Face to Face – 3/3 – Ladynero

Title: Face to Face
Author: Ladynero
Fandom: Vampire Hunter D, Castlevania (Netflix)
Genre: Action Adventure, BDSM, Het, Horror, Menage or more, Paranormal/Supernatural, Slash
Relationship(s): Meier Link/Charlotte Elbourne/Vampire Hunter D, Alan Elbourne/Ten Heart (OFC), Ten Heart (OFC)/Jack Heart(OMC)
Content Rating: NC-17
Warnings: Incest, Major Character Death, Violence – Graphic, Negotiated non-con in a BDSM relationship, Murder, Blood play, Blood drinking
Author Notes: See notes tab on Summary Post for warnings related to specific chapters and other author notes.
Word Count: 81,930
Summary: A twist of fate, or perhaps an act of compassion, has the vampire Noble Meier Link and his human love, Charlotte Elbourne, whisked off to a new life where they will be free to love each other without fear or persecution. Yet family is not so easily denied, and Alan Elbourne wants to know the fate of his sister, unsatisfied with the story he was told. Falling in with the Royal Heart family, a group of con artists, thieves, and murderers, he hunts for Charlotte, determined to bring her home one way or another. Standing between the lovers and the crooks is the enigmatic Vampire Hunter known only as D, but it is not only bodies but hearts on the line when they all come face to face.
Artist: Izzy Hound



Chapter 13

 

It had taken a couple of days of planning and more than a little help from a few people that had asked some rather uncomfortable questions – and he never wished to discuss his sexual intentions with the Sacred Ancestor ever again if he could help it – but Mayerling had everything set up to fulfill Yasha’s fantasy. Dr. Liao had supplied the sedative with stern instructions on how it was to be used and any possible side effects, and he had also extracted a promise from Mayerling to call him immediately if anything went wrong.

Charlotte had kept Yasha busy with various questions and other things during their time together, giving Mayerling more than enough time to get everything set up for the session, but it would still come down to what Yasha wanted. The sedative was mixed in a glass of water as directed and set on a table that Mayerling had deliberately placed in the middle of the room, before he had withdrawn into the shadows of the prince’s rooms, his cape wrapped around him as he waited.

The door opened, pulling Mayerling out of his thoughts, and he watched as Yasha entered the room only to hesitate, pale eyes flicking around as he tensed. This was something Mayerling had been expecting which was why he had waited in the rooms instead of coming after the sedative had taken effect. If Yasha even drank the glass.

“Tonight is about making a fantasy into reality, my prince,” Mayerling said from the shadows without giving his position away, and he watched the battle tension slide out of the dhampir. “The glass holds water and a sedative prepared by Dr. Liao for you as it is hard to kidnap someone out of their bed if they are still awake.”

Even though he was doing what he could to not give his hiding spot away, those pale eyes focused right on him, and he could see a bit of calculation in that gaze. “Dr. Liao insisted that we call him immediately if anything went wrong at any point tonight, and you have your safe words,” continued Mayerling, remaining motionless save for his lips. “Should you not wish for this to happen, say the word, and I will return the sedative to Dr. Liao for disposal. No questions asked, and no explanation necessary.”

“You have kept your word to me about many things, Mayerling, including your intentions towards Charlotte,” Yasha said, his voice carrying the cooler tone of the Vampire Hunter, and Mayerling had to wonder for once if the two roles were distinct personalities or merely masks. Ruby eyes watched as a long fingered hand wrapped around the glass, bringing it to Yasha’s mouth. “We have talked and negotiated. I trust you to respect my words.”

Mayerling held his breath as Yasha drank the water before placing the glass on the table with a soft clink. Yasha’s breath hitched, his knees buckling as the sedative took hold much quicker than he was expecting, and Mayerling was at his side in the blink of an eye. Strong arms wrapped around Yasha, holding him against Mayerling’s body, and the Noble watched as Yasha tried to fight the sedative. More out of instinct than any real sense of danger, Mayerling suspected. Between one breath and the next, dark lashes fell over pale eyes as Yasha sagged in Mayerling’s arms, all tension gone from his body like a puppet whose strings had been cunt, and Mayerling’s fingers pressed against Yasha’s throat, a touch of concern sliding through him. The dhampir’s pulse was a bit fast but it was already slowing down into a state of rest, and Mayerling pressed a kiss to Yasha’s forehead.

“Your trust and faith in me is humbling, my prince,” he murmured, gathering the sleeping dhampir in his arms before leaving the rooms, the door quietly closing behind him.

On silent feet, he raced through the halls to the room he had prepared in advance with some help because he didn’t want Yasha to wake before the scene was set, and considering how instinctive it was for Yasha to fight the sedative, Mayerling wasn’t taking any chances on the prince being unconscious for the full time limit Dr. Liao had given him.

Charlotte jumped to her feet when he practically burst into the room, concern on her face, and Mayerling smiled at her in a reassuring manner. “He’s fine, just fighting the sedative,” he reassured her, moving over to the low platform bed that only had a sheet covered mattress and placing Yasha on it. “I believe it is more instinct than a conscious desire.”

“What do you need me to do?” she asked, sitting on the edge of the mattress as she watched Mayerling strip Yasha of his clothes with sure fingers.

“Fetch the costume and the bonds, my heart,” he instructed, nodding to the pile that was carefully placed off to one side. She nodded, and he heard her gather up the items in question as he focused on getting Yasha’s boots off. He huffed as he struggled with the stubborn buckles. “Only you would have clothing that resisted its removal, my prince.”

What seemed like an eternity later, he managed to get both boots off, and Charlotte returned, dropping her bundle on the mattress. She giggled at the look of irritation on Mayerling’s face as he turned his attention to Yasha’s pants.

“You keep getting upset at the little things, my love, and we’ll just have to figure out how to get you in a better mood,” she teased before wrapping leather cuffs around Yasha’s bare wrists as Mayerling managed to finish stripping the dhampir. Only the silk glove was left on Yasha’s left hand, and Mayerling wouldn’t remove that without Yasha’s expressed permission, or another apparent panic attack similar to what had happened before.

“And you would think that he would wear clothing that was a bit easier to get off him when unconscious,” Mayerling pointed out, reaching for the sheer bit of cloth and fastening it around Yasha’s hips with a gold chain belt in a makeshift loin cloth. The transparency of the cloth ensured that while Yasha was covered, nothing was hidden from them. “Get his ankles while I see to his hair.”

Charlotte nodded and scooped up the other set of leather cuffs, shifting to the bottom of the mattress while Mayerling quickly braided Yasha’s hair before pinning it up in a sort of crown. It left his back completely bare, and Mayerling watched as a shiver raced through Yasha’s body, undoubtedly a reaction to being so vulnerable at the moment. Reaching out, Mayerling stretched out behind Yasha, pressing his bare chest to that scarred spine while wrapping a secure arm around his waist, and he was very glad that he had gotten changed before going to Yasha’s room. It would be hard to get into the tight leather pants and knee high boots with one hand.

Once she was done, Charlotte retreated to the overstuffed chair that was her “throne” for the duration of the scene and got comfortable as they waited for Yasha to wake up. Dr. Liao had told him that the sedative should keep Yasha out for half an hour, plenty of time normally to get him into the room and changed, but considering how Yasha had gone down, Mayerling didn’t believe he had that long.

A fact that was proven true when Yasha softly groaned and started stirring in Mayerling’s arms. Mayerling pressed a soft kiss to Yasha’s temple before shifting to whisper in a pointed ear. “Relax. You are surrounded by allies, and you have your safe words.”

The little bit of tension that had appeared in that lovely form faded again as Yasha gave a small nod. Mayerling pressed another kiss to Yasha’s head before rising from the bed to stand next to it, staring down at him as the lights in the room flared with a blue flame that gave everything an ethereal and cold feel.  He knew it would give him an even colder and more pale look than usual, and he waited for Yasha to fully emerge from the sedative.

The prince gave a theatrical groan as he started moving slowly as if testing his freedom only to be brought up short by the chains between his wrists and ankles. Mayerling smirked, sharp and cold, as Yasha blinked in surprise, his gaze falling to the leather cuffs around his wrists and the metal chain stretched between them.

“So nice of you to join us, pet,” drawled Mayerling, and Yasha’s head whipped around to stare at him with wide, pale eyes that didn’t hold a trace of haziness that they normally would have if Yasha had been a normal dhampir or even human. “My lady has been anxious to meet you, and she is quite delighted that you have finally accepted her invitation.”

“My lady?” asked Yasha, sounding dazed, and he slowly pushed himself upright, and Mayerling had to give it to the prince for his acting abilities.

Mayerling’s chuckle was dark as he knelt on the mattress, and he gripped Yasha’s chin, tipping that pale gaze up to meet his own eyes. “It is good you have accepted her as your owner already, pet,” mused the vampire before he bent down to kiss him, hard and claiming. Yasha made a noise of protest even as his bound arms came up to push weaky at Mayerling, and in retaliation, Mayerling bit his lip hard enough to draw blood. “You’re going to learn to enjoy your position as her pet, and I’m going to enjoy training you.”

“N..no,” gasped Yasha, his eyes dark with lust and excitement even as he voiced a denial. “I don’t want to be a pet.”

Leaning in, Mayerling nibbled along his jaw, getting a soft sigh and another of those delightful shivers before he bit Yasha’s ear, getting a curse for his actions. “What makes you believe you have a choice, lovely?” he growled, his hand closing around the chain that stretched between Yasha’s wrists. “Besides, you seem to be enjoying yourself so far. Perhaps, this is what you truly wanted?”

Yasha shook his head again only to yelp as Mayerling pulled him off the bed and over to where a spreader bar was hanging from the ceiling. The short chain between his ankles had Yasha stumbling slightly, but Mayerling kept a firm grip on him to keep him on his feet. It only took a few seconds to have the chain unfastened and the cuffs attached to the bar, and Mayerling ran a hand down Yasha’s back, avoiding the long scar over his spine as he didn’t want to bring that bit of vulnerability up.

“Gorgeous, and I bet you’re going to be even more so collared and at her feet,” purred Mayerling. He briefly left Yasha to collect a second spreader bar, and he knelt, fastening the ankle cuffs to the bar and leaving Yasha in a spread eagle position. Stepping forward, Mayerling pressed his chest against Yasha’s back, reaching around to press his hand against that pale chest as he leaned in to murmur into a pointed ear. “Wellness check. What’s your level?”

“Blood,” Yasha murmured, relaxing back against Mayerling, and the vampire nodded, wrapping his other arm around Yasha, holding him tightly. That hand drifted lower, groping Yasha’s cock which was hard, showing that his body was enjoying this scenario at least. The wellness check had revealed that Yasha was still fine with everything happening which was another small weight off of Mayerling’s shoulders.

“Your body apparently has accepted your new role, pet,” Mayerling drawled as a moan slipped from Yasha, his hips rocking up into that touch even as he looked away in shame, or perhaps denial? Well, that certainly wouldn’t do at all. He circled one of those pink nipples with a sharp claw, and another shiver slid through the body in his arms as the skin tightened in response. “It is an honor to be my lady’s pet, her chosen bed warmer.”

“Then why aren’t you in her bed?” snarled Yasha, jerking on his bonds, and Mayerling laughed, grinding his hips against that delightful ass to let the other feel his hard cock trapped behind leather.

“What makes you think I’m not?” countered Mayerling, dragging his fangs lightly up that delightful throat. “After all, how would I be able to train you for her tastes if I was ignorant of them?”

The cock he was stroking gave a twitch in Mayerling’s fingers, and he chuckled, lightly dragging his claws over that sensitive skin, enjoying the shiver and strong scent of lust that was rising from Yasha’s skin. Briefly, the pale Noble wondered when was the last time Yasha had a chance to indulge in this side of his heritage, to give into the darkness that all vampires craved, before he put those thoughts aside. There would be time for talking later.

This was about the painful pleasure that both craved to share between them.

“I’m going to paint your skin crimson and make you forget what it’s like to not be stretched around a cock, pet,” growled Mayerling, before he stepped around Yasha to grab a long strip of metal from the rolling cart he had placed nearby to hold the various toys and instruments he wanted to use on Yasha. The metal strip was long and would affix itself to the wearer’s skin right over the spine, running from the base of the skull to the tailbone, which he hoped would help Yasha relax with the knowledge that his spine wouldn’t be harmed. The downside was that while wearing it, the person would be unable to move their head at all as it was often used to help spinal injuries heal without the need of a bulky body cast.

