Karl Dracomortat's Story - Posse Profiles - Dead Lands

Karl Dracomortat's Story

by John Ziel

All eyes were on the stranger as he strode into the saloon, dripping water from the torrential rains outside. Thunder rolled as he surveyed the scene, the smoldering stub of a cigar jutting from his down-turned lip. The saloon was a fairly typical one, with a large serving area, a set of upstairs rooms, complete with courtesans leaning against the upstairs rail, displaying themselves for the would-be clientele. A stout, tightly locked door was behind the bar- with bottles of every imaginable form of rot-gut on a shelf in front of a plain, bare wall. The newcomer removed his coat, and hung it and his drenched hat on the rack next to the door. He looked up at the ladies on the second floor and frowned. They quickly adjusted their clothes to less revealing positions- they could tell that this hombre was here for business, not pleasure. The bartender eyed the fancy clothes the outsider was hiding under his traveling coat, and decided that there was money to be spent in the newcomer's pockets. He cleared his throat and asked, "What'll it be, stranger?"

The stranger continued to survey the room- a few cowpokes here and there, a quartet of Chinamen playing billiards, a synthesizer blaring out hinky music well out of tune. An old geezer sat with his back to the wall and cane held between his legs as he watched a group of rough-looking motorcycle jockeys play a heated game of poker. The bartender cleared his throat again, but before he could repeat himself, the stranger replied, "Vodaka." Most of the denizens of the saloon turned back to their activities, although a few began to speculate on how to separate this strange, well-off and obviously foreign stranger from his money. The newcomer strode to the bar as the bartender poured a shot of clear liquid. Some of the drink spilled over the edge, steaming as it hit the surface of the bar.

"We don't get many strangers 'round here, much less foreigners. What's your name, friend, and what's your business in Dry Gulch?" asked the bartender.

"My name," said the foreigner, "is Karl Dracomortat. I am looking for a man...."

At this, many hands in the saloon slid under tables to loosen weapons in their holsters. The old man leaned over and spit a huge gob of foul liquid into a spittoon. The bartender's eyes darkened a bit. "And who might you be lookin' for," he asked with a now unfriendly edge to his voice.

"A foreigner, like me. His name is Boris Brkic," said Karl, sipping at his drink.

The geezer peered at Karl and spat again, asking, "An' whut woodja be lookin' fer 'im here fer? He owes yuh munny?"

Karl sipped at his drink and replied, "He is wampyr."

At this, a murmur ran through the crowd. One of the bikers stood and asked, "Wampeer? Whassat? Some kinda injun thing?" Several of his cohorts pulled him down, and the one next to him grunted, "He means 'Vampire', ya idiot." The bartender's look darkened further. "Look, friend," he said, "We got problems enough in Dry Gulch without people runnin' around tellin' folks there's a vampire in town. You got proof?"

Karl nodded, and began to tell his tale, "I come from across the ocean- a land called Transylvania to your people. There, my father helped the man Van Helsing destroy Dracul, the wampyr that tried to get into London and caused so much trouble for my good friends, the Harkers. Before they killed Dracul, my father helped the men kill several lesser wampyr- under the control of the evil one. They killed Brkic with a stake through the heart- but had to leave him before cutting off his head. It was later that the madman Rhenquist remove the stake and free Brkic..."

"Hold it!" interrupted one of the cowpokes, "This sounds like a story I've read..."

Karl just nodded. "You may have. My given name is Stoker. My father was Bram Stoker. He wrote the story from notes he gathered from Van Helsing, the Harkers, and others. He also taught me all he learned about wampyr from Van Helsing. I go to Amsterdam to read in his library. While I was away, my mother fell ill... She eventually died. She returned later, for she had been killed by the wampyr Brkic, now freed from his master Dracul, who was killed according to my father's accounting in his book. Father wrote me a letter, urging me to return home- for he had to kill my mother's un-dead body like the others. When I returned home, I found that my father had performed the deed, but at a cost- he had been bitten by my wampyr-mother, and was dying quickly. On his deathbed, I drove the stake through his heart and cut off his head myself... My eyes were clouded with tears..."

The saloon had grown quiet, as the tale had enraptured almost the entire company. The prostitutes upstairs were disgruntled; the newcomer's story was distracting potential customers. The old geezer just harrumphed and spit again, not believing any of it. "How kin you talk like thiss'us all yestiddy? I know fer a fact that thuh book wus written over two hunnert yeers ago," he muttered incredulously.

