The underground chamber of Castle Bran boomed with the voices of arguing man and idle chatter. Covered in black robes and plague doctor masks signified the importance of this gathering. Each of them carried goblets embedded with gems and rubies filled to the brim with wine. A huge, circular door carved from stone slowly pushed open from the outside. The room fell silent as everyone turned to it.
Walking through its doors was Aspasia in all her beauty followed by a perplexing man. A tall man, with short, brown hair neatly combed with baby blue eyes. He dressed as an aristocrat in a tailored suit of maroon and gold. The crowd parted ways as they strolled to a podium lying in the center like a king and queen in their palace. And ready to address their subjects they were…
Vlad looked out to his sea of subjects, all of whom, had traveled from the four corners of the Earth to witness his proclamation and awakening. For decades he had slept within the safety of Castle Bran’s secret caverns, waiting for the kiss of life from his bride. Aspasia. However, there was one person he couldn’t get out of his head. A vendetta against Drake that was centuries old. Drake, his savior, mentor, and once closest friend now his mortal enemy. They would now awaken in a new era to continue their blood feud. A twisted, and blood-sucking version of Hatfields and Mccoys.
He struggled to gather his wits and his memories. The awakening had not been completed. He thought of the sound of ringing steel echoing in the arena appropriately named the tower. And for a brief moment, Vlad traveled back in time.
“Stop using standard attacks. Use the unorthodox!” Drake lectured as he easily parried away the most basic strikes of Vlad’s attacks.
They dueled against each other in the arena, its floors resembling a chessboard. Vlad dual-wielded two curved hilt sabers as his weapons of choice. Drake made do with a single saber in this spar. As the crowd watched Drake’s elegance and prowl with a saber against Vlad, it was clear that even using one sword was much too generous.
Losing his composure, Vlad began to lose his ground as Drake pressed his attacks. His attacks were sloppy and poorly timed as he narrowly dodged a disarming blow. Drake blocked a powerful overhead stroke before pushing Vlad back. Drake’s own frustration was obvious as they crossed swords. “How often must I tell you? Control my central line!”
Vlad yelled. He feigned to Drake’s weak side hand. As anticipated, Drake shifted his entire body weight to dodge leaving him vulnerable to another strike. Vlad swung his swords down as hard as he could, a killing blow that would vertically dissect Drake from the head down. Vlad was good, but Drake was better. His attack only dissected air.
“Good,” Drake praised.
The burst of confidence urged Vlad to continue his barrage of strikes, each of them harder than the last. He could feel his bones shake with every blow, the ringing of the sabers. How he loved that sound that steel gave. The tides quickly turned as Vlad found himself now as the aggressor. Perhaps this time he would finally defeat Drake in a spar. Then he would know that he had what it took to succeed his master and continue the rule of two. Drake held his ground, his footwork was unparalleled. Vlad’s arrogance always got the best of him.
“Must you destroy my focus?” Drake asked, parrying away another sloppy strike. “You’re holding the saber too tight!”
Drake found his opportunity, he deflected Vlad’s sword downward, pinning it to the ground, while striking the other one out of Vlad’s hand and scooping it away. Vlad groaned in pain from the hard strike to his wrist.
“Now, too lightly,” Drake said, concluding their session for the day. He inspected Vlad’s saber and raised a brow. “A new one?”
“Your training has served me well,” Vlad replied, “it has awarded me many trophies…”
Drake scowled. He lifted a finger. “Don’t let your pursuit of trinkets cloud your reality. If you are to succeed against the best of the werewolf clans, you must have fear, surprise, and intimidation on your side. For if you lack in either, it would be best to fall back and retreat. You must break them before you engage them. Only then will you have your victory, and your trophies…”
This lesson would be one that Vlad would never forget. Drake’s words, the ridicule he felt that day. Who was Drake to treat him like one of the cadets? Vlad was no stranger to the way of the sword. He destroyed his enemies, impaled traitors by the arse, united his people, and defeated the Moor’s campaign against his kingdom. Respect as he had known, was a two-way street.
Vlad cleared his throat. “My bride tells me disturbing news. News that Drake is alive and well and, to add salt to the open wound. He’s been awakened now,” he said bitterly.
Deafening silence filled the chamber. Vlad continued. “Lord Frost. Lord Dagon.” He singled out two members of the crowd. “Where were your men on the eve of the attack in ’75-? It’s alright, I don’t expect you to have an answer.”
He snapped his fingers and not a moment later, the two cloaks in the ground were executed by a gunshot to the head. Their bodies fell to the ground. The triggerman’s identity remained concealed but had the slender body of a woman with indigo eyes.
Vlad applauded her. “Prometheus, your loyalty knows no bounds. Minister Lacroix. Lord Balish and the rest of you. Thank you for supplying your men and your werewolf… pets to the offensive that night. Your loyalty will be rewarded.”
“Why is this Drake so important?” a voice from the crowd demanded.
His defiance sparked an outburst from the crowd. More men joined in.
“Yes Vlad, tell us about Drake. Is he even real?”
“Yeah!” multiple voices in the crowd agreed.
Vlad sighed. “Alright. We know-”
“If the legends are true, he was born in ancient Greece over two thousand years ago,” Anna finished as she stormed the floor.
Anna took Vlad’s side as she addressed the crowd. She had no trouble keeping the men’s attention in her tight black catsuit. She forced a quirky smile. “Alright, you hooligans, storytime!” she exclaimed.
Vlad stepped away from the podium. He gestured her to take his spot.
“The Greeks worshipped him as Deimos,” Anna continued. “David the Immortal to the Romans. No one knows the specifics of his origins but we do know this. Drake is the first Nosferatu, born perfect, the paragon of the species. He’s been there behind the scenes, carving a bloody, fucking path through history, spreading his cursed blood around the world… Six months ago, his tomb was found in France, beneath Notre Dame, and he was pissed…”