—Records of the Prince—
Disclaimer: I do not own Castlevania: Lords of Shadow, and I make no profit from publishing this.
General Warning(s): This fic will call out trigger-y content by chapter. Generally, it contains stressful and scary situations, discussion of suicidal intent/ideation, supernatural violence, murder, and negative emotions. This fic is not historically accurate (neither is the source work, but I'll admit to it). This fic's religious views are heavily influenced by Victor Hugo musicals. There is no canon character death (that isn't already canon), but it is unhealthy to be an original character in this fic. If they belong to me, they aren't safe.
Basically, this fic likes to be snarky and light-hearted, but then, the tigers come at night.
"What happens now?" he asked.
Dawn came and sent light over the street under the Old Cathedral and its traffic of ruin and corpses. A storm of science and religion had passed over the towers of the city the night before when Satan forced his passage onto the mortal plane with armies of both to shake down the human confidence and scatter its technical wonders. The burning hulk of a passenger jet and the riot machines of the city police, dismantled and abandoned, lay alongside misshapen bodies of human men manufactured into demons. Only the mad winking of a traffic light and the red lighting of a club called Snow stood as testament to anything so sweet as electricity and order in the Arts District.
But at last, the fires began to cool. The jet fuel in the gutters siphoned off quietly into sewers, with spurts of demon blood, as the body of the King of Hell baked in the street. The hole the Prince of Darkness put in his heart with the broken stipes of his battle cross melted across Satan's torso as his corpse congealed. His face collapsed in black ooze, stringy with his own hair, as one of his lungs popped and spewed foul air in the young sun.
And the vampire Alucard asked again, but only to himself this time, 'What happens now?'
After receiving no answer from himself or his father, Alucard climbed from the crater in the middle of the street and followed after his father into the shuttered church. A ray of morning chased him until it shrank in the shadow of his father's sanctuary, not daring to cross the Dragon's threshold, as the great doors clattered shut behind his son.
If God had returned to the world at long last, it was not felt, even here. Christ hung in quiet and shadow, robed in red and crowned in blood and thorns, above the ring of candlelight and pillars where Alucard had brought down Death's Lieutenant and taken his armor and his sword. If the armor knew where its master had died, it gave no claim—but Masamune throbbed faint yet steady, as if in memory—until a crackle of falling gravel drew Alucard's attention to the back of the church and a crude opening cut into the stone wall there. In the cave beyond it, the last of the Old Castle's towers lifted into the reaches of the cathedral. Even as it was there, hiding in the heart of the cathedral, the castle was beyond feeling now—hollowed out, a shadow of its former power.
Gravel fell again—Dracul was climbing.
Alucard ducked into the hole and called up into the tower:
"What do you intend to do? Father!"
Still, Dracul ignored him, even as Alucard took after him, leaping up through the ruined floors. He caught and clung to the face of a granite woman fused with a dragon, hanging on one of her horns as his gauntlet clawed the stone. High above, a blur of his father's red coat slipped over the lip of the oubliette and vanished. The statue shifted beneath him, a crack across her brow, as Alucard buckled back before leaping to another handhold and finishing the climb. He reached the doorway to the inner sanctum and stopped.
Morning shone through the shattered rose window at the back of the chamber, throwing a jagged star on the stage before Dracul's throne. His father had paused at this light; it lay at his boots like a pool of fire. With the clenching of his fist, the sleeve of Dracul's coat retreated to his shoulder, unraveling in threads of blood and smoke, as he dipped his hand in the sunlight. Alucard jolted—a flash of fire in his own skin as he remembered the Daemon Lord lifting his dead flesh up to the sunlight—
—He cooked at once, his body immolating—
But now, nothing happened: Dracul's skin only glowed like cancer, white as new cement. Lightly, it smoked—giving off a fine mist, but this too tapered off. He pulled his hand back, his coat repairing itself.