Mayerling placed one end of the metal strip at the base of Yasha’s skull, just above his hairline, and with careful fingers, he pressed it against the scar that marked Yasha’s spine. When he reached the chain belt, he simply removed it and the sheer material with a flick of his fingers, letting it fall to the floor as he finished placing the metal. Almost instantly, Yasha straightened as much as he could in his bonds with his head coming up, and Mayerling moved around in front of him, cupping his chin as he searched that lovely face for any sign of distress.

“Wellness check. What’s your level?” he murmured, wanting to make sure Yasha was fine with that restraint as he had worn one whenever he had recovered from surgery as a child.

“Bless,” confessed Yasha, closing his eyes, and Mayerling stepped forward to press their chests together, his arms wrapping around Yasha in support and comfort. “Need a couple of minutes.”

“Take your time,” murmured Mayerling, simply holding Yasha. “I apologize for any discomfort, but it was the only option I had to offer you protection for your spine, as I know how sensitive you are of it.”

“Appreciate it,” murmured Yasha before taking several slow, deep breaths while Mayerling stood there, offering silent support and comfort. He was willing to wait until Yasha was ready to continue or call the whole thing off.

“Blood.”

The word was whispered against Mayerling’s ear, and he nodded in acknowledgement, their cheeks brushing together. Yasha wished to continue, and continue they would. He would merely change the order in which things would happen to ensure Yasha was still fine when the pale Noble took a whip to his skin.

Pulling back slightly, he cupped Yasha’s face with one hand, pressing their lips together, as the other reached down to lightly stroke Yasha’s cock which had only softened slightly. Growling in delight, Mayerling explored every bit of that delightfully hot cavern even as his tongue curled around Yasha’s fangs, teasing them into elongating if they hadn’t already. A whimper slipped out of Yasha’s lips to be swallowed by Mayerling’s mouth, and Mayerling felt his dhampir lover surrendering to him.

“Good pet. You’re learning quickly who your masters are,” purred Mayerling, swiping his thumb over the weeping head of Yasha’s hard cock, and he got another groan from Yasha. He truly was gorgeous when enjoying his pleasure. Stepping back just enough, Mayerling bent down and sank his fangs into Yasha’s pectoral, framing his nipple nicely and getting a strangled moan from his lover. Mayerling purred as he licked the blood from those wounds, deliberately running his tongue over that tight nipple. “Delicious. I can’t wait to see how the rest of you tastes.”

Standing up, he stepped away from Yasha, making sure to stay within his sight, as he approached his cart again. This time, he grabbed a fresh tube of lube and a vibrating dildo that doubled as a plug, and he stepped behind Yasha, slicking up his fingers before sliding the tube into a front pocket on his pants for easy access later.

“Such a fabulous ass,” growled Mayerling as he carefully eased a finger past that tight muscle, and Yasha cried out as his body was breached. They had fucked each other as well as Charlotte since their first time together, but every time, Yasha felt as tight as their first time together. He gave Yasha a few moments to adjust to the sensation before he started slowly fucking him with his finger. “I can’t wait to feel you wrapped around my cock.”

Another moan spilled out of Yasha, and his cheeks started flexing around Mayerling’s finger, almost eager in how he was trying to chase his pleasure since he was unable to move his hips due to the back restraint. Snorting, Mayerling shoved the dildo under his arm before laying two hard slaps on those cheeks, getting a startled yelp for his actions.

“You don’t move until I give you permission, greedy pet,” growled Mayerling, knowing how easy it would be to scratch such sensitive tissue with his claws. He wasn’t going to harm Yasha like that. “Do you understand, pet?”

“Y.. yes,” stuttered Yasha, and Mayerling could feel him trembling under his hands. This was a side of the dhampir that hadn’t been seen before, the impatient and undisciplined young man who wanted to chase his pleasure no matter where it was coming from and no matter how it might hurt.

Mayerling laid another two slaps on that ass, right next to the first red prints that were starting to stain that pale skin. “Yes what, pet?”

“Yes, sir,” spat Yasha, making the title sound like a slur, and Mayerling smirked at how delightful that was. How he was not going to “break” despite his enjoyment of this session.

Tisking, Mayerling continued to slowly stretch Yasha for the dildo plug. “You are determined to be obstinate until the very end, aren’t you?” he sighed, shaking his head as he carefully slid a second finger into that tight body. “It will make it all the more sweeter when you finally fall.”

“Won’t give in to the likes of you,” Yasha managed to get out even though there was a soft groan in his voice, and Mayerling smirked at the back of Yasha’s head. Yes, his pretty lover was finding it quite enjoyable if the sounds coming from him were any indication.

“Isn’t that what the last one said, my lady?” Mayerling asked, directing his words towards Charlotte whom he didn’t think Yasha was aware of in the room. Although, it was quite possible considering Yasha’s instincts that he was completely aware of who was in the room and where they were.

There was a rustle of fabric as Charlotte rose from her chair before wandering over to stand in front of Yasha. She was wrapped in a sheer robe that did nothing to hide her beautiful curves from either of them, and she smirked as she reached up to run a finger down Yashan’s cheek and over his lips. “That one broke in a bad way, and we had to get rid of him,” she sighed, sounding so very disappointed as she shook her head. “I hope you don’t break like that because you are far too gorgeous to get rid of.”

She smirked at Mayerling over Yasha’s shoulder as she stepped back, her hands going behind her back. “Do make him scream for me, my darling.”

“It will be my pleasure, my lady,” purred Mayerling as he watched her return to her overstuffed chair. His fingers never stopped moving inside of Yasha, and he pulled his fingers out, getting a faint whimper of disappointment. “Relax, pretty pet, you’re going to have more than enough to feed this greedy hole.”

Spreading the lube over the dildo, Mayerling pressed the blunt head against that loosened hole and carefully pressed it in. It wasn’t much bigger than a couple of fingers but it was long enough to brush against Yasha’s prostate to stimulate that lovely cluster of nerves. Yasha yelped when it pressed against his prostate, and Mayerling smirked as he turned it on low but with the vibrations coming at random intervals and for irregular lengths of time. All the better to ensure he didn’t get used to the sensation.

Yasha cried out, shivering in his bonds, and Mayerling walked around him, lightly dragging his claws over that pale, flawless skin to leave faint pink lines behind. “You’re going to look glorious with crimson decorating your skin,” sighed Mayerling before retrieving a bullwhip that was curled up on the tray. He unwound it with a flick of his wrist before he snapped it, getting a delightful crack. “I’m going to crack the whip twice more before putting a stripe on your back.”

“Yes, sir,” whispered Yasha, acknowledging the words even as he twitched in his bonds. Nearly eight feet of braided leather flew through the air with a pair of distinct cracks before Mayerling directed it towards Yasha’s back. The dhampir cried out, arching forward as best he could in his bonds, and a welt appeared across his shoulder blades, neatly bisected by the metal brace.

Mayerling moved closer to Yasha, resting a comforting hand on his shoulder. This was the roughest they had ever played, and it made Mayerling want to continue, to practically whip the skin from his back, but that wasn’t for pleasure. That was for enemies. “What’s your level, Yasha?”

“B…blood,” Yasha managed to get out past the little whimpers caught in his breath, and Mayerling looked at him, critically. Now red eyes were blown wide in pleasure, and venom was dripping off of his fangs as his mouth hung open. Despite that, there was no evidence that Yasha was anything but what he was claiming. Good.

“Good pet,” purred Mayerling, brushing a soft kiss along his throat. “I’m going to give you six stripes along your back in total, and the last three are going to bleed, decorating your lovely skin with crimson.”

Stepping back to his previous spot, Mayerling flicked the whip through the air a couple more times, not cracking it but loosening his arm as he planned where each of those stripes was going to go. The next lash fell across Yasha’s shoulders, getting another yelp followed by a moan of pure pleasure, and the third welt appeared just below his shoulder blades with another crack. Holding his breath, Mayerling placed the fourth stripe just below that one, and true to his word, blood started beading up almost immediately. He didn’t hesitate in placing the fifth and sixth stripes in neat rows ending just above the swell of Yasha’s ass before he dropped the whip on the floor to be collected later as he moved over to the dhampir.

“Blood,” gasped Yasha as soon as Mayerling came into his sight, and Mayerling cupped his face, bending in to kiss those delightful lips. Yasha’s kiss was hungry and desperate as he nipped at Mayerling’s lips with greedy little moans slipping out to be swallowed by the pale Noble.

“So gorgeous,” purred Mayerling, appreciation on his face for this beauty who was willing to share their bed and offer up his own desires to them despite his past experiences. “I want to see you come with that plug buzzing away in your ass, pretty pet. Then, I’ll take it out and replace it with my cock, fucking you before you’ve even managed to come down from your climax. That’s what you want, isn’t it? To be used until I’m satisfied?”

“Please,” gasped Yasha, trembling with need in his bonds, and Mayerling reached down to curl his fingers around that erection that must be almost aching with need. He unfastened his pants with one hand, sighing in relief  as his own cock sprang free of the leather, and he managed to spread a generous amount of lube on his cock, ready to fulfill his promise to Yasha.

Crying out, Yasha shuddered as his cock twitched in Mayerling’s hand, and he sagged slightly as he came all over Mayerling’s fingers. Barely giving the dhampir a chance to catch his breath, Mayerling moved behind him and pulled out the vibrator before he started slowly pushing into that wonderful ass. His fingers curled around Yasha’s hips, holding him as he carefully slid into that delightful body, growling in delight as tight muscles stretched around him. Chants of “blood” were falling from Yasha’s lips, and Mayerling shivered as he settled balls deep in that fantastic ass.

Reaching up, he gently removed the metal brace before holding it out for Charlotte to take as he didn’t wish to accidentally damage it, and she quickly and silently brushed past to grab it before withdrawing again. Growling in delight, Mayerling pressed his chest against Yasha’s back and brought a hand around to lightly trace sharp claws over muscles, feeling the dhampir in his embrace shiver and mewl in delight.

“Shall I decorate more of your skin with crimson lines, pet?” Mayerling purred in a pointed ear before lightly nipping it. He circled the nipple he had abused earlier, and Yasha shuddered, arching his back to push his chest into that sharp edge. He buried his face in the crook of Yasha’s neck and inhaled, reveling in the scent that clung to his skin. “You smell so delicious. I may decide to keep you for myself.”

“Please,” whimpered Yasha, and Mayerling growled as he started slowly fucking him, taking his time as the dhampir was still tight. The first slow drag of his cock earned him a yelp and more shivers before Yasha simply melted in his arms with his head falling back onto Mayerling’s shoulder, revealing the long length of his neck. His eyes were open, but the red was eclipsed by black pupils as he rode on the endorphins that undoubtedly had flooded his body by this point.

“How can I resist when you plead so prettily,” murmured Mayerling. He kept one hand anchored on Yasha’s hip as he started moving a bit faster now that he could feel his lover starting to loosen around him, and he brought his left hand up to that nearly unmarked chest. The previously untouched nipple was circled by a sharp claw, leaving a ring of crimson behind before another crimson line connected to another circle around the other nipple.

Whimpers and moans continued to fall from Yasha’s lips along with pleas as Mayerling continued to fuck him while almost doodling various shapes and designs on Yasha’s chest, leaving bloody lines in his wake. The hand on Yasha’s hip slid around his waist, holding him close to Mayerling, and the pale Noble growled, licking up that vulnerable throat as he smeared the spilled blood across Yasha’s pale skin.

“So glorious like this, a canvas for me to paint with pain, pleasure, and blood,” he growled, feeling his own climax coming, but he did his best to hold it off a bit longer. His bloodied hand came up to press against Yasha’s stomach while the clean hand from around his waist slid down to curl around his hard cock. “I want you to come for me again, just like this. With your blood painting your skin, my cock in your ass, and your cock in my hand.”

“Bite?” begged Yasha, his voice cracking slightly on that word which made Mayerling wonder if he had pushed the dhampir too far, but Yasha hadn’t used any of his words beyond the one indicating he was fine with proceeding. Mayerling hoped that he was just that far gone on pleasure.

