Blood Debts: part 5
A Matter of Faith

The next morning saw the half-breed and the young vampire hunter thanking the descendants of Grant DaNasty for sheltering them from the night. Chandler granted the pair safe sanctuary at Grant's Tavern any time they saw fit. Louis, seemingly recovered from that strange fit of sorrow Alucard found him in, skipped ahead as cheery as any boy on a holiday from chores. Alucard, for once, didn't bark at the boy to behave and act a little more his position. His mind was still in upheaval over the apparent Belmont bastard that had burst in unannounced to the tavern the previous night. Is he friend or foe? Alucard mused. If he is a Belmont, he is older and he'd be easier to train to fight my father. But even though he would be a match for any monster who came after him, he lacks something that little Louis doesn't. What that could be, I don't know. Louis is going to lose in any fight, no matter how much I've taught him. Wouldn't it be better to give the training to someone more physically qualified? Even when the obvious reason of Crispin's physical superiority was obvious, there was something about him that made Alucard shy away from the idea of turning all the training over to him.

The two hadn't walked far into town when a voice audible to the half-breed's enhanced sentences issued from an alley. "I've been waiting for you."
Alucard stiffened. He stopped Louis from going any further by placing a delicate palm on his shoulder. The words were innocuous enough, but something about the way they were said clawed at a memory of the past. Crispin Belmont leaned against the alley wall, his arms crossed in front of his chest, a glint of triumph in his eyes. "I knew you would seek out a Belmont someday in the hour of need."
Louis, who had stood uncertain by his teacher's side, peered down the alley. The child's eyes widened, but, having been drilled thoroughly by Alucard about controlling first reactions, did not yelp in surprise. He did smile at the other Belmont. "Hullo, Crispin! I didn't know you lived here now."
"Well, Louis, I could scarcely live in that hovel you call a village. A man of my talents needs more fitting places to live."
Louis' eyes swept upward in confusion. He had recalled the several times that Crispin had come to visit the family. The older Belmont had seemed very glad to visit. He wasn't really sure how Crispin fit into the family. He remembered asking his father once, but he had gotten that particular grownup look on his face that meant Louis had asked a question he wasn't supposed to. But what was wrong with that question? Since no one had ever enlightened the child to the true relation of Crispin to the rest of the Belmont family, he just assumed that Crispin was some kind of distant cousin. "Even if you wanted to go back home, you couldn't. It's all wrecked over there. Something bad is happening in the air."
"All Belmonts know something is in the air when Dracula's wayward son comes to seek them out." The young man stepped out of the alley, moving a lock of honey blond hair behind his ear. "I am ready and have been ready to fight for the longest time, Alucard. Take me instead of Louis. We shall fight and kill Dracula for all time."
It's no doubt he's eager for a fight. But I don't have any time to train him. I can feel my father's powers beginning to filter through this air. Where it's all coming from, I really wish I knew. "Crispin Belmont," Alucard began, piercing the young man with his inhuman gaze. "I know of the entire history of the Belmont family, and even the ages that I wasn't physically in, I know in intimate detail. It is well and good that you want to fight, but have a care that Belmonts stand for more than fighting and killing Dracula. The family has allies all throughout this part of Europe. You would do well to remember that alienating them will not help you."
"Fine, fine. I see your point. I can be a bit short with people, but that's because no one will teach me what you can teach me!" Unconsciously, he began leaning towards Alucard. His left fist clenched with his words. "Teach me to fight."

Alucard, his eyebrows rising at the man's unconscious actions, was about to say something, when Louis walked right up to Crispin and pushed him away with a hand to his chest. "You're not listening to Mr. Fairheights! People are hurt and the world's going black with all the things going wrong 'cause of Dracula. Dracula's a bad person! You can't just go in and kill him 'cause . . . 'cause . . . you just can't! That would make you a bad person too! You gotta fix things as well as fight. You gotta do things you might not want to do, just so people can be safe, and you gotta do them even if no one ever knows you DID them! Isn't that right, Mr. Fairheights?" Louis asked, looking up at his teacher for confirmation of his thoughts.

