WARNING: Extreme violence, profanity
The story so far: The Countess has been captured. The wounded and exhausted Mundilfari head now finds herself at Thomas Hunt’s mercy as she’s taken by carriage to a secret location in London. Here, Hunt’s cultists are preparing to consign Vi and the kidnapped Tess to the same fate as the other murdered women of the East End. A hideous ritual, in which they’ll be killed and their bodies merged as one, is underway.
Will Vi and Tess escape in time and defeat Hunt? Does Vi have a hope of returning to Arendelle and to Anna’s side? Or is this going to be their last Christmas?
Brunette hair matted and messy, Vi stirred, her eyelids fluttering groggily as she moaned, her wounded leg still throbbing with pain. She could hear faint, murmuring noises all around her.
Vi snarled in surprised outrage as a cultist’s rough hand clapped her across the cheek, forcing her from her stupor. She swore at the sting spreading across her face as she focused her gaze in the dimly lit hall. She quickly assessed her physical position – arms and legs spread out, tied with rough and coarse rope. She resisted the impulse to break free, stilling her frantically beating heart, and looked down. As she suspected, she was suspended vertically on some kind of large wooden board, her purple dress torn and shredded. She’d been manhandled – she’d probably resisted as they brought her off the carriage, but she didn’t remember. She’d been knocked unconscious. Her arms stretched at an angle above her, and her bare legs spread with high heels long gone, she couldn’t move, so contented herself with allowing her crimson eyes to adjust to the dimness.
She was in the chamber of a Gothic cathedral, but evidently this church hadn’t seen much recent use by your average Christian. She wasn’t even sure if this was a real sanctuary: the suffocating lack of ventilation seemed to indicate that it was more of a crypt, and the haunting red lights lining the windows along the church nave and above the altar didn’t help.
Wait a second.
Vi squinted at the altar, which was several yards away, as she sensed movement. She could hear muffled, terrified moans. To her growing horror, the more she listened, the more she recognized the voice.
“Tess,” she groaned. “Tess!” she called, louder, before screaming out, “TESS!”
The writhing, struggling figure turned at the sound of Vi’s voice, tears streaming down her face. Ropes like Vi’s bound her body, which was in a pristine white dress. Vi realized in horror that her abductors must have had forcibly changed Tess’s clothes when they broke into their townhouse in Grosvenor Square. Still, Vi almost want to shout in relief. Tess was alive. She looked shaken and frightened and unforgivably mistreated, but she was alive and there didn’t seem to be significantly hurt. “I’ll get you away from there,” her voice calm, “I swear to you, Tess, no one will lay a finger on you.”
“Call it a mark of my respect,” came Thomas Hunt’s voice, as the former Exalted member emerged from the shadows behind a pillar, “that I didn’t slay Miss Gaunt in your home, and simply fuse your body to her corpse.” He was flanked by two cultists in red hoods and cloaks, and Vi realized that there were at least a dozen of them in the cathedral. One stood beside her, watching her intently. Hunt moved to the altar, his eyes glinting behind his sharply angled black mask. Tess froze up, petrified, as he smiled down at her.
“But I have something special planned for a girl as special to you as this, Countess. I’m going to take your organs and flesh while you’re both still breathing and screaming, and merge them together into my greatest work of art. True unity between two women who couldn’t be more different.”
He smiled at Vi, who was glaring hatefully at him. “I know exactly how to keep you just barely conscious while dissecting you,” he said. “Spear her!”
At his command, the cultist beside her plunged a long lance into her midsection. Vi screamed in agony and Tess howled in protest. The cultist twisted his weapon, and Vi tried not to look down as she felt her innards starting to loosen and blood flooding through. She retched, gore trickling from her mouth, as the cultist yanked out the spear and pierced it straight between her breasts, into the middle of her torso. Her red eyes widened in anguish, her life spreading and staining her white garments. She could hear Hunt’s gloating voice in the background: “Now, prepare Tess and chop off her limbs! She’s next.”
“Hilde… help,” moaned Vi faintly, knowing full well that Hilde was nowhere close enough to hearing her plea.
