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A Hellsing / The Shadow crossover story
by Elsa Bibat

Disclaimer: Hellsing was created by Hirano Kouta, and is copyrighted by Gonzo/Pioneer LDC. The Shadow was created by Walter Gibson; its characters are copyrighted by Conde Nast Publications. Doc Savage was created by Lester Dent (a.k.a Kenneth Robeson), Conde Nast Publications, and Bantam Books.


Chapter 7: History


Then they went down.

To Ceres, one of the more irritating properties of the Helsing mansion was the fact that some of its rooms and passages were, for lack of a better word, invisible to her sight. She could have sworn that the corridor that led to this spiral staircase did not exist. She had passed the spot where Walter had led her so many times during her stay that she was quite sure that it was a blank wall. This had also happened several times during her stay when she occasionally stumbled into corridors that led to nowhere and brick-walled rooms that were suddenly serviceable rooms only when she was in the company of either Walter or Integra. Her discomfiture must have showed since Walter favored her with a light smile.

"The occult defenses of the mansion are much more formidable than the physical, Mistress Victoria. Though they are far more subtle than we sometimes wish."

Ever since the Tower incident, Walter had taken to calling her 'Mistress' in the same way he used 'Master' with Alucard. It was a strange, but welcome, reminder of how much she had changed since she first arrived here.

"You mean that this is all… magic?"

Walter's lips quirked into an odd wiry smile.

"You can call it so. Though the Helsing mansion itself was constructed in the age of Mad King George, the foundations on which it was built on were created much earlier. This used to be a castle during the reign of Elizabeth I. As a matter of fact, the Hellsing organization used to have several castles under its supervision during her reign."

"You mean the Night Guard, right?"

A silent nod answered her as they continued their walk down,

The two of them were going down because she had given in to her curiosity and asked Walter about what Alucard had mentioned earlier to her about the Hellsing organization's history.

Walter had only blinked and then nodded and asked her to follow him. That's why they were here right now, walking down a very long set of stairs.

"Uh… Walter, aren't we a lot deeper than the basement by now?"

Walter chuckled and favored the young vampire with an indulgent smile.

"We are going to one of the two most important places in Hellsing history, mistress. Also, like the Ritual Vault, the Library can be used against the House of Helsing as easily for it. The Library is… protected by the subtle nuances of its magical defenses and the veins of silver ore and silvered mortar that surround it. And for that to work, the Helsing family used the Night Guard's deeper structures. Very deep. This stair is the only way in or out and if you were not a Knight of Hellsing, mistress, you would be a pile of ash from the enspelled bricks that you have been stepping on."

Ceres blinked and she looked down at the dark stone at her feet. For that matter, she had been feeling as if a flowing river was running by her feet. She stamped her foot on the paving, lightly so as not to break it, and felt the rock, seemingly, push back.

"Odd thing, that."

"Shall we continue, mistress?

"Um… yes."

They walked down for another five minutes, a length of time that was quite noticeable on the large candle Walter was holding in one hand. Ceres just arched her eyebrow as the wax drippings suddenly disappearing before they even hit the floor. Useful, that.

They finally came to the bottom of the stairs and she saw the door. It was an ugly thing of silvered metal with rather sharp protrusions that she suspected weren't there for decorative purposes. Three demonically beautiful faces peered from the door's upper frame like arrogant guardians. Grooves in mysterious swirling patterns were set into the door's face. Ceres followed them with her eyes. They reminded her of something Celtic; why that would be she couldn’t put a finger on. She noted that the patterns each led to a particular face.

"The Three," Walter answered her unvoiced question. "Urthr, Verthrandi and Skald. The First of your kind, mistress."

"Hmm? Aren't they from Norse Mythology?"

"Yes. It has been wondered whether they stole the names or they truly are the Norns of legend. They did weave a large part of human history." Walter smiled sardonically as he lit two candles set on the right and left of the door with his own.

"Er… could you explain that?"

"Since the beginning of recorded history, vampires have influenced events that would bend their human herd to their wills. An empire here, a kingdom there. Princes and emperors dancing to their puppet strings. That was until a thousand years ago, of course."

