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Rated: 13+ · Novella · Action/Adventure · #2209351
4 friends are kidnapped by a vampire in her ruined castle and must fight to escape.
Awake in Darkness
By David Daniel Ducker

The Hotel

Harry awoke in darkness, he was warm and cozy beneath a thick blanket, protected from the chill mountain air of Winterburg. He lazily wondered what had awoken him as he stretched and snuggled back down to resume his pleasantly indistinct dreaming. His eyes detected a glow. Dim light poured into the room from door leading to the hotel corridor. Harry blinked and squinted into the darkness, the glow was cold and silver, not the cheerful buttery yellow of the hotel's electric lighting. It must have been a very bright light for he could see the outline of the door from top to bottom. He began to feel afraid.

A pale hand passed through the door and Harry's eyes went wide. The door was unmoved and yet the hand hung in mid-air casting a silvery radiance across the darkened room. The hand was followed by a slender forearm and then the face of a woman. She was beautiful. Thick red hair framed her face and cascaded down to her slender shoulders, her forehead was high with thin expressive eyebrows, her nose was small and delicate, lips full and red, cheekbones prominent, and her chin perfectly rounded. Harry was for a moment enthralled by this spectral beauty until he realized that her eyes were entirely red as if filled with blood.

The spectre was floating just above the ground, toes hovering a centimetre from the carpet, body glowing with ghost-light, figure as perfect as her face and covered by a lace slip dress of antique cut. Harry could clearly see every corned of the hotel room by her dim glow. He was paralyzed with fear, unsure of what to do, or where he might try and escape to. Escape consumed his thoughts, he felt trapped, she had come through the only entrance or exit to the small room and the window would lead him to a long drop onto the precipitous snowy mountainside far below.

The spectre beckoned to Harry as it drifted closer, a calm smile spread across it's full lips, then the smile turned sinister, predatory. She bared long fangs as she bent over Harry's prone form. Harry felt as if the kiss of death about to be planted on his cheek. Her breath was cold and stinking, and those eyes! Filled with blood and hatred and hunger. She lunged toward his throat and he found himself struggling and writhing in her cold embrace. She was so strong! No matter how hard he tried he could not escape her grasp. Her mouth bit deeply into his neck and pain shot through Harry's body. He could feel his blood being sucked from his veins by her lips. Slowly he grew cold, the warmth of the bed faded, the cold air of the hotel embraced him even as the vampiress did. His eyes became heavy, strength left his limbs and he drifted off to sleep in her arms.

The Dungeon

Harry awoke in darkness, the strange dream still vivid in his memory. He was soaked with cold sweat and gasping for breath, what a nightmare! But as Harry's groggy mind slowly cleared he realized he was not in his bed at the hotel.

Harry was again wrapped in the thick comforter from the hotel, but laying on a stone floor, cold and damp. He was still wearing his pyjamas, boxers and an undershirt, no wonder he was so cold! He groped blindly in the darkness. Cold stone, damp, wet, a puddle of cold greasy water, his hand brushed another blanket and a scream from just a few feet in front of his face startled him and hurt his ears.

'Who are you? Where am I?' The high feminine voice was half-panicked.

'I don't know where we are. I just woke up here.' Harry answered trying to sound calm and reassuring.

'Where are my clothes?' the voice was quiet now, almost sobbing.

'I'm still in my pajamas.' Harry offered weakly.

'Me too.' the voice didn't sound reassured.

'Me three.' A third voice chimed in, low and feminine.

'Is anyone else out there?' Harry asked the darkness in frustration. It was suddenly very evident to him that he had to idea what might be even a few feet in front of his face. Or who might be lurking in the darkness around them.

'Me. I mean yes. I am.' A fourth voice, this one young and masculine.

The four voices conversed for a moment in the darkness. They were all guests of the Hotel Winterburg and they'd all had similar dreams about a beautiful ghostly woman. Feeling their necks each could confirm those dreams were reality. They'd all suffered the bite of the vampiress.

Quickly they decided escape was their most pressing concern. The phantasm had clearly brought them here for some sinister purpose and it was their duty to escape if escape was possible. Feeling their way along the cold stone floor they eventually found the walls of their cell, like the floor they were made of crumbling stone blocks, they found the ceiling was supported by vaulted stone arches.

'This place is built like a medieval dungeon. We might be in Castle Winterburg.' Sarah said.

'I didn't know there was a castle around here.' Betty replied sounding surprised.

'Yeah, I took a tour of the village yesterday and our guide pointed it out to us, it's up the mountain from the village, he said it was haunted.' Sarah said.

'Well they got that part right.' Lance chimed in.

'The guide said that the last Baron Winterburg was murdered by his wife after she killed their children and most of the villagers too. She was apparently some kind of medieval serial killer like Elizabeth Bathory.' Sarah continued.

'Wasn't she a vampire?' Harry asked with a shudder.

