1963-09-22 - This Is The Dread
Summary: After losing Pepper to the Winter Soldier, Dracula retreats to a fallback lair to regroup.
Related: Once Upon A Hellmouth Plot, http://marvel1963mush.wikidot.com/log:1963-09-21-knight-with-shining-arm
Theme Song: None

Dracula, The Ragged Man

The Lord of the Damned is silent, watching the moon. He bleeds still, slowly, from the wounds that disfigure his beautiful face, his pure white hair is tarnished with silver and soot. The Ragged Man has gathered up what remains of Chamberlain and the Blue Woman, laid them down in coffins filled with good earth deep in the basement of an old factory, windows gaping and ceiling crumbling, in Hell's Kitchen.

The offerings come in ones and twos, minions and victims offered up by the vampires of New York City. When they first took shelter here, Dracula fed without ceasing on one terrified human after another, pursuing them around the factory floor before tearing out their throats in dark corners or spread out on stilled conveyor belts. The screams were terrible, the kills savage and careless. The Ragged Man picks up a leftover, a young dark-skinned man crawling for the door. A black and shining trail leads back to the place Dracula dropped him after sating himself at last.

There's hopelessness in those luminous dark eyes, the full mouth parts as if to plead for mercy from a throat torn apart. The Ragged Man gives him an apologetic smile, lifts him with a clawed hand sunk into his flesh, and rips through what remains of his neck to feed. When the head dangles by the spine alone and the eyes are empty, the Ragged Man drops the corpse for the ghouls to eat and steels himself to approach his master.

"My Lord?"

"How fare my children?" Dracula doesn't look away from the sickle of the moon.

"They will be whole by the time the moon is full," the Ragged Man reports. "And well some time after that."

"I like this new world," Dracula says almost absently. "It pleases me."

The Ragged Man has no idea what to say to that. The devastation at their first lair was terrible, the price of kidnapping the Countess was steep.

"It challenges me, Mircea. It is savage and faithless and beautiful."

Dracula extends his hand and the Ragged Man puts his hand in his master's. Dracula brings it up, kisses the back of it, turns it and tears out the wrist to feed. Now, his wounds heal faster. The Ragged Man suffers the assault, even as he weakens.

"I am educated," Dracula says, when he releases the Ragged Man.

"A fearful education, my Lord," the Ragged Man notes.

"I shall return it in kind. Find me a sorcerer. And a scientist." Dracula turns on his heel, stalks toward the stairs leading up to the catwalks and offices above. "And a soldier. I must adapt. We will adapt. This world will learn to dread us once more."

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