This AU is a brainchild of mine that has been in the process of editing for quite some time.
I always loved the idea of a story talking about Herbert's mother so this is my version.
Rate and reviews, please :)
Alfred eyed the graves curiously.
The cool darkness coated him but he could sense the night air fading. He looked to the sky and saw the moon slowly drifting away, his few hours of freedom had been almost spent.
Herbert had not wanted to join him, his lack of enthusiasm included complaints like, a lack of interest in graves he had seen for over three centuries and the fear of dirt penetrating his clothes. But Alfred guessed the reason behind it. Herbert's mother's grave stood in this vast cemetery. Her death was one Alfred was certain Herbert had yet to make his peace with.
In hindsight, Alfred was glad Herbert had not joined him. For it was his mother's grave that Alfred was set on discovering.
He had gathered tales, scraps of information from the other members of his new undead relations, but nothing for sure. Besides, all of them feared the Counts wrath, to speak of the late Countess could mean death. Despite this, deep down inside Alfred burned this need to know the truth, to satisfy his own morbid curiosity, and depending on the outcome, finally construct his own opinion of the Count.
Trying his best to keep his balance amongst the city of graves that surrounded him, Alfred came across a large grave, with on closer inspection, an entrance to a catacomb.
He tugged at the rusted metal gate, but either Mother Nature or something far darker was keeping this grave sealed.
Abandoning the gates, Alfred soon noticed how well maintained this particular grave was. Compared to the others the surrounded it, this grave was almost timeless. The stone carvings and sculptures were still as clear and sharp as the day this grave was laid.
He looked carefully at the name inscribed on the stone.
Before he could process the letters, he detected a presence. He chose to ignore it, it was a full moon, many vampires would be travelling from near and far, all moving with the cycle of the moon. He continued to read the grave until a cold gruff voice broke the air in two.
"She's not here boy"
He turned his head slightly and saw a dark figure looming beside him. As the long fingers wrapped around the top of the grave, Alfred knew to whom the voice belonged.
"My prince" Alfred managed to stammer.
"Forgo the formalities child, I do not require them" replied the Count.
"Forgive me, I shall return to your son" stammered Alfred, preparing to bolt.
"You think I don't know what you are doing," said the Count, amused by Alfred's obvious fear.
"It is shameful my prince" whispered Alfred.
"Why would I shame curiosity?" inquired the Count.
"Because I am searching for something that is above me, I dishonour you by searching for it" replied Alfred, daring to look up at the Count's dark eyes.
"I have heard you speak of my wife to my other subjects, normally I would have punished such behaviour, but your persistence and curiosity, impressed as well as intrigued me"
"I know so little of her, everyone I have spoken to, either knows nothing or will tell nothing, I wish to understand her, which will allow me to understand you" explained Alfred.
"Why should the dead be the concern of the living?" inquired the Count.
"Because I belong to neither, I am not alive, but I am not dead. I have a vast eternity ahead of me, I don't want to spend it consumed by the same curiosity" replied Alfred.
The Count chuckled, his laugh deep and hearty.
"It is for Herbert" confessed Alfred, "he knows so little of his mother…"
Alfred stopped as he saw the Counts gaze grow icy.
"He does not know about his mother because I know how it will destroy him"
"But it will not destroy me" pushed Alfred.
Alfred tensed as the Count held his chin with his fingers, "Such courage, from one so small"
"Please my prince, I wish no disrespect, I simply want to pay my respects to your Countess, everyone speaks of her with such admiration, I wish to understand why" pleaded Alfred.
The Count released his grip, "I cannot deny you that"
"Would you show me where she is?" asked Alfred.
The Count sighed, "I repeat myself, she is not here"
"But Herbert said-"
"Herbert believes that his mother lies in that grave beside us with my mother, that is in fact far from the truth" explained the Count.
"Where is she?" asked Alfred, confused and now more curious.
The Count looked towards the village, "She is not far"
"She is buried in the village!" exclaimed Alfred.
"But why!" exclaimed Alfred.
"I took so much from her, what is left of my soul could not deny her a burial with her people" muttered the Count.
Alfred went to speak but stopped.
"Come" the Count ordered, grabbing him firmly, his long arms wrapping around Alfred's torso.
"My prince" stammered Alfred.
"I shall answer your questions but not here" he replied, before leaping into the air.
Alfred loved to fly.