"I had hoped," he said. The sunlight came around his boots like the slow crawl of a tide. "I am His chosen—even still—and no manifestation of His power may destroy me."
'Not even sunlight,' Alucard thought, knowing that only artifacts stood between him and burning alive—the Lieutenant's lightless armor, an ancient ring from Carmilla's day—but while his father might blister, burn if he chose, he would never be destroyed—
The sunlight stretched, reaching the top of the stairs and seeping into the entryway like a spill of gold, as Dracul squinted in the light and stepped into the shadow of his throne.
"You should not stand there," he told Alucard wearily as he sat and rested chin on hand. God was not so adamant of other vampires. The sun crept steadily, passing over shards of the rose window strewn over the stage. The fragments shivered, edged suddenly in red light, and jumped into the air from the floor after Alucard threw out his hand and cast time backward. The dusty pieces melded with their fellows among the stone spokes of the window and sealed out the sun.
"Clever. I've never had the head for such magic."
Alucard did not dwell on how abundantly obvious that was.
"I've had sufficient time to learn," he said instead, and at this, Dracul shifted on his throne and said nothing. Alucard carried on, crossing the stage to the dais, where, even reclining, Dracul still sat higher than his guests. Again, he pressed: "What will you do now?"
Dracul leaned forward suddenly on his throne, hands together and tented—in thought.
"I don't know." He paused. "I do not want you to have to kill me."
"We are both different," Alucard stopped, 'men' on the tip of his tongue, as they were not men, had not been for ages, "—now. I will never want to kill you—but if you ask it of me—"
"I will not ask," Dracul said firmly, his voice an echo and all around, as Alucard stepped back, his wielding hand going to the hilt of Crissaegrim at his side.
"Then I will not kill you."
It was not all lie; it was not all truth either. Alucard had had centuries to watch his father worry the hearts of humanity. Sudden moods of peace were still not unlike him. Five hundred years, reigning over men cowed in complete terror, was still a long time, and his interests in dashing their lives, their faith in their world, waxed and waned. But even when 'disinterested,' he still paced like an unknown animal around what little fire humankind had against the night. He was rhythmic: striking out when God and humanity disappointed him, wasting the Brotherhood of Light when they rose up his walls, before retreating into his darkness again.
The most violent years had followed the last act of Trevor Belmont—the brave, the foolhardy.
But though heartful these days, Dracul was surely still morose and fickle as ever, and there was no killing him if he did not ask for it—Alucard learned that long ago.
'And I have worked centuries for this moment,' he reminded himself. 'This trust—if I chose to exploit it—' His hand still rested on Crissaegrim. '—he might not anticipate me—
—but he is different now.'
For the first time, in a long time, Alucard lived unplanned moments. While much that had happened he meant to bring about, he had not meant for this. He had planned all along to lure an old humanity back to reside in his father, to dwell where it hadn't for over a thousand years, but he had not planned for his hesitation, his dilemma—he had not planned to wonder like this:
'What happens now?'
His father's suicide had always been the final goal of his plan, no matter how the Prince of Darkness ended it, but Alucard had not planned to live to see it—he had not planned to survive. For over five hundred years, he planned meticulously to bring Zobek, Satan, his father, and himself—together—to end them all at once and leave humanity in peace, free of dark creatures for the first time since creation. It had all fallen together so neatly: the Acolytes, then Zobek, and as the headless body of the leviathan dropped through the sky, Satan flew to him like a moth. They locked together on a rail toward death—all according to plan.
Because evil never asked questions—only seized opportunities. Satan did not even rifle through his heart for anything more dangerous than his residual hatred for his father, his childhood suffering. And he had meant for it to happen that way.
He had also meant to be dead by now. He had meant for his father to kill him to kill Satan, and for that returned humanity to crack with the strain and destroy the Prince of Darkness—as only Gabriel Belmont could slay Dracul, truly. Then mother, son, and father would all go to death together—happily ever after—at last! A fairy tale ending he sold to a tortured devil—or had tried to—
'What will happen now?'
