The group of young people were lined up in the village square like a cross between a military review and a cattle market. They were boys and girls all of what appeared to be early teen years, each of them dressed in the simple clothing common to peasantry of many places.
Examining them with interest was a very large, roughly-visaged man with long, straw-coloured hair. He was clad in a sort of livery, blood-red in colour. His arms were bare, showing off his bulging, thickly-muscled physique.
The man walked past several of the youngsters, including a pretty girl and a couple of thin but quite handsome boys. He finally stopped in front of another boy, this one a bit on the portly side.
“Yes,” said the man, “you could do. Can you speak, lad?”
“Yes, Lord Knock,” answered the boy. “I can speak.”
“What is your name, then?” enquired the one called Lord Knock.
“Hutter,” replied the boy.
“Tell me then, Hutter,” continued Knock, “have you had any sicknesses? Has any illness assailed you of late?”
“No, milord,” answered Hutter.
“Are you strong of body? No weaknesses to speak of?”
“None. I work hard in my father’s fields and have never missed a day at the plough.”
“And how do you feel concerning our liege, the Prince Orlock?” asked Lord Knock.
“I am loyal to his highness,” said the boy. “I would serve him in all things.”
“Would you be willing to give your life for him? Your blood and soul, all that you are?”
“Yes, milord. I only live to serve our mighty prince, as do all citizens of Murnau. "
“Then you will have your chance to prove such boasts of loyalty,” announced Knock. “You are hereby chosen to be brought as tribute to Prince Orlock -- this being the supreme duty and purpose of our people.”
“I am honoured, milord,” said Hutter. “I am honoured beyond measure.”
With this, and no further ceremony, Knock took the boy’s arm and led him from the village as the other young folks looked on in envious wonder. …
My name is RUMANOS -- DOCTOR DANIEL RUMANOS, Extraterrestrial Espionage Agent and Intergalactic Man of Mystery. Even though I have the physical appearance of an human being, I am in fact several thousands of years old and do carry within my blood the vastly superior genes of the legendary Watchers of the Daemon-Star ALGOL -- the most intellectually-advanced race in all of the known galaxies, whose technology is so sophisticated it often appears to be “magic” and “miraculous” to lesser beings.
Whilst most Algolites live in elitist seclusion from the rest of the Universe, I am an Operative for a secret organisation known as the KOSMIKOS or Cosmic Intervention Department, tasked with maintaining peace and order throughout the farthest reaches of Space and Time. “Plausible deniability”, and all that.
Currently assigned to Planet Earth, I protect its people from the hideous manipulations of the arch-villain known as Master Don Wingus and his occult terrorist organisation, Spectral Paranormal; as well as alien invasions, mad scientists, and indeed all manner of menace. I am the living icon of Algol upon this world. I am the sword of justice from the planet Daemonia. I am the stellar swashbuckler.
I am -- THE DAEMON-STAR!!! …
Near the edge of the dark forest, an odd gasping and moaning sound was heard as an object materialised into view that looked like an old Roman-style column. A porthole type of opening soon appeared in the object and two individuals stepped out.
One of them was a beautiful young girl with luxurious chestnut-coloured hair, sun-kissed skin, luscious pink lips, and lovely violet eyes. She was dressed in a short and rather tight electric-blue dress that served to highlight the soft curves of her slender, wonderfully-pubescent figure.
The other was a man clad in finery -- including a frilled poet shirt, purple velvet suit, and a flowing opera cape.
In sooth, the man was me, Dr. Daniel Rumanos; the girl my companion, Miss Millie Drake. The “column” was, in reality, our Space/Time travel vehicle, the DiTraS (pronounced “DYE-tress” and standing for “Dimensional Transport Sphere”).
“So where are we, Daniel?” enquired the girl.
“We cannot be certain, Millie,” I said. “It appears that our ship, for some reason, slipped through a passageway into another universe, outside of the usual Space/Time Continuum.”
“Oh, we were taught about those at the Academy,” said Millie, who had only recently learned of her own Algolitish heritage and had been spending some time on our home planet, learning of our history and science. “They are called ‘P-Space’ or ‘Pocket Space’, small universes of reality separated from the usual universe by openings rarely traversed even by the Watchers.”
