Warnings: Blood, death, sex

Disclaimer: I don't own Castlevania or any related characters. Those all belong to Konami.

Author's Notes: First things first, this was written for the mini bang round at undeadbigbang, and it also covers the hc-bingo square of mine, fighting. Also, I was originally going to make this a short chaptered fic, based very, very loosely on the radio drama sequel that released only in Japan. Well, now it's still very, very loosely based—now more of an inspiration than based on—and a long one-shot. And I'd like to give a very special thanks to my artist twisted-slinky—be sure to check out the art she did over at my livejournal which is patriciatepes. livjournal. com (remove spaces) and give it some love! Also, since she is my BFF, she served as the beta for this fic as well. I hope everyone enjoys!


Castlevania: Lullaby of Dissent

"Alucard! Alucard, please, wait!" Maria called, never slowing in her run.

She dodged branch after branch, making tiny leaps over large tree roots as she raced through the forest of Eternal Night, giving chase after the half-blood son of Dracula. She had stood with him, not moments earlier, and watched Castlevania, his father's domain, crumble into the moat around it. And he had bid farewell, saying that they would not meet again. The thought of such a thing, never seeing his beautiful visage any more for the rest of her days, pained Maria more than she would have supposed. Richter had seen this pain cross her pale, round face. When he had asked if she wished to go after him, Maria had thought about lying—about agreeing with Alucard, that his action would have been best. But her heart had betrayed her, saying that she could not lose him yet. So, she ran.

She was breathing hard, each intake of precious air making her lungs feel ragged and raw instead of filled. And it hurt to speak, let alone call out, but she did so anyway.

"Alucard, please, where are you?"

The sun was shining brightly now, the curse on the forest broken with another defeat of Dracula, but it made little different in lighting. The thick canopy above only allowed trickles of light on her path, and the forest was still very chilly. She leapt over another large tree root. However, she didn't quite make it, her toe catching and pitching her forward. She landed with an "oomph," and moved up into a crouch within moments. She huffed, trying to slow her heartbeat which seemed to be pounding in her ears. What if she never saw him again? What if she was too late? After all, he was half-vampire and could move at speeds that Maria couldn't even conceive of… what if he was lost to her?

A rustling in the trees around Maria made her shoot to her feet, her frets put aside. She whirled about in place, her eyes searching the shadowed limbs around her. Her gaze came to a stop on a shaking limb, and her body tensed.

"Alucard?" she ventured, taking a half step forward.

A growl was her answer, followed by a pair of gleaming eyes. The hulking figure emerged. It was large, even on all fours, coming to well above Maria's waist. Fog issued forth from its wet, black snout, and its white and gray fur seemed to shine even in the dark. And it wasn't alone. Moments later, several more wolves, growling and snarling, emerged from the woods around her. She eyed them all, her heart racing.

Maria Renard was not a helpless woman, not by any means. She was well accomplished in magic and had several skills in hand-to-hand combat. But magic took time, and her fighting skills were worth nothing in comparison to snapping jaws. She was outnumbered, a pack of at least eight against only her. She lifted her hands, slowly, and began to chant. The wolves, being beings of nature as they were, could sense the shift in power. And they didn't like it. They howled, a deafening noise so close, and Maria almost lost the will to summon her magic. But she beat the urge to run—since there was really no way to break through the animals—and continued her chants. One of the wolves lunged at her, and she shot a beam of bright light down at it, throwing it well over the heads of its fellows. A few of the wolves howled again, while a couple more took up the charge where the first had failed. Maria shot magic after magic after the animals, but they were coming hard and fast at her. She was tiring, much faster than they were, but she had made a clearing in their circle. She dashed through it, shooting one ball of mystical energy behind her. But it did not deter them as they gave chase.

She made it only a handful of feet before she came to a skidding stop, the forest ahead too thick to make any sort of progress in. She whirled, facing the creatures that bore down on her, snarling and licking their black maws as they began to label her as their supper. Maria pressed her back up against the nearest tree trunk, chanting into life a small ball of blue energy. She was out of breath, and that was reflecting in her powers.

"Get back!" she shouted, hurling the ball at the nearest wolf.

It hit the creature right on the head, and with a yelp, it rolled back and away. She was spent. And there were still at least four wolves left to contend with. Her breath was coming out in small huffs as she watched them close their semicircle around her.

"Shoo," she tried weakly. "Leave me be."

Suddenly, a yelp of great pain issued forth from the one of the far right, and bright crimson blood splashed onto the wolf next to it. The three left whirled to face their new attacker, and Maria's eyes widened. Alucard, sword stained, slashed down at the wolves as they lunged at him. Joy flooded Maria's heart—so she hadn't lost him! She pushed herself back onto her feet, shoving a lock of her ankle-length blonde hair over her shoulder. She chanted again, drawing up another ball of power, and threw it at one of the wolves before it could dive at the dhampire's throat. Within moments, all of the creatures lay dead or dying. Maria smiled, dashing up to Alucard. However, he held up a hand, and she stopped short.

"You followed me," he said in his own, even way.

But, if Maria wasn't mistaken, he sounded just a hair angry with her. Now, however, was not a time to worry with that. She nodded.

"I did."

"Why?" he demanded.

She shook her head, pressing clasped hands over her heart.

"You can't leave. I-I can't have you out of my life. When you said that we would not meet again, I died in that spot. Please, come with me. Don't go. Don't give in to your eternal sleep once more."

A confession of love without saying as much. She knew that she must seem like a silly little girl to this man who was over three hundred years old. But she didn't care. She spoke the truth, from her heart, and he needed to hear her out. He put his back to her, his magnificent white-blond hair sweeping elegantly behind.

"I have no choice, Maria," he said.

The sadness in his voice tore at her soul, and she stepped toward him, arms outstretched as if he might fall into them.

"I have no place in this world," he continued, glancing over his shoulder. "My bloodline is cursed, and it is for the best that I disappear."

