Van Helsing

Van Helsing

by Kevin Ryan

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Deep in the mountains of nineteenth-century Carpathia lies the mysterious and mythic land of Transylvania, a world where evil is ever-present, where danger rises as the sun sets, and where monsters such as Count Dracula, the Wolf Man, and Frankenstein's Monster take form and inhabit man's deepest nightmares -- terrifying legends who outlive generations, defying repeated attacks from the doomed brave souls that challenge them in their never-ending war upon the human race.
On order of a secret society, only a lone force of good stands against them -- the legendary monster hunter Van Helsing, a man revered by some and feared by many. In his ongoing battle to rid the earth of these fiendish beings, Van Helsing must now travel to Transylvania to bring down the lethally seductive, enigmatically powerful Count Dracula, and joins forces with the fearless Anna Valerious, a woman out to rid her family of a generations-old curse by defeating the vampire. But unknown to all, the immortal Dracula will stop at nothing to unleash his master plan of subverting human civilization and ruling over a world of havoc, fear, and darkness...

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781416500131
Publisher: Pocket Books
Publication date: 05/01/2004
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 272
Sales rank: 363,501
File size: 240 KB

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Dr. Frankenstein made his final adjustment.

"Igor, check the conductors."

His assistant made a face and turned to walk up the stairs. His defining feature was his twisted back, which forced him to hunch sharply to one side, making his gait unsteady. His features were blunt and, oddly, he had no eyebrows over his small, deep-set, and perpetually red-rimmed eyes. Long, stringy red hair hung down past the man's face, only adding to his peculiar looks.

Frankenstein had had doubts about hiring Igor to assist him in the lab. It was not his appearance, though he knew most others were put off by Igor's misshapen form, and Gerald and the other servants voiced concerns about him as well. Frankenstein understood their worry, but his friend Count Dracula had felt strongly about Igor. Besides, as a scientist, he preferred to deal with the real, the tangible -- with things that could be quantified.

And as a physician, Frankenstein understood the nature and cause of the deformity and had at one time dedicated his life to healing people such as Igor. In a rush of excitement, he realized that he was about to succeed beyond his wildest dreams. Even Gerald would be impressed, and he had rarely seen his servant excited about anything.

But Gerald is gone....

Yes...all of them were gone. Gerald had stayed the longest, his loyalty to the family running the deepest. Still, they had all left one by one. That had been what? A year ago? No, closer to two.

On a certain level, Frankenstein understood why. He had changed. His Work had completely absorbed him, and had let many other things slip. Even now he could not remember the last time he had rested. Sleep was not the pleasure it once was: dark dreams always came to him. His only release was his Work, where he could be lost and forget about everything else...

...even Elizabeth.

It hurt to think of her, so much so that the count had urged him many times not to. Dracula wanted what was best for him, for his Work. The count was helping him take his place with Hippocrates, Pasteur...the giants of medicine.

Great deeds required great sacrifice -- sacrifices like Elizabeth.

No! part of his mind rebelled. I do not want to give her up....

But he had. She stayed longer than the others, but then she, too, had abandoned him. It had been inevitable; she had never liked the count and was interfering with his Work -- the Work that was almost finished.

When he had succeeded, he would win Elizabeth back. They would all come back....

Yet, part of him knew it was too late. Too much had happened. Looking around his lab, he wondered what his father would think of what he had done to the watchtower of Castle Frankenstein. Then he was jolted by the realization that this was not his ancestral home. The count had Frankenstein move his lab to the Transylvanian region of Romania, and had provided him with this castle. It was a very generous gift: Dracula was truly his friend.

It was here that Frankenstein had installed the dynamos, the generators, the powerful electromagnets, the chemical-reaction tanks. They represented the best German engineering, much of it based on Frankenstein's own designs and all of it made possible by his friend the count. As he looked around, he saw progress, the future. There were machines -- creations of man -- about to aid him in the ultimate act of creation. If he were still alive, his father would appreciate that much, even if he might not understand all the science.

There was something else here, though, something that his father would not have approved of. It wasn't the dust, grime, and cobwebs that covered much of the lab. It wasn't even in the rank smells, the leftovers of previous, failed experiments. It was the overwhelming stench of corruption.

