Author note: in this story, Dracula prior to his capture by Van Helsing looks like Gary Oldman… which means that later there might be a funny scene to write where he meets Sirius Black… or perhaps the Blacks originating from Wallachia. This also means that Stoker got some places ‘wrong’.
“Are you sure you’re sleeping well? You look terrible,” asked a bedridden redhead to her brunette friend.
Wilhelmina Murray looked at her friend, feeling once again a ping of guilt for her dear Lucy. Though it was not known outside of a very close circle, her health had always been fragile.
“The dreams have started again?” asked Lucy.
Mina quickly nodded. Her friend was the only one to know about the cycle of nightmares that started every year at the same period. She had not dared to tell anyone else about them, fearing to be thought insane.
“It’s also something else. You remember the man in those dreams, the one I call the Prince?”
Lucy grinned impishly, feeling her fatigue disappear. The things Mina had told her about the Prince were rather racy.
“I met him.”
“Nothing scandalous… But… am I a bad person? I mean, Jonathan is my fiancé and…”
Lucy sighed while she buried herself again in her cushions.
“Mina… Do you remember what my mother told you two years ago?”
“She said a lot of things.”
The aristocrat woman had always just tolerated her daughter’s friendship with a commoner like her.
“Were you born a man, you would certainly have become one of the most brilliant minds in the Empire. But that same intelligence will make it very hard for you to be a proper wife.”
“Oh! That one…” said Mina bitterly.
“Before you told me about your dreams, I would have probably advised you to seek security with the bland Jonathan Harker. You would probably have him wrapped around your little finger… but that’s not you. You don’t want to use your husband to have a good life. You want to be recognized for yourself and that’s something Jonathan will never allow, not when his reputation is so important to him. Now, my question is… do you think your Prince will let you become all you can be? Will he brave convention for your sake?”
“He will,” said Mina, not really knowing from where the certainty came from. “The only rules he respects are his own.”
He sat in the hotel’s smoking room, waiting for her, toying with a glass of brandy. Elisabetha… Mina. After all these centuries, I finally feel love again. I have to prevent those dreadful visions the Sibyl showed me. My princess sullied by the touch of the puny Harker… unbearable! Even more than seeing me captured and enslaved by that sorcerer.
He felt a presence enter the smoking room, someone he had not seen in a very long time. A middle-aged man that looked every part the scholar sat in front of him.
“It has been a long time, Voivode of Wallachia,” said the scholar in Medieval Latin.
Vlad Tepes Dracula had a little smile.
“It is good to see you again, master alchemist,” answered the vampire in the same language.
Nicolas Flamel, one of the rare people to ever manage to synthesize the Philosopher’s Stone, smiled. He remembered their first meeting in Hungary, centuries ago and the ones that followed afterwards.
“Did you come to England to pay a visit to Lady Helena?”
“I intend to, but lacked time so far… I know this is not very courteous… but journey to her castle would take several days, which I cannot afford now.”
“Then you will be happy to know she has moved to London.”
“I thought she wanted to stay as far as she could from… them. What is the name of the place they have here?”
“Diagon Alley… Even people as old as us, or her, can change, Vlad.”
“I wouldn’t dream to mention a lady’s age in a civilized conversation, Nicolas,” he replied, smiling lightly.
The alchemist took out a small notebook and wrote something on a page before tearing it and giving it to the prince.
“Her address. If you aren’t here to see her, may I know why?”
Dracula thought about the mortals around them. Some of them may be learned enough to understand the Medieval Latin they were using. He thought of the lessons Helena had given him while he was struggling to master his vampire heritage. Her native language had been part of those lessons and he knew that Flamel, like all true followers of Hermes Trimegistus, mastered it.
“A few years ago,” he said, switching to a far older language, “I paid a visit to the Sibyl on Mount Parnassus. She showed me a grim future not only for me, but for all of creation. In that future, I had become a monster only living for the thrill of battle.”
“I know you, Vlad. I was here and I know how the line of Corvinus tarnished your reputation with the help of the Turks and the Saxon merchants. Only the Russian accounts of your reign are somewhat objective. Even as a vampire, you kept your honor and nobility.”
In a nearby seat, a gentleman listened with attention to the two men; trying to decipher what sounded to him like the Coptic he had learnt a little of in Egypt.
“I think I was tortured into madness in the future the Sibyl showed me. Someone, perhaps a wizard, wanted to make a weapon out of me.”
Flamel nodded gravely. He knew how proud the ex-monarch was.
“Did the Sibyl tell you how to avoid that fate?”
“She told me that my destiny would unfold in this land and that everything depended on a woman’s choice between Light and Darkness.”
“She used these precise words? Not Good and Evil?”
“Those same words.” And the Sibyl knows better than to use one pair of concepts for another,
thought the alchemist.
