The last memory the veteran had was stepping down from the Corvus dropship. He remembered the dark valley hidden in the Carpathians, the ancient castle piercing the skyline, and the monster’s red eyes. Now, his own eyes were also filled with blood, and desire. The Deathwatch veteran’s teeth were tearing the crewman’s neck. Eating and grabbing his prey with titanic force. The blood had already tainted his black armor and the corridor’s floor. The attack came out of nowhere, surprising him too. While he was walking down a public corridor of the battleship, he saw a repair crew was gathering in a corner and decided to peek. Then he saw one of them in the floor, with a clear stream of blood slipping down his head. His victim was now flinching, the other crew members were terrified. No one would dare confront a space marine. Particularly the bloody deathwatch in front of them, who seemed to have lost his mind. Gone in the desire for blood, the veteran kept drinking from the man’s neck. Behind his bestial eyes, far in the last remnants of what he used to be. He stood looking at his soul. However, nothing came to him but the memory of the red-eyed monster’s castle from the dark forest.
Inquisitor Aurelia Magnar was briefed about the violent incident as she ran through the corridors with her cohort. Her burgundy armor and black leather uniform projected her authority wherever she was. She was the new Inquisitor aboard; she had arrived at the battleship two nights ago. Her orders were to support an ongoing mission in the planet below, Europa Prime. The designated inquisitor had decided to go on a risky solo mission and haven’t returned.
When the Inquisitor arrived at the scene, the deathwatch veteran had already escaped through auxiliary pathways. The crew had covered the deceased man’s body, but that did little to hide the brutality that had occurred. She confirmed her fears of sending a Xeno hunter against the monster; the other Inquisitor had been wrong all along. There is no alien life that would do this to an old fellow from the Deathwatch. Her guts suggested this behavior came from a daemonic type of cult, not a gene stealer one. While investigating about the manslaughter, she was interrupted by a courier with an urgent package for her. It was sent directly from the planet. And, most importantly, it was signed by the one they aimed to capture. This meant the deathwatch had failed. The marine lied; he didn’t kill the target. The red eyed monster is still alive in the planet below, she thought. The package she was handed contained several papers with handwriting. She immediately opened the cover letter that read:
“Dear Inquisitor Aurelia Magnar,
I write with the most candid of worries, the events that have transpired are of much gravity and leave me no choice. Before you diligently make another decision and repeat a blunder, I strongly request that you pay serious consideration to the words here written. To avoid my frail memory to elude me, I’ve decided to directly append my words as I lived the miserable experience you have put me through. You shall respect me, as I do respect the Emperor and his majestic work. Let yourself remember that Lord Var IV from Moldavia recognizes and legitimizes my title of nobility. Please treat my intimate diary with respect and carefulness. May the accounts of my story dissuade you from further action.
The Emperor protects,
The Inquisitor stood there, motionless, and deaf to the others. As they removed the body and cleaned the corridor, the Inquisitor kept reading.
“From the Journal of Count Dracula:
3, May. — Today I had the pleasure to experience the company of a great man. Iterator Feliapo has finally arrived! As accorded, I prepared my black steed and drove the coach outside of my domains to pick him up. Only recently I’ve regained confidence to do this, and it was a delight to do it for such a guest. I am still terrified by the visit of the Inquisition upon my domains. This ill-fortune demanded me to proceed with caution, as I cannot deny the Emperor’s will an entrance to my kingdom. The diligence bringing the inquisitor from Bukovina arrived earlier, and Inquisitor Feliapo had been waiting for a while in the pitch-black darkness of the valleys. The inquisitor is of nice complexion, fit for a man his age, and carries a stern determination that unsettles me. As expected, he saw me as the help, so he didn’t address me while I drove him to the castle. When we crossed the barrier to re-enter my realms, I noticed he became plainly interested. By his uniform, I deduced he came from the Ordos Xenos. Those whose line in the sand separate human from alien civilizations, an exacerbation of the traditional xenophobia. I knew that hiding my powers would be impossible, especially difficult was to avoid my guest to see the blue flames. A trained mind would immediately detect how the immaterium is reshaped in my flame shield. I wondered how he would react to it all.
