Vampire 2.0 – It Looks Like You’re Trying To…

(Enjoying the story? It starts over here…)

It Looks Like You’re Trying To…

Vlad sat in the palatial chamber that was hidden beneath the center of the house. A similar room was in most of his lodgings – at least, the ones that could accommodate it – and, according to the imp, at least, was where he got much of his best thinking done. Brand had claimed not to know why that would be, but Vlad had seen a mischievous sparkle in his attendant’s eyes and suspected the gargoyle knew more than he was letting on. He sensed no malice behind the withheld information, however, and the vocal analysis his so-called “upgrades” provided detected no danger or sense of betrayal. Vlad suspected that Brand was merely of the opinion that there were some things he should learn – or relearn – for himself.
The room was fifteen feet to a side, with he arched ceiling some twenty feet up at the apex. Painstakingly hewn from the bedrock and then remodeled with imported basalt to form the walls and marble flooring, Vlad suspected that it had probably taken years to prepare it. There were few furnishings – tall candelabras spaced along the walls in five foot intervals, a raised dais with what appeared to be some form of alter in the center of the room, and the chair in which he now sat – but the walls were lavishly appointed with gold etchings of old runes, long velvet drapes the color of wine and family portraits. These last, though purporting to be of Vlad’s ancestors, were actually all of himself. He should know; had he not painted some of them? His internal systems, apparently not recognizing an internalized rhetorical question, helpfully pointed out that he had, indeed.
He sighed, rubbing his temple. He knew he had done so – knew, in fact, the names, looks, dispositions, favorite foods and blood types of all the painters who had taken his portrait through the centuries – but not because he could remember them well. Some were just shadows of memory at best, others completely blank, but again the visual overlay that stained everything seen through his left eye informed him of such things. He found the sensation of being reminded of his own past by a computerized intruder he couldn’t banish to be unpleasant, to say the least.
On the nature of the room – for example, the function of the altar, if that’s indeed what it was – his mechanized hitchhiker was less than helpful. It identified the substances used in the construction, certainly. It determined that the deep maroon color of the stone was not natural, but rather accumulated bloodstains, and further provided the information that most of it bore the genetic and mystical markers unique to his own blood. But what purpose the carved stand, with its prancing goat base and rounded, horned top served… on that subject, all was silent, including his own stubborn memory.
Vlad remembered the chair he sat in, at least; for him that was something of a victory. It was eight feet tall, carved of ebony and inlaid with runners of silver. The back had been lushly upholstered with thick silk cushions, black with a red dragon stitched into them. He’d had it uprooted from the ancestral home and placed here, his first den in the Americas, and still found sitting in it to be comforting. Memories of his mortal life were thick here, penetrating the haze that covered so much of his existence. Memories of himself as a child, watching his father issue dictates and greet the boyars from it; himself as an adult seated in it while he watched his enemies suffer and his bride, his lost Elizabetha, perched on the arm and playfully tweaking his beard as she groomed him. The thoughts served to remind him of who he was, but still did nothing for his disquiet and inability to remember much beyond drinking from the cursed chalice and assuming the mantle that Brand assured him was his and his alone.
“Prince of Darkness,” he muttered. “What does that even mean?”
Vlad slammed one hand down onto the armrest, wincing at the unnatural clang of his metal fingers against the thick wood. His face turned skyward as he glared at the ceiling, teeth clenched in a snarl.
“What am I supposed to do, eh?”
As though his voice had been loud enough to dislodge something, perhaps to send the whole works tumbling down around him – and a part of him seemed to wish for just that – Vlad heard the harsh grating sound of stone against stone. Glancing down towards the altar, he saw the rounded top had slid open, revealing a silver bowl, filled nearly to the brim with a thick red liquid. His readouts indicated it was primarily blood – and like that which stained the altar’s surface, it was mostly his own – but a red blinking indicator claimed that it was “10% unknown substance, potentially dangerous.”
Despite the sense of unease that his internal computer had summoned, Vlad rose from his throne and approached the altar. He dipped one steel fingertip into the fluid, swirling it in a semicircle. In the ripples left by that questing finger, he felt he could almost see images, flickering holograms of the past; emboldened, he dipped the flesh parks of his other hand and repeated the motion.
The response was immediate; his vision of the room – both as it was and as his internal circuits processed it – were washed away, leaving him standing on soil he almost remembered, staring about as the carnage and clash of war sprung up around him. Dozens of men wearing the same sigil stitched into the pillows of his chair were charging into the fray around him, their enemy outnumbering them ten to one and dressed in thick robes and turbans as they shouted in foreign tongues and swung long, curved blades.
“The Ottomans…” Vlad whispered to himself.
Driven by instinct, his hand dropped to his sash, clutching for his sword. He barely noticed that the hand was once again flesh and blood – mortal flesh and blood, warm and throbbing with the angry pulse that had once driven him – or that his clothes had been replaced with thick, charred armor.
Buried in his memories, Vlad drew steel and charged his enemy.

(Want more? The story continues here…)

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