Sola Gratia (13/?)
Rating / Warnings : No particular warning.
Fandom : Bram Stoker’s Dracula, BBC’s Dracula, various Dracula and vampire lore.
Part 13/? (3475 words)
Author’s notes : Final episode of Act II ! I’m taking a little break to work on the plotline and real life stuff, but trust that I’ll stay active, and will be back soon with more chapters !
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Dark Knight came up to me, and Leah gave me a knowing look. The fiend. I stood
up, nervously glancing around me, and handed him my handkerchief. He
took hold of it, and carried it to his helmet as to kiss it. The
crowd cheered loudly. They must have thought it was part
of the entertainment.
I still felt the heat rise to my cheeks. Gods, maybe it actually was
a calculated plot,
damn Leah and her scheming.
If I trusted the look of the ‘Royals’, over on the opposite
bleachers, not everyone knew… He tied the scarf around the grip of
his lance, and I could swear I saw two lights gleam into the darkness
of the helmet. I sat back down as he left, feeling dozens of looks on
me as I tried to maintain some composure. Act the part.
Be a noble lady. Think… Catherine de’ Medici. There.
had his horse come into place with ease, as I barely saw him touch
the reins. His adversary, ironically, was wearing red, mounted on a
white horse, and looked massive compared to the slender, elegant
silhouette of the dark rider at the other end of the jousting lists.
I couldn’t help but feel worried. He supposedly didn’t risk anything,
but the lances were wooden,
for hell’s sake. That’s just taunting the Devil. Or God, maybe, in
his case. Taking a deep breath, I waited anxiously for the sound of
riders spurred their horses. They passed each other, once, twice, and
a third time. The Red Knight made a move, and I saw his lance miss
Vlad by inches. Not miss, exactly, as I saw him lean slightly to the
side. I could picture his smug smile. That poor guy had no idea what
was coming. Turning back in a cloud of sand, glimmering in the air,
they galloped to meet again. This time, Vlad ran his spear into the
Red Knight’s pauldron, nearly having him fall off his horse. He
caught on at the last moment, and I could swear I heard Vlad laugh.
waited a second at the end of the lists, the Red Knight making his
shoulder roll, brushing off his coach as he apparently came to make
sure he was alright. He sent his his horse full speed at the sound of
the horn, his best efforts insufficient to avoid him the lance that
crashed into his shield, throwing him back into the dust, almost into
the stands, which had a few people stand back.
a second look for his adversary, Vlad untied the handkerchief from
his lance, and raised his arm in the air in celebration, under the
loud cheers of the crowd. He jumped down from the horse, giving the
steaming beast an affectionate pat on the shoulder. He walked
straight towards me, and took off his helmet. The dark waves of his
hair cascaded onto his shoulders, prompting a few audible gasps. I
could feel my heart close to beating out of my chest. He was a
conqueror, a cocky smile on his lips, the sun playing on his hair and
the gold on his armor. He discarded his gauntlets and gloves, leaving
them behind in the dust, eyes locked on mine. I stood up, almost
knocking over my chair, playing into the role I had been given. He
dropped his helmet at my feet with a loud clang of metal, and knelt
down. He held up the handkerchief, and I laid my hand on his,
allowing him to rise. He gently placed the shawl on my shoulders,
lingering along my neck, enough that I could feel my veins pulsing
against the tip of his fingers. His eyes hadn’t left mine since he
took off his helmet, and even under the midday heat, I felt
goosebumps spread all over my body. He trailed along my arms, and
took hold of both my hands, which he kissed, still not breaking his
gaze. My chest heaving, I understood a little bit better why ladies
tended to faint more often in corset-wearing time periods.
then stepped back, leaving the jousting area after a last look, a
wink, and a hand gesture at a young groom, who rushed to pick up his
discarded pieces of armor after him. A bit overwhelmed, I sat back
down, as the presenter closed the event over the cheering of the
wanted it to be a surprise”, Leah told me, eyes glimmering.
it certainly worked.”
laughed, and dragged me along to the contender’s tents. I caught a
glimpse of the Red Knight, armor off. His shoulder had a massive
purple bruise, and I couldn’t help but wince. I sympathetically
smiled at him, and he responded with a little wave. A bit further
along, in a white and blue tent, the groom was helping Vlad undo the
last pieces of armor, and carefully packing them up in a suitcase
similar to the ones that had been Leah and I’s dresses. He noticed us
and flashed us a smile.