Ceres just sighed at the cryptic comment.

"Walter, one of these days you, me, Integra and Alucard are going to have a long talk on saying cryptic remarks that tease me about my lack of learning. You could at least give me some light reading on this sort of thing before dropping all of it on me at once."

Walter just chuckled then blew his candle out. He took off one of his gloves and drew his hand across a sharp spike that was set in the middle of the door. The blood from his wound inexplicably defied gravity and did not drop to the floor. It remained on the spike's tip for a few moments and slowly moved down the spike of its own accord, disappearing into the door via the hole that the spike was set on, until the metal appendage shone silver once again.

"Your turn, mistress."

Recovering from her surprise, Ceres gave the old butler a sidelong look and just shook her head in surrender. She copied Walter's act, feeling the swift burning the silver gave her eat into her palm. That was going to leave a mark.

Her blood followed Walter's down the sliver spike, though it bubbled and frothed as it made its descent. When it disappeared, the silver faces atop the door suddenly opened their mouths with an audible clank, baring metallic fangs and revealing cavernous maws. The weak candlelight gave their profiles a terrifying demoniac life. Another clank and, suddenly, the silvered spike retreated into the door and disappeared from sight.

"What now? Can you open it now?" Ceres asked as she looked with hesitation at the silver door and the cold faces.

"Hush, mistress. Here comes the fun part." Walter grinned as another clank resounded and the sound of gears turning echoed in the chamber.

Then, blood exploded… no, erupted from the center of the door where the silver spike had disappeared, much more than what could have gone in. The crimson liquid seeped into the myriad grooves and then sped down the silver traceries, like red snakes. Her eyes followed the pattern they made as they whirled, curved and twirled down the grooves, rendering the patterns in scarlet with unnatural, gravity-defying speed. Then each line of blood, one by one, finally reached their destinations.

Running upwards the silver chins, the blood finally entered into the gaping mouths and disappeared into a trio of silver-metal throats. For a moment, Ceres could swear that the unliving eyes of the three argent faces glowed red. The blood flowed for a few moments then tapered off, disappearing completely and cleanly as if it had never existed.

Then, as one, three mouths clamped shut with a metal clank.

Ceres heard a faint rumbling, which would mean it would be inaudible to humans and even she had to strain her ears. The mechanism must be buried deep within the rock. A distant clang, then the silver door before her opened with such speed that, if she had been human, she'd have thought it had disappeared.

"Impressive, was it not, Mistress Victoria?" Walter asked as he stepped into the revealed chamber, a long corridor dimly lit with an unearthly red light from small openings in the ceiling.

"What was that?! What is this?!" Ceres followed the old butler in as they walked.

"A very old and very well-defended crypt. Over two thousand men and three vampire ordinates died storming it back during the Restoration. They didn't even reach the halfway point. Only a full vampiric Knight of the Order managed to get through to the end and destroy the Night Guard vampires who were hiding there. Even then he was half-destroyed and managed to survive only through the efforts of some of our best sorcerers and the blood of ten men to revive him."

Victoria glared at Walter as they continued their walk. "Walter, what did I say about cryptic teasers?"

"You will know about all of it soon enough, Mistress Victoria."

Ceres finally noticed that they had entered a circular chamber, well lit by strange globes hanging as if by nothing, in thin air. The chamber's cracked stone walls exuded an atmosphere of agelessness that permeated the room. Entranceways to other part of the crypt could be seen periodically spaced in the wall. Scrolls and books were set on scattered tables in the cavernous room, all seeming to emanate from the center.

What was there took Ceres breath away with its utter wrongness.

It was a woman, a vampire, short and slim, sprawled upon a comfortable looking chair reading a very thick book with a rather elaborate hard cover. Bespectacled and with long curly black hair that disappeared into the flowing robes that she wore, she radiated an aura of sensuality that almost brought the younger vampire to her knees.

And it was so wrong.

