Hellooooo! I'm so excited, you guys! Here's where I admit a little about me: I'm a sailor and have recently returned home from deployment. Coming back to all these follows and favorites and reviews is AWESOME! Thank you so much for the continued interest! Here's chapter 13, which is going to have you all over the place for emotions, I think (and hope). Later! -(HYFwF)

13: The Skull and The Hunchback

Dracula used the fastest method he knew to return to the hotel. Teleporting was a nifty trick, and he was actually a little happy to use it.

Micole was still at his side. He looked down and pulled his cape from over her shoulders.

She looked around, unsure of where she was.

"My chamber," Dracula answered her wandering eyes.

Micole stared up to him. "You mean like your room?"

Dracula nodded. He left Micole and went to a dark, dusty chest in a corner. Micole hurried to follow him.

"This item is a dark relic," the vampire told her in a low tone as he knelt to unlock the chest. He waved his hand over the keyhole. It sounded like a million tumblers were inside. Micole's jaw dropped at the number of clicks she heard.

At last they stopped, and the lid of the chest opened.

Micole didn't know what she had expected, but a plush pillow with a small black box resting on top certainly wasn't it.

Dracula carefully lifted it from the velvet pillow, standing up as he did so. He turned to Micole. "This is something one might give to a close friend, or even a child or close sibling," Dracula said. He and Micole both watched the box as he gently opened it, presenting it to Micole like an engagement ring.

Micole's eyes widened.

Dracula smiled at her expression. "It is for you," he said. "What I witnessed tonight makes me believe you are the person I want to have it."

Micole stared at the hand-sized skull. She reached her hand up to touch it softly, running her palm over it. It was smooth like real bone, and warm.

Dracula carefully removed it from the box. He set the box back down on the pillow in the chest and walked over to a small desk. He opened the drawer there and lifted a cape from it. He turned to Micole with a smile. "You don't have to keep the cape," he informed her as he walked back to her. "But the skull must be pinned to it before it recognizes you."

"Recognizes me?" Micole asked as Dracula used one hand to place the cape on her shoulders.

"Yes," the vampire answered. He gently took the skull and placed it at Micole's neck, where the two sides of the cape met and clasped them together. He smiled softly at the artifact, then touched it at the crown.

"Touch where I have," Dracula told Micole. The young woman did as she was told. When her finger touched the crown, the skull's sockets burst into life with blue light. Micole gasped. The light faded away. The skull mimicked the surprise Micole felt.

"Whoa," she said. The skull's features returned to normal, yet it appeared more alive than it had in the box.

"What is this?" Micole asked Dracula in awe.

"A soul broach," he informed her. "This skull knows your soul now. It will only work on you."

Micole looked up to face Dracula. "Why are you giving me this?"

"It will help," he replied. "The skull is you now. When you are saddened inside, it will exhibit its sadness, as well. When you are thrilled, it, too, will be jubilant. It connects you with the darker side of this world, as well."

Dracula, with a tender and understanding smile, reached a hand down and rubbed away the dirt on Micole's chin. "I'm giving you this because you belong here, Mimi."

Micole felt her eyes watering. Her face fell into a small pout. Dracula watched the skull. Its eye sockets became larger, more round and happy. It produced a touching smile upon its features.

"You are pleased in your heart," the vampire said. He rubbed away the tears rolling over the edge of Micole's eyelids. "I am glad."

Micole sniffed. She touched the skull with one hand, feeling its warmth. She met Dracula's eyes. "Thank you," she said softly. "For everything."

Dracula nodded. "What more do I owe the person who completed my daughter's circle?"

Micole shrugged happily. "I like this, I think." She pulled the cape tighter around herself. "Is Mavis ok?"

Dracula gave a slight nod. "She was acting a bit secretive when I saw her. She told me she saw you leaving into the forest. Did something happen to her?"

Micole sighed. "We met a man she bumped in to in the haunted forest."

"Van Helsing," Dracula said with a shake of his head. "I stumbled across his remains," he explained. He shook his head again. "I do not understand what is happening," he mumbled to himself.