3, May, later. — I feel that the Inquisitor will be the end of me. Through the centuries, I’ve been eradicated as many times as a new hunter had emerged. The last ten thousand years had proved particularly challenging. When closing the thirtieth millennium, the galactic unification was my worst nightmare. United in power and credo, humans would hunt with their true might. Now, they once again fight among each other, but they remain full of hate and shame. Consequently, they will hunt me down. And we will repeat history.
Nevertheless, I shall deny my fears. The Inquisition could easily destroy this wonderful planet. I must open my doors to them. If that leaves a single opportunity to stay in my new home, I’ll take it. And so, I’ll be a proper host. I will follow the host’s golden rules; fulfill every need of the guest and give them freedom to do as they please.
4, May. — My mood suffers as my mind wanders. Today the inquisitor was nowhere to be found. After providing for his meals and amenities, I sat down in the catacombs for the rest of the night. Being alone while under investigation was a feeling that crept into my worries. After all this time I had managed to find a new home, and now it will be taken away from me.
The past decades in this valley had brought me back to my foundations. The peace of a continental climate, and my beautiful new palace. My heart only longs for the forbidden motherland. Would not I, like any other human born, also feel like them? Would not I be subject of the dreaded melancholy, or at least to the sly nostalgia? Humanity has grown strong in will and mind, and in consequence inflexible and idiotic. More than ever, they believe in their line in the sand. Inquisitor Feliapo made no constrain on despising “that which strides away of the Emperor”. I feel it was curious how he phrased that, a serious inquisition on that statement would imply that I should be saved, protected by the grace of the Emperor. I, as any other human who abides to the Imperium of Mankind, shall be left to be free. However, he will get to the bottom of my truth, and then he will try to annihilate me.
5, May. — Another day without talking with the Inquisitor. A couple of critters saw him strolling around the castle, and a pack of wolves saw him in the outskirts. He went to study the barrier, but I haven’t sensed any disturbance in the aetheric wall’s tension. Apparently, this Iterator is not a strong psycher.
6, May. — I had provided all that my guest requested and needed. I’m glad to have fed yesternight. I need my wits for my conversations with the Inquisitor. He wears the title proud, and it fits his determination while talking. My vigor came back in a timely manner as it was tonight that the Inquisitor decided to knock on my office. He was polite to inform me that I was under investigation by the Holy Empire. Not only that, but I was also the target of his current mission; I was to be retrieved to the battleship, dead or alive. I laughed when he said that, not aloud of course, but he wouldn’t be able to retrieve me in either of his conditions. Unless he had thought he could kill an ancient fellow like me. Inquisitor Feliapo said he needed to arrange some procedures, and that he wanted to take a look at the blue flames. Not surprising, no. I wonder if he knows really about the eldritch. He wants to know about it, even if by discovering the warp here would probably reveal he was mistaken. That these powers are not Xenos in nature but attuned with the Immaterial. That yours truly is not an alien but a being beyond nature or, as they insist on naming it, from Chaos. Maybe I’m still here writing because he truly is curious. I shall be wary when pleasing my guest’s requests.
8, May. — Once again two nights without gathering with my guest. I have diligently provided his food, which he appears to enjoy. But his stay brings nothing related to pleasantries. The voices of the castle tell me he had opened every single book of the library. He is scrapping every information he can before he confronts me, I’m sure. He may also like to scrape my thoughts before he beheads me.
9, May, on my wake — This is the second time I’m alerted by the creatures of the castle; the Inquisitor had attempted to reach my sleeping quarters. He couldn’t come close to me, but he managed to open several decoy catacombs. I shall cause inconvenience to my guest in order to prevent disaster. Tonight, I’ll offer to dine and drink with him.
