Description: The Patriarch of the House of Podiebrad's easy life as a beloved nobleman has ended in the most humiliating of ways. When he knocked over a single vase while entertaining guests at the Castle Alucard, as punishment, our hero has become enslaved by the mistress of the castle. In order to work off his debt, Bela von Podiebrad is forced to act as a manservant for the cruel vampire queen. But while placed in charge with working and cleaning the Alucard's organs, the most senior of her servant has different sort of chore for our hero to complete. Will he escape from the dominating power of the head butler, and back into his previous status and standing? Or will Valkenhayn be on the hunt after him, mouth alive, with juices like wine... and Hungry Like The Wolf? (The cover shows Bela pinned against an old pipe organ. He is stripped to the waist, down to his leather pants. He is turning his head away, lips curled somewhere between a look of disgust and lust. Grabbing his wrist is a fair-looking Valkenhayn, gripping the Podiebrad's wrists with both of his hands, and neatly and cleanly in control of the smaller Podiebrad with a look of bemused detachment. Behind them, the door is opened a crack. Behind it reveals the master, Rachel Alucard, arrive back from her chores with a look of shock. At her feet, a chubby black cat and chubby red bat are peeking in too, and a black stallion is poking its nose in above her. The stallion and the bat look as shocked as their master. The cat looks rater excited.)
This place was supposed to be forbidden to outsiders.
Deep within the cloistered halls of Castle Alucard, past the decorated walls and tapestries and relics and treasures of countless timelines and realities, there are places sealed off. Only members of ancient vampire clans like the Alucards themselves, immortal entities long bound to the service of observing reality as it comes to pass, could even dream of passing it. Their blood was the key, their blood was the only passage. Only those as blessed as the Observer herself was supposed to be allowed in. ONly those as blessed as the observer herself, or her family. It would only take a passing glimpse, an intuition to guide you to one of these impossible seals.
And they would be ajar.
Somebody had opened them, and there had been no sign of them opening. Their scent should be lingering on the smear of blood that marked it, and there is no scent to linger. THe very blood obscured itself, hid the scent. No, confused it. A hundred entities, scattered all across the castle, had the exact same scent. And a hundred entities were currently being tricked and confused by the games and trials brought forth by Rachel Alucard. You would only go in further, deeper into the chambers where arches that stretch to the darkness above make the depths of these catacombs. These shadowy vaults that made the underbelly of the castle. Even seal between here and... there. Broken. As fast as the wind, when the final warning would come. When suddenly, deep in the very heart, in the very sanctum where only he would come to.
The organ begins to play.
The chromatic pipework of thousands of notes winds around the towering organ, where thousands of keys are spread across the plugs and switches for each valve to adjust. The scale of the instrument was immeasurable, and the winding nature of the piping defied geometry and space. The sound of it was never as loud as it could be, never as much as it could be as it filled every corner of the castle. And at the center of the organ, where there had long sat an empty slot, a shimmering emerald sphere. The song is solemn, forlorn, haunting. And far too familiar. It's familiarity was accursed, it's sound the gravest insult to level. And down, at the ancient seat before the ancient organ.
A figure hangs over it.
Long ago, it would have been Clavis Alucard at these pipes. Long ago, it would have been him playing the songs that wheeze and breath deep across the essence of. But there is no Clavis Alucard here. Just the short figure clad in silver, gold, and brigandine, the armored bodysuit of purple wrapped in plates of silver and gold. Taloned gauntlets, its fingers reaching for the keys, continue the song, the wards and barriers melting away. It was trying to seize control of the manor. It -knew- the songs. ANd yet, it keeps its head lowered, the man's face concealed by the raven's mask of silver. Long white hair dangles behind his wide pauldrons, as the man continues to play, his gold-painted lips pursed in focus. ANd hanging over him, dressed in twisted mockery of the organist, is a spectral reflect of him, lacking in armor, blazing with indigo armor, and holding a skull like visage for a head. Up till now, they both were invisible to the prying eyes of the observer, invisible from the gaze of the guardians.
But none could now be deaf to the sound of the organ playing.
When was the last time that the eternal midnight which hangs over Castle Alucard bore witness to so much activity? When was the last time that the stones of its very foundation called out, to all those who were capable of hearing such hushed and ancient voices?
One man has stood sentinel over this sprawling estate since time immemorial, and even he is incapable of providing an answer. And certainly not for lack of trying; ever since the rising of the blood moon - and all that it had brought with it - the mind of Valkenhayn R. Hellsing has been occupied. Trying to recall a precedent set by past events, which might put the previous hours in context.
He has come up lacking in that regard. There can be little doubt that he has returned in strange times, and not just for the realm of Makai; he wonders what the effects of the night's festivities will truly mean for both the demon world, and the human one as well.
Stalking through the shadows, the werewolf's hairs stand on the back of his neck - a sense of unease hanging over him that he has not felt since he first stepped foot onto these grounds, long ago in the days of Lord Clavis Alucard. Unsure of the source, he has spent the last hours roaming the halls; it might appear aimless, but the paths he take never cover the same ground as before... it's as if he is following a memorized map, using shortcuts and visiting areas of the Castle which a guest would never be aware of.
And eventually, his travels take him to a place more well-hidden than the rest... a place no one who was merely wandering would ever reach. You would need more than to simply know it existed, for to gain entry to the sealed chambers is no small thing; even Valkenhayn, long-time servant that he is, is a rare visitor there - and never alone.
Some places require more than loyalty in order to be granted access. One of the Alucard's true places of power, it should have been accessible only by someone carrying the blood which that royal clan possesses.
And yet, it is unsealed... /ajar/, even.
The moment his eyes fall upon the unsecured entrance, Valkenhayn's comes to a sudden halt, body stiffening... he had only come here to be thorough - he had never expected any signs of activity. It was not a place often visited, even by Madam Rachel, and so he had expected a quick sweep of the antechamber to reveal nothing.
Keen eyes can spot the smear of blood from far across the room, but where his nose should be able to pick up a scent... there is none. Or at least, there is nothing within the scent to distinguish it - no information to be gleaned, no unique characteristics. The strangeness of that fact alone only serves to put the butler more on edge; slowly creeping up to the entrance, his body is tense and his mind alight with even more questions.
But there is only one which mattered: who could have done this?
As he creeps through broken seal after broken seal, there comes something drifting up from the passages ahead... a sound not heard since Clavis Alucard walked these halls.
All at once, a blood-red wave of rage breaks the levies of Valkenhayn's mind, flooding his entire being with an anger that overwhelms him. His hands shake, causing him to push one gloved palm against the stone wall which he has been following on his winding path deeper and, deeper into this forbidden place... and with a *crack*, his unrestrained force crushes a hand-print into the firm material.
It's too much. The very idea that someone would have broken into this place like some common thief... but worse than a thief, they did not seek out some treasure and flee into the night. No, they have sat at the proverbial dinner table and made themselves a snack, perhaps even arrogant enough to /wait/ for someone to stumble upon them. The fact that /someone/ is operating Lord Clavis' ancient instrument... it is inconceivable to the mind of Valkenhayn, who looked up to that late Vampire perhaps more than anyone other than his daughter.
He pushes himself deeper, his savage nature unconsciously shifting his body into the form of that massive, brown-furred wolf as he continues.
And finally, he arrives at the source of that haunting music; arguably the most sacred place in all of Castle Alucard - at least to the lycanthrope himself, who still holds dear the Oath he spoke to the man who once sat at that organ... even after his passing.
Staying to the darkness, the hulking wolf - bright red pinpoints of his eyes visible even in the inky blackness - crosses the threshold into the inner sanctum... and he hangs back. Perhaps the individual in that hallowed seat might spot a looming, bestial shadow imposed over the organ's pipes... perhaps he would /hear/ the low, rumbling growl from Valkenhayn, the sound of which blends in with the music - adding a bass backing to the haunting tune played by the organ.
He cannot speak in such a form, but the feral noise of an enraged lycanthrope does a suitable job at conveying one message: who dares?
The figure does not stop his playing, when Valkenhayn arrives.
It is a delicate playing, intricate. Complicated. There is no sheet music, and yet, the song seems to be with meaning and purposes. The strange green globe radiates and glows, energy filling and pulsating dimly. It was calm. Too calm. And right now, outside of the eyes and ears of the sound, the figure's presence was... indistinct. There was no smell. Something was obscuring its presence; it could very well have been an illusion for all purposes. When the growl comes, he doesn't stop. No, he -harmonizes-, incorporating the growls within the haunting melody.
"It's sweet music, isn't it?"
