|"Castlevania: Symphony of the Night introduced us to an Alucard that was very different from the one who once fought alongside Trevor C. Belmont, an Alucard whose hundreds of years of existence began to merit more pain through the increasing struggle between the forces that beckoned him. It's this version of Alucard that we'll follow in Shadow and Sam Mills' latest tale, Blood Hunting, as the half-breed son of Lord Dracula and his allies are again taken back into the world that Koji Igarashi and his Dracula X team created for them many years ago."|
By Shadow and Sam Mills
There is an old saying, that even those who sleep are still alive. Though it is debatable as to what extent a vampire can be called life, that which moves, talks and sleeps is certainly not dead in terms of the mind. Some consider it a privilege to be alive forever. For what can one do when they are on the other side that cannot be done here on earth?
Alucard was not a tortured soul, nor was he one that longed for eternal rest. Certainly he could feel more and understand more than any pure blooded human could ever know. His fathers only gift to him was immortality. Though Alucard accepted who his father was, he didn't openly want to thank his father for this gift.
Anyone that knew him knew that if Alucard wanted to turn down his fathers gift, there was a sure way to turn it down: death. But even if Alucard were to end his "life" with a stake through the heart, beheading, or other means, he feared he would suffer the same fate as his father. Would he too rise every century? And if so, what kind of changes would that mean for the spirit? Would his cursed blood allow a vampire into heavenly grace, or unconditionally send him to the horrors of hell?
Never one to tempt fate, Alucard decided that to alter his nature of everlasting life would be foolish, and to accept what he was. But now, there was a challenge in front of him. Now that he had just defeated his father for yet another time, what was he to do?
Loving mortals was hard. Alucard knew that, because he had seen them die so fast in front of him. From the death of his mortal mother to the Belmonts he aided, he remembered them more for his memory rather than their lives. Now, he had connected to yet two more: Richter Belmont, and Maria.
After his intense encounter with them during the battle at the castle, he knew that it would be easy to fall in love with either of them, as if they were his siblings...or more. He left them, not wanted to ever see either of them again, for fear of being hurt again. He thought he had eluded them, making a home deep in the caves of a Swedish mountain side.
A few weeks had passed, and he was laying down to sleep for the day. The nights had been good to him, but he was beginning to have troubles. Though he didn't drink the life completely out of them, he had drank the blood of six people so far. Encountering them while they slept, he drank only enough for himself to live. But people were beginning to notice, and it wasn't going to be safe anymore.
He finally made the decision: one more day, one more night to say goodbye, then he would go into an indefinite sleep once again. Sleeping was almost like being dead to him, except that in sleep, his mind was his own. It was like living in his own world of thoughts and dreams, and it was as good as heaven could ever hope to be.
After sleeping for that day, he awoke to a very wintry, snowy night. The only thing that seemed to be on his mind on a night like this was the warm blood strong blood of a young gentleman. He went to the ledge of the cave, and could barely make out the snowy sight of the town below. Becoming a bat, he swooped down, entering the town at breakneck speed, and landing in a quiet alley near the village inn.
On this particular night, a party was going on in the inn hall. People were dancing, drinking, laughing, and having a carelessly good time. There was little room for seriousness. Alucard noticed how darkly dressed he was for such a joyous occasion, and he felt as if he were standing out. Using a little bit of vampire ability (he resisted calling it "magic") he turned his cloak into a magnificent cape of red and gold trim.
Alucard walked around the floor of dancing people, he opened up his senses to the scene. Plenty of choices in here, but this wasn't the safest place to find anyone. His only thought was that he was craving warm, almost hot blood, and he'd find that better in an active man, not a sleeping one.
There was one that caught his scent. Out on the dance floor, a man had just finished dancing with a woman. From his angle, he couldn't see either one of their faces. He watched as heard the man tell her, "I'm going up to the room."
The woman said, "I'm going to stay a while, if that's okay?"
"Fine, I'll see you later. Good night." he said. He watched as the man went to a chair, put his cloak on around him, and head out of the room. As the man headed towards the stairs to go up to his room, Alucard quickly followed him, using his wit to make sure he wasn't detected.
He watched from the end of the hall as the man went into the room. Traditionally, he would turn into mist at this point and go under the door, but considering the man may not be sleeping, he figured he would have to be quicker than that. He went to the door, and quietly turned the knob. Peering in, he could see the man had his back turned to Alucard. Quietly, Alucard entered the room and quietly closed the door behind him.