was great, Vlad !”, Leah exclaimed, coming up to give him a
congratulatory slap on the shoulder. “Damn, you didn’t even break a
sweat, did you ?”
takes a lot for that to happen”, he smugly replied, taking off his
shirt was open, and I found myself staring at his chest.
everything alright, Eris, darling ? You seem a bit… hot”, he
mocked, slipping on his vest.
fine”, I replied, looking away from both of them, as Leah seemed to
revel in the whole situation.
buttoned himself up, and I couldn’t help but sneak a few peeks.
did you learn to joust anyway, Vlad ?”, Leah asked, understandably
I enjoy horseback riding, and the Middle Ages, what can I say ?”,
he replied as the groom clasped on his livery collar.
kid looked up to him in awe, which had me a bit suspicious. I
narrowed my eyes at Vlad, and stepped closer to him, putting myself
so that Leah couldn’t see my gestures. I pointed at the boy with a
nod, discreetly tapping on my neck. He took an almost wounded
expression for a second.
I care about my diet, I don’t run around taking drinks from stable
boys”, he whispered, falsely offended.
hummed, not entirely convinced, and he draped himself in his cape.
you guys hungry ?”, Leah asked, putting down the bracer she was
trying on. “I’m starving, and I heard there’s a huge buffet in the
castle hall !”
have to say, I worked up my apetite”, Vlad replied, looking down on
loudly sighed, and took his arm, following Leah outside.
rest of the day was tiring, at least for me, as Vlad obviously didn’t
ever feel fatigued, and Leah was endlessly fueled by what could only
be rainbows and kitten unicorns. Night started falling the sky taking
vivid colors as we made our way to the town square, lit by candles
and a large bonfire. A band was playing dancing music, and the air
was filled with indistinct chattering and laughter. Leah holding onto
my arm, Vlad taken in one of his heist stories, my heart felt so
full, I was physically unable to stop smiling.
I see something that needs my attention”, Leah suddenly exclaimed.
“See you later, you two.”
let go of my arm, freed a few strands of hair to frame her face, and
cheerfully strolled to the bar. Her confidence astounded me.
like her”, Vlad told me with a little laugh.
me, did you ever get to practice your dancing ?”, he asked,
no.” I tried to get away. “I’m not dancing ! You got me once, but
not twice !”
I think I am.”
caught my hand, and brought us close to the fire, indifferent to my
protestation. Once arrived, he had me spin around, and brought me
back against his chest. Feeling his breath against my neck, I forgot
how to speak a second.
my lead, I promise I will be less… Boorish than last time.”
groaned, and relaxed in his arms. I had to focus every fiber of my
being not to trip on the pavement with my shoes, but Vlad actually
supported me so much I felt half my weight was lifted off. I never
liked dancing, to be honest. I had a terrible sense of rhythm, and it
reminded me awfully of some family gatherings I’d rather forget.
Vlad, it felt… Different. Not great, mind you, it still was a bit
aggravating, but I started to understand why people like it so much.
Vlad picked me up like I weighed nothing, and spun me around. I
couldn’t help but laugh, and he joined me. His eyes were gleaming
with the light of the flames. The music faded out to a slower tune.
Vlad slowly put me down, keeping a hand on my waist, the other
looking for mine. I intertwined my fingers with his, letting him pull
me close, trying to breathe away the erratic beating of my heart.
can hear that, you know”, he teased.
pouted at him. “Then close your ears, it’s embarrassing.”
would rather say endearing.”
looked up at him. He wanted to look smug, but most of his expression
was tender, calm. I could have looked into his eyes for hours, the
deep blue, washed over with the bright gold of the fire. Every step,
he kept me close, only letting me go to spin me around, slowly, only
enough to make the skirt flare. It might have looked beautiful to
watch, if we hadn’t been the only two people there, dancing around
want you to feel safe, with me.”
voice was gentle, his gaze, even more so.
do”, I told him, moving my hand from his shoulder to cup his face.
closed his eyes a second, leaning into my palm. I brushed my thumb
across his cheekbone. Cold, soft.
have come to… care a great deal about you”, he continued.
can see that happening, me being a giant, walking Bloody Mary”, I
you always resort to humor when someone tries to be serious with you
just- I don’t know how to respond to that-”
let go of my hand, leaving it placed on his chest, and slid his into
going to mess up the-”
his arms, he lifted me up. I was so close I couldn’t focus on the
details of his face. The tip of his nose brushing against mine, his
breath, short, trembling. He was waiting, expectantly. Whispered my
name. My feet hovering above ground, my heart beating so hard in my
chest it was almost painful, I closed my eyes, and- got a phone call.
