Where There is Darkness
By: Highlander II
Category: Alternate Universe, Fantasy
Archive: Please ask.
Spoilers: Van Helsing
Rating: NC-17: (skip) Non-consensual sexual encounters, mind control, bondage, spanking/caning, character death.
Summary: What happens if Van Helsing doesn't defeat the Dracula beast and is taken prisoner instead? Carl and Anna have to locate Van Helsing and rescue him from Dracula's clutches before The Knights of the Holy Order learns what is going on and sends another army of operatives after the rogue monster hunter. In the meantime, Van Helsing has to survive his incarceration without losing his mind.
Disclaimer: I own nothing but the words on this page; the characters belong to Stephen Sommers and Universal pictures.
Notes: Written for scifibigbang 2010.
Art by: sanadafaye
Feedback: Highlander II
Anna exited the laboratory and ran in the direction she believed would lead her to the rendezvous point. She could only hope she didn't get lost in the maze of corridors. As she passed one of the corridors, she caught sight of a small troop of Dwergi marching with extreme determination. They had obviously found something.
She followed. Kept her distance so they wouldn't be alerted to her presence.
How she hadn't noticed it before, she couldn't say, but the castle was incredibly cold. She knew it was essentially an 'icy fortress', and that the weather outside never seemed to be anything other than winter. It left a nearly solid chill in the air that never quite went away. She wasn't cold, but she could feel the lack of heat in the air.
How horrible that must have been for both Velkan and Van Helsing. Cold days and nights on top of being under Dracula's control. She couldn't begin to imagine what that must have been like.
Those thoughts led her back to the night Van Helsing, as a werewolf, had come back to the castle. The night she'd asked him to change her so she could go with him. Be with him. And how disgusted by the idea he'd been. Thinking back, she realized that was a terrible idea. Her decision had been based solely in desperation. She missed her brother terribly and was in need of companionship. Had she become the beast she'd asked to become, she would have been subjected to the same fate as her brother and Van Helsing. Dracula's control. Ultimately, death.
She knew her own people would waste no time killing any werewolves that entered their territory. No matter who the person beneath the beast skin might be.
Dwergi weapons scraping along the icy stone walls drew her from her reverie. Pulled her focus back to her current task. She pressed her back flat against the wall and waited to be sure they hadn't noticed her presence. Sharp edges of rock poked through her leather corset that caused her to hiss in pain. She clapped a hand over her own mouth, hoping the Dwergi hadn't heard her. For a long moment, she didn't even breathe and couldn't bring herself to look down the corridor to see if any of the little creatures had turned back to see what the noise had been.
When nothing stabbed, poked or jabbed her after what seemed to be several minutes, she let her hand down and turned her head. The Dwergi hadn't come back to try to kill her. In fact, they were nowhere in sight. Had they just disappeared? She hadn't known they could do that.
Slowly, she started down the corridor again, in the same direction she'd been traveling before the brief, unplanned pause. Where the hell had those Dwergi gone? They couldn't have moved far from this corridor. They weren't that fast. Industrious, yes; swift movers, no.
Several meters from where she'd stopped was a turn in the corridor. Who had built this damned place? None of the corridors or pathways lead in entirely straight lines. How did Dracula ever find anything?
Anna peered around the corner before taking the turn herself. If there was something dangerous waiting on the other side, she wanted to be as prepared as possible. Of course, about the time she began to round the corner, she realized she didn't have much in the way of weaponry on her person. Little more than a couple swords and a knife or two. Van Helsing had the high-powered projectile weapons. Why hadn't she thought to have him show her how to use them?
Twenty steps later, she realized where the Dwergi had been heading – to a battle. A battle of many Dwergi against a handful of Knights of the Holy Order. The Knights appeared to be in need of back-up; no major injuries yet, but she was certain it was early on in the battle.
Carl was not entirely sure why Van Helsing had sent him to search for this woman, but he would do it because Van Helsing asked him to. He had said the woman needed help. Carl would do what he could to help her.
If he ever found her.
This damned castle, aside from being dark and frigid, was huge and confusing. He was certain he'd made three wrong turns and had gone in a circle at least twice. He was supposed to find the west tower, but he wasn't even sure which way west was.