The man was undressing, removing his cape as Alucard came up behind him. His plan was to cover the gentleman's mouth so he couldn't speak, perform a vampire spell to make him sleep, and do his business. As he came up behind him, he something on the mans belt caught his eye. It was a whip.
With his attention broken, Alucard gasped. Quickly, the man turned, grabbing his whip into his hand. Alucard was going to run out of there before the man could see his face, but the man grabbed his hand with the whip with a precision he'd only seen a few times before.
"Vampire! What is your business..." the man stopped as they two saw each other's face. This was no stranger, it was Richter Belmont. "Alucard?"
"Richter..." Alucard said. "What kind of fate has brought you into my presence once again?"
"Maria, Annette and I have been trying to find you. We have been looking all over Europe. When we heard a story about residence here being feed by vampires, but not being killed, we figured it had to be you." Richter explained.
Alucard couldn't believe that they had been looking for him. He'd made it clear that he was a creature better off being left alone. And knowing that people had been talking about what he had done worried him very much. "Why have you been looking for me?"
"It's Maria, I'm afraid. She's sick," Richter said. "She's sick with love for you."
Alucard was annoyed. "So what? Ridiculous puppy love is not a good reason to look for me. Tell her to find another!"
Richter went on to explain that there was more of a problem than just that. He went on to tell Alucard that because of her bond with Alucard, there was another force that was coming after her, a darkness that was beginning to awaken in her. "You are a good soul, Alucard. But your bloodline is a cursed one. I think that because of her vulnerable spot for you, someone else of your bloodline is trying to tap into her soul."
"How do you know this?" Alucard said.
Richter paused, took a deep breath and said, "In her exact words, she told me, 'I see nightmares in waking life'" He went on to tell Alucard that whenever Maria thinks of him, the thoughts begin to occur. He told him that she has images of skeletons walking around on their own, or she often saw people with blood on their faces. Once she even thought she saw Dracula himself in her room. "I don't know if it's true or not, but I believe she is seeing something."
Alucard paced for a moment, thinking only of how absurd the who thing sounded. "Where is she now?" Alucard asked.
"In the next room. She went to bed early, so I assume she's sleeping," Richter said. "You want to see her?"
"Indeed," Alucard said.
The went next door to the darkened room. When they walked over to her bed, they found that she was not there. "Where is she?" Alucard asked. Richter swore that he had left her there before going to the dance floor. Alucard sniffed the air, hoping to get some hint of something happening. "Someone else was here," he proclaimed. "Someone not human. Another vampire."
"Dracula?" Richter asked.
"You assume too much, my beloved human. No, not him. Someone else. Someone like him," Alucard said. "I don't know where they could have taken her, but he did take her. I'm sure of it!"
"Where?" Richter said. But Alucard couldn't say. There was no indication that anything had happened, except that Alucard could feel it. But that was the extent of his feelings on this. "We need to look for her!" Richter said.
"Indeed," Alucard agreed.
They went downstairs to find Annette at the dance. When they found her, she was sitting at a table talking with another gentleman. Alucard could hear her before they got near, and she was asking about the supposed "vampire attacks". When she saw Richter and Alucard, she smiled. Apparently, they found him, she thought. "Excuse me," she told the man. "So this is the famous Alucard I've heard so much about. Pleased to meet you in the...flesh," she said.
"We need to go now," Richter said. He pulled her aside and let he know that Maria was missing, and that Alucard could sense she was taken. There wasn't time for introductions. He grabbed her by the hand, and they followed Alucard out into the streets.
Alucard peered around for any indication, but he wasn't getting any vibrations. The vampire that took her was quick and cunning. He didn't leave much of a trace of his spirit either. "I need something to help me find her..." he thought. Then it came to him: he needed something. "I got it! Up in my coffin, I keep a special metal. It was given to me by my father. It would normally be a danger, but since he is currently vanquished, I can safely use it."
"What is it?" Richter asked.
"It is something I have only dared to use once. I can use it to summon nearby vampires to me, regardless of their will. If the vampire that has her is near, he will have no choice but to come to me," Alucard explained. "You may come with me if you wish, but you'd better hold on."
