Disclaimer: Tanz der Vampire and its characters belong to Roman Polanski, Jim Steinman and Michael Kunze.
This story was beta-read by Jade, aka fish-d on tumblr. Many thanks to her !
While writing this story, my main goal was to stay as faithful to the musical as possible. However for the sake of the story I changed something: It was Chagal and not Alfred who discovered the Count von Krolock in the bathroom with Sarah, thus Alfred never saw Krolock and doesn't know how the vampire looks like.
Alfred couldn't sleep.
It was the dead of the night in Chagal's inn, and Professor Abronsius was sleeping, snoring soundly in the bed next to his - but Alfred wasn't doing the same. Still fully clothed, he was laying on his bed and staring at the ceiling, holding Sarah's sponge.
His thoughts kept him awake. He just couldn't sleep while Sarah was somewhere, out there. She could be anywherein the cold night. Worry was eating at him: anything could happen to Sarah and no one would be there with her!
Mentally, he chastised himself. He should have gone with her! He should have been more insistent! Then he would be herewith her, and the poor, sweet girl wouldn't be wandering all alone in the cold night. While he didn't understand why Sarah wanted to leave, he should have done the proper thing and accompanied her – though where, only God knew. Now anything could happen to her, and if something did, Alfred would never be able to forgive himself.
Alfred tried to recall the events that had taken place that evening, but everything had happened so fast. Earlier, as he was talking with Professor Abronsius in their room, he heard the bathroom door being brusquely opened, Sarah's surprised cry and Chagal's screams:
"Sarah, Sarah, what have you done?"
"Didn't we tell you to stay in your room?"
"Sarah, what happened? What did he want?"
Chagal betrayed himself in that moment, and that was how he and Abronsius had confirmation of what they had suspected since their arrival: there was indeed a vampire in the area, and he was after Sarah! Worse even, she willingly went after him after they all went to sleep.
When he saw her, the very first time, Alfred thought he had never meet a girl so beautiful before. In her, he was convinced he had found a kindred spirit. She wanted freedom. She wanted to discover the world out there, as much as Alfred did. She wanted to fly away, and Alfred wanted nothing more than to take her with him and show her the world. He wanted to show her the stars and the wonders of this Earth.
She left, no doubt persuaded the vampire could likely grant any promise he made would never forgive himself for being so easily distracted by her and not convinving her to stay.
Chagal had left a moment after he learnt of Sarah's departure. He had looked as miserable as Alfred felt ("It happened! He took her! My sweet Sarah!" he had lamented), and he wished he had the idea to propose to help him to find Sarah back then. Maybe they would have had a chance to find Sarah, and it would have been a proof for Chagal Alfred truly cared for his daughter and wanted to protect her.
Alfred quickly sat up in his bed, struck by an idea. Maybe it wasn't too late. Maybe there was still a chance for him. Chagal left a short while ago -maybe he could catch up with Chagaland help him? Or, better, he could find Sarah!
Alfred turned around to make sure Professor Abronsius was still asleep, and slowly got up from his bed.
He covered himself with his red winter coat and made his way toward the bedroom door. The wooden floor croaked under his feet as he went down the stairs and walked toward the front door. He grabbed the door handle, took a deep breath as if to give himself courage, then opened the door as quietly as possible.
A few seconds later, Alfred was outside.
As soon as he put a foot outside, the cold winter wind hit his face, and Alfred adjusted his scarf better around his neck.
Alfred stared right before him, and shivered from something other than the Transylvanian cold. It was scary to see how different the landscapes looked at night. Everything seemed so… unfamiliar.
It looked like the trees, the powdered snow, the grass, and the clear blue sky had sent darker, menacing versions of themselves to take their places. The woods before him looked like a dark and menacing monster, waiting to engulf any lost, wandering visitor.
An owl was screaming, not far away from where Alfred stood, and he couldn't help but shiver.