When she was a child in middle school, Ceres had a classmate named Hanna. This young girl was probably the most reviled student at the public school that the young Victoria attended. Large ugly monstrous spectacles perched on a button-thick nose, with glaring intense eyes that hinted at hatred and pain that could not be shared. Wild hair that did not get combed and a physique that hinted at starvation, all wrapped up in old hand-me-down clothes that covered her entire body. Her looks, combined with her anti-social personality, made her an easy target. There were rumors of abusive coke-addict parents, horrible uncles and despicable aunts, of molesting grandfathers and apathetic grandmothers.

Ceres remembered the time that she had accidentally entered the school bathroom to see Hanna's normally concealed arms revealed in all their hideous glory. Long scars, puckering burns, red welts that her younger self couldn't even imagine possible. She hadn't intended to stare but the sight was so hideously fascinating that she couldn't tear her eyes away. Her eyes had then strayed to her classmate's face and saw the embarrassment and fear on Hanna's face turn to anger as she saw Ceres' face.

Ceres felt the slamming backhand into her face rather than saw it. The scrawny and thin girl must have broken her hand the way she cradled it as she glared hate from behind her askew spectacles.

Don't you dare pity me. Don't you dare, those eyes screamed at her. Hanna had left immediately afterwards but that incident would stay with Ceres for the rest of her life and be one of those moments that flash on in those vague moments of epiphany that plague one's life.

One of which she was having now. This woman looked just like Hanna, only older and much deadlier. And she was the most beautiful woman that she had ever seen.

She noticed Walter smile as he noticed her reaction.

"Do not worry. Sappho has that sort of effect on women, especially on the first encounter. You're doing as well as Lady Integra did."

Ceres took a deep breath and glanced at the butler with eyes that fairly burned crimson. Walter's only response to this was a slight additional quirk of the cheek to accentuate his smile.

"You could have warned me!" Ceres' voice was a whisper. The bibliothecal atmosphere of the environment seemed to necessitate the need for quiet voices that didn't disturb the dust. Walter's response was a sardonic maxim that was said in the same hushed tones.

"The universe doesn't believe in warnings, Mistress Victoria."

A dirty look and an arched eyebrow later, they approached the woman, who was still undisturbed, reading in the center of the chamber.

"Lady Sappho," Walter's tone was that of polite respect that bordered on insouciance, a tone that Ceres always noticed that a longsuffering servant at the Helsing manor used when dealing with its more… intense occupants. Ceres never could get that tone right and she figured that it was something that servants learned along the way.

"Leave the bucket on the floor, Walter." The elder vampire, for she couldn't be any thing else but an elder with the power that seemed to radiate from her person, waved Walter off without even raising her head, the faint unrecognizable accent in her voice giving her statement a slightly musical cadence. This was when Ceres noticed the faint scent of iron in the air and leaned over to see the half-filled bucket of coagulated blood beside the luxurious chair that the vampire was lounging in.

"Ahem." Polite cough, sorry to intrude. Jeeves himself couldn't have done better. It was moments like this that Walter seemed to be the kindly butler rather than the deadliest mortal in Hellsing's employ. Ceres suspected that he had a mental 'on-off' switch for that.

The vampire that Walter called Sappho turned her gaze slowly and looked at Walter. A barely imperceptible nod of the head from him and the saturnine countenance shifted to her.

The eyes, red crimson bloodpools behind the glasses, seemed to simultaneously draw her in and impale her in their regard. She could feel the skin peeling off her flesh in an agonizingly ecstatic moment, being drawn back like a fruit skin, then the scarlet orbs blinked and then a frown ended the supernatural inspection.

"Draconis dragulae. Have you come to challenge me in my abode, Childe of the Serpent?" Distaste was evident in her voice and Ceres felt the awesome power coiling within the elder, the air crackled with it to her undead senses, ready to attack. Her reflexes roared at her to move, to strike first but Walter's voice cut in before she did something foolish.

"Lady, Mistress Victoria has not yet succumbed to her bloodline's unique… foibles. She is here for a few books on history."

The tension in the air eased, replaced with what Ceres could only call as surprise. The elder's eyes narrowed and gave her a more physical examination and turned to Walter.

"I see that the moron still prefers buxom blondes."

Walter grinned, a sight that was quite horrifying for the unprepared. Sappho sighed and flowed — she did not stand up, but flowed, no other word could describe it — up to stand in front of Ceres.

