The First Betrayal
Wiping the blood away from my lips, I drop the man's body into the sewer. It lies there, sewage water splashing over it. I curl my lip at the stench, kicking away a rat that gets too close. I rub my arm, still sore from the gunshot wound. I've drained three people and the skin and muscles have only just healed. It will take some time before I can even move it again. I adjust the wool hoodie I took from my first victim and scoop up the ball cap of my most recent, then head down the sewers towards where my rendezvous with Mundo is supposed to be. The thought of doing anything other than rip his heart out makes me sick, but for now I have to work with him. I'm weak, hunted, and I need to know what Stanton and Miranda are up to.
After about half an hour of walking, I come to the manhole that will bring me closest to the meeting spot. I climb up the ladder and lift the cover, peering through the small crack. It's a rundown part of the city. Not even half the street lights are even working. Pushing the cover off, I slide out of the hole, keeping low and out of the light. Pushing up against the wall of a building, I sidle along, carefully, slowly, until I come to the front of a decrepit old building. A combination lock hangs from the door. I spin it. Twenty-six right, four left, back around to thirty-one. The lock pops open and I duck inside.
It's a dingey place. Dust muffles my footsteps on the concrete floor. I can make out the shape of a single overhead light, but it doesn't turn on with the light switch. Using my hand to guide me, I slip around an old counter and find the stairs in the back, right where Mundo said they would be. I climb them, keeping my ears alert for any sound other than my own footsteps and shallow breathing.
At the top of the stairs is another door, into a room. Unlike the main floor, this room's light actually works. I pull the chain and sit on the bed, coughing as the squeaky springs kick up a cloud of musk and dust. I stand, waving the foul cloud of odors away and instead sit in the large armchair, propping my feet up on the bedside table. I glance at the digital clock by my boots. 2:48. Mundo was supposed to meet me here at 2:30. Nestling down into the cushions, I pull the dagger Ramone threw to me from my pocket. I trace my hand over the blade and handle, made from one continuous piece of steel. The weapon is completely devoid of decoration, save for the scratches along the pommel. One for each time it has exchanged hands. I run my finger over them, feeling them. Some are smooth, worn with age, while others are barely even more than lines. I chuckle as I slide my fingernail in one that's diagonal from the others, remembering how we'd almost been killed by a pair of Vampire hunters after a heated sparring match. Then I notice the newest one, the one that Ramone cut after that night…
Incense filled the air of the chamber. I leaned back, stifling a yawn. The thin shouldered man standing at the head of the table droned on, his voice lulling me into a stupor. I glanced across the table, at Ramone, atent and sitting straight, hanging on to every word the man said. I rolled my eyes and then tilted my head back, looking at the ceiling. Ramone had just been appointed to the council after his fathers death at the hands of hunters two months ago. The only reason I was there was for appearances. I wasn't part of the council, my opinions and voice held no sway. The heir to the name of Dracula was expected to be seen at the meetings of the order he founded, but not heard.
I started as I saw the other members of the council rise. Up at the front I could see Nosferatu whispering something into the ear of the man who had been speaking. Orlok scurried around behind him like a well trained dog. Standing, I stretched, this time making no attempt to disguise my yawn. I turned to talk to Ramone when a firm hand descended on my shoulder.
I turned, looking into the jet black eyes, sunken face, and powerful jaw of the man who had been speaking. He stood barely an inch or two taller than me, but that small inch multiplied his terrifying presence. He excuded an air of power, of strength, of dominance. Just the kind of aura you would expect to feel from the most adept Vampire that had ever lived, arguably more powerful than Count Dracula himself. I gulped. "Yes Father?"
My father stared down at me, his eyes cold and expressionless. He drew an envelope from his pocket and handed it to me. "You would be wise to pay more attention in meetings." He hissed. "And I would not have to give you your instructions again afterwards." I raised my hand to take the letter, but he pulled it back, looking into my eyes. I knew he was looking for any signs of insubordination, examining my face muscles, waiting for an excuse to punish me. More than once I had been brutally beaten for disobeying or planning to disobey his orders. 'A danger to our race' he would say. But I'd become more than skilled enough at deceiving his gaze, hiding my feelings from him. And I sensed a satisfaction from him at that. He places the letter in my hand. "You are to move on a village north of here." He said, his voice cold. "We have received reports from our spies that a squad of hunters is hiding there. I want you to go there and capture them." I must have let my surprise and indignation show because he fixes me with a harsh glare. "I want them alive, do you understand? And you are to leave the people of the town alone. They are under Nosferatu's jurisdiction, not yours."
