by CSyphrett and Martin Maenza
Abby Cable was surprised when she reached the top of the stairs in the clock tower. The inside of the clock room had changed from the last time she was there. The stairwell spiraled up forever, as if caught in some sort of whirling void.
Where are Belmont and Vlad Tepes? she wondered to herself. A wave of panic struck her. Perhaps it might have been better if she had gone with Joshua Cantrell to get help.
A red light drifted down from the top of the tower. It seemed like some type of natural light to Abby, but the color was all wrong. It’s unlike any sunlight I’ve ever seen before!
Abby gathered herself together and found her confidence. I have to know what’s going on, and stop it if I can! Belmont’s the only one who can help me get home! She forged up the steps as quickly as she could. The sound of her footfalls against the stones was the only way for her to mark her progress. The walls in the clock room no longer had any markings, and the stairs stretched up and down as far as her eyes could see.
Out of nowhere, an empty suit of armor clattered apart as it fell past Abby. She moved herself to one edge of the steps to avoid being hit by it, but she had to be cautious as well. There appeared to be no walls on either side to throw herself against. The armor clanged when it hit the steps, continuing its descent.
Looking up, she saw some hope. A landing! It appeared almost as if an oasis in this strange place. She rushed up to it, only to see one of the missing men. Belmont and another!
The two adversaries faced off. Numerous pieces of plate armor were scattered all over the level space as the men fought. A sword as long as a claymore longsword lay close at hand at the edge of the landing. Abby bent down and picked the weapon up, just as Belmont let fly a bolt of lightning from his hand.
The blast was enough to shatter the helmet of his attacker, another armored knight. The blast tore through the metal, taking the head completely off. Hollow armor was all that remained.
“What are you doing here, woman?” growled Belmont, coiling a whip in his hands.
“Following you,” said Abby, hefting the claymore awkwardly. “I still have a lot of questions that need to be answered.”
The old man frowned for a moment’s consideration. “I can’t very well leave you!” he said. “Come along! We still have a ways to go!”
Belmont led the way down the hall that was adjacent to this landing, into a long conference room and to a stairwell on the other side. As they moved quickly, he swept an assortment of bats out of his way with the rolling of thunder.
Then something roared and leaped out at them at the top of the alternate stair. Belmont punched the hairy beast below the waist and then flipped it over the rail. The creature howled all the way down.
Abby remained quiet. She was seeing a completely different side to Belmont, and she concluded that she had severely underestimated the man. At first, she had hoped only to glean information from him, but now she could see he was much more capable. Perhaps he can truly help me get home! she thought.
Belmont kicked a closed door open, startling things inside the room that looked very much like harpies. The ugly winged creatures flew at them, cackling. Belmont kicked one in the throat and turned on the other before it could recover from its surprise. A simple grab and twist broke the creature’s neck. He turned back to the other and performed the same maneuver.
The old man strode back on the main stairwell with Abby at his heels. He looked both ways before beginning to ascend again.
“That was… impressive,” Abby finally said, stepping past the burning bodies gingerly.
“Quiet!” snapped Belmont. “Listen.” Chanting drifted down from the top of the tower. The glowing red light was brighter than it had been before. “We need to take the express up there!”
Belmont took the sword Abby held and strapped it to her body with his belt. He hoisted her over a shoulder easier than a man of his apparent age should have.
“What are you doing?” Abby protested.
Belmont pulled his whip from his belt. “It’s better if you close your eyes,” he said, cracking his whip around the rail above and opposite where he stood. “If I miss, you won’t be anticipating the fall!” He stood on the rail and jumped.
Abby’s stomach tried to escape out her back as they fell. When she’d signed on for teaching, she never thought she would get herself so wrapped up in crazy adventures. This was just another reason why she wanted to bring all of this to an end and return back home to Houma to await the return of her lost love.
Suddenly, the whip reached the end of its extension. Belmont held on tight to the silver weapon as it tried to shrink to its natural length, which it normally did when it reached its limit. “Hold on!” he told Abby as they began to jerk up suddenly. The two flew past the anchor point, and Belmont gave the thing a flick to draw it in.
“What a ride!” Abby exclaimed from his shoulder.
“We’re not done yet!” Belmont bent at the waist. He kicked, and their bodies began to tumble end over end. One foot touched down on a rail. His strong hands clamped on the bottom of the next set of stairs leading to the top.
The agile old man yanked them up to the next floor as smooth as possible, then paused to let Abby regain her footing and orientation. “Are you OK?” he asked.
She nodded, not able to bring words forth as she caught her breath.
“Good! Come!” And Belmont started up the last set of stairs to a locked door.
Abby shook her head and then followed. She arrived just as Belmont gave the door an experimental kick. He nodded when the door wouldn’t open.
