Disclaimer: Tanz der Vampire and its characters belong to Roman Polanski, Jim Steinman and Michael Kunze.
In most of my stories, Krolock is the antagonist (understandable since he is, in the musical), however I wanted to try writing a story in which he and Alfred act friendly, so here you go!
I am not giving up on the idea of writing a sequel for Die Fledermaus and I am currently working on the plot of the story, so I can say safely this year is going to be the year where I'll start posting it (since it will most likely be a multi-chapter fanfiction)
This story was beta-readed by kitsunegari101, whom I can never thanks enough for her great help.
The last time Alfred set foot in Berlin, he was still mortal.
He had been travelling with Professor Abronsius, on their quest to find vampires. They stopped in the city because Abronsius wanted to check their library.
The fact that Alfred ended up becoming the very creature they were looking for was quite ironic. However, with time, Alfred grew used to it.
He had rented a room at a small hotel in the city centre. It was cheap and the room was moderately sized, but it had all the necessities: a bed, a bathroom, a desk, a chair and a fireplace. While he couldn't stay warm due to his nature, he could still feel the warmth of the fire on his skin for a few blessed moments, and it was one of the small things that brought him joy.
He also certainly appreciated sleeping in a bed instead of a coffin. He and Sarah had rarely slept in a coffin during all the years they shared together. Sarah made it clear from their first night. "A lady shouldn't sleep in those dark and narrow things!" she had said, and Alfred had agreed with her. Beside, how could they have slept in a coffin like the dead when they felt so alive, so free, so hungry for blood and for the world?
At first, they didn't care for anything but the hunger and, most of all, freedom. The freedom to love, to do what they wanted to do, to travel everywhere. Only when the hunger became less primal and the travels less vibrant had Alfred regained his senses; he became more aware of the world they were living in.
The world around them, around him, eventually changed. Berlin changed.
It was no longer the city Alfred had first discovered with his old mentor. It was another city entirely. It had been destroyed by the war, then rebuilt. It had been given a new face, with new people and new buildings. Berlin had changed but Alfred remained the same. In the endless night of vampires, it was a thing to be expected and mattered little. Empires would fall and others would rise, worlds would be destroyed and then rebuilt, people would die and others would live. The world was always changing, but the night and the hunger for blood would remain.
After a week, Alfred grew used to life in Berlin. The people around him were so busy rebuilding and healing from the trauma of the war they didn't notice the solitary and nocturnal young man living among them. He found a routine. There was a library nearby and Alfred devoured its books. He discovered theatres and movies. He saw the sun for the first time in twenty years, albeit in black and white on a screen. During the night, he wandered into the city. He didn't try to create friendships. The previous attempts, he realized years ago after Sarah left, never lasted. It was very difficult to hide his nature for long without the temptation of biting into their necks.
So Alfred contented himself with his solitary life in Berlin by enjoying the simple pleasures the city could offer. Every night he would feed, read, walk the streets, sit somewhere and get lost watching the city and its habitants living their lives. Every night looked the same, nothing new making its way into his life.
Alfred couldn't help but wonder:
Am I content enough here?
It happened one night.
He had just fed and was wandering the streets of the capital, looking for some kind of distraction, when he felt something inside of him. At first, he couldn't really tell what this sudden feeling was. All he knew was that an instinct inside him was trying to tell him something important. When he concentrated on it, it became clearer. It felt like there was an invisible rope around him and it was gently tugging him: the feeling of a vampiric bond. He had the familiar feeling that something or someone was here, nearby. He frowned and briefly thought about Sarah. But she wasn't there.
After years of travelling together, he would have recognized the familiar bond he shared with her anywhere and any time. Moreover, he knew that Sarah was travelling in Italy. In her latest letter, she wrote Alfred how much she enjoyed much the delights of Venice and planned to go to Florence next.
The bond tugged at him again. His curiosity grew. There was something in the city centre calling for him, something familiar to the bond he shared with Sarah, though it was weaker. He hesitated for a moment. Who or what was at the end of the rope? Was it risky? What should he expect?
His curiosity taking the better of him, Alfred walked in the opposite direction. The tug was still there, so he blindly followed it. The more he walked, the more he could feel the pull lessening, so Alfred knew he was going in the right direction. The more he walked, the stronger the feeling inside his head was, as if his instinct were telling him he was close, very close…
Finally, he stopped near a theatre; he looked around, hoping to find what he was looking for.
Then he saw him. A tall, lean man, with long, dark hair pulled back in a neat ponytail, contrasting with pale skin. He was dressed finely in an elegant dark three-piece suit and a dark shirt and a long black cloak. He was standing in the street, taking note of the people and buildings around him in sharp, clever glances. If Alfred had been still a mortal, he would have had caught his breath upon recognising the tall and imposing figure.
Count von Krolock. He was staring at Count von Krolock.
Alfred stood for a while. He didn't dare move, unsure about what he should do.
It had been the Count he felt connected to. He never would have guessed the link would lead him to the older vampire, though in retrospect it wasn't that surprising. Indirectly, he was Krolock's childe; he had been bitten by Sarah who herself had been bitten by the Count twenty-five years ago.
It had been twenty-five years since he last saw the Count. Twenty-five years since the Midnight Ball where both he and Abronsius attempted to save Sarah from the Count's bite. Twenty-five years since Alfred had been dragged into the darkness by Sarah, baptised in blood and snow and pain.
Twenty-five years since he thought he would never see the man again.
What was he doing here, in the heart of Germany? Was Herbert here as well, or was the Count alone? Moreover, what should Alfred do?
During the years of their unlife, neither Sarah nor Alfred had expected to see the Count again. When Sarah turned him, they ran and laughed and kissed and bit each other. They discovered freedom and new powers and delighted in them.
