D never worried about money. Well, usually that is. Yes, he was a vampire hunter and yes he was paid for his services, but becoming rich was never D's goal. He would have hunted vampires even without the bounties. His reason for hunting vampires was intensely personal.
He made enough money from the bounties he did take to survive. He could live off the land if he had to, but every once in a while it was
Every one hundred years though, money became a concern. He caused something of a stir in the wine shop. He patiently waited his turn, enduring the sidelong glances from the regular patrons until the proprietor noticed him. The man was nervous, understandably so, hunters like D never stopped in stores like his. His nervousness was relieved when D purchased his oldest and most expensive bottle of wine. Everyone was amazed that D also purchased the two elegantly cut crystal goblets that were worth more than the rest of the store's stock combined. D matter of factly paid for his purchases and took his leave politely, never letting on how amused he was with the whole situation. In some form or another, this had become part of the ritual he observed every one hundred years.
"Oh? Is it that time again?" the irritating voice, pitched halfway between autocracy and whining, grated as always on D's nerves.
"You know that it is. Now hush!"
Sensing his mood, D's Left Hand obeyed and shut it's unnatural mouth, though D could feel the parasite's grumbling mood at D's high-handed treatment of it.
D had to laugh mentally at his own thoughts. He was behaving oddly, as if everything, even his own fate, were one huge jest.
Attuned as any of his race, the non-human race he unwillingly shared in that is, to the cycle of day and night, D realized the sun was beginning to set on this, one of the holiest of vampire nights. It seemed wrong to think of it that way, but the night of the Vampire Moon was a night blessed and joyfully observed by all vampires. D himself, half-vampire as he was, had devised his own ritual to observe.
The Vampire Moon occured only once every century. It was held that Dracula himself decended with the moonlight of the Vampire Moon from whatever vampiric paradise he had retreated to (for of course the Lord of All Vampires could never die) to bless all his vampire get with his presence once more. D wondered how many of his brethren and prey really believed in that. This was a night where they let their guard down, terrorizing humans as on no other night. It was held that they were immune to everything during the Vampire Moon and so, most vampires gave in to their darkest and basest instincts. Even D couldn't supress a shudder at that thought. The basest instincts of a vampire were evil indeed!
It was a night he could probably destroy a hundred vampires, or more, except for his own ritual. Perhaps the vampire legends were true, vampires did have a type of immunity on this night as on no other. On the night of the Vampire Moon, D's attention was certainly elsewhere.
D had found the copse days before, and decided to wait here, near this town, so he could use it for his ritual. It fit his needs perfectly; it was secluded and difficult to get to, briar bushes blocked the way of all but the most determined, but it was beautiful as well. He'd seen it in the moonlight on the nights leading up to this one and knew the boles and trunks of the trees would shine with silver when struck by the moonlight. There was a hillock covered with soft blades of grass as fine and sensual as human hair. If there were enough of a breeze it would carry a flowery scent through the trees too.
He'd made certain the wine was at the proper temperature before he broke the seal and poured out two glasses into the goblets that sparkled in the few last rays of the dying sun. He steeled his resolve against the temptations he knew he would soon endure, while also calming the flutter of anticipation he also felt. This meeting had occured so many times before, D couldn't even muster a laugh at his feelings that were as divided as his own nature was.
The Vampire Moon rose into the sky, not the blood-red one might expect from it's name, but the purest, clearest, most awful white. D imagined the screams that were just now being ripped from human throats as this most heinous of nights commenced.
Sighing, D removed his gloves, opened his Left Hand, and turned it palm up to let it bask in the light of the Vampire Moon.
Left Hand opened it's eyes impossibly wide, smiled an unholy smile, opened it's mouth and began to drink. It greedily drank in the moonlight, dimming the copse as it drank in all the moonlight splashing on the trees and grass, drawing the light into it's maw. D felt when that moment occured; when Left Hand had taken in enough of the light and energy of the Vampire Moon, thinned into mist and floated free of his hand.
D's right hand touched and stroked the now unmarked palm of his left, while he watched the mist of his Left Hand coalesce into a man-shaped form reclining on the hillock at the base of a tree. D matter of factly reached for one of the goblets and offered it.
