As I was looking at the ruins of a once magnificent castle I was wondering where exactly we were going. Instead of going toward the said ruins, we were making our way toward the local cemetery.
“I thought she was buried at the castle? In the highest tower?” I asked quietly. The guide, a scrawny old man who looked more like a living corpse, smiled and pointed toward the cemetery.
“That was just a story they told to humans so that even if someone would come seeking revenge they would find nothing but a corpse. They walled up one of the human maids, just to keep the pretense but the lady was buried in a much secure space. No one wanted an insane vampire out and about.” I nodded. I never understood why they didn’t just kill her anyway. The lady Bathory killed more than a thousand young women during her short stay in the castle and the number is more likely even higher since not all bodies were found. She might have killed much more and she probably has. No one really wants to know just how far the insanity of the bloodlust can go if there isn’t anyone there to stop it. And yet here I am, almost four hundred years later, digging her up. I looked behind at my motley group of companions, wondering if they were wishing to find nothing but dust as well. I mean even a vampire of her strength and stature can not survive 400 years of being walled up, can it?
The cemetery was old but well preserved. Headstones were clearly well taken care of, even if most were unreadable.
“My family has been the caretakers of the cemetery since it was opened. We take a great deal of pride in knowing most everyone who was buried here. We even have the statue for the missing girls from this particular village. Those at least whose name was confirmed to be killed in pursuit of everlasting life.” The old man said to me, as he stopped at the statue of the angel. Statue was standing on a small monolith that had many names engraved on it, but most were unreadable now, just like the gravestones. I guess not many things survive 400 years, even if you take great care of it.
“Her crypt is at the end of the cemetery, surrounded by other crypts of that time. They really did not want anyone to find her.” He chuckled to himself.
“Do you know why they left her alive?” I asked, hoping he might have an answer. The old man stopped and looked at me with his dark eyes. Somehow, someway this human terrified me for a second.
“Oh that is an excellent question, my lady. My ancestors had their theories and maybe some are true or maybe none of them are.” He continued walking toward the mausoleums, not giving me a second glance, but he kept talking. Others followed us without any questions.
“Some say she was beloved by an important man, some say she knew things that had to be conserved. I think it was an experiment. Can they survive the bloodlust once it has overtaken them to such a degree they kill an entire generation of young people? Or maybe can they survive being locked away for several hundred years? I wouldn’t dare to question those more important than me…” He paused for several seconds before he continued.
“But I must say once my grandson got your call, a call that we have been waiting for for several generations, I had to be the one to answer it.” He took a deep breath and put hands on the gravestone next to him. He took that time to steady himself before he continued walking.
“My family has been watching over this land for as long as she has been here. It was a punishment for our crimes as well. I don’t think you know this, but our ancestor was one of her maids and she is the one who was walled in the tower instead of the lady. She helped procure the young girls that were killed, she lied to them to get them to come to the castle. In a way she was as guilty as the lady herself. For her crimes she was sentenced to die and her family to be the caretakers of the dead. We have been trying to redeem ourselves ever since and I never thought it would have been in my time that we finally get a chance for forgiveness.”
He stopped at the middle sized crypt. Crypt itself was nothing special, not the grandest nor the smallest. Just another crypt.
“My part is done my lady. I only know the location of the crypt, but I heard there is a puzzle to solve before you can open the actual door.” A burly man stepped upfront now. He was the second tallest of the group but definitely the heaviest. A bear shapeshifter in human form, and yet somehow he looked exactly like a bear. Big, strong with defined features and more hair than any human should have. Peter the bear looked at the old man.
“Are you sure this is the crypt?” His voice was rough and serious.
“Yes.” The old man said. Peter looked at the crypt and stepped to the massive door. He looked back at us with a smile on his face. Somehow the smile didn’t look reassuring but menacing.
“The crypt was built by my people and we made the doors with a special mix of silver and other alloys. Only someone unencumbered by silver and with a strength of several men could ever open this door. Not even magic could touch it.” He turned toward the door and grabbed it. I could hear him grunting as he was trying to lift and move the door. Very slowly the door finally moved inch by inch. It took him several minutes but the door finally opened. Peter looked spent as if had just run a marathon and he sat down next to the door, trying to catch his breath.
“My family will not rest until the death of Lady Bathory is confirmed so I will be staying with you during this time. If she is dust, I shall return home with the good news, but if she is still alive I shall stay with you until the next step is decided.” He had his eyes closed, but I knew he was talking to me. My master told me that bears never forget or forgive so this was expected.
“Your terms are acceptable.” I told him as I walked into the crypt. The witch Melissa followed me as she held the next piece of the puzzle. Melissa was bored and didn’t view her task as a sacred mission like the bear has, but simply as an annoyance. But she was chosen by the witches council so here she was. She held out several smaller pieces of stones and walked directly toward the back of the crypt. I took my time exploring the little crypt, lighting the torches inside. Crypt was well made and it had four stone coffins. I doubt there was anyone actually inside the coffins and in the end I decided that I could explore the crypt in greater detail after I confirm the death or life of Lady Bathory. By the time I came to stand next to Melissa she was mostly done. There was a mural depicting a tree all across the back wall of the crypt and it was missing several vital pieces. As Melissa was putting pieces back in and completing a mural it was starting to emit a light. Finally the last piece was put in and the mural disappeared and a wall of writing appeared. Melissa tsked as she walked next to me and whispered.