They ran off, far away from the Castle, far away from the village. They wanted to feed and they wanted to see what they could do. Most of all, they wanted to run away from the Count, because outside was freedom. Sarah didn't want to "come back and rot in this dusty and gloomy castle" and Alfred had wanted nothing but to follow her blindly, as he once did in life.
While a part of him wanted to turn around and leave, he thought it would be useless. If he, a vampire born twenty-five years ago, had been able to feel his connection to Krolock, surely the latter, who was a vampire much older than him, would have felt it too.
He watched him from afar. He saw as the Count stopped watching the crowd on the street. The slight turn of his head made a couple of dark locks of hair fall from his shoulder. How a simple movement such as this could appear so elegant, Alfred would never know!
He watched as the older vampire's eyes were scanning the crowd everywhere. He saw him closing his eyes and slightly tilting his head up, as if he was sensing something, and Alfred knew he felt the invisible bond linking them and was trying to locate its source. It would only be a matter of minutes before Krolock realised where he was.
The logical part of him thought it would be pointless to leave now that Krolock felt his presence, most of all if the vampire wanted to find the other end of the mental bond. If he intended to do something, he would do it no matter what; Alfred had learnt that decades ago. Beside, what could he do, a youngling, before an older and more powerful vampire?
What could he expect if he were to meet with the other vampire? Would the Count feel resentment from the disastrous event of the Midnight Ball? Would he seek revenge, or would he come peacefully to greet Alfred? The Count was a mysterious man, and Alfred didn't know what to expect from him.
While a part of him wanted to avoid a confrontation with the older vampire, another was curious and wanted to let the Count approach him to see how their meeting would go on. His eyes caught sudden movement as Krolock moved from where he stood and started walking. Without a doubt, he was seeking the provenance of the bond. Alfred stared at him for a few seconds, then turned around. His eyes caught the majestic theatre standing a few meters before him. Surely, he thought, the opera would be a better place for a meeting than a crowded street.
Making his decision, Alfred made his way toward the building and walked inside. He was met with interweaving corridors, stairwells, alcoves and landings, allowing people enough space to walk and to socialise. Rich with velvet and gold leaf as well as statues of nymphs and cherubs, the interior represented the sumptuousness of the Baroque era. He could also see a large ceremonial staircase made of marble, with a balustrade of silver marble, decorated with flowers and female torchères on the pedestals.
There was no one inside yet, though the next show would only begin in an hour or so, so Alfred's entrance was unseen. Noticing a long and beautiful bench made of red velvet and wood painted in gold, Alfred walked toward it and sat. He then kept his eyes closed and his head bowed, waiting for the Count to join him inside. He didn't have to wait long, as he suspected.
A few minutes later, the sound of shoes on the opera house's polished floor alerted him of the other vampire's approach. The footsteps stopped and Alfred opened his eyes.
"Good evening, Alfred."
He turned his head and looked up to glance at him, trying to stay composed. How strange it was to hear a voice he hadn't heard in decades!
"Good evening…your Excellency." Alfred thought if he'd still had a beating heart, it would have raced with apprehension.
Tall and imposing as he always had been, the Count looked down at him, not with unkind eyes. He hadn't changed since the last time Alfred saw him. Of course he doesn't change, he chastised himself. He's a vampire just like you! He can't age!
"I trust you are well," Krolock said.
"I am, thank you." Alfred nodded.
For a moment, the two vampires looked at each other, both examining the other in silence. Alfred didn't sense any hostility from the elder vampire, which confused him; the last time they saw each other wasn't happy for either of , with time, any resentment he might have felt back then vanished with the passing years.
"Meeting you is quite the surprise," Krolock said at last. "I didn't expect to see you again."
"Neither did I," Alfred confessed. "What brings you to Berlin?"
It was surprising to see the Count in a place not his own. While he was dressed according to the time and location, he seemed so out of place in this modern world; Alfred always imagined him living in his dark and imposing castle, never leaving Transylvania.
Maybe his surprise showed, for Krolock smiled faintly. "I don't usually leave my land for long, not with the others under my command. However, I had some errands to attend to in this city."
"Do you mean…the vampires of the graveyard?" Alfred dared to ask. He had only seen them once in his life, and he hoped to never see them again. Unlike the Count and his son, they looked like living corpses, with sickly pale skin and milky eyes, the disturbing smell of musty clothes, wilted flowers, and the wet ground of the graveyard. They were what vampires looked like in horror stories, forever trapped in time, devoid of reason, with only the hunger animating them.
"Indeed," Krolock replied. "They are uncontrollable creatures but, as the oldest and most powerful vampire of the coven, I can command them. However, I trust Herbert to take care of them when I'm not here."
Alfred nodded and kept quiet, for what could he say? He stared into the Count's eyes and saw no anger, no animosity. The Count was staring at him; there was such a quietness emanating from him that Alfred gathered enough courage to speak his mind.
"Did you know?" he asked softly. "About what happened to us after we left the castle?"
Krolock let out a sigh. "I had my suspicions. I was quite adamant about having the both of you back. I had Koukol searching for you, for I knew what Sarah was becoming…and what would happen next. You would either be killed or turned by her hand."
"She bit me shortly after we left the castle," Alfred replied.
He remembered little of his turning. Everything had been blurry. All he remembered was the biting cold, the sudden pain in his neck, and the hunger. The agonising hunger for blood and for freedom. He hadn't cared for anything but the hunger. He and Sarah quickly ran away, leaving everything behind. The count, the castle, the professor, the village, their mortal lives. Perhaps their innocence too.
"So I suspected," Krolock said. "When Koukol failed to bring you back, I was left wondering what became of you only for a short time. There were whispers in a village nearby: two youths were spotted before disappearing like ghosts, and the baker's assistant went missing. That's how I knew. Herbert was pleased to know you survived, though I had some worries. Newborn vampires can hardly control themselves, and the thought of two young vampires on the loose was quite...concerning."
