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A Haunted Winter Fairytale by Noctiluca The winter of 1897 was a grim and merciless one, glazing the whole

countryside with ice and afterwards covering it up with a thick layer of innocent white snow. Fool that I was, I thought it was a nice idea to spend the Holidays with my family like mortals do. It might not have been such a bad idea. Only that I picked the wrong place, I guess. But when I had ridden across the countryside on a dark winter's night and seen the castle ruin standing high and proud on the cliffs, black against the night sky, it had possessed an incredible aura, almost magical, drawing me nearer, and I had simply known that this was the right place. Finnlevan Castle had been burned down over one hundred years ago, and no mortal had set foot inside the ghastly ruin ever since. Even at daytime the dark remains of the castle always seemed to be overcast by deep shadows, and no ray of sun ever lit the mysterious darkness that surrounded it. Nobody remembered why the once so proud and beautiful castle had been destroyed, it was a mystery. But it was one of the mysteries that everybody talked about under their breaths, and parents would tell their children never to go near this godforsaken place where the devil's evil spirits resided. No wonder I was attracted to the place immediately. Not all rooms and chambers had been destroyed. The entire west wing was still intact, and all the splendid, beautiful furniture and the huge paintings on the walls that were covered with such a thick layer of dust you could not make out what was on them, were still there. Everything had been left exactly as it was on the night of the fire, and when I walked through the deserted corridors for the first time, I was surprised to see that not even a thief had dared to enter this place, because all the gold and silver was still there. There was an unpleasant chill in all the rooms, and I had a feeling it was even colder in here than outside, but that was probably because no fire had lit the fireplace and warmed these damp walls for so many cold and empty years. Suddenly I heard a whisper behind me, close to my ear. I spun around... but no one was there. I could feel my skin covering with goose-bumps as I looked around, but it was clear that no one else was there. Except for spiders, rats and mice whisking in dark corners, I was alone. I took a few steps down the corridor, still looking around carefully, when I heard the whisper again. I let out a deep sigh of relief. It was only the wind. Only the wind howling through a large crack in one of the windows down the hall. A curtain blew in the wind, dancing like a ghost before the broken window, taking on the form of a woman as if to mock me, then disappearing again and hanging down lifelessly and still. I laughed to myself, surprised about having been tricked and scared so easily, which wasn't like me at all. But there was just something very strange about this place, something I could not really trace, but I knew it was there. I was attracted to this castle almost uncontrollably, even though I wouldn't have been able to explain why.

I walked downstairs to the heavy wooden door and took a long last look around before I left. "See you on Christmas Eve," I whispered and smiled. **** "It's magnificent!" Darla uttered the moment she entered the hall. Spike stepped in after her and looked around for a while, finally nodding approvingly. "Not bad, mate. It'll do for the night." He turned to look at Drusilla who stood on the doorstep, peeking in wide-eyed. He took her hand and kissed it tenderly. "Don't you want to come in, pet? It's dusty and old and deserted." He winked at her. "You'll love it!" My fair dark-eyed childe slowly shook her head. "It's haunted." Having overheard their conversation, I turned around and walked back over to my childe and grandchilde. "Nonsense! It's not haunted. It's just a ruin. Except for us, no one and nothing's here. It's ours alone tonight, and we're going to have a good time. Drusilla, come in!" Drusilla didn't move. She just looked at me, reproachfully, her eyes clearly saying "No". I sighed deeply. I didn't have the nerve for one of her little games right now, I just wanted us all to spend a few nice hours together, a thing we had not done for a very long time. So I just took her by the arm and pulled her inside. She did not struggle against my grip, she knew better than to do it, but even though she did not say another word about it, her big dark eyes were screaming with fear as we walked upstairs, the candelabrum I was holding painting dancing shadows on the walls. **** About an hour later, after we had eaten what I had brought and locked in the dungeon for our little feast, we were nestled in enormous armchairs by a warm, crackling fire in one of the better preserved rooms. It was the library. Dozens and dozens of old, dusty books filled the long shelves that stretched along the walls, adding to the coziness of the room. Drusilla wasn't scared any longer. With an amused little smile she was listening as I told them a story about the old days when Darla and me had still been alone and always hunted together. Those had been great days when blood had flown like wine in our house, and all the world was ours. Spike was the only one who didn't seem to enjoy the story. He walked around the room and inspected some of the books and paintings on the walls, and didn't even try to hide the fact that he was obviously bored. Not that this was new to me. There had been a time when he would drive me insane