And Dracula had failed to add helpful directional signs on the corridor crossways. Though, The Order had yet to manage that much, so he shouldn't be surprised that an evil bloodthirsty demon had not provided directional sign-age to aid his enemies in locating additional prisoners.
Sometimes Carl was sure he thought far too much about things. Other times, his 'too many thoughts' were exactly what was needed. Right now, however, was not one of those latter times. Van Helsing was preparing to fight Dracula (and hopefully win) and he was supposed to be rescuing some damsel in distress.
Him? Rescue? He was not some big damned hero. That was Van Helsing. The unpopular monster hunter who had performed amazing feats to bring down foes for The Order.
Focus, he told himself. Van Helsing would be fine; he was responsible for locating this woman in the west tower. He peered up through the center of a winding staircase. The same one he had climbed before he found Van Helsing. "Huh, the west tower," he spoke to the walls, then started up the stairs.
After several minutes of climbing, he peered first up, then down the stairwell – not even half-way up. This was going to take a long time. Longer if you keep stalling, Carl, he informed himself and started up the stairs again.
Several more climbing minutes later, he came to an opening in the wall. Curiosity got the better of him and he took that turn rather than climbing the rest of the stairs.
This opening led into a long corridor with very little light – natural or artificial. A very long corridor that continued for so far, Carl was sure he would wear out the soles of his boots reaching either an off-shoot or the end.
Anna watched the fight as it escalated. The men of The Order were battling heavily with a herd of Dwergi. She was waging small battles against the ones who wandered from the main fight.
She had positioned herself at the edge of the skirmish to strategically reduce the Dwergi numbers as best she could. There were already too many people part of the fight. Pushing herself to the center wouldn't be helpful.
One of Mesoraco's men was lurking in a corner across the room with the same idea. Between the two of them, maybe they could be enough of a distraction to make it out.
Maybe not. Several of the little creatures realized there were two enemies not surrounded by combatants and altered their paths to zone in on the loners. Anna turned and slipped into the corridor to draw the creatures away from the main battle. If she was going to have to fight more than one of these damned things at a time, she was going to make it to the advantage of her side.
The Dwergi chattered and squawked at each other the whole time they were following her. They were fast but not as fast as she was. Still armed, she thought she might be able to pick off one or two, but she didn't want to risk a misstep and end up on the wrong end of a Dwergi weapon.
She kept her pace, up stairs, around corners, down long stretches of dark corridors. At the end of one, she slid to a halt in the center of a four-way intersection. A moment later, she pressed her back against the wall beside the corridor she had just left. The Dwergi clattered out and scuffled across to the way that continued ahead of them.
Anna wasn't sure which of the other two she should take. She did know she didn't have much time to decide. The Dwergi were mostly workers who did as they were instructed, but they were not overly stupid. Eventually they would realize Anna was no longer fleeing from them and turn back to the crossroads.
Taking several deep breaths to clear her head, she chose the left corridor. It was dark and cold like the others but mostly straight. It also seemed to progress at a gradual decline. A few steps along, she started running again, wanting to give herself as much distance between the Dwergi and herself as possible.
Apparently her lead wasn't enough, she heard the familiar bone-chilling chatter and scuffle of the Dwergi in the corridor behind her. How had they managed to back track so fast?
Did this corridor have an end? Or branches? A steep drop-off into a giant hole? Anything? Carl walked and walked and walked until he was certain his legs would just stop and his torso would keep moving.
Three steps before he was ready to give up and sit down to rest, there was a turn to the left. His brain pondered 'straight or left' for about a nanosecond before his feet turned and took him down the new path. It was still walking, but it was at least walking in a new direction.
And had the echoes of a roaring werewolf sliding along the icy walls. That was unexpected. He offered up a brief prayer that he wouldn't be killed and that the werewolf didn't involve the woman Van Helsing had sent him to find.
He had one revolver loaded with silver bullets, but that was all the weaponry he had on him. Everything else had been given to Mesoraco and his men for battling the obstacles in the castle. Now he realized that might not have been the smartest plan. Though, in his defense, he hadn't planned to be away from Van Helsing for quite this long.
Carl stood in the corridor for a long time debating whether or not to follow the sound of the werewolf roar. Van Helsing had asked him to find this woman. As a friend, that was what he would do.