"Why did you want us back? To prevent us from causing havoc?"
"…Eventually. Newborn vampires can be particularly…hungry and vicious creatures. I was concerned you would bring havoc where you would go. Letting the hunger and inconscience young vampires have taking over you, causing you to kill more than necessary and letting mortals discover our existence."
"We didn't," Alfred assured him. "Sarah and I never stayed in one place for long; she always wanted to see more and to travel to new places. She craved the world and novelty and I followed her." Alfred didn't bother mentioning the people he and Sarah—intentionally or accidentally—turned while they were still new to the vampire world and wanted to find out the extent of their powers. As they gained some control over themselves, they refrained from doing so. Alfred wasn't keen on turning more people, as he knew how heavy this nature could be, and Sarah didn't care about turning people unless she took a special interest in them.
Their fledglings never stayed with them for too long. When they were able to master their vampiric powers, they would leave to enjoy the world in another light, or they stayed with them for a few years before leaving. Sarah would grow tired of them, and Alfred often feared she would grow tired of him as well. She would often cajole him with kisses and tell him, "I could never tire of you, my dear! You're my very first, that makes you special!" and "You're always so sweet to me, I'm glad I took you with me. Together, we will travel the world! Wouldn't that be great, my dear?"
"I always suspected she would be," Krolock commented. "She always wanted more than the poor life she had in the village."
Alfred nodded at that. Sarah never could stay too long in one place. After discovering a new city had grown on her, she wanted to pack everything and leave again. Alfred suspected the reason she was always moving was because she suffered from being kept in her bedroom for years by her overprotective father. Ever since she escaped her home, she never seemed to have enough of freedom and the world and her thirst wasn't quenched yet. Alfred didn't know if it ever would be. Unlike himself.
Krolock seemed to share the same thoughts as him, for he asked, "And yet you are here, on your own. What happened to your companion?"
Alfred hesitated before answering. "She's travelling…on her own."
Krolock arched an eyebrow. "I see… And why is that? Perhaps...something bad happened between you?"
"No!" Alfred couldn't help the outburst. "I mean…no. I just wanted to stay somewhere for a while." Krolock didn't press the matter. Perhaps he sensed Alfred wasn't willing to share more, or perhaps he also was aware of Sarah's wayward nature that Alfred didn't really share.
The older vampire glanced at a huge poster near them, advertising the next show, Doctor Faustus and Mephistopheles. The demon, dressed in red, was seen trying to tempt the man of science, standing near a rotating globe of the world.
"I am to stay in this city for a couple of days and I have nothing to do for the moment. Would you be interested in seeing this opera with me?" Krolock suggested, gesturing at the poster.
"Ah…me?" Alfred asked in confusion, blinking at him. Whatever he had been expecting from the Count, it wasn't this. It hadn't occurred to him the older vampire would even want to watch an opera with him.
Krolock cocked his head. "Of course. A curious and brilliant young man as yourself would enjoy the opera. I try to keep up with the times, but I admit it has been centuries since I last set foot in such a place, and I would certainly enjoy the company."
If he had been a mortal still, he would have blushed. Why did he feel so hopelessly awkward around the Count?
"Well… I…" Alfred stammered, unsure about what he should say. If vampires could ever feel anxiety, Alfred was a good example of it! Krolock lifted an eyebrow, blue eyes watching him patiently, waiting for an answer.
"I don't have money on me," Alfred finally replied, ashamed at the confession. What little money he possessed he'd left back in his hotel room. He only left to feed, with the intent to return to his room and maybe have a look at the library before sunrise. He never expected he would have company tonight.
"Leave that to me," Krolock assured him.
"I…I wouldn't want to impose," Alfred replied, feeling awkward. There went the mastery of himself he thought he acquired during the latest years.
"Think nothing of it. It is of no convenience to me," Krolock replied, making a nonchalant gesture of the hand. Alfred stared at him. As unbelievable as it sounded, the Count von Krolock actually wanted him to watch an opera with him, as if Alfred didn't escape from him with his victim twenty-five years ago. The Count was watching him with curiosity, waiting for his answer. He seemed genuine about it!
Alfred thought about it. It would be improper to refuse. The Count had been nothing but amiable with him, despite what had happened the last time he saw him, and he seemed honest in his proposition. Watching an opera with the older vampire could prove to be an interesting experience. Alfred always suspected the vampire to be a cultivated man; his library certainly proved so. It could be entertaining to accompany him… Besides, Doctor Faustus always had been one of his favourite books.
He smiled, having made his decision. "In that case…I accept, your Excellency. I'll find a way to pay you back!"
A faint yet genuine smile appeared on the Count's face and his eyes softened, as if pleased by Alfred's answer. "That is not necessary, Alfred. Your company is all I require," Krolock said softly.
"If you're sure…" Alfred said, hesitant.
"I am," Krolock assured him. "Now, shall we?" he asked, beckoning Alfred to come along with him, deeper into the theatre.
Later, they took their seats in one of the boxes. Alfred didn't ask how Krolock managed to book a private box in such short order. However, the Count was wealthy enough to provide it, and Alfred certainly enjoyed the change of view. He felt the excitement of being in a theatre, waiting for the show. They were patiently waiting in silence.
While Alfred knew Krolock wouldn't hurt him, he didn't know what to say and how to act around him. He was afraid he would end up doing or saying something awkward. He had never been gifted socially and, in his mortal days, he remembered how Professor Abronsius used to scold him for that. Most of all, he didn't know what to make of Krolock. However, he behaved accordingly and with courtesy. If he considered Alfred's silence rude, he said nothing of it and even seemed to respect it. He made small talk with him to pass the time and Alfred tentatively answered back.
Then, with the third stroke of the gong, the lights started to dim slowly and the darkness enveloped them like a cloak. The music started and the scene opened. The show began.
