Author's Note: Mara and Johnny head into a face-off with Vlad the Third, Son of the Dragon. Act VII Scene I

(The foot of Vlad’s tower. He strides out, admiring the impaled bodies and severed heads. He runs his fingers lovingly over the flesh of an impaled corpse. The raiding party of vampires mill around the tour bus, some nursing their wounds. One or two others torture villagers, playing with the pleading men and women before they drink their fill. Vlad carries himself with the hauteur of a despot, glancing over at the American vampires with disdain.)

Vlad: You! Morgan!

Morgan: Yes voivode?

Vlad: That. Move!

(Vlad gestures dismissively at the bus.)

Morgan: (bowing) Yes, voivode. (he turns to the workers) Peters! Get the bus out of here. Park it back up by the hotel.

Vlad: Hide.

Morgan: You want me out of sight, voivode?

Vlad: All. Hide.

(Vlad gestures toward some houses that are still standing a little distance away from the tower.)

Morgan: You heard the man! Get the prisoners under cover – that building over there hasn’t been gutted with fire. Post some people to watch them, then all the rest of you get under cover.

(Vlad taps a finger near his eye, then points again to the houses.)

Vlad: Watch. I call.

Morgan: You want us to stand guard from the shadows? Is that it, voivode? Hang out where your girl can’t see us, then jump her when you give the sign?

(Vlad listens to Morgan’s words, a slightly perturbed look on his face.)

Morgan: Shit. I feel like I’m talking to Lassie.

Vlad: Go. Now

(Morgan jumps as Vlad glares. The archaeologist starts barking orders to the motley collection of vampires. A number of them now seem to be villagers. These stare blankly and must be ushered to their posts. Vlad watches the chaos, disdain stamped upon his features. Eventually Morgan and the remaining members of his team scurry into the houses. Peters comes jogging back from up the street. He stops and looks around for the last few survivors of his group. He glances sheepishly over to Vlad, who merely stabs his finger toward the houses. Peters gets the hint and joins the others. Vlad stands front and center of the tower, moving his head as if scenting the wind. His hair blows around him and a wolfish smile curls his lips.)

Vlad: (eyes unfocused, speaking to the wind) I can feel you getting closer. I do not have long to wait.

Act VII Scene II

(Mara and Johnny in the van, driving. They crest a hill and can see the town. A sick red light illumines the sky and black gouts of smoke curl into the darkness.)

Johnny: Shit. Everything’s burning.

(They lurch forward, descending to the village proper. The headlights catch an occasional image that speaks of the past two days’ worth of destruction: the burned-out hulk of a car; a crumpled body in the street; a section of houses that lie in smoldering ruins. Here and there a streetlamp actually works, providing an unexpected source of light.)

Johnny: They’ve been busy. Where to now, Mara?

(Mara has her eyes closed, listening.  She raises a hand and begins to point in front of them, but adjusts and points off to the left.)

Mara: That way. Forward and to the left.

Johnny: OK. You’re the psychic.

(He turns the wheel down the next available street. Wrecks of burning cars and other debris clog this street, so he has to re-adjust, heading off in a different direction.)

Johnny: So what’s really going on here, Mara?

Mara: What do you mean? Turn down here if you can.

Johnny: Maybe you haven’t noticed, but the past couple of days have been monumentally weird. You know, vampires chasing ancient books and all.

Mara: It’s been intense.

Johnny: Well, Mara, it’s just that you’ve added several levels of weirdness to things all by yourself.

Mara: There’s the hotel. Bear to the south and keep going.

Johnny: I’ll tell you, Mara. I play dumb a lot. But that doesn’t mean I don’t notice things. I may not know how it all goes together, but I understand enough to know that you play some part in all of this.

Mara: This is not the time to have this discussion.

Johnny: (pounding the steering wheel in frustration) And why not? We’re about to head straight into a trap laid by the main vampire himself, whoever the bloody hell he is, and it’s just the two of us. We’ve got a couple of guns and bloody little else, and we have no idea what kind of arsenal he has at his disposal. So before I commit suicide in the name of saving Livia, I’d like to make sense of it all. It would give my death some meaning, y’know?