I clenched my jaw and nodded, avoiding my father's gaze. Turning, I walked swiftly from the room, trying to hide my fury. Nosferatu. He even had my father bowing to his selish wishes. I was so drawn into my trance of rage that I walked right into Ramone who was waiting for me just outside the door. I stumbled and he caught me by the arm. "Careful there, Damian." He snorted, helping me to steady myself. "We wouldn't want anyone to get hurt." I pulled my arm roughly from is grasp, but couldn't hid the smile that tugged at my lips. "So, off to arrest those hunters for your father then?"
I grunted. "Arrest. It's ridiculous. We should just kill them. Hang them as warnings to all the others. Hell, we should execute the entire village for hiding them." Ramone started to speak, but I cut him off. "Don't try and defend them. You know as well as I do that they can spot a hunter a mile away. The only reason that we aren't hanging them right now is because Nosferatu doesn't want to lose his taxes." I snort. "The greedy coward." I stomped off, grinding my teeth, my fingernails digging into my palms. Ramone struts after me, giving me a strange look.
"You shouldn't talk about Master Nosferatu like that Dame." He murmured.
I stopped in my tracks and turned to stare at him. My friend avoided my gaze. I studied him for a moment, then, "The council really has changed you, hasn't it Ramone."
He smiled to himself, stealing a glance at the dagger tucked in my belt. "You still haven't congratulated me for being appointed." He said.
Turning awkwardly, I rolled my eyes, running my hand over the scratches in the daggers hilt. "It's not like they had much of a choice." I muttered. "And besides, you're still on probation. You can't be sure they won't pick someone else from your clan." But we both knew that wasn't true. Still, Ramone didn't press the matter.
Outside the gate I turn to my friend. "Well, I'll be going now. Have fun with the paperwork or whatever it is you have to do." I started walking towards the garage.
He raised an eyebrow. "Um, Dame."
"I'm going with you."
I stopped in my tracks and turned to him. "Why?" But he doesn't even have to answer. I yell with rage and violently kicked a flowerpot sitting next to the sidewalk. "This is bullshit!" I screamed, punching the solid cement wall of the garage, leaving an inch and a half crater in it. "No matter what, they always find some excuse to have someone babysit me. It's a simple fucking job." I growled, laying my head against the wall, examining the blood smeared pit my fist had left in it. "Why don't they trust me?"
Ramone remained silent, staring at me. We stayed that way for a few minutes, then Ramone walked past me and opened the door to the garage. "I'm sorry."
I pushed myself off of the wall and followed him into the garage. We each mounted a motorcycle, and soon we were racing along the rocky Transylvanian back roads towards the small northern village.
We arrived in the hamlet just after midnight. I don't doubt that the motors from our bikes woke up the entire populace, but not a single light came on. They all knew who we were. And I was sure they all knew what we came for. Dismounting, I followed Ramone to the inn, taking in the smell of the air. Fear.
As we approached the inn, the owner came out. "M-my lords." He stuttered, bowing low before us. "How may I s-serve you tonight? Perhaps a pint? Or a warm chair by the fire? Or maybe a lob-" He's cut off midsentence as I pushed past him, knocking him to the ground. I thrust open the door. The inn's common room is deserted, save for the innkeeper's wife cowering behind the bar.
I ran my eyes over the room. "Wake up all the guests and bring them down here." I growled at the woman. She stared at me in shock, shrinking into the corner. "Now!" I bark, baring my teeth, my fangs sliding into view.
"Belinda, d-do as he s-s-says." The innkeepers voice comes from outside. The woman glanced at the door, then at me, and back at the door again. Sliding out from around the counter, she scurried upstairs.