The voice is etheral, breaking the lines and boundaries of life and death. The strange, scrawny-limbed spirit turns in the air, flipping clownishly instead a seating position. Turning his leg, he crosses it over the other as that skull wreathed in indigo flames gazes up at the shape amongst the pipes. Despite the lack of emotion present on the deathly visage, the body language is capable of showing that disgust. "I'm disappointed that it's you. Valkenhayn, is it? The Sagacious Gray Wolf." The spirit murmurs, as his host continues to play. The spirit is indistinct, barely capable of manifesting; the voice seems to drift from auditory to telepathically, the boundaries hazy and weak. "I was hoping for that little lace-trimmed leech to come down herself. I can only imagine how insulting it is for someone to playing on -this- organ, with this song. It's very important that she's in control of -her- things, isn't it?" It was mocking Rachel. And by extension, Valkenhayn himself. But what -he- was doing, wasn't what the flesh and blood man was doing, locked in his own playing. The spirit mimes patting him on the head. "Oh, don't worry about this guy."
"He needs to focus on his playing.
The spirit nods briskly. "Of course, the boy doesn't realize what he's playing, or why. It's a little joke, you see." He gestures dismissingly. "He's so upset that he wasn't invited to the Rosalia. He wanted his revenge against the lady of the house, and well. Here he is. IN the deepest sanctum, past the links and gates and paths. And with a talent unrivaled, he plays, for you, and her, to listen." He taps his skull, watching the butler as he hovers over man playing. He uncrosses his legs, a building of outrage rippling over his body as he jolts up slightly, flying a bit higher as he floats up like a cloud. "Well are you going to snuff and growl about it? Come down, and make your introductions and what not."
"Don't you even know who we are?!"
This ghastly intruder certainly picked the wrong way to go about things, if polite introductions were indeed his end goal. Had he chosen any other place in the Castle, perhaps he would have encountered Valkenhayn the loyal guardian and custodian - but instead, the ethereal man (or perhaps the young boy?) chose this most inner sanctum... intentionally or not, the result remains the same. He will have to deal with Valkenhayn the monster, a remnant from the servant's past which still dwells beneath the centuries of domestication and servitude.
The insults towards him and - more importantly - his mistress have the expected effect, his growling becoming deeper, more dangerous... a sound which seems to /promise/ that some great and terrible violence will be unleashed upon those who would utter such a gross disrespect. Crimson eyes narrow on the spectre hanging above the room; a quandry, to be sure... While Lady Alucard might well be capable of dispelling such a spirit, Valkenhayn possesses no such magic - and though there exist relics within these walls which could be of aid in such a matter, he carries no such objects on his person.
So, the question remains... how does one intimidate the immaterial? What consequences could he possibly threaten the already dead with? Is there anything to use as leverage, against one who has already gone on to the next world?
There really only seems to be one option. But first, there is information he needs to extract from this bizarre pair; they should /not/ be here, and not only because decorum demands it... this place should have been sealed to any outsiders. So /how/?!
With great concentration and effort, the wolf begins to shift - morphing into an upright position as limbs crack and reshape, its body swelling and twisting in a rather hideous fashion... when all is said and done, he is no longer in his canine form - but neither has he returned to the well-dressed, prim and proper butler who had begun the descent into this chamber.
He is neither, and both; a feral combination of man and beast, standing upright as a human might but still possessing the terrifying features, claws, and fangs of a fierce dire wolf. It is a form that Valkenhayn rarely takes, and generally only when he has descended into a battle frenzy... it takes more than willpower to maintain this shape, but pure, uncontained fury as well. And right now, he has no shortage of the latter to fuel this monstrous hybrid form.
"Who you are? Allow me... you're both dead men; currently, in your case... the boy, soon to join you..."
The creature speaks, his voice somewhere between the sharp, well-spoken tones of a gentleman and the frightening rumble of a wolf. And he approaches, slowly and methodically; long arms dangle loosely in front of his body, jaws snap at the air in between words, tongue comes lolling out ifrom the side of his mouth - the ropey, glistening saliva of the truly famished dripping onto the cool stones underfoot. His breath steams out of his mouth, hitting the chill of the underground and turning into a fog which hangs thick in the air and partially obscures his frightening visage.
One 'hand' - resembling more an oversized paw than any human limb - lifts up into the air, clawed digit pointing directly at where the spectral form of the second intruder seems to flicker in and out of being... and then with a slow sweep, keeping his arm extended, the claw moves to the younger individual seated in front of the organ and continuing that mournful tune.
"Perhaps, if you tell me why you have come - and /how/... I will endeavor to make /his/ end merciful, if nothing else..."
And still, his slow pace towards the organ - and the boy playing it - continues... his nose sniffs the air in frustration, that anger compounded as something continues to obscure the scents hanging around the room. His senses rarely fail him, and the fact that they are being prevented from giving him answers is more than vexing, it is infuriating.
And yet, there is something he /can/ sense. An energy, coalescing... and that song, continuing to play - as the various seals and ancient wards around the Castle begin to /respond/ to that melody... the earth underneath their feet reacting almost viscerally to the tune croaking out from the massive pipes that that rise high above.
Each step brings him closer and closer to the instrument, and the individual playing it... his eyes set firmly on the back of the man who is hunched over the keys... each step towards him seems like he were wading through a morass, a swamp composed of such dreary heaviness that it takes an almost supernatural focus to carry onward through it.
As the shapes and shadow reveal themselves, the spirit merely makes a tsk tsk noise.
"So he is a werewolf... How dreadful." Purrs the spirit, as the spittle drips down. "I was hoping it was a miserable rumor over poor grooming habits. What kind of gentleman refuses to grow a mustache? "But really, my apologies for such crass language. If you were any less of a gentleman, you would have ripped his throat out with hardly a warning or a whisper. But this is a warning, and a whisper. Yes, yes, I will take your generous offer!" The spectre gives a bow, rising up in the air more. The further away he got, the fainter, less real he became; so he drifts only about a few meters from the organist. Stopping his ascent, he puts his hands on his hips, his host dully unreactive to the wolf. "As for who we are, you obviously should know it. Imagine having someone so threatening that they slip to very heart of your master sanctuary, and not even have a glimmer of who, or what they are? Shame is better expressed as a feral anger, after all. Here. Let's wait for the bridge..." After a few moments, a brief pause comes from the music. The strange dark aura around the orb begins to surge. The man raises a hand, and with a flick of the wrist, a flash of the fingers, two coins fly through the air. One silver. One gold. Both unerringly accurate, supernaturally guiding to where the wolf was stalking. The music picks up again as they fly to where Valkenhayn was, and the aura fades once more.
"A penny for your thoughts, or two?"
The silver bears the insignia of the House of Podiebrad, the herdaly symbol of a two faced corvus against three fess, one side bearing with a claw holding a scepter, the other with a ring in it's beak. The opposite side bears the face of the current Patriarch in profile, Bela von Podiebrad. The gold coin, however, bears the crest of the NOL. The other side would show the relief of the Imperator of the NOL herself, Izanami Hades. Obvious clues and demonstration. And yet, why doesn't he out and say it? "You can keep them, of course. We forgot to tip when coming in." The spirit states dryly, swinging his gnarled fingers in time to the next part of the haunting melody. "I believe it's now obvious who this poor fool is, or was." The spectre coos.
"Now, where we came from..."
The spirit prances through the air spritely, and in time with the song. "We arrived through the crypts, the catacombs, the city of the dead. Uninvited, I am afraid. It was very much a horrible journey, with so many vengeful, wandering spirits lurking around. And he seemed so -angry- you know. So furious. And it made him so easily tempted in making... awful mistakes. And them we fought a Buddhist monk, and a miserable gargoyle minion, and she nearly trapped us!" He mimes clasping his hands, like catching a fly. He opened his hands, and glances upwards.
"But we had slipped away."
"I hope you advised her against making such insults." The spectre asides, cupping his hand. "And obsession with games. Really, is she that bored that she gambles with her life? There are important lessons to take away here. Could you imagine if we were assassins, seeking to murder your master? Imagine only just -realizing- our arrival as the last sparks of life were twisted out of her, oh no, oh no. No, no, we are here to deal with the grave insult your mistress has made against this poor soul. Inviting every single member of the house, except him? Why, he was almost murderously livid. Thats why so many little ants are scurrying around. I wouldn't be surprised if you had to teach a few of them a lesson." His teasing, nonsensical tone stops cold dead, as he takes on the grave air that hardly belated the murderous situation he was in. "You -do- try to keep her nasty teasing and tricks in check, don't you?" He shakes his head sternly, wagging a finger at the werewolf.
"I would be much more comfortable if there was someone keeping the worst of her imaginations from running wild."
How polite - and yet still cutting - are the insults and jabs which come from the spirit dwelling above. If Valkenhayn were in a more typical mood, he might enjoy sharing a witty repartee with the intruder; but there can be no forgiving such a grievous trespass as this. So what could their plan be? Surely nothing as mundane as suicide via darkstalker; clearly the ghost has some bizarre confidence in the safety of his living human companion...