“As you have been so very good, you shall have a bite,” purred Mayerling, knowing he wouldn’t last long with the taste of Yasha’s blood on his tongue. He trailed his lips over that exposed throat again, teasing his lover with the sharp points of his fangs before he suddenly turned his head, sinking his fangs into Yasha’s shoulder. Shrieking, Yasha stiffened before shuddering hard in Mayerling’s embrace, and Mayerling actually whimpered as Yasha tightened almost painfully so around him. However, he easily followed Yasha over the edge into his own climax.

For several seconds, they remained like that, locked together in an erotic tableau, before Yasha gave a tired moan, melting in his bonds. Mayerling carefully withdrew his fangs before licking the wound closed, and he placed a soft kiss on Yasha’s cheek.

“Thank you, my prince, for your trust,” he murmured before reaching up to unfasten Yasha from the spreader bars by way of the quick release. It was easier and faster than trying to fumble with the buckles one handed, and he looked up as Charlotte approached, a delighted flush on her cheeks but willing to help. “Bring the cart over to the bed.”

She nodded as Mayerling carefully lifted a limp Yasha into his arms and carried him over to the mattress. It didn’t matter if the sheet ended up bloodstained as there was a layer under them to keep the mattress clean, but Mayerling still carefully settled Yasha on his side. “Let me tend to your back, my prince, and then you can lay flat while I tend to your chest.”

A sleepy hum was his response, and Charlotte giggled as Mayerling grabbed the healing cream and a shallow pan of warm water with a cloth soaking in it from the cart. “He looks like a cat that found the perfect sunbeam after getting into the catnip,” she explained, settling next to Yasha’s head and gently running her hand over his still bound hair. “Just so very relaxed.”

“That is the wonders of endorphins, my love,” remarked Mayerling, carefully washing Yasha’s back clean of blood before examining the welts. The three that had been bleeding had already healed and the ones above that were slowly fading. Just to be safe, Mayerling gently rubbed the healing cream into each one before he rinsed the cloth in the water and cleaned between Yasha’s legs. That earned him a twitch and a faint sound before Yasha settled again.

“Just rest, Yasha. Let us do all the work right now,” Mayerling soothed as he gently rolled Yasha onto his back. There was a small whimper as the dhampir settled his weight on those slowly fading welts, but he settled again as Mayerling began to wipe away the blood from his skin. Most of those were starting to heal already, and Mayerling spread the cream over each one. When he was done, he unfastened the cuffs from Yasha’s wrists and ankles before he snagged the soft blanket from the cart. He gestured for Charlotte to cuddle with Yasha before tucking them both in.

“Keep him warm and comfortable, my lady,” Mayerling instructed as he rose from the bed, and the lights shifted from cold blue to a more natural warm fire. “I’m going to clean up before I join you.”

“I’m going to at least unpin his hair,” she sniffed before doing just that. “It’s never fun to sleep with your hair all coiled on your head.”

“Thus speaks the voice of experience,” teased Mayerling, wiping his own skin clean with the same cloth before dropping it in the water. He moved around, collecting the instruments that had been used this time, and he put them on a separate shelf of the cart to be thoroughly cleaned. Two bottles of room temperature water were also retrieved, and only then did Mayerling return to the bed, sliding in behind Yasha to hold him close. One bottle was offered to Charlotte who inclined her head in thanks, and Mayerling twisted the cap off the other.

“Yasha, I’m going to sit you up so you can drink some water, okay?” the pale Noble asked. Eyes that were pale blue once more opened, still mostly dazed from the session, but Yasha managed to focus on him and nod. Carefully, Mayerling lifted Yasha until the dhampir was leaning against Mayerling’s shoulder before the water bottle was brought to his lips. Mayerling managed to keep Yasha from simply guzzling the water, and half the bottle was gone before Yasha gently pushed it away with a clumsy hand.

“Should get you to kidnap me more often,” teased the prince around a wide yawn. “That was better than anything I’ve had in a long time.”

Chuckling, Mayerling pressed a kiss to Yasha’s temple before he capped the bottle, putting it aside to simply hold and cuddle his lover. “I am honored and look forward to the next time I may kidnap you when you are home.”

“Deal,” mumbled Yasha before he slipped into a light doze. Mayerling gently lowered Yasha to the mattress before both he and Charlotte cuddled their lover between them. Mayerling couldn’t help but smile as he looked down at Yasha’s face, so much younger in slumber. Yes, this had been a very good start between them, and Mayerling looked forward to several more “kidnappings” in the future.

All in fun of course.

 

 

Chapter 14

 

“You wished to see me, Father?” asked Yasha, entering the War Room with Mayerling and Charlotte at his back. The other generals were already gathered around the large table with Hector and Isaac flanking Dracula at the head. Yasha had been giving his new lovers a tour of the garden while simply enjoying their company when the summons had arrived through Clio. He could not think of anything he might have done to warrant such a summons and had brought his lovers in case it was a possible threat to the kingdom. Something that was looking more than likely considering the rather somber expressions on many of the faces.

“We have a very unusual intruder,” remarked Dracula before a holographic image appeared in midair to show a human, possibly preteen in age if Yasha was any judge, crouched over the handles of a scout bike as it raced through the trees. However what caught Yasha’s attention was the large sword strapped across the young one’s back. A very familiar sword that Yasha knew his father had left embedded in Carmilla’s black heart to pin her forever in her coffin. Only Mayerling and Charlotte’s unexpected arrival at the castle had freed her.

“He has been identified as Ace Heart, the youngest member of the Royal Heart Family,” Chō reported, her information appearing in front of her in the air, and there was a frown on her face. “Their last known location was Garucia where inquiries were made about the Marcus Family, Baron Mayerling’s coach, and the Vampire Hunter known as D. They are known as cons with the oldest son, Jack, holding a bounty of twenty million dalas for more violent crimes including assault and murder.”

Which meant it was more than likely they had made it to Castle Chaythe, but why? The trail for any of them should have ended in the ruins, and with the story and false memories implanted in Leila Marcus’ mind, there shouldn’t be anyone looking for any of them at all.

Yasha looked at his father, managing to clear the faint frown off of his face. “Your orders, sir?”

“The vampire hunter is to intercept this young man and bring him to me,” Dracula stated, tucking his hands behind his back as he glanced at Hector slightly. “Hector, saddle a cyberhorse then join us in the main hall. It is best to hear his story before further plans are made.”

“By your leave,” murmured Yasha with a bow before he turned and left for his rooms, his mind whirling as he tried to find any little detail he had overlooked when setting up the false story. It had been a rush job as he had been very concerned about getting Mayerling and Charlotte to the safety of Castle Dracul, but it had seemed to work with no trouble.

Shaking his head, Yasha peeled the silk glove off of his left hand, feeling the Servant waken even as he slipped into his rooms, and he moved over to the special stand where his cleaned and repaired armor was waiting for him. He started peeling off his clothes as he addressed the symbiote. “Is there any possible way that Leila Marcus remembered what really happened at Castle Chaythe?”

“Not in the slightest,” drawled the Servant, its voice only a touch muffled by the clothes he was folding to place on his bed. “When have you known me to do shoddy work? Especially when she agreed?”

That had been part of the deal between Leila and himself. She would receive the rest of the reward money , but her memories would be altered to ensure she only remembered Mayerling and Charlotte had both perished at Castle Chaythe and D had vanished in the castle. Considering the rest of her family was dead, Leila had agreed as the money would allow her to build a life for herself away from hunting.

There was a thoughtful hum from the Servant as he pulled on the black armor, feeling as if he was putting on an entirely separate personality. “If someone’s asking after the players of that little hunt, think Sonny Boy didn’t buy the story? He was pretty fired up to get his sister back before she became a victim. Daddy Dearest seemed more reasonable.”

It was possible, but there had been no clues left in the story for Alan Elbourne to believe Charlotte was anything but dead and buried in the rubble of the castle. He fastened his cape around his shoulders before settling the traveler’s hat on his head. Closing his eyes, he carefully tucked Yakov Mordecai Tepes Dracula, Prince of the Vampires, away in a little box in the deepest part of his mind, and released D, the Vampire Hunter, allowing the familiar personality to wrap around his thoughts like armor.

Various weapons were quickly secured in the armor and pouches around his hips before D slung his longsword across his back as he headed for the stable, the light gleaming off of the blue medallion around his neck. The halls were empty as he strode down them, his steps silent and swift as his cape fluttered behind him. While he was simply aware of the sight he made, D ignored such thoughts, focusing instead on reaching his target.

Just outside, Hector was waiting with the reigns of a saddled cyberhorse in one hand. “There hasn’t been any chance in Ace’s course,” the pale haired man reported as D easily swung up into the saddle. “He’s still on the main road heading this way. Your saddlebags have been restocked should he require medical attention to make it back to the castle.”

D inclined his head in acknowledgement before he nudged the horse into a full gallop. Ahead, the gates leading out of the courtyard were slowly opening, and his shoulders just cleared the massive doors before he steered his mount down the main road.

“One of these days, you’re gonna misjudge that and end up hurting yourself real bad,” huffed the Servant. “And I’m gonna have to be the one to put you back together.” D’s lips twitched faintly in amusement, before he focused on the road and his mount.

It was almost comforting to have the wind in his hair and the pounding of his mount’s hooves on the road as he raced to his destination. There was still the scent of rain in the air from the storms that had passed through the region in the last couple of days even as the iron shod hooves splashed through the puddles that had formed on the paved road. This was a familiar scene from many long days traveling the Frontier, and it was enough to keep him focused on the task at hand instead of the still healing fang marks at the base of his throat, left there during his last tumble with Mayerling in his bed. That was going to be difficult to give up when he resumed his duties beyond his father’s kingdom. While the sex was fantastic between himself, Mayerling, and Charlotte, it was the emotional intimacy he didn’t want to give up.

D noticed a large tree in the road ahead, and he carefully directed his horse around it while making a mental note of its position to report it to the castle upon his return. Such a thing was dangerous for all manners of transportation and travelers and would need to be removed quickly. It only took a few minutes to return to the main road, and his horse resumed its ground eating stride, hooves pounding on the road again as the distance between D and Ace heart was decreased at a rapid pace.

Wonder if the kid’s gotten any rest, or if he’s been running the entire time, mused the Servant in his head, a thoughtful note in its voice. It’s about a week to Castle Chaythe at a reasonable pace with rest stops that any sane person would take advantage of.

The dhampir ignored the dig as it had only taken him two days of constant travel with Mayerling’s coach to cross that distance. He had wanted to get Charlotte to Dr. Liao as quickly as possible while also getting Mayerling to safety from anyone else who might wish to use him. It also wasn’t that unusual for D to push himself and his skills in such a manner nor was it the first time he had driven a coach while the owner rested inside. His thoughts briefly turned to Baron Byron Balaz and his desire to murder his father. That had been the first time D had been hired by a Noble to protect them, but it had worked out for him because the elder Balaz had been on D’s list due to his previous experiments on people.

It was a sort of meditative state that D fell into with his troubles and concerns falling away under the pounding of hooves. This had been the soundtrack of his life for so long, and he relished in the peaceful calm that enveloped him, wrapping any issues and past troubles away in a blanket to be dealt with later.

The rumbling of rock and the creaking of trees reached D’s ears just as the Servant screamed “Landslide!”, and he glanced to his left to see a mass of rock, mud, and water starting to make its way down the side of a nearby mountain face, hitting the giant trees to slide around the huge trunks. The trees were groaning, and a few were starting to list, but so far, they were holding their ground.

Then, above the almost deafening cacophony of destruction, D caught the sputtering cough of an engine on its last legs. His head snapped around, pale eyes scanning his surroundings, and he spotted the weak flicker of a dying headlight not too far off. A glance at the landslide showed a boulder about the size of a house making its way down the mountain in a laborious manner. The trees wouldn’t be able to stop something that size, and D knew it wouldn’t take long for gravity to work and speed up its descent. The good news was that there weren’t any homes or settlements out here by the landslide.

“Bad news is that we are out here to be smashed by that mass of rock,” the Servant grumbled. “Better hurry and grab the kid ‘cause his bike sounds like it’s on its last legs. It doesn’t have a prayer for outrunning that.”

“You’ll have to help heal any issues,” D murmured, mentally calculating the speed he would need to get them to safety plus the angle to grab the boy so as to cause as little injuries as possible. It would be very easy to accidentally cause a whiplash injury, or worse, snap his neck, but there was no time to match the bike’s direction and speed to minimize the injuries to Ace Heart.