His thoughts wandered on Lady Helena, who was probably one of the darkest creatures to walk the Earth in this era and had also done more for Good than a lot of so-called Champions of Light. And on the other side, we have those Iscariot murderers, committing atrocities in the name of Light…
Vlad looked at his friend, remembering fondly their discussions when he was still human and a ‘guest under surveillance’ in the court of Matthias Corvinus, then king of Hungary.
“And she’s supposed to be here in London?”
“I think you’re going to meet her soon.”
Hermione’s mind emerged from sleep. She knew it: the cruel sun was finally going into hiding, letting place to the glorious night. All her senses flared as she hit the button commanding the rise of her bed’s canopy. I don’t like it when Mum closes the lid… I don’t need a coffin like she did in the old days…
She felt hungry… no it was more than that. Her body was screaming to feel the thrill of the hunt. She knew well that feeling and had no fear of it. Contrarily to her mother, she never had to somehow balance her vampiric nature and the memories of a human life. She had none of the latter, after all.
The little girl got up and hurried to her bathroom. Perhaps a hot shower would help her calm a little. She grinned at herself in the bathroom’s mirror and removed her nightgown. The water running on her body felt good and helped her make the thirst bearable.
Pointing her hand outside of the shower stall, she concentrated a little bit, feeling her magic coming alive. The shadow of her arm slid on the wall, gripping her towel and bringing it to her.
She smiled, remembering her parents telling her that her powers were part of her and that they wanted her to use them just as naturally as she walked or breathed. She dried herself and opened her wardrobe with another thought.
“Hmm… which one will I wear today,” she said while eying her many dresses.
Her hand brushed slightly her hand-made tiger-striped kimono, a gift from her parent’s friends when they took part in a festival during their last trip in Japan. She passed the formal dress the Queen had given her for her last birthday and finally settled for a nice cream one. She dressed quickly and came to her desk to take her photo album. I must write to Sakiko-chan and Kit-chan…
On the picture she was looking at, three little girls in kimono were watching fireworks. There was Sakiko, with a tiger-striped kimono just like her, so cute with her little horns and pointed ears and the redhead Kit between them, hugging them with her two foxtails.
She giggled as she remembered the pranks Kit made them play to the priests, and the irate miko running after them with sealing charms. She had apologized to her later, of course. It was fun, but perhaps a little rude. Mum and Dad worked hard to make peace between the Shinto priests and the Yôkai.
Hermione put on her shoes and headed for the dining room. She really needed to drink some blood. Arriving on the gallery of the main hall, she quickly jumped over the rail and landed without a sound on the floor below, eyes in alert and brown air flowing. She remembered once when a human had seen her do that and thought she was going to pounce him. At least, I’m not ashamed of being an apex predator, not like humans.
The sweet smell of the breakfast buffet banished any thought she had about human hypocrisy. She did her best to stay the lady she was supposed to be rather than run on her food like a lowly ghoul. Thank God, I can eat!
She thought while remembering that vampires of old could only drink blood.
“Good evening, squirt,” said a voice behind her.
Hermione turned to face her. Of course it was her so annoying big sister. Alice Morgane Drake was in her usual guise: white trouser suit, waist-length jet-black hair in a hime-cut and, of course, the scarlet eyes shared by all members of the family.
“I told you not to call me like that,” she said, glaring at her.
“You look so much like mother it’s frightening you know…”
Hermione smiled and went to hug her sister.
“I’m so happy that you’re back! How was Canada?”
“Cold… You remember what I told you about that Wendigo problem they had?”
The child nodded, remembering her excitation at all the gory details when her sister told her about the murders committed by the creature. She also remembered the puking human near them when she told her best friend about it later. Humans! I wonder if I ever will understand them completely… There is nothing ‘Ew’ about blood and entrails.
“Walter and I found it and killed it. I’ll tell you about the fight later.”
Hermione nodded, smiling then raised her head, a questioning look on her face.
“Sister, why do I hear two hearts in your body?”
“Because you will soon be an aunt, Hermione,” said Alice, ruffling the hair of her sister. “Which also means I really have to marry Walter now…”
“That means I can call him brother?”
Alice Drake, first of the natural born vampires, nodded. Her thoughts wandered to the event history recalled as the Dawnbringer Outbreak, that day that made her birth possible and changed everything for her offshoot of humanity. She quickly banished them as they both took place around the breakfast table.
Mina looked once again at the letter she had written, now addressed to the castle of Count Dracula and at the red letter box in front of her. Am I right? What if I am only a fling to him? No, he is almost proposing… and when he does, I will accept.
“I’m sorry, Jonathan,” she muttered as she put the letter in the box. “I refuse to live a lie, even a comfortable one.”
She suddenly felt strange, knowing somehow that she had taken the most important decision of her life. Done… now let’s go to my… date.
She thought about how she loved to discuss things with her Prince, how he liked to teach her things and never felt threatened by how fast she understood them… contrarily to Jonathan. More and more comforted in her decision, she entered the hotel where they had decided to meet, heading for the smoking room. She knew her face had lightened with a radiant smile as she saw him sitting, discussing with a middle-aged gentleman. As she approached, both men immediately got up.