No one felt comfortable discussing the subject of vampires yet so they continued their exploration. One wall of the dungeon had a huge hearth and fireplace, another was partially collapsed forming a small hole. Feeling around on the other side of the hole none of the four could find a floor. Eventually Betty heaved a block of loose stone through the hole and after a few moments they heard a distant splash. It was a well.

The only way out appeared to be a stairway leading up. The dungeon contained no doors at all. Sarah said that might make in an 'oubliette' a 'place of forgetting' where prisoners were left to waste away by slow starvation. Just as the foursome were to begin their ascent a silvery glow signalled the appearance of the vampiress. As if she'd been watching their blind fumbling, waiting for them to try the ancient stairs she appeared the moment Harry's foot touched the bottom step.

The vampiress floated through a heavy wooden door at the top of the stairs and silently drifted down towards them. Her red hair floated around her head as if she were underwater forming a sinister red halo about her face. Her eyes seemed filled with blood and a thin stream of blood dripped from the corner of her red lips. Other than these splashes of colour she was deathly pale, skin matching her white shift.

'It's her!' Sarah cried out in fear, backing herself up to the nearest wall and glancing around the dungeon, hoping to find some escape now that she could see by the silvery light of the vampiress.

'Stay back!' Betty threatened dropping into a fighting stance and glancing around, searching for a weapon to sue against the vampiress.

'Leave us alone!' Lance whimpered, eyes wide with paralyzing panic.

'My pets. I've come for you. To shower you with kisses... My beloved ones...' The vampiress' voice was like a hollow echo.

She floated toward Sarah, who was closest to the stairs, making soothing gestures with her hands while she smirked hungrily.

'No! Leave her alone!' Lance yelled and threw himself at the monster.

She caught him as if he were a child, his muscles strained against the grip of her slim arms.

'Don't be jealous my pet. I love all of you equally...' She cooed pulling him close and baring her fangs with a hungry leer.

'No! Stop! Please! Help me!' Lance screamed as he was drawn inexorably toward the vampiress' slim form.

Her small mouth opened and she plunged her fangs deep into Lance's neck. The girls screamed and all three remaining prisoners huddled together in the corner furthest from the feeding vampiress. All they could do was watch in helpless horror as she drained Lance's life away.

For a long time she stood there drinking Lance's blood, he gasped with pain at first and then seemed to moan with ecstasy as if he were enjoying the experience. His body struggled, then writhed, then finally spasmed and convulsed before growing still. The girls began crying as they saw Lance grow paler and weaker. The vampiress remained motionless for a few more moments sucking at his neck obscenely, eyes closed in pleasure. Then casually dropped Lance's corpse to the floor of the dungeon and looked up at the survivors mouth and chin smeared with blood, rivulets of the red liquid dribbling onto her chest.

'Tomorrow my lovelies. I will see you again tomorrow...' The vampiress sang as she floated back up the stairs and disappeared through the heavy door from which she'd entered the dungeon.

With her gone the trio were left in darkness again. Soon they'd all cried themselves to sleep huddled together for mutual warmth and emotional support. None had ever felt so alone or helpless.

The Castle

'What's that light? Where's it coming from?' Sarah asked excitedly.

'What light?' Betty was confused, it seemed just as dark to her as ever. She sat up and blinked here eyes in the darkness.

'I can see your outline! It's brighter here than it was last night. The sun must've come up.' Sarah cried waving her hand in front of her face and feeling cheered by the pale outline visible to her.

'You're right!' Betty said glancing around the dungeon. It was almost imperceptible but there were some vague outlines discernible in the darkness.

'The fireplace! Look!' Sarah said pointing.

The trio rushed to the fireplace and found that dim radiance was shining down the flue. They decided one of them must risk the climb, but quickly discovered Sarah was the only one small enough to have a hope of fitting through the narrow aperture. Harry and Betty boosted Sarah up as best they could in the dim light, Harry was impressed by Betty's strength and she remarked to him that she was a wrestler here to participate in the winter games, not wrestling of course, but axe throwing which was a hobby of hers.

Sarah tried to ignore their banter, she needed all of her concentration to find purchase in the dark chimney. She used her fingers and toes to slowly draw herself up the shaft, dust and ash flaked off of the crumbling masonry and choked her and she often found her grip tenuous on the slippery stones, but fortunately the stones had many gaps and broken edges for her to cling to. Eventually she found a solid handhold.

'I see light!' She called down the chimney excitedly. The climb had probably only been ten feet but felt like twice that to her aching muscles and freezing fingers.

Drawing herself up Sarah found herself in another fireplace. Outside was a dimly illuminated cellar of vaulted stone arches similar to the dungeon but much larger. Slowly, cautiously, she stepped out of the fireplace into the basement. She stepped over broken furniture and shattered stones moving cautiously forward trying to see where the light was filtering into the basement from. This place must have been abandoned for decades. There was hardly anything intact, just mounds of broken, splintery wood and piles of dust, ash and mould. The air was thick and musty but even colder than that of the dungeon. Sarah shivered but pressed forward nonetheless.