Several minutes later everyone staying at the inn was lying on the floor at my feet in various stages of dress. I glared down at them, examining their clothes for patches, looking at their necks and arms for tattoos that would give away their allegiance to a group of hunters. I kicked one old man in the side when he tried to pull his arm away from my icy touch. I straightened, ran my eyes over the guests one last time, then spun and grabbed the innkeeper by the throat. "Where are they?" I bellowed as I threw him across the room. He hit the wall with a loud crunch then crumpled on the floor, whimpering. In three quick strides I was standing over him again. I nudged him onto his back then placed my foot on his chest. "Don't make me get violent." I growled, staring at him. "Tell me where they are. Now!"
To his credit, the man didn't talk. Not for a while. I cracked several ribs under the pressure of my foot, but not a useful word escaped his lips. Reaching down and grabbing him by the collar of his shirt, I hoisted him up to eye level. I was going to have to be more subtle. At first he tried to avoid my eyes, trying to dodge the tunnels of ash grey burning into his mind and soul. But it was fruitless. Within seconds his eyes were locked on mine. His eyes became unfocused. Behind us, I heard several people whimper as he starts to twitch. Drool leaked from his mouth, dribbling to the floor. His left foot began jumping like a rabbits. His body gave one last massive spasm, then stopped moving. I dropped him to the floor and waited. A minute passed. Then two. Then, slowly, he began to move. His hand, shaking, stretched out, his finger pointing. I followed the line with my eyes to the fire place. Walking over to it, I bent down and picked up a fire poker. Squatting in front of the fire, I prodded the the logs, the ashes underneath. As the metal struck the back of the fireplace, a dull hollow sound rang out. I smiled. Standing, I tossed the poker aside and turned to Ramone and chuckled. "Time to smoke 'em out."
Not long later the entire inn was up in flames. The innkeeper, his wife, and their guests gathered outside the burning wreck, staring in horror at the flames. Ramone stood by me, silent. I laughed to myself. Then, I walked around to the side of the building the chimney came from. Raising up my foot, I kicked the masonry, jumping back as the flames exploded out of the new opening into the new, fresh air. Three figures sprung out as well, covered in flames, soot and embers. Their screams rose above the roar of the fire as they stumbled around the village, desperately trying to put out the flames. I kicked one to the dirt and he started rolling, stifling the flames. Ramone grabbed the other two and through them into a puddle of mud, quenching the flames. Smirking, I grabbed the one twitching in the dirt and hauled him to his feet, pushing him over to Ramone. "We should find a cart to transport them in." He said. I nodded.
As I turned to look for a means of transporting our prisoners, I heard someone running. "Y-y-y-you BASTARDS!" A shrill voice cried. A barrage of tiny fists beat on my back. "You sons of bitches, hellspawn of demons!" I turned to see the innkeeper's wife, tears streaming down her face, her hands balled into fists of rage. "You've destroyed my home!"
She swung her fist again, but this time I caught it. I wrenched her up by the arm until she was eye level with me. Our eyes met and we stayed like that for almost a minute. No one else dared make a sound. I glanced over her shoulder, saw her husband lying in the dirt, being nursed by another villager. I smiled at him, then turned my eyes back to his wife. "If you love it so much, go save it." I dropped her to the ground. She stood there for a moment, looking bewildered. Then, with an otherworldly scream, she began running towards the flaming building. Her husband jumped to his feet, calling after her, but she kept running. Her scream became more and more paniced as approached the fire, realizing that no matter how hard she tried to stop running towards it, her feet would not listen. Her husband limped after her, begging her to stop, coughing up blood. As she reached the building, she dove in, headfirst, her cries reaching a fever pitch. Then, a large explosion from the hidden fireplace room cut her screaming short. The entire building was blown apart. Firey timbers flew through the air, landing on other houses, setting them alight. The innkeeper was blown away by the force of the blast, left lying on the ground. I turned to the bewildered, horrified crowd. "This was a warning!" I called out to them. "Those who harbor enemies of the League of Black are traitors and will be dealt with severly. If you are discovered aiding fugitives again, your entire village will suffer the same fate!" I stepped over the shivering body of the innkeeper and mounted my bike.
Ramone had hooked up an old cart to the back of his bike and was already waiting for me. As I pulled up next to him, he growled at me. "This was supposed to be a simple arrest. No damages, no deaths." I rolled my eyes and revved my engine, driving away from the burning village and heading towards the massive fortress in the mountains that was the headquarters of the League.
