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Dracula screamed as a burning pain rammed into his shoulder. As Dracula loosed his hold in shock, Van Helsing reared up and tried to get a knife out of his boot.

"Good work, Ahlf." Van Helsing said as he watched Dracula stumble around trying to reach the stake nearly centered on his spine. Ahlf had ran out a back way and came around the other side to the hole previously occupied by Sophie and then her wolf-dog, then had ran through after he had seen the wolf leap on Van Helsing. "Now, stand back!" Dracula had gotten the stake out of his back and was holding it before his face looking curiously at his own blood.

He smiled toothily as Van Helsing held up his own weapon and let his demon side take over. He became the huge grey bat, and flew at him carelessly discarding the bloody stake. Van Helsing did not stand a chance against Dracula's rage and was thrown to the far end of the long corridor like room. By some miracle of magic or God he sustained no fatal injuries during this event. Ahlf squeezed back into the hole and stared wide-eyed at them trying to decide whether to help or not. 'no' he decided, he had no weapons and he was small.

Dracula slowly, breathing heavily, morphed back into his human form, letting the gray skin slide off him like water droplets. As soon as he was whole he watched VH rise and his eyes go to Ahlf in the corner. A grand scheme dawned upon him and as soon as he had thought it he had Ahlf cinched in his grip. VH still watched, and the boy wide-eyed and mute with terror, Dracula lowered his head to Ahlf's neck VH whipped out another stake, and as moonlight flooded in from above, throwing his fast moving shadow across the floor, he ran toward them. Dracula held the dark haired boy, his fangs pressed to his neck. Just as the first drop of blood trickled down his neck, VH yelled and cursed, and Dracula bit deeper. Just as VH was ready to strike Dracula moved suddenly, striking him so hard across the room, he burst through the bricks into the other room, breaking his left leg. He threw Ahlf down, nearly dead, and, making a point to look away from Sophie's body, walked, as if at a ball, toward VH. Dracula grabbed his unconscious enemy's broken leg and hauled him down the stairs to the dungeon, letting his head bump over every step on the way down.

"Marion," said Ashling and she stopped on their way back to Jessebell and the children. "What was I thinking?!" She threw her hands up in exasperation. "We can't just leave them there!" she spoke of Dracula and Vuk. And then it hit her. "My vision!" Without waiting for Marion to reply she turned and ran.

Ashling screamed when she saw Sophie's body propped in a sitting position against the wall, her eyes staring straight. She covered her eyes with her hands, falling to the floor hoping it was all just a horrible vision she could prevent.

"Ashling, help me." She hadn't n oticed Marion come in after her and kneel beside the unconscious Ahlf. "Ashling," Marion grabbed her wrist, in an uncharacteristic display of desperation. "She feels no pain but he does, now help me!" Marion sounded hoarse. "Hold his hand and if he moves hold him down."

Marion toook his jaw in one hand and bit her own wrist enough to bleed and let it drip in his motuh. He did not move, as Ashling held his hand and cried, unable to escape the endless gaze of Sophie's corpse.

When she had finished Marion called Onyar to her and he carried Ahlf back up to the main floor and to a room used for conference. One long table filled the center lined with chairs and one at each end. Couches faced the center on all sides, and on one of these Onyar set Ahlf gently. Ashling also collapsed in one of these, and held her face in her hands crying. Marion stood in a corner her chin in one hand a spacey look in her eyes. Onyar stood near Ahlf looking him over and checking his pulse at odd intervals. In a few moments Dracula entered looking haggard his hair falling into his eyes out of its usual clip. Blood trailed from his lips. without showing he noticed anyone in the room he fell into the chair at the head of the table.

"Marion!" Marion jerked out of her thoughtful state and looked at him. "Assemble them." he said shortly. He looked vicious leaning forward over the table his hands in his lap his eyes icy. The room temperature had decreased rapidly as he had entered, and frost formed on Ashling face where her now dry tears had run across her cheeks.

Marion left and in a few moments vampires began to enter in twos and threes and little groups. They sat down knowing where they should be, some at the couches other in the chairs who were more imortant, Dracula's councilors.

Dracula spoke when all the chairs around the table had been filled, and Marion had repositioned herself in the corner.

He looked down as he spoke, his eyes unseeing. "I know about your vendetta against VH and now I have more reason to hate him." He did not speak directly about Sophie. "He is in a cell with a broken leg downstairs. I have had my fun with him, I give him to you."

