It had been quite some time since she set foot on her ancestral estate.
“Countess, we’re here. Welcome back. To Mundilfari Keep.”
Vi opened her red eyes, remembering that she was in her carriage. She’d opted for a week-long journey up to the Jotunheimen Mountains, the traditional route she’d always taken when she was still a human being and heiress to her clan, which she’d wiped out herself. In times of old, Mundilfari nobles would descend from their lofty castle, symbolically condescending to hold court with their monarch in the unwashed main town of Arendelle. Vi had seen it fitting, in an attempt to break with her family’s poisonous past and ideology, to move out of the Keep and into the Grand House overlooking the hillside in Arendelle, near the buildings of the Great Assembly, the parliament that served Anna.
The prime minister looked around her sumptuous interior, before calling out to her carriageman, “The courtyard will do, Andreas. thanks.”
“Certainly, ma’am.” Vi could hear the horses’ hooves clopping to a stop, and she opened the door, lightly levitating from her carriage before lightly descending on to the ground. She looked around the decrepit plaza, a flood of memories surging back in this spacious place, where she used to receive guests… guests like Anna. A long time ago, they’d met here for the very first time, when Vi still believed in her family’s mission to control the royals. Anna had resisted. The two women quickly became rivals, and for a while, their political contests nearly defined Arendelle’s future direction: would it be one steered by Anna’s vision, or one by the Mundilfari creed?
That was so long ago, before Russia invaded Arendelle in the greatest test of Anna’s life, and Vi journeyed to England and, through a series of dark twists with a demonic man called Thomas Hunt, became the kingdom’s first vampiress.
Vi chuckled to herself. “It feels like an age away. Now, I couldn’t imagine not being with her. Working with her. Supporting her.”
“Countess,” said Andreas, “should I wait for you here?”
“No,” said Vi, shaking her head. “Return to Arendelle and report back to Hilde. I’ve already ordered the evacuation of this whole castle, from my groundskeeper and my gardeners to the cooks and the remaining few maids that keep this place from falling into complete disrepair. But now, its time has finally come. This old home where I used to play my grand piano and enjoy the mountain breeze, Mundilfari Keep, is no more.”
“What… what do you mean, my lady? Surely we all serve you with devotion. We must stay with you!”
Her vampiric eyes gleamed. “I mean, Andreas, it’s not safe here. Now shoo, before I bare my fangs at you.”
She left the courtyard, entering into one of the corridors that led to the many halls of the castle. Even as her high heels clacked on the ancient stone floor or pressed against the mouldy old carpeting that had pressed on said stone for centuries, she could feel an oppressive weight weighing on her shoulders, its powerful aura suffusing the very walls of her old dwelling.
She took her time strolling about, trying to get a feel of the presence that seemed to be watching her from every angle. Her mind raced as she wandered into the dining hall, staring at the long table where she used to dine with Anna and her friends, now bare and empty. She reminisced about playing chess with her queen in the drawing room, its fireplace dead and cold. She went out to one of the balconies, breathing in the cold mountain air and gazing at the forest below. This was the balcony where Hilde had given Anna a friendly spar, and the forest below was where her werewolf general and Elsa once had a mighty duel – one that Vi and Anna had to stop.
She smiled to herself. “That night was a close call.”
She sighed. Despite the memories of a bitter and lonely childhood, as well as a vicious family past in which she’d been complicit, the Keep held good memories too, many of which had accumulated while Elsa and Anna were around. Now, all of that was coming to an end.
She’d sensed it, weeks ago, all the way from her Grand House. Not even Hilde, with her heightened werewolf senses, nor Elsa, could feel the incredibly suffocating presence that had infiltrated Mundilfari Keep. Of course they couldn’t. Anna had stirred the Moonborn from their hiding, and one had evidently set up shop in the Keep, allowing only its master to detect its presence. This was no mere ghost or haunting. Such was the power of the Moonborn, to be able to make themselves invisible to all the senses. It was how they’d lain low for so long.
Vi whispered a sentimental goodbye to her home as she finally felt herself ready to call out the intruder. “I know you’re there, watching me. Get out of my walls.”
“You should be thanking me,” came the echoing voice, as from the aether stepped an elegant leather shoe. The man moving into sight was dressed in a three-piece white suit, immaculate and elegant, his green eyes glinting imperiously. He had short, blond hair that was shaved at the edges, and he wore circular-framed glasses that lent him a scholarly look. Yet his aura bore down on Vi like a ton of bricks, malevolent and hostile. “I came to this home of yours and did a little… pest cleaning.”