He turned now, his pale eyes locking on her green ones. Maria closed the distance between them, now having to look up at him given the height difference he had on her. He seemed to tower over her, and instead of finding it intimidating, she found it comforting.

"You're wrong. Could someone of a bloodline so cursed save my brother-in-law as you have? Saved the world as you have? You have a place in this world, Alucard. And, if you are right, and you don't… then you can make one with me."

"Maria…"

But she cut him off. "Come back to the village with me. Please. At the very least, allow my sister to give you her thanks for saving her husband. You owe her that, I think."

Alucard's eyes were unreadable, and they would not rise to meet hers again. Finally, he shook his head, turning away from her. But, before he could step away, Maria reached out and caught his hand in hers. He stared down at the move, and at the union of their hands, as if it baffled him. How could she ever want to touch a monster like him? Maria knew that he felt… unworthy in comparison. But that was not how she saw him… that would never be how she saw him.

"Please," she whispered, knowing that he could still hear her as clearly as if she had shouted it.

Now his eyes rose to hers, and a breath caught in her throat. He was truly beautiful, statuesque, like gleaming marble in the small light afforded by the canopy of trees. He was searching her, trying to discover the source of her reasoning. Finally, he nodded.

"As you wish, milady. I will return to the village with you… but know that I do not mean to stay."

Maria smiled, triumphant with joy. "Of course."

She moved, allowing him to take the lead as they continued to exit the forest. She had gotten him to come with her, under the condition that he would not be a permanent resident in her life. And she had agreed, willingly. But, of course, this was not her intention. Alucard would see that he could be with her, with humans, if it was the last thing she did.

#

Annette, her own blonde hair bound in a bun with a ribbon this evening, met them halfway up the sloping walk to the door of the Belmont Manor. Alucard and Maria had found Richter on their way out of the forest, so the three of them walked, Maria and Richter shoulder-to-shoulder with Alucard a few paces behind, together toward the manor.

"Richter!" Annette screeched, tears of pure happiness streaming down her face as she lost her white, lacy shawl somewhere along the way.

Richter's face split with a large grin, running to scoop his wife up in his arms. He swung her around in the air a handful of times, murmuring her name over and over, before he finally set her on her feet and showered her in kisses. Maria and Alucard walked slowly upon the scene, and Annette broke free from her husband's strong arms just long enough to throw her own slender limbs around her sister.

"Oh, Maria! Maria, you are all home! Oh, how I prayed!" she cried into the younger woman's shoulder.

Maria returned her sister's hug with all the strength in her body. She held her for a long moment before gently breaking the embrace and turning all the attention onto Alucard. Annette blinked away her tears, her smile lighting up the space, as her eyes came to rest on the half-blood.

"And who is this?" she asked.

"This is Alucard, son of Dracula," Richter said, and Annette's breath caught in her throat.

"And he is responsible for saving Richter," Maria said, concluding the explanation.

Annette's brow furrowed as she turned to her husband. "Is this true?"

Richter smiled and nodded. "Indeed. I would still be a puppet of evil were it not for this man."

Alucard, for his part, seemed incredibly uncomfortable with the attention. Were he a lesser being, Maria was sure he would be shuffling his feet, looking shyly away. However, he stood resolutely still, eyes resting on Lady Belmont. Annette smiled. She stepped forward without any further hesitation, standing on tiptoe to wrap her arms about Alucard's neck.

"Thank you," she whispered before breaking away. Sighing, she added, "You saved my family's life. For that, know you will always be welcome in my home."

Alucard seemed taken aback at this statement, and, at first, all he seemed to manage was a nod. Finally, when he found his voice returned, he bowed his head.

"Surely, I am undeserving of such an honor, Lady Belmont," he said.

Annette laughed good-naturedly. "Such a gentleman! Come, come inside!"

With that she turned about, leading the march back inside Belmont Manor. The warmth of the many active fireplaces within the home was an immediate and welcome difference from the crisp chill of the outside, despite the bright sun hovering in the clear sky. The group—with Richter keeping his arms wrapped lovingly about his wife—were led through the wide, open foyer, down a hall to the right and into a lavish dining hall, complete with a long, rectangular table made from a bright oak. Chairs, their seats done in red velvet, lined the sides and ends of the table. Annette led the group to the head of the table opposite from the entrance of the room, and bade Richter to take a seat there. Alucard accepted the seat on the man's right, with Maria sitting beside the dhampire and Annette remaining standing.

"The joy in my heart," she said, close to tears again. She shook her head, smiling wider, and added, "We should celebrate. We need to properly thank Alucard for his heroics and kindnesses he's done for this family. We'll have a party."

Maria felt Alucard stiffen beside her. Meanwhile, Annette was busy talking details, decoration and word of mouth invitation to this party—which, if she had her way, would take place that very evening. She was midway through describing what dishes she would have the servants prepare, when Alucard raised a hand.

"Please, milady. Let me go without this honor," he asked.

Richter flashed Alucard an apologetic grin as his wife waved her hand dismissively.

"How else could we ever hope to thank you? I mean, this homecoming celebration is meager in comparison to what we owe you."

Alucard smiled, a small one, and Maria felt her heart flutter to see the way it lit up his handsome, pale features.

"Your gratitude, in words, is enough, I assure you," he said.

Annette's mouth opened, ready to counter that, when Maria laughed. She shook her head and locked meaningful eyes with her older sister.

"I think the party is a bit much, Annette. I mean, if you think about it, shouldn't you just spend the night with your husband? Richter's been gone for so long."

Annette's cheeks colored themselves rosy. Eyes shining, she glanced at her husband before she giggled.

"I suppose that makes sense," she said coyly as Richter chuckled.

Richter pushed himself to his feet, taking his wife sweetly by the hand. He looked down upon Alucard and Maria and nodded.

"I can't thank you enough. Both of you. But, if you'll excuse me, I think I'd like to be with my beloved," he said.

