would happen if we tried to purposely abandon him."
"Hey guys!" Met said, popping up. "I found a pot roast!"
"…you found a what?" Lorin said.
"A pot roast. It was in the nearby wall! Don't know why, or why I punched it to begin with. Who cares! Pot roast!" Met said, as he gnawed on the meat.
"Hey! Careful! That could be poisoned!"
"It could also be rotten….nope." Met said. "MMMMM, wall pot roast. This is as good at the time I found that money bag inside those candles here. How they fit the bag inside those candles, I have no idea."
"We need something to hold this in. Any ideas?" Lorin said, indicating the glowing gem on the pedestal, which had burned his hand when he'd tried to pick it up.
"Maybe we could get a silk bag from the graveyard." Met said.
"The graveyard is full of bone dragons!" Jaelle yelled.
"We could duck to live longer."
The ground shattered as the massive orge's bloody club slammed into it. Met was already in the air, his hands glowing.
"I call this attack the Death Star! Don't look into the Death Star. Or you will die." Met said, He slammed his hands together, and the blast of heat surged out and incinerated the monster's head. It collapsed to the ground as Met landed.
"You don't listen to instructions very well."
"DIE FLESHHHHHHHHHHHH!" The animated suit of armor wailed, swinging a rusty axe. Diederich dodged, and Met took the opportunity to run in and yank off the armor's foot. Left off-balance, the armor quickly was beaten down into the ground.
"Hah. Your words are as empty as your sole." Met said.
The werewolf howled, the terrible stink of roasting hair and flesh filling the air, before Jaelle finally put it out of its misery with a silver bullet.
"…that's it? Those books talk about how terrible this werewolf is, and that's all we get?" Met said. "You know what? No! His boss status is revoked! He is no better then any normal monster! Yeah, he's just like all those axe-armors now!"
"I've been with him too long. His ramblings are starting to make sense." Jaelle said.
"So this is it then." Lorin said, as the four headed down the hallway. "Everyone ready?"
"Ready." Diederich said.
"Yes." Jaelle said.
"I love you guys. Let's live here together." Met said. "But seriously, yeah. Let's go kick Dracula's ass."
"You want to kick his donkey?" Diederich said.
"Oh man, why can't we…"
Met slammed into the field a second before Diederich did. Lorin, slightly ahead of the group, turned around in surprise.
"What the HELL?" Jaelle said.
"Oh no, not this clichéd crap!" Met said, banging on the barrier. Diederich and Jaelle joined in, but it quickly became clear they were not getting through.
"Bah…hey, maybe this magic potion will destroy the wall of evil!" Met said, producing a vial from somewhere and throwing it against the wall. Nothing happened. "Was worth a try!"
"Lorin…" Jaelle said.
"It's all right." Lorin said. "The last time four people went after Dracula, he had a REAL bad time of it. I guess he decided to hedge his bets."
"We're not leaving you." Diederich said.
"What?" Jaelle said.
"He might try and use you against me. Leave Castlevania. I need to face what lies ahead with a clear mind. I don't want him to be able to use you to gain an advantage."
"What if he comes after US instead?" Met said.
"…he won't." Lorin said. "That's not how he works."
"…then take this." Diederich said, as he pulled his cross from around his neck and tossed it to Lorin. Apparently, the barrier was only compelled to keep living creatures out, as it passed through. Lorin caught it.
"Remember what he did to my village." Diederich said.
"…aw hell. If I can't shoot him, then you can." Jaelle said, tossing her primary gun at Lorin as well. "Don't you dare not come back."
"…oh wait, did we all agree to give you something of significance and I forgot about it? Because that happens a lot." Met said.
"No Met. We didn't."
"Really? Because that does happen a lot. Uh…um…" Met said, and began digging through his pockets. "Here, have a candy wrapper!"
Met tossed it through the barrier. Lorin stared at the bizarrely colored paper.
"And…a rock! And a penny, you never know when you might need a penny! Here's some lint too, and a guitar pick I've never used. Wonder how it got there…oh, and 20 bucks! Wait no, I might need it for the bus. So take this tiny couch with a face of a dog instead. And…er…one of my gloves?"
Lorin, not for the first time, began to wonder if his whole experience since he'd run into Met had been a fever dream, as Met tossed his glove through the barrier. Lorin decided that was the best he was going to get, and picked it up. Met, however, continued on.
"Here, have this purse too! Wait no, you don't need a purse. Come to think of it, I don't need a purse either! What a horrible night to have a purse." Met said, tossing it aside. "Okay…I know, last thing! Take this giant check of one million dollars written out to David Marsello that this nice man who kept saying 'YE-OHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!' gave me." Met said, as he pulled out a tiny square of paper and unfolded it into a giant, very wrinkled piece of paper and tried to force it through the barrier. Strangely, it seemed like the barrier had had enough, as the check vaporized.
"Wow. Somewhere some guy named David Marsello is screaming holy hell."
And he was.
Lorin still couldn't make heads or tails of what Met had been, how he did what he did, or anything else, but he'd been a great help. But now he was alone.
It was time.
Picking up the scythe again, Lorin slowly ascended the stairs to the door that stood on top. It was sealed with a demonic-looking lock, but Lorin knew what the key was. He had a knack for those sort of things.
The scythe's blade slammed into the lock's opening as Lorin thrust it in. With a snarling growl, the scythe sank in and broke apart, as the lock's bindings undid themselves and the door opened.
Whip at his side, Lorin went in.
It was as majestic as he'd expected. The curtains, the carpet, the furniture, all of it the finest quality. But all of it paled against the black stone and crystal throne at the far end of the room.
Lorin stopped, cocked his head, and looked at the creature who had defined the Belmont's life for so many generations.
He was dressed, as usual, in the finest of clothes, his long hair and beard perfect in its whiteness. He held a wine glass in one hand, filled with red liquid that could only be one thing. His eyes betrayed nothing, as he looked upon his latest enemy.
"…so you've come at last." Dracula said, and sipped at his glass. "You're not as swift as some of your ilk."