with his nonchalant way and all the talk about us not being "proper" vampires, that we should kill and rule humans instead of hiding and trying to blend in. He had yet to prove that there actually was something behind his big talk. I had long given up on trying to teach him. Drusilla's boy had never understood the artistry of the hunt, the finesse and craftsmanship of a good kill. One of these days his carelessness would get him killed. And honestly, in moments like these, I could have cared less. But there was something about Spike, and it was the only reason why I hadn't staked him myself yet. He made Drusilla happy. For some strange reason there was a closeness, an intimacy between them that I had never experienced myself, that I could barely understand. It was like they shared a secret. Somehow he always knew how to lift her up when she was down, or to comfort her when she had had one of her visions. He was the only one who could get through to her. Hard as it is to admit, I was jealous of him. Drusilla was my creation, my childe. She belonged to me and no one else. I allowed Spike to live only because he looked after her and cared for her with the fierce determination to rather die than let anyone do her harm. Well, that and the fact that he kept her off my back when Darla and me wanted to be alone. But tonight I didn't want to fight. For once I wanted us all to be together and just have a good time, so I ignored Spike's journey through the room and finished my story. "Look what I found," Drusilla's childe said when finally returning to us, and threw a book over to Darla, who caught it with a frown. "What's this?" my sire said and stared at the faded book in her hand. "It's a collection of pieces of paper with words on them that some of us like to call a book," Spike informed her with a flat smile. Darla just gave him a look. "You know what I mean. What is it about?" Our youngest family member sat back down in his armchair and smiled broadly. "Why don't you start reading, then we'll find out," he suggested. My beautiful blond sire exchanged a glance with me, then shrugged and opened the book. She read the first few lines silently, then she quickly looked up at Spike, surprised. He only smiled. "It's a book of local myths and fairytales," she said with a frown, trying to figure out what Spike found so exciting about it. My grandchilde chuckled to himself and got up from his chair, stepped over to her and turned a few pages over, then pointed his finger at something. Darla's eyes lit up and she laughed. "How curious! Alright, I will read it to you. Let's see what is behind all this talk of this place being haunted." Drusilla's eyes seemed to darken when she said it, but my fair childe remained silent and stared into the flames in the fireplace. Darla looked at me with a little smile, and when Spike had sat back down, she read the title of the first story in the book.

"The Cold Heart." She stopped and looked up. "Someone's written something beside it, so that it reads: The Cold Heart of Finnlevan Castle." I glanced at Spike, who smiled a little and raised his glass to me before he took a swig of his red wine. The mystery of Finnlevan Castle, revealed in this little book? How had he known that I was fascinated with everything concerning this place? I licked my lips in excitement and leaned forward a little, eagerly waiting for Darla to continue the story. Finally she began to read, and her soft, sweet honey voice filled the room. "Once, many a hundred years ago, there lived a young girl of noble birth who's beauty was so great that all the land talked about it, but her heart was empty and cold. She was very selfish, and all the beautiful things that her father gave her, she would lock away in a trunk, so that no one could delight in them except for her. Never did she leave her castle during daytime, for so great was her selfishness that she wanted to keep even her beauty all to herself." Shortly after Darla had begun to read the story, a storm seemed to rise outside, and lashing winds howled dreadfully around the castle and whistled down the corridors. Almost instantly, a chill seemed to set in, and Drusilla jumped up from her chair with a frightened look on her face. "Spike, it's coming! Can you feel it? It's coming closer, it's closing in..." Her childe got up immediately and pulled her into his arms. "Hush, pet, nothing's coming. Everything is fine. It's only just the wind. Come, sit on my lap. Here, the fire will keep you warm." He pushed her armchair closer to the fireplace and persuaded her to sit back down with him. It took quite a while. Darla and me exchanged a glance, but I noticed that despite the disparaging smile on her lips, there was a reflection of Drusilla's fear in her own eyes, too. It must have been the sudden chill, because I could feel a shiver running down my spine myself. I put another log into the fire, and with a thankful smile, Darla continued to read. "And so the years passed and the girl grew into a woman, and the woman was ever more beautiful than she had been as a girl. When she came of age, her father decided that she must get married before the winter, for he was ill and feared that he might die before he had found his daughter a husband. But she said to her father: 'If you loved me, you would not make me share all my beautiful things with a stranger, but leave everything to me. If you make me marry, I shall run away.' This worried her father a lot, but since he loved her more than anything, he let her have her way. And so summer went by and fall went by, and when winter came, her father passed away, and the young noblewoman lived all alone in her great big castle. All her servants she sent away, for she could not bear to let anyone see all the beautiful things that she owned and feared that someone might want to steal them if they did. Soon everyone in the land knew that she was a selfish woman and had a cold and empty heart, and nobody, not even the beggars would dare to knock on her door. But then, one cold winter's night, there was a knock on the noblewoman's door. There was a fierce snow storm outside, and when the young woman answered the door, at first she could not see a thing, so thick was the snowfall. She lifted her lamp,

