DISCLAIMERS: See Part 1

 

FIUR and VLAMME

 

present

 

CHRONICLES OF DARKNESS

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BOOK ONE

SHADOWS AND DUST

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CHAPTER EIGHT

 

HUNTERS AND HUNTED

 

 

Chalice's carefully planned arrangements were under way without any problems. The house was at her disposal and Azrael's rendezvous with the D'Ardenne twins would happen without interruptions.

Experienced, she lit a small flame under a little silver bowl with a dark brown, bitter powder - opium. She waited until the drug was smouldering above the flame. Then she blew out the fire and placed a curved glass carafe over it. White steam rose and filled the room. The blonde woman offered the tube like pipe to Azrael, who took a big drag, before giving it to Véronique and Valérie.

Chalice knew from her own experiences about the opium's numbing effect, but the girls wouldn't live long enough to get addicted to the drug. She also knew about the danger if too much was consumed, leading to deep sleep with weird dreams and hallucinations. In the worst case, one could die from it.

For awhile, Chalice studied the twins, observing their first reactions to the drug. Intoxicated by the opium, they lost their inhibitions, submitting completely to the vampire's desires and demands.

Chalice left to carry out her work. She came back with a silver tray, laden with sweets and candy. Azrael beckoned her and said, "See, my beauties, all that is for you, so dig in."

Giggling and fooling around, the girls grabbed for the sweets, before Chalice had time to put them on a small table.

Gradually, she became fed up with the orgies that her master loved so much. She couldn't understand why he didn't just drink their blood, without turning them into libidinous slaves.

Chalice's gaze darkened and she pulled her hand back, when one of the twins tried to pull her closer. "Come to us," Véronique said. "It will be so much fun."

"You will be mes chérie!" Valérie shouted, dissolving into mad giggling and falling back into the couch's pillows.

Her twin sister joined in the silly laughter.

"Yes, why don't you have some fun with us?" Azrael asked gleefully, because he knew Chalice couldn't bare the situation.

She answered firmly, "NO!"

"Ohhhh... what a pity," the girls sighed in the same breath. "Oh well, that leaves more for us, sister," Valérie added.

Chalice fixed her master with glassy eyes, so she wouldn't have to look at the only partially covered twins. Walking backward she reached the door and fumbled for the handle, her expression dark as she left the room. The blonde jerked the high, white doors close and released some deep breaths.

"Oh, Monsieur, you are so passionate," she grumbled, mimicing one of the twins and crossed her arms. She leaned her back against the wall and slid slowly to the floor, hugging her knees to her chest. Chalice stared ahead, while fiery jealousy burned in the pit of her stomach.

Sighs and passionate moaning drifted through the walls behind her and she pressed her palms over her ears. She couldn't, but most of all didn't, want to hear how her master coaxed cries of lust from the D'Ardenne twins throats. "His dark powers only long for your souls, girls. He is not interested in you. He only wishs to steal your souls. And what he wants he always gets." A confident smiled formed on her face. "He left me my soul. I am special to him. Yes, that I am, I alone."

Chalice began to relax, knowing of her irreplaceable role in Azrael's life. "I am the one and only, his chosen." She cocked her head towards the closed door speaking more

self-confident and louder, "I am his soulmate, yes, yes, that's who I am. I alone."

Still, she could hear the lustful cries of the twins and the passionate roaring of the vampire.

"What is taking my master so long tonight? Why hasn't he already killed them?" the blonde asked herself, small doubts creeping up. "Why is he doing this to me?" she continued confused. "Why do I have to stand these orgies? As a human, no less. If only I already would be his immortal mate; I would show him what real lust is about." Dreamy eyed, she played with the fine strands of her hair, thinking about times when there was only her and her master. Anger grew inside her. "Why did he say I am disturbing him when he takes the girls? Why, why, why..." The jealousy rose so strongly, she didn't even realise that she was pulling her hair out.

"Why can I not have fun with him as a vampire?" To her, the present condition seemed unbearable. Furiously, she fisted her hands so hard that the knuckles turned white, her nails digging deeply into her palms.

