The air was still and damp. The inky black sky was a velvety cloak enveloping the vast expanse of the woodland around the hills. It rumbled with displeasure. A downpour looked imminent.

The leaves susurrated with the sudden gust of wind that made its way through the boscage. The gales that followed brought in the heady scent of fresh lilies through the foliage, with some of its petals strewn mercilessly in its wake. Swift footsteps were heard intruding the howling winds. A tall hooded figure emerged from behind a large tree and strode through the thicket. As if on cue, a shrill cry of a wolf rent the woods sending the nocturnal fauna scurrying to their dwellings. It was a moonless night, only lit with interspersed stars; similar to the one which had borne witness to a gory end.

With barely a swish of his cloak, the hooded figure rose a few feet above the ground fluidly and flew towards a small clearing under the canopy of trees; the bouquet of lilies clasped intact in his hand with his long nails digging into a couple of them. 

The clearing was a small private cemetery. As his feet touched the ground, he only had eyes for a marble grave adorned with symbols. Tears of blood trickled out of his eyes at the sight of the name ‘Lilith’ on the headstone. He placed the bouquet on it.

“Are these for me, dear?” A voice asked. He turned around as if someone had called out; knowing only too well that it was within him. 

Count Darick Laszlo closed his eyes in longing to see his beloved wife, etched into him like a piece of forever. A blonde woman with almond-shaped eyes appeared behind the veil of his eyelids. Even as she smiled, her eyebrows knitted and her expression changed. His eyes flew open as his rage pulsed through him. He stood there for what seemed like an eternity gazing at the silhouette of the Orlok Castle on the hills. Their abode. Their love nest for centuries. Until a slayer eliminated her existence.

The Dhampir Queen who slayed Vampires; Abigail Griffiths, the half-vampire slayer, who promised to return to kill him too.

Laszlo recollected a haunting memory of another night.

A couple blissfully in love walking through the thicket hand in hand…

The aroma of beautiful yellow lilies filling the space…

Her luscious lips gently brushing his…

The moonless night acting as a shield…

A spine-chilling shriek and hurried strides breaking their eternal trance…

Their sharp ears gathering the impending danger as they lifted off…

The pale face of an alluring woman flashing before them…

A burning wooden stake ripping out his beloved’s heart…

A loud wail echoing through the woods along with the slayer’s words, “I’ll come back for you, Darick…”

He was jolted back to the present with a sudden rustle of leaves behind him. 

“Must be you, Lady Griffiths,” he hissed. As he turned, the coppery smell of blood intoxicated him. His nostrils flared and he sped through the woods in that direction. 

“You won’t be spared,” he screamed as he followed the scent. 

Jagged lightning streaked across the dark sky giving way to thunderclaps almost threatening to split the sky into halves and swallow the undead creature with it. But, Laszlo had never been the hunted. He was on a bloodthirsty hunt. Seeking revenge. He was under the belief that the Dhampir could be no match for his powers. He was the Lord and he would remain to be.

Holding her breath and staying camouflaged amidst the shrubberies, Griffiths observed her prey. “Not tonight, Darick,” she whispered.

Laszlo stopped in his tracks as his ears picked up the words. His cloak whooshed as he hovered a few feet above the ground ready to pounce on her.

“On the full moon night to bury you with a bunch of lilies beside your sweetheart,” Griffiths breathed and flashed her silver sword in Laszlo’s direction. The effect was immediate. He staggered. Those precious moments helped her take flight; her tinkling laughter bouncing off the trees and leaves.

The fortnight stretched between the victor and the victim, unknown to either as to who would fall prey to whom.

Yet, the inevitable was bound to happen.

As the nights became brighter with the moon getting fuller, the anticipation of a deadly battle crackled ominously. The woods knew. The starry sky and the splendid moon were aware. That day, the sun set in a hurry as the moon rose with all grandeur. The wolves howled even harsher.

