Chapter Nine

Later the five companions are marching up the stairs with Womac leading them as their unwilling guide. Thundarr is right behind Dracula's emissary, dressed as a Roman Legionnaire, and ready to drive his spear into the self professed Caesar's back at the first sign of trouble. He still wears his leather bracers, the Sunsword is currently concealed under Thundarr's borrowed bronze shield. Following Thundarr are Ariel, Ookla, and Van Helsing, and by all appearances they have their wrists heavily bound behind their backs. In truth, while there are ropes wrapped heavily around their wrists, their wrists are each tied separately Thus when they walk with their hands behind their backs, crossed at the wrist, at a glance it appears that their wrists are tied together. Bringing up the rear is Reverend Bram Stoker XIII, also dressed as a Roman Legionnaire

"This will never work," Womac says to them, for perhaps the tenth time, "Count Dracula has survived centuries untold. Do you really think he will fall for such a cheap trick?"

"Shut up and keep walking," growls Thundarr, as he prods the vampire's thrall with his spear.

Behind him, Ookla growls something in the mok tongue.

"Aye, old friend. I know," says Thundarr.

"What did he say?" Asks Ariel.

"He said that Womac has a point," replies Thundarr.

"See?" Says Womac triumphantly, "Even an ignorant mok can see it's useless to fight the great Count Dracula!"

Ookla roars angrily at Womac, prompting a laugh from Thundarr.

"Ware your words, Womac," says the barbarian, "Remember that Ookla is not truly bound. And he doesn't take kindly to being called 'ignorant'."

Ookla gives another threatening growl, causing Womac to blanch Princess Ariel chuckles at Womac's discomfort, which in turn makes Thundarr smile. Bram Stoker doesn't share their mirth however.

"This isn't going to work," he whispers to Vanessa.

"Why didn't you say so before?" She asks.

"I did say so before," he replies.

"If either of you had any better ideas, you should have said so at the time," says Ariel.

"No," says Vanessa, "This plan's no worse than any other idea we could have come up with. I just have a bad feeling about this."

"Well there's no turning back now," says the sorceress, "And if we don't stop Dracula now, we may never get another chance."

"We know," says the reverend, "we just don't like our chances."

"Our chances weren't that good when we battled the vampire army downstairs," Thundarr points out, "and we were victorious."

"Ah, but you're not facing a vampire army," interjects Womac, "You face Count Dracula, the mightiest of all vampires. And his bride, Stepha, who shares his powers. You will not survive!"

"Keep talking, Womac," says Thundarr, "and it will be you who does not survive!"

Finally Womac leads the five companions to the door to Dracula's chamber. Womac turns to them and folds his arms across his chest with a defiant look upon his face.

"I've brought you here because my lord, Count Dracula, desires it," he says, "But I will not betray my master."

"We never thought you would," says Thundarr.

"However," adds Ariel, "since we can't have you giving us away prematurely . . ." And she casts a spell which puts the emissary to sleep.

The two women and the mok then put their hands behind their backs, crossing their wrists to make it appear as though they've been tied. Thundarr agrees to let Bram do the talking, as they fear that Thundarr's voice would be too recognizable. They open the chamber doors and walk in. There they find Count Dracula sitting regally on an impressive looking throne, looking as though he ruled the entire world, his brides Stepha and Svetlana casually by his side looking as beautiful as ever, and a small company of his vampire Legionnaires Thundarr and Bram bow to the vampire lord.

"M'Lord," says Bram, ever so humbly and doing an admirable job of keeping the hatred from his voice, "we bring you the women and the mok from the party of your would be slayers."

"What of the barbarian and the priest?" Asks Dracula.

"Killed, M'lord," says Bram, "They left us no choice."

"I see," says Dracula, "and what of my thrall?"

"Injured in the battle," says the fake Legionnaire, "rendered unconscious"

"And the rest of the troops that I had sent with you?"

"Slain," says Bram, "We are all that's left of that group."