“You’re a real slavedriver, ya know that?” grumbled the Servant, but there was no real heat to its words.

The bike was drawing closer now, and D could make out the figure bent low over the handlebars, desperately trying to coax the machine into going faster. Shifting the reins to his mouth, D gripped his horse’s mane with his right hand for stability as he leaned to the left, his free hand outstretched. The boy must have either seen the black cyberhorse in the night or somehow knew he was no longer alone on the dark road because his head came up. His eyes were huge in his pale face as he stared at D, the dark bruises around them testifying to his lack of sleep, but before he could dodge out of the way, long pale fingers closed around the collar of his coat. A slight jerk had the boy flying off his bike, and he barely had a chance to shout before he was sitting on the cyberhorse in front of D.

Shifting his grip on the boy, D’s left arm wrapped around the slender waist as the reins fell from his teeth into his right palm. He used his legs to steer the horse as he adjusted his grip on both the boy and the reins, wheeling the horse around even as it screamed as the leading edge of the landslide slid under its hooves. The boy shrieked in fear as more rocks bounced around them, but D ignored the distractions as he guided the horse back onto steady ground.

A warmth slid through his chest from the sword pressed between himself and the boy, an almost smug satisfaction of a job well done. It was a proven fact that objects used for a great length of time by powerful Nobles often gained a sort of sentience just from the energy that was part of a vampire’s very being. It was also why some bits of Nobles may linger for years in their ruined castles, thus leading to the belief of haunted ruins and immortal vampires.

D sent a mental caution to the sword to turn the smugness down so he could focus on their surroundings. He didn’t want to be distracted at the wrong time with part of a mountain trying to come down on their heads. There was a faint almost grumble from the sword before it settled down, leaving him free to concentrate on getting them both to safety.

A groan and crash of tortured wood grabbed the dhampir’s attention, and he glanced over to watch the huge boulder crash through the trees, sending several to the ground where they were reduced to splinters under the unforgiving stone. Wood shrapnel briefly filled the air, and D huddled over the boy, doing his best to protect him from further injury. There was a brief line of fire on D’s cheek before a trickle of wetness slowly trailed down his pale skin, showing where he had been cut by a shard of wood that would have impaled the boy’s neck if the vampire hunter had moved.

The rumble of the huge boulder grew louder as more trees fell to its mass, the debris slowly shifting its course more towards them even as the water logged ground gave way to provide an easier path for the deadly and merciless stone. Trees were falling around them ,filling the air with deadly splinters, but D ignored all of it as his eyes flickered around, picking out the best route to get them through this in one piece.

Suddenly, there was a crack, like lightning striking, and D tightened his grip on the boy as the boy flinched sideways, nearly falling off the horse if it hadn’t been for the dhampir’s grip on him. D’s eyes turned to the massive boulder just in time to watch it knock a second, much larger boulder free of the mountain.

“We’re not gonna make it!” shouted the Servant, its voice nearly lost in the noise. Narrowing his eyes, the vampire hunter stared at the approaching chaos in defiance as the massive shadows fell over them, filling his sight with nothing but devastating and unforgiving rock.

 

 

Chapter 15

 

Standing behind King’s seat in the driver’s compartment, Alan glared out the front window as the transport moved through the giant trees that covered this mountainous region Ace apparently had fled to. The blond man couldn’t believe the nerve of that little bastard! First, pulling a knife on Alan and then running, taking Charlotte’s ring and her location with him while Alan had dealt with that red haired vampire bitch. He shorted and rolled his eyes. Some Noble. One shot from his gun had taken care of her even as she raved about the Sacred Ancestor and the dhampir hunter. Frankly, her voice had been grating, and it had been a pleasure to shut her up.

Figured people were more like sheep, Alan silently snarled as he resisted the urge to start pacing and growling like a caged tiger. Too afraid to stand up to vampires even though it’s a snap to deal with them. It doesn’t take special skills or knowledge. Just a good gun and the willingness to use it. Perhaps the next time he met that dhampir hunter, Alan would take his head as a trophy. That would show the world that he was not a person to be crossed or even double crossed. Jack had learned that lesson the hard way, and Alan’s only regret was he couldn’t collect the bounty on the man. No head meant no identification for a bounty.

At least his future wife and in-laws had enough common sense to work with him instead of against him. Alan would ensure they were rewarded with a life of luxury even as he dragged Charlotte home by her hair. Alan would ensure his sister never even thought about leaving him again. Right after he shoved a wooden pole through her lover’s chest.

“Why are we slowing down?” Alan demanded, snapping out of his thoughts as he felt their speed decreasing. He hated the four days Ace had managed to stay ahead of them despite how quickly they had extracted themselves and the transport from the castle ruins. They had perhaps been a couple of hours maximum behind the little bastard, but despite everything they had done, including sleeping and driving in shifts, they hadn’t managed to close the distance.

“The road ahead is completely impassable for the transport,” King announced just as the headlights illuminated a wall of rock, mud, and broken trees. “We’ll have to continue on foot.”

Alan folded his arms as he stared at the blockade, his mind whirling. The sensors on the dashboard showed that the mess went on for miles in both directions and was too steep for the transport to attempt to climb, and Ace was somewhere ahead of them, his lead growing by the second. Yet, the sun had set half an hour ago, and vampires weren’t the only nocturnal monsters around in the Frontier. It would be reasonable to hunker down for the night and find a way across the blockage in the morning, but that would give Ace an even greater lead on them. King had shown he could track Ace no matter where he went, and Alan doubted the little bastard could locate anyone to help him, not between Alan’s money and King’s ability to charm people into thinking he only wanted the best for his son. But it was the fact he was getting away at all that was galling.

He started to turn away from the window when something caught his eye. Just a gleam where there shouldn’t have been one, and Alan moved closer to the window for a better look. It took him a few minutes and a readjustment of the lights to better illuminate what he was seeing to realize he was staring at the twisted and smashed wreckage of a recently destroyed scout bike if the lack of corrosion on the metal was anything to go by.

Alan was willing to bet it was Ace’s scout bike.

“Would you be able to track Ace if he was dead?” Alan asked, turning to stare at King as the older man calmly sat in the driver’s seat, apparently waiting for further directions.

“No, but he is still ahead of us and moving,” King announced in a casual tone. So the little bastard was still alive. That was good to know. It also meant he was on foot in the dark night.

An electronic squeal erupted from the control panel, and Alan yelped as he staggered backwards just as the panel erupted in a shower of sparks. There was a similar shout from King right before the compartment went dark and silent. There were cries of alarm and concern from the back of the transport, but Alan ignored them as he tried to figure out what had happened.

Smoke was drifting out of one panel and even the engine was silent, showing that the entire transport had somehow lost power due to a strange electrical surge. Alan peered out the front window again, eyes straining against the darkness that closed in around them, hoping to spot whatever manner of creature had killed the transport.

Only the leaves moving in the faint breeze greeted his sight once his eyes finally adjusted to the darkness.

“What happened?” gasped Ten from behind Alan, her voice colored with a touch of fear. “The power cut out so suddenly.”

“Electrical surge knocked out the engine and fried the controls,” said King, his voice calm as if this sort of thing happened all the time. “We’re going to need serious repairs and supplies we don’t have to get up and running again.”

“Then we’re on foot just like Ace,” Alan stated, feeling a bit better about their chances to catch the little bastard.

“What do you mean?” asked Ten, and Alan turned as she walked over to him. He could just make her out in the darkness, her wild curls were more tame than they had been, and a delightful, enticing scent seemed to drift off her skin, making him want to drag her to the nearest bed to enjoy her body.

He shook his head, forcing those thoughts away for now. There would be time for such indulgences after they caught Ace. Right now, such thoughts are only a distraction. “There was a landslide. Ace’s bike is partially buried in it, but King says he’s still on the move,” Alan stated before coming to a decision. All of them could travel faster than Ace, especially as they were more rested than him, and they had more supplies to deal with whatever beast happened to attack them along the way. “We’ll secure the transport for the night, gather up needed supplies and weapons, and in the morning, we’ll start out after Ace on foot.”

Fully expecting his orders to be carried out, Alan made his way back to the room he was sharing with Ten. It had been her and Jack’s room, but Alan had taken a bit of delight in throwing all of the dead man’s possessions out the window as they had left the ruined castle. The only things he had kept were the various weapons Jack apparently had collected over the years including a variety of knives and a couple of different guns with ammo.

Digging around, Alan came up with a small lantern, and he winced as light flooded the room. That had hurt, but at least now he could see to start arming himself. He still had his sonic gun, but it was better to have a variety of weapons in case they came across a situation where he couldn’t use it. Ten’s scent hung in the air and clung to the sheets as Alan sat on the bed, sorting through the weapons, taking the time to think and plan.

Something had changed with Ten since Castle Chaythe. She had become more sensual and graceful, almost blooming into a more elegant lady with Jack’s death. At least that was the reasonable explanation for her change. The sex had also become much better even as she started chewing on his shoulders in her lust. To be fair, he was leaving dark bruises on her shoulders as well, so perhaps she was simply feeling the freedom from Jack’s overbearing attitude to finally become her own person.

A small smile touched Alan’s lips as he loaded the last gun before he slid it into a holster. Yes, Jack had been keeping Ten from her full potential, and now with him gone, she could become a beauty worthy of being Alan Elbourne’s wife. She would be the belle of Society, and everyone would look to them for all the important decisions. Alan would have even more power than he did now, and no one would lift a hand or a voice against him.

Alan would be the man behind the curtain, ruling without all the pesky paperwork and politics, and it would be glorious.

Ten stared at the window in the sitting area, staring out into the night, and she frowned as she twirled a curl around a slender finger. Alan was turning into someone she could easily control through manipulations and pheromones despite the brief scare of him discovering who they truly were. Yes, they had come to an acceptable arrangement, but Alan still had all the power, something she had grown to realize irritated her.

Things had changed with Jack’s death at Castle Chaythe. He had been her twin and lover for many years, but he had grown possessive and controlling in recent months. That had rankled, but she had done her best to ignore it, sure it was just a phase. Now, she was free of one idiotic man because he had been stupid enough to attack the other idiot in her life. King was essentially a non-entity, a simple servant who believed he was more powerful than he was while Queen was apparently still grieving over Jack’s death. Useless old woman. Her only value was bait for whatever might stand between them and Alan’s goal of getting to Ace and his sister.

Ten snorted  and folded her arms across her chest, the curl sliding from her finger. That bitch who had led them on a merry chase before waltzing off with that bastard, Meier Link, would pay for everything. How dare they side with that half blood mongrel over her!

She blinked and shook her head, pushing those odd thoughts aside. They strangely popped up when she let her mind wander and made no sense to her. Why should she care about Meier Link? The Noble was male and would fall in line with the rest of Ten’s wishes easily enough. After all, as a Noble he had riches that surpassed even Alan Elbourne’s fortune, and she would get him to gift her with eternal beauty and youth.

A small smirk curled her lips as she ran her tongue over her teeth, almost feeling the fangs in her mouth, It would be wonderful to be the one in power, to never have to worry about being at the mercy of another person ever again no matter what their wealth or gender. Plus with her pheromones, she could get any male to agree to whatever she said in their lust addled state. Far too many men were easily led by the little head between their legs, something she was quite used to taking advantage of for the family.

“Yes. Soon it shall be all mine, and no one, not even him, shall stand in my way,” she murmured, reaching out a hand to brush gentle fingers over her reflection that was hazy looking in the darkened window as if it wasn’t all there. Ten would only need to ensnare Meier Link, and she would be able to deal with the baggage she was currently saddled with. Then with both Meier Link and Alan Elbourne’s wealth at her command, she would take her rightful place in the world. Not even those fools in the Capital would be able to stop her.

Smirking, she turned away from the window to resume the role she was currently playing for now, never noticing when her eyes briefly flashed blood red in triumph before the light faded back to human normal. He would never know what was coming before it was too late.

It was relatively easy to distract Alan that night with a wink and a smile, ensuring he was too worn out to do anything but sleep through the night as she quietly gathered up the supplies she wanted, packing her own bag with little things she was sure would help her in the hike to come.