Now that they lived?
Where his mother had been so sure of his redemption, her faith in God and her Gabriel springing eternal, Alucard still wavered, uncertain: 'I have his trust, but have I given him mine? Do I allow a beast to live? Because for now, it is calm? Because it has made me—promises?'
—Or made Trevor promises.
It was simple to make promises to a boy like that in a cold castle, to a son in that small, human shape, and his father so desperately wanted to make promises to that shape—
—That shape of Gabriel's boy.
'It almost disappointed me,' Alucard thought. It still disconcerted him to find what could only be earnest yearning for connection in the monster who had taken everything he loved from him—his son, his wife, his mother, and his father—and left him with a creature who wore his father's likeness and spoke so glibly of his mother's murder, when he did not know who she was—
Walking as Trevor again, as a child again, had woken—resentments he had thought himself done with, but the emotions still tangled inside him. Wielding that child specter had been—too strange. He had projected the boy in much the way he projected the ghostly, blue wolf. But as the wolf needed his full attention to summon and command, Trevor could be trusted with errands, to act independently. So, Trevor minded his father within the castle, while Alucard minded him without. Through the mission, the child reported back fragmented memories of the Prince's doings in the castle, like voices from a long dream.
But it still should have been more difficult for the specter to send his father hither and yon, up and down his castle's dark dreamscapes, into Agreus' twisting garden and the Toymaker's theatre—for fragments of the object that ruined them. 'He should have resisted me,' and Alucard had anticipated resistance. He took conscious control of Trevor only rarely and seized the boy just once to request that his father go seeking the Mirror—and he did. He did—without resistance. He did—when resistance would have been sensible! What did a child need with pieces of the Mirror of Fate? Had the long sleep made the Prince of Darkness foolish? One 'Why?', even unspoken, would have ended the entire charade.
But it never came, and away his father always went, after petting his head—his touches always light, cautious, as if some spell would break with a touch too heavy—and then away to dark woods; to dark curtains; to the final moments of another of their brood—with that singular purpose, to bring the spirit of his boy the Mirror of Fate because he asked for it—
'—which is not strange,' Alucard thought at last, in spite of himself. He had fleeting memories of his own boy wanting things—a thousand years ago—and his wanting nothing else but to give them to him—whatever they were. He remembered it well—his memories of his child almost brighter than those of his wife. He remembered caring for his own small son, his Simon, when he was toothless and pale, even his ears feathered in red hair, with no awareness that the world were any greater than Mother and Father. To be needed purely by such a small person rooted in an emptiness he hadn't known he had before he became a father. That kind of need so fundamentally human that the Old Castle could only whisper and lie to its Prince about it, filling the red passageways between its master's dreams and reality with spiteful mutterings.
'What will happen now—' Alucard decided as he dropped his hand from his sword, unsure if his father saw the gesture, '—is I will have to find out if he will keep his word, or if he will tire of this—arrangement.
I will wait a little longer, and watch.
But I will take him away from this city. Europa has suffered him long enough. If it must come to that, I will make Ameria our battleground—'
"You are solemn," Dracul said, interrupting Alucard's thoughts and bringing him back to the stage, a full, hot wheel of colored light spreading the cool stone under the window. The next question was awkward—entirely for its newness. They had never spoken like this. "What is on your mind?"
"What I intend to do now," Alucard said, stepping away. The light followed him with all the ruthless confidence of a new day. Since his death, he made a point in all his dealings with his father never to lie to him directly. In his final hour as Trevor Belmont, he had thought his father unworthy of speaking honestly to—and perhaps this had cost him. So now, he concealed, yes, he omitted truth, of course, but he never spoke false words—and never did he deceive with the intent to cause pain. Everything around his father lied; everything around him caused pain. His castle lied with its halls haunted and its many voices incessant, crying and cursing at once, as it demanded blood and pain at every lock and infernal device.