Karl just turned to look at him, nodding. "Yes, it was. I tracked down Brkic- he had been using his master's old castle, and had been searching for something- an amulet. I came across him after he had found it, and he began casting a spell. I ran at him, wrestling with him for the amulet. Suddenly, there was a large clap of thunder, and I was knocked unconscious. I awoke in this country, about six months ago. A set of footprints staggered away from where I awoke- the wampyr Brkic had come here also. I spent all my time since trying to find him and finish him off."

The old man harrumphed. "How d'you know he won't use that amulet agin? He could be long gone b'now."

At this, Karl reached in his vest pocket and removed a broken chain, with a charred and melted hunk of metal at the end. "Because the amulet broke while bringing us here. I hold half, and he holds the other."

An awed hush fell over the crowd, broken by the bartender, "If all you say is true, how do you know that he's in Dry Gulch?"

"Is easy,' replied Karl. "I follow him here. Him and his servant."

The crowd murmured uncomfortably at this revelation. "I follow him and his servant from town called Snakebit," continued Karl. At this, the Chinamen stopped playing pool and began to draw behind the foreigner. "Not only that, I follow his servant into this very saloon," said Karl.

"Is crazy," spoke one of the Chinese, "We run into man you talk about- call himself 'Boris Birch.' But he with lady. She not in bar now."

The foreigner turned to the barkeeper, nodding to the bare wall behind the bar, where the wood seemed less weathered than the rest of the wall. "You don't have a mirror behind your bar. Why?"

The bartender looked puzzled. "Well, it got broke. Why?"

Karl smiled. "Is important. When did mirror get broken?"

"About six months ago. The old timer here showed up stinkin' drunk, and damn near shot the place all to hell. We don't let him carry a gun no more."

Karl nodded, and moved to position himself between the old man and the stairs. The geezer was fidgeting nervously. "When has this man been seen drunk since?"

The crowd murmured in unfriendly tones, not liking the insinuation that one of the townspeople might be in league with a vampire- certainly not when the insinuation came from a foreigner. The bartender scowled, wiping his hands on his apron. "Well, come to think of it, he's had the stinkin' part going on fer quite a while. Don't reckon he's been drunk since. Anyway, the Chinaman says your man was with a lady."

Karl took a bottle of red-eye from the top of the bar and walked over to the geezer. "Wampyr can change shape, friend. As an animal or a human. Even drunk old men." At this, he handed the bottle to the geezer. "Care to toast a common friend?"

The old man leaped from his seat with a snarl, growing larger and younger as he leapt at the foreigner. Karl stepped deftly aside as the monster attacked. The rest of the crowd panicked, some ducking for cover, some rooted to the spot. One of the motorcycle gang fainted. A flash of silver glinted from Karl's vest as he thrust out a silver cross and held it against the creature. The vampire screamed as the holy symbol burned itself into his flesh, and staggered back. One of the Chinese grabbed his pool cue and swung it at the head of the monster retreating toward him. The cue whistled through the air and snapped in half over the vampire's head, not fazing it one bit.

"Where is thy master?" demanded Karl. "Where is Brkic?" The vampire snarled and gnashed his teeth, now visibly elongated. He reeled to attack the Chinamen who had gathered around the pool table, but stopped short as a quick blur of motion thrust toward him and back. The vampire staggered back, changing shape into a beautiful woman, the old geezer, and a large dog- each form clutching at its doom- the long thin shape of a broken pool cue thrust through its heart.

A crowd gathered around as the monster's body hit the floor. Karl turned to the motorcycle gang. "Cut off its head now, and when it finished raining, burn the body. He then turned to the man who had killed his prey. "I would have liked to get the information from him first, but thank you. What is your name?"

The Chinaman bowed. "Liu Pang, at your service."

Karl returned the bow. "And I am at yours." He then turned to the rest of the saloon's guests. "Tell all that you meet what happened here. Of how Karl Dracomortat tracked down the wampyr, and how the brave Liu Pang killed him. Spread the word so that it is a warning to all evil." He then threw several coins on the bar. "Buy yourself a new mirror, friend. It will save your life." With that, the stranger strode over to the coat rack, put on his coat and hat, and walked out into the storm as thunder rolled.

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