Both Maria and Alucard nodded, muttering, "Of course."

The two left the room, giggling like love-crazed adolescents, shutting the doors to the dining hall as they left. The sound echoed about the room, reminding Maria of something she should have already been abundantly clear about. She was alone with Alucard. She felt her skin flush, and found it hard to meet the dhampire's eyes, which was ridiculous. After all, she had been alone with him many times within Castlevania. But that had been different. That had been about survival, and having a comrade in the fight. Now… now he was a guest in her home, her guest, brought her by her declaration of love. Maria bit her lip lightly, finally forcing herself to look to the dhampire.

For his part, Alucard seemed to be studying her, as if she confounded him. He didn't seem to be the least bit nervous with her, not like she was with him. Instead, he was content, just staring at her. And, if she wasn't mistaken, a bit of amusement played in his eyes. He knew. He could sense her nervousness, her sudden shyness. Of course he could. He was half-vampire. She smiled, standing.

"Why don't I show you to one of the guest rooms in the manor? You must be tired," she offered.

He smiled up at her, and it dazzled her. Maria knew she was prone to dramatics, to romantic notions and the like, but that smile. It made her want to swoon. She turned away, trying her best to compose herself.

"Um, this way," she said, pointing lamely at the door.

"As you wish, my lady," he said.

The words echoed in Maria's mind. He had said that to her before, when she had asked him to keep an eye out for Richter. She remembered being so worried, so angry, as she made her way through the castle. And Alucard had not helped at first. She had thought him rude, maybe even a bit conceded. However, that had changed, and now, as she led him out of the dining hall and up one of the side staircases of the manor, she realized that that had all changed the moment he had said those words to her. She had glimpsed something in him at that moment, something deeper than she had thought him capable of. He had been worried for her, truly concerned.

Maria smiled at that thought as she led the dhampire down the right side of the second story hall, pausing at the door of a room on the right. She pushed it open, glad that the curtains had been left pulled back so that the sunlight could illuminate the room. It was nothing special, definitely not the size of the master suite of the manor, but it was nice. A large, four-poster bed set along the back wall, right beside the wide window. A large fireplace—cold and unused for some time—stood on the left wall, while a chest of drawers and a couple of chairs set along the right wall. Maria entered the room and sidestepped to allow Alucard inside.

"Your room. I hope it's to your liking," she said.

His eyes swept it in a moment, no doubt taking in details that she had missed, and he turned to her, smiling still.

"My last bed was a coffin in my mother's family's tome. This, truly, is luxury," he said.

Maria laughed, realizing that he was teasing her properness. He was right to do so. The two had fought inside the same castle, the same monsters. They were equals in battle. Just because the scenery had changed, did not mean that her demeanor had to. But she couldn't help it. Something about the dhampire made her feel small, but in a safe way. Like it was okay to be petite and a frail maiden, just this once.

Alucard moved toward the bed, stopping just at the foot of it. He laid both hands upon the mattress, pressing gently. Sighing, he spoke, not bothering to turn.

"You're very lucky, you know, in the life that you lead. This place is so full of love and family. I envy you," he said.

Maria's smile softened. "You could be a part of it too, if you wanted."

She clamped her lips shut two moments too late. Forward was often not the way a lady should behave, but she couldn't help it. Alucard's comment was so tinged with something other than general observation… she had felt compelled to let him know that her hand would be extended to him always, offering all she had. He turned, his smile heavy and sad.

"Thank you," he said, and she knew he meant it. "But it cannot be. I've told you. My bloodline is a curse upon this land. I would bring you nothing but ruin."

"And I've told you. You're wrong. The man who saved my brother-in-law, who reunited him with my sister, is the very same man who claims to be cursed."

"My life is an affront to God and humanity, Maria," he said, speaking such things as if he were speaking of the weather.

The words hurt her more than she would have thought. She took a step forward, making it heavy enough to make sure his attention stayed on her.

"You are a good man. Our blood is not all that makes us who we are. I've seen evil, Alucard. And evil is not capable of doing for my family what you have. I wish you would see reason."

And with that, she strode from the room, leaving nothing behind but a shocked-silent dhampire.

#

The moon was high in the sky, waning back into its new form, its darkest form. Normally, the night would be a time when Alucard was the most active—back before his eternal sleep. But he had spent an active day with Annette, Richter, and Maria as they toted him about the village, announcing Lord Belmont's safe return to his manor. The villagers had been wary of the dhampire, as they had rights to be, but their thanks to him had been genuine. To have so many humans—men, women, and children alike—flock to him, instead of away from him, was a foreign experience. He had accepted the thanks in all the humble ways his mother had taught him, and Maria had declared him "charming." They had returned to the manor to a magnificent feast of roasted fowl and assorted vegetables. Annette had gotten a little flustered then, unsure of how to ask Alucard if he even ate as they did. It was something akin to adorable, her need for him to take no offense to her ignorance. He had smiled and said that his mother's roasted boar was the best he had ever eaten in his life. This put the woman at ease, and Richter had spent the rest of the night teasing his wife, urging her to ask Alucard the most ridiculous questions. Embarrassed, Annette took it all in stride, playfully smacking at her husband while Maria chided them like children. It was heartwarming, and Alucard had simply watched—as if through a window. He longed to be a part of such a wonderful scene, and if Maria had her way, he would be.

But the night always called to him, to his damnable vampire blood. And tonight was no different. Whispers roused the sleeping dhampire, his eyes flying open as the sounds intensified. He wondered, for a moment if it wasn't but a dream, but the whispers only grew stronger to his waking ears. He pulled his feet to the chilled floor, snatching his nobleman's coat from the foot of his bed. In a moment, he was fully dressed and armed once more as he ventured out of the room and into the hall, drawn by the strange whispers. The whole of the manor slumbered—Alucard could hear the snores and the resting beats of their hearts as he moved. He found his way to the staircase and descended it, pausing just at its foot. The whispers had become more distinct.