He pointed his feet in the direction of the sound and made his way carefully toward it. Several steps down the corridor, he drew his one weapon in preparation. He felt his heart thumping loudly somewhere around his throat as he continued.
The thumping didn't go away when another cross-path presented itself. Now he had three options: left, right, straight ahead. Technically, there was a fourth – go back the way he had come – but that wasn't part of the plan.
Until another, louder, werewolf roar ripped down through the darkness. Carl gave up on the mission, turned and ran back down the dark corridor, slid into the turn and aimed himself toward that staircase. Finding out about this mystery woman of Van Helsing's wasn't nearly as important as not being eaten to death by a werewolf.
Anna ran from the herd of Dwergi, legs burning with exertion. To avoid the coming onslaught, she slipped through a door and threw it closed behind her. She leaned heavily against it to catch her breath.
When the heavy, furred beast smashed her into the door, she didn't even have time to react. She barely had time to register that the creature coming at her was a werewolf as it flew across the room. The trajectory happened to land it against the door Anna had just closed. She had the unfortunate disadvantage of not being able to move out of the way before the werewolf's body impacted the door.
She was conscious for a moment after the impact and the last thing she saw was Van Helsing, in wolf form, lifting her gently to his chest.
A heavy claw raked across Van Helsing's back, breaking skin and drawing a roar of pain from the beast. He set Anna's limp, broken body aside, then turned to deal with his attacker.
Dracula shifted back to his human form. "We've been here before, Gabriel. Do you remember what happened the last time?" He stepped backwards gingerly, avoiding broken machinery and stone scattered on the floor.
Van Helsing retained his wolf form and snarled at Dracula. Indeed we have but I have no intention of repeating the previous outcome, he thought, letting Dracula hear his thoughts.
"Oh my dear, Gabriel, you believe you have control." The vampire laughed. "I still can manipulate your body, my pet." To prove this, he pinned the wolf against a frozen column in the center of the lab without benefit of physical exertion. "My pet, I will miss our time together. If only it hadn't come to this."
A loud explosion shook one side of the lab. Carl had either set a sufficient distraction or blown himself up elsewhere in the castle. Dracula's hold on Van Helsing faltered. The wolf pounced and pinned the vampire beneath his large paws, snout dripping saliva onto Dracula's face. This cannot continue! he snarled mentally.
Van Helsing adjusted his position and shed the wolf skin easily, despite the full moon shining brightly through the window. He kept his hand and shin pressed against the vampire's chest. "Surrender, and perhaps you won't need to die tonight," he said.
Dracula blinked in disbelief. "How? How are you able to change from the wolf of your own accord?" he asked, not attempting to remove himself from his position on the floor.
"Inventive and resourceful friends." Van Helsing leaned closer to Dracula's face, "Your control is slipping."
"So you think, Gabriel." He pushed and changed into his beast form, tossed Van Helsing off his chest and leapt into the air, hovered above the lab floor. He curled his fingers around an invisible throat. Van Helsing choked and grabbed at his own throat, gasping for air as he was lifted from the floor. "I think my control is perfect, Gabriel." He closed his fingers a fraction of an inch more.
Van Helsing felt his air slipping away. His vision began to blur and his lungs began to burn. If Dracula didn't let him go soon, all the work he had done to break free, that Carl had done to save him, that Anna had done to help, would be for naught. He needed to find a way out of this quickly.
"Gabriel, your face is red. Are you blushing, my pet?" Dracula asked, laughing heartily.
The moment of laughter was enough. It gave Van Helsing time to twist and kick and break free. He fell to the floor clutching his throat and gasping for much needed air. "It doesn't have to end like his," he yelled, hoarse as his voice was, across the lab. "There is another way."
Dracula strafed Van Helsing's head, knocked him end-over-end to tumble across the rough lab floor. The beast landed on a high catwalk-like structure and regained human form. "No, this is exactly how this has to end." He leapt into the air again, changed form and dove at Van Helsing on the floor below.
Van Helsing rolled across the floor and came up in a crouch twenty feet away. He knelt, waiting, ready to pounce into an attack.
"Aleksandr!" Van Helsing called the vampire's true name. The name he had known so many years ago. Tired and worn down from the fight, he dropped himself to one knee to catch his breath.