Hours later, the opera over, they were walking down the staircase with the intent of leaving the theatre, discussing the show as they did.
The Count von Krolock debated the opera and the story of Faust. Alfred marvelled at his words and replied in kind, finding himself debating the story as well, and reviewing the vampire's answers to whatever Alfred said or what they saw during the show. His Excellency seemed to enjoy this very much and became more lively as their conversation went on. They spoke of the story and the songs, they talked about the costumes and the music, and the difference between Goethe's Faust, which inspired the opera, and Marlowe's.
Alfred listened as the Count spoke and secretly marvelled at the novelty of simply listening to the man and talking with him, without fearing he would be bitten or killed. He was quite pleasant company too. Alfred suspected he would be. Krolock did strike him as a cultivated and refined man when they first met. However, he had been too fearful of him and of the possibility of being bitten by him or his kind to consider engaging the man in a conversation back then.
He had to admit it was no struggle to keep up the conversation with Krolock, for the things the older vampire told him were fascinating and the man seemed to enjoy listening and talking to Alfred as well. His knowledge of sciences and literature was vast, and he was able to share many anecdotes; Alfred was only too happy to comment on them and add some of his own anecdotes. Alfred found he hadn't enjoyed himself so much in years. It had been a while since he had last spoken with a cultivated person and Alfred hadn't before met anyone who could keep up like Professor Abronsius did.
As the hours passed, little by little, Alfred felt like he was starting to read him better and was able to understand the faint shifts on Krolock's face as well as the look in his eyes, discerning his emotions. There was the soft look with a faint smile when he seemed calm and content enough, an amused glint in his eyes when he said something humorous (though Alfred soon discovered Krolock's humour was sometimes wry, that Alfred could accept and find amusing sometimes) or the veil that came over his eyes when he was more serious or concerned. Yet, no matter his mood, he remained calm with an air of grace and dignity that Alfred remembered from his mortal days.
"We can't deny that the choices regarding the costumes were very well thought-out!" Alfred remarked at some point.
"I admit they did wonders with the costumes and the set. However, having the actor playing Mephistopheles wear wings was a poor decision. They didn't need to show the black wings to suggest Mephistopheles's demonic nature. His red clothing, his make-up, his way of speaking and seducing Faustus suggested he was part of Hell. Besides, the wings were poorly made."
"So, you happen to be knowledgeable on the matter of wings?" Alfred asked, daring the teasing tone in his voice.
"I do, actually. For I happen to know what it is like to possess wings," Krolock replied, with a tone of mystery.
Alfred stared up at him, astonished. Did he mean what he thought he mean? He shook his head. "You're kidding me…"
He was answered by a serious look. "Am I, young Alfred? Do you truly think I would make jokes of this sort?"
Alfred paused, looking back at Krolock hesitantly and trying to think of the surprising revelation. A picture of himself transforming into a bat formed in his mind, and he shook his head at how ridiculous it looked.
"You don't mean to tell me we can transform into bats!" Alfred cried out, frowning.
Krolock's blue eyes glinted and a faint smile appeared on his face. Alfred stared at him in shock. Did he…did the Count von Krolock just make a joke?
"You…" Alfred began to say.
"Do forgive me, Alfred. I couldn't resist," Krolock replied, chuckling at his incredulous face. The situation was so unexpected, so absurd! Alfred couldn't help but crack a smile at that. So, it appeared the older vampire did have a sense of humour.
"Well, had it been the truth, I think this would have been information Professor Abronsius would have been interested to know!" Alfred said. He couldn't decide if his old professor would have enjoyed this bit of information. He was fascinated with bats and didn't believe them to be related to vampires.
His smile became sad and nostalgic, memories of the Professor flooding in. Thinking about him hurt. One of the things he always regretted in his vampire life was leaving Abronsius behind. His mind had been far away the night he was turned. He had been so distracted, so hungry, that the thought of his professor didn't even cross his mind. By the time his thoughts became clearer, he and Sarah had been far away from the village and Alfred didn't dare return and confront Abronsius as a vampire.
It didn't stop the feeling of hurt and culpability. He never admitted it, but sometimes he missed Abronsius and his oddities. They didn't always understand each other and Abronsius had the nasty habit of getting distracted and then lost, forgetting about Alfred and the world around him. However, Alfred always felt respect and affection for this odd, kind, clever old man.
Perhaps Krolock knew what he was feeling and thinking, for he told him with a soft voice that was almost a whisper, "After your departure, the Professor looked for you in the woods. When he couldn't find you or Sarah, he came back to the village and stayed at the Chagals' inn for a couple of days. I believe he chose to stay behind in the hopes to see you; he left days after with Mrs Chagal."
Alfred closed his eyes, his heart sinking into his stomach. Leaving Professor Abronsius behind had been hard, but Alfred knew he had to do it. His heart felt heavy at the thought Abronsius had waited for him, only to have been deceived. However, his thoughts stopped at Krolock's last words.
"With Mrs Chagal?" he asked incredulously.
"Indeed. I believe they found in each other a sort of kindred spirit." Alfred found it hard to believe, but he was glad Professor Abronsius hadn't been alone in the end, as well as Mrs Chagal. She had been nothing but kind during his stay at the village, and the poor woman lost both her husband and her daughter in the end. Alfred was glad they found some sort of company with each other.
The night was glimmering with the street lights and the crescent moon above in the dark sky. It was very late, yet crowds of mortals could be seen walking in the city centre. Alfred and Krolock had left the theatre as they were walking. They eventually reached an empty, silent park, with only the sound of the wind blowing through leaves and branches.
"What became of you and Sarah after you left the castle?" Krolock asked. It was not a rude question; it was said softly and with a sort of care.
