(Fangs of the SS) CHAPTER 23: Sneaking Into The Castle Of Blood


The sound of trucks making their way up the road to the castle and all the figures climbing the cliff pause simultaneously.

When the sound fades away as the trucks enter the castle, they start climbing again. Above them, built right on top of the cliff face, loom the walls of Bathory’s castle. Geburah is the highest, it moves with almost a scuttling motion, its four arms spread wide, taking advantage of every possible handhold. Below it and to either side climb the rest of the golems. As heavy as each of the golems is, they all take care on each hand hold. A constant patter of dust and pebbles rains down the cliff face.

Mirsky is in the middle of them, moving very slowly and carefully. His lips twist as he whispers every obscenity he knows in every language he knows. They’ve been climbing for 20 minutes now and he hasn’t repeated himself once. His foot slips, pebbles patter down onto Malkuth’s face, and something pungent in Yiddish, something having to do with well endowed donkeys and Lenin’s wife, comes out of his mouth. He blinks sweat out if his his eyes and reminds himself that for Leah he’ll do anything. Even this. At least it’s not raining. He turns his curses onto himself for thinking such a stupid thing and waits for the downpour to start.

Maccabbee is last, tired and sweating, attached to Malkuth by a rope. He’s knows that he’s not paying enough attention to climbing but he’s finding it hard to care. Hesod’s absence is still a gaping hole in his mind. So many different layers to the guilt that he feels. He created something alive, a person with hopes and dreams beyond most people, and then sent it, her, her, he tells himself, sent her to die. He feels weak, sick, burning and freezing at the same time as the ma’aseh merkavah, the ritual that keeps the golems alive, continually makes him the conduit of the purest divine light from Kether to the golems. He feels that, every second, but now with Hesod dead, there’s less energy burning him from the inside and that makes him grateful. Which makes him feel bad. He stares at the fingers of one hand, grimy, broken nailed, that grip the rocks of the cliff face. He feels the binding and tug of the rope at his waist, Malkuth keeping him from falling. He whispers a short prayer. Pushes everything else out of his head. Concentrates on the mission. Moves his hand up to find another grip. Pulls himself a little closer to the castle and its monster.

Geburah reaches the castle walls and looks back down at the rest of the team. One hand gives a thumbs up.

Gunfire. Screams. The familiar sound of German submachine gun fire.

They all look upward. They all freeze. But the walls remain empty.

The firing continues. Now they can tell that it’s coming from inside the walls somewhere. There’s an echo to all the sounds. Screams start to outnumber gunfire.

“What the hell!” Tipareth keeps his voice down to an urgent whisper. “Geburah, you see anybody on the walls?”

Geburah leans out a little, carefully, and looks around. “Nothing. Whatever it is, it ain’t pointed at us. Sounds like it’s coming from the other side of the castle, maybe.”

Mirsky keeps his eyes on the rocks in front of him. Not looking up, sure as shit not looking down. “ Nothing to do with us, then. Keep movin’!”

Moving with extra care, extra caution, they all get up to the castle walls. Old stone, crumbling mortar, two stories high. The golems pause to let the humans catch their breath. Each of them are thinking a variation on the same topic. Doesn’t sound like these leeches are sleeping during the day. None of them say anything, just carefully, quietly, start climbing again. The gunfire dies away. As if to mock them, the sun comes out from behind a cloud. Bright autumn glare.

Malkuth looks at the Rabbi, perched next to him on the old stone of the castle walls. He makes sure that the rope between them is securely fastened to the man’s harness. He doesn’t like how pale and sweaty Maccabbee is, but he knows that there’s nothing that he can do to make a difference. But he makes the attempt anyway, the facts of his creation do not allow him to do any different. His heavy clay feet, in the largest boots that the Army has to offer, kick a small space clear where the wall meets the cliff face. He keeps his voice low. “I’m going to start climbing again. You rest here for a couple of moments. I’ll pull you up when I get to the top of the wall.”

Maccabbee doesn’t say anything, doesn’t even look at him, just nods and leans his face against the castle wall.

Malkuth continues climbing. His blocky fingers gouge handholds in the stone and he makes his way gracelessly but remorselessly up the wall, never pausing, almost like a landslide in reverse.

About halfway up, a block of stone grates and shifts under his hand. He adjusts his grip, and the block slides inward. He fumbles at another grip, ends up hanging by one hand and a foot. He tries for a grip on the sliding block and it slides even further inside, he hears it thud on something as it falls out of sight.