Alucard was at a loss how to respond, except by nodding his head. Crispin looked at the both of them, his upper lip curled back in a snarl while his eyes displayed deep hurt. "You . . . even I thought you were above all the stigma of being a bastard! So what if my blood isn't as pure as his? I am a Belmont! I am the last true fighting Belmont!" His lip quirked to the side, sneering. "You are just as foolish as they were. And look how they suffered for their foolishness!" Pulling his patched cloak to him with a snap of cloth, he stalked down the alley.

With much aplomb, Louis turned his nose up in the air at the retreating figure. "His mother didn't teach him how to be nice to people. My mother would have whacked his behind for being so rude to an adult. And we don't need people like that, do we Mr. Fairheights?"
Alucard could have chuckled at the child's attempt to put Crispin in his place. Instead, he nodded gravely. "We ill need a capricious young man on this journey."
Louis' eyebrows swept upward questioningly. "What does 'capricious' mean?"
"It means his mother should have whacked his behind a few more times."
"Oh. That's what I thought it meant." Dracula's son shook his head, dismissing the matter and the two resumed their journey through Tirgoviste.
Chandler and the DaNasty sailors were gracious enough to provide the vampire hunters with cash to buy supplies. However, the prices for the most basic of things were outrageous. Alucard frowned. From what he remembered of his times before he slept, prices of foodstuffs were usually high after a famine or a war had taken place. Chandler did say something about a war. Some countries fought with one another? But the way he said it, it sounded like the whole world was involved, which is utterly ridiculous.

They couldn't buy much, but at least they were better off than when they started. Some bread, meat, water, and other cheap food, a coil of rope, and a blanket to sleep in were all they could afford. Both of them were heading back toward the dock area of town to see if any of the DaNasty sailors had any inkling as to where Castlevania had surfaced, when someone in a strange kind of uniform did a double take. "Louis?"
The child turned and gasped. "LeCarde!" Proving his age, Louis ran straight towards the figure without regards to traffic or how other people stared. The uniformed man picked up the child and hugged him fiercely.
Alucard was struck motionless by the exchange. Some unnamed feeling clawed at his heart, seeing the child so open and free with the man. Irritated, he shoved the feeling aside and stalked up to the pair of them. "Just who are you?" he hissed.
The man, LeCarde, turned to Alucard and was about to ask the same question until he got a good look at who he was talking to. Blood drained from his pale skin. Shakily he put Louis back on his own feet. "Oh shit," LeCarde breathed. "I didn't think you were supposed to be real. F-Forgive me, Alucard."
Louis gasped. He had never heard LeCarde use such a nasty word before. "That's not a nice thing to say!" he exclaimed. "Watch your mouth around Mr. Fairheights. LeCarde is a good person," Louis said, turning to Alucard. "He's a cousin of mine, but he lives in America."
"In America?" Alucard narrowed his eyes. "Wait a moment. From America, you say? must be the Morris clan that has stemmed from the Belmonts. Are you related to John Morris?"
(Author's note: I never owned a Genesis, so I never played Castlevania Bloodlines, so I'm kind of making up this stuff about Eric LeCarde and John Morris. Don't hurt me!)
"John Morris was my father. He and his friend Eric LeCarde fought with your cousin, that blood bather-"
"God, don't remind me of her. She was strange."

"In any event, they both fought her around the time of the first World War. Afterwards, my father and Eric stuck together and fought monsters creeping all over Europe. My father met my mother and they fell in love in England. Eric had been greviously injured in some of their fights and was forced to retire early from purging evil from Europe. They all lived together peacefully in London for a time. When I was born, my father named me after his friend. We all grew up together and things were good, but I wanted to go to America and see where my father came from. My father didn't stop me, but what he did do was instill in me all the stories of the Belmonts, the fighting clan. I didn't go to him for fighting skills. I went to the US Army to do that.
"When the war started again - people are already calling it the War to End All Wars - Germany blitzed London with repeated bomb raids. My father, mother, and Eric were killed in '40. They were good people, and I mourned for a long time. But I had a job to do, so I fought for my country. Now that the war is pretty much over, I finally got my discharge from service, so I decided to come back here to the Belmont clan and offer my services. I haven't seen them in about two years, since the last time I was able to get some time off."