"I assume that you are called Victoria?" Sappho stood a few inches under Ceres' five foot six inches and thus looked up at her, her entrancing eyes a fearsome few inches away from her face.

"Yes. My name's Ceres, actually. Ceres Victoria."

At the mention of Ceres' name, Sappho's face was preternaturally still. Then she arched an eyebrow and glanced at Walter, who just gave a 'no business of mine, don't look at me' shrug.

He was enjoying this. Victoria suspected that if it weren't such a blow to his reputation, the man would have been rolling on the floor with a belly laugh.

Ceres would have jumped over and strangled him, if it weren't for the fact that these two were her obvious superiors in the fighting arts and any sudden movements might end with something very painful happening to her.

"Your name… your name… your nameYoUr NaMe?!"

Ceres thought that it was quite musical how her elder lurched from drawling questioning wonderment to screeching bewildered outrage. Especially with her accent. The way that she rolled the two words in her mouth like clothes in the dryer was enviably well done.

"Your master," the title was spat out with quite a bit of bile and obvious derision, "has obviously lost a sizable amount of his wits since last we met."

"Er…." Trying to edge in a word was obviously not an option as Sappho continued.

"That stupid… stupid… stupid… example of manly idiocy has once again taken another woman into his Fold and keeps on doing the same thing! Like all of his kind!" The vampire elder glared at her. "Of course, he only teaches you the so-called 'important' things! How to keep the blood warm while he's away! How to make sure His crypt is clean of vermin! How to get the blood out of His clothes! How to seduce other women to join you for a 'drink'! How to do that 'little thing' with the tongue that he likes! So… tell me, has he 'taught' you anything of importance?!"

"Er… he hasn't taught me anything at all." Ceres was frankly embarrassed. Obviously, her master had made a very bad impression on Lady Sappho.

Sappho only narrowed her eyes in suspicion and Ceres felt the invasive swirl into her mind again.

"Nothing?" Her inquiring tone was tinged with puzzlement. "Nothing at all? Not even how to call him master properly?"

"Er… is there a proper way?"

Sappho turned to look at Walter, who only shrugged again. Ceres joined in, just glaring at him. In response, his lips twitched and his eyes had that sardonic twinkle in them. Ceres suppressed the urge to try and break his neck like a twig.

Sappho calmed down and returned her gaze to Ceres. She had that satisfied look that the young vampire equated to all the irate matrons of her short stint as a street bobby. They had successfully argued a point and were in a self-righteous haze of triumph, somewhat akin to a snake digesting her prey.

"Obviously tearing his testicles off the last time did the trick." Sappho's declaration made Ceres' eyes widen, but she ignored the younger vampire's reaction and continued. "A history lesson for our young ordinate, Walter?"

"Yes, the basics and recent history."

"Then let me see if that section is stable."

Sappho quickly left, the edges of her heavy black robes dragging like big great wings on the dry stone floor. Ceres turned to Walter and voiced her urgent question.

"Tore the Master's testicles off?"

Walter smiled and explained. "Master Alucard and Lady Sappho have had semi-regular duels ever since his arrival. The last time they squared off, the Lady tore off the Master's genitals."

Ceres winced. Walter only nodded his assent and continued. "It was quite debilitating and Master Alucard actually limped for a week or so. I suspect that the Lady used one of her more… esoteric abilities to enhance the pain."

The blonde vampire just shook her head and looked to the corridor that her elder had left through.

"Who is she? What is she doing here? Why was she so angry when I told her my name? And what did she mean by 'stable'? I thought this place was made to last!"

Walter shook his head and checked on the bucket of blood first, wincing as he noticed its half-filled state, before answering.

"What the Lady Sappho meant by 'stable' was that that particular section of the library is there. And that the path to that section be reasonably safe."

"Huh?" Ceres was now officially confused.

"Sorcery was used in the creation of the Night Guard crypt to make it difficult for any 'fearless vampire hunter' to go about from room to room. Additional sorcery was used to pile on the upgraded protections of the Library. They didn't exactly mix well.