He looks in and sees a beam of sunlight illuminate some sort of room. His head casts a distorted shadow. He tests the stone blocks surrounding the hole and finds that some of them are loose as well. With an effortless push, he jams a piton into a solid block and secures the rope connecting him to Maccabbee. After giving the rope a firm tug to make sure it’s not going anywhere, he pushes in a few more blocks to give himself enough space to climb into the room. He takes one final look down to make sure that Maccabbee is ok. The Rabbi gives him a thumbs up and waves him on. The golem climbs into the room.

For the last few centuries, Istvan Szabo’s dreams have been red. A crashing sound awakens him from a dream where he was wandering a gloriously bleak landscape while blood rained from the sky. The trees were screaming. High pitched childrens’ screams that he remembers from a time when he was a bandit along the Ottoman Hungarian border. It was a good dream and for an instant, upon awakening, he forgets his irritation at not being one of those who had been ordered to attack the Germans.

But when he sees what’s happening to his room, Szabo moves beyond irritation to outright rage. There’s a huge hole in the wall! Sunlight is pouring through! He instinctively recoils back against the wall, in the nest that he’s made from a couple of old corpses. There’s a shape in the sunlight. Szabo squints against the painful light and realizes that something, someone is climbing into his room from the outside! Outrage overpowers his fear of the sunlight and returns him to his state of rage.

He grabs his submachine gun and opens fire. Stitches a row of bullets right across the figure. He knows that he hit it several times, but it doesn’t fall, doesn’t even pause. Szabo stares, puzzled for an instant, then the shape, its invulnerability, those things spark recognition in his mind. Recognition and more than a little fear. “Jew filth!”

The figure lumbers close. He can actually feel how its heavy tread makes the floor shake a bit. He knows that his decision to flee, find the Countess, tell her of these invaders is fueled solely by his desire to be a proper soldier, to follow the protocols. The fear he feels when, as he darts away, he’s grabbed from behind immediately tells him that he was lying to himself. He squeals as he’s thrown through the air.

Malkuth’s pleased with his aim. The vampire goes right out of the hole he made in the wall. Its scream and the trail of smoke as it catches fire in the sunlight fade as it plunges out of sight.

Shit! The Rabbi!

Malkuth hurries to the hole in the wall and looks out and down. Being that he’s been crudely sculpted out of clay, it’s not easy for Malkuth to slump in relief, but he relaxes as much as he’s able when he sees Maccabbee looking up at him with an inquiring expression on his face.

The Rabbi keeps his voice low. “Everything ok up there?”

Malkuth makes his tone light to hide his relief and speaks as softly as Maccabbee. “Nothing to worry about. Just throwing out some garbage. Hang tight, I’ll pull you up.”

He quickly matches actions to words and Maccabbee is in the room, untying the rope from his harness. Malkuth looks out the hole in the wall again, this time upwards. The other golems and Mirsky stare down at him, frozen on the castle wall “Hey. This looks like another way into the castle. Tipareth, you come with me and the Rabbi. The rest of you go in over the wall.”

Mirsky doesn’t look down, just keeps a tight grip on the wall. “Is it such a smart idea to split up? We’ve been making a lot of noise.”

Geburah’s up at the top of castle wall, and it pops its head up to take a glimpse and then back down. “Looks like it’s still clear and I can still hear gunfire from inside the castle. I think we’ve still got the element of surprise.”

Binah nods decisively. “Tipareth, go with the Rabbi and Malkuth. We’ll meet you inside. The rest of us, up and over! Move!”

They all move as quickly as possible. Tipareth downwards, and the rest up.

Geburah goes up and over the castle wall, each hand filling with a weapon as soon as it’s not needed to climb. It’s on a walkway that runs the length of the wall, ending in guard towers at either end. In the few months of its life in New York City, just after it was created but before they all went into the Army, Geburah had loved to sneak out and go to the pictures. This is just like castle in that Robin Hood movie. It shakes its head. Life can get weird sometimes, even for a four armed golem fighting vampires.

Without stopping turning its head to cover the two guard towers, guns aimed steadily, Geburah leans back over the parapet and gestures with free hand for the other two to come up. Binah comes over the wall first, looking as fierce as Geburah is feeling. Both of them are thinking the same thing: let’s go kill some evil.

Binah pauses. Geburah looks back at her impatiently, the golem is practically dancing from one foot to the next like some small child needing to piss. She doesn’t say anything, just smiles at the golem, and reaches down and hauls Mirsky up over the wall. Geburah rolls its eyes. The golem doesn’t respect the killing skills of anybody not made of clay. Binah feels differently, she knows differently. This old guy, this human soldier has more blood on his hands than both of the golems put together. She can tell that he’s a killer from way back. She doesn’t know why the Rabbi brought him on board, but it was a good decision.