"We travelled a lot. We have been in France, Austria, England…all across Europe, actually," Alfred replied. After a moment, he added in a soft tone, "When the war came, we went to America."
Krolock's eyes darkened at the mention of the Great War. As isolated as he was in the castle, Alfred thought it would have been impossible for him not to hear about the war. He briefly wondered what became of him and Herbert during that time and if they had managed to stay hidden from the mortals. However, Krolock didn't press the subject.
"Did you return to your home in Königsberg?" he asked instead. Alfred felt another heaviness in his heart. Thinking of his former home hurt him as much as the thought of Abronsius.
"... No. I didn't dare to. It held too many memories."
Krolock looked at him with something akin to sympathy. "It was wise of you to do so."
Alfred gave him a small, sad smile as he nodded. They took a seat on a bench. Krolock sat beside Alfred and crossed his legs, eyes glued to the younger vampire. His features revealed little but his eyes shimmered in a strange way…almost curiously. Alfred didn't know if he should be worried or amused.
"What is it?" he asked, confused.
"I am marvelling, that is all. You seem to have adjusted well to your condition."
"I wouldn't say that… It…well, it hasn't been easy."
Krolock gave a wry, humourless smile. "It never is. I remember when I was turned, when I discovered nothing would be the same anymore…discovering new feelings and powers…and the impossible hunger."
Had it been possible, Alfred would have shivered from the intensity of Krolock's words and the sadness in his eyes. He found he couldn't look away and nodded without uttering a word.
"I… I didn't feel like myself the first few nights," Alfred confessed in a whisper, "It was blurry; all I remember is the hunger and the need to see and feel everything… I remember the emptiness and the bitterness of knowing I couldn't go back to what I used to be."
He looked up. Krolock's eyes were watching him, not unkindly. Alfred had the feeling he understood. He remembered the time he and Abronsius had spied on Krolock in the graveyard and heard his deepest thoughts on the lonely path of immortality, the heavy burden of his vampiric nature, and the endless sea of time. He remembered Krolock's words years after his turning and finally understood the meaning.
Alfred never really knew what Sarah truly felt about her nature as a vampire. She always had been so in love with the night, enjoying her new unlife and powers to do what she wished, being the free and strong woman she always longed to be. Alfred never really knew if she was feeling the burden of their nature and the consequences of their immortality. She never wanted to talk about it. It sometimes happened that Alfred had tried to press the matter. He wanted to know if she felt the same emptiness some nights, if she didn't fear drowning in the deep sea of time and if she didn't feel loneliness like he did.
Alfred never got to know what truly lurked inside her heart regarding this matter. Maybe she was indifferent, maybe she did have these feelings but hid them, maybe she didn't feel the same as Alfred. Perhaps she never would. Whenever Alfred talked about it, she brushed it off and told him she didn't want to talk about "these boring things" and changed the subject.
But Krolock, he discovered, knew. He looked into his deep blue eyes and Alfred knew he understood and was plagued by these feelings too.
"I understand this very well," the Count replied softly. "It takes a strong will and mind to try and get used to it, to gain a lasting clarity…"
Alfred smiled sadly. "Has any one of our kind gotten used to it?"
Krolock's smile was a sad one. "Not always…"
"How did you manage?"
"I did it for Herbert's sake, for when I was turned my son was very young and his mother wasn't part of this world anymore. I had to learn and control my nature for him. I still do. It helps to focus on that desire for clarity, on the things and the ones we love."
Alfred nodded. In the first year of his unlife, he fought hard to come back to the person he was as a mortal. He suffered many disillusions as he discovered he could never be the young man he was before coming to Transylvania; he dreaded the thought of letting go of that person and becoming truly dead. However, he discovered with time that, while he couldn't be what and who he used to be, he could work and fight to be as close to it as he could by focusing on his memories of his former home, of everything he learnt in the university, of the joy of being with Sarah and getting to travel with her and discover new places and new things.
"Without Herbert, I would have been alone and I would have turned into dust centuries ago. The solitude…it is quite terrible for our kind. Despite my son's presence, I am not immune to it."
Alfred nodded in understanding. During the most recent years, solitude had been his only companion and he had begun to feel it when he had been travelling with Sarah.
"Does the feeling ever leave?" he asked.
"Lasting companionship is uncommon among our kind, but not impossible." Alfred looked down. He could feel the weight of Krolock's eyes on him, watching him curiously. "Is there any chance for you to return to Sarah?"
Alfred shook his head. "I would enjoy seeing her again very much. Since I was turned, she was my only companion, my only friend… However, I learnt, years ago, I can't be all she needs."
And she can't be all I need, he didn't add, ashamed at the very thought. He loved Sarah with all his heart and always would. She had a special place in his heart, carved her way into his soul and would never leave. They had only had each other for company for years and shared special moments. However, he knew she would never be satisfied and would always long and hunger for the world. As much as Alfred enjoyed travelling, he found he wanted nothing more, in the end, to stay fixed at one point with a good book and company.
"All we did for twenty years was travel and I…I grew tired of it. I want to stay somewhere with my books and…with someone else," he finally confessed.
The quietness grew between them. It wasn't an uncomfortable silence; it was rather like like a cool breeze after what they both confessed, bringing them relief and contemplation. Alfred could still feel Krolock's eyes on him. He wasn't used to having people paying attention to him for such a length of time and didn't know what to feel about it.
"I see," Krolock finally said. "In that case, I have a proposition for you, Alfred."
Surprised, Alfred looked up at him. "A…proposition?" he repeated, not knowing what to expect.
"Indeed. As you know, living for our kind can prove to be long and lonely… Not that I find the company of my son isn't enough but…it can be quite refreshing to have a bit of fresh air, if I might express it this way. It is difficult to create a lasting relationship, even with other vampires. That is to say…I'm offering you to be my guest for as long as you want in my castle if you are willing to consider it," Krolock explained and Alfred's surprise grew.