and in front of her stood the most beautiful young man she had ever beheld. So bright were his eyes and so beautiful was his noble face that she fell in love with him instantly. She bid the stranger come inside, and he told her that he had lost his way in the storm and asked if he could stay overnight. So entranced was she by his beauty that she let him stay at the castle, and in her heart she decided to make him her own, for he was the most beautiful thing she had ever seen. And so she showed him all the rooms and all the beautiful things that she owned, even her most treasured things that she kept locked away in her trunk. And when she went to bed that night, she was filled with a warmth in her heart that she had not known before, and she said to herself: 'Oh, how wonderful it is to share the beauty of my belongings and have someone to talk to! I have been so lonely in this great big castle all these years. In the morrow, I will ask my guest to stay for longer, for he makes me feel happier than I have been in all my life.' But when the noblewoman woke in the morning, the beautiful stranger was gone, and along with him, all her beautiful things, even her most treasured things that she had kept in her trunk. And she wept bitterly, and cursed the stranger who had blinded her with his beauty and stolen her things. Never did she let anyone enter her castle again. The only beauty she had left to marvel at was her own face, and so she decorated all the walls in her room with mirrors so that she could always see her beautiful face and delight in it, and forget her misery. And as she grew old and her beauty faded away, she locked herself in the highest tower where it was cold and dark, and there she died, alone and bitter, with a cold and empty heart that had never learned to love." When Darla had finished reading the story, she looked up, and there was silence for a long moment. It was then that I noticed that the storm seemed to have calmed down. It was unexpectedly quiet outside, so quiet in fact that it was almost strange. "Very touching," I said with a grin and clapped my hands, breaking the uncomfortable silence. Relieved, Darla closed the book and laughed. "What a nonsense! Can anyone tell me what's so frightening about this fairytale?" She looked at Drusilla, who stared right back at her, her face expressionless. "Nothing," Spike said and got up from his armchair to walk over to Darla and snatch the book from her hands to open it again. He flipped through the pages until he had reached the end of the story, and turned another page. "If it weren't for this little notice, added by hand." With a mischievous smile, he read aloud: "So bitter was the noblewoman that when she died her soul could not rest, and so she still waits for the thief who took her beautiful things to return, so that she may have her vengeance, and she brings misfortune and misery to all that dwell in Finnlevan Castle. All men shall be warned that whoever sets foot into the castle uninvited may never leave again. May God have mercy on the poor souls who trespass, for the ghost may never let go of what she once calls her own, for her heart is empty and cold." With a sly grin, he closed the book, and carelessly threw it into his empty armchair.

He turned towards me and crossed his arms in front of his chest. "Well, Angelus, since we trespassed and all, I'd say let the fun begin!" In this moment the door was flung open and an ice-cold breath of wind washed over the room and blew out all the candles. Drusilla let out a terrified scream, and then everything was silent and pitch dark. **** I must have lost consciousness, because when I opened my eyes again, someone had lit a candle. The fire had gone out, and some of the armchairs and furniture had been knocked over by what must have been the strongest gust of wind I have ever witnessed. Spike walked over to Drusilla with a concerned frown on his face. "Dru, are you alright?" She turned towards him and nodded, but looked terrified. Spike gently kissed her forehead and put the candle he was holding into her hand. "Here, luv, light the candles again." She nodded, and started to light candles, driving darkness back, and soon the room was bright again. Meanwhile, my grandchilde turned around and looked at Darla, who was lying on the floor. He bend down and took her hand to help her up and lead her over to an armchair. My blond sire was pressing her hand to her forehead and moaned lowly. "Someone knocked me out. What happened? Where is Angelus?" "I'm over here!" I said and climbed back to my feet. I walked over to Darla and Spike, but neither of them looked up as I approached. I gave Spike a look to make clear that I was back and could take over taking care of my lady, but he ignored me. With a frown, he looked around. "Can't see him anywhere. Must have gone outside to find out what happened." They exchanged a glance, and looked over to the open door. "Hey, are you blind, I'm right here," I said loudly and laughed. "Spike, don't just stand around looking stupid, close the damned door, it's getting cold in here." Drusilla's childe only shrugged, walked over to the door and held on to the doorframe, leaning out. "Angelus?" he shouted down the corridor, then looked the other way and shouted again. "Angelus?" He stepped into the darkness of the corridor and took a few steps down, calling my name again. "Spike, this isn't the right moment for your sick kind of humor," I said, slightly annoyed. "Can't you see that our ladies are scared?" But in that moment Darla got up and walked past me to look into the corridor, too. That was when I was beginning to find the situation a little strange. Why was everyone ignoring me? They seemed to look right through me as if I weren't there at all. I turned towards Drusilla who was busy trying to light the fire again. "Drusilla?" She didn't look up, she was softly humming to herself.

