by CSyphrett, Martin Maenza and Doc Quantum
Abby Cable’s heart raced as she ascended the stairs of the Clock Tower, her mind swirling with questions and fears. The once-familiar Clock Room had transformed into a maze of uncertainty, the stairwell spiraling endlessly as if trapped in a whirlwind.
“Where are Belmont and Vlad Tepes?” Abby whispered to herself, her voice echoing in the eerie silence. Perhaps I should have gone with Joshua to get help, she thought, panic threatening to consume her. But she pushed it aside with determination; she had to find answers, had to stop whatever dark forces were at play.
A strange red light descended from above, casting an otherworldly glow over the tower. Abby’s eyes widened in awe and trepidation. It’s unlike any sunlight I’ve ever seen before, she thought, steeling herself for what lay ahead.
Abby gathered herself together and found her confidence. I have to know what’s going on, and stop it if I can! Belmont’s the only one who can help me get home! With newfound resolve, Abby pressed on, each step echoing against the stone walls as she climbed higher. The once familiar markings on the Clock Room’s walls had vanished, leaving her disoriented in this twisted reality.
Suddenly, an empty suit of armor crashed down the stairway, narrowly missing her. She hugged the edge of the steps to avoid it, her heart pounding in her chest. She had to be cautious, though, since there appeared to be no walls on either side to throw herself against. The armor clanged as it hit the steps, continuing its descent.
But hope flickered when she spotted a landing, appearing almost as an oasis in this strange place. Reaching it, she saw Belmont locked in combat with what looked like a knight in a formidable suit of armor.
As the two adversaries faced off in battle, remnants of armor scattered the area, illuminated by the crackling of lightning that danced between them. Resting at the precipice of the landing, a blade of remarkable length akin to a claymore longsword awaited its destined wielder. Without hesitation, Abby stooped down and seized the weapon, resolutely holding her ground. Meanwhile, Belmont unleashed a surge of electrifying energy from a strange whip in his hand.
The force of his attack proved devastating, shattering the helmet of his armored adversary. The formidable blast tore through the metal, severing the head from its body, which proved to be an empty suit of armor animated through supernatural means.
“What are you doing here, woman?” Belmont growled, his whip coiled menacingly in his hands.
“Following you,” Abby replied, hefting the claymore awkwardly. “I still have a lot of questions that need to be answered.”
Belmont hesitated for a moment before nodding curtly. “I can’t very well leave you behind,” the old man conceded. “Come along. We still have a ways to go.”
Guided by Belmont’s confident stride, they ventured down the corridor, which ran parallel to the landing, and arrived at a lengthy gathering chamber. On the opposite end, a stairwell beckoned them forward. Hastening their pace, Belmont skillfully dispersed a multitude of bats with the resounding rumble of thunder.
Yet, as they advanced, an unexpected menace erupted with a mighty roar, leaping forth from the summit of the alternative staircase. Reacting swiftly, Belmont delivered a powerful blow to the hairy beast’s lower region, causing it to be forcefully propelled over the rail. The creature unleashed a piercing howl, its cries echoing through the descent.
Abby gasped, her wide eyes fixed on Belmont in awe. “How did you do that?” she asked, her voice trembling slightly.
Belmont turned to face her, a hint of a smirk playing on his weathered features. “Years of practice,” he replied confidently. “And a few tricks up my sleeve.”
Abby became quiet, her eyes still wide with astonishment. The man standing before her, Simon Belmont, had completely shattered her initial impression of him. She had expected a simple source of information, someone who could help her find a way back home. But now, she recognized that he was so much more capable and formidable than she could have ever imagined. A glimmer of hope sparked within her as she thought, Perhaps he can truly help me get home!
Without warning, Belmont forcefully kicked a nearby door open, causing a commotion inside the room. Abby’s eyes widened further as she caught sight of hideous winged creatures, resembling harpies, flying toward them with sinister cackles. But Belmont, in an impressive display of strength and agility, swiftly dispatched the creatures. With a swift kick to the throat and a deadly twist, he snapped the necks of both harpies, leaving them lifeless on the ground.
With Abby dutifully trailing behind, the old man retraced his steps upon the grand stairwell, his gaze sweeping the surroundings before resuming his ascent.
“That was… impressive,” Abby eventually managed to utter, gingerly maneuvering past the smoldering remains of fallen adversaries.
“Quiet!” snapped Belmont, his voice sharp and commanding. “Listen.” Abby fell silent, her curiosity piqued by his urgency. From the top of the tower, a haunting chant drifted down, accompanied by an intensifying glow of crimson light. “We need to get up there quickly,” he declared, determination etched into his face.
Taking the sword Abby had been carrying, Belmont securely strapped it to her body with his belt. Before she could object, he effortlessly hoisted her over his shoulder, surprising her with his unexpected strength.