The dead of the night saw a tall hooded figure leave the Orlok Castle on the hills and walk through the coppice. He held on to a huge bouquet like it meant the entire world to him. The winds carried the fragrance of the bouquet of lilies announcing the arrival of Count Laszlo. The flora around the cemetery provided for the musical psithurism in welcoming him to the place.

Once inside the cemetery, he made his way to the marble grave. Like every time, memories of a fond night transforming into a miserable one made him shed copious tears of blood. He kneeled and placed the bouquet on his wife’s grave.

“Are these for me, dearest Darick?” A silvery voice called out from behind him.

Laszlo closed his eyes so as not to fool himself by looking around. He knew it was his mind’s play.

“Aren’t these for me, my love? Do you still think those lilies can resurrect her from the grave?” A tinkle of laughter reverberated through the cemetery.

Laszlo rose to his full height and searched in the direction of the voice. A slender lady of bewitching beauty met his line of vision. A pair of obsidian orbs for eyes stared at him from a heart-shaped angelic face. Her lips, as pale as death, parted in a hypnotic smile. Her auburn hair accentuated her looks. The full moon appeared to reflect on her alabaster skin.

“Ah! I find you very weak today, dearest Abigail. Has the human blood become a rarity for the Dhampir Queen these days?” remarked Laszlo as he took careful steps towards her.

“I’m not on a hunt today, Darick. I’m here to unite with my love,” she said earnestly. Her eyes pleaded for an understanding.

“D’you think I’d fall into your trap, lady?” he said, closing the distance between them. His eyes read hers. His thirst for revenge seemed to simmer down a bit. 

“I’ve been waiting for this moment for an eternity,” she whispered and flung her arms around him in a tight embrace. He breathed in her scent as her unruly hair brushed his face. He bent forward and locked her lips in a fervent kiss. The moment was preternatural. Heavy gusts of wind howled through the woods as nature stood witness to a strange union. The white lilies from the bouquet got scattered around the grave.

A sudden thunderclap rolled through the sky breaking their reverie. He pushed her away and wiped blood off his lips. 

“Seduction is an old charm, dearest Abigail,” he muttered menacingly.

“I’m no charmer, Darick,” she replied and moved closer to him with her hands inside her heavy cloak.

He was quick for her. He held her by the throat and swept her off the ground. As he tried to dig his protruded fang into her neck, a severe blow from her changed course. He stumbled and lost his grip. She fell down in a heap.

“I’m no charmer, Darick Laszlo. I’m the queen who slays,” she snarled and bared a wooden stake off a sheath.

Laszlo sneered and his sadistic high-pitched laugh rang through the thicket. As he attempted to back away, she sped towards him in action. He tried to grab her by her hair but she was too quick for a defeat. She escaped his hands so lithely and directed the stake to his chest. 

“Is the Vampire giving up?” she growled.

“The Lord can never be hunted,” he bellowed leaving the cemetery in a blur.

She raced past him in a blink of an eye and pushed up the stake through his throat. His pale skin singed. Mild fumes followed by the miasma of a rotten carcass emanated.

“The hunter is the hunted today, my darling,” she sibilated and thrust the stake right into his chest with an enormous force. The air reeked of malodour as his heart got perforated. Blood spewed out in volumes. 

“A fresh hunt, I understand. I’m gonna feast on it.” She smiled affectionately and threw him a kiss. She licked in the blood and smacked her lips deliciously. With a final howl in pain, the centuries-old Count Darick Laszlo fell down with a thud. With a slash of her silver sword, she decapitated the Vampire and burnt his body. 

There was one last thing to be done. She whizzed into the cemetery, picked up a lily, and threw it on his head.

“Adieu, dear Lord,” she whispered and disappeared among the trees.

 

The movie’s final reel ended and the closing credits started playing on the screen.