...or maybe he just doesn't care?
The thought nags at the back of Valkenhayn's head as he treads across the cold floor of the sanctum, moving ever closer to the organ player - and that bizarre, glowing orb. He keeps stealing glances at the object, as though he were trying to discern its purpose, or its origin... if only there weren't some other presence or power, stifling the scent of everything within the chamber. Were he not almost entirely focused on approaching the seated individual, he might find himself more concerned about what that meant.
One massive paw swings through the air to catch the two manifested coins, taking a moment to glance down as he rolls each of them around between the claws of his thumb and forefinger... first the gold, then the silver. When his burning eyes fall, at last, upon the front side of the silver coin - and the insignia it bears - there is something that could perhaps be described as a smirk which crosses his wolfish features... or at least as close as he can accomplish, given his present form.
Some answers given by those two circles of metal, his attention moves back to the spirit. Then, Valkenhayn's red eyes narrow suddenly as he notices something... as the rather verbose ghost floats further away from the man below him, the more vague and tenuous his form becomes. How lovely! That sudden realization and what he thinks it means is enough to cause those wolfish jaws to widen as something approximating a laugh - but entirely inhuman in nature - comes tumbling out from between those slick, wet fangs.
If that apparition is tied to the boy, well... that makes matters much easier for everyone involved.
Finally, the strange vision finishes its condescending speech - and those nicely worded, yet ultimately naked, barbs which he seems intent on throwing at the savage beast stalking towards him. And it is Valkenhayn's time to respond, his voice coming out first as low and calm - as though utterly unbothered by the sheer contempt shown by the spectre ahead of him.
"It turns out the men of Podiebrad are even bigger fools than I might have first thought... to come here, seeking revenge for some slight - imagined or otherwise... how dreadful for you, indeed..." his voice rumbles - the practiced words of a proper gentleman coming from a monster.
"If you petty creatures had any knowledge of civilized society, you might know it's not my place to question the Lady's whims... nor is it anyone else's, for that matter. The lives of you pathetic humans are there for Her entertainment alone; to think otherwise is only hubris on your part". His right 'hand' comes up to chest level and opens, those two coins tumbling to the cold stone below as he continues to stomp towards the occupied seat in front of the organ.
"To say nothing of the thought that you, or any other, could hope to harm Her /here/ - where Her power eclipses all... ah, to see someone throw their existence - such as it is - away so readily! I had almost forgotten the blind, stumbling arrogance that dwells within the blood of your House! I wonder, has that weakness /DESTROYED/ your PALTRY legacy yet? TELL me! How LOW has the name of PODIEBRAD fallen, TO VALUE THE BOY'S LIFE SO LITTLE?!"
Those last, bellowed words come out so powerfully from deep inside the thick, furry chest of the stalking werewolf that it seems to shake the very chamber itself with his noise and rage. It seems he is nearing some kind of breaking point, the continued disrespect from one he views as so thoroughly beneath him nearly causing Valkenhayn to lose what little grip he has on himself.
Finally, his long, slow traverse across the length of the chamber have brought him within a few feet of the more material intruder. Looming high above the man's back, the werewolf continues to breath steam and fog into the air, each breath bringing with it a threatening rumble.
"But enough with /words/, I think..."
Valkenhayn extends a long, bestial arm extends towards the shoulder of the hunched-over man in front of him... though the air seems to get heavier as he reaches towards him, he nevertheless forces his way through the weariness. Barring any trickery or sudden reaction, he aims to clasp one rough paw on the man's armoured shoulder... and yank him away from the organ which his old Master once held so dear. At the very least, he'll be trying to get a good look at the face of this intruder...
"Oh, what puffed up nonsense!"
The spectre scoffs at Valkenhayn's rebuttal. And yet, he watches those coins with eerie attention. Glancing up, he drifts down to the ground level, trying to move himself between him and his ward. "Really, your loyalty is admirable! But the House of Podiebrad has long battled such weary ideals of monstrous nobility. And besides, she started it! You arrogant creatures don't know what you deal with when you mock and meddle with humans!" The spectre declares, flailing and lashing out as he circles the wolfman. It actually manages to swing a kick at Valkenhayn from behind... harmlessly, as the wolf approaches his host. Embittered by the efforts, the spirit grips his own hips, wiggling them as he unleashes a parting shot to the back of the wolfman. "It's amusing how so many things are made to protect her, how much effort there is." The spirit coos. "But how it is that the most important thing to protect above all... is her ego? A brat like her deserves to be humilated once in a while. It's -her- that forgets -her- place!" But the words are as empty as the spirit is. Valkenhayn reaches for the victim, and the man is seized by his shoulder, and turned away from the organ keys.
The music stops.
As the man is pulled away, his mask slipping to his feet. There is no sound of a clatter. Looking up at Valkenhayn, what is revealed is the face on the coin. The Patriarch of the House of Podiebrad himself, Bela von Podiebrad. his face is cut sharp, long and stony with a distant, aloof facade. He wears a headdress of black feathers around his hair, and has hazel eyes that almost seem to change color in the light. His hair is stylized in bangs in the front, with a long ponytail behind him over his cloak. He is deathly pale. But his expression.... The face itself is... familiar. Not in feature, no. But in expression. That blank expression, that sense of suppression of the ego and will. The lack of reactions, except for that building sneer of contempt and malice. It was automatic, inhuman. Valkenhayn would have seen it at least once before. From a spell, from a magic of sort, from a very powerful sorcerer indeed. "Really? Is that enough words? How disappointing." The spirit mutters behind Valkenhayn, crossing his arms. There is a hint of... sneering arrogance. Of smug delight. The mask is gone from Bela's feet. The orb's dark presence builds, more and more as the echos of the organ's forlorn tune fade into the cryptic passages. "I was hoping to buy more time." Something jolts through Bela. A spark of green light flashing deep within his eyes.
A very familiar green light.
Teeth bared, indigo energy floods over the smaller man as he rises up. The Podiebrad would be tearing his palms up and around, surging with indigo flames as he attempts seize the wolfman by between the legs and under his shoulder. Should he make the grip? He would straighten into a rigid stance, to make a rather direct reversal to slam him across the keys of the organ. Should he manage get that far? He would intricately place his fingers upon the back ribs of the wrewolf, and play. Deep, penetrating touches, not deep within the flesh, but deep and resounding through the soul, twisting the ribs, pulsating down to the keys below. The organ would scream, yes. But he would try to play.
To try and continue that song with tormented howls of Rachel Alucard's most trusted servant.
COMBATSYS: Bela has started a fight here.
COMBATSYS: Valkenhayn has joined the fight here.
[\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\ < > //////////////////////////////]
Valkenhayn 0/-------/-------|-------\-------\0 Bela
COMBATSYS: Valkenhayn blocks Bela's Medium Throw.
[ \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\ < > //////////////////////////////]
Valkenhayn 0/-------/-------|-------\-------\0 Bela
The fangless, irrelevant words of that haunting spirit seem to be entirely ignored now; Valkenhayn having come to realize that it is tied irrevocably to what appears to be its 'host'... the young, armoured man sitting at Clavis Alucard's old instrument. As such, his focus is almost entirely on the boy - no longer interested in bandying words with the dead... it is time to give the spectre some company in the afterlife. Another foolish Podiebrad, about to be brought low by his own arrogance and disrespect for those far above his own station.
Or so Valkenhayn thinks, at any rate.
The reality of the situation, yet to make itself known, is far more terrifying - and a larger threat to not only himself, but his immortal Mistress - than he had assumed at first.
Hand grasping the mysterious figures shoulder, he pulls... and the mask falls, oddly without a noticeable clatter - though Valkenhayn himself is far too consumed by curiosity as to the man's true identity to notice the strangeness of that. So it is the face on the coin, after all... and yet, there is something familiar beyond the resemblance to the minted profile. Something from another time... a smug, ego-driven disdain... a dark malevolence greater than any mere human might be capable of displaying.
He tries to dismiss it in his head, shove it away as merely a side-effect of hosting the spectral being who had done all the talking up to this point. But deep down, he knows it is something more than that. It is no coincidence that these two find themselves here, seemingly unconcerned when confronted by the fearsome werewolf who guards these walls. An arrogance so familiar that he cannot dismiss it as mere happenstance.
As if to hammer that point home, there is a sudden flash... deep within the boy's distant, impassive eyes... a green light, carrying with it an overwhelming wave of spite and animosity - an almost physical force that impacts Valkenhayn like a traincar.
