Chapter 4

The sun was warm and bright, perhaps even blinding. Through the emerald canopy, there was an almost tranquil and mystic glow that emitted from the yellow globe in the sky. However, when trying to shed through the green roof of the menacing forest, it wasn’t that useful for providing sufficient light, nor hope. Callista, with the two mages on her back, was trotting down the dirt path, which was bordered by the dark, green barricade of trees. Worry was as plain as daylight in her eyes, as well as in every step she took. It was beginning to spread to her riders, too.

Her hooves stopped treading on the old, callous soil, causing Tristessa and Tanya to give the horse a look of concern and inquiry. Did she sense danger? What was the delay?

"What is it, Callista?" the fiery-haired mage asked. The animal answered with a small shake of her ivory head, then followed by a soft snort. She was irritated by something they had yet to see. After Tristessa gave her a comforting pat on her mane, again, the stallion moved forward, her steps a touch slower than before. Tanya was soundless behind her companion, simply staring ahead around the other witch’s arm in order to detect anything peculiar.

"There," she gasped softly, and though the sound was quiet and barely heard above Callista’s trotting, it caused both her and Tristessa to jerk in surprise. Tanya pointed a finger out to the distance. There was a clearing in the woods, and beyond it, a series of low hills, prairies, and a small pond. It was a fair few yards away, but still within sight. "The Blue Plains."

"Why do they call them The Blue Plains when they’re not even blue?" Tristessa asked, coaxing a soft chuckle from Tanya.

"I can only propose that it’s because it never rains here. The skies are always blue."

They continued forward, Callista appearing a little less reluctant than earlier, apparently motivated by the hopeful opening of light that waited for them. A howl sounding in the distance caused her to freeze and panic again. Perhaps it was just a wolf, but with one vicious canine came more of them. Such creatures were known to travel in packs.

"Go, Callista!" Tristessa suddenly shouted, her green eyes darting over her left shoulder in panic. She saw a shape beyond the countless, leaning columns, then another one standing close by that was identical. Quickly, before she could get a good look at the beasts that were stalking them, they were off, the air smacking her in the face with a chilly, painful force, momentarily mistaken for the twigs that branched from the barren trees. Suddenly, there was a squeal from the white steed, and Tanya lost hold, slipping down the behind and into the forest’s dirt.

"Damnit!" Tristessa hissed, yanking on the harness’s rope in hopes to steady Callista. And then she realized why the horse had reacted the way she had.

They were surrounded. Three more figures on four legs appeared before them, and the first two were a lot closer, ready to attack from behind. They resembled wolves, although everything about them was bigger. They were primarily black, short-haired on the body while the fur on their tails displayed much more in extension. They glared, hunger flickering in the crimson depths of their eyes. Their claws and fangs were also quite prominent, threatening to dig the deepest incisions into their flesh. Tristessa wouldn’t have been surprised if they even caused infection. They were all still and waiting around them, one of them hungrily licking its jaws as it spotted vulnerable Tanya on the ground.

Suddenly, one launched itself toward her, but as she defensively threw out her arm to cover her face, a wall of vines sprouted from the ground to throw back the monstrous wolf. It was enough to alarm the beasts, and as Tristessa pulled her back up onto the horse, they were taking flight at full speed toward the clearing.

Once again, however, the path was choked, and another diabolical canine stood between the group and their means of escape. Callista was forced to turn around and take another route. In moments, they were getting further and further away from the light. At the revelation, Tristessa cursed under her breath.

Soon after the wolves were out of sight, Callista came to a steady halt.

"Is there another way out?"

"I… I don’t know…" Tanya answered.

Callista shifted uncomfortably, huffing and puffing beneath them before releasing another snort. She was trying to detect the savage dogs again.

"What were they?"

"Stygian hounds," came the matter-of-fact reply. "Somewhat like hellhounds, but much larger." She looked to the direction they came from. There were no howls - no signs of the Stygian hounds coming for them. But now, they were lost - a fate not much better than the one they just managed to crawl out of. Both of the girls looked from left to right, but even though Tanya knew the adjacent areas of Payal rather well, she was equally as dumbfounded. The intimidation of the forest certainly didn’t help matters.

Tristessa looked over at her friend, curiosity lighting up her eyes. “What was that, anyway?” she asked.

"What?"

"Those things that shot up from the ground… Were they vines?"

Tanya seemed to understand, according to the look on her face, but she couldn’t seem to answer the question. “I guess they were,” she said. “Where did they come from?”