"Now the Library is a labyrinth that crosses through both space and time. I've encountered several… temporal anomalies myself in my wanderings here. They are all quite unpleasant in some form or the other, especially the elder Night Guard. And I need not explain to you about the problems with meeting yourself from the future in these halls. Thus, the Lady checks for stability and safety before leaving the central chamber."

Ceres could only blink in surprise. Then she continued.

"Then who is she? I think I heard about Sappho in literature class—"

Walter interrupted her with a shake of his head. "That is not her name. That is what she calls herself. It may be her name, but she will never tell anyone. The reason why the Lady was so angry at you earlier was because you gave her your name." Walter's lips thinned into a smile. "She is of the traditional school and of great age, thus she believes in the power of names."

Ceres frowned. "So… she was right? My name's got to be secret?"

The corner of Walter's lip tilted as a little, a small smile that usually accompanied a kind grandparent's ruffling of their grandchildren's hair as they ask stupid questions.

"If you were older, yes. A Name is like a pearl." Walter gave her a meaningful glance through his monocle. "It is a speck of dust and it gathers your sins to yourself. Two, three hundred years and your name would be a thing of power. Sappho and your master take care not to reveal their names since they are old and powerful.

"Oh, some paltry hedge mage could possibly do something with a young Name. Some street trick, a parlor illusion. But with Names of power, of demons and elder lords, many things can be done, for the Name would have grown noticeable to the Laws and thus can be bound by Them."

Ceres' look was blank as he regarded the Helsing butler. "I'm going to ignore the fact that half of your explanation was as clear as mud to me and proceed to the next question: what is another elder vampire doing under the Hellsing roof?"

Walter quirked his lips in a moue of… Ceres didn't have the word to describe it in her vocabulary, plus the actual sight of Walter, literally pouting, froze her brain. Walter didn't seem to notice and continued.

"Lady Sappho is of the bloodline of Hypatia. Arminius Helsing brought her here to be caged in the Library, as both a specimen and an asset."

"Caged?" Puzzled, Ceres looked around. It did look formidable, but for an elder….

Walter chuckled, a sonorous sound in the loneliness of the underground chamber.

"Hypatian vampires are obsessed by books. Similar to some Eastern bloodlines, they are compelled to read an opened book on sight. They also have the additional dementia to… serve books, in a way. Show them a damaged book and they will drop everything to repair it. A sufficiently disorganized and large library could quite easily put a Hypatian out of circulation for years. Fairly ridiculous sounding, but quite deadly for them. Quite a few of the bloodline died in libraries burned to the ground with them inside. Sappho is under compulsion to catalogue the Library, but the Library has books that suddenly appear and disappear and sections that do not exist on some days. Also, on the full moon, the books and shelves rearrange themselves according to the magics set upon them.

"Sappho is like Sisyphus, pushing the rock upwards and having it fall back down again at the bottom. And as Camus once said, Sisyphus has come not to hate the rock but to love it. She has achieved a modicum of happiness here; peace, quiet, something to do, a large supply of books and a steady supply of blood."

Ceres looked to the bucket with its edges coated in brown coagulate. "I can see that."

Walter laughed and shook his head.

"We even manage to acquire a death-row convict or, more likely, a repeat sex offender that no one would miss and let him loose in here. The Lady quite enjoys the exercise."

Ceres could only blink and nod at that particular tidbit of information. I did not need to know that, Ceres thought to herself as she looked around. She glanced at the book that Sappho was reading and blinked when she noticed the title. She was going to ask Walter about it when she felt the elder's presence approaching the room.

She turned to look at the tunnel in which the Lady had left the central chamber but was surprised when she came out of a corridor two doors to the left. Sappho was wiping her hand off on a rag which she quickly made to disappear in her voluminous robes.

"The way is cleared. Come."

Walter motioned for her to follow and they both followed the elder vampire down the halls of the crypt.

When Walter had mentioned that the crypt was labyrinth, Ceres had imagined a straightforward maze. The reality was something much different.

The corridor was actually a short hallway that terminated into an eight-sided chamber. The chamber was the size of a good-sized parlor and had a central table, three shelves and four entryways, one of which they had entered from. A painting was set in the wall that was deprived of a shelf. A blonde haired Victorian gentleman peered at them as they continued their progress.