The light came from a smashed door at the top of a stone staircase. Sarah walked slowly up the stairs and pushed through the shattered door. Stepping over the splintery rubble she found herself in a stone hallway with many more heavy wooden doors. The light came from an empty doorway at the end of the hall. Sarah walked toward the light wondering what might be behind these other doors. She felt acutely vulnerable each time she passed by one of the heavy doors.

The empty doorway led to an ancient hall with a vaulted ceiling sixty feet above the floor. Part of the ceiling and wall had fallen in, the source of the sunlight, and snow drifts covered the smashed and rotten debris of benches and tables beneath the hole. At the far end of the hall a huge double door hung loosely on ancient hinges, Sarah could see snow drifts and stone walls beyond. Cold air whistled through the hall and Sarah shivered.

Sarah returned to the cellar, more for her blanket than her companions, the sunlight had fortified her but she realized it wouldn't do her any good to escape the vampiress only to freeze to death outside. Exploring the cellar she quickly found the door leading down to the dungeon where her friends were still confined. It was latched and barred from this side but easy to open. Sarah swung the heavy door open and looked down at her smiling companions.

'You did it! Great job!' Harry said smiling ear-to-ear.

'Lets get out of here!' Betty was not smiling, not in this place.

The trio wrapped themselves tightly in their blankets and made their way up through the cellars and the corridor into the great hall. They slowly approached the broken double doors, peeking out into the courtyard unsure of what to find waiting there. The sunlight blinded them but they quickly realized it was already past noon. The courtyard outside was small, and enclosed by walls and towers, everything was nestled under a thick covering of snow. At the far end of the courtyard was and iron gate through which they could see a roadway winding down the mountainside. At least it looked like the snow concealed a roadway.

The trio found the gate locked. Betty shook it violently in frustration but Harry urged her to more constructive action. After a few minutes of cursing Betty agreed and they returned to the hall to retrieve a stone statue depicting Pluto. Using the statue as a battering ram they smashed at the gate again and again but only succeeded in smashing off the head of the cthonic deity. As they knelt panting and sweaty in the snow and cold air they realized the gate was impassible.

'Great! This is just great!' Betty said after catching her breath. She began cursing again and kicking snow and shattered pieces of Pluto around the courtyard.

'Maybe there's another way out.' Sarah offered meekly. She'd felt so helpless watching the others trying to rescue them. Betty was a big strong girl, maybe just as strong as Harry, but Sarah was small and thin, breaking doors down was far from her area of expertise.

'I hope so.' Harry said smiling. He felt it was important to put on a good face for the girls but inside he was beginning to despair.

'Maybe if we could get to the top of the gatehouse we could jump? The snow might cushion our fall?' Sarah offered.

'Good idea. Let's see if we can find a way up there.' Harry said grasping onto the idea. A bad plan was better than no plan at all.

'Or maybe there's another way out. A postern gate or sally-port.' Sarah said cheered by his encouragement.

'I don't know what those other two things are but another way out sounds good to me.' Harry joked.

'Medieval castles usually had more then one exit, a main gate and then a few smaller doors as well. For spies and messengers.' Sarah said.

'Cool. Lets take a look around.' Harry said.

The Chapel

The trio tried each tower flanking the gatehouse. The stairway to one was choked with rubble, the other led to a locked door. Cursing they returned to the courtyard and tried the door of what looked to be a chapel built against the outer wall. It's slate roof had several large holes in it and only one piece of stained glass was intact, the other windows showed only fragments of coloured glass.

Harry pushed open the door and was startled to see someone sitting amidst the ruin. The figure was seated on a pew facing the altar with his back to Harry as if it were praying. The altar had a particularly gruesome looking crucifix as it's centrepiece and the rest of the chapel was in shambles having been exposed to the elements for decades, broken pews and rusted candelabras were strewn about alongside drifts of snow and less recognizable debris.

Harry gasped and hesitated unsure of what to do next.

'What is it? What do you see?' Sarah asked.

'There's some old dude chillin' in here. I think he's praying...' Harry said.

'Praying?' Betty asked offended at the idea that someone would be in here praying while they were outside in mortal danger.

'Yeah.' Harry said.

'Are you sure he's not another vampire?' Betty asked hesitantly, she didn't want to rush into a situation she didn't understand.

'Vampires can't go into churches.' Sarah said matter-of-factly.

'This isn't a church it's a chapel.' Harry argued cautiously.

'Same difference. And besides vampires can't stand crucifixes and this guy's praying to one.' Sarah said.

'That's a good point.' Harry said.

'Right?' Sarah said proudly.

'You're both crazy. You don't know anything about vampires.' Betty said pushing her way past them and into the chapel.

'Um hello sir? Sir hello?' She ventured tentatively.

