A smoking skull

The Gaslight Chronicles

Night Fangs #3.6

Echos of the Past

Suspended high above the city of New Gaslight, Dracula's rooftop grotto thrummed with the rhythms of the night, its manicured gardens and cascading waterfalls providing a luxurious backdrop to the nocturnal revelry. Ancient statues, eroded by time and draped in ivy, bore silent witness to the decadent spectacle unfolding beneath a star-speckled sky. The pool, a glistening centerpiece, was teeming with guests, their laughter dancing on the balmy breeze, and their untamed merriment echoed in the crisp night air.

In the pulsating heart of the spectacle, the famed Nosferatu twins, Rosalind and Cordelia, held court. Their strikingly hairless forms — an eerie absence features like eyebrows and eyelashes and their bald heads, characteristics of their kind, were a testament to their vampiric lineage. Their captivating allure was only amplified by the sight of their large, pointed ears adorned with an assortment of lavish piercings that jingled with every movement, a symphony of their haunting existence.

The towering Rosalind, her skin as smooth and white as marble, was a breathtaking figure. An intricate web of dark tattoos spread across her lithe form, each design a tale of their nocturnal escapades. Leisurely, she sipped champagne in the pool, her ethereal beauty shimmering under the glow of the moonlight. Each flicker of light catching on her extravagant jewelry, casting kaleidoscopic patterns onto her skin.

Not far from her, Cordelia, petite yet muscular and buzzing with an infectious charm, was the perfect counterpoint to her sister. Her frame was smaller, yet no less striking. Her punk-infused aura lent her an edge that even the hardened vampires found intimidating. She was jesting at Rosalind, her laughter ringing out, bright and infectious against the background of hushed whispers and muted conversations.

Her ghostly pale skin bore only one tattoo, an elegant pair of vampire fangs inked just below the hollow of her throat. It was a stark reminder of their unyielding loyalty to their Dark Lord, Dracula. The sisters, despite their differences, stood united in their devotion, an undying bond etched in the ink on their skin.

While the party swirled around them, a hulking figure dressed in a sleek black tuxedo jacket, unbuttoned and revealing a chiseled torso, moved through the crowd with a sense of purpose. The jacket could barely conceal the handcuff marks that adorned his wrists, serving as a stark reminder of his recent, unnamed trials. As he whispered urgently into Dracula's ear, the room's collective breath seemed to hitch, the intensity of their conversation palpable amidst the revelry.

Dracula, his brow furrowing in concern, looked over to where the twin sisters were enjoying their night. Cutting through the crowd with predatory grace, he approached them, his commanding presence sending ripples of hushed whispers through the crowd.

"I take it you two are enjoying the festivities," he said, his voice a rich baritone over the party's din. His stern gaze softened, a rare smile gracing his lips.

Cordelia smirked, leaning back against the pool's edge while Rosalind simply nodded, her piercing gaze locked onto Dracula's.

"Your hard work for the organization has not gone unnoticed," Dracula continued, maintaining eye contact with both of them. "I have every faith in you to handle what I am about to entrust you with."

relayed the dire news—the rogue Alchemist cult, the captured facility, the suspected Ozmandian Fae, and the catastrophic consequences of its mold infestation. The frivolous laughter and loud music around them served as a stark contrast to the severity of their newly entrusted mission.

Their mirthful demeanor faded, replaced by a focused intensity as they listened to Dracula detail their task, their expressions hardening at the mention of the cult and the potential loss of an entire city block.

"Rosalind, Cordelia," he said, looking at each of them in turn. "You must ascertain whether the tower is beyond redemption. If it is, I need you to leave no trace of it or the Alchemist's cult."

He raised his glass high, the crimson liquid within catching the moonlight. "To a mission well done," he toasted, his gaze unwavering. The sisters mirrored his gesture, their eyes flickering with determination.

Dracula drained his glass and, with a final nod to his elite agents, turned to depart. "It seems Munchhausen has arrived," he murmured, indicating to his confidant with a tip of his glass. "I must leave before he devours all the fish."

