Oh Monday, you pretentious jerk! You’re back and it’s never in a good way. Que sara, I guess we’ll make the best of it. If you remember last week, I told you fine people that I was in the midst of reopening a story idea I had a long time ago and wanted to share the journey with you. Today mark’s the first of a great many blog posts that will detail that trip.
Before I get to Chapter 1, I figured some backstory into how this idea came into existence was important. Let’s hit the way back machine and travel to the University of Central Florida, circa 2001. Back then, you’re fearless author buddy was a young lad with a penchant for Ice House and classic video games. My roommates and I had just finished a marathon session of Final Fantasy VII and were on the lookout for a new game. Upon stumbling into our local Gamestop, we were introduced to Castlevania: Symphony of the Night.
I’d played Castlevania before, both Simon’s Revenge and Dracula’s Curse on the original Nintendo. Symphony of the Night starred Dracula’s son, Alucard and whoa boy. Not even fifteen minutes into the game, we were sold. Hours upon hours (and 6 packs of beer) were spent finding every secret to beating the game completely. And that my friends, is where my very first story was born (yes, even before Power Play: Ragnarok on Ice).
Since then, the story had been resting peacefully in a sort of development hell. That was until Netflix decided to unleash the amazing Castlevania miniseries upon us. Something triggered in the back of my mind as I binge watched all four of them and I went on a hunt for the old notebooks. When I found them, all the ideas that flooded to me 16 years ago came back, with a vengeance. New, even crazier plot lines mixed with the old ones. And here we are.
So with that background information fresh in your mind, let’s begin our journey shall we?
**Moldavia; 1473 the year of our Lord**
Greste, the hub of activity of this part of Moldavia was doomed. Black clouds moved in fast signaling the fall of the rain of fire. Roofs were the first to go up in the inferno before the blazes moved to the ground. Even then, the fire was soon the second deadliest player on the field. He had unleashed his daemons, more specifically the gargoyles. The first one snapped up a young man, no more than eighteen and tore his head off. A fountain of blood erupted from his neck, the head no longer acting as a stopper.
Have you ever seen a ball of fire hit someone so hard that it blew apart their stomach? I just did. As the man’s gut blew up, chunks of his freshly digested meal splattered on the faces of those right around him. It was the start of Armageddon for the villagers. Their death sentences were about to be handed out.
As the city burned, the peasants were fleeing for their lives. It was too late to run away, but I gave them credit for not standing around and allowing death to find them. No, that was left for the idiots of the clergy. They stood outside the churches, yelling for people to repent their sins before their inevitable doom. Their shouts didn’t last very long; a few gargoyles landed on the steps and gobbled them up.
I had to bite back a chuckle as the clergy were ravaged. It should’ve disgusted me. I just didn’t really care that much.
There was so little I could do, either way. The clergy had forced the monster’s hand, even after I warned them that he was not one to be trifled with. The bishop, the nameless and corrupted face from the Vatican, laughed in my face. “God will see us through,” he declared.
God saw them through, all right; right into the mouths of those dreadful gargoyles Vlad freed from Hell. One flew overhead of my position, an eyeball dangling from its mouth. The ghastly beast slurped it up as it continued its flight.
Those that weren’t eaten alive by daemons were turning into ash from the blazes forming. A man pushed his wife out of the way while he tried to escape. As another gargoyle feasted on her intestines, a fireball from the sky obliterated his head, sending brain matter everywhere. The rest of his body was incinerated by the red flames that engulfed it.
These scenes played out over the next hour until death was the only thing left. With some many humans flayed and charred, I was surprised not to see the Reaper himself harvesting the doomed souls. Maybe he was just out of sight, waiting for me to leave to do his dirty business.
The only one to survive that assault was me. The stench of the dead bodies was filling my nose and I’d have to leave soon. I was hoping to see Vlad Dracul, or The Impaler as his followers called him, emerge from his newest castle. The daemon man, the one who made a pact with the devil, took hold of this part of Europe. Because of his stupidity, his greed, I paid the price as well.
Who am I, you ask? I’m Vlad’s younger brother, Radu. Or that was my name, Radu died the day I was sucked into Vlad’s awful plan for bloodlust and pain. I renamed myself after the high Arch Angel, Gabriel. Even taking on a divine name doesn’t change the one simple fact: I’m a vampyre. Vlad, that damn fool, he dragged me to Hell kicking and screaming.
