Title: Under the Milky Way
Author: bnomiko
Rating: NC-17
Pairing(s): Trevor + Sypha + Alucard, Trevor x Alucard
Spoilers: through the end of S3 + through S4
Disclaimer: "Under the Milky Way" is performed and recorded by The Church. "Cuts You Up" is performed and recorded by Peter Murphy. Castlevania is the creation and property of Konami. Castlevania (animated series) is the creation and property of Netflix. This is a not-for-profit fanwork and I do not own any of these characters.
Summary: After the events of Lindenfeld, all Trevor and Sypha wanted was to return to the closest thing they had to "home," but Alucard has not fared well in their absence. "You wanted to save the world, remember?" " He also needed it. He needed us." Post S3 + S4 animation canon based.
Archived at: http://www.phenixsol.com/Miko/FF/

* * *

Under the Milky Way

Ch. 14: You know the way
It twists and turns
Changing color
Spinning yarns

* * *

As much as Trevor would've appreciated a bath - he'd certainly come around to enjoying the simple luxury of a long soak in hot water - both he and Adrian were tired enough to just want to get cleaned up and into bed. So they settled for simply rinsing off, though Trevor still found time to get his hands on Adrian's hair.

"By the way, did that woman actually make a play for you?" the brunet asked as he carefully combed his fingers through the wet silken strands, loosening any tangles and removing dirt and bits of forest debris.



Adrian blinked, tilting his head back slightly to glance at Trevor. They'd chatted a bit about where her family was originally from, and about magic, but he didn't recall her saying anything that could be interpreted as attempted flirting. "Why would she?"

"You were too nice to her. She gave me a bunch of reasons why she'd go for you. 'He's polite, he's well-spoken... easy on the eyes,'" he said, pitching his voice up slightly and sing-songing his words to try and match Greta's softer tone.

A very slight blush tinged the blond's pale neck and Trevor found himself biting down on his lip to keep from leaning in and nipping at whatever he could reach. Down boy, we already went through this! he yelled at himself internally. He had to keep his hands to himself, keep his... other parts to himself. Or at least ask. He could just ask...

"She never said anything like that to me," Adrian finally responded. "What did you tell her in response?"

"Told her to keep her damn eyes to herself."

Adrian chuckled. "Trevor... are you jealous?"

"No, psh." A pause. "Maybe. I don't know."

"And to think, we left her outside with Sypha," Adrian joked, snorting softly.

Trevor suddenly shot to his feet. "We did! You think she's hitting on Sypha?"

The half-vampire hissed. Trevor still had his hands in his hair and was now yanking on it as if trying desperately to stop a horse. "Sit down! Sypha can take care of herself just fine."

"Yeah. You're right." He looked down at the "reins" in his hands and immediately knelt back down, smoothing the strands down carefully. "Sorry."

"And if Greta does ask, I'll tell her I'm not available. Simple enough."

"Not available, or not interested?"

"For God's sake... Trevor, we just met her last night. How would I be interested in her after only a few hours? Be reasonable."

Trevor shrugged. Now that he could be honest with himself about it, he accepted that Adrian had fully grabbed his attention the moment he'd found himself pinned under him in Gresit, and that was minutes after they'd met, with him fearing for his life and all that! He'd just done a spectacular job of ignoring it afterwards, until circumstances - and Sypha's persistence - wrested it back to the forefront. But he'd never been a possessive person, not really...? He had no idea where this was all coming from, not just with Adrian apparently, but Sypha too. "It could happen," he ended up muttering.

"Were you always like this?" Adrian asked.

"No. But I've never had anyone to be jealous over, or anyone around whose opinions mattered to me... 'til I met you and Sypha."

Adrian blushed again, the pink tint reaching even the tips of his ears. He found the hunter's words endearing. Not that he wanted someone guarding him or monitoring his every move, but he'd never had anyone want to be around him so badly either, for any reason.