***

1932

Alhambra Theatre, Leicester Square, London

‘The Dhampir Queen’ Premier Show

The crowd erupted in applause cheering the entire movie crew seated in the front boxes. Gerbert Schrek, the director of the movie, was showered with compliments for bringing out the first ever femme fatale ‘sound film’ of the era. Almost everyone in the front rows congratulated him and wished him success.

The actress Sylvia Mirren, who had debuted with the role of Abigail in the movie, walked up to the director and hugged him. She was dressed magnificently in a blue satin gown. The simple look accessorised with a cloche hat and minimum jewellery made her an embodiment of stunning beauty. People whistled as she threw kisses to the audience.

Celebrations and wishes were galore and the cast and crew members revelled in it. Except one.  

Even as the spirits ran high among everyone as they shared their joy, actor Adrian Ebuhardt, who had acted as Count Laszlo in his debut movie, was found seated still staring at the theatre screen. He was called the most uncommunicative among the cast, and it was no surprise that he chose to remain reticent and away from the merriment. For one brief second, his gaze left the big screen and fell on the actress Sylvia. She turned on cue and smiled. He nodded at her as he clutched the armrests so tight that his knuckles turned paler. He left the hall a few minutes later, after greeting and congratulating everybody on the crew.

“He remains an enigma,” someone mumbled.

Sylvia turned to see the retreating back of her favourite co-star.

***

The next day saw a greater deluge of praises for the film. 

‘The first sound film creates waves. Director Schrek has done it again. Full 54 minutes of extraordinary cinema casting new faces.’

Every newspaper and magazine featured an article on the movie commending the performances of the actors, especially its heroine, Sylvia Mirren. 

‘Actress Sylvia Mirren slays the audience with her acting in the movie. She is indeed an iconic femme fatale!’

‘Movie-goers mesmerised with the latest Vampire-Dhampir movie.’

‘English movies shift perspective with the latest movie ‘The Dhampir Queen’. It’s the lady who wins as the movie revolves around a female lead.’

A lone man at a palatial bungalow near the Highgate Woods in North London paced through his living room as his eyes scrutinised every word in the newspapers laid out in front of him. The reviews and articles of the movie ‘The Dhampir Queen’ overwhelmed him. Every praise and adulation was for the heroine and the director. 

Did the actor, Adrian Ebuhardt, play the hero in the movie for nothing at all?

Did he not perform his best during the entire shoot?

Did he not exercise absolute self-control and refrain… to make his dream come true?

Why was he sidelined?

The actor seethed in rage as he flipped through the newspapers at lightning speed. His eyes fell on a photo of his dazzling heroine. His expression softened and his lips twisted in a slight smile. He caressed her image with his long fingers as he traced it. 

His sharp nails dug into the page as he bent over it and kissed her photo.

“I’m the Lord, sweetheart. The Lord who can’t be slayed,” he whispered vehemently as he picked up a piece of paper.

‘8 pm at the Ebuhardt’s Mansion near Highgate Woods. Will you, Miss?’ He scribbled on it. He stuck it on a mirror and slapped it hard. The mirror denied a reflection of his towering self as his onyx black eyes changed to a reddish hue and his lips paled down to snowy white. His hunky figure had an unnatural aura to it. 

Twenty miles away at the apartment of the actress, the note appeared stuck to her mirror.

***

That evening, anticipation filled every nook and cranny of Adrian’s sprawling house. He was looking dapper in a black tuxedo with his flowy brown hair coiled into a bun at the nape of his neck. As his lanky figure ambled to the balcony overlooking the woods and a cemetery beyond it, the dusky horizon turned an eerie black as if shying away into darkness to make way for the hunter, aiding and abetting in his scheme.

There wasn’t any explicit acceptance of his invitation, but, he was sure that the night was going to act favourable to him; that, she would not refuse it.

A brilliant and bright full moon slowly rose to its peak in the nightly sky. An alpha wolf howled its way to glory at a distance.

