You imagined that going through the village had been the closest to hell on earth you would ever get. It had been an honest mistake ending up here. Just a simple case of following the wrong fork in the trail. And then night had fallen, the light filtering through the canopy of leaves becoming scarcer and scarcer as the sun slowly dipped below the horizon, abandoning you in a dark forest devoid of noise, the only company being the sound of the snow crunching underneath your hiking boots and the weight of your backpack. You had kept a level head, trying to backtrack but being unable to find the original path you had been set on, and at this point you were sure that you had accidentally brought yourself deeper into the forest. You had decided that the next time you wanted to get away from your shitty job, your shitty flat, and the shitty people you surrounded yourself with you were going to go to Disneyland or something, not go on a soul searching hiking trip in Romania in the middle of winter.
Things began to make noises in the woods, but you refused to stop. Refused to acknowledge them. You wouldn’t be able to see through the dense darkness between the trees with your measly flashlight anyway. And if you stopped, then whatever was prowling the forest might know you were aware of it and take the opportunity to jump at you. So you kept going, hoping that whatever was breaking twigs and making those quiet panting noises didn’t decide that you looked too delicious to ignore any longer. You weren’t afraid of them, not really. It was something else that spurred you on.
Then you had found the village, the enormous castle that overlooked it taking your breath away. For a moment, relief had flooded your system.
It didn’t last long.
You fell to your knees in front of the gate to Castle Dimitrescu, exhaustion cutting through to your very bones. In your left hand you held a woodcutter’s axe in a deathgrip. It had been the only thing you had to defend yourself with up until that old man had given you a handgun before he had been dragged away. His blood had spilled from the hole he had created, landing in your hair and drying into a crust. Luckily for you, you had found an old shotgun discarded on a kitchen table in your attempts to escape the horde that had threatened to overwhelm you. It sat in your backpack, the end of it sticking out. You thanked god for deep pockets on hiking trousers. Convenient ammo pouches.
Your jacket was long gone, the monsters that had prowled the village ripping it to shreds in their efforts to get to you. The rest of your clothes were saturated with black blood, your hoodie had become uncomfortably heavy with it, forcing you to take it off and shove it at the bottom of your backpack - which itself was sporting a broken strap. You cleared your throat, spitting a wad of your own blood onto the floor.
A monster had dragged you down below the house, had thrown you out through the wall. You had dropped your axe but had managed to maintain a grip on your gun, and when it had charged at you, you had unloaded four badly aimed shots into its chest and scrambled for your weapon. And when it had charged again you had swung, pouring all your frustration and rage into that swing. You had been through hell already, and for what? Was this punishment for getting lost? Was this punishment for trying to get some peace away from your shitty life? Was this a punishment for those desires that you had buried, that need to be violent and terrifying that you had repressed? You’d spent your entire life shoving that shit down and trying to be a good person. You valued human life, but sometimes you couldn’t help but think some people would look better if they were missing some teeth. Maybe an eye for good measure.
You had turned its head into a pulpy mess even when it had been long dead. Then you had told it to get fucked. And when another one had emerged from the hole you had left in the house, you had bared your teeth at it in a sort of feral smile and waited for it to come. It had circled around you, feeling you out. It looked like it was unused to the resistance. It was unused to a lack of fear.
You had prepared to swing your axe, and addressed it directly, “Dance with me then.”
It had lunged.
And then there had been Luiza’s house. That hadn’t gone very well, the screams of all the people inside still bouncing around your head as Elena’s father had changed. You had understood at that moment that the monsters roaming around had once been people. It had made your skin crawl, and had forced you to fight with even more ferocity when the knowledge that if they got too close to you then they could turn you into one of those horrible beasts with just a scratch. Your jacket had acted as an extra layer of protection, but now it was gone.
You took a deep breath from your position on your knees, hand tightening around the axe. Part of you was horrified with yourself. Horrified that you had given into that need for violence that you had shoved down for most of your life, that you could laugh and smile and indulge in the cruelty of cackling and cursing at the carnage you could wreak on something, even if the victim was a flesh eating werewolf. The rest of you just wanted to survive, knowing that that feral glee that you were trying to keep shoved deep down was probably keeping you alive.
You had no idea what was waiting for you in this castle, but everyone in the village was dead, you had witnessed the last surviving members go up in flames. You couldn’t go back into the forest either, not with all the monsters prowling about. And even if there weren’t any, you might just die of exposure anyway.
So you took a deep breath, reaching for the lever that would bring the gate up.
A steel rod shot in front of your face, embedding itself in the wall to your right. You curled your hand into a tight fist as you stared at that rod. Apparently there really was no rest for the wicked.
“Well, well, well. I didn’t think anyone was left.” A man’s voice.
“Oh for- just give me a break already,” you muttered under your breath.
You turned to look at him, part of you worried that he would be some sort of horrible monster, ready to claw at your skin and chew on your bones as he spoke to you in that accent that you couldn’t quite place. But as you set your eyes on him, your breath caught in your throat.
“Oh. Fuck me,” you whispered under your breath,not caring if he heard or not.