“Madame, allow me to present you an old friend, Nicolas Flamel.”
“I am honored to meet you,” said the alchemist, bowing. “Vlad told me you had an interest in science?”
“Yes, I am particularly interested in physics…”
“Madame, certain young women I met in the past and other whose lives I studied in my historical researches dispelled any illusion I could have about male superiority in the matters of the mind,” said Flamel, smiling kindly. “You have no need to be shy about your interests.”
“Who comes to your mind?”
“There are many in all of history… your Queen Elizabeth is of course a prime example.”
“Are you yourself a man of science?”
“Mostly a physician these days, but I have an interest in many domains. I am afraid you will not see my recent works in the Lancet. The establishment tends to scoff when someone considers there is some truth in the old alchemical texts.”
Vlad smiled, following the exchange. He knew that jealousy had no place here. Nicolas’ marriage had endured centuries in a way few people could hope to understand. But I will have to slowly introduce her to the supernatural… this frown…
“Is something bothering you?” asked Vlad.
“It is my friend Lucy. She is sick and the family doctor does not know what she has…”
“No need to say more, Madame,” said the alchemist, bowing slightly. “I will gladly examine your friend.”
Hermione knew she had one thing in common with her mother: she loved science. She knew that of all the distinctions Mina Drake received over the last century, the one she was the proudest of was her Nobel Prize in physics. She did not pretend to understand exactly for what her Mum received that prize, but she knew it had something to do with the machine that made airships fly without wings or balloons. But one day, I will understand…
She resumed her studies. Her tutor would be here soon. The manor’s library was a familiar place for her and she often read past dawn. But she sometimes felt so lonely…
“I wonder how it would be, to be in a human school with other children…”
“Only two or three years, Hermione, and your powers will have grown enough to allow you to brave the sun,” said a soft voice coming from the library’s entrance.
“Hello, Aunt Helena… I know, but I feel lonely sometimes.”
She looked at the elegant woman entering the room and frowned slightly, remembering the question she never dared to ask. Tonight, she decided, she would finally.
“Auntie, in Mum’s old pictures, you look like a pale child, but…”
“Now, that’s a story and it will do for tonight’s history lesson… the way I look now is actually near of the one I had when I was human.”
“You’re Egyptian, right?”
“Yes. Though I go by Helena, I was then named Neferneferuaten Tasherit and born in a city called Akethaten.
“Is Tasherit your family name?”
“No, Neferneferuaten means ‘Most beautiful one of Aten’ and Tasherit ‘Junior’. My mother had the same name, but you will find her in history books under the name Nefertiti.
Gears quickly clicked in Hermione’s mind. She had spent more than enough time in the Egyptian collection of the British Museum to know that name and now that she thought about it, Helena had a certain resemblance with one of the most famous Egyptian queens.
“You’re a princess?”
“Yes, even if Egypt is not what it once was. But so are you, Hermione. Your father was king of Wallachia when he was human.”
“Then, why the child shape?”
“My father made many enemies during his reign. After his death, some of them managed to kill me. Like your father, my willpower was too strong and undeath found me. I had many adventures in the following centuries and finally settled here in England. One of the last Thuata de Danann took me in her house and I took over her role when she left this world.”
“Then you were around when the original Round Table was founded?”
Helena had a little laugh.
“Oh, yes, Hermione, I was here. The stories of that time call me Nimue, the Lady of the Lake… and before you ask, things happened differently from what is told in certain stories. I’ll tell you more another night. On the matter of my shape, what happened is that Morgan le Fay cursed me after Arthur’s death. The curse should have killed me, but I managed to halt its progress by taking the child shape.”
“And a lot later, the Dawnbringer changed things for you too…”
“Yes, now Hermione, our main lesson for tonight will be alchemy. Let’s head to the laboratory…”
Hermione smiled. To think her beloved aunt was such a famous person…
Mina sobbed while they buried her friend Lucy. Faking her tears wasn’t easy, but she managed. Soon, Lucy, you will be free of that frail health that plagued you.
She remembered her ache when Flamel said her that Lucy’s heart would not allow her to live for more than five years and her hope when her Prince said that there was a way. After that, he had demonstrated what he was and the price she would pay for being his bride. She had quickly realized that she didn’t care, not anymore. If my humanity is the price, so be it. I will stand proudly, even in face of damnation.
She offered her condolences to Lucy’s fiancé and his friends. Of all of them, it was Quincey that she liked the most. Perhaps, later, they could tell the truth to the Texan. At least he was honest, not like the slimy Doctor Seward.
Mina felt a gaze on her neck and thanked the fact her high collar was hiding the proof that Vlad was now her fiancé. In the corner of her eye, she saw that Dutchman Seward called to examine Lucy. What is his name? Yes, Abraham Van Helsing. Why do I have the impression that he knows? I have to ask Nicolas, perhaps he has heard of him.