Sturdy clothes that hugged her curves and practical boots were easy enough for Ten to don the next morning, grimacing at the bright light that was trying to slip through the giant trees, and she managed to keep her grumbling to herself as she shrugged into her backpack of supplies, stepping out of the transport to look around. The ground under her feet was soft, showing that a recent rain had come through the area, undoubtedly the cause of the landslide that now blocked their way, and she carefully picked her way over to the wreck of the scout bike.

The front wheel was completely gone, the metal fork that held it sheared away by a blow from the landslide, and the handlebars were twisted and crumpled, possibly from being carried along by the mass of rock and mud. The rest of the bike was buried, and Ten was in no hurry to dig it out to see the rest of the damage. King said that Ace was still alive and moving, so she would believe him for now. It would be a shame when she ended up disposing of Ace as his little talent was quite useful, but he had turned surly and unpredictable in his actions.

“We might be able to carefully get over this a bit this directions,” King stated, and Ten glanced back to find him gesturing off to the left. Towards the mountain that decided to relocate to the road. It was rocky and would be slow going due to treacherous terrain, but Ten knew she and Alan would have no trouble following Ace. King would be good to lead the way, but Queen was distracted, her eyes red and puffy from crying while there was a listless air that surrounded her. Ten would be surprised if she actually made it to their destination.

She’s just baggage, holding us back, Ten mused as she started towards the area that they hoped to climb. With all the rocks around here, it would be simple to remove her from the group. After all, in chess the King is the most valuable figure.

It would also be rather merciful to remove Queen now, keep her from distracting Ten in a critical moment or even give her time to sway the others against Ten. The old hag wasn’t willing to let power go, even in her grief, and Ten knew it was only a matter of time before someone got smart enough to take her out.

Gloves protected her hands as Ten started carefully climbing over the debris, and she growled as it seemed like every handhold she found was littered with wooden splinters. It was annoying as they tried to poke through the thick leather to stab her fingers. She bared her teeth as she worked on scaling the sheer surface, uncaring of the rocks she sent tumbling down in her wake. It was hard work, but soon, she found herself on top of the blockade, staring out over the destruction that stretched before her for almost a mile.

Two huge paths of destruction were visible, going in two slightly different directions from the way the little rocks and smashed trees were laying, and there were deep gouges in the soft ground, showing where the main rockslide had churned up the dirt to be carried off by leftover water. A fast flowing stream raced down the center of one path, and Ten knew it was going to be tricky to cross if only to keep from getting swept away by the water if its speed and depth was any indication.

“Looks like Ace was very lucky to have survived this,” panted Alan as he climbed up to stand next to her. Ten didn’t even glance at anyone as both of her parents joined them at the top of the pile. “It’s going to be rough, but we’ll get through this and find him.”

Ten wasn’t sure just who he was trying to reassure, but she didn’t answer as she started forward. The sooner she got through this, the closer she was to her goal. Her feet sent small rocks and occasional chunks of dirt or broken trees falling down whatever slope she happened to be near, and she made sure each step was secure before she put her weight on it. The last thing she wanted was to find the ground in front of her falling away because it turned out to be a light coating of rock and mud over a bunch of tree branches.

The stream was much wider and faster than Ten originally thought when they finally stood on the banks about an hour later. The water was already gouging dirt out of the banks to whisk off into the distance, and out of curiosity, Ten tossed a small rock into the water where it was quickly swept away. That current was certainly strong enough to sweep a person away if they were foolish to fall in.

“We can cross there.” Alan’s voice cut through her thoughts, and Ten found him pointing to a tree smaller than the giants around them that had fallen across the river. It was rocking slightly, showing the force of the water pounding against it, but it looked steady enough. Alan and King had already started turning that direction, and Ten quickly fell into step behind them, not willing to be left behind. A glance over her shoulder showed Queen was looking at the water with fresh tears running down her face before she slowly turned to follow the other three.

The tree shifted and groaned when Alan stepped onto the trunk, and Ten watched it rock a bit more, moving slightly as he quickly crossed to the other side. It took a few minutes for King to cross as he nearly slipped off on the wet trunk, and the tree actually moved a couple of inches in the water when he hopped off the other end. Not giving Queen a chance to go ahead of her, Ten quickly hopped onto the tree and rushed to the other side. She could feel the trunk shifting beneath her feet, buffeted by the strong water, and a quick glance over her shoulder showed Queen was hesitantly stepping onto the tree.

“Hurry up!” shouted Alan, his voice almost lost to the rushing water, and Ten glanced up stream to find a large wave heading towards them.

Perfect.

Ten made her way across the tree, doing her best to hinder Queen’s crossing, and when she hopped off the end, she made sure to shove the tree with her foot to disrupt the old hag’s progress even further. Scrambling up from the bank, Ten made it to safety just as the wave hit the tree, carrying it and Queen away. Ten screamed in surprise and apparent shock as her mother was swept away before any of them could do anything about it, and King cried out in disbelief. Surprisingly, Alan made no sound at the sight, and when Ten glanced at him, hoping to portray her disbelief at losing her mother, there was an unreadable expression on his face. Similar to the one he had been wearing when he shot Jack.

Perhaps she might not get rid of him quite so quickly after all.

“There’s nothing we can do for her,” Alan announced, his voice flat as he turned away from the stream. “Come on.”

Ten glanced at King who was staring after his lost wife with tears in his eyes, and she rested a hand on his shoulder in false comfort. “Come on,” she murmured, projecting her voice for his ears only. “Once we find Ace, he’ll pay for Mother’s death. After all, if he hadn’t run away, then she wouldn’t have been in a position to be killed.”

King was silent for a few minutes before the tears dried up, and he straightened, squaring his shoulders. She patted his shoulder one more time before turning to continue making her way across the devastation, hiding her smirk behind her hair.

One bit of baggage gone and in such a way that no one could blame her for it.

Perfect.

 

Chapter 16

 

Ace wasn’t sure if he was hallucinating or if he had finally fallen asleep after four days of riding his bike, following the subtle directions of the sword strapped across his back. If it hadn’t been for the hydration capsules that he kept on the bike as part of the emergency supplies, he would have died of dehydration already. As it was, his stomach was growling non stop since he hadn’t bothered to risk stopping to grab some food.

The landscape had quickly turned from cold and desolate mountains to darker, older mountains with giant trees growing on the sides, casting the ground below into a sort of permanent twilight. Despite the threat of the others catching up to him as well as the various nocturnal monsters that would easily make a meal out of the young teen, Ace found there was a sort of soothing beauty to his surroundings. If he wasn’t in danger, then he might have taken the time to relax and enjoy the almost peaceful atmosphere around him.

A peace that was shattered by the loud rumbling and cracking sound, and he looked up to find that the mountain was collapsing. Gritting his teeth, he leaned low over the handlebars, trying to coax every little bit of speed out of his bike, but the engine was starting to sputter. It wasn’t made to be put through the stress Ace had put it under the past four days, and now it was finally breaking down. If his bike gave up on him now, that rock slide was going to be Ace’s tomb.

There was a pulse of warmth from the sword, almost like a greeting of some kind, and Ace’s head came up to find himself staring at what must have been a ghost. A dark figure on a black cyberhorse was bearing down on him, one pale hand outstretched as a cape flared out behind him. The dark traveler’s hat was pulled down low, preventing Ace from seeing the man’s face, and he was sure he screamed when he felt those fingers grab the back of his coat.

Then he was flying through the air, sure for a second the strange figure was tossing him towards the oncoming landslide only for the breath to be driven from his lungs as he suddenly found himself sitting in front of the man on the back of the cyberhorse. His hands scrambled for something to hold onto, curling into the horse’s mane just as the man himself let go of those black strands in time for the reins to fall into his pale fingers. A band of iron was around Ace’s waist, and it took him a few seconds to realize it was the man’s arm, holding him steady.

Ace risked a glance over his shoulder, sure the surprisingly solid specter had a skull for a head. Instead, he found himself looking at a painfully beautiful face that looked to be carved from the finest marble, framed by dark hair and accented by a pair of pale blue eyes that were focused on their surroundings. Although he had never seen a picture of this man before, he knew exactly who this was, and the feeling of being warm and safe for the first time in what seemed like his entire life filled him.

This was the dhampir known as Vampire Hunter D.

The dhampir hunter bent farther over the horse’s neck, forcing Ace to crouch over as well, and he blinked as several wooden splinters impacted the horse’s neck, sticking to its hide and releasing little trickles of blood. D was protecting Ace from that shrapnel at the risk of his own health. Everyone knew wood was deadly to vampires, and D was half vampire so wood had to be deadly to him too.

“We’re not gonna make it!” shouted a strange rough voice that Ace barely heard over the chaos around them, and Ace whimpered, clinging to the horse as he squeezed his eyes shut. He didn’t want to see what was going to happen. If they were going to die in this landslide, he wanted to remain blissfully ignorant until after the deed was done.

The arm around his waist tightened to an almost painful point, and Ace whimpered in distress but didn’t demand to be let go. The vampire hunter was the only thing standing between Ace and a very messy death, something he was quite willing to postpone for as long as possible. Ace felt the horse under him moving in a different direction, but he didn’t dare open his eyes to see what was going on.

Loud rumbling filled his ears and made his teeth rattle, and Ace risked his sanity to open his eyes. He shrieked as he realized that D was heading right towards the largest boulder the young man had ever seen. He didn’t care how good or how strong D was, they were going to die. There was no way they could go up against that small mountain and survive.

A moan of despair slipped out of Ace, and he squeezed his eyes shut, not wanting to watch as the boulder grew ever closer, smashing trees apart as if they were toothpicks and sending even more dirt sliding down the mountain in its wake.

Then the horse crashed to the ground, and Ace’s eyes flew open to find both the horse and themselves lying on the wet dirt as the boulder loomed above them. It seemed to hesitate a second, almost like it could sense the fragile lives in its path and was reluctant to continue forward, yet gravity proved to be a harsh mistress and commanded the boulder to move. Ace was unable to do anything as the wall of gray death fell towards them, and he flinched as everything went black.

He was sure he was dead, but to be honest, he thought death would be more painful than what he was experiencing. Cold and wet along one side where the horse had hit the soaked ground, a band of iron painfully tight around his waist, and his entire body aching from the four day ride to get here. Aside from the all consuming darkness, nothing had changed in the last few seconds.

There were more sounds of the chaotic landslide, and the darkness was lifted away. In stunned disbelief, Ace looked around to discover that the horse was lying on a raised section of ground, safe and unharmed, as the boulder continued on its merry way, smashing trees like a toddler in a field of flowers. With an almost hysterical laugh, Ace realized that somehow D had seen a spot in the massive boulder where it had a sort of cave that they could duck into as it passed overhead, leaving them untouched if a bit muddy and wet.

“We’re alive,” gasped Ace, feeling light headed from sheer relief, and another hysterical laugh slipped out of him. He had heard that the vampire hunter known as D could pull off miracles, but to see it in action was another thing entirely. Especially when it had been his life on the line.

With a small grunt of its own, the cyberhorse climbed to its hooves and started off again at a ground eating gallop, easily moving over the uneven ground that had been left in the wake of the landslide. Ace wasn’t sure where they were going, but it was better than where he had been.

“Relax. You’re a guest,” drawled that strange voice, and Ace glanced over his shoulder to find D staring at the road ahead, apparently ignoring him for now. “You’re being taken to the owner of that nifty sword you’ve got to answer a few questions, and then we’ll figure out what to do with you.”

“Alan Elbourne hired my family to find his sister’s body,” Ace blurted out, needing to warn them before he did something like pass out from exhaustion. “He found out that we weren’t simple trackers and blackmailed the family into letting him take control of the expedition. He killed Jack at Castle Chaythe after we were unable to find her body.” He swallowed and stared at his hands still tangled in the horse’s mane. “King can find me. He’s always been able to find me. I can’t get away from them to live a better life.”

“Why did you come here?” The voice that came over his shoulder was smooth and almost musical, and Ace wouldn’t mind listening to that voice for the rest of his life.

“The sword. I found it in Castle Chaythe, and whatever was left of Crazy Carmilla couldn’t touch me as long as I had it,” explained the young man. “Figure since she couldn’t touch me, it might be better to go to its owner than hang around there waiting for Elbourne to blow my head off too.” He just hadn’t been expecting landslides and slightly crazy dhampirs along the way.