This bastard’s torturing me and making Tess watch. I’m going to die. I’m going to die. I’m losing too much blood. I’m going to die here, I’ll fail Tess, and I’ll never see Anna again, thought Vi in despair, hating Hunt with every fiber of her being. She closed her eyes, unable to even swallow her spittle mixed with blood, unsure if it was worth struggling anymore.
Still struggling on the altar, in her sacrificial dress, Tess’s shriek of hopelessness and heartbreak echoed through the cathedral.
“Oh, Vi! Vi!”
“Was it worth it?”
Vi turned around, straining to hear the flapping of black wings. Was it the angel of death, the Grim Reaper, that had finally come to take her to hell?
She looked at her hands and then down at her body, startled. She was stark naked. She hugged herself indignantly. “What the… ”
She glanced around her. Complete darkness – except for a pair of glowing red, avian eyes peering at her from a short distance away. “Was it worth it?” came the voice again. “To give up your chance of being free from me and invading Northuldra? The old you wouldn’t have thought twice about moving your pawns in Arendelle’s parliament and using Hilde Von Altheim to lay waste to a mere forest.”
“Mephisto,” snarled Vi in realization, still hugging herself and shifting her leg sideways. “Have you come to mock me, even in my moment of death?”
The raven let out an amused cackle. “Your childish rebellion against me, charmed and touched as you were by Queen Anna’s promise to save you, has only resulted in ruin and pain. She couldn’t protect you from the Exalted, from the weight of your past. And even when armed with my forbidden knowledge about Hunt, here you are – tied to a wooden board like a piece of meat, gutted, and dying in full view of your new friend. Anna will never see you again. Hilde will never feel your hand on her face. Your new friends like Elsa, Michael, or Alan will never hear your sarcastic voice.”
Vi usually would have bristled at Mephisto’s taunts, but this time, she stepped closer, lowering her guard. “I have one last offer to make you, demon.” She took a deep breath. “You’re right, and I’m desperate. Tess is about to be murdered. Hunt will escape justice. And I don’t want to die. I want to live and rip Hunt apart… even if that means returning to my servitude under you.”
“Returning to my servitude?” scoffed the volcano-eyed raven. “That’s unsatisfactory. You fled to Anna’s side, and abandoned your promise to destroy Northuldra. Now, I have no one to take that source of limitless magic for me. How are you going to compensate for that betrayal?”
“By being yours forever, demon. Unconditionally,” said Vi at once, surprising even Mephisto. Refusing to cry, she surrendered to him, and at that moment, willingly gave up any chance Anna and Elsa had of helping her escape her slavery to Mephisto. But it was strange – she didn’t feel resentment, or regret, or even fear. For the first time, she was bargaining for survival and power, but not for her own sake. Is this how Anna feels all the time? she wondered to herself. To sacrifice herself willingly for others?
“I can’t destroy Northuldra for you. But I’m willing to abandon all hope of escaping your clutches. As the head of my family, I also deny my descendants, should I have any, the right to be free from you.” She bit her lip, hating herself. She would be condemned by her descendants. All for saving Northuldra and protecting Anna and Elsa.
She’d been happy in her rebellion against Mephisto, but perhaps it had been futile all along. It was a good run. She took a deep breath.
“I swear myself and all future Mundilfaris to you… forever. Unconditionally.”
The raven laughed loudly. “No! Not good enough!”
Vi raised her head to look at Mephisto in outrage, but it was too late. “Children or no, I curse you, rebellious Viola Mundilfari, as my eternal servant! Just as the divine marked Cain for his betrayal, so do I also mark you. Immortal, forever wandering the earth, bound to the night forever, nourished only by hurting those around you. This is the price you pay for a second chance at life… for protecting Northuldra and the Arendellian royal family. To be truly mine and to bind others to you by blood!”
“Wait, I didn’t – ” Vi suddenly felt an excruciating, pain flooding through her body, like someone was inside her, breaking her bones and crushing her organs. She gasped, unable to breathe, as the raven flapped its wings and flew away. She fell to her knees, coughing blood as she felt her eyesight sharpening, her senses heightening to an almost painful sensitivity, and her consciousness expanding into decades, centuries… into tragic eternity.