More sacrifices for his Work, which had gone much faster than expected. The count had pushed Frankenstein to be more aggressive. The experiments on humans began almost immediately. There had been the ethical questions, of course, but Dracula had allayed all of his concerns.

And the count was his friend.

There had been some intoxicating victories. If only he could have published the results, then the fools on the Goldstadf Fellowship review board would know how wrong they had been in scorning him. They would see the genius of Frankenstein. Yes, genius. He would not deny the simple truth now, any more than he would rob himself of the triumph that he knew was within his grasp.

"The conductors are secure, Doctor," Igor called from the stairs.

Frankenstein raced across the room and checked his generators. Gauges showed that they were operating at full power. He flipped the first switch, the hum of the equipment rising in pitch. Then he activated more switches, careful to maintain the correct sequence as he turned on the electromagnets and dynamos and finally engaged the chemical-reaction tanks.

Electricity arced across contact points, and the hum increased in volume. The sound was intoxicating. It was the call of new life waiting to be born. Frankenstein spent minutes more adjusting, calibrating. The convergence of forces had to be just right. Electricity and magnetism along with chemical catalysts had to be perfectly aligned to bring about the primal energies he sought to summon.

When he was satisfied that all was in order, he moved to the structure that dominated the center of the room -- a very special pod that looked like an oversize surgical table connected to electrodes and his precious equipment. On it lay his greatest creation: the Work incarnate.

A large figure covered in bandages, sewn together by Frankenstein's own hands. Pieces from cadavers carefully selected and assembled using surgical techniques that his colleagues had yet to imagine. Yet, it was only the beginning.

Even now, life was beginning to flow into his creation. Nerves, bone, and sinew were healing on the cellular level. It was not yet alive, but it was no longer completely dead.

Frankenstein knew he had nothing to do now but wait. Looking down at its closed eyes, he whispered, "You are truly my son."

The only one I will ever know, a voice in his mind supplied.

This new truth awakened in him feelings he had never known. With Elizabeth gone, there would be no family...not with her -- and if so, then not with anyone.

"You are my legacy to the world and I shall love you like my own son," Frankenstein said. Tears ran freely down his face. He could not tell if they were for his old life or for the new one before him. In the end it didn't matter; he simply let them come.

"And I shall do right by you," he promised. In his visible form, his son was not aesthetically pleasing. He wished he had done better, more careful work in the assembly. But the count had been in such a hurry.

And the count is my...

Frankenstein found that he did not want to think of Dracula now. This moment was for father and son alone. Once he was alive, his son's form would be perfected; he would be the first to receive the benefits of Frankenstein's work.

Lightning flashed in the distance. Frankenstein counted off two seconds before the crack of thunder came. Two miles away. Closer than the last one.

"I give you life. And I shall see that life nurtured. I have failed many, but I shall not fail you. With your life, I give you the will to live it. The free will that is the right of all men," Frankenstein declared.

Another flash, another thunderclap. This one was less than a mile away. It wouldn't be long now. There were other sounds coming from outside, voices, shouting. Frankenstein knew he should be concerned but could not take his attention away from his task for an instant. After coming this far, he merely willed the lightning to approach.

All the while, his machinery worked, delivering its power to his son. He felt the connection between them growing. It was something he had not counted on -- a finding he had not anticipated. Still, he welcomed it.

More dazzling light; the thunder was very near. His equipment was crucial, but the final breath of life and the incredible energies that it would require would come from above...

...from the heavens.

Suddenly, Frankenstein knew that he was only part of a plan -- one that was not his. For an instant he had fancied himself as a master of creation. But he was not the master here. No matter. He had his son now and he would make everything right.

It came.

Frankenstein saw the lightning strike before it actually hit the conductors on the roof of the watchtower. He felt it when the force that would fulfill his vision touched the machines. They sprang to life first, gathering the incredible power of the universe into the crystal diffuser Frankenstein had placed into his son's chest. Electricity arced across the length of the laboratory, and life surged into his son. Then, as quickly as it had come, the flash of energy disappeared and his son's eyes flickered.

The scream came from a deeper place in himself than Frankenstein knew existed. "He's alive....He's alive....HE'S ALIIIIVE!!!"