Tristessa looked around at the trees that towered over them. Was it possible that perhaps the forest was trying to aid them? Maybe even Strider Forest wanted to see them vanquish the Prince of Darkness. Silly as it sounded, with some of the things in the world, it wasn’t impossible for a place to have instincts.

"We’d best keep moving," she proposed after a moment’s silence. "The hounds will find us if we don’t." Which direction to take was another question altogether, as Callista’s frenzy had taken them well off-course from the beaten path.

"Tristessa," Tanya then murmured from behind her. In her peripheral vision, she saw a finger stretch out towards the trees of the forest, darkening and seeming ever taller. "Sundown is only a couple of hours away. What will we do if we don’t make it out in time?"

The redhead could only imagine that the numbers of the Stygian hounds would only grow when dusk settled, but she didn’t want her fear to get the best of them. “We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it,” she insisted, “but I’m sure we’ll be fine.” In truth, she was far from certain, and perhaps giving Tanya false hopes wasn’t the right thing to do. All they could do was continue on, and hope, even if not fully genuine, was all they had to rely on.

 
 
Tanya, portrayed by Miss Victoria Murder.

Tanya, portrayed by Miss Victoria Murder.

 
 
Tristessa, portrayed by model, Ulorin Vex.

Tristessa, portrayed by model, Ulorin Vex.

 
 

Chapter 3

It was a rainy morning - one that Tristessa believed she could have gone without. Unfortunately, despite being a mage, she had no control over the weather’s conditions. It was only wishful thinking for a young woman as herself to administrate such an ability. Sorcerers five times older than herself even dreamed of it, if not at least just began their practices. The sun had still another couple of hours before it would peer over the treetops of the peaceful forest, yet it was decided to be a good time for the yellow-haired teenager to make her way toward Tanya’s home, which was located just down the road from her own.

Bernadette had found it difficult to let her daughter out of the small town of Payal, but after insisting that she take a pouch full of fresh, wheat bread and some boxed crackers, she released her with a sweet kiss on the forehead. Tristessa was then on her way, the tattered, beige bag hanging on her right shoulder as she left for the stables. Soon, she was on Callista’s back, riding her down the dusty path and leaving behind a fearful mother.

Would Tristessa return? How would God have her die? No, Bernadette! Don’t think that way! Still her little girl, she and her riding horse were getting smaller and smaller as they traveled further down the plains. She will be fine…

The ride was swift and turbulent, but it served no trouble for the female mage, who simply held onto Callista’s harness, her grip tighter than what might have been necessary. Some were capable of riding a stallion with a bare back, but Tristessa certainly didn’t trust that she had that much dexterity.

Finally, Tanya’s two-story home was in plain sight from a short elevation of grass parallel to the deserted streets. It seemed that either no one was aware of their departure, or they simply didn’t want to bid any farewells. Skittish Callista had been somewhat hesitant to slide down the rocky slope, but after a bit of comfort given by her rider, the stallion swept smoothly downward, reaching the bottom lawn with grace and galloping toward the residence. It seemed that Tanya was already waiting for their arrival as she stood at the doorway, a sheathed sword hanging on a belt. She had dressed herself in pale, brown leather. To Tristessa, she really did pull off the appearance of a warrior. She confessed, she was proud.

"You look ready," Tristessa pointed out with a lingering smile.

"You don’t," contradicted Tanya, her expression matching that of her friend’s. "Where’s your weapon?"

"I have to find my grandfather before we can get to the fun part, I’m afraid. It’s with him." She dismounted the lively animal long enough to approach her friend. It was quiet for a few moments, as if the two of them were trying to picture a summary of the impending mission. Personally, even while her face didn’t show it, Tristessa was terrified. She had never done anything quite like this before, and why her grandfather, James, had delivered such a burden to her was not within her comprehension.

"I was worried I would die of that fever I had during the winter," Tanya murmured. Tristessa recalled the tragedy too well. Both her own family and Tanya’s had received quite a scare when the girl came down with a terrible flu. She had been retching almost constantly, and her fever, according to the town’s doctor, had been nearly fatal. Herbal medicine, of course, was their best friend at the time.

"Yet, you still want to go through with it?"

"I’d die for you, Tristessa. You’re the closest thing I have to a sister. Besides, you know how dull I’d feel if I was missing out on an adventure like this. Maybe I need to do something like this."

"You think you need to put yourself in danger by raising arms against Count Dracula?"

"For the comfort and lives of others, yes," Tanya returned. "Some would only do it for fame and praise. But I want all of us humans to live another century in peace."