It was something only the most experienced vampires could achieve, it took centuries of practice, fortunately, Alfred had a few centuries in which to perfect his technique.
He looked down over the dense forest, remembering the first time himself and his Professor had travelled through it. Both desperately trying to reach Sarah and the castle, before she was consumed by the evil that lurked there. An evil that Alfred had become all too familiar with.
The Count's gaze never wavered for a moment, his cold eyes transfixed on the small village cluster on the horizon, Alfred concluded that he had seen this forest too many times to count, it's beauty was now lost to him.
Alfred saw the faint lights come into sight, as suspected no one was around. It was December, freezing temperatures and the soul-chilling fear of the undead, kept people in their homes from the second the sun slipped behind the mountains.
The Count assured Alfred as they landed gently in the snow, "We shall not be disturbed tonight"
"Come," he said, walking briskly towards the churchyard, his cape trailing behind him.
Alfred wandered silently through the village square, a slight sadness came over him, at the prospect of never seeing it bustling with life again.
As they entered the graveyard, Alfred pushed open the gate, before hissing in pain. He pulled back his hand to find blistering red marks forming. He looked to the Count for an explanation.
"Silver dear boy, they want to keep us out" he replied.
Instead, he pulled a small handkerchief from his cloak and used that to push open the gate, saving them both from further burns.
Alfred followed obediently, watching his step amongst the mass graves packed into areas of the cemetery.
Alfred watched curiously as the Count wandered to the other side of the cemetery before he pushed through a wooden gate and disappeared in the darkness.
"Wait" called Alfred, hurrying after his master.
The Count now stood in front of a grave, his stature tall and resolute.
"Why did we leave the cemetery?" asked Alfred, finally catching up.
"She was corrupted in the eyes of their God" replied the Count, "she could not be buried on sacred ground"
"She isn't the only one" commented Alfred, his quick eyes scanning over the other graves in the area.
"No, she is not" muttered the Count.
Alfred looked at the grave, it was simple at plain. He did not think it was befitting of a Countess to be laid to rest in such base circumstances, but he was not willing to test the Counts patience any further.
"She had a beautiful name, but I can't see the end letters" commented Alfred.
"Antanasia" replied the Count, his very tone changing as he spoke her name.
"Antanasia, how beautiful" sighed Alfred.
"It suited her well" replied the Count.
Alfred went to speak and stopped himself, trying to find the courage.
"My prince" he stammered, "what happened to her?"
"I mean before that" asked Alfred.
"She was the daughter of the miller, their only surviving child, I met her a long time before I was in this state" he began slowly.
"You knew her before you became a vampire?" asked Alfred.
"Yes, we met as children" he replied.
"I suppose your father was not too pleased, at the prospect of his son marrying the milliner's daughter?" questioned Alfred.
The Count grunted, "quite"
"And I am correct in thinking that her parents disliked the idea also?" pushed Alfred.
"You ask a great deal of questions don't you?" commented the Count.
"I have been taught to do so" replied Alfred.
"Yes, I forget you are a child of education" chuckled the Count.
"I enjoyed my time at university' mumbled Alfred, a little put-off.
"Do you wish to return to it?" asked the Count.
"Well- no" stammered Alfred.
"Then mourn not its place in your life" snapped the Count, brushing off a piece of moss from the tombstone.
Alfred shrunk back, so much so that the Count felt a twinge of compassion. He was only a child after all.
"To use your words boy, I 'suppose' you wish to hear the rest of the story" sighed the Count.
"Yes, my prince" replied Alfred, peeking up again.
"Then you shall" began the Count.
"As the son of a Count, I had to travel, sometimes on state visits or just for pleasure. I could not stand being in these mountains ten months a year, so I would leave and return for the fall"
"How old were you then?" asked Alfred.
"In my nineteenth year" replied the Count.
"I had spent much time in Central Europe, studying and training with some of the best minds of the ancient world, I left at the tender age of ten and returned a man of nineteen. And my Antanasia had become a woman"
"So you fell in love with her" smiled Alfred.
"You could call it that, yes" replied the Count.
"Did you ever get married?" asked Alfred.
The Count paused for a moment before he replied, "No"
"Why" blurted Alfred, immediately regretting his outburst.
"Her parents did not approve, and neither did my mother" replied the Count.
"And your father?" asked Alfred.
"He has been dead near five years by this point" replied the Count.
