For years I've sworn I'd write a Vampire Hunter D - Totoro crossover. 
Well, I've finally done it, but I had to cheat: neither D nor, properly 
speaking, Totoro appears. I hope I've nonetheless managed to capture 
the wonder and magic of Totoro's universe. The story takes place 
in the same continuity as my earlier fanfic, "Meier and Charlotte: 
A Beginning"; having read the earlier story helps but is not a 
prerequisite. (It is available at the fanfic page.) 
Having seen My Neighbor Totoro is also not a prerequisite, but 
that, too, would probably make the story clearer. 

This story is rated G and contains no sex or violence.


Place of the Heart: A Vampire Hunter D - Totoro crossover 

by Cathy Krusberg 
aka The Certifiable VHD Fanatic 

Death. It need not be any concern of the vampire-kind, or at least that 
was what Meier's parents had tried to impress upon him -- Meier's 
parents, and the contemporaries of his youth. But the vampires he had 
sported with in those long-ago days were gone, his mother dead, his 
father departed. And the little life that had sprung up in the darkness 
of his existence was gone too, snuffed out like a fallen star. 

The starship had an efficient A.I.; what it lacked in initiative, it 
compensated for in thoroughness once it was given an order. They had 
been in transit for the better part of a day when it occurred to Meier 
that Charlotte's remains couldn't be allowed to just lie untended, not 
unless he wanted to watch her putrefy to bones. Numbly, he discussed 
options with the A.I. and elected cryogenic preservation as the course 
to adopt at least in the interim, as that would effectually hold her in 
stasis with the least disruption to her body. Frozen like the coldness 
of space... 

Stasis was an increasingly attractive choice for him as well. The ship 
was well equipped for a long journey, with books, electronic forms of 
entertainment, and viewing screens, but these held no attraction for 
Meier. If Charlotte could have oblivion, he could have it too, at least 
for a little while, and that was usually the choice of Nobility who 
traveled into space. After all, what was the loss of weeks or months 
or years when immortality beckoned? 

Consequently Meier had no idea how much time had passed when the 
warming and freshening of the air in his coffin slowly brought him to 
consciousness. It took him some minutes of increasing wakefulness to 
slowly orient himself to his present circumstances. He was not in his 
castle but in a spaceship, and the events preceding his journey came 
back in sorrowful fragments. Charlotte was dead like so many of the 
Nobles, and he was going through the motions of keeping his promise to 
her -- that he would take her to the City of the Night, where they could 
be together. 

Meier sat up, rubbing his eyes. "Computer, current location?" 

"Stationary orbit approximately two thousand kilometers above the City of 
the Night. Please select a perimeter docking station." 

The nearest viewing screen showed a schematic of the city; glowing dots 
represented the dozen available ports, and Meier touched one at random. 

"Selection confirmed. Docking process initiated. Four hours, forty-seven 
minutes to touchdown. Approximate ETA oh three hundred hours, eleven 
minutes local time." 

"Display realtime." 

The schematic was immediately replaced by a view of their destination, 
the City of the Night and its immediate surroundings. The image was of 
course partially synthesized: vampires could see in the dark, but their 
technology was hampered by mundane physical laws; where visible light 
was insufficient for imaging, it was supplemented by infrared or 
replaced entirely by radar or sonar. Meier found this sort of 
reconstructed view very unsatisfying and made his way to the ship's main 
viewing window, where he could see the City of the Night with his own 
eyes through its reinforced but extremely clear glass. 

What he had told Charlotte about the city was merely hearsay, although 
among his kind it had been considered common knowledge for millennia. 
Now he learned the truth of it. It WAS a domed city, exterior pale to 
reflect back the light of whatever sun shone on this world. The dome was 
entirely featureless, and Meier's gaze was soon drawn to the surrounding 
landscape. It seemed to be a vast, unbroken forest, and Meier began 
scanning it for signs of habitation before mentally giving himself a 
shake; of course everyone here lived in the confines of the city. The 
atmosphere might not even be safe to breathe. In any case, what was the 
point of traveling to the City of the Night only to set up housekeeping 
in the trackless, artless wilderness? 