Trevor groaned, leaning in slightly. Just ask him, he reminded himself, before murmuring, "Can I, uh... can I lick you?"

The flush deepened. "What?!"

Trevor shifted even closer without thinking about it, his hands shifting the hair he'd gathered out of the way. "I just... you... I'm asking," he breathed against the back of an ear. He really wanted to suck on it, knowing just how sensitive it was.

The half-vampire shivered from just that puff of air. He wasn't sure what Trevor was hoping for, but at least he was asking instead of just doing whatever he wanted. "Shouldn't we go to bed?" he asked, trying to deflect things.

"We can go to bed, sure," Trevor said huskily.

Adrian could almost feel the air heating up behind him. Perhaps he should've worded that better... "I meant to sleep."

A long, disappointed sigh. "... Oh. Sure."

Adrian couldn't help but smile. Trevor was doing his best to hold to his promise to respect his boundaries. Adrian almost wanted let him do as he pleased, to reward him for doing so, but he could hear Sypha's voice in his head, saying, "You know you don't have to give him whatever he asks for." So maybe it was better to figure out a way to encourage his good behavior, without completely giving in?

"Let's head to bed, and I'll think about it," the blond suggested as he stood up and began drying himself off. Trevor quickly scrambled to follow suit.

Because they didn't know if they'd be called into combat with only a moment's notice, they opted to go to bed fully dressed, albeit in fresh clothing. Not even bothering with getting under the sheets, Trevor simply threw himself on top of the bed and waited to see what his boyfriend would do. Their long night was quickly catching up with him, but Adrian had promised to consider his request, so he fought against his exhaustion and rolled onto his side to stare at the other man instead.

Adrian lay down as well after a modicum of fussing around. Since his hair was so long it would take a while to dry, so he spread out a towel on the pillow to keep from soaking it.

"Can I kiss you?" Adrian finally asked after getting settled, as he turned to face Trevor.

The brunet grinned. "Of course. You needn't ask." He was tempted to close the distance between them, but technically Adrian had asked to kiss him, not the other way around, so he'd be a good boy and wait.

Adrian shifted closer until he could rest his forehead against Trevor's and paused, simply enjoying their closeness for a moment, before he tilted his head slightly to press their lips together. He started with a series of feather soft pecks before parting his lips and deepening the kiss. It never ceased to amaze him how warm Trevor's mouth was compared to his own, and how quickly he was willing to open up and grant Adrian's tongue entrance.

As usual the hunter couldn't stand to hold completely still; his right hand found its way up to finger and then fist in the damp blond hair. He groaned into Adrian's mouth, aware of how aroused he was getting despite the fact that they were merely kissing and nothing more, but before he could think of doing anything stupid, the half-vampire withdrew with one last little nip on his bottom lip, as if he understood things would spiral out of control if they kept going.

"Well aren't you a tease," Trevor grunted, as he tried to content himself with just hugging Adrian. He was pretty sure that was allowed without having to ask, even if he was perhaps taking advantage of their positioning to rub his hardening bulge against his partner's upper thighs.

"It wasn't my intent," Adrian assured him, even as he made no move to push Trevor away. When Trevor finally released him he went back to resting his forehead against the brunet's once again to stare into those intense blue eyes, as clear and bright as the sky that had framed the castle on their return.

"You just can't help the fact that I want to jump you?"

Adrian chuckled even as he said, "Please don't."

"I won't. I'll be good. It'll be all the more worth it, when you finally give in," Trevor declared, the last words nearly swallowed by a huge yawn.

Adrian didn't answer one way or another. It was safer to say, "Go to sleep," than fumble around the fact that he couldn't promise anything. He reached up to smooth back a wayward lock. Trevor's hair needed a trim; he was starting to look even scruffier than usual, like a big, fluffy dog.

Trevor grinned sleepily at his touch, then shut his eyes. No matter what threats awaited them outside, it was easy to allow himself to relax now that he was home, in the safety of Adrian's arms.