She leapt up from her sitting position, unable to suppress her feelings anymore. "Is my master honest? He has the power to turn things that are wrong around so everyone thinks they are right. Does my master manipulate me also?" Excitedly, she began to pace the corridor, hammering her knuckles against her temples.

She hesitated briefly when a thought came to her mind. "Honesty is not important. Kyrian wasn't always honest. I am not always honest. Nobody can always be honest, nobody. Everybody lies."

Her gaze grew soft as she remembered the young hunter. "Kyrian, oh Kyrian, at your side I feel the safety I've been always looking for. You don't chase me around. You do everything for me...," she sighed and leaned her back against the wall. Her expression froze and she startled. "No, no, everything you do, you do for your precious, little Christine. Not for me."

Breathing heavily, she ran a hand through her hair, "Everybody hates Chalice, except my master. He saw Chalice and rescued her. It was unimportant what I looked like. Being an immortal, he sometimes forgets that I am not. My time is passing. He has to think about so much, his big plans, his followers and servants," Chalice said, her gaze empty. She buried her face into her hands. "Just what am I doing to my master? How could I ever doubt him? He loves me, because I am irreplaceable. I know it."

Her hands fell away from her face and she returned to the window. The small street, which led to the secluded house, was illuminated only by a few lanterns. Chalice gazed outside, silence had fallen inside the room behind her. She hadn't heard the final screams of the girls. "If only I could destroy all my feeling like my master will mankind."

 

*****

 

Kyrian lifted his gaze and his brown eyes grew wide with shock as the door to the library opened. His mother was home from the hunt. But the young man only saw her blood stained clothes as he went to her. "Mama? Dear God! What happened?" he asked concerned while reaching for Helena to help her out of her coat and hung it over a chair's backrest.

"There is no need to worry. I am fine," she answered calmly and moved to a small chest in a corner of the room. The head of the Leosol family took out an old piece of cloth and a whetstone. With that she sat down in an armchair and pulled the holy sword from its scabbard to clean it from blood and to sharpen it.

"But all that blood?" Kyrian prodded, his suspicious eyes never leaving his mother.

"It is not mine," Helena replied, while polishing the mighty weapon with the piece of cloth. "But it is going to be hard work to clean my clothes. And how I am to explain it to the washers, I really do not know. It looks like that there is no other way than to burn it all to avoid unnecessary questions."

"You are sure that you are not harmed?" Kyrian inquired scowling, after his brown eyes picked up something on her throat.

Helena hesitated and smiled weakly which wasn't exactly convincing to the young man.

"My son, I am alright. You..."

"Then how do you explain this?" he cut her off annoyed. "There is a bite mark on your throat!"

The huntress sighed, placing sword and fabric aside. Carefully she ran her fingertips across said mark. As she pulled them back the tips where covered in red, a sure sign that the wound had started to bleed again. "Oh that, uh, it is nothing serious. Just a small scratch, nothing life-threatening. She dodged his disbelieving, piercing eyes and began to untie her corset, but her hands were shaking strongly now that the adrenalin was fading, and she couldn't open the knots. Finally, she lost patience with the thin ties, pulled the dagger from her boot and cut through the pesky threads.

"Mama? How many of them were there?" Kyrian wanted to know, a small trace of curiosity in his voice.

"Seven. Five male and two female vampires..."

"SEVEN???" he interrupted again. "Why didn't you take me with you? I could have helped you!" Kyrian crossed his arms and couldn't hide the angry flashing of his eyes.

A sharp glance from Helena was enough to silence her furious son. "I am fed up having this discussion again and again! I am exhausted. I am dirty and I just want to take a bath, see how Skylar is and then I want some much earned sleep."

Now, Kyrian realised just how much strength this night had drained from his mother. He bit down on his tongue and swallowed his violent temper. "I am sorry, Mama. I really don't wish to fight with you. I was worried about you...and now I see that you came back wounded...I...can you not understand me?"

Helena rose, walked to him and gently caressed his cheek. "I understand, Kyrian. Of course I understand you, my son. It is our destiny to fight these dark creatures and it is never going to be easy." She placed a gentle kiss where her hand had rested a moment ago.

Then, she wrinkled her nose in disgust as she became aware of a stench. "Please excuse me, but I think I really need that bath now. We will continue later, okay?"