Tristessa nodded with a sigh. She knew Tanya to have a somewhat large family, and she loved each and every one of them equally and powerfully. She couldn’t imagine Tanya’s torment if she had lost any of them, especially if evil such as Dracula intended it. “I understand,” Tristessa spoke. Still, the thought of losing her own ‘sister’, as Tanya had so strongly put it, mortified her.

Tanya, however, had no doubt made her mind. Stubborn as she was, Tristessa knew her decision would not be wavered.

Soon, she headed back to the stallion, who had dug her big hoof into the dirt in slight impatience. Callista seemed as eager to get on the road as Tanya was. Tristessa, however, was still anxious. Throughout most of her consciousness, she could do nothing but think of the worst that could happen.

***

It had been a little over an hour since the two travelers rode on the horse’s back down the dirty path. For most of the time, Tanya had no need to hold onto Tristessa, as they had yet to stride. So far, the trek was smooth.

Soon, the blonde gave a small, low chuckle.

"What is it, Tessa?"

"Grandfather puts all the weight of the world on us. Do you think maybe he expects too much from us?"

"He expected it all from you, actually.” True. James hadn’t at all anticipated that his granddaughter would have a traveling accomplice. Tanya then grew silent, her attention soon drawn toward the setting that resided ahead of them. “We’re going in there?” she spoke, a small shake to her inquiry as she peered up at the wall of dark, looming trees. Beyond was a maze of equally sinister-looking growths.

"Not right away. We’ll be waiting for the sun to come up. A lot less creatures will want to show their ugly faces, that way."

"Which means that some still might, either way," concluded Tanya was uncertainty. "But, I suppose that would serve for good practice."

"Don’t panic, Tanya," Tristessa replied with a little smile, though she knew she could say the same for herself. She gave a small pull on the ropes that attached to Callista’s harness, and she came to a gradual halt, releasing a small snort in the process. From this spot, she was trying to detect danger within the woods. "For now, let’s take a break," Tristessa announced, removing her bag from her shoulder. "Mother must have put some sort of food in here…"

"Great! Let’s eat!" The both of them jumped from Callista’s back and sat at her feet. On occasion, the equine beauty was given a nibble on some crackers, which kept her content and at ease. She strayed off a couple of yards just to get herself some water from the passing river, though made sure to keep in sight. While digging through the pouch of food, Tristessa had found a large sheet of paper; it was a hand-drawn map that her mother made overnight, and was artistic in doing so. No wonder she appeared so tired when giving her farewell.

The map only covered the region that surrounded Castlevania. They had to get to Belfast first, where Tristessa’s alchemy-enriched weapons waited with her grandfather.

 
 

Chapter 2

It was hard for a few, good rays of sunlight to reach through the emerald canopy of the forest, but there was that single hour of the day where it hit the floor just right, that the entire place seemed to shimmer with life. A red-haired teenager of nineteen was roaming along the path, absently fumbling with a small, curious pendant of silver on a chain hooked around her neck. She was a young sorceress, one that grew up in a family full of them. Mostly, she was a healer, and offensive spells weren’t her best practices.

She was a peaceful thing. More than anything or anyone else, she loved Nature. It was her best friend - her one and only companion that could never lie to her. Nor could it criticize. However, it did listen. Sometimes, it even spoke back.

When on her own, she had the urge to play with a bit of innocent magic. Her mother liked to call it Beauty Magic, as all it was good for was making appealing abstract, such as falling glitter or drawing lines of light on no surface in particular. With a brightening smile, she threw her hands up into the air. A stream of scattered silver rained about her, and before the glistening specks could touch the ground, they vanished. She did it for a second time, twirling in her spot to give her private show a special effect.

"Tanya!" called a voice in the distance. In a matter of a split second, the glitter had vanished yet again, and the crimson-haired girl spun around, appearing as guilty as a dog. A blonde girl who had to be the same age as Tanya came out of the veils of the woods, approaching her in a run. She stopped as she finally reached her, appearing only slightly out of breath.

"Is everything okay, Tristessa?" the blonde asked.

"I was just…" Tristessa cleared her throat, her posture straightening. "My mother gave me a letter sent by grandpa," she soon clarified, holding out a sheet of parchment that was clutched in her right hand. "It’s important that I leave right away."

"What for?" Tanya asked. "Is he alright?"

"Oh, he’s the same as ever," Tristessa smiled. "I’m going on a journey!"