The ghost turned to look at Betty and she realized it wasn't alive. It was all white, from it's thick mane of hair, to its blank eyes, down to the tattered robe it wore. A bright chalky white that almost shone in the shadowy chapel. Betty stood dumbfounded for a moment unsure of what to do or how to react.

'We need your help.' Sarah said entering the chapel. Her voice was trembling but she was desperate.

The ghost's face contorted into a mask of guilt and sorrow. It looked for a moment as if it were going to begin weeping but then composed itself.

'This is my doing.' It confessed apologetically.

'What?' Betty asked. Anger welling up in her chest.

'My wife, Vivian. She died. I brought her back. And now she is... as you've seen her.' The ghost explained haltingly, voice thick and tremulous with emotion.

'Vivian? You brought her back? How?' Sarah asked.

'I sold my soul. To the dark powers. I knew it would damn me. But I never dreamt it would condemn so many others. Starting with our children. Her own children. She devoured them. And they were just the first. I've seen... so many others...' The ghost shook with emotion and spectral tears rolled down it's cheeks.

'You bastard! How could you do this!' Betty yelled raging at the dead man. She kicked over one of the crumbling pews sending up a cloud of dust and splinters.

'I'm sorry. So sorry. I tried to stop her myself but she was too strong. She locked me in here. And taunted me as I starved to death. She offered to make me like her, but I chose death. I've been here ever since. Praying for my salvation, and an end to this nightmare.' The ghost said.

'My God! That's awful!' Sarah said. Her heart went out to the broken spectre.

'Not as bad as what's gonna happen to us if we don't get outta here.' Betty said pragmatically.

'Tell us how to escape.' Harry asked.

'You must destroy her. Please. It's the only way.' The ghost begged.

'Forget that! We need to get out of here!' Betty raged.

'She will hunt you down. She will follow you to the ends of the Earth. You will never know another peaceful night until she is destroyed. Or until she has destroyed you.' The ghost said regretfully.

'How do we destroy her?' Sarah asked.

'She sleeps in the tower by day. It's then that she's vulnerable. She thinks herself safe. She has thrown the key to the tower into the well you see. And buried it in rubble. But what she doesn't know is the wall of the well has cracked. From the cellar it should be possible to enter the well and retrieve the key. Then you can unlock the tower and slay her for all time.' The ghost said hopefully.

'Destroy her how? With what?' Sarah asked.

'The fountain there. The water is sanctified. Take that silver goblet and drizzle a bit of the holy water down her throat. That will destroy her utterly.' The ghost said pointing his long bony finger toward a fountain built into the corned of the chapel upon which a beautiful silver chalice sat.

'I don't like this plan.' Betty said frowning.

'It is the only way.' The ghost stated sadly.

The Vampire

The trio descended back down into the dark depths of the dungeon. Their eyes adjusted slowly to the shadows after the bright blinding brilliance of the castle courtyard. It seemed darker than when they'd left. After the vampiress' attack they'd all hoped to never return to this dismal place, where Lance had been killed so horribly before their eyes. They groped and stumbled blindly across the cold uneven stones of the floor. Even after their night vision activated they could see little beyond vague outlines in the blackness. It wasn't much to go on but it was all they had.

'Where's Lance?' Sarah asked timidly.

'What?' Harry was confused.

'Lance's body. It's gone...' Sarah whispered, backing slowly toward the stairs.

Lance sprung upon them from out of the darkness. Harry was knocked down and could feel cold, naked skin on top of him, he smelled stinking rotten breath, and Lance's skin was a pale blur, as if it'd turned chalk white. Lance had become a vampire. Harry struggled vainly against Lance's newfound strength but slowly, inch by inch, Lance was pinning Harry down and moving his mouth toward the smaller man's throat.

Betty charged Lance and sent him sprawling with a hard tackle, he may have supernatural strength but he didn't weight any more than he did when he was alive. Lance instantly sprung to his feet and rushed back toward his prey but Betty was ready and caught him in a lightning fast hip toss, using his own momentum against him and again Lance was hurled across the dark room to land with a thud and a poof of dust from the unswept floor.

Harry staggered to his feet weakly and had time to be impressed by Betty's strength and fighting ability before Lance came at them again. This time he approached more slowly and tried to grab the big girl. Betty dodged, sprawled, and rolled sideways as the vampire tried to grapple with her but was ultimately caught in his iron grip.

Lance grinned and his fangs glistened in the darkness. Slowly he pressed his mouth toward Betty's throat. Sarah smashed a stone block over Lance's head. As soon as the fight had broken out she'd begun searching for a likely weapon amidst the various mouldering debris strewn about the ancient dungeon floor. The stone would have easily crushed the skull of a mortal but for the vampire it was merely a distraction, albeit one which allowed Harry to grab Lance and peel him off of Betty's supine form. In a flash Betty was on her feet and helping Harry to subdue the undead predator.