The shock is enough to stagger him, causing the Castle's guardian's head to reel with voices and faces that seem to stretch across the vast expanse of time to manifest in his mind; with a vividness that makes it seem as though he were thrown back into those ancient days. Voices reach out from times long passed...
'Such evil cannot be allowed to fester, in this realm or any other. We will seal you away, then, for the good of all...'
'Old fool... you think this is the end of your struggles? I... will... return!'
The words echo through his mind, distant and far-off - remnants of a time long ago, in these very halls, when Valkenhayn R. Hellsing truly believed they had done away with a great evil for all time. Of course, time is a relative thing - and the devious fiend that Lord Clavis cast away was soon viewed as a lesser evil by those who arrogantly thought they could control him.
Could it be that he has returned once more to this place, seeking vengeance against Madam Rachel for his imprisonment at her Father's hands? The werewolf sincerely hopes not, but the feeling is entirely /too/ familiar for comfort - and the idea that it is mere coincidence or some desperate bluff seem to be little more than a fool's hope.
The almost physical impact which the sudden flash of green seems to have struck Valkenhayn with slowly recedes - forced away by the immense willpower of the lycanthrope. Albeit entirely too late to defend himself from the sudden grab by Bela, gripped firmly with a strength and determination that seems entirely alien coming from a mere human.
The feeling of hands on his body seem to snap the lycanthrope back to reality - too late to prevent the throw, unfortunately, but not too late to mitigate any further harm. His stiff, tall body is heaved up and around with a startling ease - the young Podiebrad patriach depositing Valkenhayn across the keys of the organ with a slam that causes a dissonant, hideous screech from the towering pipes.
A screech that is joined by a mournful howl of agony from the werewolf, as the seemingly possessed boy continues to play his song /through/ the body of Valkenhayn. It's as though daggers of pure contempt and malice are being driven through his very soul - the inner being of the fierce darkstalker reacting as a Hollywood movie monster might react to a silver bullet... whatever power Bela Podiebrad is channeling - whether it is or isn't the province of that ancient, hated enemy - seems to be anathema to the very being of Rachel Alucard's loyal servant.
But all this does little to beat back the fury which has been boiling within Valkenhayn's mind and body... and after Bela plays a few chords on the werewolf's body, he would find one wrist grasped by the massive, clawed hand of the beast - ceasing the music as the last tones come rumbling out of the organ.
With a sudden roar of anger, starting as a low growl and immediately transitioning to a rumbling bellow, he moves to roll off of the organ's keys... still holding Bela's wrist, he pushes with all the strength he can muster. An attempt to send the boy tumbling backwards - but not so he can create some distance between him and the Podiebrad... no, Valkenhayn keeps hold of that arm for as long as he possibly can, trying to slam the intruder's back onto the harsh stone floor. As for the werewolf himself, his body flares with purple light - that massive, bestial frame infused with an energy that burns hot and bright with unbridled ferocity - as he attempts to use his considerable weight and strength to slam into the boy's midsection; aiming to stradle the foolish human and pin him to the ground as the werewolf's arcane inner power courses through the two of them.
"Never... should... have... come... here..."
The words come out in a hoarse, almost strangled tone... to even form speech seems to be a monumental task for the usually well-spoken butler. Too many thoughts, emotions, memories are whirling through his head - threatening to reduce him to the level of a thoughtless, feral beast should he prove unable to gain some semblance of control... and soon.
COMBATSYS: Valkenhayn successfully hits Bela with Medium Throw.
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Valkenhayn 0/-------/------=|===----\-------\0 Bela
Bela himself doesn't seem to take any pleasure in the screams.
The spirit, however, audibly -drinks- the suffering, hungrily devouring the pain and misery with gluttonous merriment. "Such sweet music! Such delicious meat of the soul! It's just a pity, a terrible pity. I was really hoping I could have distracted you longer." The spectre explains, as the wolfman rolls off. Instinctively, the Patriarch loosens up. His stance shifts, as he lowers down into a crouch, spreading out. His armor begins to change, the gold begins to shift and shimmer around him. With a tumble and a sway, it sloughs off and up as he tries to falls under, trying to wrench away his wrist. The mass of gold is flung away, a shift of gleaming yellow far away high up. As that purple light flares up, the raw brutal strength overcomes the wily nimbleness of the Podiebrad.
"Oh, pooh!" He exclaims, as Bela is -slammed- into the floor with piercing energy.
As the wolfman goes for a straddle, and with less armor than before, the dominated Bela brings his silver gauntlets up. Silver elsewhere crawls over his body, the mask having been absorbed upon it. Instinctively, it begins to fortify around the neck and throat; it was almost more of a muzzle now than a mask, indigo energy sparking. It seemed that the armor on him was morphic, able to shift and shape like water over him. Without the music playing, without the sound, the primal essence of the sphere begins to spread. That vile, evil power, pouring out. Poured out. Without the song, the glow of emerald begins to reveal further along the pipes and ground and very castle itself. Was it suppressing the energy of the sphere? Or merely concealing how far along it's corruption had come? Bela groans wordlessly, the figure scowling. But someone else is there to give commentary for him.
"Get back to the organ, stupid boy!"
The spectre scolds, leaning beside the duo uselessly as they wrestle for their lives. "You must return to the pipes. What a horrible disappointment. Maybe you are right, he should have never bothered coming if -this- is the best he can muster. Oh, Valkenhayn." The spectre rolls over on his back, legs up as he crosses one over the other, dangling it as he rocks it. He looks up, swiping his finger a moment, before stretching it behind his burning head. "I know you have more pressing things to worry about, but a consideration." Valkenhayn could hear whistling. The golden mass sloughed off earlier would be -returning- from above, descending in the shape of Rachel Alucard in golden repose. The gold too is reshaped, though with a different sense of style and content than the silver. In this case, it was the mistress of the castle with a few added features and endowed attributes, and a little less clothing in ribald mockery. But a golden statuette nevertheless, to smash in the base of Valkenhayn's neck as it descends like a meteor with a -surge- of indigo energy. Should it connect, or drive the wolfman away, the Podiebrad would shove and roll away, to escape the mauling. All while the spirit continues nonchalantly.
"Have you really thought about how badly things are going wrong?"
COMBATSYS: Bela successfully hits Valkenhayn with Calling From Heaven.
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Valkenhayn 0/-------/---====|======-\-------\0 Bela
And still, despite the struggle taking place between the wolf and the patriarch, that damnable spirit prattles on - managing to command Bela and insult Valkenhayn in equal measure... but the value of those words are lost on the butler, who continues to fall deeper and deeper into a rage-fuelled trance. His features - already some hideous combination of man and beast - continue to descend further into the realm of the lupine; fangs enlarge, claws becoming longer and sharper, spittle dripping out of his gaping maw to splatter down at the Podiebrad underneath him.
Without even knowing it, the typically iron will which Valkenhayn exercises uses to control his more savage instincts and bloody desires is being leeched away... replaced with a blind fury that pushes and pushes against his conscious mind, robbing him of his grip over the monster inside with each passing moment.
It is a double-edged sword, given the current predicament. Reverting to a snapping, clawing beast may well increase his strength and speed, but it comes with an equivalent loss in rationality and strategy... if he submits to his own primal instincts any further, he may well become little more than a beast - blindly lashing out against any within his sight.
And what could lift him up from such a dark place? He had given a promise to the Lord of this place, long ago - and his daughter by proxy... but do the words of a man have any bearing upon the behaviour of a such a foul monster? Will he once again become a wild brute, stalking the realms of demon and man for all eternity in search of prey...?
Fortunately, those last, mocking words from the spectre manage to cut through the blood-red haze which has consumed him - and for the briefest moment, the rational mind of Valkenhayn returns to him. The ethereal Podiebrad - with his constant condescension and insults - may have just managed to save what little shred of self-awareness and self-control that Valkenhayn still held onto.
But it is not so simple, for though his mind is temporarily returned to him it brings with it a haunting thought... was this entire event and the myriad of changes which it brought strictly part of Madam Rachel's entertainment? Or were there other, darker forces at work behind the scenes? Many times in the past several hours, he had found himself hoping that the Lady of the Castle did indeed have some grand scheme which she simply had not communicated to her loyal servant...
...the Castle's voice growing louder than it ever had in Valkenhayn's long memory, the strange, tribal man who hosted countless entities within him and won access to a powerful relic hidden in these walls, the emergence of a new Vampire spit from the proverbial loins of that savage, classless Lord Maximoff, and now... these two... and the memories of an ancient evil which they have carried with them to this place.
It cannot be coincidence, can it? The only question is, has Lady Alucard planned for these occurences, or are they happening outside of the realm of her foresight - and, more frightening to consider, her control.