"Alucard… Come to me… Find me…"

The dhampire closed his eyes, listening for the source of the sound. It was coming from beyond the manor's entrance, far beyond it. The village… it was coming from somewhere within the village. Alucard's hand moved to the hilt of his mother's family sword, finding resolve there as he cast a watchful eye back up the staircase. No, no one followed him. Everyone still slumbered peacefully. In fact, Maria—if Alucard's ears were not mistaken—was in such a heavy sleep, it was unlikely that much could rouse the young woman. He smiled, spending a moment more listening to the relaxing rhythm of her heart—her kind, wonderful heart that welcomed him into it without hesitation—before the whispers tugged at him again. He exited the manor as quietly as possible, which meant for him that he made no noise, and trekked down the pathway and toward the village.

He was right. The closer he got to the large, similarly slumbering village, the louder the whispers got. Finally, just beyond the first shop that marked the boundary between manor lands and village lands, Alucard could pinpoint exactly from where the voice originated from, and he made for it. At the center of the town stood a large, stone-built well, a symbol of the prosperity of this land as well as an invaluable resource to these people. A figure loomed just on the other side of it, and Alucard caught his scent on the breeze. His ire raised, his more animalistic qualities causing him to snarl as his preternatural senses caught more than just the intruder's scent… blood was on the air. Alucard reached the well just as the source of the whispers lit a torch, laying it in the mount on the well.

"Orlox," Alucard hissed, drawing his blade. "Back away from the woman."

Slumped down the side of the stone well was a young village woman, her dark hair pulled underneath a bonnet cap, her arms splayed beside the folds of her cotton skirt. Her head lolled forward, and two, bright red puncture wounds were visible on the side of her neck. The vampire, Orlox, grinned—his face skull-like and shadowed in the flickering flames of the torch. He held up his slender, rat-like hands in the air, as if in surrender.

"I killed you in my father's castle," Alucard said, raising his sword.

Orlox laughed. "Oh, young master, you should know better than anyone that that means little when it comes to our kind."

"Your kind, Orlox," Alucard corrected.

"Ah, and that's always been the problem, hasn't it? Your refusal to accept who—what—you are. I mean, take the situation at hand for example."

He gestured to the young woman, and Alucard could see her eyes moving rapidly under their lids. There was more than blood loss at work here. Orlox was an accomplished magician, and it was of no doubt to the dhampire that that was how he had summoned the poor woman there in the first place. Orlox bent down, and Alucard moved toward him, weapon still raised. Orlox gestured that he meant no harm, and he gently placed two fingers underneath the woman's chin. He lifted it, turning her head so that the wounds were even clearer. He breathed deeply, an action completely unnecessary for him, and Alucard's brow arched. Orlox grinned up at the dhampire.

"You can smell her. Try to tell me that this young maiden's blood isn't particularly fragrant to you," he said.

Orlox flicked his hand in the air, and the scent of blood wafted over to Alucard. It hit him like a brick, and he stumbled back, placing the heel of his free hand to his forehead.

"What magic is this?" he demanded.

"No magic, Master Alucard. Only you. Your true nature. You want this woman, want to feel her life's blood fill your mouth like the finest wine. I don't understand why you deny it."

Alucard composed himself as best he could—the scent of the woman was still in his nostrils, refusing to leave him. He locked eyes with the vampire as he placed one of his clawed fingers into a trickle of blood from one of the puncture wounds. Alucard raised his weapon, moving to strike the purple-armored monster. But Orlox vanished, reappearing behind Alucard, sucking the blood from his finger.

"I didn't come here to fight, milord. I've merely come to serve my master, Lord Dracula," Orlox said.

Alucard struck again, but again, Orlox vanished only to reappear beside the still unconscious woman. The dhampire whirled, snarling once more.

"Your master is dead," Alucard snapped.

"And does that mean my loyalty should disappear, when I need wait only a mere hundred years for another resurrection? No. I've come to see my Lord Dracula's truest wish realized once and for all."

Alucard shook his head, a lock of his hair falling over his shoulder. The scent from the woman was strong, and it fogged his mind. He could feel his teeth elongating, just a little. He clamped his mouth shut, willing his body to gain control of itself. After a moment, he breathed deeply, glaring at the vampire.

"Speak plainly, Orlox. What do you mean?"

"You. I speak of you. Your father has always wanted you to embrace your vampiric side. It was his fondest wish."

"So that I might serve him in his destruction of the world?"

Orlox grinned his reaper's grin. "Exactly. And I intend to see it through, once and for all."

The vampire stooped, scooping the woman up in his arms, holding her about the waist so that she was facing Alucard. Orlox shifted her, allowed her head to lull so that the wounds were easily accessible. Alucard stepped toward him, but Orlox held up a warning finger.

"Her blood, even the small amount that I have spilled, is strong, no?" he teased.

Alucard would be lying to deny it. It made his head swim like a heavy perfume, and made his mouth water like a succulent beast. His grip tightened on the sword, and he could feel the redness that came with his vampiric heritage seeping into his eyes.

"You scented her, to tempt me into drinking," Alucard murmured.

"Yes. Though, honestly, it didn't take much doing. She's a virgin, and we all know how strongly their blood smells. Look at her, Master Alucard. She's helpless, held safely in the folds of a spell. She won't even struggle or cry out. You can drink your fill, and she'll do naught but moan."

Orlox stepped closer, bringing the woman with him. Alucard retreated a step, only to have Orlox take one more.

"Look at her, Alucard," he ordered.

Alucard did as he was commanded, watching as the vampire ran the back of a slender finger down the side of the young woman's pretty face. Her skin was flawless and soft, her lips as pink as roses. And the smell of her… He longed to touch her. To feel the blood coursing under her skin beneath his fingers. Alucard swallowed, hard, and his hands began to shake.

"I will not feed," he said.