“Yes, indeed,” I approved. “Very good, Mills. You have been learning your lessons well.”
“Awww, thank you,” blushed the lass. “So, this planet. It seems a lot like Earth.”
I took the transonic turnscrew (an highly-advanced technological device resembling a writing pen) from the pocket of my jacket and used it to scan the area.
“Indeed it does,” I agreed. “The transonic verifies the readings we took from the DiTraS control room. Breathable atmosphere, normal gravity, and the air is particularly clean. If this world has a civilisation it is still at the pre-industrial stage.”
“It seems kind of dark,” said Millie.
“Yes, the planet has a thick cloud layer. Its sun is likely to be obscured more often than not.”
We had by now walked to the edge of the forest and looked out over the valley before us.
“Ah, so it is inhabited!” I exclaimed. “A village!”
Indeed, amongst the surrounding farmland of the valley was a small community of thatched cottages and a central area like a town square.
‘Daniel, look there,” said the girl, pointing to-wards an high mountain beyond the village. “Is that… a castle?”
“By the Stars, I do believe it is!”
Forsooth, upon the mountain was an enormous fortress of ebony-black, with numerous castellated protuberances rising high up into the very clouds.
“It reminds me of that movie I was in back on Earth,” mused the lovely Millie Drake, who had been an Hollywood starlet before discovering the facts about her otherworldly bloodline. “The medieval one, you know?”
“It does indeed quite resemble medieval Earth,” I agreed. “Let us go on to the village and see what we can find, hmmm?”
Millie then took my hand and we strolled onward into the valley.
“I say, Mills, my love,” I went on, “did I ever tell you about that time in King Arthur’s Court? The time when I…” …
At that same moment, far above us in the gigantic castle that loomed its ominous bulk above the village, the man called Knock was leading the boy named Hutter into a lofty throne room. On the stone walls of the chamber hung numerous bat-like forms, and to the side was a stand on which stood a large red crystal. Upon a central raised dais was the throne itself, and upon this sat a man -- and yet not a man but a creature as of out of nightmare.
The man-creature was tall and deathly thin, his skin the pallor of corpse-flesh, and was dressed in pitch black from neck to toe. His head was hairless, with a lipless mouth, a long, hooked nose, and horrid ebon eyes which seemed to pierce through all that they surveyed.
“Approach, my servant,” he said as Knock entered, with a voice of deepest sepulchral timbre. “You have brought the tribute?”
“I have, O Prince Orlock,” answered Knock with a profound bow. “It is a lad of good flesh and all the strength of youth.”
With this, the creature known as Prince Orlock stood up and descended the dais. He approached the boy and touched him with hands like unto the crooked, long-taloned claws of a bird of prey.
“Yes,” hissed Orlock. “Yes, this will do nicely. You may leave us, Knock.”
The huge servant bowed and obediently exited the throne-room.
“What is your name, young one?” enquired Prince Orlock whilst gazing deeply into the eyes of the youth.
“I am Hutter, your highness,” answered the boy.
“You have been granted the supreme honour, young Hutter,” continued Orlock as his hands explored the trembling form of the boy, “for it is you who shall now be my sustenance, the slaking of my desire.”
Prince Orlock then brushed his hideous talons against the skin of Hutter’s face, kissing him on the mouth before using his thin, pointed tongue to lick the boy’s lips, his cheeks, his neck.
“It is your young blood, Hutter,” announced Orlock, “which is my desire…”
Then, the horrid creature known as Prince Orlock opened his mouth to reveal two long, horribly-pointed fangs and the boy emitted a cry of pain and spent-up horror as those hideous teeth sunk into his throat! …
“And then King Arthur said to me, ‘Merlin,’ he said -- he was always calling me that, for some reason -- ‘Merlin, she is my sister, and…’”
I trailed off from my story as we entered the precincts of the village. Several people were staring at us whilst going about their usual business.
“Greetings, my friends,” I announced. “We are strangers here but come as friends. We would like to talk with someone about your history, your culture, your beliefs.”
As I spoke, a little girl ran off with a decisive look on her face. She returned a few moments later, whispering to an elderly, grey-haired man whom she pointed in our direction.