Whatever he expected from the Count, it wasn't this. He stared at Krolock, not knowing what to say. Perhaps his face showed his questions, for Krolock added, "As you discovered twenty-five years ago, we lack distractions in the castle; however, my library would be at your disposition, and you would have your own room. I know the conditions of your previous stay in the castle weren't...ideal, so I understand your hesitation, though I would like you to know I would enjoy your company as much as I already do now."
"You…you would have me as a guest in your castle?"
"I would very much like it."
"Despite…what happened last time?" Alfred asked with hesitation.
Krolock replied with a wry smile. "I confess I wasn't pleased back then, being bested by two amateur vampire hunters and having a newborn vampire set on the loose. However, it wasn't my intent to hurt you when I said I wanted you back and I had the time to process what happened."
"... Truly?" Alfred asked shyly.
"Truly. I enjoyed our night and I would like to get to know you more." If he were still capable of it, Alfred would have blushed, unused to receiving such compliments, least of all from the Count von Krolock himself.
"Your offer is most generous your Excellency…but…this is a lot to process. If you don't mind, I would like a bit of time to consider your proposition."
Krolock nodded in a gracious way. "Take all the time you need."
"Thank you, sir." After a moment, he added, "Maybe…maybe we could meet again the night after tomorrow?"
Krolock nodded, his head bowing in an elegant way. "It would be my pleasure."
The following night was a long and quiet one. Most of it Alfred spent in his hotel room. The night was alive with people talking and walking outside but Alfred didn't feel like going out. Instead, he favoured the comfort of a good book and a fire in the fireplace. However, despite his best attempts, he couldn't concentrate. He sighed. It was difficult to focus on his book when he had other, more pressing thoughts in his mind. He found himself pondering the proposition Krolock made, as well as the man himself.
The idea still stunned him; it was so strange. While Alfred wasn't sure what to expect to happen while meeting the Count twenty-five years later, this went beyond his imagination...after all, what need could he have for Alfred as a guest? He was just a shy, introverted lad as well as a weak vampire who lacked confidence in himself.
Alfred couldn't deny that the Count von Krolock was a fascinating man. He remembered having the same thoughts back during his mortal days. The vampire was mystery personified and Alfred found it hard to resist. Moreover, their conversation the night before gave him much to consider. The Count wasn't the man Alfred thought he was decades ago. He discovered there were more layers to the older vampire than he expected. He also discovered this strange man was actually paying attention to him and seemed to enjoy talking and debating with him. His Excellency had been nothing but courteous with him—he had even made a joke! Could it be the Count saw something of worth in him that Alfred himself couldn't see? Could he be that he'd seen something so special in Alfred to want him as a guest in his own castle?
As unbelievable as it seemed to him, a part of Alfred wanted to believe it and yearned to be seen and understood by this strange and fascinating man. A part of him was tempted to accept Krolock's proposition while another part was still hesitant, thinking he wouldn't make an interesting guest, that it could be a trap, or that he would make a fool of himself and make Krolock regret his decision.
On the other hand, what could he expect to happen if he refused? They would most probably go on, both taking a different path, to never see each other again… Alfred surprisingly found himself disappointed at the prospect.
Besides, Krolock didn't seem to mean any harm to him and if he hid some secret plan of revenge, what could he do to such a weak vampire as Alfred? He shook his head. It was so absurd! Was he so desperate for attention and companionship that he was actually considering living with the Count von Krolock?
Yet he couldn't lie to himself. As much as Alfred enjoyed having some alone time every now and then, this lasting solitude weighed heavily on him, and he longed for companionship. Alfred thought he had been lucky. For years, he travelled with Sarah across Europe and even beyond the Atlantic Ocean. For years, they had nothing but each other, and they were both grateful for each other, for they had been unwilling to begin the path of immortality alone.
Yet, despite Alfred's best attempts, they hadn't been able to stay together. His foolish dream of crossing the ocean of time with Sarah disappeared when she left. Wandering in the wide world for all eternity with Sarah had seemed to be an attractive prospect back then. In hindsight, Alfred figured he shouldn't have been surprised. Sarah was much more world-hungry than he was. While he enjoyed travelling and treasured the trips he and Sarah had made, a part of him wanted to fix himself to one point. However, because of their nature, it was quite difficult to stay in the same place without causing attention in the end.
Unless you stay in a castle with another vampire as company… a voice murmured inside his head.
He distractedly put his hand on his chin, lost in this thoughts. Could Castle von Krolock be a place he could see as home? It would be odd to find a home in a place like the castle. It would be the last place where one would feel safe, with its dark corridors, sinister appearance, and spooky atmosphere. When he was a mortal, Alfred certainly didn't see the place as welcoming and thought it was like a dark labyrinth, with danger lurking around every corner. Still, he had been human then. Would his vampire eyes see the castle differently? To Alfred, home meant belonging. A place he could claim as his own. If there was one word to describe his whole life, it was homelessness.
Thinking back through all the years of his life, Alfred discovered he had lost his home when his parents died in his youth. The small apartment he had moved into when he had started his studies had been a facsimile of home. Not quite home, but almost. He didn't really hold any true attachment to it, though. Neither did he with the people he met, and how could he have? He had always been seen as small, quiet Alfred. Professor Abronsius was the only one he felt connected to. This strange, funny-looking yet clever old man who was, in a way, like him. A lonely, odd bird.
When he thought of it, that was why leaving Königsberg with the Professor on their trip to Transylvania wasn't as hard as it should have been. His small apartment had been the place where he lived, but not quite thrived. He felt more regrets at losing his books than leaving the small place.
Then, Transylvania happened. The Count von Krolock happened, as well as the Midnight Ball, and Alfred's life shattered. He left his mortal self in the snow of Transylvania, running away with the one he thought to be the girl of his dreams. One day, Alfred tried to fix them somewhere. When the Great War came, they were discovering the novelties of the New World and didn't return to the Continent until the beginning of the 20s.