"And how big of a fool do you take me for?" Count Dracula shouts as he leaps to his feet, "Do you think I wouldn't be able to hear your hearts beating? Or smell your sweat? You shall all become members of my army! And you, Van Helsing, will become my bride! You and that witch!"

"I resent that!" Ariel shouts as she brings her hands around in front of her, "I'm a sorceress, not a witch!"

Thundarr tosses aside his shield and spear, grabs the Sunsword from its bracer and ignites the blade. He removes his bronze, red plumed helmet as he charges Dracula and his brides. Dracula and Stepha both turn into black mist and float away, while Svetlana leaps away from that frightening Sunsword. Two Legionnaires step between her and the barbarian, their swords drawn, their fangs bared, and their eyes glowing red. Thundarr cuts them both down with a single swipe of his Sunsword. The Sunsword cuts right through their bronze Armour and turns the vampires wearing them to ash.

"I knew this wasn't going to work," says Bram as he pulls two sets of Filipino stakes from the back of his belt and tosses a pair to Vanessa.

She catches them and quickly dispatches a vampire Legionnaire that tries to apprehend her. Another Legionnaire attacks Bram, and is quickly slain. Two Legionnaires charge at Ookla, their swords drawn. Ookla grabs them both by the wrist and throws them across the room with enough force to put them through the wall. A Legionnaire comes at Princess Ariel, and she reduces him to a charred skeleton.

A cloud of black smoke swirls behind Thundarr, solidifying into the form of Count Dracula. He strikes the barbarian from behind, sending him flying into the plush throne that the count had been sitting on earlier. Thundarr tumbles to his feet, Sunsword at the ready, prepared to counter the next attack, but Dracula has once again become insubstantial mist.

A Legionnaire charges Ookla with his spear leveled at the mok's heart. Ookla casually grabs the spear by the shaft with one hand, stopping the vampire cold. With his other massive hand, he grabs the vampire by the throat and squeezes with all his mok might. The vampire winces at the pain, but is relatively unworried. He is undead, and a choke hold is little more than an inconvenience to him. With a flick of his wrist, Ookla snaps the shaft of the spear in half and, using his incredible mok strength, drives the jagged end of the broken handle through the vampire's bronze breast plate and into his heart. The vampire's expression quickly goes from one of nonchalance to shock, and from shock to the cold, blank stare of the dead. Another Legionnaire tries to attack Ookla with his sword, but the mok uses the slain vampire as a shield and the gladius blade is driven deep into the dead vampire's back. Ookla quickly tosses the makeshift shield aside, tearing the sword from the vampire's hand. Before the Legionnaire can react, Ookla grabs him by the chin with one hand and by the throat with the other. Then with one mighty pull, he separates the vampire's head from his shoulders. Another vampire Legionnaire stops dead in his tracks when he sees this. Ookla stands there holding the previous vampire's head in his hand, looks at the other vampire, then casually tosses the head at his feet. The vampire looks at Ookla, looks down at his gladius, looks back up at Ookla, then charges the less dangerous looking Van Helsing.

Vanessa Van Helsing and Bram Stoker XIII are hard pressed fighting off the vampire Legionnaires They work their Filipino stakes brilliantly, deflecting attacks from swords and spears and countering with well placed blows. The vampire who ran from Ookla thrusts his gladius at Van Helsing's unarmored breast, hoping to drive his blade through her heart. She quickly bats the sword aside with one Filipino stake, uses the other to pin his jaw shut by stabbing him under the chin, then quickly uses the first stake to hit him in the groin. As the vampire doubles over in pain, Vanessa stabs him in his unarmored back, piercing his heart and slaying him.