Equally warm and content, Adrian closed his eyes and soon followed suit.

A little while later, Sypha peeked into the bedroom, tiptoeing in as carefully as possible, as a smile broke across her face. Both Trevor and Adrian were sleeping on top of the quilt with an arsenal of weapons just an arm's length away. Trevor's leather armor lay atop Adrian's coat and cloak, draped over the back of a chair. In contrast to how they usually slept, Adrian was the one sprawled on his back, his damp hair slung across a towel. And Trevor was lying halfway on top of the blond like an aggressive blanket, pinning him in place with both an arm and a leg, his hand snaking up under the hem of Adrian's shirt, all while he snored contentedly against the crook of his neck.

Knowing how lightly they both napped and not wanting to wake them, she padded out of the room just as quietly as she'd entered. Any questions she had could wait until later.

* * *

The men roused a few hours later. It was impossible to expect to be fully rested, but they'd slept enough to get by. At this point, hunger was the bigger motivator, so they headed down to the kitchen to find something to eat. They threw together a platter of ham, cheese and pickled turnips, polishing it off quickly with minimal conversation. Adrian was preoccupied with figuring out who or what was behind the attacks on the local villages, and if it had anything to do with the attempts at resurrecting his father; Trevor was still thinking about what he could do to convince Adrian to cross the line he seemed to have set for himself. Yes, he understood they were in an uncertain situation, with refugees camped out on what was essentially the front lawn and a possible attack looming on the horizon, but that was all the more reason to figure things out now rather than distracting himself with it later. He understood Adrian's reluctance, but he never thought it'd be that hard to convince a man to have sex.

"Well, let's go and see what still needs to be done," Adrian said once they'd eaten, as he rose to take the empty plates to the sink.

"Huh? Oh, yeah," Trevor mumbled as he got up and followed along, no closer to finding a solution for his dilemma.

The half-vampire stopped just outside the kitchen door. He could hear some movement in the castle, but it didn't sound like Sypha's footsteps. Some of the refugees, perhaps - maybe they were looking for supplies? He'd rather they not be wandering around unattended, but he supposed it couldn't be helped under the circumstances. "Let's check outside," he suggested after a few more seconds of observation.

They headed out the gates and were greeted by a scene of controlled chaos. There were wagons and a number of makeshift tents and cooking fires set up in something of a semicircle around the face of the castle. And all around there were people chopping wood, ferrying buckets of water from the nearby stream, herding livestock into makeshift pens. Small children ran around, playing. The noise and general busyness made it hard for Adrian to pinpoint where Sypha was, but then Trevor spotted her telltale robes just as she disappeared behind a tent.

The Speaker was very happy to see them once they caught up with her and Greta. "Good, you're both up! We got everyone set up as well as we could, but there are still things to sort out."

"Such as?" Trevor asked, while Adrian gave the women a questioning look, urging them to continue.

Greta spoke up. "I wanted to talk about defenses and I wanted to ask about your food supplies. I was hoping we could use some of the dried meat you have to make meals go a little further?"

"I'm not sure there's much," Adrian answered, thinking about what he'd seen in the pantry when he'd thrown together the platter for himself and Trevor only minutes ago. There was a decent amount of food available... for a trio. An entire contingent of refugees would decimate it rather quickly.

"That's the thing. The larger pantry is still well stocked. There's crates of foodstuffs in there that haven't even been opened," Sypha pointed out. Either Adrian hadn't been in there at all, or he'd forgotten about it.

"In that case, use it all," Adrian answered with little hesitation.

The headwoman looked both pleased and surprised. "Seriously?"

Adrian nodded. "Whatever you can find. It's not like the three of us could possibly use it all up before it spoils, and I tend to forage fresh food in the mornings anyhow." He paused a moment, then added, "Sypha, you don't need to consult me on things like this. Do what you think is needed. This is your home as well."

