Chapter Two: Welcome Mat
Orchid sailed silently through the night air, hoping her black scales shielded her from detection well enough. It was hard to avoid being seen when you were a girl with a twelve foot wingspan and a long, muscly tail covered in spines that, for the most part, laid flat against her scales. There was a particularly strong gust of wind and she rose willingly with it, hoping to catch sight of her quarry. A small part of her whispered doubt, that it had been fifteen years, almost to the day, since she'd been rescued from the ancient castle by Kingsley, a newly recruited Auror at the time. Maybe the beast that had warped her being wasn't even around any more…
Then she caught movement in the trees below, and she rocked back, curling her tail underneath her as she hovered, panting and straining from the effort of flapping her wings hard enough to keep her airborne. Her eyes swept the night warily, a part of her brain flinching at the thunderous noise her wings were making as the wind buffeted them. There!
She let herself relax. A deer. It was just a deer. It had probably smelt her predatory scent - which was somewhat similar to an Antipodian Opaleye, according to the specialized Healers who'd taken care of her - and bolted out of instinct. It wouldn't be the first time. She was responsible for many an MIA familiar at Hogwarts before she graduated six years before.
She sailed on, dipping lower until she was cruising over the trees, swaying back and forth with the restless breeze. Transylvania was beautiful at night - that was never mentioned in History of Magic when they covered the infamous place. Professor Binns had emphasized the danger, and importance that they never be caught outside after dark. He never once alluded to how the forest turned the brightest silver under the moon, and how the stars shone brighter than any others she'd seen in her lifetime. She could almost live here. Almost. She didn't want to live so close to the bane of her existence.
Speaking of which...what had that noise been, just now? She flared her wings again, this time alighting as silently as possible in the branches of a tree. She winced as there was still a very audible crunch and scratch of her feet and claws connecting to the bark. She ducked her head, baring her sharpened teeth in a grimace as her eyes darted around. Nothing else moved. She'd been sure that she'd heard another, smaller set of wings in the night.
She growled at her own stupidity, lashing her tail loudly against the tree she was perched in, as she realized - she'd trapped herself under the canopy. Sharp stings came from the scratches that now adorned her body after gliding through the branches, and there wasn't near enough room for her to spread her wings and ascend. Angry at her unbelievable mistake, she dropped down from the tree and slunk through the shadows, searching for a way back into the sky. Her eyes narrowed as none presented themselves.
She whipped around faster than any human would be capable of, raising her onyx wings defensively as she peeled back her lips to reveal a mouth full of razor teeth. Her eyes glowed brighter, and she felt the uncomfortable sensation of a fire igniting in her lungs, ready to be expelled.
The man standing in the shadow of the tree was clearly not human, nor was he unfamiliar. Orchid lowered onto all fours, growling in warning as her tail curled around her flank. The vampire looked uneasy, a bit scared even, but there was an undertone of...gentleness? Orchid shook her head, another growl ripping from her throat, telling him: "Back off."
She recognized him easily enough from History of Magic, and Defense Against the Dark Arts as well. There hadn't been any actual pictures, seeing as vampires didn't show up on film, but some artists with a keen eye and good - very good - memory had painted him, and she'd seen each portrait, whether careless as a student at Hogwarts or vengeful in the past few weeks as she sized up her odds against the Prince of Darkness. He didn't look as angry or high-strung now as he did in the paintings, in fact he seemed almost human, but Orchid wasn't fooled. She felt sharp, pure pain blare through her veins as she let the fire grow, consuming all the oxygen in her body. She couldn't hold her breath for much longer. Her vision was going black.
Dracula had jumped back when her throat started turning red, glowing with the fire building up inside. A distinctive hiss filled the air as it grew and grew, and then his wits seemed to return.
"Stop!" In a panic at the sudden command, Orchid rocked back onto her legs and released a belt of fire, the orange-red inferno lighting up the night...and catching the dry underbrush. The fire grew now without consuming Orchid's breath and she panted hard, vision swimming as she held herself up with one clawed hand. The harsh crackling of the wildfire filled her ears, along with Dracula's voice again, but she wasn't afraid. The fire would burn the vampire if he came anywhere close to it, but it wouldn't hurt her. Her skin, while not entirely scaled, was mostly fireproof. She hadn't enjoyed learning that spur-of-the-moment in the Triwizard Tournament as the mother Horntail, in a panic, tried to eliminate her threat with fire, but she thanked Merlin for it as it saved her life time after time.
She screeched in panic, wings flaring in alarm, as small, sharp claws dug into her shoulders, clinging to the cloak, shirt, and flesh alike. Her eyes narrowed against the fire, trying to adjust to the light and dark simultaneously, and she just barely saw the large bat that was hauling her into the air before its - his - center of grip prevented her from craning around. She hissed and struggled the entire time she was in the air, trying to dredge up enough fire to make more than a smoky puff of air, but her lungs ached and refused to hold the plasma for any substantial time.