There is, after all, only /one/ whom Valkenhayn is aware of that could possibly equal his mistress in her mastery of devious schemes and far-reaching plans... only one who could possibly hope to match her strength here, in the place where her power burns brightest.
Of course, while this chilling thought does serve to sober his fury somewhat - enough for him to maintain a grasp on his own ferocity and animalistic nature - it also distracts him from the quarry pinned underneath his massive, furred body.
And from the rather obscene, golden statue of Lady Alucard which morphed into being from a part of the boy's discarded armour... it is fortunate for the Podiebrads - and his own self-control - that Valkenhayn did not catch sight of that egregious creation before it slammed into the back of his thickly-muscled neck from high above. The force is more than enough to bring the werewolf's body not just into the firm stone of the chamber's floor... but to crater it, as well - his bestial frame smashing through rock and earth as he is driven nearly a foot /into/ the ground, spiderweb cracks spreading through the stone out from the point of impact.
It is fortunate for Bela that he possessed the speed necessary to roll out from underneath that looming wolf just before the object crashed onto him...
That sickening impact seems to have driven the lycanthrope back into the depths of its own, inky black and seemingly bottomless pool of memories... and for the moment, it lays still - aside from the rising and falling of its chest and the steam that accompanies each exhalation of breath.
'And so, my time... grows short at last... promise me, Valkenhayn... promise me... you will not abandon her... you must serve Rachel... as you have served me... such loyalty is rare... and I fear for the future...'
'I give you my word, Master - I shall not forget all you have done... I will remain here, to defend the House of Alucard, for as long as I still live.'
The memories recede as quickly as they overcame the prostrate Valkenhayn... and as they do, red eyes snap open - and a change occurs. The monstrous hybrid, werewolf form shrinks slightly - thinning out and reverting to that of a large wolf once again... brown fur stands on end, as a tail - tied at the end with a bow which the pair of intruders might recognize as belonging to the ruling Lady of this place - swipes back and forth through the air.
In a flash, the wolf leaps to its paws - steadying itself within the crater left at the centre of the chamber. Purple energy once again spreads over the beast's entire body, casting aside the shadows of this inner sanctum as the power burns brighter and brighter within Valkenhayn. The creature arches head up towards the ceiling, body crouching low and bending forward as it unleashes a sound that shakes the very foundation of this place.
Whether the noise has any effect on Bela or that bizarre spirit which seems so strongly leashed to the material patriarch of the Clan, remains to be seen... but regardless, the wolf braces himself for a moment then - with a rush of momentum aided by an explosion of that strange, arcane lycanthropic energy - launches its entire body towards the physical intruder who managed to escape from underneath him.
Spinning through the air, Valkenhayn seems intent on using his own hefty wolf form as a missile - aimed straight at the eeriley silent and non-reactive Bela.
COMBATSYS: Bela dodges Valkenhayn's Rauschen Konig Wolf.
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Valkenhayn 0/-------/---====|======-\-------\0 Bela
There was a sort of psychic assault going on.
It wasn't proper mind control; it was something more insidious and sinister than even that. The spirit was heckling him, harassing Valkenhayn. They say there are two wolves inside a man. And that spectre was delicately feeding one, and starving the other, only to taunt the first to feed the second. ALl while intense confusion and pressure was around, all while the incredible danger built. At the smashing of the statuette into the werewolf, the spirit can't help but let loose a hideous titter. And yet, as the music of the organ fades away to distant murmurs, the voice of the spirit grows weaker, fainter. His form more indistinct. And with it, that foul and now VERY familiar energy was clearly spreading through the bones of the castle.
IT seems the magic of the melody gave him power as well.
Bela, rolling aside, staggers up. He was bruised, even broken. His staggered gait reflected it. But with the impact of the statuette, the Patriarch extends his taloned hand. The gold flows through the air like water, Bela summoning it back over him. The golden remains of the statuette flow over his arms, returning back to his chest. And in time it seems, as Valkenhayn rises from his crater. The stoic-faced Patriarch lowers himself down in that low stance, crouching as he spreads his claws apart. That spirited howl comes, and the fading spirit manages to gasp aloud in rebuttal.
"Werewolves of London!~"
Thus sings the hideous spectre, as it struts into dancing around his ho0st host. As Valkenhayn surges at Bela, the stoic-masked Podiebrad twists away into a leap. Backflipping, the Patriarch flickers and fades into a blur of indigo light, his speed blistering in tandem to the incredible speeds of the wolf. Valkenhayn manages to catch a few indigo motes, the essence of Bela diffused briefly into the same incorporeal substance that foul spirit was. Those motes scatter around as Bela reforms.
Right on the keys of the organ once more.
Landing on the organ with a cacophonic din, he delicately steps around the keys, standing on tiptoe and stiletto heel. Each step now playing, those notes returning as the song returns, if only for a moment. His arms sway side to side, like a marionette, like a puppet, finger dangling on the claws. Dancing on the keys, the monomaniacal obsession of the song suppresses the presence of the emerald energy once more. ANd with it, imbued that mocking spectre. The spirit, playing the role of a jester once more, lets out another howl. "Awoooroooooooooo!" Taking a moment to mime playing on the organ in a way, the Podiebrad asides wickedly. "Really, I like Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner more to be honest. It speaks to the SOUL of the Podiebrad. But enough -frivilities-" He cups a hand to the side of the skull, the swaying dance of the Patriarch coming to a halt as he sways low. "Can't you hear?" He whispers.
"He's coming for your -mistress-, Valkenhayn."
"You're -distracted-." Hisses the spirit, as Bela dips low. If you run away, "then who knows what mischief we will do here. If you stay... how can you protect her, save her from -him?- Unless you move quickly." The spirit harries, sings and twists to one side, hideous horns spreading from the top of the skull. "You have to end this as quickly as you can to stop this. To save her." Bela leaps from the keys, diving down with both claws out. "To -fall- into your bestial instincts. Just this once. You can just push yourself for her..." Indigo talons stretch out, the energy blazing at the tips of the Patriarch's claws. Lunging at the wolf, he cleaves them together in a crossing, scissoring fashion, breaking into a tumble as he lands. ANd suddenly, a jolt, as the spirit is on the opposite side of Valkenhayn, a counterpoint suddenly given out as the -angel- at the wolf's shoulder. "But is it worth it to lose your mind? Can you really stop anything falling away into your monstrous ways?"
"Can you stop yourself once you truly embrace the wolf?!"
COMBATSYS: Bela issues a challenge!!
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Valkenhayn 0/-------/---====|======-\-------\0 Bela
COMBATSYS: Valkenhayn interrupts Aggressive Strike from Bela with Aufwarts Konig Wolf.
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Valkenhayn 0/-------/=======|=======\=====--\1 Bela
As the wolf drills forward through the frigid air of the hidden, cavernous chamber, that damned spectre continues to taunt him from above. Though Valkenhayn does not recognize the tune being mockingly sung, he has no doubt there is some hidden jibe in there - even if it is for the ghost's own amusement alone. Whether the ethereal Podiebrad is attempting to push him further into a rage-fueled haze, or merely distract him from the patriarch, is something he cannot begin to guess in his current state.
Nor does it really matter, for the spirit is managing to accomplish /both/ in tandem. Though Valkenhayn's eyes never really stray from Bela, now that they are in the throes of battle, the words still reach his ears and prick away at the few parts of his mind that the butler remains in control of... slowly weakening his mental defenses with confusion, and the promises of danger which may or may not even be /real/.
He simply cannot take the chance in assuming that Aurel is merely threatening him with imaginary scenarios - after all, /anything/ could be happening elsewhere in the Castle. Perhaps the strange confidence and arrogance that the spectral intruder greeted him with was merely a ploy, to keep him here and enraged as long as possible? There are only two things keeping the loyal guardian from turning tail and rushing to Rachel Alucard's side; one is his faith in the Lady's all-encompassing power, for to challenge a Vampire in their seat of power typically meant death for any foolish enough to try... and the other, is the nagging feeling that these two - left alone in this place - would get up to some /very/ destructive mischief.
Hurtling towards Bela, split-seconds from impact, Valkenhayn's eyes widen at the sudden leap - gaze moving upwards to follow the evasive form of the patriarch... and they grow even wider, as the man seems to disappear in a sudden blur. Such speed and technique seem almost out of place given the man's identity - even in the past, the men of such Houses rarely exhibited such raw ability... but if the past few hours have taught him anything, it is that anything is possible in these strange times.
Now that there is no target to strike that might slow his momentum, the wolf is carried forward by the sheer velocity of his mad rush. With a solid wall of stone rapidly approaching, the beast does a sudden turn in the air - moving to face the direction he came from, his four paws strike the surface and sink into the substance with another audible cracking of broken rock.
