The Stolen Tomes – Chapter 1 [Castlevania: Grimoire of Souls]
Book VI – Revised: Part 1
Author’s Note: Yes, I know it was supposed to be back in 1792. But since Konami dropped the game before it went anywhere, we’re going AU. Enjoy the ride!
[Outside The Gates – 1797]
As the golden eyes of the dhampir once known as Adrian Tepes stared deep into the night, a familiar silvery mist filled with painful nostalgia lingered about. The light of the full moon hanging overhead illuminated the veil that hung low and thick, dense enough to obscure the very earth beneath his boots. Yet, rather than a raven blanket illuminated by countless jewels of the night, there was a mirror of the imposing dominion of what had once been his home.
It was none other than the castle that had been sealed away, a manifestation of Chaos brought to the Earth. A place of dark power that his father had once called his own. The source of his rebirth and his gravesite time and time and time again—Castlevania stood before him once more.
Towering above the land and dominating the sky, the shadows it cast harbored a bone-biting chill as it devoured the argent rays of moonlight. The gates were wide open, the hungry maw of a titanic beast. One welcoming its prey to walk right into its belly.
The magic of these grimoires will never cease to astound me, Alucard thought to himself as every sense he possessed told him that he was in the distant past. His memory as part-Vampire was near eidetic, and so every sensation present matched his memories. Yet, he knew that was not the case.
It was a world woven from magic and ink on pages, the collective sins of his father’s legacy written down only to be made manifest. It would spill out and stain the world beyond the pages with the darkness that had been banished once before, shattering the hard-fought peace that was borne of the centuries of effort. That was why he had been beckoned by the organization that had created the grimoire in the first place—The Order of Elgos.
And that was why he had not come alone this time.
“Richter, look!” a youthful voice filled with warmth cut through the imposing presence that the castle presented. Its owner was a young girl with curled, blonde locks that bobbed as bounced on the heels of her feet while pointing a lithe arm up to the sky. “It’s upside down!”
“Yes, I can see that, Maria,” responded a masculine voice, several years her senior. The speaker stood there with his arms crossed, the night breeze leaving the tails of his headband to sway despite how he seemed almost like a spirit that was on the verge of corporeality.
Maria Renard and Richter Belmont of the Year 1792.
The vampire hunting duo stood to the left of Alucard. They had entered the castle prior to this moment to banish its master and send it back to the wellspring from whence it came. And they had succeeded in doing so through great trial and effort. Yet, the promised century of peace would be broken a mere five years later—a notion that stirred different emotions between them.
And they were not alone, as behind them there stood another contrasting pair. One was a towering mass of muscle that stood above the others, the venerated ancestor of their ranks who took to training his body until it possessed unyielding strength capable of hunting the night. The other was a woman clad in deep green emerald and gold, a slender but toned physique that served to hide the power that slept within her and the courage to face the darkness.
Simon Belmont of the Year 1691 and Maria Renard of the Year 1797.
“I’m betting that’s where we’ll find what we’re looking for,” said a young man’s voice from the right of the dhampir. There stood what looked to be a fit, yet slender teenage male with blonde hair and blue eyes. He was clad in a red jacket that had a number of weapons affixed to it, but his body was semi-ethereal. “Charl, you thinking what I am?”
“That the architecture will likely be as distorted as it was in the paintings that Brauner created?” answered a young woman who was clad in what appeared to be a white and blue blouse and skirt, with a half-cape affixed to it. There was a large tome tucked under her arm. “Most likely.”
They were another vampire hunting pair who had traversed the castle in order to return it from whence it came. Their opposition originally had not been Dracula, but rather a powerful vampire who had sought to use the castle to their own ends. Even so, Dracula had risen once more during that event and they had been the ones to banish him back into Chaos.
Johnathan Morris and Charlotte Aulin of the Year 1944.
“Regardless of its structure, our task remains as it always has been.” Resolve and resolution painted the tone of a woman with pale skin and long black hair that flowed down her back like a raven curtain. The moonlight shone against the breastplate that was affixed to her torso as her piercing gray eyes fixated on the heart of castle itself. “To retrieve the Vital Soul before things become dire.”
Hovering next to her was a taller individual, a studious-looking man with grey eyes that held within them a complex emotion. His shirt was overlayed with a leather vest and belt that had component pouches and ammunition, likely for the firearm in his possession. Similar to Johnathan Morris and Richter Belmont, he was also ethereal in nature.
Yet another pair that had been responsible for the rise and banishment of Dracula. Their tale was one that had been lost to history until recently, agents belonging to an Order known as Ecclesia that had once sought a unique power to rid the world of Dracula in light of the disappearance of the Belmonts. However, they became corrupted and ended up raising the castle, an act so blasphemous that the Church sought to hide the embarrassment of their actions and remove them from the pages of history.