They entered another similar chamber and onto another. All chambers though the location of entranceways and shelves were different each time. The paintings were also noticeably different. Some were in their formal clothes, others in somewhat more relaxed environs. In one chamber, Ceres was surprised to see a portrait of Lady Integra in full Slayer regalia, breastplate shining and sword at her side. She just shook her head and continued following Sappho with Walter.

Progressing through the chambers, Ceres had an inkling of a honeycomb structure deep underground. The arrangement and construction itself would be daunting task, a testament to the Library's original creators, the Night Guard. Her contemplation was interrupted when Sappho asked her a question.

"Tell me, childe, has your master regrown his genitals thoroughly yet?" Ceres felt what little cogent blood left she had in her body rush to her cheeks.

"Er… I don't know."

Sappho arched an eyebrow. "I believe that you are his Bride, are you not?"

The tone was sardonic, and Ceres bristled. Well, she would have bristled had she not realized what the elder meant.

Oh. "Er… I… sort of… don't remember anything…."

Sappho peered over her glasses, crimson eyes strangely focused in a rather surprisingly modern fashion, Ceres recognizing the 'are you serious?!' look from exasperated friends during her middle school years. Then, like a striking snake, she felt the psychic equivalent of a sucker punch rock her consciousness.

Ceres swayed and almost fell into those bloody pools, but months of exposure to Alucard's constant mental invasions helped her stand her ground.

Sappho just shook her head and, when the elder's eyes left her own, coherency returned to the world. "Interesting. You seem to be telling the truth."

I could have told you that, Ceres grumbled inside her head, no need for the psychic shenanigans. Obviously Sappho had already left her head as the older vampire continued.

"Incredibly enough, you won't be contributing any anecdotes to 'A Young Woman's Guide to Unnatural Copulation'?"

Ceres swore she had heard Walter snort in amusement, but ignored it, and abashedly nodded.

Sappho blinked and regarded her with a considering look. "Tearing his genitals off must have worked. I will have to remember that the next time he visits."

Trying to change the topic of conversation, Ceres tried to change the subject. "Er… Lady Sappho?"

"Hmmm?"

"Why are you wearing glasses? I thought all vampires had perfect eyesight."

Ceres’ elder arched an eyebrow and gave her a look. A light shock traveled through her body and something skimmed her thoughts.

"Trying to change the subject? Childe, you have as much sense as a virgin goat at a bacchanalia." When Ceres didn't react to her insult, Sappho just sighed. "My spectacles? Don't you notice anything about them, childe? Look a little closer."

At the elder's invitation, Ceres leaned in for a closer look. She immediately noticed the strange scratches that seemed to line the eyeglasses' frame. Further examination and they seemed to look similar to the runes that she'd seen on a TV special once. "They're magical?"

Sappho laughed, light and low. "You could say that. The lenses are from a crystal found only in the Himalayas, the runes carved into metal that fell from the stars with a silver chisel. Arminius probably worked on it for half a decade before setting it on my head. They limit my powers. They are still effective even though, with the passing of time, they are slowly becoming ineffectual."

"Ineffectual?! What do you call what you're doing to me and Walter?"

Sappho smiled thinly and looked at the ponytailed butler with a sharp glance. Walter only smiled.

"It seems you are as good as Walter says you are. He may be acting a little… how do you moderns call it?… fruity, and you yourself are feeling the effects of my glamour, but if it were not for the fact that you are of the Serpent and Walter's mind is the equivalent of a mental fortress, you would be both on knees like fawning dogs."

The elder vampire stopped and stared Ceres straight in the eyes. The fearsome crimson orbs that were her eyes drilled into Ceres' mind like hot knife through butter. Then a voice thundered within her head accompanied with vile images of her body torn to pieces in various means.

Know this, Childe. This is my place of power.
Never challenge me here.
Do you understand?

Then the telepathic assault ceased and Ceres was staring down at her elder's dagger-blade smile. She made the only response she could make.

"Yes. Yes, I do."

