Whitby By Moonlight
PAIRINGS: Anya + Dracula
FEEDBACK: Very welcome, to email@example.com
BETA: Miss Murchison, with thanks
SETTING: Whitby, Yorkshire, England, during the events of Bram Stoker's 'Dracula'
DISCLAIMER: The only characters who belong to me are the ones you’ve never heard of before. Otherwise, I’m borrowing, and I promise to put them all back in good condition, and only slightly used.
Anyanka sat in the vengeance demon departure lounge, drumming her fingers furiously. Everything had gone so wrong. And infuriating though it was to admit, it was entirely her own fault.
The previous evening she had been casting about with the Vengeance Demon Bureau’s scrying glass, and had been delighted to find an English alekeeper’s wife in the Yorkshire port of Whitby, absolutely seething with the fury of a woman scorned. A woman she had heard with her own ears expressing the desire to emasculate and eviscerate her faithless husband, and then feed his steaming entrails to their pig as he watched on, screaming in mortal agony. Anyanka had perked right up - she hadn’t done steaming entrails in ages.
So she had taken on the guise of a respectable fishwife, and swooped down to the inn in question, planning to get the words repeated, preferably with some further elaborations involving blunt knives, and with the words “I wish” inserted at the beginning of the paragraph.
And things had seemed to be going to plan. Anyanka had patted the doughty alewife sympathetically on the arm, as the poor woman swallowed her fifth tankard of Landlord’s Pale Ale, and finished her tragic story of a husband besotted with their barmaid, and now trying to throw her out of her own home. As the wronged landlady had paused to draw breath, Anyanka had been mentally drawing a picture of just where to place the first disembowelling cut on the worthless spouse, for maximum effect. When she skilfully dragged the conversation around to the point where the landlady had uttered the vital and delicious phrase “I wish” she had been speculating on how to keep the miscreant conscious while his entrails were eaten. And when she heard the magic words flow from the good lady’s lips, she had blurted out, “granted,” before she really heard what was said.
Which turned out to be, “Well, I wish the pair of them good luck of it, that’s all I can say.”
Spoken with an awful irony of course. But the world of the vengeance demon is essentially a simple one. Their power lies in the ability to give life to the words uttered by the human mouth, so that quite literally ‘to say is to do’. Irony doesn’t come into it.
And so, the following day Landlord Taylor was visited by the manager of the Yorkshire Brewing Company wanting to buy his ale recipe and offering him a partnership. Only hours later, as his mistress, comely tavern wench Betsy, toasted her lover and gambolled about the pub in her corset and stockings, she received the news that - through a curious chain of accidental deaths among her distant relatives - she had come into possession of a chain of pie and ale shops.
In addition - since it is often the way that good luck may splash over from the cup into which it is poured - the heartbroken landlady Scoggins, nursing her hangover on the stoop outside the tavern, attracted the admiration of the hitherto lonely manager of the Yorkshire Brewing Company. He came out of the inn, signed contract in hand, was struck amidships by the landlady’s elegantly green and deathly palor, and whisked her off to live a life of luxury in an elegant town house in Leeds.
Accidentally making even one person’s life better was regarded as sheer carelessness in the Vengeance Demon profession, and a considerable blot on one's copybook. Spectacularly improving the lot of four people, and incidentally stimulating the economy of a large stretch of Yorkshire, could only lead to a disciplinary interview, and very likely a formal warning - something generally delivered with red hot pincers.
She gazed down into the scrying glass again, morbidly attempting to count the many, many ways in which she had spread sweetness and light among the inhabitants of Whitby. She was just grinding her teeth over honest barkeep Will (promoted to inn manager, and now tenderly assisting in the removal of his saintly aged mother, away from the dangerous damp conditions that prevailed in her humble hovel, and into the inn’s back bedroom) when her eye was caught. Standing in the shadows, watching the humble house-moving pair trundling their cart past him down the street, was a wolf. As she watched, the wolf blurred, and stretched, and grew into the shape of man. But this was no naked and hairy shapeshifter. Instead the tall elegant figure was dressed in immaculate evening wear, and an enveloping cape. She gave an eager gasp: it was a vampire, and she knew just which one. Count Dracula!
Anyanka quivered eagerly. Was he going to leap out of the shadows to drain the blood from honest barkeep Will, and leave an aged mother destitute? That would be a help. Might he then break into the pub, where Landlord Scoggins and his doxy lay, and slaughter them in their beds? She hardly dared hope. She watched with bated breath, scarcely able to contain her impatience.
But it seemed that Count Dracula was content merely to watch as the cart trundled by.