The euphoria was indescribable, maybe what God Himself must have known in His greatest moment of creation. Now all of his sacrifices seemed worth it, as he had achieved something that no one else in the history of mankind had even attempted.

A loud crash brought him out of his bliss. There was the sound of splintering wood, angry voices. Running to a window, he saw a torch-carrying mob outside in the night. He recognized one of them: a tall man wearing a large top hat. Frankenstein knew why they had come, and felt a chill as he realized that their anger was righteous. If he could only talk to them, he would explain why some of his unconventional methods had been necessary.

Some were carrying a tree trunk. They surged forward, charging the castle's front gate. Another crash. Wood splintered, but the gate held, though Frankenstein knew it would not be for long.

Screaming, more fury from below. He would have no time to justify his work and its incredible value. His creation -- his son -- was in danger. They would never understand. The mob would look upon his son and see only a monster. Where was his friend, the count? Dracula should be helping him, protecting him, so why was he abandoning him now?

"Success!" a voice cried out from behind him.

Frankenstein spun around and found himself face-to-face with a dark figure. The fear in his stomach reached his throat and he screamed. Then he recognized the familiar features and felt the terror briefly subside.

"'s just you," Frankenstein said, glad to see his last remaining friend.

Dracula stepped forward into the flickering lights created by the surging electricity all around them. There was something wrong. His voice was flat, toneless, and his eyes were like ice.

"I was beginning to lose faith, Victor." Then the count looked down at the villagers. "A pity your moment of triumph is being spoiled over a little thing like grave robbery."

The mob surged forward, the villagers moving through the night as if they were a single living organism with just one purpose: revenge. They still could not comprehend why anyone -- let alone someone who called himself a doctor -- could commit such unspeakable and unholy acts as grave robbery. But whatever the motive, the desecrations had driven their entire town into a frenzied state of horror and outrage. Though not all or even most of them had been wronged, they would have vengeance just the same.

Most carried torches and all carried weapons, makeshift arms of pitchforks, shovels, and axes -- tools for tilling and tending the land that would be put to a much darker purpose this night.

They prepared for another run at the gate with their tree-trunk battering ram as the new Castle Frankenstein rose out of the moors in front of them.

Centuries old, the castle had withstood invading armies, but the villagers were certain that it would fall to them tonight. There would only be one man inside, and they would have him before the evening was through.

At the head of the organism was the village undertaker in his top hat. His eyes reflected the torch he wielded and a gleam that showed genuine pleasure at the task at hand. He urged them on with cries of encouragement. "You know what he's doing in there -- to the bodies of your loved ones!"

A roar rose up around him. The men holding the tree trunk went at it again. The weakening gate still held, as if reluctant to give up the fight.

Again, Frankenstein was struck by the lack of concern in the count's voice. Grave robbery was a serious charge. The mob would be through the castle gate soon. From there, the front door would be little trouble...then there would be no stopping them.

Frankenstein looked pleadingly at Dracula and said, "I must...I must escape from this place."

With growing panic, Frankenstein raced through his laboratory, seeing it as if for the first time. It looked more like a rank dungeon than a place of scholarly scientific research. The machinery and equipment that had once thrilled him were now frightening. The dynamos, the generators, the chemical vats, and reaction chambers were grotesque, abominations churning away as his world crumbled around him.

Something was terribly wrong here. The count was viewing him with something like contempt, only much worse -- surely not friendship. In the blink of an eye, the one certainty in his life vanished and threatened to take the rest of his mind with it.

The count's voice materialized from above: "Where are you going to run, Victor?"

Dracula was now impossibly high up in the rafters, as if he had been magically transported there. If it was magic, then it was a very dark art, indeed, Frankenstein realized.

It was too much to take in all at once, so he tried to focus. Throwing open a nearby traveling chest, Frankenstein wildly began packing. He had to get away, to get his creation away from here...away from the mob...away from Dracula. Then he would sort out what was happening.

"Your peculiar experiments have made you...unwelcome in most of the civilized world." Dracula's voice was cold with just a hint of mockery. Frankenstein looked up and saw that the count was now somehow on the other side of the room, pacing on the great mantelpiece over the fire.

It didn't make sense. It defied the laws of physics and motion as he understood them. Who was this man, really? He had lied to Frankenstein -- from the beginning. And the count had taken something important from him.