Kyrian nodded, his eyes following his mother until she left the room and the door of the library fell shut behind her.

 

"That is my chance," he said to himself and pulled out from Helena's coat pocket the little note book, which the huntress once got from Michel Dutroit. "Now I can show my worth. I can finally prove that I am no longer a child, but a man."

Determined, the young hunter opened the book and watchfully went through the written entries, trying to memorize it all. Two words stood out from everything else and were connected with each and every occurrence. Quartier Latin.

 

*****

 

Skylar stumbled through the darkness. "Mama? Mama, where are you?"

"Here, my precious. I am here," Helena's soft voice answered.

"Where? I can't see you. It's too dark."

Helena laughed. "Well, my little one, that's the point of this exercise. Don't trust everything you see. Your eyes can mislead you."

"How am I supposed to find you?" Skylar wanted to know.

"Use every sense. Listen, my child. Listen and follow the sound of my voice. Come to me..."

The blonde girl took a deep breath. "Alright. How hard can it be? I can do it." Skylar encouraged herself and ran toward the place where she assumed her mother to be.

The darkness began to fade and now the girl found herself surrounded by thick fog. She looked around, trying to pierce the grayness around her but was still unable to find her mother. "Mama?"

Skylar began to panic when she didn't get an answer and so she called out louder. "MAMA?"

A cold breeze ran over her back and she felt as if someone stood behind her, breathing down her neck. Her heart beating wildly with fear she whirled around, but there was nobody.

"Skylar...come to me...Skylar..." The voice of her mother echoed again and again, making it hard for the little girl to find out in what direction the origin lay.

"Mama?"

"Come to me...Skylar...come..."

Blindly, Skylar began to run forward and finally she found her mother in front of a round opening in the wall of an old building. Her silhoutte sharply stood out against the foggy backround. Smiling the huntress reached out a hand to her daughter and said joyfully, "You found me."

Skylar breathed deeply, but then she hesitated. There it was again, the cold breeze that made the blood curl in her veins. Goosebumps rose all over her body and the fine hair at the nape of her neck began to rise. "This place...we should not stay here any longer..."

Still, Helena stood there and looked at her solicitously.

"Mama...please, let us leave...I don't like it here," her daughter urged.

A sound came from behind the huntress, attracting Skylar's eyes to the opening in the building's wall.

Slowly and unstoppable a strangely formed shadow crawled toward Helena, who seemed frozen to the spot.

"MAMA! RUN!" Skylar screamed in terror. Instantly she wanted to hurry to her mother, but something held her tightly and she couldn't move.

The dark shadow straightened up and took shape.

Her eyes wide with fear, Skylar could only watch as the big, black cobra slid to her mother. Hissing, the monster wrapped itself around the huntress' boots and made its way upward snaking tighter and tighter around Helena's body. Red, piercing eyes glowed dangerously and transparent, viscous secretion dripped from two pointy fangs in the wide open mouth.

Skylar struggled in the grip of an invisible attacker, an escape seemed impossible. "MAMA! MAMA!" Tears rolled down her cheeks and she doubled her efforts to get free, but it was in vain. She was not able to break the vise-like grip that prevented her from helping her mother. "MAMA!"

The black monster was wrapped tightly around the huntress' hips and waist and moved its mighty head from side to side. Spellbound the head of the Leosol clan stared into the red eyes. She seemed hypnotized by the glowing and couldn't turn her eyes away.

"MAMA! You have to defend yourself! You have to fight! FIGHT! MAMA!!!" But Skylar's pleading met deaf ears and Helena kept her petrified position.

At once the snake drew her head back and then thrust forward at lightening speed to bore its head deeply into Helena's chest. As it pulled out of the gaping wound, the cobra had the still pounding and blood-dripping heart of the huntress between its fangs.

 

With terror written all over her face, Skylar screamed herself awake. "NOOOOO!!! MAMA!!!"