"She's sweet," Orlox said. "And I'm not speaking of her demeanor. Tastes like candy."

Alucard's fangs were lowering inside his mouth, and his breath came out in puffs of steam, much like the wolves that had attacked Maria earlier that day.

Maria… with only a thought, the image of the woman who had welcomed him in with barely a thought flashed before the dhampire's mind. He could see her in brightest detail, as if she stood before him now—her bright smile lighting up her luminous green eyes, her hair shining like gold in the sunlight. He wondered if it shined that brightly by the light of the moon?

His restraint was found once more, and all traces of his darker nature vanished. He raised his family's sword.

"Release the girl," he said.

With a sigh, Orlox snapped his fingers. The woman's eyes flickered to life, confusion crossing her face just moments before it all came crashing back into her mind. She struggled in the vampire's arms, her blue eyes finding Alucard.

"Help me! Please, please, save me!" she begged, reaching out for him.

Alucard raised his sword, but before he could take a single step, Orlox's hands raised to either side of the woman's head. She screamed, the sound cut short by the snap of her own neck. Her corpse hit the dirty ground with a dull thud. Alucard's eyes widened, and Orlox gestured to the buildings around them.

"Not a one will believe your innocence, you know. You will succumb, Alucard. It's inevitable," he said, vanishing.

#

Richter Belmont was made for his calling. The poor girl's voice had echoed into the night, carrying all the way out to the manor. He had shot straight out of bed, grabbing for his sacred weapon—the Vampire Killer—and heading for the source of the sound. He had to practically beg Maria to stay behind, and finally convinced her to do so by telling her that she would be protecting her sister. Alone, he charged into the village.

It didn't take long for him to find the source of the scream. A crowd had formed around the town's well, and they looked a mixture of shocked, angry, and murderous. He broke through, wielding his whip as proof that he was the one to be dealing with whatever problem lay at the center. And there, at the center of the mass, he found Alucard, holding the lifeless body of a young woman… a woman Richter was sure he recognized from one of his many trips into town.

He approached the dhampire, kneeling down across the body from him.

"Alucard… what happened?"

"She's been bitten!" a woman cried hysterically from off on Richter's right.

He looked up to see the woman's face tear-streaked, her long, graying brown hair falling to her waist. Richter's eyes darted between the victim's face and the woman's… the girl's mother, without a doubt.

"He did this!" another villager in the crowd cried.

"He's a curse on us all!" another one cried.

"He's killed my daughter!" the woman sobbed.

Richter held up his hands, indicating silence. Then, he looked across to the dhampire.

"I must ask, so that all might hear. But I will take you at your word. Did you do this?" he asked.

"No. A vampire servant of my father, named Orlox, did this."

There was more to that statement, more than what Alucard was willing to say with this crowd. But Richter understood, nodding once. He rose to his feet, raising his voice to address the panicked villagers.

"I believe him," he said. "With all my heart."

"How?" the grieving mother asked, her voice haggard.

"Because if not for this man, I would not be alive now. If he said another did this, than another did it."

That sent the group muttering, calming themselves. The Belmont name had been sullied, once long ago, but it had grown to be respected once more. If the Belmont who had destroyed Dracula once was vouching for this dhampire, than it would be enough for now. An elder of the village stepped forward, extending his hand to Alucard as the dhampire moved to his feet. The men clasped each other at the wrists.

"We beg your forgiveness for our suspicious nature," he said.

"It is more than understandable. There is nothing to forgive," Alucard said.

The villagers relaxed only enough to continue with their grieving. The elder now turned to Richter, his gray brow furrowed.

"I'm afraid that the task falls to you, young sir. This poor maiden has been bitten. We must see to it that she does not rise to do harm to others."

Richter blinked, taken aback. He had known it would come to this, this was the work his family had done for centuries now, but his thoughts had been elsewhere—on Alucard's unspoken words. Alucard nodded, crossing to stand shoulder to shoulder with Richter.

"He's right," he said gently.

Richter nodded as the elder passed him a wooden stake. The mother of the girl sobbed, collapsing into the arms of a man of similar age—presumably the girl's father, as his face was equally as tear-streaked. Richter sighed, moving the girl's body so that she lay flat on her back.

"I do this to free her," he said.

Several in the crowd nodded, and Richter summoned all his strength. He lifted the stake and drove it down, his eyes closing just moments before it pierced the poor girl's heart. The girl's mother sobbed even louder.

#

The girl's parents collected her body, so that she might have a proper burial, and the crowd had dispersed. In silence, Richter and Alucard made their way slowly back through the night toward Belmont Manor. Neither spoke for a long moment, but finally, as the lights from the village grew distant, Richter turned to his friend.

"What is it that you did not tell me? When I asked if you did this?"

Alucard shifted uncomfortably, and Richter grinned, thinking that that was perhaps the most human he had ever seen the man act. It did not last long, as the dhampire seemed to retreat into his thoughts for a moment, searching out the answer. Finally, he sighed.

"I could smell—" he began, only to halt abruptly. He grinned, mirthlessly, picking up, "I could smell him. From the manor. I recognized the scent and sought out to stop whatever it was that he was planning."

Richter's eyes narrowed, and his skin crawled. It was not a pleasant realization, to think that this man whom they had all welcomed into their home had such powers. If he could smell a vampire from such a distance, what else was he capable of? But the vampire hunter shook his head, clapping a hand about Alucard's shoulder. The dhampire eyed him as if this was an odd move.

"At least you destroyed him, yes?" Richter smiled.

Alucard countered with a frown, and Richter felt his hand fall away.

"No. I'm afraid I did not."

Richter looked away as the two rounded onto the pathway up to the manor. A vampire, a powerful one, was still roaming free in his village. His family, and the families of others, were in terrible peril because he quite well remembered Orlox from his time under the dark priest Shaft's control.

"We'll destroy him. I've no doubt," he said suddenly, smiling as he caught sight of Annette and Maria standing in wait for them in the manor's entrance.