Sypha nodded and smiled, her eyes crinkling. She'd figured he'd be all right with it, but getting carte blanche was even better.

Greta paused, cocking her head slightly before slowly asking, "You don't actually know what you've got in your castle, do you?"

Adrian glanced at Trevor and Sypha. He'd been spending so much time in the Hold that he knew more about what was down there than what was inside his home. "Not really."

"It looks like you were feeding an army in there up until a couple of months ago," Greta continued.

"Well... that wasn't me. But I take your point. I've been preoccupied. Beyond clearing up some of the damage from..." Adrian rambled before trailing off, reaching up to run his hand down his face, as if to erase the topic. "Let's talk about something else. Defenses."

Greta took the hint and let the previous matter drop. "I mean, I hope just closing your castle doors will keep people away, but..."

"But it won't," Trevor said. He glanced around at the peasants doing what they could to get by for the day. It was a lot to ask of them, but if another attack happened, they'd need more than just places to sleep and food to eat. "If you can call all your able bodied people together, I can do some training drills with them, give them some pointers." He looked at Adrian. "Feel like digging through that armory of yours? Wood axes and hoes aren't going to cut it, not for long."

The blond gave a nod.

"Greta, how quickly can you assemble a few folks who could lend a hand moving things?" Trevor asked.

"Give me two, maybe three minutes, and I'll have a group ready."

"Good, have them assemble at the castle gates," Trevor instructed. "From there, Sypha, take half the group to help with moving some of the foodstuffs to the main hall for easier access. Make sure to bring out all the salt that's in there as well - we can use it for combat. Adrian and I will take the rest of the helpers down to the armory and pull out whatever's suitable for use. In the meantime, Greta, spread word to everyone capable of bearing arms to meet at the bottom of the steps in about an hour. I'll run through some basic instructions and strategies, and we'll see about doling out weapons as well."

A proud smile touched Sypha's lips. She'd figured Adrian would be agreeable, but it was good to see Trevor actively pitching in as this was his area of expertise.

"I can start heading down and sifting through what I've got," the half-vampire volunteered, before thinking back to the sounds he heard earlier and adding, "Though I'd appreciate it if we otherwise limit general access to the entry area, if that's all right."

"Yes, of course. I've already explained that to everyone here," Greta said.

"Hmm. But I'm sure I heard someone inside just minutes ago..."

"Oh, that would've been Saint Germain," Sypha explained. "He was curious about the castle's libraries, so I escorted him to the main one. But I did ask him to respect the space and not go poking around. Is that okay?"

Even if the alchemist seemed harmless enough Adrian knew better than to make assumptions based on appearance, but since Sypha knew him well enough to give him the go ahead, he'd trust in her judgment. "All right."

Greta sighed. She had little respect for those who were capable of pitching in, but refused to do so. "He won't be any use in the sort of battle we'd be facing, so just leave him with the books." She made a quarter turn. "I'll start gathering people, so see you in a couple of minutes," she said as she began wandering between clusters of refugees and began calling out for volunteers.

* * *

They split up again, seeing to the various tasks with haste. Trevor, Adrian and a few others gathered polearms, swords and bows, laying them out in the entryway of the castle, while Sypha got her helpers to bring over and open up crates of dried meats and bags of flour. Two large tubs of salt were located; since there was so much they decided to leave one behind for later, if needed. The contents of the other tub got doled out in smaller buckets, then added to the weapons stockpile.

Recalling the bit of holy water he'd found in the dungeon, the hunter led a small group down to empty the cistern out, before returning to the front of the castle to start training the assembled villagers. He conducted the session with the same brusque efficiency he'd shown in Gresit, using Adrian to help with his demonstrations. He wished they had more time, but he did what he could with what time they had before dismissing the masses to get in some practice on their own, as well as rest and food in their stomachs; it could be the last meal for some of these poor souls. As far as he was concerned, even if an attack didn't come this night, one was looming on the horizon... he could feel the certainty of it prickling along his spine.