No, I gave it to him. I invited him into my home. And I have invited him into more than that.

Frankenstein forced himself to concentrate on the only thing that mattered now: his son. "I'll take him away, far away, where no one will ever find him." He continued packing, just the things he would need, but it was so hard to think with the count nearby.

Suddenly, Dracula was right next to him, stepping down on the lid of the trunk and slamming it shut. "No, Victor. The time has come for me to take command of him."

"What are you saying?" Frankenstein's voice sounded nearly hysterical to his own ears.

"Why do you think I brought you here? Gave you this castle? Equipped your lab?"

The scientist in him struggled to understand, even as he feared the harrowing implications. "You said you believed in my work...." That I would take my place among the giants....

"And I do. But now that it is, as you yourself said, 'a triumph of science over God,' it must serve my purpose."

"What purpose?" Frankenstein looked for answers in the count's icy gaze. He felt the last remnants of Dracula's hold on him disappear -- not because Frankenstein had broken free, but because the count had released him...because Frankenstein had fulfilled the man's evil purpose. He was certain now of one thing: His creation -- his son -- was to be taken from him.

As one, the villagers raced forward again, the makeshift battering ram slamming into the castle gate, unyielding metal now twisting and groaning. Cheers of excitement rose, and though they were near exhaustion, the men holding the tree trunk quickly took position for another run.

The gate was no match for their irresistible force -- seconds later they were finally through. Victorious cries rippled through the crowd as they made their way toward their quarry. The man in the top hat looked on and urged them to continue, grinning wickedly from ear to ear.

Frankenstein understood what he had allowed to enter his life, and what he might set loose on the world. Nothing that he thought or felt could be measured, quantified and reduced to experimental results. But he was sure it was all as real as the life he had created -- the very life that Dracula would use against mankind.

"Good Lord...," Frankenstein said, evoking God for the first time in longer than he could remember. He would not be part of these fiendish designs any longer. "I would kill myself before helping in such a task."

"Feel free. I don't actually need you anymore, Victor. I just need him," the count said pointing to the table. "He is the key."

Dracula stepped toward him and Frankenstein could feel the pure malice radiating from the...creature. For whatever the count was, he was certainly not a man.

Victor backed away, toward the fireplace. He set his jaw and narrowed his eyes. To his surprise, he felt defiant, even in the face of inhuman strength and dark power. He knew his body was weak: He had slept little in the last few months and could not even remember his last meal. However, he had to protect his creation and do something to put a stop to this madness.

"Before I would allow him to be used for such evil, I would destroy him."

"I can't allow that to happen. My brides would be very put out."

"Igor! Help me!" Frankenstein called out. He would fight this creature to his dying breath, but he also knew he would likely lose.

"You have been so kind to me, Doctor, so caring and thoughtful," Igor said from a safe distance. "But if they catch me, they'll hang me again." The assistant gave him a joyless smile and revealed his horribly disfigured and broken neck. No one would rescue Victor from the hellspawn Dracula, or the crowd that might even now be seconds away.

But he still had himself, and the count would have to reckon with the last of the Frankensteins. Moving quickly, Victor reached above the mantel and pulled a saber that was crossed over the family coat of arms. The weight of his family's ancient weapon felt good in his hands. He felt righteous anger, the power of his father and all of his ancestors, arming him, strengthening him, and steadying his hand.

"Stay back," he commanded.

His adversary stepped toward him. "You can't kill me, Victor...," Dracula said. Then, unbelievably, the count stepped into Frankenstein's saber, its blade piercing his chest. For a moment Victor was too shocked to move. He could only watch in horror as the count kept walking, impaling himself further and finally bringing himself to within inches of his face.

"I'm already dead," Dracula whispered.

Thought was momentarily impossible. Victor struggled to understand what had just occurred as he faced this...abomination of nature -- one who, it seemed, had long ago discovered his own means of immortality that now flew in the face of mere science.

My God, what have I done?

You knew what you were doing, the long-lost voice of reason murmured inside his head. All along, you knew this was too good to be true. Everyone tried to warn you about the count...what he was really capable of...but you ignored turned them away one by one in the name of the Work...always the Work.

My son...forgive me.