"Those monsters," Micole said. "They were humans at one point. I know it. I could sense it. There was something different about them. Mavis knows something that can stop them. At least, Van Helsing seems to think so."

Dracula frowned his face up in stress. "I have something to do in that case. Keep Mavis company for me in my stead."

"You're leaving?" Micole was shocked.

"I have business to attend to," he responded.

"But what about the party?" Micole wasn't sure why this of all things popped into her head.

"It is tomorrow night," Dracula said. "You will be there, and you will not be feared. You are a human, and together with Mavis and Jonny, we will prove your kind is safe."

Micole couldn't help that her soul broach boasted a fearful frown.

"It's ok," Dracula told her. "We will make sure that nothing happens to you."

After a moment, Micole nodded. "Ok. What time?"

"Don't worry yourself over it," Dracula said making for the door. Micole followed him. "What I want you to think about are the monsters. How many did you stop? I myself killed five."

Micole shook her head. "I don't think I killed any of them. I just knocked them out. They probably got back up and went to wherever it is they came from."

Dracula nodded, but it was clear that this news bothered him. "So they are still out there."

"They were heading towards the castle when I tried to stop them," Micole said. "I don't know what I thought I was doing."

"You did well," Dracula assured her as he opened the door for her. "I saw you for a while before I stepped in. A few monsters slipped past you and into the trees. They didn't get past me, of course."

Micole cringed. That felt like a fail in her eyes.

"Please, take care of yourself better next time," Dracula said. "You were brave, but perhaps that was too many enemies for you alone." Dracula let her into the hall. "Mimi," he said.

Micole faced him.

"Don't run off anymore," he begged. "Please. Next time I may not be able to help you."

Micole and her soul broach smiled softly. "I won't."

Dracula gave her a curt nod. "I have to go, but please, go find Mavis."

Micole nodded in answer. The vampire left Micole and traveled down the hall. Micole watched him until she could no longer see him. She touched her soul broach another time, lighting up its eyes for a quick second as it registered her touch. She headed for Mavis' room once the door to Dracula's chamber shut.

ten minutes earlier...

Quasimodo didn't like the exchange he had witnessed. Where was the blood? Where was the death, the revenge? Why hadn't Micole shredded the other mutants to pieces? What was holding back her transformation?

Quasimodo stared into the cauldron, anger flowing through his veins. Something had happened between Mavis and Dracula while he was watching Micole, he was sure of it. It was starting to worry him that Dracula's voice was barely audible now, the same way Mavis' was. Micole's voice, however, was becoming louder. "She is turning into the monster I need her to be," Quasimodo said to himself. "But it is taking unusually long…"

He turned to a dank corner of his hole, gazing in distaste. A mangled body was there, partly mutated, partly still human. His first attempt at a weapon to destroy Dracula.

The formula had failed him; this human had turned, then reverted back partially. It was useless to him, yet he let it stay there, hoping it would return to its vicious state. While the mutant was all monster it had done Quasimodo well. It had hunted Van Helsing and taken the book. It had also been in route to take out Mavis' precious human, Jonathan.

But between it all, something had taken hold of the mutant and turned its transformation process backwards. "I cannot let ze same thing happen to Micole," Quasimodo growled. He had to make his move soon, yet it was getting impossible to predict what his adversaries were planning now that he could no longer hear the main players. At this point, he was relying on Micole's steadily increasing volume to give him a heads up, but now, he didn't even want a heads up. He was just going to unleash his weapons on Dracula. "Prepare yourself, count," the hunchback drawled. "It is time to meet your maker…"

Mavis was asleep when Micole knocked quietly on the door. The vampire rose from atop her coffin and stretched her arms out. She jumped up and ran to the door. She was stunned to find Micole there, all dirty and bruised.

"What happened to you!" Mavis cried.

Micole gave her a small smile and stepped inside. "I did what I had to do," Micole told her.

Mavis put a hand on her hip. "I've heard that one before," she grumbled. "And it did not turn out in my dad's favor when he 'did what he had to do'."