Feeling the past three weeks catching up with him, Ace decided to make a crazy gamble. Everyone knew the vampire hunter known as D was the best there was, and he never betrayed a client unless they betrayed him first, usually by not paying after the deed was done. “I want to hire you.”

“You’re crazy, kid. I doubt you could afford this guy unless you’re hiding something of value in your clothes,” huffed that gruff voice again, and Ace was certain that it wasn’t coming from D. At least not his mouth. “And he doesn’t take trade for his services either, so don’t try to seduce him. It won’t work ‘cause he’s an ice queen about URK!

There was a strangled sound as the hand around Ace’s waist suddenly curled into a fist, cutting off the voice, and Ace shook his head, chalking it up to his exhaustion. “Look, I don’t have much beyond my talent for Scrying people and things, but I’m more than willing to use it to help you. All I’m asking is for you to protect me from Elbourne and the others when they finally catch up with me.”

“The ring around your neck. That is what I want for payment,” D announced after a few minutes of silence broken only by the pounding of the horse’s hooves on the road. “In return, I will protect you from Alan Elbourne and the rest of your family.”

Ace blinked, trying to wrap his increasingly sluggish thoughts around that statement. What ring? He didn’t remember any ring. He managed to uncurl his fingers from the mane with a groan as they ached in protest of the movement, and he fumbled at his throat, finding a silk cord there. Pulling it up, he stared in disbelief at the little gold ring tied onto the cord like a strange pendant. He thought it had been left in the ruin when Elbourne had attacked him, but apparently not.

“It belonged to Charlotte Elbourne and was used to find where she was supposed to be laying,” Ace explained, somehow getting the silk off over his head. “I used it to Scry her location and found her alive. Unfortunately, Elbourne and the others know she’s alive as well.” A jaw cracking yawn slipped out of him as he reached down to turn D’s left hand up, and those long fingers opened long enough for Ace to drop the ring and the cord it was still tied on in the smooth palm. “Dunno if she’ll want it back or not.”

D didn’t say anything, not that Ace was expecting him to, and the young man sighed, leaning back against the dhampir and letting his eyes drift shut, unable to fight the exhaustion that had been a companion since he arrived in the forested mountains. The arm around his waist relaxed enough that it wasn’t uncomfortable any longer, and Ace absently patted that arm before he drifted off to sleep.

The sound of hoofbeats on stone instead of the paved road woke Ace, and he blinked, unsure where he was at first. Looking around, his attention was caught by a castle that was enormous, even more so than Castle Chaythe, and there looked like towers actually hanging off of bridges connected to the main structure itself. The whole thing was an engineer’s nightmare and an architect’s wet dream, and Ace wanted to explore it although he doubted he would get the chance. He managed to tear his eyes away from the castle to focus on the road ahead where a pair of large gates were opening, revealing a courtyard beyond with the castle itself right in the middle.

He swallowed hard as he caught sight of a flag flying from one of the towers, and he realized that he had been brought right to the place he had been running to since he grabbed the sword at Castle Chaythe. The same place where Charlotte Elbourne found safety and happiness with her vampire lover.

The castle of the Sacred Ancestor, the King of the Vampires himself.

The horse slowed to a stop in front of a pair of large double doors that were open, and D easily slid off the horse, his feet making no sound as he landed on the stones. Ace sat on the horse, trying to figure out how to get his body to move. Swallowing, he finally swung his leg over the horse’s head and groaned as his entire body protested with a wave of stiffness and pain when his feet hit the ground. Strong hands caught him before he could fall on his face, and he looked up to find D staring down at him with an emotionless expression.

“Come,” D said, pushing Ace towards the open doors, but it wasn’t a cruel push of someone taking frustration out on Ace. It felt more like D was just trying to get him to move into the castle instead of stand around in the courtyard all night long. Taking a deep breath and straightening his shoulders and spine as much as he could, Ace started towards the castle, feeling like he was walking into the fire.

Unlike Castle Chaythe, there was a warmth that surrounded Ace when he walked through those doors, and he nervously looked around at the armored figures that lined the long hallway. The carpet under his feet was thick and a brilliant crimson color that reminded him of the floor at the ruins after Jack’s body had hit the floor, spilling his blood all over the stones. Was that the reason for the crimson color? To hide any bloodstains?

The room that they entered was more like a giant hall with stairs going up to a sort of platform where someone was waiting, but Ace didn’t get a good look at them, too distracted by the sight of Charlotte standing next to a pale Noble that could only be Meier Link, the vampire who had kidnapped her originally.

“Ace Heart, welcome to my home,” announced a deep voice above him, and Ace found his eyes being dragged up to the figure that was standing on the platform. He swallowed, a small whimper slipping out of him, as he stared at the dark giant that stood there, eyes burning like the flames of Hell. “Why have you come here and with my sword that I distinctly remember leaving in Carmilla’s chest?”

Ace’s mouth moved but no sound came out. He wanted to talk, to confess all his sins in the hopes that he might be spared whatever torturous fate the giant had in mind for him, but his voice wasn’t working. There was something about the sheer power coming from the giant that made him feel about as significant as a fly buzzing through the air and just as easily swatted.

Warm fingers brushed the back of Ace’s neck as a hand settled there, and he nearly collapsed as a calm wave washed over him, removing his blind panic. “S… sorry, sir,” Ace stuttered, wrapping his arms around his waist. He might be more calm, but he was still shaking like a leaf in a storm. “Alan Elbourne was conned by my sister, Ten Heart, into hiring us to find his sister’s body at Castle Chaythe. He found out that the Hearts are a bunch of cons, but instead of turning us in, he made a deal ‘cause we could find Charlotte if needed. Only when we reached Castle Chaythe, the lady wasn’t there, and when I Scryed for her using her ring, it slipped out that she was alive.”

He swallowed the lump out of his throat and continued talking. “Crazy Carmilla attacked, wanting to use us – use me – to get back alive or something, but she couldn’t touch me with this sword in my possession. Elbourne shot Jack, blowing his head off, and I ran, not wanting to stick around to see if I was next. Haven’t stopped until now, but I don’t know how much of a lead I still had on them when D rescued me from that landslide.”

“There should only be a lingering bit of Carmilla’s power if that,” D announced, drawing attention to him, and Ace felt incredibly relieved to not be the center of so many eyes. “Between Mayerling and myself, there was nothing left of her spiritual or physical body.”

“However, Carmilla was powerful in her own right,” mused the dark skinned man standing nearby, and Ace wasn’t sure if they were a Noble or not. Who ever heard of a dark skinned vampire? “It is possible part of her lingered and the excessive amount of blood that came from the murder of Jack Heart was enough to give it a bit more power than it normally would have.”

The giant hummed, a thoughtful sound, and Ace could almost swear there was a flicker of either irritation or amusement that flashed over his face. “Carmilla has always been rather stubborn and petty, even in death,” mused the giant, before shaking his head slightly. “Vampire Hunter, what do you have to add to this?”

“Ace Heart has also hired me to protect him from Alan Elbourne and the rest of his family,” D announced, and Ace watched as he held up his hand, the ring and cord dangling from it. “Payment has already been accepted so Ace is under my protection.”

A gasp of surprise rippled through the room, but the giant merely raised a brow. Now there was definite amusement on his face as he inclined his head towards the dhampir. “Very well, I will concede this to your expertise.”

The ring vanished with a slight flip of D’s hand, and Ace pulled the sword off of his back, removing it from the crude harness. He didn’t want to carry this any longer, not when its true owner was so terrifying, and he carefully laid it on the carpet before retreating behind D as if the vampire hunter could protect him from the giant.

“Alan Elbourne plus the three surviving Hearts will have to journey quite a distance on foot as there was a landslide that is blocking the main road,” D announced, his voice calm and casual as if he wasn’t in the center of a great many vampires and one giant. “They will believe that Ace is on foot as well as his scout bike was caught in the leading edge of the landslide, and I doubt they would be willing to travel through the forest in the dark.”

Licking his lips, Ace hesitantly stepped from behind D, his hands fluttering in front of him as he didn’t know what to do with them. “Queen can see the best path, King can find anything I tag as well as me, and Ten…” He licked his lips and shifted slightly as he tried to find polite words as there were ladies present. “Ten can twist men around her lust and get them to dance to her tune. She’s not a black widow only ‘cause that would draw more attention than she wants, but Ten and the parents have no qualms about killing.” He shook his head. “Didn’t try very hard to stop Jack when his temper got the better of him, and he ended up killing some poor soul in broad daylight with a town full of witnesses.”

“Masks will be handed out to those that require them to prevent Ten Heart from ensnaring any male here,” the giant said, and those red eyes focused on D as the vampire hunter stepped forward. “You have a plan?”

“If Alan Elbourne has come all this way to find his sister, then we will give him Charlotte,” D announced, and Ace turned to look at the vampire hunter in disbelief. Didn’t he understand that Elbourne was crazy? That man would kill all of them just to get to his sister! There were a few uncomfortable grumbles, but the whisper of skirts herald Charlotte’s arrival as the lady in question walked up to stare D in the face. Ace wasn’t sure what she was looking for because the dhampir was about as readable as stone, but whatever it was, she smiled slightly and nodded.

“I will help any way I can,” Charlotte announced, folding her hands in front of her as if she was attending a ball or something. Now that he could get a better look at her, Ace figured she was pretty enough and seemed kind, but he couldn’t figure out why Alan was after her as if she was the last glass of water in a desert.

D inclined his head as everyone around them settled down. “This is what we will do…”

 

Chapter 17

 

Charlotte was lovely, almost glowing in the light of the waning moon like an angel who had decided to wander among mortals for a while. That was the thought that raced through Mayerling’s head as he watched her walk across the courtyard to him, her white dress sparkling with beads and a few pale jewels to catch the eye, and the transparent veil on her hair gave her a truly ethereal appearance.

Of course, only those that were aware of the plan knew that she was fully protected by that gown and veil, ensuring that no one would be able to harm her no matter the weapon they held in their hands. That had been Mayerling’s condition for helping D with this crazy and off the wall plan, and the dhampir had agreed.

It had been painful to watch their lover stand there, wrapped in the dark armor of the vampire hunter and acting as if this was just another job for him, that the lives of those he cared for weren’t on the line. Yet, D had done just that, and Mayerling already wished for the day when his lover could put the hunter aside forever and just be Yasha.

Holding out his hand, Mayerling smiled at Charlotte as she slipped her fingers into his just as there was movement at the open gates. He ignored the three figures that were there as instructed as he escorted Charlotte into the open doors leading to the castle itself. Princess Chō had sent out a sky camera to monitor their progress, not surprised to discover that they had bedded down for the night after a brief surge from the camera had destroyed the electronics in their transport. It had been a bit of a shock to watch Ten deliberately dislodge the tree as Queen had been crossing, and after a few questions to Ace, D had decided that whatever was left of Carmilla undoubtedly had found a host in the young lady. As none of them were sure exactly how that would affect Ten’s current abilities, thin membranes that would filter out any chemicals, toxins, and diseases were passed out to everyone while others were isolated to prevent her from using them.

The only down side was that Mayerling couldn’t talk loudly while wearing it without risking the possibility of dislodging the seal as his jaw moved. A minor issue, but one he was willing to take to keep himself and his lady safe.

“Relax,” whispered Charlotte as they slipped through the doorway, a bright smile on her face as there were shouts behind them and even the discharge of a gun that went incredibly wide. The Sacred Ancestor was not going to be happy about the damage to his castle. “We’re protected by D. Once we get to the garden, the others will be waiting for us.”

It was annoying to Mayerling that he had been essentially made into bait, but there was no one else that he trusted to protect Charlotte as she acted as the main bait. Alan Elbourne wanted her back badly enough to risk going to a vampire’s castle and throwing his lot in with a family of crooks, so D pointed out that he was less likely to actually harm her while the rest of them did not have that protection. Thus, luring them to a place where they had the advantage over the three humans such as a dark garden after traveling through brightly lit halls.

Charlotte’s skirts whispered about her legs as they went, going just fast enough to keep ahead of the three tired humans, and he found himself enjoying this lethal cat and mouse, whisking her around corners to hear the pounding feet behind them desperately trying to catch up before Charlotte and Mayerling vanished from sight. Mayerling was nice enough to pause a couple of times to place a loving kiss on her hand as she giggled and blushed in delight, letting their pursuers get a brief rest before they were leading them through the castle again.