A veritable herd of vampires raced out of the room, respectfully quiet of their leader. Only Ashling, Marion, Onyar, and Ahlf remained. Ashling got up and fell into Draula's lap. They put their arms around each other and Ashling cried while Dracula whispered over and over: "She's dead. She's dead."

Carl watched as the last of the holy water was sucked up by the crystal. He put his hand to his mouth worryingly: the spell was up and all the vampires powers will have been unfogged.

"Something has happened to him." He said to himself. "I have to go help him."

Carl trotted toward the huge entrance to Dracula's castle. He squeaked in fear at the sheer size of it. He turned and continued to trot along the wall looking for anther perhaps smaller way in.

He heard a rattling coming from somewhere ahead and below him. He raced toward it and was pleased to find a grate just at the bottom of the stone, about two feet square. He fell to his hands and knees to look.

"Carl!" VH was the one rattling, as he was chained to the wall, his hands above his head. His clothes were covered in brick dust,both his eyes were black, and his nose looked puffy and crooked.

"Yes, yes, not so much noise, they could hear you!" He paused, then, "How did you get int here?"

"Oh, bugger that, I've brought up the alarm! And by Dracula no less." He sighed, underestimating the friar's ingenuity. "Do you have a way to get me out of here?"

Carl grinned, and pointing at the grate said: "Vanesco." the grate disappeared with a hollow ping as if he had tapped it.

"Dabbling in magic I see."

"You have no idea." Carl's voice was high-pitched when he said it, admitting his former lie.

Somehow he managed to lower himself into the cell without falling or breaking anything though he did suffer a scrapes on his palms.

"Apertus," Van Helsing's hands fell out of his chains and he rubbed them.

"My leg is broken. Got a magic trick for that?" he groaned.

Carl shook his head, "You're just going to have to rough it." He put his arms aroudn VH's shoulders and helped him toward the wall under the grate. Carl managed to clambor up himself, and, through a few more works of magic, haul VH out onto the ground outside, and support him through the portal

By the time the vampires reached his cell, there was no sign of him.

For the next few days Dracula and Ashling locked themselves up and drowned in a pool of their own grief. The day after her death, Marion took Sophie and buried her out in the open, where the sunlight could reach her, in the courtyard, marking the spot with a large mottled blue stone. Marion was also left with the responsibility of carrying on the council. She did this very well, telling the vampires of Dracula's ressurection and letting the councilors share news of themselves to each other. Many little pacts were made, which, according to custom, Dracula would have preceded over, but in his absence, Marion took the job. Two days later, it was over and only Marion, Onyar, Jessebelle and Erhar. Two of Onyar's servants and Marion's family were also there.

On the third day of Dracula's and Ashling's absence Ahlf stirred on the couch he lay on. As Onyar heard him rustle he rose and came over to him.

"Who are you?" Ahlf immediately asked.

"How are you feeling?" Onyar ignored him. His expression never changed as Ahlf nearly yelled, from seeing a glint in his eyes and mouth.

"You're a vampire." He tried to sit up but misplaced blood forced him to lay back.

"And so are you, by the looks of it." Ahlf moved his tongue around in his mouth feeling two sharp points.

"It will take a few days for your senses to develop."

"No, no, no , no. . . ."

"You had better not m ove; it will make you sick." Calmly, he turned and walked out of the room shutting the door softly. As soon as it did, Ahlf, of course, tried to move. He launched himself up and instead fell face down on the ground as blood moved too quick in his veins. He lay there dizzy and disoriented; for maybe two minutes, before the door opened again.

"You foolish boy!" A kindly feminen voice admonished him.

Nearly cold hands pulled him up and back into bed. Ahlf saw her lips move but could not hear her voice, for the blood rushing in his head.

She turned to the man and her lips moved again, he shook his head. Finally, as she turned back to him he caught the tail end of a question.

"-your name?"

"Ahlf."

"Where are your parents, Ahlf?" Her voice was clear, calm, and soothing, he decided he would like her, if he weren't under these circumstances.

"Dead."

"Oh, oh, I'm sorry." He saw a glint in her mouth.

"No-no, you're not." Whether he was wishing she wasn't a vampire or saying she wasn't sorry, he couldn't decide. "You're- You're a vampire, you kill people."

"We try only to kill the wicked Ahlf, but I'm afraid some of us have less control than others." Her eyes and voice turned stony.

"Marion perhaps he should talk to Ashling." Onyar supplied.

"Ashling will not come out." Her eyes saddened.

"Very well, we'll leave you but you too will soon know how it feels."

They left and Ahlf, not of his own accord, drifted off to sleep, once more.