The sun slowly sank and night crept up silently as it always did. Trevor couldn't help but pace the breadth of the castle gates, using the movement to keep himself awake and sharp as he searched for signs of anything in the surrounding trees. Occasionally he'd flick his gaze over the campfires that dotted the clearing. There were a few people huddled around the fires, but most had opted to crawl into their shelters for the time being, trying to get what rest they could. Even the livestock seemed to pick up on the tension in the air, shifting about nervously. He could hear a horse neighing from the stables.

Sypha brought out a bowl of stew with dumplings so Trevor could eat while continuing his watch. Just holding the bowl helped warm his hands back to life. It was delicious and filling, but he suspected Adrian felt the same as him... he was just working through his restlessness in the kitchen instead.

As Trevor chewed on a dumpling he couldn't help but think how different this night would be if the deceased rider and his desperate plea for help hadn't made it to the intended target. The three of them would be warm and cozy and safe inside the castle, enjoying their meal with familiar banter. And then they'd spend the rest of the evening curled up on a sofa in front of a fire, with Sypha reading and Trevor browbeaten into joining in, while Adrian idly sketched. A predictable, quiet life... something a hunter wasn't supposed to want, but now it seemed like a dream too intangible to grasp. Maybe if they survived this latest threat, a little more peace would settle across the land...

When Sypha came back for the empty bowl, Trevor took his eyes off the treeline for a moment to give her a kiss, and she gave him a pat on the butt, her hand lingering a little longer than it needed to. He chuckled, indulging in the brief respite, but then he caught the faint scent of brimstone in the air, and the moment was lost. Fuck...

"Tell Adrian it's begun, then get ready to take position," the brunet told her grimly before raising his voice to sound the alarm. He didn't have the half-vampire's advanced hearing, but there was no mistaking now the not-so-distant rumbling of dozens, maybe hundreds, of feet moving in their direction.

There was some momentary confusion as people spilled out of their tents or rolled out of wagons, clutching at their weapons, but then Greta came running towards the castle, yelling at everyone to take up arms or take shelter, and suddenly everyone began moving.

"Anyone who cannot fight, into the castle, now! Archers head in as well, like we practiced! Everyone else, with me," Trevor called out as he ran down the steps, the Morning Star already in his hands. The vampires and night creatures were visibly advancing on them now, not bothering to be subtle or stealthy as they crashed through the trees.

Men and women with pikes and pitchforks quickly formed two rows, four steps apart, at Trevor's direction, dipping their weapons in salt or holy water before nervously holding them aloft.

"Easy now. Let them come to us," Trevor instructed, pacing back and forth behind the back row to ensure everyone was positioned properly, before stepping forward to taking his place front and center. His whip rattled in anticipation; he drew his cross-dagger as well, opening it up with a flick of a finger. "Hold the line!"

Smaller, swifter night creatures arrived first, leaping at the defenders, and were speared or cut down by the armed villagers. Trevor saved his attack for the next wave as bigger demons joined in. The cross haladie whirled like a buzzsaw through the air, severing heads and limbs before returning to his hand. His whip lashed out to scorch a half dozen more monsters, causing their flesh to sizzle and bubble before exploding several seconds later.

A flowing river of black darker than the night sky, highlighted by white satin and golden hair brighter than the moonlight, fluttered overhead, indicating Adrian had joined the battle, leaping into an extended levitated jump over the villagers to take point on the attack. As soon as he touched down he began channeling his innate magical power into his weapon, causing it to glow with blue flame, then slashed forth, unleashing a wave of destruction through a line of night creatures. Leaping higher than any human possibly could, he bound from target to target, cutting down monsters one after another, then telekinetically sending his sword forth to mow down even more as he continued on bashing things with his shield, or simply punching or kicking them hard enough to shatter bone. He was absolutely magnificent, to the point where multiple combatants faltered and simply stared at him in shock.