It was strange to walk through the deserted hallways after seeing so much life in them for the past three weeks, but it was also reassuring that there was no one for Elbourne to grab as a hostage, and Mayerling breathed a small sigh of relief as they came to the open archway that led to their destination. It was less of a garden and more of an open green space with a few wild flowers dotted around it, perfect for any confrontation that was to happen.

“May I have this dance, my love?” Charlotte asked, her voice overly loud for their followers, and she laughed, loud and delighted, as he swung her into his arms to waltz through the grass. Mayerling was aware of the people who were standing on the balcony that overlooked this garden, but he ignored them as he ignored the three people who staggered into the garden, slightly out of breath. He kept his attention completely focused on Charlotte, a soft smile on his face, as they waltzed to music only they could hear.

“Charlotte! Get away from him right now!” bellowed Alan, and Mayerling whirled her around, catching a glimpse of the man as he started storming his way across the grass. King hesitated at the edge before making his way over, but it was Ten that truly caught Mayerling’s attention. She was staring at both of them in undisguised fury which he had last seen on Carmilla’s face right before he had cut her body apart with his wing as he carried Charlotte to safety.

Yes, whatever was left of Carmilla had found a willing host in Ten.

“Lady Charlotte and Baron Mayerling are my guests and welcome to live within my lands.”

Even though he had been expecting it, Mayerling still flinched slightly at the sound of the Sacred Ancestor’s voice ringing through the night, and he continued dancing with Charlotte as if he hadn’t heard the King of the Vampires. He did, however, start to move her farther away from the humans to allow the vampire hunter all the room he needed to act.

Alan whirled around and snarled, a gun in his hand. “I’m taking my sister home where she belongs right after I blow that damned vampire’s head off!” he shouted. “And no one is going to stop me!”

Mayerling resisted the urge to grab Charlotte and run, especially when that gun pointed their way a few directions, and Charlotte curled closer into his arms in case he had to do just that. Armored clothing aside, she was still more vulnerable than he was. It was quite obvious that Alan was even more insane than Mayerling first thought, or something had happened along the way to make him that way. Perhaps what was left of Carmilla had affected him as well, turning him into this obsessed and raving madman with a gun.

“You three are trespassers, murderers, and criminals,” continued the Sacred Ancestor, and Mayerling abandoned the waltzing to physically pull Charlotte away from the center of the garden while Alan was distracted. There was a small door that was hidden behind a bush she could duck into, and Chō was waiting there to spirit his lady off to safety. “For your crimes against my kingdom, I sentence you three to death.”

“Another senile old man,” huffed Ten, finally stepping into the garden, and Mayerling watched as her eyes flared with a red light. “You could not destroy me before, Dracula, and you won’t destroy me now!”

“Ah, Carmilla. I was wondering if you were going to make an appearance or hide behind your latest mask,” remarked the Sacred Ancestor, and Mayerling didn’t hesitate to shove Charlotte through the door to safety. With the confirmation that Carmilla was indeed inside Ten and apparently taking over, Mayerling wasn’t about to risk Charlotte’s life. Not when he came so close to losing her the first time they had come face to face with Carmilla.

Alan frowned and glanced at Ten. “What is he talking about?” he demanded, his gun wavering slightly as if he wasn’t sure who he wanted to shoot first. “Carmilla’s dead. I destroyed her personally.”

“You destroyed a remnant of her, foolish human,” drawled the Sacred Ancestor even as Mayerling returned to the garden to draw any attention as needed. “Baron Mayerling destroyed her physical body and the Vampire Hunter known as D destroyed her spirit. All you destroyed was an echo of what she was, and a fraction of that echo now resides within the woman.”

“Where’s D?” demanded Alan, his head whipping around as if the dhampir was going to appear at his command. It seemed Alan was quite easily distracted which did not say much for his state of mind. “He lied to me as he never intended on fulfilling his half of our bargain.”

Mayerling barely managed to not jump when a dark shadow seemed to materialize out of the night and form into the very vampire hunter that had been discussed. Alan’s gun immediately pointed towards D who seemed unphased at having a weapon pointed at him. Especially one that it was not known what sort of damage it did.

“You bastard! I paid you good money to bring my sister back and instead you trotted off with them to some vampire’s castle!” snarled Alan, and there was a crazed light in the human’s eyes that Mayerling didn’t like at all. Crazy people had the habit of acting in the most unexpected ways or even contrary to how anyone expected them to lash out. Mayerling hated that he was unable to predict what Alan was going to do.

“I was hired under the explanation that Charlotte Elbourne had been kidnapped by Baron Mayerling,” D stated, his voice cool and emotionless, and Mayerling silently backed into a shadow, not drawing any attention to himself as he watched, very glad that Charlotte had been spirited off to safety. D shook his head very slightly. “As she willingly left with the Noble in question, the contract between us is void, and your deposit is forfeited.”

“Then I’ll just have to take my money out of your hide!” shouted Alan, and Mayerling tensed as his finger tightened on the trigger.

There was a flash of light, lightning without sound or perhaps a falling star, followed by a thump of something hitting the ground. Mayerling blinked in surprise just as Alan screamed, clutching the bloody stump where his hand had been neatly severed in the blink of an eye. Mayerling’s eyes moved over to where D was standing, and he took in the little details that indicated it had been D and not anyone else that had severed Alan’s hand. The soft sway of his cape as it settled again, the slight shift in his stance, and the sword in his right hand that had been the source of that flash of light.

If D had demonstrated that sort of skill against Mayerling on top of the coach the first time they had met, then Mayerling would not have been in any position to travel to Castle Chaythe, nor would he have seen another sunrise. It made him realize now just how much D had held back during their confrontations.

Alan dropped to his knees, still clutching his stump, but it was obvious to everyone that he was going to bleed out right there, thus fulfilling the Sacred Ancestor’s decree. Mayerling watched with an unconcerned expression as the man slowly toppled over, his eyes rolling back into his head as he passed out.

Carmilla in Ten’s body screamed in surprise, instantly getting Mayerling’s attention as she staggered forward a few steps. Behind her was King, holding a bloodied knife in his hand.

“As my daughter is dead, it seems only fitting her body dies as well,” remarked King in an almost eerie manner. He sounded for all the world that he was simply discussing the weather or perhaps remarking on a chore he had to finish. “Especially as you murdered my wife.”

Snarling, Carmilla spun, her hand lashing out with vampiric speed, and King cried out as sharp claws found his eyes, removing them from his head. “Foolish old man,” she spat, those fingers wrapping around his throat and pulling him towards her. “At least you’ll be good for one thing.”

Whirling to put King between her and the rest of the courtyard, Carmilla yanked his head to one side before sinking fangs into his throat. From the strangled breathing coming from the dying old man, it was obvious she had done exactly as Yasha had told him when they had first gotten together. King’s windpipe had been punctured by her fangs, and he was quickly dying in her grip. Unfortunately for Mayerling’s piece of mind, the worst thing to see was the crimson color suddenly bursting through the formerly chestnut curls and how pale her skin was growing as her features took on a more familiar appearance. One that had offered him hope for him and his lady only for it to be all a lie.

Why wasn’t D attacking when Carmilla was vulnerable? Mayerling glanced over at the vampire hunter, wanting to know what stopped his actions only to find a growing darkness surrounding him, almost a living shadow, and the pale Noble tensed, his eyes widening. Was this some sort of new ability Carmilla had somehow developed that was keeping D where he was?

Baron Mayerling, join us and allow my son the freedom to work. The voice seemed to whisper through his mind, but Mayerling knew exactly who it was. Bowing his head in acceptance, he easily reshaped his arms and cape into a pair of graceful bat-like wings before jumping into the air. A few hard flaps had him gaining enough height to glide to the balcony, and he landed on the clear section behind the various generals that were flanking the Sacred Ancestor. A brief thought had his wings back into arms, and he walked over to where Charlotte was standing next to Chō, gathering his lady into his arms. Charlotte leaned against him, but like the others, her attention was focused on the garden below.

In the few seconds it took him to relocate, Carmilla had thrown aside the body of King and was slowly approaching the apparently frozen D. Her hair fell nearly to her ankles in a straight, crimson sheet, and there was nothing left of Ten’s features. Whatever had found a home in Ten Heart was in full control now, wiping out the human host completely. Mayerling had heard of such a possibility among the older vampires, but to see such an act sent a shiver down his spine. How could one defeat an enemy who had the ability to take over whomever they wished?

“Poor little hunter,” sneered Carmilla, stopping in front of D, and even at this distance, Mayerling could see the look of distaste on her face. “I am not one to make the same mistake twice, and this is an illusion you are not going to be escaping from.”

Her nails lengthened into a deadly blade, and her arm lashed forward, aiming for D’s heart. It was all Mayerling could do to remain where he was instead of jumping down to help save his lover, but he had to believe that D would be able to defeat any tricks she had. Charlotte jumped in his arms when those sharp nails sank into D’s chest, but Mayerling gasped when he realized that it hadn’t been D those deadly points had penetrated but an after image, the hunter having moved so fast that the mind believed he had still been there.

“Come out, dhampir!” spat Carmilla, turning a slow circle as she searched for where D was, and Mayerling wanted to jump down there and rip her throat out for the obvious slur she meant that word to be. The only thing that stopped him was the Sacred Ancestor’s disappointment in his actions should he choose to follow such an instinct. “I will make your death swift and painless. Continue to defy me, and not even your father will save you from my anger.”

Hector snorted, and Mayerling watched him shake his head out of the corner of his eye. “She always did have an inflated sense of self importance,” drawled the silver haired Forgemaster, his gloved hand resting on Ace’s shoulder. The teen was white faced but there was strength in his eyes that showed he wasn’t going to let the events he was watching affect him. “I think that was what gave her such a silver tongue. She believed she was always right and thus could convince others of the same.”

“Possibly, but she is rattled, a fragment of her original power remaining to take over a human,” countered Isaac, his eyes on the tableau below. If Mayerling didn’t know better, he would almost suspect the dark skinned Forgemanster of displaying a sense of humor. “She has completely forgotten that we are up here. Not something that the Bloody Countess would have done at the height of her abilities even with anger clouding her judgement.”

“The bodies will be taken to your forges, and they will be added to our defenses,” the Sacred Ancestor stated, and a shiver ran down Mayerling’s spine at the thought of what manner of creatures the two humans might make from those bodies. Monsters made from Nightmares given flesh and form, under the Sacred Ancestor’s command. He really didn’t want to come face to face with any of those monsters, but now he knew what happened to those that trespassed on these lands. “Consider it a test to see if the young one has any talent in that area.”

A thoughtful hum came from Hector. “It has been a while since anyone showed an inclination for Forging,” he remarked, glancing at Isaac, and Mayerling wondered how long it had been since a new Forgemaster had been added to their ranks. “It might be interesting to see if he does have a talent.”

“Once Carmilla has been dealt with, Hector,” Isaac stated, his voice mild and unconcerned. “Then she will receive the honor of becoming one of the guardians of our lord’s lands.”

“Of course, Isaak,” agreed Hector, and if Mayerling hadn’t known they were discussing the twisting of human bodies into monstrous demons, he could have believed that they had been discussing the weather or what they were having for lunch.

Shaking his head, Mayerling turned his attention back to the garden below them where Carmilla was slowly stalking around the open area, obviously looking for D. A faint frown touched Mayerling’s face as he also started looking around, trying to find the elusive hunter, but there was no sign of him. It was as D simply vanished into the shadows, but Mayerling knew that the dhampir hadn’t left the area.

A very impressive trick.

“Come out, you coward!” screamed Carmilla, whirling around to lash at what turned out to be shadows. “I won’t let you make a fool out of me!”

“Lady, you don’t need us to make a fool out of you. You’re doing just fine on your own,” drawled the rough voice of the Servant, and Mayerling bit back a laugh at that statement. That prompted a shriek of rage from Carmilla as she raised her hand before bringing it down, and bolts of lightning flashed down from the clear sky. Charlotte screamed in fear and surprise, and Mayerling had her wrapped up in his cape for protection even as he turned her away from the edge of the balcony, protecting her with his own body.