Working together they were able to heft the squirming, struggling vampire into the air. It was a difficult battle, his strength was immense and they had to avoid testing it directly. Only his comparatively light weight gave them any advantage over the newly made monster.

'The well! Throw him down the well!' Sarah shouted as she saw the duo had Lance under some degree of control.

The two companions charged across the room and hurled Lance with their combined might into the gaping black hole leading to the well. They heard a thud, a scramble of claws on stone, and then a frantic scratching descent ending in a loud sploosh.

They had only a moment to catch their breath before they heard him climbing back up the well. His claws gouged handholds in the stone and sent debris showering down into the water beneath him. The scratching grew closer and closer as he climbed.

'Upstairs! Quick!' Sarah cried sprinting toward the exit.

The trio scrambled up the slippery stone stairs in the dark. By the time they were halfway up they could hear Lance at the lip of the well. Harry and Sarah made it through the doorway into the cellar but Lance snatched Betty's ankle just as she reached it. Betty fell with a thud and smashed the side of her face onto the top landing of the stairs, instantly she felt hot blood running over her mouth and chin from the fresh wound. Harry turned back and saw Lance jump onto Betty's back trying to find an angle where he could bite her neck from behind.

Harry kicked Lance in the face with the heel of his foot. The vampire looked up at him and snarled so Harry kicked him again, and again, but when he threw his fourth kick Lance caught Harry's ankle and threw him down the stairs into the dungeon as if Harry had been a child. Harry landed with a splattering thud and felt the wind go out of his lungs. He gasped helplessly unable to move.

This distraction gave Betty enough time to roll over onto her back. As Lance returned to his attention to her she was able to use her arms to resist him. But slowly he pressed her down and brought his glistening fangs closer to her vulnerable throat. Terror welled up in Betty's chest, she was all out of tricks, and painfully aware of her inadequacy against this supernatural threat. Whatever force animated Lance's body it had nothing to do with muscles and tendons, it was a force of pure evil and corruption. Soon Betty knew that corruption would be inside of her.

Sarah watched Betty struggling vainly against Lance and felt like she was going to be sick, she felt so helpless, what could she do? Harry had tried to fight the vampire and now he was laying unconscious somewhere on the dungeon floor, what were her chances? Sarah forced herself to use her brain, to think! Think! Think of something! Analyze the situation, find a tool, a weapon... She glanced around the cellar at the smashed and discarded furniture all around her. A stake! She began frantically searching for a piece of wood suitable for the job. A stake through the heart would kill a vampire! She found one!

Pulling a jagged piece of wood free from the detritus Sarah sprinted toward Lance and dove at him with both arms extended behind her improvised stake. It was a clumsy and amateurish attack but Lance was distracted by the hot meal writhing beneath him and didn't consider the small girl to be a threat, after all what mortal could be a threat to him now that he had become one of the children of the night? Lance's undead arrogance was deflated as the stake sunk into his chest and shot waves of hot agony through his body.

Lance staggered to his feet and looked down at the splintery shaft of wood protruding from his body, black ichor oozed from the wound. He screamed and struggled with shaking hands to grasp the stake and pull it from his body.

'Let me help you with that.' Betty gasped as she stood up and grabbed the splintery stake.

Betty pulled the stake free from Lance's body and was splashed with the black ooze flowing from the wound. Lance gasped in pain and sunk to his knees. Betty grabbed Lance's collarbone with one hand and raised the stake high over her head with the other. A sadistic look of satisfaction was on Betty's face, she like to win, she loved to dominate, and this had been the toughest opponent of her life, a victory she would never forget.

Betty drove the stake down into his heart with all the strength of her powerful arm. This time Lance didn't feel pain, only release, only cleansing as the living wood banished the corruption from his soul. Betty was surprised to see the look of relief on Lance's face. She was expecting pain and defeat, but she felt as if Lance was happy the vampire had been defeated, as if she'd saved him from the monster just as much as she'd saved herself.

Lance's body went limp and Betty didn't stop it from flopping down awkwardly down the stairs to the shadowy dungeon floor below. She turned to Sarah and helped the smaller girl to her feet. Sarah began sobbing and buried her face in Betty's shoulder. Betty held Sarah as she cried, her own feelings were a whirlwind. Empathy, terror, and triumph flowed through her. She tried hard to keep from sobbing too.

Harry staggered to his feet, stumbled, and sank back to the ground. He thought he'd caught his breath but apparently not. Squinting through the darkness he saw Lance's corpse, and the girls holding one another at the top of the staircase. He made eye contact with Betty and gestured that he was going to try the well. She nodded. He rose again and staggered over to the gaping hole in the wall. The blackness inside was impenetrable but Harry was determined. After a few more minutes of catching his breath he began a slow and slippery descent.

