Author's Note: Wow, this chapter wasn't easy. The 'A' and 'Shift' keys on my keyboard weren't working consistently when I wrote this, and despite being the intended climax, it didn't feel intuitive to write at all. Anyway, without further ado, I present to you the twenty first chapter. Also, sorry about it coming in so late. Next chapter'll be up December first, and the one after that'll be on Christmas.
Symphony of Terror, Falling Into a Dark Night
"Well, it appears as though you know who I am already, so we can save time on the introductions. I don't need to know anything about you filthy humans after all."
"Such arrogance. I suppose it must be expected of a vampire however," Alucard said casually.
"It can't be…" came a new voice, "It c-can't be you!"
"Who…" Charlotte began before stopping short upon seeing the beautiful pale noblewoman standing next to Jonathan, "I recognize you! You're Sara Trantoul! I read about you in the books I've been studying! How are you— That confirms it! You really did become the Vampire Killer, didn't you?"
"There isn't time for me to answer your questions! You all have to run!" Sara shouted.
"But he's still weak from resurrection! If he's so powerful, now is the only time we'll ever have a chance!" Charlotte argued, "Besides, you've fought him and won before! Why should now be any different?"
The projection of Sara didn't respond. She just vanished, and Jonathan stood on the spot, looking at the whip with a stupefied look on his face.
"Snap out of it!" Stella shouted furiously, "You'll get us all killed if you just stand around like a dunce! Jonathan Morris, are you listening to me!"
"I'm awake! I'm awake! No need to howl in my ear. Sheesh!"
"Then move your ass!"
"What annoying pests these humans are," Walter mused, "I shall have to dispose of you vermin before I die of irritation."
"Let's see you try!" Jonathan challenged him.
"You must seek death much more than I imagined. Prepare yourself! But know that your efforts are all in vain!" Walter roared with laughter as he dissipated into a swarm of bats similar to the technique used by his grandson.
"Heh, no you don't!" Charlotte finished casting the spell that she'd had time for while Walter had been focusing on her partner, "Sanctuary!"
The bats collided with the holy barrier. They then passed right through it as though it was a veil of tissue paper.
"What?" she shouted in astonishment as the demonic flock rushed through her and reformed into Walter's body behind her, poised to slash at her with his sword. She found herself paralyzed, her legs not responding to her commands, no matter how much she told them to dive out of the way.
The floor beneath both Charlotte and Walter suddenly froze over, their feet sliding out from under them. Charlotte suddenly found herself being picked up and skidding away. She looked up to see if her assumption was correct.
"No biggie. Just be more careful."
"How touching," Walter hissed as he slid over the ice and jumped to his feet, "Try this; Bloodstorm!"
"That's one of the abilities that Scarlet—"
Charlotte was cut off as what felt like boiling blood rained down on her, burning her on contact. Loretta on the other hand just spread her arms.
"Bridge of Frost!"
A thick arc of ice spread across the room shielding the hunters from the blood.
"Nice! You're on a roll Loretta!" Stella exclaimed proudly.
"Thank you sister!"
"Let's get to a higher perch," Stella decided, pointing at one of the chandeliers hanging from the ceiling, one that hung close to Walter's current position. "Can you get us on top of that fixture?"
"Of course. I'll conjure some ice pillars. Be careful, we'll only have a few seconds on each of them before they disappear. I'm guessing that your idea fails if he notices us first, right?"
"You know me so well."
The vampire was about to finish casting, but was interrupted as Alucard and Maria crept up behind him.
"Hey, mosquito-freak! Bite this!" she grinned as her phoenix dived in front of her. Walter turned around just in time to see the phoenix rear back and watch Alucard vanish in a burst of light.
"Heavenly Hellfire!" the two companions shouted in unison, Alucard's voice coming from directly behind him. He raised one side of his cape and the phoenix rushed towards the dhampir, seeming to explode upon contact. However, the flares that began to erupt from beneath his arm said otherwise as they all arced back toward him. Every one of the flames that hit him stuck to him like an adhesive, enveloping him in a shroud of fire until the phoenix erupted from his body, and dove straight through Walter's body back to Maria where it vanished into a veil of sparkles and white ash.
Alucard didn't hesitate to draw his heirloom sword and start attacking while Jonathan stood ready to assist him.