He watched as Dracula's canine teeth seemed to grow in front of him, becoming razor-sharp fangs. All color drained from the monster's once-human face. As Victor looked into those cold, dead eyes, he felt all of his defiance and hope leave him. He had been the architect of his own destruction, but he did not regret his own imminent death; he had brought it on himself.

His only regret was that his creation would now fall under the power of this monster. His son deserved better.

Dracula leaned down and Victor knew he had seconds to live. Staring into that monster's face was like looking into the face of Satan himself...or as close to the Devil as he would ever see in this world and perhaps even the next.

Victor felt a pressure on his neck as those long teeth pierced his skin, somehow reaching much farther than could be measured. The physician inside him knew that Dracula was drawing his blood, but another part of him knew that the count was taking much more than that.

Darkness loomed, enveloped him, and he knew no more.

Noise. Light. Difficult to focus. He did not know where he was and could not remember his name. But someone was nearby.


Yes, Father had spoken to him while he...slept? It was hard to remember. His thoughts were scattered and he had to focus them. Even as he tried, sleep beckoned and something even deeper called to him. He fought it.

He was strong. That was his second certainty. Father had made him strong. He forced his eyes to stay open. Soon they adjusted to the bright light. There were flashes everywhere, but he could make out shapes if he tried very hard.

He realized that he was looking at the place of Father's Work, where he was given shape and then life. He heard Father's voice, he recognized it as the voice in his dream. He wanted to see him, to touch him. To hear that voice clearly, the voice that had called him into the world.

But something was pressing down on him. He was on a table. Pod came into his mind: It was Father's word for the thing that held him now. He pushed against it. Why hadn't Father come to release him?

There were two voices. One was Father's and there was another that he did not recognize. Father sounded upset...and frightened. He could hear it in his voice, and also feel it somewhere deeper inside him.

The straps that held him would not move. He strained against them. Father needed him and he pushed harder.

Something broke and one of his bonds was off him. He snapped the others easily, then hesitated. There was danger here, and he would have to be careful. He moved slowly, which was all he could manage. His limbs were powerful, but he had to concentrate to control their movements.

He looked for Father and found him pointing a weapon at the Other Man. The stranger was approaching Father, wanting to hurt him. There was not much time and they were too far away. He watched as the Other Man leaned down and bit Father.

He felt Father's pain and knew that he would not reach them in time. He was not quick enough.

But he was strong.

He reached down and took hold of one of the machines. It was large, and very heavy, but that did not matter. He lifted it easily off the ground. With Father in danger, the weight was nothing to him.

Then he saw the Other Man drop Father to the floor and he felt a change in himself, as if that which had been connecting him to Father had suddenly been severed. A loud sound escaped from his throat, and with a single heave, he threw the machine at the Other Man.

It sailed through the air and hit him squarely, knocking him off his feet and carrying him into the fireplace. Moving as quickly as he could, he approached Father, taking his Creator into his arms.

He saw movement ahead of him. It was not the Other Man, but someone Father knew. Igor, he was called. The little man was leaving -- fleeing. He followed from a safe distance. Carrying Father, he moved down the stairs, gaining more strength and better control over his own movements, his mind growing clearer by the second.

Igor disappeared into a doorway. He pursued and found himself in a small, dark hall. Then he saw another door at the end. He went to it, pushed the door open, and found himself outside.

Igor was in his way, so he shoved hard and headed across the field. Behind him, he heard a voice shout, "Frankenstein! He's created a monster!"

He immediately realized two things: Frankenstein was Father's name, and that the "monster" was him. He heard the angry mob and knew that he and Father were still in danger. He forged on without looking back, heading for a building in the distance.

He and Father could rest there; but even as he thought it, he worried that Father might be beyond all hope. The Other Man had done something terrible to him.

A fading voice cried out, "Look! It's headed for the windmill!"

He weighed the danger of continuing. If the angry people followed him...

Father is beyond hurting now, a voice inside him said.

No. Father was a great man, and without Father he had nothing. He had to get to safety, to help the man to whom he owed everything.

He ran.

Minutes later he was at the door to the building. It was chained and secured, but with one hand he pulled the door open. He heard the people outside, then saw them with their torches. He slammed the door shut behind him. Inside, there was a machine and a smell he recognized: alcohol. There were stairs. He climbed them quickly. Father needed him.