All the same, there was beauty to the gentle rise and fall of the 
treetops. The expanse of the planet grew larger and larger, its 
orientation changing as the ship positioned itself to be received at the 
docking station. Meier wondered about the history of the landscape, and 
the domed city. Had its creators deliberately set it in the midst of 
this greenery, or had the area changed over the millennia? Reports of 
the City of the Night had described only its interior, not the 
surroundings. And indeed, why should the Nobility concern themselves 
with untamed, chaotic nature? They had created magnificent technology to 
support themselves and fulfill their every need or desire; why would any 
Noble forsake what pertained and belonged to the Nobility by right? 

But it was at the woodlands, and not the smooth, sterile city dome, that 
Meier gazed as the ship touched down at last. 

There was an almost cosmic insignificance in arrival at the City of the 
Night. Meier delayed entering it for some time; somehow it almost no 
longer seemed worthwhile. When he finally passed through the 
airlock joining his ship and the dock, he walked through a long, 
smooth-walled tunnel and passed beneath an archway into a beautiful 
but unliving city. 

From the first moment, Meier was struck by its deadness. It was utterly 
silent and still. There was no breeze, no birds or insects. The subtle 
lighting must have been accomplished by some form of chemical reaction 
or phosphorescence; there was no hum of electrical power. Only Meier's 
footsteps, his breathing and heartbeat, resounded in those streets of 
stillness. Carmila had said she had heard that the city was deserted, 
but the full implication of that possibility had not struck Meier, and 
he still found it difficult to assimilate. How could a place be so 
still? It was nearly as sterile as the space between the stars. At first 
Meier had wanted to call out with a halloo to see if any would respond, 
but after a time it seemed almost a sacrilege to think of breaking the 
silence. So he remained as quiet as he could and all but crept back to 
the ship when he felt the lethargy that signaled dawn approaching. 

When he rose the next evening, he vowed that he would spend the night 
properly exploring the city, one way or another. Surely not all the 
Nobles who had come here had departed, or been slain, or withdrawn into 
stasis. The ship's computer downloaded and displayed a schematic of the 
city but had no information regarding its inhabitants. It was, however, 
able to tell him that no other ships were at the docking stations that 
dotted the city's periphery. 

Meier's heart sank at this information. Of course, a ship could have 
brought several vampires and left some when it departed, but that seemed 
unlikely. But the notion that he was the only living being in the City 
of the Night also held an aura of unreality. At the archway where he 
entered the city proper, he tensed his shoulders, stretched his arms 
into cape-wings, and leapt into flight, counting on his preternaturally 
keen senses to pick up any trace of life that might be present. 

Meier remembered what he had told Charlotte about the City of the Night: 
that it was a place of beauty, filled with structures like his own 
castle but decorated in a rainbow of colors; ornamented with parklike 
places wherein there grew exotic trees and flowers of every kind. Half 
of this proved true. It was indeed a city of castles, and some of them 
were elaborately ornamented. There were fearsome gargoyles in gleaming 
obsidian, gilded towers -- some even with belfries -- magnificent 
stonework, sometimes mosaic-like in its use of color and form. Meier 
couldn't help being impressed; he occasionally slowed and circled to 
better observe particularly well-appointed buildings. But even in his 
most rapt fascination it did not escape him that all this beauty was set 
in a world utterly devoid of life. Not only were there no animate 
inhabitants -- no Nobles, no humans, no horses or dogs, no birds or 
insects -- but not even living plants. There were plants, but they were 
the product of artifice. Some appeared to be real ferns or flowers or 
trees, but there was no life in them; they had been carefully preserved 

[like Charlotte] 

like the proverbial flies in amber. Others were in fact works of art, 
silk flowers and paper leaves. Meier wasn't sure why this left him 
disappointed. The jewel-like blossoms were the pinnacle of artistic 
achievement, and it was a vampire's supernatural sensibilities, not 
his eyes, that told him that the green and gleaming leaves they nested 
among, or proudly sprang from, had been wrought by Nobles' skills 
and preserved through Nobles' technology. The same technology had 
made it possible for him to flee the earth, had created the City of the 

In all its sterility and elegant silence. 