Mara: There are just some things you’re not going to understand.

Johnny: You’d be surprised what I understand. I know that you and Livia act like lovers but you really aren’t. I know that you are stronger and faster than you’ve ever let on. And I know that you understand a hell of a lot more about this vampire shit than you’ve told any of us.

(Mara peers at Johnny.)

Johnny: Like I said. I just might surprise you. Oh bloody hell – would you look at that!

(The van goes around a bend and Johnny pulls up short. At the far end of the street they can just see the forest of staked bodies and severed heads that line the path leading up to the tower. With the reddish light cast by the parts of the city that are still burning, it looks like a scene from hell. Johnny and Mara just stare at this a moment.)

Johnny: I guess he wanted to make sure you wouldn’t miss him.

Mara: Is there some kind of fortification behind all of that?

Johnny: Oh yeah. It’s the Saracen Tower. Me and the band visited it the first or second day we blew into town. Just another tourist trap, really, all under construction. Hell, about the only bit not covered in scaffolding is the part that’s on the street. There was this neat statue inside though. Kind of like one of those cigar-store Indians, only done up as a Turk. Me and Wolfie, we –

Mara: Are you nervous Johnny? You’re talking too much.

Johnny: Oh. Right.

Mara: (mostly to herself) It’s too far away too see clearly. It might be part of all that. But it’s been so long. And everything around here has changed.

Johnny: What’re you going on about?

Mara: Pull the van up just a little closer, but cut the headlights.

(Her head snaps up. She stares fixedly into the night and a little of that luminescence comes into her eyes.)

Mara: He knows I’m here.

Johnny: Could you maybe not do that thing with your eyes? It’s freaking me out.

(She turns and stares directly at him. As he watches, the glow from her eyes fades.)

Mara: Better?

Johnny: Christ! And just a minute ago you were playing dumb about the weird shit!

Mara: Force of habit. Now, you’re really going to go through with this?

Johnny: Through with what? Saving Livia? Of course I am.

Mara:You really care about her.

(Johnny starts to reply in his usual smart-ass voice. Then he lowers his eyes and speaks more sincerely.)

Johnny: Yeah, I do.

(Mara looks ahead at the forest of the impaled. She chews her lip, considering, then nods to herself.)

Mara: All right Johnny, turn and face my way.

Johnny: What now, Mara?

Mara: Just come here. Sit close. I’m going to give you a gift.

Johnny: A gift?

Mara: Yes, Johnny. But it's only for tonight. When we're done here, I'm going to take it back.

Johnny: Then what kind of gift is that?

Mara: A gift I almost never share with people, Johnny. It's something very dangerous to keep.

Johnny: Well then, why would I want the bloody thing?

Mara: Because it just might keep you safe. Hold still and face me. Now, you have to accept it, Johnny. I've taken vows, so I can't force you to take it.

Johnny: Uhhh ... sure. I, um, I accept your gift.

Mara: Good. Now. Open your mouth.

Johnny: Is this going to be more weird shit?

Mara: Yes. More weird shit. Just be quiet and open your mouth. And breathe in when I tell you to. All right?

Johnny: I’m doing this for Livia …

Mara: Sshh…

(Johnny opens his mouth slightly, closing his eyes. He looks like he’s expecting this to hurt in some way. He jumps a little as Mara leans in closer, almost touching him, but he keeps himself from shying away. He peeks open one eyeball in time to see Mara focusing herself, her own eyes closed. Wisps of light feather around her face and throat, and a dense, glowing ball of light gathers in her chest, just between her breasts. She inhales deeply, and this ball of light intensifies seeming to pull more light from the rest of her body. There is just a hint of the other face beneath her own, and when she finally opens her eyes, they are alight from within. Still holding the breath she has taken, she leans into Johnny and gently breathes out over his mouth. The light is conveyed to him through her breath. Wisps of it are blown into him.)

Mara: Breathe, Johnny. Breathe it in.