He wished he had brought a lantern with him, but to get one he would have to return to the inn, where he would be tempted to stay or to ask the Professor to come with him. However, he knew how Professor Abronsius would react. He would say it was best to wait for the sunlight and to find a way to reach the castle without being seen by its mysterious master.
Deep inside, Alfred knew Professor Abronsius would be right, of course. However, he didn't want to take the chance. Who knew what could happen to Sarah if they waited too long? Anything could happen during those short hours separating the world from the dawn, and Alfred knew he wouldn't forgive himself if something happened to Sarah while they were all waiting for the sunrise in the safety of the inn.
Come what may, Alfred would try and find Sarah before it was too he could try and reason with her… maybe she would listen this could only hope.
He let out a breath, braced himself, and walked toward the woods.
Alfred had to admit the terrible truth: he was lost.
Once again, he wished he had gone with Sarah! While he didn't like the thought of them wandering in these dark woods, he felt it was still better to be two than to be alone.
He looked around. He could see nothing but dark tree trunks and their menacing shadows, clumps of bushes that were barely visible, and tall shadowed pines stretching up like arrows into the sky. Up there, some stars could be seen in glimpses through the canopy.
The wind was slipping through the trees' leaves, and the trunks were creaking. Sometimes, he could hear the flutter of wings unseen, snapping twigs, and the cracking undergrowth with each step he took.
Alfred didn't know if it was his imagination playing tricks on him, but everything looked different, darker, threatening. Each sound he heard sounded menacing to him, and the silence of the night made him ill at ease. It would be so easy for him to get in some sort of accident!
He jumped when he heard wolves howling at the moon from afar.
… Forget the uneasy silence of the night; It was still better than hearing those beasts!
Bracing himself once again, he continued walking into the woods, thinking about Sarah to give him courage.
He had been walking for a while now, and Alfred silently thanked Heaven his path didn't cross with the wolves's… or the mysterious vampire Abronsius was convinced haunted the area. He wondered, briefly, what the vampire looked like. Alfred hadn't seen him, as he was already gone when Chagal had stormed inside the bathroom. Alfred had never met a vampire before (which a part of him was very glad about). Most of the books he read pictured them as monsters, cruel and bestial, with a terrible appearance; devious creatures of pure instinct and hunger, very much capable of hypnotising their victims.
Alfred wondered if the vampire looked like the monsters that were portrayed in books. Was Sarah's departure the result of a vampire hypnotising her? Where was she now? He had been walking for a while, and there was still no sign of her. He was growing more and more worried.
Alfred stopped and wondered what he could do now. Should he persevere in his quest to find and save Sarah, or turn around and try to find his way back to the inn? Either way, he was lost.
The wind was blowing, and Alfred shivered from the cold, rubbing his hands against his arms to give himself some warmth. How he wished he could have followed Sarah right from the start, or left a note in the inn that would tell Professor Abronsius where he had gone. What would Abronsius say when he saw, the next morning, that his assistant was gone?
Alfred sighed, and tried not to sink into despair. He had to be strong and tough, he had to! Maybe there was still a chance!
As Alfred was trying to give himself courage, he suddenly hear the sound of a twig breaking, then footsteps.
He looked forward, eyes wide. Someone, or something, was coming.
He didn't wait to see who or what was coming to him – if it was a harmless animal, a starving wolf, a benevolent wanderer or a murderer on the loose – his instincts screamed at him to hide, and hide quickly!
Alfred dove behind a wide cedar trunk, heart slamming against his ribs. He gulped at the air, trying to slow his breathing enough to hear and not be heard. Back in the shadows, he heard branches snapping and footsteps on the snow, clearer than before. Alfred's heart beat faster in anticipation.
Then the footsteps stopped.
Alfred gulped. He didn't dare to look if who – or what - ever was therehad stayed or walked away. He thought it was best to wait until he was sure no one was there anymore. He closed his eyes and recalled the first words of the last novel he read, trying not to think of what was behind him.