9, May, later — Oh, how I long for human company! To taste every manner that they come alive is a privilege. It was my impression that the honey mead proved delightful for my guest. After a few bottles his apparent stupor led him to rejoice in candor, and then proceeded to ‘spill the beans’ regarding his mission. I should’ve known the possibility of error among human-folk. In my long years this human quality has been my glory and doom. This time, it was a misjudgment based on Feliapo’s own identity. Raised as a radical inquisitor in the Ordos Xenos, he would turn the eye to distrust anything as the enemy. And anything would be seen first as Xenos, and then as whatever they may be. Thus, Feliapo lied, knowingly, to his superiors; saying that I was a unique type of alien species. And that I would be an asset as informer. I’ll try to bring his own words to mind:
“Yes, Count. I told them you are not human, strongly implying you are not a ‘man-khey’.” Feliapo laughed. “But that is fairly irrelevant. I still have authority over the mission’s operation, so I decide how we interface with you.” He grinned at me with such confidence. I knew he understood me as something special. But even if he suspected of the wampyr, he would be underestimating me.
“So,” my guest continued, “we will deal with this exchange between yourself and the Inquisition, as a strategic political transaction.” He then proceeded to boast about the Deathwatch tenacity, which would be his direct safety net. I’ve requested that a Deathwatch Veteran comes and retrieves us both in safety.
“And you will send only one?” I asked.
“You don’t fool and Inquisitor, Count Dracula. Even with honey mead.” Once again, he talked straight and sober, and he corrected his posture. “I don’t even need forces beyond nature to see that you know everything about us. It is only a matter of visiting your library.” I wouldn’t even bother to tell him that if you live as long as I have, that is just catching up with current events. I probably read a book once every century. I confirmed then he was underrating my capacity for self-defense. These imperial beasts have existed for millennia, everyone knows they are relentless war machines. A single space marine could tip the scales in human war. Oh, how my destiny would have changed! If only such a warrior could have ride amongst my people.
The rest of the night was mostly a monologue from my guest’s part. He revealed that if he didn’t contact the battleship in orbit every three hours, they will send a space marine. And not any marine, a veteran from the Deathwatch.
I must now confess the shame of my actions. Not eons of wisdom would shape these bad habits. After several cups of bragging about his creed, I could feel the rage that this imperial emissary was igniting in me. It was only when he dared to bring shame upon Dracula’s family. Without more justification, my fangs where creeping in as hard as I could without killing him. Such an important place that the Emperor gives you, child. And you choose to be this overbearing bully? Shame on you. Let my curse come with lessons to amend yourself.
10, May. — Today I confirm my suspicions. Inquisitor Feliapo didn’t lie. Once I saw an unusual object in the sky, I knew that the space marine was on his way. The black dropship descended among the Carpathian mountain range and for a second it hovered over the valley. Always at a distance from the castle, as if it knew where my domains end. I suspect that Feliapo would have informed them about the barrier and many other threats.
I left Inquisitor Feliapo’s unconscious body lying in the middle of the road, a few yards away from my lands. I made sure to highlight his several injuries, and his uniform stained in red and dirt. When the deathwatch approached from a curve in the wavy road, he noticed the body but did not recoil. He kept his walking pace and came closer to the inquisitor. The black golem stood there staring at the inquisitor’s body. After minutes of evaluating him, he carried on. I was surprised, I thought they would recover a fallen superior first. Give me some time to adapt. But I should have not forgotten about the cunning of Deathwatch veterans. After all, they are the survivors of war in its most hazardous nature. I must say that when you push Astartes to their limits, they can be quite impressive!
He walked even after it was dark. And when he arrived, he seemed to be absorbed into deep reasoning. I could clearly see him in front of the main doors, pondering his attack. I decided not to waste time. If he would decide to attack by day, most reasonable after receiving information from Inquisitor Feliapo, it would be too risky to let him be. So, I went down to the main door. “I am Dracula. And I bid you welcome.” I spoke. He only nodded and stared at me for a while. Then he turned away, and then the deathwatch shrouded into the woods. Such proudness. Similar to his superior who is proud of his wits, the deathwatch is proud of his predatorial talents. Be wary, Xeno hunter. I know much about predation. And you shall never forget how easy the hunter becomes the hunted.