I smiled and walked over to her. I crouched beside her and stretched out my hand. "Here, let me do it." But my dark-haired childe didn't even look at me, and when I reached out to take hold of her hand, I let out a shocked gasp. My fingers went right through her! In fact, I couldn't even see my fingers at all! I looked down at where my chest was supposed to be, my legs, my arms, my feet... nothing! There was nothing there! My body had simply disappeared! I was invisible! In a panic, I rose and rushed towards Spike and Darla who had come back in and closed the door firmly behind them. "I'm sure he'll be back in a moment. Probably looking for ghosts, playing hero, the usual," Spike said, and Darla nodded absent-mindedly. "You're right, it's better to stay here and wait. But if he doesn't come back soon, I'll go looking for him. I don't like this at all." Desperately I waved my arms and called out as loud as I could: "I'm here! I'm right here! Darla, I'm right here in front of you! Can't you see me? Can't you hear me? You must know that I'm there! Spike! Drusilla! Anyone, please! Tell me this isn't happening!" But they ignored me. They couldn't see me. They couldn't hear me. The worst nightmare I could imagine had become a horrible, devastating truth. I had disappeared. Just like that. I couldn't believe that this was actually happening! It was just a dream, it had to be! I must have fallen asleep by the fireside while Darla read the story, but no matter how desperately I fought to woke up, I couldn't. Because it wasn't a dream. No matter how loud I screamed, or how often I tried to touch them, shake them, make myself known, neither Darla, nor Spike, nor my own childe noticed me. Drusilla looked at the other two and tilted her head. Slowly she rose to her feet. The fire was burning brightly again, the armchairs had been put back into place, and the room looked just like nothing had happened. My fair childe walked over to her armchair and sat down, taking up her glass of wine to take a sip. When Spike and Darla joined her, still discussing where I was, she leaned back and said casually: "You will not find him. He is gone."

**** "What do you mean, he is gone? Where has he gone?" Darla asked, leaning forward and staring at Drusilla, alarmed. But my dark-eyed childe only smiled and made a magical gesture with her hand. "Disappeared." I stared at her, unbelievingly. She knew what had happened to me? Oh, thank god! Oh, she knew! She had noticed! Maybe she could still hear me, after all? Drusilla, sweet, good Drusilla! She would find a way to find me and bring me back, wouldn't she? Spike sat down on the armrest of his psychic sire's chair and raised an eyebrow. "Disappeared? What a pity." The two of them looked deeply into each other's eyes, as if they were talking to each other without speaking, and then a wicked smile danced on Spike's lips. He shrugged, lightheartedly. "Alright, what's next? Caroling and eggnog?" "Bastard!" I shouted angrily, right next to his ear, but Spike obviously didn't hear. He seemed to find the whole situation quite amusing. I, on the other hand, was getting more desperate by the second. "Drusilla!" I shouted. "Hear me! Do something! Help me, goddamnit!" I was trying to touch her, but my invisible fingers just went right through her again. How could she be so calm! She knew what had happened to me! Didn't she care at all? The only person who seemed to find my disappearance strange was my own sire, and boy, looking at the expression on her face, I wouldn't have wanted to be in the other two's skins now! Furious, Darla rose from her chair. "I've had it with the two of you! There is nothing funny about this!" She crossed the room, and in doing so, walked right through me. Without noticing, she walked on and grabbed Drusilla by the arms, shaking her. "Talk to me! What happened to Angelus! I know you know something!" My childe stared at Darla, defiance flashing in her eyes. O-oh. "Oh no, no, Darla! Don't!" I said desperately, but Darla couldn't hear me. I knew the expression on Dru's face all too well. She could be as stubborn as a mule, especially when she was threatened. Nothing on this earth would get her to talk now. I buried my face in my transparent hands, shaking my head. This was a nightmare! Realizing that she had approached Drusilla in the wrong way, my sire crouched before her and took her hands into hers. "Drusilla," she said softly, trying to calm down. "This is important. If you know

something, please tell me. You were right, I believe you now. There is something wrong with this place. Please, dear, where is Angelus? Hmm? Sweet child, please tell me what you know. It's alright, I'm not angry." But Drusilla pushed her grandsire away and got up, walking over to the window. "There is nothing you can do," she said firmly. "She has come and taken him." Darla stared at her, blankly, then she suddenly laughed. "Oh no, Drusilla, not the ghost! Don't tell me you're talking about the ghost from this horrible story!" She turned and looked at Spike, and something suddenly seemed to dawn on her. "Now I understand! You two set this up! It's a joke, isn't it? Oh, my, how could I have been so stupid! The writing in the book, everything... Oh, that was brilliant, very convincing!" My blond sire shook her head with relief and started to laugh. Spike watched her for a while and smiled flatly. "Yeah, it's a real scream. Only that we didn't do it." Darla's laughter died abruptly. "What??" "We didn't do anything. I don't have the slightest clue where the wanker is." For a long moment my sire just stared at him. Then she looked from him to Drusilla and back again. Without another word, she grabbed a candelabrum and rushed to the door. "You two wait here. Don't move until I get back. I *mean* it." **** Helplessly I followed Darla and watched as she searched the entire west wing, but, of course I knew that it was no use. I was right behind her, and she didn't even hear my footsteps, because, well, I didn't even have feet anymore. Whatever had happened to me, I was beginning to think that Drusilla was right. It had to do something with the evil spirits that were said to reside in this castle. I cursed myself for ignoring all the warnings. But how could this have happened to me, Angelus, the Scourge of Europe! And here I was, completely helpless, with no means of finding help or even getting through to anyone. If not even Drusilla could hear me, who else could have? But still, maybe I just hadn't tried hard enough yet? I decided to leave Darla to her search and go back to the library. And away I floated on my invisible feet. And you know, right then, I didn't find it funny at all. **** Drusilla and Spike were waiting at the library, just as Darla had told them to. My blond grandchilde was just putting another log into the fire as I slid through the massive wooden door like it was nothing but air. "What do you think happened to him? Angelus, I mean," he asked Drusilla without turning around.