"…I wasn't aware it was a competition." Lorin said.
"You Belmonts never were aware of what was really important." Dracula said, sipping once more. Lorin had heard that when Dracula prepared these confrontations, he drank not just blood, but the blood of gathered newborns. He really didn't want to know if that was true. "Celerity is becoming all the world cares for, it seems. What year is it again? I was once able to keep track easier."
"I suspect you know." Lorin said.
"I suspect you understand what I am saying. This is the fifth time, is it not? This century." Dracula said.
"Sixth." Lorin said, as he reached into his coat. Dracula watched, a bit curious. His predator's eyes could detect an attack with near-incredible precision, and since the motion did not register as an offense, he wondered what the Belmont was going to do.
What Lorin did was remove a large bag from within his coat. How he'd kept it on his person, especially considering how terrible his battle with Death had been, was truly a great mystery. The bag held two semi-large, ball-shaped objects that Dracula recognized immediately. Human heads.
"Raece. Mhyars." Lorin said, throwing the bag across the room. It bounced a bit after landing, coming to a stop near the steps of Dracula's throne. Dracula looked at the remains of the two women who had recalled him back from oblivion this time, passively and analytically. Lorin wasn't much surprised.
"I granted them great power." Dracula noted.
"It wasn't enough."
"…do you know what they believed, Belmont?" Dracula said, sipping his wine glass again before continuing. "They did not raise me for that power. They raised me because they thought I was some persecuted, tortured soul who the world had wronged. They believed I could love them if they brought me back. Even when I rewarded them as I did and told them otherwise, they believed it. Like I was some sort of blessed, shining angel…Feh!" Dracula spat. "Every time I think I've seen how wretched humanity has become, they somehow manage to surprise me."
Lorin said nothing, his hand having drifted back down to the whip at his side, as his head lowered.
"What, no protest? Are you that bland? At least the Belmonts usually have some angry words." Dracula said. "Unless you know the truth of what I'm saying. I thought your family had finally given up on them. Finally stopped protecting those undeserving, cruel insects. But now, looking at the first Belmont I've seen in nearly a century…I wonder. Maybe it wasn't that reason. Maybe your bloodline has finally thinned to the point that THIS is the best they can sent before him. I have long dreamt of feasting on the blood of a Belmont…I suspect with your death, I will sadly discover it is an anti-climax."
"…oh do come off it." Lorin said.
"Your pedestal. The one you stand on while looking down and casting your judgments." Lorin said, looking back up. "You are as powerful and terrible as was said, Dracula. I have seen that in your legions. In the fallen angel who serves you so faithfully. But that does not make you right, Dracula. It never did, but you're wrong even in your base assessment."
Dracula looked at Lorin Belmont a moment, and then threw his head back and laughed, rich peals of dark mockery drifting around the room. Lorin felt the laugh rake across his soul like black nails, but he stood his ground.
"So it's this protest again, is it?" Dracula said. "You deny your people's own sins? How much they tie into my power, my reign?"
"I deny nothing." Lorin said.
"You are a fool." Dracula said. "Your lifespan is of a spark's compared to mine. Your understanding of the creatures to deem worthy to protect even less so. I have seen far more, and will know far more, than you ever will. I am the lord of darkness, and I have made war against the human race for nearly four hundred years. I have seen nothing in that time to convince me I am wrong. Many times their very nature awakes me, either directly or indirectly. You claim I am wrong? My very presence shows how right I am, Belmont."
Dracula leaned back, sipping 'wine' once more.
"Human evil. All the suffering they inflict…that is their true nature, Belmont. It will always be that way, no matter how deep the delusion in your line runs."
Lorin was silent, but Dracula could see a subtle motion as he swallowed, even as Lorin pushed up his glasses with his free hand. Dracula smiled to himself. Fear. A Belmont was feeling fear. Truly the end times were approaching. His final victory.
"Nonsense." Lorin said.
Dracula cocked his head.
"Is that so?"
"You are not the only one who claims that humankind is utterly terrible because of mass human suffering." Lorin said. "But you do not justify a certain falsehood. In truth, no one suffers the pain of everyone around them."
"If they did, perhaps they might actually be of some worth!" Dracula said.
"Maybe, but that's still continuing the error. When it comes down to it, vampire, mass human suffering does not exist. There are simply individuals suffering, mistakenly added together in an unnatural way."
"Have you seen a battlefield, child, and I do mean child? Have you seen the calligraphy your species writes on landscapes with blood, fire, and meat?" Dracula said. "While I was gone, the Americas apparently fractured and fought a civil war. Some of my servants have spoken to me about the glories of it. Tens of thousands, butchered and torn apart, without the slightest forward movement made by either side. Did you see these battlefields yourself, Belmont? Perhaps you will yet have time. I can only imagine the wars that are coming in the advancing years, if I do not simply crush humanity beneath my boot."
"…there are two people in a room." Lorin said.
"There are two people in a room." Lorin repeated. "One has a pained tooth, and on a level of pain marked from 1 to 10, we shall say that he is suffering pain with a numerical value of 3. The other person has just been shot in the leg. We will say he has a 'pain value' of 6. Ergo, is anybody in that room suffering from a combined ratio of 9?"
Dracula looked at Lorin a moment before chuckling. The Belmont was trying logic.
"So you believe yourself to be intelligent?"
"I believe a lot of things." Lorin said. "I do not believe in mass human suffering as you define it. It is true that the suffering of large masses of individuals is a terrible thing. But that misconception is one of the reasons behind the view of humanity being considered evil and/or worthless by nature. The viewpoint you have held for nearly four hundred years."
"You would challenge it?"
"No one else has, it seems." Lorin said. "So that is your argument? Humanity is evil?"
"Your proof sits before you." Dracula says.
"Very well. What are you defining as evil?"
"Are you soft in the head? Humanity! Every last, worthless one of them!"
"No. Not who. What. Where are you coming from, Dracula?" Lorin said. "Are you appealing to an external code of ethics that all are intrinsically bound by? Or are you appealing to what you find aesthetically pleasing and right?"