Leah’s ringtone”, I said.
never called if it wasn’t urgent. Vlad put me down, and I glanced
around. She was nowhere to be seen, which would explain why she felt
to call at that exact moment. When I reached my phone through the
layers of fabric, it already stopped ringing.
not like her”, I started, starting to get nervous.
do not panic”, Vlad told me, his voice somewhat calming my nerves.
“She was with someone, wasn’t she ?”
did get a glimpse at her, while we were still dancing. She was at the
bar, chatting up a woman in men’s period costume.
but not well. She had very long, silver-ish hair, I think. Fair
it was possible, Vlad paled, and gripped my shoulders.
her again, now.”
tone beckoned urgency, and I obeyed immediately. She picked up fast,
but her voice didn’t greet me.
looks so pretty, don’t you think ? Better run fast, before it flows
out. Garden overlooks, ten minutes.”
hanging up tone knocked the wind out of my chest, and I almost fell
to my knees. Vlad enquired about the call. I didn’t even reply, and
ran to the bar, asking for a map of the city, almost hysterical.
Someone handed me a folded over leaflet. I thanked him, and quickly
tried to find my way around the maze of streets. Right, left, left,
up stairs, big door, left, and straight across. I tucked the map in
the lacing of my dress, and started running, Vlad following without
question. I cursed when I almost fell, and slipped off the cursed
shoes, running barefoot into the streets. Thankfully, most of the
tourists were gone, and no one crossed my way.
me where to go, I can get there faster”, Vlad told me.
overlook”, I hissed.
nodded, and next thing I knew, he vanished. I kept on running,
cursing at the corset making my breath short. I don’t think I ever
climbed stairs that fast in my entire life, and hurried through the
huge door, carved into the high walls surrounding the gardens. As I
tried to work the handle, to find it locked. Fuck !
the height of the wall, I looked around for another way in. Luckily
for me, it wasn’t higher than a dozen feet, and I was a decent
climber. Hiking up my skirts, I placed a foot on a ledge, and caught
on to a space made by a missing brick. As I was almost halfway up,
the door creaked on its hinges, and Vlad appeared in the frame.
in the name of all things Unholy do you think you are doing ?”, he
a solution !”
urged me to jump down, and I did, leaving him to catch me. Not losing
any time, we rushed into the gardens. Left, straight across. I
finally found two silhouettes, standing next to the wall, on the
overlook. I tried to cry out Leah’s name, came out empty. As I
arrived, she turned to face me, a look of utter incomprehension on
her features. She was fine. Fine ! Panting, I tried to catch my
breath. She let go of the other woman’s hand, and rushed towards me,
putting her hands to the sides of my face.
what happened ? What’s wrong ?”
wrong ? Leah, you- Oh. I can’t speak. I tried breathing in, wheezing,
and started feeling lightheaded. Vlad’s arms wrapped around me, and
I noticed I was falling. Going limp, I looked over at Leah. Her lips
were moving, yet I couldn’t hear her words. I felt a cool hand slip
under my bodice, a ripping sound, and air rushed to my lungs. I took
a moment to take my breath back, and glanced around. Vlad was holding
me, but his look was directed elsewhere. Sitting on the parapet, the
woman stared right back. The more I regained consciousness, the more
I could make out her features. She was athletic, tall, and had
incredibly long, silver hair, gleaming under the moonlight. Her eyes
were an icy blue, and her pupils were two tiny specs of light at the
center of the iris. A glance, and she terrified me. As I took some of
my strength back, I slipped my hand into my skirts, and pulled out my
gun. Leah had an exclamation of surprise, and I directed the barrel
directly at the woman.