With that, he disappeared back into the crowd, leaving the twins amidst the contrasting ambiance of impending danger and ongoing celebration. Their eyes met, a silent pact forged in the cool pool water, the weight of their mission settling heavily on their elegant shoulders.

As the party continued to whirl around them, Rosalind and Cordelia exchanged a final look before leaving the grotto's vibrant energy. Their bare feet padded lightly against the cool marble flooring, their casual movements a stark contrast to the heavy air surrounding them. They descended through the heart of the tower, the elevator's sleek glass offering a panoramic view of New Gaslight, a city seemingly oblivious to the unfolding drama within its central spire.

Rosalind leaned against the elevator's cool surface, her glowing eyes thoughtful as they drifted to her sister. "Did you notice the newcomer?" Rosalind broke the silence, her gaze unwaveringly focused on the descending numbers.

Cordelia smirked, her eyes sparkling with interest. "The hunky human confidant you mean? It's impossible not to," she replied, a hint of playful sarcasm in her voice.

Their conversation flowed naturally, their words twining around each other like the intricate tattoos adorning Rosalind's skin. "Dracula hasn't had a confidant since Don Juan betrayed him all those years ago," Rosalind noted, her voice tinged with a certain amount of trepidation.

"And he's a human, too," Cordelia added, tilting her head. "Uncommon, but not unheard of in Dracula's circle. But those scars..." she trailed off, her brows knitting in thought.

Her sister nodded, "Handcuff scars. Implies he has a past with law enforcement, maybe a criminal history. But his aura... it doesn't feel like New Gaslight's."

As the elevator doors closed behind them with a muted hum, the sisters were enveloped in a low-lit corridor. The clack of their stilettos echoed against the cold steel walls as they moved in synchronized strides towards their lockers. Their conversation, casual and light, floated on the air, like dappled sunlight through a canopy of leaves.

"Dracula's new confidant," Rosalind murmured thoughtfully, pulling open her locker with a low creak. Inside, her gear lay meticulously organized - her weapons glistening ominously in the pale light. "He's... intriguing, isn't he?"

Cordelia, her fingers tracing over her locker's emblem, smirked. "If by 'intriguing', you mean 'devastatingly handsome', then yes." She winked at Rosalind, who responded with a chiding look.

Rolling her eyes, Rosalind began to adorn herself with her gear. The movements were ritualistic, born of years of habit and discipline. "We're here for a mission, not to discuss eye candy," she reminded her sister. But beneath the stern demeanor, a playful smile tugged at the corners of her lips.

As they continued to equip themselves, their hands found their way to the blood packs stowed away in a cooler inside their lockers. With practiced ease, they bit into them, the sweet crimson liquid running down their chins, staining their skin. The sisters drank deeply, revitalizing their bodies, stoking the fires of their supernatural abilities.

"So, did you hear about Scrooge's movie showing?" Cordelia broached the topic, wiping the residual blood from her lips with the back of her hand. "The Devil's Daughter, he's screening it at his mansion before it hits the vaudevilles."

Rosalind paused, her lips curling into a frown. "And we weren't invited?"

"Not that I'm aware of. Typical of that old sanguine," Cordelia muttered, rolling her eyes.

"And the mysterious Cleo Thera stars in it," Rosalind mused, recalling the rumors that had been circulating the New Gaslight underworld. "They say she might be one of us..."

"A vampire?" Cordelia laughed, shaking her head. "Those are just rumors. Nothing concrete about her, really. Maybe just a passing fascination for the public

Stepping back into the elevator, the twin Nosferatu sisters descended into the heart of Dracula's tower, its pulsating hub of activity humming away behind layers of steel and secrecy. The elevator journey itself was a fluid descent through a tunnel of transitioning architectural styles and epochs, speaking of the vampire lord's vast and varied past.