Trevor shook himself out of his own momentary stupor and hustled to catch up to Adrian, to fight at his side.

Greta had joined the fray as well, and although Trevor couldn't spare a moment to tell her he was impressed with how she handled herself, using a large hammer in conjunction with a sword to stun and stab the oncoming demons, inspiring her people to continue their brave stand.

The hunter signaled to the archers hiding in the castle windows, and arrows began raining down, coupled with spikes of ice and blasts of flame courtesy of Sypha as she leapt out a window to join them on the ground. More attackers fell, yet for every monster or vampire cut down, another two seemed to take their place.

They were taking losses as well, there was no helping it. The lines were starting to look a bit haphazard; bodies lay all over the battlefield. If this came down to a battle of attrition, they would lose, but what choice was there?

"Fall back and reform at second position! Anyone too injured to continue the fight, get in the castle!" Trevor ordered the villagers as his whip lashed out again, taking out even more enemies that were close to breaking their defensive ranks. People were panicking but they needed the lines to reform and stay together for as long as possible. "Sypha, we could use some walls to protect the flanks."

"On it," she replied, and almost immediately the brunet could hear the distinct crackling sound of ice forming as thick walls quickly rose towards the night sky.

Just as the three of them went to provide additional support to the reformed lines, the ground began quaking and everyone looked up to see some sort of rotting, bipedal creature with a gray hide starting to rise above humans and vampires alike. It had been used as a beast of burden but now its masters had freed it to attack, and it was swelling in size and ferocity.

"Gergoth," Trevor breathed. "Straight out of the family bestiary." His mind immediately raced to pull up as much info on the beast as possible, both strengths and weaknesses, as he readied himself to attack regardless. Another rain of arrows came from above to try and drop it where it stood, and he suddenly remembered...

"Archers, fall back and take cover!" he warned, but it was too late - the gargantuan monster released a massive gout of fire down the strip of windows, cutting off the dying screams of those who saw death coming, but couldn't get away. "Shit!"

They didn't have even a second to mourn, as the vampire troops on the ground suddenly began backing away, even levitating off the ground. Which could only mean... "Ice, now! Everyone, to the gates!"

Sypha didn't have enough time to work with as she needed, but any sort of protection was better than nothing as Gergoth began spewing fire all over the ground in front of the castle, obliterating both friend and foe that couldn't find safety fast enough. Trevor managed to duck behind a crack in one of the ice walls his girlfriend had erected earlier; Adrian used his speed to make it to the base of the castle steps in a near instant. Sypha found it easier to simply push aside the flames closest to her, buying her a cushion of safety, until the monster stopped to inhale for its next attack. That gave Adrian an idea for a counter - instead of backing off, he ran towards Gergoth, waiting until he could see the glow of electricity and fire in the beast's maw, then spun and hurled his sword directly into the monster's mouth, pushing the force of the blast down into Gergoth's own body. An explosion of gore showered down from the creature's ruptured abdomen as it staggered, groaning, and then collapsed.

But the rumbling of the ground hadn't stopped... the enemies had brought stone golems with them as well. One leapt forward, smashing a giant fist into the ground only a few feet away from Sypha, then another leapfrogged over the first, intending to double axe handle the trio, but Adrian jumped into the incoming blow and used his shield to knock it back.

Sypha began conjuring a giant spear of ice, but it would take time for it to fully solidify, so Adrian bought her some by blocking the closest golem's incoming punch with his shield, while Trevor ran in and tagged the extended arm right at the elbow joint, allowing Adrian to break the monster's arm and push one golem back into the other. Bits and pieces of their bodies crumbled on impact, but before they could resume their assault, Sypha's spear took care of them both.

There was little respite; Adrian's attack hadn't finished Gergoth off after all, and the massive beast lumbered back onto its feet, struggling to lift its head and draw in breath to attack.