It was a huge city. Its extent of course dwarfed the castles it 
contained. It would have been embarrassing to construct a castle that 
could be described as modest in any way, and just as embarrassing not to 
give those magnificent edifices room to spare. From end to end or side 
to side (all the same, since the city was circular in outline) was a 
lengthy flight. One thing that Meier did early on was find the city's 
very center. Its heart was a bed of soil, a perfect circle sunk through 
the pavement of what might have been called a park. Of course nothing 
grew there, and indeed it was dry as dust, for it was the stuff of 
vampires' replenishment, earth exposed for the refreshment of any 
traveler wearied from traversing the city's extent. Meier scooped up 
handfuls of it and let the dust trickle down between his fingers. Its 
real benefit to vampires, he knew, was derived not from its touch but 
from actual contact with or immersion in the substance of a planet. Even 
standing or sitting on a surface like this could act as a conduit for 
the mysterious flow that made the earth the Nobles' shelter and comfort. 

Meier so wearied himself exploring the city that flight back to his ship 
seemed an excessive effort. As the buildings were evidently untenanted, 
there was surely no harm in sheltering in one for the day. His choice 
was a great gray hulk with rough-hewn foundations that rose up into 
elaborate towers, truly an earthy-looking edifice. Entering was as 
simple as walking in the first door he encountered. Had Meier been less 
tired, he might have enjoyed exploring the hallways. As it was, he made 
his way to the lowest level he could find and, absent a coffin, wrapped 
himself in the folds of his cape and curled up in a welcoming corner. 

Waking up in a strange place was a bit disorienting; Meier felt almost 
naked without the familiar confines of his coffin. He also felt a bit 
like a trespasser, even though there seemed to be no one else to lay 
claim to the castle. Experimentally, he tried a voice command: 
"Computer, report." 

This was met with the same vast silence as all his other efforts. Surely 
the castle was not without a central A.I. -- it was unthinkable. Perhaps 
it was programmed to respond only to certain voices, or certain commands. 

Meier explored parts of the castle in desultory fashion on his way to an 
outlet. There were no furnishings, unless one counted the unlit sconces 
and chandeliers that lined the walls and dotted the ceilings. Meier made 
no attempt to look for light sources; he could see in the utter darkness -- 
though indeed, he reflected, there was little enough to be seen in this 
abandoned pile of stones. 

He left the way he had come in but stopped at the doorway, taken aback 
at a scent that had been absent the morning before. It was unmistakably 
water -- rain. 


Meier closed the door behind him and leapt into flight. Rain in the City 
of the Night was unthinkable. The Nobility detested water in any form, 
and particularly moving water, whether a current along the ground or 
precipitation from the sky. The technology that had created the City of 
the Night would control its climate in a way that prevented 
meteorological events entirely. And indeed, the odor was faint -- surely 
not the result of rainfall from beneath the dome. But the city was 
sealed off from the planet's atmosphere -- where else could it 
come from? 

A few minutes of following his nose gave Meier the answer. Behind a row 
of elaborate synthetic espalier-trained trees was -- Meier winced at the 
sight -- a breach in the dome. Where the gleaming surface touched the 
ground was a rent -- taller than he, jagged at its darkened edges. And 
outside in the darkness, rain poured down. Meier hesitantly drew nearer, 
then leapt back as a sudden gust of wind spattered water into the dome. 
Meier shook himself like a dog, although what he had met was barely a 
mist. It didn't matter. He was no more fond of water than any other 
vampire -- especially water that leapt forth to assault him. 

Meier drew his cape around himself and assumed a wary stance at a 
respectful distance from this horror. How had the dome been breached? 
And given that it had been, why had repairs not been effected? If the 
planet's atmosphere was indeed poisonous ... but Meier's senses told him 
this was unlikely. He was certainly inhaling it and feeling no ill 
effects. And the hole ... Meier studied it from where he stood, then 
edged closer when he was sure the wind had slackened. The hole wasn't 
new. There were vines creeping in at its center, green, living vines -- 
the first live plants Meier had seen up close and personal on the 
planet. And they were invading the dome. Surely robots should have 
repaired it long ago. 

Meier reflected then that he had seen no sign of maintenance robots. 
Their absence was impossible; even products of the Nobles' technology 
needed to be checked now and then for structural integrity. A structure 
like the dome would have internal security-type circuitry that would alert 
a central computer at the first sign of a failure. Or so Meier expected. 
Did the dome contain no such devices, or was the central computer not 
functioning? Come to think of it, Meier had seen no sign of computer 
surveillance or availability the whole time he'd been in the city, which 
_was_ strange. The Nobles relied on A.I. devices even as human 
nobility had relied on their servants in centuries past. 