"A journey?" she repeated in awe. "Where to!? I want to go!" Instantly, Tristessa’s cheery expression faded. It sounded like a lovely idea, but already knowing what she was in for, she didn’t want to put her best friend’s life at risk. She meant too much to her.

"I wish I could say you could," she murmured.

"Who says I can’t?" Tanya insisted stubbornly.

"I do, because this is no ordinary journey." She held the letter out as an offering to her friend, though was already summarizing what Tanya would find on it. "He believes it’s time for me to follow in his steps as a vampire hunter."

Tanya was silent for what seemed like much too long. Finally, she exhaled. “Oh. I see…” Tristessa wasn’t sure if her good friend was jealous or simply afraid for her.

"I’d love for you to go, but you’re as good as a chew toy to those vampires," she eventually excused. "If you weren’t just a healer - if you could use a weapon and attack, I’d be happy to have you tag along."

"I can, Tessa!" Tanya seemed to almost be pleading. "I can learn! Teach me!"

"I can’t, Tanya—"

"Teach me how to use a sword, or even a cross, if it has to be. I don’t want you to go alone, Tristessa. It would kill me."

"And it would also kill me to see you get hurt out there."

"But I’m a healer. I could bring plenty of supplies if any of us got injured. Even if we get bitten…" Tanya was trying so hard, that Tristessa could not refrain from smiling, at this point. She really was stubborn enough to be her best friend. She supposed it was only fair.

"Then, we’ll practice."

***

It seemed as if she had been swallowing and spitting out a lot of time just to teach Tanya a few tricks, but this girl, in the long run, was the closest thing Tristessa ever had to a sister. Being considered family, it was only right that her desire to join her on such a risky journey to watch over her was fulfilled. Tristessa feared for the life of her closest friend, but she had to be fair.

She led Tanya down the path that escorted them out of the forest’s wall. After a walk that only lasted for a matter of ten minutes, they had reached her own, simple cabin, where she still lived under the wing of her mother. Bernadette Devereux was currently out in the fields behind the cabin, where she most likely was noting the status of the corn and wheat.

Hours sped by, and it was already closing in on the dark hours when Tanya had finally gotten accustomed to using a lightweight sword. Tristessa was impressed by her quick learning, though knew in the back of her mind that it took more than a matter of several hours to battle Dracula’s minions with ease. She had yet to touch the great whip that was passed down through generations of the Belmonts, and it alarmed her that she put her own need to prepare after Tanya’s. Maybe she was being a tad too gracious.

Putting the thoughts aside, Tristessa chose to call it a night, dismissing Tanya from the house and assuring her that she would come to her early in the morning. Their trip to northern Ireland would begin in less than eight hours, and she wanted to bring her white stallion as long into her journey as possible. Very briefly did she visit Callista’s stable, that evening, where the white beauty was lying comfortably in her stall. Slowly, Callista’s snowy head rose from the blanket of coarse hay, her dark, onyx eyes fixing on her owner.

"We have a long road ahead of us, this oncoming morning. Will you be ready, Callista?" It was as if the horse understood perfectly. She have a low, eager huff, her tail swaying with grace behind her. Tristessa smiled. "I’ll have you fed, bright and early."

 
 

Chapter 1

The streets were lively and full of noise and excitement. Even the children were free to celebrate with the rest of the small community. On occasion, people brought out food from their homes to share. The smell of cooked turkey, corn, potatoes, and fresh vegetables swarmed through the air.

It was a small place, but a peaceful and friendly one, nonetheless.

A small collection lived here in Little Edge, which was located in what seemed to be the middle of nowhere in Ireland. Although, they often kept to themselves, descendants of the Belmont Clan happened to stick together. It seemed they were the only ones who had not attended the tenth anniversary of the Prince of Darkness’s absence from the world.

His shadow hadn’t veiled this peaceful globe for quite some time, and people all across the regions were thankful. For once, there was a definite feeling of safety.

"Anna!" cried out a young mother, who was nibbling away on a slice of homemade bread. "This is delicious! How did you come up with it?"

Anna simply and brightly smiled. “It’s a special recipe, Fara - one that is only kept within the family.” Fara frowned as she nibbled a bit more on the delectable starch.

"I suppose I know what that means. You won’t let me in on it."

"Certainly not!" chuckled Anna, unaware of just how much this disappointed her friend. "However, if you ever want a batch, I’d be happy to cook some up for you. Don’t hesitate to ask." She gave a pause after her offer had been made; in the distance, an ambiguous figure of a man came running down the short hill. This frantic male caught the eyes of a few gentleman, as the wives and children were too occupied in socializing, save for Anna. It was her own husband, Johnathan, who approached the running visitor.