Sharp at 8, there was a crisp knock at the entrance door and the sounds of hooves retreated in the opposite direction.

His face lit up in glee. The night was going to be his, indeed. 

He knew she would come to meet him. And, she did. She had always had an unsaid attraction towards him that he had been aware of. 

Sylvia walked through the door in delightful elegance, dressed up in a red velvet gown that stuck to her body shaping up like her second skin. She adjusted her loose hair nervously with her gloved hands as a few unruly strands danced on her forehead.

Adrian walked to her side with a charismatic smile and held her hand. He kneeled down on one knee and planted a soft kiss on her right hand. A sudden chill crept inside her as she shivered. 

“A cold imprint, I call it,” she breathed.

“I should have known, Miss,” he replied and stood up. He closed his eyes as if in deep thought and opened them after a second. His eyes had turned a soft brown.

She smiled in mock surprise but didn’t question it further. 

There existed an uncanny connection between the two of them that neither of them was vocal about. She was seemingly unaware of his real self but underneath that layer of blissful ignorance, she had a strong inkling that he was weird and different. And, so unhuman.

She wanted to mask such thoughts as she knew she had fallen for him. Fallen for his chivalry and looks, especially, the intoxicating aura that was always around him. When the invitation popped up out of the blue, her joy overruled her shock of the bizarre happening so much that she wanted to come despite the warnings of her logical mind.

“Thanks for coming,” he said, breaking the awkward silence.

“You knew I would,” she replied as she slid her hand in his. He held them tight as he led her to the balcony above. The full moon shone on the two of them, almost beckoning them into its warmth.

“There are some bitter truths to be revealed, lady. And, some unfinished business to cater to, dearest Abigail Griffiths,” he muttered as he bent over the railing clasping it tightly with both his hands. His gaze fell on the cemetery.

She furrowed her brows quizzically and folded her hands across her breasts to protect herself from the chill breeze that sneaked in. “It’s Sylvia Mirr….” Her unfinished word died down as Adrian held her by her waist and whisked her away in the direction of the cemetery.

As he landed inside the place beside a marble tombstone, completely unabashed from being airborne for a split second and held her pinned to his body, Sylvia panted and rested her head on his chest.

“Who…are…you? Are…you…hu…” she wheezed when Adrian sucked her lips in a cold kiss and traced his lips to her collarbones. She tried to resist but was overcome by his strength. She surrendered herself to another cold passionate kiss.

When she looked up at him after catching her breath, he was a sight to shudder at.

His eyes had turned a bloody red. A large fang from the roof of his mouth had outgrown the oral cavity and glistened in the moonlight. His nails dug into her back as he hugged her close.

“Want to know who I am, my dear Griffiths?” he hissed.

“I’m not Griffiths, the slayer, Adrian.” She gasped, her eyes pleading.

“Oh, I’m not Adrian. I’m the Vampire Lord of the undead. And, I don’t bow down to a slayer, even in a movie,” he roared. “A wish so silly landed me there.” He punctuated his revelation with peals of maniacal laughter. Winds blustered through the cemetery when a fresh white lily glided and fell at the tombstone near them. It read ‘Abigail Griffiths’. 

“You’re no Griffiths. You’re my Lilith, my sweetheart….” he whispered and sunk his large fang into her neck. Blood seeped out onto her torso. He devoured the red viscous liquid oozing out of her as she slipped into a state of unconsciousness… only to wake up to the curse of eternity…       

 

~~~  

Author’s note:-

This is a work of fiction and the author has exercised creative liberty in depicting the dark events in the story. 

A vampire is a creature from folklore that subsists by feeding on the vital essence (generally in the form of blood) of the living. A dhampir, as per Balkan folklore, are creatures that are the result of a union between a vampire and a mortal human. This union was usually between male vampires and female mortal humans. (Quoted as in Wikipedia)

Image Courtesy: Alexa from Pixabay

~~~   

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