“The demon that dwells here, Mephistopheles. He knew what I was, and who I’d come for – you. He didn’t want to relinquish you. You were his slave, after all.” He tittered delicately, adjusting his owlish spectacles. “So I, Majestic Maximillian, killed him. He’s gone, dead, kaput. Yes, just like that.”
Vi felt a dreadful sinking in her gut. “The demon that has held me hostage all my life… is defeated?” she confirmed in disbelief. It was too much to take in. Either this freak was lying, or… She regained herself, crimson irises glinting. “Your name is stupid, by the way.”
“Mock me all you want, but to strangle an ancient demon with minimal effort is cakewalk for a Moonborn. Who do you think we are? We’re beings of galactic power. You and your crowd truly don’t know what you’re messing with. What you’ve awakened,” snarled Majestic Max.
“Of course, that doesn’t mean you’re free, far from it.” The interloper suddenly waved his arms, and from thin air crackled four whip-shaped beams of light. “You’re now going to serve me. For Chang’e.” The whips suddenly launched themselves at her, and Vi dived forward, rolling along the floor and sprinting at the man with her fangs bared, roaring. But Majestic Max clicked his fingers, and the whips turned around, striking Vi in the back with the heat of the very Sun. Vi screamed as she felt the white-hot flame opening her pale skin like a hot knife carving through butter. She staggered briefly, mind blank for a few critical moments. She dashed away as the Moonborn’s serpentine weapons continued their relentless assault, snaking their way to the Countess. Her physical form exploded into a warm of bats as she fluttered away, soaring up high to the ceiling before descending onto Majestic Max. At the last moment, she reformed into her humanoid appearance, smashing into him and sending their snarling bodies tumbling along the ground. “Oof!” cried out her adversary, as he scrambled up. He dusted his lapel off and adjusted his glasses. “How inelegant and brutish of you. But you managed to land a scrape on me. That’s impressive.”
Vi howled out a bestial, vampiric roar and slashed at his face with her hand, sharp and indestructible nails aiming for his eyes. Usually, her preternaturally swift attack would have torn a human being to shreds, and even Hilde and Elsa would struggle to parry her. But to her shock, Majestic Max caught her wrist inches from his face, his green eyes staring into hers. She pivoted as fast as she could with a kick aimed at his knee, which would have cleanly sliced through a mortal’s leg. But not his. Instead, he grabbed her in mid-motion with his other hand and twisted, sending her body flying in a gravitational counterattack that sent her crashing to the ground. Just as she scrambled up desperately, he whipped out from his coat pocket an ornate, circular medallion engraved with a crescent moon. Before Vi could react, the whips encircled themselves around her extremities and burned into her skin and flesh. The pain was excruciating, and a screaming Vi collapsed to the floor, before she felt her body being hurled back up to a levitating position, her terrified gaze meeting Majestic Max’s. He raised his medallion, and the Countess felt her arms being forced up and her legs pulled down like a prisoner on a medieval rack.
“The… sign… of a Moon?” whispered Vi, groaning. She was immobilized.
“This is a Lunar Seal,” said the invader triumphantly, “insignia of us Moonborn, children of Chang’e. But it’s so much more. It’s the source of our individual powers, and allows us to channel the immortality bestowed upon us by Mother to manifest whatever power we desire.” The man cackled gleefully. “And it just so happens, mine is holy fire, a solar flare… perfect for undead monstrosities like you. And therefore I choose to seal away your power with energy from the Sun. Not even the First Vampire can take sunlight point-blank in her face. The more you struggle, the more it shall hurt.”
He walked up to the struggling vampire and struck her in the stomach, his fist tearing a fearsome bruise across her abdomen. Vi doubled over, coughing blood.
“Yah! I’m glad that hurt. Now, Countess Mundilfari,” snarled the Moonborn, “if you know what’s good for your precious Hilde and Tess, you’re going to get me close to your beloved queen, Anna.” His eyes glinted with glee at Vi’s helpless glare. “Repeat after me, girl: Majestic Maximillian is the scion of Noble House Heinrich and he comes bearing gifts to the queen. Well, that’s the identity I’m assuming, and that’s how you’re going to introduce me to the Arendellian court.”
He raised his Lunar Seal, snarling, “One last time – don’t try anything funny. I serve Mother Chang’e and the great mission of keeping the elixir of life safe. Your queen has made it her mission to take the fragments from us. And now, I’m going to infiltrate her government and kill her.”
Vi screamed, despite the agony of the rings of light cutting into her wrists and ankles, “You don’t stand a chance against Elsa. If I can’t rip you to shreds, she will.”
Majestic Maximillian smiled.
“Well, she can try. But thanks to you, filthy vampiress, she and Anna will never see me coming.”
A MOONBORN MAKES HIS MOVE…