Breathing heavily, she tried to sit up and wrestled with the bedsheets that held her hopelessly trapped. Finally, she managed to free herself and looked around her dark room. Her heart was still beating fast but gradually the blonde girl calmed down. "Thank God. It was just a horrible nightmare...but it seemed so real." She shuddered as she remembered the glowing, red eyes of the big snake, which had been wrapped around her mother. Her voice trembled slightly as she said, "I wonder if Mama is back from the hunt. Maybe...maybe I should go downstairs and look...just...just to make sure that everything is alright." She crawled out of her bed, tiptoed to the door and opened it a crack. Weak candlelight fell in from the corridor and she pricked up her ears. She couldn't hear anything. There was no sound. Deadly silence ruled. The girl left her room and slowly moved in direction of the stairs. Cautiously and on bare feet, she walked down the cold, stony steps and creeped to the library. Very carefully, she opened the door and stuck her head in the room. Her gaze fell on Helena's blood-stained coat, which still hung across the chair, and she felt her heart clench. Frightened, she entered the library. "Mama?" she asked hopefully.

Surprised, Kyrian, who had his back to her, turned around and hurried to hide his hands with the note book behind himself. "Skylar? What are you doing here? Shouldn't you be asleep?"

"Where is Mama? Is she alright? How did the hunt go?" the girl blurted out, overpowered by fear and so fast that the words nearly overlapped, her green-brown eyes sliding again and again to the blood-stained coat.

Kyrian placed the note book aside, went to her and wrapped her in a comforting embrace. "Sweetie, don't be concerned and go back to bed. Mama is fine. She is taking a bath and I'm sure once she is done she will come up and see how you are doing."

Skylar closed her eyes in relief and released a sigh as she was told that nothing had happened to her mother. She squeezed her brother once more before she let go of him. "You know, Kyrian, I would not be so afraid for Mama if I knew she is not standing alone against the dark brood. If only she had somebody to help her fight...like...well, like us for example. It would be far better to go with her than sit around here, doing nothing else but hope and pray that she will come back unharmed."

"You know, you are speaking the same words that are in my heart, sweetie. Unfortunately that's not how Mama sees this," he answered, feeling somewhat sad.

"I know," Skylar replied crestfallen. "Will that ever change?"

The young man shrugged his shoulders and thought to himself, 'At least, I will leave nothing undone to change her point of view concerning that matter.'

"Why are you awake, little one?" he smoothly changed the subject. "Did you have a bad dream again?" Kyrian asked truly worried, because there had been times that the nightmares had frightened his sister so much it took hours for Helena and him to calm down the girl.

"Yes," Skylar responded in a small voice. "That's the reason I came down. I wanted to make sure that everything is as it should be."

Protectively, he placed an arm across his sister's shoulders and led her out of the library, up the stairs toward her chambers. "Do you want to talk about it?"

Skylar shook her head. "No, I really do not want to think about it anymore. It was just a bad dream...nothing important."

'At least that is what I hope,' she added in her mind.

 

*****

 

Satisfied, Azrael entered the corridor and saw his subordinate staring out of the window, without knowing that he was there. Of course, he noticed her inner turmoil and a sneer spread across his face. His cravings for this night had been fulfilled and he was in a happy mood. He tiptoed toward Chalice, brushed aside her dishevelled hair, his lips beginning to lovingly caress her neck.

The young woman was startled for a moment, but then submitted to his kisses.

Forcefully, the vampire pressed her against the window's glass.

Chalice trembled and shivered under his demanding touch and willingly she pulled up her dress, wanting her master to become one with her.

But all of the sudden, Azrael let go of her and said while glancing out the window, "You know what else I want to do tonight, don't you?"

Dumbfounded, Chalice looked at him and needed a minute to regain her composure. "Of course, master."

The vampire was about to return to the room with the D'Ardenne twins, as the young woman held him back with one word, "...but..."

Grumbling, Azrael turned towards her, his dark eyes gleaming dangerously.

Chalice swallowed hard and said, "Please, forgive me my bold words, master. I can not continue living like this. I will perish at your side, but I only have one wish I long to see fulfilled. And it would be so easy for you."

Azrael rolled his eyes and answered disgruntled, "You want to say I am guilty of something I do not know anything about?"

"No, no, of course not, master. I am your loyal servant," the young woman tried to calm him. Fear flickered in her eyes. "I'm just so confused... the girls... the whole situation..."

Slowly, Azrael walked to her. "You are not confused. You are just jealous."

