Author's Note: This story requires a bit of explaining, so bear with me please. This is an experiment in form; I wanted to try writing something with multiple endings, such as what you can find in some Castlevania games. This requires multiple paths and going over some scenes two or three times. However, I will label ending and decision point chapters clearly in the title, as well as add references when the flow switches. This will make the story have a lot of chapters, but I don't think it's that long overall.
For the sake of clarity, this is not an interactive CYOA story. It is styled like CYOA books, where all of the paths and endings have been written before publication and reader response has no affect on outcomes. So this does comply with site rules.
But I would love to hear from readers, especially on how this unusual structure works out.
Castlevania by Candlelight
Everything seemed so orange in this light: the cloudy sky with the setting sun, the dusty road underneath his feet, even the green plants and trees around him. It was an eerie time of early twilight, when the day was starting to end and the night was starting to stir. And with that night came evil creatures who prayed on mankind. The boy had to get home before night fully fell, or this road would be too dangerous to travel.
But even more important than that… he had to get home because he felt sick. Not sick enough to keep him from running, but... it was so strange. It was a feeling that sometimes stirred inside him, but never this strong. He knew what it was, a spiritual sickness that came from some curse that he had been born under. When it struck, he had disturbing thoughts and wishes. If he focused enough and prayed, it usually went away. But it had never struck so strongly before.
Looking ahead, he spotted an old man by a house on the road. This wouldn't be good. He moved over towards the other side of the road, hopping over horse droppings in the way. But the thumps of his feet against the old stone road were unmistakable. The old man looked up to him, giving him a smile and a wave. "Good evening, Adrian."
Swallowing his anxiety, he replied, "Good evening, sir," and kept running. But as he passed by, it happened. He smelled it.
And he felt a strong desire to tackle the old man and beat him up. And then… he didn't let himself think on that further. It might tempt and trick him into actually doing it. Adrian ran on.
The next house he spotted was his own, a small peasant's cottage like most every other building around. It was small, brown, and plain, nothing out of the ordinary. To him, it was home and it mattered a great deal. To others, it was a little special, as the home of the local herbalist and midwife. He ran past their small plot of borrowed land and entered.
Inside, it still wasn't much: dirt floor, old wooden furniture, dried herbs and food. A little candle lamp was already lit in the middle of the room, a copper and glass casing that held a single beeswax candle, to protect it from drafts and their home from fires. By the lamp on the table, there was a wooden cross on a braided cord. Adrian snatched that, then went to a chair in the corner and sat down. Holding the cross in both hands, he put it to his chest.
There was an immediate revulsion that erupted in his mind, so strong that he nearly dropped the cross. Instead, he gripped it tighter and closed his eyes. It would pass. If he kept his faith in God and kept his mind right, then eventually his mind would be fully his own, freed from the curse. But when? And why was he cursed like this?
Someone else entered the room, a blond haired woman in a tan dress. "Adrian? What's the matter?" She started to come over to him.
And despite holding onto the cross, those dark thoughts came back, even worse than before. They didn't last long, but he put the cross to his forehead. "Mother, stay back. I… it's bad."
She clasped her hand to her chest. "All right," she said reluctantly, worried. She decided to leave the house again and went back outside to check over her plants once more.
Several minutes went by, seeming like several hours. Finally, Adrian felt his curse lapse back into silence. He went outside to let his mother know that he was okay now; the oranges were quickly slipping into violets and some stars were starting to appear. They went inside where they would be safe from most dangers.
Feeling uncertain after that flare-up of the curse, Adrian tried to stay away from it while they spoke over a humble dinner of vegetable stew. "We'll want to be careful about saving up food for this winter," he told his mother. "Many of the crops are falling to a disease which rots them before they even ripen. We spent all yesterday trying to kill the sickly crops, but more came up bad today."
"I see. This winter could be hard, then. With that and the wars of the forces of darkness…" she bowed her head for a moment, then looked to him. "Adrian, it's about time that you know the nature of your curse."
The nature of the curse, the very subject he didn't want to talk about now. Biting his lip, he nodded. "All right."
She patted his hand. "You've been a brave boy to deal with it, but you will have to be braver yet, and stronger, to face the truth of this curse. But you've seen thirteen summers now. It's about time you knew. First, what happened to trigger it today?"
"I…" he hesitated, reluctant to admit it. But then he thought that if he was going to understand it, his mother needed to know what the truth was. "I got into a fight with John. I tried to avoid it, but he was saying terrible things about us. At one point, I punched him in the nose and broke it. He started bleeding and then the curse triggered more intensely than ever. And there was something different this time. I wanted to taste his blood for some reason. But that sickened me. Only the monsters and followers of hell do that."
"Did you do it?" she asked.
He shook his head. "No. I ran off and washed my hands off by the well, then came straight home because I couldn't shake the curse. I had been getting good at it too, but this one was just so strong."
"I see." She sighed. "Thank goodness you didn't. If that desire comes back, don't do it. You must not taste the blood of others, Adrian."
"I know," he replied. "That's wrong."
"And it's dangerous for you. You see… you're not entirely human."
Frightened at the implications of that, he looked right at her, hoping that it wasn't the worst. "I'm not?"
"No. Your father is one of the vampires leading a force in the ongoing war the darkness is fighting against itself. He is the one called Vlad Tepes. At least, that is the name he gave me as his." She brought her arms closer to herself, saddened and ashamed at that.