"One of these times, it would be so refreshing to have a willing young thing with a slender neck, brimming with warm blood, instead of this weak substitute!" the complaint, as always, came, ringing in cultured, controlled, almost dulcet tones. D almost smiled.
"Though I admit, this substitute is better than most!" a smile graced the aristocratic face as an eyebrow climbed up in appreciation, "Thank you!"
"You're welcome, Father," D replied. He watched, dreading the conversation he knew would come, but enjoying these peaceful moments of just being with his father, Dracula, and being able to see and talk with him, again.
"You've fed me well this century," Dracula smiled gently, concealing the fangs he knew D detested. D nodded.
"Ironic that I now subsist on the very souls of those I would save
D said nothing. His father was coming to the arguments earlier than usual this century.
"But there are so many more to go. So many more vampires to kill. It is more than one man, or dhampir, can accomplish alone. Why not accept what I offer, and let me feed myself again?" Dracula's voice was soft and reasonable.
D answered in the same reasonable tones, "I don't mind feeding you."
"Bah! It's blood I want, boy, you know that! The blood you deny me...have denied me, for centuries!"
"Blood I will continue to deny you, Father. Can we not talk of something else? This night is too short..." D surprised himself with how much he wanted to talk with his father.
"Ah...D, why do you make things so hard on yourself?" Dracula's eyes were curiously soft.
"Why do you concern yourself with how hard things are for me? Speak not of it. I know it is but a rung in the ladder of your argument, Father, and it rings false."
Dracula laughed at the clever word-play.
"Ah, my boy, you know me too well! I want form again and not as a detestable thing in your hand but this! This glorious body brimming with power and strength!" Dracula stood, spread his arms wide, and breathed the flower-perfumed air deeply. Bathed in the moonlight, once more as he was, at the height of his power, D could see why his kin considered his father their god.
"But..." Dracula dropped his arms and stepped nearer to D. He placed one manicured hand on his son's cheek, stroking the soft suppleness of it, "You are my son and I do concern myself with you. No one knows better than I," Dracula's gaze flicked to D's left hand before coming to rest again on D's eyes, "how hard it all is for you. Trapped between two natures, caught between two worlds. A member of neither, understood by none, completely, horribly
"You should know by now you can't compel me, Father," D noted dryly after a moment, "Do you forget what happened the last time you tried that on me?"
As had happened once before, Dracula's hand stroked along D's jaw on it's way to the base of D's neck. Dracula's fingertips lightly rested on where the pulse of life beat strongest, on the spot where vampires prefered to drink. Only once before had Dracula been so daring with his son.
D looked at his father's eyes and realized that Dracula was re-enacting what had led up to that fateful moment. If not for the intense sadness in his father's eyes, D might have worried. His father was only remembering, not attempting.
D recalled that terrifying moment himself. He had been much younger than he was now, and correspondingly, much weaker. Something, to this day he did not know what, had frightened his father. Dracula had been all but raving when he had found D in the castle, forced his son to be docile with his compelling gaze, found D's carotid artery with his fingers, bared his fangs, and struck.
D threw off his father's compulsion just enough to bring a hand up to save his neck and his life. His left hand.
What had happened next had never been explained. Dracula drank, shrieked a banshee's wail, turned into mist and become the parasite on D's left hand. Ever since that moment, except under the light of the Vampire Moon, Dracula was tied to his son as D's Left Hand.
Dracula shuddered and glanced at D's left hand again, heeding D's veiled warning.
"Your guard might have been down today," Dracula commented lightly. He brought his hand up to rest upon D's cheek once more, even though his ruse had been revealled, before stepping back.
"My underhanded tactics aside, consider the offer. Accept, just once...and it would be all over for you. You left hand would remain your own, I could feed myself, you would be at my side, all fear, all confusion, all loneliness, gone, banished forever. Forever! You have that already, my boy, but you don't know how to enjoy it! I could show you!"
D considered, his father's tone and words crafting the spell that promised to break his loneliness as it did every century. He admitted that part of him yearned for what his father promised. As if sensing his weakening resolve, Dracula continued.
"It makes so much sense, D! Your blood would revive me, my bite would make you a full vampire! No more of this wavering between two races and two worlds, no more suffering and pain, no more loneliness! You would know your place...and your place would be at my side!" Dracula's voice rang out with confidence. D knew his father believed it would be the best for him certainly, but for D as well. That was what made it so very hard to resist him.