Louis, looking up at him, began sniffling until he caught a look from Alucard and swallowed his grief. LeCarde looked askance at Alucard and put Louis back down on the ground. "What's with the look? What's wrong?"
"The Belmont clan is dead, all save Louis and someone's unclaimed son. My father's minions sought out the clan at a gathering and killed them all."
LeCarde let his bag of belongings drop from his fingers. "Wh-what? They're all..? That means real...and loose..."
"Indeed. My father seems to have gathered more power than ever. I can smell the death in the air, but I don't understand why. Does this have something to do with this war you fought in?"

LeCarde didn't answer at first. He knelt down to Louis' level and handed him some currency. "Here ya go, Louis. Go get some good food from that store over there, eh?" Louis nodded and walked off. He knew they were going to talk about adult stuff. Adult stuff was always boring because his mother had said so and said that playing outside and even doing chores was better than talking about adult stuff.

LeCarde turned back towards Alucard, scratching his soft spikes of black hair (trying to outgrow the military buzz cut) and said, "It's very likely that's why Dracula is here again. You were asleep, so you probably didn't know what was going on. The main point is - war hit Europe and affected the world. In this age, there's so much more technology to kill. Millions of people lost their lives, Alucard. And we're finding out that Hitler, a man running Germany, cleaned out Jews from all over Eastern Europe and burnt most of them in incinerators. That's probably millions more in concentration camps all over."
"Millions? Millions dead?"
"That's right."
Millions dead in a war? No wonder death reeks everywhere! All the blood soaking into the ground must have been enough to bring my father and Castlevania back from their cursed century long sleep! He must have as much power as when Sonia and Trevor fought him...and I want to send a child to fight?!
"I'm sorry. I was thinking. Indeed, this is why my father is so strong, for the blood of millions is soaked in the soil. And I wanted to train Louis to fight my father?"
"You what?"
Alucard filled LeCarde in on the details. "But I think I may have been wrong. I'm going to drop off Louis in one of the sanctuaries of Sypha's descendents. I can't afford to take care of a child right now."
LeCarde's eyes flashed angrily and he was about to say something extremely harsh when Louis walked out of the shop with lots more food for the journey. "I got so much here, LeCarde!"
"I'm glad, Louis." All three of them distributed the food evenly between themselves and walked down the road.
"Where are we going now, Mr. Fairheights?"
"To a safe place, Louis," Alucard replied. Mentally he was going over what the written histories of the Belmonts had said about any of Sypha's descendents and followers in the area. If I'm right, there should be a chapel of some kind in this place. But if what LeCarde says is true, because of this war, there might not be any chapel here. Luck seemed to be running with the half-breed for a moment; a small building made of rainwater marked stone and stain glassed windows had its doors open to the street. Several rows of pews were faced towards a small altar. "This looks like it could be it. Louis, would you go inside and sit in one of the rows while me and LeCarde talk to some people?"
"Yes, Mr. Fairheights." Clutching his knapsack close to him, the child crept in and sat down in the front row. A statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary looked down kindly on him. (Author's note: Okay, so only Catholics believe that Mary is the Blessed Virgin. I'm not sure if this area is heavily Catholic, but then this is just a story, so don't worry!)