Alucard took them to the alley he landed, and transformed into a bat. Richter and Annette took hold of his legs as he took off into the air! Through the blizzard, the two of them held their breath, until Annette let out a scream when the ride got a little rough. There was no indication of where they were. All they could see was white snow all around them.
Finally, they landed at the mouth of the cave. Alucard took human form, and said, "My apologies, fine woman. I forgot how scary flying can be for some. Especially if you've never done it before."
"You scare me Alucard," Annette admitted. "You remind me of your father. I'll try to keep myself calm."
They didn't have to go too deep to find the coffin. No one had ever been able to reach this cave before, so he it wasn't something that had to be too deeply hidden. Alucard opened the coffin, and pulled out the small metal from a pocket on the lid. The metal was an impressive piece, and metal that looked like a golden diamond. Richter and Annette watched as he held it close to his chest, and uttered a quiet spell. "I crave the presence of another, though your name I dare not utter. Close to me, command I shall. Come to me, come to me now!"
The metal let out a bright flash of golden light that filled the cave. The light began to reduce into the shape of a sole object. Within a moment, was the shape of a vampire, and in his hands a woman. She wasn't moving, and her eyes were closed. "Maria!" Richter cried out.
Dumbfounded, the vampire hissed at Alucard. "What is this!" the vampire demanded.
"We want the girl back," Alucard demanded. "Drop her, or the vampire killer will kill you!"
The vampire laughed out loud. He wasn't afraid of this at all. "My name is Leckster. I'll tell you, brother. I won't be threatened this way!" Brother? But Alucard had no brother. Dracula only fathered one child. The vampire sensed his confusion. "Oh, I know I am not your blood, but Dracula is the father of all that is evil and pure."
"What are you going to do with that woman? She is not dead," Alucard asked.
Leckster looked in Alucards eyes, and grinned so wide, his fangs stuck out. "Dracula hid something inside this girl, when she was just a little girl. With the dark priest, he was able to put one drop of Dracula's pure blood inside of her. When I drink it, I will have captured the soul of Dracula that plagues this young girl!"
Annette yelled. Richter stepped up. "Not if I can help it!" Richter said.
But it was too late: the vampire turned Maria's head over to reveal what he had just done. Two little fang marks were on her neck, and some of the blood had already passed into the vampire Leckester. "Dracula is already coming into me, and now, there is nothing, NOTHING you can do about it!"
With his chuckle, Alucard began to realize a change in him. It wasn't going to be much time before he would once again find himself against his greatest foe. "Father..."
A change was taking place in Leckster, and it wasn't a good one. Though the physical drop of Dracula's blood may have no longer remained in Maria's bloodstream, it's taint was enough to hold his power. Now that Leckster had drank from her, he was beginning to transform into Dracula himself.
Leckster dropped Maria to the ground as the power began to over take him. He began to scream with delight as waves of electricity flashed all around the cave. A rumbling echo came from deep within the cave, and Alucard knew what was happening. "We must leave this place. The castle must be coming up on top of the mountain!" he said.
"No, we must stop this!" Richter cried. "Alucard, kill Leckster now!"
Leckster stopped yelling and fell to the ground. Alucard took this moment to swoop by and grab Maria. Still unconsious, he knew she would not be able to live must longer unless something was done. But they had to got out of here first. As they turned to go, Leckster rose and cried out, "Alucard! Vengeance I shall take out on thee!"
Alucard turned to see Leckster in the same form as before. But this was not him talking. The soul of Dracula himself had inhabited him. "Father..."
"Be silent!" Dracula cried. "After all I've just experienced, I am in no mood to speak."
"And you are in no condition to fight. That vampire you inhabit is weak. And you are outnumbered," Alucard said. Richter stepped up, and Dracula shuttered. His power was not fully realized yet. He had a body and a mind, but he lacked his power.
He transformed into a bat, and took off deep into the cave. The rumbling continued to get stronger and stronger. "Let's go!" Annette cried. They went to the mouth of the cave. The snow storm had stopped, and the moon was visible between the clouds. Looking up, they could faintly see the form of a castle at the peak of the mountain. The windows lit up, and they knew that the Castlevania had been resurrected once again.
Maria was starting to awaken. She muttered a few things before opening her eyes. "Alucard," she whispered. "You are here."
"We have no time to talk," Alucard said.
