Chapter 4: Dusk
Aestas gazed down at the pile of stakes that Manny and Pat managed to fletch. They were crude and rather short, but it was all they could manage in the time they had left.
“We’ve got about another two hours before the sun sets, I think,” Pat said. “I just hope at least one of us makes it out of here okay and let the others know what happened.”
“We’re all going to get out of here,” Aestas said firmly.
“What makes you so sure? It’s three against one, but Count Draynor’s still a lot stronger, even though you are a vampire too.”
“We’re all going to get out of here,” Aestas repeated. “We’re going to stop Count Draynor and we’re going to get out of here.”
Manny put down the last of the stakes and his fletching knife, then turned to the others. “What’s it like being a vampire anyway? Maybe we can use what we know against Count Draynor.”
Aestas shook her head. “I don’t know… I’m still new to all of it…” She clutched her amulet tightly. Papa, please help us…
“My parents died because of him.”
Manny and Aestas remained silent while Pat went on. “They were trying to protect the village and came here to stop Count Draynor. Father was a skilled swordsman while Mother was a mage in training. But Count Draynor, he turned them… When my parents came back to the village…” Pat bit his lip a little, holding back tears. “Morgan had to stop them.”
“I’m sorry,” Aestas whispered.
“It’s been six years since it happened.” Pat picked up one of the stakes, stabbing the air with it a few times. “I hope tonight it’ll be the last night we’ll see Count Draynor again.”
Aestas nodded, gazing towards the ladder. It wasn’t long now before the Count would come up.
“Maybe we could try to stab him while he’s climbing up?”
“No, he’d just transform into a bat or something to fly out instead.”
As the boys continued to debate on their strategy, Aestas looked back down at her amulet. She remembered what Grum had said about the amulet having a secret thanks to Wizard Mizgog, but what? Is there something magical about this?
“Sun’s almost gone,” Pat whispered.
Aestas looked out the window just as the sun’s last rays disappeared over the horizon. The room plummeted into darkness. As the three huddled close together besides the window with stakes in hand, they could hear a soft chuckle, followed by the creaking of the ladder
“You’re still here.” The Count emerged from the cellar below, surveying his opponents. “And armed I see. It’s no use, children. You cannot possibly defeat me. But perhaps you can feed me instead…” The Count let out a howl, turning into a ravenous wolf. “And what a feast you shall be…”
Manny lunged first, dodging as the Count tried to meet him head on with his own charge. The boy tried to stab the Count’s neck as he ran past, only to be swiped across the room by a massive paw. Manny crashed into a worn four-poster bed in a small heap, slightly dazed. The Count growled as he stalked towards his prey, licking his jowls.
Pat let out a cry of rage and rushed in to defend his friend. The Count turned around and pounced him, pinning Pat to the ground. Aestas watched in horror as the Count tried to maul Pat with his massive teeth. Pat struck blindly with his stake, finally managing to lodge one inside the Count’s side. The Count let out a howl of pain, but did not release his prey. He bit down hard onto Pat’s exposed wrist, drinking in the blood as Pat cried out, struggling to get away.
“Get off of him!” Manny yelled, kicking the Count hard where the stake was lodge, pushing it deeper into him. The Count let go and staggered back, his face covered with blood. As he turned back to his humanoid form, Aestas quickly ran over to Pat, pulling off her apron to wrap his wrist up.
“Are you okay?” she asked.
“I’ll be fine! Just don’t let the Count hurt anyone else!”
Aestas picked up her own stake as the Count pulled out the one from his side. “You think you can hurt me so easily? Well think again!” With a loud hiss he turned into a python, quickly wrapping himself around Manny’s ankles. Manny let out a cry of surprise as the Count tugged hard, sending him to the ground. Before either Aestas or Pat could react, the Count dragged him down the ladder with him.
“No! Manny!” Pat scrambled towards the ladder and looked down into the darkness. He could hear Manny screaming for help, but his cries were growing faint. Suddenly a large pair of fangs shot out and struck him in the eyes. Pat staggered back, clutching his face. “Damn it!”
“I’m going after him! Stay here!” Aestas ordered, grabbing a few extra stakes before climbing down.
“Aestas, be careful!”
When she got off the ladder, Aestas gazed around. She could no longer hear Manny screaming, and she feared that the Count had finished him off. The torch-lit room did very little to help fend off the darkness as she walked, the smell of blood getting stronger with each step.HISS!
Aestas jumped and looked behind her, only to find an angry rat scurrying away. She let out a breath, continuing her walk again.