The sun-orb sings, in emulation, 'mid brother-spheres, his ancient round…
A soft baritone voice interrupted his thoughts.
"Dear wanderer, you don't have to act shy. I am here to help. Please, come out."
The voice was soft and pleasant, and carried a note of strength and confidence. Alfred detected an accent, which, to be honest, he found elegant.
He turned around slowly and, from the tree he was hiding behind, he tried to have a look at the stranger, eyes going no further than the man's chin but taking him in nonetheless. He didn't need to see his face to notice the man's black hair, as it came down past his shoulders. His clothing was unexpected for someone walking about the forest: the fine quality and cut were obvious, proof this man belonged to the aristocracy. Alfred wondered why someone of his rank would wander in the woods - and who needed a cape that long anyway?
His accent was sophisticated and definitely Romanian. Handsome, a glance up at his face told him, though he quickly avoided a pair of interested dark eyes. Alfred could tell, though, that the man definitely saw him, and as much as he wished he could stay behind his hiding place, it would be silly to continue, and he braced himself before stepping out in front of the man before him.
The stranger regarded him with a satisfied smile. "Good evening, my young friend. Are you lost?"
"No, I'm fine," Alfred bit out, trying for a polite smile but failing. He probably looked more scared than anything. Shy Alfred had never been gifted with any social skills, much to his (and Professor Abronsius's) regret. "I'm – I'm Alfred." he hesitantly added.
He saw the man's thin lips pulling into a charming smile, that made Alfred want to trust him. Yet, something was amiss… what was this man, with elegant clothes unfit for a walk in the woods, doing out in the dark of the night?
"Greetings, young Alfred. I am Count von Krolock. This domain is mine." He gestured around him. Alfred's eyes widened. While the stranger wore fine clothes, he didn't expect him to be a count!
"I am sorry, I did not know!" He replied, shifting anxiously. He wasn't quite sure what to say to this count. The last thing he wanted was to offend the man because he walked on his lands by mistake!
The Count didn't seem to mind. He bowed slightly, his smile looking amused. Alfred thought even how he bowed was elegant.
"That is of little concern, dear Alfred. Now, do you happen to be lost?"
"No! I was just… looking for someone!"
"I see. Would this someone happen to be a lovely red haired young woman?" He enquired.
"Sarah!" Alfred exclaimed, before he could stop himself.
"I thought so," The Count said, sounding oddly amused. "You don't have to worry about your friend: she is safe and warm in my castle."
"She… She is?" Alfred whispered, his heart pounding in his chest, feeling both terrified and hopeful.
"Indeed." His voice was warm and soft, like velvet, and it made Alfred want to come closer to this man and ask him more questions about Sarah. "I bless the night to have us meet. It is not good for any soul to be in these woods in this weather."
"It… it wasn't my intention to wander here at night," Alfred confessed, "but I was worried for my friend who was wandering alone in the cold."
He was also afraid of the vampire who might wander at night. Professor Abronsius was sure they had found themselves in a place plagued by vampires by the excessive garlic the villagers used, even if they swore vampires were just fairy tales. It made Alfred excited – but mostly scared.
The Count softly hummed. "I see. Such a wonderful thing, for a young man to be following his heart. It is very brave and daring to go to into the unknown on one's own."
Alfred looked up at him, and saw the Count's dark eyes that were locked on him. Part of him marvelled at the novelty of being complimented: he had been called brave! The Professor, while a patient tutor, was very reserved on such things, and found it much easier to criticize – maybe because he himself was so used to being criticized rather than being complimented – so a part of Alfred was feeling very pleased inside, despise his nervousness.
"… Do you think so?" Alfred couldn't help but ask.
"I do think so. Very few in this side of the country would be willing to display such bravery, much less strangers. You are a student, I presume?"
"Ah – yes. I study at the University of Königsberg." Alfred said.
"Remarkable," he said, and it sounded like he meant it. "However, I am truly curious to know how a student from Königsberg found himself in the woods of Transylvania."