Apparently Red Dead Redemption had completely fucked you up, since now your type was middle aged cowboys that looked like they smelled of cigars and oil. Bits of scrap metal floated all around him. Six hours ago if someone had told you that a man dressed as a cowboy holding a giant hammer had a form of telekinesis that could apparently only affect metal you would have laughed at them and asked them if you could have some of whatever they were drinking. But you had seen plenty of strange things already, and the rod embedded in the wall behind you was giving you a warning that whatever the nature of his powers were, they were nothing to scoff at. They were dangerous. He was dangerous. The thought made something coil in your gut. But not in fear.
You wanted to smack yourself. Now was not the time for an infatuation.
But looking at him, you just couldn’t seem to help yourself. He was tall, and carried himself with a confidence that must have taken a lifetime to master. He carried a giant metal hammer on his shoulder that you knew weighed at least a ton. And the way he carried it so effortlessly made the coiled heat in your stomach spread out across your body.
Why couldn’t you have just been attracted to normal men? Why couldn’t you have been attracted to traits that wouldn’t have put you in an early grave?
You took your backpack off and shoved it blade down next to your shotgun, zipping the bag shut as far as it would go. If it came to a fight, there was no way a weapon with a metal blade would help you. You almost laughed aloud. If it came to a fight between the two of you, only god himself intervening would help you.
“Who the fuck are you?” You weren’t subtle in the way your eyes roved up and down his body.
He raised an eyebrow.
“Oh. You’re not local? Even better.”
He grinned, and flicked his hand.
The rod that he had thrown came out of the wall and wrapped itself around your neck. Your hands instinctively came up, trying to pry it off. He laughed at your attempts, and another flick of his hand had you being dragged down to the floor neck first before he sent the rest of the scrap metal that had been floating idly to cocoon you.
“Mother Miranda’s gonna love you.”
He laughed, and you cursed at yourself for finding that laugh so attractive as he towered over you. As that last sheet covered your face, you let yourself go, slipping into a deep sleep.
Your back hurt. Your wrists hurt. Your head hurt. Everything hurt. But the silver lining on the situation was that you weren’t trapped in a metal cocoon any longer. Instead you were lying on a stone floor, wrists handcuffed together. A discreet tug while you pretended to still be asleep revealed that they were attached to a short chain that was connected to a loop on the floor. Regardless of how strong you were, in your current condition there was no way you could even make an attempt to get yourself free. Even if there weren’t people in the room.
You could hear their voices in the background, and it was a struggle to sort your thoughts so that you could tune into their voices. It had to be about you, and you needed to know what they planned to do with you.
There was no fear, it would only make you panic. Instead there was just determination, a need to survive even if there wasn’t much in your life worth it. Spite maybe? You weren’t going to give anyone the satisfaction of dying alone in a village full of corpses.
“The mortal is of no real use to anyone else. And my daughters do so love. . . entertaining foreigners.”
Red flag. Hearing that in any other scenario would have been a pleasant thing, but given the context of the situation and everything you had been through so far, you were sure that whatever the woman meant by that could not be a good thing. And if those daughters were still alive when the rest of the village had been subjected to either vicious deaths or being slowly and painfully turned into a creature that you were very sure could be considered werewolves.
“Furthermore, I can assure you if you entrust the mortal to House Dimitrescu, my daughters and I shall deliver to you the finest cups of their slaughtered blood.”
Yup, entertaining those daughters was definitely not a good thing.
You pried your eyes open, almost wishing you hadn’t when you saw the creepiest doll in the world standing in front of you. She was about three feet tall and wearing a wedding dress that was admittedly well-crafted. You almost twisted to kick it out of reflex, especially as it started moving like it was alive. A hunchback came in from the side to crowd your personal space, and you gagged against the strong smell of fish. You had smelled actual dead fish that were not as fishy. What did this man do all day?
The doll roughly pushed him out of the way, complaining in a high pitched voice, “Out of the way ugly! I wanna see- oh!”
“You mean-” The man who had captured you started, being interrupted by the doll’s excited dancing and announcement that you had woken as well as the hunchback’s general groaning.
To your left you spied your backpack, just out of reach.
“Y-you mean,” he tried again. “Both of you shut the fuck up!”
Well that did it. The doll went to sit in the lap of what could only be her puppeteer, a woman in funeral garb, the only skin exposed being her pale hands. The hunchback shambled off to the side, standing behind the pew where the only human passing man in the entire village sat.
“You mean you’ll screw around with them in private, and where’s the fun in that?”
You looked around, taking note of the woman who had been speaking. Dimitrescu. You could practically feel your nosebleed coming on. She was the tallest woman you had ever seen, and the most beautiful too. Her skin was so pale, her lips a deep red. She looked like a vampire, but given what you had seen so far and her talk of delivering your blood to the other woman in cups was making you think that maybe she didn’t just look like one.
Her name was ringing bells in your head. Dimitrescu. Where had you heard that before?
“Give them to me,“ the man started again, “and I’ll put on a show everyone can enjoy.”
Why me? This was definitely punishment for something.
“Hey I know you!” you interjected, addressing the tall woman and interrupting her as the realisation hit you.