Alucard and LeCarde (note: unintentional how this turned out, I swear!) walked to a back room abutting the tabernacle (note: where Communion is kept). A woman dressed in a habit came and met them. "Is there something I can help you gentlemen with?"
"Yes there is. Can you tell us if this is the place of Sypha's followers?" Alucard asked.
The nun gaped and then covered her mouth with a hand. "Who...who are you?"
"I should think that you know who we are, if we're asking this particular question. I doubt it's something you hear everyday," LeCarde replied dryly.
The nun nodded slowly and turned back into the inner-recesses of the chapel. Alucard sighed and leaned against a wall. "The sooner we can talk to whomever is in charge, the sooner we can leave Louis here and get on with fighting my father."
"Excuse me? You're going to leave a member of my family here in a chapel with no one he knows around him? Why bother training him if you were just going to dump him off?"
Snarling, Alucard turned on the army man. "I didn't ask to be awake in this time, Morris. Louis was chased to my sleeping place and I awoke to Warg riders in my chambers. He was all I had to work with at the time, but now that you're here, there's no reason for Louis to be holding us back."
"Holding us back? Louis would be the one urging us on! And what makes you think he'd be safe here?"
Alucard glanced towards the altar with its stainglassed windows. "This chapel is a hallowed place. My father's minions could not withstand the holy power."
LeCarde nodded shortly, but then looked curiously at Alucard. "It doesn't...hurt you at all to be here?"
"According to the word of God, I'm not supposed to even exist. I'm one of those stories parents tell their children to frighten them. I don't really care about what you humans think about religion, so that's probably why it doesn't hurt me. Neither does sunlight, or stakes, or any other vampire tale you humans have about us. There aren't any tales about the offspring of humans and demons. So I really don't care enough to let any holy powers even hurt me."
The army man stared back at Alucard. "You really don't care at all? Then why bother helping us at all?"
"Because I made a promise to Richter Belmont 150 years ago."
"Oh, so you're only helping out Louis because of a promise you obviously didn't think you'd need to keep, is that it? The only reason you haven't been found out yet is because of your awesome, above human intellect, is that it?" The man leaned directly into Alucard's face, his black eyes furious. "Maybe the reason you're still here isn't because of you, but because of Louis!"
"What are you talking about?"

Before LeCarde had time to finish his thought, he straightened up to military style attention. An older woman dressed in a white habit walked slowly from the back rooms. "So, there are still people who remember the secret founders of our order?" she asked. "Didn't think anyone still believed in those things. So, come on you two, let's hear it. Why do you want our help?"
Dracula's son raised an eyebrow at the old woman's attitude. LeCarde had to hide a smile and nod politely to the head mother of the order. "We need your help, for Dracula has come again. We seek as many allies as possible for the confrontation."
The old woman stared hard at the man for a moment. "We have nothing to offer the Belmonts."
"I don't think you understand what's going on here," Alucard started.
"I know very well what's been going on, Dracula spawn. We have kept our ancient agreements on keeping the holy bonds on the safehouses. The Belmonts haven't been keeping their side of the bargain by keeping us safe from Dracula's minions! They've killed all my sisters and brothers out near Wakariya. And did the Belmonts raise any help for us? No!"
Alucard hissed at the woman's term for him, but succeeded in keeping his temper. "The Belmonts could not come to your aid because they have all been slaughtered by Dracula's minions - all save the boy, this man, and a bastard."
Apparently this was news to the woman, for she staggered for a moment and had to sit down. "Oh...they're all gone. And the only ones left are a handful?" The men nodded. "Dear God in heaven. I...apologize for my remarks, sirs. What can my small group of brothers and sisters do for you?"
Alucard, glancing quickly at Morris, said, "We need to to keep the boy here. We can't keep him safe where we're going."
The old woman shook her head sadly. "I am sorry, sir. I cannot do this thing you ask of Sypha's followers."
"Why not?"
"The chapter houses of Sypha's followers have lost communication due to the attacks. If we were to keep the boy and we were attacked, none of the other houses could come to our aid. And as it is, due to the loss of members, we might not have enough holy power to keep back the darkness."
Alucard hissed in frustration. Damn it! I was counting on Louis to stay here and keep out of trouble. But it looks like I'll have to take him with us. "He's not going to be any safer with us!"
"Actually, Alucard, Louis would be better to stay with us. He does have some skill at what you've taught him. And anything Dracula can throw at us, we can fight him. Besides, I think that he could be an asset with his young and unshakable faith in holiness." The military man shot Alucard a look that said, "Don't argue with me right now, I'm on your side, but we need to hurry."
Sighing loudly, Alucard conceded with Morris. "Fine. The boy goes with us. But what can you and your followers do to help us?" he asked, turning back to the head mother.
"Our holy powers have made it possible to figure out where Castlevania is." She pulled out a worn and dog-eared map from a drawer. She traced her finger up the Dimbovita River and moved her finger to the right a few inches. "It is right here. I feel it is an important spot for it to appear for some reason."
"Yes it is. This is where my father's castle lay when he remained on the earth for a human's lifetime. It was when he had the most power."
"That is what I can offer you. When you clean out the darkness, I and my followers shall purify this tainted spot so that Dracula can never return there ever again." After some more discussion, the three agreed to this solution.