Dracula turned to his kneeling pet. "So, you finally remember me, Gabriel? What could you possibly say to me now to prevent me killing you?" he snarled, drops of spittle bubbling from his lips.
"I can give you a choice," he replied.
Dracula laughed, hearty and deep. "What choice could you give me? You have nothing that I want, Gabriel."
Van Helsing pushed himself to his feet, regaining his full height. Being naked no longer bothered him, not after these last few months. He walked up to Dracula and stared him down without fear. "The choice I can give you is: salvation or death."
The deep chuckle that erupted from the vampire was like a nearby clap of thunder. "You think you can save me... or kill me?"
Van Helsing nodded. "Both," he responded, certain he could succeed at either undertaking. He gave a soft head-shake. "Neither would be easy. In fact, salvation would be the hardest thing you've ever done."
"You cannot save me. Gabriel. You can't even save yourself."
He took a deep, irritated breath. Dracula wasn't catching on to the graveness of the situation. Van Helsing needed to give him a push. A taste of the reality of what was happening "Aleksandr, I'm giving you a gift," he said, voice smooth and even. "Most men don't get the choice."
Dracula reached to curl a hand around the back of Van Helsing's neck. To draw him forward into the intimate embrace. "I love you, Gabriel," his voice strained as he spoke, "but I can't go back to who I was before. I'm not that man anymore."
Van Helsing's eyes drifted closed, then reopened. "You can start again. Start clean. Rebuild from the ground up. It is possible." He knew it. He'd done it. Once that he was sure of – shortly after the man he had known as Aleksandr had decided to become Vladislas Dragula.
Transylvanian-region of Europe - 1532
The room he had been placed in felt small and dark. Cloying. The hood over his head wasn't helping that feeling any. He hadn't realized how nerve wracking waiting for this procedure would be. He had requested it after he had been forced, via circumstances beyond his control, to kill his closest friend.
He didn't want to remember that day or the events leading up to it. But it wasn't until Aleksandr made a pact with the devil that The Order agreed to fulfill his request. Van Helsing had concluded that The Order wouldn't perform this procedure as anything other than a punishment. Apparently losing the soul of Aleksandr to the devil was enough to qualify him for punishment.
Though, as far as he could determine, he had not been at all responsible for Aleksandr's decision to become a bloodthirsty demon. He assumed The Order was using that as a valid reason for administering the procedure Van Helsing had requested.
He clearly remembered every moment of today - The Order guards dragging him from his bed, not allowing him the chance to put on clothing, the hood being slipped over his head, being shoved into the narrow corridor outside his room. His room was nothing lavish or even tasteful, but it was 'home' when he was in Rome. And it was familiar. Walking the corridor with no sense of sight and a distorted sense of hearing was not familiar. He couldn't determine if people were looking at him, watching him, or if they had all been told to stay in their quarters.
He was led down several other corridors, much the same as the first, to an open area where he had been traded off to a new set of guards. Then more corridors that felt a lot more like tunnels, followed by one more hand-off before he was led down the final tunnel to the room in which he now waited.
Was the waiting supposed to be the punishment? That was almost harder than deciding to have them do this. He hated waiting. He was sure they knew that and added it as part of the torture.
The chair they had sat him on was hard and uncomfortable, but the floor beneath his bare feet was rough and cold. He was surprised they had waited until he was in this room to bind his hands. Though, he hadn't fought them at all after the initial struggle in his chambers.
Now, he waited for them to return and either lead him somewhere new or administer the procedure in this room. Again, the waiting was the hardest part. He figured, if he could survive the waiting, the rest would be easy.
His heart raced when he heard the door open, the adrenaline rushed though his body in anticipation of getting this over with. Hefty hands pulled him from the chair and dragged him through a door on the opposite side of the room. The last thing he remembered before they strapped him to the table was the Cardinal telling him his sins would be forgiven if he confessed them now.
He didn't remember making any confessions, though he may have. Mostly he remembered people bustling about, then the flick of a switch.
The next memory he could recall was waking in the infirmary. He was told he had been in a fight and had a hit his head on something solid and hard during the battle, resulting in his apparent memory loss.
He asked who he had been fighting, but was told they were unable to provide him with that information. He wanted to know why and the answer was purported to be for his safety. Safety was irrelevant. He wanted to take down the creature who robbed him of his memories. He wanted those back.