Meier watched the rain for a long time with something like morbid 
fascination. It made him shiver fearfully, and yet there was something 
powerful about it and ... Meier was surprised to realize that the 
sound of it was somehow soothing. He rationalized that it was a relief 
to hear anything after the tomblike silence of the city, but in his 
heart he knew it was more than that. The rain _belonged_. It belonged 
on this world, belonged with the plants. However terrible it might be for 
his kind, it was right to fall. And it did make such a peaceful sound... 

When another wind gust hit him full in the face, however, Meier decided 
it was best to hear the rain at a somewhat greater remove. He took 
shelter behind the espalier row and shook himself off again, then took 
wing for "home": his spaceship and, more to the point, its blood 
synthesizer. (Although surely the city had functioning blood 
synthesizers; living without them was as unthinkable as living without 
the computers that operated them.) 

After a very welcome breakfast, Meier drew more information from the 
ship's interface with the city's central A.I. Were there other 
inhabitants of the city? Were there A.I. contact points? Blood 
synthesizers? And could the dome wall be repaired before vines started 
climbing the espalier trees? 

The central A.I. concerned itself with demands for its services, not the 
presence or absence of inhabitants. There had been no such demands for 
over three hundred years local time. (Closer to five hundred years Earth 
time.) Meier stared. Three hundred years, or five hundred? The city had 
been deserted for that long? 

He skimmed the protocols for establishing residency, which would enable 
him to access his chosen castle's blood synthesizer. Raw materials were 
transported via a complex underground network. One could report damage 
to one's residence, or even request remodeling, but there was apparently 
no mechanism for doing the same with the dome itself. It was intended to 
be self-sustaining and had no provision for failure of its native 
maintenance mechanism. 

Where Meier had hoped to at least achieve tranquillity, he was instead 
sliding into despair. The Nobles' technology intended to make this place 
a haven for his kind was crumbling at the edges, and he was utterly, 
utterly alone. The nearest thing to company available was ... Charlotte, 
and Meier retired to the side of her cryogenic chamber to gaze at her 
for what must have been the first time in months. The sight of that 
beautiful face was not a comfort; it only reminded him how close they 
had been to realizing their dream, and how it had truly come to nothing. 
Meier didn't even have the comfort of familiar surroundings. His castle, 
his lands, his planet were all behind him -- a lifetime away, it seemed 
in his solitude and helplessness. What would Charlotte have thought of 
this place if she had lived? Would she have seen only the emptiness and 
desolation? Would she have been frightened at the breakdown in 
technology that the breach in the dome represented? Meier certainly was, 
insofar as it is possible to be frightened when life offers no future 
prospects and death is at least an avenue to symbolic victory. Many 
vampires, Meier knew, had succumbed to just such sentiments on Earth as 
they saw their own race dying, their own futures stretching into a 
desert eternity. Meier had sometimes wondered why he too had not chosen 
some final step. Cowardice, his father would have said. But when he had 
told Charlotte that -- one of the very few times he had spoken of his 
father -- Charlotte shook her head. "You're not a coward for wanting to 
live, Meier," she told him. "Humans think suicide is cowardice -- to 
kill yourself instead of trying to solve your problems." 

Meier half-smiled at her. "My father wasn't human, dear." 

By that time Charlotte knew him well enough to indulge in good-natured 
familiarities, and she gave his nose a playful tap with her forefinger.
"That doesn't mean he was right. Anyway --" and here she linked her 
arm into his and drew close to him "-- I don't want you to die, even if 
you do it being brave. Promise me you won't die, Meier." 

"Charlotte, that's a great deal to ask, even of a vampire." 

"Then at least say you won't kill yourself. Even if something ... even 
if something happens to me." Her voice dropped to a whisper. "I don't 
want you to die." 

Meier's throat had gone tight even then, and the memory brought him 
dangerously close to tears. 

"And I gave you my word," he told her, reaching out a pale, taloned hand 
to touch the cold glass that separated them. "I thought I would want to 
die if you died, and I never dreamed it would happen so soon. But we 
would both hold it against me if I were to break my word..." 

Sunrise found Meier open-eyed in his coffin, wondering what honorable 
course he could bear. 

* * * 

End part 1 of 3 

Part 2
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