"We need to get out of here. Can you hold on to me?"
"I'm....so weak..." Maria said, before passing out again. Alucard knew he had to take them away separately. But where were they to go? The sooner they could reach the castle, the better. Perhaps they could stop it before it had a chance to inhabit evil. His father's soul was not to full potential yet, so perhaps they could stop this before it started. "We've got no time to take anyone back down. We've got to get to the castle!"
"Take the women," said Richter. "I'll climb up on my own!" Alucard asked him if he was sure that was what he wanted to do. "I can do it. You need to get up there and stop him!"
"Agreed," Alucard said. He transformed into a bat. Annette held on to his legs, then lifted her sister. It was a rough ride, but they eventually made it to the top. They landed in the courtyard, and there was nothing here that posed a threat. The minions of the castle had not been resurrected yet. This was a very weak castle, and Alucard knew that if he went now, he could get to his father without any trouble.
Annette agreed to stay behind and watch over Maria. Alucard entered the main hall of the castle. What surprised him was that the castle had not changed at all! The main hall was exactly as it had been when he'd last been here. He knew this was to his advantage. His father was too weak to resurrect a new creature of chaos. "This should be easy," Alucard confidently said.
He made his way up to the highest balcony. That had to be where his father was hiding. It didn't take him very long. Within a matter of minutes, he was to the staircase that led up to his lair. "Father! I am on my way up! This time, you will not be able to get around your damnation again!" he cried. "Why don't you come out of that place and face me out here!"
He waited a moment, then saw his father, still in the form of Leckster, standing at the top of the stairs. "Alucard, I grow tired of this. All I want to do is exist without misery. Don't you know how terrible it is when I am not here?" This wasn't the way his father would be acting. Something was different about him, but he didn't perceive any deception. What was he to do?
Alucard suddenly realized that he had still not feed. There was a strange weakness that he was beginning to feel. Taking a look at his pale white hands, he knew that his advantage was not that great. I'm getting weak, he thought. But he couldn't let his father know this. "You are a conqueror, father. You can never exist without wanting to dominate."
"Alucard, I'm not the same. Please son. Let me forgive you for killing me," Dracula said.
"You are mocking me!" Alucard cried. But he wasn't sure if that was the truth. Surely there was something in him that was different, but what could it be?
A moment later, he heard someone approaching. He stopped and looked behind him. A moment later, Maria appeared from the shadows, looking strong and healthy again. Very surprised to see her, Alucard asked her what was going on. "I'm strong again, Alucard. I am better."
"Where is Annette?" Alucard asked. He knew that something was wrong.
"You don't know who I am, do you?" Maria asked. "I am not a vampire, if that is what you are thinking. Nor am I inhabited with any kind of spirit. But I do feel strong."
Dracula came down the stairs and met his son and Maria. Alucard warned him to stay back, but he walked right up to them. Without any resistance, Maria took him by the hand. "We are soul mates," Dracula said. "You have one piece of my soul, but you have the other."
"So are we to rule together, my lord?" Maria asked.
Dracula waited a moment, then smiled at her. "No, my dear. I cannot share my power with anyone. I must have all your blood!" Just then, Dracula grabbed Maria and tried to bite her neck. Alucard grabbed him, and tried to pull him back. But Dracula was too strong. He got his fangs into her, and began to suck blood from her wound.
Alucard fell to the ground. He had become suddenly weak. Now there was little he could do to stop this from happening! But then...
A chain whip suddenly wrapped around the Count's neck, it's source from within the darkness of the hall. Then Richter walked up, pulling the vampire to the ground. Maria fell into Richters arms, near death, but still breathing. The vampire looked up at the Belmont, terrified. "Dracula, this is enough! I cannot let you do this any longer!"
"Belmont, you are foolish. No one understands what kind of nightmare we are in right now!" Dracula proclaimed.
"If it is truly a nightmare, then I think I'd prefer to awake! I've told you before that you don't belong in this world!" Richter cried. The vampire didn't look scared. He began to rise to his feet, but Richter whipped him again. The vampire did not fall, and a new found strength was apparent in him.
Dracula rose his arms in the air, and began to chant in the ancient language. With his words began a giant storm of thunder and lightning. Snow began to fall as a giant blizzard. It was all happening so fast, but Richter whipped at the vampire again. "Die monster!"