Their destination was the ground floor of the penthouse, home to Dracula's private rail station. This was a hidden gem of architectural opulence, where 15th-century design married 21st-century brutalist aesthetics. Red velvet cushions lounged against raw, exposed concrete, softened by the warming glow of subtle mood lighting. Framed masterpieces, ranging from surrealism to the classics, bedecked the expansive walls, their vivid strokes mingling with the textural intricacies of the station's brutalist design.

In the midst of this sensory feast sat one of Dracula's exclusive casket cabooses. The railcar, designed primarily for private soirées and nocturnal indulgences, was a marvel of modern engineering cloaked in timeless luxury. Made primarily of glass, it served as a transparent observatory, allowing its passengers to drink in the sights of New Gaslight as they journeyed through its veiny rail network.

"There it is, our chariot for the evening," Cordelia murmured, her gaze lingering over the lavish caboose. The previous night's festivities had left the cabin in a state of disarray, the lingering scent of stale smoke and decadent edibles suspended in the air. Time constraints hadn't allowed for a full cleanup, but the mission had precedence over aesthetics.

The caboose launched into motion with a hum that reverberated through the luxurious seats, the opulent heart of New Gaslight began to slide by. Crystal towers and marble sculptures lit by atmospheric neon quickly gave way to the reality of the city's bones. The splendor around Dracula's territory was but a veneer, a facade that crumbled to expose the true face of the city – a gritty urban sprawl characterized by grimy slums and neglected tenements.

As the station's regal beauty began to blur into the backdrop, they settled into the plush seats of the caboose, . The rail car picked up speed, New Gaslight unfurling before them like a monochromatic masterpiece, its towering skyscrapers bathed in the soft glow of will-o-wisps and rays of lunar light piercing the smog.

"The mission... It's no small task," Rosalind finally broke the silence, her gaze fixed on the cityscape outside. "An Ozmandian Fae, they're known to spread decay, ruin whatever they touch. Neither of us has seen one up close before."

Cordelia, her gaze still fixated on the fast-approaching city, nodded in agreement. Rosalind sighed, her fingers tracing an absent pattern on the rail car's glass table. "Our task isn't an easy one. If the tower is truly infested with the Fae's mold, we'll have no choice but to burn it down, taking the Alchemist cult with it."

"Dracula trusts us, Cordelia," Rosalind added, turning to look at her sister. "We won't fail him." The railcar continued it's steady movement.

New Gaslight was an urban jungle, it's skeletal skyline jagged and unpredictable. The cityscape was pockmarked with architectural anomalies, ancient buildings swallowed by the relentless growth of the metropolis. One such landmark was the Old Silent Clock Tower, a once proud timepiece now smothered under a verdant blanket of invasive ivy and overrun with mammoth sunflowers. The imposing structure stood as a silent sentinel, a ghostly testament to a bygone era.

"Look at the old clock tower," Cordelia murmured, her gaze focused on the towering edifice as it passed by, a rare burst of natural color in the grim gray city. "It hasn't chimed in so long, it's a wonder it's still standing."

Rosalind nodded in agreement, her eyes following the trajectory of her sister's gaze. "It's eerie, isn't it? A symbol of the past, just standing there amidst the constant flux of the present."

Their conversation flowed as seamlessly as the passing cityscape, the juxtaposition of New Gaslight's urban blight and the sisters' luxurious surroundings adding a surreal layer to their impending mission.

As the casket caboose eeked into the station near the block in question, the thrumming energy of the city gave way to an eerie calm, a silence that signaled the onset of danger. Cordelia's hand closed around her weapon, a massive rifle that was a spectacle in its own right. Its construction was a testament to artistry and warfare, an intermingling of extinct wood types and hardened metal. The firearm bore ornate sigils and intricate patterns, each carefully etched into its surface and then embellished with gold leaf. The result was a weapon that was as lethal as it was beautiful.

"Got the incendiary rounds with me," Cordelia declared, running her fingers over the ornate weapon. Her tone held a tinge of grim excitement, a testament to the Nosferatu sisters' readiness for the daunting mission that lay ahead.