Harry's fingers and toes scrambled to find purchase on the slick, slimy wall of the well. But slowly he descended safely. As he moved lower the air grew colder and damper. He was surprised the well water hadn't already frozen over. After going down about twenty feet Harry slipped and found himself falling. He grasped at the slick walls in panic but only felt their slick surfaces slapping against his palms and painfully jarring his fingers. Then he hit the cold water with a splash.

Harry was completely submerged for a moment in the icy frigid water and then bobbed back to the surface gasping and shivering. He grasped at the wall of the well for stability and tread water for a moment catching his breath. Then Harry dove beneath the surface. He only had to go down about ten feet before he found the slimy silt mud at the bottom of the well. He began grasping and groping through the thing slimy silt searching for the key the ghost had told them about.

Harry's burning lungs forced him to return to the surface. As he was catching his breath, clinging to the slimy stones in at the bottom of the dark well Harry tried to wash the dirty silt from his arm. He fought back despair at the hopelessness of his situation. Forcing himself to remain on task he took another deep breath. One step at a time, one action at a time, he needed to get out of this. He could panic later when he had time. Right now there was no time. He needed to survive.

This time Harry found the key after only a few moments of groping. It was large and angular but he felt confident he could make the climb out of the well with it in his hand. The climb was slow going. Harry often had to use his legs to brace himself against the far side of the well while he groped in the dark for a handhold and by the time he'd clawed his way to the hole he was exhausted.

Harry found Betty and Sarah waiting for him. Sarah was calm now and the girls helped him dry off with their blankets. When they felt they'd recovered as much warmth as they could in this dismal place they headed back to the chapel to retrieve the chalice and holy water.

The trio found the chapel empty this time. There was no trace of the penitent ghost. Betty rushed to retrieve the holy chalice and fill it with holy water from the font but Sarah lingered for a moment.

'We should make stakes. And take some crucifixes too.' She said.

'Good idea' Harry said smiling. He was happy that Sarah had recovered from their ordeal in the cellar so quickly. Harry had a feeling they'd all need their wits about them to confront Vivian.

As they worked to make a few stakes Harry noticed the sun was setting.

'We need to hurry.' He said.

The Tower

The trio rushed up out of the dungeon, and began the long ascent to the vampiress' tower. With every step the sun seemed to move closer to the edge of the mountaintop. By the time they reached the door to her chambers they were sweat-soaked and gasping for breath. Harry fumbled to insert the huge key into the ancient lock. There was a loud click and the the heavy door swung open with an ominous creaking. The room was a large circle, shrouded in thick black curtains and choked with dust and cobwebs. A few rays of light penetrated the darkness from the twilight outside and in this dim illumination the trio could see ornate antique furniture from another age. A desk, chairs, a table, bookshelf full of mouldering tomes, and dominating the room; a huge gilded coffin.

Harry gasped, he felt the sweat coating his body go cold, his breath came in shallow gasps, and his hands trembled. That coffin contained the creature who had brought them here. The source of all of their shock and pain over the past two days. Doubt filled Harry's mind as he assessed what they really knew about the creature. It seemed they were mostly working on rumour and legend. Slowly he took a step into the room and glanced back at Betty who had been designated the chalice-bearer. She was also trembling. Harry reached out to her and squeezed her shoulder reassuringly. They exchanged a meaningful glance and then turned toward the coffin.

Harry walked slowly across the room. He halted before the ornate box. Took a deep breath and reached out to open the lid. As he bent over the coffin the lid swung upward violently and knocked him to the floor amidst the dust and cobwebs. Vivian rolled up to her knees and glared at the three trespassers with glowing red eyes, then a predatory smile contorted her beautiful features and she coiled her long legs beneath her in preparation for a leap.

Betty ran forward and threw the holy water at Vivian but the nimble vampiress sprang out of the way leaving Betty agape as the sacred waters splashed uselessly into the now empty coffin. Vivian sprang forward and lashed out at the big girl with a vicious sidekick sending Sarah sprawling on the floor. Sarah stepped toward the vampiress holding a silver crucifix before her and hoping it might somehow act as a defence against the dead woman.

Vivian eyed the crucifix with a cold glare, then smiled and casually walked toward Sarah. Sarah felt panic well up inside of herself, her every instinct demanded that she turn and flee, but her trembling legs refused to obey the command. Vivian placed her cold hand over Sarah's own and squeezed. The crucifix bent and splintered, and so did the bones in Sarah's small hand. Sarah shrieked in pain and fell to her knees before the vampiress. Vivian gloated down at the small girl kneeling before her and continued to squeeze Sarah's hand snapping more bones and sending waves of agony up Sarah's arm and throughout her entire body. Sarah's realized she was passing out as her field of vision narrowed to a pinprick.

Betty and Harry charged the vampiress from opposite sides. Betty aimed high for her throat and Harry low at the back of her legs. Vivian pinwheeled in the air for a split second after they hit her and then came crashing down on her head, a fall that would have broken the neck of a living woman. But she was not a living woman. She sat up and hissed at them and they dived on top of her desperately trying to wrestle her into a position where they could stake her. Sarah's limp body sprawled sideways and slowly the two companions forced Vivian down to the cold stone floor.