She tried to free herself by flapping her wings several times, but besides hitting the bat weakly it did nothing. Lashing out with her tail was her next defense - for all the good it did her. Yes, the appendage was long and normally flexible, but it was an extension of her spine and wasn't nearly as bendy when she tried to curve it backwards. She swatted at her own calves in annoyance, the ridge of bony spikes raking harshly against her skin and scales.
For all intents and purposes, she was completely helpless. She...she'd failed. There hadn't even been any real confrontation! She'd thought too much of herself and now she was being carted through the air like a kitten. I should have listened, Perce...I should've let you come with me.
Drac had to beat his wings very hard to stay airborne. It wasn't that the new monster was heavy, per say, but that she was strong. He could feel muscles coil and jump in a hundred different ways as she tried to worm her way free, flapping her own wings with unexpected ferocity, and he was sure that, had she been able to bend it far enough, her tail would have knocked him clear out of the sky. After actually being around her for a time, he could see that she wasn't that new to being a monster. She had a few years of experience under her belt, and her claws and teeth were kept sharp.
The ancient vampire glanced down at her as she took a breather from her incessant struggles, a few of the muscles in her back relaxing as she let herself slump down. He hadn't expected to see her when he set out. Well, he expected to find a new monster, but not one like her. She looked slightly more on the human side than most, with pale skin, five fingered hands, and her normal, though scarred, face, for the most part. He almost could have thought she was human, in a costume, maybe, except for her legs. He'd winced in sympathy at the sight. She'd either gone through a painful ordeal or a number of awkward growth spurts for her legs to end up like that.
He breathed a sigh of relief as the hotel came into sight. The woman was resuming her fight now, and he sped up a little, muttering under his breath at the exertion, when a small, warning hiss sprang into existence. He recognized it from the forest easily enough - it was the hiss that foreshadowed fire, bringing with it the heavy, cloying scent of smoke and soot. He didn't know what the story behind the fire-breathing was, whether it was intentional or triggered by alarm - he didn't know this monster's story yet, so it could have very well been the latter. Whatever the case, he knew he needed to get her inside and to safety before she let loose again.
He grunted, releasing his hold on her as they flew through the window of the room he knew Frank stayed in. His and Eunice's attitudes had a chance to calm her down, but they didn't seem to be there just yet. She hit the floor and rolled over once, her wings stopping her from moving too far. Dracula transformed back into his human form and watched her guardedly. He remembered meeting Murray for the first time - namely being buried in a sudden sandstorm - and it was apparent that the woman was going to be similar. Hopefully she wouldn't burn the hotel to the ground with her fire breath.
She got to her feet slowly, unsteadily, her wings and tail moving subconsciously to support her. Again, she moved like she was used to her form. Dracula circled around the side of the room, carefully measuring his movements in case she had a full set of instincts to go with her appearance. He froze in shock, however, when he found himself being held at...stickpoint?
The woman was holding a longish stick of dark wood, not sharp enough to even be vaguely harmful and polished until the wood shone with a glossy finish. Her glowing eyes were narrowed as she glared at him, tracking his movements with the stick like it was one of the humans' guns. He regarded her warily now - was she mentally insane, or had she somehow learned to channel a particular ability through the stick?
"You're Dracula." It was a blunt statement, spoken with venom and blame. Drac blinked, keeping half an eye on the stick as he met the woman's gaze fully for the first time. Blue eyes met glowing green, and before he could blurt out anything vaguely resembling a word, light flashed suddenly across his vision, gentle and welcoming at first, pinkish, and then a brutal blood red, throwing him flat on his back with no mercy. He felt his limbs being bound in place, despite the fact that the new monster stood on the other side of the room and had barely moved.
He had been scared from the moment he felt the restraints, but panic truly set in when the woman took hold of the end of her tail, gently twisting a spike up and around until the bone resembled a knife protruding from the scales. Her tail swished around her feet lazily, the spike-knife clattering across the stone floor with a sound like one of the wolf pups running, their claws hitting the floor in a fast drumming. She approached him then, seeming to relish every fatal step, and stood sideways a short ways away from him. Her tail lifted into the air and its muscles writhed as it twisted into position. Just one quick move, and it would drive straight through his heart.
"Drac! Hey, buddy, Griffin said you were going to meet a newbie, and I saw you fly back. Did you get the - what the-" Dracula had never been happier to see Frank in his very long life. The other monster was huge and imposing, almost twice the size of the woman, and she skittered away from her prey as the newcomer entered the room. Her wings flared in a similar display to what she'd shown in the forest, the same growl rumbling from her throat.
This time, there was no hesitation. What Frank couldn't handle about the new monster was subdued by the help that came running at the sound of a fight. Eunice had arrived shortly after Frank, and began shouting for the witches when she noticed the infallible Count laying prone on the floor. Soon, he was free again, though shaken, and watching with mixed feelings as the (now unconscious) woman was carried away to be put in a secure room until she woke, and then…
Even Dracula had no idea what he was going to do with the would-be assassin.