He had dreaded hearing he was part demon. But this? "How can that be?" he asked, leaning forward. "The vampires are dead beings and no life can come from death."
"It should be that way," she agreed. "But that's the only way you could have been born to me. It may have been the gifts he brought me, as he gave me foods that he said were desired in the far east, strange fruits and different breads. Or it may have been that he is powerful for his kind. I saw Vlad in the daytime, which is how I came to trust him, even love him. But when I found out his true nature, I got afraid and ran away. He did pursue me, but he did not kill me. Instead, he said that he would leave me alone, but if he discovered that I was seeing any other man, he would make sure the both of us suffered immensely.
"Then I found that I was pregnant and I wasn't sure what to do. I didn't know what you would become, if you would be some devil who would attempt to devour me or if you would be some other monster. I was thankful when you were born a human, but then the priest told me that you had traces of dark magic in your blood. It wasn't enough to condemn you, but we knew it would make you suffer. After researching it, he said that if you did not taste a drop of blood until you were a full grown man, than the dark magic might weaken, leaving you like any other mortal human. If not, perhaps turning your life entirely over to God and becoming a monk or priest might vanquish it for good."
"I'm almost grown," Adrian said, looking at his hands. He had grown much taller recently, and he was starting to take other signs of being a man.
"But not fully," she reminded him. "This stage in your life will be most crucial, most difficult. The dark magic will try anything it can to earn your devotion, but you must resist it. No matter what power it may give you, it is still a power from hell and will eternally condemn you. I would help how I can but… it may soon be too dangerous for you to be with me. If I am near you when it is close to my blood's time, well…" she shook her head. "We should send you to the monastery soon. Being in a holy place like that, with those who know that you cannot be near the sight or smell of blood, should help you with the curse."
Adrian felt uncomfortable. He loved his mother dearly and didn't want to move away from her. But if what she said was right, his curse would continue to increase in severity. He had to admit that he had known about a woman's cycle before most boys, as his curse had always acted up in sync with his mother's time. He just hadn't realized that it was because of the blood. "We'll have to inform the lord," he said, accepting the change for now.
"Yes, and soon. And it looks like you could use an early sleep."
Reminded of that, he yawned. "Yeah. Mother, did my father really love you, or was it just some… something else?'
"I'm not certain," she said, getting up to clean the remains of dinner. "There is one thing that makes me wonder, though. I got a lot of gossip and harassment when I had a child out of wedlock, but it didn't last long. Any man who has attempted to use that against me for his own pleasure has disappeared, never to be seen again. If not him, than someone is watching out for me from the darkness." She came over and patted his shoulder. "I still won't let the darkness take you from me."
One of the forces of darkness was just outside their home.
Adrian's mind jerked itself awake, somehow sensing this threat. For a moment, his body was still paralyzed with sleep. It was a nightmarish sensation, being alert but unable to move. The familiar scent of herbs drying in the hut tried to lull him back to sleep and relaxation. But there was danger nearby and he didn't want to be caught asleep. He struggled to fully awaken.
As he finally managed to stir his body into working, he heard a door shut. Adrian opened his eyes, noticing that the candle on the table was still lit. By its small light, he saw no one. He got to his feet, stumbling a bit, then crept over to the window.
His mother was outside, still wearing her tan dress. By her, there was a being like no other Adrian had seen, and one that was stronger than any he had encountered. He could feel that in his blood, as if the dark taints knew this creature. With an unusually large scythe attached to its back, it was covered in a ragged frail looking black cloak. It extended its arm to her, revealing a hand made entirely of white bone.
"It does not matter, Lisa Fahrenheit," the creature said in a harsh voice that seemed too deep for a skeletal being. "I have been requested to take you elsewhere and I will take you, no matter what mortal matters you believe are more important. Be glad you have been asked for alive." It then bound her in shadows.
Adrian felt panicked. He wanted to shout… but what good would it do? While his body was finally awake, he had no weapons. At least, on hand.
"I have forsaken all studies into darkness," his mother said firmly. Adrian admired her courage and thought he should be the same. So he turned around and pulled a rug off the floor. Underneath, there was a wooden door, dusty as they had to hide it from the lord. He opened it, feeling that the danger from the lord was less than that from the dark being outside.
In a hidden hole, there was a sword and a shield. Both were painted red and white, with arm supports on the back of the shield. These two items had come from his mother's family, from when his ancestors had been knights. As both were masterwork weapons, one of a keen edge, the other of a sturdy front, they were extremely valuable. They were also the only treasures Lisa and Adrian had from that legacy, hence them being hidden.
Looking back out the window after taking the items, it seemed to be too late already. Both his mother and the dark being were gone. However, there was a large darkly glowing portal where they had been standing. Perhaps he still had time. Adrian hurriedly got his clothes on, putting the wooden cross around his neck and under his shirt, then put on the sword's belt. He attached the shield to his left arm and then…
He looked to the candle in its lantern. He meant to put it out. However, such sources of light were often harmful to creatures of darkness. It could be useful… but the candle was already half gone. Grabbing his mother's sidepack, he found a box of replacement candles and dumped them all into the pack, along with the flint. Then he took the lantern by its handle and left the house.
Thankfully, the portal was still there. Was it weakening? Something told him it was. Perhaps his curse allowed him to sense such things. Without thinking twice, Adrian stepped through the dark portal.