Alfred flushed at his enquiring glare, but braced himself. "I am helping Professor Abronsius who is travelling across Europe for his… research."
Krolock's eyes lit up in interest. "The Professor Abronsius, author of The Bat: its Mysteries?"
Alfred looked up at him, surprised. He never expected anyone, outside of Königsberg, to have heard of Professor Abronsius, much less to haveread his book. When he was not being mocked by his peers, Abronsius was mostly ignored in Königsberg, and most students thought him to be a joke. Alfred had been the only one to be captivated by the strange little man and his knowledge, which only made him more of an outsider to his fellow students.
"The same man. I wasn't aware his book had such an impact outside of Prussia." Alfred replied, not willing to say Abronsius was considered as a lunatic and he could barely sell his book.
"I am a lover of culture; I like to expand my library by purchasing books everywhere in Europe. I was quite caught up by his book - truly brilliant." Krolock replied.
"Well… Professor Abronsius will be glad to hear this." Alfred said, adjusting his scarf to provide himself a bit of warmth on his neck and face.
"I must confess, I am curious to know why you have found yourself alone tonight, with no Professor to follow - or is the Professor doing his research at night?" He inquired.
Alfred shook his head, feeling nervous again. Was it an illusion, or was the Count standing closer to him now?
"I'm here… on my own." Alfred replied softly, flushing at the admission.
For a moment, Krolock seemed amused and a little smug, though Alfred supposed it was something less than count was a difficult man to read, beyond what he allowed to show. It made Alfred nervous, as if a storm could be brewing and he would be blind to it.
Before Alfred could come with an excuse (perhaps"our travel made the Professor tired, and I was so worried for Sarah I couldn't wait for him"), Krolock spoke out:
"I take it the Professor isn't aware his student is wandering alone in the woods, in the dark of the night."
Alfred flushed again, and Krolock grinned, showing off sharp teeth for a flash of a moment. "No doubt this little nocturnal escapade of yours wouldn't please him, and yet here you are, breaking the Professor's rules and wandering into the unknown."
Alfred said nothing. What could he have said when the Count seemed to read his mind? It was almost surreal, the way Krolock seemed to figure him out so easily, and seemed to know him better than Alfred would have liked to admit. It was almost as if… Krolock could see through him, right into his soul and, somehow, the picture of the polite, mysterious stranger in Alfred's mind started to become slightly… intimidating.
Alfred desperately wished he could find something clever to say, but the cold seemed to numb his mind. He could hardly move his fingers and the wind was harshly biting his face. He could do nothing but stand and feel awkward and offer the Count an embarrassed look.
Krolock smirked at his silence. "So youthful. So vibrant and intelligent, unappreciated by those who call themselves adults." He said, and Alfred felthis heart break as someone, for the first time and in this exact moment, seemed to understand him. "A foolish thing to do, but very loyal and very brave. Bravery is always rewarded, in the end. Perhaps you'll find that what you've been looking for is closer than you imagine."
"What… what do you mean?" He asked, through chattering teeth.
"Perhaps you will find more during this journey than you expected. As the saying goes,"travel shapes youth". It could help you discover new things, including about yourself and your hidden desires."
"I… I don't understand." Alfred whispered, watching him with a mix of fear and utter fascination.
That tall figure in front of him seemed more intimidating than ever, and Alfred honestly wasn't sure if talking to him was such a good idea after all. Yet, there was something that drew Alfred to him, against his better judgement, like this man could show him everything he needed to know and see.
His words made no sense at all. Perhaps they did, but Alfred was too scared to admit the truth. In this moment, he looked twice as tall as he had before, and Alfred had no clue how to react.
The count didn't respond. His eyes were no longer on Alfred's face - instead they were looking at the hands Alfred started rubbing on his arms again.
"My apologies, young Alfred. Transylvanian blood runs through my veins, so I am accustomed to its harsh winters and bitter wind. I was so focused on our conservation, I failed to see how it affected you."
"Th – there's no need to apologise, Excellency."