For a moment, Dracula was too stunned to move. He felt the weight of the machine on him and he allowed the heat to burn his skin. He had been surprised; that creature had surprised him. That had not happened in decades, perhaps longer.

Dracula had assumed it would be no more than a mindless beast, even if Frankenstein had succeeded in his work. But that thing had actually cared for the blithering fool who had created it.

And Frankenstein had been a fool -- brilliant, perhaps a genius, even, but that mind had been pathetically easy to gain entrance into. The most intelligent of the living thought that they were somehow impervious to manipulation. But their very vanity and pride opened many doors to him.

In his centuries, Dracula had known many such minds. He had known stronger ones, too, but in the end they had either fallen to him or perished. He would not be thwarted for an instant by Frankenstein's creature. Of course, it would die, but not before serving Dracula's purpose and his will.

The count looked forward to destroying the creature when the time came. He pushed the machine off himself and charged out of the fireplace. Though his face was burned, it took but a minute to change that; his ability to regenerate at will was another example of how far superior he was to the living.

Another moment of concentration and Dracula summoned his winged form. He took a second to relish the power of this incarnation and the fear his appearance struck in mortals. They had a preternatural fear of bats -- one that was in this case very well founded.

As Dracula took flight, he saw his shadow falling over the laboratory walls -- soon it would cover much more. Frankenstein's creature was the key, and Dracula meant to have him.

Frankenstein's creation reached the top. Outside again, he could see the castle in the distance. The line of incensed, shouting people quickly surrounded the windmill.

Nothing happened for a few seconds, and he hoped that they would leave him and Father in peace. He had not harmed anyone. The night was still and the crowd suddenly fell silent. Torchlight illuminated their prey, and as one, they caught their first look at the ghastly construct that loomed above them.

Then someone stepped forward and flung a torch, breaking both the silence and the stillness. The outcry resumed, and more torches flew toward the very old wooden structure.

Danger! his mind screamed. He and Father could not stay where they were. And they could not go down.

He struggled to understand their fear, their hatred, their desire to do him harm. "Why...?" he asked of them.

As the flames grew higher, the people below became quiet again, satisfied that he and Father would soon be destroyed. The new silence was broken, this time by the shattering of glass. A dark shape emerged from the top of the castle. Though still too far to see clearly, he knew it was the Other Man. He looked like a winged shadow and was soon joined by three others. There was something wrong with their liquid movement through the night sky -- something that was unnatural.

"Vampires!" someone in the crowd shrieked. "Run for your lives!"

So even the mob knew that the Other Man was dangerous. But Father had trusted him once. And then...

He looked down and saw his creator, still and wan in the light of the flames that now licked around him. He pulled the great man to his chest and held him tightly but gently in his arms.

"Father...," he said.

He felt tears run down his face as he realized that Father truly was gone. Even if the fire and the vampires disappeared, Father would be no more. Fury rose in his chest as he saw the liquid shadows coming closer. Holding Father with one hand, he lifted the other to the sky. The angry people, the vampires...they wanted to hurt those who had done them no harm.

He gave his anger voice, bellowing out his rage and pain. He felt the heat of the flames and knew there was no way out. A loud roar suddenly rose from the depths of the old building, and the world seemed to come apart around him.

He had just an instant to realize that his end had come. There was fire and great weight on his body as the windmill disintegrated. Still clutching Father, he fell and blackness consumed him.

Dracula witnessed the windmill implode, crashing to the ground in burning ruins. "No!" he screamed as he swooped down, taking his customary form as he came to earth. Running, he approached the wreckage.

Gone. There could be nothing left alive in there. The living were pitifully weak, their bodies easily succumbing to injury and illness. He sensed his brides near him: Aleera, Verona, and Marishka. He did not have to see their faces to read the horror.

Stumbling closer to the destruction, he heard his women wailing and shrieking. To the sounds of their cries, the fire threw up its last sparks...then went out as their hopes for the future died with it.

That creature..., he cursed inwardly. It was the second time Dracula had been surprised by Frankenstein's monster. A pity the thing was already dead -- the count would have relished killing him.

Copyright © 2004 by Universal Studios Licensing LLLP.

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