Anne raced inside after the others, but instead of following them to the chapel or wherever they were going, she turned around to look back at what was happening. If Alucard wanted to destroy them, nowhere was safe. Not after what she'd seen, sensed.
The vampire had been toying with them all along. She'd known he had some sort of ability, but had been interpreting it on a human scale, and not considered him to be strong at all. He'd been damping it down, even when he was the broken and confused vampire they'd come to care for. And he'd been that broken, confused, uncertain vampire until Viktor had held out the contract, and everything had changed...changed beyond recognition.
The roar of rage had been followed immediately by what had to be the most terrifying display of power she'd ever witnessed or ever hoped to. Normally, she could sense, could detect, the powers of others. No one had ever been able to hide their abilities from her, but she'd never been able to "see" them, not as others had described them. This...this she had seen.
It was an explosion of power, so powerful that it seemed odd she was not deafened. Where Alucard had stood was a blazing pillar of black, lighting tendrils flashing and curling with an evil sort of snakelike intelligence about him. The vampire had glowed, reversed like a film negative, visible in a color that she was entirely unable to describe, dwarfed inside the huge roiling cloud of power. How had she ever, ever mistaken that for a simple sorcerer's power?
The always-slightly-hunched form of Alucard now stood straight and arrogant, evil radiating from him, eyes blazing. Viktor...she couldn't even sense his power, not in the overwhelming maelstrom that was Alucard. He was as terrified and shocked as she...and as Abraham whirled to shout at them to run to safety (what safety?) Alucard had reached out and calmly plucket Viktor from the ground, holding him to dangle in front of a grinning and demented face with far, far too many sharp teeth.
She'd thought he'd bite Viktor, had expected the vampire to rip the Russian's throat out, but what happened was far more frightening. In an almost methodical, careful, and precise way...the vampire removed the claws embedded in one of Viktor's arms, reached lower...and eviscerated him. One too-thin, not-human arm held the screaming man suspended, the other made a series of cuts with an almost-surgical precision, neatly removing the intestines with a speed that was next to invisible. The steaming innards were dangled in front of Viktor, with the grin widening even further on the vampire's face.
Viktor had died. Died, fainted from blood loss, fainted from the sheer horror, she didn't know. But the man hung limp and lolling from the vampire's claws, and the demonic grin fell to a look of frustrated anger...and Viktor was torn to shreds. Each piece ripped off restored the mad glee to Alucard's (no, it wasn't Alucard, this could never be Alucard!) face, each flung gobbet of human fresh added an extra touch of fire to the eyes, and before long, Viktor was reduced to scraps.
Everyone else was gone, only she remained, just inside the doorway...and Abraham, only a few yards from the vampire, a look of horror and betrayal and fear on his face. Grief struck her, pushing through the terror and fear for her own life. He'd truly cared about Alucard, had tried to do what was best for his vampire...and now would be destroyed by the very creature he'd worried about and cossetted and protected. Alucard...Dracula, this had to be Dracula, with that much evil...Dracula turned to him, grinning, and then...the grin fell.
The power faded, the rage falling and failing now that Viktor (what HAD the man done to trigger this? Moot now, she supposed), the vampire returning to a level that was...not Alucard. Not with that sharp, defined aura still visible to her senses. Not with that evil and cruelty she could sense, the instincts of a healthy human screaming at her. And Dracula turned his back on Abraham, did not kill him, but began searching through the remnants of Viktor...and holding out a...was that the contract?
She didn't faint, far too strong a person to do that despite the shock and horror and overwhelming psychic assault of the...it had only been minutes. Mere minutes, if that. But Anne found herself leaning on the doorframe, unable to move, unable to look away.
Bound. Alucard was...Dracula was...bound? She could sense, see no bond...but that meant nothing. Even had she been strong enough to do so, the residual power simmering around Dracula would have hidden it. But Abraham was still alive, still talking to the vampire, when she expected him to have followed Viktor.
Had...had they succeeded? Was this Dracula, now bound, not Alucard's willing servitude? At that thought, red eyes flicked her way, and she was treated to a sardonic grin, unseen by Abraham as the man stared down at the bloody contract now in his hand. The man was recovering his own equilibrium, looking at the vampire with clear suspicion in his eyes...and then turned to walk towards her, vampire trailing obediently behind him, the model of a well-trained servant if one could ignore the malicious gleam of the eyes and the great sharp grin hovering under it.
Even many years later, as she gave birth to their second and final child, she was unsure of the monster's leash. Yes, he had always been obedient, always done as told, had been viciously protective of Abraham and then herself. But there was always that undercurrent of private amusement, of an internalized vicious glee, a touch of mocking in each bow, each careful pronunciation of "Master."
She shuddered inside, always and eternally aware that it was a caged predator living beside her, one that might be merely humoring them by staying inside those bars. Arthur...Arthur was so young, barely an adolescent, and so overconfident in his dealings with the monster that it horrified her. Sometime, somehow, he would demand something with too much arrogance and the vampire would casually swat him out of existence.
She'd had one more child, though they both feared she was too old to do so, because...Abraham agreed. Arthur might not live long enough to father a child himself, and if Alucard tired of the agreement and it did not hold him as they hoped...no. They needed a backup, another child of Abraham's line. And so he had dutifully come to her, and she had dutifully accepted, and they had somehow managed to produce a second child while their hairs were turning grey, at an age where many were seeing their grandkids toddle about.
Richard would not have the casual exposure to the monster that Arthur had experienced, not at all. He'd be kept from it, sent to boarding schools, to stay with friends, raised by relatives or the Harkers, so that when he met Alucard (the vampire had insisted on that name), it would not be through the clouded lens of familiarity. One of their children, at least, would recognize the sheer horror of the monster.
Disappointing. He'd hoped for a second Hellsing to manipulate. As it was...he'd follow Arthur's orders. The boy was growing into a fine young man, complete with some carefully established flaws. Either he'd be worth following for the amusement factor, or he'd fail to retain the necessary respect...and then the look of shock and betrayal as his pet vampire carefully explained everything to him, and, eventually, consumed what was left of the man entirely...either would be delicious. A leader brazenly unaware and ignorant of who and what he actually led, or a betrayed Arthur.
Then again, it was only to be expected. He'd chosen Abraham and permitted Anne because they were...entertaining. Worthy. And, oddly enough, in his own vampiric way, he found himself caring for them and about them. Enough so that he'd never bothered to test the possibilities of the bond, had simply followed them. Neither had asked anything of him that he hadn't been prepared to allow; either it had meant nothing, or was worth it for the further manipulation of them, watching the confusion as they tried to interpret his actions as obedience...or if that wicked nearly-hidden grin meant that vampire was merely humoring them.
No, they were not stupid people. Good people, and he didn't regret his decision to become their servant. It had been a good decision. Entertaining, challenging, and allowing him the company of people whom he actually...valued. Cherished, nearly. It was only to be expected. They'd send at least one child away from him, remove it from his careful manipulations.
The red eyes vanished from the shadows, the careful tendrils extracted themselves from Anne's psyche, and he went off to find the child he was allowed. Arthur was nearly old enough to be tempted by alcohol, no more restricted to the minor disobediences that frustrated Abraham to no end. And a few years after that, he'd introduce the boy to women.
Oh, he was a sharp lad. Solid, steady, with a strong sense of responsibility...and a few carefully chosen, selected, and cultivated weaknesses. The perfect master, perhaps? If not...he'd still be entertaining.
The vampire king leaned back in his throne, grinning, eyes dancing with amusement. He'd never have expected this sort of existence a score of years previously. But...he had no complaints, and an entertaining future to look forward to.