I must be brave… I must be brave… Papa saved me from the Count… And now I must save my neighbors… Aestas swallowed a lump in her throat when the torch-light revealed bloody drag marks. She looked up about thirty paces ahead and found Manny, unconscious and wrapped tightly in the coils of the python with the python’s fangs lodged deep in his neck. She gasped as the python unwrapped itself and pulled away from the boy. Just barely Aestas could hear Manny groan, but there wasn’t anything to show if he was still human or not.
“So it all comes to this, daughter,” Count Draynor snickered as he regained his proper form. “Just you and me in this big house. We could be a very happy family you know.”
“I’m not your daughter. You’re not my Papa!”
“Oh but I am! Remember that night I came to you? You said I could be your Papa.” The Count advanced towards her. Aestas raised her stake in the air, only to have it knocked out of her hand. She stepped backwards while the Count continued to taunt her. “Little girl, did you really think you could stop me? You and your friends will die here tonight!”
Aestas shook her head, pulling out another stake just as she felt the back of her foot hit the wall behind her. She was trapped!
“That foolish slayer thought he could save you… Well, where is he now?” The Count grabbed Aestas by the front of her dress, snarling. “Any last words before I finish you off?”
“Don’t talk about Papa that way!” Aestas stammered.
“Stupid.” The Count pushed Aestas’s head hard against the stone wall as he bit down into her neck, drinking in her blood with greedy slurps. Aestas struggled, trying to stab the Count as she felt herself weaken. No… I can’t die… Papa, I need help…
Her amulet softly began to glow. Count Draynor looked but the glowing had stopped. He went back to his feast. The amulet glowed again, this time brighter. The vampire let go of Aestas in surprise, stepping back and shielding his eyes as the glowing got brighter.
“What is this?” He gasped as he felt his skin begin to burn. “No! What kind of sorcery is this?!”
Manny opened his eyes and stared weakly ahead. He could see the Count staggering back towards him, shouting something about the sun being in the cellar. Manny slowly stood up, despite his weakness, and picked up the stake he had dropped.
“Go back to hell where you belong,” he gasped as he plunged the stake into the Count’s heart. Count Draynor let out a roar of rage and surprise.
Upstairs, Pat looked down worriedly. His face was badly scratched but had more or less stopped bleeding. At the sound of the roar, he scrambled down the ladder and found Aestas on the ground unconscious and a stunned Manny across the room.
“What happened?” he asked. He glanced around and noticed a pile of ash on the ground. “Is that… is that him?”
“Yeah… He’s gone back with Zamorak…” Manny looked at Aestas. “Is she okay?”
Pat knelt down besides Aestas, gently shaking her by the shoulder, trying to ignore the blood on her neck. “Aestas?” No response. “Come on, Aestas, wake up…”
Final Chapter: Evening
Morgan and some of adventurers that had volunteered to help found them sometime before midnight. On the way back to the village, Manny told them what happened. A healer waited for their return and quickly went to work caring for them.
A few hours later, Morgan came to check up on them. Pat and Manny were already sitting up, their injuries properly attended to. But Aestas was still unconscious.
The healer took Morgan out of the room away from the boys for a moment. “I’m afraid there’s not much I can do, Morgan. She’s not human and we’re not trained to heal vampires.”
“Please, at least tell me if she’ll live.”
“She’s very weak… We’ll continue to monitor her progress into morning.”
Morgan sighed as he walked into the room where Aestas lay. “You saved them, Aestas…” He sat down on a chair nearby. “And you showed them not all vampires are bad. Count Draynor’s now gone and Draynor will forever be in your debt.”
Morgan opened his eyes and was surprised to find Aestas sitting up on the bed. “Aestas, you’re awake!”
“Are Pat and Manny okay?”
“Yes, thanks to you. How do you feel?”
“Different…” Aestas bit her lip a little. “Morgan… I think I can go to heaven now.”
“What do you mean, child?” Morgan quickly went to the bedside.
“I don’t feel so scared anymore… I know one day I’ll see Mama and Christopher… and Papa too… He said I could…”
The little girl smiled sadly. “Papa and Mama said it wasn’t my time to be with them yet. They said I have to grow up first…”
Aestas remained in Draynor for the remainder of her life, helping Morgan and Dr. Harlow with their research now and again. Despite being part vampire, she grew out of the scared little girl who came to the village and into a brave young woman with a strong desire to learn more about the world around her. Every few months she would go to help Dr. Harlow expand his studies on the undead, and every few months she would bring home scrolls of knowledge to him.
Morgan looked up from his reading as he heard Aestas open the door. “Welcome home, Aestas. Where did you go this time? Dr. Harlow was rather secretive this time.”