Chalice blushed brightly and turned her head away, ashamed. Quietly, she said, "So what if I am..." Tears welled up and she began to whimper, not able to say another word.

The vampire went to the window. "His men are starting to surround us. You know what you have to do."

Chalice wanted to retort something but Azrael cut her off firmly, "We will talk later!"

Wordlessly, she relented and strode down the stairs.

The vampire waited at the window until she would leave the house, step into the carriage and drive off. Azrael grinned gleefully, thinking about his plan. "So, Monsieur Dutroit. Let us see if you have taken the bait my two brides left for you."

 

*****

 

The bathroom was illuminated by a small fire from a big fireplace. A heavy iron kettle with water hung above the dancing flames. The huntress lit some candles on the windowsill, their wax had melted into each other because she used this room very often after work.

Helena's face contorted in pain as the fabric of her clothes rubbed against her grazes and contusions while she took off her dirty top. She lowered her bruised body to a small stool to take of her boots, and then she cautiously took of her pants. Disbelieving she gazed at the bundle of bloody clothes, which lay on the floor in front of her. Finally she tore her eyes away and grabbed the iron hook that hung from the wall beside the chimney. She hooked it into a handle of the kettle and pulled with all her might. The hot, nearly boiling water floated into the wooden tub. White steam rose as the hot water mixed with the cold, which Helena had added before. She chose a small flask with amber colored liquid, made of different herbs and added it to the water. "This will help cleaning and healing my wounds." She swirled her fingertips through the water spreading the oily substance. First, she put in one toe to test before sinking her body in the tub. Helena leaned back in the warm water, sighed and closed her eyes. But she couldn't relax, her mind was too active. Behind her eyelids, she saw again the events of the night. Unconsciously, her hand slid to the bite mark on her throat. It had been close, too close. Never before in her entire life had a vampire been close enough to plunge his teeth through her throat. She shuddered with the thought and opened her eyes. The huntress looked around, grabbed the washcloth from the tub's rim and began to clean herself off the vampires' blood, whom she had turned to dust in this night. She jerked in pain as she ran the cloth over her face. Instantly Helena let go of it and carefully touched her nose with her fingertips. "Well, it is not broken but I'm sure it will be quite tender for some time. What doesn't kill me makes me stronger. And a little pop on the nose won't prevent me from finding out what the hell is going on here. I think they were attacking in pack to find out my strengths and weaknesses. It is a pity that nobody of the dark brood is alive to tell their master about it. If only I knew who their lord and master is. But my instincts are telling me that I will meet him sooner than I would like."

Lost in thoughts, she finished her bath and stepped from the tub. Helena grabbed a towel and dried herself, her long, blonde locks cascading over her naked back, while her gaze returned to the blood-stained clothes. Annoyed, she lifted them of the ground and flung them into the fire. Turning her back to the burning clothes, she slipped into her nightgown. After that she pulled the tub's cork plug and red colored water shot out. Her eyes tracked the way of the bloodied wetness as she remembered Kyrian's words, "I could have helped you! Why didn't you take me with you?"

"Maybe the time has come..." the huntress muttered to herself. "This brings me to a different matter. This Christine person... why was she there? I have to talk to Kyrian. She seems to be naive and good-natured... but something tells me that the girl is not entirely truthful. I am feeling danger radiating from her."

 

*****

 

At dusk, Monsieur Dutroit and his men had taken their positions behind a small wall at the other side of the D'Ardenne residence.

Again Michel asked one officer, "You are sure that this woman entered the house this evening? Tell me again what happened."

The man began, "Alright, we had just changed shifts and I had been standing here for some minutes, as she arrived with the carriage, which is over there, and went into the house. Since then nothing has happened, and she definitely has not left the building."

In this moment Michel had to think of Helena and a small smile formed on his face. 'Now I am one step ahead, dear Helena. We know about the murderer's accomplice and followed her trail. Finally, we are going to find the monster, because she will lead us to him.'

"That's all," the officer finished.

"Zut alors!" Michel cursed improperly. "And the D'Ardenne twins are still at the theatre?"

Another man answered him, "Just now, we received a message that the girls have been at the theatre since nightfall. They have been and are still being observed constantly, but nothing unusual happened.