"Is there a problem?" Johnathan inquired. "You look out of breath. Would you like a drink—"

"Fire!" the man gasped, pointing back toward the direction in which he came. "Down the street!" Instantly, the claim caused alarm. He did not hesitate to lead the way when Johnathan asked it of him. He followed at his heels, though he admitted he had no idea how to put out such flames, which he could already spot before reaching the top of that hill. This portion of the state was unlucky to have a fire station nearby. Any fires were in the hands of some residents, which used to a family of water mages. Then, a couple of years ago, they moved out.

It was absolutely necessary to evacuate everyone. The embers were spreading like the plague, using the grass as a fuel to scorch adjacent homes. With the news-bringer as his companion, Johnathan was quick to help. Truly, nothing in their power could extinguish this massive fire, as they were all merely mortals. No nearby communities had any, known mages. They all lived much too far away to even remotely help.

Johnathan aimed to lure out the families that had not yet been threatened by the angry flames, which he knew had been a lesser danger to him. “The kids!” cried the elderly mother, who had spotted the approaching blaze. It was almost here. “They’re upstairs! And asleep!”

Not for much longer. Johnathan ran back inside. He had no time to scold the old woman for not bringing the kids with her, or even doing as much as informing him sooner. He knew that by the time he reached the second floor, the walls would already be touched. He hadn’t a lot of time, and he needed to act quickly than his legs would allow him to. He knew nothing of these children; he didn’t know how many of them there were, let alone their names. He simply banged on each door he could find.

"Fire!" he declared. "You must get up and clear this place immediately!" The young ones were slow to respond, which he should have expected. Quickly, he swept into the room. It was a relief to him that he found them all in one room.

The oldest one, a boy that had to be around eighteen, rallied his siblings together. It was the oldest sister of twelve that removed her infant brother out of the nearby crib, who was already in tears as if he knew something was out of place. Johnathan looked about the room. As quickly as he had reentered the house, the bedroom belonging to the total of five kids had emptied. However, he was not out of there just yet.

What was this? A few drops of blood on the ground? Slowly, Johnathan knelt to get a better look. It was certainly a life essence, but belonging to whom? Suddenly, the tiny puddle seemed to bubble. He rose back up in confusion and panic. “What is this?” he muttered to him. There was no answer. The only thing to come close to clarification was the blood’s leaking between the floorboards, which abruptly diminished beneath his feet.

In terror, the child with the baby boy in her arms was the only witness to Johnathan’s downfall. He had fallen not into the first floor of the house, but what must have been an otherworldly abyss. It was a kind of dark magic.

* * *

"My husband! Where is my husband!?" Anna was sobbing into Fara’s shoulder, her native accent thicker than usual.

"Johnathan has mysteriously vanished, it seemed…" murmured the news-bringer.

The mother of the five children peered down at her little girl, who still was clinging to her tiny brother. “Tell Anna what you told me, Lorelei…”

The young, blonde girl peered up at Anna, whose curiosity and agony allowed her to look back down at her. She was silent as Lorelei’s lips parted to speak. “It was a hole… The floor opened up beneath him. It was like a portal, but … just dark.” Many were listening to her story. Finally, a voice stirred behind all of them.

"He has returned."

Many heads pivoted to look at an elderly man. He limped over to Lorelei, who appeared somewhat intimidated by him until he offered her an apologetic smile. However, he was instantly stern when he looked up to the distressed wife of Johnathan. “Your husband has been taken by the Prince of Darkness.” Frantic murmur started, but Anna appeared to refuse believing this tale.

"It isn’t true!"

"It is, you silly woman!" the man shouted, causing several to jump in alarm. "Have you not realized? A little over a century has passed. It was only a matter of time until Count Dracula made his reappearance."

"And why have you paid so much attention to the years?"

"I have every reason to," he replied. "After all, I am a distant relative of the Belmont Clan." Noise rose again, and a woman spoke up.

"Then, you can stop him, can’t you?"

"Do you fail to notice my old age?" Disappointment was clear on the female’s face. "However, I do know of someone with great potential. My only granddaughter might just have what it takes."

"Where is she?"

Who is she?”

"Tristessa Devereux lives with the mages on the other eastern coast of the country."

"And how will we know if she agrees to do this?"

"I know she will. Tristessa loves the attention, the proud girl," the old man sighed. "I will send her a letter first thing in the morning. From there, it is in her own hands."