He had found a nice cottage, in Sussex, England. It was close to the sea, with a small town nearby, to make sure they wouldn't be disturbed. They fell into a sort of strange routine for weeks, in which they would sleep at day in their rooms and arise by sunset. They would feed on fish, other animals, or wanderers, and they would walk on the beach before coming home to read, bathe, or make love. Sarah grew tired of their routine months later and soon she spent more time outside without him, while he waited for her at home. Sometimes, she returned only the night after. She would console him, tell him she was sorry for leaving him alone, but in the end, she would often leave by night or try to persuade Alfred into leaving, running away into the world and having yet another adventure.
She'd had enough, she told him, of this quiet, same old routine. She told him she had had enough of this while in her small village in Transylvania. She told him she wasn't ready to stay fixed in one place for long. She needed to move, she needed adventures, she needed to be free! They screamed and cried as Alfred tried to persuade her to stay while she wanted them to travel again. He told her to be patient, she told him to be bolder. In the end, it didn't work out. They realised they couldn't change the other's mind.
They stayed on good terms. She told him she wished him the best, that she would think of him and that she would write to him. He said the same words to her. He stayed in the cottage for weeks, not knowing what to do with himself. The place was empty, meaningless. It held too many memories of Sarah for him to stay.
He found his next shelter in Germany, even though the new century had torn apart this once great nation. He didn't dare return to Prussia, to Königsberg, the place he had been born and lived in all his mortal life. He didn't feel ready yet to see how the war and politics changed his former motherland. In Germany, he could almost feel at home. Germany shared the same language and the same culture with Prussia. Yet it was a broken country, trying to reassemble the pieces. Alfred thought that, as the years passed, he would never find a home again. He didn't feel like he belonged anywhere, no matter where he travelled and who he met and loved.
And then there was Krolock, who would have him as a guest for as long as he wanted. The offer was gracious, Alfred couldn't deny it. He made a list in his head and pondered the pros and the cons. In Alfred's memories, the castle was a gloomy and sinister place. He didn't think the Krolocks had changed the place during the intervening years. It certainly wasn't a place Alfred would usually call home. Still, he remembered his mother saying home was less a place and more a feeling of belonging. Could he feel he belonged, in the castle?
With Krolock, he certainly wouldn't have to hide his nature. He was free to be himself. More than that, he was noticed. He had had the Count's whole attention for the entire night. It was both bewildering and delightful, and Alfred found he wanted more. He wanted the attention the Count gave him, he wanted the long discussions, he wanted to know more about this mysterious man.
Krolock told him he meant no harm to him, and Alfred wanted to believe it. After all, if he desired revenge against him for thwarting him and fleeing with Sarah, surely he would have done it yesterday? Krolock said he had processed what happened after the Midnight Ball, and Alfred thought he had been sincere, as foolish as his mortal self would have thought him. His Excellency had been very courteous, even friendly, engaging Alfred in various topics. Alfred found he actually wanted this kind of company. While the castle was a sinister place...surely good company could make up for this? Besides, the Count promised him he could stay as long as he wanted, meaning Alfred could leave at any time…
He paused. Was he really doing this? He couldn't deny that a part of him was tempted. Alfred had been cautious all his life, and Krolock and his offer were nearly irresistible.
'The only way to get rid of temptation is to yield to it... I can resist everything but temptation.' How accurate Wilde was, he thought.
He sighed. There was one thing left to do…
The following night, Alfred joined Krolock after receiving a note from him requesting to meet him in front of a luxurious looking hotel where, Alfred guessed, Krolock most probably a room. Ever the courteous man, the Count met him right on time. Alfred expected him to guide them to a quiet and safe place where they would talk about Krolock's proposition, yet His Excellency surprised him when he asked Alfred how he would like to spend their night and if there was something he would like to do.
Alfred was surprised but complied when he saw how genuine the offer was. Feeling slightly daring, he proposed go ing to a place he was sure Krolock had never been before: a cinema. He felt a pang of pride when he managed to surprise His Excellency with his choice. However, his elder followed him after admitting he was quite curious.
They went to one of Berlin's most well-known cinemas. Willing to please his strange companion, Alfred let him chose the movie he was the most curious to see. Alfred was quite astonished when Krolock suggested Murnau's Nosferatu but found amusement at the present situation. Two vampires watching a black and white film about a vampire.
Alfred quite enjoyed himself. When they walked out of the cinema hours later, Krolock entertained them both by making dry, amusing comments about how inaccurate Murnau's perception of vampires had been during some scenes, and the differences from Bram Stoker's Dracula. He felt at ease while discussing the movie with Krolock; he couldn't help but making some comments of his own, feeling shyly pleased when Krolock gave him approving looks.
"Orlok doesn't strike the same feeling of dread and fear as the name Dracula," Alfred said. "Though the name does bear a resemblance to your own, sir!"
Krolock lifted an eyebrow. "Would you compare this Count Orlok to me?"
"Oh no, I wouldn't dare, your Excellency!" Alfred replied with a smile.
"I should hope so!" The ghost of a smile tugged at the corners of the other vampire's lips. As they talked, they found themselves walking toward the same park as before. They stopped to take a seat on a beach. Krolock crossed his legs as he stared at Alfred. Ah, Alfred thought. Now is the time.
"So…," Krolock began.
"So..." Alfred repeated, feeling suddenly nervous for whatever reason.
"Have you thought of my offer?" the older vampire asked. His expression remained enigmatic. Whatever he expected the younger vampire to answer, Alfred couldn't tell.
"If it's alright with you, sir, there are some things I would like to know before considering your offer.," Alfred slowly said.