As they wrestled on the floor Vivan's hand closed on Betty's windpipe and she ripped out Betty's throat. Harry screamed as Betty's hot blood sprayed his face. Loss, horror, fear, and defeat washed over him. The vampiress leered ecstatically as she was splashed by the blood of her victim. She dug her claws into Harry's chest and threw him across the room where he landed in a motionless heap amid the dust and cobwebs.

Sarah screamed as she watched Betty twitching on the floor clutching at her gushing throat wound. Vivian stood up and turned again toward the smaller girl. She towered over Sarah who was laying on her side cradling her mangled fingers. Sarah looked up at the blood-soaked goddess, the demoniac look on the creature's face, the smile of blood-lust and satisfaction, and finally she allowed herself to faint.

The Armoury

Harry awoke in darkness. He didn't want to be awake. Didn't even want to be alive. He felt so defeated, so exhausted. Sarah's sobbing was what finally stirred him to rise. He crawled across a dusty stone floor to where Sarah was curled up crying. Harry wrapped his strong arms around the small girl and held her. He had to get her out of here. She didn't deserve this. She deserved to live.

Harry glanced around the room as he held Sarah. It was a small room with a window through which the bright sunlight of early morning shone. All around the room were archaic weapons. Rows of halberds, barrels of sabres, cases of muskets, boxes of rusting breastplates. The door was half-caved in with collapsed rubble, completely impassible. Harry wasn't sure if Vivian had taken them in through the window or simply collapsed the ceiling of the corridor outside to trap them but either way their situation seemed hopeless. Their stakes, crucifixes, and chalice were gone.

When Sarah stopped crying Harry stood up and walked over to the window. Outside was a sheer precipice, a steep, snow-covered mountain slope stretching almost straight down for hundreds of meters. There was no way down and nowhere to climb down to anyways. Harry craned his neck back and looked up. He could see the tower of the vampiress high above them. Cold rage filled him. He would kill this monster or die trying.

Harry grabbed a sabre from a barrel of identical sabres and wrapped the dusty tassel tightly around his hand. Then he began to climb out of the window.

'Where are you going?' Sarah asked numbly.

'I'm going to kill her. Or die trying.' Harry said.

'Don't leave me.' Sarah begged, tears again welling up in her eyes.

'I won't. I promise. I'll be back for you.' Harry said.

He stepped down from the window sill and caressed her face. He looked into her eyes. Sarah nodded. Assured of nothing but that the nightmare would soon be over, one way or another. She watched from the floor as Harry turned and slung himself out of the window and began his long, cold climb to once again due battle with the vampiress.

The climb was slow. The stones were worn and slick and freezing to the touch, but also crumbling and enough were missing to provide hand and footholds. The sabre dangled precariously from its tassel, weighing down his left hand and sometimes getting in his way but Harry managed. He was more determined now than he'd ever been in his life. He was reckless with anger and it paid off. Eventually Harry's finger grasped the ledge of Vivian's balcony and he slowly pulled himself up and collapsed into a small snowdrift which choked the doorway to her chamber.

Harry stood slowly and wiped the snow from his body numbly. He held the sabre out in front of him and tried the door. It was locked. Harry cursed and began hacking at the hinges with the rusty old sword. His arm trembled with the impacts, his lungs burned with the exercise in the cold air, but finally the door came crashing down leaving him standing in the cold air panting and sweating. Once again he was in Vivian's chambers.

Harry strode toward the gilded coffin sword in hand. He opened the lid of the coffin and saw Vivian laying there, just as if she were asleep. Her beautiful face was clean and unmarred by blood or any sign of cruelty. She looked so peaceful. So innocent. How strange it seemed to him that this face and lithe body could contain the soul and the powers of a demon. That this girl could be the source of all of his unhappiness and misery. Harry raised his sword to strike.

Vivian's eyes snapped open. Harry's sword came down toward her throat but she threw herself out of the coffin onto the floor. Harry's eyes went wide as she pulled his sword free from the coffin wall, he'd thought vampires couldn't move during the day! Vivian gathered her long legs beneath herself and hissed at Harry. She glanced around the room seeking an escape route. Harry advanced on her slowly sword first. Just before he came within slashing distance of the vampiress she made a dash for the window.

Harry stepped forward and swung the heavy sabre at her. Vivian tried to dodge but was an instant too slow, she sent herself sprawling to the tower floor but came up cradling her arm, black ichor oozing from the deep gash made by the ancient sword. She was vulnerable! Blessing the sunlight Harry lunged forward chopping and hacking at her clumsily with his heavy sword.

Vivian ducked and dodged, she scrambled backwards away from the biting blade her red eyes blazing at Harry. He pursued her across the room and she took shelter behind a gilded couch upholstered in thick red velvet. She seemed to hesitate for a moment and Harry slashed down at her, but Vivian sprang aside at the last moment and the sword became lodged deep into the couch.