Underneath my wide brimmed, brown hat, my brown hair dripped from the sweat of the fire. I scratched the rough growth on my face and turned away. There was nothing else for me to do here. Because of who I was, my red eyes a dead giveaway, these people died from arrogance.
Well played, brother.
Where would I go next? I didn’t know. What I did know was that seeking the aid of the church would no longer help me gain what I needed to kill Vlad Dracul. If I had to sink into the depths of Hell itself to find what I needed, so be it. Maybe it would take a monster to kill a monster.
I had no problem becoming a monster. I already was one.
**Moldavia; 1775 the year of our Lord**
“Bartender, another!” I yelled over the raucous crowd. Having slayed another vampire the previous evening, I was in quite the celebratory mood. “In fact, another for everyone in the house!”
With a quick smile and a fast bottle, the bartender fulfilled my request. As each patron lifted their mug into the air, a jubilant roar for me was bellowed. “To Maximus Brinza!”
For those who are unfamiliar, the house of Brinza is one of the oldest in Moldavia. Much like my father before me, and his father before him, I took up the family occupation of defenders of the common people. Ever since the blood-daemon Vlad Dracul took hold of our countryside from Wallachia, it has been the responsibility of those who can protect to protect.
The previous evening, one of Dracul’s maiden vampires came into our town of Stefania (named after our greatest leader) to seduce and kill the men. Unfortunately, the bitch found me. Max Brinza doesn’t lose fights. With my sword, blessed in holy water and salt forged into the edges of the blade, the beast stood no chance. When its foul head hit the ground, the townspeople scooped it up and placed it on a pike by the gates. It hung there with the rest of the beasties I killed.
I felt a tug on my tunic’s sleeve. It was the bishop of our small village. “Max, this is the fourth attack this month. I feel the daemon is targeting this village,” he told me.
“Julius,” I said solemnly. “He’s coming for me.”
Julius and I grew up together, my path with the sword and his with the holy word. He was as much a defender against the night as I was. Given the battles we’d seen together, first as fellow soldiers and now in this capacity, it was only a matter of time that the dark lord of Europe would target me. I was a bit pissed it took him this long to recognize me as a threat.
Julius put his hand on my head. “Thank you Lord, for watching over Max yet again. In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, amen.”
No sooner did Julius finish his blessing then did the door to the bar fly open. “Maximus!” a young boy called for me. “My father, he’s been taken by one of them!”
Another so soon? “Lead me where child!”
I rushed up and left my ale on the bar top. The rest of the villagers in the tavern were hushed. Never before had two creatures come back to back like that. The night was cool and there was fresh powder on the ground from a brief mid-afternoon’s snow. I loved these conditions.
The boy led me to his homestead on the western edge of town. There was a fire where the mother was with a young child. “Stay here,” I told them all. I pulled my longsword from its scabbard. “Is this the way the foul creature went?”
The wife nodded her head, but didn’t speak. The path led behind a small barn which butted up against the woods. I followed the small path, worried that the father was dead and that this was an ambush. On the backside of the barn, there were splashes of blood. This wasn’t a good sign.
I heard a yell from the forest. I ran into it and almost ran into an older man. His shirt was ripped and he was bleeding profusely. “Are you the one abducted by the vampyre?” I asked him.”
Too terrified to speak, all he could do was nod his affirmative. “Go, your family is waiting for you. Tell everyone to seek shelter until I come back victorious.”
He seemed to acknowledge my request and he left the forest. His blood would be my trail to find the creature. And it didn’t take long. This one had a set of balls to him. He was standing around a fire, giving away his position to me.
I didn’t even bother to sneak up on him. “Have you come here to die tonight?”
He lifted up his head, covered in shadows due to a wide brimmed hat he wore. “That depends. Do you think you can kill me?”
“I haven’t lost to one of your kind yet.” His red eyes were a dead giveaway. Strapped to his hip was a longsword, not dissimilar to mine. The biggest difference was the silver skull at the end of the pommel. Matching me, he slid his out. The steel twinkled in the moonlight.
I’d never seen a vampyre use a sword before. There was something quite different about this one. He seemed distinguished, even regal. “You must be from his inner council,” I surmised.
“What are you talking about?” the vampyre fired back.
“Vlad Dracul. Obviously he sees me as a threat and sent an assassin.”