"But-" protested Alfred.
"Besides" interrupted the Count harshly, "by that time war had come"
Alfred breathed deeply, "the Turks?" he asked quietly.
The Count gave a single nod.
He lay a hand on the top of the tombstone, Alfred had never seen him so gentle, not even with Sarah.
"I had to leave her" muttered the Count.
"Of course, you were a prince of the realm, you had to fight," said Alfred sadly.
"We had but one night together" began the Count, "I thought it could be our last, so we spent it in each other arms"
"You were intimate?" asked Alfred curiously.
The Count raised an eyebrow, " I am not aware that the phrase I chose has since changed its meaning"
Alfred blushed, "No my prince"
"Well then, may I continue?" commented the Count.
"Please, my prince" urged Alfred, despite his embarrassment.
"I had to leave the following day, with me I took all abled bodied men from the village, sons, fathers, husbands and brothers all took up arms against the invading army," said the Count.
"How long were you gone?" asked Alfred.
"You are a historian child, you can answer that question yourself" mused the Count.
Alfred stammered his reply, very nervous he would pick the wrong century.
"It was a small campaign, over in eight months, the Turks retreated because of the oncoming winter"
"Correct" replied the Count.
"And you survived?" said Alfred confidently.
"Not quite" muttered the Count.
"My prince?" questioned Alfred.
The Count slowly removed a section of his cloak from his chest, and pulled open his various layers, as the last layer of silk was lifted away, Alfred saw it.
He gasped as a huge scar on the Counts chest was revealed.
"A sword?" breathed Alfred.
"An arrow" replied the Count, swiftly lifting his clothes back into place. "Directly in my heart"
"But you would have been dead instantly!" exclaimed Alfred.
"Correct child, I was shot off my horse and soon was starring Death himself in the face".
"What did he say?" asked Alfred.
"He simply held out his hand and said 'Come'" replied the Count.
"What did you do?"
"I told him no" replied the Count, turning back to the grave.
"You disobeyed death?" commented Alfred.
"Yes, I asked for more time," said the Count. "I was just days away from turning twenty, I had too much life left to live, I asked him for a way out"
"And he turned you into a vampire" breathed Alfred.
"No, he told me that if I gave him my soul I would live forever" replied the Count, "He told me nothing of the price it would cost"
"The price being you became a vampire," asked Alfred.
"It was several years before I was first called that, here we call vampires, Strigoi, meaning a restless spirit" explained the Count.
"What happened after the war?" asked Alfred.
"We came home victorious, people lined the streets and mourned the dead, but amongst all the faces I could not find her" began the Count.
"My prince, please go on" urged Alfred.
"I went to her home, demanded that her parents tell me of her whereabouts, but they refused" explained the Count. "I went to the place we had spent the night together, down by the river and it was there I found her"
"She must have been relieved to see you my prince" smiled Alfred.
"She was dying" he replied swiftly, causing Alfred's smile to vanish.
"What" stammered Alfred.
"She had slit her wrists and was dying, it was only when I came closer I saw her holding a letter covered in her blood did I understand why," said the Count, his eyes never leaving the grave.
"What did it say?" asked Alfred.
"Her parents in their shame had forged a letter telling her that I had been killed in battle, she thought she was alone in this world and no longer wished to be a part of it" he explained.
"What did you do?" asked Alfred.
"The only thing I could do, I saw she was pregnant and she told me it was mine, I could not lose them both-" he stopped.
"You turned her didn't you" concluded Alfred.
The Count did not need to reply.
"I took her back to my palace and there she stayed until our son was born," he said, a slight fondness appearing in his voice as he spoke of Herbert.
"Herbert" smiled Alfred.
"Yes," he replied.
"Herbert does not remember her, it saddens him," said Alfred quietly.
"It does not surprise me that he has no recollection of his mother, she died when he was six months old" replied the Count.
"My prince?" asked Alfred gently.
"She nursed him until we found a wet nurse willing to work here, and then she walked onto the battlements and waited for the sun" he replied. "She left the world as beautifully as she entered it, had it not been for Herbert I would have followed her"
Alfred was speechless.
"She was creature of the light, she was so wholesome and pure" continued the Count sadly, "She was never meant to live in the realm of the darkness, by dying she was finally free"
"So you buried her here," said Alfred.
"I had to" replied the Count.