Micole grinned. She found a place to sit on Mavis' bed, rubbing her arms slowly, at last feeling the fatigue and over exertion from her battle. "I tried to leave," the human said. "But I saw something dangerous and tried to stop it from getting here."

Mavis watched Micole in awe, sitting opposite her on her desk chair. "You look like you got beat up!" she said. Micole shrugged in response. "A little bit," she admitted. "The monster that bit me," Micole said. "There were almost thirty of them, on their way to the hotel."

Mavis's blue eyes bulged. "Thirty of them!"

Micole nodded. She looked at Mavis. "The party is tomorrow," she mentioned. Mavis nodded, still flabbergasted by her friend's appearance. "You are coming, aren't you?"

Micole nodded. "I am. I'm better now." Her soul broach seemed to glow a little brighter.

Mavis saw it. "What is that?" she asked.

Micole held the skull in her hand. "It's a soul broach," she replied.

Mavis gasped. "No way! Where did you get it?"

Micole smiled. "Your dad gave it to me."

Mavis gave a surprised gasp. "That is awesome," she said. "You know a soul broach is a connection to another world, right?"

Micole looked down at the little skull. "What does that mean?"

Mavis shrugged. "Means you are closer to my dad now, and probably all monsters."

Micole grinned at the skull. "So I'm finally a part of the family, huh?"

Mavis grinned. "About time." The two stood at the same time and hugged.

Heavy bass sounded across the pool area as the party commenced, the stage from last year back in place with even more lights and even louder speakers. Monsters were dancing and eating all over the area, even more blown away than they were last year. "This is definitely the best one!" they shouted to each other.

Wayne, Frank, and Murray were doing what they did best, singing lyrics written by Jonny about Mavis and Micole.

Mimi the monster, Mavis the beauty, making the world feel so right

You got the prettiest faces, making everything so outta sight

Come on down cause the party's in town and they're waitin for you to say…

Party tonight! Party so right! Party like it's your last time!

Kick it with us, the moment's so right, let the bite of the night affect your body tonight!

Micole heard the music from her hotel room. She could see the edges of the lights, bright and colorful. She sighed.

Mavis knocked once on the open door and came in, a rolling luggage bag behind her. "Hey, Mimi," she said. Micole turned, putting on a smile. Her broach tried to cheer up a bit.

"You ok?" Mavis asked as she knelt to unzip the bag. Micole shrugged. "A little restless, I guess. I just have a weird feeling about tonight, like something will go wrong."

"Well, you can't go wrong with these!" Mavis lifted two costumes out of the bag and held them up for Micole to see. The human was taken aback. "Wow!" She went forward to observe them better. "You like them?" Mavis asked, happy. Micole nodded, touching the vampire dress and the Victorian shirt and slack set.

"These are awesome!" Micole said. "Are these both for me?"

Mavis nodded. "I'm already in my costume." She twirled around to show Micole her dark princess dress. "I have a scepter, too," Mavis winked. Micole laughed. "Well… I really like the black one. But maybe I should go for the vampire dress."

Mavis made a face. She looked the dress up and down. "You sure?" She shrugged. She placed the shirt and blazer and slacks on Micole's bed, then put the dress up to her friend, who was in a white t-shirt and green jeans at the moment. She nodded. "Ok, I guess that does look good. At least with a cape. And you'll have to put your hair up."

Micole smiled. She took the dress from Mavis and hurried to the bathroom. While she changed, Micole couldn't help but stop at her reflection. Yesterday she'd been bruised and in pain. Now, she had no marks to speak of and felt fine. Her eyes were bright and energetic. Cheeks flushed in both happiness and anxiety.

Shaking her head because her thoughts were making her uneasy, Micole continued to change. Mavis was twirling in her dress outside the bathroom, waving her short, sparkly staff around, making shapes in the air. Micole came up behind her. "Well?" she asked with a grin.

Mavis turned. Her face lit up. "You look great!" she said.

