Alucard kept glancing at the two young hunters through the light of the fire. Maria was a beautiful young woman, but mostly he looked at Richter, trying to find something of Sypha, or Trevor, in his face. But there was nothing. Too many years had passed, too much other blood had intermingled. There was something of Trevor in the way Richter fought, maybe, but nothing of him in his nature. Richter was open and trusting and friendly, with none of Trevor’s roughness, none of his bristling spite. That was gratifying, at least, that Trevor’s offspring seemed to have lived better than he had.
Alucard took off his coat and pulled off his gloves to warm them on the fire. When he splayed his fingers, Maria gasped involuntarily. “If you don’t mind me asking,” she said in a small voice. “What happened to your hands?”
Alucard had forgotten about the scars. The wounds were old, and it had been so long since he had been near other people, and even longer since he had been near someone not intimately familiar with his personal history.
Alucard looked down at his hands. The palms and insides of his fingers were a mass of scar tissue where his flesh had been melted to the tendons.
“That happened to my hands,” Alucard nodded to the heavy chain whip at Richter’s hip. “We… Trevor, Sypha, and I. We were fighting the vampire queens of Styria. Trevor lost the Morning Star. I had to get it back to him. I didn’t think.”
The distraction of Alucard’s screams might have been what landed them that victory as much as the consecrated whip returned to its master’s hands, but they had won nonetheless. Sypha had taken him to a Speaker healer who had mended him well enough that he kept the flexibility of his fingers, and most of the feeling, but they would never look the same.
Alucard rolled up his sleeves to the elbow to show the scars that wrapped his arms, “These were a pair of hunters that got too close.” He unbuttoned his shirt to expose his chest, more of the same snaking scar tissue, and the remnants of the ragged gouge over his heart, which he touched. “And this was Dracula, the first time.”
He rebuttoned his shirt. He didn’t know why he had shown them. To make some sort of point, perhaps, about who he was, about what they were facing.
“What was Trevor like?” Richter asked after a long silence.
“He was a drunk,” Alucard said.
Richter looked as if Alucard had slapped him in the face.
Alucard laughed. “I’m being unfair. When I first met him, yes, he was trying to slowly drink himself to death, but…. He spent most of his life in the gutter and he talked like it, but he was a leader of men, in a crisis, and he fought like a god.”
“But don’t forget Sypha,” he said to Richter. “Because her nature is yours as well, even if you didn’t inherit her name. She was the most powerful magician I’ve ever met, before or since. Innocent and harmless on first glance, but with an indomitable will.”
Alucard stared into the fire. “Sometimes I think I keep my own heart beating only to keep the memory of them alive on the Earth.”
“You loved them,” Maria said.
Alucard turned his eyes to her. Of course the woman was perceptive.
“Yes, I loved them,” Alucard breathed. “I love them still.” That would have been hard for him to say, once. Now he knew that the beautiful things of life were so fine and so rare that to denying them was a worse sin than most violence.
The two young hunters were silent. Alucard knew he couldn’t make them understand, didn’t want to. If they could live their lives unburdened by his scars and ghosts, all the better.