"What kind of scum uses his own flesh and blood as raw materials? You make me sick to my stomach," Alucard snarled, locking swords with the vampire.
"Why should you even care?" Walter growled back, "You abandoned your father to assist a filthy band of humans out to slay him! You should understand."
"I committed an abominable crime, but I did so to put an end to his suffering. You know nothing of my father's rage and despair!" he shouted back, putting more weight behind his sword.
"You put him out of his misery? How noble of you," Walter responded sarcastically, continuing to hold out against the dhampir.
"If I had done nothing, thousands, perhaps millions of people would have died! A triviality to dreck such as yourself, but I would not have their blood on my hands when I could prevent calamity."
"And is there a reason why you so adore this filth?" Walter changed the subject and pushed forward again and Alucard nearly stumbled but for Jonathan's intervention, slamming the Balmung down on top of the Damascus Sword, holding it in place.
"I don't adore them. They fall from grace and commit atrocities of their own, but I will honor my mother's dying words, and always have mercy on them, no matter how far they stray from the right path!" Alucard gave one final burst of strength and with Jonathan's help, managed to knock Walter backwards, taking the opportunity to land multiple hits against the vampire.
Jonathan replaced the Balmung with the Vampire Killer and lunged. Walter foolishly attempted to grab the whip and yank it out of his hands, but the whip burned him through his armor, making him drop the whip and clutch his hand in pain.
It was Charlotte who struck next, not bothering to chant out any arias and settled with unleashing a salvo of minor Spirit of Light spells. It wouldn't hurt quite as much, but it'd be harder for him to dodge, especially when he was preoccupied fending off Jonathan and Alucard.
"Yahhhh!" Stella roared as she leapt from on top the chandelier, her father's spear in hand as she crashed spear first into Walter, the huge blade of the Alucard Spear ripping through his body. Walter coughed up blood as she forcibly yanked the spear out of his body, though his wounds promptly knit themselves back together. Replacing the spear with Joyeuse and Valmanway she performed a swift series of slashes, most of which Walter blocked with the Damascus Sword. Suddenly he jumped lithely over her head and Stella pitched herself forward to avoid getting bisected, landing gracelessly on her side.
Loretta meanwhile shot off a volley of ice bolts from atop her perch on the chandelier, apparently hitting him. However, he just turned toward her and gave her a malevolent smirk. Not a moment later he was right in front of her, and would have hacked her into pieces but for Loretta tripping backwards from her perch and falling the twenty feet to the floor. The snap could be heard from anywhere in the room, and Stella was at her sister's side in an instant, with the intention of discerning which bones were broken. What none of them had seen was that in missing Loretta, he had consequently broken several most of the chains holding the chandelier in place, and the remaining links were now far overstrained. Walter left the timing to physics and surged towards Charlotte, wisps of darkness trailing behind him. Landing right in front of her, he extended his arm and grabbed her by the throat.
"Charlotte!" Jonathan called to her, but it was too late for a heroic rescue. There was a flash of light as two spells went off at once; one announced almost theatrically, the other choked out through constricted vocal chords.
Both Charlotte and Walter were set flying away from each other as their spells collided.
"Charlotte, are you alright?" Jonathan asked, his voice coated with worry, a hand held out to help her stand up.
"Eugh…" Charlotte coughed hoarsely and massaged her throat. "I…should be fine in a minute…I'll need you to cover me…until I can cast again though," she rasped, sore but otherwise alright. She took Jonathan's hand and pulled herself to her feet.
There was a clang of snapping metal as the chains on the chandelier broke and the whole fixture fell. Stella didn't have time to move. All she could do was watch wide-eyed as the whole thing fell toward her. It landed moments later, trapping both sisters underneath its weight.
"It's futile," drawled Walter, a cruel grin spreading across his face, "They're now nothing more than slabs of meat waiting for me to drain them."
"You filthy bastard!" Charlotte wheezed out as loud as she could with her compromised throat. "Can I use this? We only have six left," she asked Jonathan, holding a potion her hand.
"No problem, just get casting! Now!"
"Right," Charlotte drained the potion in one gulp and pulled out her spellbook. "That feels better. Now, let's try something new. Spirits of fire, answer my call and bring Hell to earth for my enemies! Flames of Judgment!"