Now Vivian was on the offensive, she sprang onto Harry scratching and clawing at his eyes and throat. He was knocked to the ground with her on top of him, but he felt that she lacked the superhuman strength of their previous encounters, in the daylight she was no stronger than a mortal woman! Just as he thought this her thumb gouged out his eye and Harry screamed in pain. Her hands closed on his throat as he scrambled to get away from her, Harry was panicking and Vivian was choking the life out of him.

Harry's lungs burned for air, his vision began to darken, and he felt weakness creep into his limbs, Vivian had defeated him. Then Sarah burst into the room and ran toward the vampiress, silver chalice in hand. Vivian turned to meet the new threat but was splashed in the face by the sacred waters and fell to the floor screaming in agony. Black smoke poured from Vivian's face and a hideous stench like rotting flesh filled the room. The vampiress writhed in agony, kicking, screaming, and rolling across the floor like a madwoman. Then her skull caved in as the holy water ate it's way through her body like a powerful acid. Harry gasped in revulsion and backpedalled away from the dissolving corpse and the clouds of black stinking smoke that poured from it. Soon all that remained was a sticky mass of black ichor and partially dissolved bones on the floor of the tower.

Sarah helped Harry to his feet and the two fell into each others' arms. They held each other for a long time before taking up Vivian's key ring and leaving behind the castle of the vampiress forever.

The Hospital

Harry awoke in darkness. Looking around the hospital room he wondered what had awoken him. The various monitors hummed gently, and their indicators glowed dimly but he didn't think that was it. He felt a cold breeze on his face and shivered despite his thick blanket, had someone had left a window open? Looking at the door to his room he saw a familiar silvery light shining from under the door.

Harry sprang to his feet and charged into the hall. The room across the hall was the source of the silvery light, Sarah's room. He rushed to the doorway and saw a silvery figure bending over Sarah's bed, Harry made eye contact with Sarah, she was frozen in fear, breath coming in shallow gasps, eyes wide with horror. The vampiress was Betty.

'Forget about me Harry?' Betty asked glancing over her shoulder and flashing him a fanged smirk.

'Never.' Harry said raising the crucifix that hadn't left his hand since he'd been able to get it from the hospital staff.

Betty snarled and retreated to the farthest corner of the room. Sarah glanced around, desperate to find some weapon to use against the vampiress. Finding nothing she flung herself out of bed and made a dash for the door. Betty lunged forward and grabbed Sarah's ankle. The small girl fell flat on her face smashing her teeth against the tiled floor and then she was dragged backwards by the big girl toward the window. Sarah screamed as Betty kicked through the glass and the cold night air flooded the room.

In desperation Harry threw his crucifix. It struck Betty's back lightly but she reacted as if she'd been hit with a bowling ball, she was smashed to the floor by the cross and lost her grip on Sarah's ankle. Whimpering Sarah crawled toward Harry and he rushed forward to pull her from the room. Betty was on them in an instant.

For a moment the three struggled and scrambled, Betty trying to get a grip on one of them, Sarah trying to escape, and Harry trying to shield the smaller girl. Then Sarah was free and running, and Betty had a grip on Harry. Seeing Sarah was free Harry turned his attention to the bigger girl. He wrapped his arms around her waist and pushed hard with his legs. She might have superhuman strength but she didn't weight anymore than she had when she was alive. He lifted her from the ground and felt her arm wrap around his neck in a stranglehold. Harry knew he only had a few seconds before he passed out from the choke but he wasn't worried, the smashed window was right in front of him.

Harry charged toward the smashed window with Betty clinging to him, choking the life out of him. At the last moment he dived and spun. Betty's neck came down on a huge shard of broken glass and with their combined weight behind the impact the glass cut three-quarters of the way through her neck. Harry felt her grip go slack and greedily filled his lungs with cold air. He pushed himself to his feet and looked down at the corpse, black ichor oozed from the wound staining the windowsill and wall. The stench was unbearable. Then she shuddered and began to rise. Harry's mouth fell open in shock, Betty's head hung at a gruesome angle and a flood of ichor ran down her shoulder and chest but still she staggered forward.

Sarah ran back into the room and smashed a bottle of antiseptic alcohol at Betty's feet, then she pulled a lighter from her bra, sparked it, and dropped it into the puddle of flammable liquid. Betty writhed noiselessly as the flames licked over her dead flesh, her corpse jerked left, and then right trying to find an escape from the pain of the flames licking at her. Then the fire caught and she fell to the ground in a flailing heap. Harry and Sarah held each other as they watched the stumbling staggering corpse fall. The hospital fire alarms activated as the thick, stinking smoke filled the room and they could hear shouting voices and rushing feet from down the hallway. The entire encounter had only taken a few minutes. The nightmare was finally over for both of them. They would no longer awake in darkness.

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