As we pulled up to the main gate, an entourage was there to meet us. My father stood next to my mother, Miranda. Behind them was Lord Schrek, and the Duke and Duchess Reinholt. Ghoul servants and guards flanked them. As Ramone and I braked to a halt, the ghoul guards surrounded the cart holding the three mangled, burned bodies. The hunters groaned as the ghouls dragged them from the cart and carried them inside. I could have sworn that I almost saw my father smile as he approached. "Well done, Damian. They shall be interrogated this very night. I trust you will be up to the task of leading the force that will wipe out the rest of their order?" I smile and nod, licking my lips. "Good. I trust the mission went well?"
I nod. "Everything went according to pl-"
I jumped as Nosferatu appeared at the top of the stair leading to the gate. Orlok sculked behind him, his beady eyes pointing out from under his overgrown eyesbrows. Nosferatu descended the stairs, his eyes fixed on me with a look of absolute fury.
"What is it, Nosferatu?" My father asked, stepping away from me.
"Your son. This... boy!" He spit the word at me. "Did not accomplish his mission. Instead of apprehending the criminals without involving the citizenry, he burned down the entire village, and was directly responsible for the death of one of the citizens, in direct violation of the orders that were given to him."
My father looked at me. "Is this true?"
I met his gaze straight on. "Yes. In order to flush the hunters out with the least risk to ourselves we burned down the building they were hiding in. I was then attacked and in self defense sent the aggressor into the burning building. The building then exploded, likely as a result of the illegal contraband that the hunters had smuggled in with them." I switched my glare to Nosferatu. "I accomplished my mission in perfect accordance with the unreasonably strict limitations impressed upon me while still remaining true to the laws of our order."
Nosferatu and I glared at each other for some time. "Ramone." My father called out. "Is Damian's account of events accurate?" I smirked. I knew my friend would reinforce what I had said.
"No, mylord." I turned and stared at my friend in disbelief. "Damian elected to find the hunters by physically abusing, and then when that failed, mentally traumatizing him with an unstable hypnotism technique. Two strategies that he could not guarantee the accuracy and efficiency of." I glared at Ramone, but he ignored me, continuing to keep eye contact with my father. "He then decided, without consulting me, to burn down the inn where the targets were hiding without first confirming they were there, or inspecting for possible traps, endangering our lives in the process."
My father nodded. "What about the attacker?"
Ramone took a deep, shuddering breath and glanced at Nosferatu. My gaze darted to him and I saw him give Ramone a sly nod. "The attacker was a small woman, mylord" Ramone continued. "She posed little threat to either Damian or the mission. Damian's method of dealing with her was unnecessary and in direct violation of our orders." Ramone glanced at me, his eyes apologetic, but I didn't care. He had betrayed me! My best, my only friend in the entire world. After all we'd been through, he had cast me aside to become a lap dog for that weasel Nosferatu. I had no doubt now that Nosferatu had requested Ramone be sent with me, that he had convinced Ramone to turn on me. There was a buzz of conversation, but I couldn't understand it. All I could think was how I had been betrayed. My reputation destroyed.
"Damian!" I looked up at my father, into his cold, dead eyes. "In light of these accusations, you are suspended from active duty. Once the interrogations are complete, Lord Schrek will lead the force to destroy the rest of the hunters. You will remain under constant surveillance until then and are not to leave the grounds of the fortress. Do you understand?" I nodded numbly. He stared at me for a moment longer, his eyes completely devoid of emotion. "Furthermore, you are now removed from the running to be the new representative of the Dracula clan on the council." I blinked in surprise. "I had hoped to appoint you to the council within the year. But now, I can see that you will never be ready to lead our race." He then turned and lead his entourage inside. I walked slowly behind them, clenching my fists. Looking up, I could see Nosferatu smiling smuggly at me. Ramone was standing beside him, avoiding my gaze. I walked past them, not acknowledging their presence.