Eris”, she laughed. “You must be much more naïve than I thought,
to think this would do you any good.”
hopped off, and started walking toward us.
you, too cocky”, I replied, pulling the hammer back, finger on the
voice was much darker than I had ever heard it. I had never heard him
angry, and I never really wanted to. The woman, obeyed, standing at a
respectable distance from us. I didn’t lower my weapon, still leaning
against Vlad for support. For once, Leah seemed completely
do you want ?”, he asked, seemingly calm, holding an arm around me.
do I want, Drac ?”, she purred, taking a step forward. “Well, for
starters, some introductions. If I didn’t know you better, I’d almost
think you didn’t want me meeting your latest pets.”
he snapped at her.
your friends, if that’s what you call your snacks, these days”, she
I am giving you one, and only one warning. Leave.”
felt his hand clench.
? I’m not here because I enjoy your company, especially when you’re
in one of your phases, Drac.” She crossed her arms over her chest,
her face taking a deadly serious expression. “I’m here because the
Council sends me, because they know I’m the only one who has the
slightest chance of making you come to your fucking senses.”
I do in my free time is no concern of the Council, which I preside,
might I remind you ?”
spoke through his teeth, seething with anger. His arm coiled tighter
around me, almost hurting me.
you presided, past tense”, she jabbed. “Since that stupid fucking
incident, more than a century ago, you haven’t gone to any meeting,
any reunion, not even responded to any damn fucking letter ! I had to
do your job, while you what ? Sulked and brooded in your castle, and
flirted around with mortals ?”
not push me, Carmilla.”
ran her hands through her hair, grasping at it, and started pacing.
I think I will push you !”, she shouted. “You left us alone, for
your own selfish fucking reasons, and the moment you finally decide
to get out of your what, ongoing midlife crisis ? You start wreaking
havoc, and putting MINA back on our asses, when we spent decades
putting them off track !”
havoc’ ? You call going to Renaissance faires 'wreaking havoc’ ?”,
he snapped with a dry laugh.
call butchering mortals by the dozen wreaking havoc !”
was seething with anger, but her face betrayed a complete, and utter
disbelief. She thought it was him too. Vlad seemed to have regained
some composure, his grip on me softening as evidence.
everyone here think I am some sort of rabid animal ?”, he asked.
was met with silence.
don’t, but again, I don’t understand what the fuck is going on”,
that’s one out of three”, Vlad sneered.
you denying it, Drac ?”
to popular belief, I am neither an idiot, nor some kind of un-tamed
blood-thirsty beast”, he snapped. “I haven’t killed anyone in
some time, actually, if that’s of any interest to you.”
seemed to consider Vlad’s response. My hand was shaking from holding
the gun so long. She threw her hands up.
Let’s say I believe you.” She stepped forward, glowering at me when
I raised the gun again. “I’ve seen the pictures, I’ve been to half
the scenes. No mortal was behind those murders.”
suddenly looked worried, and Vlad softly had me lower the gun. A
glance at him made me realize he had the same look, which was not
truth, I wanted to believe it was you”, she admitted. “I didn’t
want to think about the alternative.”
is impossible, though”, Vlad flatly stated. “We made sure of it.”
are you ever going to tell us what the fuck is going on ?”, Leah
snapped, fists on her hips.
turned towards her, lowly hissing.
is going on”, Vlad interrupted. “Is that the Elder is back.”
Elder ?”, I asked, not sure I really wanted a response.
created most of us”, Vlad explained. “I have no idea how old he
is, could be millenia. He started going mad, wanting more power, and
planned a human genocide.”
turned Vlad to be his most powerful weapon”, Carmilla continued.
“The legendary Impaler, infused with the strength and unending life
of immortals. As for me, I was made by one of the Elder’s first
creations. As I was apparently the only one figuring out that a world
without humans let very little dinner opportunities, I knocked some
sense into this one, and we murdered the Elder.”
very well, it seems”, Vlad somberly commented. He held me a bit
tighter against him.
at least, the reason why he came back now is obvious”, Carmilla
stated, looking straight at me. “He found the perfect way to
took a pause, and looked up at him, a hint of disappointment behind
her cold eyes.
finally found someone you love.”
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