“What’s he waiting for?” muttered Anyanka to herself. “Look at that perfectly healthy, juicy young man trotting past. Look at the delicious rosy blush on his cheeks as he pushes that cart up the hill. He’d make a splendid meal for any hungry vampire.” Her eyes narrowed, as she stared at the unmoving figure in the shadows. “Please, please don’t tell me he’s on some faddy virgin blood and cabbage juice diet.” She drummed her fingers, as Will and his mother drew abreast of the vampire, and then past him, and further up the hill towards the beckoning lantern outside the inn. With a ‘tchah’ of impatience, Anya donned her fishwife’s disguise again and translocated into the street. She stepped forward and poked the vampire in the ribs with an angry finger. He turned and frowned, seeming to grow a foot taller as he loomed over her, and his cloak fluttered behind him like wings unfurling.
Anyanka sniffed, unimpressed. “Yes, I know you can turn into a wolf, and a bat. And a crow - and probably a cocker spaniel if you put your mind to it, ” she said loftily. "But it takes more than shifty parlour tricks to impress a demon of my maturity and stature, you know. I have standards."
Count Dracula turned his dark hypnotic gaze upon her. He became very still, and his eyes grew huge, sucking at her gaze.
"Immune," said Anyanka, with a certain amount of smugness. "Can't enthrall a vengeance demon - we're already enthralled to D'Hoffryn. I'm amazed a well-read fellow like you doesn't know that, actually."
Count Dracula frowned, annoyed. “Leave me, Harpy,” he intoned in sepulchral tones, “I vant to be alone.”
Anyanka nearly bit her tongue with fury. "Harpy!" she screeched. "Who are you calling a Harpy? Am I strutting around on scaly legs, shitting everywhere and showing my breasts, eh? Am I? Am I?" She leant forward into Count Dracula's face, spitting a little bit.
He recoiled. "I spoke figuratively only," he said. "No need to be offended, oh entrail-rending harridan of ze night."
Anyanka blinked. "Well, that's all right then," she said grudgingly. She pointed at the receding backs of Will and his mother and their cart creaked along the street. "Your supper's escaping you," she said enticingly.
Count Dracula made a dismissive gesture. "I haf drained ze lives of more than forty Russ-ssian sailors aboard ze ship that brought me hence, und soon I shall taste the blood of a young voman, who is destined to be mine. I haf no need of ze hulking peasant." His tongue flickered from his mouth and briefly tasted the air, and his eyes glowed with a reddish hue as he thought about his mission.
Anyanka sighed; she had been nearly right. Virgins and Russian sailors were apparently the dish du jour. Cabbage soup, she thought. I bet those sailors all ate cabbage soup. I'm really very close with the cabbage juice guess. She gazed without fondness at the Count. He had the thin, pale appearance of one with an unhealthily obsessive lifestyle. She abruptly gave up on Will and his mother.
"I realise you're busy," she began persuasively, "With your mission and all. But there's no reason you can’t drain a couple of adulterous folk in their sleep before you leave, is there? They're lying in their sinful bed not a street away, no doubt naked and stewing in their own lustful juices." She left that dangling, hoping to see a flicker of interest. But Count Dracula seemed unmoved. Very well, another tack was needed. "And you can have a beer while you're there. That double-dealing human scum makes rather good beer,” she said grudgingly.
“I do not drink beer,” said Count Dracula loftily, “I drink only vine - and blud. Vine und blud - a perverse and sinful sacrament, a sign of my contempt for the Holy Writ!” All the shutters in the street rattled as a cold wind blew around him, sending the street lanterns flickering madly, casting huge dancing shadows on the walls.
Anyanka sniffed. “Everything’s a symbol with you lot, isn’t it?” she said. “Blood, wine, crucifixes, virgins - blah, blah, blah.”
Count Dracula's cape billowed, and he seemed to grow impossibly taller. "Do not provoke me, demon!" he cried. He bent down to loom over her, bending in the middle in an impossible snake-like way. “Und anyvay, beer is for peasants,” he said pointedly.
Anyanka flushed bright red with fury. “Just who are you calling a peasant?” she snapped.
Count Dracula looked down at her, silently, undulating from side to side, his face becoming ever more reptilian. Then with an ugly slithering sound he transformed into a giant winged serpent, and shot away down the alley at impossible speed.
"Show-off!" yelled Anyanka to his retreating sinuous back. "Snob!" She shook her fist. "You are going to regret this one day, you know," she continued furiously, "I'll have my revenge, you just wait. One of these days you are going to really wish that you'd stopped to help ..." The echo of her voice bounced back at her from the looming buildings in the empty street, and she ground her teeth. The pincers were going to burn hot, she knew. And the 'sympathetic' comments from the other vengeance demons would burn even hotter. She hunched her shoulders, and wandered down the street in search of a barrel of the landlord's Pale Ale. There were days when a demon's lot was not a happy one.