“Here’s to a long, long partnership, slave! Make good use of it!” echoed Mephisto’s cackle. “Arise, my undying, restless champion. Your curse is to be forever terrified of hurting those you love, always hungry for the blood of those you protect…”
Vi felt a renewed surge of life flooding through her nerves… and a new, constantly burning hunger in her vessels.
“Arendelle’s – ”
Red eyes glowing with hellish might, no longer just an accident of birth, Vi groaned in realization as she parted her lips and touched the sharp tip of her elongated canines. Her heart sank.
“First – ”
“Oh, Anna’s going to have a field day of jokes with this,” grumbled the Countess.
The crimson eyes of Arendelle’s first vampiress shot open as she felt her lethal wounds – her gutted stomach and speared chest – close up in a matter of seconds. She could hear disturbed cries from the cultists all around her as she casually broke free from the ropes binding her. She landed on the ground, noticing that her entire world was covered in red. She reached down and felt her wounds – there weren’t even any scars, and her injured leg had long been healed. The cultist attending to her rushed forward to run her through with his lance again, but the blood matriarch’s casual backhand sent his head warping around, snapping his neck instantly and sending his limp body crashing into one of the stone pillars. Cries of fear and bewilderment rose as Vi stepped forward, barefoot, purple dress torn and filthy, her sword long forgotten. She smiled, cracking her neck, as if having woken from a nap. She then stretched out her arms, cracking her fingers and knuckles.
She beamed, her toothy grin both adorable and frightening, as she noticed Tess watching her, stupefied.
“I’m going to save you, sweetie,” whispered the Countess.
Hunt, who’d been watching in fascinated horror, gesticulated wildly. “KILL HER!”
The hooded cultists rushed forward with revolvers, knives, and even swords. Vi snarled as she ran straight for them, surrendering to her thirst for blood as she thrust her hand into the chest of one cult member, spearing him with her mere hand, before digging into his ribcage and tearing his innards out. He fell, screaming, as Vi marveled at how the human body felt like wet tissue – so fragile, so easy to break.
This must be how Hilde feels all the time, she thought to herself, adrenaline rushing through her, and bloodlust overpowering her. She felt several gunshots fired into her head and heart, and Tess’s scream echoed through the cathedral again. But the bullets, as quickly as they dug into her flesh and bones, slid out and tinkled to the stone floor. She grinned as she disappeared in a flash of lightning-fast footsteps, too quick for the human eye to see. A cultist shrieked as he felt Vi thrusting her hands into him, then wrenching in opposite directions, splitting his body in two bloody halves, hot gore spattering his terrified compatriots. She licked her lips as she felt blood showering on her face.
To her simultaneous horror and pleasure, it tasted delicious.
She moaned sensually, fluttering her eyelashes as she licked at her hands, anxious to consume more. She felt herself growing stronger just by swallowing it. She tried to ignore Tess’s screams as she tore through the crowd of cultists, tearing off heads and limbs and shrugging off bullets that sunk into her flesh, only to drop out instantly. She thrust her bare foot against the hip of an attacker, cleanly breaking him in two in a mighty snap. When three of the remaining brotherhood tried to strike her from behind, she sensed their smell and raised her hand, her telepathic gaze freezing them in their tracks. They couldn’t move, and their faces were petrified.
“Good,” whispered the nigh-invincible Vi. “Feel the terror Tess felt when you dragged her here. Feel the pain and suffering that you’ve brought to so many in the East End,” she bellowed, scrunching her hand, and the cultists collapsed, their hearts crushed inwards by the simple command of her mind.
By now many of the brotherhood had begun to flee, but Vi disappeared in a flurry of squeaking, hungry bats, the colony of flying night-creatures flooding the cathedral. Hunt could barely see through the deafening tornado of bats as, one by one, Vi picked off the cultists with an angry hand through the chest or by clawing off their screaming faces. Before Hunt could himself run to the door, the thundering bats reformed into Vi’s darkly gorgeous and blood-caked form. Hunt stumbled and fell to the ground, and Vi loomed over him, red eyes glowing as she swayed sensually towards him.
Hunt felt himself wetting his pants as he stared up at his intended plaything. “You’re a creature from Satan.”