And somehow, defying all laws of gravity, he remains standing in place on the vertical surface of the wall - as the brightly glowing crimson of his eyes remains fixed on Bela, who has once again returned to a spot atop the organ. No matter where this fight leads, it would seem that their end goal remains the same - to continue that strange song which seems to bring the spectre into sharper focus, and which confuses Valkenhayn's senses... obscuring the nefarious powers at work within the Castle.
Consumed with fury he may be, but a wolf is a cunning and analytical hunter even without the benefit of a higher comprehension and thought process. There can be no missing the connection between the boy's organ playing ceasing and the sudden revealing of those tendrils of accursed power which slowly wrap around the very foundation of the Castle... and though he does not quite make the next jump in logic, he does notice an odd sense of urgency from the spirit - and in a voice farther away than it was moments ago... apparently, he does /not/ want Bela to stop playing the organ.
So, while Valkenhayn isn't aware that the spectre is tied not /only/ to the patriarch, but seemingly to that music as well, he does come to the conclusion that the instrument is central to whatever scheme they have cooked up.
But he cannot simply destroy the object - not when there exists another possible avenue to thwart the Podiebrads' plan... it is too sentimental to him. The one true weakness within the heart of the savage werewolf: his deep attachment to those of the illustrious House Alucard... to him, Lord Clavis was more than a master that he felt obliged to serve. And he will not bring ruin to his treasured instrument - not unless that is his only hope to aid his mistress against this sinister invasion of her home.
It has not yet come to that.
Bela comes lunging ahead, amidst more attempts at distraction from the spirit which seems tied to him - there is a truth in his words, even if they are meant simply to confuse and rile the wolf. This is no mere game, something more terrible is occuring here - and, revealed by that sudden flare of power when the organ music died down, elsewhere in the Castle as well. Could it truly be that damnable figure from his past, come here once more - and in force, this time - to exact revenge upon the House which imprisoned him so long ago?
If only he had more time to think... though time would not help, in his /current/ state. The man inside the beast is only barely holding on through all this - just enough to keep some wits about him, and not react strictly through primal instincts and desires.
That same indigo colour stretches out into savage talon on the patriarch's hands, as he slashes towards Valkenhayn with a bizarre energy. The spectre makes a more forward attempt at distraction, whispering into the wolf's ear from the side... but if he meant to cause the Castle's guardian to falter, he is to be sorely disappointed.
Charging his own purple energy in response, the wolf braces himself with all four paws dug into the stone wall... and then once more, explodes forwards - his momentum carrying him on an upward angle, the wolf opens its jaws just seconds before impacting Bela with a reckless force that rocks both their bodies.
Snapping those jaws shut on any fleshy part he might find on the young boy's body, the velocity of the wolf is hardly slowed after striking its target... no, he continues to hurtle forward - the patriarch's body being held in front of him, up until his back is smashed into the /ceiling/ of the large chamber. Rocks crumble and fall the long distance towards the ground below, soon to be joined by Valkenhayn himself, as he releases his grip on his prey. Spinning in the air mid-fall, the wolf manages to land with all four paws on the cool stone floor.
Even as he comes out on top of the exchange with the clan's patriarch, the last words of the ghost continue to replay in his mind... even if he is victorious against this pair of disrespectful intruders, what happens if he loses himself completely in the process? Will he turn against the one he has served for so long - and so loyally - when there is no more prey to hunt in this chamber? It is one of his greatest fears, to cast aside his sacred promise in the throes of his more feral - and perhaps more honest - nature.
Long eternities of training, and learned mastery of himself, are practically sloughing off the beast with every passing second. Even though the ancient lycanthrope is an almost legendary figure in the realm, how much willpower could he possibly possess?
"No no no!"
Thus cries the spirit, as Valkenhayn's feral savagery once more overpowers his host. Stamping his feet silently on the ground, it's outrage radiates out. "You idiot! You WOMANLY FOOL!" It seethes, as the wolf -explodes- into Bela, catching the Patriarch with a moan. Jaw latching on the soft underarm of the armor, piercing the leather, the Podiebrad is sent all the way up to the ceiling. Slammed violently, he hangs there a moment, as Valkenhayn descends down. Blood bursts from his lips, dribble down from his arm. ANd then, he falls. Descending limply, he recovers in midflight. Twisting in the air, he extends his arms, his cloak billowing out as he almost glides down. Aiming past the pipes, he catches one, rebounding from pipe to pipe down in acrobatic tumbles. He lands at the top of the organ, behind the keys, in front of the pipes. Blood scatters before him, as he gasps out a burst of crimson.
And the organ groans as the blood lands on it.
The shuddering of the crypts, the organ, was not a hostile one. No. It was an obedient one. The song comes on its own accord, empowered by the blood. That the blood of the Patriarch was... not only tolerated by the ancient halls of the Castle, but accepted? That someone like Bela, someone like the Patriarch was not only allowed here... but was -wanted- here, as a trusted member like Valkenhayn. It has to be a trick. It has to be that cursed magic from -him-. Because otherwise, that would mean that the blood would have to be connected, or even... but no, wasn't it impossible? Couldn't it be impossible? Bela extends out his arm, and the gold dances across his body, up to his fingertips.
And from it, draws out a scepter.
The scepter measures 2 cubits long, about 3 feet, and it is crafted out of the solid gold. The head of the scepter is the sculpted likeness of a raven in repose, with its wings wrapped around its sides. Golden feathers are stylized across the shaft of the scepter, with the handle being slightly thicker than the shaft. The base is flanged, with a flat disk with vague feathering at the bottom. There are hollow inserts in the eyes, beak, and base of the scepter, which long ago held jewels since lost to time. The spirit drifts over above Bela, crossing his arms and puffing out his chest. "Miserable, just miserable! It looks like I will need to deal with this myself, then!" Bela straightens the scepter out, and finally, after all this, the Patriarch speaks, that strange emerald light dancing in the depths of his eyes.
And the spirit -surges- with indigo light.
Wiggling and jerking, the very -air- crackles with hostility around it. It was an fully manifested, yes, but of the same hostile energy that the Patriarch had wielded before. "Oh no!" He states aloud, actively taunting the wolfman. "I am now -real!-" He reaches out, grabbing the other end of the scepter. "And now, sweet Valkenhayn, it's two versus -one!- Thank you so kindly~" The ghost whispers, as they open their stances up, leaning forward aggressively.
And both charges at Valkenhayn.
Rushing in a blur of indigo motes, the duo split up as they approach Valkenhayn. The scepter stretches, splitting. He would open with a singular -slam- aimed precisely at the throat. Should it connect? It would wrap around, latching like a collar around Valkenhayn. If it doesn't? Well, the tendrils would spread out, as the Patriarch would keep close, whirling around as his legs dances around, almost like he was using his own body to weave the threads of gold. To spin like a spider, to entangle and bind the wolfman. The gold would be stretching around and around, as the Podiebrad would try to get the And the spectre? Harries, but actually -doesn't- attack. No, he was circling around Valkenhayn, making sure to keep itself -right- in the wolfman's line of sight. He was spinning the golden scepter; far smaller than the counterpart that Bela was using. And if Valkenhayn would look away? The spirit would antagonize worse by -lashing- the smaller scepter out, letting it snap like a whip at Valkenhayn. Two against one; one trying to entangle and truss up Valkenhayn in gold cording; to strangle. The other? To distract, whip, and harry.
To all finish with Bela -driving- his heel in an aerial stomp aimed for the base of Valkenhayn's neck, to drive the wolfman to the ground with dominating presence.
COMBATSYS: Bela successfully hits Valkenhayn with Breathless Ecstasy.
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Valkenhayn 1/----===/=======|>>>>>>>\-------\0 Bela
So deep has Valkenhayn fallen in his descent into blind savagery, that he does not even feel the usual satisfaction he might otherwise experience as his fangs sink past leather and into flesh... instead, there is only the hunger for /more/ violence. Such impudence must be /punished/, and death is the only suitable sentence for crimes of this magnitude - even though such an escape may well prove to be too good for the young Podiebrad who has foolishly chosen to make an enemy of the werewolf.
It is only the continued existence of Bela that keeps the animalistic brain of the lycanthrope from taking over completely. The one thing he can focus on here and now is the desire for vengeance he feels... and the memories which this encounter - and the underlying energy still spreading through the Castle - have unleashed within his head.
Landing gracefully on the floor, the heaving, rage-fueled body of the wolf watches with bloodshot eyes as the boy lands atop the body of the organ... even with blood being shed freely, the groan of the organ as crimson drops lands on its keys continue to confuse and obfuscate the scent of that precious bodily fluid. He is not even allowed the enjoyment of smelling the stench of his opponent's pain, the fruit of their wounds... whatever magic they are working is cruel, indeed, to rob the wolf of such a simple pleasure.