"Naturally," Krolock replied, gracious as ever. "Please state them."
Alfred paused, trying to find where to begin. "If I were to accept your offer, how would things go with you in the castle… Would I need to do something?"
Krolock cocked his head. "I expect you to be yourself, Alfred, you don't need to perform. All I ask of you is your company and having pleasant conversations, just as we have been having recently."
Alfred nodded, not trusting himself to say anything.
"I am sure I would enjoy your company as much I as already do now, and so would Herbert." Krolock continued.
Ah, yes. Herbert. With a grim smile, Alfred remembered the flamboyant Viscount and his unwanted attention, who hungered for his blood…and maybe something more. Alfred didn't want to think about it. While Herbert certainly wouldn't thirst after his blood now, he didn't know what to expect and how to react around him.
His face must have betrayed his thoughts, for Krolock said, "You don't need to worry about Herbert." His eyes were serious. "I talked with him about you."
"Ah—you did?" Alfred asked, taken aback.
He couldn't say what the Count and his son may have said about him. He wondered whether they talked about him after the ball, or shortly before. Herbert did storm out when Professor Abronsius rescued him from the Viscount's arms (and fangs), and the Count had confronted them shortly after. Perhaps Herbert revealed to his father what happened between the three of them. Alfred felt his lips slowly rising into a smile as he imagined Herbert von Krolock storming into his father's room, complaining about how Professor Abronsius hit him on the behind with his umbrella, and quickly composed himself. He didn't want to look like a fool, especially in front of the vampire's father.
"I did. You see, I was quite puzzled to find that one book from my library had bite marks on the cover. As I certainly don't have the habit of biting my books, I asked Herbert about the matter," Krolock said, sounding quite amused. "He was quite ashamed of himself."
Alfred couldn't imagine Herbert von Krolock ashamed of anything, but he supposed things could be quite different with his father.
"He told me what happened," Krolock said, sounding serious once again. "Rest assured he won't do it again. That is, if you're willing to come back with me to Transylvania, to my castle."
"I—" Alfred paused. "Thank you, your Excellency."
He went quiet for a moment, a million thoughts dancing across his mind. His eyes remained fixed. He was no longer looking in Krolock's direction, his head turned towards the moon, lost in his thoughts.
"Will I have to sleep in a coffin?" Alfred asked with a pang of embarrassment.
Only rarely, when they had nothing better, had he and Sarah rested inside a coffin. They would always share one, snuggled into each other's arms, to try to forget where they were sleeping. He didn't know how the Krolocks could stand it! Maybe, unlike he and Sarah, they grew used to it.
"This is the way we have always been sleeping. I could provide a coffin for you; I would ask Koukol to make one."
"If…if you don't mind, I would rather sleep on a bed." Alfred said awkwardly.
Krolock raised an eyebrow. "It is rather…unusual, and impractical. I doubt the curtains would be enough to block the light of day."
"It's alright, I can buy thicker ones! I just… I'd rather not sleep in a coffin, I have always been used to a bed." Krolock looked at him as though he was studying him. Alfred was beginning to feel anxious.
"… In at case," the older vampire slowly answered, "I suppose you could try sleeping in a bed during your stay. A room would be given to you. However, I recommend you try and get used to sleeping inside a coffin, Alfred. You may need it more than you know."
"Thank you, sir." Alfred replied, trying to sound polite just like his mother taught him. While he enjoyed discussing various subjects with the Count, he didn't want to participate in a debate about coffins.
"If…if I were to stay in the castle, would I be free to leave any time I want?"
"Of course! I want you as my guest, Alfred, not my prisoner."
Alfred felt the weight on his shoulders disappear. "Well that's…good, I'll say." he nervously replied. Even after years of being a vampire, Alfred still felt so clumsy. Yet it seemed to be endearing to Krolock, for he regarded him with something similar to a fond look.
"Dearest Alfred," Krolock said softly. "You needn't be afraid. All I require of you is to be yourself and the pleasure of your company, if you're willing to be my guest."
Alfred's heart would have missed a beat if it was still beating, and he felt he felt the corners of his mouth curving upwards. He was still questioning why Krolock liked his company, yet he would have never doubted that he certainly did enjoy being around this mysterious man and the attention he gave him.
Just like when he was mortal, he found he wanted what Krolock proposed. Only this time, he offered him company and Alfred was willing. He wanted to end his solitude, he wanted the companionship, he wanted to be seen and noticed and understood.
"In this case…I accept, sir!" Alfred replied at last.
Krolock's eyes brightened with something Alfred couldn't quite name. "Good," Krolock said, smiling slightly and sounding like he meant it.
Alfred smiled softly, looking awkwardly at Krolock and then his own hands. He couldn't believe he had accepted his offer. It was both scary and exalting, but he didn't wish to go back on his words. For a while, the two vampires remained quiet, until Krolock said in a low voice, "I am to stay in this city for one more night, and my business here is already over. Would you care to tour it in my company? You seem to know this city better than I do."
Alfred smiled at that. "I would like to," he said, and Krolock presented him his arm.
He gently took it, and they walked away together down the streets of Berlin, into the night.
With time, they both fell in love and Herbert got a father-in-law and became best friends with Magda who deserves better than Chagal, and they all lived happily ever after xD
Writing Alfred as a vampire was interesting. I imagine, with time, he gained more confidence while still feeling awkward and insecure because it can be quite difficult to get rid of it, and the mastery of ourself is something we gain with time and experience. I also imagine that, while Alfred and Sarah enjoyed each other's company, Sarah being more confident and in love with the night, Alfred would still have… some difficulties to be more confident with himself, and I confess I do like the idea of Krolock being the one to notice him and Alfred feeling awkward but flattered by the attention. Anyway, I hope both characters were believable and that you enjoyed the story!
Thanks for reading, people! Feel free to tell me what you thought of it!