Micole shrugged slightly, happy about the turn out of the costume. It was long and red. The material was silky and lustrous. There was a black sash at her waist and fishnet to cover the chest area since the dress was a v-neck. It was sleeveless and hugged her curves.

"Are you going to put your hair up?" Mavis asked. "You'd really look the part then. And make-up! Don't forget your make up!"

She ran over to the luggage bag and yanked out a small toilet bag. "I'll fix you up," she told Micole. Without permission, she started to apply foundation to Micole's face. Micole shut her eyes and let Mavis do her work. After a while, she no longer felt anything touching her face. Now, she felt her hair being combed and brushed up into a ponytail. Then nothing was touching her again.

"Ok," Micole heard Mavis say. "Open your eyes."

Micole's hazel eyes opened at once. A mirror was in her face. "Wow," she said, surprised at how good she looked. "You outdid yourself," she told Mavis. Micole took the hand mirror from her friend as Mavis got yet another object from her bag. She rushed back to Micole and put an arm over her shoulder. "Smile!" she chimed, holding up a camera. Micole and Mavis put their cheeks together and smiled at the lens. The flash blinded them.

"Let's see it!" Mavis said. She held the camera out so Micole could see. The young women laughed. "You showed up in the photo," Micole said. "Vampires really aren't all that different after all, huh?"

The two laughed as Mavis shrugged.

The vampire put a hand on the human's shoulder. "Let's do this," she declared.

the pool quarter...

Dracula and Bethinda were milling about in the area just before the pool. They stood next to one another, their silhouettes in the archway blocking the entertainment in the court.

"Tonight is going well," the witch said to her employer.

Dracula put his nose in the air. "For now. I am still edgy. I'll be ready right after Mavis' party."

Bethinda nodded. "Are you bringing along the child?"

"Mimi?" Dracula shook his head. "I cannot. Who knows what we'll find. It could trigger something in her. I'd hate to have to hurt her."

Bethinda looked up at the vampire beside her. "But you are prepared to do just that."

"If I must," Dracula clarified. "But I would hope I wouldn't have to. She means a lot."

Bethinda shook her head. "You have come to love her as Mavis has," she stated. "Now, if you must leave her, it will break both your hearts. And hers."

Dracula acknowledged this fact. He returned Bethinda's gaze. "Let us hope fate is on our side, then."

The pair separated here, Bethinda turning back into the castle and Dracula stepping out of it to mingle and find his little girl.

Mavis found him first. "Dad!" she called. She had Jonny on her arm, dressed up as Frankenstein, for old time's sake.

Dracula at last felt calmed. He met his daughter halfway, grinning at her. "Your dress is lovely, mouse," he told her after a tight hug.

"Thanks, dad," Mavis said. "I see you're still Count Dracula for Halloween." She rolled her eyes. "Um, we also need to talk." She glanced at Jonny. "Again."

Dracula sighed loudly. "Can't it wait, sweetie?" he pleaded. "There is so much rejoicing right now, must you taint it with inconvenient news?"

Mavis puckered her lips and leaned towards her father. "This is sort of important, dad," she pressed in a whisper. Just as Mavis was about to begin telling her father about the book and the torn page, Micole appeared near them with a smile. "Hey, everyone," she greeted.

"Mimi," Mavis said in apparent surprise.

Dracula double-took at her appearance. His jaw dropped a bit as he sized Micole up. Her dress was long and touched the ground just enough to seem even longer. She was swathed in the black and red cape her soul broach was attached to and it ended right at the hem of her dress. Her curly hair, usually in a ponytail, was up in a playfully messy bun at the top of her head with a swooping bang that hid half of her somewhat sultry expression. Her hazel eyes appeared to be a green color with her eye shadow.

"You look amazing," Dracula told her absently.

Micole blushed. "Um, t-thank you, count." She smiled shyly at him.

Dracula felt a nudge in his ribs. Startled, he looked down to find Jonny grinning slyly at him. The human lifted an eyebrow.

Dracula was lost at the look, because it seemed that Jonny was inferring something from the way the vampire was observing the human woman before him. "What?" Dracula shrugged.