Shanoa and Albus of the Year 1869.
Eight vampire hunters from the different ages between when Alucard had first laid his father to rest and after he’d done so for the last time. Belmonts, descendants, and others who had taken to fighting the Night and Dark Ones that prowled it. All had gathered here for the purpose of seeing that the efforts of those who sacrificed so much to bring the current age of peace remained as such.
“I’ve confirmed it,” a soft voice resonated throughout the air, a guiding voice that existed beyond the pages. A magical researcher whose youth contrasted her expertise and knowledge, Lucy Westenra of the Order of Elgos. “The monsters inside are giving off a stronger presence than the last time we ventured here to avoid the erasure of Miss Renard.”
It was not the first time they had entered this grimoire—this moment in history that had been recorded and brought to life. The first time had been to avert the erasure of the older Maria Renard, besieged by monsters whose power had been elevated and threatened to spill out into the world. Alucard had been the one to press ahead in remedying the situation with notable haste and had hoped that they would not have to return, but it seemed that would not be the case.
Richter Belmont’s gaze carried the weight of emotion behind it given his ties to it. This was perhaps the greatest moment of regret and failure that any Belmont could lay claim to, as he had gone against the very tenets of their family by beckoning both the castle and Dracula from their banishment into Chaos. He was staring up at his future, his sins laid bare for him to see. “…What are the chances that the Vital Soul would be housed by the ‘me’ of this time period if I was under their control?”
“Umm… it’s a possibility,” Lucy spoke from beyond the boundaries of the pages. “According to the original records, you were liberated from the control of the Dark Priest by Mister Arikado before the descent of the inverted castle. However, with the alteration of the grimoire’s text stating Richter defeated his assailant, it’s possible that this iteration of yourself might still be under his control.”
The Dark Priest, Shaft, had made Richter the master of the castle precisely because of his strength. If two hunters clashed then the weaker one would be destroyed, and prior to the events that saw the final defeat of Dracula Richter was the last known and most powerful of the Belmont lineage. Empowering him with the dark powers that the Vital Soul possessed would make it more so—perhaps even enough to kill the Alucard of the tome.
Richter must be suffering, the Adult Maria thought as she grabbed her arm sleeve and clutched it. This was her story, her present. The Richter next to her was from her past, but the one who had trained her and been her family was inside of the castle. Should he be infused with the dark power they needed to claim, then the only way to liberate him from it would be the same as every other monster they had to face under those circumstances.
She would have to kill her older brother to save the world.
A frown marred Simon Belmont’s visage. “If that is their scheme then it is a cruel one indeed. However, we are bound by the oaths of our ancestors to do what we must. He too would understand.”
It was true. Every Belmont in known history had been willing to forfeit their lives to banish the Lord of the Night. They did not fear death, but rather never having fought. Even so, it clearly weighed on the gathered Belmont Clan as they were forced to accept that it would be by their hands it needed to be done.
“…I shall do it,” Shanoa spoke, approaching the Belmonts. She understood both the guilt that must weigh on the shoulders of those who had gone against their very vows and those who had to put down the ones they loved because they were taken by such dark powers. There was no need for others to have to suffer it. “If the need arises, I will bear that cross and—”
“Don’t say that!” The outburst of the youngest among them had stalled her words before she could finish. “If Richter does have the bad thing inside of him, then we’ll get it out without hurting him!”
The younger iteration of Maria would hear none of it. Even if the Richter of this grimoire was not hers, he was still Richter in the same way that the older woman next to her was an older version of herself. To hurt someone she considered an older brother was sacrilege to her, even if it would be a mercy. Yet the Vital Soul needed to be retrieved…
That was when Albus deemed to speak for the first time since they had entered the grimoire. “Without knowing the specifics, I cannot be certain. But I believe there might be an alternative solution if the right conditions were met.”
Shanoa looked over to him. “Albus…?”
“When I absorbed the Gylph that housed Dracula’s soul, it consumed my mind and body,” he explained for the benefit of all. “Shanoa did what she had to, and I became part of the Gylph itself. However, my spirit retained its clarity and independence even after my body no longer housed my soul. I believe it was due to the blood of the Belmonts that I distilled down to its essence.”
Surprise blossomed on the expression of the eldest of the gathered Belmonts. “I had thought that our lineage had vanished in your time?”
“It was by chance that I discovered descendants of your lineage,” Albus began. “Knowing that Barlowe intended to have Shanoa use Dominus, I had sought whatever method I could to take her place. However, I lacked the instinctive ability that she possessed to absorb Gylphs and my body was not capable of safely housing the power of the Lord of the Night due to the dark nature. As the former was something that I was certain would be more easily grasped with the resources of Ecclesia, I focused on the latter and concluded the best way to do so would be to study the lineage of those who had bested the Lord of Night multiple times.”
