The Vampire’s House Part III

The final part of this short story / extract from a book not yet written…

All over his body, Jacob’s skin was prickling, crawling in time with the swelling of the violin music that came from the floor below. He slowed his breathing and raised himself to his feet, steadying himself on a music stand. It seemed to writhe beneath his grasp, as if it was trying to recoil from him. The six music room walls seemed to tower and sway above him; the shelves suddenly resembled damp moss-covered bark; the scrolls seemed to grow fangs and peer at Jacob with yellow animal eyes, regarding him as an intruder. The house knew there was a stranger in it, and was waiting to strike.

Slowly, aching slightly from the battering he had taken in the scroll’s protective enchantments, Jacob inched to the music room door. The handle pulsed again beneath his hand, menacingly this time, like it was trying to bite him, and as he turned the handle, the music below him stopped. The silence was loud, apprehensive. Jacob moved out onto the landing, and limped down the stairs without taking too much care; he knew that Marthus would be preparing for a dramatic confrontation, and wouldn’t eviscerate him in the dark without a showdown.

On the ground floor, everything was dark; but from below a set of double doors glowed a line of flickering light. It was towards this door that Jacob headed, sliding the heavy doors apart to reveal a blazing fireplace, set in the midst of a vast library. Two wing-backed chairs flanked the fireplace, facing the fire at an angle. One of the chairs was occupied, the one-quarter profile of the figure sitting in the chair only a silhouette. In the silence, punctuated by the crackling of the fire, a deep and refined voice rang out.

“Won’t you come in, little mouse, and have a seat?” Jacob felt he could hardly refuse, and crossed over the threshold into the library. As he did so the air thickened slightly for a second and everything seemed to slow, as if time itself had been slowed. It was almost imperceptible, and the sensation was gone in an instant; but it had not gone unnoticed. Jacob set his face in concentration. He stood in the middle of the room, and Marthus van Elstrom turned in his chair to greet him.

The vampire was large, but cut a grand figure as he revealed himself. His suit was cut in a dark expensive material. His hands were beringed, jewels twinkling in their settings, and one hand held a crystal wine glass containing a dark red liquid. At this throat was an expensive-looking chain. His features were well-shaped, his ear slightly pointed, and his dark skin seemed to glow golden in the firelight. His eyes, which Jacob avoided, were piercing.

“Welcome,’ Marthus smiled, with a hint of fang. “Won’t you have a seat?” He gestured to the other empty chair. “I’d tell you to make yourself at home, but I think you already have. Some wine? Perhaps not.”

Slowly, concentrating hard, Jacob moved towards the fireplace and took a seat in the vacant chair. Marthus sat back, and crossed his legs.

“Now,” he said to Jacob. “I have a few questions for you. First of all, I’d like to know how you got in here, and why you would throw your life away so carelessly.” The vampire’s voice flowed like honey, irresistible. “Look at me, would you, please?”

Jacob’s body was sluggish but he felt his neck craning around to face the vampire. Upon making contact with those dark eyes, he felt the full force of the vampire’s glamour. It was like being hit in the face with a brick. Against his better judgement, Jacob’s jaw came unstuck and he spoke openly without really meaning to.

“It wasn’t very hard. Your wards are full of gaps, and you seem to have mainly targeted them at beings with similar powers to you. You don’t seem to have bothered with much that would keep a human away, aside from a general air of foreboding that will make most people feel like a prey animal being stalked. That didn’t work on me.

“As for why I’m here, I came to steal something valuable, more valuable than I think even you know. A scroll sealed with black wax that holds a very powerful spell. Shit.” The last word came out as an exclamation. The vampire’s glamour was strong. Marthus’s eyes seemed to shine with excitement in response. He was holding Jacob in his gaze as though the young man was a morsel he was looking forward to. But he held back.

“I’m impressed. True, I have never regarded humans as much of a threat. In all honesty, of those that know of our existence, I would never dream that any would be fool enough to attempt what you have succeeded in: burgling a vampire. You are clearly a learned practitioner, with skill unlike any I’ve seen before. But you are also a thief and I shall deal with that accordingly. My home must be protected. However, I have another question before we get to that: who are you?”

At this, Jacob looked Marthus fully in the face for the first time.

“My name is Jacob Noble,” he said simply. “My father was Carus, the rogue who conquered Chaos. Sixteen years ago he vanished, and I intend to find him along with my mother. And I need that scroll to do it.”

Marthus gave a bark of laughter. Of all the answered he had expected, this was not among them.

“Carus? The rogue who conquered Chaos?” The vampire laughed again, displaying a mouthful of teeth normal but for the overly long canines. “Was swallowed by Chaos, more like it. That fool couldn’t conquer a chess board, let alone the powers of Chaos.” The vampire’s eyes glinted as he leaned forward in his chair.

“I know of Carus’s story and the damage he wrought when he lost control. I knew his wife was among the victims, but I didn’t know he left a whelp. How very interesting. I admit I’m curious to know how all this came about. But your mission will be in vain, I’m afraid. Carus was broken by Chaos as all humans must be, and now he is its subject, its slave, if he is not dead. As you would be, inevitably, if you carry on playing with fire.”

The vampire rose and towered over Jacob, who remained seated.

“But that is over little concern for a mouse like you now. I cannot allow you to leave my home alive. You understand, I’m sure. We all have standards to maintain and I could never let it be known that a mere mouse, a human, broke in here, regardless of your abilities. I am going to kill you now, and take back what is mine.”

Marthus spat the last word as he bared his fangs, his mouth widening as his head became larger and more bat-like. Fur sprouted from his ears as they grew and became more pointed. He reached down towards Jacob with a hand that was grown larger and more animal, the fingers long and tipped with sharp black claws. He made to grasp Jacob around the neck, then opened his eyes wide in shock as his arm froze inches from Jacob’s throat. The vampire strained, but was powerless in the face of some unseen force. Jacob coughed slightly, almost embarrassed.

“I’m afraid not, Marthus.” Jacob shifted in the chair, the vampire towering over him, a frozen mass of quivering rage. “You see, I’m not what you think I am. I am a human – and then again I’m not. Either way, I shall be taking my leave of you now. I had hoped to get this all over with without any fuss and I’m sorry it had to come to this.”

Marthus gave a strangled cry, his eyes working furiously, the rest of his body quivering. He fixed his eyes back on the young man in the seat before him.

“What have you done to me, you insect?” he growled. “How dare you? I will crush you, feed on your entrails, and leave your mangled body as a warning to all others plotting to cross me.”

“No, you won’t, Marthus. And it would be better for you if you simply forget this whole affair ever happened. Believe me on that one.”

Jacob’s eyes glowed a pale silver and a sharp crack sounded. Marthus felt whatever was binding him break and the weight of his mass bore down on the human before him. But the vampire’s talons scythed through empty air. He threw his head back and roared, glaring around him with red eyes. He was alone. Jacob had vanished entirely, taking the scroll with him.

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