"Inside - fall back!" Greta yelled, waving everyone towards safety, seeing as there were still a few outside that had been stunned into standing still.

Trevor doubled down on that order. "Get inside now and close the gates! That means you as well," the brunet told the village headwoman in a slightly less harsh tone of voice, and she gave a curt nod before dashing inside to join her people. He could hear her directing the others inside to grab anything they could find to barricade the door further, once it was closed.

The mechanical grinding and whirring of gears started up mere moments later. Trevor turned slightly to confirm what he was hearing, and caught a glimpse of dozens of desperate, frightened faces, staring at what surely was their demise. He grit his teeth and told his partners, "We take this thing out, here and now. Then whoever's in the carriages back there, running the show."

"Yes." Sypha shot off a quick blast of electricity, intending to draw attention to herself. Even if the beast could use its breath attack again, she knew she could defend herself against it with ease.

Trevor took a step to the right, and began running in to intercept the monster, his weapon at the ready.

"Agreed," Adrian said, taking left, lengthening his stride to keep up with Trevor for a moment, before speeding up and surging ahead.

Gergoth's flame shot between the pair and headed straight for Sypha. She took in a deep breath, steadied herself, and again pushed back with enough magical pressure that the flames simply curled around her, allowing her to throw them aside.

Before the beast could unleash yet another attack, Adrian suddenly came plummeting from above, quite literally punching Gergoth's maw shut with a powerful blow, and then Trevor caught up and delivered the coup de grace, slicing through the creature's upper maw - and its brain - with superheated links of his whip.

That should've been it. But the massive corpse suddenly began glowing, and the trio ran towards one another for protection. Sypha conjured up yet another ice wall, as thick as she could manage, while Adrian planted his shield in front of the three of them as they all crouched down for cover. The ensuing blast cleared out the fallen bodies and abandoned tents in the immediate area, but the trio them rode it out safely.

"There's three carriages. I'll take middle, Adrian left, Sypha right," Trevor called out, immediately taking off for his target.

The half-vampire had the speed advantage, but the reach and range of Sypha's magic was enough to allow her to send a wave of flame into her target at the same time he slammed into his. So they simultaneously discovered the same thing: the carriages were empty. Adrian turned his attention to the middle one, the largest, throwing open the doors only to find that it too had been abandoned. He shook his head at Trevor as the hunter finally caught up to join them.

Was that behemoth merely a distraction? Trevor wondered, his stride faltering. He turned back to look at the castle. The main gates were firmly shut now. And as much as he strained to hear he could not make out any sounds of battle or cries for help. Nothing but the whinnying of horses in... "Shit, the stable!" he yelled, kicking into a sprint.

"Wasn't it secured?!" Adrian asked as he and Sypha began running as well.

"I thought it was." Maybe one of the villagers had opened it to bring in a horse or an ox - but no, it locked from the inside. And he was sure he'd checked it. Or had the attackers forced their way in somehow? If some of the vampires had been invited to the castle before, they would've likely known that there was a back entrance through the stables... Trevor shook his head. It didn't matter. The important thing was, they'd been lured away, and with the castle gates now sealed and barricaded, all the refugees were trapped inside with their attackers!

"I'm going ahead," Adrian volunteered, immediately speeding up instead of waiting for a reply. They fought best as a group, but just as with his arrival at Danesti, time was of the essence.

Sure enough, the gates to the stable were open. The animals inside were restless, but otherwise unharmed. Throwing caution to the wind, the blond quickly shot down the long center aisle then threw open the doors at the end, using the walls on the staircase to spring himself upwards quickly, until he arrived at the rear of the entry hall.