D closed his eyes against the hopeful light on his father's face. Dracula was insidious, weaving words of truth and affection, trying as always to convince D to give in and submit. D wondered why he fought so hard against it. He knew his father would do all he promised and more; D would not become just a weak vampire under his father's control, but an aristocrat in his own right.
An aristocrat...wielding power enough to force the earth to bring forth a castle for him. Monsters and mutants would come, drawn by his power to serve him. He would want for nothing, his merest whim would be the command of his minions, his vampire brethren would be his company, the people of the villages around his keep would be his assurance that his bloodthirst would always be
"NO!" D shouted aghast at the images his own mind had conjured.
"Why not?" Dracula's face revealled his puzzlement at D's rejection.
"Father...the humans are not our cattle."
"I know. But they are our food. As long as there are humans, and vampires, humans will be the vampires' food," Dracula agreed, "But you know that I agree with you. They are not cattle, they shouldn't be treated like they are. Indeed, those vampires who treat humans as such are the crudest of all, scarcely deserving the name, 'vampire'. Monster is more like it."
D closed his eyes again in pain. His father was so close, so close! If...
If no other vampire existed...
If D could make certain that no one would ever be forced to live as he lived, a child of two worlds, a
If his father would promise not to prey upon humans, but only take the food he absolutely
...he could see himself accepting his father's offer, accepting the bite his father would give, becoming himself a full vampire, becoming fully Dracula's son, becoming fully what part of him yearned to
He thought of his mother. The human woman who had given birth to him, a creature half-human and half-vampire. She had done such a thing out of love. She had loved his father and that misguided love had led to D being born.
If he were a vampire, fully a vampire...he would need to drink. He wouldn't be able to deny the bloodthirst as he did now. He would feed, gently, tenderly upon humans, never threatening them or harming them beyond the necessary harm he would have to give, in order to survive. Wouldn't he then, in the boredom caused by an idle, immortal life, seek companionship? Wouldn't he relent and allow himself to love? With no other vampires but himself and his father
And himself start the vicious cycle all over again. D shook his head in pain. What his father offered, what he himself yearned for, could never be.
"Father...as long as there are vampires, any vampires, humans are threatened. I will hunt, until the last vampire is destroyed." D's voice rasped in his throat.
"I won't let that happen," Dracula stated quietly, firmly.
"Father...you can't stop me."
Dracula snorted, "D, your own blood is tainted. And there is me. Surprising to think that the most successful vampire hunter of all holds all the power of Dracula in the palm of his hand! His Left Hand."
"'Left Hand'..." D echoed, "Father..."
Dracula inclined his head attentively.
"Why must you be so annoying...when you are my Left Hand?"
"Simple. If I were pleasant, you'd have no reason to give in to my request. One of these centuries, m'boy, you will give in, just to be free of your annoying Left Hand."
"What are you going to do, D, when your quest is fulfilled? What happens when we are all that is left of the noble race of vampires?" Dracula asked curiously.
"On that day, Father, when the last vampire is dead, on that day, I will take my Left Hand..."
D took in a deep breath and expelled it slowly.
"I will take my Left Hand...and go with it to hell."
Dracula looked at D for a long moment, frustration, consternation and affection all showing on his face.
"That's a thousand years or more from now," he noted.
D nodded. That was his estimate too.
"At least ten more nights like this, trying to convince you to accept your real
D sighed as he agreed with his father on that point.
"A thousand years of enduring your annoying Left Hand..."
D nodded again, sighing even more deeply than before.
"If that day comes, D," Dracula smiled suddenly, "If you bring it
He stepped forward and embraced his son suddenly, just as the moon dipped below the horizon and the sun rimmed the sky to the east.
"By then, I might be ready to take that journey to hell with you!" Dracula dissolved in the dawn's light into mist again.
"Maybe!" Dracula laughed.
D smiled a mirthless smile as he opened his left hand and allowed the mist to enter it. The face of the Left Hand formed on D's palm again. D closed his hand gently, almost like an embrace, before opening it to pull his glove on. There was a suspicious drop of moisture clinging to the eye of the Left Hand as the glove was drawn over it's face once more.