(Johnny takes a sharp, sudden breath and Mara continues to breathe the light into him. We see wisps of it passing over his features and traveling down to his body, his limbs. He has an astonished expression on his face, and when he opens his eyes, they glow faintly like hers. He stares at Mara, who slowly draws away. A few wisps trail on the air between them. The light fades into his body, just as it fades from her. He’s still holding the deep breath he’s taken. Then he suddenly exhales, and the breath mists in front of his mouth as if it were freezing outside.)

Johnny: What the hell was that?

Mara: A little bit of me. And now it’s in you. Like I said, when we’re done, I’ll take it back.

Johnny: I feel all kinds of dizzy. And there’s like this tingling in my chest. Like the butterflies you get riding roller-coasters.

Mara: Just breathe slow and steady and it will pass. Take a few moments.

Johnny: All right. Slow and steady. Slow and steady. …

Mara: (in Johnny’s head) Are you feeling better, Johnny?

Johnny: (out loud) Yeah. Oh, fuck. You’re lips didn’t move!

Mara: (in Johnny’s head) You’ll be able to hear me now. We can coordinate easier.

Johnny: (out loud) Bloody hell, woman, if you can do that, why don’t you just think hard in Livia’s direction to find out where she is?

Mara: (still in Johnny’s head) It doesn’t work like that. You can hear me because of what we just did. But that little splinter of me? It will gradually take you over until you’re just an extension. You’ll look like Johnny, you’ll act like Johnny, and you’ll even think like Johnny to a point, but after a couple of weeks, you’ll be completely broken to my will. All I’ll have to do is think something and you’ll do it without question. Do you think I’d do something like that to Livia?

Johnny: Oh, wow. You are so taking this bloody thing out of me when we’re done!

Mara: (out loud) That’s the plan. Now let’s get moving.

Johnny: But what are we doing?

Mara: Well, I’m going to try to negotiate with him first.

Johnny: Negotiate? With a vampire?

Mara: You’d be surprised how reasonable they can be.

Johnny: Ummm … No. I don’t want to know. So where do I come in?

Mara: I’m going to try to get him to reveal where he’s keeping Livia.

Johnny: And then?

Mara: And then this is where I ask something difficult of you, Johnny.

Johnny: I’m game.

Mara: I think I’m going to have my hands full dealing with him and any of his soldiers. So I’ll need you to get to Livia. If there’s any way humanly possible to get her out of there while I fight off the rest of them, can you do that for me?

Johnny: Truth be told, I’d be doing it for Livia. It’s not that I don’t like you, Mara, but honestly, you scare the hell out of me.

Mara: I may scare you a lot more before we’re through.

Johnny: What’s that supposed to mean?

Mara: It means that no matter what you see me do, don’t let it distract you. Just get Livia and get her out of here. Right now, she’s more vulnerable than either me or you.

Johnny: I’ll do my best, Mara. I swear I will.

Mara: All right. I’m going now.

(Mara gets out, taking the rucksack with her. She glances down the road to the tower, then turns back to Johnny.)

Mara: (in his head) Didn’t I tell you to cut the headlights?

Johnny: (out loud, despite her distance) I’m not going to be able to see anything, Mara.

Mara: Cut the lights. You’ll see just fine. Trust me.

(Johnny clearly doesn’t believe her. Mara starts to walk cautiously down the street and Johnny, with a shrug, kills the lights in the van. The street goes dark, and for a moment everything is plunged into shadow. Then, from Johnny’s perspective, the shadows begin to resolve into recognizable shapes. Everything seems illumined by a pale, silver light, as if from the glow of the moon.)

Johnny: (rubbing his eyes) Well, bugger me.

(Johnny looks around a few more moments, then grabs one of the guns.)

Johnny: I don't need to wait. Livia’s in the tower. Any idiot would know she’s in the tower. And thanks to random tourism, I know a back way in …

(Keeping to the shadows, Johnny cuts down an alleyway and starts making a wide circle to the back of the tower.)

--M. Belanger