The pain and fire from a lightning strike didn’t happen, and Mayerling cautiously lifted his head to find smoke was rising from the ground of the garden below. The other generals had drawn back, Hector shielding Ace with his own body, but the Sacred Ancestor remained unchanged save for the amused smirk on his face. Straightening, Mayerling helped Charlotte regain her balance as they returned to the railing to watch Carmilla throw lighting around the area in a desperate attempt to find D.

“I will flay the flesh from your bones and drain your body dry!” shrieked Carmilla, barely heard over the lightning. Mayerling blinked, sure he had seen some of that lightning bend towards one of the corners away from the castle. Frankly, Carmilla wasn’t doing herself any favors with the lighting as she was rendering herself deaf and blind with the repeated strikes, but he supposed her temper must have finally snapped.

The next strike verified what he had previously seen. The lightning was indeed bending before it hit the ground, flashing into a shadow to vanish among the other strikes, and Mayerling chuckled as he realized the Servant must be eating the bolts of electricity. D was biding his time and would strike when the time was right.

It was an eternity of seconds before the lightning stopped, leaving Carmilla in the center of a dead and burnt ground. Her hair was plastered to her face, and she was gasping as if she had run a marathon to the moon and back. Mayerling realized what D must have suspected this entire time. Carmilla had a human’s stamina despite the outward vampiric appearance. She was limited by the body she had possessed, and the transformation wasn’t thorough enough to give her the usual strength she had possessed even when she was a corpse in a coffin.

“You won’t win,” gasped Carmilla, staggering slightly on her feet, and that rough laugh herald D emerging from the shadows, his sword in his right hand while his left was outstretched, his palm facing Carmilla. Mayerling could make out the wizened face of the Servant on the normally smooth skin.

“Have any more of that tasty lightning?” inquired the Servant, smacking its lips. “Been a while since I got to enjoy two elements at once like that.”

Her shriek held no trace of sanity left in it, and she staggered towards D, her hand drawn back with her long dagger like nails pointed at him. D’s left hand dropped to grip his sword, and in one smooth move, he brought the blade up just in time for her to run onto the end of it, the sharp metal easily piercing her chest. She jerked to a halt, her arm stretching out in an attempt to injure him one last time, but there was too much sword between her and D. In a smooth move, D jerked the sword from her chest before almost flicking his hands, and her head sailed through the air. It bounced a couple of times before coming to rest in the burnt and blackened grass as her body collapsed in front of him.

Applause broke out among those gathered on the balcony, and Mayerling found himself clapping along as D flicked the bit of blood off his sword before it was returned to the sheath across his back. It had been a masterful battle, and Mayerling understood now why D had hidden in the shadows. How better to understand just what abilities and the sort of stamina one’s enemy had but to allow them to work themselves into frustration and a possible loss of temper?

“Beautifully done, my son,” called the Sacred Ancestor, and D easily jumped into the air. Mayerling watched as he came to land as lightly as a bird on the balcony before turning to face those gathered there. Below, a couple of burly men emerged and started gathering up the bodies, loading them into what looked like a cart of some sort, and Mayerling focused on D as the scent of ozone and heat came from him. “Dr. Liao will be expecting you and young Ace to ensure you are both uninjured from your confrontations.”

“By your leave, sire,” stated D with a bow before gesturing for Ace to follow him.

Mayerling looked up at the Sacred Ancestor. “May Charlotte and I escort them to ensure they make it there safely, my lord?”

It was more about ensuring that D was indeed mostly unharmed from the confrontation, but Mayerling knew he couldn’t leave unless dismissed by the Sacred Ancestor. Those dark garnet eyes stared down at him, fire burning in their depths, before that proud head dipped slightly, giving him all the permission he needed. Charlotte stepped up on Ace’s other side with a warm smile but she didn’t touch him as Mayerling fell into place next to D who gave him an unreadable look. D nodded once, and together the four of them left the balcony for Dr. Liao’s territory.

Behind them, the slow creak of an axle under pressure faded as the bodies were carried off to the Forges, their new lives as guardians of the kingdom awaiting them.

 

 

Chapter 18

The usual armor settled easily around his body as Yasha finished his preparations for his next trip beyond the borders of his father’s kingdom. The traveler’s hat lay on his bed next to his sword and saddlebags that needed to be refilled of the usual supplies he took with him while on the road. Hector would already have a cyberhorse picked out and waiting for him when he reached the courtyard, and the Servant was already grumbling about having to get back to work.

It had been a week since Carmilla and the Hearts had been killed, and everyone had easily settled into their lives in Castle Dracul once more. When Ace received a clean bill of health from Dr. Liao, he was shuffled off into Hector’s care, and it was discovered that he did have a bit of a talent for being a  Devil Forgemaster, but it would require careful encouragement and training for it to grow beyond the spark it was currently. Chō was also taking advantage of the young man’s ability to Scry to help bolster her own network of information while Charlotte had been splitting her time between learning everything she could of the princess’ networks and her lovers as she would be taking over when Chō was too far along with child to be able to work longer hours.

A small smile touched Yasha’s lips as he remembered how excited Chō had been to find out the pregnancy had taken quickly, and as promised, Dr. Liao and his father were already watching her development. Yasha was happy for her, and while he would never be a father to her child or have any sort of relationship with Chō, he hoped to be part of the child’s life simply by living in the castle once his job was done. Of course, once that happened, Yasha hoped that he, Mayerling, and Charlotte might be in a position to talk about their own family expanding.

“Ya know, I never really gave it much of a thought about what would happen when you didn’t have to hunt anymore,” mused the Servant, apparently picking up on Yasha’s train of thoughts. “I mean, you’re not gonna have much of a use for me if you’re not out there hunting, are you?”

Yasha chuckled and shook his head, picking up his hat to settle on his head. Trust the Servant to start borrowing trouble before it was necessary, but he supposed that was just the Servant being pragmatic.

“We’ll figure that out when we reach that day,” he stated, boxing up the prince in his mind once more to allow the vampire hunter to take over. Slinging his saddlebags over his shoulder, he grabbed his sword and left to finish the last of his preparations.

Years of practice had him packing his saddlebags with ease, tucking everything in the little pockets that lined the bags before filling the space in the middle with everything else he was going to need. A handful of rough hewn wood throwing needles were retrieved from the armory as well as a new care kit for his sword as the last had been lost during Benge’s attack after the Barbaroi Village, having fallen out of his saddlebag when his cyberhorse ended up in the bottom of the ravine. Stopping by Medical had Dr. Liao handing him a sealed case of blood pills and a fully stocked first aid kit that he would undoubtedly use on other people, but he knew the good doctor meant well.

D had to admit he was a bit surprised that Mayerling nor Charlotte had crossed his path at all during his resupplying, but he understood that they had their own jobs to do and couldn’t spend the entire day by his side no matter how much he might want them to. He did hope that he could say goodbye to them before he left.

He stopped at the top of the stairs leading down into the Great Hall, and he blinked in surprise to find Mayerling and Charlotte standing there. The pale Noble was wearing the clothes he had when they had first faced each other, and Charlotte was clad in a white dress and green cloak, reminiscent of what she wore when the two of them had spoken in the water garden what seemed like a lifetime ago. Both smiled at D as he walked down the stairs to join them on the landing.

“We were hoping to catch you before you left, my prince,” Mayerling stated, an inviting smile on his face as D stopped to face him with Charlotte standing between them. He reached out to rest a hand on Charlotte’s lower back even as he stared at D. “You will be missed but the princess has assured us that we will be able to send messages to you through her network.”

“Perhaps we might even sneak out with that same network and briefly meet up with you for a night or a day,” Charlotte added with a soft smile as D reached out to rest his own hand against her lower back, brushing against Mayerling’s fingers that were there. They formed a three sided box, but it was a delightful warmth that filled him, chasing away the usual chill that seemed to come with the role of the vampire hunter.

“I would not ask such a thing of you,” D admitted, his eyes flicking between them. He did not wish to put them in any danger by having them venture beyond the borders of his father’s kingdom, especially with how people would attack them for being together.

“Silly D, you’re not asking because we’re volunteering,” teased Charlotte, tugging him down to place a soft kiss on his lips. D sighed into the kiss, his lashes fluttering against his cheek as he enjoyed the feel of her lips against his. Far too soon, she was pulling back only for Mayerling to replace her, his kiss a bit more demanding but just as welcome.

“I believe we should make a promise to each other,” remarked Mayerling, gently taking D’s sword from the dhampir’s hand to place the point on the floor, sinking into the red carpet beneath their feet. Charlotte wrapped her hands around the handle as Mayerling’s hand rested on the pommel, and they both looked at D. Unsure where this was going but willing to play along, D reached out to rest his own hand on top of Mayerling’s.

“I, Charlotte Elbourne, promise Baron Mayerling and the Vampire Hunter known as D to hold your secrets as if they are my own, to love both of you unconditionally, and to remain faithful to you both for the rest of my days,” she announced, and for a few seconds, D had the strangest feeling of wedding vows being exchanged but that was ridiculous. This was certainly not a wedding between them, but promises.

“I, Baron Mayerling, promise the Vampire Hunter known as D and Charlotte Elbourne to hold your secrets as if they are my own, to love both of you unconditionally, and to remain faithful to you both for the rest of my days,” Mayerling stated, and D had to admit it was rather amusing even if he knew he was going to mean those promises with everything he was.

“I, Yakov Mordecai Tepes Dracula, promise Charlotte Elbourne and Baron Mayerling to hold your secrets as if they are my own, to love both of you unconditionally, and to remain faithful to you both for the rest of my days,” promised D, feeling the slight nudging to use his actual name instead of his title.

A bit of something slid through him, but he ignored it as it seemed as if he was the only one who felt it, but both Mayerling and Charlotte smiled at him as they lifted their hands, allowing D to retrieve his sword. He slung it across his back to get it out of the way before shifting his saddlebag to the opposite shoulder, and he looked at Charlotte and Mayerling as they stepped forward to stand on either side of him.

“May we escort you out to your mount, my prince?” inquired Mayerling, but D had a suspicion that it was more out of being polite than any desire for D’s permission. Instead, he dipped his head and started down the stairs with the two of them at his sides.

It was strangely comforting to have this sort of honor guard to see him off, far too used to simply getting on his cyberhorse and riding off with his father or whomever watching for a window in the castle. This was much more comforting, to know that they would also be here, waiting for him when he returned, no matter how long that next visit was.

The sun hadn’t risen above the horizon yet, but the sky was a lighter blue and pink, promising that dawn wasn’t that far away, and D ignored it as he strode towards the cyberhorse that was waiting in the center of the courtyard. He blinked in surprise to see a familiar old man standing there holding the reins instead of Hector.

“Knew I’d find you here,” greeted Poke, his wrinkled face twisting in a smile as he petted the nose of the cyberhorse. “This is the second time you’ve saved my life.”

“Another believed you did not deserve to be thrown away,” D stated, fastening the saddlebag behind his mount’s tack. With Poke holding the reins, he wasn’t surprised to find that this was the very cyberhorse that the old man had made and then sold to D back in Garucia. “I am glad to see you accepted the invitation to live here.”

Poke snorted and patted the cyberhorse’s neck. “That young man, Hector, has a stable full of cyberhorses and no one to oversee their daily upkeep,” he countered, shaking his head, and D’s lips twitched at the thought of Hector being young by any stretch of the imagination. “Besides, I couldn’t turn down the offer to put my talents to use for the rest of my life. No matter how long that might be.”

D inclined his head before swinging up into the saddle with a well practiced ease as he gathered up the reins from Poke. The old man gave the cyberhorse one last pat on the neck before he stepped back, giving D room to move. D paused for a moment and glanced back at the entrance of the castle to find Mayerling standing there with his arm around Charlotte’s waist, and both of them raised a hand in farewell. He touched the brim of his hat in acknowledgement before whirling the cyberhorse around to speed for the gates that were opening.

He grinned slightly as he slipped through the gates, his shoulders nearly brushing the doors to the Servant’s grumbling before he turned his mount towards the main road that led out of the Sacred Ancestor’s kingdom. The path ahead of him stretched far, but it wasn’t as lonely as it had been with the knowledge that two people who loved him completely waited for him at home with open arms and welcoming smiles. He had a job to do, but it no longer weighed as heavily on his shoulders.

The sun broke the horizon, illuminating the black cyberhorse and its breathtakingly beautiful rider clad in black before the shadows under the giant trees swallowed up the Vampire Hunter known only as D.

 

The End


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