They all stopped, turning to face you properly for the first time. Dimitrescu looked you up and down, seemingly regarding you as something beneath her. You quickly came to the conclusion that maybe interrupting her was a mistake, but you didn’t care. There was still no fear, even in the face of a giantess.
“Dimitrescu. That’s the name on that super rare wine in the really pretty bottle. They don’t distribute it anymore.”
She continued to look down at you, which admittedly was easy for her to do given height. “And how would the likes of you have tasted the Sanguinis Virginis?”
“Some rich guy I met at a bar gave it to me in exchange for. . . It doesn’t matter. But. . . it stands for Maiden’s Blood right?” You froze, the dots practically connecting themselves. “Oh my god. I think I’m gonna be sick.”
You leaned over to the side, ready to vomit. You knew there was something wrong with that wine. Your mood was not helped by the shrieking laughter that the doll was emitting at your expense. The man, to his credit, had the decency to wrinkle his nose in disgust at the prospect of blood filled wine. You had drank someones blood. Who had she been? Had they tortured her? Had she died in agony? You didn’t know. You didn’t really want to know.
You looked back up towards the altar. The woman standing at it had looked as familiar as Dimitrescu’s name had sounded. You had seen her portrait in many of the homes. And thinking back, it had definitely been her that had killed that villager when Luiza’s house had burned down. Your heart tugged painfully at the thought of Elena, at how you had come so close to saving her before the floor had collapsed under her and she had told you to escape this village and run.
This woman was Mother Miranda, and somehow she was the cause of all of this. Still no fear, but hatred bubbled up in your heart.
“I’ve heard all of your arguments. Some of you were less persuasive than others, but. . .” She looked at the man, who had now put his hammer on the ground, leaning forward as he waited for her answer, “Heisenberg, the mortal’s fate is in your hands.”
He tipped his hat towards her, grinning.
Dimitrescu got to her feet.
“Mother Miranda I must protest! Heisenberg is but a child, and his devotion to you is questionable.” She started walking towards you. “Give the mortal to me, and I will ensure that they are ready.”
Heisenberg angrily got to his feet, stalking towards her. You had to hand it to him, even with his telekinesis, he must have been fearless to confront Dimitrescu when he was half her size.
He held out his hand as he approached her, summoning the hammer to him. You were beginning to think that something was wrong with you, given that the action had your gut coiling again.
“Shut your damn hole and don’t be a sore loser! Go find your food somewhere else.”
“Quiet now child-”
“Well if it were up to me-” you started.
“It isn’t!” Both of them shouted down at you in unison, though Dimitrescu put significantly more venom into it.
“Well please spare me the family drama when I get enough of that at home.”
Heisenberg actually laughed at that, some of the tension leaving him. Dimitrescu however, looked incensed.
“How dare you! Do you have any idea-”
“If you’re going to ask me if I know who you are, we already established that I did. I just don’t care. And I’m not afraid of a single one of you!”
Heisenberg let out a full belly laugh at that. At which part of the statement he found to be hilarious, you weren’t sure. At least someone had found you funny, and you never wanted that laugh of his to stop. You could listen to it all day.
“SILENCE!” Mother Miranda shouted over them, intervening before someone - probably you - got hurt. “My decision is final, there will be no argument. Remember from whence you came!”
“A megabitch apparently,” you muttered under your breath.
One look at Heisenberg told you that he definitely heard that too. And as he smiled at the statement, you knew in your bones that Dimitrescu was right. His loyalty to Mother Miranda wasn’t just questionable, he hated her. You could feel it. Why though, was anyone’s guess. Though to be fair, she didn’t exactly scream motherly love.
Briefly, you wondered why someone with his abilities didn’t just finish her off and get it over with. But her words, reminding them to remember where they came from. . . she must have been very powerful if she could scold a nine foot tall vampire queen and a cowboy with the powers of Magneto into submission.
Dimitrescu moved back, but Heisenberg moved forward to take up all your attention. Those horrible monsters swarmed in as he did so, clinging to the walls, the scaffolding and leaning over the balconies, snarling and howling as he did so.
“Lycans and Gentleman, we thank you for waiting.”
I fucking knew they were werewolves.
“And now let the games begin!” He leaned down towards you, coming in at eye level. “Lets see what you’re really made of.”
You just smiled at him, deciding to let that beast under your skin that was making heat coil in your gut out to play. “I don’t suppose you’re single.”
His grin dropped off his face, and something like genuine surprise flitted across it. But instead of answering he raised his hammer above his head.
He swung it down, cracking the loop that was keeping you chained to the floor. Lycans were beginning to crowd in. And Heisenberg, he was beginning to countdown from ten. You looked to your left again, spotting the hole in the floor just beyond your bag. You darted towards it, picking up your bag as you did so and turning to the lords one last time. You brought your hands to your face and kissed your palm, blowing it towards Heisenberg. He stuttered in his countdown, just enough to be barely noticeable. You wondered if it was in confusion or if it was because maybe, just maybe, you had flustered him ever so slightly. You vowed that you would make it out alive and find out.
Then you stuck up your two middle fingers, and jumped down the hole.