Dracula stared. He did not like being surprised. He disliked it even more when he was surprised in such an alien fashion. No Belmont had ever bothered really talking: they mostly just yelled what a monster he was and then threw down the gauntlet. This…
"Well?" Lorin said. "If you're going with the first mode of argument, that is, absolute right and wrong…you are just as guilty by its standards as any human. Such a code does not prove your superiority, of stature or position. In fact, by the nature of being a vampire, you will always end up being just as bad as any human at following it. Most humans, you see, don't feed on things that can talk back."
"No! That is not what I was saying!"
"I did not think so. You do not strike me as one who would accept a position of absolute morality." Lorin said. "Why then, do you say that people bad at taking the rules cancel or outweigh those who keep them?"
"The answer is very simple, Belmont." Dracula said. "I have seen this race take someone who wished nothing more than to help, and had her roasted alive because of idiotic, self-righteous fears that she was a witch! They have not ceased committing crimes since then! Their ranks are filled with superstitious, brainless rabble, eager to turn on each other for any improvement in their lives! Their leaders are hypocritical, vicious creatures who take their sweat, blood, and tears to thrive, and look in disgust at what they consider inferior excrement as they do so, when they are not manipulating them with false promises and false piousness! When one tries to rise above it, the rest of them reach up and yank him down for daring to make the attempt! THAT is why your race is worthless. The only reason you cannot see it is because your lineage is bred entirely of delusional servants who fancy themselves heroes!"
"This is not about me, Dracula. Or Richter. Christopher. Simon. Trevor. Any of them." Lorin said. "You sit here in judgment, yet when it comes down to it, it is presented as merely as opinion. What claim have you for judgment, if you are using rules you choose for yourself?"
"I am so much more than them. My mind…"
"No. None of those arguments work." Lorin said. "What do you wish to claim? You know better because of your power? That is like stating that we have a disagreement about math. I say if you add two and two you will make four, and you say if you add the same numbers you will make five. Ergo, if you kill me, then reality will shift and your view of mathematics becomes right. Power cannot be the basis for a logically true statement."
"I have more than power…"
"What then? Being raised above humanity by the machinations that have made you what you are? That gives you even less right to judge. You have placed yourself outside humanity in a manner that cannot be proven superior. Your senses are immense, but you have not gained omniscience, so you are still interpreting things from a sensory point of view, like humans." Lorin said. "A person living among humans has an insider's view of them. YOU do not. A man who lived among fish would think their preference to stay in the ocean strange and their habit of eating their food raw and alive barbaric, but he cannot really say that a fish would find them barbaric."
"Humanity does not even deserve to be called barbaric. I have seen them rise beyond even that, each time I wake…"
"So you claim your long experience then? That does not work either. Because said experience is heavily tainted." Lorin said. "By your nature of a vampire lord, who would you meet between long intervals? Despicable cultists out to enrich themselves with your powers. Scared villagers who have not been granted the gifts to protect themselves from the likes of you. And yes, even my ilk, who would use our gifts in your stead. You see no good, Dracula? It may just be because you have a sampling bias."
Dracula was silent, his wine glass shifting in his hand.
"If you maintain that humanity is evil as a matter of opinion, you have no grounds to stand on. Your opinion is as valid as anyone else's. Mine, those two women at your feet, the generals who led that civil war in the Americas, all of them. No more, no less." Lorin said. "The only way to gain any validity is to appeal to an external code of right and wrong that beings either do or not not follow, or else the argument disintegrates into endless, circular nattering."
"And you know the truths of such an absolute code?" Dracula said dismissively. "There is no such thing. What humanity calls right and wrong has changed so enormously that it's impossible to talk of an absolute code."
"That is true. It is also true that in the past, humans made bad maps of Africa. Does it then follow that there is NO Africa, and that everyone just has vague opinions about something they made up? Or is it more reasonable to say that Africa exists, and that they were mistaken where they disagreed with the real thing?" Lorin said. "…You spoke of innocent women being burned as witches. If you truly feel pain at that, and rage at it as a moral failing…then you may not be wrong. But you can't use it as an absolute Dracula. As you yourself said, there may BE no absolute. It cuts both ways. If I believed that witches had taken dark powers and were intentionally using them to hurt people, then I may very well be moral in burning them. Or not. But that's why I'm here, isn't it? YOU have dark powers and are and will use them again to hurt people. Ergo I am moral to be here to stop you."
"It is not the same."
"No. But a miscarriage of justice does not mean that justice is non-existent. In fact, we could only call it a miscarriage of justice if we had some notion of what to compare it to."
Dracula shifted in his throne. He was silent a moment, before he sipped once more.
"Very well than. Answer this, Belmont. What number marked my current reign?"
"…sixth." Lorin said.
"How many times did I return last century?"
"And how many times the century before?"
"Two." Lorin said.
"I would think the truth becomes clear, all philosophical debate aside." Dracula said. "It is not a simple thing to awaken me. I an intrinsically linked to the human race. My power, my legions, mirror what lies in their hearts and souls. In the past, it was such that being re-awakened outside my own strength could be done ONCE. Twice, perhaps. Yet here I am in this century for the SIXTH time. Even my own great powers cannot make something out of nothing. I awake, more and more, because there is more to awaken me. More for my followers to draw upon. The century is not even done. By the small chance you succeed, we may be back here doing this five, ten, seventeen years from now. Will you still make the same claim then? Or will you understand that not only is your human race damned, its damnation has only grown in the centuries since I declared war on it?"
"…you are right." Lorin said. "I cannot deny how many times you have awoken in these years. Even if no Belmont was there to witness it."
"You may have done better not coming yourself…"
"I am not done, Dracula." Lorin said. "You are using narrow arguments again. I do not deny there has been great wickedness this century. But ALL ages are wicked. Some just in different ways than others."
"That hardly changes anything."
"You're wrong. Attila the Hun was greedy and cruel, but he also had the virtues of bravery and intelligence. A bad thing cannot be bad without tainted goodness. A more modern person, who may not be raping and pillaging across the countryside, can likely not be nearly as brave as Attila."