“Greetings, new friends,” said the man with a kind smile as he approached us. “I am Bulwer. You are welcome here to our humble village. From whence are you? We know of no other abodes upon Murnau.”
“Greetings, sir,” I returned. “I am the Doctor, and this is my friend, Miss Drake. We are from a place far away, indeed from a world beyond yours.”
“Really?” said Bulwer, a look of extreme interest in his intelligent eyes. “The old manuscripts speak of worlds beyond our own, but I never hoped to meet someone from them. Please, let us go into my home and we can discuss this more.” …
In the black castle, the hideous Prince Orlock gazed into the blood-red crystal, his black eyes well-nigh shining with the darksome powers of unholy hate. Within the crystal, he beheld three figures standing in conversation. One of them was an old man in peasant garb, but it was the other two who most held the attention of Orlock. The first was a man clad in velvet-suited finery, the other an exquisitely beautiful young girl.
“Algolites! The ancient enemies!” hissed the gruesome prince to himself. “They have come at last. After all this time, they have come. They will wish that they had not -- then they shall die!”
With this, Prince Orlock turned to face the stone wall upon which the bat-like creatures were clinging. He raised two of his clawed, gnarled fingers in an olden sign of demonic power to-wards the horrid creatures.
“Go forth!” he commanded. “Go forth, my pets! Go forth and bring that which I desire!”
The ebony bat creatures gathered together from the lofty wall into one large mass of black screeching horror, then flying forth from an high turret of the castle whilst their satanic master, the unhallowed terror known as Prince Orlock, laughed a deep laugh of absolute ungodly and unnameable iniquity. …
Back in the village, Millie and I entered one of the thatched cottages. It was small but clean and well-appointed. Bulwer served us an hot, tea-like beverage as we sat on the benches to which he had ushered us.
“These manuscripts of which you spoke, Bulwer,” I said. “Can you tell us more about them?”
“I can indeed, Doctor,” he replied. “They are kept at the village archive, but I have read them almost to complete memorisation. They tell of the origin of our world, of how our people were brought here so many lost generations ago by Prince Orlock.”
“A prince?” queried Millie. “Does his family live in the castle we saw?”
“The prince has no family,” answered Bulwer. “He is the last of his kind, and dwells alone in the castle except for his servant, Knock, a man of our people that he has raised to the status of minor nobility.”
“Wait…” I said. “Are you saying that this Prince Orlock is the same one who brought your ancestors here untold generations ago?”
“Yes, of course,” Bulwer replied. “He is immortal, and his people were only destroyed in a war with enemies also immortal, or so the manuscripts say.”
I sat in silence, dreading the import of what the old man was saying. I took the transonic turnscrew from my pocket and did a quick scan on Bulwer.
“By the Stellar Trinity!” I exclaimed upon viewing the transonic readout. “According to this, your DNA is indeed human, with your ancestry originally of Earth origin!”
“His people; Prince Orlock’s I mean;” said Millie. “what were they called?”
“They were known as the Nosferatu,” answered Bulwer as a pang of chilling horror went through me.
“‘Nosferatu’,” Millie repeated. “Daniel, aren’t those… vampires?”
“Indeed they are, love,” I affirmed, “and much more. The Nosferatu were an ancient race of creatures that were destroyed by the Watchers many centuries ago. They were horrid monstrosities -- originally from one of the darkest regions of Galactic Cluster 666 -- which had drained entire planets of their populations’ blood!”
“We haven’t learned of that at the Academy.”
“You will not. The war against them was such a secret operation that only the Universal Overseer and a few top Kosmikos agents knew of it. The Nosferatu could only be destroyed by exposing them to the energies found in the light of certain stars. Special weapons were devised that stored this light to utilise against them. Only one of the creatures escaped. He has never been found… until now.”
“Oh my God,” shuddered the girl. “Do you mean this Prince Orlock is… ?”
“The same,” I said. “Orlock is the last of the Nosferatu, and he has the people of this planet, Murnau, under his thrall!”
“You mean he escaped into P-Space all that time ago?”