"Strange," Michel thought aloud. "I could have sworn..." he couldn't complete his sentence as one of his men nudged him, pointing at the house. "There! Monsieur Dutroit, look! His accomplice is leaving the building."

"She seems to be in a great hurry."

The police men saw how Chalice looked carefully around before entering her carriage.

"What shall we do?"

Monsieur Dutroit didn't hesitate. "Fast! Follow her! Now she will guide us to him!" Then he glanced to the empty house and thought he saw a face behind one of the windows, before it was gone in a flash. "I will follow later. Right now I want to check the house if everything is as it should be," he spoke hypnotized.

The last present officer asked, "Do you want me to come with you, Monsieur Dutroit?"

"No, that is not neccessary. Soon, I will be with you."

"Understood!"

The last police man left and Michel crossed the street and walked to the house. "I have to go."

 

*****

 

Moving fast, Kyrian put the note book back to its place in Helena's coat pocket as he heard her approaching the library. He took the French book his sister had left, leaped to one of the armchair and sat down, pretending to be completely engrossed in the text while Helena entered the room

Because it became quite cold at night she had wrapped a warming blanket around herself and hid her long, blonde, still wet locks underneath a roughly woven towel. The huntress took a seat opposite her son and pulled the woolen blanket more tightly around her slightly shivering body. Her brown eyes fell on the book in Kyrian's hands and she couldn't suppress a small laugh.

Questioningly Kyrian looked over the rim of the yellowed pages.

"My son, is that a new way to read?" Helena asked and grinned widely.

The young man drew his brows together. "Mama?"

"Your book. It is upside down," she explained and giggled.

"Oh, I didn't notice." Kyrian blushed slightly and put the book aside.

"Kyrian, I have to ask you something..." his mother began hesitatingly.

"Well, go on," came the restrained answer and Kyrian waited.

"Your friend...Christine. What do you know about her?" Helena asked straight forward.

Suspiciously he gazed at his mother before he answered, "Why do you want to know that? What do you need this...information...for?"

It was obvious Helena had raised a subject that didn't sit well with her son, but she continued. "Well, just call it curiosity of your loving mother. You are spending a lot of time with this girl."

"Is there anything to say against it?" Kyrian responded lurkingly.

"No. I just wish to get to know her better. You still haven't introduced us properly."

Kyrian thought hard about what he should tell his mother, but, while he was searching his brain, he realised that he truly didn't know anything about Christine. Neither were she lived nor what she was doing or who her family were. He didn't even know her surname.

His long silence was enough of an answer for Helena. "You don't know anything about this girl, do you?"

"So what? Is that so important? She is nice!" he exclaimed in annoyence.

"Why are you so angry?" Helena asked in her calm way.

"Because I'm feeling like being interrogated! Do I ask questions about your Monsieur Dutroit?" the young hunter shot back impudently.

"In the future, I want you to never meet that girl again," Helena said without answering his question and in a tone that allowed no contradiction.

But Kyrian didn't care about it. "What? Why?" he exclaimed loudly and leapt from his armchair.

Helena took a deep breath, trying to find her calm. She wanted to tell him about the occurence and searched for the fitting words. "I saw her..."

Angered he cut her off, "So what? That doesn't mean..."

"KYRIAN!" Helena too got up and raised her voice. She grabbed her son's shoulders and shook him slightly. "Christine loafers around in the Quartier Latin at night! I saw her there, shortly before the vampires attacked me!"

"I don't believe you!" he responded defiantly, shaking off her hands. "The light there isn't that good and there are hundreds of girls, who have light, blonde hair like Christine! Who knows what you have seen!"

"Kyrian! Come back to your senses! What you are saying are poor excuses!"

"This time, I'm the one who doesn't wish to finish this conversation! I will go to bed! Good night!" he growled irascibly and stomped out of the library.

She knew it would be of no use to follow him now. Dejected, the huntress fell back in her armchair. One lonely tear fell from her eye and rolled down her cheek, while the words of one vampire echoed through her mind, "You...your children...you all will die...it...is...unavoidable..."

"Just how am I supposed to protect you?" the huntress asked into the silence of the room.