11, May. — I was wrong. This assassin’s behavior is quite strange to me. The wolves have seen him. But apparently, he sees them too. They say he crossed the barrier using some sort of artifact. What scares me is that I didn’t feel any disturbance to the ethereal flame shield. What other tricks does this warmonger can have on his ceramic sleeve?
12, May. — Oh, alas! The hunter is hunted as it is foreworn. No lethal wounds, but both lost in the struggle. He lies now next to me. Awake, loyally servant, and no longer a threat. He lost his will, his soul, and himself; he has now surrendered to the unearthly. His ignorance would say he has renounced the good path and joined the forces of Evil. But ignorant as he is, the lack of will is what disturbs him; so, he may not even think no more. In his state, the marine is only allowed to feel the never-ending thirst and to obey my command. Nonetheless, I suffer the consequences of our brawl. I now need to reconsider my future once again.
Before dragging on the consequences of what transpired tonight, I’d better recall and write these extraordinary events.
The critters awoke me late in the evening. I couldn’t elude the horrid drag of the sun heating the land above me. A rat excused itself from the annoyance by claiming the warrior was breaking into the castle. We ran together through the crevices of my new home. I’d come to be fond of the inner wall network, it was an intuitive short-cut among all rooms. When we felt the land tremble, we knew the deathwatch was close. At that moment I crawled to the ceiling and waited. From this distance I saw everything in the entrance halls. It was here when he tricked me first. The sound, the smells, and the other creatures who were also fooled; everything indicated he had decided to simply walk through the main doors. A burst of energy blasted the southern wall, and a dark thing came ramming through the shattered cinderblocks. A mere four or five feet below me, the space marine had misjudged my position and failed to hit me. I knew it the second he landed and looked everywhere in concern. His miscalculation had not ended yet, as this was the first blow of many lacerations. The true damage was now visible for both of us, the whole wall began to crumble, taking a portion of the ceiling. The marine had destroyed a structural pillar, bringing part of the building down, and forcing me to move as reflex. He now had heard and seen me. In a similar reflex he was shooting the reputable bolter against me. I let the bullets elude me. In frustration the veteran turned on his chainsword and proceeded to leap savagely upon me.
I couldn’t risk another mistake from the assailant. He had already proved to be a hazard for my land and property. So, I decided to deter him before he escalated the damage. I appeared behind him, where he stood a second ago, and clarified the situation while was still in the air, “You have not been invited, my fellow Astartes.” I told him. The tenacious monkey barely flinched, grabbed the closest column, kicked it with all his might, and flew towards me, sword point first. I had to make him acknowledge the type of battle he was entering. I raised a cylinder of stone a few feet before he could strike me. The growing pillar slammed him upwards. This could only be a warning for an Astartes, a regular folk would have had their bones mashed with their organs already. I disappear to regain a safe hiding spot, and I stood there beyond human sight. I understood then and there why the Deathwatch caught their reputation. The veteran was kneeling in front of a device. Ignoring his evident wounds. He coughed and spit inside his helmet. The pillar of stone broke something inside him, I could smell the blood from my hideout. I wondered for a second what kept him so busy. Then, a few red flares shined in his equipment. It was too late when I noticed all of them were targeting me. Uncannily fast rockets flew against me. Xenos technology confounds even my own estimations. I only managed to dodge out of their way, but this time the damage was substantial. Part of my flesh burned before I could blink out of there. Alas this damage was nothing compared to the destruction of the hall. The floors above began to shake and finally fell too. Distracted by the trembling floors and my burned body, I was an easy victim to the Deathwatch’s bolter. A single hit blew my leg away. Before I fell down crippled in the floor, I blinked to the catacombs. In fury, I touched his mind with a message “You dare inflict pain upon the wretched souls. I shall receive you then, I invite you now to be my guest.” A pitiful message, but I despaired. The doors of the castle opened to lead him downstairs. For a second, I may have even distrusted myself. An almost unnatural feeling for me, as I have learned for long time the importance of conviction on keeping us alive. I took still blood, almost hurled it back but I needed the vigor. When my body came to its usual form and condition, my mind also cleared. My regenerated limbs felt stronger and ready for battle. I could now hear the screams above. I sensed the pain this ‘angel’ of the Emperor was causing in his path downwards. The trembling had not stopped. He demolished every standing structure above ground, and every catacomb with sarcophagi was detonated too. It may have been that I already lost my temper with the Inquisitor, but for some reason I simply followed my fury.