“What now?” asked Abby. The light leaked around the edges of the door out in the open air, turning her fair skin and platinum hair red.
“We use the secret key to open the door,” Belmont said simply, taking a red card with an intricate sun inscribed on the back from his shirt.
“Secret key… of course,” Abby said, shaking her head in disbelief.
Belmont ignored her sarcastic comment. He pressed the card against the door, causing the portal to become transparent. Belmont stepped through, whip in hand. Abby followed quickly. The two moved without saying a word.
Vlad Tepes stood by a large wooden table. He didn’t notice their arrival, for his hands were raised as he chanted. The four faces of the clock tower were filled by a full moon as red as a setting sun.
Abby gasped in shock. The moon seemed to be right outside, right up against the building on all four sides. She knew it was impossible.
But she had been confronted by the impossible too many times in her life to count. She had just needed to overcome her disbelief before she realized exactly who she and Simon Belmont had to deal with.
Abigail Cable had been born as Abigail Arcane in a small village in Transylvania. That was where she had grown up and had lived all her life until Matthew Cable took her away from her home and eventually married her. That was also where she had first met the Swamp Thing, though she had no idea at the time that he was really Matt’s late friend, Alec Holland. As a Transylvanian, Abby was intimately familiar with the folklore of her land, as well as the vampire lore that had been popularized in the west in the form of novels and movies. Abby also spoke Romanian fluently. That was why she recognized what the name Vlad Tepes truly meant. It meant Vlad the Impaler.
And Vlad the Impaler, Abby knew, was the historical figure also known by his patronymic name, Dracula. Yes, he was the same individual who had inspired all the legends of the great vampire called Dracula. Though Abby now began to realize that those legends had more basis in truth than she had previously realized. The living, breathing vampire before her was proof enough for her that Dracula lived.
Simon Belmont leaped forward to put a stop to the ceremony. But out of the shadows, a multi-headed dog rushed to meet him. He barely paused as he cracked his whip across its heads of the Cerberus-like creature. The dog seemed stunned by the sudden onslaught, the whip having a rather impressive stinging effect to it. Belmont kicked it out of the way as he went for Vlad’s throat.
The scuffle brought the maniac out of his trancelike state. Vlad the Impaler stopped his chant, holding the forces he was bringing to bear in abeyance for a moment. He actually smiled his jagged smile when he saw his old adversary in the room. But he came apart in a mist before Belmont could seize him.
“Do you really think you can stop me this time?” said Dracula as he materialized across the way.
“I only have to delay you a few minutes!” Belmont replied. “One of two things will happen if I can. First, Gallowglass is already in the tower, and he’s coming here to deal with you permanently! Second, the moon will pass over, ruining your spell and making it impossible for you to carry on with business other than as a low-rent has-been!” He lunged at the vampire, who became mist once again at the last second.
“You are correct on both counts!” said Dracula, materializing from behind Abby this time. “That’s why I think it best to take a hostage at this juncture!” Slender arms wrapped about Abby’s body and neck before she could move away.
“Besides,” Vlad sneered, “after I conclude my domination of the world, I wouldn’t mind ravaging this fair beauty!” Abby felt the vampire’s cold body leaning against hers, his hot breath on the back of her neck.
“Unhand her!” Belmont ordered. “She has nothing to do with this!”
“It’s the price you pay for being in the wrong place at the wrong time!” Dracula said, smiling wickedly.
Simon Belmont stood a long moment. The Cerberus creature was starting to recover and was watching him with a keen eye.
Vlad the Impaler also watched, suddenly feeling he had made a mistake. Perhaps, he thought, I should bite the woman to make my point! He paused for a second, wondering what her flesh would taste like.
“Close your eyes,” Belmont said.
“What?” Abby blinked.
“Close your eyes, woman!” Belmont said nastily. “Now!” Abby did as she was told.
“And what will that do?” Dracula asked, smiling in satisfaction that the first two meals of his reign was before him. “She’ll feel it well enough when I sink my teeth into her fleshy nape!”
“She doesn’t need to see me kill you and your stupid mutt!” Belmont said as if he were talking to a wayward student.
“Really?” scoffed Dracula, almost laughing at the confidence of the old man. “And how do you propose to do that? You’re outnumbered and weaponless!”
Simon Belmont smiled like a shark after bloody prey. With a lightning-fast motion, he brought his whip down on the dog with one hand, while taking a vial from his belt with the other. He threw the vial at Abby and Vlad’s feet.
The glass container exploded in blue flames, which raced up their legs.
Vlad the Impaler screamed in agony at the touch of the fire, but Abby Cable remained unharmed. When the fire faded, she was free of the vampire’s grasp. Dracula himself was nowhere to be seen.