And yet, there is something more odd happening here than a simple masking of scents and tastes and energies... its as though the organ itself were reacting to the /blood/ of the patriarch. Could it be possible that his earlier playing of the instrument was mere window-dressing? That the true power which the organ is singing out to lies, instead, in the man's vital essence - rather than his thin, feminine, dextrous fingers?
If only he were more in control of himself, Valkenhayn - ever the cunning and resourceful fellow - might be able to reach some rather /important/ conclusions about the nature of this strange encounter. But alas, these connections are beyond comprehension in his current state; clearly the mocking jabs and gross disrespect exhibited by the spectre have done their job in reducing the werewolf to the level of near-mindless ferocity... all the better to carry out their plans.
It seems that some among the humans remain as devious as ever... the practiced wiles and guile of a House which was once legendary amongst those who hunt his kind.
Despite the blood roaring through his veins, crying out for flesh, for pain, for /suffering/ and /screams/, the wolf nevertheless remains in its place, paws scraping the stone floor, low growl pouring out from its open jaws... watching, for the moment, as that golden scepter is manifested by some bizarre magic. It is not the sight itself that gives the wolf pause - for such arcane powers are not rare within Castle Alucard, and he possesses several relics of his own (though they are used to assist his duty on the estate, instead of in battle) - it is the words of the spirit who approaches Bela once more... though his speech is barely discernible behind the red tide that consumes Valkenhayn's mind, with focus he /is/ able to understand the ghost's words..
What fun, the more annoying of the pair announces that he is /real/ - confirmed, at least in /theory/, by the more physical form he appears to take as the air crackles around him. The wolf immediately begins a mad dash towards Aurel Podiebrad, the verbose pest finally made manifested - and, in turn, able to be /injured/... or so Valkenhayn assumes, at any rate. Regardless, the very possibility is enough to steal his focus away from the patriarch of the clan...
...of course, in his mad rush to satisfy his overwhelming lust for the spirit's blood, he does not even consider the possibility of an attack from both Podiebrads. The pair charge towards him, in turn... but before they can meet in the middle of the chamber, that bizarre scepter actually /stretches/ out towards him in a blink. Before he is able to react, Valkenhayn finds himself collared by the shifting gold - and soon, his paws are bound together as well... the tendrils continuing to wrap around his furred lupine form, binding him tight and holding him in place as he struggles against them.
As the lashes from the Aurel's much smaller scepter whip out at him, another set of memories begin to flood his brain... this time, far more recent - and taking place in the halls of this Castle, to boot. Rather than simply voices reaching out through the darkness of his long memory, there are vivid images that occur in his mind's eye...
The flashing of green, snake-like chains through the air, wrapping around and around. A malevolent gaze cutting through the shadows of a dimly-lit hall. Contempt dripping from every word spoken by the monster in front of him.
'Hahahaha...!! How strange!! Where is she, in your time of greatest need?!'
Struggling against the implements which bind him in place. It's no good, he's stuck - helpless.
'This is no fairy tail, Valkenhayn!! My vessel will not conveniently crack. Rachel will not come to save you!!'
Unable to even /speak/, so thoroughly constricted... and it only grows tighter and more stifling with each passing second... he can barely /breath/.
'Your personal talisman of teleportation will not work to escape!! This is the end... YOUR end...!!'
Defenseless, alone, abandoned...
By the time this recollection has played out in his head, Valkenhayn has already been driven down into the ground by Bela's brutal stomp onto the back of the wolf's neck. Yet another crater - smaller than the last, at least - is left in the floor of this hallowed place... something /he/ will, no doubt, be in charge of repairing... should he live... should the Castle /itself/ survive whatever that damned serpent-in-disguise might be planning.
That low growl begins once again, from his place smashed against the cold rock of the chamber's floor...
It grows louder in volume, more ferocious in tone... more than a threat, it is a /promise/.
Gradually, second by second, the noise becomes more guttural - but also more speech-like... in time with the changes, Valkenhayn's body begins to twist and reform once more. As he returns to his hybrid werewolf form, eventually his capacity for speech comes back to him as well.
Okay, it's not his usual eloquent words and voice, but rather than growling the beast is now /screaming/ with fury. Leaping back onto his feet, the monster seems to have tapped back into his seemingly endless reserves of anger... though how long can he run on such fuel alone? He may not be exhibiting signs of the damage done to him /now/, but it is certainly there all the same - and a practiced eye would be able to see that he is not /quite/ as fast as he was just minutes before.
The battle - and the strange power exercised by Bela Podiebrad - is taking its toll... little by little, he is exhausting himself /and/ succumbing to the man's attacks.
But that does not bother the mind of Valkenhayn; his only concern is bringing this pair low /before/ he falls prey to his wounds, and the strange energy coursing through the sanctum.
Lunging forward off pure instinct, his capacity for critical thought gone entirely for the time being, the hulking manwolf speeds towards the 'body' of Aurel with a swiftness that shows none of the fatigue he may be feeling.
As he closes the gap, one hulking leg flies through the air in an upward arc - aiming to send the now-material spirit several feet above Valkenhayn... and he will be following, should the strike land.
Now little more than a blur, the hulking werewolf flies up after his prey with a slash that seems to rend the stale, chilly air of the sanctum... reaching the ceiling and bouncing back down towards Aurel, another slash follows from above... then another, as he launches himself off the ground once more... spinning a few feet above the still-suspended body of the elder Podiebrad, Valkenhayn's claws seem to extend out with a purple energy that burns away all the shadows dwelling in this place. With a massive swipe of both hands, two tears rip through the very fabric of this reality... and with any luck, the trespasser, as well.
COMBATSYS: Valkenhayn successfully hits Bela with Blut Vollmond.
[ \\\\\\\\\\\\ < > /////////////// ]
Valkenhayn 0/-------/-------|>>>>>>>\>------\1 Bela
Almost as if he was feeding into the wolf's nightmares, the golden thread tumbles itself into the shape of chains.
"Mmmmm... hmmm hmmmm.... mmmmmm..." The spirit purrs as the wolfman is forced down by the driving kick of the Patriarch. Pinning him down with the base of his stiletto heel, the Patriarch is otherwise stoic and grim. "Reminds of my living days. Of course, it was a much more of a shewolf then. Try and get his hindquarters up higher, hmmmmm." The spectre's own hunger begins to glow. But as the snarling begins, he drifts backwards. "Oh, there is some VIM left in it!" The spirit draws back the whip, ready to discipline it once more. Before it can lash out?
Valkenhayn is -launching- him into the air.
The kick rakes across him, and the energy is fierce and hostile. THe spirit is practically weightless, tumbling in the air in indigo streaks. The only thing that is barely managing to keep Valkenhayn from using his fullest strength was Bela. The Patriarch keeps his grip on the gold, a flash of indigo energy coming out a brief moment before Valkenhayn rips free of the golden line, the chains unable to keep him. "No! NO! STOP HIM!" The spirit shrieks. Throwing a desperate whip at Valkenhayn, it only strikes the collar harmlessly, merging with it. Unarmed, the spectre gives one last scream, long and howling as the wolfman slashes him again and again, rending the very essence of reality. Once the -final- rip comes, it slices cleanly between it. The spiritual form stops screaming, drifting apart in pieces. And then, with a atrocious moan and flash of indigo, the spiritual essence implodes into itself.
Bela falls to one knee. There is... there is -something- leaking from the void. A vast cyclone of spiritual energy, draining out wildly. Spiraling out of control. It was a vacuum, something incomplete. A groan of agony finally lets out, as the Patriarch reveals the sheer pain that Valkenhayn unleashed. Something imbalanced. His eyes flare with emerald energy, a new energy coming across him. A sneer now, a very familiar sneer. But before he can, he bring a hand up. His half of the broken chain recoils back into a half scepter. Pointing it at Valkenhayn, it gives a quick wink, as the sphere's dark energy begins to flow wildly. ANd then he speaks.
And indigo energy crackles along the golden line the spectre begins to emerge out from the tip of it. Reborn. Reformed. And made whole again? "Sneeee heeeee heeeee!" The spirit titters wickedly, as he writhes his spindly, bony hands together. "Looks like- oh- oh shit!" The snickering stops, as he watches his own indigo energy pour out of him, the scepter, and worst of all, Bela. The Patriarch was uneasy, unstable. It was impossible to describe a SOUL that was experiencing what was closed to a mortal evisceration. "You nasty creature! Look what you've DONE! FInish this! Finish this now, you FOOL!" The indigo energy boils around the scepter... and then, that same slight builds around Valkenhayn's neck. The gold that was still on him. Bela points his scepter at Valkenhayn.
"Return." The Podiebrad states with authority.