To be a voice of truth to the dark lord of such a place, and a mostly bloodless truth at that, was not to be taken lightly, so Alucard chose his words with precision to maintain that position. It had been easy for Trevor, the boy, with that trust all but handed to him, but Dracul and Alucard were on changed grounds now.
So, Alucard began sincerely, "I had thought this would end differently," and dropped his voice. "I did not expect to live." He considered the next part carefully, and after faltering, "Thank you, Fath—"
"No." Dracul was standing now. "That is—not needed." Alucard conceded, and the silence lingered between them as Dracul returned to the throne. Morning was not far and pressed hard at the window. Its pieces repaired by magic beginning to shudder as the present filtered back to them. Alucard conjured the helm of his armor with an open hand and fitted the mask to his face. It wrapped around him like an alien of onyx glass. The helmet splitting into black and liquid arms that sucked up his preternatural features—his face cracked with scars, his moon-lit hair, his eyes ravenous and golden—before it sealed his voice inside the robotic cast of Zobek's Lieutenant.
"What do you intend to do, son?" Dracul asked, watching. Meanwhile, morning split the rose window like a crack of lightning, pieces of stained glass littering the stage again.
"I suppose I will go home," Alucard said, cockily mechanical inside the Lieutenant's armor. A bolt of sunlight fell across the face of the helm, the vampire underneath undisturbed.
"Home?" Dracul echoed—as if he had never imagined there could be any home—but there was—had been, even—at least for Alucard. Long ago, his fatherland had grown haunted and too full of memory, even as the modern era sheared the woods and dammed the rivers of his youth. Still, he felt the lines left of those places, even the remains of the Brotherhood Stronghold—where his wife died and his son's childhood ended. Hundreds of years later, the city had erected a gothic fortress for their police department there: a fort with a marble lobby, a sea of offices, crime laboratories, stone lockups, and an underground warehouse of riot gear.
Perhaps, that building had finally stopped burning—if the fires hadn't reached the ammunitions hold. If they did, the shells stored there would pop apart while rockets swelled and ruptured in an explosion that would easily take out half the city block around it.
Even the landmarks built on Trevor Belmont's ground would be nothing soon.
"There is—little here for me anymore," Alucard explained. "I stay across the sea in Ameria. You wouldn't know of them—their nation formed while you slept. You may go back with me, if you will." And when Dracul did not answer: "There is someone there who will want to meet you."
"A librarian—of the 'Dracul Archive'—I think their collection would be interesting for you."
"I have an archive? Curated by men?" Dracul chuckled and sunk back on his throne. "I think I would like to see that."
"It is a sight. It used to be here, in the city, but it moved to D.O. before the calamity."
Alucard watched his father listen, to these names, these capitols and countries, these institutions, that did not exist when he was last awake in the world—what did his father think of the note of familiarity that must have slipped into his voice when he talked of these places?
"D.O.," Dracul said deliberately. "That is where you live?"
"I will go—I want to see where you live."
— — —
I started writing this for three reasons:
a.) I really love the world-building in LoS, and I wanted to build off that and give the modern world of 'Castlevania City' its magic back. This is why I've changed some of the names, like Europe became Europa, for a stronger fantasy feel. I made America magic by dropping the 'c'.
b.) Lords of Shadow needs more ladies.
c.) It was Nanowrimo and Lords of Shadow had completely colonized my brain. I finished the 50k too! Thanks, Lords of Shadow!
Records of the Prince is the parent project of my one-shot, The Apple Wood. I put that up in December and then spent two months editing the 80k I had. (During Nanowrimo, you spend a lot of your time writing utterly unneeded crap. KI wrote 3,000 words where Dracul just walked to an office. I must have had no idea what to write that day.) I plan to post 8 to 12k (1 to 2 chapters) a week after those chunks get back from my beta reader. It is a frame story, so these early chapters are getting Plot A rolling before it branches into Plot B and Plot C.
Thank you for reading the prologue! You are my favorite reader!—Some Magician