As the luxurious casket caboose slid to a graceful halt, a scene from a nightmare unfurled before Rosalind and Cordelia's eyes. The city block, once teeming with the eclectic vitality of New Gaslight, was now an infernal theatre of devastation, a pyre that transformed the night into an ominous canvas of crimson and ebony.

Cordelia blinked, attempting to reconcile the terrible reality before them. "By the Dark Lord," she breathed, the note of horror in her voice a rare acknowledgment of the scale of the disaster. Cordelia was made of steel and shadows, but the sight before her was enough to pierce her hardened exterior. This was not the handiwork of an Ozmandian Fae, but a catastrophe woven from a more insidious thread.

Rosalind nodded, her ethereal eyes sweeping over the grisly tableau. The fire had been ravenous, sparing nothing in its path, leaving the skeletal remains of buildings and life itself. Scattered amidst the wreckage were the charred and twisted bodies of vampires and humans, a gruesome testimony to the horrors that had unfolded.

"There are ash piles too," Rosalind observed, her voice low, grim. The ash, a ghastly reminder of their kind turned to dust by silver or wooden stakes, dotted the landscape like a series of tombstones. "It's a massacre," she added, the weight of the word hanging heavily in the smoky air.

In the wake of such stark devastation, the splendor of their private section of the rail station - its plush velvet, priceless artworks, and the opulence of a time long past - seemed like a distant dream, its memory tarnished by the chaos outside.

"Well, I'd say we missed the party," Cordelia quipped, her levity a stark contrast to the grim reality. However, her jest did little to cut through the palpable tension that clung to the smoky air.

As they disembarked from the protective cocoon of their opulent rail car, they were met with a wave of heat and the acrid smell of burning, the sensory onslaught only amplifying the sense of dread and urgency. The atmosphere was thick with shock and fear, laced with an undercurrent of betrayal and impending danger.

As the crimson hues of the fiery city block danced in their eyes, Rosalind and Cordelia, the deadly Nosferatu sisters, found themselves drawn to the epicenter of the chaos – the project tower. Its skeletal structure, wreathed in voracious flames, stood as a haunting testament to the rampant destruction. The tower, once a ramshackle testament to architectural prowess, now lay stripped to its raw, charred bones, each agonized creak and groan echoing the dirge of a dying monument.

While the vibrant cityscape of New Gaslight was gradually reduced to ashen slums, the ominous silhouette of the project tower was like a beacon in the heart of the storm, a blazing beacon that guided them through the chaos. As they steadily made their approach, a sudden sharp pain exploded in Cordelia's arm. She cried out, falling to her knees as she clutched at the silver spike lodged in her flesh.

Emerging from the veiling shadows, a formidable figure came into view. Tall, built like a fortress, Van Helsing was an imposing sight, his face a canvas of black magick sigils. His physique, honed from countless battles, moved with an agile, predatory grace. His reputation preceded him as a solitary hunter of the night and slayer of the undead proceeded him.

"I expected Dracula himself," Van Helsing's voice echoed across the fiery ruins, steely and unyielding, cutting through the tumultuous symphony of destruction. "I didn't think he'd send his brides instead." His hand, clutching his deadly silver spike nail gun, was held steady, aiming at the sisters with cold precision.

A mocking smile tugged at the corners of his mouth as he fired three more silver spikes. But the Nosferatu sisters were far from easy targets. As if sharing an unspoken bond, they moved in unison, their bodies bending and weaving in a ghostly dance, evading each lethal projectile.

Van Helsing's eyes glinted with an eerie light as he leveled his gaze at the sisters, reloading his weapon with an air of ominous certainty. "Last time, it only took a stolen moment with a taken woman for Dracula to kill my father. Now I wonder...what will it take this time? An entire city block? Or perhaps the death of his brides?"

Cordelia, rising from the ashes and dust, scoffed at his words, her features twisting in a scowl. "We're no one's brides, Helsing," she bit back, her voice echoing the steel of her resolve. "And your silver? It holds no fear for us Nosferatu."