"So if these two women before me had wanted me to revive their children, you would have stayed your hand in slaying them? Or by the basis of what's been taken from me, do I not deserve mercy? Because there were virtuous notions there, however tainted?"
"If I gave you mercy, would you stand down and mend your ways? If yes, then I gladly give it to you." Lorin said. "But I suspect the answer is no. At a certain point, the corruption ruins the capacity for unperverted goodness."
"I do not think I could even if I wished. Humanity would see to it otherwise." Dracula said. "You are fighting a war of attrition you cannot win."
"Perhaps not, Dracula. Perhaps you are."
"Oh really. How?"
"You are leaving out certain details. Two, to be specific." Lorin said. "When you first decided humanity must die, the population of the world was maybe five hundred million. Now it is 1.3 BILLION. The number has almost tripled. Your whole basis may not be on any inevitable damnation. It may simply be that there is more people, and ergo more evil."
"You're so certain." Dracula said with languid amusement.
"I believe so. Mainly because of the other detail." Lorin said. "You said it yourself. You have risen from beyond six times this century. Yet I am the first Belmont to face you in these years. If there is more evil in this world, then one could claim there is also more good. Because you have been slain five times, all without the hand of a pure Belmont involved."
"Ah, so now you are pure. There's the Belmont self-righteousness."
"You're changing the subject, great Dracula." Lorin said. "Reinhardt Schneider may have only been distantly related to us, and he did not have our whip. He was still able to defeat you, with Carrie Fernandez and Henry Oldrey. Not just because of them, either. Because he was able to convince one of your thralls to give up her life for him, to empower his whip like my ancestor's fiancé did, all those years ago. He was not the first. Nathan Graves defeated you with his own empowered whip, passed down to him by his parents. His father's mother had suffered the same fate as Rosa and Sara, and also chose to give up her life rather then become a vampire. This whip was alone for centuries, and now within THIS century, two more like it have been born. They may not last, but that does not change the fact of their creation." Lorin said. "Even if we dismiss the whips, they were not needed. Cornell the werewolf may have supposedly been a pawn, but he still killed you. And your plan ultimately failed anyway, because of Reinhardt. Even the Order of Ecclesia, despite being corrupt at the core, produced a warrior who bested you, against all their intentions. You produce no real proof that humanity grows ever more evil, while I have in my knowledge strong indications of the opposite: that humanity grows more GOOD. Against all that the world has produced over the centuries, champions rose to face you without us. I think this stands as the greatest argument that humanity, for all its failings, is good at heart."
Dracula laughed again, though Lorin though it didn't sound as confident and as self-enjoyed as before.
"It does not change the fact how many times I have risen." Dracula said, and sipped his 'wine' again.
"Does it not?" Lorin said. "Do you remember Trevor, Dracula? Simon? Richter, who was said to be the mightiest of us all?"
"The scars I left on them may demonstrate why you are so late in returning."
"Not the point again, Dracula. It was said that when you rose, only a Belmont could defeat you. Every time you awakened, the people cried out for my family. We always answered the call. But this century, the one where you have risen so often? I am the first. Yet you were still slain five times. Sometimes at cost, sometimes as part of something greater…but you failed. Each time. Without a Belmont. Why is that?" Lorin said. "Maybe human evil has made you rise more. But maybe, just maybe, the good in people is making you come back weaker than you used to be. The world may not be empowering you more, Dracula. It may be attempting to ensure your demise."
Dracula was silent again, raising his free hand and placing it against the side of his head, cocking his visage into it as he regarded the Belmont. Lorin was silent in turn, having not moved the whole time save for a few gestures.
"…You think you know humanity so well." Dracula said. "How good of you to supposedly know why you should protect them, all of them, most of whom will never even know your name and would probably curse or envy you if they did. How fitting you are so knowledgeable of the world at large, and don't know a thing about what really matters. Who you are. Why you're here."
"I'm here to stop you. We all are."
"Is THAT what you think." Dracula said, removing his hand as he sipped again at his 'wine'. "You think you know good so well. But not as well as I know the darkness. All sin, all failings, all secrets. Tell me Belmont, do you know why the former father Wiegand came here?"
"Cultists massacred his village. Performed dark rituals and horrible tortures. To revive YOU, Lord Dracula." Lorin said. "He was the only survivor when German forces arrived and wiped them out. He's spent every moment of the eleven years since training and preparing to face you. He's here with me now. I will stand for him, and those he wished to avenge."
"Yes. He was so brave, was he not? Throwing himself endlessly into danger." Dracula said. "You fool. He didn't want to face me. He wanted to die."
"…what?" Lorin said.
"He didn't come out of that experience a shining warrior of GOD." Dracula said, saying the name like the worst of curses. "He came out of a it a guilt-ridden madman who felt he should not have deserved to live when all his flock died. He could not kill himself though, suicide is a mortal sin. So he lied to himself instead. He told himself he would prepare to face me. All he really wanted, deep down, was to die horribly to punish himself. Why do you think he took such risks? Why do you think he was so eager to fight the abominations which gave you pause? It was not faith, or virtue. It was delusional, self-directed hatred. He turned away from God and his lies just like I did. Except he's so weak he can't even realize it. I wonder, when I toss your head at his feet, will he break down enough to finally destroy himself, or will he be so weak he can't even do that?"
Lorin stood quietly, his eyes slightly widened.