 

*****

 

The house was cast into darkness. Weak moonlight that shone through the big windows brought some pale, gray light to the rooms. Carefully putting one foot in front of the other, Monsieur Dutroit moved forward, groping his way. After the police chief hadn't found anything suspicious, he went in direction of the stairway. The steps were covered with thick carpet so he moved to the upper floor soundlessly. He had pulled back his coat and his right hand was resting on his pistol. Watchfully, the police man walked along the long corridors, always careful not to make a sound. Monsieur Dutroit frowned and thought, 'Nothing, I can hear absolutely nothing but still I can not shake off the feeling that I am not alone.'

Suddenly he heard a strange voice, "I can hear you."

Caught off guard, Michel whirled around and scanned his surroundings, but couldn't see anyone. "How, how is that possible?" he said to himself.

"You are breathing too loud, my dear Michel."

Shocked he turned around but still there was nobody.

"I am here..." the voice called again.

Monsieur Dutroit swallowed hard but then said loudly, "Stop this nonsense and come out!" He listened and watched carefully for awhile, nothing happened.

"I'm in your head, my dear Michel", the voice mocked.

As if to prove said statement, his head started pounding strongly. Tortured by horrible pain, he fell to his knees and held his skull with both hands. The pain stopped as fast as it came and Michel rose from the floor. Determined now more than ever, he continued his search for the perpetrator of the strange occurrence.

Finally, the man reached the door where Chalice had been standing not too long ago. He felt nausea rising in his body and said, "I can feel its coldness. Behind this door pure evil is waiting for me." Michel shook his head and added, "Alright, enough with the weird talking. I have a murderer to catch!" Just as he was about to press the handle down, it moved on its own and the door opened a bit.

"Scary," escaped the man. An icy cold streamed from the room and Michel hesitated, uncertain.

The air inside was heavy with the strong scent of opium, pressing down on him.

In that moment his ears picked up the deep bass voice he had heard before, "Please, come a little closer."

The doors flew open wide and mechanically the police chief entered the room, the big doors fell close behind him. The heavily decorated palor was pregnant with smoke and the man needed a minute to orient himself. As his eyes fell upon the scurrilous scene, he didn't know what shocked him more; the tall, bearded man, who lay there on the couch grinning widely or the fact that he held one of the seemingly dead D'Ardenne twins in his arm to his left and right. Michel wasn't able to move, the sight being more than his mind could handle. His opposite was calmly running his hands through the young nobles' locks, curling the fine strands around his fingers, their naked bodies clearly visible beneath their thin robes. The fine silk was stuck to their breasts with dried blood, their gaze empty and staring ahead.

Finally Azrael was the first to break the silence. "Is that what you hoped to find, my esteemed Monsieur Dutroit? Police chief of Paris." A superior smile formed on his face. He kissed the dead girls' pale cheeks before he let go of them.

"Disgusting monster!" Michel screamed in outrage, appalled by the impertinence Azrael was showing.

"Whoa, whoa, whoa, my dear Michel. Do not forget your good manners. We are in the town of love. We should relish it and have fun whenever we can. Besides, you truly are very impolite, you didn't even ask for my name."

"I guess there is nobody, who can compete with your impertinence! You have terrorized the population, spread fear and horror and murdered innocent girls in the crulest ways possible!" Monsieur Dutroit collected himself and then continued, "Thank God, that's all over now!"

Azrael looked up as if he would be watching the sky, just to cast his eyes back to the police chief, his gaze contemptuous.

"Mon Dieu! So, tell me your name!" Michel demanded annoyed.

Happy with the question, Azrael bowed and announced proudly his full title, "Count Azrael the first from the Serpentes' clan. That is how I like to call myself."

"That is how you like to call yourself?" the police chief repeated in a trance.

His opposite stroked his beard, clearing his throat, "How can I explain this... mhh... well, it seems my title changes from country to country. The papers here in Paris call me 'Heart Taker'. I think this description fits me quite well and has a nice ring to it."

"Which is your own fault! The evidence of your guilt lies in this room! But, let me tell you something, the D'Ardenne twins were your last victims, I personally will make sure of that!"