The words, fierce and unyielding, hung heavy in the burning air. It was a declaration, a challenge, a dance of death invited amidst the fiery canvas of destruction. The lines were drawn, and the hunted faced the hunter, ready to dance to the song of war.

"Such brides as you aren't worth my time, regardless," Van Helsing fired back, disregarding Cordelia's defiant assertion. His scornful eyes never wavered, his gaze simmering with a relentless determination that reflected his every intention.

Without another word, he slipped back into the tumultuous obscurity of the burning city, leaving a trail of smoldering ashes in his wake. His silhouette vanished within the flickering embrace of the flames, melting into the monstrous tapestry of the burning city block. However, his presence lingered, a phantom menace suspended in the heated air.

Yet, before he could fully disappear into the night, Cordelia, her features set in fierce determination, lifted her ornate weapon. The incendiary round loaded within the chamber gleamed ominously under the fiery skyline. She fired, the powerful weapon releasing a thunderous roar that echoed through the city's skeleton. A brilliant flash lit up the balcony where Van Helsing had been standing just moments ago, the explosive impact of the incendiary round sending shards of debris flying in all directions.

However, the relative silence following Van Helsing's retreat didn't last long. In the immediate aftermath, a low, bone-chilling groan echoed through the streets. From the scattered, lifeless bodies strewn across the burning city block, undead monstrosities began to rise. "Barkers," Rosalind spat the term with disgust, watching as these creatures of death and decay emerged from the remains of the fallen. From the heaps of fallen bodies strewn about the fiery battlefield, several figures rose up. Reanimated corpses, their deathly pallor reflecting the glinting flames, lunged towards the sisters.

The decaying hordes charged, a grotesque nightmare of rotting flesh and gnarled fangs, their primal instincts now warped into a horrific parody of what they once were. With the manic fire of the burning city reflected in their lifeless eyes, the barkers lunged. Each snarled and growled, barking out hollow roars that echoed with an insatiable hunger for flesh.

Yet the sisters stood tall, their eyes steeled against the grotesque spectacle. The battlefield roared with fire and fury, but they met it with a calm resilience that was nothing short of breathtaking.

Their deadly dance began with an elegantly choreographed ballet of violence, movements synchronized to a deadly rhythm that echoed through the fiery maelstrom. In the face of the raging chaos, Rosalind's tattoos began to pulse, each intricate pattern glowing brighter, a reflection of the surrounding inferno.

With a pair of dual Clockwork revolvers in hand, she sprang into action. Each shot she fired found a barker’s heart or a hyena's head, the recoil of the guns dancing in her grasp. Her grace was a fierce spectacle, the dance of death she wove a thing of deadly beauty amidst the surrounding decay and desolation.

Beside her, Cordelia, unyielding and unflinching, shouldered her rifle. The glinting weapon, adorned in gold leaf, hummed with the vibrancy of the incendiary rounds that coursed within it. With surgical precision, she unleashed a relentless volley of lethal shots. Each fire-kissed projectile cut through the dark, searing through the swarming horde of barkers, their incandescent trajectories etching fiery lines across the smoke-filled skyline. Despite the throbbing pain in her arm where the silver spike had struck, Cordelia's aim never faltered, her face a picture of intense focus.

The sisters' choreographed performance painted a deadly picture in the canvas of the conflagration. Each advancing barker fell silent, their death cries drowned in the cacophony of the night. The sisters wove their lethal ballet, their unyielding resolve resonating in harmony with the charred ruins of the city block.

The barkers, their bodies a grotesque caricature of their once human forms, barked and snarled like ravenous wolves. They were less than beasts now, driven by a singular hunger for the living. Yet, with each wave that crashed against the sisters, their ranks thinned, their fury drowned by the symphony of gunshots and the roar of the inferno.

Their defiance was a mesmerizing display of power and resolve, each falling barker marking another note in their deadly symphony. The sisters danced amidst the sea of fire and death, their every move painting a terrifying tableau of resilience and power. This ballet was one of ruthless precision and brutal elegance.