While the adults were arguing, Louis had been lighting candles around the Blessed Virgin for every one of his family members killed. Then he knelt and prayed, just as his parents taught. Dear God in heaven, I hope my family is nice and happy where they are and that they have enough to eat and they live in a nice house near yours. I wish I could be with my family, but I guess I have to do lots of grown-up things here first. Make sure my brothers don't tease my sister too much, and that my mom and dad and all my family are nice and safe and get to play with angels.
I'm kinda scared of Mr. Alucard, 'cause he's really mean, but I think it's cause that he's really lonely and he doesn't have a family, just like me. I'm going to try really hard to be brave and only cry when he's not around, 'cause I know he doesn't like it when I cry. I'll just be good and do what he says, 'cause even if he yells and he's mean, he's going to help me, so I'll be really good and not yell back. But maybe, God, could you make Mr. Alucard not so sad all the time? I really like him and I don't want him to be sad, but I'm not sure how to do that.
I gotta go now, but I'll be back later. Oh, and God, thank you for having LeCarde come here! I really love him lots and I know he'll be a big help to get rid of the bad stuff. Bye!
Gravely, he stood up and made a sign of the cross in front of the statue before walking back towards the other men before he was even called. "Are we ready to go, LeCarde, Mr. Fairheights?"
Alucard looked down at Louis. He felt some twinge of conscience for wanting to drop him off like so much unused baggage, and also, some amount of pride. He managed to smile a little. "Yes, we are ready to go, Louis."

Wandering amidst the alleys of Tirgoviste, Crispin Belmont cursed his fortune, his family, even Alucard and his cousin. Stupid fools! They'll be sorry they didn't take me along!
"Hello there, fellow vampire hunter."
Crispin turned around. "Who are you?"
The cloaked figure answered, "A vampire hunter, like yourself. Did you think that it was only the Belmonts who fight the evil?"
Crispin thought about this for a moment. "Of course, I'm a vampire hunter. A Belmont, too! But the other Belmonts didn't feel like teaching me, because they think they're better than everyone else."
The cloaked figure nodded. "I've noticed that. Dracula is loose in the world and the Belmonts are pretty much dead, so it's time for a new family to take control."
"Yes! I agree completely! What family are you from that you call yourself a vampire hunter?"
The cloaked figure shrugged. "What does it matter what your name is, as long as you can fight?"
Crispin nodded slowly. For once, someone was taking him seriously! "I'm sorry I asked you that, then. Can you teach me how to fight?"
"Oh, indeed I can! Others in my fighting group have magic powers so that I can take you to our secret castle in the mountains where we are preparing to train for fighting."
The youth's eyes shined with eagerness. I'll show those upstarts! I'm going to become a real fighter and fight for the winning side! He stood close by the cloaked figure. "I am ready to go with you and learn how to fight. Can you ask your people to work the magics?"
Crispin felt himself become very light and things began to fade. Strange, but it looks like this man has a scythe for a weapon. But then again, what good is a whip going to do anyway? A scythe is a much better weapon! The magics then made the alley fade around him as they whisked him to a far off place.