When he was just in the level above me, I struck him from below. These iron-will warriors are to be commended. Even I would flinch if a demonic hand the size of a bear would appear below me! I managed to grab him, two legs and his right arm inside my grasp. He didn’t delay in shooting aimlessly with the bolter, which punched serious holes in my palm. It was me who flinched, as a reflex one of my fingers loosed enough for him to pull out the sword. And then I released him since my two-fingered hand was useless now. As my three dismembered fingers fell, he started chopping down my arm. He stood one leg on my arm, another on the ground, digging to the flow below through my flesh. With the obvious intention to come down and chop my head. Using my maimed hand I slammed him against the floor. I too, lost in the spirit of battle, felt the fever anciently known as berserk. We both lived the trance. Among the images I remember after that, it is clear that I regenerated my fingers, had taken him down with me, and we were now exchanging blows. I remember my wings blocking the chopping strikes of his chainsword. My claws breaking parts of his ceramic armor. And finally, I saw him standing proud above me. He had lost his helmet and few parts of his black suit, including his praised left pauldron. One of his gigantic plated feet was crushing my chest. What did he wait for? I don’t know. But laying there, defeated underneath the hunter, I regained my breath; and with it, came my wits.
The old marine raised his chainsword decided to finish me. Such an impressive creation of the Emperor! Such ferocity inside that cumbersome armor! But nevertheless, naïve when facing the nature of longevity. So unwise to forget the tales of yesteryear; More knows the devil for being old, than for being the devil. As the blow descended, I shifted my shape to become an octopus. Oh, such a magical lifeform! He only managed to cut a few of my legs. Without distraction my tentacles crept on to his leg, and he began to shoot desperately. Another two tentacles were lost, but no worry was had, I only need one to shape into the next critter. I crawl up his armor as a mouse, sprinting up his knee and jumping towards his face. Quick as lightning the veteran released his weapons and smashed me between his palms. Or so he thought. I would not change right there my successful strategy, so I carried on and shaped into a keplerian chigger. I chew through his flesh, feeding from his blood as I moved forward inside his arm. I sensed the vibrations of his screams; I grew bigger to cause more pain and hopefully knock him out. But the only sound I could hear then was the chainsword. I knew thus far what this inhuman was capable of. And, after all the catastrophe he brought, I would need him alive. So, before he dismembered himself, I blinked above him, in my regular shape, naked except by my preferred cloak. I felt rejuvenated and invigored, there was something different in the Astartes blood. I had energy enough to stop him now. My four claws landed upon his back and shoulders. As I crouched above his head he could only react with a face of terror. I cracked his neck aside while grabbing him below the jaw and proceeded to sire him.
12, May, later — Tomorrow night I’ll be sending the black beast back to their spaceship. They shall learn that I’m not longer Vlad the Impaler, nor the Nosferatu. My torment in eternal life forces me upon the change of the universe. So, with time, I change. This will be another lesson; they will learn that I am like them, as I also react to what happens upon me. I also adapt and survive. I have wandered among planets and civilizations, always with prudence and in the shadows. I mastered the ability to do my business without trace, and soon humanity forgot about me. Now these fools find me. I shall take a run over the forests to clear my mind.