"I hope so. For the sake of giving that poor girl's soul true rest," Alucard said.

Richter clapped his friend on his shoulder once more. "Well spoken."

"What happened, Richter?" Annette asked the moment they reached the women.

"Alucard?" Maria asked.

"A young girl was… killed. In the village. But all's well now, I assure you," Richter said, wrapping a protective arm about his wife.

"Oh, no. Who was it, Richter?" Annette asked, her face the very picture of fright as she was ushered back inside.

"I'll tell you in the morning. Let's rest," the vampire hunter said, gazing back at the stoic dhampire. "We need it."

Alucard passed Maria silently, and the young woman pursed her lips, trailing him inside the manor.

#

The next day passed with much mourning and silence in Belmont Manor. Maria had begged Alucard to share the details of the previous night with her, but he had waved her off. Her feelings had been hurt, but he figured that that would be better than the alternative. Better than her knowing of his desire, of his failure to save the young girl. The night came on the heels of the setting sun as it always did, and, like the night before, Alucard heard Orlox's voice calling to him.

He rose as he had the night before, but instead of following the voice to the village, he followed it to its new source—just within the barrier of the forest of Eternal Night. The moon was smaller still, and the canopy of trees made the forest floor even darker. The scent of the night pulled at Alucard, washing him in a flood of memories from his youth, as he continued to follow the whispers farther inside the trees. Finally, he broke into a clearing, in the center of which Orlox stood. At the vampire's feet lay a man, dressed in rough sewn, dirty rags, in the same state of unconsciousness as the young maiden from the night before. Alucard drew his sword and made to charge at the vampire.

"You will not claim another life!" he shouted, and Orlox dodged the blow, vanishing and reappearing always out of the sword's reach.

"I don't intend to claim this man's life," Orlox said, finally catching the blade of Alucard's weapon in his hands.

He threw the weapon back, and with it, Alucard. The dhampire landed in a skidding crouch, looking up at the vampire. He slowly got back to his feet, letting the blade rest at his side for the moment.

"No. You intend me to do so, don't you?"

Orlox grinned. "Precisely. You see, I know where the problem lay last time. I tried to tempt you with an innocent's blood. Well, this time around, I went with a convicted criminal."

He gestured to the man at his feet, his eyes careful to stay rested on Alucard. Alucard shook his head.

"No matter. I will not drink," he said.

"Why? Because you think he doesn't deserve it?" the vampire asked, his head cocked to one side.

Alucard made no move to answer, but Orlox sighed.

"I know that that's it. And I would agree. This man deserves much worse, I assure you. Do you know of his crimes?"

"No, but I suspect you intend to enlighten me," the dhampire remarked dryly.

"Indeed. He's a murderer, but of the worst kind. His victims tend to be no older than twelve, and no younger than nine. Girls, mostly, but he's taken the life of a couple of young boys as well. But it's not enough that he kills them, Alucard. He tortures them, first. Makes them beg for their lives. And then he takes their innocence, robbing them of their virtue in a vile and vulgar fashion. Then, as they lay sobbing before him, he slits their throats, and allows them to bleed out."

Alucard's eyes flickered to the unconscious man, his lip curling in disgust. He did not doubt Orlox's words. He had no reason to lie to Alucard. To the vampire's mind, he held the advantage, due to his submission to his vampiric nature. When he caught Alucard's gaze upon the man, he grinned.

"He's a monster. I dare you to deny it," he said.

Alucard's lips parted, searching for words. Finally, he shook his head.

"I cannot."

Orlox crossed his arms about his armored chest, his skull-like countenance grinning like some creature from a nightmare. The two of them stood in silence for a long moment. Finally, the sorcerer vampire rolled his eyes.

"I don't understand you, Master Alucard. I cannot fathom how you intend to go about this-this charade that you're living."

"What do you mean?"

Orlox gestured toward the woods behind him. "Them. The Belmonts that you're living with now. Yes, they've welcomed you with open arms now… but what about later? When they begin to ponder your existence too closely? When they begin to question your loyalty? You are the son of their sworn enemy, of course. Honestly, that pretty, young blonde looks at you with doe eyes now, but what about when you bear your fangs at her for the first time? When you begin to make love to her, only to have your darker nature surface? When your teeth graze her flesh, cutting it like paper? Or do you think that she'll enjoy it?"

Alucard roared, charging at the vampire once more. He hacked and slashed wildly at him, his thoughts a blur of protective anger. How dare that monster speak of Maria! Orlox could never hope to understand a soul such as hers. Alucard drove Orlox to the opposite edge of the clearing, only to have the vampire disappear on him again, reappearing back at where the criminal lie. Alucard turned, breathing hard and heavy. Orlox was grinning madly. Alucard had revealed too much, an amateur mistake. One he had not committed in many a year. His grip tightened on his weapon once more as Orlox laughed.

"Yes, Alucard! That's what I mean! Use that anger, and feed on this man, this piece of unworthy filth! He murdered children! Surely you find this crime reprehensible? If not, deny it. Deny that he deserves death."

Alucard stalked toward the center, stopping just short of the vampire and the criminal. He looked away, and Orlox chuckled.

"You cannot. You cannot argue that he deserves death. Then, I ask, why not you? Why is it that it cannot be you, to show him horrors in his last moments? To show him what those children must have saw before their deaths? You need blood, Alucard. Half-human or not, the vampire side still requires it. Why not take what you need to survive from such scum as this man?"

Orlox kicked at the limp man, rolling him over onto his back. He stooped down, and Alucard raised his weapon. However, in a flash, Orlox only used one of his sharpened, dark nails to make a diagonal slash down the left side of the man's face. The scent of the criminal's blood was carried to the dhampire on the winds, and it was strong. Evil was a strong temptation to a blood-drinker, and this man had it in abundance. The scent made his head swim, just as the maiden's blood had. Alucard gripped at his weapon as if it were some sort of safety afforded to him. Orlox turned the man's head so that the cut faced Alucard directly.