"And the Romani huntress. Such spirit, such will, such potential for greater things. Did she tell you how she was a child of rape?" Dracula said. "That fate consigned her to a special hell when circumstances caused her to be adopted by a mentally shattered English noblewoman? That she was raised despised by everyone save her adopted mother, who only loved her because she was ill in the head from the loss of her true-born child? How they tried to teach her her 'place' when her mother died? How about how she escaped all that and fled from the dogs of 'proper civilization' who wanted to brutalize her even more for not knowing her 'place' and to punish her 'sins' of protecting herself? How she returned to her people, only to find that THEY hated her as well, considering her 'tainted' by her upbringing? How hard she tried to win her way into their hearts, using the gifts she had to hunt the darkness? What did they do to reward her? They sent her here, telling her that only with a trophy from my hand, would she be one of them. Liars one and all. They sent her to die. Even if by some miracle she had succeeded, it would change nothing. And she KNOWS it, Belmont. Deep down. She knows she has no place in the world. She knows your precious humanity abhors her for no other reason then because they CAN, and because they NEED to, to function. Like the priest, she will turn her feelings inward. She will learn to hate herself. Instead of recognizing the rest of the world as worthless, she will see herself as worthless. And in doing so, she will prove that she is as worthless as THEM. Those were your two allies, Belmont. Broken, shattered wrecks, by their own hands and the hands of others. And there is NOTHING you can do to save them."
Lorin could say nothing for a time, as Dracula chuckled and sipped at his wine.
"…I can only do…what I can. What I did." Lorin said. "I can't force my will on them. I can't…if you're telling the truth…turn back the feelings of failure someone has, or make someone else see the worth they have despite what many others would say. Even if I could…I wouldn't. You can't change someone because you think it's best, even if it would help them. Because that's as bad as if you were going to control them. You can't define someone's life. Even for people as special as my…two companions. You can only offer them reasons to live it."
"How apt of you to say that, Belmont." Dracula said. "Because you shouldn't be here. Your reasons for doing so are not your own."
Once again, Lorin's eyes widened, but this time, there was a brief flash of pain.
"I told you. I know all darkness. No one who enters my lair can keep a secret from me." Dracula said. "You were not the chosen son. You weren't even supposed to be born. And when everything happened as it did…well, it didn't. Your father didn't die because of illness. He despaired at the future, and took his own life with poison. That is what you REALLY are, Belmont. No great seeker of knowledge and commander of a true understanding of the vermin you call the human race. In truth, you're such a failure that your father took his own life rather then see what was to come."
Lorin lowered his head again. Dracula smiled slightly, his fangs glinting for a moment, before he sipped from his glass.
"I have said before that man is a miserable pile of secrets. You are no different. No matter what you say."
"………………………….I left something out." Lorin said. Dracula raised an eyebrow.
"You have spoken about how the Belmonts have not been seen this century. I have spoken how others faced you in our stead, and triumphed." Lorin said. "I left one detail out though. Others did not defeat you because we had ceased our cause. Others defeated you because they got to you first."
"…What?" Dracula said.
"…something happened, a year or so after your son sealed you. You remember your son, don't you Dracula? I hope he's at peace wherever he is." Lorin said. "It involved an incubus named Magnus. The events that occurred, along with what had happened to him at the hands of your former servant Shaft, convinced my ancestor Richter that facing you was not the only risk the family line posed. Others might strike at it in times when you were gone, and they could possibly remove the forces that would stand against you when you woke up. Richter decided the Belmonts would hide away better, keeping our actions and intentions concealed. Our inability to move as freely as we once had may have prevented us from facing some evils…but it would ensure that we would be prepared against the greatest evil whenever it arose."
Lorin reached up, adjusting his glasses again, though his head was still down.
"The Order of Ecclesia caught us off guard. Their actions could have had horrendous results…but the woman Shanoa defied their ambitions and cast you down. After that, we vowed to never be so careless…but Shanoa would not be the last. Each time, when my grandfather and father set off to face you when you'd awoken, they arrived to find the victory already won. So they vanished quietly back into the shadows, to prepare for the future." Lorin said. "…we are only human. The idea of facing your evil is not something that should be appealing to us. Members of my family have suffered horribly for it, like the curse you laid on Simon…but there is glory in the thought of facing the lord of darkness and emerging victorious. When my father, Aloysius, did not get his chance…perhaps he mourned it. It would explain how he went about his life, as he married and prepared to raise his son to face you. He wanted a perfect warrior. He got his wish. My older brother, Montague."
"The chosen one." Dracula said, trying to not show the fact that he hadn't known about the Belmont's greater secrecy after Richter, and how it bothered him.
"He was. He was wondrous in his talents. Had he been standing here, I have no doubt he would have arrived considerably earlier." Lorin said. "I was not expected, or in a way, wanted. My father had his heir, he did not need another child. I was left to my mother, as my father prepared my brother for his destiny. And in a way, the destiny he never had."
"Leave your brother alone, Montague!"
"Aw mother, it's not my fault he cries so easily!"
"Ignore your brother, Montague."
"What? Why father?"
"You have other things you have to do."
"…can't he do them too?"
"Why bother? You're what's important."
"He's still my brother. He always will be."
"Hey little brother. You're gonna be with me when I finally rip Dracula to pieces, aren't you?"
"All the way."
"I…did not resent my brother, in the end." Lorin said. "He was to be the sword of the heavens. I found my interests instead lay in books. I was a scholar. So I turned to knowledge and learning, to define myself and to help my brother and father when they were called upon. My father did not want to have someone else arrive first this time. He wanted to be the one to slay you. Had things gone differently…I know Montague would have bested you. I know my father would have been content in doing it."
"But he did not. He is dead. As is your father." Dracula said, twisting the knife.
"He grew sick. The consumption. For all his strength…it was not enough." Lorin said. "Grief took my mother away shortly afterward, and my father…his hope was gone. He knew that you would awaken sooner or later, and the son he'd prepared so long and well was gone. All that was left was his other son, the reader of books, the thinker. Myself. He had no choice. He threw himself into a frenzy to try and prepare me, after neglecting me for so many years."
"It's not good enough. Do it again!"
"A fatal wound instantly! It will gut you before you have a second chance!"
"Get up! Get up or you never will!"
"It's not good enough. YOU'RE NOT GOOD ENOUGH!"
"…I hated him. I will not hide that fact." Lorin said. "But I also understood him. Why he did what he did. I…can't say for sure if he loved me. And if you speak the truth, and he grew so certain I would fail that he took his own life…I can't blame him, in a way. I'm not a mighty, unstoppable warrior. In trying to act as one, I really come up lacking."
"…Dracula, do you know what I would do if you disappeared tomorrow?"