“What are you doing?” she protested, her voice filled with concern.
Belmont’s eyes focused ahead, his grip tightening around his whip. “It’s better if you close your eyes,” he advised, cracking his whip around the railing opposite to where he stood. “If I miss, you won’t have time to brace yourself for the fall.” Without hesitation, Belmont positioned himself on the rail and took a daring leap into the unknown.
Abby’s stomach churned as the ground vanished beneath them, replaced by a terrifying rush of air. When she’d agreed to become a teacher at the Grimoire Academy, she had never imagined finding herself entangled in such wild and perilous adventures. All she longed for was to put an end to all of this and go back home to Houma, where she could wait for her lost love’s return in peace.
Moments later, as they plummeted through the abyss, the whip reached the end of its extension. Belmont held onto the silver weapon with an iron grip as it attempted to retract. “Hold on!” he shouted over the rushing wind, preparing them for the sudden pull upwards. In an exhilarating and heart-pounding moment, they soared past the anchor point, Belmont flicking the whip to draw it back to their position.
Abby couldn’t help but feel the thrill from her position on his shoulder, the adrenaline coursing through her veins. “What a ride!” she exclaimed, her voice filled with a mixture of fear and excitement.
“We’re not done yet!” Belmont muttered, knowing they had no time to revel in the adrenaline rush. He swiftly bent at the waist and pushed off, sending their bodies tumbling end over end. With impeccable precision, he landed with one foot on a rail before tightly gripping the bottom of the next flight of stairs leading to their ultimate destination.
The agile old man yanked them up to the next floor as smoothly as possible, then paused to let Abby regain her footing and orientation. “Are you okay?” he asked.
She nodded furiously, unable to form words as she gasped for air.
Belmont offered her a brief nod of approval before urging her onward. “Good! Come, we’re not done yet.” Determination etched on his face, Belmont pressed forward, ascending the last set of stairs where a locked door awaited them.
Abby shook her head, her mind reeling with disbelief as she followed Belmont. Reaching the door, Belmont gave it an experimental kick, only to find it locked. The light leaked around the edges of the door, bathing Abby’s fair skin and platinum hair in a fiery red glow.
“What now?” Abby asked, her voice tinged with urgency.
“We use the secret key to open the door,” Belmont replied simply, retrieving from his shirt pocket a red card with an intricate sun inscribed on the back.
“Secret key… of course,” Abby muttered sarcastically, shaking her head.
Ignoring her comment, Belmont pressed the card against the door, causing it to become transparent. Without hesitation, he stepped through, whip in hand. Abby quickly followed suit, their unspoken understanding propelling them forward.
Timothy Hunter slumped on his bed in Zatara Hall, his yo-yo spinning idly between his fingertips as he poured out his frustrations to his best friend, Rick Billings. The sunlight through the windows cast a warm glow on his worried face, accentuating the deep lines etched across his forehead. In the distance, students could be heard playing soccer.
“I just don’t get it, Rick,” Timothy muttered, his English accent lending a touch of melancholy to his words. “Why am I here? I mean, sure, I’ve had a few strange moments, but they could have been flukes, right?”
Rick leaned against the bedpost, his American drawl injecting a touch of nonchalance into his response. “You’re… not alone in feeling that way, Tim. Truth be told, I’ve often wondered why in the heck I’m here, too. I mean, I’ve never even pretended to be anything but a normal kid!”
Timothy sighed, twirling the yo-yo absently as if searching for answers within its rhythmic movements. “But it’s different for you, Rick. You’ve got this natural charm, this effortless way of making things happen. People gravitate toward you. Me? I’m just a clumsy kid with glasses and messy hair.”
Rick shook his head, his eyes filled with determination. “Nah, man, don’t say that about yourself. You’ve got something special, Tim. I can feel it. Besides, everyone’s got their own struggles. Look at me, struggling to stand out in a group of multi-talented students. At least you were picked by the likes of Zatanna, John Constantine, and Mister E! Those famous magician types believed in you enough to send you here, didn’t they?”
Doubts still lingered in Timothy’s mind, tugging at his fragile self-esteem. He paused for a moment, contemplating Rick’s words, before finally conceding. “Okay, maybe you’ve got a point there. But still, what if I’m just a dud? A total disappointment?”
Rick changed the subject, sensing the weight of Timothy’s doubts. “Hey, forget about all that for now. How about we get out of this gloomy dormitory and have a kick around with a soccer ball? Clear our heads a bit, you know?”
Timothy’s lips curled into a hesitant smile, the weight of his worries lifting slightly. “Yeah, that sounds good, Rick. Let’s do it.”
As the two friends headed out, laughter echoing through the dimly lit hallways, Timothy couldn’t help but feel a glimmer of hope shining within him.
Simon Belmont and Abby Cable had successfully unlocked the door with the mysterious key, but what awaited them on the other side left them utterly unprepared as they stepped into the room.