"I can see it, Alucard. The reddening of your eyes, your fangs extending… I can hear the growl in your voice deepening. This is what your father has always wanted for you, to be strong. Drink, Alucard, and embrace it!"

Alucard stumbled back, his stomach growling for the man's blood as if he were starved. Orlox advanced, bringing the criminal with him.

"Feed from this man, Alucard, or, eventually—inevitably—you will feed on your beautiful Maria."

Alucard shook his head, the tips of his fangs now past his bottom lip, the flesh there so unused to the teeth that they were cutting, splitting with the sharpness.

"Never," he growled.

"It is not a threat, Alucard. It is fact. In this moment, I am doing you a grand favor."

Alucard bent double, digging his hardened nails into his thighs. The scent of the man was overwhelming, and the dhampire was salivating.

"You know I speak the truth, Alucard. It's happened before. Your father told me."

Alucard fell to his knees, his mind going back to a time long ago. He was only a boy, fifteen or sixteen at the most. There had been a girl in the village—her name was Alice, a beautiful girl with raven hair. Alucard had been fascinated with her, and she with him. They had spoken often, and their affections had grown. One night, when they had been alone in a neighbor's barn, the two had begun to make love. It had been the first time Alucard had experienced such a wash of emotions, and the scent of her blood had only grown with her own arousal. Before he had realized what had happened, it was too late. He had sunk his fangs deep into her flesh, drank her life from her. Horrified, he had done the only think he could think to do—he called for his father. Dracula had helped dispose of the girl's body, and had comforted his son as Alucard wept over her grave in the woods. Alucard had never told his mother of the incident, and it shamed him to think of it even now.

It had been on that night that Alucard had sworn to never drink a human's blood again. Now, he dug his fingers into the ground, growling against the fresh temptation.

"It will happen again," Orlox said. "When you are alone with Maria, just like you were with that pretty girl… when you begin to undress her, caress her tender flesh… you will hear her heart beat, and it will overwhelm you. And you will kill her just as you did the girl from your village."

Alucard pulled himself to his feet, just barely. The moment he turned to face Orlox, his vampiric side now fully visible, the bald vampire threw the dhampire the criminal.

"Drink," he commanded.

This close to the fresh cut, Alucard couldn't see straight. All he could feel was the blood coursing through the man's body, the scent of his evil strong. Blood was all that Alucard could think, see, feel. He obeyed.

He opened his mouth wide and sank his fangs in deep. Fresh blood flooded Alucard's mouth, and he gulped it down. The criminal moaned in his arms, whatever spell Orlox had put him under rendering him unable to struggle. Alucard's grip on the victim's arms tightened, and he could hear bone crack. He drank on, enjoying every moment of it, wanting more and more the longer he held on. Perhaps Orlox had been right. This was for the best. If Alucard drank of this man, then the temptation to feed on Maria would not exist.

Maria. Again, the thought of her name summoned her image to his mind, the horror that would be on her face if she could see her beloved Alucard—her hero that had saved her dearest brother-in-law—in such a state. She would think him a monster, run away screaming. And there would be no more light within her. Her hope would be killed in that moment.

It took every bit of Alucard's resolve, but he pulled himself away from the man. He had not taken enough to kill him, only keep him unconscious. He dropped him to the ground. Wild, he turned on Orlox, whose dark eyes were wide.

"Impossible," the vampire murmured.

Alucard brandished his weapon, the waning moon's light gleaming off of it. Orlox summoned a ball of reddish—Hellish—light, and sent it hurtling toward the dhampire. But the fresh feeding had benefited the dhampire. His senses were deepened, and he dodged the attack as if it were nothing. Orlox vanished, no doubt about to appear behind him, but Alucard was ready. With one mighty swing, his family's sword sliced cleanly through the vampire's neck. It rolled backward off its body as the body itself fell forward. Slowly, it began to burn away, chipping away to nothing but dust to be scattered in the wind.

When Orlox was finally gone, Alucard's eyes fell to the criminal. He stirred, clear of the vampire's spell, but he was still unconscious from the loss of blood. The temptation was still there, only receded slightly, to feed from him. Turning, urging his vampiric nature deep down within himself, he ran into the trees.

#

Maria damned the trees as she turned in place, lost within the forest. She had been awake, wandering the halls of Belmont Manor in search of elusive sleep, when she had witnessed Alucard exiting the building. Curious, and more than a little worried, she had given chase. However, as soon as he had broken through the barrier of trees of Eternal Night, she had lost him. It was no doubt that he probably knew that forest better than any, and it was famed for its confusing pathways, but Maria had been sure she had known it enough to keep from getting lost. Apparently, she had been wrong.

Now, she stood in the middle of trees and more trees, slivers of silver moonlight peeking through the breeze-rustled leaves, and frankly, she was unsure whether she should call for Alucard or not. She was ashamed of her stalking, that she had followed him into the night. She didn't want him to think that she didn't trust him… she had only been worried for him. But now, she was desperately lost, turned around so that she was only half sure of the way home.

"Very astute," she muttered to herself, glancing over her shoulder at the dark forest behind her.

Suddenly, a rustling stirred the trees in front of her, and she stiffened, worried that she had called more wolves to her presence. Her mouth was already forming the words to a chant when the source of the rustling broke through the barrier. It was Alucard, his hair gleaming in the night and his face downturned.

"Alucard!" she said, relieved.

He stumbled toward her, falling to his knees, and Maria stooped to cradle him in her arms. Something was wrong. He was trembling, and he would not meet her eyes.

"Alucard, what is it? What's happened?" she asked.

"Get away!" he said, pushing back from her.

She gasped. His face… His eyes were a bright vermillion, and a pair of gleaming white fangs extended over his bottom lip. Even his hands appeared more claw-like than usual. This was his vampiric side showing. Slowly, she raised her hand, made to touch his face, but he batted it away.