Dracula's vampire bride, Svetlana, tears away her evening gown. Now naked, she is no longer encumbered by the impractical garment. She charges at Vanessa, ready to tear her to pieces. Vanessa, not at all distracted by her opponent's nudity, thrusts one of her Filipino stakes at the vampire's heart. Svetlana blocks the thrust and retaliates with a roundhouse kick, which Vanessa dodges. Vanessa strikes with her stakes, but Svetlana's heightened vampire reflexes and superhuman strength allow her to duck, dodge, and parry Van Helsing's attacks. She counters with punches and kicks, slashing with her fingernails as though they were claws. When she was human, Svetlana often sparred with Vanessa. Vanessa always took her role as the heir to Abraham Van Helsing's legacy very seriously, and as such often won their sparring matches. Even so, no other woman at Area 51 could give Vanessa the challenge that Svetlana did. Now that she's a vampire, Svetlana is determined to change the outcome of this fight to her favor

Princess Ariel is blasting vampire Legionnaires left and right. Her spells leave the vampires as little more than charred skeletons. The vampire, Stepha, materializes right in front of the sorceress. Ariel casts her spell at Dracula's blonde bride, only to have her turn to mist a second before the spell hits and passes harmlessly through, heading straight for Thundarr. The barbarian sees the misfired spell and deflects it with his Sunsword. The spell is so strong it throws Thundarr back into the wall, despite being parried by the Sunsword.

"Thundarr!" Ariel cries out, worried that she had hurt her dearest friend.

She breaths a sigh of relief as the barbarian begins climbing back to his feet. Ookla howls and roars at the vampires, challenging them to attack. The vampires are reluctant to do so, having seen what the mok can do without even having any weapons. Bram and Vanessa are the hardest pressed, as the vampires see them as the least of a threat, especially considering that they cannot make those wooden stakes pierce their bronze chest plates Only the humans' life long training and conditioning in combating nosferatu is keeping them alive. Princess Ariel is probably the most damaging, incinerating any vampires in sight.

As Ookla is distracted by vampire Legionnaires, a black cloud of mist forms behind him, solidifying into the forms of Dracula and Stepha. At the last second, Ariel sees the two master vampires behind her friend.

"Ookla!" She cries in warning.

Too late. The vampires strike the mok from behind simultaneously, sending him flying face first into the wall. Ariel tries to blast them with her magic, but again they have reverted to insubstantial black mist and the magical energy passes right through them.

Van Helsing and Svetlana are still trading blows, neither one getting an advantage over the other. They both take a step back and begin circling each other. Vanessa is breathing heavily, her hair soaked in perspiration and her face dripping with sweat. Svetlana is cool and dry, with only a few minor scratches to even prove she was in a fight. The female vampire smiles at her foe.

"You grow tired," says Svetlana, "and weak. This fight won't last much longer."

"You're right," says Van Helsing, "You're an even sloppier fighter now than you were when you were human. I'm surprised it's taking me this long to stake you."

Svetlana hisses in anger and lunges for Vanessa's throat. She tackles Van Helsing to the floor and moves to bite her jugular vein. But being that close to Vanessa's crucifix hurts the vampire, forcing her to lean back. When she does, Van Helsing takes one of her Filipino stakes in both hands and drives it into Svetlana's heart. She pushes the naked corpse off of her and climbs back to her feet, prepared to take on more challengers.

As Van Helsing was staking Svetlana through the heart, a black mist formed at Reverend Stoker's back, solidifying into the form of Count Dracula. As Vanessa is regaining her feet, Dracula hits Bram from behind, knocking him to the ground. Before she could do anything to prevent it, the Vampire King kicks the reverend in the head, knocking him unconscious She charges him with her Filipino stakes. Dracula casually grabs both weapons in mid-strike, then drives his knee into her gut, doubling her over. He grabs the crucifix from around her neck, and Vanessa's nostrils fill with the smell of burning flesh as the cold silver burns the Count's skin. He snaps the chain and throws the offensive icon away. Then he grabs Van Helsing by the throat and lifts her from the ground. She grabs desperately at his hand, trying to loosen his hold, but his grip is like iron and will not be broken.