Mirsky nods his thanks to Binah and tries not to make a big thing about wiggling his shoulder to make sure it’s still in place. It was like being lifted by a crane with the grip of a vice. Even while he’s doing that, he’s looking around, making sure they’re alone, scoping out the layout. Satisfied that his arm isn’t going to fall off, he swing his Thompson around and chambers a round. He sees Geburah, that four armed psycho, take off for one of the towers. He hisses at the golem and is pleased to see it stop and turn and look at him with a pissed expression on its face. Mirsky takes off his pack of explosives and lifts it with an inquiring expression.

Geburah grinds its teeth, making a sound like gravel being crushed. Doing its best to not act petulant, it stomps back to Mirsky and takes off its own pack. All three of them start to take out and arm the charges.

A nerve wracking 15  minutes later, Geburah opens a door at the bottom of one of the towers and cautiously pokes its head out to survey the courtyard. Finding no one around the trucks left there by Wetzel’s troop, the golem ventures out, followed by Mirsky and Binah. Geburah keeps its voice low, barely audible over the sound of the red banner flapping against the castle tower. “I still think that we should have left more time on the timers.”

Mirsky moves up to Geburah’s shoulder, doesn’t look at the golem as he keeps his head swiveling, the windows worry him, all of them broken out like that. He slides his feet through some broken glass, not wanting it to snap under his tread. The burned and scorched leather greatcoats and gas masks, he gives a wide berth. There are Wehrmacht weapons scattered all over the courtyard as well; submachine guns, rifles, pistols. “If we ain’t done and out of here in an hour and a half, we ain’t comin’ out. And the more time we set, the more time there is for them to be discovered. Me, I think that it should just be an hour. But what the fuck do I know?”

Geburah stops him with a hand gesture, then points. “Since you know so much, which way do we go? The big door over there or down those steps over there?”

“I dunno. Binah, what do you -” Mirsky looks back over his shoulder. “Hey,” He keeps his voice down to a whisper with the greatest of effort. “where the fuck’s Binah?”

“What the fuck?” Geburah spins around, looks in all directions.

Binah pops her head out of the back of one of the trucks. “Hey! Look at what I found!”

The golem and the man exchange identical glances of disbelief and hurry over to the truck. It’s only because they might be attacked by Nazi vampires at any time that neither of them give into their anger and yell at her. Then they see what she’s found and hard grins form on both their faces.

“Is that what I think it is?” Mirsky’s a kid in a candy store who’s just been told that Christmas has come early.

“Yep.” Binah’s voice is low but the grin on her face speaks much louder. Her grin speaks of war. “Looks like the Wehrmacht came loaded for bear. Vampire bear. Ammo modified to be effective against leeches and weapons modified to take the ammo.” She nods at a corpse on the floor of the truck. “Maybe the German army’s gotten pissed at the leeches too. This drained body here is wearing a Wehrmacht uniform. Probably has to do with the shooting we just heard.”

Mirsky looks at all the crates in the back of the truck. His grin matches Binah’s. Wide and merciless. “Confusion to our enemies. Couldn’t ask for better.”

Binah looks over Mirsky’s shoulder at Geburah standing there behind the small man. With one hand, effortless golem strength, she hands it a machinegun. “MP40. And it looks like we’ve got a bunch of belts for it.”

Geburah takes the gun and hefts it in two of its hands. The fact that it’s supposed to be fired from its bipod doesn’t seem to bother the golem. It looks up from examining the gun, pulls the bolt back. “Oh, yes. This will do nicely.” Its grin matches the others in its ruthless glee. Its eyes glow red and its skin begins to take on a reddish cast.

Mirsky slings his gun onto his back and reaches out to Binah. “Gimme one of the smaller ones, something that won’t break me into a thousand pieces if I fire it. And lots of ammo.” He hefts his empty pack that was carrying the explosive charges.

Binah moves as fast as possible, handing out ammo to both Mirsky and Geburah. The four armed golem ends up draped in belts for the machine gun and carries a submachine gun in each of its lower hands. Mirsky contents himself with just one submachine gun and a pack of ammo and the determination to stay far behind Geburah. Binah gets a gun and ammo for herself and jumps out of the truck.

Mirsky lets the two golems take the lead, and moving quieter than large clay statues should, the three of them exit the courtyard and go down the steps in the darkened castle. Silence once again falls over the courtyard, broken only by the flapping red banner.

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