“Please. Who’s the real sick bastard here? But I suppose it’s poetic,” declared Vi smugly. She stared down at Hunt coldly. “You wanted to fuse Tess and me together, and make our corpses into your East End slaves. I might never be able to escape my damned fate, but I’ll be, well, damned myself if I don’t make the most of my new station.” She opened her mouth, revealing two gleaming, sharp fangs. She threw herself onto Hunt, her shapely legs straddling him as he screamed, his mask falling away. She lifted her hands and slowly glided them along her torso, running her tongue along her teeth.
“Oh, fuck. Oh, this feels so good,” she mewed, thinking ruefully of Anna, about Hilde, about all her friends back home. It would be so terrible if they were here, to see her like this. But this was such a guilty pleasure. She moaned in ecstasy, rubbing her pelvis against Hunt’s trembling body as her supernatural sense of smell drank in his terror. How exciting and pleasurable it felt, to strike dread into the hearts of men with the very powers of hell.
“You won’t be open to cutting a deal, would you?” he invited, his once arrogant voice a weak rasp.
Vi giggled, sighing, before staring down at him hungrily. “You can be my first meal!”
Hunt screamed as the Countess shot down and tore into his neck, her bite sinking deep into his jugular as she drank and drank and drank. She felt the mortal’s blood pumping into her as she gulped liberally, sucking away the former Exalted member’s life and storing his essence inside her. Hunt groaned weakly as he felt his skin shriveling, his flesh withering away as he visibly became thinner and thinner until he looked like a skeleton with skin. His eye sockets emptied out as Vi continued to drink, twitching in orgasmic joy, until she finally tore away, gasping and panting for breath.
She gazed down at her work of art – Thomas Hunt, leader of this band of murderous cultists that had terrorized the city and evaded the Exalted for years – was just a drained corpse, organs shriveled and skin like dried paper. His body, too thin for his black and white suit, wouldn’t even be fit for experimentation in Dr. Seymour Lane’s surgery.
“I hope you’re goddamn happy, Peony and Yixin.”
Sighing and wiping her mouth with the back of her hand, Vi staggered up, Hunt’s inglorious corpse forgotten. Her work here was done. She shakily walked towards Tess, who was no longer struggling, and was staring at Vi in shock. Vi felt surge of fear, and she stopped briefly, paralyzed.
Surely the poor girl was traumatized beyond belief. Would Tess push her away, now that she was a bloodsucking monstrosity?
Would Tess tell her how revolted she’d been to witness this whole sorry show, that Vi was responsible for her whole ordeal tonight?
Her thoughts were interrupted by Tess’s annoyed voice. “Hey! What are you doing, spacing out?” she cried, struggling at her ropes. “Get me out of here! I want to go home!”
Vi’s (truly) vampiric eyes shone in relief. She smiled and hurried to the altar. With a flurry of cuts, she released Tess from her ropes and scooped her up, embracing her tightly as Tess bawled emotionally in her arms. “It’s okay,” whispered Vi, as the first weak light of dawn pealed through the cathedral’s broken windows. To their surprise, Vi’s skin didn’t burn at the touch of light.
“You… you’re free to walk in the day?” whispered Tess, staring up at her dark savior. “Is it because you’re the First Vampire? Arendelle’s first matriarch of the night?”
“Who knows? Who cares?” Vi cupped a hand around Tess’s blushing cheek. “All I want to know is… are you frightened? Of me?” She bit her lip. “Am I too dangerous to stick around?” How bizarre. She’d always been a slightly selfish woman, damaged as she was as the Mundilfari head. But now that she was a literal damned creature, she felt more caring towards others than ever.
“Well, I’m a bit scared. For you.” Tess buried her face in Vi’s bosom, holding on like she was worried Vi would leave at any moment. She mumbled something into her chest.
“What?” prompted Vi, raising an eyebrow.
“You’re going to need a source of constant nourishment,” said Tess, more loudly. She smiled up at Vi. “It’s very painful for a fabled vampire – especially a blood matriarch like you – to be alone.”
Vi looked away. “I don’t know what I’m going to tell Anna and Elsa when I get back. Hilde’s going to freak out. And the others… my job as prime minister… ” She gritted her teeth. “I’m at Mephistopheles’ beck and call now.”