“Indeed. That is why even the Watchers of Algol could not find him. There are even rumours of Nosferatu having abducted people to raise as feeding stock, which explains how these humans got here, and why their culture somewhat resembles that of Europe in the Middle Ages. Of course! The Kosmikos must have only recently discovered the vampire’s location. That is why we were sent through the corridor into this universe.”
“He demands a tribute,” said Bulwer. “One of our young people is taken to his castle every month or so. They are never seen again.”
“Yes,” I said in disgust. “He will have drained them of their blood in order to continue his evil existence. He will then have his servant dispose of their lifeless body.”
“I know that our people would like to be free of him, Doctor,” Bulwer assured me, “But they fear him too much. They will not…”
The old man was interrupted by a scream. It was Millie Drake. She had seen what was approaching just before it crashed through the one window of the hut.
It was an hoard of bat-like creatures, an hideous mass of black screeching terror. Before I could even react, they surrounded Millie Drake and lifted her helpless form upwards before quickly exiting the now-smashed window.
“Millie!!” I exclaimed as I ran to the window.
I could see that the girl had fainted in horror as the bats continued to carry her aloft, far and fast upwards, above the mountain to-wards the monstrous black castle of the Nosferatu!
Do you see the horror, the unspeakable terror of this, dear readers? My friend and companion, the beautiful Miss Millie Drake, had been kidnapped; taken by the hideous bat-things and carried away to-wards a final destination I knew to be that very abode of the ancient enemy of our kind!
I was in shock. It was a feeling of dread like nothing I had before endured during my exceedingly-long and storied career. It was Bulwer who, thankfully, broke my dark reverie.
“Doctor,” he said. “Those were pets of Prince Orlock. He has a power of controlling certain wild animals, and occasionally uses them as tools of terror, to assure the obedience of the people.”
“I must go,” I said, rallying. “I must go and save Millie from the grasp of that terror.”
“I wish that I could help, Doctor,” said Bulwer. “The people will be too frightened to even consider it, but I will go with you and help if I can.”
I looked at him. He was brave and intelligent, but an old man. He could do far more good by staying behind.
“Stay with your people, Bulwer,” I said. “Teach them. Tell them the truth of what is happening. Show them that fear must be overcome, and that the light of knowledge shines above all.”
“Doctor, do you have a way?” he enquired. “Can you defeat the last of the Nosferatu?”
“I shall, my friend,” I said. “I shall vanquish that ungodly fiend -- even if I have to die in order to do so!”
Without further word, I then exited the cottage and walked from the village, hurrying as quickly as I could across the farmland and up the mountain to the black castle. …
Halfway up the mountain, Knock had just buried the body of the boy, Hutter. He patted down the dirt of the grave before securing his shovel in a near by hut.
Following this, the giant servant had walked several metres up the mount when the instinct of a country man told him that someone was approaching from behind him. He turned and saw me at the same time that I detected his presence.
“Halt, stranger,” said Knock. “I am Lord Knock. Who be you to violate the realm of his royal highness, the domain of our liege, the Prince Orlock? Who be you to so dare the wrath of Nosferatu?”
“Stand aside, slave of evil,” I replied. “The tyranny of your wicked prince must be stopped!”
It was then that the hulking Knock reached out his huge hands for me, his obvious intention being to simply crush the life from my body. Nevertheless, the very second before he made contact, I touched one of his wrists with my fingertips and twisted it sharply, causing the giant to bellow in pain.
‘Daemonian jujitsu,” I explained. “It can be used to disable a man permanently, if I so choose.”
But then Knock lost his footing. We were on a slope near a prominence, and my grip upon him had made his feet unsure. As he stumbled, I had to let go of my grasp to keep myself from falling with him.
Knock recovered far more quickly than I had expected, and soon I took a blow from his gigantic fist right in my face. I careened backwards, nearly falling from the rocky prominence. Stopping myself just in time, I came back at my foe with a kick to his midsection, following this with a lightning-fast series of strikes to his head and shoulder area. The hulking servant of evil known as Knock then stumbled and staggered, before eventually falling to his death from the edge of the prominence. I heard his long, final shout of terror as he plunged down the side of the mountain.