Inside, Vlad Tepes stood by a large wooden table, his hands raised as he chanted, so engrossed in his occult work that he remained oblivious to their presence. The four faces of the Clock Tower were enveloped in a full moon as red as a setting sun. Abby gasped, her disbelief momentarily shattered by the impossible sight before her. The moon, inconceivably close, loomed just outside the tower on all four sides at once.
But Abby had faced the impossible countless times in her life. She only needed to overcome her disbelief before realizing the gravity of the situation. Abby Cable had been born Abigail Arcane in a small village in Transylvania, where she had grown up and had lived all her life until Matthew Cable arrived to sweep her away from her home, later marrying her. That was also where she’d first met the Swamp Thing, knowing nothing at the time about his being Matt’s late friend, Alec Holland. As a Transylvanian, Abby was intimately familiar with her people’s folklore, including vampire lore and its popularization in the west. She also spoke Romanian fluently, which was why she recognized what the name Vlad Tepes truly meant — Vlad the Impaler.
And Vlad the Impaler, she knew, was none other than Dracula himself — a living embodiment of the legends she had grown up hearing. The presence of the infamous vampire before her was proof enough for her that those legends had more basis in truth than she had ever imagined. Dracula was real.
Without hesitation, Simon Belmont leaped forward, determined to put a stop to the ceremony. But from the shadows emerged a multi-headed dog, charging toward him. Belmont cracked his whip with incredible precision, each snap stinging the heads of the Cerberus-like creature. Dazed, the dog momentarily faltered, providing Belmont an opening to kick it aside. With unwavering determination, he made a beeline for Vlad’s throat.
The scuffle erupted, snapping Vlad the Impaler out of his trancelike state. Abruptly ceasing his chant, he held the forces he was conjuring in abeyance for a mere moment. A jagged smile etched itself across his face upon spotting his old nemesis within the room. But before Belmont could lay a hand on him, Vlad disintegrated into a wispy mist.
“Do you truly believe you can thwart me this time?” Dracula materialized across the room, mocking and confident.
“I only need to delay you for a few minutes!” Belmont retorted with determination. “There are two possible outcomes if I succeed. First, Gallowglass is likely already within the tower, converging upon this very spot to rid the world of you once and for all! Second, as the moon proceeds on its celestial path, your spell will be obliterated, rendering you nothing more than the washed-up has-been you already are! You have no choice but to fail!” He lunged toward the vampire, but Dracula transformed into mist once again, eluding him at the last second.
“You are correct on both counts!” Dracula agreed, materializing behind Abby this time. “That is precisely why I believe it is in my best interest to take a hostage at this juncture!” Slender arms wrapped tightly around Abby’s body and neck before she could escape.
“Besides,” Vlad sneered, “after I conclude my domination of the world, I wouldn’t mind ravaging this fair beauty!” Abby shuddered as she felt the vampire’s icy body press against her, his putrid breath sending chills down her spine.
“Release her!” Belmont commanded. “She has nothing to do with this!”
“She serves as a reminder to you of the consequences of being in the wrong place at the wrong time!” Dracula sneered, a wicked smile dancing upon his lips.
Simon Belmont stood silently, his gaze fixed upon Dracula. The Cerberus creature began to stir, keeping a keen eye on him.
As Vlad the Impaler watched the scene unfold, a sense that he may have erred began creeping into his mind. Perhaps, he pondered, biting the woman would be a persuasive demonstration. The taste of her flesh tantalizingly crossed his thoughts.
“Close your eyes,” Belmont said.
“What?” Abby blinked, startled by the command.
“Close your eyes, woman!” Belmont snapped, a touch of venom lacing his voice. “Now!” Reluctantly, Abby obeyed, shutting her eyes tight.
“And what, pray tell, will that accomplish?” Dracula inquired, a smug satisfaction filling him as he believed his impending feast was close at hand. “She will feel it well enough when I sink my fangs into her fleshy nape!”
“She doesn’t need to see me kill you and your stupid mutt!” Belmont declared, his tone akin to that of a teacher addressing a wayward student.
“Really?” Dracula scoffed, almost laughing at the unwavering confidence of the old man. “And how exactly do you propose to do that? You are outnumbered and weaponless!”
Simon Belmont smirked with the fierce determination of a predator closing in on its prey. With a lightning-fast motion, he brought his whip crashing down upon the dog with one hand, simultaneously extracting a vial from his belt with the other. Hurling the vial at Abby and Vlad’s feet, he watched as it shattered in a burst of brilliant blue flames.
The flames clamored up their legs, engulfing them both. Vlad the Impaler let out an agonizing scream of torment, yet Abby Cable remained unharmed. When the flames dissipated, she found herself released from the vampire’s vile clutches. Dracula himself had vanished into thin air, leaving no trace in his wake.