"…what?" Dracula said, jarred out of the enjoyment he was getting into manipulating Lorin into laying his regrets bare.
"I don't know." Lorin said. "But I'd like to clarify something. By saying that, I don't say that I would have no future, and no reason to exist. I say that because I would have so many possibilities, and I cannot say which way I would go. I would be free, and there would be many roads I could take. Who can say where the roads would lead…but they would be there."
"I am not here because I want to prove to my father that he was wrong in his assessment. I am not here to prove I was a better man in the end than my brother. I am not here to prove I was worthy of my mother's love, or because that is what is demanded and destined of me as a Belmont. I am here to stop you, because you rose up again. I am here BECAUSE THIS IS WHAT I CHOOSE TO DO." Lorin said. "You claim you know so well what lies within me. Then you should know what I say has what I mean behind it. Maybe I can't speak for so many humans, or my companions. But I know who I am. I know what I do. It is my choice. I have free will. The gift and curse of God. The yoke that humanity must bear. The burden you were too weak to handle."
"What could you do Dracula, if the Belmonts vanished forever? Let's even assume no worthy champions would take our place. You would ride your legions over Europe, seize humanity in a death grip and crush it in your hands, and reign over a world of monsters. And then what, Dracula? You think that would give you ultimate satisfaction? Perhaps it would. But how long would it last, Dracula? You claim to be immortal, that you will live forever. Forever is a very long time to fill, Dracula. And I think that even with all of your terrible powers, claiming ultimate victory will prove hollow. It won't mean anything to God, I'm certain. It won't bring back the women you once loved. It will give you nothing."
"You think you are the first to claim this? You think you know…?!"
"Maybe not." Lorin said, finally lifting his head again. "All I know is what I see. What I see is a creature who is now forever in lockstep. Even if you win, even if you claimed rulership over everything, you can do nothing but evil. Evil may be vast, evil may be many-faceted…but it is not everything. It shows in how while you have risen so many times this century, you have been defeated just as many times. I am a human being, with all that entails. My life and my experiences are part of it, but I am what I decide to be. You, on the other hand, are an incomplete creation frozen in place, never to change. And above all else, you have been shown that you have no right to judge humanity."
Dracula was about to speak, before Lorin did something very few beings had ever done: he cut him off.
"Don't bother. I let your manipulative dodging attempt into personal attacks pass, but that's done. You have not offered anything resembling a proper counter-argument. You have, in your words, conceded that one has to have a shared standard of good for your position to have any validity amongst the myriad others. And by doing that, you have lost anyway. By conceding the concept that one needs an absolute standard, you prove it isn't just about you judging humanity. It's everyone judging everything by a standard that you obviously have not, and cannot say, you have kept." Lorin said. "Hypocrisy does not make you wrong. But your silent assumption and constant declarations all down the years that you have a better perspective on humanity then anyone in my family line is so undermined from where I stand I would be concerned if an ant started walking on it."
Dracula was silent, but his eyes had begun to brighten, intense energies beginning to fire up.
"I admit what I am. I admit what I can, and can't do. I admit I may not walk out of his chamber alive." Lorin said. "But you, Dracula? As far as I can see, you've only proved my viewpoint correct. You haven't proven you're better than people. You haven't proven that you have business claiming that humans are totally, irrevocably damned, due to your false premises and experiences. The only thing you've proven to me is that you are actually weaker than humans."
Dracula's wine glass began to shake.
"I choose to be here. What can you choose? Nothing." Lorin said. "For all their crimes, for all their horrors, for all their atrocities, every human, one way or another, can CHOOSE to be good or evil. You? You've wrought a life that has ensured you will never be anything BUT evil. You have destroyed your power of free will. For all that's given you, for all you think you know…you've taken an aspect and made it an absolute. In doing that, you have guaranteed that will NEVER win. I think the world recognizes this, and is telling you that your time will come. Maybe it will be a long time, maybe it won't all be definite and at once…but it's coming. I, and humanity, have the world. You have a throne."
Lorin paused for a breath, as he lowered one hand to the whip at his side.
"Do you read Milton, Dracula? This whole long experience has reminded me of one of his passages. From his poem Paradise Lost, to be specific. If by some chance you haven't…it went like this." Lorin said. " 'Men called him Mulciber; and how he fell, From Heaven they fabled, thrown by angry Jove, Sheer o'er the crystal battlements: from morn, to noon he fell, from noon to dewy eve, A summer's day, and with the setting sun, Dropt from the zenith, like a falling star, On Lemnos, the Aegaean isle. This they relate, Erring; for he with this rebellious rout, Fell long before; nor aught availed him now. To have built in Heaven high towers; nor did he scrape, By all his engines, but was headlong sent, With his industrious crew, to build in Hell.'"
With his free hand, Lorin reached up and, for one final time, adjusted his glasses.
"I think you can see the parallels here." Lorin said. "Can't you…Mathias?"
The wine glass shattered in Dracula's hand. A moment later the remaining blood on it was seared away as Dracula's hand erupted into demonic flame.
"DIE HUMAN!" Dracula roared, his voice shaking the room as he stood up. "YOU DON'T BELONG IN THIS WORLD!"
The hellfire tore across the room towards Lorin Belmont. He did not move, his feet anyway. Instead he turned his hand that had adjusted his glasses around, and the third and last vial slipped out of his sleeve and into his hand.
Then he moved, as he drew the Vampire Killer whip off his side and lashed out. The enchanted, holy weapon, stained with the blood of countless monsters and fiends, dispelled Dracula's fireball, casting it away like a candle flame.
"One last thing." Lorin said, as he lifted the vial, as if in a toast. "Did I mention I'm also an alchemist?"
Dracula bellowed and fired a storm of fire. Lorin threw back his head and drank the vial as it came.
The fireballs exploded, consuming Lorin in flames.
Before he burst from the fire, moving faster than any human possibly could, unbelievable energies coursing through him from the potion. He was done talking. It was time to stand up or shut up, as he leapt into the air, throwing the Vampire Killer behind him.
And Dracula once again felt the burning lash of the bane of his existence.
