A smoking skull

The Gaslight Chronicles

Night Fangs #1

The Betrayal of Don Juan

Perched high above the sprawling New Gaslight cityscape, stood Dracula's fortress-like penthouse suite. An intimidating tableau of grandeur and gothic extravagance, it cast a sinister shadow over the neon-lit concrete jungle below, a spectral reflection of its master's power and dominance.

Within this magnificent monolith of vampiric decadence, an intimate sanctuary existed. It was a bathroom where opulence ran riot: shimmering chandeliers dripping with crystals, marble slabs with veins that told stories of ancient earth, and grand mirrors encased in ornate gold-leaf frames. The air swirled with an intoxicating blend of exotic flowers, velvety milk, and the subtle tang of cedarwood. The room, lit by the soft golden glow of flickering candlelight, exuded an almost hypnotic charm.

In the center, surrounded by the hushed lullaby of water cascading down from a marble cherub, Dracula luxuriated in an enormous clawfoot tub. The tub brimmed with delicately perfumed milk, the petals of the rare nightshade flower creating a fragrant tapestry on its creamy surface. His imposing figure was partially concealed by the milky water, his eyes fixed on a centuries-old painting that hung on the wall opposite him. The weight of a decision heavier than the marble around him pressed on his shoulders - the execution of his one-time confidant, Don Juan. A necessary betrayal necessitated by an unforgivable one.

Extricating himself from the bath, his skin shimmered under the patina of milk, reflecting the indifferent glow of the lunar light. Dracula swathed himself in a robe of the richest, deepest crimson, spun from the rarest of silks. His countenance, an inscrutable fortress, betrayed no hint of the tumultuous tempest brewing in the depths of his undead heart. Carrying an air of regality that would put ancient kings to shame, he left the bathing chamber, journeying through the ghostly silence of the expansive corridors that led to the dominion of his guest rooms, each an alcove reverberating with the muted confessions of sins of flesh and betrayal.

Dracula, now a wraith traversing the stillness of his opulent mansion, moved with spectral elegance toward a balcony overlooking the ballroom. From this vantage point, he could observe the sea of aristocracy reveling below in their flamboyant array of costumes and attire. An effervescent tableau of fashion and sophistication, reflecting the myriad epochs and cultures from which the immortal elite drew their inspiration.

He noted the Rococo frills adorning the ladies, the various revealing cuts of suit that graced gentlemen, and the vibrant kimono ensembles, resplendent in their intricate embroidery, enveloping a select few. The spectacle was further amplified by an array of masks, each a testament to the wearer's flamboyance. The laughter, the music, the spectacle - all floated up to him in a shimmering wave, a mirage of gaiety that would soon be marred by the shadow of his wrath.

He stood aloof, gazing down at the splendorous vista of his court. He knew his absence, a rarity in these gatherings, must be the talk of New Gaslight's glitterati. Yet, little did they know that the evening's most dramatic performance was yet to unfold. The whispers of his disquieting absence would soon be drowned by the chilling revelation of a fatal scandal. Tonight's ball was about to transcend from a courtly spectacle to a stage for a most gruesome execution. As always, the Count was in control of the narrative, pulling the strings from the shadows.

With this thought, he turned away from the grand spectacle, his gaze leading him back towards the desolate guest room. The locus of tonight's fateful act. In this secluded space, amidst the perfumed silk and satin sheets, was staged the sinful tableau: Don Juan, ensnared in the passionate coils of one of his own brides. The sting of this betrayal throbbed in his dead heart, yet he presented an exterior as placid as an undisturbed pool. It was a frozen facade that belied the volcanic fury within.

man in bed

William Blake - Unknown subject (Let Him look up into the Heaven and laugh in the bright air), c. 1805

"Don Juan, my old friend," Dracula's voice flowed like a dark symphony. "You have betrayed me. And for what? A momentary pleasure with one of my brides?"

The echo of Don Juan's casual laughter hung in the heavy air. "Ah, Dracula, always the dramatic one. But we are both vampires. We do not have the same sense of loyalty as humans do."

A shadow of a predatory smile pulled at Dracula's lips. "Betrayal, dear Juan, is an exquisite sin. One that carries a price commensurate with its indulgence."

"And how will you make me pay, Dracula? With your minions doing your dirty work for you?" Don Juan's words came laced with a defiance that seemed almost pitiable to Dracula.

"Betrayal demands a personal reckoning, Juan," Dracula's voice carried the lethal promise of a viper poised to strike. "To extinguish an immortal's life is a spectacle of profound beauty. A tableau I intend to paint with your blood."