I spent the rest of the night and all of the next day in my room, staring at the ceiling. Ramone came and asked to talk to me several times, but I ignored him. Guards were posted outside my door and anytime I tried to leave it they would follow me everywhere. I was a prisoner in my own home. I took my meals in my room and didn't speak to anyone. My mother, Miranda, brought all my food to me. She avoided my eyes as much as I avoided hers. Then, just an hour after the sun had set, she came again. This time, instead of a plate of food, she carried a sealed letter. After she had left, I turned it over. I recognized the raven made to look like an R. Ramone's seal. I was about to cast it aside, but then I stopped. I don't know why. Maybe I wanted to believe that my friend was still on my side. I broke the wax seal and opened the envelope. Pulling out the letter, it only said one thing: Meet me in the gardens.
Tucked in the envelope was the key to the lock on my window.
Unlocking the gate over my window, I slid out, handing onto the windowsill with one hand. I dropped twenty feet and hit the ground with a roll. Springing up, I pushed myself against the wall and arched my neck, making sure no one had seen my escape. Then, crouching slightly, I made my way around the the large gardens by the eastern side of the fortress.
As I entered the labrynthin garden, I spotted Ramone standing by the fountain, silhouetted against the moon. I felt a sudden urge to leap at him and tear him apart, limb from limb. But I didn't. I walked calmly up to him, staying just outside the ring of light cast by the moon, keeping myself firmly in the shadows. "So, I'm here."
Seeing him jump made me satisfied. Every little victory counted to me now. They were all I had. He squinted at me. "Damian?"
I laughed, a cold laugh that I'd never heard before. "No, Santa Clause, here to give you the presents you deserve." I chuckled and took a step forward, halfway into the moonlight. "Are you alone? Or are you planning to betray me again?"
Ramone let out a deep sigh and sat heavily on the bench. "It's not like that Dame..."
"Oh really?" I growled. "Because it sure seemed like that to me."
Rubbing the bridge of his nose, Ramone sighed. "I'm sorry, alright? But I did what I had to do. The fact is, all your ideas, all your talk about how we should rule the world? It was all well and good back when we had the numbers, but look at us! The humans outnumber us a million to one. We're lucky we can keep control over the villages around here. And if you keep doing things like you are, killing villagers, driving away travelers, we won't be able to get the money that we need to help protect ourselves."
Grinding my teeth, I growled at him. "You really have been listening to Nosferatu."
Ramone stood up, glaring at me. "Don't! Just don't. Master Nosferatu is looking out for what's best for the League. He realizes that we don't have the strength to conquer, but what we can do is endure. If you had half a brain you'd have seen that long ago! He's the one that should lead the council! Your father is doing the right thing, naming him next in line-"
And suddenly he was in my grasp, struggling as I hold him high above my head, one hand clutching his shirt, the other pulled back ready to fly into him. He stared at me in fear and confusion. "How did you...?"
Truthfully I was just as confused as him. The sudden speed with which I had moved wasn't something I had experienced before. It wasn't like a Vampires normal speed. It was too fast for even our eyes to follow. Almost as if I had teleported. But I didn't care. All I knew was that this was my chance. My chance to exact my revenge. I brought my fist back and let fly.
At the last second I dropped Ramone. My fist brushed past his belt, bouncing against his hip, sending him spinning. He landed with a thud. "What did you say?" I muttered, staring down at him. He looked up at me in confusion. "What did you say about naming Nosferatu next in line?"
Ramone stood, rubbing his hip. "He told me about yesterday. After your father removed you from the queu, he decided to replace you with Nosferatu. It's going to be finalized after they destroy the hunters." Ramone took a step towards me. "Damian, I'm telling you all this because I'm still your friend. You may not be able to regain you place in the line of succession, but you can still prove that you are a valuable asset to the League. If you agree to stop all your warmongering and support Nosferatu, I'm sure I can get you in good standing."
"Ramone?" My old friend looked at me quizzically. "Shut up." I turned and walked back towards the fortress, leaving Ramone standing dumbfounded behind me. In my hand, I rolled the key I had stolen from his pocket when I dropped him as I punched.
Author's Note: I'm BAAAAACK!!!!!! So, I'm truly sorry that this has taken so long. I started struggling with keeping Damian true to character, so instead of writing a piece where he was different from the evil badass we've all come to know and love, I took a break to try and plan this whole part out. At first, this was going to be a much longer chapter, but it's already getting long and starting to drag on as it is, so I'll split it in two.
If anyone is actually still reading this story, I am greatly honored (and surprised).