At the same instant Dracula grabs Van Helsing, another black mist forms behind Princess Ariel and solidifies into Stepha. Sensing a presence behind her, Ariel whirls around ready to cast a spell. Stepha grabs the sorceress by the throat with one hand, then with the other rips her crucifix from her neck. The much like her lord, she lifts Ariel up into the air by the throat.

"The only reason I don't rip your throat out right now," says the blonde vampire, "is that Count Dracula wishes to make you his bride. But before he does, I want you to witness me sire your beloved Thundarr. He wouldn't even try to make love to me until he thought I was you. And now he's going to be mine. For. Ever!"

Despite being barely able to breathe and quickly losing consciousness, Ariel hears and comprehends every word the vampire spoke. With her last ounce of energy, the sorceress reaches out with her hand towards one of Van Helsing's discarded Filipino stakes. The stake glows a mystical yellow, then rises up, points towards Stepha's back, then flies at her like an arrow. It drives deeply into her back and bursts out her solarplexes. Stepha drops Ariel out of shock and pain, clutches the stake, and then staggers towards the door before collapsing to the floor. Ariel tries to get back to her feet, but she's too weak from the choke hold. All she can do is look on in horror as Dracula holds Vanessa at least a foot up off the floor.

"Do you have any idea how long I've dreamed of gaining my revenge?" asks Dracula. "For over two thousand years I laid in that coffin! Paralyzed! Having to feel my body decaying, yet unable to do anything about it! Couldn't scream! Couldn't move! Couldn't pull that damned stake out of my chest! Now, I will have my ultimate revenge! You, and all those you hold dear, will become my servants of darkness! YOU WILL ALL BECOME THAT WHICH YOU HATE THE MOST! YOU WILL BECOME VAMPIRES!"

Just as Count Dracula opens his mouth wide to bite Van Helsing, the fiery blade of Thundarr's Sunsword bursts out of his chest. He drops Vanessa to the floor and looks down at his chest in absolute horror.

"No!" cries Dracula as his skin bursts into flame. His skin peals away, leaving behind his burning muscles. Then his flesh burns away leaving behind his burning skeleton. Then his skeleton burns away to ashes. All the while, Count Dracula, Dark Lord Of All Vampires, is screaming, "No! No! No! Noooooo!"

His final cries seem to linger, even as his skeleton reduces to ash. Ookla and Ariel are finally getting back to their feet. Van Helsing regains her composure, though she's still suffering from the effects of Dracula's choke few remaining vampires look at what had just happened to their mighty leaders, then they decide to flee. Ookla picks up the unconscious reverend and slings him over his shoulder.

"Now what?" Thundarr asks.

"Now we make sure he can never rise again," replies Van Helsing, her voice hoarse from the after effects of being choked. She takes out her canteen of holy water. "Gather up his ashes," she says.

"I'll take care of that," says Ariel, her voice just as hoarse. She conjures up a small whirlwind, which goes about the room collecting all of the vampire ashes. It then hovers above the opened canteen and funnels the ashes into the blessed water. Van Helsing screws the cap back on and shakes the canteen vigorously. She then replaces it on her hip.

"Now let's make sure no one falls prey to this place ever again," she says.

"I'll take care of that too," says Ariel. She conjures up a fireball and throws it against the far wall, setting it ablaze. The four of them run out of Dracula's chamber, not noticing that Stepha's hand has begun to move. Once they're out in the hall, Ookla scoops up Womac and tucks him under his arm and starts carrying him as they all run down the stairs. Every floor they come to, Princess Ariel throws a fireball down the hall, then she, Thundarr, and Vanessa start banging on doors, shouting, "Fire! Fire! Everybody out! Run for your lives!"

Finally they get to the main floor, where the casino is located. "Fire!" They shout, "Fire! Everybody out!"

Seconds after they say this, a host of hotel guests and staff come running out the stairwell doors shouting, "Fire! Fire! Run for your lives!"