“Knock it off,” said I, as I continued my way up the mountain, to-wards the black castle of the vampire. …
In that very castle of the Nosferatu, Millie Drake stood in the darkling throne room before the horrid figure of Prince Orlock. She stood transfixed, staring blankly before her as the vampire’s black eyes cast their hypnotic gaze into hers.
“You are mine now, little one,” said Orlock. “At last the Nosferatu will be avenged -- avenged in a way beyond all that for which that my ancestors’ deaths could cry out. For now I, Prince Orlock, shall use you, a Daughter of Daemonia, as my sustenance. I, the last of the Nosferatu, shall feast upon the blood of an Algolite!”
And with this, the evil one bared his two sharp horrible fangs and advanced to-wards the defenceless girl’s tender throat!
I grasped the Nosferatu’s shoulder with my hand when his grotesquely-pointed teeth were mere millimetres from Millie’s skin. He was incredibly strong, and to touch him was like holding unto something cold beyond cold, but I managed to whirl him around to face me. Millie continued standing, motionless under the hypnotism of the evil one.
“You cannot stand against me, Watcher of Algol,” snarled the vampire. “I am Orlock of the Nosferatu and Most Sovereign Prince of the Planet Murnau. I shall now have revenge for the slaughter of my kind in the ancient war! I call now my pets to my side!”
Immediately, as Orlock raised his claw-like hands in the satanic sign, the huge hoard of black bat creatures swarmed around him, and then they started to stream to-wards me like a raging torrent of obscene ebony blackness!
Do you see the absolute terror, the undeniably dreadful horror of this, my friends? There in that black castle, upon a lofty mountain of the mysterious planet known as Murnau, I stood alone against the supreme ungodly evil of the Nosferatu, the vampire, the bloodsucking fiend known as Prince Orlock! His horrible swarm of bats were streaming to-wards me in an attempt to overwhelm me with extreme horror. None the less, through it all I thought and realised that I was not truly alone. I was there to protect the people of that planet, to save them from the hideous rule of the life-drinking monster. Most of all, I knew I had to keep safe the beautiful young lady known as Millie Drake -- my love, my dearest, my sweet little Mills. I thought of her and, through the depth of demoniacal horror that I was experiencing, I found the strength to do what I knew had to be done.
I straightway took the transonic turnscrew from my pocket and aimed it through the mass of bats, pointing it directly at the horrid figure of the Nosferatu. I activated a certain setting of the device, sending forth a light -- forsooth, a bright, golden light as of that of a star.
The bats immediately dispersed, and nothing now stood before me and the evil one known as Prince Orlock. The golden light continued to shine from my transonic device, and the vampire hissed in iniquitous dismay when he realised what it was.
‘The transonic is programmed with artificial starlight,” I said. “Just as that utilised in the weapons of the old war, but smaller. It is mostly only used for radiating plant life, to speed up their growth for certain experiments, but it is still efficient as a weapon against your kind. Your evil is vanquished, Prince Orlock. The horror of the vampires is long past.”
It was then that Orlock -- that blood-drinking fiend, terror of the planet Murnau, last of the Nosferatu -- let out a final shriek of pain before his entire body crumbled away into dust. Within moments of being fully exposed to the solar light, the ancient monster was no more.
The bats had now left the area. No longer under the control of Orlock, they were now simply animals, things of nature. Similarly, the red crystal, which his alien powers had used for divination, was now only an empty stone.
I ran over to Millie Drake. Now free of the vampire’s mesmeric influence, the lovely lass fell weeping into my arms.
“It is all right, Millie,” I assured her. “I am here, and you are safe.”
“Oh, Daniel!” cried the girl as she trembled in my embrace. “I couldn’t move… I couldn’t stop him… Oh my God, I’m so glad you’re here!”
“All is well now, my dear. All is well. After informing our friend Bulwer of what has happened, we can return to the DiTraS, and the Kosmikos shall then guide us back to our own universe. The race of the Nosferatu is now extinct, and the people of Planet Murnau are now and always free from the blood-tyranny of Prince Orlock!!”
***** DANIEL RUMANOS SHALL RETURN IN “FOREVER MAY NOT BE LONG ENOUGH”