The Belmonts had taken a vow to hunt the Night and all its horrors. As evil was an evolving presence, every generation had to be stronger than the last. That including their pedigree and bloodline.
“Richter Belmont was possibly the pinnacle of that bloodline, and so I sought to follow where he had been before he vanished,” he continued. “Those trained by him, those associated with him, and so on. It was a dead-end until, by some miracle, I came across Wygol Village and found that divine power within the residents there.”
Shanoa looked down at that as the weight of his words took root. “…Father Nikolai said that he received a revelation that drove him to create Wygol Village, and people from all walks of life ended up there. But of them, only one was trained in the art of monster-slaying—an elderly woman.”
“The Belmont lineage extends pasts the name,” Richter stated. “There are those who possess our bloodline but are not part of the main family. Maria’s family happened to be one of those, so it wouldn’t be a stretch that more of us were out there who sought different paths in life since the Vampire Killer remained with the main family.”
Albus agreed. “I theorized that they were all descendants from those distant branches, congregating together as if guided by fate or their blood itself. And considering that Dracula’s Castle would eventually rise close to the village, I believe that it was not by chance. However, your blood was especially potent to where its holy power was second to none and so it would be entirely possible that if we had some way of cleansing this iteration of yourself of its influence, we could liberate him of the Vital Soul without killing him.”
“If that’s the case, then I do know a spell that can do the trick,” Charlotte spoke with the confidence befitting a witch of her stature. “There are some drawbacks in casting it, but if Lucy can inscribe it into the grimoire so that I have access to it then we can make it work.”
“See, I told you that there was a way!” Young Maria cheered before she called out to the air itself. “Miss Lucy, can you do that and then tell us where we need to go to save Richter?”
“O-Oh, sure thing!” Lucy said from beyond the pages. “I just need a moment…”
In only a few words the tide had shifted from the grim acceptance that, to prevent the rise of evil they would have to sacrifice a hero who had been manipulated, into burgeoning hope. Alucard himself could see it in the way that the older Maria let loose the breath that she had been holding in. Good.
There was no need to turn history into a tragedy.
A few moments later a new grimoire appeared in front of Charlotte as her old one vanished. The cover held hieroglyphs and pictographs of three individuals—a warrior goddess with the head of a lioness, a maiden with wings, and a baboon holding a crescent moon. She flipped through the pages wrought of papyrus and nodded. “This’ll do it.”
“As for where the dark energy is coming from…I believe it’s somewhere around the heart of the inverted castle,” Lucy said. “I’m afraid from the ebb and flow it’s growing in power and emanating from five monsters within different areas of the castle. They’re creating a barrier to prevent access.”
“…Most likely those are the guardians who would hold the relics needed for the rebirth of Dracula,” the dhampir stated. “They should be located within parts of the inverted castle—the Chapel, the Outer Wall, the Lair, the Clocktower, and the Cave. If time is of the essence, we should divide our forces to conquer each of them.”
There were nine vampire hunters that had gathered. Of them, three were in a fluctuating state where they were not as capable as they could be due to the damage sustained by the alteration of their native grimoires. And considering the foes that awaited them…
“I will take the Cave alone,” Alucard declared. “That is where this incarnation of Death dwells. His desire to see to it that Dracula rises once more will mean that his interference will be inevitable, and I am familiar enough the layout of the castle to reach there quickly.”
“Then I suppose Jon and I will head to the Outer Wall,” Charlotte chimed in next, conjuring a broom in her hand with Jonathan by her side. “We work best together and traveling there won’t be an issue for me. We can meet up outside of the chamber once we’re done.”
Next was the Blade of Ecclesia. “My mastery of Glyphs and Albus’ own capabilities would allow us to traverse the Clocktower with haste and deal with whatever lays in waiting.”
“Me and Richter will head to the Lair then!” Young Maria chimed in with far more enthusiasm than appropriate. Then again, it meant saving her older brother and so she would naturally be eager to get to work. “Come on! I want to see how old you’ve gotten!”
“That leaves the defiled Chapel then,” Simon said. “The Holy Whip will make short work of whatever evil dwells there.”
“…I will accompany you,” Adult Maria decided after a moment. “Like Alucard, I have knowledge of this castle’s layout and so I should be able to guide you there.”
That decided, the dhampir turned his attention back onto the inverted castle. The memories of that night were still fresh in his mind, both it and the guilt of having to lay his father to rest for a second time. Then there was the third in the year of 1999. How many more times must he commit patricide to honor his mother and keep her wish alive?
He prayed there would not be a fourth before he drew his sword. “Begin.”
Pingback: Fanfic Recommendation 105 | Twilit Dreams Circle