For a street girl, Tess was quite nonplussed about demons, deranged cultists, and supernatural forces. She reached up and kissed Vi’s bloody cheek, not bothered by the blood and grime on her face. “If they love you, and they do, they’ll help you work things out.”
She smiled, tilting her head slightly, and Vi stared at her exposed neck. “If the legends I’ve read are true, then you need a steady feeding stock at your disposal… if you can restrain yourself and not kill her.”
Her green eyes shone affectionately. “Take me with you. I can be your human anchor in this world and keep you safe.”
Vi gently released Tess, stepping back and trying to snap out of her blood-trance. She closed her eyes, taking a deep breath, before glancing back at Tess.
“When’s the next ship to Arendelle? We’re getting the hell out of here.”
St Katharine Docks, the River Thames
“Pride of Elsa, Anna’s flagship, couldn’t pick us up. The queen sends her apologies,” said Vi to Tess, adjusting her bonnet.
“I can’t wait to meet the sister-queens of Arendelle,” said Tess, holding a brown suitcase – most of the things inside were Vi’s. She didn’t have any possessions herself except for a few clothing items.
“There’s much work to be done when I return,” declared Vi, staring up at the blue sky and marveling at how powerful she now was, though she’d paid a heavy and eternal price. “Imperial Russia looms over us. Perhaps it was fortuitous that I became what I am now. Even Hilde will struggle against the Grand Dukes. Now I can be of some help to her.”
She licked her lips. “I wonder what Russian blood tastes like? I have my own business with the Exalted, too. I’ll deal with Katina first, and then I’m giving Peony and Yixin a piece of my mind.”
It was a beautiful and sunny morning – rare for London. She and Tess were just about to board a modest clipper, which was on a one-way journey to Arendelle. The vampiress and the human woman, dressed in had freshened up after two full days of rest on their cozy bed, laughing and talking about how they’d make a new home with Hilde in Vi’s Grand House, her prime ministerial residence. Tess had joked that if Hilde didn’t like her, she could live in Keep Mundilfari and Vi could split her time between them. Vi ended up asking her lawyer to sell her townhouse, donating the substantial sum to a new charity founded by Dr. Lane, Mr. Skinner, and Mr. Fullerton to provide the girls of the East End with education and means to leave their lives of degradation and indignity.
Just as suddenly as she’d come to London, the Countess was leaving. Her memory lived on only in the hearts of several gentlemen and women.
But she wasn’t the same person, anyway.
The plank to the ship lowered onto the dockside, waiting for them. They could hear the cries of sailors and crewmen.
The mistress of the undead stretched out her hand, smiling at a shy Tess. There was so much for the young Englishwoman to learn. “Come, my blood bank,” she joked, “it’s time for you to fight over me with Hilde and Anna.”
Tess tittered as she took Vi’s hand. Her heart, now belonging to Viola Mundilfari, beat with joy.
“I can’t wait, Countess.”
There’s the Fifth Spirit… and there’s the First Vampire.
Arendelle gains a powerful new ally of the night.
COUNTESS VI: GOTHIC
A/N: Thank you so much for sticking with Vi all the way to her standalone story’s end! She now rejoins The Arendelle Guardian’s main plotline at Anna’s side, in time for the Russo-Arendellian War.
Countess Vi: Gothic started out as an idea to showcase this website’s main OC, without shoving her in the faces of those who wanted more focus on the canon characters like Anna and Elsa. The story quickly became an excuse to indulge in a Gothic horror-crime-action romp, and also a kind of “origin story,” cementing Viola Mundilfari’s position in The AG lore as the true mistress of darkness. She’s always been the vampire character of our project, and Countess Vi: Gothic tells the tale of how she came to fulfil her destiny.
There’s a hint of tragedy since Vi has realized that she can’t break free from her demon’s bondage. But even in the darkest of situations, as a literal vampire, Vi feels the urge to do good, and is constantly reminded of her inner kindness and love by those around her, especially Anna, Hilde, and Tess.
Thanks for reading and see you for 2020 Q1’s event arc! Merry Christmas!
The AG Editor, 25 December 2020