"So much for humans. I don't need your help! So no longer will I seek to rule, but to destroy!" Dracula proclaimed. The blizzard was getting so bad, Richter and Maria were beginning to freeze. Alucard could barely move. It was smothering them with a force they couldn't react to. "No, you shall..."
At that moment, a torch came flying at Dracula, hitting him in the head. The flames set his hair on fire, and it quickly spread to his clothing. Losing his balance, he nearly feel off the staircase. Distracted, his blizzard came to complete stop. Dracula fell onto the ground once again, and Richter stuck him with his whip, wrapping the chain around his neck. On the ground, Dracula looked into Alucards eyes, which were almost as angry as the flames engulfing him.
"Die, father...please....die!" Alucard mustered.
With a hard yank of the whip, Richter pulled off Dracula's head. The head fell down the staircase and into the ground fall below. Suddenly, the grim reaper appeared before them, sickle in hand. "Death comes to the master, but only for a while! And I will see you again, Belmont!" Death cried. With that, he disappeared.
From the dark hall, Annette walked in, smiling. It didn't take any words to say that she was the one that threw the torch. Richter was delighted to see her, and embraced her. "Oh, my precious Annette. That was just wonderful!"
"Richter, Maria is not well. She ran off while I was attending to her." She looked down and saw her sister laying on the ground. "Oh my..." They kneeled down and made sure she was still breathing. She had lost a lot of blood, and all they could do was pray for a fast recovery. Then they noticed Alucard.
They went over to him, and he was very weak. "Don't worry. I cannot die, but I certainly can't function without blood soon. I wouldn't ask you for this, but I need help. Richter, just a little bit of your blood with be enough to sustain me for a long while. May I drink from you?"
Richter nodded. He kneeled and put his neck up to Alucards mouth. With a gentle bite, he broke the skin with his fangs, and drank from Richters neck. With only a few gulps, he was feeling the strength come back into him. The Belmont blood was strong and rejuvenating. "That is enough. I thank you, vampire killer," Alucard said as he got to his feet.
They felt the place start to quake. The castle was going to be falling soon. Quickly, Richter grabbed Maria, and they hurried as fast as they could out of the castle. When they reached the entrance, the place began to crumble behind them. Once more, Alucard transformed into a bat, and carried them to safety. Now he could take all three, thanks to the strength of the Belmont blood.
Alucard took them to the inn, and they discretely took Maria to her room. They laid her down on the bed, and let her rest for a while. For the rest of the night, Alucard watched over her. He didn't know if the evil had been taken out of her, but the vampire had been killed, and now, her free would take reign over her. He figured that the vampire Leckster had been influencing her from the start, and that she was safe now. "Evil influences are the hardest thing for the human soul to resist," Alucard said to the sleeping Maria. "Except in my case."
Dawn was not too far away. Maria was still sleeping when he realized he had to go soon. The cave was no longer safe, so he had to find a place to sleep for the night. He kissed Maria on the cheek, and was ready to leave when he heard a faint voice, "Alucard, wait." It was Maria.
Alucard went back and found her sitting up in her bed. "My lady, you are feeling well again?"
"Shaken, but fine. I don't know exactly who I was for some time. But now, I think my dreams have shown me," she said.
"And what do they show you know, my beloved Maria?" Alucard asked.
"They show me...they show me a place where I can be safe and not worry. It's a place that isn't here on earth, but inside," she said. "It's as if heaven itself were a dream, and I was in control of it. Do you know what I mean?"
Alucard nodded. "Indeed, my lady. And now, I will be entering into a sort of dream of my own. I may never see you again, but I am glad I got a chance."
Maria understood. She remembered an old philosophy, that if you love a bird, let it fly away. If it comes back, it's your own. If not, then it never really was. She knew now that though she loved Alucard, no one could ever keep him. For a soul like that is one that is best kept in memory.
Without another word, Alucard left Maria, and took off into the night. Where he went from there, no one could really say. Whether he chose eternal sleep, or if he kept watch over Maria from a far, it couldn't be said.
In the following years, every once in a while, Maria would be sitting alone on a quiet night, and feel someone watching her. She never feared knowing that they were the piercing eyes of a vampire, for she knew in her heart that Alucard was the one doing all the watching. Sleeping or awake, she knew that the eyes of the vampire Alucard were on her always.