"…he has to win." Jaelle said, on the cliff edge that she and her two companions were standing on, looking at the glooming ruins of Castlevania nearby. Diederich had no reply, as he knelt and prayed silently to himself. Dracula had been right: he HAD entered the foul place to die. But Lorin's insistence on overcoming his own weaknesses, as he'd told Diederich over their adventures and battles in the castle, had finally brought him out of the pit of black despair that had consumed his life. Lorin had had faith in him. Diederich would bring his own faith in return.
"Hey, relax. We did things as well as could be done. Well, besides getting two hundred percent completion. How can you find more than one hundred percent anyway?" Met said from where he was sitting in a nearby tree. "But hey! We didn't run into any crooked traders offering bum deals. Lorin will do fine! I hope he remembered to put laurels in his soup: it enhances the aro-"
The explosion almost sound like the cry of an angry beast, and Jaelle whirled around as Diderich jerked his head up.
The main tower had crumbled away, and even Met's eyes widened a bit at why. They could see what had shattered it from within.
Dracula had unleashed his true power, and the world trembled at his presence.
Lorin crouched where he lay, the first energies he'd awoken in himself starting to fade. The wounds he'd suffered would soon start to kick in. On top of that, Dracula had completely trashed the citadel tower when he'd transformed. Lorin was stuck on one of the few pieces left, as he looked up at Dracula's monstrous shape.
"YOU ARE NOTHING!" Dracula thundered, his visage like some sort of ancient, dinosaur-like beast, his lower half now a mass of gigantic mouthed tentacles who shot venom and fire. "A SPECK! A MOTE! SOMETHING BEYOND THE SIGHT OF EYES! YOU WILL BOW TO ME, AND THEN YOU WILL DIE SCREAMING MY NAME!"
"No." Lorin said. Dracula bellowed and thrust out an arm as wide as a river and as tall as a tree, and tentacles erupted from his hand and surged at Lorin, snapping fanged, shrieking maws at him. Lorin turned and ran, gathering his strength and leaping towards another piece of remaining tower as Dracula shattered the one he had been on. Dracula bellowed again, his eyes glowing and firing a blast of horrible power. Lorin had not stopped running through, as he lashed out with his whip and seized onto a remaining piece of rubble, pulling himself upward and through the air as his landing point also crumbled. He flipped onto the tallest remaining piece of tower, even as Dracula bellowed once more, shifting his position to face Lorin and tear him apart.
Lorin turned back to face him, as he seized Diederich's cross and pulled it off his neck. He looked up the roiling clouds.
Dracula realized, right about then, just how badly he had been manipulated. Lorin, as he had said, knew exactly what his weaknesses were. He also knew how to play to his strengths.
Lorin hadn't engaged in his long debate with the mortal enemy of his family just to prove the righteousness of their cause, or the errors in Dracula's thinking that Lorin had learned in his studies long ago. He also knew that Dracula was used to his enemies cutting to the chase, and that not doing so combined with Lorin's lesser qualities would put him off his guard.
Give him time to gather his power. Dracula would have noticed if Lorin had stood outside his door and done it. Not so much while in front of him. Nor would he notice that Lorin had worked to make Dracula shatter his sanctum and expose himself to the night sky.
Lorin was not, like Richter had once been described, 'supreme among vampire hunters'.
But he was still a Belmont. Their powers were in his blood.
And his blood was on fire with the other energies that he had gathered, and were finally ready to be used. Energies that were going in one direction.
"NO!" Dracula yelled, as Lorin thrust the cross at the sky.
The white power coursed up Lorin's arm, across Diederich's cross, and then shot up into the roiling clouds. They thundered once, and then the rain began to fall.
"We have to help him!" Jaelle said, snatching up her Pattern 1853 Enfield rifle. She'd loaded it already, as she aimed for Dracula's terrible form.
"Wait! Not yet!" Met said, yanking the gun up even as he looked at Dracula's chosen form. "Blech! Ruling Brahms' mansion is NOT worth facing that!"
"No…don't…you won't…!" Jaelle said, struggling with Met. The strange creature held his grip.
The rain came then, an instant, complete downpour. Jaelle was immediately soaked to the skin…
And strangely, it felt good.
"Hey! Hey! Come on it tickles! Cut it out! Eek! Ack!" Met said, squirming under the rain. Diederich blinked as the water ran down his face, reaching up and touching it.
"…by the grace of God." Diederich said. And this rain was.
It was holy water.
"ARGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!" Dracula screamed, the rain searing into him, hundreds upon hundreds of blazing, agonizing needles. This would NOT end this way! He would kill this Belmont!
"IRA DEI-PLUVIA SANCTA!!!!"
The clouds split, and bolts of lightning flashed down from them, striking Dracula and tearing into his body. He screamed and roared, but he did not relent, as he reached for Lorin.
Lorin watched with fierce determination, and then he inhaled, casting his eyes and his hands heavenward.
"VENIA DEI! MESERICORDIA DEI! GLORIA DEI! PLUVIA SANCTA!!!!!!!!!!"
The sky seemed to roar, and then the mother of all lightning bolts erupted from the clouds and exploded through Dracula's body like it wasn't there.
Lorin fell to one knee, exhausted, but Dracula fell worse. Specifically, he began falling apart, the holy power too much for his body, the horrific monstrosity he had once again breaking down and turning into so much meat and ash. He began to fall from his perch, as Lorin watched, his final offense finally slacking off, the rain stopping as quickly as it had started.
Then Dracula's head burst open, and a naked, genderless, human-shapd creature pulled himself out of the ruins of the skull and leapt towards Lorin, whose eyes widened in shock.
"I WILL HAVE YOU BELMONT!!!!!!!!!!!"
"Oh no!" Diederich said, as the group watched Dracula's last try, manifesting in a makeshift body to try and take Lorin with him.
"Now would be a good time." Met said, letting go of Jaelle's gun. She did not spare Met a glance, as she snapped out the weapon again. She'd never had to shoot this far before.
She had no intention of missing, as she fired. The enchanted bullet tore through the air.