Azrael sighed. "I hope you are done, my dear Michel. Unfortunately, I do not have all night to talk with you even though it would give me great pleasure to discuss the basics of good and evil with you."

"Now, that's enough! In the name of all French people, you are under arrest!"

"Indeed," the vampire replied in a bored tone.

"Well, do you come willingly or do I have to use force?"

"Oh, tough question, let me think about it for a minute. Um, well, my dear Michel, I think you may have to try to use force."

Exasperated the police chief shouted, "What kind of game are you playing?!"

"Why, mine of course," Azrael answered calmly, then added, "but there is one person trying to spoil my fun here in Paris."

"Are you talking about me?" Michel asked a bit surprised.

"Oh, please, do not make yourself so important. Of course not you, my dear Michel." Azrael circled the man, like a predator its prey. "No, I am talking about Madame Helena." Eagerly, he waited for Michel's reaction, who did exactly what Azrael thought he would, and the vampire had to grin.

The man's eyes widened and he shouted, "I don't know how you came up with this lady, but she has nothing to do with this!"

"She doesn't?" Azrael countered. "I think you are not up to date."

"What... what... what does that mean?" Michel struggled to regain his composure.

"Oh, she didn't tell you? How shall I put this... um... we are old aquaintances." Again he waited anxiously for Michel's reaction.

"I do not believe that for a second!"

"Indeed? What do you know about her anyway, hmm?" The vampire didn't leave enough time for an answer, he just continued, "Helena Leosol is a huntress."

"A huntress?" Michel repeated disbelieving. "But, what does she hunt?"

"What do you think, my dear Michel?" Azrael voice took on such a weird tone that Michel couldn't help but look at him.

"You really don't know? Do you want me to help you?"

Without really wanting to, Michel found himself nodding.

"She is from an ancient clan of vampire hunters."

"A vam... vam... vampire huntress?" the police chief stuttered.

"Please, my dear Michel, don't you go losing your composure." Azrael responded. "How do you think I felt, when Chalice woke me every night and reported that Helena has been killing my loyal followers since her arrival in Paris." Theatrically, he placed a hand upon his chest. "I really can not allow that any longer."

Michel was frozen with shock, his pistol fell from his hand, and he stumbled to an old leather armchair in the middle of the room, and absent-mindly he repeated one word again and again, "Vampire huntress..."

Indignantly Azrael said, "Oh come on, get over it already so we can get back to my problems. Do I have your full concentration?"

Confused the police chief looked at the pacing man and finally the resolution of the case dawned on him, "You are a vampire?"

"Now, how did you manage to come up with that? And all on your own, I'm impressed!" Azrael said sarcastically, flinging his arms up.

"Who are the alleged twins sitting in the theater right now?"

"Do I really have to explain everything to you?" the vampire asked, rolling his eyes. "They are two of my brides."

The police chief blinked. "Brides?"

"Please, my dear Michel, I really don't like being interrupted. Women, who I have bitten and turned into vampires. Usually, these are called brides. But now to your next question, which is practically written all over your face. Yes, while we are sitting here, Chalice is luring your men into a trap. They will be dinner for my loyal followers. But, do not be worried I can guarantee, they will not rise as undead."

"Are you going to kill me too?"

"That's the point, isn't it? For now, be calm. I need you somewhat alive to set a trap for our beautiful huntress." Azrael explained.

"Helena?"

"But of course Helena Leosol. Or do you know another huntress? I am slowly losing my patience with you. You humans are always so dense, which is really exhausting."

"You want to use me as bait?" Michel asked fearfully.

"That's right." Azrael looked deeply into the police chief's eyes, forcing access to the man's thoughts and mind. "You want to help me, don't you?"

"Yeeees," Michel murmured, caught in the vampire's dark spell.

"You will carry out all my orders?"

"Yeeees..."

"Really good. Your first order is to never let Helena Leosol out of your sight. I will stay in contact with you."

"Yeeees..."

"Now, you will go home, get some sleep and when I call you will go to her. Understood?"

"Yeeees..." Mechanically, Michel rose and left the house.

Azrael stroked his beard, grinning wildly. "Manipulation is a wonderful gift. And humans are so easy to manipulate." His laughter rang loudly through the silent house.

To Be Continued...

 

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