Mavis tugged at Jonny. "We'll see you guys later," she offered with a smile.

Dracula had a fit. "Mavis!" he cried. "I have barely seen you at all when I wasn't in a crisis!"

"Dad, relax!" Mavis ordered. "Enjoy yourself!" She pulled Jonny away towards a table, leaving Micole and Dracula together.

Mavis watched them from her new spot, holding Jonny close to her. "Jonny," she said in an urgent whisper, "I found something in the forest earlier with Mimi!"

Jonathan looked down to her and, upon seeing the panic in her eyes, leaned closer to hear her without others intruding. Not that they could with the music blaring. "Mavis, what's wrong? You've been acting funny for the past two days!" He wrapped an arm around her waist as she pushed into him.

"Jonny, there's something terrible coming this way," she informed her love. "Mimi saw it and tried to stop it. I think it has something to do with this book I found in the woods…" From the fluff of her dress she pulled out Van Helsing's spell book. Jonny's eyes widened. "Whoa," he said simply. Mavis nodded.

"It has something in here about my dad! How to defeat him in battle and kill him, except—"

A sharp noise cut the air, howling over the party. Many monsters covered their ears. The band halted with ungraceful sounds.

Mavis cradled her book and turned to see behind her, towards the wall surrounding the pool quarter where the oddity seemed to emanate from. Jonathan looked with her, gripping her tightly at the waist and keeping her close.

Micole and Dracula both took a step forward, ears straining to hear anything over the overwhelming new silence.

Micole felt surrounded, just as she had in the clearing. Her body responded naturally, growing out her nails slowly, anticipating threat. She felt a thunder of tremors beneath her feet.

An intense second rolled by where the air itself seemed to hold still. Like lightning, a beast sprang from beyond the wall, howling in fury.

Everyone screamed.

Micole and Dracula immediately crouched down as monsters ran amok around them, scurrying to avoid the army of large were-creatures leaping down on them. The creatures herded the party towards the pool, making a ring around them. Micole let her transformation take over, cringing from the sudden pull of her irises and the force of tooth sprouting from her gums.

Her skin began to harden again, vision creating a controlled sphere around her.

From the other side of the green water of the pool, out of the darkness, a mutant came flying at Mavis and Jonny, now positioned just ahead and to the side of Micole and Dracula. Micole saw the dread in the couple's eyes. She took no time in meeting the creature head on with a heavy flying kick to the jaw.

The monster spiraled backwards, flailing in the air. Micole headed down, barely landing on her feet at the extreme edge of the pool. She teetered before failing to regain her balance because of her dress, and splashed into the cold pool.

A second later, she was thrust upward by the tentacle monster. She tottered once more as she caught her breath and balance, posing in traditional kung-fu stance atop the slimy creature.

A dour laugh filled the area. A final, enormous mutant cleared the wall, skidding to a halt opposite Dracula and Micole.

"Bonjour, monsieur Dracula," a deranged voice rang darkly. The beast became more clear as dust settled. At the shoulder of the mutant stood Quasimodo Wilson, grin nastier than ever before.

"Quasimodo!" Dracula growled, eyes glowing blue.

"Indeed!" the Frenchman cried. "I am honored that you remember. It has been long, no?"

"Why are you here?" Dracula spat.

Quasimodo stared down at his dirty nails. "Ah, simply to reclaim the hotel and rid it of…" He glared at Micole and Jonathan. "…Pests." An evil laugh erupted from the hunchback.

Dracula roared, monsters near him backing away with frightened gasps.

Quasimodo tapped his chin thoughtfully. "Oh, but let us see. How should I destroy your legacy? From the bottom up, perhaps?" He glared at Mavis.

"I won't let you!" Micole determined. "I'm going to stop you! What you're doing is cruel!"

Quasimodo acknowledged her. "Yes, young Mimi. A pleasure to meet you in person at last!" He narrowed his yellow eyes. "Indeed the last time I will see you in this light."