"She sounded like a beautiful woman, I am sad I never had the opportunity to meet her but-" Alfred paused.
"You wish to speak freely?" asked the Count, "you may proceed"
"Is this the reason why you collect a girl every year, like Sarah?" asked Alfred.
"My wife can never be replaced" replied the Count. "I have been watching girls like Sarah since she was born, seeing her and others like her grow and learn, bring me joy and hope in my old age"
"But why do you collect them?" asked Alfred.
"For blood dear child, the blood is life" replied the Count.
"So you do not love her?" asked Alfred, "you love her blood?"
"I love her spirit, her zest for life, that is why I chose her". "She will do my work without question because she loves me" retorted the Count.
"So you pretend to love them for personal gain?" questioned Alfred.
"I pretend nothing" thundered the Count.
Alfred immediately regretted his question.
"I could not keep the woman I loved safe, I only have my son" hissed the Count. "And if keeping him safe means turning every living creature on this earth into a monster I will do it"
Alfred almost shook in fear, he had never meant to question the Counts devotion, he was just curious.
The Count took a deep breath. He hadn't meant to scare the boy.
"I can see why Herbert loves you" he commented.
Alfred looked up.
"He has always loved a curious mind" smiled the Count.
Alfred dared to smile back.
"We should return to the castle," said the Count, suddenly sensing movement from the nearby homes.
"But-" protested Alfred, "why are the others buried here?"
"That is another question for another time, now we must go" ordered the Count, grabbing Alfred and leaping into the night sky.
"Hurry now, it's almost sunrise," said the Count landing on the battlements.
Alfred jumped down ready to run and find Herbert but he stopped.
"Thank you, my prince," he said with a small smile.
"You will have my thanks as long as what I have told you remains only with yourself" replied the Count, "now hurry before my son thinks he has lost you forever"
"Yes my prince" replied Alfred and pulled open the door to the battlements, only to find a very angry looking Herbert on the other side.
"Where have you been!" exclaimed Herbert, his delicate hands folded over his pristine lilac shirt.
"I was just with-" stammered Alfred turning back to point at the Count, only to find him long gone.
"With who?" asked Herbert.
"Nevermind" urged Alfred, "let's get to the crypt".
Herbert stood resolutely in the way, "Not until you tell me where you have been" he demanded.
"Herbert this is stupid, look the sun is coming up" exclaimed Alfred.
"Well then you had best tell me quickly" retorted Herbert.
"I was just walking around the battlements after seeing the graveyard" lied Alfred.
"You are lying" proclaimed Herbert.
"I am not" protested Alfred.
"You have been with that Prussian prince haven't you?!" exclaimed Herbert.
Alfred scoffed, "Herbert!"
"You think I didn't see you looking at each other at the Ball, all lovey and dough-eyed!" whined Herbert.
"Herbert I have not been with the Prussian prince!" exclaimed Alfred.
"Ah!" exclaimed Herbert, picking Alfred off the floor to embrace him. "I knew you wouldn't"
Alfred thought he had gotten away with it and wouldn't have to reveal his trip to the village, but he knew he was done for, as soon as Herbert took a second deep sniff of his jacket.
Alfred was suddenly dropped and Herbert exclaimed loudly, "You have been in the village haven't you!"
"No I have not!" lied Alfred.
"Wait a moment, is this why you are on the battlements!" exclaimed Herbert before he gasped in shock. "Alfred, have you been flying unsupervised again!"
"How many times have I told you!" exclaimed Herbert. "You must never fly unsupervised when you are still a young vampire, you could have fallen or got blown into the mountains!"
"Herbert" hushed Alfred.
"I have told you over and over again that you must never fly alone and you never listen to-"
Herbert's mothering stopped as Alfred pulled him into a kiss.
Alfred hoped that would do the trick but Herbert held his nerve.
"Now Alfred" warned Herbert. "If you think one little kiss is going to make me forget that you-"
Alfred pulled him into another embrace and kissed him again, silencing his nagging.
"You were saying?" teased Alfred, once they had broken the kiss.
"You get to the crypt right now" ordered Herbert, still trying to sound cross.
Alfred laughed and slipped past him before Herbert slammed the door shut.
On the roof, the Count chuckled quietly. Herbert had so much of his mother in him.
He looked up as the last lights of the moon were disappearing behind the mountain.
"I hope you are proud of him my love," the Count said to the sky. "I know I am"