"Good. Just a little advance warning. Children of the Serpent have this tendency to do stupid things to prove their superiority. And I have no truck with stupidity, especially here. Shall we continue?"

Ceres could only nod and they continued on their way. They crisscrossed a few more chambers before they stopped.

To Ceres' eyes, the room was no different from the several others they had passed. Books and scrolls were set in the oak shelves. The hanging globe of light shed dim readable light on the tableau.

"All the Helsing books, I've put here. Walter knows which to pick for your introduction."

Ceres blinked as Walter stepped forward with a nod and went to the shelves.

"Helsing books? I thought we were looking for history books?"

Sappho shook her head. "For this month, the Library is organized via the numerological rating of the author's last name raised to the square and then retranslated into the Urdu alphabet. You are lucky that much of the books we have on Night Guard and the Order's history were written by members of the Helsing family and not anyone else. You'd probably have to take several trips."

Walter had already piled a good mound of books on the central table when Ceres noticed the painting for this chamber.

A tough looking blonde, he was dressed in a long tan coat over rugged clothes, his blue eyes staring out with brilliant intensity. The young vampire could only stare as something inside her seemed to click and her undead heart beat faster as she looked into the painted cerulean orbs.

"Ah! I see you've noticed our distinguished host!" Sappho was surprisingly delighted in her tone.

"Who is he?" Ceres’ voice was a whispering wind. Only Sappho heard and she deigned to answer.

"Roland Van Helsing, the last Van Helsing. Died over twenty years ago in a battle with one of your bloodline, Childe."

"Van Helsing? Any relation to the Helsings?"

Sappho smiled like a feline after an ornithological meal. "The progenitor of the Helsing line was the black sheep of Van Helsing line. Arminius Helsing believed that fire could be fought with fire and that understanding must first come before destruction. The Van Helsing family had espoused an Inquisitorial tradition of ruthless vampire-hunting using the tried-and-true methods for generations, under the purview of the Iscariote Ministry. He turned away from that tradition to study our kind, childe. He imprisoned and analyzed me, dealt with the Night Guard in a rather peaceful manner for a vampire hunter and through these dealings enabled the Restoration. It gave him royal backing and support which could not have come at a better time. The Van Helsings of Amsterdam had found out about his dabblings in the dark arts and Iscariote learned of his dealings with the Night Guard. His family struck his name from their lists and the Vatican sent its assassins. That started a bloody tradition of feuding that would last until Roland's death two decades ago. I think they have this painting of him here as a sort of ghoulish tribute towards that occasion."

Ceres was only partially listening. Her attention was on the painting, on the rough planes of the face, of the stolid determination inherent in it. A certain nobility plagued those care-worn features, that of a man knowing his doom yet still moving forward.

"He has the brightest blue eyes." Sappho obviously heard the younger vampire's whisper as she responded.

"A Van Helsing trait. They have a rare eye color that manifests in their bloodline."

Ceres blinked and then, after a few moments of consideration, she chuckled. Sappho arched an eyebrow and the young fledgling waved it off.

"That would make me a Van Helsing then. My eyes are the same color."

"They're red, my dear. Far from blue."

"Oh, yes. I forgot about that." Ceres raised a hand to the side of her face. "But they were blue before Alucard… turned me. I remember because when I asked my father once, when I was little, why I had different eyes than him, he told me that was because I was his special angel and angels all had blue eyes." At the memory, Ceres laughed a high melodious laugh, a laugh totally inappropriate for a creature of the grave.

Ceres then noticed that both of her companions were now looking at her.

"Interesting." Walter voiced his thoughts as Ceres turned away hurriedly in embarrassment. The tone made her surreptitiously glance at her two companions as she pretended to look over the books on the table as Walter stepped up towards portrait of the last Van Helsing.

Ceres noticed Sappho sharing a look with Walter as they gazed at the portrait of Roland, with his wild, sandy blonde hair and azure eyes, and she noticed the secret glance that they shared as they returned their looks to her.

Then, Ceres heard the ancient Hypatian vampire's voice whisper in her ear with an eerie, predatory tone.

"Very interesting."

 

To be continued.

Chapter 8
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