"Leave, Maria. Run!"

But Maria didn't move.

"What happened?" she asked in a breathless voice.

"Orlox," he hissed.

And he confessed everything. About how Orlox had called to him the night before, had tempted him with the maiden's blood. How he had been unable to save the girl, and that Orlox had called to him again tonight. Only, this time… he had fed. He had taken that criminal's blood, but not enough to kill him.

"You have to get away from me, Maria," he concluded. "The temptation, the fight… It's too great, and I am losing."

Maria shook her head, her long hair splayed about her on the forest floor.

"What do you mean, you're losing?"

In a flash, he reached for her, gripping her by her shoulders. He shook her once, eliciting a gasp from her.

"I can smell your blood, Maria. And I want it. I desire it more than I have ever desired anything."

He leaned into her, breathing deeply of her scent. He purred against her skin before pulling, prying, himself away. Maria stayed silent, eyeing Alucard's crouched form across from her. Finally, she leaned in, taking one of his hands in hers. He eyed her, watching as she gently laid it on her cheek.

"Then take it," she whispered.

He gasped, eyeing her.

"If it will ease this pain you're feeling, then do it. I'll gladly give my blood to you. I don't mind, truly."

He pulled his hand away, averting his gaze. "No. You've no idea what it is you ask."

"I've fought vampires nearly my entire life, I know exactly what it is that I'm offering to you. You have to understand, Alucard, I am not a child. If drinking from me will ease your pain, make you happy… then do it. I trust you."

He eyed her through a curtain of his hair, his breath coming in heavy huffs. After a long moment, he began to lean in, and Maria felt her eyes slide slowly shut. She could feel his hot breath on her neck, and her skin began to tingle in a way that was not unpleasant. Suddenly, the breath was gone from her neck, and she felt his lips press against hers. His fangs had retracted some, just enough so that they were confined to the inside of his mouth, and she parted her lips to allow him to deepen the kiss. Her hands wound in his hair, and she pressed her body against his. His arms rose to wrap about her waist, holding her there. Finally, the kiss broke, and Alucard moved away.

"I'm sorry," he said mournfully. "I shouldn't have—"

But she cradled his face in her hands, forcing him to lock eyes with her.

"You are more than this, Alucard. You are more than the monster you're fighting. I believe that with all of my heart."

For the measure of a beat of Maria's heart, they simply stared into each others' eyes. In the next beat, he was kissing her again, leaning her back so that she lay on the forest floor. She wrapped her arms about his neck, and he peppered kisses along her jaw and throat. She moaned, gripping his hair as he began to undo her clothing. He leaned up, unlacing her jacket as she worked ferociously at his. The moment his jacket and shirt was removed, she leaned up, pressing another kiss to his lips. He moaned into her mouth, and worked off the top half of her clothing. Before long, she was in nothing but her long stockings, her underthings completely gone, and he was in a state of complete undress.

Their hands roamed their bodies, acquainting themselves with every curve and swell. The evidence of his arousal was pressed hard into her thigh, and Maria could feel the heat growing wet between her legs. He kissed down her taunt stomach, finding that precious bundle of nerves there at the top of her folds. His tongue danced over it, and she felt the heat swell to a boil, exploding and sending itself through the rest of her body in waves. She gasped and moaned, trying her best to catch her breath as Alucard rose above her, entering her gently.

There was a brief shock of pain as her virgin folds stretched and broke to accommodate his size. He began to thrust within her, and she could tell that it was a struggle for him to remain slow and steady. No doubt, he could smell her maiden blood, and it drove the vampire within him wild. Before long, he could not control it any longer. He began to thrust deeper and harder within her, but Maria was already well fitted to his manhood. She gasped, arching her back into him, pressing her bare breasts against his chest. One of his hands held her by the small of her back, supporting her, while the other held his balance as he continued his movements. He bent, taking one of her erect nipples into his mouth, and she gasped, cresting on pleasure once more. She felt herself tighten around him, and he cried out, his eyes going a deeper red. Gasping, she floated back down to the earth, and watched as her lover continued to find his pleasure within her, his fangs growing longer once more.

"Do it, Alucard," she moaned. "Feed from me. Alleviate your pain, please," she begged.

He was at the mercy of her suggestion. He bent forward, sinking his fangs into her flesh, the scent of her orgasm driving him wild. He drank only a drop—Maria moaning his name all the while—before he pulled away. He cried out, finishing within her. As he pulled away from her, he paused to heal her wounds.

The two were still catching their breath as they redressed. Finally, both fully clothed, Alucard turned to her. All signs of his vampiric half were gone from his face as he smiled sadly at her.

"I love you, Maria," he said.

She smiled, but Alucard only shook his head.

"Which is why I must leave."

Her heart stopped. But she did not speak, waiting for him to continue.

"I love you, but that will not satiate my darker half. The will to do you greater harm than you have ever known is too strong. I could have killed you then, when I bit you. And I wanted to. To take it all from you, to taste you forever. I could not have lived with myself if I had done such a wretched thing. I want you, Maria, but in more ways than one."

A single tear rolled down Maria's face, but she nodded.

"I understand. If leaving will free you from this pain in any way, then that is what I want for you. I want for nothing but your happiness. But I stand by what I have said. You are stronger than you know, stronger than the monster within you. I will die believing that."

He smiled, leaning forward to kiss her once more. Breaking the kiss, but not pulling away, he smiled once more.

"I pray that is the truth. Farewell, my love."

With that, he stood, and Maria watched as he disappeared into the darkness of the forest. Her sadness flowed from her, unbidden, and she sat there for the longest moment, sobbing into her hand. The sun was rising, replacing the silver of the moon with gold, when she finally found the strength to stand and return to Belmont Manor. She would always love Alucard, and, perhaps, she might even seek him out again someday. But, for now, she would grant him his solitude. All for the sake of his happiness.

~End~