"It's not really the ghost, is it? There is no ghost here. Right?" She didn't answer. Her lean fingers were playing with her beautiful dark curls, and she was softly humming to herself as she gazed outside through the window. I recognized the melody. I had danced with her to that tune just the other night in a pub somewhere down in Clare. Silently I stepped to her side and whispered into her ear. "Drusilla, love, do you know that I'm here? Can you feel it?" She stopped for a moment, her eyes widening, but then continued to hum, and my heart sunk. Was it just me, or did she know more about my disappearance than she told? Did she know that I was there, but chose to ignore me? Why would she do such a thing? Why wouldn't she help me? What on earth was going on here? "It's snowing again," she said softly and smiled sweetly, looking stunningly beautiful in the mild firelight. "Oh, the soft, slow fall. Can you see how they dance?" She turned around and looked at her impossible childe. "Will you dance with me, too?" A smile lit up our youngest family member's face and he walked over to her immediately. "Of course, pet. I'll dance with you wherever and whenever you want." He took her outstretched hand and kissed it tenderly, then grabbed her and whirled around with her. She laughed out happily, her eyes sparkling brightly like those of a child standing in front of the Christmas tree. I stood watching, intrigued despite myself. For a few moments I forgot all about my miserable situation. I had never watched the two of them together on their own. The love they shared... so innocent, so deep. So pure. Trusting each other completely. It was almost painful to see. Finally they stopped, and Spike looked into my petite childe's eyes, his deep blue eyes still laughing. "Do you think he's really gone? For good? Does that mean you are..." "Shhh..." She put her finger over his mouth. "The walls have ears." "But Dru, don't you understand? It would mean that you are free! We are free! We can go wherever we want!" My fair childe smiled at him, lovingly, and slowly shook her head. "Oh, what would the butcher do... if the butcher knew?" she whispered mysteriously. Spike sighed. "But you don't have to be afraid anymore, pet. If he's really gone, I mean. It was about bloody time! I've never understood how you can let him treat you like that! I'm not gonna watch this forever, you know. He treats you like you're a doll he can take out and play with whenever he likes. I hope the bastard rots in hell. Dru, luv, you deserve so much better than that! You and I deserve better than that. Even if he isn't gone... We've got to leave, Dru. We can't stay with him." "He is everywhere," Drusilla whispered and smiled. She took Spike's hands and led him over to the window. "Let us watch the snow fall, dear. I can hear it sing to me. It's peaceful."

Her childe closed his eyes for a moment. "Oh, Dru. Forget about that bloody Goath Ay'dean thing. Let's just leave. Right now." Unexpectedly heated Drusilla shook her head. "No. He is my sire, my angel. Keep your poison, sweet serpent. I can not go." Spike's eyes narrowed grimly. "Then we'll make him. I'll make him let you go." He paused and looked at his beautiful sire, his eyes softening. "What do you want, pet? Just tell me, I'll do it. But I won't watch this any longer. I'll drive a good wooden stake right through his heart if I must." Taken aback, Dru stared at him, then she laughed softly. "Spike! Oh, wicked, wicked, Spike. Good Spike, sweet Spike. You mustn't hurt him. You must never hurt him. Promise me." Sadly she shook her head. "Do you know what they say about loneliness? It drives people mad." Spike nodded and looked deeply into her eyes. "I heard the same thing happens if you love someone but know you can never really have them." My sweet dark-haired childe pulled him into a tight embrace and their lips fused in a long, passionate kiss. **** The Goath Ay'dean. I should have said it long ago. I knew I should have said it, I should have set Drusilla free. But somehow I couldn't. But let me explain. It is an ancient custom, older than time, that the childe is bound to stay at their sire's side until the sire officially lets them go. This "Letting Go" is called the Goath Ay'dean. It is looked down upon to leave the sire without the Goath Ay'dean. Probably because it is also customary for the sire to kill the childe if they leave without their consent or knowing. While the childe may plead for the sire to let them go, this is considered to be rude and ungrateful, so usually they wait until the sire decides to let them go. The sire knows best when the childe has learned enough to go their own way, so this custom does have a justified raison d'tre. Nowadays, however, it's considered to be a little old fashioned. But it comes in quite handy if you're not prepared to let your childe go, as it was in my case. I must admit that I have always had a weak spot for Drusilla, right from the moment Darla showed her to me. I just knew that she was special, I could smell it, and see it in her eyes. She was so pure, so innocent.