"…nah." Met said.
Then he thrust out his hand and fired a golden blast after it.
Dracula never knew what hit him.
"ARRRGGGGHHHHHH!" The king of darkness screamed as the bullet, propelled by Met's own blast, slammed into his back. Lorin's vague theory, raised only to himself for a moment, was true. Whatever Met was, he was not part of Castlevania. Dracula had somehow never seen him.
The shot had distracted Dracula, throwing him off guard. Lorin used the opening. Had it been modern times, and had he had sufficient knowledge of pop culture, he might have said 'She shot me down, bang bang.'
Instead he just pulled out the revolver Jaelle had given him and emptied it into Dracula.
"RARRRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!" Dracula bellowed, as he began to fall. Even as he did, Lorin dropped the gun and seized up the Vampire Killer, using the last of his energies as he swung it back.
It burst into flame.
Dracula let out one final shriek as the whip lashed out and cut him in half.
His body fell, disintegrating into ash as it went, as Lorin drew the whip back and fell back down to one knee, panting heavily.
"…I did it, Montague." Lorin said. "…I knew you were with me, all the way. Rest in…"
The deep rumbling interrupted Lorin's introspection, and he stood up and looked down at the castle around him.
Dracula had fallen. Like its master, Castlevania was to follow.
Unfortunately, Lorin was still up on the remains of the tower when it started doing so.
"…NO! LORIN! GET DOWN FROM THERE!" Jaelle yelled.
"I wonder if the morning sun can do anything about this?" Met said. "No? Okay fine…"
"I remember this part from the journals, but I could have sworn I recalled that it usually had the good grace to wait until they'd gotten out to do it." Lorin said from on top of his shaking perch. "All right then…I'll make do."
Lorin quickly calculated a route, backed up, and ran. Leaping through the air, he came down on an angular steeple, his legs yelling in protest as he slid down the side. Lorin had no time to talk to them, as he had about two seconds to pick a new direction. He managed it, leaping off the steeple just before he went off the edge and lashing out with the whip. It tangled around a catch-point, and Lorin swung forward and leapt for the next landing point, the whip magically uncoiling itself…
Which didn't help Lorin as the place he'd been aiming for promptly collapsed, leaving him in mid-air with a long way down.
Met flew through the air, slamming into Lorin as he wrapped his arms around him.
"You know, there was a time I had wings! I think!" Met yelled as he hit the side of a wall and much to Lorin's surprise RAN along its length, briefly defying gravity. "It would have made this easier! But no matter! I can adapt! Ha ha ha Grant let's see you do THISSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS…!"
Met leapt off and pounced onto a rampart, leaping off again and bouncing off a mid-air piece of rubble, and then doing one last flip, hitting a roof, and leaping forward one more time as it collapsed under him, clearing the site of Castlevania and heading back towards the cliff face he'd originally leapt off of as he'd sprang up through the collapsing castle to Lorin.
He landed with style and grace. He also bit his tongue in the process, so he didn't notice.
"Owwwwww…!" Met mumbled, clutching his mouth as he staggered away. Lorin stared, unable to believe what had just happened.
Jaelle flew into the Belmont's arms, hugging him so tightly he thought she would break him in half.
"Ack…Jaelle. Good to see you too." Lorin said. Diederich watched the sight, and then turned to Met, who had stopped holding his mouth.
"Pleh, bluh. I hate this as much as the ferryman loves garlic." Met said, before looking at Diederich. "Yeah?"
"…thank you." Diederich said. "I was wrong about you. You are…as noble a soul as any I've seen. No matter what you came from."
"Eh, think nothing of it. That's how I handle things, mostly." Met said.
"I thought you were going to die." Jaelle said to Lorin.
"Nearly did. Sorry, I lost your gun." Lorin said. "But…I do have something. Wasn't easy to get in the fight…but I remember you talking constantly about how much you wanted it."
Lorin reached into his coat pocket, and produced a ring with a small red stone. Jaelle stared at it.
"I figure we can get Diederich to lay as many blessings as possible on it, make sure it's not cursed, and then…"
Jaelle grabbed the ring and tossed it aside, before throwing her arms around Lorin again and bringing her lips to his.
Diederich watched, nodding in approval, as Met scampered over and picked up the discarded piece of jewelry.
"All right! I now prossess Dracula's Ring…!…Aw man what a rip off!" Met said, throwing the ring to the ground and stomping on it. "Wait, maybe I could have used it to buy a proof-reader."
"…well." Lorin said, as Jaelle broke the kiss.
"I know what I want to do for now." Jaelle said. "I want to be with you."
"…okay." Lorin said.
Another thunderous crash sounded, and the group turned to watch as Castlevania fully completed its collapse. Diederich walked up, placing an arm on Lorin's shoulder. Lorin winced in pain: all the adrenaline was finally wearing off.
"Sorry." Diederich said.
"Hey, don't be." Met said. "Pain is for the living. Only the dead don't feel it."
With that, Met turned and started walking off.
"…hey! Where you going?" Lorin said.
"Getting lost, like your two companions wanted."
"…oh." Jaelle said, raising her eyebrows in surprise. "Well, I changed my mind…!"
"No problem. I like being lost. You find all sorts of interesting things." Met said, not looking back as he waved. "See ya guys. Thanks for the session. Too bad the loot drop was lame."
The trio stared at the departing creature who had called itself Met, and then turned back as the ruins of Castlevania dissolved into dust.
"So now what?" Diederich said.
"…the future." Lorin said. "We'll need to be ready, just in case. Evil never dies. But as long as we live, it will never win either."
"…Amen." Jaelle said.
"…you know, I get the feeling I was missing something." Met said as he walked through the forest.
It appeared to be a clone of Met, albeit older, dressed in black, with a strange ring on its finger…as it sat on the couch of the long-disused house. The Black Lantern had been waiting for his target for a very long time.
"Eh, it was probably nothing." Met said as he disappeared into the trees. "I just hope a tornado doesn't come out of nowhere and carry me where I need to go. That would be really inexplicable…"