Secrets seeped through the city's cobblestone veins and reached Dracula's ears. The whispers of his informants from Dio's Respite confirmed his suspicion - Don Juan's planned betrayal. An alliance with the Coal Queen Dedlock in a desperate bid to infiltrate the blood market. As resources grew scarce, blood, the life force of vampires, had become an increasingly valuable commodity, sought after by the power-hungry and desperate alike.

As Don Juan wove his desperate pleas, the haunting silence of the room was suddenly fractured by the soft sound of shuffling. Dracula's eyes, cold and unyielding, remained fixed on Don Juan, but his heightened senses perceived the bride's movements. Her bare feet brushed over the plush carpet, her breath hitched in her throat, her pulse quickened in a rhythm of fear and desperation.

She had realized her plight, the gravity of her sin exposed in the lethal coldness of Dracula's eyes. The opulent chamber around her, once a refuge of love and lust, now stood as a stage for the impending doom. An enormous room adorned with the taxidermied remains of extinct beasts – a chilling testament to Dracula's eternal existence – bore silent witness to the unfolding drama.

The walls were dressed in velvety drapes of deepest crimson, mimicking the inevitable colour that would soon taint the room. Each artifact, each trophy a reminder of the world's old age and Dracula's ceaseless lifespan. A macabre gallery illuminated by the harsh, uncaring moonlight pouring in from the massive skylights, casting an array of long, sinister shadows that twisted and morphed with the escalating tension.

Breaking the statue-like stillness, the bride suddenly sprang forth. Her trembling voice was barely a whisper, "Master…" A single word, wrapped in fear and regret, hung in the air between them. She was a sanguine – a half-blood vampire, yet she had never felt more human than at that moment. Helpless. Fearful. Mortal.

But Dracula, still a statue in the face of her desperation, made his move. His arm, previously languid by his side, came to life with a sudden swift brutality. It was a single, nonchalant sweep, as though swatting away a bothersome fly, yet it held a terrifying force. The sheer power sent the bride reeling backwards, her surprised gasp a poignant serenade to her sudden exit.

Her frail form crashed through the penthouse's crystalline wall, the glass shattering into a thousand twinkling shards under the force. The cold wind of the city night rushed in, the silent observer of the horrific tableau now insinuating itself into the room, the scent of imminent death a stark contrast to the earlier tranquillity.

The bride’s scream was cut short as she began her plummet towards the cityscape below, a tiny figure swallowed by the harsh neon lights. But Dracula did not follow her descent, his gaze, his attention, his intentions remained on Don Juan. Her fate, like the life she had chosen to betray, was of no concern to him now. Her life was the price of her disloyalty, a fee extracted without a second thought.

With an ease that spoke of timeless power and deadly grace, Dracula extracted a blade of gleaming silver from the shadowed folds of his luxurious robe. Its polished surface shimmered in the moonlight, a phantom glow that made it appear more spectral than physical. "You understood the repercussions, Juan," he intoned in a voice as chilling as the winter wind. "Now, the time has come for the piper to collect his due."

The execution was swift and merciless. In a fluid, brutal arc, Dracula drove the gleaming blade into Don Juan's heart. The ensuing gasp escaped the betrayer's lips - a single, wretched testament to his shocked realisation and the searing agony of death. Each heartbeat pushed the blade further, imitating the rhythm of life yet serving as a harbinger of death.

Withdrawing the silver symbol of final judgement, Dracula observed Don Juan's once imposing figure deflate, life fleeing from it as a breath on a cold winter morning. The once vibrant eyes now dulled, their rebellious spark extinguished under the relentless tide of death, leaving behind nothing but a hollow shell of the confident vampire.

As the corpse of the once immortal Don Juan turned to ash, the master of the city stood, his silhouette imposing and authoritative, against the backdrop of his vanquished traitor. The spilled lifeblood of his one-time confidant pooled around his feet, a macabre testament to his dominance. He was the puppeteer pulling the city's strings, the heartbeat resonating in its hidden, grimy veins. No betrayal, no defiance could weather his wrath.

The indomitable Dracula, a paragon of ruthless power and eternal life, cast a long, dreadful shadow over the city that was his dominion. His rule was absolute, his justice swift and uncompromising. No voice dared rise against him, no hand dared cross him. In the face of betrayal and defiance, he was an unyielding fortress. And Dracula, in his cold, ruthless command, would brook no dissent.