But she's always had a dark side she could not control. I showed her how to control it. And how to use it. And now, god, just look at her! She is a masterpiece. Strong. Beautiful. Fearless. And still a mystery. I'm crazy about her, what's the use pretending. It was hard enough to share her with someone, even more so since that someone was Spike. But to let her go... I just couldn't bear the thought. Drusilla was mine. And mine she would be forever. "Oh, you have a greedy heart," an icy female voice suddenly whispered, close to my ear. I spun around, and in the same moment, the room started to spin wildly, and everything got black. **** Moments later I found myself in an octagonal room, and looking around, it didn't take long for me to realize where I was, although I still had no idea how I had gotten there. The walls were covered with enormous mirrors that stretched from floor to ceiling. There was nothing in this room except for mirrors, hundreds of hundreds of mirrors, and a huge chandelier with hundreds of flickering candles lighting the scenery. Good Lord! It had to be the noblewoman's room, the room from Spike's story, the one with the mirrors! So the story was true, after all! And here I was, all alone in a room that did not seem to have a door... and I was staring at my own reflection staring right back at me a thousand times. My own reflection?! I did not have a reflection! I was a vampire, for hell's sake! But it was my face! Of course I hadn't seen it for hundreds of years, but your own face is not something you forget, believe me. I hadn't changed at all. Amazed, I stared at the mirrors, turning around and around, seeing myself from all sides, for the first time in an eternity. But when I looked down at my own hands, I noticed with frustration that my situation had not changed, I was still invisible. But the mirrors! How...? If I wasn't there, how could I have a reflection? How could I have a reflection at all? "Oh, it's quite simple," a complacent voice whispered right beside me, the same voice I had heard before. "I switched it, and now you have a reflection but can not

see yourself. And your reflection belongs to me." I spun around, but there was no one there! "Where are you?" I shouted angrily. "Show yourself!" "With pleasure," the smug voice said. And with a flash of blinding light, the ghost of Finnlevan Castle appeared before me. **** Never in my life had I laid eyes on a creature of such divine, delicate beauty. Although the ghost was half-transparent, floating in front of me, I could clearly see the fine garments of crimson and gold that she wore, and the long, shining black hair that fell down her back in beautiful curls. Her eyes were of the bright, deep green of Irish meadows, and her lips as full and soft as rose petals. Her perfect skin was of a noble pallor, and there were simply no words in this world that could have described her otherworldly beauty. She was perfect. Like a fairy, or a shining star in the black night sky, and for a long moment, I could only stare at her, thrown off, overwhelmed, in total awe. But then I remembered where I was, and who she was, and my anger rose again. "What do you want form me?" I demanded grimly. She only smiled, then turned around and gestured to my reflections. "Look at yourself. You are marvelous, my friend. Priceless. The perfect addition to my collection." The ghost glided closer to one of the mirrors and touched the glass with her hand as if to touch my cheek. A shiver ran through me. I could feel her touch on my skin! Cold as ice, like the breath of death upon me. "You have the face of an angel," the ghost of Finnlevan Castle whispered. Then she turned around and her eyes sparkled evilly. "But what a devil you are." She threw her head back and laughed shrilly, a bloodcurdling sound that gave me the creeps and seemed to make the hair on the back of my neck stand. At least it looked like that in the mirrors that showed my terrified face a thousand times, cruelly mocking me, along with her. "You can't do this with me! Don't you know who I am? You can't keep me here! Let me go or you'll regret it bitterly, I swear!" I shouted at her, furiously. Angry at myself because of my own fear, and even more angry at her for doing this to me. "Who are you to steal my body? How can you *dare* do this to me! You're only just a ghost! You're just a bitter, self-absorbed old woman who could never even get herself a man!" With a terrifying roar, the ghost's beauty vanished, and a ghastly, grotesque face, ten times bigger than before, appeared as she lunged, her enormous mouth snapping at me, and red devil eyes gleaming full of hatred. She went right through me, and for once I was glad for not having a body.

The ghost turned around, now the normal size of a woman again, but instead of a shining beauty, now she was the ugliest old hag I had ever seen. She was incredibly spindly, and the grayish, wrinkly skin hung from her bones, making her look like a grotesque skeleton. Her eyes had sunk in, and almost all of her hair had fallen out and turned white. From the brown, sharp teeth in her mouth came a foul stench, and her long fingers looked like spider legs. "You're one to talk," she hissed, staring at me maliciously. "Have you ever seen your true face?" She made a gesture with her hand, and suddenly the mirrors showed my vampire face. At least I think it was my demonic face, I had never had a chance to see it before. I stared at it, with a mixture of fascination and disgust. Looking closer, I must say I quite liked it. The ghost floated around me. "Yes, look at you. This is what you are. A monster without a soul, that kills not to live but for pleasure, that delights in the suffering of others, merciless and cruel. You take what you want without asking. You are a real pest. Oh, you are perfect." With a sneer, she applauded, and suddenly turned back into her beautiful, young form again. "You don't think I will let such a brilliant catch go, now do you?" The ghost smiled cruelly. "No, you don't. Because you know that you and me are the same." **** "So that's what I am now? A reflection? That's all?" I asked with growing despair and stared at my face in the mirror, forcing my human mask back on. I turned around to look at the noblewoman. "Why? Why did you do this? What good am I to you like this?" The ghost shrugged carelessly. "Don't you know? All beauty must one day decline, but you, you will always be this young and beautiful. You will keep me company." Grimly I shook my head. "You'll curse the day you brought me here, I swear! Besides, the others will find me sooner or later. They won't leave without me." The ghost chuckled. "Oh yes, they will. Soon, they will have forgotten all about you. Haven't you heard? Your own childer wish you dead. No, no one will come to your rescue." Furiously, I lunged at her, but she only laughed as I sailed through the air and landed on the floor. I could not touch her any more than she could touch me. Rising to my feet again, I raised my fist and cursed her bitterly. "You know nothing about me and my friends! You are nothing like me! Rot in hell, you ugly old hag!" Again, she laughed her shrill, horrible laughter that echoed from the walls deafeningly, and I put my hands over my invisible ears. Which didn't help much, of