13, May — After serious consideration, I have decided to add here a final note to my only reader.
You shall first know that I’m all that remains of Walachia. I am the last of my kind, too. Naturally, you will see that I — as all living things do — renounce death. I did renounce to my life in flesh and soul, but now you threat me with obliteration. Second, you shall know that I am imbued with the favor of the eldritch and the wisdom of mankind, fostered through thousands of years. Third, you shall know that my response to your fellows’ actions will grow to be a legendary song once again.
I hope that this time the tales remember what caused all the pain and losses. They should remember it was mankind’s own shame that pushed me. It was so over forty thousand years ago, and once again I am hurt by the same redirected shame. Heresy is what they still call it, only if you have the fortune to be regarded as their kind. Daemon will be your label otherwise. In short, my kind was hunted because human nature can’t renounce to its intimate desires, but they shall not allow themselves to fulfill them either. Shame, shame on all of you. The ancient aliens are right after all, you are shy in wisdom and nothing more than a man-khey.
If the inevitable reach of the Emperor has knocked on my doors, I shall invite him in. Presently, I extend my invitation to you. Let us hope your assistance will take my curse to humanity once again.
Inquisitor Aurelia was wrapping up the letters and her lingering thoughts. She was still standing in the same spot, but the corridor was clean and empty. The creaking sound of the battleship in space was all she could hear. Aurelia was genuinely intrigued after reading the count’s journal pages. She wondered about the knowledge and stories the count could teach them. But she was also disgusted with the lack of modesty. Proudness would always be a weakness. After only a second, she knew what had to be done. An Inquisitor role is to protect the Imperium of Mankind first, and Dracula didn’t make the cut. She decided to make the sorrowful but effortless request for an Exterminatus. Millions would die, we would lose a habitable planet, but nothing compared to the losses if the wampyr manage to spread over the galaxy. Only for the risk that the powers of Count Dracula present, the need to destroy the first planet of the Europa System is beyond question. Once she said those words in her mind, she was resolved. Europa Prime would be obliterated, exterminated from existence and history.
“Inquisitor Magnar, how delightful to see you.” Said a silky voice behind her. Surprised, she quickly turned to see who spoke. A dark cloak and shiny white smile were the first she saw. Then she saw the distorted and now unfamiliar face of the Ordos Xenos Inquisitor.
“Inquisitor Feliapo?” she asked.
“Mission successful, Aurelia. Count Dracula is dead. You may now go back home and be reassigned.” Feliapo’s eyes glinted red.
“We thought you were dead, sir. Why didn’t you communicate directly to the central?” she asked. Aurelia would have expected some banter or at least a minimum resistance, a justification, or anything but the apathic stare he gave her. After a few seconds too long, the somber Inquisitor spoke.
“Could I see those papers, please?” His grim aspect was unsettling, he seemed to alternate between vitality and emotionless. For a second, she hesitated to give the only evidence of Dracula’s intention, then Aurelia obeyed the implicit order. She extended the letter and journal to Inquisitor Feliapo. He immediately put them inside his cloak.
“Thank you, I’ll keep them now. As legitimate designee for this battleship, I now precede rank. Your services are no longer needed, Inquisitor. You are dismissed.” He commanded. As an inquisitor, she was trained on the arts of mind manipulation. This was different, at least for her. She doubted only for a second, but then wanting to do what Feliapo had said was irresistible. She agreed and walked to her cabin.
The next night, the designed Inquisitor had already provided a report, and the captain of the battleship set new routes. By the end of the night, they were traveling into the warp to another system in the galaxy. From the dark valley below, hidden among the debris of his ruined home, the count already had forgotten about the mishap with the Inquisition. He was now planning his next residence, looking to feel safe again. He would let his new sons protect him, the new wampyr will mislead the Empire away from him. And so, he went back to darkness.