“My task is done. Never contact my coven again.” Before she left I had to ask.
“So whatever punishment Lady Bathory endured, whether she is dead or alive, is enough to redeem herself in the eyes of your coven?” Melissa turned toward me.
“It was 400 years ago and we don’t live in the past. Our dead ancestors joined their family a long time ago.” I sighed.
“I need to hear you say it so I can confirm the agreement that was made with my master.” I tried to be cordial but this witch was acting awfully mighty.
“Fine. The punishment was sufficient and whether she is dead or alive, the witches are content with whatever happens next.” She left with no other words.
Sorcerer Sandor was next. He was a lot friendlier than the witch and very excited to be a part of the process. He looked at the text.
“It says here that all I need is to say the last sentence and the door to the underground will appear. It does warn me that the devil himself in female form lays below and by releasing her into the world we might bring back untold horrors.” I looked at the text, but all I saw was scribbles. I was fluent in 15 languages and I have never seen this writing.
“What language is this?” I asked Sandor. He smiled as he was tracing the text with his finger.
“It is a language only sorcerers can read. Somehow we are born with the knowledge of this text and it is a way of recognition. Only a true sorcerer can read it and it can not be taught or shared with outsiders. The fact that they put it on the wall to contain one vampire really shows just how much they hated her.” I nodded.
“Do you know why the sorcerers got involved?” He suddenly asked. I looked at him in surprise.
“I thought you were told why she was buried?” He chuckled and answered.
“I do know that she killed a great many people, but she only killed one sorcerer. So why did the sorcerers go through all this trouble to seal her underground for just one of them? By default sorcerers don’t care much for each other.” He looked at me with such curiosity I had to answer with the truth.
“As far as I know, at that time, there were only five sorcerers that lived within the area. And I mean the whole eastern Europe area. So when one of them went missing and was declared dead by the hands of the vampires the remaining sorcerers demanded revenge. They were very much in support of suffering instead of death and were the deciding vote, whether to put Lady Bathory down like a rabid dog or just wall her in and let her starve to death.” I explained with a few sentences. He was nodding at the text now.
“Ah, such a small number. And now we are numerous. Not nearly as much as other supernatural forces but we have families now and our power grows. I guess by killing one she has stolen a potential power house…” He was talking mostly to himself, as he turned away from me.
He lifted his arms and spoke the language of the sorcerers. It only sounded like a couple of words, but the text on the walls shone brightly and slowly disappeared. All of a sudden a door appeared. It was so unexpected and with such force it actually caused us both to take a step back. Sander whistled but didn’t touch the black metal door. If he would try to touch it I would pull him back, as the door was cursed so that anyone who touches it, their heart would stop. Of course for a vampire the curse carries no meaning, as our hearts don’t beat, but for a sorcerer it would most likely mean death.
“I was told to use my head in deciding whether the punishment was enough for the crime committed. I will hold off on the decision until I see in what state she is.” He bowed his head a little and exited the crypt, not giving me a chance to answer.
Two vampires appeared behind me. My companions, my bodyguards and most trusted friends, Otto and Luka. Luka was taller than Peter but skinnier and looked a lot more fragile. He was even paler than usual vampire pale skin and his blonde shaggy hair and pale blue eyes would have been beautiful if he hadn’t looked quite so sick. One of the reasons he was with me was because I was the only senior member of the vampire family willing to share my blood with him until he recovers and regains his previous healthy status. If a vampire receives a mortal wound but somehow survives it, they have a very hard time healing and if they don’t receive the blood of their seniors they might not survive the healing process, even if they survive the deathly blow itself. Seeing as Luka’s maker has been dead for a couple of centuries and my master was off in the States, I took it upon myself to help Luka heal. Healing someone as old and as powerful as Luka could kill a lesser vampire, but I always liked him and he was nothing but friendly toward me in the past. We have been sharing blood for a couple of months now and our bond has deepened and we have become very close friends. Otto on the other hand was here on the orders of my master and he was here in case Lady Bathory is alive and well and still insane. Otto was smaller than Luka but built like a tank. He was a fighter while he was human and becoming a vampire only made him more lethal. Before he had the strength and the weight behind his punches and now he has the speed and no limit of being a vampire. He looked like your usual strongman with a shaved head and bulging muscles and a creepy smile. I was not particularly fond of Otto, but the master was insistent that I need him as my bodyguard, especially since Luka was still recovering and weak. Otto offered me a small box as soon as he entered the crypt. I took the box and opened it and inside was a small black key.
I took the key and put it in the lock at the door. As soon as I touched the door I could feel the curse crawling over my skin trying to find a way to my heart to stop it. But alas, my heart has been dead for more than two hundred years and the curse simply vanished. I opened the door and saw the stairway leading to the underground.
I looked back to see my loyal vampire guards and started walking downstairs into the pit in which the hated Lady Elizabeth Bathory was thrown in for her crimes against humanity.
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