course. But not having a body isn't something you get used to from one moment to the next. Angrily I fixed her. "Why me? Why didn't you take the others as well?" "They're ordinary. I have no use for them," the ghost said with a cold smile. "Oh, cheer up, boy. Now you can always look at yourself, shouldn't that be delightful for someone as vain as you?" "Shut up, hag!" I hissed, and sunk against the wall. Closing my eyes for a moment, suddenly a desperate laughter rose from my throat, as the hopelessness of my situation began to sink in. I could see myself sliding down to the floor in the mirrors, and buried my face in my non-existing hands. After a moment, I looked up at the noblewoman again, my demonic eyes twinkling with hatred as my vampire face appeared. "How about this? Is this the face you want to see for eternity?" But the ghost merely laughed her ghastly laughter, and then she simply disappeared in front of my eyes, leaving me alone with my rage and despair. I could see angry tears burning in my eyes in the mirrors, staring right back at me a thousand times. Was that really all that I had left, my reflection? Was I to be a prisoner here for all eternity? Would no one come to my rescue, was she right? But Drusilla, Darla... they cared about me, didn't they? They would do anything to help me, if I could only let them know what had happened. Even Spike wouldn't just leave me here, would he? He liked to talk big, but when it came down to it, he didn't have the guts to really stake me. No, they would help me, the ghost was wrong. If I could only find a way to communicate with them! If I could... But wait! There had to be a way! If my reflection was all that I had left, then I would make use of it, for hell's sake! Sitting around pitying myself wouldn't get me anywhere. I was invisible, disembodied, I didn't need doors to leave a room. If my reflection could feel things in my place, maybe it could do things in my place, too. And the mirrors in this room weren't the only things in this castle that could reflected things. Why hadn't I thought of it before? It was perfect! It had to work. I would make it work. I simply had to. With a grim smile, I rose to my feet and walked through the solid wall to try and save myself. **** "No, he is still here! His horse is still there! He wouldn't leave without his horse in the middle of a blinding snowstorm!" Darla argued angrily when I entered the library unnoticed. Spike, who had been looking at her skeptically, nodded. "True. Even Angelus is not that crazy." My sire sighed deeply. "Do you believe me now? Something has happened to him!" Drusilla's childe shrugged. "Hey, that's what Dru said all along. You were the one who wouldn't believe it." Darla let out her demon's face and grabbed him. "That is not the point, Spike! We don't have the time, don't you see? Goddamnit, one could almost think you two

*want* him dead!" My dark-haired childe, who was standing by the window again, turned around and looked at her. "He is gone, grand-mre. How are you going to find what isn't there? Do you want to look for air in the air?" she said calmly. I knew it! I knew she knew what had happened to me! She must know how to bring me back, what to do! My petite sire must have thought the same thing, because she let go off Spike and walked over to Drusilla. "You know! Don't you? You know exactly what happened!" She took my childe's hands into hers and looked at her, pleadingly. "Drusilla, please! Tell me!" But the fair brunette shook her head defiantly. "I can not say. She's listening. She will come for us if I do." "She? Who is she? The ghost? The woman from the story?" Without answering, Drusilla turned back to the window. Now was my chance. My only chance maybe. I stepped behind her, and there it was. My reflection was there in the window! Thank god, it worked! "Drusilla," I whispered into my scared childe's ear. "You can save me. Look at me! I'm right here! Look at the window!" She stared at me. Did she see me? Did she look through me, at the snow outside? Desperately I waved my arms. "Drusilla! I'm here! Help me!" I stepped closer to the window and breathed on the glass, watching my reflection do the same... And it worked! I lifted my finger and wrote on the glass: "M-I-R-R-O-R" It was just a clue, but I hoped that she would see it and understand what it meant. My childe grabbed my sire's arm. "Look!" "What? - Oh my god! Angelus!" Darla stared at my reflection, then spun around, searching for me in the room. "What? What's going on?" Spike joined them and stared at my face, then at the word I had written. "rorrim? What the hell..." Darla and him exchanged a glance. "He's trying to tell us something. It's a message! M-I-R-R-O-R! It means mirror, Spike!" Dru's blond childe frowned. "Mirror? Mirror what?" He stared at my reflection, and I