Dracula charged at the statement, roaring like a true monster. With a cry of triumph from the little tyrant, Quasimodo's mutant took off, evading the vampire as a dozen others attacked instead.

Micole held her ground on the tentacle as mutant after mutant launched themselves at her. She took them out fairly easily, using her vision to control her situation. Dracula felled his opponents as well, protecting Mavis and Jonathan as the two apparently became the targets.

From a blind spot, Quasimodo's mutant pounced at the pool, slicing the tentacle in half. Blood sprayed. Micole fell from her vantage point with a scream as her monster ally toppled, falling towards the cement rather than water this time.

Dracula's eyes caught the movement, his attention directed at Micole now. "Mimi!" he cried. He threw himself at her, snatching her from the air. His absence was not missed. Mavis was wide open now, surrounded and cornered. She backed as far as she and Jonathan could. The two tried to brace themselves.

But when the next mutant jumped at them, Frank abruptly got in the way, punching out the beast. It fell with a whimper, slipping into the pool. "I got you, Mavy!" Frank shouted. "Just stay behind me!"

More beasts advanced. From all sides, however, the mutants were now under attack. The monster patrons were using their natural ways to tear at the intruders, growling and roaring true to their natures. Wayne, Murray and Griffin grinned to each other. "Like old times!" Griffin said as the trio laid into opponents.

Dracula set his sights on Quasimodo. Micole put herself on the ground, glaring intently at her enemy.

Quasimodo smiled. At once he turned to run.

Micole sped to him, Dracula beside her. The vampire took on the mutant and Micole made her way to do the same. With the ease of practice, she popped pressure point after pressure point, rotating around the beast. Dracula tore into its chest and neck, avoiding its thick teeth.

Slowly the creature crumpled, unable to stand as Micole disrupted his muscles' natural functions. With a last burst of power, Micole slammed both her palms into its bloody chest with a powerful yell. Quasimodo and his pet soared over the pool area, falling out of sight with a terrified howl that became more and more faint.

The other mutants that still stood turned and fled, leaping back the way they had come. The crowd let out cheers, surrounding Micole, Mavis, Jonny and Dracula.

Micole's heavy pants grew quiet as she sensed something in the air. "Quiet!" she called, hushing the party. She watched the hazy sky where Quasimodo had vanished. Next to her, Dracula had began to slowly look left and right.

A shadow leapt over them all.

A startled cry erupted.

When nothing more happened, Micole had a flashback to her first encounter with these creatures. Reflexively she turned to see over her shoulder.

"Ha ha!" Quasimodo cried from the darkness. His mutant distracted everyone as he jumped and went for Micole. He jammed a syringe into her scar. "ARGGHH!" Micole dropped to her knees.

With another laugh of victory, Quasimodo leapt back atop his mutant and balanced on the wall, gazing back at Micole.

"Mimi!" several shouted. The girl was surrounded. Dracula turned to glare at his nemesis. Quasimodo mouthed the words, 'Got you' to the infuriated vampire. He disappeared with another cry of triumph.

Micole felt tears pouring from her eyes, and fire pouring from her collar. She gripped her scar, spreading her fingers to avoid touching the needle protruding from her flesh.

Mavis was at her side. "Mimi, are you ok!" she cried. She cupped her friend's cheek, trying to see her face.

Micole's fangs were thick and long, her skin smooth and flawless. With a shout of pain that made those around her recoil, she tugged out the needle, blood squirting from the scar that apparently had burst open at last. Micole screamed as fire consumed her.

"Mimi!" Mavis reached out. And froze. Her eyes dialated. She was stunned. What a delicious smell…

Her black eyes met Micole's orange eyes as the girl managed to lift her lids up. She did not like the look on Mavis' face. She tilted her head. "Mavis…?" she asked quietly.

The monsters around her stared at Mavis. Dracula's stomach dropped into an abyss. No, he prayed. Not Mimi and Mavis… Mavis…!

The smell of fresh blood, still human in essence, turned Mavis' irises bright red. She looked down at Micole. "I need to taste that…"

She tackled Micole.