And with that, the golden collar begins to -pull- straight to Bela, as the spectre surges at him in tandem. The collar would ripple and shape, trying to reconnect with the other half of the scepter. The spirit would be working in tandem; attempting to full on -bodyslam- into Valkenhayn, ripping straight through what little spirit and soul he had with the grace and decorum of a linebacker. If it would connect, or stun him enough, the scepter would rejoin with the collar, and from there, Bela would begin to whip the wolfman around. To slam him once across the stone floors, then once into the keys of the organ. And then, he would finish by pivoting, and -hurling- the butler straight up into the moaning pipes of the great organ. If there is any solace or hope for this, it would be the change in silence: whether the spirit hit Valkenhayn, or missed into the pipes behind him?
He would finally have disappeared, leaving only the quieter Podiebrad alone.
COMBATSYS: Bela successfully hits Valkenhayn with Lament Of Innocence.
[ \\\ < > ///////////// ]
Valkenhayn 0/-------/--=====|=------\-------\0 Bela
With each strike landed upon the now-material form of Aurel Podiebrad, Valkenhayn's growls grow louder, more vicious, more... satisfied. The rending of 'flesh' is unaccompanied by the usual bloody stench which the beast inside him so thoroughly enjoys - alas, he must gather what pleasure he can simply from the tangible sensation of ripping into that damned spirit.
Unable to process the sheer difference between his current prey and the usual feelings one might experience when tearing into a creature of flesh and blood, Valkenhayn is thusly shocked when there is a long moan - accompanied with a flash of purple and a considerable wave of energy as the being implodes upon itself.
Roaring in satisfaction at his assumed accomplishment, the werewolf is nevertheless thrown back by the rippling of released energy that the spectre leaks from his essence... the thickly muscled back of the werewolf lands with a dull thud onto the chamber's floor, rolling several times before tumbling back onto his feet and skidding to a stop several feet away.
A wide, wolfish grin at Bela's reaction to his attack... followed by a threatening rumble as the patriarch reveals, yet again, a hint of that very recognizable /thing/ dwelling inside of him. The sneer is so thoroughly dripping with contempt and malice that there can be no doubting the nature of his 'possession'.
Was his 'old friend' merely biding his time while the years passed, waiting for an opportunity to present itself... /this/ opportunity? Rachel Alucard did open her Castle to a myriad of guests; what better time to plot such an invasion? When her attention is drawn elsewhere, and her servants kept busy by the various happenings on the estate's grounds.
Terumi always was a /clever/ one... it is, after all, what made him such an existential /threat/ - not only to Valkenhayn, but his mistress as well... even her father rightfully respected - if not feared - the power which he possessed.
That growl reaches a peak as the spirit is once more conjured into being... Valkenhayn's chest rising and falling sharply as he tries to contain his frustration at this turn of events... his efforts made utterly /useless/, it would seem. Even through the blood-red fog in his mind, the wolf can feel himself growing weaker as each second passes... something beyond his own reckless anger is exhausting him, here. No doubt part of Terumi's plans...
With one uttered word from the patriarch, Valkenhayn finds himself /yanked/ forward by the neck - that golden collar acting with a surprising amount of force to pull him towards Bela once more. Struggling and clawing at the substance, he finds it utterly resistant to his efforts - though certainly not for lack of trying.
The spirit rushes forward, as its ethereal form slams into the werewolf... and the effect is instant; a chill numbs Valkenhayn's body, robbing him of his strength - and ending his struggles against the collar. A soul-searing /burning/ follows, setting his nerves alight as an imagined fire courses through his entire body. And then, he is utterly manhandled - being thrown to and fro as easily as one might swing a poodle on a leash. Cracks are left in the floor where he is tossed, the organ makes many terrible sounds as he impacts the keys, and finally he is tossed up towards the pipes - striking the shiny metallic tubes with another hideous sound...
...and he falls, his body striking the keys once more and then rolling - limply - off the instrument and onto the floor, his momentum carrying him a few feet away from the seat set in front of the organ.
Delerious from the heady mixture of pain, anger and desperation, the werewolf's body begins to twitch and shift as he struggles to his knees. There is the briefest flare of purple chi around the monstrous beast, and it seems to stabilize him in his current form; but only for a moment, as he suddenly pitches forward - catching himself just before planting his face against the stone floor... his furry limbs shake, barely able to keep himself on all fours.
And then, the brilliant indigo shine fades as quickly as it manifested; and when it does, there is no longer the hulking, bestial frame of the massive werewolf. He is once again Valkenhayn the 'man'... and what's more, his face seems different than it was when patrolling the halls only minutes ago. Gone is the rich chestnut brown of his hair and sideburns - replaced by the wizened gray colour which characterised his appearance prior to his time in the Chroniker of Eternity.
It seems his renewed youthfulness has been drained from him, though the precise cause of the change might be anyone's guess... perhaps he has finally exhausted the vigor which Zuthral Bernard's masterpiece had returned to his aged body. Perhaps it is the machinations of his old nemesis - and the power that now creeps slowly through the stones of this Castle.
The gray-haired lycanthrope looks up from his position on all fours... and what he sees is not Bela or Aurel Podiebrad... nor does he see the damage their brief encounter has caused to this hallowed chamber.
He sees the sanctum as pristine as it was in the olden times... candles flickering, inset into the walls. And at the seat in front of the organ, a very familiar form - one instantly recognizable, even from the back.
Lord Clavis Alucard, sitting at the keys... a sight he had witnessed many times in the past. The Vampire does not turn to greet him, or offer any words to his loyal servant - who reaches out with one unsteady hand towards the man's back.
"I... I am sorry... Master..."
And then, his strength gone, his mind blank, Valkenhayn's willpower leaves him entirely... and he pitches forwards, his cheek planting itself upon the cold, moist stone underneath him.
COMBATSYS: Valkenhayn takes no action.
[ \\\\\\\\\\\\\ <
COMBATSYS: Valkenhayn can no longer fight.
[ \\\\\\\\\\\\\ <
Bela was breathing hard, as indigo motes spread all around at the final smash.
They were dancing like fireflies, as the final bellows of the organ comes out at the impact of the wolfman. Bela struggles to draw the lash of gold back. It refuses, going limp. The vigor running through it was failing, floundering. But how? The white-haired Patriarch looks at the downed wolfman. Cold and cruel, ruthless abandon honed by lethal execution. Here, in this sanctum, was now the realm of the Podiebrad. It was no longer the Alucard's. Rachel would be only a memory, as Clavis was. And soon, so would Valkenhayn R. Hellsing. He steps towards the now-humanoid form, the aged and weathered form.
Bela steps towards Valkenhayn, the wolfman's age having been drained away from him. Consumed. Destroyed. It would be so easy to execute him, with silvered gauntlets. Kill him. He raises a gauntlet up, to call upon his scepter. But the gold scatters all around. It couldn't draw back. He brings both palms up. To call upon the spirit. To call upon... anything. But that awful vertigo floods over him. The danger that Valkenhayn brought upon the spectre was growing in momentum. The severing of a soul. The Podiebrad stumbles, and then, falls. Bela is doubled over on his knees, clenching his abdomen.
Retching upon the floor.
The limp pieces of scepter all around flash with indigo energy. But The spectre couldn't manifest as it could before; it was -trying- to get out. It was struggling. The golden slithers back him, like centipedes, serpents, leeches, and worms. Slipping and crawling, pulling back to their master. The Podiebrad tried to stand up. He couldn't. The attack against the spirit directly was... far more damaging that it needed to be. He couldn't risk severing control now; he couldn't dare.
Because that's not what Terumi wanted now.
Bela falls onto his back, the golden slips writhing and wrapping around his body. He was trembling now, shuddering. But his mind was blank. Broken. Eyes still gleaming with that hidden Emerald energy. No. Terumi was the only one who could be great and important enough to put down Valkenhayn. To deal the final blow. And with the spectre's and Bela's soul so severed, it was -only- Terumi's will now. After a moment, the Patriarch jerks back up to a stand. The music was all gone now. Only the invasive, empowering green sphere was here now, it's tendrils of energy lashing out all around. Feeding it. The will of Terumi only commanded one thing now. Violence. Fresh violence. Bela turns his back to the downed Valkenhayn, and begins to walk away from his opponent. A voice screams and groans silently amongst the gold, deep within the empty mind of Bela. Trapped, weakened, and at dangerous risk of oblivion. Bela would be abandoning him behind to the organ, to the presence of the sphere. Bela would find his next opponent. And fight him. And then the next one. And then the next one. Spreading the hate and violence across the Castle Alucard.
Until it finally killed him.
COMBATSYS: Bela has ended the fight here.
Log created on 14:28:15 07/06/2021 by Bela, and last modified on 16:08:43 07/09/2021.