gestured wildly for them to leave the room and start looking. "The mirror room," Drusilla breathed, staring at me with mild fascination. Spike raised an eyebrow. "The one from the book?" I nodded dramatically. Yes, the one from the book! Now go looking for me already, you brainless idiot! "I saw that room," Darla said. "When I went looking for him." My sire looked at me with concern. "Angelus, are you alright? What happened to you? Why can we see your reflection?" Our youngest family member rolled his eyes. "He's just a reflection, Darla, he can't talk. Now, do we want to stare at him some more or do we go and rescue him?" They both nodded. "Of course we are." "We'll find you, darling," Darla whispered. "Don't worry, we're coming." I let out a deep sigh of relief and watched as they turned around and hurried to the door. Spike glanced back at me, then he grabbed a poker from the fireplace and followed the others. Who would have thought? The boy had learnt something from me, after all. **** I should have known that there was a secret door that lead to the mirror room. Darla had found it immediately, of course. She had a feeling for such trickery. I returned to the room just a moment before my vampire family entered, and in the same second, the ghost appeared, in its most horrible, ten times bigger than life form. "Out! Out of here, rabble!" the ghastly creature screamed furiously. "I might be wrong, but aren't you supposed to be cunningly beautiful?" Spike remarked dryly. The ghost lunged and smashed him against a wall. With a loud sound, the mirror cracked. In the same moment, I began to feel my body again. I looked down at my legs, and could see that a part of them had become half visible! "Spike, the mirrors, destroy them!" I shouted, forgetting that he couldn't hear me. But my grandchilde must have had the same idea. He rose back to his feet and turned around, swinging the poker and letting it crash against the mirror with all his might. Millions of pieces of broken glass sailed through the room, and Darla and Dru ducked just in time. The ghost let out a terrifying scream. "Nooooooo!" But it was too late. My body became more visible with every mirror, every piece of glass Spike destroyed, and Darla and my childe began to kick at the walls too, doing their best in helping to rescue me. And suddenly my reflection disappeared and I was free. ****

How we managed to escape, I'll never know. For when we fled from the completely destroyed mirror room, the ghost rushed after us, hurling every piece of furniture at us that lay on the path. The corridors seemed to stretch for miles, but we found our way back to the entrance hall, opened the heavy wooden front door, and threw it shut behind us just in time before the evil creature had reached us. Leaning against the door, I let out a deep sigh of relief. And then I started to laugh. The others turned their heads and looked at me like I had lost my mind, but after a second they suddenly joined in. I grabbed the three of them and pulled them close to me, kissing and hugging them wildly. And there we stood outside a haunted castle on Christmas Eve in the middle of a snowstorm, and laughed so hard that tears rolled down our cheeks. Walking to the stables to get our horses a few minutes later, I took Drusilla's hand and held her back. She looked at me with her warm, dark eyes that reflected the snowflakes falling down around us. Lovingly I took her face in my hands. My childe. My creation. My little girl with the wise eyes. I knew I would miss her terribly. Gently I kissed her forehead. "Drusilla, you are free to go wherever you want to go. I give you permission to leave my side." **** "I want to go to Romania, where the wolves play," Drusilla said with a wicked smile, and in high spirits took Spike's hand in hers as they led their horses out of the stable. I looked at my pretty childe and smiled with the pride of a father. "Romania. Lovely. It's a wild country, full of mystery. We haven't been there for some time." I paused and glanced at Spike. "We could all meet there next year. What do you say?" My grandchilde shrugged nonchalantly. "Sure, why not." He lifted Dru's hand and kissed it before he helped her onto her horse, winking at her. "Let's go and play with wolves, pet." She threw her head back and laughed. "Oh yes, we will!" Smiling, Spike turned around and looked at me, stretching out his hand. "See you next year then, mate." I took his hand and pressed it so firmly he let out a gasp as I pulled him closer and stared into his eyes.

"Take good care of her, boy. Or I'll rip out your entrails and eat them, I swear." He grinned. "Oh, I'll take good care of her. Better than you have, you bastard." With a half-smile I watched him mount his horse. They waved at Darla and me, then they rode off, and a few moments later they had disappeared in the storm. She was gone. Drusilla was gone. After thirty-seven wild, wonderful years she had finally left my side. And it was alright. Unnoticed, my sire had stepped to my side. Now she took hold of my arm and looked into my eyes. "Do you want to leave my side, too?" I smiled warmly as I looked at her. "Never. We'll always be together." Darla smiled back at me. "That's good. Because I can not imagine ever letting you go." She twinkled her eye at me. Laughing, I pulled her close and kissed her. Moments later we had gotten on our horses and galloped away, leaving Finnlevan Castle far behind us. Maybe it hadn't been the wrong place for our little Christmas party after all. Maybe it had been just the right place. But as far as I was concerned, I was planning to spend my next Christmas Eve feasting on beautiful virgins rather than being trapped in mirrors by ugly old hags, thank you very much. Had I known what was awaiting me in Romania in the year to come, maybe I wouldn't have been so confident when I rode away. But in that moment, with the dawn of Christmas Day approaching somewhere behind the thick snow clouds, the future looked bright for me and Darla. And since this makes such a lovely ending to our story, let's just make believe it stayed that way. -fin-