He was greeted by complete chaos. Greta and a few others were doing their best to fend off the attacking forces, but there were enemies everywhere and he could hear screams coming from different parts of the castle. The half-vampire immediately threw himself into the melee, sword flashing, cutting down one target after another, staining the gore splattered floor with even more crimson. He needed to give these people time to regroup, or at least gather their wounded and escape; he needed to buy time for Trevor and Sypha to catch up, so they could see about spreading out and taking down the rest of the attacking forces.

The floor was becoming slick with blood, and Adrian found himself scrambling for footing more than once. Greta wanted to run in and help, but he quickly barked at her to take everyone and go - there were more adversaries than the ones in this hall, and far more defenseless people needing her aid.

At one point he slipped and got spun around, with enemies coming at him from all sides... and just as he braced for the impact of claws and fangs, the familiar sound of chains jangling, of flames crackling and sparking to life, heralded Trevor and Sypha's arrival on the scene.

"You okay?" Trevor asked, watching their opponents explode in twin walls of flame.

"What took you so long?" Adrian complained, though his words were soft with affection. Thanks to his partners' timing, he'd managed to escape with little more than a cut to his face and a twinge of pain in an ankle, both of which mended themselves almost immediately.

"Your legs are longer," Sypha reminded him. "It's not fair; I can't possibly keep up."

"I'll keep that in mind," the blond replied. "In the meantime, we have refugees scattered all over the castle, and just as many vampires after them. I was going to head up to the library and labs..."

"I thought I heard some movement back this way," and Trevor nodded towards the direction of the barracks, "so I'll check it out. Sypha, take the middle?"

But Sypha didn't respond. Something glowing on the wall had caught her attention; her brow furrowed as she took a couple steps forward to examine it, squinting, before retreating to abruptly grab onto Trevor's arm. "That... that's the symbol for the Harvest!" She looked up, suddenly noticing the faint glowing wisps being drawn in and redirected by the marker. "Trevor!"

The brunet followed her gaze, then peered at what appeared to be an inscribed stone, lodged inside a crack. He quickly dug it out with a dagger, running his thumb over the etched surface. Even with his inability to read he remembered that the symbol looked like an "h" with a line on top. "... Well, FUCK."

Adrian glanced upward as well, though he wasn't sure what he was witnessing. "The what?"

"The people of Lindenfeld who were sacrificed... these symbols were used to collect their souls to open a portal to hell," Sypha tried to explain as succinctly as possible.

"And guess who else was in Lindenfeld..." the hunter ground out. He couldn't even say his name. "He betrayed us, Sypha."

Her eyes darted around, as if another explanation could be found with enough effort. "We... we can't be sure."

"Yes, we can. This symbol? This technique? I know I locked the stable door. Who else would've had time and opportunity to pull this off? He didn't end up in Danesti accidentally, did he? He's been masterminding this whole thing..."

"And I invited him in," the Speaker said miserably. She looked stricken. Adrian had trusted in her judgement, and this was what happened - another betrayal! Trevor twitched in her direction; he longed to hug her, to tell her things would be okay, but he wasn't going to make a promise he couldn't keep. "We need to stop this!"

"We need to help the people who've taken shelter here, too," Adrian added, though he truly didn't know if that took precedence over an attempted resurrection of his father.

"Yeah. Shit." Trevor scrubbed at his face, knowing he had a decision to make and no time to really think things through. On one hand, Dracula's return? That was bad. On the other, the prospect of all these people getting slaughtered in their home? Even worse. He inhaled. "Let's split up like we intended, save as many as we can... and hope that whatever ritual Saint Germain is planning takes longer than that. Bring everyone you can and reconvene in the entry, and tell them to get the gates open again, in case they need to escape outside instead."

Adrian nodded and immediately disappeared up the stairs.

Sypha's lips tightened, but she didn't protest - honestly, she didn't know what the "right" thing to do was either. She spun and headed in the direction Trevor had indicated, magic sparking at her fingertips.

Trevor took in another deep breath, steeling himself, then headed towards the barracks, hoping that he'd made the right call.

* * *

Author's Notes:

June 8, 2023