Chapter Three, page six, The City of Locked DoorsMature

Alucard surged to his feet with a cry of fury as his Shadow-Guards died. The cavernous chamber reverberated with his below and the voices of his two attendants subsided. They glanced at each other and then shuffled forward, "Is something amiss, master?"

He turned his eyes upon them, noting with a spark of pleasure how of their bodies flared beneath his wrathful gaze, "We have an intruder in our midst. Someone has killed the door guards and now walks our halls." He swept out from behind his desk with a flap of dark robes and strode to tower over his attendants, "Orus, go, see who it is that would invade us." The man nodded with a flick of double tongues and then ghosted from the room. Alucard turned to the second man, a pallid, earless abomination, "Pharus, come with me."

Alucard strode through the back door with Pharus slinking along in wake. He descended through the Academy, entering the section of it that had once been a part of the undercity. There were secrets down here, secrets that he wished to make certain nobody found. Orus was a dangerous man for all he possessed none of the four gifts. Even if his skill with the blade failed, the man had a frightening Hyde to call upon when he needed it. This was another reason for Alucard's descent, he had no desire to be anywhere near Orus if the intruder pressed him enough to compel the release of his Hyde.

Alucard caught sight of his destination up ahead and furiously waved his hand in a beckoning motion. The heavy Shadow-Steel door resisted for a moment and then inched open. Beyond the door was a wide, circular chamber with a throne set at the far side. "Close the door," Alucard swept across the room with outstretched arms, gathering shadows to him as he went. A single glanced told him that no one had moved the throne since his last visit. He extended his hands to either side, projecting a pair of shadow tendrils to ignite the oil lamps that clung to the walls. "Pharus, go collect the torches from the corner. Pharus?" Alucard turned, fury welling in him, and paused.

A man stood in the center of the room, the crushed remnants of Pharus's head dripping from one hand as the detached corpse slumped to the ground. The intruder looked up with a flash of metal hair and the glint of black, Shadow-Steel flesh. Alucard drew back, calling more shadows to him, "You should be dead."

Noir flicked the gore from his hand and smirked, "Did you really think something like that could kill me?"

Alucard shifted forward, taking a wide combative stance, "How did you get past Orus?"

"You mean that other fellow? He's dead; speaking of which, hello Alucard."

Alucard grinned and extended his hands to other side, "I hope you know that with Alighieri's power running in my veins I am now stronger than you."

Noir feature's turned black and, for just an instant, veins of metal crawled out from his eyes. Yes, Alucard thought, show me that rage. You can't release your Hyde here, not in this city of yours; why do think I came here, to admire the sights? Fool, this is just another reason that I am superior. He paced in front of Noir, clasping his hands behind his and gathering more shadows, "Do you like what I've done to the place?"

There was another flash of metallic rage. Oh yes, I know all of your buttons, Noir, let's see that rage, let's see you go berserk. Noir's eyes flicked up, catching his own, "You are going to die tonight, Alucard. It will not be a momentary death, or a peaceful one. It will be permanent and it will be painful. So you can waste the last seconds of your life in platitudes and taunts, or you can try to survive." The shadows erupted around Alucard and stabbed at him, but he spun, flinging his hands out wide and up, forming the shadows he had gathered into a barrier. It shattered, flinging him aside.

He came to his feet again in a crouch, one hand pressed against the floor, "Shadow Thrall: Soldier!" The scattered shards of his barrier coalesced and formed three Shadow-Men armed with spears. Alucard thrust at finger at Noir, "Kill him." The Shadow-Soldiers dashed forward in deathly silence, even their footsteps uttered no a sound.

"Is that the best you can do?" The shadows in front of Noir swelled up, forming into the guise of a man with gilded armor, a plumed helm, and a glaive. The Shadow-Soldier dashed forward with the thundering crash of a powerful stride and struck the foremost of Alucard's Shadow-Soldiers across the chest. The struck Shadow-Soldiers collapsed into the formless and scattered. Alucard's other two Shadow-Soldiers charged through their brother's dissipating remains with lowered spears. Noir's Shadow-Soldier parried both strikes with a sweep of its glaive's haft and decapitated one of its opponents. Alucard's final Shadow-Soldier drew back, preparing for a second strike, but Noir Shadow-Soldier spun forward, evading its stab, and thrust its glaive through its opponent's stomach.

The End

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