She spun around, her right hand extended above her head as a huge salvo of shining bolts of fire and lightning flew from her fingertips and arced towards Walter, pummeling him and forcing him to the floor. With a roar, Walter rose into the air, his cape billowing out behind him despite the lack of wind. Black miasma suddenly began to flow from his body. Vanishing from his spot in the air, he warped between Charlotte and Jonathan, blasting off wave after wave of dark energy at them.
'Dammit! Why did I have to lose my Clear Skies spell?' Charlotte mentally berated herself even as the dark energy hit her and she collapsed, her body beginning to go numb.
Jonathan on the other hand did something that Walter didn't expect; Instead of trying to shield himself or just choking, he charged headlong at the dark projectiles, jumping and sliding to avoid them with wicked precision before finally leaping into the air, vaulting off of Walter's shoulders and prepared to block the rest of the attacks being directed at Charlotte by any means necessary. Until Alucard came between them himself and raised his heirloom shield, deflecting the billowing black energy back at the vampire. They didn't do any real damage to a creature of pure darkness, but they didn't hit the pair of endangered vampire hunters either.
Walter cleared the air in front of him with a dramatic sweep of his cape in time to see Alucard come flying at him, sword coming down in a diagonal arc. He brought the Damascus Sword up and used it to block the strike and continued to cross blades with the dhampir, steel clanging against steel every other second as they both attacked each other with equal ferocity.
Charlotte summoned every ounce of strength in her body and shook the numbness away.
"Jonathan, get ready! Maria? You still with us?"
"Then let's go!"
"Mind if I don't use my dragon's full power?"
"Will he still be able to do anything?" Jonathan asked, earning a dirty look from Maria.
"Of course, you dolt! I just want to make sure that there's enough room to keep fighting properly. If my dragon goes Zodiac there won't be enough room for it to move! Well technically there will, but you get my drift!"
"Yeah, yeah, got it, sheesh!"
"Come on, hurry up!" called an exasperated Charlotte.
"On it!" Maria chirped, beginning her incantation: "From thy lair in the mountains I call upon thee who hath slain countless knights and guarded treasures beyond imagination: Come to me, my Noble Dragon!" a green and red glyph drew itself on the floor and with a mighty roar, a European-style dragon, the same shade of green as the glyph, rose out of the stonework, its leathery wings folded against its sides.
"Now that's cool!" Jonathan cheered. If Charlotte hadn't known better, she would have sworn that she saw the dragon give him an arrogant smirk. But that was impossible. And naturally, it had to have been a coincidence that it folded its arms just a moment later. Paying no attention to any of this, Maria put a hand on its back, just above the wing joint and pointed at Walter with her other hand.
"You ready to roast this freak?"
The dragon gave her a look that clearly said 'Do you have to ask?' and took to the air with a roar.
Alucard, who continued to hold most of Walter's attention locked swords with the vampire, forcing him to add extra focus to his balance and ensuring that they others would have ample time to launch an attack. Which they did. The vampire was aware of the events that had unfolded while his back was turned so to speak, but he was unable to pay it the necessary attention.
The dragon circled around and, taking aim at Walter, exhaled a jet of fire.
"Showtime!" Jonathan called out triumphantly as the dragonfire began burning the vampire. He lunged, the Vampire Killer swinging terrifically.
Walter took all of it, and hissed in both pain and fury.
They prepared for another attack and were about to deliver what they hoped would be a finishing blow, only to have Walter transform into flock of bats. They recomposed in the center of the room and the four remaining hunters turned to face him.
And then he did something that none of them expected:
He threw open the throne room doors and raced down the stairs leading back into castle. Alucard immediately vanished and reappeared in front of him, hitting him with a barrage of fireballs. Paying little attention to this, he leaped off the staircase and dropped several meters onto the castle rooftop. He grinned. He looked like he was trying to escape, but he had something else in mind entirely. His plan of action would ensure that he would become the Dark Lord once again. And the only thing he needed for his plan to succeed had been so thoughtfully brought to this very castle.
Unbeknownst to any of the hunters, and far below everyone and everything in the castle, in the very deepest catacombs that none had ever ventured into in any of the castle's incarnations, something stirred. The red glow it produced was bright enough to illuminate the cavern even from within its place inside an ancient sarcophagus. And despite all the power it held, it wasn't nearly ready to be disturbed.