Barker after barker fell silent, their death cries swallowed by the roaring flames. Roselind and Cordelia, their resolve, far from wavering, resonated through the charred ruins of the city block. Amidst the destructive beauty of the firestorm, their dance continued, their defiance a beacon that blazed brighter than the surrounding flames.

Injured but unyielding, Cordelia fired a final, resounding shot.

The final shot from Cordelia's rifle thundered through the night, a deadly echo amidst the roar of the flames. Time seemed to crawl, the world blurring into a haze of slow-motion chaos. The incendiary round arced through the fiery sky, an incandescent star on a lethal course.

With a grotesque, almost majestic inevitability, the bullet crashed into a barker's skull. The grotesque creature's features distorted in shock and pain, its mouth opening to release a sound that was swallowed by the all-encompassing firestorm. For a moment, the beast stood, the incandescent round embedded in its cranium, before it crumbled, life extinguishing in its glowing eyes.

Then, in an explosion of flames and splintered bone, the round detonated. The barker's head erupted, a grotesque spectacle amidst the dance of death. Fragments of once-living matter scattered, joining the debris and ash that filled the air. The shockwave from the blast sent a tremor through the project tower, its already unstable structure shuddering under the sudden onslaught.

Like a dying giant, the tower swayed, groaned, and finally succumbed to its fate. With a deafening crash, the inferno tower collapsed, sending a cascade of fiery debris and sparks skyward, a blazing waterfall that illuminated the ravaged cityscape. The mission, though not as planned, was complete.

Smoke, dust, and the scent of charred ruin filled the air as the sisters navigated their way through the apocalyptic tableau. The light from the collapsing tower flickered in their eyes, painting their faces with an eerie glow.

"That could have gone smoother," Cordelia remarked, her voice hoarse from smoke and exertion.

Rosalind nodded in agreement, her eyes scanning their surroundings with heightened vigilance. "I didn't expect to find the whole block already in flames. Or Helsing," she added with a grimace.

"But the mission's done," Cordelia stated, more to herself than to her sister. "Let's head back. Dracula will want to know."

Eyes and senses sharp, they began their journey back towards the rail station, their silhouettes cast long by the dying light of the collapsed inferno tower. The night, filled with the echoes of their grim victory, was far from over.

As they continued to tread the flame-scarred path back to the rail station, each footfall seemingly echoed in sync with the pulsating heartbeat of the devastated city block. The muted whispers of their conversation filled the smoky air, their silhouettes dancing amidst the dying embers of their deadly mission.

"You sure about that arm?" Rosalind questioned once again, her gaze fixed on Cordelia's silver-inflicted wound, the healing process slowly weaving its way across her sister's flesh.

"It's nothing more than a scratch, sister," Cordelia grumbled in response, a hint of a smile teasing at the corners of her lips despite the pain. The evidence of her rapid regeneration was always a sight to behold, a testament to their supernatural resilience.

The subject of their conversation shifted, the mere mention of the betrayal within Dracula's organization sending a ripple of tension through them. "Things haven't been the same since Don Juan," Cordelia sighed, the weight of her words pulling them into an uncomfortable silence. "And with Van Helsing...this pressure is unlike anything we've faced before."

Rosalind nodded, her eyes hardened by the shared resolve. "Don Juan's betrayal hit Dracula hard, we can't deny that. But we've faced greater adversities. We'll rise above this, just as we always have."

The two sisters continued their journey, their discussion turning to recent events. "Did you hear about the shipment?" Cordelia asked, her tone suddenly serious. "The Black Hand got their hands on one. We're not sure if they've cracked our routes or just got lucky."

Rosalind's frown deepened at the news. "That's not a good sign. If they've figured out our patterns..." she trailed off, the implications clear and dire.

As they reached the rail station, a new topic surfaced in their conversation. "And this new confidant," Rosalind mused aloud. "This...human. Do you think he'll bring about a new era for us, or do you think he's just another Don Juan waiting to happen?"

Cordelia let out a noncommittal grunt, her gaze distant. "Only time will tell, Rosalind. For now, we can only hope he proves himself worthy."