"Please, allow me to make it up to you. I wish to offer you warmth and shelter in my home; my hospitality for the night, and perhaps for many more if you wish it so."
When he said it, his tone changed. His voice became thicker. Alfred thought it was just an illusion, his mind playing tricks on him, but he noticed a flash of eagerness in Krolock's eyes. In that moment, the charming gentleman looked… strange, and intimidating. Alfred carefully took a step back.
"Your Excellency is too kind, but I… wouldn't want to intrude." He replied, trying to come up with an excuse.
The count smiled, sharp and feral. "I do not mind. I so rarely get visitors I consider each visit like a gift."
Alfred swallowed, feeling trapped, fear rising in his stomach more and more strongly. He retreated again, trying to gain distance from Krolock. He now desperately wished he could go back to the inn and its warm beds.
But Sarah is still out there, a voice in his head told him. Somewhere; possibly in the castle if what the count said is true.
Uncertainty was raging inside of him. Part of him screamed that the count wasn't what he seemed to be and to be careful around him - to try to find a way to leave. Another part of him actuallywanted to accept the count's offer… Maybe he was right and Sarah was safe and warm in his castle. Perhaps he would be allowed to see her and he could convince her to leave with him. Perhaps the count wouldn't do anything to him except offer him shelter.
… Perhaps Krolock could show him what he thought Alfred needed to see. Perhaps he could tell him everything he needed to know and discover.
The count's request was tempting, but something was nagging at the back of Alfred's mind and he struggled to grasp it. He knew something was not right - about this and about the count, with how surreal he looked; how easily he looked into Alfred's soul. Something was not right and, as scared as Alfred was of the answers, he struggled to find them.
He was too cold and tired to put much effort into speaking though, and Krolock took a few steps before him when he felt Alfred's hesitation. He didn't seem to want to see Alfred go.
Still, Alfred managed to say: "I can't."
"You can, Alfred. Don't you want to see lovely Sarah? She felt guilty leaving you alone in the cold. She will be happy to see you."
"She – she will?" Alfred asked. He couldn't help but feel a boyish hope and happiness raising inside him.
"She will." Krolock assured him. "Come with me. You want to, don't deny it. Listen to your desires, follow them."
"I do," Alfred admitted. "I really want to, but –"
"Then come with me." His voice was filled with persuasion.
"But, what about Professor Abronsius? He's – "
"It doesn't matter for now, Alfred. Leave that absent-minded professor back in the inn. I am sure he will soon join us."
"He will?" Alfred asked, uncertain.
Perhaps things wouldn't go bad if Professor Abronsius were to join them. He would feel very much reassured if Abronsius was there.
"Of course! I will have my servant go to see him tomorrow and beckon him to join us. After all, we wouldn't want him to be left out of this and missing a student, wouldn't we?" The Count replied with a sly smile. "Now, will you come with me?"
The gleam in Krolock's eyes was so powerful Alfred found he couldn't look away. How intense and hypnotising his eyes were!
"I… will." Alfred breathed, all of his doubts slipping away.
For a second, Krolock looked victorious, but it was so brief Alfred swore he only imagined it.
At least, that's what he hoped.
The Count took a step closer toward him, gentle, as if approaching a wild, scared animal, and came to stand beside him. Slowly, he snaked an arm around Alfred and put a hand on his shoulder, squeezing it. His cape was covering Alfred's back, as if to protect him from the cold, but part of Alfred suddenly thought of a vulture covering its prey with its wings to prevent it from flying away.
As he was being led away by the Count, toward his castle, Alfred hoped in his heart he made the right decision.
Only time would tell.
Just a precision: While Alfred definitely knows there's vampires in the area, he might not be aware of who Krolock is, yet, but he definitely suspects something. It's funnier and much interesting that way!
The book Alfred was thinking about, earlier, is Goethe's Faust.
Thanks for reading, feel free to tell me what you thought about it, I would love to hear your thoughts about it :)