The medics and healers made sure he rested for the prescribed number of days before allowing him to return to his usual routine. A routine dictated by The Order to keep him busy most of the day. He would get meals and time for sleep, but the rest of his time was spent re-learning weapons and running drills with the occasional hour set aside for reading and prayer.
Obviously someone in The Order thought a near-fatal bump on the head would change Van Helsing's mind about focusing more on prayer. Someone could not have been more wrong.
Dracula's Castle – 1890
This was the first time in his memory that he could recall advocating the removal or suppression of ones memories. For any reason. The process was painful, unpleasant and dangerous, but he had considered it worth it to avoid the darker pain of having killed his closest friend. He had the vaguest recollection of going through the process a second time, but nothing concrete.
"You cannot save me, Gabriel," Dracula stated firmly. "I've fallen far beyond redemption."
"No!" Van Helsing snarled. "You haven't, Aleksandr," he countered, speaking Dracula's true name as a way to connect with his old friend. "Even you, even now, can be redeemed. If only you will let me help you."
Dracula shook his head. Then he leaned forward meeting Van Helsing's dry chapped lips with his own cold ones, felt the warmth of his pet overflowing against him. "I'm sorry, Gabriel, even God can't help me now." He stepped backward toward the gateway mirror.
Van Helsing moved to stop him, but he found himself impaired by Dracula's control. The mental hold on him had yet to break. Van Helsing could do nothing.
A door at the far end of the chamber slammed open with a loud crack of wood against stone. "Van Helsing!" Mesoraco shouted into the lab and stalked through the debris. A brown-robed man scuffled in behind him a moment later.
"Oh my God," Carl gasped, then headed for Van Helsing's side. He stopped short when he heard the sound of a bolt being laid into a crossbow. He turned to see who was the target.
"Move out of the way, Carl," Mesoraco snarled, his crossbow trained on Van Helsing.
"No," Carl insisted and settled himself more firmly between the weapon and his friend.
Van Helsing tried to move his arms, to shove the friar out of the way. "Let him take me, Carl."
"No," the friar repeated.
"It's all right, Gabriel. You have everything you need," Dracula told him softly and stepped through the gateway mirror into the bright, afternoon light at Castle Valerious.
Suddenly Van Helsing was free and charged for the mirror to stop Dracula. Mesoraco, at the same time, released the bolt toward the mirror to catch the vampire. The metal tip buried itself firmly in Van Helsing's left thigh. His howl of pain echoed through the cavernous hallways.
He wanted to jerk the bolt from his flesh, but Carl, quick on his feet, stopped him. "No, you'll bleed to death."
Face full of agony and defeat, Van Helsing responded, "I know."
Carl had never seen the man this distraught. "Please, Gabriel, I can't let you die here."
Men bound his arms and legs – Carl fought them more than he did - then was carried through the same gateway mirror Dracula had used moments ago. Carl followed closely behind, making sure they didn't hurt Van Helsing.
Hidalgo had entered the lab two steps behind Carl and Mesoraco. They both missed what he saw immediately - the body of Anna Valerious. The woman was in a small heap just beyond the door. Hidalgo scooped her into his arms, balancing his weapon against his arm at the same time.
He couldn't figure out how she had died, but he was certain Van Helsing had something to do with it. If he had just completed his mission, none of this would have been necessary. How difficult could it be to take out one vampire? One vampire.
Across the lab, he saw Mesoraco fire a crossbow bolt at the vampire. He saw the bolt hit Van Helsing instead as the vampire stepped into a mirror. A mirror? Another one? Is that how this vampire moved from this castle to other locations? Could all vampires do that? Or was this something specific to Dracula?
Mesoraco called for all the operatives to get through the mirror back to Castle Valerious. Hidalgo watched as Mesoraco's men bound Van Helsing and dragged him through the mirror. He saw Carl move through close behind them.
Hidalgo stepped up to the portal, Anna's body still draped over his arms. Mesoraco gave a solemn nod, then directed him through the mirror. He angled Anna and himself gently through the portal to the other side. Several of the operatives stood nearby to offer aid and condolences. The gesture was appreciated. Appreciated, but not necessary just now. There was still work to do. He was not yet ready to mourn. That would have to wait.
End Part IX