He smiled at me, his long fangs breaking free of his mouth. “I like you. You have spunk, Brinza.”
It knew my name! “This prove it!” I held my sword up high. “It is time for you to die, daemon.”
Our blades crossed, the beast easily blocking mine with minimal movement. The only thing my first attack accomplished was knocking his hat off. He was about my height, a few inches above average, with scraggy brown hair and scruff covering his face. Like most of his kind, the beast had an uncanny, unnatural handsomeness to him. He would easily be able to scoop women up and corrupt them.
There was something very distinct about the tunic he wore under his long coat. The crest that was woven in with gold thread was familiar but I couldn’t place it. He saw me gazing at it and swiped at me with his sword. I blocked and countered, stabbing at him to the gut. The tip of the blade pierced him, but not nearly deep enough to kill.
Amused, “I haven’t been touched by a blow in a long time.” He then proceeded to backhand me. It was a blow so hard, I couldn’t even see straight for a moment.
When my eyes could see, it was just in time to block his next attack. It was an overhand chopping motion, his technique was perfect. My sword took the blow, but it took both hands to keep his supernatural strength from overpowering me. He was using one hand and wasn’t even trying that hard. This asshole was toying with me.
That made me angry. I lashed out with my foot to his stomach. He wasn’t ready for that kind of roughhouse tactic. “I won’t be underestimated, vampyre!”
On his heels, I charged straight in with my shoulder and rammed him in the chest. I followed up with the pommel of my sword to the side of his head, drawing more blood. As I tried to finish the creature off with one last swipe to remove its head, he moved way too fast for me to see. Before I could defend myself, his hand was wrapped around my throat.
“Who was to die tonight, Brinza?”
“You,” I choked out.
He laughed one more time before he released me. “The rumors were true, an arrogant, hot headed soldier protects Stefania. Imagine my surprise when I find out it is the son of Ivan Brinza.”
“How do you know my father?”
“Much like you, he tried to kill me and failed. However, he came to join me on his last hunt.” The beast hung his head in shame. “That was the last time I came so close to fulfilling my destiny. I’m sorry he died that night.”
No one except Julius and I knew how my father died. He joined a group of warriors headed for Vlad’s castle to kill the creature once and for all. There were said to be no survivors.
“Liar,” I said softly.
“I have no reason to lie to my friend’s son.”
I spit on the ground. “Don’t desecrate my father’s memory with lies. You are no friend to the Brinza house.”
Ignoring me, “Not only was I Ivan’s friend, I was your grandfather, Denis’s friend. It was only a matter of time before I sought you out.”
“Who are you?”
He took off his coat, the full effect of his royal tunic and crests in full show. This was the crest of the house of Dracul, long before Vlad became a daemon. “The Impaler has no relatives. What sort of trickery is this?”
“Vlad has removed all evidence of information that could be used against him.”
The more I studied the creature, the more I could see a resemblance to the face we’d been taught to fear from the moment we were born. “What would a daemon like you want with my family? We hunt your kind and kill them.”
“My name is Gabriel. For three hundred years I’ve been waging a shadow war against my creator, to undue the curse he brought upon me. Certain houses have produced warriors that were more worthy than others.”
Gabriel sheathed his sword and reached out with his hand. “Before your father died, Ivan told me that the spirit of the clan was strongest in you. I’m here to recruit you, Max.”
This was too much to take in. There was sincerity in those blood red eyes and he knew the truth of my father’s death. Still, a part of my mind was unwilling to trust him, just based on what he was. I think Gabriel could tell, as well.
His hand was still out, waiting for me to accept. “There was a village where the church elders refused to believe me. Vlad called upon a rain of fire to wipe them out, just for fun. I tell you this in order to show you that I am trustworthy.”
“Those who proclaim their trustworthiness generally aren’t.”
Gabriel could see this was going nowhere. “I have one more thing to offer you.” I look at him sideways. What could he offer? “As a sign of good faith, I will tell you my real name. If you take this back with you and speak to some of the elders of your village, it should give you everything you need to know.”
“I accept this.” I placed my hand in his and shook it.
He gave me a bow. “My true name is Radu Dracul, youngest brother to Vlad himself.”
Thanks for sticking with me on this long opening post. As I said before, we’re going to go through this journey together, from opening draft all the way through to final edits and publishing. Please, feel free to leave comments, shoot me an email, whatever in regards to your thoughts on the story. We’re in this together now!
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