Now all of the staff and patrons flee the casino. In minutes, the building is empty and the street is filled with people standing by, watching it go up in flames. Thick black smoke billows up into the bright afternoon sky. In a short while, Womac awakens to the smell of burning wood, metal, and concrete. As his eyes clear, he realizes that what he's smelling is his precious Caesar's Palace burning to the ground.

"Nooooo!" He cries, "My casino! My beautiful casino!"

"A place of vice that the people of Vegas are better off without," says Thundarr.

"Are you well enough to ride?" Ariel asks Bram.

"I think so," says the reverend, though he still seems kind of shaky.

"Then let us return to Area: 51," says Thundarr, "and leave Caesar here to his misery."

The five of them mount their horses and ride back to the ancient military compound. When they get there, they take the canteen of consecrated ashes down into the center of the labyrinth Princess Ariel uses her magic to weld the door shut. Then Thundarr and Ookla help Bram Stoker XIII to reset all of the death traps and discard the groundling remains. The gate to the labyrinth is also welded shut by Ariel's magic. Then she uses her powers to undo the damage to the vault door so it could be closed and sealed again.

Epilogue

After spending several days recovering from their battle with Count Dracula and his minions, it was time for Thundarr, Ariel, and Ookla to leave. Reverend Stoker and Vanessa Van Helsing helped their friends restock their provisions for the long journey.

"Are you sure you can't stay?" Van Helsing asks Thundarr, "You would be a great help in protecting Dracula's ashes."

"I cannot," replies Thundarr, "Not until all men are free from the wizards' tyranny."

"I shall miss you," she says.

"And I you," the barbarian replies.

"Here," she says, "take these."

She hands Thundarr a pair of books. He looks at them. They are a children's picture book on the monsters of myth and legend, and a graphic novel adaptation of Bram Stoker's famous novel about Count Dracula. He tries to hand them back.

"I can't take these," he protests.

"Please," says Vanessa, "take them. The information in them can help save your life one day. And the writing is simple enough for you to practice your reading with."

"Thank you," says Thundarr, "I shall treasure them always."

Reverend Stoker walks up to Princess Ariel with a couple of thick volumes on vampire lore and hands them to her. "Here are the books I owe you," he says.

"Are you sure you can spare them?" Ariel asks.

"We have plenty of copies," he replies. "Are you sure you have to go? You could stay here with us. With me."

"It's a tempting offer," she replies, "but Thundarr needs me. Where he goes, I follow. Into the pits of Hell itself, if need be."

"He is lucky to have a friend such as you by his side," says Bram.

Ariel looks over at Thundarr, and remembers what Stepha had told her about what she had to do to seduce him. "Yes," she says, "Good friends."

"If you need to find new recruits to help you defend this stronghold," says Thundarr, "I suggest you look in the town of Vegas. There are some good men and women there."

Ookla roars something in his native tongue.

"Yes Ookla," says Thundarr with a laugh, "and moks too."

"And they will need a new purpose in their lives now that their casino has burned down," adds Ariel.

"After seeing Ookla in action, I could think of worse things to be guarding Dracula's ashes than a pride of moks," says Van Helsing.

"To the horses!" Thundarr says to his companions. The three of them climb aboard their mounts. He waves to Vanessa and Bram. "Until next time then," he says. Then Thundarr's white stallion rears up as Thundarr shouts, "Ariel! Ookla! RIIIDE!"

The three of them gallop off into the night. Vanessa and Bram stand there, waving at their friends as they disappear into the darkness. Then they turn and go back inside the warehouse where the entrance to the secret bunker was hidden. On top of the ancient ruin of an old warehouse, a white haired wolf watches this all with more than a casual interest. As the three companions ride off, the wolf walks along the rooftop. Its fur begins to retract back into its skin, its form begins to shift, and in a moment Stepha, the blonde haired vampire, is standing in its place wearing another impractical and immodest white silk gown.

"Yes, My Love," she says as she watches the barbarian, the mok, and the sorceress ride off into the distance. "Until next time."

THE END